Tuesday, August 31, 2004


What is Giuliani’s baggage as a would-be Republican nominee?

... there is the personal baggage. The last presidential candidate to have had cancer was Paul Tsongas, who lied about being cancer-free in 1992, and who has since died.

--Richard Brookhiser, National Review Online

Uh, Richard, ever heard of a cancer survivor named John Kerry?

And John McCain ran for president seven years after his first bout with skin cancer, in 1993.


American popular music has had explicit political content at least since "Strange Fruit," the song about Southern lynchings sung hauntingly by Billie Holiday in 1939.

--Renee Loth in The Boston Globe

Oh Lord, where to begin?

(Perhaps that's not what Loth means by "popular" music. Well, I have a book of early sheet music covers that includes World War I-era songs such as "Those Draftin' Blues" and "When the Good Lord Makes a Record of a Hero's Deed He Draws No Color Line," along the with more traditionally patriotic "When the Kaiser Does the Goose-Step to a Good Old American Rag," "We're Goin' to Knock the 'Hel' Out of Wilhelm," and "If He Can Fight Like He Can Love, Good Night Germany!")


When George Bush ran for president the first time around in opposition with John Dukakis, they ran an ad that everybody said was one of the most biting political ads ever. Everybody remembers the Willie Horton ad. Does anyone think that George Bush, the current president, will take a chapter out of that page, because the lieutenant governor to John Dukakis was John Kerry?

--Deborah Norville on MSNBC's Deborah Norville Tonight (emphasis added; quote via the Daily Howler)

John Dukakis? Yikes.

No wonder these people can't tell that the Swift boat Kerry haters are lying.

But remember, bloggers are the menace! We don't have standards!
Laura's giving a relatively humane, relatively decent speech, plus she's the First Lady for heaven's sake, and she can't get any reaction from this crowd. All they want is red meat. These people are appalling.
Why on earth is Schwarzenegger doing this? "If you believe [X], then you are a Republican. If you believe [Y], then you are a Republican...." It's hectoring people into party identification when you'd think the Republicans would be trying to reach out to the happily unaffiliated.

And then he just said in effect, that anyone who thinks we have economic hard times is a "girlie man." Job just got outsourced? Here's a quarter -- call someone who cares, wuss! And this is "compassion night," the supposed yin to last night's yang.

"Moderate convention"? I've been in and out tonight -- I heard bits of Bill Frist and Rod Paige before this -- but all I'm hearing is red-meat Republicanism.

But the press has had "moderate" drummed into its head for so many days that it thinks this is moderation. But it's not -- it's Live Republican Or Die. I can't imagine how the hell this is going to sway apolitical undecided voters.
I knew my confidence was well placed when I watched him stand on the rubble of the World Trade Center, with his arm around a hero of September 11th....

--John McCain's convention speech last night

Now New York construction workers are very special people.... And they're big, real big. Their arms are bigger than my legs and their opinions are even bigger than their arms.

...one of them really went into great detail and upon conclusion of his remarks President Bush said in a rather loud voice, "I agree."...

So he reached over, embraced the President and began hugging him enthusiastically.

A Secret Service agent standing next to me looked at the President and the guy and instead of extracting the President from this bear hug, he turned toward me and put his finger in my face and said, "If this guy hurts the President, Giuliani you're finished."

Meekly, and this is the moral of the story, I responded, "but it would be out of love."

--Rudy Giuliani's convention speech last night

I'm sorry, but you don't have to be Richard Goldstein or a gender studies major to find it striking that two speeches last night invoked male physical contact as a sign of masculine greatness -- mere weeks after the Drudge Report started a snickering campaign about physical contact between John Kerry and John Edwards ("Can't Keep Hands Off Each Other").

As I said last week, in my high school you carefully avoided any act that looked "gay" -- unless you were a jock, in which case you were free to touch other jocks, or even parade around in drag. I didn't want to touch other males, but I resented the fact that that stricture was imposed by teenage louts who had a separate set of rules for themselves.

I still resent that. And I resent the fact that our politics is allegedly run by adults, yet the conservatives are doing the same thing the football team did in my high school.

The snickering about physical contact between Kerry and Edwards was a sideshow, of course; the main front in the battle to emasculate Kerry was the Swift boat liars' campaign to strip him of his medals. And that, in turn, was a set-up for the parade of macho men we're seeing this week: Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, Cheney, Bush. They're all war avoiders, of course. But they run this high school, and they've given themselves permission to hug.

Morton Blackwell's idea of a really funny joke is to hand out Band-Aids decorated with small purple hearts in order to mock John Kerry. TBogg digs up some facts about him -- my headline isn't hyperbole, it's the literal truth. And Atrios has more.

Monday, August 30, 2004

After the first night of the Republican convention, it's impossible not to conclude that the GOP loves September 11, wants to wallow in September 11, wishes it could be September 11 (or the days and weeks afterward) forever. The story Republicans tell themselves about 9/11 and what they as a group have done, through the instrument of the mighty and sage George W. Bush, is so soul-nourishing that if they had the power to turn back time and watch the hijackers arrested at the gate, it's not at all clear that Republicans would do it. Don't believe me? Read tonight's speeches; watch the rerun on C-SPAN. 9/11 is a force that gives Republicans meaning.

UPDATE, TUESDAY MORNING: Was I exaggerating in what I wrote last night? Check out the front page of today's New York Post.

"IT'S 9/11."

I suppose that's meant to mean "We're still at war with the same bastards," or "What's the key issue in this election? It's 9/11, stupid." But the scent I'm picking up is "Rudy's back, and it's 9/11 again, baby!"
Giuliani's speech just jumped the shark.

Talking about 9/11, he just said that on that night he reached out to Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and said to him, "Thank God George W. Bush is president.... Thank God Dick Cheney is vice president."

That's it. He went over the line. And it's no surprise that it was Giuliani, who is not an emotional moderate.

...Oh boy -- now he's talking about "appeasement." Find this guy a balcony to speak from!

...Now he's talking about how Bush sticks to his guns even when he's attacked. Truthfully, Bush doesn't seem to give a damn about attacks. Giuliani, to put it mildly, doesn't. When Rudy complains about Bush being attacked, he's really talking about himself. He has tissue-thin skin. He's feeling sorry for himself.

...And now he's gunning for Kerry. And, er, not "moderately." Whatta tough guy! I can barely hear the TV in the next room, and I can still feel the hair on my chest growing.
Is anyone watching the convention yet? Didn't you think the GOP would spring for video effects that were at least slightly better than the ones seen on public access?
A GOP bigwig says something rather striking to Mark Shields:

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, one of the party's foremost leaders from the South was asked about George W. Bush's chances in November. He replied, in a moment of rare candor: "If this campaign is about Kerry, Bush will win the election. If this campaign is about Bush, he will win my state." That is, the GOP must make sure the focus is on Sen. John Kerry to avoid being reduced to the solid Republican South -- and a lost election.

How do you interpret that? Here's how I interpret it: "The voters don't like our guy. But it's OK, because we can destroy the other guy."

Fortunately for the GOP bigwig, he said this to Mark Shields, who reacts the way a liberal Beltway journalist is supposed to -- by attacking his own side, making excuses for Republican failures, and reprinting GOP spin as gospel truth:

That is no insult to President Bush, who this year has faced and weathered one political mishap after another, along with a Democratic opposition fiercely determined to remove him from office....

That's right -- the Iraq quagmire? Abu Ghraib? A million and a half lost jobs? They're not Bush's fault! They're all "mishaps"! Plus, Bush, poor bastard, isn't even running unopposed! He has an opponent who's actually trying to win! Is there no ordeal the good Lord won't ask him to endure?

...Rather, the Southern leader's formulation signifies the realization in Republican ranks that they have dodged a bullet. Kerry had the opportunity to open a formidable lead against an incumbent president, and he failed.

The undecided pool was vanishingly small, the convention got hardly any network coverage, yet Kerry, you see, was supposed to blow the race wide open.

Tom Rath, the New Hampshire Republican leader who is one of the nation's shrewdest political observers, told me: "I don't think any candidate has ever experienced a worse month of August since (Michael) Dukakis (in 1988)" -- when that earlier Massachusetts Democratic nominee dissipated a double-digit lead.

Kerry slipped in the polls by what -- 5 or so points, tops, depending on the poll? Yeah, 5 points is pretty close to 17, which is the lead Dukakis squandered.

