Thursday, September 30, 2004

W underwhelmed, to be nice

Quick take on the debate: W could've slammed the door tonight. Two softballs set up to him: a) what is the biggest threat in the world? ; and b) what do you want to do about Iran? The set up couldn't have been more perfect for either one of them: Kerry had just answered a) by saying the threat was nuclear proliferation, and in response to b) he had said that he would give the Iranians nuclear materials IN THE SAME ANSWER that he was talking about the evils of nuclear proliferation. All W had to do: the biggest threat is hatred (ties in nicely to the war in Iraq), and the idea of giving Iran nuclear materials is ludicrous. It would have been the end of the game, right there.

Instead, we got an awful lot of stumbling on talking points that even I had grown tired of hearing over and over. Now I know W isn't the smoothest talker in the world, but he's got to do better than that.

Now my President did have some good moments in the debate, but unfortunately they were mostly in the early refrains. For example, from 9:10 EDT to about 9:15 EDT, the President was awesome. So awesome, in fact, I thought that this was going to be a big night. Unfortunately, the rest of the evening's performance didn't live up to that start. Flat, fumbling, and passive on a number of attacks from Kerry, it just wasn't as good as I hoped.

But there were some good points: the difference in dealing with North Korea was stark (funny how Kerry believes that independent U.S. action is the proper course to take), as was the question that Bush raised about Kerry's seeking "global" something-or-other in the face of necessary preemptive action.

But all-in-all, I'm thinking this one goes to Kerry. Darn.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

No wonder he's been hidden for so long

Since the headliner was taking a break in preparation for the big debate on Thursday, Sen John Edwards took center-stage today. His biggest line:

"there are two people who are responsible for for the mess in Iraq--George Bush and Dick Cheney"

(That's not exact--or maybe it is--but from memory of the highlight reel shown during the national news tonight)

That's pretty odd, to me. First of all, it is pretty much agreed that Iraq was a mess long before either one of those two people reached the political prominence they currently possess. Secondly, it is a point of debate--NOT a "fact" by any stretch of the imagination--that Iraq would not have presented a greater mess to the international community today were it not for the actions directed by those two men. Thirdly, I really can't see that the root cause of the "mess" in Iraq--militant Islam--was created, is protected and given room to grow, or will become stronger and more prevalent under the administration of those two guys. So what's the problem that they're responsible for?

That statement shows a surprisingly shallow amount of international political ability by the man who would be #2.

Calling Zell Miller--I think we have another case of a Democrat insisting that America is the problem with the world!

I wonder. . .

Yes, I know it's been a long time since I last blogged en masse. I apologize. At the very least you'd think I'd try to have some triumphant return to the blogosphere, with thoughts so well-researched and connected that it made the wait worthwhile. Alas, such is not the case. . .

Without going into great summary about the several sources for the following thought process, I will start by saying that there have been a lot of "moves" in the campaign in the last week. Most centered around Prime Minister Allawi of Iraq coming stateside to speak not just to the U.N., but also directly to the United States. Sen. Kerry couldn't be bothered to show up in D.C. to even LISTEN to Allawi's address to a joint session of Congress, much less actually talk with the guy who's shouldering a remarkable burden for the entirety of peaceful civilization right now. Now I'm sure I might have missed the nuance that led to Kerry's absence from the festivities last week, but there's no "nuancing" this: Kerry claimed that Allawi was doing nothing more than "putting on a face" when talking about the situation in Iraq. Later, a leading spokesman of the Kerry camp actually had the gaul to accuse Allawi of being nothing more than a puppet of the Bush administration. Now making these types of statements takes some kind of guts--I'll let you decide if it's a kind that you like or dislike.

But to me, these actions by Kamp Kerry are all part of a "bigger picture" about Kerry and the people that he surrounds himself with: they think they're smarter than everyone else. Their thinking goes like this: Bush and his cronies are simpletons; the "neocons" are nothing other than warmongers; even other heads of state (pardon me, "selected" heads of state) are clearly delusional--or liars--because they see things, say things, and act in ways that are different than the way the Kerry Dems see, talk and act. These "big-thinkers" that the Dems have on their ticket and team. . .well, the world has never seen the brilliance of this lot before. Clearly, they can solve all the problems that currently ill the world, simply because they are just that smart. . .

How smart do they think they are? Well, consider this: they've actually proposed GIVING to Iran the one thing that is keeping the mullahs from being a nuclear power. Now while the rest of the world may shudder at the idea of Iran having these materials and the capabilities that come with it, the Kerry team thinks that by giving the fuel to the Iranians, the U.S. will actually put Iran right where we want 'em! Why, it's such a smart idea that I, being a simpleton, just can't understand the brilliance of it on any level. "You want to make peace with your enemies? Just give 'em what they want--give them the ability to blast a free, democratic and worthwhile ally of the United States off the face of the planet. You know they'll never do it--because if they did, then we'd KNOW that they actually had sinister plans for their nuclear power!" Reverse psychology on a strategic level--I never would have thought of the benefits of that! I must be stuck in the Cold War.

To these neo-grande-thinkers, the problem with America is that those stodgy careerists in all levels of government--you know, the ones who help to shape policy--have always "stuck" the U.S. in a rut as far as wiggle-room with our enemies: we can't let communism spread; we can't allow a country hostile to the interests of the United States control the oil flowing out of the Middle East; we have to play to the Mutually Assured Destruction policy with regards to the arms race against the Soviets; we should support Democratic movements the world over; Israel is our friend and is worth defending to the bone, we have to limit and place controls on the countries that possess a nuclear capability--gosh, the list goes on. But these are all ideas that have become policy BK--as in Before Kerry. As in Before the really big thinkers got on the scene.

These "new" brains take a different look at the world. Nuclear capability in the hands of a government that has been no friend of the United States and has been downright hostile to one of the U.S.'s biggest allies isn't such a bad thing, is it? Not to these thinkers, apparently--and if you think otherwise, clearly you are a simpleton on the same level as myself. Never mind that another grand strategy that has driven U.S. policy for the last 50 years--the support of the Israeli state--would be put in serious danger by the Iranians were they to gain the nuclear materials. Never mind that Iran has known ties to terrorist organizations--and that a nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist organization is by Kerry's own admittance the worst-case scenario for American security. We know we can trust the Iranian government to keep a lock on whatever nuclear ability they gain because. . .because. . .well. . .because the Kerryists are so smart and they say so!

You see, the world doesn't have to fight communism too much anymore. And we don't have to get bogged down in a pesky arms race. The thinking of the old guard served its purpose--but now it's time for a new look at the world. International security today is threatened not by bad people with bad intentions, but by good people who are unwilling to let others share in the fruits of internationalism--or so the Kerryists think. So join with me while we look at the world of tomorrow through the sunglasses of a big-brain Kerry Kamper:

This whole fight in Iraq? Well, it wasn't worth it--or at least not how it's gone down so far. Never mind the huge strategic implications of ousting Saddam from a region rife with anti-Americanism and that was a proven breeding ground for terrorists--we should have gone about the war differently in just about every way! But never mind the trap that Bush has led us into--we're smart enough to get out of it. Heck, we're smart enough to get out of it quickly AND with the proper results AND without putting any more troops into Iraq. We won't tell you how, though--you'll just have to trust us that we know the answer. We'll let our candidate tell the present administration to do exactly what they're already doing while we know full well that plan won't work because we didn't think of it. After all, we're the only guys who can think in the mode necessary in this current world.

And since we'll take care of that muck in Iraq, you're probably asking: What's next? Well, let's get back to that Global War on Terror thing. GWOT is actually a misnomer created by the simpleton Bush. You see, this war on terror is actually a war against the terrorists who would like to make war on us, right? If taking the fight to them isn't the right way to wage the war, and a full pull-out and the ensuing isolation/threat to U.S. activities abroad isn't the right way to end the war, what's left? Well, you simpletons out there are probably scratching your heads about now, so I'll give you a little clue:

Here's another way to look at it: what's the only "tool" that the United States has never used in dealing with terrorists and/or terrorist threats?

If you said "diplomacy", or something akin to it, pat yourself on the back.

As a rule, the United States has never given in to terrorist demands, and our only "negotiation" has been for the terrorists to withdraw their demands and surrender or pay the price.

But now you're part of this Kerry team, this team of 10-lb brains with the world at their bidding--and we don't get bogged down in the rhetoric of yesterday. To us, this administrations-old and battle-tested policy of ignoring the terrorists is "unenlightened".

Why? For starters, everything else has been tried: detente, deterrence, economic attacks, tactical strikes, not-so-tactical strikes, chasing, impeding, intelligence collecting, regime removal, yadda yadda yadda--and yet there's still terrorism. The only thing missing from that list? Good old-fashioned talk. That's something that we here at team Kerry do exceptionally well, too.

