Saturday, July 31, 2004

# Posted 10:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG IN THE NEW YORK TIMES : The NYT's Alex Williams is kind enough to mention us in his coverage of the coverage. Also, we can now market ourselves as 'astringent spin, as seen in the New York Times!'
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."
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Friday, July 30, 2004

# Posted 8:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

TAGORDA ON TAP: I've been very busy today while getting ready to move out of my apartment tomorrow. But Rob Tagorda has found time to write about what John Kerry said last night, especially his pandering to the protectionist lobby. Rob also takes a look at John Edwards' effort to finesse the democracy vs. stability divide on the subject of Iraq. On the frivolity side of the P&F equation, Rob tells us about what a "French Lick" means to him. As for me, I'm off to see Mr. Tagorda in person for dinner, an opportunity I won't have again for some time since he just moved into town this week while I am leaving Cambridge, MA behind.
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# Posted 2:38 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACCOUNTABILITY: Amidst all the hullabaloo surrounding the Convention, I forgot to do my weekly accountability post. Here goes: One year ago this week, I had just arrived home from England and was deliriously happy about it. Meanwhile, Josh was posting an extended series on erotica, which built on his previous interest in Tatu.

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:

Here you see 15 munitions bunkers in yellow and red outlines. The four that are in red squares represent active chemical munitions bunkers.

How do I know that? How can I say that? Let me give you a closer look. Look at the image on the left. On the left is a close-up of one of the four chemical bunkers. The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions. The arrow at the top that says "security" points to a facility that is a signature item for this kind of bunker. Inside that facility are special guards and special equipment to monitor any leakage that might come out of the bunker. The truck you also see is a signature item. It's a decontamination vehicle in case something goes wrong. This is characteristic of those four bunkers. The special security facility and the decontamination vehicle will be in the area, if not at any one of them or one of the other, it is moving around those four and it moves as needed to move as people are working in the different bunkers.

Now look at the picture on the right. You are now looking at two of those sanitized bunkers. The signature vehicles are gone, the tents are gone. It's been cleaned up. And it was done on the 22nd of December as the UN inspection team is arriving, and you can see the inspection vehicles arriving in the lower portion of the picture on the right.

The bunkers are clean when the inspectors get there. They found nothing.

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.

Here we see cargo vehicles are again at this transshipment point, and we can see that they are accompanied by a decontamination vehicle associated with biological or chemical weapons activity. What makes this picture significant is that we have a human source who has corroborated that movement of chemical weapons occurred at this site at that time. So it's not just the photo and it's not an individual seeing the photo. It's the photo and then the knowledge of an individual being brought together to make the case. [Emphasis added. -ed.]
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.
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Thursday, July 29, 2004

# Posted 10:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE SPEECH (a live blog): Cleland introduces. Kerry makes his first appearance at the convention. Something bluish descends from the sky - perhaps a blue state. A staffer first comes out hesitantly, with water and a speech, and to place papers on the central podium, which hasn’t been used yet. Enter Kerry stage left. Touches heart. Hugs Cleland. Shakes hand of first of former shipmates, hugs rest. Fist in air. 10:08. Goes stage right, waves. Shrugging gesture that he does several times. Odd. Wags finger. Makes namaste gesture –influential Indian vote in some swing states, no doubt. Extraordinary cheering. Left teleprompter gets so excited it’s shaking – he has to steady it. Another shrug, another namaste – must have spotted a French cousin and an Indian in different corners. 10:10. Still another shrug.

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.

To all who serve in our armed forces today, I say, help is on the way.

As President, I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower.

In these dangerous days there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power and I know the power of our ideals.

We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared.

We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation - to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world out of the most dangerous hands in the world.

We need a strong military and we need to lead strong alliances. And then, with confidence and determination, we will be able to tell the terrorists: You will lose and we will win. The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.

