Sunday, October 31, 2004

Six ways to stay sane between now and Tuesday night
Ok, after you've done your GOTV work (and you have done some, haven't you?), you'll need a way to stay sane between the time you read this post and the moment the election returns start to roll in. So, here they are --

1) Watch a Halloween movie. 'Tis the season. I just frittered away two hours on the Dawn of the Dead remake, which is quite good if you're into that sort of thing.
2) Listen to your favorite CD. This is typically good for 45-60 minutes. I'm assigning Uncle Tupelo's Anodyne to the Monday 9-10 timeslot.
3) Fix yourself a good, stiff drink, and watch Simpsons or Seinfeld reruns. I'm a gin-and-tonic man myself, but anything will do.
4) Play with your fantasy roster. Just don't do anything stupid. Two weeks ago, I almost dropped Lions RB Kevon Jones. That would have been a very silly decision.
5) Go read MyDD, Dailykos, and The Emerging Democratic Majority, which have been responsible for keeping my morale high over the last three months.
6) Go read wingnut blogs. They're good for a laugh. Most of them are predicting a Bush victory with 300+ EVs. Ha, ha, ha. Remember, Realclearpolitics predicted Bush with over 400 EVs in 2000, and they're one of the saner outfits.

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New prediction
Forget Newsweek's bogus poll -- most polls show a dead heat, and now both Fox and the Washington Post show a very slim Kerry lead among registered voters. Zogby has Kerry winning 6 of the 10 big battleground states. If I'm doing the math right, Zogby's numbers would give Kerry something like 286 EVs in the Electoral College, with FL and NH (which everyone agrees is going for Kerry, though I haven't read any good analysis of why) flipping to Kerry and only NM flipping to Bush. In the interest of fairness, a polling outfit called Mason-Dixon has remarkably different numbers which are much more favorable for Bush. Unfortunately, they are the outlier in almost every single poll they've done, which didn't stop Knight-Ridder's newspaper empire from touting a Bush lead this morning.

In any case, last week's enthusiasm about Arkansas has not been borne out in any major poll I've seen since then, so I guess I have to face reality and issue a new prediction, my final one. This, incidentally, is also the prediction that is going into our department Electoral College pool for $5. Here goes: Turnout, energy, and new registrations give Kerry narrow victories in the Bush 2000 states of Ohio, Florida, and New Hampshire, adding 51 EVs to the Gore 2000 base of 260. However, Bush ekes out extremely narrow wins in Iowa and New Mexico to keep Kerry under 300 EVs. Final tally: Kerry 299, Bush 239. In the popular vote, Kerry becomes the first candidate since George H.W. Bush to win a simple majority of votes, with 50.1% to Bush's 48.5%. Nader, Badnarik and all the others combine for a paltry 1.4% of the popular vote.

Note that Kerry could drop either Florida or Ohio in this scenario and still win. That's my story. And I'm sticking to it.

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Most outrageous election prediction
Dream on, buddy -- NRO's Michael Graham:

From the in April: "Kerry wins 10 states. It ain't gonna be close." On C-SPAN last week I made it "Kerry wins 10 states, plus Hawaii (I kept missing it because it's always stuck in a corner on every map)". Electoral vote: 367 Bush, 171 Kerry. However, the popular vote is going to be tight. Bush maxes out at 51% by losing the popular vote overwhelmingly in NY, CA, IL, and MA and winning the swing states of FL, OH, PA and the rest of the Great Lakes region by a whisker. Will the Dems still litigate this election in close states if there's no chance of winning the White House? If it will undermine the president's ability to lead, and continue to feed Kerry's race-baiting myth that a million black voters were disenfranchised in 2000--absolutely.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Today's Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper Prize: Ann Coulter, her first big win here. In her most recent column, Ann writes, "The Democrats want Saddam back. I suppose it was only a matter of time for the party that also welcomed back Marion Barry, Ted Kennedy, Barney Frank, Al Sharpton, Frank Lautenberg, Hillary Clinton, etc., etc." In Ann Coulter's tortured mind, genocidal dictator Saddam Hussein = longtime public servant Frank Lautenberg, sitting U.S. Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, and the courageous congressman Barney Frank. Yes Ann, Democrats want Saddam back. We want him back so bad it just hurts. It hurts. I lay awake at night grieving for the injustice which has befallen him, and so do all my liberal friends, because at heart we just fucking hate America, don't we?

