Sunday, September 12, 2004
MIDDLE EAST REALITY?:
David Broder attacks the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East and suggests John Kerry isn't much better in his Washington Post column today. He points to Michael Kraig of the Muscatine, Iowa-based Stanley Foundation as a person to look to for a better perspective. But I have to question the wisdom of this man's perspective when later on in the article he says:

In this context," Kraig wrote, "a serious question was raised: Why is so much international and global pressure exerted on Iran . . . while Israel, with its own alleged WMD arsenal, is forgotten?"

Maybe because Israel is a democracy. Maybe because Israel doesn't support and fund terrorism. Maybe because Israel didn't kidnap 54 Americans and hold them for 444 days. Maybe because Israel isn't run by theocratic fascists who just might be willing to nuke a city or two while chanting "Allah is Great."

I don't know how much "perspective" on Middle East policy I would want to get from a guy or group that doesn't understand why the world is concerned about the mullahs in Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and not Israel who has had nukes for over 30 years. J. McIntyre 1:41 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Friday, September 10, 2004
EYE ON THE GENERIC VOTE:
One of the numbers that's been totally lost in all the focus on the horserace is the generic congressional vote. Indeed, the most interesting number from the Democracy Corps poll released today wasn't the 3-point Bush lead but the Democrats single-point lead in the generic congressional vote(46-45). That's a nine-point swing against the Democrats since the last Dem Corps poll in early August.

Add that to the recent numbers from the Battleground Poll (Dems +3), Rasmussen (Dems +4) and CNN/USAT/Gallup (GOP +2) and you see a significant tightening of the generic vote across the board. Of course, some of this can be attributed to the wake of the GOP convention, but probably not all of it. Regardless, having the congressional vote this tight after Labor Day could be a real harbinger of bad news for the Blue Team.

You'll remember that in the final round of polls before the 2002 midterms there was a small but real shift toward the GOP in the generic vote which manifested itself in a big way on election day. Keep your eye on the generic vote this year as we get down to the wire.

THE TRIBUNE ROOTS AGAINST BUSH: The Chicago Tribune is a very large, very well respected paper. Once upon a time it was actually considered a conservative-leaning paper and had a reputation for fairness, though I don't think either of those characterizations really apply any more.

The 60 Minutes/Dan Rather Memogate story is a case in point. On Thursday, September 9 the Trib ran an 1,100 word front-page story on the new documents obtained by 60 Minutes and broadcast on Wednesday night.

From start to finish the piece by Mark Silva and Jeff Zeleny is laden with lopsided quotes from Democrat partisans, excerpts from the memos in question, and the sort of loaded language you'd expect to find on the editorial page, not A-1.

This graf really says it all:

"The increased examination of Bush's service record in the National Guard came as the death toll of American troops in Iraq has surpassed 1,000. Democrats are urging Americans to keep their skepticism about the war alive as they try to erase the advantages polls indicate the president gained last week during the GOP convention."

Read the whole thing and it's difficult to conclude that the Trib isn't standing right along side Democrats "urging Americans to keep their skepticism alive."

Further proof comes in today's print edition of the Trib where readers not only have to make their way to page A-10, they have to read deep into Mark Silva and Jil Zuckman's article titled "Bush, Kerry Dodge Vietnam Debate" to find the following 160 word treatment of the controversy currently raging around the authenticity of the documents that were so highly profiled on the front page of the Tribune just the day before:

"The White House this week released records showing that Bush failed to appear for a physical exam, as ordered, to maintain his fighter pilot's rating in Texas in 1972. Instead, records show Bush was seeking transfer to Alabama, to work on a political campaign--a transfer Bush won before receiving an honorable discharge in August 1973.

On Thursday the son of an officer who signed memos about Bush's National Guard Service, first obtained by CBS News, questioned the authenticity of one of them, The Associated Press reported. Gary Killian said he doubted his father, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984, would have written that he felt pressured to "sugar coat" Bush's performance review. "It just wouldn't happen," Gary Killian told AP.

Also, the memos looked as though they had been produced on a computer using Microsoft Word software, said Sandra Ramsey Lines, whom AP described as an independent document examiner.

CBS said Thursday it stood by its reporting."

There is simply no way you can look at the language, the placement, and the overall comparative treatment of these two articles and conclude the Tribune is giving its readers a balanced, objective assessment of the what's going on with the story of the Bush National Guard documents.

