Tuesday, August 03, 2004
# Posted 6:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Surprisingly, Moqtada Sadr concurred that the bombings were simply unacceptable. Condemnation also arrived from Sunni clerics with ties to the insurgents.
These responses are so important because those who argue that Iraq isn't ready for democracy insist that democracy cannot survive without a tradition of tolerance that compels the resolution of disputes through debate rather than violence. Thus if Sunni and Shi'ite are capable of recognizing the rights of Christians, perhaps they will be able to co-exist with one another as well. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 5:47 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
CNN used to be different [from Fox], but Campaign Desk, which is run by The Columbia Journalism Review, concluded after reviewing convention coverage that CNN "has stooped to slavish imitation of Fox's most dubious ploys and policies." Seconds after John Kerry's speech, CNN gave Ed Gillespie, the Republican Party's chairman, the opportunity to bash the candidate. Will Terry McAuliffe be given the same opportunity right after President Bush speaks?I'm guessing McAuliffe will, especially now that Krugman has called out CNN. But more importantly, McAuliffe and Gillespie should have the opportunity to respond right after Kerry and Bush get an hour of free air time in order to broadcast their acceptance speeches. When the President addresses the nation live on network television, the doctrine of equal access compels the networks to let a member of the opposition address the nation live immediately after the conclusion of the President's address.
As such, I'm mystified as to why Krugman describes CNN's interview with Gillespie as a "dubious ploy". However, I'm going to suspend judgment for now because the fact is that I almost never watch CNN or any of the network news programs despite the fact that they are the most influential sources of public information in terms of their access to a truly national audience.
Moreover, regardless of my disagreement with Krugman on points of substance, I'm glad that he's addressing the media bias issue head on. It's a subject that should be debated more often on major editorial pages.
It is also quite instructive that Krugman has chosen to publicize his reliance on blog or blog-like websites to serve as watchdogs for the mainstream media. The blogosphere's ambition to surveil professional journalists is perhaps our most ambitious, and thus it is gratifying to see an influential columnist recognize our success in that endeavor.
Of course, Krugman may have to depend on blogs for such criticism of the mainstream media, since the NYT's own in-house ombudsman/'Public Editor' has set off a firestorm by concluding that this NYT does have a marked liberal bias, at least as far as cultural issues are concerned.
For a good laugh, read the outraged letters to the Public Editor sent in by liberal readers. Almost all of them argue that there's nothing wrong with a liberal slant since liberalism equals truth. For example:
Your examination of where the Times fits -- left or right -- seems to accept the right's contention that there should be equality between the two. But where the left looks for empirical evidence to support its views, the right already has the theological received wisdom that brooks no contradiction. Why give the right's views the same weight as the left's? Why present religiously based arguments as equally valid?Facing an audience like that, it's no surpise that Okrent has chosent to spend all of August on vacation. (1) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 1:32 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Yes, most bloggers blog about blogs.Full disclosure: I am highly partial to newspapers that quote me by name and make me sound oh-so-clever. FYI, WaPo.com quoted the exact same post as the Chronicle. Talk about 15 minutes! (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, August 02, 2004
# Posted 12:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
It's not a political blog, but it does provide some interesting insights into how a couple of independent animators could storm the entertainment world by surprise without the support of any major corporation.
Also take a look at the "About us" section, where you find out how a bored investment banker (Gregg Spiridellis) teamed up with his animator brother (Evan Spiridellis) started a media firm in a Brooklyn garage and went on to such great achievements as illustrating a children's book written by LL Cool J.
What's next for the Jib Jab Brothers? I don't know, but I think it's worth remembering what happened to Trey Parker and Matt Stone after their internet-driven portrayal of Santa Claus duking it out with Jesus Christ gave birth to the empire known as South Park. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 12:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The purpose of this movie is to deliver jarring fight and car-chase scenes in exotic and chaotic urban environments. It's purpose is not to develop plot, character, or the dramatic arts.
But I didn't care in the least. I was holding onto to my air-conditioned seat for the whole two hours. Even my stodgy rabbinical mother, who prefers romantic comedies to anything involving gun play ("Thou shalt not kill", etc.) thought the film was fabulous. Bottom line: This is what James Bond movies are supposed to be.
OxBlog rating for "The Bourne Supremacy"? Three thumbs up. Actually, I probably don't have the authority to declare unilaterally that more than one thumb is being held aloft. But how cool would it be if Josh, Patrick and myself got to patent the phrase "Three thumbs up" the same way Siskel & Ebert did with two? (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Sunday, August 01, 2004
# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Given the NYT's interest in throwing George W. Bush out of office, I'm quite surprised at its constant and impractical efforts to push Kerry to the left on foreign affairs. On Thursday, a masthead editoral asserted that "Mr. Kerry's history on the critical Iraq question has been impossibly opaque":
Mr. Bush still insists that he was right to invade. He says the war was justified because of Mr. Hussein's military ambitions and because Iraq is better off without him.Then on Friday, the morning after Kerry's acceptance speech, the editors challenge Sen. Kerry to
provide a clear vision on Iraq. Voters needed to hear him say that he understands, in retrospect, that his vote to give President Bush Congressional support to invade was a mistake. It's clear now that Mr. Kerry isn't going to go there, and it's a shame.While the NYT is entitled to its opinion, that opinion clashes mightily with NYT political correspondents' constant insistence that Kerry can't win without demonstrating that he is just as tough as Bush on national security. For example, in its article about the Edwards speech, the authors described one passage as
"aimed at what many consider Mr. Kerry's principal vulnerability in his fiercely competitive race with President Bush: that voters still tend to trust Mr. Bush more to keep them safe according to polls.While the Times editorials assert that Mr. Kerry could overcome his reputation for flip-flopping by taking a firm position against the war, doing so would open Kerry up to devastating attacks from the GOP. He voted for the war, but now he's against it. Kerry would then defend his position by saying that we didn't find WMD.
Journalists would then ask whether given the information available as of March 2003, whether going to war was the right choice. If Kerry still says it was wrong, he would be contradcting his actual vote. If he says it was right, then he'd be contradicting the new anti-war stance the Times recommends. And if he fudges the answer, he'd open himself up to justified charges of flip-flop fence sitting.
Bush's decision to force a Senate vote on the war in the fall of 2002 may have been politically motivated, but that doesn't mean Kerry can shake off responsibility for his vote. His optimal strategy now is to pull of his fence-sitting act as best he can. Coming out against the war (in hindsight) would severely damage Kerry's effort to court middle-ground voters.