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Monday, October 25, 2004

The electoral math today
By now we should all know that this is going to be an extremely close election. There is a significant chance that the electoral division from 2000 -- 271-267 -- could be repeated. Most of the tracking polls for most of the states are within the margin of error, though it should be noted that Zogby's state-by-state battleground polls from the past two days would give Bush 287 EV's. Nationally, Rasmussen and the Washington Post both have Kerry with small leads, while Zogby gives Bush a small lead. Only Gallup, which was thoroughly discredited in 2000 (it showed Bush with a 13-point lead on Oct. 26, 2000) has Bush up by anything more than a point or two. With undecideds likely to break heavily for Kerry, we are in for yet another squeaker. How can both candidates win?

For Kerry and for Bush, there are a handful of scenarios for easy, uncontested victory. For Bush, winning both Ohio and Florida would make it nearly impossible for Kerry to win the election. This is because due to reapportionment after the 2000 census, the Bush states from 2000 actually gained 7 EVs, and the Gore states lost 7. So even if Kerry wins all of the Gore states (and he has now been trailing consistently in Iowa and Wisconsin polls), he would lose the election 278-260. If Bush holds his 2000 states and picks off Wisconsin, Iowa, and New Mexico, all within the realm of possibility, then he wins decisively, 300-238. Bush could even lose Ohio and Wisconsin and still win 270-268. So as much as I believe the momentum is with Kerry right now, there's no getting around the fact that there's lots of ways Bush can win.

As for Sen. Kerry, he could also win the election easily and outright by winning Ohio and Florida. There is almost no scenario under which he wins those states and loses the electoral college. If he keeps the Gore 2000 states and wins Ohio and Florida, he wins 307-231. Even if he were to lose Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and Minnesota, he still wins 275-263. It would also be unlikely for Kerry to lose if he wins Florida and loses Ohio. The Gore 2000 states plus Florida equal 287, meaning he could lose Wisconsin and Iowa and still eke out a victory.

In my mind, one scenario has begun to look more and more likely. Let's say the electoral map stays exactly the same as 2000, with only two exceptions. First, let's assume, as now seems likely from the polls, that New Hampshire flips for Kerry. Second, let's assume that someone in the Kerry camp has a brain and sends Bill Clinton to Arkansas, where polls now show a dead heat, for the duration of the campaign. The Gore 2000 states plus Arkansas and New Hampshire would give Kerry a most narrow victory, 270-268, assuming that Bush doesn't pick off one electoral vote from Maine. That, disastrously, would throw the college into a 269-269 tie, and send the election to the House of Representatives, which would surely give the election to Bush.

You can go play with the American Research Group's handy-dandy electoral vote calculator yourself, and create a thousand scenarios to keep you tossing and turning between now and election day. As for me, I'm ready to make a prediction. Kerry, disappointingly, is going to lose in Iowa, the state that sent him on his meteoric rise to the Democratic nomination. He is going to lose New Mexico, where not even popular Gov. Bill Richardson can save him. That will set him back in the math to 290-248 Bush. The president will almost surely find a way to keep Florida in his column as well. But huge, unprecedented turnout in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis will keep the critical states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania in Kerry's column. Kerry is also going to win New Hampshire, and he's going to win Ohio, and last but not least, he's going to win Arkansas and the election, 278-260. I also predict that the popular vote will once again be within one or two million votes out of a record 115-120 million cast.

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The next President of the United States: Kerry and the Big Dog address more than 100,000 people in Philly today. Kerry is just absolutely going to crush Bush in Philadelphia, and that margin will give him Pennsylvania by at least 4 percent. The picture is from the Kerry-Edwards campaign website.

