July 2004, Part 4
Jim Miller on Politics
Some Thoughts On Kerry's Speech: The speech (written mostly by Kerry himself, according to the reports I have read) sometimes meandered and sometimes jumped. There were themes, not all connected, but not a theme. So my critique of the speech will be a bulleted series of points, rather than a post with a single theme. (Here's the speech if you want to follow it and my critique at the same time.)
- 4:39 PM, 30 July 2004 [link]
The Effect Of The Democratic Convention? So far today, Bush has gained 2 points at Tradesports. (As of the time of this post, of course.)
- 12:54 PM, 30 July 2004 [link]
Blacks Were Under Represented At The Convention: The Democratic party has had, since 1972, an elaborate quota system intended to increase the representation of blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities. Some states, notably California, impose additional quota rules. The result at the 2004 Democratic convention? Blacks are still under represented, and Hispanics may be.
According to the New York Times survey, 28 percent of Democratic voters are black, but just 18 percent of the delegates were. Fifteen percent of Democratic voters are Hispanic, but just 12 percent of the delegates were. I'm not sure why the quota system did not work. Possibly it only applies to the regular delegates. The super delegates, those who go to the convention because of their offices or party positions, may not be counted in establishing the quotas.
(The number of people who do not see themselves as white, black, Hispanic, or Asian is growing, as shown by many surveys, including this one. When asked the race question, 5 percent of all voters, 7 percent of Democratic voters, and 10 percent of the Democratic delegates chose "other".)
- 10:49 AM, 30 July 2004 [link]
Pollution Problems: The air here been dirtier than usual in the last week, not because of pollution from cars or from factories, but because of pollution from forest fires.
At 7,000 feet, yesterday was a beautiful day in Western Washington, with a clear sky and almost unlimited visibility. Down at sea level, the mountains were hiding behind a haze of smog and smoke, and the sky had a tint of gray and orange.On Tuesday evening, there was a visible smoke plume just north of here that turned the setting sun a deep red.
So far, the experts do not think this smoke will cause health problems for most people here, but they worry about other areas.
Wildfires burning in the United States and Canada are fouling the air across Eastern Washington.Is there a political point to this? Yes, three of them, in fact. First, note the lack of alarm in the articles, even though this "natural" pollution is more dangerous than the typical man-made pollution — at least in this area. Imagine the reaction if this same pollution came from a factory or even automobile drivers.
Second, though this pollution is not man-caused, it may have been facilitated by our decisions to reduce brush clearing and logging in our national forests. You would have to know more about the management of individual forests than I do to know whether the accumulation of timber contributed to these fires, but it certainly has in other fires in the West. There are arguments for that policy or for letting some areas burn, but we should recognize that one of the costs of the policy is these episodes of air pollution from forest fires.
Third, the transfer of lands from national forests to wilderness areas will mean more and bigger forest fires than if those lands had remained in the national forests. There are two reasons for this. The timber in wilderness areas can not be logged, and the rules against vehicles in the wilderness areas makes it harder to fight fires there. Those who favor even more wilderness areas never mention these costs.
- 8:46 AM, 30 July 2004 [link]
Kerry's Acceptance Speech: I had planned to watch at least part of Kerry's acceptance speech, but ended up taking a nap, instead.
Other bloggers were more alert yesterday evening. "Captain Ed" live blogged it here, and "Hindrocket" did the same here. Neither thought the speech a disaster, neither were much impressed. Orrin Judd was even less impressed, as you can see from his critical comments following the speech.
None of those three will support Kerry in November. The Washington Post will almost certainly endorse him, but was disappointed by the speech.
Mr. Kerry therefore sought above all to make the case that he could be trusted to lead a nation at war, and rightly so; he and Mr. Bush must be judged first and foremost on those grounds. But on that basis, though Mr. Kerry spoke confidently and eloquently, his speech was in many respects a disappointment.The New York Times is even more liberal than the Post, and far more partisan. Their editorial on the speech is so tepid that it can not be summed up in a single word. The Times, like nearly all Democratic partisans, was pleased by the attacks on Bush, but follows that opening with criticism for all the things Kerry left out — of a speech that was almost an hour long. And they end by giving Kerry a passing grade, but noting that improvement is needed.
