Saturday, June 26, 2004

Policy change

That interview that Bush did for Irish television, the one he's so pissed-off over? It turns out that the questions were vetted in advance by Bush's people.

Of course, they didn't expect the interviewer to be so insistent that Bush's answers be responsive, and not the usual platitudinous nonsense and scripted talking points we've heard a thousand times before.

I suspect we'll now see a change in White House policy -- not only will the questions have to be approved in advance, but the interviewer will be provided with the answers and will have to sign-off on them as well.

All hail Democracy!

[via Atrios and Political Animal]

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/26/2004 10:13:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


See ya, Ralph!

Chris Bowers has the good news:

Today, the Green Party of the United States, the third largest party in America but possibly the largest political party in the world, nominated David Cobb (G-TX) for President on the second ballot at their national convention. This means that only David Cobb and his Vice-Presidential candidate, Pat LaMarche (G-ME), will be allowed on any Green Party ballot anywhere in the country. Importantly, Cobb has pledged to run a "safe states" campaign, where he will avoid the 10-15 closest swing states and instead focus on reaching the ballot and campaigning for votes in solid red or solid blue territory. With this strategy and far lower name recognition, Cobb will not be a spoiler.

This effectively ends any chance Ralph Nader had to make an impact on the 2004 election. Now, his only route to reaching ballot access is through the Reform party and independent / Republican efforts of his campaign. However, considering his progress to date, do not expect him to have much, if any, success qualifying for ballots.

Check Chris' entire post for more details.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/26/2004 07:00:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Take a look at Phil Carter on Intel Dump (and take a look at his article on Slate as well):

I know this has become cliche, but I really think that American national security policy is at a crossroads. We've been here for a while, but the events of Sept. 11 and the past three years have painted the issues in stark relief. Our nation no longer faces a threat composed exclusively of powerful states and their proxies, armed with conventional and nuclear weapons, seeking to maximize their interests in roughly predictable ways. Today, we face a myriad of threats — from powerful states like China to failing states like North Korea to failed states like Somalia to non-state actors like Al Qaeda. Instead of dealing simply with nukes, we now face enemies with the full range of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) capability. And to make matters worse, we live in a far more complex world today than we did 30 years ago. Global interdependence has made our security and way of life much more dependent on non-military factors around the world, such as the yen-dollar exchange rate and the spread of HIV in Africa. We ignore these threats at our peril.

A "soup to nuts" evaluation of American national security policy is long overdue. This assessment ought to look at where we stand in the world today, and where we want to go. It should assess our enemies, and imagine the potential deployments for our military in the next 30 years. It should then construct a military force for the missions of tomorrow — not yesterday. Such a force may require more manpower, more technology, or more money — or it could require less military muscle and more resources from the State Department and other agencies. Without this kind of assessment, we can't know, and we're as blind as a bat flying around in a very dangerous world.

Intel Dump is an essential stop in everyone's blogging session.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/26/2004 03:42:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



If no one's said it yet, can I be the first? When Cheney told Leahy to "Fuck off" (or was it "Fuck you"? I don't fucking know, and who the fuck cares) on the Senate floor, was that a vocabulary malfunction?

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/26/2004 03:25:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Vietnam on crack

Read Billmon's explanation of why Iraq is Vietnam on crack, but when you do, make sure to look at the graph which shows Americans' attitude about Vietnam, and marvel at the fact that it took three and a half years from the time we collectively came to the conclusion that going into Vietnam was a bad idea (around August of 1968), until the cease fire in January of 1972.

Anyone who thinks we're going to be out of Iraq anytime soon should take the magnitude of that delay into account.

Political wars usually can't be won on the battlefield - although they're often be lost there. It can take years of pacification work (which we can define here as the precision application of both economic incentives and military violence) to root out an insurgency. And even then failure is as likely as success, if not more likely.

Update: On the other hand, things are moving much faster in Iraq than they were in Vietnam. While it took about 4 years for the approval/disapproval lines to cross in Vietnam (if we start measuring from the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August of 1964, when our involvement started to esclate seriously), it's taken only about 16 months for the same crossover to happen in regard to our involvement in Iraq. If that ratio were to be maintained (and there's absolutely no reason why it should be, since the circumstances are so completely different, then we might be out of Iraq in under a year.

