Saturday, September 04, 2004

Beslan: Here Be Monsters

We are at war against monsters.


Friday, September 03, 2004



When the Democrats gathered for their convention in late July, they knew the race was close, although Kerry’s selection of Edwards as a running mate had gained him a slight lead. The missions at that time were pretty clear:

  • Improve on the lead
  • Energize the base
  • Put President Bush on the defensive

To do this, the Democrats had lined up their best available speakers.

This week, the GOP got together to officially nominate George W. Bush again for President, and again the race was close, though by now President Bush had regained a slight lead in some polls. The Republicans had similar missions:

  • Take the lead or improve on it
  • Energize the base
  • Speak to undecideds and the average American

Now that the Republicans have also had their convention, I think it’s a good idea to see how each party fared in getting it’s missions accomplished. The Democrats began on Monday, July 26, with the theme of “The Kerry-Edwards Plan for America’s Future”, and highlight speeches by Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton. None of the speakers actually mentioned any specifics about what we might expect from Kerry’s plans “for America’s future”, though we were assured repeatedly that he had some. An early indicator about the direction and message of this convention, was that Hillary Clinton was relegated to no more than introducing her husband. My immediate take from this first night was, that the word “former” figured prominently in the description of these speakers. The speaker most accomplished at the moment, is the one whose time on-stage was limited to introducing her husband.

On Tuesday, July 27, the theme was “A Lifetime of Strength and Service”, which amounted to a paean to the greatness that is John Kerry. Highlight speakers for that day were Teresa Heinz Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and Barack Obama. A strange group, given the theme. Teresa spent her time showing off her skill at foreign languages and lambasting Republicans, a popular pastime at the DNC, but one which said nothing of her love for John Kerry. We were left to presume there was some sort of affection in their marriage. Ted Kennedy has been in the Senate for two decades with Kerry, yet did not mention a single piece of legislation by Kerry to show his accomplishments. And it is highly unlikely that Barack Obama had ever met Kerry before this campaign season, so it is not surprising that for all his eloquence about politics and the Democratic Party, Mr. Obama had nothing to say about the life and work of John Kerry. It is peculiar that this theme would be chosen, then ignored throughout the day.

On Wednesday, July 28, the theme was “A Stronger, More Secure America”, which was never quite defined to any degree so far as the Democrats are concerned. Highlight speakers for that day were John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards, Jennifer Granholm, and Bill Richardson. A mid-level retired Marine officer, Steve Brozak, also spoke, and was the closest thing that day, to actually discussing National Security, though Col. Brozak had no experience at the strategic level of national policy. From the speeches presented, one is left with the impression that a “More Secure America” depends on higher taxes and vigorous lawsuits against selected targets.

On Thursday, July 29, the theme was the convention theme, “Stronger at Home, Respected in the World”. As before, there was nothing of any substance to explain how, exactly, a Kerry Presidency would produce these things. One suspects the Democrats believe in Leadership through Wishful Speeches. The highlight speakers for this final day of the Democrats’ convention were Max Cleland, Madeleine Albright, Joe Lieberman, Wesley Clark, Nancy Pelosi, Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry, and John Kerry. Max Cleland and Nancy Pelosi were shrill and bitter, clearly still possessed of the resentment they have carried for years. How this is respectable, I cannot perceive. Joe Lieberman and Wesley Clark essentially repeated their commendations for Kerry, basically assuring the Democrats that Kerry was able to do the job. One wonders why the DNC felt this was a necessary reassurance. One also wonders why they could cite no examples to support their claims for Kerry’s competence. It boiled down to “Bush bad”. Remember that, when we get to the GOP message.

As for Kerry himself, what can I say that you don’t already know? The candidate surrounded himself with old Swift Boat buddies from long ago, saluted to begin his speech, and did his level best to mix Teddy Roosevelt with Walter Mondale. At least, that was my take. Certainly, his phrases were stilted (“trees are cathedrals”?) and he was stiff and rote in his presentation. Also, for all the claims, there was not, even then, a single solid example of what Kerry would do, for Foreign Policy or the Economy, that would be distinctly preferable to President Bush, or even, for that matter, clearly Kerry’s vision. Kerry chose, again, to hide his plan.

