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October 2004 Archives

October 1, 2004

Debate stream of consciousness

Shorter debate, in case you didn't watch and don't have time to read the transcript:

  • Bush: (Long pause. Figure out what to say.) My opponent flip-flops. I won't. I'm so determined to be consistent that I'm going to repeat the same one-liner over and over and over again. That's how you win the war.

  • Kerry: I don't flip flop. My opponent makes all the wrong decisions. Even though I called them wrong, I'm going to make exactly the same ones, except they're going to work when I do them, because I'm not my opponent. Oh, and I served in Vietnam. That's how I'm going to win the war.

Okay, now that the substance is out of the way, let's play pundit, and bring out random thoughts that I had as I watched the debate.

  1. This format wasn't as bad as the media was making it out to be. It wasn't quite as rigid, and it was far more interactive than it might have been. Although the two candidates didn't address each other directly, they came close to doing so. Not Lincoln-Douglass, but not mere independent press conferences, either.
  2. The debate was actually somewhat substantive. I don't want to go overboard in praising it, but there was relatively little sniping, ad hominem, or name calling. They discussed several important issues.
  3. It seems even more substantive if you read the transcript rather than watch the debate.
  4. My wife looked at me strangely when I said it during the debate, but I found it amusing that the two candidates presented the clearest, most direct, least spun, most substantive argument on a topic -- bilateral vs. multilateral negotiations with North Korea -- that isn't going to affect a single vote in November. (Or perhaps that's why it was so substantive.)
  5. Both candidates worked extra hard to overcome the negative public stereotypes about themselves. Kerry wasn't exactly concise or down to earth, but he didn't act overly condescendingly and wasn't overly long-winded. Bush wasn't articulate, but he did seem to have command over some facts.
  6. It seemed that Bush was playing this debate extremely conservatively. He had one repeated joke/jab at Kerry that he used, but he never tried to put Kerry away. He was content to play defense. Perhaps the most recent polls have made him overconfident.
  7. How long did it take Bush to learn to pronounce "Kwasniewski"? He got that right, but couldn't pronounce "mullah"?
  8. Bush botched some questions, as to be expected from someone as inarticulate as he is, but he clearly had the stronger argument on some key points. Leaving aside the fact that Kerry is delusional if he thinks he can get more international help, Bush was right to point out that Kerry is doubly insane if he thinks he can say that this was the wrong war, that it has made everything worse, and then try to enlist others to join in.
  9. Kerry made not one substantive point about his plans for the future in Iraq. He said he had a plan. Claimed it was on his website. But not even one concrete idea. ("Get allies involved" doesn't count.)
  10. If Kerry thinks Iraq was badly planned, or was the "wrong war," fine. But the reason had better be something more than "we could have spent the money on prescription drugs."
  11. Federalism is deader than Francisco Franco. Why would the U.S. government be concerned with firehouses in the United States? I can't imagine something which is more quintessentially a responsibility of local government.
  12. Why does Kerry think Bush should have guarded Iraq's nuclear facilities if there were no WMD or WMD programs?
  13. Kerry's "outsourcing" joke was stupid the first time. Even stupider the second.
  14. What the hell was Bush babbling about with the International Criminal Court treaty? How was that even relevant? Bush had the perfect opportunity for a valid zinger here and dropped the ball: Kerry thinks Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror, but he thinks global warming does. Instead, Bush rambled about the ICC, in such a way that nobody except political junkies would understand what he was referring to.
  15. Kerry flip flops during the debate. During one paragraph of the debate. He thinks unilateral action against Iran is bad, but he thinks unilateral action against North Korea is good.
  16. Kerry thinks that Iraq didn't pose a threat to us, but he thinks Darfur does? It may be a tragedy, but how exactly is it an imminent threat?
  17. For some inexplicable reason, Bush decided to show off his knowledge by discussing things like "the AQ Khan network" without explaining what it was. How many debate viewers have the foggiest idea what that referred to?