Secondly, what's the worst that can happen? We meet with these guys, we try to hammer out some deal, and we see if they hold up to their end of the bargain. If not, we will know that we can't deal with that particular spokesperson from that particular faction again--we'll just try our luck with someone else. But people who are talking to each other probably aren't bombing each other, right? Never mind that the terrorist movements would immediately gain a strength never before known to them; never mind that the standing of this country in the eyes of the international community would immediately become slightly lower than pond scum; and never mind that we'd be almost certainly sentencing Israel to a barrage of terrorist attacks unlike any they've seen before--at least we're trying something new! Just because it's never been done before doesn't mean it won't work--and the big thinkers here in Kamp Kerry know it, too!

And look no further than the top of the ticket to see a man who has made an entire political career out of going upstream in waters clearly devoid of salmon. In VietNam, some of his band of brothers were still fighting in theater while he was protesting the war to the Senate. The Sandinistas that held the contempt of old-fashioned President Reagan were not just respected but defended by John Kerry. When the votes were tallied for the first Gulf War, the one that was precipitated when Saddam decided to steamroll Kuwait to grab at their dollars, Kerry was one of the few voices that said "nay". The list of "resourcefulness" shown by our candidate is so long, so noteworthy that you just KNOW he will bring an understanding of the world community to the White House that hasn't been seen before. And he's a talker. Boy, is he a talker.

Isn't it fun to see the world in an entirely different light?

All right, back to Johnspeak now: Can you imagine Madelaine Albright sitting down with some leading figure of Al Qaeda, the organization chiefly responsible for the murder of 3,000 innocents on American soil in a "conference" with leading figures of the Kerry adminstration? It's really not a wacky exercise, unfortunately. Painful, yes (and not just because I chose Albright as one of the subjects)--but I doubt you can put it out of the realm of possibility.

Not with this team.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Must Read!

This is one of the best articles I've read lately. Thank you, Mr. Sullivan!

Now could Bush pull this off? I don't know. . .I think that "re-framing" the war that he has devoted so many of our resources too might be a little risky. BUT, on the other hand, it could serve as a "battlefield adjustment", the kind that good commanders aren't unwilling to make. Something along the lines of "we've defined our enemy further thanks to the efforts in this battleground and around the globe, and we can now say with a great degree of clarity that our enemy is not merely terrorists. No, it can be better defined as the militant Islamic faith that gives these terrorists not just the false sense of salvation for their cause, but also allows the providers that support the material and training needs of that cause to carry off their mission under a veil of legitimate religious beliefs", etc etc. It may not have been the justification for going into Iraq, but it certainly justifies having done so. Anyway, it would make the WMD shortcomings a thing of the past. And it would clearly define an enemy that, as Mr. Sullivan points out, is not very well defined by using the word "terror".

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

More on Kerry's speech from Monday

Apparently, Kerry's new line is: "Saddam was bad--but if we'd known two years ago that all of our efforts in Iraq would ONLY accomplish the removal of Saddam from power, then I think that the war would not have been supported. Or at least, I wouldn't have supported it--and I definitely wouldn't have taken this country down that road!"

A response that I'd like to see: a gentle reminder that as far back as 1998, this country's policy towards Iraq was the support of regime change. The big "idea" behind HR 4655: "the United States . . . look(s) forward to new leadership in Iraq that has the support of the Iraqi people. The United States is providing support to opposition groups from all sectors of the Iraqi community that could lead to a popularly supported government." This resolution was signed into law by Pres. Clinton on Halloween, 1998, under the title "The Iraqi Liberation Act".

Most noteworthy of 4655: nary a word about WMD. Not a single one.

But the following comprises the entirety of paragraph 2: "Let me be clear on what the U.S. objectives are: The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law-abiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region."

That's the law of the land, good Senator. Aren't you supposed to uphold the laws of the land?

If so, then how can you say that the removal of Saddam was "not enough"? How can you say that the enforcement of a law almost 5 years on the books--that you voted in favor of-- is not the "right" course of action for this country to pursue? And how can you seriously believe that the efforts the U.S. has has made in Iraq--all of which are in perfect keeping with the Iraqi Liberation Act--have somehow been at odds with the security interests of this country?

I think there's some room for the Bush campaign to bring this out. The only downside: it doesn't deal with 30 years ago. I wonder if Kerry would even engage on this topic?

It's a compliment, I swear!!!

If imitation is the sincerest form of appreciation, than what is plagiarism? I don't know for sure, but I do know that I am clearly stealing a "story" from another blogger as the topic of this post. And I do mean it as a sincere compliment!

Over at the Kerry Spot, a daily stop (and then some), Mr. Jim Geraghty posted an article earlier today dealing with the newest Swift Boat Vets ad. After describing the ad, which deals with Kerry's "visit" with the diplomatic leader of the communist party in South Vietnam DURING the Vietnam war, Geraghty mentions a quote from John O'Neill, leader of the Swiftee Vets group, given in an interview today (source unknown): "It would be like an American today meeting with the heads of al Qaeda."

I had a strong reaction to this quote. The following is an e-mail that I sent to the Kerry Spot today:

"While I know that you simply reported what John O'Neill said, I think that his statement relating Kerry's speaking to the head of the PRG delegation in Paris in "today" terms as someone speaking to the heads of Al Qaeda was wrong--but not for the reason you may think.

Many historians have commented at length that the strategy of the communists in VietNam was to attack the United States' will to fight. In Clausewitzian terms, the will of the masses back here in the States was what the enemies identified as the U.S. "center of gravity". To that end, every time they got a public figure--outside of diplomatic circles--to listen to their spiel, it was a victory for them. Enter Kerry, a decorated war-hero without any real government-derived authority. What he was doing at that meeting in Paris we might never know, but it isn't really important. The fact that he was any form of a public figure that sought to speak to the PRG added another level of legitimacy to the "movement" sponsoring war against an ally of the United States government. Looked at in that vein, at the very least the Paris "conference" was a small, "tactical" engagement that furthered the communist's ability to achieve strategic plans.
I do not believe that an equal wrong would be accomplished by any single person simply "meeting" with the heads of Al Qaeda. If they conspired to commit treason, that would be one thing--but simply having an uneventful "sit-down" probably would not further the strategic goals of Al Qaeda.

No, I believe a better parallel is to be drawn when speaking of Iran. IF an "agent" of the U.S. would willingly provide and/or allow the Iranians the material support they need to further their nuclear program, THAT would be an episode that greatly furthered our enemies' ability to achieve their strategic plans. Fortunately, NOBODY in the U.S. could be so insensitive to the political landscape of the world as to permit such an occurence. . .

Could they?"

Yes, that was sarcasm. Go here to read about the worst "great bargain" in the history of diplomacy. I thought good diplomacy involved something good for both sides. . .how, exactly, does the U.S. make out in this proposition?

Thank goodness these guys aren't in charge--and heaven help us if they win!

Monday, September 20, 2004

More on Kerry's big speech

I've already hit the highlights of his "four-point plan" in my earlier post today. Since that was the supposedly the crux of his speech, I wanted to comment on those at my first available time. Now I get to go a little deeper into the other things he said. I must warn you, this could get looooong:

-- Early on, he pledges to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission. And I have no doubt that he would try to do such--I just don't believe that all of the recommendations are the right way to go. But that's just me; as for Kerry, he has never really addressed the recommendations on a remotely individual basis. It stands to reason that some of them are more logical and pressing than others. I would like to see him "break these out" in some manner, just to let the public know that he actually READ the recommendations, rather than just said "hey, look, it's a decision critical of the administration that is already made for me! Let's move!"

-- he states that "The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaeda or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon." That is true--but it is far from the only threat we face. Remember the damage wreaked by a couple of innocent-appearing airline planes? I think this line of attack is foolish for Kerry to pursue: it's obvious, and it seems to make his "scope" appear too narrow. I, for one, am not as worried about nuclear weapons as I am of a Breslan-type event happening in the U.S. That is a threat that ALSO deserves the calling-on of the totality of America's strengths, which Kerry apparently would only use in the fight against nuclear weapons.

-- at least 2 separate lines devoted to the "the war in Iraq kept us from getting our true enemies" story. And yet, he doesn't mention how he himself voted to authorize the President to fight that war.

-- I love this one: referencing Bush's statement that "freedom is on the march", Kerry says "the administration’s own official intelligence estimate, given to the President last July, tells a very different story. According to press reports, the intelligence estimate totally contradicts what the President is saying to the American people" (emphasis mine) Sen. Kerry, I can't take you seriously in Iraq until you take Iraq seriously. Relying on press reports to tell you what the intelligence estimate stated--especially an estimate from 2 months ago--is just plain lazy.

-- Another good one: "But most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives. So they’re sitting on the fence… instead of siding with us against the insurgents. That is the truth" You wouldn't mind sharing your sources with us, would you? "Most Iraqis" implies a majority. . .and I just don't think that's the case.