I won't bore you with the rest, except for the part where Shields -- remember, this guy plays "the liberal" on political chat shows -- says this:

By stressing his professions of military valor in Vietnam, Kerry opened the door to an examination of his questionable performance both during and after his four months of combat.

Excuse me, Mark -- you can criticize his anti-war activities all you want, you pissant pseudo-liberal, but did you actually have the gall to refer to "his questionable performance ... during ... his four months of combat"?

The check from Bob Perry is in the mail.
Via Jesse at Pandagon, I just saw this appalling story:

Police Confirm Pipe Bomb Blast at Stem-Cell Lab

An explosion that blew out a number of windows at a Boston-area laboratory specializing in stem-cell research was caused by a pipe bomb, local police said on Friday.

No one was wounded in Thursday's early morning blast at Watertown, Massachusetts-based Amaranth Bio, which says on its Web site its technology is focused on organ regeneration and that it is working on cures for diabetes and liver disorders....

Get used to this. I have a feeling you're going to see a lot of stories like this in the months and years -- hell, in the decades -- to come.

(Decades? Sure. How long have America's Wahhabis been fighting the teaching of evolution?)

Oh, this kind of thing is going to happen all the time. Once this research starts bearing fruit, elements of the Christian right are going to start demanding all sorts of roadblocks to its application: mandatory 24-hour waiting periods and misleading information presentations for stem-cell patients, denial of federal funding (Medicare, Medicaid) for stem-cell-derived treatments, "conscience" clauses so hospitals and doctors can refuse to offer such treaments ... plus, of course, more and more violence of this nature. Eventually the breakthroughs from stem-cell research will be freely available in every other developed country in the world, but not in a majority of the counties in the United States.

Yeah, I hope I'm overreacting. But I don't think I am.
I generally assume that Republicans really know how to put across a message, but I'm looking at stories about the convention and stories about the undecided voters, particularly this one, and I'm not sure I get it:

Forget NASCAR dads and soccer moms. This is the year of the undecided woman.

... about 60 percent of voters who have not yet made up their minds about [Kerry and Bush] are women. And a large majority of those women say neither man is addressing the issues they care about most.

By 5 percentage points, more men say the country is going in the wrong direction than that it is going in the right direction. But when women are asked the same question, that spread runs to 24 percentage points in favor of those who believe that it is headed wrong.

[Pollster Vincent] Breglio said that while the general electorate views the war in Iraq and the economy as the two major issues for voters, undecided women regard the crucial issues as equivalent pay with their male co-workers, violence against women, loss of jobs to workers overseas, access to child care and health care and the costs of both.

... As for Iraq, women generally are 20 percentage points more likely than men to say the war there has not been worth the cost.

By now we can all recite the list of key speakers -- McCain, Giuliani, Schwarzenegger -- and we know what the key fact about them is supposed to be: they're all moderates.

But they're all macho men. They're all action heroes. Every one of them is best known for courage in some form of battle. (Yeah, Schwarzenegger's battles are fictitious, but this is America, so that doesn't really matter.)

If you thought Boston was a tad martial, if you thought there was somewhat of an excess of testosterone at the Fleet Center, if you thought domestic concerns got short shrift and the need to "stay the course" got undue emphasis, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Is Giuliani going to talk about domestic violence, outsourcing, health insurance? No. He'll get misty-eyed about 9/11, then he'll say this:

"Winston Churchill saw the dangers of Hitler when his opponents and much of the press characterized him as a warmongering gadfly," Mr. Giuliani plans to say, according to excerpts from his speech released last night. "George W. Bush sees world terrorism for the evil that it is, and he will remain consistent to the purpose of defeating it while working to make us ever safer at home."

Yeah, that's really going to mean a lot to a 43-year-old divorced mom with two kids who works at a Wal-Mart in Wisconsin.

Schwarzenegger will -- I'm really going out on a limb here -- make the centerpiece of his speech some devastatingly clever (and perhaps repeated) use of one or more forms of the word "terminate." Affordable child care will not figure prominently in his speech.

And even nice-guy McCain is likely to declare war on Kerry, attacking him as a potential war president.

Throw in newly converted mouthpiece for right-wing boilerplate Zell Miller, tough old buzzard Cheney, veteran culture warrior Lynne Cheney, and Flight Suit W himself, and I'm wondering if this could be a near-rerun of the GOP's disastrous 1992 sounded-better-in-the-original-German convention in spite of itself.

Any talk about the economy will be boasting about all the lousy jobs Bush has created this year; you may even hear talk about a sustained period of strong growth, as if the downsized give a crap about GDP.

The problem is that the GOP doesn't have anybody who talks about domestic issues with any credibility. Voters found Reagan persuasive on the kitchen-table stuff, but now there's no one.

I know 9/11 supposedly Changed Everything, but it really didn't. People go to work and buy school supplies and pay bills every day. Kerry may have paraded too many uniforms on the stage in Boston, but nobody's going to out-macho the GOP. And that really might be a huge mistake.
If you're in New York today and you think you might run into some Republicans who are eagerly awaiting tonight's speech by Rudolph Giuliani, you might want to be ready with a few printouts of this, or maybe this. Shut 'em right up, I think.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

During the Democratic convention, National Review Online's Jonah Goldberg, writing for USA Today, looked at a poll of Dem delegates and told us with a sneer that

According to a New York Times survey of [Democratic convention] delegates, ... 5 out of 6 say the war on terrorism and national security aren't that important....

What the Times survey actually said was

The war, Iraq and terrorism are not seen by the delegates as the most important issues in their states, the poll shows. Only one in six cited them as most important. Half of the delegates, on the other hand, said the most important issues were the economy and jobs, and one-third of all voters agree.

Now, surely Republican delegates answered this question very differently, right? Well, let's look at the Times's GOP survey (warning: PDF):


Democrats who said it was most important: 7%

Republicans who said it was most important: 5%


Democrats who said it was most important: 7%

Republicans who said it was most important: 3%


Democrats who said it was most important: 2%

Republicans who said it was most important: 15%

Total of all three:

Democrats: 16%

Republicans: 23%

So, Jonah, I assume you're going to impugn the GOP delegates' patriotism by pointing out that "3 out of 4 say the war on terrorism and national security aren't that important" -- right?


Well into your article in today's New York Times Magazine, you say that

it is conservative culture, the culture permeating the Bush administration, that is shot through with Sixties moralism and self-righteousness, the calls to ideological purity, the insistence that the other is not merely wrong but illegitimate.

You also note that the Bush-bashing community is largely embracing a non-radical candidate for president, John Kerry.

If you really believe this, and if extremism is so abhorrent to you, why is more than half of your article -- the first seven out of twelve paragraphs -- devoted to denunciations of sixties leftists, contemporary leftists, Michael Moore, Al Franken, Molly Ivins, your own son, and your younger (radical) self? Do you harbor so much loathing for the kid you used to be, the one who saw Richard Nixon as a fascist, that even when you see radicalism on the right -- radicalism in the corridors of power -- you feel compelled to bash powerless radical ordinary citizens on the left?

If you're going to write what appears to be a straight news story for the A section of the Sunday New York Times in which you give Karl Rove free rein for 16 paragraphs -- more than 700 words -- don't you think it might be a good idea to work in a sentence or two that actually lays out in some detail what charges Rove is denying? Or even to quote someone other than Rove on the subject of Rove? In the interest of, y'know, balance?

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Clear Channel discovers free speech:

...As part of its "Truthful Witness Campaign," the Christian Coalition is currently raising money to lease space on a billboard that will proclaim that homosexuality is a choice, not an innate characteristic.

The billboard, located on Route 299 in New Paltz, is owned by Clear Channel and Highway Displays, Inc. The billboard owner has told the group that it will display the poster as long as it is not offensive or obscene....

The Christian Coalition plans to feature a photograph of Stephen Bennett, who claims that he was a homosexual before a religious conversion enabled him to become heterosexual. His wife and children will also be in the photo with a caption that says: "Wonderful husband. Loving father. Former homosexual. Jesus Christ changes lives."...

(New Paltz, New York, of course, is where Mayor Jason West married a few dozen gay couples before he was ordered to stop.)

Remember a few months ago, when an anti-war group wanted to put up an ad in Times Square that featured a highly stylized bomb? No one complained, and yet Clear Channel declared the stylized bomb image unacceptable. The ad wasn't allowed to be posted until changes were made.

"We're just not going to run bomb copy in New York City," said Paul Meyer, president and chief executive of Clear Channel Outdoor -- which oversees the Spectacolor division -- Sunday afternoon.