Ultimately, I have to say that Kerry probably won this debate. Not on substance, but on the things that seem to matter to those that score these things. There were no Bush gaffes (though there were some uncomfortably-long pauses), and no Kerry home runs, but Kerry is the challenger here, and it was his task to show people who don't know who he is that he can be presidential. Or at least presidentialish. By showing up, going toe-to-toe with the president, and not doing or saying anything obviously stupid, he accomplished that goal. Bush isn't going to win the election on his past record; his strategy for winning the election is to paint Kerry as a risky unknown who can't be trusted to be strong and keep the country safe. At least superficially, Kerry was able to project the image that he could be strong, confident, and sincere. If people think that of him, he probably wins.

I doubt this one debate will sway many people -- I suspect that those who are still undecided this late in the game are probably not the people watching debates anyway -- but nonetheless, it's a point in Kerry's column, I think. (At least stylistically; I think Kerry was his usual self, substantively. If he knows what his vision is for the future, he's doing a damn good job of hiding it from us.)

We shall see.

Debate stream of consciousness 2.0

Following up on my previous post, a few more thoughts on the debate, all thoughts which arose contemporaneously (though posted hours later):

  1. Treblinka???????? There was a concentration camp in Moscow? Can you imagine the reaction if Bush had made that mistake?
  2. I would have assumed, going into the debate, that Kerry would seem to have a greater grasp of facts than Bush, but Bush would come across better. The reverse seemed to be true.
  3. Bush was playing defense -- a mistake -- but the format of the debate did constrain him. The entire focus of the debate as framed by Jim Lehrer was to focus on what Bush had done right and wrong. Lehrer wanted Bush to defend his record and Kerry to attack it, and both people obliged. Very few questions were asked about what Kerry would do. Still, Bush could have turned the tables; he didn't.
  4. Where were Kerry's kids?
  5. Kerry's crack about the New York City subways made no sense. Even if Bush could have done some things differently Homelandsecuritywise, there'd still be a threat either way.
  6. If Bush were more capable of public speaking than a mime with social anxiety disorder, he'd wipe the floor with Kerry. I don't know how Kerry got the reputation for being a great debater. He's not at all. But Bush is far worse.
  7. Post-debate instant polls seem to be showing that Kerry won. Well, no surprise there. I still doubt it will affect many votes, but it hurts Bush's momentum. (Or is that Joe-mentum?)

Alright; that's enough. Go read someone else's blog.

October 2, 2004

Permanent Selma

Shorter Bob Herbert: Racists, racists everywhere.

Slightly longer Bob Herbert: It's still 1963, we're still in Selma, and Bull Connor is still in charge. It's always 1963, we're always in Selma, and Bull Connor will always be out there with dogs and firehoses.

Full Bob Herbert: A bunch of black voters in Florida screwed up their ballots, and since they're black it can't be their fault, so it must be a racist Republican conspiracy. And there's no real difference between that and the murder of civil rights workers.

October 4, 2004

Race matters

Remember last year when newly-installed Harvard President Lawrence Summers told Cornel West that it was great that West was producing rap albums and working on presidential campaigns, but could he please fill Summers in on the academic projects he was working on? The reaction from West and his partisans was, essentially, "How dare this guy ask The Great Cornel to be a professor? Who does he think he is? He's dissing Cornel. Racist!" (West then packed up in a huff and left Harvard.)

Well, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there they go again. West recently published a book called Democracy Matters; the New York Times Book Review printed this review last month. It was critical, to be sure, but no more so than dozens of other book reviews they print every month. In response to that review, former West co-author (but unidentified as such) Sylvia Ann Hewlitt wrote this letter to the editor (scroll down):

I am writing to express my dismay at the inaccurate and disrespectful review of Cornel West's new book, "Democracy Matters" (Sept. 12).


Even more offensive than these misplaced charges of sloppiness are the atmospherics of this review. Throughout, Crain's language is distressingly snide and disrespectful. Crain variously describes West as "wince-making" and "deeply confused." He starts off with the thought that West is "whining," and concludes with the sentiment that "journalists, however sentimental, have been doing a better job."

Crain should have had the courtesy to pay tribute to the stature and distinction of the scholar he was dealing with even if he then chose to take issue with the argument presented in this book. And the editors should have caught and dealt with the appalling tone of this review, a tone that is particularly egregious given the racial overtones. I see this as a major breach of stewardship.

Get that? West is owed tribute, because he's The Great Cornel. It's not only "disrespectful," but racist not to genuflect to him, regardless of the quality of his work. How dare they criticize him?

