Sunday, October 31, 2004

Quick shot for the weekend

First: Osama is alive. Color me shocked--I figured he had met our maker at some point in the past. I'll leave the analysis of the tape--and the impact of the tape on the election--to people much smarter than me. But from what I've read, Gerry Daly provides the best overall strategic vision of this tape's impact:

I look at it as very good news for America. Al Qaeda wanted to influence the Spanish elections, and did so by bombing and mass murder. Now they want to influence our elections. They did so by releasing a tape.

They would have hit us if they could.

Now I know that Al Qaeda COULD still hit us--even before the election. But IF this tape is the only overt sign of AQ activity in an attempt to influence the election, we should consider ourselves lucky. Oh, and we should thank President Bush!

Item #2: I would like to see this commercial in the final day or two:

Show the two towers burning--not falling, just burning; show the hole in the Pentagon; show the hole in the countryside of PA; show the tape of the AQ operatives going through the airport in Maine. Voice over: John Kerry says that 9/11 hasn't changed things. Do you agree?

Item #3: don't pay attention to the polls this weekend. Given the incredible bias of the MSM this campaign season, you really just have to toss out whatever last-second stuff they throw into the fray. The bottom line is that all of us should let our voice be heard via ballot this election--regardless of what the press corps tells us is supposedly happening in the race. Yes, it's that simple--get out and vote!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Everybody else is doing it, why not me?

First, a teaser: I will play my own game of electoral college analysis in a latter part of this post. Now, to the goods as they have developed in these last couple days:

While we may never know exactly what happened to the explosives at Al Qaqaa, I think that this story has developed into something more than "the evidence". Now it is more about Kerry's attacking the ability of the troops to do their job than it is anything else. That's why ABC, CBS, the NYT--every mainstream media outlet that tries to "prove" that the explosives were there AFTER the fall of Baghdad is doing worthless work. Could 400 tons of explosives have gone missing while it should have been under the watchful eyes of U.S. troops? Sure it COULD have--and to be sure, that is a lot of explosives to me. But in the grand scheme of things in Iraq, it is child's play (leave it to the Dems to point to the single tree standing alone as a sign of a forest up ahead) For Kerry to come out and point to this one POSSIBLE screw up as evidence of the military "failing" in it's mission in Iraq is unquestionably the worst possible move for a man who is trying to become their commander in chief. IF things happened as the MSM is telling it (and that's a big IF--one I'm not willing to buy into at this stage), all that does is point out the fact that Saddam had these incredibly dangerous explosives at his disposal under the U.N. "sanctions"; if the U.N. had really been doing their job in the manner that mainstream America had hoped for, Saddam wouldn't have had ANYTHING at Al Qaqaa. Kerry, the UN-is-everything candidate, doesn't realize that the EXISTENCE of the weapons in itself throws his entire foreign policy right out the window. But instead of staying away from the story, Kerry starts this vital week featuring the explosives as a sign of how poor Bush is as a commander in chief--never realizing that the story (again, IF it is true) is more negative towards the brave troops in combat than it is towards the President. All Kerry and his underlings have done is brought into question the competence of our fighting men and women--which is ironically reminiscent of how Kerry first burst onto the national political scene. Here's to hoping that his anti-military schtick serves as the bookends on an otherwise unremarkable political career.

Now, to the heart of the matter: the electoral college. I have been doing my own figuring for the last, oh, 15 minutes or so. (Really, that's quite a bit of research for me) This is my very basic position on the EC right now: I have taken 32 of the 51 "states" off the board because I figure they are strongly in one or the other candidate's camp at this time. The electoral breakdown of those 32 so far has Bush ahead of Kerry, 167-164 (i.e. Bush needs 103 of the "battleground" electorals to win). Of the 19 states that I have as a "battleground", the most important ones are (no surprise here) FL, OH, PA, MI and NJ (100 electorals among them all). Lately I think that FL (27 EV) has been trending Bush, although I won't put too much faith in any of the other "big five" swinging that way (and FL may not swing that way on election night--we'll have to see how close it is). The next tier of my battleground states is VA, IN, MO, WI, CO and MN, worth a total of 64 electoral votes. With the exception of MN (10 EV), I would be surprised if these all didn't end up red. The other 8 (OR, IO, AR,WV,NM, NV, NH and HI) are worth 43 total electorals, and I'm only willing to bet on Oregon (7 EV) being in any camp for certain (and that is Kerry's camp). So I don't paint a pretty picture, eh? Well, not so fast. . .even if Bush only takes FL of the big five, and loses MN from the next tier, he still only needs 21 more electorals to tie, which he would get if he holds on in AR, WV, NM, and NV (none of which I consider to be a big stretch for him to win). If he could do the unthinkable and win in HI (3 EV), or even IO (6 EV)or NH (4), the electorals swing his way. Of course, there are some "issues" that stand to destroy most electoral prognostications: a) the vote on amendment 36 in Colorado, which COULD throw 4 electorals to Kerry (assuming Bush carries the state); b) the fact that the second district in Maine has it's own electoral, and apparently the race for that one vote is verrrry close (hey, it could be the one to put Bush over the top, even if he doesn't take Hawaii or Iowa). But this much is clear: Bush must take at least one of the "big five"--preferrably FL. If Bush were to pull out a second one of those states, or even Minnesota, things starts looking good indeed.

I intend on blogging the results of election nite on an hourly basis until about 11 PM EST--by which time I hope that the majority of East Coast and Midwestern states will have been legitimately declared. I will post my electoral breakdown on the website, and update it hourly with random comments thrown in.

Monday, October 25, 2004

so much for this news cycle

So I spend the entire afternoon researching and writing my last post, thinking that the Washington Times story might just be the final nail in Kerry's coffin.

And then I read the story by the New York Times about a huge weapons cache that has been missing since--oh, since pretty much the start of the invasion of Iraq. After reading the article, I try to do a little transposing of myself into the body of an undecided voter. The transformation goes something like this:

-- I don't care that Kerry is a bit of an aggrandizer--or even an outright liar! He is, after all, a politician, and politicians always take credit for things they don't do. So those Swift Boat Vets--their stories don't effect me. Neither do these new claims of Kerry meeting with some of the members of the Security Council--but not all. Who cares?

-- I DO, however, care about the war in Iraq. I think we should be there, but I am not 100% sure that Bush has pursued the most appropriate path in conducting the war. I don't think Bush "lied" about the evidence to get us into the war--but some of the things he has done have left me scratching my head. And while Kerry hasn't really offered me better options with regards to Iraq, at least I'm sure he would do something different than Bush.

-- And for the record, I rely mostly on the mainstream media to provide me my news coverage. I'm far from a political junkie, but I do care about this election, so I look not just to the TV networks, but also to the major newspapers for coverage. (Most major newspapers use the AP as their reporting source)

And I could go on and on about what I think the "mindset" of a undecided voter looks like, but given the stories today, I think this is enough. And to this person, Kerry lying in the debates doesn't matter too much--but a stash of ammo in Iraq just disappearing is big news. The fact that actually reading the article makes it appear like that ammo could have been gone since before U.S. troops arrived at the site doesn't matter much because THE PRESS WON'T REPORT IT! What does matter, however, is that the Administration's response so far has been fairly inept. And this is the kind of story that could sway an undecided voter.

The President needs to answer this, and he needs to answer it quickly, factually and competently.

Not-so-quick shots to start the week

WOW! Finally, back to the blogging! What, you ask, could possibly bring me back into the writing world? Well, it starts at the Washington Times story that intends to do Kerry some damage with regards to his honesty (more about that later), but the REAL motivation is my prediction for the Presidential election! So you see, it's not like I have ambitions with my scribblings tonight.