And the front lines of this battle are not just far away - they're right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city. Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9-11 Commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans, and the 9-11 families. As President, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn't be letting ninety-five percent of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn't be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America.

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.
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# 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?'
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# Posted 9:35 PM by Patrick Belton  

PEOPLE GETTING CHUCKED OUT OF THE FLEET CENTER BY THE THOUSANDS: New but esteemed OxFriend Adele Stan just rang up to tell us that the fire marshall has chucked roughly a thousand people out of the Fleet Center - including media with the bad luck to be seeking out a bathroom, who were separated from their equipment, and people with floor passes, VIPs, and so forth. Adele's stuck outside at the moment, with her computer on the inside. On the other hand, hey, it's as great an excuse as they come for not doing any blogging.

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.
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# Posted 9:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

DEMOCRAT SONGSHEET: 'Trying, trying, trying to make a difference': This, a new all-but-assured hit about a senator who 'works for humanmankind both night and day'. The refrain: 'Oh, the real deal keeps on flyin,' John Kerry keeps on tryin', tryin', to make a difference.' The verses are, well, they're unprintable. Funny, I'd thought this was the party that had all the entertainers and musicians in it.
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# Posted 8:44 PM by Patrick Belton  

GOVERNMENT HEALTH WARNING FOR REP. PELOSI'S SPEECH: Parents, don't let your children grow up to have too many facelifts. If so, they'll run a risk of ending up with a perpetually surprised expression and an odd voice usually found in Disney films, and will have to seek refuge in odd coastal enclaves where the natives are surprisingly tolerant of such things.
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# Posted 8:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

LIEBERSPEECH: Clark raised the roof, but for one of his three supporters at the London caucus, Lieberman raised our hearts. First, the obvious criticisms of Senator Lieberman. Namely, he's short and has a comparatively large head. He's also humble. These have proven unpardonable sins in presidential politics, even for someone who keeps kosher in the Senate dining room.

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.
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# Posted 8:09 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE SPEECH OF A FUTURE SECRETARY OF STATE?: Senator Biden opens with Yeats's 'A terrible beauty', a merciful reprieve from a rhetorically sad convention in which speakers have repeated their DNC talking points with remarkably little creativity or skill, and relied upon The Convention Speaker's Rule that conveniently states that all they need to do to secure a loud ovation from the delegates is to use the phrase 'our next president, JOHN KERRY!!!!!'. Two criticisms. First, he makes ample use of the Le Monde headline 'We are all Americans now,' to create the unconvincing impression that France would be our best friend at the moment if it weren't for a horrid administration in Washington who can't even appreciate good fragrant cheese. My second criticism lies with his line 'History will judge them harshly not for the mistakes made - we all make mistakes - but for the opportunities squandered'. This is just bad staff work. First, if squandering an opportunity isn't a mistake, then presumably it was the right thing to do to squander that particular opportunity. As in general I think we all prefer more rather than less risk-averse high politics on the part of nuclear-armed hyperpowers entrusted with world leadership, then it's natural they'd squander some opportunities rather than jump willy-nilly on every one. If you don't think this, then you might like governments to go and pursue bold, reckless policies in keeping with their interests and values, like invading Middle Eastern despotic nations and attempting to make them democratic. Second, historians do, and are right to, judge statesmen and -women for their mistakes, judged against what they knew at they time they were called upon to make a mistake. But these are jesuitical objections to sloppy speechwriting. Senator Biden is a skilled speechmaker, of a sort that's in short supply in the post-Clinton Democratic party, and makes capable use of gesture in drawing an audience's attention to a zone of intensity lying roughly from his upper chest to shoulders. As an intellect and a skilled politician, he would I think make a strong candidate for Secretary of State. And if so, Kerry's would indeed prove a good administration for Senators, who as a body generally lack a fairly good record of promotion either to the cabinet or the presidency and vice presidency. In fact, if it were Europe, they could likely sue for job discrimination.
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# Posted 7:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DID THE BLOGGERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?  A few hours from now, the convention will be over.  Sometime tomorrow or perhaps even tonight, a journalist will sit down and ask him- or herself the inevitable question: "We've heard so much about bloggers and their outside-of-the-box thinking.  But did their coverage of the convention really provide anything that mainstream journalists didn't?"

