Tuesday, September 07, 2004

# Posted 6:18 PM by Patrick Belton  

REZA ASLAN is keeping a journal from Iran.
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# Posted 8:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE JOKE OF THE DAY: Q: What does one behaviorist say to another after sex? A: That was great for you.  How was it for me? (a variant, of course, on the classic Q: What does one behaviorist say to another when they meet on the street? A: You're fine.  How am I?)
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# Posted 6:59 AM by Patrick Belton  

SPIKED ONLINE, which has been producing a lot of good work lately, has this on the nostalgic core of contemporary anti-imperialism.
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# Posted 6:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG READING LIST: Michael Ignatieff, of whom this blog thinks the world, has a new book out with Princeton University Press on political ethics in an age of terror. Rather graciously, they've put out the first chapter for free. This includes Ignatieff's suggestions for moral criteria for antiterrorist actions, which, as they tend to be consequentialist, conservative (in the sense of incrementalist), and in the spirit of the New Haven School (i.e., phrased in terms of a public order of human dignity), I think are likely to be beating down the appropriate track:
As a contribution to this process of standard setting, I would propose the following tests for policy makers. First, a democratic war on terror needs to subject all coercive measures to the dignity test--do they violate individual dignity? Foundational commitments to human rights should always preclude cruel and unusual punishment, torture, penal servitude, and extrajudicial execution, as well as rendition of suspects to rights-abusing countries. Second, coercive measures need to pass the conservative test--are departures from existing due process standards really necessary? Do they damage our institutional inheritance? Such a standard would bar indefinite suspension of habeas corpus and require all detention, whether by civil or military authorities, to be subject to judicial review. Those deprived of rights--citizens and noncitizens--must never lose access to counsel. A third assessment of counterterror measures should be consequentialist. Will they make citizens more or less secure in the long run? This effectiveness test needs to focus not just on the short term, but on the long-term political implications of measures. Will they strengthen or weaken political support for the state undertaking such measures? A further consideration is the last resort test: have less coercive measures been tried and failed? Another important issue is whether measures have passed the test of open adversarial review by legislative and judicial bodies, either at the time, or as soon as necessity allows. Finally, "decent respect for the opinions of mankind," together with the more pragmatic necessity of securing the support of other nations in a global war on terror, requires any state fighting terrorism to respect its international obligations as well as the considered opinions of its allies and friends. If all of this adds up to a series of constraints that tie the hands of our governments, so be it. It is the very nature of a democracy that it not only does, but should, fight with one hand tied behind its back. It is also in the nature of democracy that it prevails against its enemies precisely because it does.
For more, see The New York Review of Books's review and Ignatieff's transcript from a roundtable at the Carnegie Council. (American Prospect has a review article by James Mann, who we also like, but you either need to be a subscriber or read it in Border's....)
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Monday, September 06, 2004

# Posted 5:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

HOW I STARTED RACHEL DOWN A LIFE AS A KEPT WOMAN: Me: 'Maybe by favors he just meant feeding his fish?' Her: 'Then why does he say 'please include a photo in your reply' after the bit about 'Prefer a female roomate and I am willing to lower or eliminate the rent in exchange for favors'? Me: 'Well, maybe it's to make sure you won't scare the fish?'
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# Posted 1:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

RNC POST-HOC QUOTE OF THE DAY: 'This is New York. Of course we have naked people on Eighth Avenue.' Michael Bloomberg, New York's mayor, commenting on nude anti-Aids protesters, via Associated Press (8/26).
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# Posted 8:12 AM by Patrick Belton  

OUR THOUGHTS AND WELL WISHES go with you today, Mr President.
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# Posted 6:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

YIDDISH CORNER: More than a couple of our readers (we are here targeting our 'Indian' and 'Hebrew' market demographics) will be interested in Haaretz's story about India's Jewish general, Jacob-Farj-Rafael Jacob, whose ancestors emigrated from Baghdad to Calcutta in the nineteenth century. And Bush writes about Israel and the peace process in the Forward.
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# Posted 6:37 AM by Patrick Belton  

EVE TUSHNET lovingly takes apart my YFP interview. Although I can't quite figure out whether I'm meant to be the headless body or the topless blog....
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# Posted 6:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

DEAD TREE WATCH: We complain a great deal that the nation's chief newspapers avoid covering ideas and trends, but mercifully, under Moisés Naím, Foreign Policy is becoming a noteworthy gathering point for precisely such conversations. To wit, Fareed leads off a piece on 'the world's eight most dangerous ideas' with an essay on anti-Americanism (excerpt: 'In this post-ideological age, anti-Americanism fills the void left by defunct belief systems'), while Marvin Leffler assesses Bush's foreign policy, and Kerry assesses Kerry's foreign policy. Other interesting pieces take on reforming Saudi Arabia and economic growth in India, while a very nice section in the print edition, 'In other words,' reviews books from overseas which (generally) aren't available in the United States.

I was sceptical of FP a few years ago, when every issue seemed to have a piece on assessing globalisation, generally with comparisons to McDonalds. But the limited scope of conversation in its pages may have just reflected a more limited foreign policy conversation then; at any rate, I'm now considering it one of the most creative publications focused squarely on ideas and on trends longer than a CNN news cycle.
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# Posted 2:30 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE WaPo GETS IT RIGHT: Living in NYC the past month, I haven't been reading the WaPo. Shame on me. As Jason Broander's comparison points out, the Post's coverage of Bush's speech was far more even-handed than that of the NYT:
NEW YORK, Sept. 2 -- President George W. Bush accepted the Republican nomination for a second term Thursday night with a lofty speech casting his reelection as crucial to the spread of democracy across the world and to the security of Americans at home...
Spreading democracy? But the NYT didn't say anything about that!
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# Posted 2:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OPEN MINDS AT HARVARD: Robert Tagorda is still looking for them.
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# Posted 1:52 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOLLOWING THE PAPER TRAIL: In July, I had a plan. Instead of throwing away my print editions of the NY Times from the week of the Democratic convention, I decided to put them aside and wait until the Republican convention had passed so that I could compare how the Paper of Record had covered both events.

This post will address a very specific question: How did the NYT portray each candidate's comments about Iraq the morning after his speech? The answer is that it didn't. Even though the Times itself often describes Iraq as "a pivotal electoral issue", Adam Nagourney -- who wrote or co-wrote the lead story on both Bush and Kerry's nomination speeches -- somehow managed to avoid the subject.

In the lead story on Bush's speech, the word 'Iraq' only appears once, and in the following context:
Mr. Kerry said..."I will not have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have, by those who misled America into Iraq."
Now, perhaps, if Mr. Bush had ignored Iraq himself, Nagourney's approach would be justified. But here is just some of what Mr. Bush had to say about Iraq:
We knew Saddam Hussein's record of aggression and support for terror. We knew his long history of pursuing, even using, weapons of mass destruction. And we know that September the 11th requires our country to think differently: We must, and we will, confront threats to America before it is too late. (Applause.)

In Saddam Hussein, we saw a threat...

Members of both political parties, including my opponent and his running mate, saw the threat, and voted to authorize the use of force...

Because we acted to defend our country, the murderous regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban are history, more than 50 million people have been liberated, and democracy is coming to the broader Middle East...

Despite ongoing acts of violence, Iraq now has a strong Prime Minister, a national council, and national elections are scheduled for January. Our nation is standing with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, because when America gives its word, America must keep its word...

So our mission in Afghanistan and Iraq is clear: We will help new leaders to train their armies, and move toward elections, and get on the path of stability and democracy as quickly as possible. And then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned...

I believe in the transformational power of liberty: The wisest use of
American strength is to advance freedom. As the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq seize the moment, their example will send a message of hope throughout a vital region.
I could provide additional examples, but I'm sure that all of you have either read or listened to the President's speech. Yet somehow, not one of the passages cited above made it into either Nagourney's lead article or Todd Purdum's news analysis column.

To be fair, Mr. Bush gave a very long speech. Perhaps it simply was not possible for Mr. Nagourney or Mr. Purdum to cover all that he said. Of course, Mr. Nagourney did have time to write that
As he did in 2000, Mr. Bush warmed the audience with self-deprecatory jokes, including one about his tendency toward malapropisms...

Before [the President] walked out Republicans handed out hundreds of placards reading, "Agenda for America," which they waved in a blizzard of American flags...

Mr. Bush, the 43rd president, smiled at the 41st president and his wife - that would be George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush - sitting in a box across the hall.
Somehow, Mr. Nagourney decided that self-deprecatory jokes, American flags, and smiling at one's parents were more newsworthy than the President's bold and controversial statements about Iraq.

(If Matt Yglesias were covering Bush's speech for the Times, he at least would've had the decency to quote Mr. Bush at length and then explain why he was lying.)