First, a prediction: We're not going to know the winner of this election on Nov. 2, or 3, or maybe even 23. On election night, while all states may be "declared" one way or the other (and I'm willing to bet at least one of those declarations will be prior to the end of polling in that state), I bet in the aftermath of the "get out the word first" press put on by major media outlets and the like, more than a few states will have a slippery slope to navigate in order to determine where their electoral fate lies. Florida, Pennsylvania, and Oregon are pretty much guaranteed to fall into that category; Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and my beloved Colorado are possible. And how any one of those states turn once the lawyers get involved is something I don't even care to guess at--so much legal mumbo-jumbo that a person like me can only sit back and hope that it turns out right. But as I have written before, the "spectacle" that this election will turn into has the potential to serve as a perfect example of Democracy Gone Bad. When violence, fraud and lawyers hold sway over the purest of processes, nobody is the winner. Thanks, fanatics, for making a mockery of over 200 years of Democracy. It's almost enough to make a guy lose faith in the system--but fortunately, I'm not that guy!

Item #2: as my friends know, I have been talking about this supposedly "big" story that a major media outlet was going to break that is damaging to the Kerry campaign. That story appears in the Washington Times, titled "Security Council Members Deny Meeting Kerry". The thrust of the story is that on more than one occasion, one as recently as the second Presidential debate, Sen. Kerry has claimed to have met with the members of the U.N Security Council in the week prior to the passage of Resolution 1441, which served as the hammer that President Bush decided to drop on Saddam. Apparently, that claim is false. While the reporter, Joel Mowbray, is able to verify that Kerry met with at least some of the members of the Council, there are others whose missions (not just the ambassador to the U.N., but the entire "team" that represents a country to the U.N.) claim never to have met Kerry. To the "facts":

- In the second debate (town hall meeting, where selected members of the audience asked the questions), Nikki Washington asked the President "What is your plan to repair relations with other countries given the current situation?" (She set the question up by talking about America's perceived unpopularity in Europe) The President responded by basically stating that making the right decisions sometimes makes you unpopular, and that axiom especially holds true in Europe. During Kerry's 90-second response, the Senator hailed back to 4 years ago when, in the debates, Bush talked about under what circumstances he would choose to go to war. The crux of Kerry's answer, as it is presented in the WaTimes article today, is the following:

"The president stood right here in this hall four years ago, and he was asked a question by somebody just like you, "Under what circumstances would you send people to war?"
And his answer was, "With a viable exit strategy and only with enough forces to get the job done."

He didn't do that. He broke that promise. We didn't have enough forces.

General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, told him he was going to need several hundred thousand. And guess what? They retired General Shinseki for telling him that.

This president hasn't listened.

I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted. I went to New York. I talked to all of them to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable. I came away convinced that, if we worked at it, if we were ready to work and letting Hans Blix do his job and thoroughly go through the inspections, that if push came to shove, they'd be there with us."

- In a speech before the Council of Foreign Relations in December of last year (transcript available here--and please go read it. There are so many gems in this speech that are worth re-visiting today that it is impossible to list them!), Kerry responds to a question from Andy Nagorski of Newsweek, who asks exactly HOW Kerry would've got French and German participation in our coalition efforts in Iraq, as follows:

Thanks to some friends in New York, I was invited to come up and meet with the Security Council in the week prior to the vote, and I wanted to do that, because I valued my vote. And I wanted to know what the real readiness and willingness of our partners was to take this seriously. So I sat with the French and British, Germans, with the entire Security Council, and we spent a couple of hours talking about what they saw as the path to a united front in order to be able to deal with Saddam Hussein.

Germany was not on the Security Council in 2002, when the Security Council unanimously approved Res. 1441 on November 8, and when the U.S. Senate voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq in October. So which vote was Kerry researching when he talked to Germany?

To the reports: Mowbray claims that the missions of at least 4 members of that 15-member security council never had contact with Sen. Kerry. In fact, the only countries that Mowbray was able to directly confirm meeting with Kerry are France, Singapore and Cameroon. Second-hand testimony refers to a meeting between Kerry and representatives of Great Britain's mission. Assuming the Kerry didn't actually have to meet with the mission from the U.S. to understand their intentions, that still means that of the 10 OTHER countries that belonged to that Security Council (membership changes every year with the exception of the 5 permanent members--the U.S., Russia, France, the U.K. and China), 4 of them claim to have never had contact with Sen. Kerry. Certainly the folks of Mexico, Columbia and Bulgaria would remember spending a couple of hours talking with Sen Kerry, wouldn't they? Either as part of a forum (which it appears is the unlikely manner in which this supposed meeting went down) OR as part of an individual office call, certainly a statesman of the stature of John Kerry would leave an impression on the officials of these missions, wouldn't he?

Read the rest of the WaTimes article to form your own opinions. For my take on it all, read on:

Kerry is caught in another lie, another lie that he tells frequently to make himself look like an incredible statesman. Either he doesn't understand the power of the internet (which makes him totally disconnected from reality) OR he doesn't know that what he is saying is a lie. Will this damage him in his quest to the White House? I don't know--this story certainly won't get the media play like something that reflects negatively on Bush would, and some people might not even find this story all that interesting. But I don't know how it will play on the "undecideds" stage--the stage that as of yet must be unconvinced that Kerry is a do-nothing pretentious name-dropper whose election would signal that the worst possible type of politician has ascended to the highest office of the land. Do they think that kind of person is better than Bush? Well, I certainly hope not--either that, or they really aren't all that "undecided" to begin with.

Friday, October 22, 2004

book review of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Yes, I know–I’m only about 18 months late in reading this book! But like I said before, reading is a "hobby" that doesn’t quite match up to the two other things I enjoy doing with my free time–being with my family and sleeping. Sometimes business trips are worthwhile for more reasons than just the business!

I’m sure most of you know by now the gist of this book: a compellingly unfortunate but brilliant man (Robert Langdon) becomes a fugitive from the law in an effort to clear his name in the murder of a reclusive but important person: the curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris, who was actually killed in the very halls that he tended to daily. Along the way, Langdon meets a young police cryptographer (Sophie Neveu), who has many secrets as well as intersecting (but not fully realized) interests in the happenings at the museum. As Landgon and Neveu unravel clues left at the scene of the murder, they begin to understand that the curator had thrust them into the role of "savior" for a world that was not known to either of them before the night began. In an attempt to escape the nearly maniacal search by police Captain Bezu Fache, Langdon leads Neveu to the ornate home of Leigh Teabing, the foremost scholar on the Holy Grail. (Have I yet to mention the Grail? Well here goes: Langdon and Neveu gain possession of what they believe to be the "keystone", within which lies the directions to the most sought-after artifact in the history of the world: the chalice from the last supper. The two fugitives go to Teabing to enlist his help in deciphering the cryptic messages left by the Grand Master of the Priory of the Sion, a supposedly secret society charged with protecting the contents of the Grail so that they may be made public at a "proper" time.) Langdon, Neveu and Teabing head to England just ahead of the French authorities–and while being pursued by an albino assassin with loose ties to the Catholic Church–to continue the quest in the land that many people consider to be the home of the Grail. Will the band of 3 discover the secret that they believe will unravel 2000 years of Christian teachings and beliefs? Or will this prove to be a wild goose chase?

Only after 500 pages do you arrive at the answer–sort of. But along the way you get enough conspiracy theory to make the most unbelieving (or believing) person interested and involved. Consider it mission accomplished for author Dan Brown, who did indeed write a page-turner that managed to be entertaining and informative even while dancing all over hallowed ground. So ends the book review.