(Er, were any bombs used on 9/11?)

People are complaining about the New Paltz ad -- Mayor West, for starters -- but Clear Channel has unilaterally declared it "not offensive or obscene." Now, what do you suppose would happen if a group wanted to rent speace on a Clear Channel billboard in the Bible Belt to show a gay couple and their children with a message such as "Love Makes a Family"? Think CC would come to the same conclusion?
So I'm reading this long New York Observer piece about what's going to happen in the GOP in 2008, looking for clues as to who might head the ticket for the Republicans then, and I get to this:

Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee: ... Dr. Frist values Christ's example of humility so much that he once climbed the Mount of Olives to recite the Sermon on the Mount.

BZZZT! That's it. End of story. It's gonna be Frist.

Friday, August 27, 2004


Gov. Jeb Bush's rising Republican star will be temporarily eclipsed next week -- by his son.

As the governor stays behind in Florida to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, Republican National Convention planners said Thursday they've awarded the governor's first-born a coveted evening speaking spot at the convention, which is scheduled to begin Monday in New York City....

--Miami Herald

..."P" was involved in a troubling 1994 incident described in this Metro-Dade Police Department report. On December 31, 1994, Bush showed up at 4 AM at the Miami home of a former girlfriend. He proceeded to break into the house via the woman's bedroom window, and then began arguing with his ex's father. Bush, then a Rice University student, soon fled the scene. But he returned 20 minutes later to drive his Ford Explorer across the home's front lawn, leaving wide swaths of burned grass in his wake. Young Bush avoided arrest when the victims declined to press charges.

--The Smoking Gun (go to the link for the police report)

"P." would've been about 25 when the Twin Towers fell, right? Guess he never volunteered for military service, did he?
"They've seen me make decisions, they've seen me under trying times, they've seen me weep, they've seen me laugh, they've seen me hug."

--George W. Bush, interview in USA Today

They've seen me hug.

We just saw what happened when John Kerry dared to utter the word "sensitive." Can you imagine how many days of derision Kerry would suffer from the Big Tough Men of the GOP if he'd said something like this?

"It's OK if you're a Republican" -- yeah, I know. There's no point in even complaining about it, really -- that's the nature of our politics, and it's been that way for a generation.

It's just like high school -- engage in certain activities and you're a fag. The Republicans are the football team; the Democrats are the drama club. (Never mind that the last three U.S. senators who served after losing limbs to war-related injuries were all Democrats.) And, just as in high school, the people who decide who's a fag get to do faggy things with impunity -- at my high school we had mandatory assemblies every year to cheer on the football team, and the highlight was team members dressed in drag. (I saw those guys hug, too. I also saw them slap one another on the ass. They never saw me do anything like that, though -- I wouldn't, because I didn't want them to call me a fag.)

American politics is high school. We just have to deal with that. But isn't a shame that we can't do better?
So, one more member of "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" has confirmed Kerry's version of the events that led to a medal. This time it's Larry Clayton Lee, who was there when Kerry earned a Silver Star. The story's in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Nevertheless, Lee doesn't believe Kerry earned his Purple Hearts -- which Kerry won in incidents Lee didn't witness. (Funny how that works with the Swiftees.)

(Link from the Mahablog.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

You realize, of course, that if John Kerry loses as a result of this Swift boat nonsense, a year or so from now there'll be mewling, abject mea culpas from the media -- just like the ones The New York Times and The Washington Post published this year on pre-war Iraq coverage.

The mea culpas won't be from the elite newspapers, which have done a reasonably good job on this story. They'll be from Dan Rather and Aaron Brown, or maybe from suits at the networks or cable channels.

"In retrospect," one or more of these men will say, in a tone of regret before a gathering of broadcast insiders, "it appears that we failed to do due diligence on many of the claims advanced against Senator Kerry. And while we certainly challenged some of the assertions of Senator Kerry's critics, undue emphasis was placed on the charges and inadequate attention devoted to asserting their truth value."

This speech will take against the backdrop of the second Bush recession, or the descent into quagmire of the third Bush war. It will be politically safe to say these things. And it will be far too late.
It turns out there weren't two Bronze Stars awarded for the events in Bay Hap on March 13, 1969. There were three -- given to John Kerry, "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" member Larry Thurlow, and a third man. Newsweek just obtained a Navy record on that third Bronze Star.

Guess whose story it backs up?

Hint: Not Larry Thurlow.

You remember how Thurlow's own military records were shown to contradict him, as The Washington Post reported last week:

In newspaper interviews and a best-selling book, Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy Swift boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, has strongly disputed Kerry's claim that the Massachusetts Democrat's boat came under fire during a mission in Viet Cong-controlled territory on March 13, 1969. Kerry won a Bronze Star for his actions that day.

But Thurlow's military records, portions of which were released yesterday to The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, contain several references to "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire" directed at "all units" of the five-boat flotilla. Thurlow won his own Bronze Star that day, and the citation praises him for providing assistance to a damaged Swift boat "despite enemy bullets flying about him."

Now there's this from Newsweek:

The third Bronze Star was won by one of Thurlow's own launch crew, Robert Eugene Lambert, who was radarman and the senior noncom on Thurlow's boat. NEWSWEEK obtained a copy of the citation for Lambert's Bronze Star from the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis under a Freedom of Information Act filing. This citation, like the others, says that following a mine explosion that wrecked one of the Swift Boats, the flotilla of five boats "came under small-arms and automatic weapons fire from the river banks."

Oh, and here's my favorite part:

Lambert won his Bronze Star for an action precisely paralleling Kerry's: Lambert picked someone out of the river. In Lambert's case, that someone was his skipper, Thurlow.

Thurlow had steered his Swift Boat to the aid of its companion damaged by the mine, personally leaping into the foundering craft to aid its badly wounded crew while Lambert "directed accurate suppressing fire at the enemy," according to the citation. In the swirling confusion, Thurlow was then knocked overboard from the wrecked launch.

At which point Lambert pulled him onto his boat, saving him.

(Even though, of course, there was no enemy fire, according to Thurlow.)

The Swiftees will say Kerry wrote this up himself -- lying to win medals not just for himself, not just for himself and Thurlow, but for himself, Thurlow, and a third man.

(Hey, why not more? "Bronze Stars for everybody! Yaaa - hooo! Rock and roll!")

Newsweek says,

Lambert's surviving military records do not include the initial recommendation for this medal, so there is no way to know who filled the required role of witness to vouch for Lambert's actions. But the citation contains such detail about the actions of both Thurlow and Lambert -- actions that Kerry cannot have known since his launch was on the far side of the river --that it seems implausible Kerry could have written the recommendation.

Not to the Swiftees and the rest of the Right -- I assume they think it's perfectly plausible that Kerry kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.
Interesting: The new Gallup poll has Bush up by 3. Sounds bad, but that's unchanged over the past two weeks -- and, as you can see from this Polling Report summary, the Gallup and CNN/USA TodayGallup polls consistently lean further to the GOP side than other polls. So if the Swiftoids are kicking Kerry's butt, as the L.A. Times suggests, why isn't Gallup finding a Bush bounce?
The Wall Street Journal's snot-nosed James Taranto plays Gotcha!:

That '70s Show

"I called the media.... I said, 'If I take some crippled veterans down to the White House and we chain ourselves to the gates, will we get coverage?' 'Oh, yes, we will cover that.'"--John Kerry, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 22, 1971

"Kerry is sending to Crawford former Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, a frequent companion of Kerry's on the campaign trail and a fellow Vietnam War veteran who lost three limbs during the war. Cleland ... will try to deliver a letter protesting the [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] ads to [President] Bush at his heavily guarded ranch, Kerry aides said."--Reuters, Aug. 25, 2004

So what's the problem? All that tells me is that Kerry in 1971 knew the failings of the media, especially the broadcast media, and those failings, if anything, have gotten worse since then. If a cheap stunt is what it takes to get a message past the gatekeeper, isn't that the gatekeeper's fault?

Here's that 1971 Kerry quote in context:

There is one other body that has tremendous power in this country, which is a favorite topic of Vice President Agnew and I would take some agreement with him. That would be the fourth estate. The press. I think the very reason that we veterans are here today is the result partially of our inability to get our story out through the legitimate channels.

That is to say, for instance, I held a press conference here in Washington, D.C., some weeks ago with General Shoup, with General Hester, with the mother of a prisoner of war, the wife of a man who was killed, the mother of a soldier who was killed, and with a bilateral amputee, all representing the so-called silence majority, the silent so-called majority which the President used to perpetuate the war, and because it was a press conference and an antiwar conference and people simply exposing ideas we had no electronic media there.