In contrast to Mr. Nagourney, Mr. Purdum does devote a respectable amount of attention to Mr. Bush's relationship with Iraq, even if he refuses to divulge what Mr. Bush himself actually said. Here are the contexts in which Mr. Purdum refers to Iraq:
For a nation divided over his stewardship, distressed about the economy and dubious about the war with Iraq, President Bush had one overriding message last night: He's still the one...

Mr. Bush spoke confidently but saved his passion for national security issues, and sounded a tone of defiance at critics of his decision to invade Iraq...

No one...can dispute that [Bush] has [led], first by steamrolling big
tax cuts through a compliant Congress, then toppling the Taliban and winning support for the controversial war with Iraq...

Even his father's former national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft... warned two years ago against rushing to war with Iraq...

Polls showAmericans have doubts about Mr. Bush's stubbornness, his truthfulness (only about one in five Americans now think he is telling the entire truth when he talks about Iraq), and even the likeability that helped him so much last time.
How strange. It almost seems as if Mr. Purdum has some sort of agenda. While the author of a news analysis column has more latitude than the author of a straight news article, one would hope that Mr. Purdum would at least analyse what Mr. Bush actually said.

Instead, he reminds us again and again of how "dubious" and "controversial" the invasion was while not even bothering to quote Mr. Bush's defense of it or mention that most Americans supported it.

But perhaps I shouldn't be suprised with the way the NY Times has covered this issue. As I show in my dissertation, when Ronald Reagan spoke passionately and at great length about democracy promotion in the 1980s, the NYT and WaPo ignored what he said and instead focused on the more controversial aspects of his foreign policy.

It's like deja vu all over again...

Coming up next: The NYT, Kerry and Iraq.

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Sunday, September 05, 2004

# Posted 5:52 PM by Patrick Belton  

I READ THE GUARDIAN DAILY, not for the politics but because, apart from the LRB, I haven't yet found a better publication in England for covering the worlds of letters and ideas. But that high-mindedness doesn't stop them from producing hard-hitting investigative journalism, it turns out. For instance, thanks to today's paper I know now that 'Every weekend, Britain's town centres are transformed into scenes of drunken mayhem.' Other upcoming story lines, thanks to OxBlog's sources in the Guardian news room: UK dogs reported to have fleas; politicians discovered shamelessly courting votes of honest citizens; rich bastard in home counties considers casting ballot for Tory candidate. More coming.

UPDATE: A friend writes in to ask why not the TLS instead. Good point - it's mostly because they don't put up very much of their content for free. However, if on the other hand, they would like to give OxBlog a free subscription....
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# Posted 1:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A PAEAN TO NUANCE: In the Times Magazine last Sunday, James Traub observed that

Both the president and the protesters prefer certaintly to complexity. Is there room for nuance in a time of war?

How sad. I'm an intellectual. I love nuance and complexity and irony and uncertaintly and subtle gradations of meaning.

So whom should I hold responsible for the branding of 'nuance' as the most despised word in the American political lexicon since 'liberal'? The faux populist who cuts taxes for the rich and mocks his thoughtful opponent? Or the calculating opportunist who sways with the political winds while the nation's most prominent journalists and intellectuals praise his commitment to nuance?
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# Posted 1:56 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROGER, OVER AND OUT: I spent four days this week huddled over my laptop just across from that irrepressible, fedora-clad blogger, Roger L. Simon.

Today, Roger slams NY Newsday for its politically-motivated and unprofessional decision to excerpt one of his GOP convention posts without letting him know which one. Unsurprisingly, Roger says, they chose his most anti-Bush post without letting their readers know that Roger will vote for W. this fall come hell or high water.

As punishment for its iniquity, Roger brands Newsday's editor as one of the "New Reactionaries". I beg to differ. I got the same e-mail from the same editor at Newsday. The editor asked if I wanted to know, before Newsday went to press, which passage it had chosen. I said yes and received another e-mail shortly thereafter which included the excerpt.

As it turns out, Newsday chose a passage from my post about Laura Bush. It was somewhat critical, but not at all harsh. If Newsday wanted, there were plenty of harsh posts to choose from. (For example, here and here.)

For the moment, I don't know which excerpts Newsday chose from the rest of the RNC bloggers, since there's nothing up on their website. But I think Roger might strengthen his full-frontal assault on the media if he planned his attacks a little more carefullly. (Not that you couldn't say the same thing OxBlog...)

UPDATE: Newsday has posted the excerpts here. Greyhawk thinks that Newsday is cherry-picking. I wouldn't say Newsday chose our best posts, but I don't see a political agenda here. At worst, there's a bit of condescension.
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# Posted 1:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SCHLESINGER BEATEN LIKE A DRUM: Congratulations to Kevin for publishing his first book review in the New York Times. Once again, Kevin has reinforced his reputation for being an open-minded liberal by thrashing Dr. Schlesinger's paranoid and incoherent anti-Republican rant. I shudder to think what sort of mail Kevin is about to get from his 40,000 fans at the Washington Monthly.

FYI, Kevin can be just as tough on Democratic candidates as he can on over-the-hill intellectuals:
Anyone who thinks the primary message of Kerry's campaign should be anything other than national security is just deluding themselves. To paraphrase James Carville, "It's 9/11, stupid."

In fact, it's a no-brainer: somehow Kerry has to convince people that
he can be trusted with national security and Bush can't — and if he doesn't, he's going to lose. But I guess he still doesn't get that.

I'm finally beginning to think Mickey Kaus might be right: Kerry has
spent too much time inside the liberal cocoon. It's going to cost him the election if he keeps it up.

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# Posted 1:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GO BACK TO SLEEP! What are you doing up at 6:30 in the morning, Josh? Looking for Jenna Jameson? I know you're not an official a "Dr." yet. But I'll bet anyone dollars to donuts that you'll walk out of your thesis defense with nothing but honors.
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# Posted 1:37 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL GHOST-WRITING! Consider the following passage from Jenna Jameson's memoir:
Trying to maintain eye contact with [my co-star] was like trying to
read Dostoyevsky on a roller-coaster.
Fyodor must be turning in his grave. Then again, perhaps I am wrong to doubt the highly athletic Ms. Jameson. She did come across as quite intelligent in her extended interview on VH1.

Moreover, Ms. Jameson has addressed the Oxford Union more often than I have, although her performance did pale somewhat in comparison to that of Mr. Dr. Chafetz.
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Saturday, September 04, 2004

# Posted 6:02 PM by Patrick Belton  

AND THEY SAY BLOGS ARE BAD? NYT runs a story with the title, "Deploying Children as Weapons of Mass Affection"
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# Posted 8:12 AM by Patrick Belton  

ECONOMIST ANSWERS THE QUESTION THAT'S BEEN ON EVERYONE'S MIND: Why are Eurocrats in Brussels so side-splittingly funny?
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Friday, September 03, 2004

# Posted 7:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IGNORANT YANKEE! Much obliged to all those who pointed out that the unidentified narrator from last night was Fred Thompson. HS writes that

FYI, it wasn't Waylon Jennings, it was Fred Thompson, former senator from Tennessee and now actor on 'Law & Order.' He began the narration live with a mic on stage, then he stopped, exited stage right, and there was a seamless transition to the prepared video voice-over (it was hard to see him standing there even on TV, so it's not surprising you missed him if you were sitting in the convention hall).

You're right: folksy as all hell, so folksy it was almost a parody of
folksy; definitely reminds me of Jennings 'Dukes of Hazzard' oeuvre.

Viva los Duke boys! I actually saw Thompson come out on stage but didn't recognize him. Although I had never known what Thompson looked like, I did always think of him as the man who famously said that as soon as he got to Washington he began to yearn for the honesty and sincerity of Hollywood.

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# Posted 4:42 PM by Patrick Belton  

THOUGHTS FOR THE SABBATH: Michael Ignatieff on genocide, human rights, and a postwar Polish Jewish intellectual named Raphael Lemkin.

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# Posted 10:35 AM by Patrick Belton  

In place of death there was light.

- Leo Nikolayevitch Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych

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# Posted 1:42 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIVE BLOGGING THE PRESIDENT: There was no wireless access in MSG, but I did have my laptop with me. Here's what I wrote:

9:58 PM – Time for a video. The narrator sounds like Waylon Jennings from the Dukes of Hazzard.

10:03 PM – If this isn’t Waylon Jennings, it’s the best imitation I’ve ever head. Folksy, lots of inappropriate pronouns.

10:05 PM – It’s him! The crowd goes wild! [Bush, not Jennings. --ed.]

10:07 PM – The cameras are flashing. You could almost hear a pin drop.

10:14 PM – I gave you tax breaks! Lukewarm applause.

10:15 PM – Bush: I am a compassionate conservative. Government should help people improve their lives, not run them. We’ve come a long way from Ronald Reagan, haven’t we? What a strange
compromise. Conservatives are no longer allowed to attack government, but liberals aren’t allowed to call themselves liberal.

10:17 PM – “Two-thirds of moms also work outside the home.” Very scattered applause.