For the Republican side, the convention had a theme: “A Safer World, A More Hopeful America”, but did not theme each day. The line-up went like this:

On Monday, August 30, Senator John McCain spoke, followed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. This was a great start. First, McCain was known as a friend of Kerry’s, so it was a subtle but effective tweak, to make him the first major speaker at the convention. Also, as a vet and with strong credentials in National Security, John McCain spoke effectively about Bush’s leadership and accomplishments in the War on Terror. As for Rudy, this was an obvious choice, but truly effective for all that. While Rudy is the former mayor, his leadership in 9/11 is well-recognized, and it was important to remind the nation that there are clear, unmistakable national heroes, who support and admire President Bush.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Rod Paige spoke, followed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, then First Lady Laura Bush. This was a perfect line-up! First, most people recall (but discount) Condi Rice and Colin Powell as members of Bush’s cabinet. Paige reminds folks that Bush’s commitment to a cabinet that really reflects America goes much deeper than that, and Paige is extremely smart and well-spoken. As for Ahh-nuld, the fact that he is still being quoted three days later tells all we need to know about that. As for Laura, absolutely brilliant! Not only did Laura project an immensely better image than haughty Terezzza, she may well have helped Bush among women and moderates. Just as people underestimate the President, they often forget about his wife, her intelligence, and her perceptiveness.

Wednesday, the highlight speakers were Senator Zell Miller and the Cheneys. This was also extremely effective, I think. First off, Zell spoke the minds and hearts of many people. And while the Kerry campaign tried to attack the GOP for it, the fact remains that this was a Democrat preaching the truth. Kerry had tried the same tactics earlier in the campaign, by pushing McCain to criticize President Bush, but Miller tore down every pretense Kerry had put up in this campaign. Like Arnold, Zell is still being quoted, a clear sign that he hit the target. When Lynne Cheney came out, no one was really expecting her to be effective. But this high-school sweetheart of the Vice-President spoke quietly but with great strength, and like Laura Bush reminded many people that her husband is a decent, kind man. And then, of course, out came Dick Cheney, who also spoke quietly and effectively, so much so that when Kerry came out of hiding at midnight Thursday night, it was Cheney he attacked, so obsessed was he with that speech.

Finally, on Thursday, Governor George Pataki spoke, followed by Fred Thompson, who introduced President Bush. Governor Pataki reminded everyone again, of the courage and strength of New Yorkers, and he in turn reminded us that many New Yorkers respect and admire the President. As for President Bush, the ball he hit hasn’t landed yet. He began quietly, almost boring as he carefully explained what his next term will accomplish. It’s when you consider each of the goals, that you realize how breath-taking they are. Kennedy talked about walking on the moon, but President Bush means to change the world, for us and for our children after us. And when he showed emotion, everyone realized it was real, and when he laughed at himself, it was the easy laugh of a man who has strength enough to spare. John Kerry had a short, small chance to answer in kind to that humor, that vision. Instead, he came out in the middle of the night, ignored what the President had said, twisted what the Vice President had said, and tried to mount an attack on the tired old tactic of mud and innuendo.

It remains to be seen how the polls will judge the immediate bounce for the President, but in my opinion, President Bush has dropped Kerry with a punch that began on Monday. The count has begun, and though it will take sixty days instead of ten seconds, it looks like a knockout from here.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Kerry Hires New Campaign Manager, New Campaign Ship

Angrily declaring that his campaign needed someone tough enough to take on the Swift Boat Vets, Presidential wanna-be John "owie" Kerry named a new campaign manager today, Turnan K'off, who vowed to "kill the impudent weaklings, and eat their children live". Terry McAuliffe insisted this was merely a euphemism for campaigning vigorously.

Sources differ on where Kerry found his new, tough-talking manager. Reports that K'off is actually an alien were laughed off by McAuliffe, who retorted, "C'mon, he's as Irish as I am! You can tell just by looking at him, he's a Boston Democrat."