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.

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# Posted 7:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IS THIS YOUR IDEA OF DEMOCRATIC FOREIGN POLICY?  If you though my last post summed up what the Democratic party should stand for, than you might be interested in the Truman National Security Project.

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 newsletter@trumanproject.org

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# Posted 7:32 PM by Patrick Belton  

CONVENTION LINE OF THE DAY: Alexandra Kerry, who is covering herself up a bit better today in conservative Boston than she does during her wild vacations in Europe, is to recount a story about when her father 'hunched over the soggy hamster and began to adminster CPR.'

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.
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# Posted 7:21 PM by Patrick Belton  

I LEARN SOMETHING NEW ABOUT MYSELF EVERYTIME I READ ABOUT MYSELF IN THE PAPER, cont'd: I just learned from Reuters that I apparently blog not here, but on www.wnyc.org. Sorry to have been misleading you guys all this time!
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.
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# Posted 6:56 PM by Patrick Belton  

BLOGGING FROM ONE BLOGGER ROW: Thanks to the awfully kind help and techie assistance of Christian from Radio Free Blogistan, we're up and blogging from the Fleet Center. There's a wonderful view from here, and the company is great too.
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# Posted 6:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG REWRITES THE DEMOCRATIC SCRIPT: Kevin Drum thinks I'm being too hard on the Democrats.  He writes:
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.
2. Four years ago, George Bush accused us of running the US military into the ground.  But now recklessness has stretched our military -- and especially the National Guard -- to its breaking point.

3. George Bush talks tough but won't make the commitments necessary to win the war on terror.  Instead of wasting money on missile defense or yet another jet figher, a Democratic administration would invest in America's most important military asset: its soldiers.

3a. We will expand the military by 150,000 men so that we can win the war in Iraq instead of sending our soldiers into battle without the support they need.

3b.  This expansion will also make America strong enough to face down crises in the Korean peninsula and elsewhere that George Bush has created.

3c. George Bush always does more for the rich than he does for the hard-working middle class.  Thus it comes as no surprise that he has ignored the military families who are sacrificing so much to help us win the war on terror.

Now let's focus on idealism:

4. George Bush talks a lot about promoting democracy but has betrayed his ideals in practice. 

4a. We promised democracy to the people of Iraq.  We promised democracy to the people of Afghanistan.  The Democratic party will deliver on those promise, because we believe that living up to our ideals will make America safer. 

4b.  Idealism without strength is impotent.  Afraid to admit that he didn't send enough soldiers to Iraq, George Bush has endangered the success of the occupation. 

4c. Idealism without consistency is hypocritical.  Just like Nixon and Reagan, George Bush pays lip service to American ideals while praising repressive dictators.  It used to be Somoza and the Shah.  Now it's Putin and Mubarak.

Up to this point, I haven't mentioned rebuilding America's alliances or winning greater respect abroad.  Those points are important, and I do actually believe that most Americans are concerned about what the war in Iraq has done to our alliances and international reputation.  But by focusing exclusively on our alliances and reputation, the Democrats are walking right into a trap.

Swing voters still suspect that the Democratic party of today is the dovish party of the 70's.  By talking so much about alliances and reputation, what Democrats are basically doing is saying that the most important thing for the United States is to let other nations rein in its power.

That's a valid point, but if its the only one the Democrats make they will come across as being the same old doves who criticize America before criticizing others.  Now, I'm all for self-criticism and for nuance and for all those good things that the Republicans have in short supply.  But when it comes to winning elections, the Democrats have to do more than talk about "strength" and hope that the American public will fall for it.