10:19 PM – A promise to make tax relief permanent. Big applause.

10:21 PM – A promise to lead a bipartisan effort to “reform and simplify the federal tax code.” Maybe the President can ask
Zell Miller about bipartisanship.

10:22 PM – Bush is speaking quite well. Patient. Serious. But down to earth.

10:23 PM – A pledge to help the workers at small businesses get more affordable insurance.

10:24 PM – A promise to establish rural health centers. I have nothing to say about that. It sounds like a good idea. But I really know nothing about the state of American healthcare.

10:25 PM – Stop the lawsuits that put doctors out of work! Huge applause. Now is this a one time thing, or will Bush & Cheney be attacking John Edwards all along the campaign trail?

10:27 PM – An ownership society? It’s a nice turn of phrase. It may do for this campaign what “compassionate conservatism” did for the last. But after January 20th, who knows?

10:29 PM – Empowerment and ownership. Empowerment and ownership. Howard Dean talks about empowerment, but not ownership.

10:31 PM – W. breaks out the Spanish! "No dejarémos a ningún nino atrás!"

10:32 PM – Bush plugs his website. Memo to OxBlog: Get nominated for President so you can plug your website on national television.

10:35 PM – Kerry is a tax-and-spend liberal! Bush is a borrow-and-spend liberal!

10:37 PM – Abortion, yadda yadda. Gay marriage, yadda yadda.

10:39 PM “I will never relent in defending America whatever it takes!” Standing ovation! USA! USA! USA! Vague! Vague! Vague!

10:41 PM – “Striking terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home!” Where is my nickel?

10:43 PM – Protester time. God, these people may as well just vote for Bush. For Kerry, they’re just an embarrassment.

10:44 PM – Protester. Here we go again. Pathetic.

10:46 PM – “Do I forget the lessons of September 11th?” Or do I attack Saddam? Clever.

10:47 PM – Democracy in Afghanistan. Bush isn’t mincing words on this one.

10:47 PM – “When America gives its word, America must keep its
word.” It’s the OxBlog agenda. But what will Yglesias say?

10:49 PM – Our troops will come home when Iraq is a democracy.

10:52 PM – Flip-flop time.

10:53 PM – Big cheers for Tony Blair. I hope no one tells the delegates that Blair is head of the “Labour Party”.

10:54 PM – “Coaltion of the coerced and bribed”? John Kerry scorns our allies! Very clever.

10:56 PM – Democracy discredits hate. Democracy will transform the Middle East. Stop it! Stop it! George, if you keep sounding so idealistic, I’m going to have vote for you!

10:58 PM – Now Bush is mocking the New York Times. If this keeps up, OxBlog will be unemployed.

11:00 PM – A reference to promoting democracy in Nicaragua. Now Bush is trying to write my dissertation!

11:08 PM – “This young century will be liberty’s century.” How much did PNAC have to pay for that one?

It was a masterful performance. In a word, presidential.
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# Posted 1:38 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THAT TACKY PATAKI: There was no wireless access in MSG, but I did have my laptop with me. Here's what I wrote:

9:37 PM – It’s Pataki time! The governor is thanking all those states that came to New York states after 9-11. During the break, volunteers handed out little flags for all of us to wave.

Pataki says that New York looked terrorism in the face and spat in its eye. Thanks, George, for doing so much to get rid our reputation as the least polite state in the union.

Pataki reminds us that he went to college with both Kerry and Bush. Kerry was the head of the Liberal Party, Pataki was head of the

I was also in the Liberal Party (at the same college) and even served as an officer. I became somewhat disenchanted as time went on, but I am still inspired by the other members’ commitment to social service.

“He said he’d do it, AND HE DID!” Great call and response.

Pataki says Kerry has to Google his own name to find out
where he stands. Presumably, Santorum doesn’t have that problem.

9:46 PM – Pataki slams the Clinton administration for being soft on Al Qaeda. That’s low.

9:48 PM – Pataki: They say what about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Well on 9-11, box cutters were weapons of mass destruction. Quick, call David Kay, did he find any box cutters in Iraq?

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# Posted 1:29 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIVE BLOGGING THE DARK MATCHES: As any professional wrestler can tell you, a night on the road begins with "dark matches", or brief contests among no-name contenders that take place before the television cameras come to life.

And political conventions are no different than wrestling shows. Before the main event, you have to watch the undercard. Even though there was no wireless access this week at Madison Square Garden (the home of pro-wrestling), I decided to type down my thoughts and post them later. Here goes:

8:40 PM – I just made it into the hall. At this time last night, the
green seats would mostly have been empty. Now they are almost full. I walked in with John, Tom and Roger, but we each had to find separate seats (although not too far from one another.)

Tommy Franks is giving his speech. He says he won’t trust terrorists to take care of his grandchildren. Neither would I. Presumably, John Kerry would.

“To take the fight to the terrorists is the best way to protect our country.” Presumably, John Kerry would wait for them to show
up in New York.

8:45 PM – Barbara Bush – the grandma, not the twin – is being interviewed. She says her favorite speakers were her grand-daughters. If I were Arnie or Rudy or Zell, I’d be pretty damn

Getting a little sarcastic, aren’t I? I just don’t think I can take any more of the groupthink. Jim Taranto summed it up pretty well:
At the Democratic convention, you could listen to the delegates argue with one another and write about that. Here, you have work hard to find the news.

8:49 PM – Baby footage of the twins. Awww.

8:51 PM – It’s Michael Williams, the former Texas railroad
commissioner. In other words, he used to be George Bush’s boss. Lots of noise in the hall from people walking around and having their own conversations. I can barely hear what Williams is saying.

8:58 PM – It’s a video about the First Lady!

8:59 PM – Well that was short.

9:01 PM – Musical interlude. Time to save some battery power on my laptop.

9:17 PM – It’s Mel Martínez! Thanks to the music, I had the chance to make a pit stop and pick up a hot dog. There aren’t that many events at which you can trust the person next to you to watch your laptop when you step outside.

9:18 PM – Mel reminds us that if he wins, he will be the first Cuban-American to serve in the United States Senate. Martínez talks
about the hopelessness of his childhood in Cuba. Lots of noise in the
hall. Perhaps if he talked about terrorism people would pay more

“…to re-elect President George W. Bush!” Big applause. Then back to the noise.

9:21 PM – Martínez says he believes in compassionate conservatism. It’s true: Democrats are afraid to describe themselves as liberals but Republicans are proud to be conservative.

9:22 PM – Martínez mentions that minority home ownership is at an
all-time high. If I only had a nickel for every time someone mentioned that statistic this past week. I wonder what the real story is.

That's it for the dark matches. Now get ready for prime time.

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

# Posted 7:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

GILLESPIE ON VIETNAM: The convention bloggers had the chance to interview the RNC chairman just over an hour ago. My mission was to break through the "We condemn all 527s" and get Mr. Gillespie to say something substantive about the Swift Vets' charges:

OxBlog: Mr. Gillespie, a question about the Swift Vets’ impact on the polls. Um, obviously until now the White House has been dodging the issue by saying that “We condemn all 527s”, but the issue is are the adds true or are they full of lies? If they’re true, will George Bush come out and say something supporting the Swift Vets, or if they’re lies will he join John McCain in condemning the content of the adds, not just the fact that they’re from 527s?

Gillespie: Well, let me just say, uh, uh, I’m going to restate the fact that we are opposed to these 527s. I filed a complaint with the Federal Elections commission back in March or April. $63 million has been
spent on attack against the President by 527s, using anything ranging from intentionally poisoning our children to trying to deny Hispanic Americans their constitutional right to vote to lying and to bandoning our troops in the field.

OxBlog: Can we get your personal opinion on the content of the Swift Vets’ two ads? Is there truth to what they’re saying, and if so, how much?

Gillespie: Well, I mean it’s obvious when you see Senator Kerry’s 1971 testimony there’s no denying that Senator Kerry spoke before the United States Senate and made very damning accusations against the soldiers in Vietnam.

Gillespie caught me there. I shouldn't have mentioned the second add.
Mentioning it gave him a good excuse to ignore the one that really matters, the
first. But I wasn't about to give up:

Ox: How many of the five medals did John Kerry deserve to win in Vietnam?

Ed: I assume that he served honorably and I’ve never questioned his
service and never will. I was just, by the way, 10 years old when John Kerry came back from Vietnam.

I didn’t, you know…these men have strong feelings obviously, and they are free to express their feelings and those who support Senator Kerry are free to express those feelings, using the political process. But I have no knowledge of it and I assume that he served honorably and we have consistently said that...

Ox: Have your research teams come to any conclusions about the
Swift Vets’ charges?

Ed: Our research teams have not researched Senator Kerry’s medals. Sen. Kerry himself said he’s proud of his leadership of Vietnam
Veterans Against the War and stands by the testimony he made before the United States Senate in 1971.