But about those dances: (WARNING!!! Uneducated conspiratorial lecturing ahead!!!) If I’m not mistaken, this book gained notoriety for being so controversial in it’s insistence that the beliefs of Christianity are founded in falsehoods–i.e. that the generations of the followers of Christ have been duped by a Catholic Church that falsely portrayed the life of Christ in order to cement it’s place of authority in the 4th century. And of course there’s a lot of "material" written about by the author to support this belief that Christianity is "the greatest story ever sold". Never being one to pass on a good controversy, I read the book with interest–but a discerning eye that allowed me to remain unpersuaded by the arguments put forth by Brown through his two characters of Langdon and Teabing.

(A little background here: I was born, raised and confirmed Catholic. I am no longer a practicing Catholic, although I still mostly follow the teachings I learned in the Catholic Church. I am far from a religious scholar of any sort–so bear with me here–but I found it astounding that anybody who actually shares Christian faith with me could be persuaded in the least by this book–and I know plenty of people who were!)

For example, Brown (through Teabing) talks about how the Council of Nicea in the 4th century A.D. was called for by the Emperor Constantine, and that out of that council originated the gospel as we know it today (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) as well as the creed that stated in digestible terms the beliefs of the Catholic Church (which at that time represented the whole of what we now call Christianity)–most notably the divinity of Christ. Supposedly supporting this "divinity" was a necessary result of pressures that Constantine was facing in governing his empire, and that the belief in a divine Christ had never been widely accepted before (in other words, Constantine needed to make Christ divine to save his empire, and that for the 300-odd years prior to the Council the story of Jesus Christ had just been one of a great MORTAL teacher). A little research shows me, however, that the Apostle’s Creed (or at least what we now know as the Apostle’s Creed) surfaced in the late 2nd century, almost 200 years before the Council of Nicea (and OVER 200 years from the use of the Nicene Creed as a statement of belief). It is believed that in the earliest versions of the Apostle’s Creed (it has been revised from time to time), Jesus is referred to as "the Lord " and the son of God; is born of a virgin; is crucified by mortals; and ascends to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. Granted, the Nicene Creed goes to greater lengths to "define" who and what Christ is ("begotten of the father", "True God from True God", "one human being with the father"), but I think to the common man the latter Creed does not establish the "divinity" of Christ any moreso than the creed that preceded it by 200 years. Therefore, the argument that Constantine "created" a divine Christ doesn’t hold historical water to me–call that one strike against the conspiracy.

Secondly, a large thrust of contention in this book is that the Church way back when sought to create a male-dominated belief system. Therefore they did away with the symbology of strong, free woman and replaced it with the stories of man as the savior, man as the root of the existence of woman, and woman as the creator of "original sin". The "controversies" of Mary Magdalene are expounded upon at length–who was she, "what" was she, and even, to an extent, "where" was she during a crucial time in Jesus’ life. The church, supposedly, had to cast Magdalene in an unfavorable light (i.e. a prostitute) in order to re-cast her role in the life of the savior. Again, all this is done to take woman out of the "spotlight" of the church belief; or, as it is phrased in book, to put an end to the "divine Goddess." This I also find hard to swallow for one reason: no one is more revered in the teachings of the Catholic Church that Mary, mother of Jesus. NO ONE! The picture of a woman who chooses, based on nothing other than her faith, to allow her body to be used as a vessel for God is inspiring beyond words. I remember years ago listening to a sermon given on the Holy Day that celebrates the Immaculate Conception (I think it’s called the Assumption–and I actually paid attention to a sermon! Call the parents!!) that detailed how difficult of a decision it should have been for Mary to accept the task given to her by God–and yet she did so willingly and carried out her task lovingly. The love she showed for her God was great and truly deserving of the reverence that she has within the church–indeed, few are the churches I have been in where there is not a statue in honor of the Blessed Mother. She clearly was not a Goddess–she was physically mortal through-and-through. But she was divine–and the faith she showed in God was not "merely" mortal. I submit to you that the necessarily monotheistic Church did not at all put an end to the "divine Goddess", but rather re-defined the role so that it more closely fit with the deeds and faith that were personified by Mary, the mother of Jesus–she IS the "divine Goddess". Her place of respect in the Church renders the chauvanistic motives purported by Brown through his characters as invalid–call that strike 2.

For strike 3, we’ll go straight to the "Facts", as presented by author Brown before page 1. He tells you that there IS a Priory of Sion–but doesn’t tell you what they actually do. He tells you that there IS a Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei–but so what? He tells you that his descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals are accurate–but fails to tell you what research he has that proves them to be accurate. That’s an awful lot of empty space that he fills into a FICTION book between the FACTS that he presents without actually establishing them as such. It’s fiction, people–suspend belief at the gate before you enter the ride. If you allow this book to shake the foundation of your belief system, then you just aren’t really that much of a believer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

branching out: book review on Teeth of the Tiger

Hey, I have other interests than politics, you know. Actually, until this season I was pretty much interested in everything OTHER than politics–but some things are more important than my hobbies. However, now that I find myself with a little bit of time on my hands (it wasn’t supposed to be that way, but unfortunately it is), I can write about some other things from my comple Hey tely amateur standpoint. Today’s topic: a book review of Tom Clancy’s THE TEETH OF THE TIGER, the latest in the chronicles of Jack Ryan. . .

. . .which isn’t about the Jack Ryan from Clancy’s earlier books and movies, although he does get mentioned in passing. No, the "new" Jack Ryan is Jack, Jr., son of the former President, fresh out of Georgetown University and looking to do something that "makes a difference". He ends up in the employ of The Campus, a so-underground-that-it-doesn’t-exist organization that adds more eyes (i.e. analysts) to the intelligence community–although this organization has a different purpose than merely analyzing. Set up by then-President Ryan due to his distaste for the bureaucracy that had handcuffed the intel community for the entirety of his career, The Campus is charged with tactically (and covertly) maneuvering in response to the information they gleam through established data collection networks. Also playing prominent roles on Campus are Gerry Hendley (a former Senator that now oversees the activities at the Campus), Tony Mills (who works as the younger Ryan’s training officer and fellow analyst), and Dominic and Brian Caruso, a former FBI special agent and Marine Corps Force Recon officer, respectively, newly recruited to the Campus and charged with doing the actual "dirty work" of the organization.

The storyline briefly goes something like this: the terrorists are seeking new methods and allies in their assault on the American homeland. Likewise, the Americans are seeking new methods and weapons to attack the terrorists. For the terrorists, this means establishing a working relationship with the drug cartels to the south of America to help in "smuggling assets" through the Mexican border, the assets being "believers" willing to sacrifice their lives to inflict harm on Americans. For the Americans, the new methods and weapons mean The Campus. Without giving away too much of the plot, I will tell you that the terrorists brought into America have a simple plan to attack at "middle America"–even stooping so low as to plot against Des Moines! (Imagine the nerve!) Meanwhile, the training of the Campus’ recruits (including Ryan, although his training is not on "field" operations) allows that organization’s planners to start looking at "targets" from the bad guy networks throughout the world.