One thing is entirely for certain, the only chance we have to get out of Iraq with amount of preservation of our national interest, is to get rid of Bush and put someone else in charge.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/26/2004 03:01:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Wolfowitz: Sorry, my bad

Here's the kind of thing I mean when I say that there are real indications that Bush & Company aren't able to handle things as they once would have:

Wolfowitz Apologizes to Iraq War Correspondents

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz apologized on Thursday to Iraq war correspondents for saying that many of them were afraid to travel and reported rumors.

In an open letter to journalists in Iraq, Wolfowitz said he appreciated the risks many take in covering the war and that he prays for their safe return.

"I know that many journalists continue to go out each day -- in the most dangerous circumstances -- to bring us coverage of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan," Wolfowitz wrote in the letter provided by a Pentagon spokesman.

Wolfowitz noted that 34 journalists have died covering the war in Iraq and expressed his "sincerest thanks" for their work as well as "admiration for their courage."

"To each of you who have worked so hard and taken such risks to cover this story, I extend a heartfelt apology and hope you will accept it," the letter said.

In testimony at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Wolfowitz criticized what he said was an inaccurate and unbalanced picture of the war being presented by the international media.

"Part of our problem is a lot of the press are afraid to travel very much, so they sit in Baghdad and they publish rumors. And rumors are plentiful," Wolfowitz told the panel.

"All media have some responsibility to try to present a balanced picture instead of always gravitating for the sensational," he said.

In his letter, Wolfowitz said his comments were meant to convey his frustration about the coverage of one particular story.

"The statement I made came out much differently than I intended," he said.

Does anyone really believe that Wolfowitz would have issued this apology a few months ago? But things are different now, they need the press on their side in a way they didn't before, and can't be quite as arrogant in their dealings with them as they once were. Cheney's meltdown (as Digby calls it) is another warning sign: this is an administration that is totally off its game. (And are't we glad about that?)

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/26/2004 02:40:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Tied is ahead, really

This is right, from DemFromCT on dKos:

Let's be clear. An incumbent should be ahead right now, not tied. The challenger should be ahead only after his convention, when folks start paying attention. Not you. Not me. But non-political junkies first have to evaluate (and fire) Bush (in their minds) before they'll even look at Kerry. And then they check out the alternative. And that won't really happen until July. (Remember July? That's when things are scheduled to get better in Iraq.) In the meantime, Kerry's doing pretty well for a guy cable news won't cover.

It's the expectations game, really, which Republicans should understand because it's the very thing which drives the stock market, the engine of the unfettered marketplace they say the love so much (unless, of course, a level playing field is harmful to those who give them money, in which case tariffs and regulations are the only answer!). It's not what your company does that matters, or how much profit you make, or even what your dividend is, it's how close you come to Wall Street's expectations that determines whether you're doing well or not.

Bush played the expectations game very well when he was a candidate, and throughout his time in office, in fact. People could see that he wasn't the sharpest arrow in the quiver, and they therefore dialed down their expectations for him considerably -- so much so that answering a question in semi-coherent English or reading a speech from a TelePrompTer without looking like an idiot was apparently enough to declare him to be apt material for the Oval Office, quite "Presidential". As usually happened in his well-protected life, Bush coasted on this for a long time.

But now, it's to the point where journalists who have experience in covering presidential re-election bids really do have to know, by feel or by analysis, where someone like Bush is supposed to be at this juncture, and it's going to be more and more difficult for Rove and the GOP to keep their expectations suppressed. Sooner or later, everyone covering the election is going to come nose-to-nose with the plain fact that Bush should be doing a hell of a lot better than he is, but he ain't.

By coming back from 10-20 points down to essentially even with Bush, Kerry has won the first phase of the campaign. The next phase is winning the conventions, and we'll see what kind of bounce Kerry (and Bush) get from them. History would say that the Republicans generally smoke the Dems at producing slick propagandized convention, but Clinton showed us that both sides can do it -- and this year, with the party united in a way it hasn't been for generations, there'll be less grit in the grease, and less need to use the convention to placate various constituencies within the party. This will allow the party to shape the convention to be a huge transmitter pointed directly at the heads of all the uncommited voter in the vital swing states -- which means that no one should expect to see a production that's even vaguely leftist in tone, and liberals had better not beef about it, either.

Also working in our favor is that there are indications that Rove and company are slipping and don't have as sure a handle on spin control as they've had in the past. Once extremely deft, they've become ham-fisted and irritable the more things have not gone their way. I wouldn't expect any really big boo-boos, like Buchanan's hate-a-thon speech some years back, but instead I'll be looking for little slips, roughness of tone, miscues and mishandling of negative factors (like the demonstrations) all caused by the pressures they feel themselves to be under.