I think Gillespie got out of that last one on a technicality. Someone's research teams must be vetting the Swift Vets's allegations. Perhaps it was the White House instead the RNC. Perhaps it was a consultant. But I don't doubt for a second that Gillespie has an opinion on this issue which he is very carefully keeping to himself.

I may not have gotten anything out of Gillespie in the end, but the experience itself was an incredible adrenaline rush. I did get past the 527 line. Thinking on five seconds notice about how to rephrase my questions was a tough and exciting challenge.

It was more of a game than a discussion of politics. Gillespie had to evade my questions without evading them and misrepresent or hide his opinion without telling a lie.

In the end, I lost. I lost because I am a blogger and I lost because Gillespie is simply better. But if I got through the 527 line, you'd think that the professionals could do even better, since Gillespie can't dodge their questions forever.

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# Posted 5:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MILLER TIME: Bloggers' Row is abuzz with excitment about Zell Miller's laying of the proverbial smackdown on Hardball's Chris Matthews. Now, there's no question that Miller got in some good shots and that Matthews came off as a blowhard. (Surprise!)

On the other hand, Miller was about as reasonable as Yosemite Sam and Matthews was gallant enough to extend his hand in friendship at the end of the interview. (Transcript here, video here.)

More importantly, TAPPED is probably right that Miller's temper-tantrum was a reaction to his embarrassing interview on Crossfire. This exchange made Miller look especially bad:

[Jeff] GREENFIELD: Then why did you say in 2001 that he strengthened the military? You said that three years ago.

MILLER: Because that was the biographical sketch that they gave me.

It's good ot know Zell was just as careful with his words back then as he is today.
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# Posted 5:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ZEALOTS AND ZELLOTS: Matt Yglesias says Zell Miller is a racist and a facist. Hugh Hewitt says Matt has gone off the deep-end.

Harold Meyerson settles for calling Miller a McCarthyite. I pretty much agree with that.
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# Posted 5:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

UNSURPRISINGLY, THE GUARDIAN RUNS EVERY WORD OF THE FIRST TWINS' speech. (Okay, so they've run all the speeches from the RNC. But it was still funny.) (That is, unlike Jenna and Barbara.) For humor that doesn't bomb quite so badly, see WhiteHouse.org's parody.
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# Posted 3:43 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE MAKING OF A BLACK CONSERVATIVE: Princella Smith is a tall, athletic, intelligent and well-spoken young woman. As the winner of MTV's "Stand Up and Holla" essay contest, she earned the right to address the Republican convnention.

Yesterday, OxBlog had the chance to sit down with Ms. Smith and talk to her about faith, politics and the future of the GOP. Also joining in were John Hinderaker, Kevin Aylward and Scott Sala.

The foremost quesiton on my mind at the beginning of the interview was why a young, intelligent black women chose to identify herself so fully and openly with the Republican party.

I am not suggesting that all African-Americans should vote Democratic. But when 90% of African-Americans support the same party, it is not just reasonable but important to ask what distinguishes those few who resist the dominant trend and support the GOP. And Ms. Smith was well-prepared to answer our questions:

OxBlog: Do people ever say that it’s remarkable that you’re both an
African-American and a Republican-American?

Ms. Smith: Every single interview I’ve had I’ve had to answer that
question…I think that you’d be surprised at the number of closeted
African-American Republicans there are...

OxBlog: What do you think the GOP could do to get more than 10 or 15 percent of the black vote, because it seems that election after election it’s going to the Democrats overwhelmingly. There’s a case to be made, but what it is it?
Princella's answer focused on the importance of communicating the Republican message more effectively to the African-American base. [Background noise on the tape made her precise words inaudible.] She said that Democrats "[ha]ve done a much better job of explaining their issues" but that Black Republicans do have powerful spokesman such as J.C. Watts who is

A very clear, very precise, very good speaker. He can speak to
anybody. White, black ,Asian, Puerto Rican, anybody.
I have to admit that I was skeptical of Ms. Smith's answer. Embattled but passionate minorities (in the political sense of the word) almost always prefer to explain their lack of success in terms of poor communication instead of accepting that there are valid reasons why the majority might ignore their message.

Even the Reagan administration held poor communication responsible for the enduring unpopularity of its Central American policy initiatives, despite the fact that the Great Communicator himself constantly made the case for those initiatives before massive audiences.

Instead of focusing on racial politics, I thought a better way to discover the well-spring of Ms. Smith's conservatism would be to ask her what issues she cares about, not what the media wants to ask her about:

OxBlog: Now we’ve been asking you a lot of questions about being Black and republican...but what do you want to talk about? Do you want to tell us about Iraq, do you want to tell us about free trade and outsourcing? What issue do you care most about?

Ms. Smith: Education has really been the one...[My parents,] they worked for everything they got…They always said to me "Education, education, education.”


OxBlog: An issue related to education is drug use among young people and also pregnancy. I was wondering how you feel, I guess, about the general Republican line on those issues. Do we need to move away from a “Just say no” legal enforcement approach to those issues and focus more on treatment?

PS: No! We need to just say no to drugs…It’s black and white.
It’s right or wrong.
I was becoming concerned about Ms. Smith's inflexibility. She seemd to have an almost disciplinary approach to politics:

Ms. Smith: There is an epidemic of unwed mothers...[their children] don’t have any kind of male role model at all. They either become very effeminate or they break out...

OxBlog: That leads into the issue of birth control. Republicans tend
to focus more on abstinence. Would it make sense to talk about abstinence to those who are willing to hear the message and for everyone else who doesn’t want to abstain, have them learn more about sex and about birth control?

Ms. Smith: I believe that job is the family’s...We have the same
problems as we did [in the 60 and 70s]...the only difference is that we’ve become so lax in raising our children.
I had to be impressed with Ms. Smith's consistency and commitment to principle. Individuals are responsible for their own behavior. Families, not governments, are resonsible for individuals. Compromising one's principles accomplishes nothing more than lowering standards.

But if that is Ms. Smith's message -- if that is Republicans' message for African-Americans -- no wonder 90% of them vote Democratic. As Ms. Smith said, there is an epidemic of single motherhood. And of drug use. And of gang warfare. And of crime. And yet in the midst of all this suffering, she has nothing to say except "Take responsibility for yourselves."

I admit that the instilling an ethic of personal responsibility is the most important challenge facing the African-American community today. Yet we can do more than condemn those who have alreayd succumbed to drug abuse or single motherhood. The government can facilitate the process of communal regeneration.

There is more, however, to Ms. Smith's conservatism. Thanks to Scott Sala thoughtful questions, Ms. Smith began to talk about her faith. She is the daugher of a minister and a very committed Christian. She noted that

They call the wife of the minister the First Lady. She has done an
excellent job of being a helpmate to my father.
Ms. Smith explained that "helpmate" is a very specific biblical term intended to designate the role of a woman vis-a-vis her husband. As the son of rabbi, I am also familiar with the verse to which Ms. Smith referred. It is Genesis 2:20, which the King James Bible renders as

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.
The Hebrew word for help meet is shifhah. It often refers to females servants. Unsuprisingly, the use of this word to describe Eve has become the basis (not unfairly) for theological justifications of male dominance. [CORRECTION: The phrase used in Genesis 2:20 is ezer k'negdo, which might be translated as a "fitting helper". The phrase most often used to justify male dominance is Genesis 3:16 (not to be confused with Austin 3:16) in which God informs Eve of her punishment:
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy
conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Many thanks to Rabbi JH for pointing out my unfortuate mistake, which could have been avoided with a minimum of effort.]

As Ms. Smith explained,
I really believe that the male is the leader of the family.
She said that women are leaders as well, but not in the same way. And so it became increasingly clear how Ms. Smith is different from the overwhelming majority of African-Americans who vote Republican.

She subscribes to a powerful faith whose interpretation of gender roles bears little resemblance to the lived experience of black America. She subscribes to a faith whose fidelity to the Biblical word rules out all those compromises of principle that Democrats identify as a path to healing the divisions of the black community.

The issue here is not communication.
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# Posted 2:59 PM by Patrick Belton  

NOT ONLY DO THEY MAKE GOOD COMPUTERS, THEY ALSO SUPPORT DEMOCRACY: If you have iTunes, you can go to the music store and search for either the DNC or the RNC, and recordings from all of the speeches from both conventions are available there for free.
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# Posted 1:57 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAVE YOU GOOGLED YOURSELF LATELY? Rick Santorum has. OxBlog and the rest of the RNC crew had the chance to interview Sen. Santorum (R-PA) just a little while ago, so look forward to a transcript.