That lesson, however, seems to be lost on the NYT. The same is true in spades for Maureen Dowd and Barbara Ehrenreich. The former complains that
The Democrats think the way to overthrow the Republicans is to mimic Republicans. Democratic rivalries are tamped down; liberal losers are kept offstage or out of prime time; the positive message - strength, heroism and patriotism - is relentlessly drummed in. The Swift boat crewmen are toted everywhere to vouch that John Kerry is a comrade, not just a set of political calculations.Ehrenreich adds that
The idea, according to the pundits, is that with more than half of the voters still favoring Bush as the guy to beat bin Laden, Kerry needs to show that he's macho enough to whup the terrorists...You have to read it to believe it. In the name of ideological purity, Dowd, Ehrenreich and the NYT editorial board are calling on Kerry to commit political suicide. I would counsel otherwise, if only because I can't take any more of this unholy trinity's self-righteous anti-Bush rants. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Saturday, July 31, 2004
# Posted 10:27 AM by Patrick Belton
Over all, the very nature of the blog — all spin, all the time — seemed to suit the coverage of a news event where the drama was carefully scripted, and the nominations were a sure thing. Not that some of the spin wasn't astringent. Patrick Belton, a 28-year-old graduate student at Oxford University in England who contributes to Oxblog, wrote, "I can understand the longing, particularly pronounced among people one generation older than me, to actually have something go massively, extraordinarily, democratically wrong, such that the platform and slate are junked, and the delegates rise up in a Jeffersonian parliamentary fury to junk the nominees presumptive, and instead nominate, say, Peter Jennings."(3) opinions -- Add your opinion
Friday, July 30, 2004
# Posted 8:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 2:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
On the political front, I was engaged in yet another polemic against journalists' implicit and simplistic analogies between Iraq and Vietnam. There was also a post about uranium in Niger that would have benefited quite a bit from a more skeptical approach to Joe Wilson's accusations.
But the post that suffers most from its exposure to hindsight is the one in which I asserted that
The [NY] Times avoids praising Powell for his emphasis at the United Nations on intelligence profiling Saddam's comprehensive effort to prevent UN weapons inspectors from uncovering information relevant to his weapons programs. This evidence was and still remains unchallenged. Saddam was both hiding something and in clear violation of Resolution 1441. You remember 1441, don't you?Unquestionably, I had far too much confidence in Powell's evidence. At one point in his speech, Powell points to a diagram and states that:
The amazing specificity of this information makes one wonder how the intelligence community could have gotten things so terribly wrong. Were any of Powell's facts right? Could disinformation provided by Ahmad Chalabi and other human sources possibly account for the total misinterpretation of satellite evidence? I wish I knew the answers to those questions, but I don't. However, Powell himself did suggest that there was a critical interaction between human and signals intelligence. He said:
I'm going to show you a small part of a chemical complex called "Al Musayyib", a site that Iraq has used for at least three years to transship chemical weapons from production facilities out to the field. In May 2002, our satellites photographed the unusual activity in this picture.Well, it sounded good at the time. Third of all, there is the question of Powell's evidence with regard to the activities of Abu Musab Zarqawi. Once again, the level of detail he provided was quite impressive. But how much of it stands up over time? I don't know. I recall reading some post-mortems on the subject, but have to run at the moment because I'm moving out of my apartment tomorrow.
Now, in light of everything that was wrong about what Powell said, have I changed my position on the war? I don't think so. Iraq was clearly not opening up itself to thorough inspections. While criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty, that courtesty does not extend to brutal, aggressive dictators who repeatedly defy calls to disarm.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Thursday, July 29, 2004
# Posted 10:14 PM by Patrick Belton
I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty. (Surprise! He’s a veteran! The crowd likes it, though. Also, it's a change from the released version that we got - his people thought it was such a good line they wanted to keep it a surprise.)
Sets key theme at beginning - making America stronger at home and respected in the world.
He admits to being a State department child – is this the first mention ever of the always politically popular State Department in an acceptance speech?
10:19 it's a strong speech, and sets out well his case. You wonder whether the other speeches this convention have been so bad just in order to make this one stand out.
Ashcroft must poll particularly badly - he gets singled out for a particular cut.
The author of Burnt Orange next to me points out that there's a gift to journalists in his inversion of Bush four years ago. Thus Bush: 'As President, I will restore honor and credibility to the White House. Kerry: 'As President, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.'
These are the ritual 'As President, I will' sentences, by invocation of which someone in our tribe establishes him or herself as an aspirant for the position of chief.
10:20 Outsourcing gets a boo. (Damned foreigners. Except sometimes we like them and need their votes. Wait.)
Acceptance of the nomination is at 10:22. The place actually shakes - hopefully there's not a fault line in Boston. Sentence is meant to establish an optimistic tone for his candidacy, but is a bit unwieldly: q.v., So tonight, in the city where America's freedom began, only a few blocks from where the sons and daughters of liberty gave birth to our nation - here tonight, on behalf of a new birth of freedom - on behalf of the middle class who deserve a champion, and those struggling to join it who deserve a fair shot - for the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day and the families who pray for their return - for all those who believe our best days are ahead of us - for all of you - with great faith in the American people, I accept your nomination for President of the United States.
Particular cut for Dick Cheney at 10:23 - but we know he doesn't poll well. Interesting trick, trying to cut on particularly unpopular members of the administration while setting an optimistic tone. He seems to pull it off decently, since he chooses his targets.
10:27 He has some very good lines. Also, they connect well to the case he needs to make. Look, for instance, at the skillful segue from 9/11 to squandered unity - 'It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us. I am proud that after September 11th all our people rallied to President Bush's call for unity to meet the danger. There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans. How we wish it had stayed that way.' It could serve as the theme of his candidacy, and would be a strong one.
10:31 'I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as president.' Finally, a decent statement of the Kerry-as-veteran theme that's been hovering all over the convention. Were they just saving up all the good lines for tonight?
10:34 The meat of the speech is his foreign policy case. Mercifully, he comes at the president from a hawkish, idealistic direction:
We will add 40,000 active duty troops - not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations. We will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives - and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists.
10:36 shmaltz alert. 'You see that flag up there. We call her Old Glory. The stars and stripes forever. I fought under that flag, as did so many of you here and all across our country. That flag flew from the gun turret right behind my head. It was shot through and through and tattered, but it never ceased to wave in the wind. It draped the caskets of men I served with and friends I grew up with. For us, that flag is the most powerful symbol of who we are and what we believe in. Our strength. Our diversity. Our love of country. All that makes America both great and good. That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology and it doesn't belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people. ' (The crowd plays along: 'U-S-A' chants, though they're short-lived as people realise the Fleet Center is actually not being used as a sporting venue tonight.)
10:38 New Dem effort to arrogate family values: 'Values are not just words. They're what we live by. They're about the causes we champion and the people we fight for. And it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.' He softens the blow to the left with a pledge not to privatise Social Security, spiced with some Enron and an odd commitment to honour his father and his mother.