-- This is too good to leave alone: "It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger." But that hasn't stopped me from doing so before! "But it’s essential if we want to correct our course and do what’s right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. I know this dilemma first-hand. After serving in war, I returned home to offer my own personal voice of dissent." Too bad I used that voice to speak untruths that were told to me rather than witnessed in-person. "I did so because I believed strongly that we owed it those risking their lives to speak truth to power. We still do" How again do you think the Vietnam Vets feel about the "truths" you spoke to power?

-- Too easy: "By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded". Yes, and your position, Senator, has been the epitome of consistency. I can hear the counting going on already. . .

-- More lies made into policy: "His two main rationales – weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection – have been proved false… by the President’s own weapons inspectors… and by the 9/11 Commission" Where to begin? Oh, I'll save it all for a later post. It's easiest that way.

-- An interesting anecdote about our relationship with the French as recently as the Cuban missile crisis, culminating in the line, supposedly spoken by DeGaulle: "The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me.” Kerry asks: "How many world leaders have that same trust in America’s president, today?" I think the better question is: how many corrupt and backdoor-dealing head statesmen "allied" with the U.S. did Kennedy have to deal with? It's awful easy to be trusting when you've got the same interests at heart. I think it's safe to say that all the countries involved in the UN Oil-for-food scam did not have the same interests as the rest of the international community at heart, rendering "trust of the American president" as a non-issue in their decisions of how to deal with Iraq.

-- He talks about how Iraq "wasn't" a part of the war on terror, but then he speaks about how it has become a haven for the terrorists to operate in. I'll credit his intentions here: if we had left Iraq alone, it would still be led by a madman deserving of his own place in hell (reference sound bites from Kerry's speech), but at least there wouldn't be all these darn terrorists there. There's more than one problem with that angle, but I'll follow this line for now: it doesn't solve the here and now. In attacking Bush's judgement, he still doesn't paint himself as the answer to the problems there. He's still living in the past--granted the recent past, but it still isn't a talk about the future.

-- Kerry states, talking about the vote to authorize the war in Iraq: "The power entrusted to the President gave him a strong hand to play in the international community. The idea was simple. We would get the weapons inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And we would convince the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: disarm or be disarmed" Yes, a simple idea--that Saddam had no part of playing in. How could we get the inspectors in and allow them to do a "real" inspection? And that "one voice" had actually happened a couple times before--they were called U.N. resolutions. You might have heard about them?

-- Kerry stated in fairly clear terms (at least 3 times during his speech) that, had he been President 3 years ago, Saddam would still be in power in Iraq. Forget the flip-flop that this represents from his statement of about a month ago--let's see how long this stance lasts in the future! (My bet: gone by the end of the first debate)

-- Kerry states: "I would have concentrated our power and resources on defeating global terrorism and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. I would have tightened the noose and continued to pressure and isolate Saddam Hussein – who was weak and getting weaker -- so that he would pose no threat to the region or America." Hussein pictured as isolated, weak and getting weaker. Yes, that's what he claims was the reality of the situation. Never mind the fact that he was dealing closely with France, Germany and Russia, just to name a few. UNDER THE NOSE OF THE U.N! Yes, trusting in the U.N. makes for great foreign policy, doesn't it?

-- In sum (because it's getting late), Kerry paints the election thusly: "the choice in this election (is) clear: more of the same with President Bush or a new direction that makes our troops and America safer" I don't really get, however, how the new direction makes our troops or America safer. Kerry doesn't really spell out how he would accomplish this. Yes, he comes up with 4 points--but he doesn't talk about how he'd accomplish them. Or how he'd accomplish them better than the current administration, which apparently is ALSO seeking to accomplish the 4 things (here's a hint: it's because it's pretty darn obvious what those four things are!)

So the choice, really, is this: more of the same, so-correct-that-Kerry-would-do-them-too ideas with President Bush; or a new direction. . .

It's gotta be frustrating. . .

Today, Sen. Kerry attempted to "re-define the redefinition" of his stance on Iraq. It was a major moment, supposedly, as every news outlet was talking about his 10 AM speech from the second I woke up this morning (7 AM--I love comp days!) So I planned to watch the news at noon to see how the speech went, assuming that this was going to be the biggest story of the day.

I tuned in to FoxNews, as I frequently do. Their biggest story: CBS claims they can't authenticate the documents they used in that 60 Minutes debacle a couple weeks ago. This story garners the vast amount of attention for the next hour, although they do give some time to Kerry's appearance in New York.

Thinking that this was cranky ol' Fox playing spin on a story that makes the Dems look bad, I turned to MSNBC at 1 to see their top story. To my surprise it was the following: CBS stating that they can not authenticate the documents they used in 60 minutes. The first 8 minutes of their news hour was occupied with this story! Kerry's speech is item #2--but that was 10 minutes from the kick-off of the show! I'm sure that such a secondary mention was NOT what the Kerryites had envisioned when they woke up this morning. Their candidate tries to actually put out a message, only to get overshadowed by another story that doesn't do the Kerry camp any favors. Oh well, I'm sure it will actually serve them better when Kerry decides to change his position on the war in a couple of days. . .

So two new items to mention: The CBS story, as it was reported by Fox (so take it with a grain of salt if you must), led me to believe that Burkett claims that he is NOT the source of the memos. What role he (Burkett) played with the memos I am still unclear of, but it sounded to me like he said that he was going to protect the identity of his source. You know, this is stupid of him, ESPECIALLY if he's trying to protect the identity of the source! Everybody was willing to point the finger at this guy and say "story's over, thanks for playing". And yes, his life would have known some inconvenience because of the role he played in the story--sad, unfortunate and clearly not the way that life should be lived, but true. But the story would've ended at his doorstep and then gone on in the other direction (back to Rather, Mapes and the rest of the CBS gang). THAT would have been protecting your source. Instead, Burkett lets on that there's someone else further down the chain that had a hand in this attempt to bamboozle the public. Given the veracity that this story has been researched in just about every medium so far, I don't think that the identity of "new mystery source-person" will go undiscovered for very long. And I, for one, hope that it's a biggie. . .

Item #2: about Kerry's afterthought of a speech. Gosh, as I look at the text here (yes, I do actually look on the Kerry website from time to time), I am struck by a couple things. First of all, he paints a horrible picture of the actual circumstances in Iraq AND of the Global War on Terror. I have to ask: what is his source? I know that he has access to a great number of resources to find out what is going on in Iraq, but I'm not convinced that he uses those resources properly. His "doom and gloom" statements about Iraq, et al, lead me to believe that he's not truly abreast of grand military strategy with regards to Iraq (i.e. limit the places the enemy can use to launch an attack, then you can attack those places in a time and manner of your choosing)--but even more importantly, that he really doesn't understand what is going on there and in other places throughout the world. (See Hugh Hewitt's website for links to "milbloggers" who will give you an "on the scene" view of our efforts). Taliban regrouping? Warlords our sole source of capturing bin Laden in Afghanistan? Diverted forces? Where is it all coming from?

Secondly, Kerry's grand 4-point strategy isn't really so grand. It states what he thinks are the administration's shortcomings in "getting a handle" on the situation in Iraq. There's nothing brilliant in the points themselves, and Kerry's argument actually shows you that the administration has itself identified those 4 points as keys to stabilizing Iraq. What Kerry does not do, however, is tell you how he would succeed in accomplishing the 4 points:

-- on more allies: "After insulting allies and shredding alliances, this President may not have the trust and confidence to bring others to our side in Iraq. But we cannot hope to succeed unless we rebuild and lead strong alliances so that other nations share the burden with us. That is the only way to succeed" Seems to me that the majority of the insults to our allies have come from the Dems. . .but more to the point: Kerry does not mention what he would do to actually strengthen our alliances that he thinks are "shredded" (quoted from earlier in the speech). What's his grand plan to accomplish this task?;

-- on training the Iraqi security forces: a rant on what should be done with no substance as to how Kerry would be able to do it.;

-- on the need for a new reconstruction plan: "Last week, the administration admitted that its plan was a failure when it asked Congress for permission to radically revise spending priorities in Iraq. It took 17 months for them to understand that security is a priority … 17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is critical … 17 months to conclude that an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our soldiers. " 4 lies in two sentences--that may be a record. But more to the point: Kerry's "action" paragraph doesn't leave me thinking that his statements are a solution to the problem. More Halliburton stuff--a talking point that needs to be used less, in my opinion. Pinning the hopes of reconstruction on the Iraqis? I haven't heard anywhere that our reconstruction efforts aren't using ANY Iraqis. As for management of the projects--the most qualified Iraqis to do that 16 months ago were all leftovers of the Hussein regime. Why wouldn't the U.S. bring in their own experts to start the lengthy and challenging task of reconstruction? And last I checked, firing folks at the Pentagon wasn't going to provide electricity and water to anybody in Iraq overnight. I have a hard time believing that re-positioning civilians in DC is going to have an immediate impact on our reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

-- on the upcoming elections: "The President should recruit troops from our friends and allies for a U.N. protection force. This won’t be easy. But even countries that refused to put boots on the ground in Iraq should still help protect the U.N. We should also intensify the training of Iraqis to manage and guard the polling places that need to be opened. Otherwise, U.S forces would end up bearing those burdens alone." This is less about what the President should do than what our allies should do, since Bush and everybody else has asked the U.N. repeatedly for help in ensuring the elections in Iraq go well.