If you agree that the Trib is misleading its readers then Don Wycliff, the Tribune's public editor, is your man: dwycliff@tribune.com

CHENEY "CLEANS UP": In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer yesterday Vice President Cheney cleaned up his widely reported comments from earlier in the week about the importance of the coming election and the war on terror. Frankly, I'm glad he did.

Cheney's original comments were a less than artful way of stating the obvious argument that George W. Bush's has a more aggressive stance in the war on terror than John Kerry and that Bush will do a better, more effective job of keeping the country safe against future attacks.

Nevertheless, the way Cheney's comments were phrased (and reported by the media) left open the suggestion that a Kerry victory in November might lead to a future attack, which I think is something that probably struck the wrong note with a lot of voters. I know it did with me.

Cheney's "clean up" does a much better job of presenting the contrast:

"A perfect defense isn't good enough. You can be right 99 percent of the time on defense, and that 1 percent that gets through will kill you. So we made the decision to go on offense, and I think it was absolutely the right decision."

- T. Bevan 3:35 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

CBS NEWS EXPOSED?: The problem is CBS News wanted the Bush National Guard memos to be true. In fact, the memos confirmed all of their suspicions and doubts about George W. Bush so they more or less assumed they were authentic. They got some "expert" to say they were legit and then they plowed ahead with their hit piece on President Bush.

Twenty years ago, ten years ago, even five years ago they might have gotten away with it. However, in the new information age that we live in today, driven by the blogosphere, the fraud appears to have unraveled in less than 24 hours.

Our friends over at Powerline got the ball rolling at 7:51 yesterday morning. The flood gates were fully opened when the 800lb gorilla on the internet, the DrudgeReport, linked to Scott Johnson's post on Powerline. From there the likely hoax spread like wildfire throughout the blogosphere.

Little Green Footballs and indcjournal followed up with a series of posts outlining more evidence against the CBS' documents. Before noon Jim Geraghty over at NRO's Kerry Spot asked:

I want to reserve my final judgment on this one but the early evidence doesn't look good for CBS, or the Boston Globe.....CBS News and the Globe ought to check this out big-time, and fast. If they ran with a story based on a forgery (and a forgery that the blogosphere managed to check out in just a few hours) this report will join Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Janet Cooke in journalism's hall of infamy.

Our friend Hugh Hewitt was able to track down forensic document expert Farrell Shiver and interviewed him at length on his nationally syndicated radio show, and subsequently posted the full transcript at hughhewitt.com. And then at 7:20 EST, less than 24 hours after the original 60 Minutes exclusive ran, Stephen Hayes at the Weekly Standard filed: Is It a Hoax? Experts weigh in on the 60 Minutes documents. Says one: "I'm a Kerry supporter myself, but . . . I'm 99% sure that these documents were not produced in the early 1970s."

This morning the front page of the Washington Post becomes the the first major paper to acknowledge the likelihood that CBS was duped. The New York Times and the Boston Globe, which ran front page stories attacking President Bush Wednesday and Thursday, citing the CBS documents, were silent on their front pages. The Globe actually ran an above the fold story titled: "Kerry Team, DNC Hit Bush on Guard Issue."

Now, to be fair this story has not been conclusively proven to have been a fraud, and there is still a chance, albeit a pretty darn small one, that CBS, the Times and the Globe have it right, and the blogosphere has it wrong. But I wouldn't be making any big bets on Old Liberal Media on this one.

We'll get in to the political dynamics of this fiasco later, if indeed it does turn out that this story is a hoax, but let's just say that after yesterday's three major polls showing Kerry trailing 4 - 9 points nationally and Gallup's state polls showing Kerry behind in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri this is not what the Kerry campaign needed. J. McIntyre 8: 33 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Thursday, September 9, 2004
REVISITING ZELL: I knew Zell Miller's speech last week was tough, but I was still a bit surprised by the visceral reaction to it by members of the chattering class. Here's just a small sampling of the outrage it generated:

"It was one of the most vile political speeches in recent American history...last night Miller declared war on democracy." - Jonathan Cohn

"Zell Miller began his career by working for Lester Maddox, a man of hate. And he unfortunately capped his career tonight by sounding like Lester Maddox. It was a very rough speech. It was full of hate. It came very close to accusing the Democrats of treason." - David Gergen

"I don’t think anyone had quite been prepared for Miller’s synthesis of Joe McCarthy and the Grand Inquisitor." - Harold Myerson

Finally, we had Andrew Sullivan, who not only called Miller's remarks "a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric" but went out of his way to dig up a 40-year old quote to brand Miller as a racist. "A liar and a bigot. And a hero to conservatives everywhere," Sullivan huffed.

