Saturday, February 07, 2004

Perhaps the Most Compelling Reason Yet to Vote for Bush

Our neighbors to the north hope he loses. But then, what would one expect? Their national anthem is a beer commercial.

Scene Setter

There's a firehouse primary in Michigan today and the Washington State caucuses as well. Kerry is expected to win both. The Dean numbers in Washington will be interesting, particularly in King County (Seattle).

Tomorrow it's the Maine caucuses. Tuesday, the Virginia and Tennessee primaries. All this is neatly packaged by Dan Balz and Vanessa Williams.

The crazy general has been disturbing the Ashram somewhat, invading the personal space of Senator Edwards in Tennessee. But you'll be pleased to know that no negative advertising has appeared. Ommmmmmmmmmm.

How Did Kerry Beat Weld?

Here's The New York Times view, from an ex-Boston Globe reporter. It's the Kerry narrative; the story as they imagine it. And so it is worth reading.

I covered the race for The Boston Globe. The key dynamic was controlling how the race was understood by the electorate. It was in Weld's interest that it be seen as a Massachusetts race; the popular governor against the stiff senator. It was in Kerry's interest that it be seen as a national race; the good Democrat against the evil Republicans.

For some reason, it took Kerry and his crack team of consultants 9 months to figure this out, which is why they trailed in all the polls until mid-October. Once they successfully nationalized the race, Weld was a goner. Clinton defeated Dole in Massachusetts 61%-28%. Kerry beat Weld 54%-45%. Massachusetts is the second most "nationally Democratic" state in the country.

The most interesting thing (to me) about the race was that the Weld campaign had nothing to say for the last three weeks. They just coasted along on bad ads and bromides. They appeared to have no understanding of the dynamic that was doing them in.

Which Polls Are Best?

The two most reliable polling organizations in the country right now are the Gallup Organization and Opinion Dynamics. Gallup does the polling for CNN and USA Today, Opinion Dynamics does its work for the Fox News Channel. You can find Gallup data here. You can find Opinion Dynamics data here.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

James Lileks on Kerry

Let's just quote the whole thing:

"Heard a John Kerry speech today: ended with “Purple Haze,” I think. As a Hendrix tune for the campaign, it’s better than “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire,” which would be the most inapt Kerry tune imaginable. He has no fire. He wouldn’t catch fire if you doused him in kerosene and shot Roman Candle balls at him. He’s a sopping-wet asbestos poncho. But it was the 60s music that made me shudder. It appears that in the middle of the new war we’re going to revisit the most important war ever, Vietnam.

"God no. Please no. I think I speak for millions when I say that I am deathly sick of the counterculture sixties. The music, the war, the protests, all the hagiography - it's not a reflection of the era’s importance but the self-importance of the generation who hung on the bus as it trundled along down the same old rutted road of history.. I’m tired of hearing about the boomers’ days of whine and neuroses; I’m weary of ritual genuflection to their musical icons; I’m utterly disinterested in most of the pop-cult trivia they hold so dear. We’ll probably be better off when that demographic pig has been excreted from the python so we can see the era clearly without choking on the smoke.

"What's the message here? John Kerry is best suited to lead us in the present war because he was a prominent opponant of the last one, which we lost. John Kerry led the fight to leave South Vietnam to the mercies of the North. John Kerry would rather lose a theater for the right reasons than win it for reasons the critics derided. Dress it up however you like, but that’s what it came down to; college students marched not against the Vietnamese war but the American participation in that conflict. Anyone fill the Mall in DC to protest the reeducation camps? Any Solidarity with the Boat People committees formed on campuses after the fall of the south? The privations of the vanquished South Vietnamese were an uncomfortable consequence of their goals – but of course it didn’t detract a jot from the nobility of the cause. I still remember the week we had a Vietnamese woman stay at our house - she was a Party member, a professional, and what did she bring back home for her kids? White paper. To draw on. A luxury item, that.

"If Kerry wants to bring this era back, he’s demonstrated that his branch of the party are the modern-day Bourbons. They have forgotten nothing and learned nothing. For them the great evil wasn’t communism, but America’s response to communism. And now the threat isn’t Islamic terrorism, but what we do to combat it. We act without French approval. We act after 170 UN resolutions instead of crafting a 171st which forbids us from acting. We deploy anti-missile defenses around the Korean peninsula instead of striking a deal to give them more food, more oil, more time. In short, we act as if we have a pair.