So what was the point? The summary of his entire speech today could be this: "It's going really badly over there--heck, everywhere. And it's the administrations's fault. And if you elect me, I'm going to do it all better--although we'll do the same things the administration is already doing. We'll just do it better--although I won't tell you how"

Maybe that's why his speech is the distant #2 news item of the day.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

This can't be true!!! (times TWO!!!)

This morning I woke up and turned on the TV. Hey--it's Saturday, what else am I going to do??? I was meaning to flick to the Weather Channel, but the TV happened to be on ABC News. In two seconds, I saw that I was not only NOT going to switch to TWC any time soon, but that I was going to have "post material" from my little stop at ABC.

The reporter at the national news desk said two things in about 15 seconds that left me dumbfounded. Item number 1: late last night, the Pentagon released more documents from Bush's military record. WHAT IS GOING ON THERE??? I thought Bush ordered all his stuff to be released to the public months ago? One of two explanations here, neither of which is a good one to me:

(a) The Pentagon literally is just now finding this stuff, which begs the question: why weren't they all in one file? Is record-keeping at that place so shoddy that they're having to search through EVERYTHING just to see if "Bush, George W" is on it? The Pentagon should have done this document search once, they should have made sure it was complete, and that should have been the end of the story. To keep having these things come out piecemeal looks suspicious--and incompetent. As I've argued many times before (though normally looking at the other side), suspicious and incompetent is NOT the way to convince the American people that you know how to ensure security for the masses; OR

(2) maybe the Pentagon has known they had these new documents, and for whatever reason held them back from release. Now I can't imagine that such is the case, mostly because I can't see any benefit whatsoever coming out of that strategy. Of course, I'm not paid to make these kinds of decisions. But IF this is part of some grand idea, either at the Pentagon's level or higher, it smacks of deceit and/or insubordination.

And, yes, at some point today I plan to take a look at the documents that were released. ABC didn't paint the contents of the docs as anything to "WOW" about--but I think we've all learned that it takes a little effort to get the whole picture nowadays. Sad, but true--and I will make that effort later.

Item #2: William Staudt lives??? YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!! I simply assumed he was dead, since he hasn't even been referenced by CBS in the wake of memogate. For those of you who aren't totally up to speed, last week CBS used "new information" in an effort to put Bush's National Guard service back on center-stage as an election issue. Included in that new info were a couple of memos, one of which painted a picture that Bush's reporting senior, the now-famous LtCol Killian, was under pressure from none other than BG Staudt to give Bush a glowing evaluation. This memo drew a lot of skepticism from the word go, not just for the format and typography inconsistencies, but also because Staudt hadn't been part of that unit for more than a few months on the date that was used in the memo. I figured that Staudt had passed on--it seemed to be the best reason why CBS wasn't hauling him forward to defend their story. Well, not the best, but at least the most credible. Yesterday, ABC News found him--alive and well, and apparently not too shy to talk about all this hubbub. He took issue with the memo that CBS used as "evidence" in their story, saying that he did NOT contact the unit in an effort to get Bush a stellar evaluation. Also, he stated that he--and he alone--decided that Bush was fit for the unit many years before WITHOUT ANY COLLUSION FROM AN OUTSIDE SOURCE. (That's paraphrasing what I heard--get the full story here)

Now I've felt for at least the entirety of this week that the CBS memos were forgeries. And I've been stupefied by how Rather and CBS have dealt with the inconsistencies on the memos. And I know I'm not a trained journalist, but to me, the following seems to be a pretty reasonable task: talk with people who are "in the know" about the stories you present. The fact that CBS didn't do that BEFORE they ran with the story makes them look sloppy and partisan; the fact that CBS hadn't done it AFTER they ran with the story (even after CBS said they were "redoubling their efforts") makes them look stupid and deceitful. Sloppy, stupid and deceitful--those aren't the benchmark traits of a quality news agency.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

I guess there's nothing else to talk about

Personally, I'm rather sick of Rathergate. I'm just waiting to see how long it takes for CBS to admit that Rather led them down the path to destruction. Apparently, that hasn't happened just yet, as CBS is still allowing Rather to put up a defense. From last night's attempt:

He interviewed Ms. Knox, who was Lt.Col. Killian's personal secretary. Summary: the documents themselves are fake, she said, but they did capture the essence of how Killian felt about Bush. I'll let that statement stand on it's own, because as we know by know NOWHERE else has it been said that Killian felt any form of negativity to young George W. Bush. Some highlights of the interview, KEEPING IN MIND that this is from the CBS news site, which presents Ms. Knox's interview as a story rather than a transcript:

- from CBS: Knox says she didn’t type these memos, but she says she did type ones that contained the same information. “I know that I didn’t type them," says Knox. "However, the information in those is correct.”

further into the story: Knox says that Killian started what she calls a "cover-your-back" file -- a personal file where he stored the memos about the problems with Mr. Bush's performance, his failure to take a physical, and the pressure Killian felt from upstairs.

Now, for starters, Knox never states in her interview (the broadcast part of it, at least) that Killian had a "cover your back" file. But, for fun, let's accept the assertion made by CBS. (It actually helps make my case) WHERE IS THIS FILE? If she typed memos containing the same information as the frauds put forth last week, WHERE ARE THOSE ORIGINAL MEMOS? If the purpose of these types of memos was to "cover his back", don't you think Killian would have kept them somewhere he could get to them--you know, somewhere where they might actually serve to cover his back? Did Knox keep the file? If so, where is it? Did she destroy it years ago? Did Killian keep it himself? If so, what did he do with that file when he changed jobs? This statement begs more questions than it answers--and of course, none of these questions were asked by Mr. Rather. I wonder if Ms. Knox will allow herself to be asked questions by other reporters. . .

from CBS' story:
Rather: "So what kind of officer was Lt. Bush?"
Knox: “Bush seemed to be having a good time. He didn't seem to be having any problem with the other pilots,” says Knox. “But, his time there, it seemed that the other fellows were, I’m going to say this, sort of resentful of him because of his attitude … that he really didn’t have to go by the rules.”

First of all, these two statements are mutually exclusive, aren't they? Isn't resentment a kind of problem? But if we really want to know what the "attitude" of the other fellows, wouldn't we ask some of those other fellows? Now I know that the boss' secretary is frequently "in the know" of a lot of things, but WE'RE TALKING ABOUT 30 YEARS AGO! And, given that Ms. Knox is reported to be rather anti-Bush, I think that her "perceptions" of things from 30 years ago should not be taken as scripture.

More from CBS: She addressed one memo, and a reference to retired Gen. Staudt pushing for a positive officer training report on Lt. Bush. ’Staudt is pushing to sugar coat it.’ Does that sound like Col. Killian? Is that the way it felt,” Rather asked Knox. “That's absolutely the way he felt about that," says Knox.

Is this the same Staudt (then-Colonel Staudt), who had left the squadron some 16 months before the date of the memo? Of course it is. What position was Staudt in to exert pressure on anybody in that unit at that time? Well, to listen to the blogosphere, Staudt shouldn't have had ANY influence on Killian at that time. So why even bring this memo up? And why didn't Knox dismiss this memo as the forgery that we now believe it to be? The fact that Knox doesn't strike down Staudt's role ON THIS PARTICULAR MEMO means one of two things: either the blogosphere needs to bring more research into this one area (maybe Staudt WAS calling from his new job making sure that a then-nobody Lt was taken care of. . .hey, it's possible. By CBS' standards, anyway), OR Knox didn't know the facts behind the situation that she spoke of. I'm inclined to believe the latter, which would pretty much bring this entire interview into question. But just to be sure, I'd like to see some more research done into Staudt. . .

Further. . .Rather makes a point of stating that Knox believes Killian was upset that Bush didn't follow the order to get a flight physical. Now the interview gets a little interesting here, as Rather treats the memo "directing" Bush to get a flight physical as an order, yet Knox states that said memo was in response to Bush's failure to follow Killian's order. What I THINK she was trying to say was that the memo was in response to Bush's failure to follow standard procedure--BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT SHE SAID!