Now I can only look at this book through the eyes of somebody who has read a lot of Tom Clancy’s fiction works–I think I might have missed one of the prior Jack Ryan books, but the rest of them have a place in my library. And as an experienced Tom Clancy reader, I will boldly say that this is not one of the author’s best works. While Clancy has always been good at establishing background and tension in building up to the main thrust of his stories, the climax to this book falls flat. (Very similar to the thoroughly anti-climatic "major" battle in THE BEAR AND THE DRAGON) And an awful lot of this book, especially in the earliest parts, are sloppy–either repetitive, or poorly edited, or just plain "who cares" material. Clancy does spin a good yarn overall, but I think that is because the material has both applicability to our society today and endless possible angles from which to tell the story. But clearly this is not Clancy at his interested, energetic peak. It is contrived, predictable and empty–unless you rank irony as the most filling of literary tools. While the story as a whole may be "realistic" in it’s accomplishments (talk about realism–the major terrorist plan is something that could easily be on Al Qaeda’s operations dossier right now), this story is nowhere near as interesting or inspired as Clancy’s major successes.

In sum, I would say that this book should be considered for reading by interested parties looking to kill time on a business trip or on long travels–when you won’t be totally disappointed by a book that doesn’t deliver all the goods that you might expect. But if you steal reading time away from other activities and interests, don’t choose this book–there’s nothing here that is worth "stealing".

Monday, October 18, 2004

The bottom line on Bush vs Kerry

Not that I am a presidential scholar, but I do know what I look for in a leader, regardless of what level of leadership I'm observing. Some of the most important categories in which I judge leaders are character, decision-making and vision (not necessarily in that order). To expand ever-so-briefly on "the big three":

1) I don't think there's any question about the character of Pres. Bush. He is a principled leader who doesn't shirk from the tough choices that face the office of President of the United States. Rather than allow our enemies to continue operating in the manner in which they were comfortable and had grown strong, he changed the game in order to tilt the battlefield back towards our favor. Rather than allow the venom of the Left to curtail the vigor with which he set out to reach his objectives (both domestically and internationally), he has remained resolute in his approach and his message. And rather than allow himself to be bogged down in the pervasive negativity of both the mainstream media and his opposition, he has maintained a positive outlook that is both inspirational and infectious (to those not blinded by hate). These are the actions of someone who is not just comfortable with himself, but comfortable with his role in these trying times and comfortable with the future that he is helping to shape through his actions. There's no "running away" with Pres. Bush--he stands for what he believes in, and he governs accordingly. That's character, for those of you who haven't seen it in action lately.

As for Sen. Kerry's character--well, these are the two examples that leave the biggest questions in my mind (although far from the only two), and since he talks about them a lot I will let them do the talking for me. First, he promises that he will continue to fight this war in Iraq--a war that he calls wrong in the present tense (not just the decision to go to war--he actually has called the war in "today" terms wrong). Why would he do that? The election doesn't just serve as a referendum on the incumbent, as has been written many places, but it ALSO serves as a referendum on the policies of the candidates themselves. Kerry's strongest "base" is in the anti-war movement; Kerry's entire public life has been spent as an anti-war "activist", if only in action rather than name at some points. IF Kerry is brought to power in this country, why would he not act to get our troops out of the "wrong" war? Forget about bringing allies to the game--why wouldn't he take the "referendum" of the American voters and act according to his instincts garnered from 30 years in public life? If the war is truly wrong AND he has the power to change it, then he should support the immediate withdrawal of our troops--but of course he doesn't say that. Or maybe he doesn't even want to do it--in which case IT IS NOT A "WRONG" WAR! Any war that is worth the sacrifice of our soldiers is NOT wrong--period. It's a room without an "out" door for Kerry--he can't logically make his ideology stand with his rhetoric without paying some sort of political penalty for it. And the fact that he chooses politics over honesty speaks volumes to me about his character.;

Second item: abortion. How can you believe that life begins at conception and yet support the most liberal of pro-choice positions? It's a step that even Roe v Wade doesn't take--there the SC refused to answer the question of when life begins (for more, see here). Kerry, however, HAS stated his beliefs on the question--and they make his support for abortion totally illogical. The Texas statutes overturned in Roe even held protections for the mother's health--and beyond the first trimester, I might add. There is no "logical"--or more importantly, ETHICAL--way to see life as beginning at conception and yet support the voluntary choice to terminate that life. He attempts to keep to the Catholic teachings that supposedly mean so much to his spiritual makeup--but he totally misses the connection between the teachings and the exercise of the belief. It's empty words, in other words--and that's not a trait of good character.
Kerry talks about how a Bush re-election would mean "more of the same". While I don't agree with that statement on all issues of this campaign, on the topic of character it suits me just fine: principled leadership vs. political expediency of the dishonest--and sometimes immoral-- sort. Call that a "W" for W.

2) decision-making. Let's look at the decisions the President has made, and grade them in general :

-- choose your advisors. Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld (YES, Rumsfeld--I know the left may hate him, but he is doing a heckuva job of changing the paradigm of the military to make it more suitable for the battlefields of the future) as the main advisors of the administration. Cheney in the VPs office. These are good choices, people--public servants beyond reproach and dedicated to their country.

-- choose your enemies. Well, they were kind of chosen for us--but choosing how to deal with them was important. By taking the bad guys out of their comfort zone, we have revolutionized the security of the country to meet the enemies of the 21st century. Are there more terrorists today than 3 years ago? Maybe. . .but are they as well-trained, as well-versed in our methods and as free to move (both physically and financially) as they were 3 years ago? NO! I'll take 10 terrorists who can't get their feet in our country (and are forced to deal with our armed forces) over 3 terrorists who have any means to destroy us that they wish at their disposal. Another good choice by the President.

-- choose your friends. Well, I'll take a future where we're aligned more with the Brits, the Aussies and the rest of the coalition of the willing--as well as the Israelis--over a future with the corrupt, powerless and anti-American United Nations anyday. The UN isn't the way to do diplomacy in the future, where states are not the enemy as much groups that operate within certain states. Realizing who are friends actually are, and acting in concert with them to CREATE the future we need, was a strong move by a strong man. Again, plus to Bush.

-- choose our path. IN: ownership; security; international policies that favor a secure future, faith. OUT: politics (i.e. scandal) of yesteryear; cold-war mentality in a non-cold war world; taxes; invasive government. Okay, the OUTS are pretty weak--but that's just because the INs resonate so well with me. To me, good choices, good policies and a good foundation from which to build my future. GOOD!

-- many more to list, of course, but I don't want to write a book here. SO, moving on. . .

As for Kerry, these are the decisions he's made so far on the campaign trail:

- his running mate (big negative--see here for more analysis) and other advisors (Clinton-era throwbacks--some of them engaged in criminal activity (hello, Sandy Berger, glad to have you BACK ON THE TEAM!!!) plus Massachusetts-bred tank-minded leftists--and just about everybody else who has a voice they wish to throw in--too many of them and their collective voice adds nothing to the campaign except misdirection and miscommunication);

- how to run his convention (that was the convention without any bounce in favor of the candidate, the convention where he chose to run on his Vietnam heroism rather than ANYTHING he's done in the last 30 years);

- how to respond to attacks from those who dislike him or his words (Swift Boat vets--poor response; Mary Cheney and the non-apology) etc etc

Summary: he hasn't done ANYTHING right so far except debate well, and that should have been expected. He's not made a single decision that I agree with--and this during a season where you have days, sometimes weeks to figure things out. In the oval office, there are more than a few decisions that require not just good decision-making but also decisiveness. Kerry hasn't shown me the ability to do that, or at least to do that well. No thanks, Mr. Kerry--I'll take four more years of positive decisions with a purpose over vascillation, arrogance and incompetence.