10:40 someone behind me gets yelled out for having his cell phone ring.
10:42 Fleet Center briefly becomes a 12-step program: 'Help is on the way,' everyone is shouting. Actually, balloons are on the way, at least in the shorter term.
10:43 'Here is our economic plan' - this is a speech of rhetorical confidence and certitudes. I'm impressed. On the other hand, most of his economic speech has to do with outsourcing jobs. There's also a promise to roll back the tax cut on Bill Clinton. Clinton isn't onstage, so we don't know his reaction.
10:46 people getting a bit tired - to my left, 'there's still 15 minutes left'. to my right, Command Post co-editor: 'he's got the applause lines in the wrong places. No one's listening to his important policy sentences, because they've just clapped through them.'
10:48 big applause line by declaring health care a right. A wonderfully amorphous sentence - you can have rights to all sorts of things, without government having an obligation to provide it.
10:49 'And our energy plan for a stronger America will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future -- so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East.'. Low blow: however misguided its actions may have been, the administration was drawn to the Middle East not by SUVs but by 9/11.
10:50 weak attempt to sex up the fact his staff told him to plug his website: 'So now I'm going to say something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech: go to johnkerry.com.' Umm, that's because they have different names....
10:52 well, they're not all good lines: 'Maybe some just see us divided into red states and blue states, but I see us as one America - red, white, and blue.'
10:53 this, on the other hand, is a well-crafted statement of humility, and the invocation of Lincoln in this regard is skillful: 'I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side'
10:54 'what if' litany is an attempt to harness the ghost of RFK to this JFK. stem cell research is a big applause line. Also, 'a young generation of entrepreneurs asked, what if we could take all the information in a library and put it on a little chip the size of a fingernail'. Answer: then so-called 'bloggers' could come to a convention and write about it!
10:55 I learned a lot about these values on that gunboat patrolling the Mekong Delta with young Americans wh came from swing states like Florida.
10:56 Speech is over. Blue state rises into the air. Kerry goes stage right, waves. Points to swing states, or perhaps a Frenchman he sighted. More namaste. Does he realise that it's Indians who are getting most of those outsourced jobs?
10:57 Edwards appears. Another hug, those sweet little lovemuffins. A visit to stage left.
10:58 when do we get balloons? I want a balloon. Sadly, they're unlikely to hit blogger row.
10:59 okay, it's true. they do have very good hair.
10:59 out come the cookie-makers (q.v. the extraordinary sexism of Family Circle's contest)
11:00 out comes Alexandra and sisters. An advantage of Democratic victory will definitely be better first daughters. And balloons. They're falling slowly. Confetti's blown up from behind the podium. Some very big balloons, too. Okay, I'm going to stop writing and watch - this is something to take in.
11:02 some convention organisers opposite the podium are cheering loudly, and I don't think it's particularly much for Kerry.
11:04 confetti starts. When you're at home, you don't realise that the balloons pop like crazy. It sounds like popcorn. Still, it's as lovely a sight as you could imagine. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:58 PM by Patrick Belton
• With a gay delegate named Tom, on the green line: So, what are people talking about in the gay organisations this week?
There's some disappointment because we can't bring our own signs in. We're also following the way the gay marriage issue will develop in the campaign - the GOP plans to use it as a wedge issue, to distract people from Iraq and the economy. There was a Human Rights Caucus breakfast today, and a Victory Fund event, so the gay organisations are maintaining a substantial presence at the convention.
• With an Irishwoman named Eve, a chemistry student at Trinity College, Dublin who is in Harvard Square raising money for Kerry: Hello, I'm an Irish journalist, and I've just found my story for the evening. Talk, please
I'm here in the States on a six-month visa, and it's been grand craic. I'm volunteering as a fundraiser here for 40 hours a week, and living in a group house with seven other girls. The funniest bit is when on the street I've asked Terry McAuliffe what he was going to do to defeat Bush, which is my pitch phrase for raising money, and he said he was already doing all he could do. That was right embarrassing - I laughed my arse off.
• With an aide in Representative Pelosi's leadership office: In 1992, a newly elected Clinton took many of his policy ideas from congressional Democrats, particularly on China policy (though he would later change that, when it became politically difficult). What are the ideas that a new Kerry administration would draw from the congressional Democratic caucus?
Instead than pushing for a more liberal agenda out of the campaign, we see our principal aim as being to help Kerry be elected, and we won't do anything which would hurt him. Strategically, right now we're expecting big gains in the House. There's a usually pessimistic pollster who works for us, who never projects that we're going to pick up seeats- he now thinks that we could make considerable gains this November, and out of a cyclical backlash against the Republican trifectum. Whether those gains will be enough to tip control - I can't say. They might be - it's within the projections. And in terms of what we're pushing most at present, in foreign policy - the big things now are enforcing trade agreements with China, and attacking Chinese currency manipulation.
• A panhandler in Copley Square: 'Republicans take, do Democrats give?' (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:35 PM by Patrick Belton
You'd think someone would have counted how many of those credentials they printed up. Still, it's somehow reassuring that Roger's dictum about belonging to no organised party still holds. In the same vaguely embarassing way that the British monarchy or the papal succession is reassuring. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 9:17 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:44 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 8:37 PM by Patrick Belton
Now about his speech. His included the only pro-war utterance of the convention, couched safely in praise of the troops. 'We must support our brave and brilliant troops - the new greatest generation - who have liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from murderous tyrannies, and who are fighting tonight in both nations to defeat terrorists and allow free and stale governments to grow there.' Clark evoked a 'pantheon of the great wartime Democrats' (along an odd several-minute-long standing ovation for the flag), but Lieberman uses the DLC language (see below) of 'muscular and idealistic internationalism', 'Wilson's commitment to make the world safe for democracy,' and Harry Truman's anti-communism. The difference, if I'm not overdrawing it, seems to be between Clark's using a succession of what political scientists call valence terms - things that everyone is for, such as a pantheon of great leaders, and Lieberman's evocation of substantive principles that could conceivably undergird a coherent, idealistic, muscular Democratic foreign policy.
Of course, neither Lieberman nor Clark will be in the White House, so the distinction doesn't really much matter except as a subject of curiosity. All that matters at the moment is what Senator Kerry believes. But it's still an interesting contrast. And damn, would Lieberman have made a wonderful president. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 8:09 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
Even though I am a huge fan of blogs [Full disclosure: I have a blog myself. -ed.], I don't think we revolutionized coverage of this convention. After all, how can you revolutionize coverage of a non-event? In that sense, our failure was inevitable.
On the other hand, if blogging doesn't add anything to the mix, why are mainstream journalists starting up blogs by the busload? TNR and TAP set up their blogs quite a while ago, but still felt compelled to set up new blogs dedicated exclusively to the convention.