I called the media afterward and asked them why and the answer was, from one of the networks, it doesn't have to be identified, "because, is, new business is really partly entertainment business visually, you see, and a press conference like that is not visual."

Of course, we don't have the position of power to get our ideas out. I said, "If I take some crippled veterans doesn't to the White House and we chain ourselves to the gates, will we get coverage?" "Oh, yes, we will cover that."

So you are reduced to a position where the only way you can get your ideas out is to stage events, because had we not staged the events, will all due respect, Senator, and I really appreciate the fact that I am here obviously, and I know you are committed to this, but with all due respect I probably wouldn't be sitting at this table. You see this is the problem.

Sensationalism trumps substance on TV -- absolutely right. That was the problem then and it's the problem now.
So I just read two stories back to back: this L.A. Times story about the paper's new poll (also summarized at Polling Report and analyzed here), which shows Bush ahead of Kerry for the first time, and this story about Swift boat lead attack dog John O'Neill, who's been saying that Kerry couldn't have been in Cambodia after having told Richard Nixon (on tape) that he himself was in Cambodia.

Look, I'll say it again: It's time to do an ad putting the liars' words and the refutations back to back. It would be direct and it would be very effective. Why hasn't it happened?

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The people who want to fuck shit up in New York next week won't read Rick Perlstein's Village Voice article on the potential parallels between Chicago '68 and now. Or they'll read it and just assume he's pathetic, because anyone who doesn't want to go all out has to be pathetic.

They know that if they go all out, if they fuck shit up, people will get it. It's obvious -- how could people not get it? They just will.

One protest veteran tells Perlstein, "We need to do what we think is right to do, and not so much worry about, ah, 'Well, what if this? What if that?'" A younger activist insists that "people understand that the so-called chaos of streets being shut down by protesters or even a window being broken is nothing compared to the day-to-day chaos and destruction of people being able to afford housing, or health care."

Er, no, they don't understand that. I drag my ass through the world of ordinary people every day, and believe me, they won't understand if you're destructive or make life miserable for people who've done no harm to you. Some will just grumble; a hell of a lot will hate your guts. And you don't really have the right to shrug off the response of ordinary people, because if you believe in democracy then what you believe in is the will of the people -- and that means all the people, or at least a majority. It doesn't mean just your cohort.

But I doubt you'll listen to me, either, or to Norman and John Mailer, or to Barbara from the Mahablog or theoria from the Daily Kos, all of whom really, really believe that you could be handing George W. Bush a big fat early Christmas present if you generate chaos, because he would just love to run against chaos.


I've done a fair amount of protesting. But I have to admit a dirty secret: I sometimes have doubts about whether even peaceful protests are worth it.

Right-wingers don't protest. Ever notice that? Oh, sure, every so often there's a big anti-abortion rally, and these "Protest Warrior" people like to pee in left-wingers' punch, and the Freepers like to play dress-up, and of course there's this moron. But most righties never march in the streets.

You'll say it's because they have corporate power behind them, and that's mostly true -- but even the gun lovers don't march, and gun manufacturers aren't particularly big businesses.

Right-wingers don't protest, and yet they've been kicking our butts for years.

The cold reality is that demos make lousy television -- unless they're violent, in which case they make the demonstators look bad. A peaceful demonstration is visually dull, and there hasn't been a truly memorable speech at a demo since "I Have a Dream," so there's not much for print journalists to write about, either.

I'm not telling you not to demonstrate. I just think you should question something you probably haven't ever questioned, which is the proposition that protesting the convention is absolutely necessary.

Look: They know we're furious at them. Everyone knows we're furious at them.

There weren't any big right-wing demos in Boston. Does that make you think that conservatives are mellowing toward us? Me either.

It's good to protest, but it's not necessary to protest. What's necessary is getting these people the hell out of office. Do what you can to accomplish that goal -- or, at least, do no harm.
People who sell books or CDs for a living talk about "traffic builders" -- CDs or books that attract a lot of people to stores. Traffic builders seem to inspire buyers to do additional buying; you can sometimes see a connection between the arrival of a traffic builder and a surprising increase in the sales of some other item.

I bring this up because the new New York Times bestseller list has just been circulated via e-mail. (It'll be posted at the Times site on Sunday.)

The Swift boat liars' book, Unfit for Command, has gone to #1.

At #9, in its first week in the Top 15, is Jenna Jameson's How to Make Love Like a Porn Star.

Coincidence? I think not.
So maybe John Kerry is a tougher campaigner than we thought: His principal complaint about the Swift Boat liars was that they had ties to the Bush campaign, and now Benjamin Ginsberg, the top outside lawyer for the Bush campaign, has resigned after revealing that he also advised the liars.

The New York Times story makes clear that both parties share outside lawyers with 527 groups, so it's understandable that Ginsburg thought this was OK. However, as a certain former Republican presidential candidate said a couple of days ago, this is hardball. What just happened is that a Democrat "worked the refs" and the press focused on just the Republicans -- exactly the opposite of what usually happens.
Have you noticed a pattern emerging in some of the Swift boat news accounts? It seems that many of the veterans' stories get fishy at the affidavit stage:

Patrick Runyon, who served on a mission with Mr. Kerry, said he initially thought the caller was from a pro-Kerry group, and happily gave a statement about the night Mr. Kerry won his first Purple Heart. The investigator said he would send it to him by e-mail for his signature. Mr. Runyon said the edited version was stripped of all references to enemy combat, making it look like just another night in the Mekong Delta.

"It made it sound like I didn't believe we got any returned fire," he said. "He made it sound like it was a normal operation. It was the scariest night of my life."

--New York Times

Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a "terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star....

"I still don't think he shot the guy in the back," Elliott said. "It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here."

Elliott said he was no under personal or political pressure to sign the statement, but he did feel "time pressure" from those involved in the book. "That's no excuse," Elliott said. "I knew it was wrong ... In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake."

--Boston Globe

Before recording the ad, French signed an affidavit that said: "I am able to swear, as I do hereby swear, that all facts and statements contained in this affidavit are true and correct and within my personal knowledge and belief."

It goes on to say: "Kerry has wildly exaggerated and lied about his record in Vietnam," and that Kerry received his Purple Heart medals "in the absence of hostile fire."...

In an interview with The Oregonian newspaper on Thursday, French said he relied on the accounts of three other veterans in making the statement about Kerry, and did not personally witness the events.


Joe Conason was on this story a month ago. In a July column in Salon (available here), Conason wrote that Thomas Rupprath, a former FBI agent from Texas, was hired by the Swift boat liars to obtain testimony from veterans. Patrick Runyon ID'd Rupprath as the man who interviewed him and then sent the inaccurate affidavit:

Among the witnesses who does recall the firefight is Pat Runyon, a former crew member on Kerry's boat. He too spoke with Rupprath when the detective contacted him recently -- and told Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater that he was stunned to find serious inaccuracies in a version of the interview that Rupprath later sent to him. The most damning mistake, Runyon said, was an insinuation that Kerry's injury had been caused by a flare rather than a bullet.

And more of this may have gone on:

Runyon isn't alone in suspecting that Rupprath may misuse his words, according to Wade Sanders, a former deputy assistant secretary of the Navy who served with Kerry in Vietnam and is publicly supporting the Democrat. Sanders said he has heard lately from a pair of other Navy veterans interviewed by the detective. "They told me that he sent them transcripts [of their interviews] and that they told him that his version was a misrepresentation of what they said."

This seems not to have troubled certain vets -- French and Elliott, for instance. They were handed less-than-truthful affidavits and went on to endorse their contents (although Elliott recanted and then unrecanted).

As for Runyon, the liars apparently just went ahead and ascribed their lie to him in their book:

O'Neill and Corsi, however, claim there is no evidence whatsoever Kerry took any enemy fire that night.

Patrick Runyon was operating the engine on the Boston whaler during the incident.

"I can't say for sure that we got return fire or how [Kerry] got nicked," Runyon is quoted as saying in "Unfit for Command." "I couldn't say one way or the other. I know he did get nicked, a scrape on the arm."

And that's based on what?

An affidavit?

I love this quote from Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, in reaction to Dick Cheney's gay marriage statement:

"For many pro-family voters, protecting traditional marriage ranks ahead of the economy and job creation as a campaign issue."