3) Vision. I've already covered this in the preceeding paragraphs, at least Bush's vision. In counter, Kerry offers nothing. Or at least nothing that's believeable. It kind of goes back to character--I really don't know how you can believe anything he says because he doesn't make logical or consistent statements. But EVEN IF you assume that he means what he has said, especially lately, then you have a person who has willingly painted himself as nothing other than the anti-Bush--and that's not vision, that's demagoguery. And there's a problem with that--IF he were to gain power, what would determine his course? His anti-American (and possibly fantasy-based) actions and rhetoric of the past? His strict adherence to seeking international approval--but when we have it, suddenly it's not enough? Or his anti-Bushness, in which case he'd have to call W up to see what he would do in a given situation in order to actually know what to say and do in counter to Bush's decision? Which of these Kerrys garners a vision that is worthy of guiding this country for the next 4 years? I'm going with option D: None of the above!

There are many more issues that I'd like to discuss here, but I WAS trying to keep this brief (sorry--the passion is too great and the importance too high for brevity). But hopefully, if you're sitting on the fence and reading this, the "topic paper" from above is enough to convince you of the necessity of Bush's re-election. Nothing more than our future is stake--please understand the importance and be sure you research accordingly before you cast your vote.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

If you're here for the symposium topic. . .

Welcome! I thank you for taking an interest in my scribblings (electronic scribblings, that is). I would love for you to make yourself comfortable and look around a little bit at some of the other postings I've made. I normally only write about things that I don't see other places, which is why my blog updates slower than others, BUT I hope that it provides good "hindsight" viewing of the things that are effecting this campaign.

And also, I would be remiss if I didn't use this exposure to point you in other directions as well--most notably, my brother over at BestDestiny. He's part of the Rocky Mountain Alliance of Bloggers, and they have some very smart, principled writers on their team. American Kestrel, Thinking Right and ExVigilaire are also must stops if you haven't seen them before. So please, get comfortable and spend your Sunday looking at the issues that need to be looked at in-depth--and help us make a difference in this election!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Quick shots

Okay, sorry for the lack of blogging lately--but posting for me will be done fairly infrequently until after the election, I'm afraid to say. Call it geographical, technological and rhetorical difficulties--or call it a welcome break, if you like. But I will try to find a second here and there to compile my thoughts. Starting now:

- Debate #3: the debate itself was a draw as far as presentation goes, but I have to tell you that Bush came across as a "regular" person to a much larger degree than he had before, even the very warm performance he gave at the town hall meeting--and I'm guessing that will play well to the middle American voters. Kerry was good, but not as good as he had been in DI and D2. Bush got HUGE points from me for using a re-direct very well with regards to Kerry's vote against the first Iraq war--it couldn't have been scripted any better. I think the "style" points of the night come out about even. However, in the category that I think matters most--the "legs" of the debate--there is no question who wins. Kerry doesn't really have anything to work with from Bush's performance, but Bush does. And I think he will. And I think it's going to be good. Overall, the debates probably helped Kerry more, but Bush really didn't do himself too much harm. A tightening of the race was expected--I just hope it isn't the final movement in this campaign.

- Much is being written by folks much smarter than me about the "outing" of Mary Cheney by John Kerry in the debate the other night. The mentioning of her by Kerry was followed by a round of responses, from Mary Beth Cahill (Kerry spokesperson--Mary Cheney is "fair game") to Lynne Cheney (Kerry "isn't a good man") to Elizabeth Edwards (Lynne Cheney must feel "shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences") to Vice President Cheney (who pointed to Kerry's mentioning of his daughter as an example that Kerry is a person who "will say anything to get elected") ((Total wrap-up of soundbites available here)). Here's my take on it: Kerry wasn't necessarily in the wrong, although he probably shouldn't have used her name. I didn't like it when he did it, but name-dropping is one of Kerry's smallest flaws (as long as Mary Cheney doesn't meet her fate this week, I think we'll all feel better for her than others that Kerry has invoked in this campaign). His overall answer to the question was pretty poor--it sounded like Kerry was saying that homosexuality wasn't a choice, which I'm pretty sure isn't going to play well in the proud neighborhoods of the gay/lesbian communities OR in the moderate neighborhoods throughout the rest of the land--but this is off the point. No, I didn't think it was a huge blunder for Kerry to have mentioned her name--BUT for his spokesperson to say that Mary Cheney was "fair game" AND for John Edwards' wife to play pocket psychology with Mrs. Cheney was dispicable. Cahill should be fired for that outburst--it associates with the lowest kind of political discourse, and it shouldn't be tolerated, ESPECIALLY from someone who holds such a vaulted position in the campaign. Mrs. Edwards should apologize for thinking she can read anything at all into the very difficult relationship that all mother-grown daughter relationships are--why don't you get there first before you speak about it, okay? I won't be there to see it personally, but I sure hope this little development gets a lot of play in the media soon. It appears that the left doesn't think that anything is wrong with it all, so their pawns (the media) might even run with the story to some degree. If it does, Kerry can kiss the heartland goodbye.

That's all for now. More later--I just don't know when.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Couldn't believe my eyes!!!

Yesterday morning, I was over on Hugh Hewitt's site (my daily #2 stop, right behind BestDestiny) and I read for the first time the description of a new Bush ad "Worldview", wherein Kerry describes terrorism as a "nuisance" akin to prostitution and gambling.

And my first thought is: gee, I haven't HEARD Kerry say those things before. Where did this come from? He can't be that ignorant, can he?

The answer is yes. For the straight goods, go to the New York Times website (registration required). For tidbits, start at the Kerry Spot and continue with Powerline.

And now, knowing that Kerry is THAT unrealistic about not just the war, but also about terrorism, terrorists and the real threat that they can alter our lives in one moment, there is no way on earth that this man can be the leader in this fight that will define my generation in the eyes of the world.

Kerry believes that more discussion will end militant Islam and the hatred that it breeds: "'We need to engage more directly and more respectfully with Islam, with the state of Islam, with religious leaders, mullahs, imams, clerics, in a way that proves this is not a clash with the British and the Americans and the old forces they remember from the colonial days,' Kerry told me during a rare break from campaigning, in Seattle at the end of August. 'And that's all about your diplomacy.'"

There's a problem with that: the "state" of Islam doesn't really seem to control the militant faction of Islam--you know, that pesky little "branch" of Islam that is responsible for the affairs around the globe today. What Kerry is suggesting is like talking to the foster parents of a continually disruptive and violent child: sure, there's a chance it will work--but probably not. The only hope for a long-term fix is to really get the attention of the child, and foster parents have numerous obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish that task (credibility, longevity, purpose, etc). Straight-laced Islam, as it were, also does not seem capable of getting the attention of the radicals in a respect that would benefit civilization (as we know it), and for that reason a reliance on "talking to the state of Islam" at this point in time would be futile.

Not to mention: terrorism is like prostitution and gambling because we can relegate the terrorists to back-rooms just like we did the mafia? What the heck is that??? Prostitiution and gambling hurt people who dally in those vices without being smart--and maybe not even all of them! Terrorism, on the other hand, KILLS people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the mafia is NOT like terrorism--the terrorists would like nothing more than to be left alone in their dark rooms in seedy alleyways. You see, the mafia needed to make money in order to support itself, so it had to have some form of street name and influence. Not so with terrorism--these folks already have their money, and even without it their PURPOSE would not change at all. Kerry's vision isn't optimistic, as the author contends--it is foolishness of the highest and most dangerous nature.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

the morning after

Last night's debate was interesting. Some of the questions were very good (I, for one, don't care if they are partisan-charged questions or not--your representatives have to be able to answer those types of questions as well as "softballs"), and some of the answers were pretty good. From a strictly "performance" standpoint, the President was much better last night than last week and Kerry turned in another solid effort. There, again, were times that I wish the President would have attacked an exposed Kerry position a little more forcefully (more on that later), but at least he seemed more Presidential yesterday. Kerry's substance did not impress me. And I don't have the information handy to expose some of the key talking points that will come out in the next week, but from reading Hugh Hewitt, I think there is another few golden tid-bits from last night to serve as fodder for the GOP.