I think I sense a pattern.

October 8, 2004

Three strikes and you're out?

Quick quiz: you're a candidate running for office, but you have a few negatives. If you could pick one, which of the following would pose the biggest obstacle to your chances for election?

  1. You're the candidate of the Green Party.
  2. You're a convicted sex offender.
  3. You're legally ineligible to be on the ballot.
How about someone who hits the trifecta? His biggest problem is the last of those three, of course:
State and Mercer County election officials scrambled yesterday to respond to a potentially major ballot blunder involving the 12th District congressional race.

Green Party candidate Daryl M. Brooks, who is listed on thousands of absentee ballots that already have been mailed, and whose name appears on templates being installed on thousands of voting machines, apparently is ineligible to run for any elective office.

Brooks, 36, of Trenton said he learned on Monday's voter-registration deadline that he is ineligible to vote and that his name has been deleted from the registration rolls.

A person must be a registered voter and meet other voter registration requirements to lawfully seek elective office in New Jersey, according to Lee Moore, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office.

Anyone who is incarcerated, on parole or probation is deleted from registration rolls and is ineligible to run for office in New Jersey, he said.

Brooks said he was aware his voting privileges had been suspended because of his 1998 conviction for a sex crime.

He was put on the ballot because the state Attorney General's office certified that he was eligible; they made this mistake because, apparently the system relies entirely on self reporting:
Moore said it is up to the candidates to provide factual and truthful information when they submit their petitions and accompanying documents.
They do realize that they're dealing with politicians, right? (Strangely, Brooks seems to have accidentally forgotten to mention his criminal record on his website biography.)

It's a cute story, and the whole thing's sort of trivial because, after all, he's only the Green Party candidate. But there's one minor problem with the story: Brooks is not ineligible. Apparently nobody has bothered to actually read the law.

The state can impose all sorts of requirements to run for state office, but Brooks is running for Congress. And eligibility requirements for Congress are not set by the states; they're set by the United States Constitution, which states that a Representative must be 25 years old, a citizen for 7 years, and an inhabitant of the state that elects him. Can't the state add this requirement? No. In 1995, in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the Supreme Court ruled that term limits imposed by the states were unconstitutional. But the reasoning was broader:

In short, as the Framers recognized, electing representatives to the National Legislature was a new right, arising from the Constitution itself. The Tenth Amendment thus provides no basis for concluding that the States possess reserved power to add qualifications to those that are fixed in the Constitution. Instead, any state power to set the qualifications for membership in Congress must derive not from the reserved powers of state sovereignty, but rather from the delegated powers of national sovereignty. In the absence of any constitutional delegation to the States of power to add qualifications to those enumerated in the Constitution, such a power does not exist.
It's bad enough that the reporter didn't know this, but how can people from the state attorney general's office not? Nevertheless, this is a mistake I see made all the time; for instance, in discussion of Alan Keyes running for Senate in Illinois (or Hillary Clinton running for Senate from New York), people repeatedly discussed whether those states' eligibility rules would permit it. All states have the same eligibility rules, folks: the Constitution. I wish reporters would try reading it.

Let's play twenty questions

Given that Friday night's debate is a "town hall" style debate where non-professionals get to question the candidates, I thought I'd come up with a list of questions that I would ask if I were in the audience. (The New York Times had the same thought, printing a list of questions from prominent pundits -- except that their liberal worldview led them to structure the two sets of questions as "Senator Kerry: aren't liberal policies great?" and "President Bush: aren't conservative policies bad?") So here are approximately twenty non-rhetorical questions for each candidate, in no particular order:

For Kerry

  1. Why do you keep saying that you can get more allies on board for the war in Iraq when there are only a couple who have the operational capability to pour resources into Iraq, and those have already said they aren't interested? Whether or not you do get allies on board, what is your plan for fixing the current situation in Iraq?
  2. Do you think the US is capable of taking on both Iraq and Afghanistan simultaneously? If so, why do you call the former a "distraction" from the latter? If not, aren't you embarrassed over the size of the American military budget?
  3. How do you plan to reduce the deficit when your own proposals call for spending even more in new government programs than you propose to raise in new taxes?
  4. How do you explain your vote against the first Gulf War if you believe that a vote for the second Gulf War was necessary to give the president's threats credibility?
  5. Assume that the United States had not invaded Iraq. What would you have done, beyond the invasion of Afghanistan, to reduce or end the terrorist threat? "Work with allies" is not a sufficient answer; that's merely a tactic; I'm looking for you to explain your larger, big picture strategy.
  6. You once suggested that if the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, there would only be two or three thousand people who might need sanctuary from the North Vietnamese after their inevitable victory. Do you think that your massive underestimation of the cost to the Vietnamese of American withdrawal demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the threat American enemies pose?
  7. Assume the US hadn't invaded Iraq. What would have been your plan for maintaining the policy of containment when it was clear that our allies were unwilling to continue such a policy?
  8. Given the Democratic Party's stated commitment to treating people equally, why do you oppose gay marriage? How can you justify your support for racial preferences?
  9. If your plan for bilateral talks with North Korea proves fruitless, how will you contain and/or defeat them?
  10. Is there any area of the economy in which you believe government has no proper role?
  11. Is there any area of the economy or society in which you think states have a proper role but the federal government has no proper role?
  12. Can you identify one significant government regulatory or spending program that you would eliminate if you could?
  13. Other than the current guy, who do you think was the worst president the U.S. ever had, and why?
  14. What philosopher has had the biggest impact on your thinking, and why?
  15. It is likely that a Supreme Court justice will retire in the near future. Who are the two or three people on your short list of nominees to fill the first vacancy?
  16. Do you believe the second amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms? If so, why do you support "gun control"? If not, why do you read the second amendment so much more narrowly than you read the rest of the constitution?
  17. Do you call Bush's stem cell policy a "ban" because it sells better politically, or because you don't distinguish between lack of government subsidies and a ban?
  18. You endorsed the 9/11 commission's recommendations for reform of the intelligence community before you had even read them. Why?
  19. Do you believe that the best defense is a good offense? Or do you think that a defensive response to 9/11, such as enhancing port security, can be effective?
  20. What do you think the real reason was that the United States was attacked on 9/11?

For Bush

  1. How do you plan on reducing the deficit when you keep cutting taxes without corresponding cuts in spending -- when, in fact, you keep drastically increasing spending?
  2. Why was nobody fired over 9/11? Why was nobody fired over the mistaken Iraqi WMD predictions? Why has nobody been fired for any of the pre- or post-9/11 mistakes? Shouldn't there be some accountability?
  3. You keep saying that you provided as many troops as commanders on the ground asked for. Do you agree, even given the situation on the ground? If yes, how can you, given the situation on the ground? If not, why do you keep hiding behind that mantra, and why haven't you replaced the commanders that made these misjudgments?
  4. Other than training a new Iraqi police and military to keep law and order, do you have any plan for finishing up in Iraq? Or do we just have to hope that not too many Americans are killed before these forces are ready?
  5. Do you think the Iraqi WMD debacle has hurt American credibility in dealing with Iran?
  6. Do you believe Islamic terrorism is a serious domestic threat? If you do, why is the Justice Department waging war on medical marijuana, pornography, assisted suicide, and online gambling? How can people feel safe and confident in the government's ability to protect us domestically when you can't even catch the anthrax mailer?
  7. What's your plan for North Korea if your insistence on multilateral talks fails?
  8. Do you think global warming is (a) a hoax, (b) unproven, (c) real but not caused by human behavior, or (d) caused by human behavior?
  9. How can you justify signing McCain-Feingold when it provided for massive restrictions on political speech in violation of the first amendment?
  10. Can you identify one significant government regulatory or spending program that you plan to eliminate? Why didn't you eliminate this in your first four years, and why would anybody believe you're going to cut it now?
  11. How does it threaten the institution of marriage if gay marriage is allowed? If the institution of marriage is "sacred," shouldn't it be left to churches rather than the state?
  12. Assuming the United States succeeds in Iraq, what is the next step you plan to take?
  13. Who do you think was the worst president the U.S. ever had, and why?
  14. Not counting Jesus, what philospher has had the biggest impact on your thinking, and why?
  15. Why haven't you vetoed any spending bills?
  16. During the last campaign, you said you would nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Justices Scalia and Thomas. But although both Justices are conservatives who oppose judicial activism, they have some significant differences. Would you nominate someone closer to the conservative Scalia or the libertarian Thomas?
  17. Why are you putting such a low priority on programs such as Nunn-Lugar, which would reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation?
  18. Can you answer the question you failed to answer in your last press conference? What mistakes have you made? Trading Sammy Sosa doesn't count.
  19. Other than drilling in ANWR, how do you plan to reduce independence on Middle Eastern oil? Is nuclear energy part of your plan, and how do you propose to overcome NIMBYism and environmental objections if it is?
  20. You claim to be a "compassionate conservative," and yet you've presided over a massive increase in domestic spending and deficits, you've abandoned federalism, and you've flip-flopped on free trade. Other than your opposition to abortion and gay marriage, in what way do you think your policies conform to conservative ideas?