Speakers at the Democratic convention were told to stay positive, but when John Kerry delivered his acceptance speech last night, his best moments came on the attack. His depiction of a Bush administration that misled the public into war did a fine job of rousing the faithful.The Times, unlike the Post, is not troubled by the implausibility of some of the Kerry promises. Their position is that serious discussion of the issues can wait until Bush is driven from office. It's an understandable position for a partisan; it's unforgivable position for a newspaper that wants to be judged by its adherence to principle.
Finally, although this will disappoint the Times, Kerry is unlikely to improve as a campaigner. He's a grown up, who has not changed much during two decades in the Senate. If you saw the speech last night, you saw, almost certainly, what you will see in the rest of the campaign.
(Since the Nixon administration, I have generally avoided watching political speeches. I find I get more out of them if I read them, rather than watch them. That lets me concentrate on the substance of the speech, and if necessary, go back and check on any points that require more thought. From time to time, I will watch one to see how the speaker delivers it, and that's why I was planning to watch Kerry's speech. I will have more to say about the speech later, after I have read it and thought about it.)
- 7:39 AM, 30 July 2004
More: David Brooks was impressed listening to the Kerry speech, and those before it, but then makes a mistake.
I should never have gone back and read the speech again. I should never have gone back on Friday morning, in the unforgiving light of day, and re-examined the words Kerry had so forcefully uttered the night before.I've seen an explanation for the incoherence. It is the logical consequence of Kerry's campaign strategy, say some. I had resisted that explanation, but am now coming to believe it and will have more to say about it soon.
- 10:13 AM, 1 August 2004 [link]
The Largest Single Contributor To The Democratic Party has some interesting history, and an even more interesting connection.
He is Stephen Bing, a wealthy film producer who, with little fanfare, has managed to steer a total of more than $16 million of his money to Democratic candidates and the supposedly independent groups that support them.Public spirit may be why Bing contributed the $16 million. We can only speculate because he has refused to talk about the subject. Apparently, not all publicity is good publicity.
Kudos to ABC for doing this story.
- 10:12 AM, 29 July 2004 [link]
FDR And JFK 2: John Forbes Kerry has tried to identify himself with John Fitzgerald Kennedy throughout his career. It has never quite worked. The attempt reminds me (and I am probably not the first to think of this) of Karl Marx's famous line, that history does repeat, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Whatever one thinks of Kennedy's career, and I think less than most, there is no denying the elements of tragedy that run through it, even before his death. Whatever one thinks of Kerry's career, there is no denying that farce pops up again and again, from the absurd dispute over whether he threw ribbons but not medals in protest, to his open shopping for a Congressional district, or his latest appearance at NASA in the bunny suit.
There is another Democratic president, also known by his initials, whose career, by contrast, illuminates Kerry's. Like Kerry (at least on his mother's side), FDR came from a family with deep roots in American history. Like Kerry, FDR went to a prep school that helped form his character (Groton). Like Kerry, FDR had the airs of an aristocrat. Aides that did not fit into the class structure that he was accustomed to might serve him for years, but never be invited into his home.
But there is a great difference, too. FDR was supremely comfortable in his own skin, and Kerry is not. It is hard not to think that some of that difference comes from Kerry's marginal position in our "aristocracy". The Forbes family might go anywhere in society, but the Kerry family would always be suspect. According to every account that I have read, Kerry felt out of place at St. Paul's, poorer than most students and a Catholic in an Episcopalian school. FDR never felt out of place anywhere.
The internal conflicts that a marginal position in the aristocracy creates are better understood in Europe, where they were common for centuries, than in the United States. They seem odd to most Americans because most of us do not take kindly to the idea that some have special privileges (and duties) because of their birth. We recognize that wealthy families will help their children in ways that other families can not, but see that as a unavoidable defect rather than a necessary part of society's structure.
That Kerry considers himself an aristocrat, but a marginal aristocrat, explains much about his character. Consider his obsession with sports. Aristocrats have been expected to participate in sports for centuries, as part of their training for war. Dick Cheney, a genuine tough guy, played football in high school, but has since felt little need to ski, or windsurf, or bicycle in races, or any of the other sports that Kerry practices. Or, even more telling, consider Kerry's frequent rank pulling with the line, "Do you know who I am?." If he were as comfortable in his position as FDR was, he would not have to assert it so often and so crudely.
It also explains the personal edge he has brought to the campaign. If someone is denying an aristocrat his deserved place, he will often treat that as a personal insult. The 2004 Almanac of American Politics notes this significant point.
It can be said with reasonable certainty that Kerry has long wanted to run for president. He has been know to speak in private with contempt not only of George W. Bush, but also of Bill Clinton, . .As almost any aristocrat would if he saw another holding "his" position.