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# Posted 6:38 PM by Patrick Belton  

AN INTERVIEW WITH WILL MARSHALL: OxBlog sat down yesterday with Will Marshall, president of the Democratic Leadership Council. Actually, we got to sit down several times with Will, since we got chased from room to room of the Tremont Hotel by staff preparing for different receptions. Tremont hotel was New Democrat Headquarters this week, with Clintonites running in and out and the Diet Coke pouring out strong.

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.
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# Posted 11:27 AM by Patrick Belton  

CONVENTION-BLOGGING: Having tried doing gavel-to-gavel diaristic coverage here on Monday, I wanted to also try experimenting with other ways of covering the convention. So over last two days, I've been huffing it around town to different factions' cocktail hours and strategy meetings, which have been a wonderful opportunity to take a snapshot of trends in different corners of the Democratic party. I've been able to speak with the DLC's Will Marshall and Al From, with an aide in Rep. Pelosi's office and a second Democratic congressional aide (both of whom spoke on background), as well as with several ethnic-group and gay delegates, foreign observers, Democratic foreign policy professionals and campaign operatives. I'll be posting all my results here over the course of the day as I have internet access, to provide a diary of life on the margins of the convention - and then I'll be returning to the convention hall itself later this evening for Kerry's acceptance speech.
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# Posted 1:17 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FOREIGN POLICY SIDESHOW: Even though national security has been given short shrift at the Fleet Center, this morning's roundtable at the Charles Hotel was supposed to give insiders a clear look at the difference between a Bush foreign policy and a Kerry foreign policy.

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 accountMatt 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  

I HOPE SO: While live-blogging the Edwards speech, Pandagon writes that the
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, 2004 
And 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  


[Hillary] CLINTON: I am practically speechless.


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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

# Posted 11:55 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HANGING OUT WITH DENNIS KUCINICH: Joe Wilson is getting desperate.  In his speech to the convention, Kucinich declared that
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  

HOW MANY AMERICAS ARE THERE?  In his speech tonight, John Edwards continued to remind us that there are two.  In contrast, numerous Democrats -- most notably Barack Obama -- have been insisting that there is just one America, but that Republicans are trying to manufacture an artificial perception of division in order to hurt John Kerry and help George Bush.

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

We hear a lot of talk about values. Where I come from, you don't judge somebody's values based upon how they use that word in a political ad. You judge their values based upon what they've spent their life doing.

So when a man volunteers to serve his country, the man volunteers and puts his life on the line for others, that's a man who represents real American values.

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  

ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO REPRINT: Here are some of the fascinating stories that the NYT has brought us over the past two days.  While you're reading them, ask yourself one question: How many of these stories would be any different if they were printed two weeks ago or two weeks now? 

My answer: None of them.  But go ahead and judge for yourself:

All I can say is that I'm glad I read the NYT online instead of actually paying for it.
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# Posted 2:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPLIT PERSONALITIES IN BOSTON: Will the NYT please make up its mind?  Is the Democratic Convention an exceptional event that deserves its own special eight-page section in each morning's paper, or is it a stage-managed pseudo-event that isn't worth its readers' time?  According to RW Apple, conventions have become nothing more than
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.
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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  

JOE WILSON?  NEVER HEARD OF THE GUY.  If you scroll past Howard Kurtz's report on blogs, you get to this:

Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV's allegations that President Bush misled the country about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium from Africa was a huge media story, fueled by an investigation into who outed his CIA-operative wife. According to a database search, NBC carried 40 stories, CBS 30 stories, ABC 18, The Washington Post 96, the New York Times 70, the Los Angeles Times 48.

But a Senate Intelligence Committee report that contradicts some of Wilson's account and supports Bush's State of the Union claim hasn't received nearly as much attention. "NBC Nightly News" and ABC's "World News Tonight" have each done a story. But CBS hasn't reported it -- despite a challenge by Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie on CBS's "Face the Nation," noting that the network featured Wilson on camera 15 times. A spokeswoman says CBS is looking into the matter.