The Associated Press has set up a convention blog staffed by a Pulitzer Prize winner with 40 years of experience covering conventions. That's got to be a blogosphere first.
What all of this suggests is that there is an emerging distinction between blogging as a medium and bloggers as people. Matt Yglesias writes that:
At the end of the day, blogging is just a mode of presenting text (and, to some extent, images) and a set of computer programs that make it easy to present text in that way. It's not a method of doing things. The result, I think, is that the phenomenon of the "blogger" has no real future, though the phenomenon of the blog does. At the end of the day, Brad DeLong is an economist, Lawrence Solum is a legal theorist, I'm a commentator, Jeralyn is a criminal justice expert, Laura Rozen is a national security reporter, etc. These are trades -- areas of competence, whatever -- that we can all ply in a variety of media, print, web articles, blogs, academic papers (where appropriate), live or taped radio or television interviews, etc.I think Matt is really on to something here, although the distinction he draws needs to be sharpened. DeLong, Solum, Rozen and Merritt [That sounds like a law firm! -ed.] all have professional expertise that they express through their blogs.
The interesting question is whether these professionals would have been able to exert as much influence on public opinion in the absence of a medium such as blogging that has almost no start-up costs. How often would print or broadcast journalists want to talk to Brad, Larry, Laura and Jeralyn if they weren't bloggers?
The answer to that question isn't so simple. I get the sense that Solum was pretty important before he had a blog. And Rozen is a journalist. But will blogging change what kind of journalist she is?
Now think about someone like Juan Cole. He has been mentioned by the WaPo [no permalink] and others specifically because of his blog. While Cole may be more of a historian rather than a blogger, his expertise has become available to a much wider audience as a result of his blog.
In short, one might want to stop thinking of bloggers as go-it-alone amateur pundits armed with nothing but a computer and opinion. Rather, the most influential kind of "bloggers" may be those professionals who use blogs to leverage their expertise and reach a wider audience.
Of course, there will still be tens of thousands of pure amateurs out there in blogosphere. And God bless'em. Some of them may acheive tremendous success and even give up their amateur status (think Kevin Drum). Others will simply be bit players who help keep the big-name bloggers honest by reminding them of the self-critical, watchdogging roots of the medium.
In the final analysis, I disagree with Matt when he writes that
increasingly, [blogging] will be done by more-or-less the exact same group of people who are producing text in other formats.Yes, professional journalists may come to dominate the blogosphere. But other kinds of bloggers, both professional and amateur, will continue to be extremely important as well. While there may be no such thing as a "blogger", there will be increasingly well-defined roles within the blogosphere, each of which contributes to making it a more interesting and provocative whole.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
As it says on the Truman homepage, the Project is
Dedicated to forging a Democratic foreign policy founded on strength and security, grounded in a strong military and active diplomacy, and committed to furthering the American ideals of freedom, dignity, and opportunity worldwide.Founded by the lovely and talented Ms. Rachel Belton, the Truman Project is bringing together a new generation of Democrats committed to giving their party the foreign policy it hasn't had since Jack Kennedy was in the White House. If you want to learn more about what TNSP is up to, you can sign up for its newsletter by sending your address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:32 PM by Patrick Belton
OxBlog political prediction: no candidate has ever won the presidency after allegations surfaced at their nominating convention of their mouth-to-mouth contact with wet hamsters. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 7:21 PM by Patrick Belton
As stated by blogger Patrick Belton on http://www.wnyc.org/blog/vote2004/: "The 2004 conventions will be remembered as the conventions of the blog; just like the 1952 Republican convention was the convention of the television, and the 1924 conventions were the conventions of the radio."A note to the reporter and the editor to ask for a correction went unanswered. Gee, sooner or later here, I'm going to have to start questioning what I read in the newspapers. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 6:56 PM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 6:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I'm not above the occasional criticism of Democratic foreign policy myself, but I wonder just what people like David are expecting? Some kind of lockstep agreement about the mathematical formula we're going to use to decide on foreign interventions? A bulleted PowerPoint slide signed in blood by every top Democrat in the country?Fair is fair. If I'm going to bash the Dems for being all over the map on foreign policy, I should be able to do better myself. So here goes. These are the talking points that every big Democratic speaker should hit:
1. The Democratic party is the party of strength and idealism.Although sans definition, 'strength' has become a Democratic mantra. But even Jimmy Carter was too timid to talk about idealism. For the party of Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy, that's sad. Now's lets talk about Iraq in a way that gives some substance to my emphasis on strength and idealism.
# Posted 6:38 PM by Patrick Belton
Thanks for sitting down with us. Our readership is fairly strong in the political center, and we and our readers will be very eager to hear what's new in the DLC orbit, what ideas have been rising in your neck of the woods over the past four years, and what insights we could gain from you about the role New Democratic ideas might have in a Kerry administration.
Well, there's a stereotype of the young as Howard Dean-type leftists, broadly sceptical of American power, resolutely anti-interventionist, wary. of America throwing its weight around or using its power.
Yup, that's us.
It's nice to see there are people in the generation coming out of grad school and law school that's willing to think about updating the Democratic set of beliefs to confront new security challenges. The left, you know, has this wonderful view of us as all-powerful, which is hilarious given that we have an $8 million budget and about 50 staffers. The Village Voice was just recently complaining about how we're driving the party.
So since you're running things, is Kerry a Bush I-style realist?
As a progressive internationalist--for whom the expansion of democracies is a strategic imperative--this is a matter of great concern to me personally. I checked it out, and I was told not to put too much stock in these press reports of his purported realism. It's a response to Bush adopting democracy promotion to undergird the Iraq war when the WMD rationale collapsed. Kerry believes that democracy sets the bar too high for short-term success in Iraq, that while it's clearly the goal you need more immediate benchmarks for along the way.
Since then, at least one speech has made it clear Kerry considers as a national interest the spread of political and economic freedom, which plays an important role in a tough-minded foreign policy. This extends obviously to the Greater Middle East, to change conditions that breed terrorism. He's not in the Scowcroft or Kissinger realpolitik tradition. Instead, he's in that of the postwar Wise Men, Kennedy, Truman, Acheson. Among Democrats at the moment, the mood is so anti-Bush, that there's a temptation to decry everything he's doing as bad. That's how I understand it. We have a Democratic tradition of democracy promotion as well--Kerry used the language of progressive internationalism at least once, in a speech he gave at Georgetown, which, to make full disclosure, I should admit I had a hand in shaping.
He supported the liberal interventions of the 1990s, in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti, which demonstrate that he's not a resolute dove, an ardent non-interventionist. He present arguments of attenuated national interest combined with humanitarian rationales. So I think his record supports the claim that he's a progressive internationalist, in the way that we in the DLC use the term.