"I’m sure this appeals to the people in my neighborhood who’ve altered their NO WAR WITH IRAQ to read NO HALLIBURTON IN IRAQ. (Seriously.) And I’m sure those people said YEAH! when Terry McAuliffe – Carville without the warmth – accused Bush of “not serving in the military,” and said that Bush Sr. pulled strings to get him an honorable discharge. They know that’s true. They know it. Just as they know that Bush never flew a jet, and has the IQ of a warm rock, etc. etc. The whole AWOL thing is slanderous nonsense – but it’s completely consistent with the new tone. Imagine if the head of the RNC had floated Mena rumors in 96, or wondered aloud about Gore’s role in Ron Brown’s “mysterious” plane crash death. And imagine if these memes were floated in the middle of a hot war. The difference is that "Mena" would have been a hot-button word at the RNC convention for those nutballs who wear 348 buttons and straw hats, whereas I suspect that the "Bush was AWOL" idea will be embraced enthusiastically by delegates who are NEA secretaries from Nebraska. We'll see.

"McAuliffe said he was responding to the GOP’s attacks on Democrats’ patriotism. Examples given: none. You want attacks on patriotism, listen to Wesley Clark, who has specifically accused Bush of being unpatriotic – and in the same speech said that the Democratic party was the only party that exemplified Christian teachings. (I’m not getting this from second-hand sources; I heard the speech on Hugh Hewitt’s show with my own small ears. I hope Hugh posts the audio soon so it’s out there for all to hear.) We’re not discussing issues here; we’re not even discussing how next to prosecute the war. Because that doesn’t matter.

"I’m waiting for a Kerry speech in which he seems angrier about 9/11 than he does about tax cuts.

"I’m waiting for an ad that simply puts the matter plainly: who do you think Al Qaeda wants to win the election? Who do you think will make Syria relax? Who do you think Hezbollah worries about more? Who would Iran want to deal with when it comes to its nuclear program – Cowboy Bush or “Send in the bribed French inspectors” Kerry? Which candidate would our enemies prefer?

"O the shrieking that would result should such an ad run. You can’t even ask those questions, even though they’re the most relevant questions of the election.

"Oh, more thing. Let’s say President Kerry would be forced to act against North Korea, because we caught them shipping nukes to a terrorist organization, and once we got there we uncovered all the torture camps and poison-gas human experiment labs. Let’s say his administration had several retreads from the Clinton era. Do you think we’d see this image below on Democratic Underground message boards?"


Target Practice

If you think Mickey Kaus has a bad attitude toward Senator John Kerry, allow me to introduce you to the great Howie Carr.

Doomed and Knew It

Dr. Dean lays it on the line. Win Wisconsin or it's back to Vermont.

A Freak Show

Peggy Noonan's column today on the decline of American popular culture is exactly right. Read the whole thing, as the bloggers say.

Not That They're Not Objective!

The Wall Street Journal has a report today about the Democratic Presidential nomination campaign that simply has to be read to be believed. In the third paragraph, John Harwood, Jeanne Cummings and Jacob Schlesinger report that "there now is a risk that the race for the nomination could veer in a direction that damages the eventual nominee and aids Mr. Bush in the general election that follows."

God forbid that anything should damage the eventual nominee and aid Mr. Bush! The rest of the article basically warns Senator Edwards to refrain from using negative advertising that might help him actually win the nomination. Don't do it. They'll be really mad if you do.

Other hot political stories in the WSJ today include an assessment of the race from George Soros, noted political analyst, and yet another David Rogers valentine to John Kerry. In Washington, this is called "objective journalism."

Intelligence and WMD

David Warren has a smart piece on what we knew and what we didn't know about Iraq's WMD programs. The reporting on this issue, particularly in The New York Times, has been sexed up to make Bush look bad. But the truth is relevant. (Thanks to Roger Simon for the link).

Good News on Jobs

Virginia Postrel notes the steady increase in employment, as measured by the NFIB's survey of member firms. (NFIB stands for the National Federation of Independent Business). It's very good news.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Genome War

What Los Alamos was to atomic research, Rockville was (and is) to genomic discovery. If you read only one science book this year, read The Genome War, by James Shreeve. You'll be amazed.

Click here for details.

Negative Ad Material

These horrible press people keep dredging up hideous stories -- like this one.-- that seem to contradict Senator Kerry's self-portrait as a man above the muck of "special interest" politics. Ordinarily, a story like this would make great fodder for a negative television advertisement. But in the Ashram of the Democratic Presidential primaries, one does not invade another's space.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

He's Alive

Watching Chris Matthews of MSNBC slather all over Senator John Edwards tonight was embarrassing on any number of levels, but it was a useful reminder to Ellisblog that one must never underestimate the power of the national news media when it seeks a desired outcome.

"Is it just a matter of having people see how good you are, Senator Edwards" asked Mr. Matthews of his somewhat startled guest. "Yes, I think that's right" said Sen. Edwards by way of reply. You really can't make this stuff up.

What Matthews and his colleagues in the heavily populated Democratic cheering section of the national news media want, above all, is for the race to go on. Part of this is self interest and part of this is belief. The self-interested part is obvious: if the Show goes on, then they (Howard Fineman, Chris Matthews, DeeDee Myers, E.J. Dionne, et alia, ad infinitum) continue to be stars in the Show. They like that, a lot.