You know what's funny? IF I had been ordered to do something--especially in time of war--but didn't do it, and my boss was really upset about the whole situation, I GUARANTEE you it wouldn't stop with a memo for the record. DOCUMENTED counseling would have been done to be sure, and in all likelihood it would have ended up in some sort of formal investigation that would have, at the very least, ended up in at least an informal type of punishment. (I think the reference is Art. 32a of the UCMJ, but I'll check that to be sure for my next post) But in this case? Nothing. . .nada. . .and yes, I find that compelling. . .

But then there's this whopper from the CBS site in a kind of conclusion at the end of the story:

Having said that, 60 Minutes feels that it's important to underscore this point: Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the major thrust of our report -- that George Bush received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard, and once accepted, failed to satisfy the requirements of his service. If we uncover any information to the contrary, that information will also be reported.

Silly me, I thought the burden for "proof" was on the media that made the report, not the public that was digesting the report. NOWHERE is it credibly proven that Bush received preferential treatment to get in the Guard (Barnes, who was ineffective anyhow, doesn't count as credible--he's got half a million reasons to try to sway the outcome of this election)--and even more important, NOWHERE is it honestly stated that Bush or his family sought any kind of preferential treatment with regards to entering the Guard. And as of yet, NOWHERE has it been proven that Bush failed to satisfy his service requirements. Doesn't CBS get it?--anybody can make an allegation. News services should look at the allegations from a factual basis before the move forward with a report. Clearly this didn't happen in this case, and CBS is even kind of admitting that with this concluding paragraph.

I'm just waiting for the full admission. Of course, that won't come until they start feeling it in their pocketbook.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I really should pay more attention

So last week CBS makes a play to sieze center-stage in the election coverage by putting on the air an entire episode of "60 Minutes"devoted to deconstructing President Bush's National Guard service from many moons ago. They had new memos, they had then-Speaker of the Texas House Ben Barnes--they had, they said, all of the ingredients of a major news-maker in the late stages of this election. And, of course, they have the entire "power" of the Democratic National Party waiting to spring into action as soon as the episode was finished. The setting was right for a major momentum shift in the election. . .

Well, you're not a reader of this blog or others if you don't know that the memos have been proven (for all intents and purposes) to be forgeries. The blogosphere took the lead in casting doubt on the memos, from both a content and a technical standpoint. Slowly but surely, certain outlets of the mainstream media have joined in, and every name that has been associated with the "authentication" process has recanted, until the only source vouching for the memos is Dan Rather--who not only has ZERO CREDENTIALS to authenticate the questionable memos, but also, being the "host" of CBS's "news" hour last week, has more than a little personal interest in seeing the contents of that show hold up to the scrutiny of the masses. The only thing left of interest in the story is how long will Rather be given the opportunity by CBS to extricate himself and the network from the hole that has been dug.

But to the point of this post: So much has been made of the memos that I find it interesting that I have seen very little written about the "bomb" that Ben Barnes was supposed to drop in that same episode. Of course, I didn't watch the show itself--I didn't see any need to, 'cuz I felt that the whole Bush-National Guard thing had run its course. Which leads me to tangent #1:

I have written at length about the Swift Boat Vets' campaign against John Kerry, not because I care what Kerry did in those 4 months in Vietnam but because I care greatly about how Kerry has REPRESENTED those 4 months throughout his entire political career. As I wrote before, the words of today are an important epilogue to the events of yesterday.

Well, I feel that the same should be said for President Bush. EVEN THOUGH he has not even come close to using his service in the National Guard in the same manner as Kerry has used his service in Vietnam, Bush has made some statements about his service, most notably this one:

"Any allegation that my dad asked for special favors is simply not true," said Mr. Bush. "And the former president of the United States has said that he in no way, shape or form helped me get into the National Guard. I didn't ask anyone to help me get into the Guard either"

In saying that, Bush essentially made his representation of his service in the Guard an issue for the current election. So I, for one, actually thought that the leftys had quite a lot to gain from the CBS episode last week: if they could present a valid position that Bush was lying regarding his entry into the National Guard, then that would be a victory on the credibility front. With questions about the lead-up to war never fully answered for the left (despite the clean slate provided to the administration by both the SIC and the 9/11 commission), and with the Swiftees message being so very quiet in the last couple weeks, Kerry could make some serious in-roads with this new attack. IF it was legit. . .end of tangent #1.

Back to Barnes: Why haven't I heard more about his interview?

To answer that, let's first look at how he fits into the big game: to follow the Dems' logic, somebody out there must KNOW that either young George W. or--more likely--his father did in fact ask for special favors to get the "fortunate son" into the Guard, since (in lefty thinking) favors HAD to be done for W to get in. I'm assuming that big "somebody" was going to be Ben Barnes, who was to jump out of the shadows last week and assert with factual certainty that special favors--AT THE REQUEST OF THE BUSH FAMILY--were used in '68 (when Barnes was the Speaker of the House, NOT YET the Lt. Governor) to get W the cherry--and highly cherished--Guard spot.

But that IS NOT what Barnes said. In Barnes' interview, he states that Sid Adger was the person that "came to see me and asked me if I would recommend George W. Bush for the Air National Guard."

Who was Sid Adger? Well, he was an oilman, and a friend of the Bush family, to hear Barnes tell it. Of course, Sid Adger was also a friend of Barnes himself, and more than likely was a Democratic financial supporter, since the Dems were largely in control of the state at that time. It is unfortunate (although interesting, in a conspiracy-minded sort of way) that Adger has passed on--he could probably answer some questions for us. But there is one thing that I do know FOR CERTAIN about Sid Adger:

HE IS NOT A MEMBER OF THE BUSH FAMILY! Certainly, he is not either one of the two Georges.

Barnes' interview did nothing to disprove Bush's assertion that neither he nor his Father sought special favors to get young W into the Guard. That is why Barnes' play has been so thoroughly understated in the last week--he didn't really bring anything to the table. Did he make a call on behalf of young George? Sure, I'll grant him that--but since it wasn't done at the REQUEST of the Bush family, it doesn't add a lick to the theory that the Dems are trying to sell to the public.

Undaunted, McAuliffe has held the Barnes interview and the rest of the CBS story up as evidence of Bush's deceitful ways: "George W. Bush needs to answer why he regularly misled the American people about his time in the Guard and who applied political pressure on his behalf to have his performance reviews ‘sugarcoated'" (the use of a form of the word "sugarcoat" is in direct reference to one of the now-debunked memos). Two questions lurk in the middle there: why did he regularly mislead the American people about his time in the Guard?; and who applied political pressure on his behalf? Factual basis for these questions: zero. THERE IS NOTHING OUT THERE THAT PROVES--or even legitimately implies-- that Bush has misled ANYBODY about his service in the National Guard. Also, there is nothing out there that legitimately proves that there was pressure applied to Bush's evaluators to "sugarcoat" reviews of the young Lt. Bush.

To recap: A big hour-long exclusive (that was probably free to the DNC, I would think. Someone should look into that. . .) attacking the President that doesn't help establish a single new legitimate charge against him; the thoroughy-discredited "new evidence" from that propoganda-fest is being used TODAY (5 days after their virtue is called into serious question) by your party leadership as the basis for ridiculous accusations against the administration; and Kandidate Kerry hasn't said word one in front of the cameras in three days (I'll not give credit to his phone interview with Time on Sunday--he chose time, place, medium and length. The whole thing wasn't very Presidential, if you ask me).

That's some message!

Monday, September 13, 2004

do they realize that there's a timer on this thing?

Sometimes ineptitude startles me. Not always, mind you--for example, when you're picking up the family dinner at the drive-thru at McDonalds, you shouldn't be surprised to find a sandwich missing or a wrong drink in your cup. But there are some places where I just don't expect to be left scratching my head wondering "what was that?"

Presidential elections are one of those situations. Here is what I expect: manned by dozens of bright people--supposedly at the top of their game--trying to sell their party and their candidate to every walk of life across this great country of ours, campaigns should put out an almost dizzying volume of information to the voters. The quest: the perfect message--one that resonates in the ears of the people as well as the headlines of the press. Not an easy task, which is why campaigns have to "try out" certain lines of reasoning just for effect. Oh, but for that one moment that can capture the essence of an entire election, it is worth it!

I would think this to be an even more important task for a campaign that finds itself behind by a noticeable margin as the days grow shorter and November looms around the corner. While attempting not to look futile, there does have to be a certain "desperation" to the efforts of a candidate that trails by too much--say, "out of the margin" on most polls. Applying this logic--which may not be infallible, but it sure looks good to me--Kamp Kerry and all of his allies should have been asserting themselves in a number of "fronts" last week. They certainly were pulling out all the stops in gathering ideas, even hitting up poor former-President Clinton while he lay in a hospital awaiting heart bypass surgery. I was looking for some major moves from the Dems last week. . .

