Tuesday, August 31, 2004

# Posted 11:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Scott: He did clarify the Matt Lauer statement.

Franks: What'd he say?

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

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

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

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

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

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# Posted 4:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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# Posted 2:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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

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

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

# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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# Posted 9:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the content, the Post also does a pretty good job of sanitizing the protesters. It even attacks them from the left by focusing on the fact that 90% of the protesters were white and apparently middle-class (about which more later). But as they say, bloggers can't be choosers.
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# Posted 2:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CELEBRITY DRIVE-BYS: The convention are doing a pretty nice job of bringing some top-flight GOP operators in to talk with us. We just saw campaign manager Ken Mehlman and foreign policy adviser Tucker Eskew.

They both came at the same time, so I only got to talk to Eskew. I wanted to press him on the effectiveness of John Kerry's talk about building strong alliances. How effective is it? I said Kerry was short on specifics, but he was saying what a lot of people want to hear.

Eskew said he thought Kerry was playing more to the base. Moreover, Kerry's position falls apart when you look at the details. He's really talking about France and Germany, not "alliances". But what exactly is he going to do about France and Germany?

As a follow-up, I said that many people, including myself, have underestimated Americans' fondness for the United Nations. They really believe in it. That's why there was so much interest in getting the UN to authorize the invasion. Won't that help Kerry?

Eskew didn't think so. He said it's absolutely true that Americans want to liked. It's in our nature. (He's right) But at the end of the day they want to know that their President will stand up do what's necessary to protect the nation's security.

That wasn't enough for me, so I tried one more approach. I said that even if I agree on the merits that George Bush has made a lot of the right decisions about when to go with and when to go against our allies, it seems that the Bush campaign isn't confident enough to go out say that it has kept America's alliances strong.

In response, Eskew talked about Bush's success in coalition-building in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And that was where the discussion ended, because a staffer said it was time to go. I didn't buy the coalition-building and I don't think too many swing voters will. Eskew may be right that it won't matter. But I'd say it's a gamble, not a sure thing.
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# Posted 2:24 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: Yesterday afternoon after spending a couple hours at the big protest I headed up to The Grill in Bryant Park for an event with the Log Cabin Republicans.

It was very easy to pick me out as one of the few straight guys there. Amidst a sea of well-groomed, well-dressed men, there I was with my cargo pants and sweat-drenched plaid shirt.

I missed Mike Bloomberg's speech but got there in time for Pataki's. Actually, it was more of non-speech than a speech. First, he said 'Hi' and 'Hello' to a long list of New York State politicians who were at the event. Then he told us all what a great city New York was.

And then finally he made a brief comment about how diversity makes the Republican Party strong. He didn't use the word 'gay'. He didn't use the word 'homosexual'. Here was a man afraid to go on the record supporting a cause that he was nominally in favor of.

Perhaps I shouldn't blame Pataki. Perhaps I should blame all those in the party who are making him afraid. But when Arlen Specter and Bill Weld got up to speak, they were 100% clear about what they stood for. They don't believe in avoding the heart of the issue by saying that the states should decide for themselves about gay marriage. They believe that freedom really does mean freedom for everybody.

Of course, Specter and Weld aren't running for President in 2008. Maybe by that time the courts will have decided the issue and/or the majority of Americans will support gay marriage. That way, Pataki can just endorse the status quo.

Still, what he said just pissed me off. Talking about diversity is total bulls**t. I don't believe in gay marriage because I want affirmative action and political correctness in the bedroom. I believe in gay marriage because it is about equality before the law.

UPDATE: TNR was also at the event.
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# Posted 1:52 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HIZZONER STOPS BY: Ed Koch decided he wanted to meet the bloggers. He's a fun guy, so when he sat down at our table, we all crowded around.

Koch wants to know exactly what a blogger is. Captain Ed says it's a freelance writers who posts his thoughts on a webpage. Koch asks if he counts as a blogger because he sends out an e-mail commentary every week that goes to thousands of people. John from Power Line says 'No'.

The next question is about Koch's question to endorse Bush, early and unequivocally. Koch says he doesn’t agree with Bush on any of the domestic issues, but the Democrats just don’t have the stomach to fight the war on terror. Koch then says that he invented the phrase “The Bush Doctrine”. He defines it as a willingness to stand up to terrorists.

Koch then adds that most Democrats are moderates. He says that there are far more Democrats like him then there are like Howard Dean or Ted Kennedy.

Next, Koch complains about Kerry's flip-flop on the war. "Which John Kerry do you believe?" The one who voted to authorize the war and defends that decision now, or the one who apologized to the Deanics for his vote?

While talking about flip-flops, Koch also lashes out at Kerry's "hypocrsisy" on gay marriage.

Bobby Eberle asks what Koch thinks of Kerry's "sensitive" War on Terror? Koch says that Cheney was right, that the concept is ridiculous. Not all Muslims want to kill us, but hundreds of millions do.

Now, I wasn't going to interrupt everyone, but the fact is that Bush has often described his own efforts to have a sensitive foreign policy in the Middle East, so Cheney's attack, Koch's answer, and Bobby's question are all unfair.

Kevin wants to know whether Koch thinks voters will forget about terrorism and not vote for Bush because there hasn't been an attack since 9/11. Koch says no way, people are smart, they don't forget. I agree. But Roger says the amnesia set in three months after 9/11.

Finally, my question. I love to hear myself talk. I told Koch I wanted to give him a compliment and ask him an easy question. I said I'm writing my dissertation on US-Central American relations and I want to compliment him on all of the excellent work he did on behalf of human rights in Nicaragua in the 1970s.

That was a secret swipe at my colleagues here for being a little too uncritical. Koch's attacks on the Somoza dictatorship drove its supporters in Congress (including some prominent Democrats) completely mad.

Next, I asked Koch which bloggers he reads most often and why. He said he doesn't have a lot of time and doesn't read a lot of blogs. (I guessed as much. I was setting him up.) But when he does have time, Andrew Sullivan is his man, because he works so hard.

Except in August, I said.
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# Posted 1:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLOGGERS' BREAKFAST, 8:00 AM, Southgate Hotel:

After five hours of sleep and a sweltering subway ride, I want coffee but won’t touch anything hot. I go for the ice water instead. The speaker at our breakfast is Matthew Dowd, a top strategist and spokesman for the Bush campaign. Even though his job is to spin, Dowd talks in an affable and friendly manner. That’s the first rule of good spin.

Dowd begins by describing what he calls the basic assumptions on which Bush’s strategy rests. First and foremost, there are very few swing voters left. More than ninety and close to ninety-five percent of voters are fully committed and evenly split between the parties. Thus, turning out the base is a high priority.

On the other hand, there are around 60 electoral votes that will be decided by a total of fewer than 50,000 ballots. It’s going be close, but Dowd says he’s optimistic. It sounds like spin. He said that Bush is even with Kerry or possibly a point or two ahead – but that’s where the campaign expected things to be after the convention. QED, whatever support Kerry got from his convention was temporary and superficial.

Perhaps. If the Bush campaign expected to be behind in the polls coming into the convention it’s because they expected a bigger Democratic bounce.