You're in touch with centre-left officials and policy thinkers in Britain and the Continent. What do you tell people when they ask you what's going to change, and what's going to stay the same, under a Kerry administration?
First of all, all the centre-left people we talk to are desperate for a Kerry victory--they're not comfortable, whether they're publics or elites, with the current estrangement from the United States, with the possible exception of the French. I assure them that the atmospherics of the transatlantic relationship will improve immediately, with a new cast of people on the U.S. side bringing a breath of fresh air, but John Kerry will also challenge our European friends to join us in a concerted effort in the war on terror, to finish the job in Iraq, to establish a strong central government in Afghanistan, and to shut down the North Korean nuclear program. Where U.S. national interests lie - and Europe's too, especially since after Madrid, it's increasingly hard to sustain the argument that Europeans can avoid terrorism simply by detaching themselves from the United States. So our message has to be both to reassure and to challenge our allies.
You all have particularly close ties with New Labour. So is this an ideational expression of the Anglo-American special relationship? Are you sharing ideas still, as part of a Third Way?
In 1992, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown went to see how Clinton succeeded in salvaging his party from the wilderness, and they went back and applied the lessons, backed as they were by the strength of Parliamentary confidence. Now that they've been in office while we've been in turn in the wilderness, we've now been looking to them, and their ideas of an education trust fund and a lifetime savings account. Bob Kerrey endorsed something quite similar here. They gave us a briefing on the London congestion policy. In general, the balance of intellectual payments have shifted.
So you and Al From have described how you go about changing a party. Have you done it? Have you all won?
I've never accepted the idea that we've won - maybe I'm congenitally pessimistic. The evidence that there's still work to do begins as early as the Gore campaign. The template for Democratic success was cast aside entirely by Gore, in a way that mystified us. Dean was equally critical of the Clintonite legacy, but Iowa and New Hampshire didn't vote for him in the end. There's a sizeable community on the left who think that we require a counterweight. Which is hilarious given our size. Should Kerry win, you'll see a resurfacing of tensions that have been submerged in this remarkably unified campaign. There's no question that Kerry and Edwards represent a victory of Clintonism, that they've explicitly embraced Clintonism, and a third way agenda. There's no question they don't want to embrace the Gore policies or rhetoric of 2000. In 1999, we published an influential, controversial tract - the Politics of Evasion - where we said there were three deficits in public trust of the Democratic party, which Democrats were slow to acknowledge. First, people didn't trust us with their tax dollars. Second, people doubted whether we shared their cultural values of work, opportunity, and community responsibility. Third, people were suspicious of our ability to keep America safe with strong, resolute national leadership, both at home and in international crises.
Clinton made remarkable progress on the first two. He didn't have to address the third as much, largely because threats seemed to recede, security migrated to the extremes of the political consciousness, and his chief focus was on the first two points. What I argue is that Kerry has the chance to do on national security what Clinton did on finance and cultural values - show the Democrats have changed, and can grapple with these issues. He can close the national security confidence gap substantially, and has every reason to because that is after all what this election will hinge on.
Anger at outsourcing has been a theme at the convention. It seems like this is a magnificent opportunity for the DLC to offer new ideas about trade adjustment assistance and worker retraining programs, to create a broader constituency for free trade - and, by extension, for the centrist wing of the party.
We've got a bunch of ideas aimed at doing just that. Tough: we were one of the first to call for extending TAAs to service workers. Transitional tax credits, permitting workers to carry health insurance between jobs. Retraining, new economy training programs. This set of policy proposals go by the term of 'expanding the winners' circle' at PPI. Lots of Democrats are opposed to technological change, and the disruption it brings. They're not impressed these are going to be serious worker training moves. They say, it sounds to us like funeral insurance - you remove our sense of security, but you don't make us more secure. It's not compelling to tell the rust belt freer trade is somehow something we can insulate you for. We have proposed a lot of ideas, to help build a broader consensus for trade, and broader international engagement.
How are your relations with congressional Democrats?
Well, first of all we have our allies in each house. We have New Democrat caucuses numbering about 70 in the House and 20 in the Senate, and we work well with them. Increasingly, we have good relations with some of the others as well; some of the old ideological fissures seem to be at least temporarily closed. In the article by me and Bob Kutner, Politics of Evasion, I wrote with a consistent critic of us, but we were able to get together. I'm struck by the degree of convergence on some issues, though not all. Foreign policy is of course the sticking point.
There's a flurry of interest in 527s, and the money flowing into these groups, energising the left, all of which is true. But I'm struck by how important the media thinks this is. It's important up to a point, but the media does tend to understate the role of ideas, while overstating campaign mechanics. There's also the confusion about who are the 'real Democrats'. Dean frequently makes the slap at New Democrats that he represents the 'Democratic wing' of the Democratic party, a Wellstonian view of ideological purity which he lodges against Clintonites. This is a bit odd given his fairly centrist record as governor of Vermont. This leads to a confusion about the philosophical cast of mind of most people who vote Democrats. Who defines the core Democratic agenda - the activists and interest groups, or the people who govern when the party is in office? I think it's the latter.
Any surprises at the convention?
There have been surprisingly good speeches - Clinton, Obama were great. Ron Reagan, obviously. The amount of applause and interest attracted by the stem cell issue surprises me - a lot of people have had family members who were ill, and place a great deal of hope in stem cell research to create cures for what their relatives suffered from. The salient characteristic of this convention is the improbable outbreak of harmony - there's been no tension, no fights, no drama - the poor press is set around looking for a story. The whole convention is increasingly empty - raising the question, how do you turn this thing off? Now it's just an orgy for soft money.
We've been hearing a great deal in the last years about the neo-conservatives' intellectual development, from the City College of New York on. What we haven't heard is how Clintonites' ideas have evolved during their time in the wilderness. We've touched on security, but how else have the ideas of New Democrats evolved since last we met them in 2000?
Our thinking has really evolved on health care - on the amount of money involved, cost control, and how to adapt health insurance to the changing practice of medicine, which is becoming preventive rather than centered around catastrophic, acute care, generally in a hospital. Also, how to make sure that what you're paying for corresponds to healthier people. Another area where our thought has developed is energy independence - a new field for us, particularly at the intersection of energy and environmental work. There's also been a great deal of work done on cultural politics--the 2000 elections divided the country more along cultural than class lines, and we'd like to think of ways New Democrats can help to remedy that increasing cultural alienation between the two halves of America. On international economics and trade, the role of government has changed. When we started, it was around lines of an understanding of globalization in which the state should play a small role; now we have a new understanding of what drives growth in a knowledge-centred economy - innovation, knowledge, and other areas in which government can play a role to foster.