We also had a long talk with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and some us also spoke with George Allen, Republican of Virginia. My compliments to the GOP for going all out to give the blogosphere access to some of its leading figures -- and subjecting them to our rapid-fire interrogations.
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# Posted 5:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG ON CNN: The transcript is now up online from a debate I did on CNN in the run-up to the Democratic convention with the Kennedy School's Alex Jones. This was made considerably more difficult by the facts that he's a lovely guy, and that we didn't actually disagree on very much in the end. Alex and I appear toward the bottom of the transcript.
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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

# Posted 11:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ZELLING OUT: Sen. Miller is pathetic and dishonest. During the Cold War, the phrase 'red-baiting' described the actions of those who recklessly accused their fellow Americans of supporting the other side. Whereas Communism marched under a banner of red, violent Islamic fundamentalism marches under a banner of green. And what Zell Miller did I can only describe as green-baiting.

Miller told the Republican convention that

No one should dare to even think about being the Commander in Chief of this country if he doesn't believe with all his heart that our soldiers are liberators abroad and defenders of freedom at home.

But don't waste your breath telling that to the leaders of my party today. In their warped way of thinking America is the problem, not the solution.

They don't believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself through our clumsy and misguided foreign policy.

I often criticize the Democratic leadership for their lack of idealism and flagging commitment to promoting democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they do not question our soldiers. They don't believe that America is the problem. They recognize the existence of evil and are willing to fight it with all their heart. They simply differ on the matter of how.

Zell Miller has no more integrity than the Swift Vets.

And the delegates at the Republican convention demonstrated that their total lack of judgment by cheering (and jeering) so loudly for the most despicable of Miller's attacks. Miller said that

Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations.

Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide.

That is a simply a lie, but it brought down the house.

Finally, when it comes to hypocrisy, Miller once again demonstrated that he is second to none. Miller asked the Convention,
Where is the bipartisanship in this country when we need it most?

Today, at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief.
Pathetic. Simply pathetic. Such vindictiveness and dishonesty should never masquearade as bipartisanship. This is going to get ugly.
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# Posted 11:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHENEY IN COMMAND: There is only one word to describe Dick Cheney's performance tonight: presidential. I have little regard for the Vice-President, but must defer to a first-rate performance.

Cheney had the voice of a rock. Of all the prime-time speakers so far, only Cheney has come across as truly comfortable and confident. All of the others were performing and playing to the crowd. Cheney was delivering a message.

The Vice-President's bearing conveyed a profound understanding of the challenges facing a nation in peril. His voice neither rose in anger nor fell into condescension.

Cheney was solemn but not withdrawn. His bearing was the embodiment of mature resolve.

I want to emphasize that what I am describing in this post is not the man I believe Dick Cheney to be, but the man who he presented himself as. It was not the profoundity of his words but the silent strength of his bearing that was so powerful.

I have often described Dick Cheney as arrogant, reckless, and even amoral. But if tonight is any indicator of how he will present himself on the campaign trail, then he will be a perform an invaluable service for President Bush.

The President's greatest concern now may be that he cannot match his second-in-command when it comes to being presidential.
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# Posted 9:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BOOLA BOOLA! Our alma mater continues to distinguish itself.
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# Posted 9:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"DEMOCRACY" MISSING IN ACTION: Peter Beinart observes that both McCain and Giuliani may want to lower the American public's expectations of a democratic outcome in Iraq. Laura Bush was more optimistic, but still somewhat evasive. Only Governor Arnold was gung-ho about democracy promotion. But even he didn't connect it explicitly to Afghanistan and Iraq. So the question is, what are Cheney and Bush going to say?
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# Posted 8:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DO CONSERVATIVES TRUST THE SWIFT VETS? Two weeks ago, it seemed like the Weekly Standard was keeping its distance from the Swift Vets. If you read between the lines in the most recent issue of the Standard, I think you'll see that Kristol & Co. are still not willing to trust them.

Moreover, Byron York's cover story [no permalink] in the National Review's "special all-Kerry issue" comes dangerously close to writing the Swift Vets off as irresponsible and reckless.

The Standard opens up with an attack on Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley. Brinkley is a nice guy and a very good historian, but I think the Standard is right to describe his recent behavior as both partisan and inconsistent. Yet while attacking Brinkley, the Standard doesn't actually say that he's wrong to dismiss the Swift Vets' charges.

Next, Bill Kristol argues that if you just read Kerry's Senate testimony from 1971, you will know that the Senator from Massachusetts simply isn't fit to be President. But I'm not buying it.

Now, there's no question that the testimony is embarrassing. It perfectly embodies the "blameAmerica first" mentality that conservatives associate with post-Vietnam liberalism. But so what? Kerry said all that back in 1971. He has changed since then and so has Bush.

I am also disturbed by Bill Kristol apparent unwillingness to say anything about the substance of Kerry's accusations that were serious atrocities in Vietnam. Sean Hannity did the same thing in his interview with Tommy Franks; he said that Kerry betrayed his fellow soldiers by making the accusations -- full stop.

Next up is Fred Barnes' argument that Kerry should have known better than to run on his war record. He writes disingenuously that Kerry made a serious mistake by
elevating Vietnam and making it a front-page story by denouncing both the book and the ad as a "smear." But since Kerry labels almost all criticism of himself as a smear, this response had little effect. At this point, the Kerry campaign lost any chance of controlling the controversy and succeeded only at prolonging it.
Barnes' comments demonstrate that the Standard has a double standard. Kristol condemns Kerry's charges without addressing their substance while Barnes defends the Swift Vets' charges without addressing their substance. And yet Barnes still won't say straight out that the Swift Vets are right.

Neither will Jonathan Last. However, Last does an excellent job of demonstrating that the mainstream media's coverage of the Swift Vets has been highly irregular. First, they ignored the Vets. Then Kerry lashed out at them because the blogosphere and the talk shows kept the story alive. As soon as Kerry spoke out, the media starting attack the Swift Vets left and right.

But perhaps Last should be defending the media instead of criticizing them. If the Swift Vets' charges had no substance, they should've been ignored. If the story refused to die, perhaps the media was right to go on the offensive, even it often went too far.

The one accusation Last does endorse is the Cambodia charge. There is simply no way Kerry was there on Christmas Eve 1968. Perhaps that is why network journalists like Tim Russert have taken the Cambodia issue quite seriously.

NRO's Byron York also leads off his article on the Swift Vets with Cambodia. Bottom line: Kerry wasn't there on Christmas, or perhaps ever. York also suggests that Kerry didn't deserve his first Purple Heart, although York relies very heavily on the unsubstantiated testimony of Swift Vet Louis Letson.

On the Bronze Star, York cites the eyewitness testimony of a number of Swift Vets but still comes off as somewhat agnostic. But when it comes to the Silver Star, York exposes just how dishonest the Swift Vets' charges are. Their talk of Kerry killing a boy in a loincloth to get his medal is disgusting.

Last week, York tentatively suggested that the Swift Vets were beginning to cut in to Kerry's poll numbers. Liberals are making the same point in order to show that GOP lies are what's sinking their candidate, not his own inconsistency.

I disagree with both. My gut says that Cambodia is not enough to hurt Kerry and that running on his war record is still the best way to go.

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# Posted 5:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

IN IRAN: Atefeh Rajabi, 16, hung for having sexual relations with an unmarried man. Ms Rajabi was an orphan, and is the tenth minor executed in the country since 1990. A man arrested at the same time as her was released after receiving 100 lashes.
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# Posted 4:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY: Josh Benson says that Schwarzenegger was
Charged with saluting a political ideology he doesn't share, praising a president he rarely campaigns with, and, most problematically, embracing a party his home state has abandoned, Schwarzenegger went with what we might call the "middle school civics class approach": He lauded American freedom. He celebrated our hospitality to immigrants. He expressed approval that we are not socialists. It was, in the end, a gauzy paean to American triumphalism--ready-made for delivery for most, if not all, political conventions congregating this summer.
As OxBlog said, the speech was shopworn and predictable. However, all of Arnold's talk about free enterprise made me ask, "Did Kerry or Edwards say anything good about free markets in their speeches?" Well, sort of. Kerry said:

Here at home, wages are falling, health care costs are rising, and our
great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they're working two jobs, three jobs, and they're still not getting ahead.

We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're told that
new jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do. They say this is the best economy we've ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better.

Again and again, Kerry emphasizes the plight of the worker and the dangers of the marketplace, not the ingenuity of the entrepreneur and the opportunities inherent in a free market.

I don't think Kerry's emphasis is wrong. My natural sympathies lie with those whom the market has left behind. But is it any wonder that all those millions of Americans who are enchanted by the free markets and unprecendented opportunities vote Republican?

What does it mean in America today when Dave McCune, a steel worker I met in Canton, Ohio, saw his job sent overseas and the equipment in his factory literally unbolted, crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away along with that job? What does it mean when workers I've met had to train their foreign replacements?

America can do better. So tonight we say: help is on the way...

What does it mean when Deborah Kromins from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania works and saves all her life only to find out that her pension has disappeared into thin air – and the executive who looted it has bailed out on a golden parachute?

America can do better. And help is on the way...