Next, the Q&A. Can bloggers be as tough as professionals? If they can, do they want to be as tough, given that this meeting is Red-on-Red? My gut instinct is to ask the toughest question I can about the Swift Vets. But I decide to hold back and get a feel for the room before opening fire.

The first questioner observes that the Dean campaign had a problem staying on message even on its own website but that the Bush campaign seems to be doing better. It’s a softball, and Dowd softly concurs that his people are doing a better job.

Another questioner -- I can’t remember all of the questions or their exact order -- picks up on Dowd’s comment that the Bush campaign hasn’t had a lot of success with internet ad buys. Can Dowd be more specific about what wasn’t going right? His answer is that it’s hard to know exactly who your audience is on the net. Interestingly enough, that was the same point Jeff Jarvis made back at BloggerCon II when. According to Jeff, the biggest thing getting in the way of bloggers selling more ads is precise information about who exactly is reading out sites.

Now a question about polls. This morning’s Gallup shows even or ahead in Pennsylvania. How is the swing state forecast looking? Dowd makes an interesting point which I haven’t thought about much: most states have a fixed relationship to national polls, leaning Democratic or GOP by a stable percentage. But Pennsylvania used to lean Democratic by a handful of points but now tracks the national polls precisely. The bad news for the GOP is that Ohio has moved in the other direction. But the really interesting state may be Wisconsin, which could go Republican and would force Kerry to pick up Ohio or Florida if he wants to win.

At this point, I was beginning to feel that I had to ask Dowd something a lot tougher than he’d faced so far. Dammit, we’re David and they’re Goliath. But I didn’t just want to be a hardass just for the hellavit. “Real” journalists do that all the time and just come off as arrogant and condescending. So I wanted to ask a question whose answer I actually cared about and could learn something from.

Here’s what I came up with: You said that this convention is going to focus on the President's vision for the future. But given that most voters judge an incumbent based on his record, not his plans, might that indicate a lack of confidence in what Bush has accomplished? As Ronald Reagan memorably asked in both 1980 and 1984, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?

On a related note, voters' habit of judging a candidate based on his record explains why undecideds tend to break for the challenger at the last moment. Do you agree with the consensus and does that mean that Bush has to go into election day with a 2 or 3 point lead in order to win?

Here's what Dowd said: His research shows that voters do tend to be retrospective, but that they care about the state of the nation more than the state of their pocketbooks. Also, they tend to vote on the basis of the past year, not as Reagan suggested, the past four. Thus, the recent economic recovery may help the President. Finally, those who lean toward a candidate but aren't sure about supporting him do want to hear about the future.

When it comes to the undecideds, Dowd said that undecideds are traditionally those voters who haven't had access to a lot of information. But this year, both campaigns have already far outspent their counterparts in the last incumbent-challenger race in 1996. Thus, if people haven't made up their mind, it probably means that can't decide and aren't going to vote.

Is that right? I think Dowd is being too optimistic about the undecideds. But as one of my fellow bloggers pointed out, they may break for the incumbent in a wartime situation.

On a different note, I think Dowd is right that voters care more about the state of the nation than the state of their pocketbooks. I have no idea, however, how many years backward they look while forming their opinions.

Well, that was a long post for a breakfast that only lasted one hour. Let's move on...
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# Posted 6:45 AM by Patrick Belton  

FEWER PEOPLE DYING IN WAR: Contrary to the prediction of pundits and political scientists that the end of the Cold War would unleash an age of burning worldwide ethnic conflict and regional war, with the superpowers no longer imposing order on their client states, research from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the Canadian NGO Project Ploughshares indicates that the world has actually become a substantially safer place lately - at least measured in terms of major conflict. The number of people killed in battle has fallen to 20,000 per year, the lowest number in the post-Second World War period. According to the ngo, in 2003 there were furthermore a total of 33 conflicts accumulating 1,000 or more deaths since they began, compared with 44 such conflicts in 1995. Of these, 19 were 'major wars', down from 33 in 1991. Also in the previous year, long-standing wars ended in Angola, Rwanda, and Somalia, and a conflict in the Indian state of Assam was downgraded from the 'major' category.
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# Posted 6:06 AM by Patrick Belton  

IRELAND IS ABUZZ THIS MORNING after a drunken ex-priest from Kerry (who, in full disclosure, I am not related to) pushed lead marathon runner Vanderlei de Lima out of the race course, causing him to drop to third place after reentering the race. 56-year old Neil Horan, whose art of 'aggressing spectating' has been honed by lengthy residence in southern England, has an extensive career as a noted and successful race disruptor, with amongst his other resume lines a roundly-applauded disruption of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last year. (Belfast Telegraph: 'Fr Horan, wearing a red kilt, green knee-high socks, green waistcoat and green tam-o-shanter dragged Vanderlei de Lima off the road during the final event of the Games.' Ireland Online: 'Horan told police he staged the disruption to “prepare for the second coming”', which the Bible, as interpreted in a sign on his back, says is imminent. F1 News: Horan 'pushed his way through the Silverstone crowd before dancing a jig within inches of the passing cars....Horan was carrying a religious placard and Israeli flag'. Irish Examiner: 'Eccentric is agent of peace in troubled world'.)

And of course, you can count on OxBlog to bring you the photograph:

Presumably the Bible also says something about 'wear a funny suit and have a go at Olympic runners'.
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# Posted 5:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

CARLOS BARRIOS ORTA HAS got the worst...job...in the...world.
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Sunday, August 29, 2004

# Posted 7:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CHECK BACK LATER FOR MORE COVERAGE: Right now it's 7:25 and I have to run-out for a dinner at 8:00 with my fellow bloggers. If it hadn't taken two hours to get my press credential, I would've posted a lot more this afternoon. I don't think anything else will go up before midnight, but I assure you that I have a lot more to say about both today's protests as well as a great event sponsored by the Log Cabin Republicans.
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# Posted 6:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW NOT TO COVER A PROTEST: It is very hard to cover a massive protest. The action is spread out over miles and miles of asphalt baking in the afternoon sun. I only spent only two hours with the marchers, but did my best to interview as many different people with as many different perspectives as possible.

What I can say with a good amount of confidence is that the stories already up in the NYT and WaPo give a very superficial and often misleading impression of what it was what like to be at today's protests.

The first thing wrong with these stories is their focus on the few inconsequential arrests and mishaps that took place. Many of the journalists I saw just seemed to be waiting for something to go wrong. Because things going wrong is news, whereas the actual ideas and policies favored by the protesters are supposedly boring.

During my second hour at the protest I marched with the lead contingent from United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). As the marchers advanced, a disorganized crowd of journalists, many of them with photo and video equipment, slowly retreated to make way for the protesters.

At one point, a small commotion broke out when the police escorted a protester away with his arms pinned behind his back. About a dozen officers moved in swiftly to make sure the commotion didn't spread. Then suddenly, dozens and dozens of journalists swarmed toward the knot of police officers like locusts from some biblical plague.

Shortly thereafter, a small group of rule-breaking protesters emerged around a block in front of the lead contingent and tried to march up 5th Avenue instead of down. Again, the police responded immediately and isolated the commotion. And again, journalists swarmed around the police, hoping to discover some news.