And it explains his awkwardness at our democratic rituals of politics, even after all these years as a politician. If you fear that you and your family will be found out as impostors by the other aristocrats, then you will be uncomfortable with too much contact with those you think of as below your station.
If I am right about this, what does it say about his fitness to be president? I would say that it is troubling, but not disqualifying. If Kerry, in his heart, is still trying to prove that he belongs in an aristocracy, then he will not focus as sharply as he should on the interests of the nation. And he will always be uncomfortable with most Americans. He is an intelligent man and, I think, on the whole, a decent one, so he may be able to overcome this if he becomes president. But it isn't a plus.
(George W. Bush provides a striking contrast. Unlike Kerry, Bush had no doubts about his ancestry and did not feel out of place at his prep school, Andover. But he does seem to have rejected that part of his life, instead identifying more with his boyhood in Midland than Andover, Yale, or Harvard. Some of that may be political calculation, but much of it seems genuine. John F. Kerry married two heiresses; George W. Bush married a local school teacher.)
- 9:40 AM, 29 July 2004 [link]
Republican Partisans who have been watching the convention seem to think that the Democrats have been trying to obscure the differences between the parties on the issues. Democratic partisan (and Seattle PI columnist) Joel Connelly has been watching the convention, and thinks that the Democrats are highlighting the differences. Who is right?
As someone who has not been watching the convention, I am perfectly placed to answer the question. Both are, depending on the issue. Democrats will try to highlight the differences on issues where they think they have an advantage, and obscure the differences on issues where they think they have a disadvantage. They will, for example, emphasize the differences on health care and obscure them on the war on terror.
(As is often the case with Connelly, I have to correct an error. He claims that the administration "has also tightly limited embryonic stem-cell research". Actually, the Bush administration has put no limits on the research at all. It has refused to fund research on new lines of stem cells, though willing to fund it on older, established lines.)
- 5:13 PM, 28 July 2004 [link]
If You Looked Over The Numbers in the post below, you will understand why John Kerry is trying to straddle all three issues, abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty. William Safire, who agrees with Kerry on some of the issues, is troubled by the straddling and would prefer less "nuanced" positions. I think most voters would agree with that, but I don't see how Kerry can please both his base and majorities of the voters.
(The data will also show you why, in my election predictions, I have been saying that Bush would gain on social issues.)
- 4:54 PM, 28 July 2004 [link]
Democrats And Social Issues: The New York Times pollsters asked the Democratic delegates and the voters questions about three social issues, gay marriage, abortion, and the death penalty. On all three the delegates were to the left of Democratic voters and even more to the left of all voters. First, gay marriage. The pollsters asked whether the respondents favored gay marriages, civil unions, or neither. (Andrew Sullivan will not like these results.)
Support for Gay Marriage or Civil Unions
As you can see, Democratic delegates are sharply divided on the question, and separated from their own voters. The one third of Democratic voters who oppose both gay marriage and civil unions are almost unrepresented at the convention. (The winning electoral position would seem to be civil unions, though probably not in every state.)
Responses on abortion show a generally similar pattern. The New York Times asked the respondents two questions. Here's the first, which offered a wider range of answers than the second:
What is your personal feeling about abortion: 1. It should be permitted in all cases; 2. It should be permitted but subject to greater restrictions than now; 3. It should be permitted only in cases such as rape, incest and to save the woman's life; OR 4. It should ONLY be permitted to save the woman's life.(If you are wondering about the third and fourth choices, here's an explanation. The third has been the position of the Republican party since 1980; the fourth is, as I understand it, the position of the Catholic church.)
Circumstances When Abortion Should Be Permitted
A majority of Democratic voters want greater restrictions on abortion than we now have, but a very large majority of Democratic delegates oppose any restrictions at all. The minority of delegates (27 percent) who want more restrictions have been unable even to present that position at Democratic conventions at least since 1992.
(There are more pro-life Democrats than you might think; here's more about them. One, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is a sister of some Democratic politicians you may have heard of. Columnist Nat Hentoff is a pro-life Democrat and argues that the Democratic party has declined as it drove out its pro-life members.)
Finally, the Times asked about the death penalty. Unfortunately, they used a confusing question:
What do you think should be the penalty for murder -- the death penalty or life in prison without any chance of parole?(They asked about the penalty; they meant to ask about the maximum penalty. I would phrase the question something like this: "What do you think should be the maximum penalty for murder -- death, life in prison without parole, or something less than either?" There are some, after all, who feel that even true life sentences are too great a punishment for murder.)