The cultural divide between coasts and heartland is pronounced, and is generally treated as a fact of political nature. How can it be bridged?
In Blueprint magazine, we analysed the 2000 election in greater detail than the first responses - 'it's the culture, stupid'. The solution we ended up with was that Democrats should be conscientious objectors in the culture wars. Clinton could see moral validity in more than one sides. The formulation 'safe, legal, and rare' for abortion is an example - it reflected that the country was morally conflicted about abortion. Contrast that, for instance, with the message that 'we're for choice, and they're extremists who want to blow up abortion clinics.' There are cultural swing voters, and they can be brought over with carefully crafted arguments.
Another example is the movement Americans for Gun Safety. Gore and Democrats running for Congress were crushed by the gun issue in 2000. Gun owners respond favorably to a rhetoric of rights and responsibilities - of the vast number of American gun owners, only a small number are NRA members who regard any restriction on guns as unacceptable, and the rest are happy to respond to arguments of reasonableness and responsibilities that recognises, on the other hand, their Constitutional right under the second amendment. You can convince most gun owners to accept assault rifle bans, trigger locks, and waiting periods,m as long as you treat with respect their decision to own guns, and don't treat them as unfortunate rednecks.
Silence is not golden - don't think you can avoid being damaged by the cultural wars simply by changing the subject. It's important to make an attempt to redefine 'values' to target Democratic strengths, such as stewardship of the environment and concern for opportunity.
Centrism seems at the moment to be the strong trend of the Democratic party, but the unfortunate remaining Rockefeller Republicans are seeing their position declining in their party. Why have political fortunes been so much better for Democratic centrists than Republicans?
It's the final realization of Nixon's Southern strategy- you could use race and religion as wedge issues to steal the South away from Democrats. We allowed our position to be defined by arch-secularity, and a hostility to religion. Political change happens over long cycles, over generations, not the short term. The flip of the South has made Republicans much more conservative. A strong plurality, perhaps a majority of Republicans are conservative. The sunbelt and South are much more ideologically coherent as a result. Ask Democratic voters, and roughly 40 percent self-identify as moderate, around 1/3 as liberal, and the rest as conservative. So we're a more naturally moderate party, they are more conservative. They can rally their conservative base, which is bigger than our liberal base, to reelect Bush. This is why they've done nothing to put flesh on the bones of compassionate conservatism, put forth a second term agenda, or present domestic reform ideas. We are, and always have been, a more heterogeneous party. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
# Posted 11:27 AM by Patrick Belton
# Posted 1:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
The four panelists were Rand Beers, Richard Holbrooke, Gary Hart and Laura Tyson. All of them except Hart can expect high-ranking posts in a Kerry-Edwards administration.
For a solid overview of what they said, see Laura Rozen's account. Matt Yglesias was less enthusiastic on the grounds that the four panelists provided a lot of details without giving any sense of the overarching principles or interests that will animate a Kerry-Edwards foreign policy.
Based on Laura's account, I'd go one step further: It's extremely disappointing to see Democrats talk only about alliances and multilateralism while completely ignoring the imperatives of democracy and human rights. The Democrats used to be the party of the idealists, but now their claim is tenuous at best.
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# Posted 12:47 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
Disturbing lack of foreign policy discussion has actually probably been purposeful, not because Dems are weak on it, but because tomorrow's schedule is going to be all about Iraq, terrorism and national security, looking at the list of speakers.I hope so but I'm afraid not. If the party doesn't have a strong, coherent message on foreign policy, the candidate can't create it by himself. The depth of the Democrats' confusion on foreign policy struck me today while I was listening to a short, informal speech by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Speaking at a reception held in her honor by the DLC, Landrieu flawlessly hit on all of the New Democrat buzzwords: opportunity, responsibility and community. But nothing on national security.
This oversight wasn't Landrieu's fault. If you look at the speeches given by the Democrats' three most experienced foreign policymakers -- Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Jimmy Carter -- you won't find any common message about how America's interests and ideals should shape its foreign policy.
Yes, America should establish better relationships with its allies. But to what end? What is it that America stands for?
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# Posted 12:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
In the depths of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt inspired the nation when he said, ''The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.'' Today, we say the only thing we have to fear is four more years of George Bush. --Ted Kennedy, July 27, 2004And then there's this:
If each of us cared about the public interest, we wouldn't have the excesses of Enron. We wouldn't have the abuses of Halliburton.Or for that matter, of Chappaquiddick.
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# Posted 12:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004
# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I have seen weapons of mass destruction -- in our cities. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. . . . We must disarm these weapons.If poverty and unemployment are weapons of mass destruction, I wonder how Kucinich would describe the network of torture and execution chambers in which Saddam slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his countrymen. Maybe he did have WMD after all...
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# Posted 11:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
So which is it? One might argue that George Bush's tax cuts and other policy programs have added substance to our false perception of a national division. Yet when John Edwards talks about the two Americas, he focuses on the crisis-state of our health care and education systems, both of which predate George Bush.
In addition to this economic division, there is a division based on values. Edwards tried to deny its existence by saying that
That's just a dodge. Like it or not, when Americans talk about "values", they are talking about where a politician stands on controversial issues such as abortion, gay marriage, the death penalty, gun control and religion in our schools.
Edwards had nothing to say about any of those subjects tonight. And if he did, I doubt he would've been able to offer a message of unity. Regardless of whether the Democrats are talking about two Americas or one, what they want is to define the issues of the day as purely economic, a field in which the polls show them beating out the Republicans.
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# Posted 2:23 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
My answer: None of them. But go ahead and judge for yourself:
# Posted 2:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
long infomercials. Scripted, sanitized and stripped of the unexpected by early anointment of presidential and vice-presidential nominees, they offer as few clashes of policies and personalities as possible.Apple then goes on to note that the Times has despatched 100 of its staff to cover the event. Huh? Does that mean the editors disagree with Apple and actually believe the event is important? Not as far as I can tell. Under the headline "Reporters Outnumber Delegates 6 to 1", the Times writes that
Political reporters are a hardy, predictable bunch. They come to a coronation that has been scheduled for months — like the Democratic convention, which opened last night — and immediately begin whining about the absence of news and bathrooms. But they are secret admirers of this particular inflection point in the pageant of democracy, and many are surreptitiously beside themselves with excitement.Hold on a second. These reporters are excited about an event that they themselves denounce as scripted and unimportant? The Times goes on to explain that these inexplicably excited journalists
finally have the eyes of America upon them...Everywhere the attendant media look at a convention — the herd of satellite trucks, the phalanx of security, the whup-whup of helicopters overhead — tells them one thing: it is all here. It is all happening right now.So now I get it. Journalists are excited about a non-event because other journalists are excited about the same non-event. In other words, this is like one of those Las Vegas conventions where a whole lot of dentists get together to booze it up and go to strip clubs while pretending that they are exchanging important ideas about the future of dentistry.