So does that mean these people would rather be unemployed and without health insurance in a country that bans gay marriage than have jobs and medical coverage in a country that (in a few widely scattered locales) allows it?



By the way, did you see the clip on TV? Wasn't it just the most astonishing coincidence that a voter asked Cheney about gay marriage on the very day that a draft of the GOP platform was distributed that calls for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage? Why, if you didn't know any better, you'd almost think the question and answer were scripted, so the administration could send different signals to different blocs of voters! Fortunately, the press has universally portrayed Cheney's remark as a spontaneous statement from the heart, so we know that theory is just silly paranoia.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Gosh, they have such rock-ribbed conservative values -- at least compared to us decadents and libertines up north -- and yet...

Texas leads nation in DWIs, alcohol-related wrecks

Texans can claim yet another dubious first: we drink and drive more than any other citizens in the country.

By extension, we also kill and injure more people doing so....

--San Antonio Express-News

Hmm, why would this be? Two explanations are given:

Texas has such a high number of drunken scofflaws in part because there are simply more people driving more miles than almost any other state.

But even California, where drivers log even more miles, has a lower rate of drunken drivers and deaths....

Texans also need to pay attention to the values that allow drinking and driving to happen, [Michelle] Price [executive director of the South Texas Injury Prevention and Research Center] said.

"We drive too fast," she said, noting that speed combined with alcohol makes for a particularly deadly combination. "And we don't like giving up our liberties here in Texas. Ultimately, too many people just think they can get away with it."...

Or maybe driving to endanger is just Texans' way of paying tribute to George and Laura...


(I linked the Free Republic reprint of this story. Feel free to go through the infuriating registration process for the Express-News if you want to read the original.)
Ralph Peters on John Kerry in the New York Post today:

... real heroes don't call themselves heroes. Honorable soldiers or sailors don't brag. They let their deeds speak for themselves. Some of the most off-putting words any veteran can utter are "I'm a war hero."

Real heroes (and I've been honored to know some)
never portray their service in grandiose terms, telling TV cameras that they're reporting for duty. Real heroes may be proud of the sacrifices they offered, but they don't shout for attention.

This is so profoundly a part of the military code of behavior that it cannot be over-emphasized. The rule is that those who brag about being heroes usually aren't heroes at all. Bragging is for drunks at the end of the bar, not for real vets. And certainly not for anyone who wishes to trade on his service to become our commander-in-chief.

Ralph Peters on George W. Bush in the New York Post, May 12, 2003:

One of the few things more painful to watch than a kiddie talent show is the desperate effort of the Democratic Party's White House hopefuls to gain any traction against President Bush.

They're spinning their wheels in the political mud. While the president flies off to thank the cheering crew of an aircraft carrier for a military triumph.

That carrier visit really irked the Dems....

It doesn't matter that not one sailor complained and that the carrier crew was thrilled by the visit. Or that visits to the troops by other presidents have been far more elaborate, expensive and less considerate of those in uniform. What really bothered the Dems was that the president looked like a successful wartime leader in his flight suit.

To our disloyal opposition, that was worse than his actual status as a successful wartime leader. They can ignore the facts, but they won't forgive a photo op.

Local veterans call for attorney's resignation

OREGON CITY, Ore. - Clackamas County veterans are calling for the resignation of an assistant district attorney who appeared in television ads attacking Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's military record.

In the ad, and a sworn affidavit, Al French says he served with Kerry and that the Purple Heart medals Kerry received were obtained under false pretenses.

However, French admitted later that he did not witness the events mentioned in the affidavit and was relying on what his friends told him....

The Oregon State Bar says they have received enough complaints to look into the matter, with the main question being whether French violated ethics.

--AP/KATU, Portland, Oregon

Here's the affidavit, which states flatly that "Kerry obtain Purple Hearts under false pretenses from negligently self-inflicted grenade wounds in the absence of hostile fire"; the first paragraph of the affidate asserts that "all facts and statements contained in this affidavit are true and correct and within my personal knowledge or belief."

And via Atrios, I see that Media Matters for America is exposing Steve Gardner as another Swift boat non-eyewitness eyewitness....

Oy -- here we go again:

McAuliffe: Dems Not Aiding GOP Protesters

Democratic Party chief Terry McAuliffe says his party doesn't need to help the thousands of protesters who will descend on New York in anticipation of next week's Republican National Convention....

He denied claims by GOP counterpart Ed Gillespie of a "blurry" line between Democrats and the protesters....

Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke said speakers at the Democratic convention where John Kerry was nominated for president were mostly against the Iraq war and in favor of organized labor and abortion rights.

"Now anti-war, pro-labor, pro-abortion groups plan protests outside the hall in New York and the (Democratic National Committee) is trying to distance itself from them," Dyke said. "They have been married for months and now they are pretending they have never met."


Atrios quotes The Daily Show and the L.A. Times editorial page today on the subject of reporters feeling it's not their job to point out that a lie is a lie. Well, this is a lie, everyone who knows anything about left and liberal politics knows it's a lie, and yet Democrats are going to have to respond to it over and over again until whatever happens in the streets of New York during the convention fades from the headlines.

Part of the problem is that "liberal" over the past fifteen years has become, one the one hand, a synonym for "Democrat" and, on the other, a synonym for "commie" or "pinko" -- so a pierced anarchist or a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist who loathes John Kerry is now dubbed a "liberal," which means "member of Kerry's party and Clinton's party and Terry McAuliffe's party."

A large percentage of the people in the streets will vote for Kerry, but the Democratic Party has no reason to be involved in these demos -- overtly or covertly. The memories of '68 are too painful. No reporter looking for genuine connections will find them, except by playing Six Degrees of Separation -- yet no reporter will say that, because the GOP says there's a connection and you can't call one of your sources a liar, even if you're telling the truth.
A lot of people would like to see the tables turned on George Bush and his backers right now -- instead of attacks on John Kerry's military service in Vietnam, they'd like to see Bush's military record attacked. I understand that feeling, but the thinking behind it is, I feel, too linear. Instead of an attack on Bush for what did in the Vietnam era, I'd like to see attacks on what he's touting as his strength -- his leadership in war.

Here's an attack ad I want to see:

When they were deciding whether to send American troops to Iraq, George W. Bush and his advisers sought information from this man -- Ahmad Chalabi, a convicted embezzler and accused forger. Others said no, but Chalabi insisted that Iraq had large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction -- and the Bush administration believed him.

To date, none of those weapons stockpiles have been found in Iraq, and nearly a thousand U.S. troops have been killed. Ahmad Chalabi has now been charged with passing U.S. intelligence secrets to Iran, and also with counterfeiting. And when the radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr vowed to fight Americans to the last drop of blood, Ahmad Chalabi swore allegiance to him.

George W. Bush: Can we run the risk of trusting his judgment for four more years?

A few suggested visuals: Bush with Chalabi in Iraq, Chalabi in Laura's box at the '04 State of the Union, and photos of Chalabi with Rumsfeld, Powell, and Bremer here.

Remember that most Americans don't know any of this.

And please -- don't be a pathetic, simpering Democrat and say, "But Chalabi was also working with the government during the Clinton years! And Kerry believed there were WMDs!" Republicans never let that sort of thing stop them -- when Bob Dole accuses Kerry of getting Purple Hearts for minor wounds, he doesn't worry for a minute about the fact that he also, by his own admission, got a Purple Heart for a minor wound; Larry Thurlow doesn't worry that when he accuses Kerry of lying about his Bronze Star he's also alleging that he himself received a medal under false pretenses.

Furthermore, Bush's responsibility for getting the facts straight was different from Clinton's or Kerry's -- he was deciding whether to send troops to war. The reality of the past half-century is that the power to wage war has been ceded to the White House. Clinton didn't choose to use that power to send American to die based on deceitful intelligence -- Bush did. Kerry and other Democrats in Congress voted to authorize the President to use force -- but the President actually did it, based largely on utter nonsense from the likes of Chalabi. (Remember, presidents have access to far more intelligence than antyone in Congress, even Intelligence Committee members.)

I think an ad like this could strike a nerve with swing voters -- many of whom are swing voters because they've soured on the war (Pennsylvania swing voters, as quoted today in The New York Times: "The No. 1 issue for me is that we're spending too much of our tax dollars supporting what's going on in Iraq,"; "Bush went in without a plan"; "If it wasn't for the war, I would definitely vote for Bush.")

And after that, how about a Bush-Bandar ad?