Penalty For Murder
On all three of these issues, George W. Bush is closer to the center of the electorate than the Democratic delegates are. On two of them, abortion and the death penalty, he is closer to the center of the electorate than John Kerry is. (Until recently, Kerry opposed the death penalty in all cases, but changed to support it for terrorism.) On the third issue, Kerry's position is not entirely clear. He opposes gay marriage — and any practical steps to prevent courts from imposing it on the nation.
- 4:23 PM, 28 July 2004 [link]
Slipping Standards In Journalism: Brian Stelter makes an important point about Ron Reagan's appearance before the Democratic convention.
Let me step up on my soapbox for a sec. MSNBC is treading lightly on traditional standards of journalism. Ron Reagan will address the Democratic convention tonight, speaking on the topic of stem cell research. Two hours later, he will co-anchor an MSNBC talk show. Does anyone else feel queasy about this?I do, and I would take it farther. Ron Reagan was hired by MSNBC, in my opinion, in order to trash George Bush. Does anyone think that he is such a great journalist that he would have been hired if he supported Bush? Or that he will keep his job for long after the campaign?
Another dubious hire is ABC's Richard Clarke. The former counter-terrorism "expert" is both an advisor to ABC and an informal advisor to the Kerry campaign.
Many other journalists have crossed this line at one time or another. (Including columnist George Will in the 1980 campaign.) But I can't recall a time when the conflicts of interest have been so blatant.
(Stelter post by way of the Instapundit.)
- 11:04 AM, 28 July 2004 [link]
Classy Scott Simon: I am not, to say the least, a fan of NPR. In fact, I would end public subsidies for the network, since so much of what they broadcast is far left propaganda. Some of their employees — Nina Totenberg, for example — are ethically challenged. NPR is as poor, in my experience, as the commercial networks in correcting errors, especially errors in their attacks on Republicans.
But there are decent people at NPR. Over the past year or so, I have come to respect Scott Simon, the host of Weekend Edition Saturday. He strikes me as an old-fashioned liberal, honest and genuinely concerned with human suffering — even when caused by enemies of the United States. You'll see why I have come to respect him in this column on Michael Moore.
Michael Moore has won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and may win an Oscar for the kind of work that got Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Jack Kelly fired.And what Simon says about Paul Krugman, Princeton professor and New York Times columnist, is devastating.
In the New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote that, "Viewers may come away from Moore's movie believing some things that probably aren't true," and that he "uses association and innuendo to create false impressions." Try to imagine those phrases on a marquee. But that is his rave review! He lauds "Fahrenheit 9/11" for its "appeal to working-class Americans." Do we really want to believe that only innuendo, untruths, and conspiracy theories can reach working-class Americans?Read the whole thing. And you may want to listen to Scott Simon for more. Last weekend, for example, I heard him gently deflate that windbag, Richard Clarke.
- 9:40 AM, 28 July 2004 [link]
Congressman Inslee Ducks: In this post, I pointed out that former ambassador Joseph Wilson, IV, had been dishonest in his attacks on President Bush. The report of the Senate Intelligence Committee completely refuted Wilson's charges that Bush had lied about Saddam seeking uranium from Africa. At the end of the post, I said that I was emailing my Congressman, Jay Inslee, who had been a vocal supporter of Wilson, even bringing him to the 1st district. In my email I urgied Inslee to correct the record and to disassociate himself from Wilson. Today I received his reply, which begins with these two paragraphs.
Thank you for contacting me with your comments about Joe Wilson and Iraq intelligence. I appreciate hearing from you.There are two more paragraphs of boilerplate, but you can already see that Inslee completely ducked the issue. Why? You can find the answer here. The Kerry campaign has dropped Wilson; the Inslee campaign brought Wilson in to speak at Inslee's campaign kick off.
I find ducking the issue offensive in a way that straightforward disagreement would not be. If Congressman Inslee still thinks Joseph Wilson is credible, he should say so and explain why he holds this increasingly lonely position. If not, Inslee should confess his mistake and correct the record. I plan to write him again — until I get an answer. And, it occurs to me that the local political reporters might find Inslee's duck interesting, too. So would supporters of Israel, given Wilson's extreme views on the Middle East.