About that attacking Kerry stuff from above: I read somewhere today that maybe the President isn't forceful in retorting Kerry in these debates because it isn't in his nature to be mean or deprecating (to someone other than himself, that is). And while that's well and good, it doesn't play well in the debate forum. He who gets the last word has the advantage in leaving an indelible mark on the topic of discussion--Kerry took advantage of that a couple times last night whereas the President did not. By and large, I thought Bush did fine in the 2 minute/90 second exchanges, but Kerry "won" almost every extension. And that is a powerful front to control in these forums.

And I think these forums have an added importance this year. IF there truly are undecideds out there still, they are paying attention to this election simply because it is such an important election and the two leaders are such different people. I don't care what happened in past presidential campaigns as far as how the debates played into the result: I think THIS YEAR the debates will have some say in the eventual outcome. To that end, Kerry has got to like what he's done in his two chances, and I see no reason to doubt that he will do well next week, too. Incorporating that information into the canvas of the election, the biggest question to me is: will his performance in the debates be enough to counter Bush's lead of 12 days ago?

But back to last night: I think the debate was a draw--possibly slightly in favor of Kerry. I think that the most important aspect of the debate, that being the "legs" of the discussions last night, has the potential to favor Bush. As for the effect on the electorate (like I have any clue): my guess is that the only "firming up" was done by Kerry last night. Bush didn't lose anybody, but the only "movement" he will inspire is a voter that could have been considered "undecided" before the debates going back into the undecided column after last night (no net gain for W); Kerry's performance might have taken some other pre-debate "undecideds" and put them permanently in his camp (a net gain).

I think the popular vote is going to be close. Here's to hoping that the swing states found Bush's message--especially on the environment, the culture of life, and the economy--to their liking.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Asking for too much?

No, this article isn't about Bush finding a way to actually speak tonight. . .

I'm hoping beyond hope that someone tonight asks Sen. Kerry: If it's the wrong war at the wrong time, why would you keep troops there?

The way I figure it, that ideology and that policy are mutually exclusive.

If it's the wrong war, then why would you have your troops stay there, risking their lives for one second longer than it takes to sign the order for them to skedaddle? Wrong is wrong, and the President needs to have the moral courage to stand up for what he believes.

BUT, if the stakes in Iraq are so high that our troops' lives are worth the sacrifice, then it isn't the wrong war. Period. Anything with that high of "stakes" with regards to terrorists/insurgents/the security of our interests abroad, whatever--it's a fight worth fighting now.

I don't care if it was the wrong choice back in April of 2003 (a choice that he, by the way, agreed with at the time--and don't give me some whining about misleading. Kerry, as Senator, was one of 500-ish people in America that the President actually has to petition for approval before committing our troops to war--either he took the job seriously and made up his own mind based on the information that he had EXCLUSIVE of the President's propoganda, or he didn't care what happened with our troops. Either way, he can't spin this in a way that makes him look capable of actually being the commander in chief)--I care about what choice is going to be made on Jan. 21st.

Either the troops stay because it is a worthwhile venture--in which case Kerry should apologize publicly to the troops for his most infamous sound bite.

Or it is in fact, in Kerry's mind, the wrong war--in which case Kerry owes it to everybody to tell them the truth about his intentions.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can someone else see this logic? Someone in St Louis, by chance?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Edwards fails this test, and it is a biggie

To expand on my "strategic" comments from my last post, with a few of my own comments thrown in for effect:

Here is the specific Q&A portion of the debate where Edwards gets to talk about why he should be allowed to be a "heartbeat away" from assuming the role of President of the United States:

IFILL: This goes to you, Senator Edwards, and you have two minutes.

Ten men and women have been nominees of their parties since 1976 to be vice president. Out of those ten, you have the least governmental experience of any of them.

What qualifies you to be a heartbeat away?

EDWARDS: The American people want in their president and in their vice president basically three things: They want to know that their president and their vice president will keep them safe. They want to know that they have good judgment. And they want to know that you'll tell them the truth. (All of these are true--but this answer is far from all-encompassing. But more to the point: it's not an answer to the question! And by the way, I don't like being told what I want in my leadership--the reason that this system of government works is because I get to make that decision myself)

John Kerry and I will tell the American people the truth. (Despite the fact that Kerry has a history of misrepresenting his own actions and the things he witnessed--both as far back as 1971, throughout his tenure in the Senate, and as recently as this campaign season)

During the time that I have served on the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, traveling to some of the places we've talked about tonight -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, Turkey -- meeting with the leaders of NATO, I have a very clear idea of what has to be done to keep this country safe. (Okay, that's the start of an answer--let's see if he follows up)

The threats we face: terrorism, killing terrorists and stopping them before they can do damage to us, making sure that we stop the spread of nuclear weapons. I agree with John Kerry from Thursday night, that the danger of nuclear weapons getting in the hands of terrorists is one of the greatest threats that America faces. (it's so dazzling how smart he is on all these big foreign-policy issues. I would've NEVER thought that nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists is a threat--thank goodness for these guys!)

But the one thing that we know from this administration is -- and I -- first of all, I don't claim to have the long political resume that Vice President Cheney has. That's just the truth, and the American people know that and deserve to know it. (Gee, thanks. I'm glad he's so gracious as to think that I deserve to know that. What other obvious facts am I deserving to know? Or, more importantly, what clearly obvious, so-simple-that-you-might-as-well-have-said-that-the-moon-orbits-the-earth facts am I NOT deserving to know?)

But what we know from this administration is that a long resume does not equal good judgment.
(I'll be picky here--we don't KNOW that from this administration. Evidence of the general truth of the statement "experience does not equal good judgment" is overwhelming: what, specifically, is he talking about here?)

Here are the judgments I would make: My first priority would be to keep this country safe. I would find terrorists where they are and stop them and kill them before they do harm to us.
We would stop the spread of nuclear weapons. (these look an awful lot like the same judgments the Bush adminstration has made--maybe the long resume is worth something after all?)

And we would also strengthen this military, which means providing the equipment and training that they need. (is he saying that he doesn't believe that the military HAS the equipment and training that they need? If so, this is the first time he's stated that; if not, than it's a superfluous sentence)

We want to raise the active-duty forces by 40,000, double the special forces so we can find terrorists where they are, and provide the kind of support for families -- health care, housing -- that they deserve while their loved ones are serving and protecting us. (These aren't judgements to be made--they're talking points. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY: THIS DOESN'T ANSWER THE QUESTION ABOUT HIS QUALIFICATIONS!!!)

Cheney responded to the question on Edwards' qualifications by telling us about what Bush asked him to be able to do when he signed on 4+ years ago, talked about the fact that Cheney always was going to be a soldier for Bush rather than a posturer with future political aspirations, and then in closing said that the most important consideration in choosing a Vice President is choosing someone who could take over--and to be honest, I personally agree that THAT is the biggest test in choosing a VP candidate.

In response to that, Edwards used a 30-second redirect to say this:

EDWARDS: I think the most important thing I've learned from this process is what I now know about John Kerry. (Really? That's the most important thing he's learned from being a major participant in a national campaign? I daresay that you have wasted this opportunity, Senator)

I knew him before. I know him better now. (So what?)

He's the one candidate who's led troops in battle. He was a prosecutor, putting people behind bars to protect neighborhoods from crime. He fought for 100,000 cops on the street, and went with John McCain to Vietnam to find out what happened to our POWs. (SO WHAT??)