(Some sources for the ad copy above: The New Yorker, Newsweek, the L.A. Times, Knight-Ridder.)

Monday, August 23, 2004


Is there anything right-wing whiners won't portray as a personal affront to themselves?

It seems Barnes & Noble can't keep that Swift boat liars' book in stock. Not surprisingly, the liars' admirers consider this one more example of their ongoing victimization -- damn those jackbooted totalitarian bookstore managers!

And meanwhile, the real culprit is apparently the Swiftoids' own publishing house, which didn't ship enough books in the first place. Reuters reports:

Controversial book "Unfit for Command," which fires an election-year salvo at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's war record, has claimed one unintended victim -- bookstore chain Barnes & Noble Inc.

Barnes & Noble, the world's largest bookseller, on Monday issued a statement saying it had sold out of the book and, in effect, held up its hands in surrender to what it called "thousands of complaints" from both supporters and detractors of the book.

Supporters, Barnes & Noble said, are claiming the bookseller has intentionally not stocked the title or is hiding it....

"(Complaints) started in the stores, and the home office has been inundated as well," said a company spokeswoman.

She said the company's statement was meant to "set the record straight." It is not Barnes & Noble's fault, she said, but rather small publisher Regnery Publishing who cut the chain's original order in half....

...A spokesman for Regnery was not immediately available for comment....

The GOP faithful, needless to say, don't need to be confused by the facts. Their minds are made up: They're the victims, and it's a vast liberal bookseller's conspiracy.

Why are you a Republican?

If we were going to see a show of Dennis Hopper's photographs, do you think Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton would be more sensitive to the work? I see Nixon as an intellectual. I consider Bill Clinton a huckster.

--interview with inept pornographer and provocateur Vincent Gallo in The New York Times Magazine, August 22, 2004

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether Dennis Hopper's photos are the finest work we have in the photographic medium, here's a peek into the aesthetic sensibilities of Richard Nixon -- an account of an April 1971 meeting that included Nixon, National Endowment for the Arts chair Nancy Hanks, and Nixon advisers H. R. Haldeman and Leonard Garment. It's from When Hollywood Had a King, Connie Bruck's biography of movie mogul Lew Wasserman:

When the subject of foreign competition came up, Hanks ventured that "the quality of films in this country is not as good as many of the foreign films--"

NIXON (interrupting): I think some of them are pretty lousy. I think the foreign films that are supposed to be so great ....

HALDEMAN: What the foreigners are doing better than we are is producing family movies.

NIXON (to Hanks): Now, now, this is what I want you and Leonard to get into.... We should start producing good movies. And the family movie is coming back, it’s coming back very fast. I sense it. Do you agree?

GARMENT: Right. The romantic mood --

NIXON: My kids tell me. They, and all their friends, frankly they don't like it -- the thrill of the moment. They don't like it.

GARMENT: I find my kids are fascinated by the old movies that they see on television. The nine- and ten-year-old. They find there's a strong story, strong characters. You don't have that in a lot of the contemporary --

NIXON: And they're so
offbeat! ... Nancy, let's make a study of this damn industry, from an arts standpoint. And -- is it worth saving? I don't want to subsidize a turkey! ...

[Nixon went on to say,] "They are still making the weird pictures, whereas the kinds of pictures people like to see are stories, they want to see a story! ... Like Charlton Heston, he always plays in story movies. We just gotta make some movies that do tell stories. Why is it for example that people still go see John Wayne?..."

Yeah, Gallo -- a real intellectual.

Bush won't denounce the Swift Boat liars' ads. Denouncing them would be a simple act of common decency, but he has no sense of decency -- no Bush does during a campaign, and this one rarely does at other times. Instead, he change the subject and declares that it would be best if all ads by independent groups (527s) were off the air.

OK, fine -- Kerry should call his bluff. It doesn't matter how much his campaign is relying on ads from MoveOn and other groups -- Kerry should announce that he would greatly appreciate it if every independent group running ads against Bush would take them off the air. He could say something like this:

"I can win this election without independent ads. George Bush can't. For certain kinds of attacks, George Bush doesn't like to get his hands dirty; that's why he relies on so-called independent groups, which engage in gutter politics while he stays above the fray."

If Bush doesn't follow suit, the pro-Kerry indies should, of course, return to the air within a matter of days. In the meantime, the shoe would shift to the other foot -- the focus, and the onus, would be on Bush and his surrogates.

I think Bush would claim to be helpless and the ads would stay on. Bush might even argue that a call by Kerry for an indie-ad moratorium that was answered by the pro-Kerry indies was proof of collusion between Kerry and the indies. Still, I think it's a risk worth taking. It could really upset Bush's gutter game plan.
Now, can someone please explain to me why there's no Kerry ad simply juxtaposing the current words of the Swift Boat liars and statements made by the same people on other occasions? You know -- an ad something like this?

In an unpublished interview in March 2003 with Mr. Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley, provided by Mr. Brinkley to The New York Times, Roy F. Hoffmann, a retired rear admiral and a leader of the group, allowed that he had disagreed with Mr. Kerry's antiwar positions but said, "I am not going to say anything negative about him." He added, "He's a good man."

In a profile of the candidate that ran in The Boston Globe in June 2003, Mr. Hoffmann approvingly recalled the actions that led to Mr. Kerry's Silver Star: "It took guts, and I admire that."

George Elliott, one of the Vietnam veterans in the group, flew from his home in Delaware to Boston in 1996 to stand up for Mr. Kerry during a tough re-election fight, declaring at a news conference that the action that won Mr. Kerry a Silver Star was "an act of courage." At that same event, Adrian L. Lonsdale, another Vietnam veteran now speaking out against Mr. Kerry, supported him with a statement about the "bravado and courage of the young officers that ran the Swift boats."

"Senator Kerry was no exception," Mr. Lonsdale told the reporters and cameras assembled at the Charlestown Navy Yard. "He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."

Those comments echoed the official record. In an evaluation of Mr. Kerry in 1969, Mr. Elliott, who was one of his commanders, ranked him as "not exceeded" in 11 categories, including moral courage, judgment and decisiveness, and "one of the top few" - the second-highest distinction - in the remaining five. In written comments, he called Mr. Kerry "unsurpassed," "beyond reproach" and "the acknowledged leader in his peer group."

Is the Kerry campaign afraid of seeming to attack veterans -- any veterans? If so, haven't the liars and their backers already gone way over that line?

(By the way, I think a clip of Swift boat liar Van Odell saying "I do not have a single document" might work nicely in an ad of this kind.)
Goddammit, Democrats, when the hell are you going to learn not to express doubts about your own side to a New York Times reporter? David Stout "contributed reporting to this article," and Jim Rutenberg shares the byline, but the first name under the headline is -- of course -- Adam Nagourney, and the story is -- of course -- on the front page of The New York Times, and it includes this:

Another Democrat close to the campaign, who asked not to be quoted by name, was more dire.

"When you're basically running on your biography and there are ongoing attacks that are undermining the credibility of your biography, you have a really big problem."

DO NOT DO THIS. It's not brain surgery. Republicans don't do this. Republicans win. Democrats do this. Democrats lose. Any questions?
Do you give money to NPR? Don't write the check until you hear Morning Edition's useless coverage this morning on the Swift Boat sewer campaign by the Bush administration and its surrogates, now including Bob Dole. Two segments, one exclusively about process (Are the ads working? How much did the media buy cost?), the other nearly so, with a few details questioning the GOP liars' version of events, ascribed to various news reports in a "he-said-he-said" fashion (heaven forfend that journalism should be practiced on NPR and its reporters should attempt to ascertain the truth in this situation independently). And neither story pointed out that Dole sneered at the wounds that won Kerry his Purple Hearts despite his own 1988 acknowledgment that the wounds that led to his Purple Heart were relatively minor and "patched up with Mercurochrome." (There wasn't even a less specific acknowledgment that it's perfectly proper to issue a Purple Heart for a minor wound.)

Do I even need to tell you that the stories came from the appalling Juan Williams and Cokie Roberts?

UPDATE: Here's the show. Scroll down to "Attack Ads Take Toll on Kerry in Polls" and
"Controversy Over Kerry's War Record Continues."

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Let me say right off the bat that the Steven Johnson article in today's New York Times Magazine is silly and innocuous. Its subject is the amygdala, a center of emotion in the brain, and how it might be responsible for deciding whether we're liberals or conservatives.