In any case, whatever happens in the coming month or so, make no mistake about it, right now by being tied with Bush, Kerry is winning.

Update: On Tallking Points Memo, Ruy Teixeira (subbing for Josh Marshall) quotes Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of The Gallup poll:

Based on historical patterns, Bush's job approval rating is thus underperforming the pattern of presidents who have won re-election. In the broadest sense, Bush's job approval rating has generally been remarkably stable this year, averaging about 50% (which is a symbolic dividing line for an incumbent seeking re-election) since mid-January. The current downtick in his ratings puts him below the pattern of successful presidents. Having a rating below 50% (as is the case with his last four ratings) is not a good sign for an incumbent. If Bush wins this November, he would be the first president since Harry Truman to come from a below 50% rating to win re-election.

The fact that Bush has been behind the likely Democratic nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, in several Gallup Poll re-election trial heat ballots this year, means that Bush's re-election probabilities are lower than those of his successful predecessors. None of the five presidents who won re-election were behind their eventual opponent in any trial heats after January in the year prior to their election. If Bush wins this year, he will become the first president to come from behind in election year spring polls to win.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/26/2004 01:51:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, June 25, 2004

Is there really nothing we can do about this guy?

Democrat to speak at GOP convention

Jeffrey McMurray

June 25, 2004 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, the highest profile Democrat to endorse President Bush for re-election, will speak at the Republican National Convention later this summer, a congressional aide said Friday.

Miller drew a sharp rebuke from the dean of Georgia's congressional delegation, Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who called the senator's decision "a shame and a disgrace.''

According to the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Miller will give his address on Wednesday night of the four-day convention in New York that begins Aug. 30. The Bush-Cheney campaign was expected to make an official announcement later in the day.

The speech by Miller, a former two-term governor, comes 12 years after he delivered the keynote address for Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, also held in New York.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/25/2004 11:53:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


E.C. update (updated)

[2006 Election Projections Survey]

[New survey posted on 10/30]

[New survey posted on 10/27]

[New survey posted on 10/24]

[New survey posted on 10/21]

[New survey posted on 10/18]

[New survey posted on 10/11]

[New survey posted on 10/04]

[New survey posted on 9/27]

[New survey posted on 9/19]

[New survey posted on 9/13]

[New survey posted on 9/6]

[New survey posted on 8/29]

[New survey posted on 8/22]

[New survey posted on 8/15]

[New survey posted on 8/7]

[New survey posted on 8/1]

[Note: New survey on 7/25]

[Note: New survey on 7/6]

Rather than clutter up unfutz every time I make a change in my Electoral College Projection, I've been posting them on Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, in the area he provides for user predictions. My latest is here.

Right now I've got DEM 259 / GOP 217 / PLAY 62. The "toss-up" states "in play" at the moment are FL-27, NV-5, OH-20 and WI-10. As a change of policy, I'm assigning toss-up states to whichever candidate is leading in the most recent poll. (This is for toss-ups only -- for other states I continue to assign them based on my evaluation of poll data and other tangible and intangible factors.) Given Bush's current lead in the Badger Poll in Wisconsin, and Kerry's lead in the ARG poll in Florida, that means that currently it projects out to be a 306 to 232 win for Kerry (270 votes in the Electoral College are needed to win).

You can take a look at the comments history to see exactly how things have progressed. I'll continue to post occasional reminders here, but there's also a permanent link in the "featured link" box in the sidebar on the right.


Here's a roundup of what other people are predicting, in no particular order:

Dave Wissing:
Kerry 233 - Bush 305 (as of 6/24)

Chris Bowers:
Kerry 254 - Bush 284 (as of 6/25)

Leip Atlas compiled (521 user predictions):
Kerry 264 - Bush 274 (as of 6/25)

Kerry 290 - Bush 248 (as of 6/23)

Wayne in Missouri:
Kerry 254 - Bush 284 (as of 6/25)

Kevin's Marginalia:
Kerry 274 - Bush 264 (as of 6/25)

Election Projection:
Kerry 269 - Bush 269 (a tie!) (as of 6/18)
Kerry 300 - Bush 238 (as of 6/25)
[Update: They updated the site. As of 6/26, they've got a tie, 269-269]

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball:
Kerry 274 - Bush 264 (as of June)