And why the hell not? There's no actual news for journalists to cover, so they have a lot of time on their hands. Viva la convencion!
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Tuesday, July 27, 2004
# Posted 10:30 AM by Patrick Belton
10:00: Show up at the Fleet Center, for a morning interview on public radio, where my letter from the DNC told me to report. My credential seems to be across town, at the Westin Hotel. Take a taxi across town (after convincing two makeup artists to let me ride with them). Get grumpy at press guy, which involves threatening to focus on him personally as a weeklong comedic interlude. Feel bad for that afterwards. Decide to send him flowers tomorrow.
11:00-12:00 - on NPR's The Connection, together with two lovely other guests, Matt Welch from Reason and Amy Sullivan from Washington Monthly. It's a wonderful experience - not only the most thoughtful questions I've been asked this week, but their studios actually make your voice sound better. Count me in as a fan of public radio - I'm even going to get the tote bag. The press line is extraordinarily long. Incidentally, a good way to cut it turns out to be shouting frantically over a cell phone that you're on the air in a minute and a half. I get to the front of the line in about 2 seconds.
12:30 - Explore the convention hall, for the first time. It's really quite moving, even if it is the largest exercise in crowd planning ever. The convention floor is surprisingly small, and it's populated mostly by security people, who are just standing around. Looking around the state delegations, the states which voted for unfortunate primary candidates have, well, unfortunate seating.
The Massachusetts delegation has pride of place. Florida also, not surprisingly. The sound system is playing the 30-minute schmaltz version of 'New York state of mind'. The sancta sanctorum, guarded by three sad-looking security staffers, is the podium, where I count roughly one hundred seats. For voting purposes, a computer is set up at the seating section of each state. An attempt to rig the floor vote for a last-minute Lieberman insurgency does not succeed.
I look for a few enthusiastic, early reporting delegates dutifully reporting to their state's seating, where they are for three more hours the only ones. Peter Jennings is in the good seats, right in front of the sanctum sanctorum that is the podium, conducting an interview surrounded by a gaggle of 12 ABC staff. It's a rather odd sight, seeing the anchors talking to their cameras, every few dozen yards, in the middle of empty chairs.
'America 2004: A Stronger America' is circulating on the neon row at the top of the box seats, where the broadcast networks are. Al Jazeera, I hear, was asked by the convention's organisers to take down their sign - bad p.r., someone decided. Sad.
1:00. Lovely interview with a few reporters about my age from National Journal. We agree to go out for drinks later. The photographer wants to take pictures of me with my laptop. There's great reportorial bonhomie, incidentally, extended from all of the journalists I strike up conversations with. A good-humoured woman from CNN swaps tips with me in the elevator. (Mine: Al Jazeera. Hers: umbrellas will be permitted, if collapsable, in the event of inclement weather. We decide to call it an even trade.) The label "Democrats Recycle" appears on all of the recycling bins. The bloggers have very good real estate, by Reuters and above Texas. We're to the left and opposite the podium.
2:00 Security people coming in by the hundreds, then hundreds more. It's like a St Patrick's Day parade. The more elite-looking ones all have black bags of different shapes. This is clearly a good day to attempt street crime in Boston. There also some extraordinarily bad musical acts rehearsing - one of whom, bless her, being Miss Teen New Mexico, who regrettably attempts the National Anthem every several minutes.
You can see the Charles from outside the nosebleed seats of the Fleet Centre - you look over I-93, near the sign for the Chinatown exit. Boston is a really beautiful city. Kudos to the residents of Beantown.
3:10 Delegates arrive - by the thousands. Marty Meehan and Tom Mann from Brookings are holding forth outside on how good campaign finance reform has been for Democrats.
I have the opportunity to speak with some people in the Texas and New York delegations, all of whom are quite enthused to be at the centre. All regard the convention as a rather nice vacation. They go shopping.
4:00 Gavelling-in of the 44th Democratic National Convention occurs precisely on time. A heavily planned national-strength motif emerges from the start -the first shot of the opening movie is of the JFK library (note theme). Invocation is by a Boston vicar, who talks about liberty, patriotism, and the armed forces, invites people to his church. Veterans' honour guard (note theme) present colours. 'Combat veteran Jay Wheatley' (did you catch the subtle restatement of the theme?) leads pledge of allegiance. The National Anthem features possibly the first flat Miss Teen New Mexico in history.
4:13 Credentials committee. The credentials committee report seems principally to be about how the Bush administration is outsourcing jobs to foreigners, but Kerry, however, will create 10 million new jobs. Also, cheap drugs.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin paraphrases Martin Luther King and RFK to say that she's PROUD to say that this credentials report is unanimous.
Bob Menendez, whose introduction gets messed up, introduces the second part of the credentials report, which is mostly about how his family fled Cuba to a free country which would elect John Kerry to give all American families the ability to give heir children cheap drugs and send seniors to college. Or vice versa. Actually, it was a good speech.
4:55 Woman behind me already asleep.
5:00 I can understand the longing, particularly pronounced among people one generation older than me, to actually have something go massively, extraordinarily, democratically wrong, such that the platform and slate are junked, and the delegates rise up in a Jeffersonian parliamentary fury to junk the nominees presumptive, and instead nominate, say, Peter Jennings.
5:05 Speakers deal with introducing the rules committee chair as though they were entering an approximate-JFK's-inaugural-address contest. It doesn't make for good speechmaking, particularly.
5:30 Sudden halt of speeches for a rather eerie JFK movement, with his 'Let the word go forth' speech playing over what seems to be planetarium music.
Most members of the Clinton family, including Socks, are speaking during the first day's prime time. I talk next to a Suffolk County legislator named Vivienne Fisher, a lovely woman who claims credit for making Suffolk the first county in New York to outlaw restaurant smoking and use of cell phones in cars. She seems rather proud.
5:35 Terry McAuliffe said something that was meant, I'm told by Vivienne, to be Spanish in introducing Bill Richardson. Bill Richardson appears anyway.
5:40 Rosa DeLauro offers the platform. Rosa, who I love dearly, was a bit wooden, though she became less so by the end.
You can be guaranteed substantial network coverage by simply wearing odd headgear. Actually, very few delegates dress like Village People or NFL attendees, but they feature disproportionately in TV coverage. So don't be fooled.
6:00: dinner, such as it is (popcorn and an Italian sausage), with Oxfriends Jeff Hauser and Nathan Paxton. In the meantime, Kerry/Edwards signs magically appear in everyone's hands. You also get the wooden stick (attached, sorry) if you're a delegate.