With just two months to go before Election Day, the Kerry-Edwards campaign announced K'off's addition to the team, along with the acquisition of a new campaign vessel, named the 'KaregoMstushka'. New manager K'off volunteered that the name means 'Blood of the Victims, While They Writhe In Agony', but McAuliffe stated, "No, no, I think it's Welsh, actually, it means something like 'harmonious meadow flowers and happy children".

There are already clear differences between the old and new styles. When an old-style Kerry staffer became angry at K'off, he reportedly shouted "Eat Me", to which K'off allegedly responded, "I plan to".

The ship is obviously of foreign make. Joe Lockhart told reporters "I think it's French", to which K'off replied "You mean Ferengi".

The Kerry-Edwards team remains confident that it will lead the campaign to victory on November 2nd. The new addition is hoped to bolster the campaign's efforts to put John Kerry and John Edwards in the White House.

Asked for comment on K'off, Cheney suggested that if K'off is really from Boston, "they should test the water there more carefully". Cheney also mentioned apparent similarities in appearance and style between K'off and billionaire lunatic Soros.

Democratic sources say a major shake-up in John Kerry's presidential campaign was necessary, citing the candidate's inability to respond effectively to criticism from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Even K'off is said to respect the veterans and their courage.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Thought For The Day

Well, here we are in the middle of the Republican National Convention, and with the GOP delegates, came all kinds of protesters.

People protesting the War in Iraq, people protesting the War in Afghanistan, people protesting George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, the Swift Boat Vets, the good economy, the nice weather (eco-ranters), and all sorts of things, including why the Republicans dare to set foot in New York.

That provokes my thought for the day:

If George W. Bush did such a horrible job responding to the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terror, why are his opponents so worried that he would call attention to it?

Maybe because Dubya was, in fact, very effective in his response, and the Democrats would say anything to prevent that being discovered by the average American?

Tuesday, August 31, 2004


An enemy of mine has died. A man known for his malice and bitterness, who seemed ready to attack anyone at any time, and by our laws a great criminal as well. By many accounts, I and my friends should be glad he is gone, for a threat has been removed from us, and his evil is at an end. However, I will weep for him my enemy this week, beginning now through next Sunday. I may continue it for a week after that, as well. Because with his death, I cannot reach him any more, to speak to him nor address his reasons for the way he felt and acted. No one can, neither those of us who would have changed him, nor those who would have cheered him. He is no more, as we understand things in this world.

In his death, I am reminded myself of the finality of certain things, and the fact that we all are wicked in one respect or another. The prophet Daniel was much beloved of God, yet he was constantly praying for forgiveness, for his nation and even for himself (Dan 9:4-19) . Isaiah, when he saw the Court of Heaven, did not speak of gladness and delight, but was full of woe, for he said, “I am a man of unclean lips!” (Isa 6:5). We are all of us guilty; not one among us is perfect, nor fit to speak as the equal to God.

I say all this, because this is the matter. I am a Christian, which is not to say anything except this: Jesus found me in need, and healed me. In my case, this meant forgiving egregious sins, and setting my life on a better course. My commission from the Lord, then, is to heal as I have been healed, to teach as I have been taught, and above those, to love my fellow man as God has loved me.

Etosha’ is remembrance for those gone, especially those who are enemies. This is so, that when these enemies come before God, there shall be no charge against them by my spirit. This is so I may pray for mercy for them, just as I received it when I was God’s enemy. This is so I may not become proud, or pretend that their death ends my responsibility. Most of those who were my enemies, had friends, surely almost all had families, who grieve for their loss. Etosha is to be one with them now, even if I could not do so before.

There are no special rules for Etosha. One need not dress, or eat, or even speak a certain way. It is not tied to a calendar, nor only to a limited or minimum duration. Those who will practice it, choose for themselves the way. It is as easy, or hard, as one is willing to choose.