It's silly -- but go read it. And notice that all the examples of the amygdala's effect involve turning people into Democrats, as if being a Democrat is an aberrant state:

Do liberals "think" with their limbic system more than conservatives do? ...

As The Times reported not long ago, a team of U.C.L.A. researchers analyzed the neural activity of Republicans and Democrats as they viewed a series of images from campaign ads. And the early data suggested that the most salient predictor of a "Democrat brain" was amygdala activity responding to certain images of violence: either the Bush ads that featured shots of a smoldering ground zero or the famous "Daisy" ad from Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 campaign that ends with a mushroom cloud. Such brain activity indicates a kind of gut response, operating below the level of conscious control.

...Consider this possibility: the scientists do an exhaustive survey and it turns out that liberal brains have, on average, more active amygdalas than conservative ones. It's a plausible outcome that matches some of our stereotypes about liberal values: an aversion to human suffering, an unwillingness to rationalize capital punishment and military force, a fondness for candidates who like to feel our pain....

Now, jump to Maureen Dowd's scathing column about sewer politics in the Bush family. Look past the main argument ("It's easy for the Bushes to stay gallant. They delegate the gutter.") to a couple of anecdotes from the column. The first one's about Lee Atwater, a hatchet man for Bush the Elder:

The New Yorker editor David Remnick, writing in Esquire in 1986, limned the 1980 Congressional race in South Carolina's Second District "between Atwater's man, Republican Floyd Spence, and a Faulknerian figure named Tom Turnipseed. At one press briefing, Atwater planted a reporter who rose and said, 'We understand Turnipseed has had psychotic treatment.' Atwater played it cool and refused to comment, but later told the reporters off the record, 'In college I understand he got hooked up to jumper cables.'"

Then, later in the column, there's this about Bush the Younger and his team (something also noticed recently by Atrios):

Meanwhile, the Bush crew is shamelessly doing to Mr. Kerry what it once did to Mr. McCain: suggesting that the decorated Vietnam vet has snakes in his head and a temperament problem. "Senator Kerry appears to have lost his cool," Scott McClellan told reporters in Crawford on Friday. And the Bush campaign chairman, Marc Racicot, said on CNN that Mr. Kerry looked "wild-eyed" responding to Swift boat muck.

See a common thread?

Democrat equals neurotic -- or worse, possibly crazy.

Republican equals normal.

Watch for this trope. It's been part of our politics for a while now -- but most people aren't aware of it.

I've been reading Greg Mitchell's Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, about the 1950 Senate race between Richard Nixon and Helen Gahagan Douglas. Here's Mitchell describing an L.A. Times column written during the campaign by Kyle Palmer, who was unabashedly pro-Nixon:

[Palmer wrote that Helen Gahagan Douglas] was "an emotional artist" ... who had been "emotionally attracted" to the left-wing doctrine of her day. "Her emotional reactions took her far afield.... Mrs. Douglas was influenced by a state of mind -- by an emotional concept." There were "many instances of her emotional powers -- and reactions." A good example was "the emotional reaction that caused her to weep" when her idol, Henry Wallace, was kicked off the Roosevelt ticket in 1944.... The lady was "a veritable political butterfly, flitting from flower to flower and from bower to bower while others -- Nixon among the foremost -- have pulled up the weeds." There was, Palmer concluded, "nothing superficial about [Nixon's] make-up and no emotional instability whatsoever."

That last line's a hoot -- though in 1950 (and 1968 and 1972) people bought it.

Bush's supporters imply about him just what Palmer said about Nixon -- "no emotional instability whatsoever." That's obviously not true in Bush's case, but even his harshest critics talk about him as venal, stupid, and ideologically dangerous far more than they talk about him as hostile and sarcastic and snappish and vindictive. I think it's a huge mistake that we avoid pointing out Bush's utter inability to keep hisa cool, and I think the fact that Bush's stability is never questioned is a big reason that people tell pollsters he's a "strong leader" and that he "says what he means and means what he says."

Mitchell, in quoting the column about Douglas, discusses it as pure sexism, for obvious reasons. I'd argue that it's more than that -- it's making the case that there are "real men" and there's everyone else -- the weak, the dangerous, the unstable, who can be men (though not "real men") as well as women.

One last quote. It's from an infantile e-mailer who's written twice, the first time to insist that the Swift boat liars are telling the truth and to suggest that Kerry is undergoing a "meltdown":

The "meltdown" that I was more referring to was Kerry's psychological state or lack thereof. If various items of the story are true then I think that is a tremendous problem for Kerry and all of us. I can see lying and embellishing one's record to get laid, but not broadcasting it on the floor of the Senate or making a hollow record the centerpiece of a presidential campaign. It's not, ah, normal if you get my drift. If you detect someone home at the Kerry mansion so be it, however, I cannot. The Teresa "relationship" is another weird chapter.

There it is again.

Watch for this. If you're looking for it, you'll see it a lot -- especially as the Bush campaign sinks further and further into the sewer.
If you want to know in advance what messages the Republicans are planning to send to voters, you could join a GOP mailing list and get regular GOP insider updates. Or you could just read the first third of any Adam Nagourney story in the New York Times, like this one, and get the party's spin points presented in almost identical language (if cleverly disguised as objective reporting):

President Bush will present what aides say will be a detailed second-term agenda when he is nominated in New York in 10 days, part of an ambitious convention program built on invocations of Sept. 11 and efforts to paint Senator John Kerry as untrustworthy and out of the mainstream.

Mr. Bush's advisers said they were girding for the most extensive street demonstrations at any political convention since the Democrats nominated Hubert H. Humphrey in Chicago in 1968. But in contrast to that convention, which was severely undermined by televised displays of street rioting, Republicans said they would seek to turn any disruptions to their advantage, by portraying protests by even independent activists as Democratic-sanctioned displays of disrespect for a sitting president.

And after months in which Mr. Bush stressed issues of concern to conservative supporters - from restrictions on stem cell research to a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriage - the convention will offer its national television audience a decidedly more moderate face for the president and his party. If "strength" was the leitmotif of the Democratic convention in Boston, "compassion" will be the theme in New York, marking the return of a mainstay of Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign, party leaders said.

...Most of all, Mr. Bush's aides said that after five months in which they have focused almost exclusively on attacking Mr. Kerry, the president will use his speech to offer what they asserted would be expansive plans for a second term, in an effort to underline what they argued was Mr. Kerry's failure to talk about the future at his own convention.

"This speech has to lay out a forward-looking, positive prospective agenda," said Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's senior political adviser. "It has to show - and to defend in a way the American people want to hear - his policies on the war on terror."

... Ed Gillespie, the national Republican chairman and a senior Bush campaign adviser, argued that Mr. Kerry had missed an opportunity at his convention by spending too much time talking about his biography and Mr. Bush, reflecting Mr. Kerry's effort to use his convention to present himself as strong enough to carry the nation through a time of war.

"They left people feeling hungry for substance," Mr. Gillespie said. "We will not make that mistake in New York. We will come out of there with specific proposals for the future for a new term."

Does Nagourney ever lie awake at night and wonder if his life is a waste? I know the answer to that is no, and I know why he thinks he's a newsman rather than a useful idiot and a hack -- he coats this stuff in a (very) thin layer of skepticism, and most of his stories strive for some sort of balance after he's spent the first eight or nine paragraphs summarizinfg the GOP spin. He reads what he's written all the way to end and thinks he's been fair. And he probably thinks the wee bit of skepticism up front proves his objectivity.

But it doesn't. It's just what the GOP wants -- spin that seems like objective reporting. The thin layer of skepticism is a nice little delivery system; casual readers don't think they're being spun. And many casual readers won't read Nagourney's stories all the way through, so putting all the spin points up front is a gift to the GOP as well.

UPDATE: Someone else who read this article has told me she disagrees with my take on it -- she finds it essentially objective. I accept that. She does, however, sense something fishy in this passage:

Republicans said they would seek to turn any [convention] disruptions to their advantage, by portraying protests by even independent activists as Democratic-sanctioned displays of disrespect for a sitting president.

What's with that "even independent activists"? All the demonstrators are "independent activists." None of the demonstrations are Democratic Party activities; the Democratic Party undoubtedly wants New York to be as quiet and disruption-free as possible, knowing that any unrest plays into Bush's hands. An exquisitely subtle insinuation -- and Nagourney put it right up front.

Friday, August 20, 2004


The group [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] says Mr. Kerry himself wrote the reports that led to the medal....