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Gas tax irony
I think it's strange that the Bushies are running a Kerry Gas Tax Calculator on their campaign website. For one thing, it's been a pretty long time since John Kerry supported a 50-cent gas tax, so the attack is quite dishonest. It's been so long that all the Bush campaign can honestly say is that Kerry "has supported" such an increase. For all we know it could have been in 1985, back when Dick Cheney was voting to keep Nelson Mandela in jail.

But more importantly, I would think the Bush administration would not want to draw attention to gas prices in this country whatsoever. Down the street, my local West Philadelphia Sunoco is selling unleaded gasoline for $2.09 a gallon, which is far more than anything I've ever paid in my lifetime. While the price is still lower, in inflation-adjusted terms, than prices during the gas shocks of the 1970s, they are still much, much higher than they were when this administration took office. Near the end of the Clinton administration, I was paying $.88 a gallon in some parts of New Jersey. Regardless of whether or not you blame George W. Bush entirely for this increase, it's not an aspect of his record that I think his advisors would want to highlight.

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Mmm, President of the United States....
Apparently Homer Simpson is regarded quite highly in the United Kingdom. He bested both Josiah Bartlett and Frasier Crane as the fictional character that our friends across the pond would most like to see as president. As a voter, my guess is that Homer would be kind of a Reagan Democrat swing voter, conservative on social issues but left-leaning on pocket-book matters. He did, after all, shill for Mr. Burns' mayoral bid. I think this year, though, the thought of Bart manning the barricades in Iraq ten years from now might swing him for Kerry.

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Today's Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper Prize II: "Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage....It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth." -James Dobson, stumping for right-wing lunatic senate candidate Tom Coburn. Coburn said he was "proud to have his endorsement." Via Andrew Sullivan.

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Today's Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper Prize: The new Bush-Cheney ad, called "Wolves." You have to see it to believe it. These guys have nothing to run on but fear. The appropriate response would be for the Kerry campaign to release an ad with this voiceover: "Bush ignored a Presidential Daily Briefing entitled 'Wolf Leader Determined To Strike In U.S.' and then decided to attack the polar bears, who didn't have any weapons and didn't represent a threat to our nation. When will George W. Bush stop misleading America about wolves?"

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Where is that threatening storm again?
Ken Pollack apologizes! The author of The Threatening Storm, perhaps the most influential left-leaning apologia for the invasion of Iraq has finally acknowledged that he was wrong. Of course, he blames it on "faulty intelligence," despite the fact that the second half of his book is dedicated to laying out all the things the U.S. needed to do first before the invasion, all of which the Bush administration declined to do.

I had to read Pollack's second-rate propaganda during the run-up to the war, and his case was pretty pathetic even then. Now, as he realizes, it's total garbage. Well, even it it's a little late, welcome to the anti-war movement, Ken.

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The Columbus Dispatch endorses Bush. Why? "A Kerry victory will send an ambiguous signal that may raise doubts about American staying power" in Iraq.

Did Karl Rove write that editorial?

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Kerry up big with college students
Donkey Rising links to a Harvard study showing Kerry with a 13-point lead among college students. Most people will dismiss this finding, claiming that young people always lean left. But this doesn't square with what I see on my campus, the University of Pennsylvania. Two years ago, I was the teaching assistant for two courses, an intro to international relations class, and a class on the international politics of the Middle East.

In both cases, the students seemed disproportionately supportive of President Bush. Both courses dealt with the Iraq war (which was still impending) at great length, and I was astonished by the degree of enthusiasm for the war among the students. An essay question on the international relations exam asked about the war, and I'd say at least two out of three were in favor. The Democratic opposition at this time was getting rolled in the House and Senate, and had just gotten creamed in the 2002 mid-term elections.

Today I'm TA'ing for an intro to politics class, and the sentiment seems completely reversed from two years ago. I'd say that at least two out of three students in my classes are for Kerry. An essay question on the mid-term which asked about the Iraq war and the theory of the democratic peace elicited mostly negative responses about the U.S. decision to launch its preventive war. There are still a few people sticking up for Bush, but overall, it looks like the President is really struggling with this demographic.