And this is what I got: something about the assault-weapons ban, a new take on a trumped-up number for our expenditures in Iraq, and more stuff about Bush's National Guard service.

And I gotta ask myself: what was that?

Really, do the Dems think that the assault weapons ban is a major issue that's resonating with the voters in swing states? And while it made for some kind of a photo op, the only sound bite (scroll down to the bottom of this link) from the issue wasn't something Kerry will be posting in his "greatest moments" collection.

As to our expenditures in Iraq: it's expensive, no doubt. But was that Kerry saying that he would have spent the money on something else? Gee, I thought he was a deficit-shrinking kind of a guy? As to how Kerry says he WOULD have spent that money instead of in the war on terror: this administration has already sunk record-levels of money into education, has made major strides (with more to come) in providing prescription drugs for seniors, and has sought numerous times to attack the problem CAUSING escalating health care costs (i.e. tort reform). Throwing dollars around isn't the answer to everything--although you'd never know that from the proposals Kerry has spoken about in his campaign (from the Kerry Spot):


Today (9/13) the AP reports, "Kerry also outlined a $5 billion, 10-year anti-crime agenda, paid for by a routine extension of customs fees already included in numerous pending bills."

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt is pointing out, "Kerry already spent the extension of customs user fees in his August 3, 2004 budget document. That budget document did not contain any itemization for a $5 billion anti-crime initiative. In addition, there are currently 16 bills in the 108th Congress that have already spent the money available from customs user fees – including two that have already passed both the House and the Senate. Kerry’s proposal today adds to his list of 133 campaign promises that he has yet to pay for."

I'm sure there's some good idea that Kerry will announce after his inauguration. Like, you know, having the United States marry Luxembourg for their money.

And I'll be charitable and say (for the sake of argument here only!) that team Kerry didn't order the most recent round of the Bush/National Guard non-story. But at the very least, the Dems were out in full force seeking to push the story forward. (see Terry McAuliffe comments here) So once again, the Dem message finds itself back in the early 1970's--this, despite the best efforts of none other than Bill Clinton to have the past left out of play for the rest of the race.

And, once again, an entire week stricken from the calendar and not once did the Dems get to highlight one of their supposed strongsuits: the major domestic policy issues.

Nice message, Dems! Way to let us know what kind of an organized, issues-oriented kind of administration you would run.

I'm starting to think that Kerry has forgotten how to come from behind.

Either that, or he has been up against some really horrible candidates in the past.

Or, possibly even more frightening: maybe he doesn't realize he's behind? And I say that's frightening for this reason: in a world that has found war on a new, fluid battleground with an enemy that defies not just understanding but also the "rules" of civilization, we need a leader who is capable of taking the fight to this difficult-to-define enemy. If Kerry can't understand the simple reality of his campaign, how can he possibly understand the intricacies of this new kind of warfare?

Sunday, September 12, 2004

slow news. . .for me

With all my usual sources for inspiration focused on the collapse of CBS as a credible news reporting agency, I really have found little reason to post lately. I think that it is amazing how thoroughly and voluminously the blogosphere has debunked the "truth" asserted in those memos that Dan Rather put on 60 minutes the other day. I think the story--as it has developed--is very interesting. And I gotta tell ya'--if Rather goes into the sunset with this as his final act of public "service". . .well, as far as I'm concerned, it couldn't have been any more fitting if it tried.

I remember watching CBS coverage of election night 2000. I remember distinctly how Rather reacted when Florida was taken off the "Gore" side and put in the "undecided" column--it was literally the straw that broke the camel's back. That night was very tough on the news reporters--so much fluidity in an "institution" (that being our national elections) that hadn't known that kind of volatility in a looooong time. Rather looked totally exasperated when the producers informed him that their earlier declaration of Florida for Gore was being rescinded. . .even at the time I thought his reaction was overdone for a "non-partisan", as I foolishly thought major news anchors to be at that time.

Now I have no beef with Rather as a person, because I don't know him. But he clearly doesn't take his role as an ANCHOR very seriously. This 60 Minutes spiel should have been the work of an investigative reporter, somebody who lives day in and day out in the world where credibility is the only way to put food on the plate. Rather hasn't had to do that kind of work in a while--and the sloppiness of this "investigation" smacks of that rusty amateurness. But more to my point: as a consumer, I expect some degree of moderation from the people telling me the "news". If you want to put spin on it, save it for the guest spots. I know that anchors, as people, have their own beliefs and therefore have their own horse in every race. But I don't want that to seep into their public persona--I WANT to believe that the facts they present to me are, indeed, factual. I guess that's too much to ask of the mainstream media, though. . .

Which would be a really sad thing to acknowledge--if I didn't know where to go to get my factual fixes. Long live the blogosphere!!!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Double your pleasure

I'm starting to double-up on my items for posting in order to conserve time. Hopefully you (and by "you", I mean the 3 readers I have) don't mind the train leaving the station and making two stops. Better than going in two directions, as the Kerry-Edwards train appears to go. (bah-dum-bum)

Item #1: I myself have posted on the "bumbles" that President Bush sometimes makes when speaking other-than-prepared remarks. That being said, I don't think he should shy away from Kerry's wish for another debate--or even weekly debates, if that's really the route that Kerry wants to go. Now I know why Bush may think it is strategically wise to limit not just the number but also the type of debates: a) by most accounts Bush is winning, so why help the opposition? Kerry has got to find a way to get his message out, and that road will be a tough one to hoe in 55 days if he's forced to dole out Kerryism piece by piece to the entire country; b) the likelihood of unbalanced questions is definitely high--especially in the town hall-type setting that Bush is trying to avoid; c) the President is, after all, known to bumble from time to time, etc etc.

But I tend to disagree with avoiding debates, for two reasons: a) debates are good for the political process, and the "courageous" Mr. Bush doesn't need to be looking as if he's seeking a way to shirk the system this election. The message should be "we'll talk about the issues any time, any place and for any length"--THAT is how you sway swing voters (well, that AND actually talking well about the issues of the day); and 2) I think debates are a great time to see something about the candidate--how he responds to questions, how he picks up on other things that have been said that night, how well he actually commands his own beliefs, etc. etc. For all those reasons, I think Bush will do fairly well in debates with Kerry. Kerry hasn't been asked ANY questions-- much less hard ones-- in front of a live audience in a loooong time; Bush has done two major (and definitely not biased in his direction) interviews in the last month (did I mention that he sometimes bumbles when he's not talking off of prepared remarks?) Kerry so far hasn't stood for anything long enough to really define himself; Bush has, and for that reason he COULD (not saying he'd be able to accomplish this) take the debates as an opportunity to actually "frame" Kerry again (which, if done properly, could be devastating to Kerry with election night drawing closer). But in the end, I don't think Bush will hurt himself in the debates, primarily because he actually BELIEVES in the stances he takes. Kerry may finally come off as something other than a talking scarecrow, but I don't think Kerry could possibly out-conviction Bush. In other words, I think the potential for Kerry to blow up is far greater than it is for Bush, especially if Bush is really on his fact-checking game. And let's not forget--Bush hasn't lost a debate in the last 10 years. So I, for one, would welcome a third debate (provided it is moderated by the right type of personality)--heck, I'd even welcome a fourth, fifth or sixth debate.

Item #2: so there's a new 527 ad out by a group called Texans for Truth, and it is taking a strike at Bush's National Guard record. (And collectively the audience cries: "again?") That's not what I found interesting, though. Tonight I could SWEAR that I heard on FoxNews that the Kerry campaign was calling major media outlets "informing" them of the existence of these Texans. Now, I'm not a brilliant person, but that sounds an awful lot like coordination to me. "You make the message, and we'll make sure it gets played nationwide" is probably not something that should be allowed if the "you" is an independent political action committee and the "we" is one of the two campaign headquarters. Now I'll admit that I wasn't paying super-close attention to the report, so maybe I mistook the words that were actually said--but I'm going to keep a lookout to see if this angle see any more light.

Monday, September 06, 2004

What it all means to me

The press--both mainstream and not-so mainstream--have given a lot of attention lately to the "shakeup" of Kerry's campaign team. While nobody as yet appears to have been dismissed from camp Kerry, there are more people signing on to help with the "message" every day--heck, even an ailing former President Clinton spent a good portion of his weekend offering advice to Kerry on how to right the sinking ship that is Kerry-Edwards '04. And here's my take on the whole thing:

Kerry needs help in broadcasting his message because Kerry DOESN'T HAVE a message! (Or at least not one that can help fix the problems of today--VietNam narratives, regardless of their accuracy, don't solve a lot of problems in 2004) There's a lot of things he wants to say, but he has a hard time delineating them as part of a grand direction for his team. There's only one person at fault for this: Kerry. But I doubt he'd take the fall for his own floundering--he certainly hasn't in the past.