If you're struggling to understand what a 40-year old quote about African-Americans has to do with John Kerry's 20-year voting record in the United States Senate then I'm with you.

Fred Kaplan also immediately jumped up to defend Kerry's voting record and to debunk Miller's speech as a pack of "damned lies." Kaplan complained that Miller distorted Kerry's votes and took them out of context, except that the true "context" of Kerry's votes also includes this 1984 memo explicitly detailing the weapons programs Kerry was in favor of canceling as well as his remarks on the subject from the floor of the United States Senate.

What struck me most about Kaplan's piece, however, was his conspicuous mocking of Miller's assertion that "our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of a Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." Kaplan wrote:

A "manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief"? Most people call this a "presidential election." Someone should tell Zell they happen every four years; he can look it up in that same place where he did the research on Kerry's voting record.

Here Kaplan is executing a full twist with a high degree of difficulty: deriding Miller's characterization of the left's ruthless assault on President Bush's record, integrity and motives over the last four years with a "hey, politics ain't beanbag" attitude while simultaneously slamming Miller for playing hardball against John Kerry.

Say what you will about Miller's speech, but at least he was attacking Kerry's record. The bottom line is that over the course of his career as a United States Senator, John Kerry has had to face a number of up or down votes on security-related matters (including the vote for the $87 billion to fund the troops and the reconstruction in Iraq) and he has to live with the consequences of those votes.

That's the way the game has always worked - Kaplan's hollow outrage notwithstanding. Even Glenn Kessler, in his front page defense of Kerry's voting record in the Washington Post last week conceeded that:

"Votes cast by lawmakers are often twisted by political opponents, and both political parties are adept at combing through legislative records to score political points. Former senator Robert J. Dole's voting record was frequently distorted by the Clinton campaign eight years ago -- as well as by his GOP rivals for the Republican nomination."

John Kerry's job as a candidate or President of the United States is to put his record before the American people and convince us it shows that he's up to the job. If Kerry feels his record is being distorted by Miller and/or Bush (which I'm sure he does) then he should get out in front of the American people and defend it. Kerry should explain those votes to us, tell us why he voted the way he did and, most importantly, why he thought his votes were in the best interests of the country at the time he cast them.

Kerry's not doing that. In fact, he's not talking about his record at all. Instead, he's letting his supporters in the media do his defending for him and posturing himself as a victim whose patriotism is being attacked rather than his judgment.

So long as John Kerry continues to respond to questions about his record by raising the decibel level of his rants about being smeared, he's going to continue to flounder in the polls.

Now let's look at the other side of the coin for a moment. I would argue that the way prominent Democrats have mainstreamed the argument that President Bush purposefully lied and misled the country to war in Iraq is far more objectionable than anything Miller said about John Kerry last week.

In case you hadn't noticed, we're about to mark the one-year anniversary of Senator Ted Kennedy declaring that the Iraq war "was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud." Kennedy had (and still has) no proof for that statement, nor has he let his conscience get in the way of repeatedly impugning the motives of the President of the United States over the last year.

John Kerry hasn't been much better. He was a full three months ahead of Kennedy in declaring that President Bush "misled everyone of us." And just last month in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Kerry averred to the nation that he "will be a commander in chief who will never mislead us into war."

Democrats are free to question Bush's record as harshly as they want. It is well within bounds for them to say that Bush compounded bad intelligence with bad judgment on Iraq. What they shouldn't be able to say without being rebuked by the media and the public, however, is that this President deliberately misled the country on the issue of Iraq and that 1,000 US soldiers are dead because Bush lied.

That hasn't happened. In fact, we seem to be rapidly headed in the other direction. I fully expect John Kerry to call President Bush the "l" word within the next 55 days. It's looking more and more like Kerry's only hope is to go nuclear against the war in Iraq and against the President personally.