Emerge back into the convention hall to hear Al Gore (hasn't he done enough damage to the party already?) proclaiming that JOHN KERRY AND JOHN EDWARDS ARE FIGHTING FOR US!!!! SO, WE HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THEM!!!! I ask the guests around me what they think of Al Gore. They shrug.
8:27: live feed, this time of a random guy in Canton, Ohio.
There is a pleasant mood among the delegates and guests: they're not politicos for the most part, and they aren't angry leftists. You feel at any time they're entirely liable to fall into a group hug. The speeches are markedly better in the evening than in the afternoon. Introducing the Democratic women senators, Mikulski has an energetic delivery, if not profundity, and pulled off some memorable phrases.
Nancy Donahue, Harvard endowment manager and Emily's List volunteer, sitting next to me: 'What convention is complete without a youth choir?' (Response to being asked what she thought of Gore: shrug.)
8:41: Democratic Song Time: this one is 'This land is your land'. Mikulski obliged by pointing out female Senators from California, New York Island, and the Gulf Stream waters.
8:44: Profiles of every Democratic voter, in alphabetic order: this time, a black woman from Little Rock, Arkansas. Then another round of Democratic song time. 'I am everyday people.'
9:00 Democratic attic: Wait, you've already brought out Gore, now you're bringing out Carter? The role of the ghosts of conventions past seems mostly to be to reiterate their most well known campaign line, and attribute it to Kerry. Thus, we're told that Kerry and Edwards will give us a government as good as the American people. (There's also another subtle restatement of the Kerry-was-in-the-navy theme.)
9:10: More rumbling about damn foreigners: 'The American dream is not only the property of those who can afford expensive trips overseas to visit all the jobs they sent there', complains Rep Stephanie Stubbs (Ohio). It's a capable speech - good lines, and she becomes the darling of the delegates, who momentarily stop playing with their voting machines.
9:28 Democratic Songs: Johnny Be Good. Then more profiles of random Democrats: this one in Milwaukee.
9:32: Bob Menendez completely loses the crowd, because of unfortunate positioning in the bathroom break after Carter and before Hillary. He's one of the more naturally intelligent of the congressional Democrats. He makes a number of thinly veiled accusations that Bush should be blamed for 9/11 - that it ought to have been prevented. Quote: 'you get a lot more firepower on your side if you can organise a posse.' Ambient noise in the convention hall shoots way up, as delegates ignore him.
9:49 Film narrating how John Kerry, in blatant disregard of his own safety and under fire from both banks, conducted congressional casework to help one of his constituents, a cute, sick kid named Joey.
9:52: Profiles of every Democrat in the country: a Canton, Ohio, veteran and steelworker union member. We're told how illegal immigrants came, stole his job, and brought it (and others) overseas.
9:57-59: absolute quiet, as the Convention waits for prime time - i.e., its sole hour of fame.
10:00 Black presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm's speech appears over the planetarium music and on the screen, and was apparently not proofread, given that it includes a major typographical error.
10:10 candles and violin solo of amazing grace, in an attempt to make use of - erm, I meant to say commemorate - the memory of 9/11. Blue spotlights fan the delegates. Shockingly, the violinist was neither black nor female, and - quite possibly - may have been heterosexual. That this is a party which wishes to base itself upon compassion and inclusion is beyond doubt. But the point can be made so frequently and unsubtly - and even ham-handedly - by the convention organisers that it frequently assumes something of the character of self-caricature.
I discuss the hidden messages being conveyed by all of the veteran symbology with the delegate next to me. We decide the message transmitted by all of the invocation of veterans is:
mendacious government at the time of Vietnam = Bush
speaking the truth to power = veterans, Kerry, and RFK
This, of course, puts the Democratic back on the solid and successful footing of the Chicago convention of 1968.
10:20, video vignette: Kerry's office performed casework in yet a second instance, this time involving cute, disabled kids who played little league. Generally, they did so in slow motion, to the accompaniment of arpeggiated piano chords.
10:21 Then the omnipresent planetarium music, reappearing underneath President Clinton's voice. Is the hidden message that Democrats are from Mars?
10:23 Enter Hillary stage right, to Billy Joel's New York State of Mind. America's Future 2004 signs magically appear in the hall. If only. Perhaps the signs are the signal to begin the secret insurgency of the Delegates Revolt of 2004, nominating Hillary, or even more adventurously, some randomly chosen Democrat off of the video screen.
Hillary speech: She's gotten less reliant on the single descending tone, with its tendency toward preachiness. The time in the Senate has made her more statesmanlike; on the other hand, her speech is fairly empty, touching on old, trusted but overworn notes. Looking into the gates of hell at ground zero. Veterans. Etc.
10:35. Enter Bill, to Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow, and the cheering of the delegates raises the roof by several inches.
10:35-37: two minutes of standing applause. Clinton then proceeds to give the only masterful political speech I have heard since ... since he retired from politics. His timing is perfect - there's enough policy meatiness to save the speech from vacuousness, but it's folksy, funny. It is a brilliant speech, and it seems just possible that Clinton could, in a perfectly-executed speech, win one more election, this time for someone else.
He puts his own embarassing war record out in public view, a brave move in a saccharine convention, and contrasts it with Kerry's declaration 'Send me', which he repeats and weaves around other threads of the candidate's record and the coming election, the entire crowd answering 'send me' after each rhetorical interrogative. He does the same thing several minutes later with 'we chose to form a more perfect union.' He ends at 11 precisely, after weaving together rhetoric of opportunity and optimism ('creating a world where we can celebrate our religious differences'), humorous jabs at the other side, and the gentlest stroking of economic populism in the evening (you know, when I was in office, Republicans were kind of mean to me. Now that I'm making some money, I'm part of the most important group in the world to them). His last riff, with the structural elegance of a black minister, is a litany of '...If you like those choices, you should vote to return them to the White House and Congress (boos)..if not, you should look at giving John Kerry and John Edwards a chance! (cheers)' In an evening of forgettable political rhetoric, it was the best political speech of the millennium thus far. For one blissful second, it brings people around me to hope that he might just perhaps, with his Yale law education, have found a way to run once again.
Midnight, on the red line back to Cambridge: an eerily exuberant girl shares the joke: 'What do you call a fish with eight eyes? Fiiiiiiiish.' It doesn't necessarily work better aloud. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
Monday, July 26, 2004
# Posted 6:32 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
"I'm not a liberal at all. I never joined the Americans for Democratic Action or the American Veterans Committee. I'm not comfortable with those people."Answer: John F. Kennedy.
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# Posted 6:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
I am disappointed but not surprised. Btw, the Senate report does a helluva lot more than "contradict some of Wilson's account". It pretty much shows that he is a liar, not Bush.
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