Kerry 260 - Bush 273 - Unassigned 5 (as of 6/25)

I've only included predictions where every state is accounted for, which means I dropped a couple which had New Hampshire tied, and quite a few (such as Rasmussen, Charlie Cook, LA Times, DC Political Report -- links can be found on the sidebar) which don't assign a large number of states because there are no polls there which have statistically significant leads. While I understand the reluctance to assign a state based on subjective analysis or on leads inside the margin of error, this election is going to be close, and such reticence is, it seems to me, just a barrier to understanding what's going on. I'd rather see an assignment based on some clearly-explicated rationale, even if subjectivity enters into it, than a lot of pusillanimous pussyfooting, to use Spiro Agnew's (or, rather, William Safire's) immortal words. (Perhaps if I do these round-ups in the future, I'll include those in which the toss-up or unassigned states would not make a difference in who wins and loses.)

Update: I changed my mind and decided not to be such a pill, and to include those sites I left off before. Here they are:

Kerry 286 - Bush 247 - Unassigned 5 (as of 6/21)

Charlie Cook:
Kerry 228 - Bush 211 - Unassigned 99 (as of 6/16)

DC Political Report:
Kerry 195 - Bush 189 - Unassigned 154 (as of 6/25)

LA Times:
Kerry 169 - Bush 154 - Unassigned 215 (as of 6/25)

Dale's Breakdown:
Kerry 209 - Bush 259 - Unassigned 70 (as of 6/25)

Samboni's State-by-State:
Kerry 275 - Bush 259 - Unassigned 4 (as of 6/16)
Kerry 297 - Bush 237 - Unassigned 4 (as of 6/23)

These 17 websites (18 if you include mine), whose methodologies differ significantly, tell us that:

  1. The election is very close: No one is predicting a run-away at this point

  2. Kerry is slightly ahead: Of the 13 that predict a winner (based on the current situation), only 4 give the win to Bush

Well, I guess we already knew that, didn't we?

Oh, one addiitonal thought, which is that I'm quite surprised, given what I thought was the conservative nature of the informal methodology I'm using, to find that I'm at the high end, awarding Kerry 306 votes, more than anyone else. Perhaps I'll have to take a look at what I'm doing and make revisions.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/25/2004 06:20:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Matt v. Max

Matt Yglesias, responding to Max Boot's contention that "conservatives like character, liberals like cleverness":

[C]ould it be that liberals and conservatives have different conceptions of what good character is? For some reason, some time in the past the country's right wing took a fateful turn for the worse and decide that terms like "morality" and "character" related exclusively to a person's conduct of their sex life. A good person was a person who had conducted himself way with regard to sex, and a bad person was one who did otherwise. A person who cheated on his wife and then, yes, lied about it was immoral. A person who didn't think it mattered whether other people had sex with men or women was a moral relativist. And that was that.

In an even worse turn of events, this lingo -- where "x is a moral person" is true if and only if x led a traditional sex life -- got picked up by the mainstream media despite the fact that, as everyone knows, people in the press don't exhibit any sympathy for this fire and brimstone suff in their real lives.

But liberals care about character, too. We think that when a president submits budget after budget after budget based on deception, that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when the purpose of these budgets is to shift the tax burden off the wealthy of today to the poor of tomorrow that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when you promise a "Marshall Plan for Afghanistan" and don't deliver that that demonstrates poor character. We think that when you de-fund housing vouchers while spending tens of billions on subsidies for large pharmarceutical companies and agribusiness concerns that that demonstrates poor character. And we think that when you launch a war of choice and then grossly mismanage it that that demonstrates, well, poor character. It is immoral -- grossly immoral -- to pursue policies that have made the lives of billions of people around the world worse than they could have been.

Nicely said.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/25/2004 06:20:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


GOP trcks

Dick Armey's Citizens for a Sound Economy apparently missed the memo from Nader that explained that he was going to draw equally from both Kerry and Bush. They seem to be under the strange misapprehension that signing petitions to help Nader get on the ballot in Oregon will help Bush!

Crazy Republicans!

[via Political Animal]

Update: Kos has more here and here.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/25/2004 05:29:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Why do liberals hate Bush? And when?