Newspapers have done slightly better. The Post, which was the first to report the findings July 10, has run two stories, an editorial and an ombudsman's column; the New York Times two stories and an op-ed column; and the Los Angeles Times two stories. Wilson, meanwhile, has defended himself from what he calls "a Republican smear campaign" in op-ed pieces in The Post and Los Angeles Times.

 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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# Posted 5:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY DO BIG MEDIA SUDDENLY CARE ABOUT BLOGS? Last night, in a dark wooden corner of an Irish pub, he said to me that journalists now think bloggers are important because bloggers have been invited to cover an event -- the Democratic convention -- that journalists describe as inherently unimportant.

Who was "he"?  I wish I remember.  The only name I remember from last night is Sam Adams.  But the point is still valid.  If the convention is a pseudo-event produced for the benefit of the media, then by virture of getting invited, bloggers have become newsworthy.

I've also noticed that the same few bloggers are getting all of the attention.  Since one of them is Patrick Belton, I think that's just great.  But it means that other blogs are getting left out and that journalists are limiting their own supply of information.  For example, all but one of the bloggers mentioned in Howard Kurtz's convention-blogging round-up also get mentioned or quoted in Jenny 8-ball's round-up at the NYT.

If you're willing to invest the time, the best article about bloggers at the convention belongs to Carl Bialik & Elizabeth Weinstein at the WSJ.  After a brief introduction, they let more than two dozen bloggers speak for themselves.  In fact, each one gets a whole paragraph rather than a single quote.

Now let's turn the question around: Are bloggers going to tell us anything interesting about the convention that we wouldn't read about in a newspaper or political magazine?  I don't know.  It's too early to say.  But I'm curious.
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"IF HITLER WERE ALIVE TODAY, HE'D HAVE HIS OWN BLOG": That's an actual quote from a recent editorial in the Sioux Falls (SD) Argus-Leader.  As Jon Lauck explains, the editors are not happy about bloggers' criticism of their liberal, pro-Tom Daschle bias.

So what are the editors planning on doing about the "nutty opinions" that pervade the blogosphere, "thereby playing a pivotal role in creating the polarized climate that dominates debate on nearly every national issue"?  Starting their own blog, of course.

(If Hitler had a blog, I bet he'd call it "Instafuehrer"!)
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# Posted 1:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

OXBLOG IN THE NEWS: We'll be on NPR tomorrow at 11, for those of you who might like to tune in. You can listen to the program afterwards here, too.

Also, we made today's NYT and Washington post - thus WaPo's Howard Kurtz:
Patrick Belton of Oxblog, an Oxford graduate student and self-described centrist who worked for Bill Bradley in 2000, sees the convention as "a wonderful time to take a snapshot of all different factions, who's on the rise and who's on the relative wane."

Belton has invited his blogging brethren out for a drink because "we have to cultivate a reputation for delightful alcoholism." The former Richmond resident [that's libellous] adds: "There's a lot happening on the margins that the more established media, by dint of time and space limits, just aren't able to cover. Blogs don't have word count limits."
And NYT's Jenny '8-ball' Lee:
"I look forward to the world that exists in the margins," said Patrick Belton, a 28-year-old Oxford University graduate student who blogs at Oxblog.com and calls himself a "liberal hawk."

"It will be interesting to get around the televised spectacle and see it as a meeting place for the different factions of the party," Mr. Belton said.
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# Posted 1:26 AM by Patrick Belton  

GETTING TO BOSTON: The play by play....

7:00 pm - enter Boston, at Boston South Station. Conversation with reporter from Tucson Jewish Post. Quote: 'I work there, but I'm not a Zionist. My son says, Mom, you can't become a Zionist, even if you work there.' Button: 'Bush Lied, People Died'.

Number of policemen with uzis in South Boston T-station: 4 or 5. Lots of young 20something men in suits with laptop bags. Falun gong women in yellow shirts.