If I were a protester, I'd probably feel that the NYT and WaPo did the marchers a disservice by failing to recognize just how orderly and peaceful the protest was and how the organizers successfully defused the most important potential conflict of the day, i.e. the disappointed hope that the protest march would culminate with a massive rally in Central Park.

One important detail that I certainly would've included in a newspaper account was that the police came out in force to ensure that the protesters didn't wander off the official route and try to head for Central Park. At each intersection on 34th St. -- the northenmost point of the march -- dozens of police stood ready behind metal barriers to prevent the protesters from changing their route. Similar blockades were set up across 34th St. at the edges of the parade route to ensure that no one tried to pull an end run, get around the cops, and head for the Park (which begins on 59th).

Fortunately, no one that I saw tried to challenge the police and head for the Park. I think the absence of conflict reflects well on the organizers, who announced again and again that marchers must follow the official route.

Now, if I didn't like the protesters, I would tell you that the NYT and WaPo did them a tremendous favor by downplaying the degree to which they represented the leftmost edge of the American political spectrum. I've posted before about what UFPJ stands for, so I won't repeat myself. Suffice it to say that neither the Times nor the Post tells you anything about UFPJ's history or what it stands for.

The big papers also fail to convey how the protest resembled a carnival of the absurd, with every obscure leftist faction in attendance. For example, there were hundreds of big red signs provided by a coven of conspiracy theorists who insist that Bush had advance warning of 9-11. If I had bigger pockets, I could've collected at least half-a-dozen different socialist and communist newspapers and newsletters.

If you read the NYT or the WaPo, you get the impression that the protest was filled with reasonable people who just don't like George Bush. All of the (wo)man-in-the-street interviews in both papers are with soothingly moderate and even humorous people. "Bring the troops home now" is the most radical sentiment you'll find in the NYT.

So there you have it. The big papers managed to be unfair to both sides while failing to provide critical information. Let's hope things get better from here.
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# Posted 1:57 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT THE PROTESTERS ARE SAYING: Here's a passage from the Unity Statement of United for Peace and Justice, the umbrella group organizing tomorrow's largest protest (which I'll be covering):
It is now clear the war on Iraq was the leading edge of a relentless drive for U.S. empire...This military strategy brutally reinforces the empire-building agenda of corporate globalization, which uses “free trade” policies to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a few by attacking labor and environmental protections, reducing governments’ control over their country’s economies, and slashing public services...

Emboldened by its military victory in Iraq, the Bush administration has warned Syria, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea that if they don’t comply with U.S. demands, they, too, could be subject to “pre-emptive war” and “regime change.”
No! Not North Korea!

Now's here an excerpt from a 2003 interview with Leslie Cagan, the national coordinator of UFPJ:

[Interviewer]: I heard one of the big three radio networks in their coverage of the Washington march to stop the war, and they described the message coming out of the Oct. 25 rally as a call "to abandon Iraq" -- very highly charged words and a description. How do you respond to those who say that pulling out U.S. forces now from Iraq, would be a recipe for disaster both for Iraq and the
United States?

Leslie Cagan: Well, you know that's been said before in other
situations. People said during the Vietnam era, "We can't leave because there would be a nightmare, there'd be a bloodbath." And in fact when the U.S. left Vietnam that's when the war ended and the bloodbath stopped.

It's true, it's true. North Vietnam did not invade South Vietnam after the United States left. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese 'boat people' didn't become refugees after the American withdrawal. And the Khmer Rouge certainly didn't commit genocide after the United States went home.
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# Posted 1:43 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE LESSONS OF VIETNAM: Peter Beinart's column touches on the same issue I raised before, except he's deconstructing the Republican side of the debate. Hugh Hewitt responds to Beinart, but I'm not persuaded. (Hat tip: Power Line.)
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# Posted 1:19 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONVENTION BLOGGERS' ROUND-UP: If I were Lewis Lapham, I might be able to tell you in advance what all the bloggers were going to write. Instead, I'm just going to inform you that mutliple website will be compiling posts from all 15 bloggers at the convention. Slant Point provides the links.
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# Posted 12:50 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I LOVE NEW YORK F****N' CITY: Tonight I knocked back a couple of mojitos with OxBlog legal correspondent EK. He didn't have much to report, although he said that he recently found himself at a urinal adjacent to the one being used by Justice Scalia.

It was a warm night and not too humid, so I decided to walk home from the bar at 34th & 3rd despite that the fact that it was a good two miles. I had half of a Cuban cigar to work with (thanks to the lovely Miss CH), so I figured I wouldn't be bored.

Bottom line, it was an incredible walk. New York is more alive than other city I've ever been to.

If you visit New York, no one will tell you that have you to see 3rd Avenue. It's not the Village, it's not Times Square, it's not Nolita. It's just another street. But it was full of Irish pubs and all night diners and beautiful women.

3rd Avenue isn't somewhere I ever spent much time before. I grew up in the Village and all my friends were either Upper East or Upper West. That's where respectable people lived twenty-five years ago. But now all of New York is New York. It will always suprise you.
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Saturday, August 28, 2004

# Posted 9:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANOTHER LIBERAL HACK? NO, JUST TACITUS: Bird Dog says it's no secret he's voting for George W. this November. But check out BD's impressive list of Bush's failures.

So Kudos to BD for honesty. I agree with just about everything on his list.
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# Posted 8:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ME IN A NUTSHELL: Roger Simon writes that
Most of my life I rarely talked to Republicans -- not seriously anyway. If I did it was without the full knowledge that they were Republicans. I didn't think they would have much to say that would interest me, that they were intellectually bankrupt and probably greedy, possibly even racists.
I grew up in Greenwich Village. What's Roger's excuse?
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# Posted 6:45 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN VIETNAM: Small questions about where John Kerry was on Christmas Eve 1968 or whether there was enemy fire the day he won his Bronze Star have gotten in the way of a far more important debate about the war in Vietnam and its role in campaign 2004.

Does the heroism of a junior officer prepare him to become the leader of the free world? Is a campaign built around a candidate's war record just a diversion from substantive issues or does it emphasize important aspects of the candidate's character and personal values?

One place to start looking for answers to these questions is the op-ed page of yesterday's NYT, which had no fewer than four columns about Vietnam and campaign 2004. In one of them, prize-winning author Neil Sheehan asserts that the Swift Vets' attacks are not just getting in the way of serious discussions about Vietnam, but that they are symptomatic of inability to comprehend the lessons of that war:
The nation has yet to come to grips with what really happened in Vietnam, and Mr. Kerry's accusers are among those who simply cannot and never will.
The question, then, is what "really happened" in Vietnam? Sheehan writes that
The truth is that atrocities were committed in Vietnam. The worst and most horrendous atrocity was officially sanctioned...The wholesale killing cheapened the value of Vietnamese life in American eyes...