Publius, who usually gets a lot of things very right, gets things very wrong in his analysis of why liberals hate George Bush:

The true reason why many liberals hate Bush is not because he cut taxes, or stumbles when he speaks, or even Bush v. Gore. I mean, people were upset about these things, but they didn't cause the sort of glowing hatred that I’ve seen over the past two years. In my opinion, and E.J. Dionne’s, the real reason that liberals hate Bush is that they feel he betrayed them. Betrayal is the root of Bush-hatred. After 9/11, the entire country (and world) supported Bush. I remember liking the guy in December 2001. All Americans – including many liberals/progressives – were deeply affected by 9/11, and we all gave Bush a great deal of political capital to deal with it. Patriotic pride returned. But most of all, there was a strong sense of unity and purpose across the political spectrum. It was a truly amazing time - I miss it.

But instead of using that capital for a national unifying purpose, Bush (following Rove-the-genius’s advice) decided to use that capital to punish Democrats. Democrats trusted him and he turned right around and used 9/11 against them, viciously. The fear and anger from 9/11 were used to rally support for a war that many opposed. But even worse, opponents of the war were ridiculed and called unpatriotic.

The 2002 midterm elections were the last straw - and a new low. Bush deliberately politicized the war on terror by scheduling a vote just prior to the election. Rove himself urged Republicans to “run on the war.” Veteran Max Cleland was compared to Osama. The arrogance was intolerable. Here was a President who lost the popular vote, but was given a national mandate to fight terror after 9/11. Within six months, Bush took that mandate and he used it to punish and betray anti-war progressives. He and his supporters ridiculed us. They scared people. They lied to people. They accused us of not caring about 9/11. They accused us of not learning the lessons of 9/11. And for what? To fight a war that his idiot cabinet had wanted to fight for a decade. For that, he sent kids off to die. I have never been more bitter and angry about politics in my entire life than I was in March and April of 2003. And a lot of other people felt the same way. AND MAKE NO MISTAKE - if Iraq were going well, he would be bludgeoning Democrats with it as we speak (just as he used Afghanistan and 9/11). That's why I will never feel sorry for him, and that's why I think that he is not "a good guy."

Progressives will never forgive Bush for the personal betrayal. It burns too deep.

While I will give him the possibility that Bush's egregious post-9/11 behavior may have been the catalyst that turned active Bush-dislike or Bush-dismay into Bush-hatred per se (which is still not anywhere near the kind of keep-seated, glassy-eyed, fire-in-the-belly hatred that the right-wing had -- has -- for Bill Clinton), the roots of it go right back to the moment when Bush popped out of obscurity to overnight become the candidate to beat, with the largest political warchest ever assembled in the U.S. Clearly, even though the guy was obviously unqualified, and even a little uninterested in the job, somebody wanted him to be president, and wanted it very badly, and that immediately raised liberal hackles.

From that moment on, nothing Bush did was anything but fodder for the distrust and dislike of liberals and progressives, culminating in the stealing of the election in Florida through the vehicle of bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court Justices. His policies once in office, the people he nominated to the cabinet (Ashcroft!), the tax-cuts designed for the rich, drilling in Alaska instead of a sane energy policy, withdrawal from Kyoto, withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, all the isolationist, unilateralist, exceptionalist posturing on foreign affairs -- what, exactly, did Bush not do to arouse our dislike of him and his crew?

His actions after the September 11th attacks, then, were the predictable extentions of everything he already had done before, and took hardly anyone I know by surprise. Certainly there was a moment, a moderately long inhalation in which we wanly hoped that he might suprise us and rise to the occasion, but when he didn't we didn't feel betrayed, I don't think, more we felt as if our previous judgment had been (quite unfortunately) confirmed.

When things got worse and worse, Bush-dislike grew steadily into something like Bush-hatred (for myself, manifested in a very bad case of Bush-avoidance: I literally cannot stand to watch or listen to him for more than a few seconds at a time, a syndrome quite a few of my friends share -- for that reason, I think "Bush disgust" is actually a more accurate description than Bush hatred), but not because we felt we had been betrayed. To be betrayed, you have to trust someone, and we never trusted the guy in the first place. Never.

Update: OK, in re-reading this paper by Jonathan Haidt on The Moral Emotions, perhaps "hatred" is a better description than "disgust." All I know is that I feel all three of the "Other-condemning emotions" when I look at, hear or think about Bush: Contempt, Anger and Disgust.