THE EVOLUTION OF CONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

"At this point, I believe, it's safe to say that unless something happens to change the dynamics and circumstances of this race, Bush will lose." - Charlie Cook on July 25

"Neither side is likely to win big, but the odds of a Bush blowout win seem lower than those of a Kerry blowout, barring some dramatic event such as a major terrorist attack." - Charlie Cook on July 27

"President Bush must have a change in the dynamics and the fundamentals of this race if he is to win a second term." - Charlie Cook on August 10

"It really is pretty amazing how fast the conventional wisdom can change." - Charlie Cook on August 31

"By in large, to the extent that this election is about terrorism and leadership, or if news stories about those dominate the news, President Bush is very likely to win." - Charlie Cook on September 7

- T. Bevan 1:45 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, September 8 2004
BIG MEDIA COUNTERATTACKS:
Old Media and the Left, enraged by President Bush's surge in the polls and what they view as an illegitimate examination of Kerry's record, has decided that today is the day they will counterattack hard in an attempt to reopen the Bush National Guard story as an issue in the campaign.

The Boston Globe unloads an above the fold, front-page story: "Bush Fell Short on Duty at Guard: Records Show Pledges Unmet." The Globe's parent corporation, The New York Times Company, gets into the action with Nicholas Kristof 's "Missing in Action." Then of course there is the headliner with CBS's Dan Rather interviewing former Democratic Texas House Speaker and Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes on 60 Minutes II later tonight.

Kristof writes wistfully:

I've steered clear until now of how Mr. Bush evaded service in Vietnam because I thought other issues were more important. But if Bush supporters attack John Kerry for his conduct after he volunteered for dangerous duty in Vietnam, it's only fair to scrutinize Mr. Bush's behavior.

I love it when post-hippie 1970 liberals indignantly throw around words like "evaded service in Vietnam." Of course for eight years while Bill Clinton was Commander in Chief this was a non-issue, but suddenly they are enraged that somebody might have "evaded service in Vietnam" by serving in the National Guard. Now liberals will say the issue is not that Bush served in the National Guard, but rather how he got into the National Guard. But Kristof's own words accuse the President very directly of "evading service in Vietnam."

The hypocrisy here is so stunning and the gall of baby boomer, anti-war lefties getting all self-righteous about "evading service" is a joke. The fact the Left has decided to go back to the trough on this issue just shows how few attractive avenues of attack they have left against the President. This is a sign of weakness, not strength.

The Kerry campaign, The New York Times, the Boston Globe and CBS are all excited that they are going to "swift-boat" George W. Bush and turn these next two weeks into the equivalent of John Kerry's August for the President. But after the heat of the 2000 Presidential campaign and then the attempt several months ago to reignite the National Guard issue, the likelihood that there is going to be something substantive in all of this noise is extremely unlikely.

Now the Kerry folks and the liberal glitterati in the press will say that there was nothing substantive in the swift-boat story yet it caused tremendous damage to John Kerry. It is this logic that has probably deluded them into thinking that this old National Guard issue can be used effectively against President Bush.

But they are missing two key points to why this re-attack on President Bush's National Guard service will not have nearly the effectiveness of the swift boat attacks on Senator Kerry. First, and this is not a small point, George Bush has not made his stint in the National Guard one of the primary reasons to vote for him as President. Bush is more than happy to run on his 6-year record as Governor of the second largest state in country and his four years as President of the United States. It is Senator Kerry who decided to make his four-month service in Vietnam the prime qualification to lead this nation in war as opposed to his twenty-year public record in the United States Senate.

Second, and it is this point that infuriates the elites in the media, there happens to be quite a lot of substance in the swift-boat attacks. The Kerry campaign and their friends in the press like to pretend that this is all just a pack of lies conjured up by the right-wing slime machine, but the facts seem to suggest a different story. The reason the swift-boat controversy continues to resonate is there is significant evidence supporting the charges.

The media did their best to cherry pick one story here and another story there in an attempt to discredit the swift-boat veterans, but when you have over 90% of the people Kerry served with corroborating the story, at some point it becomes difficult to suggest the whole thing is all a pack of lies. As Bob Dole said very devastatingly just a couple of weeks ago:

Not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There's got to be some truth to the charges.

If Kerry is truly the victim of a right-wing slime attack and all of these scurrilous charges are really just a pack of lies, then why hasn't he put this story to bed by walking out in front of the press and the American people, stared in to the camera, and explained how his honor has been trashed? Why hasn't he been willing to talk open and fully about his Vietnam service and dispel once and for all these vicious attacks on his character? More than anything else it is Kerry's reluctance, or inability, to answer these questions personally that is the most damning piece of evidence for the American public.