And his reluctance to personally take control of his campaign is showing--in no uncertain terms--just how indecisive he is.

Now I'm all for getting a few (maybe even more than a few) valuable opinions before making a major decision.

But "how do I get my message out?" should not be a MAJOR decision in September of an election year!

And don't forget this: when you're talking about the office of President in 2004 and for the foreseeable future, you are talking about the office of Commander in Chief of the United States' armed forces during a time of war. Military organizations don't tend to work well without clear, accountable leadership. The least harsh thing you can say about Kerry so far is that he has been something less than clear and accountable in/for his own campaign's message.

He would be less of a Commander in Chief than a Facilitator in Counsel to the Chief--and anybody with a nickname other than "Bushie" would be allowed to play.

And that's too bad. It appears that the Bushie's are experts at conveying strength during times of war, and that wouldn't be a bad message for Kerry to learn something about.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Kerry Stategery, part II

On the front page of the Washington Times this morning (not the headline, but still front page):


subtitle: Democrats appear ready to cede issues on national security to President Bush

The rest of the article is no surprise, especially considering the heavy print at the top. But there were some important quotes to bring out:

"I don't want to see him pulled into the national security debate, because that [sic] is not the driving issue for voters here", said Mike Callaghan, the Dem chairman of West Virginia;

"Kerry can't ignore the commander in chief stuff, but that's not where the election is going to be won or lost", says Harold Ickes, a senior party strategist.

Okay, for starters in analyzing this thing, nowhere in the article does the Times get a senior Dem strategist to "cede" the issues on national security to the President. So the eye-catcher on page one is exactly that: an eye-catcher.

BUT: saying that national security is not the driving issue ANYWHERE in this country today appears silly. Your job, your nestegg, your plans for the future--they can all disappear in a flash of an instant. And I've got news for you: that flash likely isn't coming from your health care plans or the education of your children, and the location of that flash isn't restricted to areas that have coastal ports or major metropolitan areas. While "domestic" issues ARE very important issues, the absolute, #1 priority of this election and every election for the foreseeable future has got to be national security, period. If that point hasn't been hammered home yet by the GOP, it will be in the next two months. And for Kerry's strategists to not only believe otherwise, but to drive Kerry's message away from that topic shows a serious lack of understanding of the times we live in.

I can understand the strategists trying to focus on the issues that their candidate is strongest in for the next couple weeks--they certainly need to stabilize their campaign, and that can only happen when Kerry himself stabilizes. But to say the things that Callaghan and Ickes did
(Ickes in particular, almost dismissing the importance of the commander in chief issues by calling it "stuff") sends a frighteningly unrealistic message from the Kerry camp. And they've had a week to come up with this stuff???

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Two axes to play today

In the wake of an "exciting" week with the GOP Convention, two things are on my mind this morning:

1. The tragedy in the Russian school. Prayers go out to all the people who have had their lives altered by these events--and I fear the number of people that fall into that category is not going to be "peaked" for quite a long time. My brother really sums up things fairly well. The world today is unlike any we have lived in before--and what a sad development that is.

2. President Clinton is in the hospital. I wish him a speedy recovery--but that's not the only reason why he is on my mind. First, the coverage the AP provided of the Bush rally in Wisconsin is one of the most low-brow acts of faulty reporting ever. Seriously, does the AP know no decency? I had seen the video of this part of Bush's appearance on FoxNews several times before I read about the AP story (via Powerline), and was rendered totally speechless by how they reported the crowd's reaction to the announcement. And they can retract the story away all they want--reporters and wire services have a responsibility to be as correct as possible the first time out. This kind of bias isn't just harmful to politics--it's harmful to the country. Way to go, AP--as if your "coverage" of the war in Iraq hasn't already done enough damage!

Secondly, good ol' Sen. Clinton couldn't leave the politics aside, even with her husband facing major surgery in a couple days. She "delighted" in the fact that they have good health insurance and hoped that someday everyone will be able to say the same thing, reported the Washington Times this morning. I saw the announcement live, and even at the time she said it I couldn't help but think that it wasn't the classiest of moves. First of all, former President Clinton would have had health coverage REGARDLESS of Mrs. Clinton's current employment in the Federal Government. Secondly, I would love for ANYBODY to produce a person who was denied a necessary surgery (especially of the importance of a heart bypass) due to their health insurance status. Maybe I live in a bubble, but from that little bubble I still believe that emergency medical services will be provided when they are necessary, and the settlement of cost will be figured out later. In light of these facts (well, one fact and one hopefully-not-to-be-proven-wrong assumption), how petty does Sen. Clinton's statement last night look? Seriously, separate yourself from the politics for just a week, would you? Let your husband have--and hopefully begin recovery from--the surgery, and THEN if you feel it is correct you can put it in political play. But this was so . . .poorly calculated. Maybe the text of the message was supposed to be helpful to the Democratic cause--but the execution leaves them looking heartless and unfocused on the things that really matter (such as the life of your loved ones). Not the message they should be sending about "values", I do believe.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Favorite Lines from last night

I'll be brief, 'cuz there's too many to write about, but these are highlights as far as I'm concerned:

President: "If you gave a speech, as my opponent did, calling the Reagan presidency eight years of "moral darkness," then you may be a lot of things, but the candidate of conservative values is not one of them." This entire paragraph of his speech was really good, but that line, placed appropriately in the closer position, was the best.

Gov. Pataki: "On September 11th in New York we learned that in the hands of a monster, a box cutter is a weapon of mass destruction. And Saddam Hussein was a monster -- a walking- talking weapon of mass destruction" I liked a lot of the content of Pataki's speech, although his presentation lacked a little something. But this was a good line--stressing how our opponents think "out of the box" in finding ways to attack us, as we must think "out of the box" as to the threats that we face in the future. Indeed, in this new world, where equipment can be easily procured and every security measure has a weakness somewhere, hate is itself the most deadly of weapons of mass destruction.

And I can't forget this: that entire video, narrated by Fred Thompson, was awesome. Seriously, it was great, and if you didn't see it for whatever reason, you've got to find it. I'll post a link to it as soon as I can.

First shots

This morning, I will write the same topic that everyone else is writing about today:

The Red Sox are closing in on the Yankees.

What, isn't that the hot topic this morning? Gosh, I could've sworn it was, based on the "rapid response" of Kerry himself last night at a pep rally in Ohio.

Seriously, though, let's bring it back to reality: the President took the stage last night at the RNC. I won't call his performance a home run, but it was good. Very good, in fact. To the specifics:


-- task: lay out a domestic agenda. Result: good. Actually, surprisingly good. Some might complain that it was laundry-list, but it had to be done since up 'til this point, it hadn't. Ask yourself: who better to talk about this stuff, Cheney or Bush? That's a no-brainer.

Now I'm not all that big into domestic policy stuff, but I liked the President's message on helping American workers compete. Less regulation, more help for our workers (both in dough and in how-to), and a real message for all Americans: competition is good for the consumer. We can't change the playing field without affecting the best aspects of the market that work for the consumer. But we can--and will--help our workers compete in that playing field. That's a big-picture solution to the problem facing the American worker today.

I'm hugely in favor of Tort reform. I think it needs to be a bigger message in these last two months. Not just because it is the "no duh" solution to the problems with some of the key issues of our time (health care and the health of the small business sector for starters), but also because it paints a stark contrast in ideology with the Democratic ticket.

And there was a theme to the whole Domestic layout: a furthering of the ownership society, which is a real winner with me. Give the people help in staking out their own lives, and it will have a huge positive effect on the country in general. And his vision is present everywhere: from the points I talked about above, to HSA's , to education, to social security reform--EVERYWHERE!

Foreign policy: it was too long, and seemed to me at first take to be redundant in spots. (ON FURTHER REVIEW: not as much redundant as verbose--he definitely could've trimmed some time off here) BUT--still good. I like, in particular, the random smattering of Kerry quotes in here, recalling that Kerry had labeled the courageous countries standing with us in the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed", as well as highlighting the absurdity (both in face value and in explanation) of Kerry's "no" vote on the $87 billion dollar supplemental spending bill that was to provide all sorts of necessary goodies to our troops in action. Also good was how he painted the picture of his decision to go into Iraq: believe in the frequently-proved-to-be-empty promises of a madman vs. defending the country.

Leadership: I like how he stresses that the decision for war rested only in one place. Brought the "man in the arena" aspect of the job out--if you haven't read that gem from Teddy Roosevelt, you simply must. The start says it all: "It is not the critic who counts. . ." Seriously, go HERE and scroll down to the highlighted parts to check it out!

General ending: I like this line when talking about New York City: "here buildings fell. . .and here a nation rose". The entire ending, in fact, was really beatiful: funny, warm, and lyrical. It may not have been the feverish ending that some were hoping for, but it was a solid performance.