Update: Check out the comments thread on Legal Fiction for additional discussion.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/25/2004 12:08:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Nader swings

An interesting analysis by Todd Belt, on the Campaign and Elections magazine website, of the Nader effect in swing states:

In order for Nader to be a spoiler, one of two things must occur:

1. Nader’s candidacy causes an otherwise toss-up state to go for Bush, or

2. Nader’s candidacy causes a state that otherwise would go for Kerry to become a toss-up.

Recent polling data indicates that in the seven swing states that Bush is favored, his margin over Kerry is significantly greater than Nader’s share. Thus, Nader’s candidacy does not cause any otherwise toss-up states to prefer Bush. However, in all five states that are toss-ups (Arkansas, Florida, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin), Kerry would have a slight edge over Bush were it not for the Nader supporters. These five states constitute 68 electoral votes, 25 of which Kerry would need to win. Nader’s effect then, is that he will be forcing Kerry into tighter races in these states than he might otherwise face. Kerry will certainly have to live up to his reputation as a tough campaigner to prevail. [Emphasis added - Ed]

The election seems to be coming down to what happens in Florida and Ohio (some would add Pennslyvania, but I think it's going to stabilize and stick with Kerry), and the fact that Nader can make a significant different there is yet another reason to be appalled by what he's doing to the country.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/24/2004 11:30:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Clinton, scapegoat and cheerleader

Digby thinks that having Clinton out in front can help Kerry, by drawing fire, and by placating the media's concern that they're not being "balanced and fair" enough when they report about the Bush administration's various wrongdoings and incompetencies:

Nobody takes the slings and arrows of media hysteria like Clinton. He's right out there now, saying "you want a piece 'o me? Come get me," (and do buy my book while you're at it.) And they are taking the bait. Eviscerating Big Bill means they can rest easily at night knowing that they are fair and balanced if they have to perform unpleasant duties like reporting that the Codpiece is empty.

It's long been my opinion that one of Gore's major errors in 2000 was in keeping Clinton at arm's length. That may have appeased his own personal morality and mollified the inside-the-Beltway guys who ran Gore's campaign, but it was an extremely stupid move considering how popular Clinton was, and how energizing he could have been in the GOTV effort had he been unleashed and allowed to stump for Gore. Given how close things turned out, a few percentage points in a few states could have made the difference, and Gore might have won.

So I'd go even farther than Digby in repudiating those who claim that Clinton's increased visibility will hurt Kerry -- I say that not only will it draw fire, and placate the media's internal devils, but, if he's used (as we're hearing he will be) as an integral part of the Kerry campaign, Clinton will help tremendously. It won't show up much at the polls, because it won't much effect the undecideds, but it will serve to energize the base, and without the sordid (and blatantly obvious) pandering that Bush and Rove has to resort to.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/24/2004 10:56:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Do we need a new Godwin's Law?

Chris Bowers speculates that we need a new version of Godwin's Law -- this one not about invocations of Hitler or Nazis, but references to 9/11:

[T]he longer a blog discussion goes, the odds of 9/11 being mentioned not only approach one, it actually might do so at a faster rate than a comparison involving Nazis. In fact, when a politician is talking, the longer the politician talks, the odds of 9/11 being discussed approach one even faster than that. However, the main difference between the latter and Godwin's law is that whenever a politician mentions 9/11, s/he appears to have automatically won whatever argument was taking place.


I believe it is time for a New Godwin's law. When in an argument, using any variation of the following will cause the user to lose the argument and end that line of discussion:

  • 9/11 changed everything
  • 9/11 You don't want another 9/11 to happen, do you?
  • This could be prevent another 9/11
  • A comparison involving terrorists or 9/11

Whatever we end up calling it this new law, or if it ever catches on, something drastic needs to be done about the way we use 9/11 in our culture and our politics.

I've invoked Godwin's Law myself on more than one occasion, and it's obviously a quite useful restriction when people are throwing around "Fascist-this" and "Nazi-that" indiscriminately, but it also (inadvertantly) serves to squealch discussion about the kind of proto-fascist behavior that's been the hallmark of the Bush/Cheney administration, and to negate any advance warnings that might be appropriate.

(It's interesting to note that if the Internet have evolved 25 years earlier, we would have needed a similar restriction on "Commies", "fellow travelers", "pinko" and so on. That we don't have such a version is an indication of how far to the right the center of political discourse has moved.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/24/2004 09:56:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Don't overlook this one

Along with "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "The Hunting of the President", there's another interesting documentary around. Here's the review from Variety of "The World According to Bush":

The World According to Bush
(Le Monde Selon Bush)
(Docu -- France)

A Rezo Films release of a Flach Film presentation of a Flach Film, France 2, RTBF, TSR, SBS production. (International sales: 2001 Audiovisuel, Paris.) Produced by Agnes Vicariot, Jean-Francois Lepetit. Directed by William Karel, in collaboration with Eric Laurent, inspired by Laurent's books "La guerre des Bush" and "Le monde secret de Bush."