7:08 Park Street station, red line: someone asks about my iBook, and whether I'm there for the convention. Quote: 'They've closed down some of my favorite restaurants, especially bagel cafe, where I go before church. Closed for convention. Unhappy.'

same time, place: on walks badged, glasses-wearing blonde 20something with shirt reading 'Boston & The Gilette Company Welcome You.' (Taking the college bowls sponsorship concept to new heights - the Gilette Democratic Convention.)

7:13 pm: Kennedy staffer: 'I love all these Democrats being here. It's like being a Jew in Israel'. OxBlogger: 'but usually, just being in Boston has the effect of surrounding you with Democrats, doesn't it?'

7:19 pm, Harvard station, red line: Decide, in spite of having been a student at yale, that I will like Harvard just fine if it has a toilet somewhere.

8:00 pm, Bloggers drinks. censored.
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Sunday, July 25, 2004

# Posted 10:13 AM by Patrick Belton  

THOUGHTS ON THE CONVENTION OF THE BLOG: 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. Each symbolised the rise of a new technology to mediate between the political space of the public square and the personal, domestic space in people's living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchen counters. (We started OxBlog in April 2002; Glenn Reynolds began InstaPundit in August 2001, and the rush of widely read politics blogs followed then in his wake.)

Each of those forms of communication represented, and recreated, political events differently. What makes blogs different is the restoration of the human voice behind them, in line with the Victorian newspaper or Bagehot in today's Economist, quite different from the 'we' of today's editorial page and the unindividuated speech on page one. Today's newspapers reflect a positivist philosophy of knowledge coming from the 1950s and Karl Popper, when they attained their present form - each draws one authoritative representation of each political event, and exists in splendid isolation, ignoring the others like mildly distasteful neighbours. The blogosphere reflects the epistemology of the moment, Jurgen Habermas's intersubjectivity, where many individuals speak with each other and compare their different representations of the political event. The blogosphere also fits the same social moment as the new economy - it's decentralised, younger, quickly adaptable, and better describable by chaos theories of spontaneous order than Weber's models of bureaucracy, which correspond better to the career foreign correspondent services of the print newspapers, themselves mirrored on that ideal type of bureaucracy, the Foreign Service.

Blogs are personal - there's a human voice behind them; bloggers write as an humble 'I,' not as the powerful, quasi-sovereign editorial 'we'. As a blogger, you engage in running, for the most part respectful conversations with other bloggers to your right and left, which might well turn out to be our age's running conversation of the republic. As a technology for representing politics and mediating between public and domestic space, blogs share neither television's passivity, nor print journalism's unspoken biases, and largely due to these running conversations with other blogs - which as a blogger keep you honest, and continually making explicit, questioning, defending, and reframing your assumptions. You also have the opportunity to place in the foreground many things that in print journalism ordinarily happen off the page - for instance, editors'-office discussions about whether to run a particular sentence, or unattributed source, or whether a particular elicitation of fact is misleading. In the blogosphere, those editors-office conversations take place in the running conversations between blogs, and are all visible to the reader, who's then given the opportunity to make up her own mind.

Which is, of course, rather more democratic; and that in turn gets us back to the conventions, and their place in history. Writing before the Democratic convention of 1924, The Nation speculated the coming campaign would mark a faddish cycle of broadcast journalism, but by 1928 politics would surely abandon the radiowaves to return to more sensible, solider stuff. The New Republic, more optimistic, speculated that radio might instead last for a few more campaign cycles. Broadcast journalism was here to stay, and so is internet journalism today. Eighty years afterward, bloggers such as OxBlog are looking forward to the Convention of the Blog to unveil to a broader audience an exciting new medium for politics, and to use it to get around the televised spectacle which conventions have become, and give some light to the remnants of real politics which still exist there.
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# Posted 10:08 AM by Patrick Belton  


As I've noted here once before, November's will be the sixth election to turn on a referendum for a foreign war - like 1812, 1844, 1896 (the latter two before the fact), 1954, and 1968 before it. The outcome will be decided not by reliably Democratic voters who are lining up to see Fahrenheit 9/11, but by swing voters who want American troops kept in Iraq to provide the security for a stable democracy to emerge, and who aren’t convinced by Bush’s record there.