I could probably come up with more, given time, but I think that's more than sufficient. To both of my readers: free to add your own suggestions in the comments section...

What are words for?

Bush gets lots of flack about his stance on gay marriage from those inclined to give him flack about his stance on gay marriage. Never mind that Kerry claims to be against gay marriage, too (he's sort of for civil unions, but not when the issue comes up in Massachusetts, evidently). Anyway, others have commented on his recent quote in the NY Times:

"The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position. But they're out there misleading people and exploiting it."

It's the final sentence of this quote that boggles me. What about Bush's position is misleading or exploitative?

  • "Exploiting"? Bullcrap. It's a valid subject to bring up (why wouldn't it be?).

  • "Misleading"? Bullcrap. Bush has been very clear on the subject (quick, what's Bush's position on gay marriage? For contrast,what's Kerry's??)

It's a common tactic among the left: words and phrases such as "misleading", "exploiting", "divisive", "stifling of dissent", and "Hitler" are bad -> Bush is bad -> therefore let's tar Bush with words and phrases such as "misleading", "exploiting", "divisive", "stifling of dissent", and "Hitler". Never mind what the words and phrases actually mean, nor if they are true or not (nor if they apply perfectly to the speaker); they'll be reported and repeated ad nauseum, and too few people will stop to ask questions (or at least that's their hope.)

Kaus sees through it:

The problem, as with most of Kerry's straddles, is that he doesn't let both sides know both faces of his position. In the above quote, he's trying to con conservatives into thinking--well, that he has the same position as the president.

You mean Kerry's statement might be misleading?

October 9, 2004

Lincoln-Douglas it wasn't

Just as I did in the first debate, I thought I'd post my random thoughts on the debate, for those who don't want to read the transcript. These are in no particular order; they just reflect the notes I jotted down while watching the debate:

  1. The two campaigns' micromanaging of the debate format probably turned out to be a good thing. Not only would a looser format probably have included lots of time-wasting applause, but it would have led to the candidates playing for applause lines rather than attempting to dance around the questions.
  2. Kerry's more loquacious than Bush, so even though he's pretty much doing the same thing as Bush in repeating his talking points ad nauseum, it doesn't sound quite the same. By the seventeenth time Bush says, "Wrong war wrong place wrong time" or "Voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it," you're ready to strangle him; when Kerry repeats the claim that Saddam Hussein was a threat but the President should have worked with allies and raised taxes on rich zzzzzz. Sorry, I fell asleep. Was Kerry saying something?
  3. Worst moment in the entire history of debates since the beginning of recorded human history: Vice presidential candidate Admiral Stockdale forgetting to turn on his hearing aid, and then asking "Who am I? Why am I here?" Second worst moment: George Bush explaining that he would not appoint any judges who would uphold slavery.
  4. George Bush did much better in this debate than in the first one, both substantively and stylistically. Stylistically, he was much more comfortable in this format than in the first one, or maybe he was just much better prepared. Substantively, he finally began responding to some of Kerry's charges and some of the legitimate criticisms of his record.
  5. Is Bush finally responding to the charges because he has finally figured out what the answers should be or because he has finally realized that the public wants him to respond? Either way, thank goodness he finally pointed out that the War on Terror is bigger than Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda.
  6. Wouldn't it have been great if someone in the audience had stood up and said in response to Kerry's tax plan that he also made $200,000? Well, it probably would have been a lot more likely in New York, where $200,000 isn't exactly high society, than in St. Louis. (Did someone think to ask Charlie Gibson what he thought about Kerry's plan to confiscate his income?)
  7. If Kerry says "I have a plan" one more time, I'm going to join Al Qaeda.
  8. How many internets does George Bush think there are?
  9. Does George Bush not point out Kerry's many mistakes because (a) Bush is playing a conservative strategy, or (b) Bush doesn't know the facts, or (c) Bush is too inarticulate to come up with the counterarguments fast enough? For instance, might it not have been helpful if he pointed out that the Senate rejected Kyoto 95-0, instead of letting Kerry put all the "blame" on him?
  10. Biggest pander: both candidates -- primarily Kerry, though -- promising to support the reimportation of drugs from Canada. The safety issue is a smokescreen, of course; the real problem is economics. What do these people think will happen if reimportation happens on a large scale?
  11. Worst dodge: Charlie Gibson asked each candidate to explain how each could fulfill his promises to reduce the deficit. Bush responded by saying that it wasn't his fault and that he did a good job in cutting taxes to shorten the recession. Kerry responded by saying that it was Bush's fault and he lost jobs. Neither one came close to an answer. (Bush did say "Make sure Congress doesn't overspend" before he segued into his rambling about tax cuts. Kerry just said, "You are my priority.")
  12. In response to the question about pledging not to raise taxes, for a moment I thought Kerry was going to say, "Read my lips: no new taxes." He passed on that opportunity. Probably a wise decision.
  13. Kerry finally boldly says "I mean, you've got to stand up and fight somewhere." Unfortunately, he's not referring to the Middle East; he thinks that the right fight is class warfare against the rich.
  14. Kerry whined about "artificial deadlines." Does he not understand what an ultimatum is? Of course, he opposed the first Gulf War for the exact same stated reason.
  15. When is Bush going to say what's obvious: Osama Bin Laden is deader than Ralph Nader's campaign? (Answer: it's too politically risky for him to say it without having seen the corpse personally. But it's clearly true.)
  16. There's an old story about Lyndon Johnson spreading a rumor that his opponent had sex with pigs. LBJ's campaign staff approached him and said, "But you know that's not true." Johnson's response was, "Yes, but I want to hear him deny it." (Well, that's the clean version of the story, anyway.) It's what I thought of when I heard Bush's response to one of Kerry's lectures on the threat from Iran and North Korea: "I fully understand the threat." When the president is forced to publicly make the argument that he understands what's going on in the world, he's in some trouble.
  17. By the same token, Kerry said on that subject, "And if we have to get tough with Iran, believe me, we will get tough." In fact, many of us don't believe you, John. And the fact that you need to exhort people to believe that you'll get tough "if we have to" is a pretty big black mark on your resume.
  18. Kerry thinks that soldiers are amputees because they "didn't have the right body armor"? Whoosh! Soldiers are amputees because they did have the right body armor, stupid.
  19. There may be an argument for government-funded stem cell research, but "Michael J. Fox wants us to do it" isn't it.
  20. Why is George Bush so obsessed with the USA Patriot Act? Some of the provisions are useful in fighting terrorism, to be sure, but he acts as if it's the holy grail of anti-terrorism. Why is he so adamant about protecting and extending it, instead of admitting that it could be scaled back without doing that much harm?
  21. Bush: "I've got a plan to increase the wetlands by three million." Three million what? Dollars? Acres? EPA bureaucrats?
  22. Corporate scandals came up a couple of times. Kerry's reference to Enron seemed to fall somewhat flat. Made me think of Paul Krugman's incredibly idiotic prediction that Enron would be a bigger story than 9/11.
  23. Shocker: Bush is able to bring up several points on the drug issue without stumbling. He cites the generic drug issue, he discusses the drug discount cards, he talks about the new prescription drug benefit. I'm not even saying he's right on all of them. I'm just surprised he didn't get lost halfway through the first point, the way he often seems to. Similarly, he managed to tick off numerous bullet points relating to his environmental record.
  24. Kerry's answer on abortion was awful. Truly awful. There are ways to connect with voters about values -- Kerry just doesn't know what those ways are. He thinks life begins at conception but he can't legislate it -- after all, what business does the legislature have in outlawing murder? -- but he can lecture women? Is he hoping to reduce unwanted pregnancies by inducing a miscarriage with the sound of his voice? And he thinks being pro-choice means that the government has to pay for abortion? (I wonder if he thinks that the second amendment means that the government has to give guns to poor people.)
  25. Bush brings out the big guns, with the old GOP standby: don't vote for him because he's going to raise your taxes. Well, it's tried-and-true. Does it show that Bush is getting desperate or that he's got another effective talking point besides "we've got to be steadfast"?
  26. So much for the "ownership society" theme; did that even come up once in the debate? I thought that was supposed to be the GOP's vision for the future. Does Bush have a domestic vision for the country? Or is "getting re-elected" his only one? To be fair, his closing statement was a pretty good one. Too bad it's mostly empty rhetoric and it didn't come until the end of the debate.