And the American people saw for themselves on Thursday night the strength, resolve, and backbone that I, myself, have seen in John Kerry. (Don't tell me what I saw on Thursday night--tell me how what Kerry did on Thursday night has anything to do with the man who would be replacing him if he was incapacitated for some reason)

He is ready to be commander in chief. (BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU???)

Now, I'll be fair by saying that speaking off-the-cuff in these debates opens you to assaults like the one I just launched. Without the ability to look over comments ad naseum--like you get to do in preparing a stump speech--words might get put in the mix that you really wish you hadn't said. And yes, I was relentlessly picky about this--but there's a reason for it. Of all the things that happened in the debate, this was the one that had the most immediate impact to me: Edwards had a chance to stake legitimacy on the world's stage, and he dodged the question.

This is a major miss by Edwards. A soft-serve--but very important--question like "why should you be put in the vital role of the next to assume the reigns in the event something happens to your President", and Edwards' response is nothing other than condescension to a ridiculous degree and a repeating of talking points. He even volunteers for the extra 30 seconds--but not to toot his own horn with experiences or big thinking. No, he thought it was vital to tout the top of his ticket. This, despite the fact that Cheney's response hadn't been particularly attacking of Kerry, and DESPITE THE FACT that the question was all about Edwards' abilities.

WHO IS THIS GUY??? And what claim does he have to be next-in-line for the most important job in our world?

He likes Kerry--I get it. He thought Kerry did a swell job last Thursday--I get it. But what does Edwards bring to the administration? Or even more importantly, what would he be worth to ME if something happens to Kerry in the event that they win this election? I DON'T GET IT!!!

And again, I can't tell you how big this shows up negatively in regards to Kerry's decision-making. He spent a loooong time concentrating on who his running mate should be. The choices were distinct and represented all likes of liberal (and moderate) thinkers in the Democratic party. His choice: this guy. The reasons: well, I'm sure there are some, but I haven't heard a good one yet. And even worse, Edwards hasn't SHOWN me any reason to believe that he would be a suitable fill-in to the Oval Office.

Considering that, among the most important decisions Kerry has had to make, we have had a total miss (VP choice) and two total miscalculations (response to the SBVT and the staging of the DNC as a Veteran's rally), I once again don't see any evidence that Kerry has the ability to govern this country. He can debate, that's for sure--but he can't choose. Or at least he can't choose well. And that has implications of a far greater range than I even have the capacity to write about!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

VP debate reaction

For more in-depth analysis, see Hugh Hewitt, Powerline, and Captain's Quarters.

As to my personal take: I take a contrary view to all the folks' impressions above. They resoundingly score last night's debate for Cheney. I do not. (However, scroll to the bottom for my personal take on the "big picture")

Maybe I'm bogged down again by my "expectations"--that Cheney would mercilessly attack not just John Kerry's record, but also the substance of their platform. He did the former in spades--about time!--but was somewhat lacking on the second. Details:

-- Good shots at Kerry's and Edwards' records. Cheney shed light on Kerry's stances on defense as far back as 1984, and hit highlights every decade thereafter. Referenced a North Carolina paper that called Edwards "Senator Gone"; vicious shot at how Cheney had never met Edwards despite the fact that Cheney spends almost every Tuesday in the Senate chamber.

-- Beautiful attack/rebuttal by Cheney on the $200 Billion/90% "line" used at will by Kerry the other night and repeated by Edwards. Summary: a) the cost in Iraq has been $120 billion; b) that's NOT including the almost $95 billion in debt relief and other programs that we have secured for the Iraqis from other countries; and c) that 90% of resources and soldier deaths line DOES NOT account for our biggest ally in the coalition: the Iraqi people. Necessary tie-in to the disgraceful shots Kerry took at Allawi last week, basically outlining the obsurdity of Kerry's claim that he'll do anything to strengthen the coalition in Iraq because his comments serve to weaken the credibility of our strongest ally in that coalition, who is PM Allawi.

-- Foreign policy, as a whole, was okay for Cheney. But one major disappointment--and he even had a set-up with the final question--was the lack of pointing out the Kedwards' idea of giving nuclear material to Iran. Given the recent report that Iran has developed a missile that can put ordnance on Israel, the idea of "giving" the mullahs the materials necessary to become a nuclear power in the name of "finding out if they mean to be good or bad" deserves serious scrutiny. This should be one of the biggest focus points of the campaign from here on in, and Cheney mentioned it exactly zero times.

-- Halliburton was brought up, and I found it interesting that it actually worked in Edwards' favor rather than vice-versa. Cheney should have slammed the door on the Halliburton associations with "eeeevil", but he didn't. I believe it was Hugh who called it a "necessary" response--but to me it was lacking. (Personally, I also think the whole topic is superfluous--but that could be me looking at things through the eyes of a partisan. I don't know how all this stuff plays on the "undecideds" stage) I thought Edwards' trial lawyer background showed through well here.

-- On domestic issues, I thought Edwards won the night. Aside from the fact that I see no way of their platform getting paid for by simply raising taxes on the top 2% of taxpayers (which should have been raised by Cheney. How about some studies about the Dem platform to expose it as a fiscally draining exercise in big government, people!), Edwards sounded convincing and concerned. Cheney didn't even answer the first question posed by Ifill, which was about the 31% unemployment rate in Cleveland. He didn't even talk about jobs at all during this question. Later, he touted the "new jobs" numbers, but didn't mention the low unemployment numbers or the strong numbers gleamed from economic data. If the heart of the Bush message is in ownership, why didn't Cheney mention that home and auto ownership numbers are at all-time records? Cheney did score points for attacking the "rolling back" of tax cuts for the wealthiest in the context that it will be a huge burden on small businesses, responsible for 70% of new jobs (that number is staggering!), but that was about it. Edwards had his strongest moments at this time: 1) in stressing, at the very end, that Kerry/Edwards will stand WITH the American people, as opposed to the evil corporate interests; and 2) at the very start, when Edwards looked at Cheney and said something to the effect of "I don't think this country can take 4 more years of you guys". It was classic lawyering (at least in terms of my experience, which is pretty much limited to watching Law and Order): he "framed" the debate his way ("with the American people or with the interests of the insurance companies"), and used his most effective stuff when there was no opportunity for a retort.

As for the "future sound bites" issue (the most important category, in my opinion): a flat-out draw. Two good points for Cheney (the "wilting under the pressure of Dean" line and the continuous disparaging of our allies line), and two good points for Edwards. That Cheney's points deal with foreign policy and leadership traits while Edwards are both about domestic issues I find compelling, but not unexpected.

THE GOOD NEWS: To me, the VP debates are a chance to get to know the people who would actually guide this country through the remainder of a term IF the President were to lose the capacity to serve. To that end, IF this was to see what kinds of worldly knowledge and experience these two men would put a heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the free world, Edwards failed. He even whiffed on a question specifically designed for him to answer allegations about his inexperience and how it might play/be used on a world stage. He talked about what he has learned about John Kerry--but nothing about what he has learned anywhere else, or even about himself. He's a smart man, but he still came off as far too immature for the office of President. Edwards, I assume based on performance rather than anything he said, believes his job as VP is to be a mouthpiece for Kerry. And while I like the idea of a VP who can work as a public face for the administration, what I REALLY want from a VP is the security of knowing that the country doesn't get any weaker if something happens to the President. With Cheney, we know that to be the case--even Kerry has joked about how "involved" Cheney is with the decisions of the Bush administration. I have yet to see anything from Edwards that makes me think that he could assume the office of President tomorrow. Granted, he got away from his one-trick horse mentality that I accused him of back at the DNC--but he still doesn't show any big thoughts or even the ability to have serious thoughts.