(The 1st district has been represented by some quality people. John Miller (no relation) was the best, famous for his adherence to principle and now doing good work helping to stop slavery around the world. Rick White had many interesting ideas on technology. Even Maria Cantwell, now senator, has some core beliefs and, I think, some integrity. (Although she did run smear ads against Slade Gorton.) The decline in quality from those three to Jay Inslee is disheartening.)
- 6:27 AM, 28 July 2004 [link]
This Seattle PI Editorial is quite entertaining, though not intentionally. It begins with an interesting fact, and then immediately comes to an absurd conclusion.
The administration has held a top Iraqi scientist in solitary confinement for 17 months without any charges. The most obvious interpretation is that Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi is being hidden away because he told a truth that's embarrassing to the Bush administration.And the evidence for this "most obvious interpretation"? The PI has none. Opponents of the US and the coalition are suspicious, but they are suspicious of everything the US government does. For example, to support of its position, the PI mentions NPR correspondent Anne Garrels, calling her "distinguished". They do not not mention her admission that she was pleased when the US suffered losses.
I have no idea why General al-Saadi is being held. It may be because he has secrets and is refusing to talk. It may be for his own protection. A number of Iraqi scientists who worked on Saddam's programs have been assassinated since the liberation of Iraq, most think by supporters of Saddam. And there are other possible interpretations of the general's confinement. To decide among them, we need more evidence. I am not be as humble as I ought to be, but I am humble enough not to come to nasty conclusions with no evidence.
Let me help the PI editorial board with an analogy. The PI believed Joseph Wilson's charges, which have been completely discredited by the the Senate Intelligence Committee report. Has the PI corrected the record? No. Can we say that the "most obvious interpretation" of this failure is that the PI has no integrity? Not yet. (Of course, if the PI does not make some corrections within the next month or so, then . . .)
(Usage note: The word "obvious" is probably best used without the superlative "most". Something is either obvious, or it is not. Just to show that I am not a complete nitpicker, I would add that I do not object to "more obvious" or "less obvious", though there are probably better phrases.)
- 2:57 PM, 27 July 2004 [link]
You Will See Fewer Ads for Kerry In August: It's another strange consequence of campaign finance reform.
John Kerry's election team is to suspend advertising during August, opening itself to what it expects will be a barrage of attacks from the Bush-Cheney campaign.What difference, if any, this will make is hard to say. The groups supporting Kerry, but not officially connected to his campaign, are not subject to the same limits, so their ads will continue.
And there is the continuing question of campaign pace. Many politicians think that voters, especially swing voters, do not pay much attention to the campaigns until a month or two before the election. Traditionally, the end of the World Series was thought to mark the beginning of the real campaign. Some think that campaigns should end with a sprint. That was Nixon's plan in 1960. Others think that campaigns should go full out from the convention on. That was Kennedy's plan in 1960. Before you conclude from Kennedy's narrow victory that his was the better strategy, you should remember just close the race was, with Nixon probably winning a plurality of the popular vote. And the polls showed that he was gaining in the stretch. Perhaps he simply mistimed his sprint.
(As is often the case, I must correct a reporter's error. James Harding claims that the Democratic convention "boasts of unprecedented party unity and discipline". Really? What about the 1996 convention which renominated Bill Clinton? Or the 1984 Republican convention that renominated Ronald Reagan? And going back, it is easy to find many others.)
- 1:44 PM, 27 July 2004 [link]
Yesterday, I mentioned this article on the Democratic delegates, which argues that the delegates are, on most issues, more liberal than the voters, but don't see themselves or John Kerry as liberal. Let's take a look at some of the numbers. First, how do the delegates describe themselves, ideologically?
Ideological Identifications of Voters, Democratic Voters, and Democratic Delegates, 2004
The delegates, unlike voters, or even Democratic voters, see John Kerry as more moderate than themselves.
Ideological Identifications of John Kerry, 2004
Why do the delegates have such different perceptions of Kerry than the voters? Some of the difference, I am sure, is explained by their own positions. From the far left, John Kerry does look moderate. (From the very far left, he may look reactionary, though he has been endorsed by the American Communist party.) But not all of the difference. Many of the delegates are sophisticated enough to know that "moderates" win more elections than "liberals", at least outside places like Berkeley and Seattle. I won't be mean and say that they fibbed, but I do think that some of the delegates shaded their answers on both their own views and their perception of Kerry.