Democrats should be careful of running away from democracy promotion and toward, of all things, the realpolitik foreign policy of Bush I – an administration which never saw an oppressive government it didn’t like. Kerry staffers privately admit to doing as much, saying that an Iraq-wearied public won’t stand for Wilsonianism and wants a return to cold national interests. The problem is, this will sell out most of what the Democratic legacy stands for at its root in foreign policy: from Wilson’s Fourteen Points to FDR’s Four Freedoms to the Clinton administration's intervention to halt genocide in Kosovo (another war fought without UN sanction). It would also be bad politics.

The Kerry campaign's syllogism runs something like this: 1. Bush is associated with democracy promotion, 2. the American people are tired of both, so 3. therefore, run on realism. However, both premises of the argument are faulty: 1. there are votes to be had in democracy, and 2. Bush's record there is assailable. That voters support promoting democracy is evident in the Chicago Council on Foreign Relation's latest poll, which finds 71 percent of Americans favoring democratic assistance. 85 percent of respondents in the same poll also find helping to bring a democratic form of government to other nations to be 'very' or 'somewhat' important. Before hurrying to repudiate tout court the Democratic legacy in promoting democracy and human rights, Kerry might instead give pause to the votes of the swing 20 percent of Americans who are (according to a recent New York Times poll) committed to democracy in Iraq, but disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraqi reconstruction.

Furthermore, Kerry can make a convincing argument that he can do much better than the current administration, drawing on the easy overseas popularity coming to an Atlanticist, multilateralist Democrat who would strike Europeans as, subconsciously, one of them. The fact is, campaign rhetoric aside, Bush's performance in promoting democracy is neither uniformly good, nor is it uniformly bereft of accomplishment. On the one hand, in countries from Uzbekistan to Pakistan to Egypt, the Bush administration has pursued security alliances with undemocratic, frequently dictatorial leaders, ensuring that the next generation of anti-regime protesters view the U.S. as the enemy rather than friend of their nationalist or democratic aspirations. On the other hand, in August 2002, the U.S. applied intense pressure to the government of Egypt after its arrest of democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, including a moratorium on new aid to Egypt as long as Ibrahim remained in prison. The State Department announced on July 13 that it was freezing all aid to the government of Uzbekistan as a rebuke against its human rights record. Madeline Albright’s brainchild the Community of Democracies has since in this administration been carefully fostered by Paula Dobriansky. Like the Clinton administration's, the Bush administration's National Security Strategy gives pride of place to expansion of democracy in the world. There's more than enough here to make an argument on both sides.

To have two candidates running to convince the American people they can better advance democracy in the world, now that's a grand prospect. Instead of running for the vote of Richard Nixon’s ghost or Moore’s viewers, Kerry needs to convince voters in the center that not only is democracy promotion not the exclusive preserve of neocons, but multilateralist Democrats can in fact with their broader international support do the same job, better. Democracy promotion has the potential to be one of a core set of issues at the heart of a new bipartisan foreign policy consensus, along with prosecuting the war on terror and the reconstruction of Iraq, building up the nation’s pitiably overstretched army, and acting to shore up the degenerating security situation in Afghanistan, and with both tickets trying to convince the public they can pursue this centrist foreign policy better than the competition.

Optimistically, it now stands in the interests of both candidates— not merely the nation and its citizens —to reach for a centrist politics in foreign affairs to displace the fiery populism whose flames were stoked over the last decade by Gingrich and Gore, and which led to the heated partisanship in witness since the 2000 result. And the rest of us – those not munching on our popcorn this summer – can finally have some measured hope, for that reason.
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