What does it mean when people are huddled in blankets in the cold,
sleeping in Lafayette Park on the doorstep of the White House itself – and the number of families living in poverty has risen by three million in the last four years?

America can do better. And help is on the way...

Again and again, Kerry reinforces the image of the Democratic Party as the party of the victim. Is it any wonder that the optimism of the average American benefits the GOP? Even Kerry's insistence that "help is on the way" suggests that Americans ought to wait for help (from the government?) rather then depend on their own hard-work and ingenuity.

We value jobs that pay you more not less than you earned before. We
value jobs where, when you put in a week's work, you can actually pay your bills, provide for your children, and lift up the quality of your life. We value an America where the middle class is not being squeezed, but doing better...

So much promise stretches before us. Americans have always reached for the impossible, looked to the next horizon, and asked: What if?

Two young bicycle mechanics from Dayton asked what if this airplane could take off at Kitty Hawk? It did that and changed the world forever. A young president asked what if we could go to the moon in ten years? And now we're exploring the solar system and the stars themselves. 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? We did and that too changed the world forever.

Finally, a reference to entrepreneurs. It is interesting, though, that this lone reference is embedded within Kerry's paean to science. I think the optimism of the Democratic parties has always been more technological than that of the Republicans. What brings progress is science, not businessmen competing in the marketplace.

Now here's Edwards:
I grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina. My father worked in a mill all his life, and I will never forget the men and women who worked with him. They had lint in their hair and grease on their faces. They worked hard and tried to put a little something away every week so their kids and their grandkids could have a better life. They are just like the auto workers, office workers, teachers, and shop keepers on Main Streets all across America...

I have spent my life fighting for the kind of people I grew up with.
For two decades, I stood with families and children against big HMOs and big insurance companies. And as a Senator, I fought those same fights against the Washington lobbyists and for causes like the Patients’ Bill of Rights...
Edwards derives his authenticity from the fact that his father was a mill worker. Instead of talking about his own success as a legal entrepreneur, he describes his career as one of representing victims in the struggle against the corporations that have harmed them.

We can create good paying jobs in America again. Our plan will stop
giving tax breaks to companies that outsource your jobs. Instead, we will give tax breaks to American companies that keep jobs here in America. And we will invest in the jobs of the future—in the technologies and innovation to ensure that America stays ahead of the competition...

Tonight, as we celebrate in this hall, somewhere in America, a mother sits at the kitchen table. She can’t sleep. She’s worried because she
can’t pay her bills. She’s working hard to pay the rent and feed her
kids. She’s doing everything right, but she still can’t get ahead.

It didn’t use to be that way in her house. Her husband was called up in the Guard and he’s been serving in Iraq for more than a year. She thought he’d be home last month, but now he’s got to stay longer.

She thinks she’s alone. But tonight in this hall and in your homes—you know what? She’s got a lot of friends. We want her to know that
we hear her. And it’s time to bring opportunity and an equal chance to her door.

We’re here to make America stronger at home so she can get ahead. And we’re here to make America respected in the world so that we can bring him home and American soldiers don’t have to fight the war in Iraq and the war on terror alone.

So when you return home, you might pass a mother on her way to work the late-shift—you tell her……hope is on the way.

When your brother calls and says that he’s working all the time at the
office and still can’t get ahead—you tell him……hope is on the way.
The similarity of Kerry and Edwards' speeches is remarkable. Once again, the main rhetorical devices is the description of numerous individuals personal suffering. Moreover, Edwards emphasizes that American can't get ahead inspite of their hard work and presumable ingenuity. Then, towards the close of his speech, Edwards says that
We are Americans and we choose to be inspired. We choose hope over despair; possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism.
Edwards, like Kerry insists that he is the true optimist and that the Democratic party is the true party of optimism. Yes, but of a certain kind. It the optimism that comes from believing that a compassionate government can help this nation's many victims. It is not the optimism that comes from believing that the people themselves have the answers.

Again, I don't mean that as criticism. I do believe that even the fairest marketplace has its victims. I believe that government has an ethical obligation to help and that Republican administration's often don't. But if the Democrats can only talk about markets as places of fear, is it any surprise that so many Americans are drawn to the GOP?
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# Posted 3:22 PM by Patrick Belton  

HOW ABOUT ANOTHER SPY SCANDAL: Curious about the identities of clandestine operatives working for the intelligence services of Nato member states? Well, no need to be any longer - you can read all about them on the Nato website! The alliance which won the Cold War took from 9 July until 28 August to remove from its website a convenient English language translation of a Croatian news report naming four of MI6's clandestine officers in Bosnia...and their wives...and their girlfriends....

Thus OxBlog's correspondent Tom McNiff:
In fact, this was a rather humorous tale at least as reported in the European press...

First a Belgrade paper, Nedeljni Telegraf, names the purported MI6 [station] chief in Serbia. As if that were not enough, a tiny Zagreb magazine called Nacional, said by the British press to circulate just 35,000 copies, last July ran the names of not only four alleged MI6 officials in Bosnia and Herzogenovia, but also the wife and girlfriend of two of the officers. [According to a subsequent email, Nacional's editor Ivo Pukanic maintains broad contacts in the Croatian and international intelligence community in Croatia, as well as with former irregular Croat operatives; his newspaper has the reputation in the Balkans of frequently being used for strategic leaks by one side or another.]

One of the British spies allegedly worked in the office of [...] a high-ranking international official in Bosnia. Another Brit was said MI6 chief of information in Bosnia, yet another chief British intelligence officer for Bosnia and Herzogenovia.

The Daily Telegraph in London quoted one former Defence Ministry official as terming the episode a "cock-up". Perhaps worse than the Balkans media reports of likely MI6 personnel was NATO's treatment of the whole scenario.

A NATO website carried an English language translation of the Croatian news report, including the four spies' names. The Telegraph said NATO officials took a relaxed view, leaving the article on the website from July 9 until Aug. 28, when the Telegraph contacted NATO about the information.

NATO officials were "embarrassed" and quickly removed the MI6 story, whose appearance on the easily accessible NATO site sparked "intense anger in Britain", the Telegraph said.

Meanwhile... the Guardian, reported Aug. 27 that the Croatian government had allowed MI6 officers to wiretap and spy on Croat citizens. The paper hinted that the arrangement was due to Britain's recent opposition to Croatia's joining the European Community.

British sources said the "outing" of the MI6 officials was done by maverick intelligence officials in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. One aspect of the case relates to Gen. Ante Gotovina, a Croatian commander sought as a war crimes suspect.

All in all, MI6 has not fared well this summer in the old fashioned espionage game.
As a former DCI I'm acquainted with once mused in desperation, 'Can't anyone here play this game?'
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# Posted 2:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SALON'S CHEAPSHOT AT OXBLOG: This column just barely dignifies a response. Author Marc Follman cherry-picks a number of humorous posts from the RNC blogging corps and concludes we have no substance.

Turning his sights on OxBlog, Follman mocks my brief post on my still-briefer run-in with Miss America. Then he mocks the humorous opening to my post about Ari Fleischer without noting any of the substance that follows.

Nor Follman refer to any of my other posts, which I think are fairly substantial. But I'd prefer if you judge that for yourself.
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# Posted 1:17 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CAWFEE TAWK WITH LAWRA: Fortunately for the First Lady, the Bush Twins are not a hard act to follow. In fact, I think that even the Olsen Twins would've said something a lot more substantial. (After all, they are successful businesswomen who might be able to teach Ahnuld a thing or two about free enterprise.)

Anyhow, I had high hopes for the First Lady, especially after she promised that

Tonight, I want to try to answer the question that I believe many people would ask me if we sat down for a cup of coffee or ran into each other at the store: You know him better than anyone, you've seen things no one else has seen, why do you think we should re-elect your husband as President?

That's a damn good question because I want to know who George W. Bush really is. When he gives a prepared speech, you feel that you are listening to his speechwriters. When he does a Q&A with the press, you wonder what he really wants to stay instead of gently stumbling through his talking points.

Who is this man, George W. Bush? He demonstrates an almost fanatical commitment to a few select policies, such as tax cuts and the war in Iraq. But I still don't know what George Bush believes. He talks about his faith, but it doesn't seem to have much impact on his policies.

What is it like to be in the Situation Room with George Bush during a crisis? Do Cheney and Rumsfeld do all the talking? When he's off the record, does the President really let go and say what he feels? Or is he like Reagan, who never let anyone know what he was feeling, except perhaps Nancy?

When Ari Fleischer says that George Bush is a warm and caring individual, what does that really mean? Never trust what a subordinate says about the intimate character of a President running for re-election.

But I have faith in Laura. I have always thought of her as a woman reluctant to live in the spotlight, a woman who believed that marrying a good man, raising good children and being a good teacher is more than enough to make you happy. (I agree.)