There is evidence for that suspicion in their answers to question 21 on the role of government. Here's the question in full:
Which comes closest to your view: Government should do more to solve more to solve national problems; or Government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals?And here are the responses from the three groups:
Role of Government
(As for myself, I think the government should do more in a few areas, less in many, and better in very many.)
It is an old point, but one worth repeating: Many Democrats simply don't understand that "I am from the government and I am here to help you." is the punch line to a joke. True moderates would laugh — moderately — at the joke. Many of the delegates to the Democratic convention would just look puzzled.
- 11:23 AM, 27 July 2004 [link]
John Kerry Has Been Supported By Women Much Of His Life: An aunt paid for his fancy prep school. His first wife, Julia Thorne, a multi-millionaire, paid for his first campaign for a House seat. His second wife, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, now said to be worth more than 1 billion, paid, indirectly, for some of his presidential campaign, and for a life style that would embarrass many Hollywood stars.
Now what should we make of this pattern? What does it say about John Kerry? Noemie Emery of the Weekly Standard knows what to think; she calls Kerry a "consort" and thinks his dependence on women dubious.
Both Edwards and Cheney can fairly be said to have made it themselves, though the fields in which they made it--trial lawyering and the oil business--are not regarded with reverence. Bush comes from the ranks of the privileged youth who float through early life on family connections and money, and try later in life to earn it on their own. And no one can claim that his fortune--secured mainly through the sale of his stake in the Texas Rangers, which he got through the web of his father's connections--was earned by the sweat of his brow. Bush got his access by way of his parents, but at least had to do something.Emery is certainly right that, traditionally, men who gained money or a position by marriage were thought to be, at best, slightly ridiculous. Even the most famous consort of all, Prince Albert, widely admired during his life and since, would have agreed that there were ridiculous aspects to his position. (I will pass over Prince Phillip, out of respect to our British allies.) In aristocratic Europe, consorts though at least in part ridiculous, were also thought to be sometimes necessary, to provide heirs or to lead military expeditions. In democratic United States, consorts have always been, at best, slightly ridiculous.
Is this fair? A woman politician who relies on her husband's money is seldom criticized for that. California Senator Dianne Feinstein has not been hurt by the wealth of her husband, Richard Blum, though his investments in China have been criticized. New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro's career was financed by her husband, but that did not bother Walter Mondale, who made her his vice-presidential pick. (According to the 2004 Almanac of American Politics, Mondale considered Feinstein but rejected her because of her husband's investments. Ferraro's husband, as it turned out, had his own embarrassing connections, revealed when she was forced to release their tax returns.) And it is not hard to think of other examples.
We still believe, it seems, in "Cinderella", but not "Cinderfella". And I must admit that I share that feeling, though I don't feel it as strongly as Emery does.
There is, I think a very deep seated reason for this. In almost every human society, a woman can gain status by marrying up, but not a man. (The same can be true in other species. Biologist Konrad Lorenz tells an interesting tale of a female jackdaw, who through luck became the mate of the highest ranking male. No sweet Cinderella, she abused her new rank shamefully.) Expectations differ about how far marrying up should go; in the United States a woman can be tagged a "gold digger" for too obvious an interest in a man's wealth. But at the same time, we think that a woman's desire to find a man who will do well is only sensible.
(Being a warrior can insulate a man from the charge of being a consort. After he returned from Vietnam, John McCain left his loyal first wife and married the daughter of a successful beer distributor. Her money, or at least her father's money, gave McCain a big early boost in his political career. From what I know, he did not suffer from that. Of course, Kerry's four months in Vietnam do not begin to compare to McCain's career.)
This issue will be raised by Kerry's opponents, indirectly. His wife will be pressured, again, to release her tax returns. The Kerrys will lose whether she releases them or not. If she does not, they will be suspected of a cover up. If she does, they will reveal — given the size of her fortune and the range of her investments — something that is embarrassing or can be made to look embarrassing. The stated argument will be that the Kerrys should be open about their finances; the underlying argument will be that a "consort" is inappropriate for president.
(Finally, I should add that I have a higher opinion of George W. Bush's business career than Emery. One can argue that his original stake in the Texas Rangers came from his parents. But it is also true that Bush was remarkably successful as managing partner of the team, and that he earned much of his stake's gain in value.)
- 9:25 AM, 27 July 2004 [link]
"Four More Years" That's what Patty Murray supporters chanted when her opponent, George Nethercutt, marched by in a weekend parade. It would seem that some of her supporters, like the senator, are misinformed. (By way of talk show host Kirby Wilbur.)