To me, the night was a tactical win for Kerry/Edwards, but a strategic loss. That's the same scorecard as the debate last week. My biggest question: can the President's team suffer any more tactical losses before it affects the overall strategic goals?

All I know is this: today's speech and Friday's debate are very very important. Far more important than I could've possibly imagined anything being a week ago.

And THAT represents a strategic win for Kerry.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

lots of stuff to cover

It's been a while since I posted, and I wanted to cover some stuff prior to the VP debate tonight:

1) I look forward to tonight's debate, but I think it also will be a draw, possibly even leaning to Edwards. He is a smooth speaker and his career in front of juries leads me to believe he will have a great command of the "facts" and will employ them properly. His closing statement will likely be the stuff of legend. Cheney won't be as disappointing as Bush was last week, but even his great knowledge and experience will not provide the "something" that will be necessary. I just hope he can employ rapid responses to some of Edwards' assertions, because doubtless there will be some "what did he just say?" moments tonight--and he's got to be better than Bush at highlighting and responding to those moments.

2) Bush's big speech tomorrow didn't necessarily rub me as the right way to do that which it is supposed to do: clarify his stances and attack Kerry's. That's what Cheney is supposed to do tonight, in the traditional role of the ticket's pit bull. I guess I'll have to see how it plays out tomorrow--but scheduling this thing before Cheney even gets into the arena doesn't strike me as an endorsement of his (Cheney's) ability to do the task laid out before him.

3) Poll this, poll that. They don't mean anything to me, for two reasons: a) as has been written in other places by folks far smarter than myself, if even a few of the scores of stories of voter fraud end up being executed by the intending frauders, there is no rhyme nor reason as to how the red state/blue state (possibly "bleu" state?) map will look on Nov. 3rd. Throw in the lawyers, and it is a mess of staggering proportions in the making. Regardless of the outcome of the election, already we have seen this campaign season as the beginning of the end of the "ideal" democracy in America--it's just sickening! Some beacon of freedom we've become--the voter's already small input to the system is threatened to be cheapened by the presence of votes from fraudulent sources, and the lawyers have been hired and will undoubtedly mobilize to find ANY reason for my vote--and the votes of thousands if not millions of others--not to count. There's going to have to be an enormous amount of work put in by BOTH parties to ensure that the disillusionment that folks will feel about the PROCESS doesn't become a bigger virus on our form of government in the next 4 years (NOTE: do not read this as an endorsement of having "neutral" parties watch over our elections--that would be even more disastrous!); and b) I got my absentee ballot today. I know as an absenteer my vote won't count unless it is absolutely necessary (which I have a feeling it will be), but I was happy to cast it anyway. And as I was doing it, I realized one thing: this was the first time I've voted for a President. I know, it's pathetic--but true. And that struck a note of curiousity in me: where would I fall in with the polls? I'm a registered independent and anything but a likely voter--there's really no accounting for me and folks like me in the polls. The parties are both touting extraordinary "new registrant" numbers, but how many of those new folks will show up on Nov. 2nd? And how many "new" independents are out there with votes already in the bag one way or another? It's just too dizzying to think about, and combine that with the "questionable" tactics that might be employed on election day--there's no reason to believe any numbers we see until Nov. 3rd. HOPEFULLY, those numbers at least will mean something.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The morning. . .er, afternoon, after

All right, now that I've had some time to think about it, I don't think Bush's performance last night was the tragedy that I might have made it out to be last post. Could've been better, to be sure, but not bad overall. And all it took to change my mind? Just sleeping on it last night.

For starters: Kerry HAD to do more in this debate. He HAD to assume the national stage across for the President and show that he belonged there; he HAD to show the ability to act Presidential; he HAD to show knowledge on a myriad of topics; and he HAD to clarify his positions on Iraq. All Bush HAD to do was not screw up too much. Anything more than that for either side and it's a big victory--but the most important thing was to accomplish the basics.

Report card for Kerry:
- "belong" on a podium talking about Presidential things--check;
- act Presidential--check, and maybe even a check plus;
- knowledge on a myriad of topics--a check, but one with a head-lean-to-the-side, if you know what I'm saying;
- clarify positions on Iraq--some subsections of this overall category will get a check, but I'm not sure we get a "big" check here. Still just too much "stuff" without a clear overlying message. Will Kerry fight to win the war? Yes, no question. Does Kerry want our troops safe? Yes, no question. Are those two positions mutually exclusive for him? Or which is more important--the safety of the troops or the winning of the war? I don't know! And again, lots of talk about bringing more allies into the game without even talking about how he'll do it. Or why he thinks that more allies will affect the outcome in Iraq for the better--at the same time that he doesn't think the 30-odd nation coalition already in place isn't worth the paper the names are written on. Too much murk for me--especially when the President is anything BUT murky on the battle in Iraq.

Bush report card:
- not screw anything up too much: check.

Now that's what they HAD to do. As for what they COULD have done, last night was a huge wasted opportunity for Bush. He could've won not just the talking points but also the "style" points last night by slamming the door shut on some of Kerry's preposterous foreign policy ideas. He didn't do that. He chose instead to keep constant with the "wishy-washy" stances of Sen Kerry, which is a talking point that I just don't like too much BUT may end up paying off dividends in the long run. We'll just have to see. . .

The real "effect" of the debate will be how it plays in the media for the next 4-plus weeks. In that regard, I think Bush will win. There are plenty of positions that Kerry took that can--and should--be exploited by the conservatives. Start with the "global test", throw in a little nuclear- materials-for-Iran-to-DETERMINE-what-their-real-intentions-are, sprinkle in some "not a real coalition" doublespeak against our allies, and finish the whole thing off with some "bi-lateral AND multi-lateral" talks with the North Koreans, and you have a recipe for Kerry Disaster. Bush had nothing like that for the Kerryists to jump on--they'll say he's one-track minded, that he's not eloquent and that he can't bring the U.S. to a respected place in the world. A) Yes, he's one-track minded--but most of America likes that track, which is to be strong, steadfast and determined in taking the fight to the enemy; B) not eloquent is so "no duh" that it won't be a talking point for long; and C) the U.S. IS in a respected place in the world--it's just not a place that France wants to share with us. Germany's playing with us now to some degree, Russia understands the reach of this war, and other valuable allies like the U.K., Australia, POLAND, and others enjoy taking every step with us. "Respect" should not be confused with "like", and Kerry seems to be more interested in winning a popularity contest in Paris than in securing our future against the hatred of the militant Islamists. Yes, there's much more material here for the Bush team to play with than the Kerryists.

But HERE'S the BIGGEST REASON I'm not so down on the debate today: one of my friends, possibly the most middle-of-the-road guy I know with regards to politics, took a vested interest in the debate last night. Before last night, he was leaning ever-so-slightly Bush, which is how he voted in 2000 after voting for Clinton in both '92 and '96. He hasn't followed the campaigns too closely, so in no way, shape, or form would I consider him a "junkie". He watched the debate last night. . .for about an hour, and then he was done. Not too tired, or even too bored--he'd just had his fill. His biggest complaint: "90 minutes is too long". Two things from this: a) that first hour was Bush's finest. Not his finest ever, mind you--but if I (and most Bushies, I suppose) had to choose one 30-minute refrain of the night for middle-of-the-road folks to miss , the last 30 is the winner hand's down; and 2) I don't think my friend will be tuning in to much of the next two debates, if at all. Kerry had to do something--as in present something new--to pursuade this guy last night, and the performance fell short.

And I'm just guessing that my friend is not alone in this regard.