The belief part is more subtle, but no less important. They believe, in their heart of hearts, that John Edwards is a better politician than Senator Kerry, whom they've never much liked even though he has been "right," as far as they know, on all the issues. (By "right," of course, I mean "liberal"). And they believe that they have a "duty" to bring this to the attention of the Democratic primary electorate, which, after all, is part of the larger family of all right thinking people. (By "right thinking," of course, I mean "liberal").

And so it was proclaimed this evening that we now have a two-man race between Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards for the Democratic presidential nomination. It is hardly clear that this is so. The facts would seem to argue otherwise. But never mind about that, dittoheads. The Show must go on and the media will produce it.

This is bad news for Senator Kerry, who will now be held to a higher standard than victory. He can't just win, he will have to win convincingly. This is good news for Senator Edwards, who can pick and choose his spots and proclaim that California is the crucial test. I suspect that if Senator Edwards picks his spots shrewdly in the interim, he could win California and perhaps fracture Senator Kerry's support. But that is down the road.

For the moment, Senator Edwards has his ticket to continue and the gales of favorable media comment at his back. For a dead man walking, he's very much alive.

Postscript: A reader replies:


I agreed with your earlier assessment (about Oklahoma) and don't think Edwards is really all that alive. The Oklahoma results changed the media dynamic. Chris Matthews, after fawning all over Edwards, later asked Pat Buchanan if the senator was "delusional" enough to think he could still win the nomination - after Clark won Oklahoma.

I'm an Edwards supporter, and for a while I thought my candidate was going to catch a break and be the story. An Oklahoma win would have killed Clark and given Edwards the only surprise victory of the night. (It's kind of stupid to get all hot and bothered over a few hundred votes in Oklahoma, of all places, but that's how it works.) Instead, the story is Kerry's big win, with talk of Edwards as his only possible challenger.

I don't think things have changed much. Kerry should win big on Saturday, and can finish Edwards off by splitting Tuesday's Southern primaries or - more likely - by winning Wisconsin the following week. Super Tuesday will just make everything official. I don't see how Edwards wins this. Kerry is the conventional, safe pick - and the recent polls showing him ahead of Bush only support his "electability" argument. I think the primary voters are probably wrong, as I believe Kerry is quite vulnerable - but I'll concede Edwards suffers from a stature gap on the commander-in-chief question. My wife, who doesn't follow this stuff closely, watched him for a minute last
night and said, "He's too young."

Craig A.

Asleep at the Wheel

Let's see. It's the largest influence-peddling scam ever revealed in such detail. It involves pay-offs from Saddam Hussein to oil ministers, heads of state, UN officials, foreign ministers, key government operatives on five continents and, of course, Saddam himself. Always pay yourself first, as the financial managers say.

The story is rock solid. ABC News has the original documents. As does The New York Times (I'm told). So will someone tell me why this isn't the biggest story since Watergate?


Conventional wisdom is quick to form and here is what it's saying: If Edwards wins Oklahoma, he's alive. If not, it's over.

Monday, February 02, 2004

The Culture of Winning

A while back, I wrote up a short book proposal. The idea of the book I had (and still have) in mind was straightforward; how do you exorcise the culture of defeat from the Boston Red Sox organization and from the soul of Red Sox nation? How do you reverse the curse?

The selling point was: this isn't a sports book, it's a business book. The Red Sox would serve as a metaphor for every enterprise that couldn't get it done. It struck me that the new owners and management of the Red Sox had spent a lot of time thinking about how to change the Red Sox culture of doom, and so by interviewing them and watching the 2004 season unfold, one could learn a lot about how one goes about actually changing a culture or, in the specific case, reversing a curse.

Watching the Patriots-Panthers game last night, I was struck (as was my friend Christina Novicki, who emailed me a version of this post earlier today) by how confident I was that the Patriots would ultimately prevail.

It never occured to me that Adam V. would miss that field goal with time running out, even though he had missed two chip shots earlier in the game. Had I been watching the final game of the ACLS, it would never have occured to me that the Red Sox would do anything but find a way to lose.

Same town, same media, same fan base (more Red Sox fans, obviously), different sport, different organizations. And completely different expectations.

Now That It's Over

Democratic "strategists" working for candidates Edwards, Clark and Dean are pondering how and when to go "negative" on Senator John Kerry. The race is over tomorrow, but never mind about that. Jim Rutenberg reports that these "strategists" are lacing on the gloves.

I am not making this up! You can't make this stuff up. I wonder if Edwards will sue for consulting malpractice?

P.S. Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein waddles into Ellisblog terrain. He reports that the Kerry camp is astonished by the unwillingness of Kerry's rivals to attack his record.

Axis of Evil Update

The technology came from Pakistan. The "father" of that country's nuclear program has now "confessed." There's obviously much more to this story, but the mere fact that it is a story is a step in the right direction.