Monday, April 26, 2004

A long one today.

The Washington Post asks if Kerry's service record helps him or hurts him. They never really answer the question, they just summarize his record.

Just to help them out, I will answer it for them - up until not it has helped him but it's importance will diminish as November approaches.

To explain, Kerry's primary campaign can be boiled down to three statements, "I served in Viet Nam", "Wouldn't you love to see me debate Bush?", "Bring it on!". Every ad began with either shots of him in Viet Nam (TV) or voice-overs of people who served under him (radio). It was the main thing that people knew about him and it was what distinguished him from the other candidates.

But the primaries are over and by now everyone knows that Kerry is a vet. He has gotten as much mileage from this as he is going to. He will have to come up with something new in order to win against Bush.

Ironically, Kerry's service record might have helped him more if it had not been for his own anti-war statements. These came back to haunt him on "Meet the Press". They played a clip of him saying that everyone in Nam including himself had committed atrocities. What atrocities had he committed. He had to dis-own that statement. He didn't really mean it and it is his biggest regret in life that he used that word.

Probably no one will call him on that statement but it becomes more of the flip-flop pattern. What he said in 1971 when he was just back from Viet Nam is not what he says in 2004 when he is running for President.

Is it fair to judge Kerry for things he said in 1971? Yes. If Kerry can tout his military service from the 1960s then he can be called on statements he made about it in 1971.

Related Item: Kerry Defensive about War Medals

In the 1970s he appeared to throw away his medals. Now he says he kept them but threw away his ribbons plus some other people's medals.

It makes it hard to run on your record when you spent an earlier decade running against it.

This is an interesting quote from the weekend's abortion rights march.

“This administration is filled with people who disparage sexual harassment laws, who claim the pay gap between women and men is phony ... who consider Roe v. Wade the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history,” said Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

Senator Clinton thinks that the current administration disparages sexual harassment laws. This is from the former first enabler? Senator, it is sexual harassment to greet an employee with your pants down or to expect an intern to sneak in and give you oral sex. You of all people have no standing to complain about other administrations.

BTW, news reports said that the organizers hopes for 800,000 protesters. No news reports gave a headcount but some reports reported the goal as the actual number.

In a posting about the Left vs. Bush I pointed out the Left's complaints about Saudi Arabia. I neglected to mention the reasoning that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi ex-patriots so we should have invaded their country. Since there is no evidence that the hijackers acted with the Saudi's knowledge or approval, this argument falls flat.

For a view on what *is* wrong with the Saudis, see

Still, turning a blind eye to terrorism committed by your people is different from offering cash rewards to terrorists' families.

Polls show Bush up. Why would this happen after a week of bad news from the 9/11 commission followed by a major escalation in the war?

I think that several factors are at work here. Some are obvious. Some have to do with directly Bush. I will go over the Kerry factors first.

The primaries are over. For a few months Kerry was in the news nightly. Now he has to work to get in the news. His campaign is releasing daily stories but none of them are getting any traction. He got some press when he announced his new "Misery Index" but the index itself got almost no coverage. This is probably because he had to cook his figures so much that no one could stomach them (How's that metaphor?)

During the primaries, everyone was so fixated on defeating Bush that none of the candidates attacked each other. Kerry emerged the nominee without being seasoned. He was still pretty much an unknown, especially in the states that had not held a primary before Edwards dropped out. Now Kerry is being "defined" by Bush.

Everyone always knew that Bush would be at his strongest as a war president. Kerry has no real Iraq strategy. He wants to send in more troops in order to stabilize the country then convince the UN to take over the whole mess. He hopes that the UN will replace US troops with UN troops or that US soldiers wearing blue helmets will no longer be targets. None of this is likely and it alienates the anti-war voters.

Kerry's plan was to run on the economy but the economy is doing well enough that Kerry has had to invent a new Misery Index. Employment is closing in on five percent and inflation continues to be low.

So, those are Kerry's problems. What is Bush doing right?

Bush's campaign has begun. After months of anti-Bush advertising, there are some pro-Bush ads competing with them.