In Vietnam, America the exceptional joined the rest of the human race and demonstrated that it could do evil as easily as it could do good.
I agree with Sheehan to the extent that the United States lost the war in Vietnam by betraying its own ideals. But if Vietnam was the consummate evil that destroyed American virtue, how can Sheehan celebrate Kerry's service there? Sheehan writes that
It always galls me when I hear the generation of World War II referred to as the "greatest generation.'' They were a great generation, but so were the men who served in Vietnam. The soldiers and Marines, sailors and airmen who fought there did so with just as much courage as anyone who fought in World War II. The generation of Vietnam had the ill luck to draw a bad war, an unnecessary and unwinnable war, a tragic, terrible mistake. But valor has a worth of its own, and theirs deserves to be honored and remembered.
Yet just a few paragraphs earlier, Sheehan argues that the the American strategy in Vietnam was a strategy of murder, intentionally resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent peasants year after year after year. Who implemented this strategy of murder if not the "great generation" whose valor Sheehan wants to memorialize?

If Sheehan wants to defend John Kerry from the Swift Vets, why not just say that Kerry was a good man in a bad war? Why is it necessary to try and praise an entire generation of soldiers while at the same time insisting that their generation was responsible for murder?

Obviously, Sheehan doesn't believe that all American soldiers in Vietnam were criminals. But if you agree with him that the United States waged its war in an inherently immoral manner, then, at minimum, tens of thousands of American soldiers implemented and facilitated that immorality. Sheehan even suggests that the moral sensibilities of an entire generation were perverted by the war, since "the wholesale killing cheapened the value of Vietnamese life in American eyes."

The reason, I think, that Sheehan -- and more importantly, John Kerry -- can't just say that there were some (or even many) good soldiers in a bad war is that that such a distinction forces us to ask who was good and who was bad. If that question were foremost in our minds, Kerry's constant references to his war record would become dangerously divisive.

If the Kerry campaign didn't constantly provide a sanitized and uncritical account of the war, reporters would begin to ask what exactly about the war Kerry thought was wrong. Instead of a footnote that everyone (except the Swift Vets) ignores, Kerry's 1971 testimony before Congress would be back in the headlines. The whole debate about Vietnam would begin again and Kerry would suffer.

I have to admit that if I were John Kerry, I'd also run a campaign that focused on my personal heroism while side-stepping broader debates about the war in Vietnam. Democratic candidates always face an uphill battle to show that they are just as tough and patriotic as the other guy. This year, winning that battle matters even more.

It would be nice if John Kerry could offer thoughtful criticism of the war in Vietnam without reinforcing the stereotype that Democrats are soft and dovish and unpatriotic. It is ironic that Kerry's gung-ho account of his war record will only make it harder for America to confront the legacy of Vietnam. But this is politics, not a college seminar. For the moment, I'm willing to forgive Kerry for leaving history to the historians.
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# Posted 6:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG CONTROLS THE JEWISH MEDIA: Perhaps not. But there is some very nice coverage of us in the Atlanta Jewish Times. For the full text of the AJT's interview with OxBlog, click here.
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# Posted 11:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

QUOTE OF THE DAY: ... is from Ryan Lizza:
Instead of engaging the substance of an accusation, even when the facts are overwhelmingly on their side, the [Kerry] campaign's counterpunches sometimes seem as if they are scripted by an overeager college Democrat who knows only that Bush and Republicans are very bad.
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# Posted 8:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

1. compile a widely read list of Senators voting for the Defence of Marriage amendment
2. have a number of people link to you in posts referencing some subset of aforementioned senators as 'assholes'
3. then just sit back and enjoy

n.b.: trick apparently only works for yahoo. we're presumably not big enough assholes for google, yet.
n.b.: I don't usually curse.
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Friday, August 27, 2004

# Posted 6:28 AM by Patrick Belton  

RIGHT TO COUNSEL WATCH: Presumably, an attorney is the thing that keeps you from doing this:
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – Yemeni enemy combatant Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al-Bahlul caused an abrupt interruption to his military commission hearing today by asking to provide his own defense. Al-Bahlul, who is charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, engaged in a spirited discussion with the presiding officer, Col. Peter Brownback in today’s court proceedings. He first asked to represent himself. At this request, Brownback referred to Military Commission Order Number One, which says the accused must be represented at all relevant times by detailed defense counsel. Al-Bahlul’s detailed defense counsels are Navy Lt. Cmdr. Philip Sundel and Army Maj. Mark Bridges.

Brownback then began a dialogue with Al-Bahlul, explaining the qualifications to be a defense counsel in an attempt to inform him of the importance of having attorney representation. Al-Bahlul then asked that a Yemeni lawyer be allowed to represent him. Before Brownback could respond, Al-Bahlul began making statements including that he belonged to Al-Qaeda (emphasis added), at which point Brownback interrupted his statement. He then advised the panel that he had not questioned the accused and that the statement had not been made under oath and is not evidence.
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# Posted 6:21 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN THE NEWS: Congratulations to Yale provost (and former graduate dean) Susan Hockfield, who's moving to Cambridge to be MIT's first woman president. The TSA will be taking over authority for airline screening from individual airlines. The two downed Russian aircraft have been associated with terrorism, most likely Chechen given the presence of hexogen as an explosive. And a cleaner accidentally threw out an exhibit at the Tate Modern, thinking it quite literally was rubbish.
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Thursday, August 26, 2004

# Posted 7:37 PM by Patrick Belton  

THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS ANALYSES proposals for intelligence reform.
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# Posted 2:22 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONVENTION BLOGGERS: The WSJ Online has now posted a series of short interviews with the 15 bloggers set to cover the GOP convention in NY. Memo to the other 14: Alphabetical order rules! Take that Ardolino and Aylward!
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# Posted 10:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

AND YOU NEVER THOUGHT DAVE MATTHEWS HAD MUCH IN COMMON WITH SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK, DID YOU: It's unclear which is worse, dumping 800 pounds of liquid human waste from your tour bus into the Chicago River, or unintentionally dumping it onto a boatload of tourists.
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# Posted 8:36 AM by Patrick Belton  

REASON'S JESSE WALKER HOSTS THE DEFINITIVE, final, and absolute must-read word on the Swift Boat Affair. (Courtesy of our friend Matt Frost).
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# Posted 6:32 AM by Patrick Belton  

'SORRY FOR THE DELAYED RESPONSE BUT YOUR EMAIL FELL SMACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SACRED PARISIAN AUGUST HOLIDAY:' An email I just received from an EU foreign policy hand containing that charming phrase points the way to Niall Ferguson's LA Times essay on comparative vacationing in the States and Europe.
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# Posted 6:17 AM by Patrick Belton  

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK DEMONSTRATES in the pages of the LRB that even some psychoanalysts never progress beyond their excretory phase.
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# Posted 1:27 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A POST NOT ABOUT CAMBODIA, VIETNAM, OR JON STEWART: Two major investigations have faulted high-ranking officials and military intelligence officers for making possible the abuses at Abu Ghraib. I am glad to see that our government is beginning to take this problem more seriously and to recognize that responsibility for what happened extends far up the chain of command.
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# Posted 1:20 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"FREEDOM MEANS FREEDOM FOR EVERYONE": When Dick Cheney's right, he's right. Gay Americans are not second-class citizens. On the other hand, I'd appreciate it if more Republicans who didn't have gay children came out against the No Gay Marriage Amendment.