With: Norman Mailer, Robert Steele, Michael Leeden, James Robinson, Robert Baer, David Frum, Charles Lewis, Jim Hoagland, Joseph Trento, Sam Gwynne, Ed McAteer, Arnaud de Borchgrave, Stanley Hoffmann, James Woosley, Richard Perle, Gen. William Odom, Anthony Blinken, David Corn, Hans Blix, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Colin Powell, Joseph Wilson, Prof. Viet Dinh, Frank Carlucci, Laurent Murawiec, David Kay.

Narrator: Michel Papineschi.


Those who think Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" is diminished by his "liberal agenda," extensive use of pre-existing footage or failure to "show both sides" will have a much harder time discrediting the equally unflattering conclusions in "The World According to Bush" (unless they want to point out the director and producer are French.) A wealth of original interviews conducted by vet documaker William Karel ("CIA, guerres secretes") are complemented by powerful first-person testimony from an assortment of Bush non-sympathizers, from Hans Blix to David Kay, whose comments are as authoritative as they're damning.

Broadcast June 18 on national network France 2, docu opened in Gallic theaters June 23 and hits video and DVD a week later. Americans (and others) who are allergic to Moore but seek insight into why the actions of the Bush Administration are rarely viewed as admirable beyond U.S. borders will find a thoughtful crash course here. Interviewees include Patriot 2 Act scribe Prof. Viet Dinh, Carlyle Group honcho Frank Carlucci and Richard Perle himself, the last interviewed at his home in France's Luberon region, no less.

Karel makes an extremely persuasive case that the executive branch of the U.S. government has run roughshod over much of what America likes to think it stands for -- and that blame for this in both domestic and foreign affairs can be traced to flagrant and unprecedented disregard for demonstrable truth at crucial juncture upon crucial juncture by George W. Bush and certain of his closest advisers.

Unlike Moore, who deploys comic juxtaposition, humorous voiceover and a dismayed citizen's untempered outrage, Frenchman Karel takes a traditional journalistic approach, interviewing intelligence insiders, showing Bush deliberately delivering erroneous statements, then following up with more commentary from current or former government employees and investigative reporters.

Explaining that he had a small fortune at his disposal to bribe locals willing to point the way to incriminating weapons, CIA-mandated inspector David Kay says he believes Saddam Hussein was bluffing. Not a single Iraqi even tried to hit the jackpot.

The day after Bush's Jan. 20, 2004, State of the Union address, in which he declared "the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities," Kay resigned. His report had emphatically said the opposite.

A thoroughly disgusted Kay believes: "We went to war for the wrong reasons on the basis of a serious deception and error."

Karel shows that complete disregard for facts in favor of wishful thinking is one of the defining characteristics of Bush's approach to exercising power. Conscientious individuals whose commissioned findings did not mesh with what the White House wished to hear have found themselves smeared, fired or professionally compromised.

Most chilling of all the examples is the case of Joseph Wilson, a respected diplomat whose wife's 20-year career as an undercover CIA operative was deliberately compromised. When Bush blithely confirmed in a State of the Union address that Saddam had sought yellow cake uranium from Niger -- after Wilson's report completely discredited that hypothesis -- Wilson objected in print. Wilson's wife was "outed" in retaliation.

Karel's film is based on recent books by Le Figaro reporter Eric Laurent, rights to which were purchased by French producer Jean-Francois Lepetit, who commissioned Karel. Latter has made half a dozen previous acclaimed docs about the U.S. and appreciates the American willingness to bear witness to history, so often stymied in more tight-lipped Gaul.

This time around, former prez George H. W. Bush and Dick Cheney proved impossible to approach, and Paul Wolfowitz is said to have rejected 20 overtures, but Karel still achieves the impression of balance.

Interestingly enough, former CIA operatives are forbidden to write a line without agency approval but there's apparently a loophole to that where TV interviews are concerned.

Extensive excerpts from a speech given by 85-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd pack a similar punch to Moore's editing together of black members of the House of Representatives demanding -- to deaf Congressional ears -- an immediate investigation into the perceived theft of the 2000 election.