Sadly, Laura failed to deliver. She gave a policy speech. She spoke competently but without much passion. She maintained her composure yet still seemed profoundly uncomfortable and out of place. She spoke as it it were her obligation, not her inspiration.

In the end, Laura only deepened the mystery of who her husband truly is.

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# Posted 5:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

FOR ALL THOSE WHO, LIKE US, have a heartbreaking love for Russia and her people while hating her authoritarian governments, today's events are particularly sad. Our thoughts are with the families of the two hundred schoolchildren held hostage in North Ossetia, along with the family members of the passengers on the two airplanes destroyed last week by Chechnyan terrorists - illiberal seccessionists fighting an illiberal Russian government. One weeps that Russia's people, heritors of one of Europe's most noble cultures, must be caught in the middle.
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# Posted 5:05 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG'S GOOD FRIEND ZAINAB AL-SUWAI addressed the Republican Convention yesterday during prime-time. Congratulations, Zainab! Her speech is here, and her organisation, the American Islamic Congress, has its website here. It began when her husband, Ahmed Al-Rahim, was studying at Yale, and deserves great support for its efforts to promote religious understanding at home while serving as an international focal point for a moderate and intellectually dynamic American vision of Islam.
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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

# Posted 11:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ON THE FLOOR WITH LAURA & ARNOLD: Along with Tom Bevan from RealClearPolitics, I had the opportunity to stand right behind the Kansas delegation, right on the convention floor during Arnold and Laura's speeches.

My first reaction is that both speeches fell somewhat flat. Arnold told the story of a young Austrian who came to America with nothing in his pockets but hope in his heart. He established a decent rapport with the crowd, but there was no real emotion in the story so it came off as shopworn and predictable.

Strangely, Arnold identified Richard Nixon as the man who inspired him to become a Republican, then left Nixon of off his list of great Republican presidents.

In the second half of his speech, Arnold talked about the importance of having faith in the American economy and not listening to the nay-saying "economic girlie-men." He got some compulsory laughs but not much more.

And what exactly does it mean that you should have faith in the economy? That you should ignore the statistics and the government's policies? That you should assume things will get better even if they aren't so great right now? That's hardly a ringing endorsement of the President.

After Arnold spoke, Jenna & Barbara came out to introduce their mother. They started out with bad jokes and stuck with their bad jokes all the way to the bitter end. Next to me, Tom was cringing and muttering under his breath.

It's not just that their jokes were inappropriate. Yes, it's embarrassing when the daughters of the family-values president remind their grandparents that Sex and the City is a television show and not just something your not supposed to talk about.

The bigger problem was that the twins came across as childish and totally lacking in substance. That is not what George Bush needs to help him overcame his reputation for being a lightweight.

These girls -- women, perhaps -- are graduates of some of America's best universities. Can't they talk about politics or ideas? Or at least talk about their father as a human being? Instead, they came across as self-involved, self-indulgent sorority girls.

Well, the clock is ticking and the bar is open so I'll share my thoughts about Laura a little bit later. Cheers!
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# Posted 9:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOT A FLIP-FLOP, JUST A NUANCE: Michelle Malkin puts Bush's comments in context (full transcript here) and says it shows that he never contradicted himself. Ramesh Ponnuru agrees and says that Bush was clearly saying that the war on terror couldn't be won in the next four years.

I strongly disagree. When Bush denied saying that victory in four years was possible, Lauer responded as follows:
“So I’m just saying can we win it? Do you see that?”
In response to that question, Bush said
“I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world –- let's put it that way."
It's hard to disagree with that statement -- unless you're a President who has constantly promised nothing but victory.
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# Posted 5:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

Question, from an old television show from yesteryear - "Will the REAL Republican party stand up!"

(Yes, Sam Donaldson typed that himself while sitting in front of my laptop and on my chair.)
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# Posted 5:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"CONSISTENCY, PERSISTENCY, CHARACTER...GEORGE W. BUSH": That's what Tommy Franks just wrote on Scott's laptop. It is the unofficial debut of his endorsement for the President. The official announcement will follow on Sean Hannity's radio show.

[UPDATE: Hannity just finished talking to the General. I haven't seen that many softballs since I went to summer camp as a kid.]

Here's a transcript of Gen. Franks Q&A with the RNC bloggers:

OxBlog: I have a question General Franks. First of all, it's an honor
to meet you. Second of all, with regard to consistency, do you think George Bush hurt himself a lot with his comments on Matt Lauer that maybe we can't win the war on terror?

Franks: Certainly not. We won the Cold War, didn't we? [Pause] And we didn't do it in 15 minutes.

OxBlog: Did Ronald Reagan show that kind of doubt in his efforts to win the Cold War?

Franks: Well I don't know that there was any doubt showing at all. I
think that we're talking about consistency and persistency and anyone who looks at the President over the last three and a half years is gonna have a heckuva hard time finding out [inaudible] when he was not consistent or persistent.

You know you get a lot of people who look at the other side, see, and they say "My goodness, you know he shouldn't've of been so consistent, actually, he should've changed his mind."


Scott: [Bush] did clarify himself on Rush Limbaugh.

Franks: I didn't see that. I didn't hear it.

Scott: He did clarify the Matt Lauer statement.

Franks: What'd he say?

Scott: He said he'd misstated it and he clarified his point that it is a
winnable war, it's not a traditional war in the sense that [inaudible].

Franks: And I think it's one of those kind of things where you had to look real hard to find a parade after the Cold War. You know when the wall came down, the greatest stand-off of our time, nuclear stand-off, crisis that went on for decades, and I believe if you'd asked any President during that time, "So what do you think, is it winnable?" You know, he might well have said, "I don't know". [Inaudible] The fact of the matter is that the war on terror is winnable, but you know it's not winnable in 15 minutes. Or in 12 months, you know this is going to go for a while.

To be continued...
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# Posted 4:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A staffer from the Indian embassy remarked to an elderly Jewish woman in attendance "I saw Fiddler on the Roof last month so now I understand Jewish culture." "Well," the woman responded, "my husband and I just love Indian food" as a reply.
(Via Tapped)
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# Posted 4:42 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT EXACTLY WAS THAT PROTEST ABOUT? Matt Yglesias unintentionally (or not?) punctures the NYT's sanitized anti-Bush narrative by writing that,
At root the issue is that large contemporary protests have become these carnival-like escapades. It is accepted -- and, indeed, encouraged -- for as many people as possible to show up, whether or not they agree with the United For Peace and Justice platform, know what the UFPJ platform is, or even know what UFPJ is. As a result, it's hard to know what protest attendance signifies. When thousands of people showed up for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington we understood that to mean that all those people were supporters of
the Civil Rights Act demanding congressional action. At the UFPJ event, by contrast, you had people with all manner of views on Iraq policy a lot of people whose problems with the Bush administration really have nothing to do with foreign affairs, and my favorite fringe group of all time, the Spartacist Youth League complaining that the US needs to stop interfering with North Korea's right to a nuclear bomb. Most of the people there seemed to be impassioned Kerry
supporters, but the best-organized elements were Nader's people. Obviously the message of a pro-Kerry anti-Bush protestor and that of a pro-Nader anti-Bush protestor are bound to be rather different.

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# Posted 4:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TRAGEDY IN ISRAEL: Hamas has claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Be'ersheba. We see once again that Israel's enemies cannot speak out with words and ideas, but only with hate and terror.
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# Posted 3:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY: Roger Simon lashes out at the GOP for its hypocrisy on gay marriage. He's a born-and-raised Democrat who still can't get comfortable with the domestic politics of the one party he believes can win the war on terror. And he doesn't like feeling that the bloggers at this convention have been set up to serve as GOP flaks.

UPDATE: On a related note, I've been meaning to post about the Family Research Council's fortune cookies, which say offensive things like "Real Men Marry Women."

That's just disgusting. What does the FRC have to say about all of the gay soldiers in our armed forces, risking their lives for the United States of America? Are those men (and women) not "real enough"?

Full disclosure: I ate two of the FRC fortune cookies at the NRO cocktail party yesterday. Yes, OxBlog is a hypocrite. A very hungry hypocrite.
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# Posted 3:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH FLIP-FLOPS (AND FLIPS) AT THE WORST POSSIBLE MOMENT: And the NYT is eating him alive. In contrast to the Times' front page splash, the WaPo is running a page six story that begins

President Bush said in an interview broadcast Monday that the war on terrorism cannot be won in the traditional sense of victory.

But the WaPo seems to have recognized that it was underplaying and underspinning the story. Right now, it has a headline story up on its website that begins:
President Bush rushed Tuesday morning to reverse his assertion that the war on terror cannot be won, trying to deflect a planned barrage of Democratic attacks by telling the nation's largest veterans group that "we are winning, and we will win."
Tellingly, Mike Allen is the author of both WaPo articles. In an effort to emulate Bush and Kerry, he's flip-flopping too!