But that's politics for you. Senators and Congressmen are always crossing party lines to support proposals that benefit their families personally.

Conventional wisdom says that if you have an obscure disease, the best thing that can happen to you is a major celebrity getting the same disease. Well let me tell you, the next best think is if a Senator's kid gets it and his father or mother decides that an extra $10 million in targeted research funding isn't such a bad idea.

UPDATE: Michelle Cottle agrees. Dick Cheney is selfish, not compassionate.
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# Posted 1:15 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

RUBIN'S RETRACTION: Jamie Rubin has taken back his statement that "in all probability" John Kerry would've invaded Iraq. I think Rubin did the right thing, but as Rob Tagorda points out, the damage has already been done.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2004

# Posted 11:01 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHY DOES OXBLOG HAVE IT IN FOR JON STEWART? Why not go after Fox and its pretensions of being 'fair and balanced'? How about all the conservative radio talk-show hosts?

Well, the fact is that no one I know and/or respect relies on Fox or Rush or the Washington Times for their news. But more and more young, smart, educated people keep telling me how insightful Jon Stewart is. They even say that they rely on him for most of their news. So that makes Stewart a target.

So let's blog...

10:59 PM -- Stewart runs a mock-ad claiming that John Kerry was never on The Daily Show. It is a mildly clever send-up of the Swift Vets.

11:01 PM -- Stewarts hits the NYC government for preventing protests in order to protect the grass in Central Park.

11:03 PM -- Correspondent Samatha Bee interviews a Connecticut man who uses the bathroom in City Hall to protest the city's refusal to repair the sewage line connected to his fouse. Funny stuff, but you have to see it to get the jokes.

11:06 PM -- Commericals. Damn, that was quick.

11:09 PM -- It's Lewis Black with Back in Black! Black reviews the GOP convention's promotional video for NYC, hosted by Sean Hannity. Even that is full of lies!

11:12 PM -- Black does his own promo video for NYC: "Bronx is a borough. Bronx is where they invented the Dirty Sanchez..."

11:12 PM -- More commercials. Jeebus, can't Stewart's writers produce a little more material (so that OxBlog can criticize it)?

11:15 PM -- We're back! Time for RNC chairman Ed Gillespie! Stewart: Why did you pick NY? It's the gayest, Jew-iest town anywhere!

11:16 PM -- Stewart: "Last night we had John Kerry. Where's your guy?" Man, that would be awesome.

Gillespie: I'll put in a good word.

Stewart: No you won't.

Gillespie can't stop chuckling. It's sort of weird and spooky.

11:19 PM -- Gillespie jokes that he got a student deferrment in Vietnam...back when he was in elementary school. The joke bombs.

11:20 PM -- Gillespie plugs his video, KerryOnIraq.com. Stewart: You're going to say Kerry missed a committee meeting. But didn't your guy get us into this in the first place?

Gillespie: Hey, Kerry voted for the war.

Stewart: No, he just voted to give Bush the authority. But I disagree with that too...

Stewart: People always say we're a liberal show. But hey, if the GOP has the White House, Congress, the governorships, we've got to make fun of them, right?

Stewart: If you get Bush on my show, dude, I will be such a p***y!
11:23 PM -- More commercials.

11:26 PM -- That's our show. Now here's your moment of zen...

A good show. I laughed, which you probably can't tell because I didn't write "Ha-ha-ha!" after every post.

Obviously, Stewart gets big points for sort of admitting that his show is sort of partisan. You might even say he went too easy on Gillespie.

But now I have a new complaint: There was only 19 1/2 minutes of entertainment in a half-hour show! Frikkin' corporate media.
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# Posted 2:49 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LET SLEEPING BEARS LIE: Old NZ slams the professionals for their incompetence.
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# Posted 2:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KERRY-IN-CAMBODIA UPDATE: Fred Kaplan, via Tapped, offers the best argument so far on behalf of the proposition that Kerry actually was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968. (Although Glenn Reynolds is far from being persuaded.)

On the other side, Joshua Muravchik argues in the WaPo that Kerry's own journal shows that he was never in Cambodia. I think it's interesting that the WaPo finally ran an op-ed on the Cambodia story after all this time.

Now, if you believe that the whole Cambodia business is just one big lie, then the WaPo's decision reflects the power of the right-wing media to force its agenda onto the mainstream.

By the same token, Tim Russert's decision to grill one of Kerry's top advisers about Cambodia also reflects right-wing power. This transcript from Russert's show suggests that Kerry hasn't even given his top spokesman any solid guidance on the issue:

MR. RUSSERT: ...so we--be clear and give you a chance to respond.
Senator Kerry in '86 on the floor of the Senate: "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there, the troops were not in Cambodia...I have that memory which is seared--seared--in me."

In '79 in the Boston Herald: "I remember Christmas Eve of 1968
five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

First of all, Nixon was not president...

MR. [Tad] DEVINE [Senior advisor to the Kerry campaign]: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: ...in December of '68.


MR. RUSSERT: He didn't take office until January '69. Does Senator Kerry stand by that statement that on Christmas Eve of '68 he was physically in Cambodia?

MR. DEVINE: Right. Well, his memory, Tim, is being there, around there. And I'll tell you what happened on December 25th...

MR. RUSSERT: No--being there or around there?

MR. DEVINE: No, being right at the Cambodian border, over
the Cambodian border. That's what he remembers. That's his clear

What a clear memory. It can't tell the difference between 'there' and 'around there', 'at' and 'over'. Or is that just a matter of nuance, a nuance that was "seared--seared" into the Senator's mind?

OK, OK, enough jokes. On a more substantive note, Fred Kaplan (in the column mentioned above) cites the following passage from Kerry's Vietnam diary to show that he was very close to Cambodia on December 24, 1968:
It was early morning, not yet light. Ours was the only movement on the river, patrolling near the Cambodian line.
The italics are Kaplan's. But far more interesting than the fact that Kerry was near Cambodia is the fact that he clearly knew that there was a "line" separating it from Vietnam. So much for the confusion about whether Kerry knew he was in Cambodia, let alone "five miles" across the border.

Finally, let's go back Meet the Press and see how Kerry's advisor handled Russert's onslaught:,

MR. DEVINE: Now Tim...Let me tell you what happened on December 24, 1968. John Kerry started that morning 50 miles away from the Cambodian border and they headed towards Cambodia, deep behind enemy lines. First, they were ambushed once. Second, they were fired upon, again in a separate incident. And that night they encountered friendly fire. Three times in one day he was fired upon deep behind enemy lines. And that certainly was seared into
his memory.

And by the way, that's three times more than the president and
the vice president have ever been fired on in the course of their life.

When in doubt, go for the cheapshot. By the way, this is coming from the same advisor who told Russert just minutes earlier that "We want a debate and a campaign about the issues."

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# Posted 1:11 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BUSH VS. THE 527'S: Wow. Glenn Reynolds says the President is being shamelessly opportunistic. Matt Yglesias says he's being just plain hypocritical. Not a winner for the President, I think.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LIVE BLOGGING JOHN & JON: Kerry is on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart!

11:10 PM -- Kerry says Americans want a more intelligent conversation about national affairs. Huge applause.