(If you are not a US citizen, you may need to be told that terms for US senators are six years, not four years. Congressman are elected for two years.
Here's my take on Patty Murray from a year and a half ago. Briefly, I think she is a pleasant lady who is unqualified to be PTA president, much less a US senator.)
- 7:46 AM, 27 July 2004 [link]
Bush Gains In The Washington Post-ABC Poll: Over the last month, Bush has gained on Kerry.
Kerry has lost support against Bush in trust to handle five of six issues tested in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, including terrorism, Iraq, taxes and even health care. And Kerry's ratings on personal attributes — honesty, strong leadership, consistency, empathy and others — have softened as well.These poll results seem in line with the election predictions I have been making since early this year.
The Washington Post article on the same poll notes that many voters are unsure about Kerry's stands, which makes the percentage who think he is too liberal even more striking.
A majority of voters say they know little about Democrat John F. Kerry's positions on key issues and want the Massachusetts senator to detail specific plans for handling the economy, Iraq and the war on terrorism when he addresses the Democratic National Convention and a nationally televised audience on Thursday, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.That could explain why Kerry has been talking about his conservative values.
Curiously — or perhaps not so curiously — neither article gives you the bottom line. In the poll taken on June 20, Kerry led Bush among registered voters 48-44, with Nader taking 6 percent. In this poll, taken on July 25, Bush led Kerry 48-46, with Nader taking 3 percent. Since these are registered voters, not likely voters, the results probably underestimate Bush's strength by a point or two.
- 5:50 PM, 26 July 2004 [link]
How Liberal Are The Democratic Delegates? On most issues, very liberal.
The delegates think of themselves — and Mr. Kerry, for that matter — as politically moderate.(I'll have a long post, or maybe a series of posts, on the poll results this week. And I won't be repeating what the New York Times article says, since they skipped some of the most interesting answers.)
- 3:14 AM, 26 July 2004 [link]
More "Suppression Of Dissent" At The Democratic Convention: And this time, the "victim" is al Jazeera.
Organisers at the Democratic Party convention in United States have removed Aljazeera's logotype banner from its skybox without assigning reasons.Now is that a nice way to treat a network that almost certainly prefers Kerry to Bush?
- 8:08 AM, 26 July 2004 [link]
Is The New York Times A Liberal Newspaper? That's the question the New York Times own public editor, Daniel Okrent, asks, and his answer is admirably frank.
Of course it is.Okrent attributes this to the newspaper's environment; it is still, he thinks, too much of a New York paper, too influenced by its location. (He would be more accurate if he were to say it is too much of a Manhattan paper, since many of the attitudes common in Manhattan are not shared by the other four New York boroughs.) I don't agree. It was even more a New York paper when A. M. Rosenthal was running it, and it was a much better paper then. It is a liberal paper, but not necessarily because of its environment.
Okrent promises to get to the "politics-and-policy issues" later. Let me anticipate him. The New York Times is not just a liberal newspaper, it has become a partisan newspaper, which can far more damaging. The newspaper routinely treats Democratic sins lightly while hammering at any hint of Republican misbehavior. When former Democratic Senator Torricelli's scandals threatened his re-election in 2002, the Times argued — in a news story — that he should be retained anyway because he was right on abortion. Similar scandals connected to a pro-life Republican might have made the Times rethink its opposition to the death penalty.
(For all his sins — and they are many — former editorial page editor and executive editor Howell Raines was less partisan than the current editors holding those two positions. He did criticize President Clinton quite vigorously from time to time. Gail Collins, the current editorial page editor would never do the same. Amazingly, she actually hired a former Clinton speech writer to write editorials.)
And Okrent, who is, admittedly, in a difficult position, just hints at an even larger problem, the intellectual irresponsibility of so many at the Times. Too many writers at the Times believe that if they are right about the "essential truth", to borrow Paul Krugman's description of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, they can be careless with the facts. I say that Okrent hints at the problem because he names those I have started to call "problem children", Krugman, Maureen Dowd, and Frank Rich. I think Okrent is trying to shame them a little by naming them, but I could be wrong.
- 6:51 AM, 26 July 2004 [link]
Un-American? Everyone from Drudge on down has been linking to this story.
Teresa Heinz Kerry urged her home-state delegates to the Democratic National Convention to restore a more civil tone to American politics, then minutes later told a newspaperman to "shove it."Every commentator that I have seen focused on the funny contrast between her calling for civility in a speech — and then immediately being uncivil. But I am more interested in the same question as the editor. Who was Teresa Heinz-Kerry calling "un-American"?