I think Bush clearly won this debate (though not by a large amount). He bounced back strong from the debacle of the first debate, where he looked completely unsure of himself. If some people were worried, afer that first debate, about whether he was presidential material, this debate would reassure them. (Of course, if significant numbers of people were worried about whether he was presidential material, he's screwed, because he has been the president for four years. If he hasn't convinced people yet, he's cutting it awfully close to the wire.)

The problem for Bush is that Kerry also seemed pretty solid, and (as I said after the first debate) since Bush won't win on his record, he has to win by convincing voters that Kerry is a risky unknown. Kerry is effectively dispelling that worry, at least superficially. That is going to force Bush to go on the offensive in an attempt to establish its validity. Which is going to require negativity. (Let's see how many times the media trots out the ghost of Willie Horton when this happens.)

I'm not sure that a fourth debate, a third one between these two, is really going to add much. Unless one candidate has a total screwup, it's not going to change anybody's impression of either candidate.

Wearing blinders

From an article in the New York Times purporting to fact-check the presidential campaigns:

In his critique of Mr. Kerry's record, Mr. Bush has often left out facts that might make some of the Democrat's positions look different.

In one speech, Mr. Bush said in quick succession that Mr. Kerry had voted for higher taxes on Social Security benefits and voted for a formula that "helped cause the increase in Medicare premiums."

Mr. Bush's statements were technically correct. But the tax on Social Security benefits, adopted in 1993 over Republican opposition, helps to pay for Medicare, and without it the government would have to raise other taxes or add to the budget deficit. In voting for the Medicare formula in 1997, Mr. Kerry was joined by 43 Republicans.

"Without it the government would have to raise other taxes or add to the budget deficit?" Are those really the only two options? Leaving aside the possibility of cutting Medicare, the thought of cutting other programs doesn't even occur to Adam Nagourney or Richard Stevenson, the Times reporters who wrote the story?

October 10, 2004

Maybe, maybe not?

From the incomparable Mark Steyn on the second presidential debate:

And, if you want to know the real difference, after 90 minutes of debate it came in the final exchange of the night: "The truth of that matter," said Bush, "is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power if he [Kerry] were the President of the United States."

Kerry replied: "Not necessarily."

That's John Kerry: the "not necessarily" candidate. Saddam might not necessarily be in power. He might have been hit by the Number 37 bus while crossing the street at the intersection of Saddam Hussein Boulevard and Saddam Hussein Parkway in downtown Tikrit. He might have put his back out with one of his more vigorous concubines and been forced to hand over to Uday or Qusay. He might have stiffed Chirac in some backdoor deal and been taken out by some anthrax-laced Quality Street planted by an elite French commando unit.

But, on the other hand, not necessarily. That's the difference: Bush believes America needs to shape events in the world; Kerry doesn't and, even if he did, because he doesn't know how he'd want to shape them the events would end up shaping him. There would be lots of discussion. Frenchmen would be involved. And, in the end, President Kerry could claim that however things turned out was what he wanted all along because, on Saddam and Iran and North Korea and a whole lot more, who the hell can say with confidence what Kerry wants anyway? How it would all turn out is anybody's guess.

On the other hand, Kerry does have a plan. I know, because he said so.

October 11, 2004

Hey, look at me! Pretty please?

Cute story in the Washington Post about "'C-List' Debate Spinners": that is, people ready, willing, and able to spin -- if only they could get someone to listen.