11:11 PM -- Stewart sarcastically asks whether Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve. Stewart leans over desk, looking ridiculous. Kerry goofily imitates Stewart. Big laughs. Kerry doesn't answer the question. Stewart doesn't care.

11:13 PM -- Stewart asks: "Are you the No. 1 most liberal Senator, even more liberal than Karl Marx?" Stewart asks: "Have you flip-flopped?" Kerry says he's flop-flipped. No laughs.

11:14 PM -- Stewart asks how Kerry can stand up to all the groundless abuse he gets in the media. Wow. Tough one.

11:15 PM -- Stewart: "So you're saying it's more important to make the right decision than to just be decisive, like George Bush?" Kerry agrees that George Bush is stubborn.

11:16 PM -- Stewart: "Do you think you can ever have an honest debate with George Bush?"

11:19 PM -- We're back! Stewart: Will we have to take over the whole Middle East because we don't have enough oil?

11:21 PM -- Stewart: What if cars ran on Twinkies instead of oil?

11:21 PM -- Stewart: What kind of loyalty oath do you have to sign to attend on John Kerry rally? Kerry: None. But the other guys make you sign one. (Is that what Stewart was hinting at?)

11:22 PM -- Kerry: It's amazing how many people want to introduce themselves to you in the mens room. Huh?

Not a bad job, all in all. Kerry came across as pretty comfortable and pretty fluid. Then again, Stewart perfectly set up Kerry for each of his soundbites.

When Kerry had a chance to improvise, he totally flubbed it, except for once. Of course, George Bush probably would've flubbed them all even worse.

Tomorrow night's guest: Ed Gillespie of the RNC.

By the way, at the beginning of the show, during the eight minutes when Blogger refused to accept my posts, Stewart turned to the camera and said that sometimes, people ask if what he does is a news show.

Stewart's answer to that question is that if people can't tell the difference between The Daily Show and a real news show, it's a sad comment on the state of news in America today. Either that, or a sad commentary on the state of Stewart's ability to make the audience laugh.

Presumably, this is one of Stewart's periodic efforts to exempt himself from criticism that The Daily Show is one-sided. It must work pretty well, since any time I criticize The Daily Show or The Onion or some other liberal satire, someone writes in to tell me that it's time to stop being so uptight and humorless.

My response to that criticism is the same as before: If Stewart just admitted that he's a partisan Democrat or that he is actively trying to counter the influence of Fox News and talk radio, then I wouldn't mind. But for as long as Stewart gets all indignant about media bias, I think he should make some sort of effort to be balanced himself.

Like it or not, his show is not just entertainment; it influences hundreds of thousands of of people's opinions. More importantly, that's exactly what Stewart wants.

So I guess tomorrow night is Stewart's chance to show that there is no double-standard. I'm sure Ed Gillespie will appreciate the softballs.
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# Posted 2:06 PM by Patrick Belton  

PATRICK'S OBLIGATORY MUSINGS ON DOMESTIC POLITICS: Booo-oooring. Oh, sorry, I was distracted by watching the Simpsons there. I'm all for asking a great deal of our politicians, but I stop at expecting them to do the impossible. On Iraq, I don't see how Kerry can at present do anything other than make a distinction without a difference. If he comes down against the Iraq War, he allows himself to be painted as a McGovern-like dovish candidate; for it, and he loses the support of the Democratic prospectives whose support for the war may have been tepid to cold.

Glancing forward to the coming campaign, I also don't see much hope in predicting foreign policy differences - a.k.a., with regard to Iraq - from campaign statements, which will consist of months of trying to score valence points: being the closer candidate, not to policies, but to themes everyone is for, ones which generally poll well. Better, probably, to look at who's advising them, and then at their prior careers. Exception to the Belton Rule (no, make that Lemma; I've always wanted to own a Lemma): performance at debate at least reveals familiarity with the stuff of policy. In this, Kerry shone far above all of his primary opponents (I except Lieberman, selfishly). You may not have agreed with everything he was saying, but you did at least have to concede, when he spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations, that he knew what he was talking about.

As a final note, in a peculiar personal exercise in escapism, I'm at the moment writing a book chapter on the oratorical culture of the Senate in the nineteenth century, when statesmen of the like of Webster and Douglas held policy conversations stretching over days, not 4-second CNN soundbites. Mmmm....nineteenth century.....
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# Posted 1:12 PM by Patrick Belton  

AS A CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR IN THE KERRY-VIETNAM WARS, I've lately been adopting the Wonk's Approach to Surviving a Presidential Election: stop up both ear canals with particularly choice pages from the Economist; then gently begin reciting Clausewitz, the Brookings Review, and, in extremity, even the Road Map; and repeat until mid-November, at which point you might try emerging. Nonetheless, it seems to me that what Larry Sabato and Joe Gandelman have to say on the subject is worthwhile. (Namely, from a purely strategic standpoint, Democrats most likely hadn't foreseen the flip side of Kerry's career as a war hero, that is, the effect of his post-service career as a anti-war protester on how he is perceived by other Vietnam veterans. Also, the general point that like the American Civil War, or the Irish civil war of 1922-23, it now seems particularly likely that Vietnam will rear its head in a 'where-were-you' capacity in every presidential contest in the nation, as long as any of its participants are alive.)
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# Posted 12:38 PM by Patrick Belton  

RUSSIAN ATTITUDES TOWARD DEMOCRACY: The Washington Post runs a piece by three Russia scholars disputing Richard Pipes to argue that Russian attitudes with regard to democracy are deeply divided, with a democratic camp which is 'too large to be dismissed and too small for complacency', and as many as one in three Russians backing authoritarianism. Against Pipes who argues that Russians have made up their minds, and it was in favour of authoritarianism, Gerber, Mendelson, and Shvedov find a division into three camps of roughly equal size, one favouring authoritarian government, one democracy and one that cannot decide. (q.v., Atrios's view of American politics) The role of Western and Asian democracies, they argue, is not to be on the sidelines in this dispute:
Our collaboration with dozens of human rights activists in the regions of Russia during the past two years convinced us that foreign assistance can make a difference. One form of support has particular potential to strengthen civil society: funding for social marketing -- the "selling" of certain ideas about how a society should function -- and public awareness campaigns. Social activists around the world use these tools to change and shape attitudes, knowledge, policies and behavior through tactics including education, persuasion and shaming. Surveys on how the public thinks about issues such as police abuse, crises in the military, the war in Chechnya and the collapse of health care provide activists with the information they need to craft messages and communicate with the people they are trying to reach. Public awareness campaigns guide nongovernmental organizations toward local constituencies.
Incidentally, Rob Tagorda takes a look at similar public opinion work that has been conducted in Latin America and the eastern Länder of Germany.
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# Posted 11:20 AM by Patrick Belton  

TURKEY TIME: Former National Intelligence Council vice-chair Graham E. Fuller analyses trends in Turkey, with particular focus on state secularism, relations with Europe and the US, and moves toward an independent, interest-centred foreign policy.