I challenge the Christians here, to consider that we have a responsibility for Etosha, to remember our enemies, even when they are no more, so that they will always be our neighbors and kin as fellow people, and not merely disposable, to be forgotten when they annoy us no more. That is why I bring this up here. If you will not do this, it is no offense, nor any special honor if you do. But it is something I feel I should mention, all the same.

Monday, August 30, 2004


"So, waddaya do now, Mr. War Hero?"
The Democrats are worried.

OK, so you knew that. In fact, it makes sense for Senator Kerry to be nervous right now, with his lead pretty much blown in the poll concensus. But there are undercurrents showing up, which indicate that the countdown to the November election, may be likened to the altimeter of a plane in a spiral, unable to right itself.

Today's flashing red light on the dashboard comes from Newsweek columnist Donna Brazile, who is described by Newsweek as "a senior political strategist and former campaign manager for Gore-Lieberman in 2000". OK, that could be a little intimidating, since Gore did close well in the final weeks of the 2000 election, which made the months afterwards such a mess. But Brazile's advice to Kerry seems strangely timed, and frankly, unfeasible for this particular candidate.

Brazile begins her article with the title, "How to Beat Bush". Sorry, but I have to stop right here and laugh. This title has three problems for me, right away:

  1. Since Gore didn't beat Bush in 2000, for his manager to be claiming to know how to do it now, strikes me as just a bit presumptuous;
  2. Wouldn't you think Kerry's campaign team would respond to such a title with something like, 'thanks, we already have a plan'? I'd be very surprised to hear anyone on Team Kerry say, 'huh-we never thought of that!'
  3. If these are such great ideas for a campaign, shouldn't Brazile have suggested them back in, say, March or April?

Anyway, Brazile goes on to say why Kerry still is in good shape. Brazile says "Kerry has utilized the ubiquitous Bill Clinton as a surrogate of sorts". Uh-huh. Sure, now that I think of it, John Kerry is just like Bill-uhhh, maybe if I try harder, yeah he really does remind me - actually, sorry Donna, but Kerry reminds me, as the joke goes, of Al Gore without the charisma. Bill Clinton, uhhhh, no.

Next, Brazile reminds us about the "scurrilous attacks on former Vice President Gore's character". Uh, hmm, sorry, Donna, I don't recall that. Since Donna doesn't actually note any specifics, I guess she's just using that for theatrical effect. That makes a kind of sense, since Brazile goes on to report how " Kerry had to personally respond to these scurrilous attacks on his character with the hopes of setting the record straight before November." To suggest that Kerry is 'setting the record straight' by trying to suppress a couple hundred decorated Vietnam vets, and by pushing the tattered remains of his war story, after two of its main themes have had to be redacted and removed from the stage, and those medals he did/did not throw over the fence now coming into dispute at the source , can only be called literary license, at best.

Brazile moves on to suggest three "simple truths", and I'll give her this - the three she selects are critical to both sides, but I find little reason to be optimistic for Kerry in those arenas.

First, Brazile say, Kerry needs a strong, compelling, message. Okay, that makes sense. But what message does Brazile suggest? "America can do better". Uh-huh, yeah. Donna, has it occurred to you, that a lot of people could take that slogan, turn it around, and say something like "America can do better than Kerry" just as easily as they could say "America can do better than Bush". This is important, because the polls consistently say Bush's people are more energized than Kerry's, and so this kind of slogan isn't going to sway the voters. Or to put it another way, if people aren't excited by Kerry now, this slogan won't charge them up now, will it?

Brazile actually suggests the slogan, "A President You Can Trust". Considering the many questions of his veracity circling Kerry like sharks, does anyone really think that's a good idea to focus on?

Brazile finishes this section by suggesting "the Kerry-Edwards campaign must divide each week up like it is an inning and try to score some points." Sorry, but that's flat-out stupid. If history is any teacher, no lead is safe, and there's no such thing as scoring points before the election. Anyone who hasn't voted yet, could change their mind about who to support, or even whether they will vote. And people smell artificial stunts; if Kerry looks like he's playing games instead of trying to look Presidential, he'll only shoot more holes in his dinghy.