Apparently, she did not give examples, which is why the editor asked the question. It is hard not to conclude that Heinz-Kerry (or whoever wrote the speech for her) was using an old rhetorical trick, making a general condemnation, and letting her listeners fill in the names of her targets, George W. Bush and the Republican party. I think she was angry at the editor because he caught her.
She isn't the first Democrat to imply that Bush and the Republicans are "un-American" or unpatriotic, or even to say so directly. Howard Dean, more than once during the primary campaign, called John Ashcroft "unpatriotic". Those who want more civility in politics should begin by practicing it. A good place to start would be to avoid implying that opponents are "un-American" or "unpatriotic".
(What about Cheney's nasty suggestion to Senator Leahy? The vice president should not have said that, no matter how much he had been provoked or how good it made him feel. But it is only fair to add some context. Senator Leahy has repeatedly made attacks on Cheney's character and connections to his former firm, Halliburton. I can understand why Cheney would not care for Leahy's attempt to be buddy-buddy for the picture. (Leahy attempt to pretend a friendship after these attacks suggests to me that he does believe them, but just makes them for the political effects.) And, though it did happen on the Senate floor, it was intended to be a private coversation.)
- 5:55 AM, 26 July 2004 [link]
Did Bill Clinton Libel Kenneth Starr? His British lawyers think he may have, at least by British standards.
Former President Bill Clinton does not like Kenneth W. Starr, the former independent counsel whose investigation of Mr. Clinton's sexual liaisons led to his impeachment. But he might still fear him, at least in Britain.Americans who visit Britain may not want to bring with them many copies of the American version to pass out to friends
This difference in laws poses an interesting legal question. The original statements can be read on the internet by anyone in Britain. Suppose someone there prints copies and passes them out to friends. Could Starr sue that person?
Turning to a more general question, I have long thought that the distinction between public figures and others that our Supreme Court invented could not be justified. British law may go too far in the other direction, but I don't know enough about it to judge.
- 11:25 AM, 25 July 2004 [link]
Don't Worry. Be Happy: Which is more likely to happen if you are a Republican.
Nearly everybody in the greater Washington area agrees this is a fun place to live. But in a town where politics is a participatory sport, who has more fun, Democrats or Republicans?Now does being a Democrat make one unhappy, or do unhappy people gravitate to the Democratic party? Or do the same mistakes in behavior lead one to be unhappy and to become a Democrat? Arguments can be made for all three theories, and others as well. Clearly, more research is needed. (The "happiness gap" may be growing. It is purely a guess, but I think that losing power has made Democrats, even individual voters, less happy.)
- 11:05 AM, 25 July 2004 [link]
Citroën With Anti-Bush Bumper Sticker: For some time, I have been amused by the fact that none of the cars that I see with Kerry bumper stickers are American. (I have seen an American pickup with a Kerry bumper sticker at a construction site, but the sticker was from a union, not the Kerry campaign.) And the Kerry stickers are on expensive foreign cars, at that. I've seen one on a Saab convertible, and yesterday, while walking along Lake Washington, I saw one on a Lexus, along with a MoveOn PAC sticker.
Shortly afterwards, I saw an anti-Bush bumper sticker on the best car of all, an older, beautifully restored, Citroën (probably a 2CV, though I am no expert on cars). I thought the sticker, "Fermez la Bush", was moderately clever, but then I have a taste for bad puns. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me, so I can't send a picture to the United Auto Workers, who tend to dislike political figures who do not buy American cars. I am hoping that the owner of the Citroën will drive it where Boeing employees can see it. (As you may know, Boeing employees are almost all unhappy about the unfair, as they see it, competition from Europe's Airbus.)
Here are two pictures of a 2CV, the second showing the distinctive roll back convertible top that reminds me of an opened can of Spam.
I should add that, from what I have read, Citroën has had many interesting engineering ideas. Here's the "Heritage" section from their UK site, with some examples.
(Forgotten your French? "Fermez la bouche" means, literally, "shut the mouth", or more colloquially, "shut up". The suggestion that Bush should be prevented from speaking seems entirely in tune with much of the thinking on the left, at least in recent years. They recognize that some bad people may have politically incorrect ideas and would fight to the last committee meeting to prevent those bad people from expressing them.)
- 6:48 AM, 25 July 2004 [link]