In other pieces worth reading in the current Washington Quarterly: Vali Nasr looks at the regional ramifications of Shi‘a-Sunni contestation in Iraq from Lebanon straight across to Pakistan. Rohan Gunaratna argues that after Madrid, Al Qa'eda is both focusing more on the West than the global South (as it had for the two years after 9/11), and has completed a transition from an organisation to an ideology. Career diplomat Timothy Savage attempts an objective look at the 'Muslim factor' in the contours of Europe’s domestic and foreign policy landscape. And RAND's China hand Murray Scot Tanner looks at evidence to hand to forecast much more civil protest to come in China, with the new government of Hu Jintao likely to be forced to rethink post-Deng solutions toward managing unrest and finding a balance between reform and social control.
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# Posted 11:04 AM by Patrick Belton  

IN HOUSTON? Come hang out with us tonight.

(If you're not in Houston, don't worry - you can hang out with us some other night.)
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# Posted 10:39 AM by Patrick Belton  

DIAMOND ON IRAQ: Larry Diamond is, along with Carnegie's Tom Carothers, one of the most fair-minded and reputable scholars writing on democracy promotion and assistance today. He has also played a first-hand role in Iraq, as an advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority. For those reasons if for no others, his incisive analysis of what we've done wrong in promoting democracy in Iraq, and what we need to start doing, is truly required reading for any of us with interest in the issue.
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# Posted 10:16 AM by Patrick Belton  

CENTRAL ASIA WATCH: Azerbaijan is attempting to parlay strong US interest in establishing a base there into restarting the Nagorno-Karabkh peace process, by using the US interest in a base to induce Russia to change its position toward the disputed Armenian enclave. Elizabeth Owen looks at the Georgian film industry, while Daniel Drezner examines successful police reforms under the reformist government of Saakashvili. And Tajikistan - which has most things going for it commonly associated with nationhood, except for an economy - may open its borders more to China to serve as a conduit for export.
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# Posted 8:46 AM by Patrick Belton  

WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE WORLD?: Well, to begin with, Somalia has sworn in members of a new parliament, a key step in the establishment of the first national government since 1991. The Senate Republicans' unutterably silly proposal to dismantle the CIA has, mercifully, begun to attract widespread criticism. Musharraf has promised Karzai that Pakistan will work to ensure that Taliban elements operating from the nation's territory will not disrupt Afghanistan's upcoming 9 October elections. US oil prices have backed off from a 21-year high of $49.40 per barrel, as additional Iraqi exports come online. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has gone to Darfur to tour refugee sites and place pressure on President Omar al-Bashir to take measures against genocidal attacks by pro-government militias. Finally, responding to criticism, Bush issued a call for independent groups to stop running political advertisements, though the White House 'quickly moved to insist that Mr Bush had not meant in any way to single out the advertisement run by veterans opposed to Mr Kerry'. It's rather good to know that they have a sense of humour in the White House.
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# Posted 8:40 AM by Patrick Belton  

ANYONE ENDOWED WITH EVEN THE SMALLEST DOSE OF ANGLOPHILIA will perhaps appreciate the delightfully dry tone of this James McConnachie essay on the BBC weather site. E.g.:'Unceasing grey and drizzle? Yet monotonous is exactly what British weather isn’t. We have the pure, blind luck to live in a maritime climate which never stops surprising.' 'When it’s pelting it down in Skye’s Cuillin mountains, as it so often is, it can be dry and sunny over the Cairngorms, in the east. Get in your car and drive.' And finally, 'maybe the best tip of all is to try and grow a thick, or at least impermeable, skin.'
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Monday, August 23, 2004

# Posted 10:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

KERRY IN IRAQ, PART II: Not long ago, Matt Yglesias asked me what I thought John Kerry was going to do in Iraq if he became President. I started to answer Matt's question, but wandered off point and onto the related subject of what John Kerry would have done about Iraq if he were President back in 2002.

To answer that hypothetical question, I borrowed from Tim Russert. And in order to answer Matt's question, I'm also going to borrow from Tim Russert. Yesterday, Russert reminded his audience of Kerry's intention to "significantly reduce American forces in Iraq" within a year. Russert then asked Tad Devine, one of Kerry's top advisers, "Can [Kerry] do it?" Their exchange follows:

MR. DEVINE: Well, I think if we build the right international coalition we can...

MR. RUSSERT: You say a goal. Kerry said, "Absolutely we can
reduce the numbers." Is it a goal or a promise?

MR. DEVINE: Right. It is something he can do if we have the exercise of presidential leadership. One of the great failures today in Iraq is the lack of the exercise of presidential leadership. This president has done nothing.

MR. RUSSERT: Is it a goal or a promise?

MR. DEVINE: He has stood on the sidelines. If he can--it's something he feels he can do...

MR. RUSSERT: Is there a difference between the Bush and Kerry
position on Iraq?

MR. [Ken] MEHLMAN [Campaign Manager, Bush-Cheney '04]: There is, Tim. They agree on some things. They both agreed about the threat. They both agreed about authorization for war. And as Jamie Rubin pointed out, they both agreed about sending our troops to war.

Here's the difference...after a long period of saying, "Our troops need
to stay in to finish the job," in a political speech, he said, "Try to get them back there in six months." That's the worst thing you can say to try to get them back after six months. You know why? That's a signal to the enemy. It's a signal to the terrorists to wait six months and one day and to our allies who are making a big sacrifice, more than 30 nations today in Iraq. It's a signal to them that we're not willing to stay the course if there's a political interest at stake.

There is a difference between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Bottom line for George Bush is victory in Iraq. Bottom line for John Kerry is victory in politics.

MR. DEVINE: Ken, there's only one commander in chief in the United States to send our troops to Iraq without the body armor they need to survive and his name is George W. Bush. And if he had spent one day on the front line of a war, he never would have done it.

When talking to Matt, OxBlog often comes under fire for putting too much faith in George Bush's sincerity, especially when it comes to promoting democracy in Iraq. More broadly, OxBlog comes under fire for being too quick to assume that rhetoric matters, even though everyone knows that promises are made to be broken.

So, Matt, does John Kerry's rhetoric matter? Or is he just like George Bush? If Kerry does deserve OxBlog's trust, then we should be extremely concerned about his intention to start pulling out of Iraq in the middle of its efforts to draft a constitution and hold its first democratic elections.

"But David", Matt might say, "you constantly insist that Kerry has flip-flopped on Iraq. If pulling out is such a bad idea, don't you think he'll just flip-flop again after taking office?"

One might add that OxBlog likes to make fun of Kerry taking positions that are so nuanced. Look at how Devine tries to avoid Russert's question about whether bringing soldiers home from Iraq is a goal or a promise. And what about Devine's qualification that we'll only bring home the troops after building an international coaltion to handle the occupation?

In May, the French foreign minister vowed that "There will be no French soldiers in Iraq, not now and not later." Even if Kerry got the French to go back on their promise, how many troops do you think they would send? Thus, it should be pretty easy for President Kerry to say that his conditions haven't been met, so he won't be pulling any soldiers out of Iraq.

But enough of this jousting. Putting aside our partisanship for the moment, is there any way to tell whether a given candidate (or incumbent) really means what he says? In my dissertation, I try to show that Congress, the media, and public opinion can force a President to fulfill empty promises. This happens because Presidents really are at a disadvantage in policy debates when they seem to be going back on their word.