Brazile goes on to opine, "the candidate who wins may be the one who makes the fewest mistakes". Two problems there. First, as obvious as that message is, it should be obvious that no one plans to screw up; there's no way to pretend mistakes won't happen, and in my experience, telling someone 'don't blow it' only puts more pressure on them. Second, when Kerry's mistakes are considered, it seems to me that they are driven by his personality. To me, that means that the only way to prevent more of the same, is to ask Kerry to change his behavior radically. That could explain his hermit act the past three weeks. Some leading Democrat is trying to play Dr. Henry Higgins to Kerry's Eliza Doolittle.

Brazile tells Kerry "nothing makes up for quality candidate appearances and events. Kerry must get to know these voters and what they care about" . That would be vital advice, but it needs to be there at the start. After Kerry told West Virginia voters that mining was "dirty", after he told vets in Ohio that the Swift Boat vets were lying and he was telling the truth, after he suggested to Catholics that he believed life began at conception, yet supported Abortion, Kerry has made it a minefield to reach those people on their level. He either lied then, or he has to lie now. Either way, Kerry has written off a lot of people, and whatever reason he had then, it's a but late to try to start all over again. Not only do people remember what the candidate says, the fact is, it's too hard to wipe out all the traces.

In her last point, Brazile warns Kerry not to approach the Presidential Debates "like they are a Harvard-Yale Society debate". Good advice, that. But then, Brazile suggests the debates "will serve as Kerry's chance to show voters who he is as a person. They will want to be comfortable with him. Kerry must come across like a next-door neighbor. " Yeah, like his DNC performance? Think about it. Every time Kerry tries to be a regular guy, it comes back on him. He goes to Wendy's, remember, to try the chili and be aregular guy, but instead he annoys a group of Marines who just want to eat their lunch, and instead the photo op works for Bush. And of course, the gourmet meal on the bus that Kerry really ate, that didn't help. The custom shirts and salon haircut, the Botox, the 'regular-guy' attempts to sell Windsurfing as something everybody does, and telling how he crawls on his belly to hunt deer, these tell their own story. Personally, I hope Kerry keeps trying to sell himself as a regular guy. If he does, Bush will win by 30 points.

Brazile's final advice to Kerry, she says "Kerry should feel, look and act like a winner." That might be good therapy, but that won't make him a winner. But then, I have to sympathize with Ms. Brazile. Kerry's real problems are a lot harder to fix, and frankly, unless Kerry himself decides to take a hard look and face his own limits, all he can do, really, is pretend the disaster isn't real.

The Democrats are beginnning to realize how real that disaster is.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

GOP Pre-Convention Look

On August 10, I published an analysis of how the Democrats' nominee, John Kerry, fared from his convention. Now, it’s time to see how Bush fares in his convention.

To be even-handed, I hope to compare most of the same polls for internal data; Marist, Pew, Fox News, the LA Times, the CBS/New York Times, Quinnipiac, CNN/USA Today/Gallup, NPR, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, Democracy Corps, and the American Research Group, if at all available.

The starting point for the overall look is, of course, the 3-way and head-to-head poll standings. Looking at the last week of polls, the 3-way position is Bush +1.6, and the 2-way is Bush +1.2. Bush's Job Approval ratings average 50.2% right now.

At this time, 85.0% of Democrats plan to vote for Kerry, 89.7% of Republicans plan to vote for Bush, a 4.7% advantage for Bush.

44.0% of Independents plan to vote for Kerry, 39.8% for Bush, a 4.2% advantage for Kerry.

6.3% of Republicans plan to vote for Kerry, while 10.3% of Democrats plan to vote for Bush, a 4.0% advantage for Bush.

43.0% of men plan to vote for Kerry, against 50.3% for Bush, a 7.3% advantage for Bush.

48.7% of women plan to vote for Kerry, against 43.0% for Bush, a 5.7% advantage for Kerry.

Kerry has a 48.2% personality favorability rating, against 50.6% for Bush, a 2.4% advantage for Bush.

It remains to be seen how the GOP Convention may affect these numbers.