In large part, the social anthropology of this setting mimics the dynamic of the teenage dance. There are the popular kids: A-list spinners who are mobbed by reporters and bathed in TV lights. [...]

At the other end of the spectrum are the awkward loners, the C-list spinners: They are mid-level campaign staffers, obscure public officials like Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion and celebrities such as [Ron] Silver, known for his roles in TV dramas "The West Wing" and "Chicago Hope" and such films as "Reversal of Fortune." Silver is unencumbered by attention. He is fidgety, eager to talk, his presence announced by two Bush-Cheney volunteers holding "Ron Silver" signs over his head.

"Bush dominated this thing, clearly," Silver says to one of the volunteers. If only a reporter were here to listen. Wait, here comes one.

"Bush dominated, clearly," Silver tells the reporter, for a student-run radio station at the university. A second radio reporter stops to listen, which for Silver would constitute a mob scene -- except that the reporter runs off to join a cluster around Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state.

If a spin doctor spins in a forest and nobody's there, does he make a sound?

Bird, plane, RIP

From the bad taste department: So sue me, but the first thing I thought of when I heard the news that Christopher Reeve had died was that John Kerry would have to find another sick celebrity to exploit when he criticizes Bush's position on stem cell research.

(In Friday's debate in St. Louis, Kerry had said:

Chris Reeve is a friend of mine. Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again, and I want him to walk again.

I think we can save lives.

Well, I guess there's still Michael J. Fox.)

Depends who's asking

Over at Volokh the other day, Orin Kerr linked to an ABC News post-debate poll showing an interesting split in partisan scoring of the debate:

MY GUY DEFINITELY WON: I like how ABC broke down its post-debate poll numbers into results from Kerry supporters and results from Bush suppporters. When asked to name the debate winner, participants from each side remained true to their team:

Kerry won

Bush won


Among Kerry supporters




Among Bush supporters




What I want to know is, how much of this is self-deception/wishful thinking -- that is, thinking your guy won because you agree with him already -- and how much of it is a deliberate attempt to game the system -- that is, telling pollsters that your guy won in an attempt to convince undecideds that it's true, to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

October 12, 2004

Hold your horses

Blogging may be a little light for the next two days because there appears to be something wrong with our telephone line, and the Evil Phone Company thinks it's no big deal if we just spend a few days with no phone service before they get around to sending someone out to fix it.

So if you want some more exciting and insightful commentary, you'll just have to wait.

October 20, 2004

Team America

David Edelstein is unhappy about Team America: World Police, and explains exactly why in his review's subtitle:

The puppets of Team America skewer the right. If only they'd stopped there.

Yes, of course. Can't have any left-skewering, now can we? Well, anyway, Eugene Volokh has been pointing out some, but not all, of the review's inaccuracies. The most glaring one being:

But after Team America destroys the Panama Canal

That's simply incorrect. The terrorists destroyed the canal. It was the group of blinkered Hollywood liberals portrayed in the movie who blamed Team America. And that was a clear parody of a common liberal mindset of "whatever happens, it's America's fault". As demonstrated, in unparodic form, by David Edelstein.

Another inaccuracy in the review was this statement:

Hey, this anti-Bush liberal has no problem in principle with both sides getting skewered.

Whether he has no problem with it "in principle", the review shows that he has a real problem with it in reality.

Anyway, my problem with the movie was that it wasn't really laugh-out-loud funny. But it was amusing enough to be worth seeing, as long as you're not an easily offended or humorless person of any political persuasion.


Three words:


(Yes, DSL is back. But this is why I haven't been blogging much lately. Some things are more important than presidential elections and bad reporting.)

October 29, 2004

Mea culpa

Oh well. I was convinced that Osama Bin Laden was dead. Apparently I was mistaken. I said that I'd believe it when I saw it, and I guess now that he has put out a new video, I've seen it.

Oh, well.

October surprise? Does Al Qaeda have to report this to the Federal Elections Commission as a corporate campaign contribution to John Kerry?

Hey, I just thought of something: the same time Yasser Arafat has "health problems" and has to be rushed away to the hospital, Osama Bin Laden appears. Coincidence? I think not. Has anybody seen these two people in the same place at the same time?

About October 2004

This page contains all entries posted to Jumping To Conclusions in October 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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