Byrd eloquently indicts what he describes as the unprecedented collusion, arrogance and cynicism afoot in the White House, citing the many ways in which the current administration has tarnished America's good name ("Calling heads of state PYGMIES?! Labeling whole countries as EVIL?! Denigrating powerful European allies as IRRELEVANT?!...And yet this chamber is hauntingly silent").

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum explains how his phrase "axis of hatred" morphed into "axis of evil" through a process he peppily describes as being akin to Hollywood's script-development process.

Egregious conflicts of interest are piled high. Donald Rumsfeld "sat on the board of a company that sold nuclear reactors to North Korea." Perle writes an article in the New York Times "but forgets to tell the reader that he took $20 million from Boeing."

There is nothing tellingly "European" about the approach of Karel's film except, perhaps, a willingness to suggest that Bush and company's religiosity is a distressing trait when it spills over into crucial decision-making affecting the wider world.

Especially unsettling is footage of evangelical Christians "more supportive of Israel than most American Jews" and convinced that "every grain of sand in Israel" must be in Jewish hands come Judgment Day or else the righteous won't be able to complete their journey to Heaven.

Per production notes, Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux expressed a desire to slot this docu Out of Competition in the event Moore's film wasn't ready; but he wasn't prepared to put two docus unfavorable to Bush in the Official Selection. Given this year's prizes, it seems likely that had both films been presented, the jury might have clamored to create a special award for Most Damning Straightforward Documentary Concerning the Guy in the White House.

Camera (color), Stephane Saporito; editor, Tal Zana; music (closing song), Ani DiFranco; sound (Dolby), Saporito, Philippe Sorlin; research and documentation, Valerie Combard, Marie France Pirotte, Serge Garcin. Reviewed at Club de l'Etoile screening room, Paris, June 7, 2004. Running time: 90 MIN.

Of course, it's from France, but apparently that bout of French-bashing didn't really happen a year ago: We are friends with France, we have always been friends with France.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/24/2004 04:44:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Schools versus Bush

A few weeks ago I blogged about a chart that showed a relationship between a state's level of obesity and how the state voted for Bush, but I think I have something a little more relevant. I've been fooling around with some numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics for state per-pupil expenditures, and the state-by-state percentage of Bush votes from Dave Leip's invaluable Atlas of US Presidential Elections, and I've discovered that there appears to be a clear-cut correlation between them.

The higher the percentage of a state's vote that went for Bush, the less that state was apt to have spent on educating its pupils.

The chart is here.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/22/2004 11:42:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Nader effect: getting the Green

On MyDD, Chris Bowers reports:

Earlier today, Ralph Nader announced that he has selected Peter Camejo as his running mate, and Camejo accepted. A Nader-Camejo ticket has probably a 50-50 chance to be endorsed by the Green Party. If the Green party does endorse Nader, it would provide him ballot access in Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

Of these states, the ones in which we should keep on close eye on the "Nader effect" are:

  • Colorado - in which there's a weak chance for a Kerry pick-up that could be spoiled by Nader's presence (some polls have him at 4% there, with Bushs's lead over Kerry ranging from 2-5%;

  • Florida - which still hovers on the knife's edge;

  • Michigan - in which Kerry's lead over Bush is less than what Nader has received in some polls;

  • Nevada - another weak chance for a Kerry pick-up that Nader could prevent;

  • New Mexico - again, Kerry's lead is razor-thin, and in some cases less that Nader's polling figures;

  • Wisconsin - where recent polls have shown a distressing drift to Bush, and Nader's polls numbers have been both small and very large (i.e. 6-8%).

The other states are either safe DEM (CA, CT, DE, HI, ME, MD, MA, RI, VT, DC), safe GOP (AK, MS, MT, SC, UT) or are swing states in which the Nader effect isn't all that likely to be significant (MN and OR).

We should keep a weather eye on these states should Nader get the Green's nomination.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/22/2004 05:11:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, June 21, 2004

More on the Nader effect

On Things I've Seen there's an analysis of the Nader effect over time, showing that the Nader effect (the pull of support from Kerry) has been trending downward, from 3.1 points in March to 2.1 in June. "The last time a poll showed a Nader effect of more than 2% was in late April."

Also on the site, a "poll of polls" indicating that, prior to a "Reagan bounce" showing up for Bush, Kerry had rebuilt his lead over Bush in national polls to about 1%.

Ed Fitzgerald | 6/21/2004 05:31:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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