We'll see where this George Bush National Guard service story goes on the umpteenth go around on this issue, but because of those two key points it is going to be difficult for this story to really hurt the President the same way the swift-boat story has hurt John Kerry. None of this is going to stop the Bush-haters in the press from trying to make it an issue, but it is going to be really hard unless there is something legitimately new, and substantive - and right now that doesn't seem to be the case.

The tag-team follow up to the National Guard foray is the unrolling of the Kitty Kelly personal attack on the Bush family that is scheduled for next week when Kelly is lined up to appear on The Today Show for three consecutive days. This should be of more concern to the Democrats than Republicans for this story has every bit as good a chance to hurt Kerry as it does Bush, because of the very real possibility of a backlash over the personal and tabloid nature of the attack.

Given the intensity of this campaign over the last few months and the vitriol (if not almost pathological hatred for Bush on the Left) it is not surprising that this campaign will continue to get uglier and uglier. The Democrats and the media began banging on Bush as far back as last fall when the Democratic primary campaign began in earnest. In August when Bush and Kerry's opponents struck back the Democrats howled at all the negative campaigning. This is going to be an intense two months and it is going to get considerably uglier between now and election day. J. McIntyre 7:58 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, September 7 2004
ENTERING THE HOMESTRETCH:
With the exception of the poor, hurricane-battered folks in Florida, the rest of the country is waking up today after a nice, long, holiday weekend refreshed and ready to get back to work - and down to the business of electing a new president.

Let's just say it's going to be an interesting fifty-six days. For those who haven't been checking in over the weekend, three polls have been released since Friday afternoon giving President Bush a healthy 6.4-point lead in our three way RCP Average.

Incidentally, there has been a lot of talk about oversampling of Republicans in both the Time and Newsweek polls. Furthermore, Gallup, the most respected of all major polling firms, gives Bush a 7-point lead among likely voters but only a 1-point lead among registered voters.

Despite all the spin being put on the horserace numbers, the more important (and much less talked about) numbers in these polls were the President's job approval rating: 55% in the Time poll, 52% in Newsweek and 52% in Gallup. Very little discrepancy across the board. Should Bush's job approval rating stay in this range through November 2 it will be more than enough to win him reelection.

Needless to say, the Bush bounce has unnerved many Democrats and added a whiff of desperation to the Kerry campaign.

Actually, the desperation started last Thursday about thirty minutes after the President's acceptance speech when John Kerry "climbed out of his political coffin" at midnight to deliver a stinging, though supremely ungracious, rebuttal to Bush. Not pretty. Not Presidential.

Then over the weekend Kerry shook up - excuse me, "made some additions to" - his staff and emerged yesterday with a new position on Iraq, calling it "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."

On a different (and much uglier) note we're now also being treated to Kitty Kelly's hit job on the First Family which includes all manner of slanderous accusations. Like Fahrenheit 9/11, this book will be ignored by 80+ per cent of the population as baseless propaganda but will be ingested by Bush-hating partisans everywhere as gleefully and rapidly as a bunch of homeless crack addicts sitting in the alley passing the pipe around the burning trash bin.

No doubt there will be much more ugliness to come in the next two months.

LOSING TO THE 800-LB GORILLA: One of the reasons this campaign is going to get even uglier is because John Kerry is currently sitting in a pretty tight box right now.

Early on the Kerry campaign made the (correct) strategic assessment that that national security was the 800-lb gorilla of this election - one they couldn't go around but had to try and deal with.

The problem, of course, is that given Kerry's record on national security in the United States Senate, the only thing the campaign could use to address the issue was Kerry's service in Vietnam thirty-five years ago.

The result is that we now have one candidate running a campaign based on issues and another running a campaign based on a four -month piece of his biography when he was twenty-five years old. This has led to the bizarre, disjointed dialogue we've seen in the past few months which has gone something like this:

Bush: "After 9/11 national security is a paramount concern to our republic.We must take the fight to the terrorists where they are and not wait to be forced to fight them at home."

Kerry: "I served two tours of duty in Vietnam."

Cheney: "Senator Kerry's 20-year voting record shows poor national security judgment."

Kerry: "Stop questioning my patriotism."

Yesterday the NY Times reported that Bill Clinton advised Kerry to stop talking about Vietnam. It may be too late. The 800-lb national security gorilla is still sitting there in the middle of the room, and despite Kerry's best effort to use his four months of active duty in Vietnam as a weapon to vanquish it, Kerry has made little (if any) progress in getting through the issue and convincing voters he's up to the task. - T. Bevan 8:45 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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