So, is there real substance to Bush's conflicting states about our chances of "winning" the war on terror? At a human level, it is entirely understandable for a confident and decisive leader (any leader, not specifically George Bush) to have moments of doubt. In fact, most of us want to know that our leaders are able to question their optimistic premises.

Moreover, Bush's flip-flop on the war doesn't have much detail to it. It's not like Kerry's support and opposition for a specific war or his claim to voted for a specific measure before voting against it.

But in the midst of hard-fought and divise campaign, Bush's comments represent a colossal failure. If Giuliani is going to bash Kerry's indecisiveness while praising Bush's decisive leadership, then George Bush needs to act the part.

Going further, Bush's comments make him look like a buffoon who is being handled by his subordinates. They feed into stereotypes of him as too stupid to be our chief-executive.

Now let me just state that I don't agree with any of these descriptions of Bush. But simply speaking from a strategic perspective, Republicans need to recognize how damaging such incidents are.
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# Posted 3:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THREE CHEERS FOR THE NO-NEWS CONVENTION: Drawing on his extensive knowledge of US political history, Joshua Spivak argues that conventions should be irrelevant because they take power away from the voters.
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# Posted 2:53 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

McCAIN SELLS OUT: Jon Chait is pissed off. I'm just surprised to hear McCain seriously wants to run in 2008. John from Power Line agrees. [No link -- he's standing right next to me!]

UPDATE: In his review of McCain's speech, John writes that "I don't think I'm the only Republican partisan who doesn't quite trust McCain. Not as a soldier or as a man, but as a Republican."

Earlier, John wrote that
The list of Republican convention speakers for tonight and tomorrow is dominated by moderate and liberal Republicans. Although I'm eager to hear John McCain, I'm not thrilled with the moderate tenor of the proceedings because I'm a conservative. The MSM isn't thrilled either, but its leading lights offer a different reason -- they contend that the Republicans are concealing the true, conservative face of the party.

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# Posted 2:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE EXPERT AGREES: Political science icon and fellow UVA scholar Larry Sabato agrees that media coverage of Sunday's protests was sanitized. Also, click here for a CBS interview with a woman whose son was killed fighting in Iraq. I interviewed the same woman and will try to put up a transcript later on.
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# Posted 2:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

A PERSONAL NOTE: Happy anniversary, dear; I love you.
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# Posted 2:29 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG ON THE ROAD: I had a lovely time doing an interview last week with the Yale Free Press's delightful Diana Feygin, and am tickled pink that she called. The results are online, and touch mostly on blogging, journalism, and centrist politics.
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Monday, August 30, 2004

# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

JOHN McCAIN AND THE "DISINGENUOUS FILMMAKER": What does it say about George Bush and the GOP that the biggest applause John McCain got was for taunting Michael Moore?

What it might say is that John McCain simply isn't a very good speaker. And it actually works to McCain's advantage. The audience loves him so much that it is desperate for him to succeed. It senses him struggling, unable to build momentum for his applause lines, unable to establish any sort of rhythm.

McCain's strength isn't his eloquence, but his persona. He isn't exciting. He invokes bipartisanship time and again. He praises the Democrats' sincerity in fighting the War on Terror. But the audience wants red meat. They want Michael Moore.

And Rudy Giuliani is giving it to them.
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# Posted 10:00 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG RADIO: I was on Hugh Hewitt's show earlier tonight. If I find a sound file or transcript, I'll put it up. If I can't, I'll put up a summary.

UPDATE: You can always listen to Hugh's most recent show on the KRLA website. DH informs me that the show plays in a loop, so it's hard to locate specific interviews.
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# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ARI FLEISCHER'S GUIDE TO RED-HOT G.O.P. LOVE: Washington icon Ari Fleischer gave Bloggers' Row ten minutes of his time this afternoon. Blogs for Bush has the audio. I recommend listening to whole thing, but since I'm such a nice guy I'll describe some of the highlights.

Fleischer began by talking about the website his brother started up while serving in Baghdad. It taught him the power of internet communication.

After Fleischer finishes talking, you'll hear some mumbling followed by a whole lot of laughter. That was when OxBlog asked, "How do you score hot Jewish chicks on J-date? I'm still single and Jewish."

Fleischer's answer: Don't touch my daughter.

Next, John from Power Line asked if Fleischer misses being in the spotlight. Answer: At big moments like this, yes he does. But it's also a relief to put that kind of high-pressure work behind him.

Captain Ed's question for Ari F. was what he thinks of how the media's has covered Kerry's war record compared to its investigating of the Bush-AWOL story. Fleischer's response was actually quite positive. The press loves controversy and on this kind of issue, a Republican in trouble is a much bigger story. But the press was also very, very tough on Clinton.

Skipping forward a bit, John asked what President Bush is like to work for. Ari said that he is one of the most uplifting and warm people he's ever met. He treats his staff incredibly well and has a great sense of humor.

Now it was time for OxBlog to play hardball with our esteemed guest. [I'll put up an exact transcript of the exchange as soon as I get a chance. Capt. Ed is working on one right now.]

I asked Fleischer to give some advice to Scott McClellan about the Swift Vets. There are three options:

1) Actually say something good about them, which the administration obviously doesn't want to do.
2) Stay with the status quo and dodge the question by
condemning all 527s.
3) Agree with John McCain and condemn the ads.
Fleischer said he thinks McClellan is doing exactly the right thing. When he says the President condemns all 527s he means all 527s.

Fleischer had me there for a moment and I stumbled, but I decided I had to follow up. I told him there was a difference between 527 ads and 527 ads that lie. His response was that Democrats have sent a lot of below-the-belt shots in Bush's direction and there wasn't much outrage.

There were a few more questions after that. Bobby wanted to know how 527s have changed campaign strategy. Tom from RealClear wanted to know what Fleischer's fondest memory was of working at the White House. Kevin asked what he thought of Michael Moore's take on the Florida recount. And then Ben really decided to play hardball: He asked whether the Yankees have enough pitching to win this year's World Series.

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# Posted 9:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! Miss America Erika Harold is visiting Bloggers Row!

UPDATE: The extremely lucky Matt Margolis of Blogs for Bush has put up a picture of himself with Miss Harold.
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# Posted 8:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG STOLEN! As bloggers, we're used to making our (non-profit) living off of other journalists' hard work. But now, other sites are turning our hard work into cold hard cash.

The sites I'm talking about are the aggregators for the RNC Convention which post links to each and every post put up by the 15 official convention bloggers. I put up links to a few of the aggregators a short while ago, but didn't really "get" what they were doing.

Basically, they realize that it's a helluva lot easier to get all your links in one place rather than having to check 15 different blogs. And then they sell ads that will be seen by everyone who wants to check one site instead of fifteen.

As they say, all's fair in love and blog. I'm using an aggregator myself to keep up with all of my colleagues' work. The one I'm using is RNC Bloggers, created by Wizbang's own Kevin Aylward. Because he said 'thank you' to all of us by covering half of the tab at last night's all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ dinner.
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# Posted 8:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

EVEN MORE DOWD! Matthew, not Maureen. In case my post about him wasn't enough, Brian at CWR has a very comprehensive account.
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# Posted 3:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

MORE PROTEST FUN: A Prospect correspondent writes in TNR that the police got a little too aggressive in midtown yesterday. The article contains this memorable passage:
The day's most noteworthy street theater wasn't even the creation of leftists; it was the brainchild of a conservative group calling themselves Communists for Kerry (which TNR Online wrote about here on Friday). Dressed as Lenin, Castro, and Che Guevara, and
speaking in appropriate Russian and Spanish accents, they marched up Seventh Avenue waving red flags and calling for revolution. (The fact that their display was satire wasn't immediately obvious to some of their fellow marchers.)
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# Posted 3:10 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOG IT YOURSELF: Via e-mail, JM gently upbraids OxBlog for criticizing the NYT and WaPo coverage of the protests before the papers even went to print. Shouldn't I expect fuller coverage in the morning's paper rather than criticizing the first articles up on the web?

Well, by the time I read JM's e-mail I'd already what the NYT has to offer. It's even more slanted in the protesters' favor than the initial coverage. You can read about it here, here and here. I won't go into the details, but you can just follow the links and decide for yourself whether there is an inordinate emphasis on mainstream protesters and whether there is any attention paid to the organizers and their far-left politics.

On the bright side, the NYT has gotten rid of its excessive emphasis on disruptions and arrests.

The WaPo wasn't as enthusiastic about the protests. Instead of a four-column banner headline like the Times, the Post gave them a big photo and the second story. The Post's headline is "200,000 in N.Y. Protest Bush". I'm more inclined to believe the Post than the NYT, which projected the turn out at 500,000 on the basis of the organizers' tally and that of anonymous NYPD officials.

As for the content, the Post also does a pretty good job of sanitizing the protesters. It even attacks them from the left by focusing on the fact that 90% of the protesters were white and apparently middle-class (about which more later). But as they say, bloggers can't be choosers.
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