If Kerry becomes President, anti-war Democrats will push him hard to live up to his promise. And even if six months aren't enough, Kerry will want to bring home as many troops as he can before 2008. The framework for America's relationship with Iraq will become one of troop withdrawals rather than democracy promotion.

On the other hand, many promises are broken -- especially those that are laden with exit clauses, like Kerry's goal/promise to bring the troops home from Iraq. When push comes to shove, I feel like I have to make a choice between competence and principle if I want to vote on the basis of Iraq.

Even though our soldiers are adjusting far better than expected to the challenges of occupation, the White House gives them moral support instead of guidance. From John Kerry, I expect the reverse. The question is, which do our soldiers need more?
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# Posted 10:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEY GRANDMA, DID YOU READ MY BLOG? Yesterday, I drove up to Haverstraw, NY to visit my grandmother. She is headed for her 90th birthday next spring and is, by her own admission, "getting younger every day." However, her memory isn't the best and she has a very hard time understanding anything new.

At one point, my grandmother (or 'Savta' in Hebrew), asked what kind of job I would get after graduation. I told her that I would work for the government. To my surprise, she was deeply impressed.

"Oooooh. The guuuuverment," she said. Most people I talk to consider my choice of profession somewhat dubious. These days, even liberals don't like the government. But I think my grandmother comes from that old European tradition that thinks of being in the civil service as being part of a secular priesthood. And far be it from me to disabuse her of that notion.

While on this line of conversation, my father (who had ridden shotgun) tried to explain that I would be covering the Republican convention. He then got really ambitious and tried to explain that I edited a website that had been given a press credential.

Unfortunately, my father had to give up after a brief effort to explain what the internet was. 'Computer' is a concept my Savta can deal with, but I'm pretty sure she has no idea what computers do. Instead, my father said I was sort of a journalist.

Now why does any of this matter? Because just after this failed discussion of blogging, my Savta eagerly grabbed my cellphone when I told her that my younger brother was on the line. Standing all of 4'8" and sitting in a chair at least three sizes too large, she began to chatter away like a New York cab driver.

You might say that cellphones aren't that hard to understand because they're so much like regular phones. In contrast, there's nothing like the internet. And it'strue. But compulsive cellphone talkers are an icon of the information age.

So for one brief moment, a little old woman from Vilna who still has a thick Yiddish accent despite being in this country for almost 60 years gave off the impression of being part and parcel of our brave new world. I couldn't help but smile.
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# Posted 9:19 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WOULD KERRY REALLY DO ANYTHING ALL THAT BAD IN IRAQ? That's the question Matt Yglesias wants answered. He asked it a while back via e-mail, and added that it wasn't a rhetorical question. He really wanted to know what kind of situation might come up in which, from an OxBlog perspective, Bush would make the right decision and Kerry the wrong one.

Matt's question has been on my mind for a while, but today is a good day to answer it thanks to Tim Russert, who interrogated Tad Devine, a senior adviser to the Democratic candidate, on yesterday's edition of Meet the Press. Opposing Devine was Bush's campaign manager, Ken Mehlman.

The first half of the discussion focused on the Swift Vets, about which more later. Then Russert asked, "[Why] are the campaigns debating Vietnam instead of Iraq?" After confronting Mehlman about the diseent of Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.), Russert turned to Devine and challenged him to show that there was a substantive difference between Kerry and Bush on the decision to invade Iraq.

The basis of Russert's challenge was Jamie Rubin's recent statement (paraphrased by Russert) that
"Knowing then what he knows today about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," -- John -- "Kerry still would have voted to authorize the war and `in all probability' would have launched a military attack to oust Hussein by now if he were president, Kerry national security adviser Jamie Rubin said in an interview."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Why had Rubin -- a veteran spokesman for the Clinton State Department and leading candidate to be Kerry's NSC director -- said something so obviously stupid? Kerry has been fighting since the convention to show that he has had a consistent position on Iraq. The core of that position, as stated by Devine, is that
John Kerry does not regret his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq. What he deeply regrets is what the president did with that authority. The president rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.
But Russert saw the contradiction and hit Devine hard. The result is worth quoting at length:

MR. RUSSERT: But Jamie Rubin said in all probability John Kerry would have launched a military attack.

MR. DEVINE: Tim, again, the authorization was the right vote, it was the right choice. In fact, in 1998, John Kerry supported regime change in Iraq. And the fact of the matter is that this president said he would go to the United Nations, exhaust every remedy, build a
broad international coalition. He failed to do so and the result of that
president's failures is what's going on today in Iraq. It is a huge
problem being paid for by American taxpayers and American troops.

MR. RUSSERT: But why launch an attack if there were no weapons of mass destruction?

MR. DEVINE: Well, Tim, listen, it's a--you know, hypothetical is always impossible to deal with. I mean, the fact--this is the reality. We can deal with the reality. Saddam Hussein needed to be held accountable. There was a right way to do it and a wrong way to do
it. Every step along the way—once the president got that authority, he chose the wrong course. And today, as a result of that choice, of the president and the vice president, the decisions they made, American taxpayers are footing a bill of $200 billion in Iraq. John Kerry has said there is a way to win the war on terror, to be tough and smart to do it, and that we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down here in America.

MR. RUSSERT: But if he voted to authorize the war and his foreign policy advisers said he would have launched an attack on Saddam, what's the difference between John Kerry's position and George Bush's?

MR. DEVINE: Well, listen, the president--the difference is the president made mistake after mistake in this country and our troops are paying for it today. John Kerry would never have pursued the course of action that the president of the United States has pursued. John Kerry would have built a true international coalition to shoulder the burden with America. He would have put it together the right
way. Unfortunately, the president has cost this nation with his costly mistakes and we're paying the price every day.

MR. RUSSERT: Who would have been in the coalition that was not?

MR. DEVINE: Tim, I think a number of countries, potentially, could have been in that coalition. But that's unknowable.

MR. RUSSERT: France and Germany?

MR. DEVINE: What we know, Tim--all we can know is this, that John Kerry would have kept his word and not broken it. The president promised to build a true, broad international coalition and he failed to do so. And the result of that failure is the cost being paid by America today.

Think about it: A Kerry spokesman defending the invasion by saying that "Saddam Hussein needed to be held accountable." That a Bush-Cheney talking point. Even OxBlog wouldn't go that far. After all, if we had known that Saddam had no WMD stockpiles, what would have held him accountable for?

Russert's point about France and Germany is also critical. How can John Kerry attack George Bush for undermining our alliances if Kerry would have done exactly the same thing that antagonized the French and Germans so much in the first place?

Devine is lucky that Russert didn't follow up on his questions by asking whether Rubin's statement counts as a flip-flop on the war. In Slate, Will Saletan rested his entire case for the consistency of Kerry's position on the Senator's October 2003 statement that
[The Bush administration] did not give legitimacy to the inspections. We could have still been doing inspections even today.
In other words, if John Kerry had been President, there would've been no war.

Now, your'e probably asking yourself, what does all this have to do with Matt's question about whether Kerry would do anything different in Iraq? My frustrating answer to that question is: To be continued...
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