Iraq is probably the biggest factor. Bush bet his presidency on Iraq and it could still drag him down but that is not happening yet. Instead of troops being ambushed, they now have an enemy to shoot at. I think that America feels ok about the war as long as the troops get to fight back.

Clarke's testimony at the 9/11 hearings made Bush look bad but other testimony made him look good, or at least engaged. The whole thing is a wash with enough blame for everyone, but it put Bush back in the news. In a campaign, neutral coverage is better than no coverage.

All of that leaves Kerry with major problems. Typically a candidate running against an incumbent peaks during the primaries when he is a fresh face. If the incumbent is vulnerable then the electorate is often willing to settle for anyone else.

That lasts until they take a close look at the challenger. Ross Perot beat both Bush (41) and Clinton in polls takes right after he announced his candidacy. The idea of a businessman taking over the government and running it like a business sounded good. Then they got a look at Perot and his number dropped.

Kerry is an uninspiring candidate who won the primaries mainly because he was seen to have fewer faults than his competition. He is counting on the "anyone but Bush" vote to push him over the top but he has yet to offer a compelling alternative. While there is still an energized "defeat Bush" crowd, it is questionable if they are enough to elect a candidate. Kerry will have to get traction on some issue if he wants to go any higher in the poles.

This is a tough order. Good thing for Kerry that he has months left to think of something.

Does the press have a conservative bias? Eric Alterman thinks so.

Let's look at some of his complaints.

"When President Bush delivered a routine stump speech to a group of New Mexico homeowners on March 26, CNN and Fox News each carried his appearance for 35 minutes, and MSNBC for 33 minutes. Meanwhile, "when John Kerry gave what was billed as a major address on national security at George Washington University on March 17, he was knocked off the screen by a large explosion in Baghdad. CNN and Fox each dropped Kerry (who had been reduced to small box) after three minutes, and MSNBC never picked him up."

Were any explosions going on during Bush's stump speech? Candidate's speeches are news filler - something you put on when nothing interesting is happening. No bias here, just bad kuck for Kerry that something interesting happened during his speech.

Alterman keeps a scorecard for the rest of his column.

Number of times in which Russert asked Bush or Kerry to make an impossible prediction? Kerry 1, Bush 0. Number of times Russert tried to put guest in impossible position, based on actions of his opponent: Kerry 2, Bush 0.

You judge an incumbent on his record and a challenger by his intentions. The questions, how many troops do you see in Iraq in a year, and could you accept a Shiite theocracy are valid. Bush was asked about things he did, Kerry about things he would do.

Number of times Russert asked guest to defend statements he made over 30 years ago: Kerry 2, Bush 0.

Things that Kerry did and said 30 years ago are coming up as campaign issues. This was Kerry's chance to disavow them. Anything that is a campaign issue should be fair game.

Number of times Russert plays the other candidate's campaign commercials attacking the interviewee played on the air: Kerry 1, Bush 0

People are seeing the campaign commercials anyway. Again, here is Kerry's chance to reply to them. This looks like a plus for Kerry instead of a negative.

Number of times Russert asks questions designed to alienate a crucial ethnic bloc: Kerry 1, Bush 0. (RUSSERT: Why not lift the embargo and overthrow Castro...)

Kerry made this one an issue himself when he misrepresented his voting record on Cuba. It turned out that he had voted for a bill before he voted against it. Here was a chance to clarify his position.

Number of times Russert casts aspersions on one candidate's military record asked without noting that the other candidate managed to avoid military service, despite his cushy national guard post: Kerry 1, Bush 0

Bush spent much of February having to prove that he had reported for duty. By the time Russert interviewed him it was a dead issue. Kerry ran on his record and questions about his record are current news. That makes it fair game.

Number of times Russert attempts to equate service in Vietnam with cushy national guard services that was not even completed: Kerry 1, Bush 0. (RUSSERT: In order to deal with those kinds of issues, when I asked President Bush about his service in the Texas Guard, he agreed to release all his military records, health records, everything. Would you agree to release all your military records?)

See above.

So this is Alterman's proof of a right-leaning media - a bunch of whining because Kerry was asked about intentions and about current issues in his campaign.

In Alterman'defensece, I should admit that Russert is undoubtedly to the right of Alterman, but then, so was Karl Marx.

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