COMPARISON between Bush and Kerry (Convention speeches only): on content, I'm going to give an edge to the President--but that's because I'm a conservative. His vision of the next 4 years has purpose and an overriding theme that I can believe in, whereas Kerry's proposals for greater government involvement in the most personal of issues doesn't resonate with me. On delivery, I'm going to definitely go with Bush. He wasn't perfectly smooth, but he was in control and he was relating to the audience. Kerry's speech left me kinda lukewarm to him as a person TODAY--he had plenty of anecdotes about his past, but his mannerisms were standoffish and hurried. By contrast, the President showed real emotions up on the stage, played his voice level well and kept his gestures in sync with his speech. The President played the guy who would talk WITH you; Kerry the guy who just wanted to talk TO you.

OVERALL EFFECTIVENESS OF THE CONVENTION: well, we'll have to wait and see. But I look at it this way: strategically speaking, the GOP whipped the butt of the Dems. The Dems clearly believed that Bush was Bush's own worst enemy, and that a mediocre candidate and platform was going to be enough to beat this guy. The GOP, however, was hugely successful in painting Kerry not just as an alternative, but as an entirely different course for America. And while that entirely different course may play well to the left that has already decided that it hates Bush, doing a 180 right now probably doesn't seem all that attractive to the middle-of-the-road voters. I think the GOP flushed that out in spades, and their play to both the independent voters of America AND the conservative base of America couldn't have been executed better.

Here's to hoping. . .and I'm not talking about the Red Sox catching up to the Yankees.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

crow for breakfast--and other things

First, I must start tonight by--grudgingly, mind you--taking a little softer edge on my earlier criticism of Juan Williams. He appeared on FoxNews' wrap-up of the night from the RNC last night as a floor reporter. His style as a reporter is rather appealing, and he made two good points, one of which I will comment on at length later. I still don't like him as a panel member, but last night, if you hadn't known before the fact that he was a stranger in a strange land (a liberal at a Republican Convention), you also wouldn't have known it after the fact. And I'm not above admitting my mistakes. . .well, actually, that's another issue. . .

Speaking of strangers in a strange land, I'm sure that a lot of talk today is going to be on Sen. Miller. Now I won't dispute that he had an effective speech LAST NIGHT (talking about both the time of the speech and the length that it was effective) This morning I awoke with a slightly different take. Now I don't think he came off as a raving-mad lunatic that the Dems were happy to be free from, which might be the spin coming from the left today--but I do think that his tone diminished the long-term effectiveness of his speech. Don't get me wrong, last night I was screaming "hallelujah" to the TV, and the crowd's enthusiasm led me to believe that I wasn't the only one being so energized. But he put the tone of last night on "hate", and not only is that not a quality that the Republicans should highlight in their keynote address, but it is also a quality that could have been easily avoided. Give me a little leeway here:

Here was a conservative Democrat talking about how there was no space for him or his type in the new Democratic party. That message would have played directly to the "big-tent" theme of the night before, and Miller would have won some converts simply on merit. Here's a guy who, for the length of his 70-odd years on the earth, has been a Democrat--but has a real issue with the direction of the party he has loved so dearly for so long. So go back and look at the speech, and ask yourself: if he plays down the fire-and-brimstone-invoking anger act, does the overall message become clearer? Obviously, there are some points that still needed to be stressed (such as "what has happened to the party I've spent my life working in?", and "nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers", and stressing all the "they were wrongs" when talking about Democrat's past foreign policy mistakes), but to me I think the overall play would have been better if he had toned it down right up until he started speaking about his personal like for the President. That is the place where his "from the podium"-style would have played like choir music, and since it was the end of the speech, he likely still would have left the stump with the crowd in a frenzy. (It also helps that the pulpit-like demeanor would have been highlighting the "soul" and the "steely spine" of Bush--two traits that you just might actually hear about from a preacher on a Sunday morn) Overall, I think the message of the speech gets more "use" if Miller appears reasonable and logical, rather than hateful. And not to say that he appeared "hateful"--but he was definitely more negative than anything we've seen so far.

And on to Vice President Cheney: okay, so he's not going to get people falling-down excited by his stump style. But three things strike me about his speech:

a) he is the essence of control in public-- perhaps too much so for last night. (Which is too bad, because looking at the text of his speech, free from interruptions and Cheney's delivery, it is a really good speech!!!) He appeared not so much uncomfortable as "workmanlike", and this speech required something slightly more "pizzazz-y". But underneath it all, you can tell he is a bulldog that doesn't allow for things to spin away from him. That, I think, is why Edwards won't be as effective in the VP debates as some others believe. I won't be surprised if Edwards "wins" on appearance--that's what the left is all about, apparently--but I would be very surprised if he scored any points at all about "policy" on Cheney. I could be wrong, but I just don't see Cheney giving Edwards' "let me tell you how I see it" style the chance to get warmed up.;

b) some real good lines, my favorite of which is "the President always casts the deciding vote" after pointing out some of Kerry's past votes on important national defense issues and preceeding the the telling of the records that led those in the hall to chant "flip-flop". As Mr. Williams' pointed out later, that is a line that I think the GOP should play up a little more--the office of President doesn't allow for indecision or "nuance". Governing is prioritizing and deciding, and Kerry, despite his long record of public service, hasn't been called on to do those types of activities in 30-plus years. And as I've written before: it shows!; and

3) Was Cheney's speech a little light on domestic policy issues? Yes, it was. A brief bounce around the issues of education, personal taxes and health care, almost all of it put in the context of what had already been done (he actually highlighted a future tactic in the fight for more affordable health care). It was not at all what I expected, but by the same token, I can see a little wisdom to it: Cheney wouldn't excite anybody talking about those issues. They are issues that require compassion to relate well to the audience, and last night wasn't about compassion and Cheney's strong suit isn't compassion. Tonight, however, the President has the floor all to himself. His stump speeches tend to be fairly good, and one thing that he has in spades over Cheney is that Bush talks WITH a crowd. That kind of style is the proper style with which to address the issues of education, health care and the economy. As some observers last night pointed out, by leaving a domestic agenda for the next four years primarily out of the spotlight so far, the Republicans put an awful big order on Bush's plate. But he is the best man in the GOP to pull it off, and I am confident that he will.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Sen Frist leaves an impression

I actually watched C-SPAN coverage of the convention last night. Normally I don't watch the entire convention coverage, but last night it was the best show in town. It was the first time I have been able to watch Sen. Frist speak. And you know what--I like him. He seems genuine, at ease in front of the camera, and I like the professions he has chosen (medicine and representative government--public servant X 2) Please, if you didn't see him speak, check out his comments here.

And as I've written before: I like the future of the Republican party.

impressions of the Bush ladies at the RNC

I have heard mixed reviews of the performance of Mrs. Bush and her daughters last night. Now I'm no professional, but here's my take:

1) Mrs. Bush gave a good, if not exciting, speech. But that is the lady that she is--good, to her core, but not very exciting. She trumpeted some of her husband's achievements domestically, spoke honestly about the greatest legacy of her generation to the next generation (the battle against terror), and all the while presented herself in a very classy and gentle way. It was the Laura Bush that mothers, whether they be conservative or liberal, identify with, and for that reason it was exactly what she needed to do. It wasn't about herself, just like this election is not about herself. It was about her husband, her kids, and her position to watch HIM help not just THEM, but ALL of the next generation. To me, it was good. But what do I know?;

2) As for the twins, I will say this: they shoulda stayed away from their Grandma. But other than that, how about this for a take: for years, definitely since I've followed politics, the Republicans have been painted as the party that didn't "enjoy" the liberties of this country. They're too serious and caught up in their own importance to have a little fun, the story goes. Yet, in this convention, we have seen some immensely entertaining moments--I mean, some down-right side-splitting-from-laughter moments. And the Bush twins provided more than a few chortles last night. Clearly, it was amateur hour--but it was an honest performance, and it was fun.

But, to me, the girls' appearance goes along hand-in-hand with the theme of the convention: their Dad is an everyman. And his party is one that belongs not to those who hate, or only to those who are wealthy, or only to those who served heroically thousands of moons ago--it belongs to everyone. (You also see this from Arnold's speech--Republicans can be just about anybody!) Talk about "big-tent" at it's finest!

Even more than that, though, the Bush women--all 3 of them--told us--both with what they said and how they said it--that the weight of the office hadn't changed their Dad. That's about as much testament to his moral clarity, perseverence and "comfort with his own skin" as anything else that can be offered. The Dems' convention ran away from the person Kerry IS--whereas the GOP is putting W out on a platter. And from where I sit, that's how you get swing voters.

Personally, I think last night was a huge "W" for "W".

It may take a while for it to sink in to the stodgy old-timers of the party.

But they weren't the audience targeted last night. Last night was as much about the GOP in the year 2020 as it was about the GOP today.

Could the differences between the two conventions be any greater?