Several veterans insist that Mr. Kerry wrote his own reports, pointing to the initials K. J. W. on one of the reports and saying they are Mr. Kerry's. "What's the W for, I cannot answer," said Larry Thurlow, who said his boat was 50 to 60 yards from Mr. Kerry's. Mr. Kerry's middle initial is F...

--New York Times

Maynard G. Krebs was Bob [Denver]'s first breakthrough TV role as the beatnik-best friend of Dobie Gillis on the TV series "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis"....

Maynard lived in his own world with its own twisted logic. His name was also illogical, the "G" stood for Walter.

This is really trivial, but I have to respond to at least some of the whining on Michelle Malkin's blog in the aftermath of her cable TV appearance last night. Malkin writes:

As I am seated at the table with Matthews, who I am meeting for the first time, he cracks a joke--and not in a well-meaning way--about how I look.... "Are you sure you are old enough to be on the show? What are you? 28?" I grit my teeth. He badgers me again with the same question. I politely answer his question and supply my age.

(I wonder how Matthews' wife, the respected TV journalist Kathleen Matthews, who hosts a show about working women, would react if informed about her husband's treatment of a fellow female journalist. I've been in the business a dozen years and would be happy to talk to Mrs. Matthews about my firsthand experience with Neanderthal chauvinism in the workplace.)

Oh, please. Look, this may be insensitive, but if it's sexist to say that Malkin looks quite young (in fact, she does), then my wife and I are sexists for asking aloud whether bartenders still card Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution whenever we see him on TV, and we were sexist back in the '90s when we used to say the same thing about the State Department's Jamie Rubin. And a male acquaintance was being a sexist when, upon seeing the author photo on the jacket of Kenneth Pollack's bestseller The Threatening Storm, asked, "Is that his bar mitzvah picture?"

(More substantive critiques of Malkin's TV defense of the Swift boat liars can be found here and here.)

I'm going to make some leaps of faith here. Bear with me.

Two passages from the New York Times Swift boat story jumped out at me:


In the television commercial, Dr. Louis Letson looks into the camera and declares, "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury." ...

Yet Dr. Letson's name does not appear on any of the medical records for Mr. Kerry....

Asked in an interview if there was any way to confirm he had treated Mr. Kerry, Dr. Letson said, "I guess you'll have to take my word for it."


Asked why Mr. Rassmann recalled that he was dodging enemy bullets, a member of the group, Jack Chenoweth, said, "He's lying."

"If that's what we have to say," Mr. Chenoweth added, "that's how it was."


These assertions remind me of a line George W. Bush uses a lot when he's talking about someone on his side, especially someone who's under attack, or who might be -- Bush will say, "He's a good man." Simple words, innocent-seeming on the page -- but often uttered with an undercurrent of menace. The subtext always seems to be: "This man is of good social status, as I am, and I say it's objective fact that his integrity is unimpeachable. You got a problem with that, punk?"

"He's a good man" is a common Bush rejoinder when specific words or deeds are being questioned. And I think your opinion as to whether it's an appropriate rejoinder when there are specific questions about a person really might indicate whether or not you're a conservative.

I'm not a conservative. If you defend someone by saying, "He's a good man," that doesn't settle the matter for me. I think some people are basically good but do bad things. I also think some very bad people are, in a few aspects of their lives, kind and good and virtuous. And I don't think status equates to virtue. So don't talk to me about whether Joe Blow is "a good man." Did he embezzle the money?

Asked if they're telling the truth, Leston and Chenoweth reply, in effect, "We're good men." That's not just "How dare you question my integrity." Chenoweth says it flat out: If that's what we have to say, that's how it was. In other words, We are respectable men and incapable of lying. Got that?

I think at least part of the difference between right-wingers and the rest of us is that they believe that some people embody of Truth and Pure Good while we, even though we may sometimes engage in adulation, know that everyone is capable of doing wrong.

Right-wingers seem to regard this as "moral relativism." I call it realism. It acknowledges the fallen nature of man (religious version); it recognizes that nobody's perfect (secular version).

Leston and Chenoweth: In a situation like this, when the words you're uttering have very significant potential consequences, don't challenge me to believe you. Give me a reason I should.

Just read it. I'll post some comments a bit later. That high-pitched caterwauling you hear in the distance is apologists for the liars squealing like stuck pigs.

You wanted mainstream press attention, Swiftees? Well, you got it. This story is a 98-mile-an-hour fastball, high and tight. Welcome to big leagues, boys.

P.S.: After reading the Times article (especially the second half, which pokes huge holes in the Swiftees' story), I note that Slate's vile Mickey Kaus posted this last night:

Respectable big-time journalist friends who met with the anti-Kerry vets recently found them a lot more credible than expect.

A few weeks ago, just back from Boston, Tom Frank attacked the Democratic Party from the left in an L.A. Times op-ed ("Clueless Democrats Trot Out Hollywood") for their appalling elitism. His main evidence was the guest list at one pro-Dem party he attended:

The father of a famous comedian was there. A star from a favorite TV drama. A guy from a celebrated Broadway musical. And a member of the famous acting family whom everyone referred to simply as "the Baldwin."

Now there's this, from yesterday's Washington Post:

Yesterday a convention planner proudly informed us that those swingin' twins Jenna and Barbara Bush will host "R: The Party" Aug. 29 at Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom, with a celeb invite list including (drumroll, please): born-again Christian and actor Stephen Baldwin, known among Republicans as "the good Baldwin"; actress Barret Swatek of "7th Heaven"; Angie Harmon, late of "Law and Order," and her husband, former NFL cornerback Jason Sehorn; Aaron Buerge of "The Bachelor"; country music vets the Gatlin Brothers; the ever-lovely Bo Derek; and our favorite pro wrassler of all time, Ric Flair.

A Baldwin here, a Baldwin there. Here a TV drama star, there a TV drama star. So why is only one party appallingly elitist, Tom?

(Post link via Roger Ailes.)

Thursday, August 19, 2004


Iraqi midfielder Salih Sadir scored a goal here on Wednesday night, setting off a rousing celebration among the 1,500 Iraqi soccer supporters at Pampeloponnisiako Stadium....

Afterward, Sadir had a message for U.S. president George W. Bush, who is using the Iraqi Olympic team in his latest re-election campaign advertisements....

"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," Sadir told SI.com through a translator, speaking calmly and directly. "He can find another way to advertise himself." ...


The family of Daniel Pearl, a US journalist who was beheaded in Pakistan two years ago, urged US politicians not to use the reporter's name for political reasons after Vice President Dick Cheney invoked Pearl's name during a campaign event.

"The family of Daniel Pearl respectfully requests that his legacy remains non-partisan," The Wall Street Journal reporter's relatives said in a statement responding to Cheney's comments....


The Republican National Committee has asked Bush-backing Roman Catholics to provide copies of their parish directories to help register Catholics to vote in the November election, a use of personal information not necessarily condoned by dioceses around the country....

Susan Gibbs, the spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., which oversees 140 parishes in Washington and Maryland, said parish directories publish information only for use among church members and not for use by outside organizations no matter what their purpose.

"Parish directories are for helping parishioners get to know each other better and are strictly for that purpose. They are not intended to be used for any outside commercial purpose, solicitations or anything else," Gibbs said. "Parish directories or priest directories are not given to outside groups even if it's for a good cause."...


The Southern Baptist Convention, a conservative denomination closely aligned with President Bush, said it was offended by the Bush-Cheney campaign's effort to use church rosters for campaign purposes.

"I'm appalled that the Bush-Cheney campaign would intrude on a local congregation in this way," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

"The bottom line is, when a church does it, it's nonpartisan and appropriate. When a campaign does it, it's partisan and inappropriate," he said....


The Bush reelection campaign yesterday unveiled its first three campaign commercials showcasing Ground Zero images, angering some 9/11 families who accused President Bush of exploiting the tragedy for political advantage....

"I would be less offended if he showed a picture of himself in front of the Statue of Liberty," said Tom Roger, whose daughter was a flight attendant on doomed American Airlines Flight 11. "But to show the horror of 9/11 in the background, that's just some advertising agency's attempt to grab people by the throat."...

Firefighter Tommy Fee in Rescue Squad 270 in Queens was appalled.

"It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place. The image of firefighters at Ground Zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics," Fee said....

Look, folks -- this is a pattern. George W. Bush is a spoiled, empathy-challenged narcissist. It's fine that he wants to be reelected. What's not fine is that he thinks it's OK to use anyone on the planet to serve that need.

(Daniel Pearl story via Skimble.)