I really think that young people are going to vote in significant numbers this year, and that the current polling simply isn't picking this up -- both because likely voter models don't factor in first-time voters, and because people in the 18-29 age group tend to move around frequently, and tend to rely on cell phones for almost all communication. If the Democratic groups can make sure these people get to the polls, it should be a huge boost for the Kerry campaign. The President has certainly done all he can to alienate young voters -- the fact that a draft is a serious topic of national discussion must be absolutely killing Bush's numbers. It's up to Kerry to close the deal.

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Killing escalates in Iraq
I'm sure that Donald Rumsfeld will come on TV soon to tell me that this weekend's violence in Iraq is evidence that the insurgents are getting "desparate." But it's going to be hard to spin the gruesome ambush and killing of 50 Iraqi soldiers in Eastern Iraq. Imagine if 50 U.S. police officers were killed in a single day patrolling U.S. cities -- there would be a national emergency. But for this bankrupt gang of ideologues in the White House, 68 dead Iraqi soldiers and police is just another bump on the road to freedom.

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Disgusting display of corporate media control
Via Jerome Armstrong of MyDD, check out the story of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. The editorial board apparently voted 5-2 to endorse John Kerry, a reversal of their 2000 endorsement of George W. Bush, but they are being overruled by the publisher. Armstrong seems concerned largely with the impact on Ohio, a key swing state that Kerry desparately needs to win this election. I'd guess that not one person in ten reads the staff editorials at major newspapers. I certainly don't, and I once wrote a slew of them for my college newspaper.

No, what scares me is the idea that honest journalists can be kicked around like this and there's nothing they can do about it. It makes you wonder what other kinds of influence the publishers have on the content of the news and editorials.

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Saturday, October 23, 2004

Today's Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper Prize: "To reach a significant number of people, a title has to stay at the top of the Amazon list for many weeks and months. The left understands this. It also understands that this book is a threat to its agendas. It is the product of 50 years experience in the left or studying the left. In Unholy Alliance I have exposed the left's anti-American agendas and networks. I have shown how the left thinks, how it regards America as the Great Satan, and sees our terrorist enemies as "liberators," and how organizationally it has infiltrated the Democratic Party and shapes its agendas." -- the ever-unhinged David Horowitz, 10/18/04.

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Big scoop for CNN
Bush leads among rich people. Next up: Kerry leads among minorities.

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Republicans don't want you to vote
See? By the way, Mona, it's members of your own party who seem to be the stupidest. What do we call them again?

Oh yeah...Useful Idiots.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Freedom marching in reverse
You may have missed the surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on Wednesday. This follows closely on the heels of the Lebanese constitution being trampled upon to extend the term of Syrian toady Emile Lahoud.

The U.S. is now making noises about enforcing Security Council Resolution 1559, calling for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Hey, I'm all for it. But while we're at it, we might have a try at UNSCR 242, the one that talks about the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war."

You may remember this resolution, since it constituted the core of U.S. policy in Israel-Palestine for the 34 years preceding George W. Bush's election as president. What, might you ask, is the current administration's Israel-Palestine policy? The answer is quite simple -- it does not exist.

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Where is Pie Man when you need him most?
Ann Coulter is allegedly attacked by pie-wielding marauders. C'mon, you know you've thought about it once or twice yourself.

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Bush passed on taking out Zarqawi
Kevin Drum reminds us that the Bush administration decided not to take out Zarqawi and his terrorist camps in Iraq in 2002, even though we knew exactly where they were. The terrorist, holed up in Northern Iraq entirely beyond the reach of Saddam Hussein in 2002, is now masterminding terrorist attacks in Iraq that have contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Iraqis.

Just remember that every time our War President tells you he'll keep you safe.

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Today's Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper Prize: "The biggest threat we face now as a nation is the possibility of terrorists ending up in the middle of one of our cities with deadlier weapons than have ever before been used against us...." -- Vice President Dick Cheney, 10/21

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Fighting for the win, preparing for the loss
One of the things I've really been struggling with lately is how to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of Bush's re-election. While I really believe that turnout and an energized base is going to give Kerry the win in places like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Florida, the polls are mixed. Bush supporters have reason to be optimistic.

I've been so amped up about this thing for so long, even more so than in 2000, that I've really got to figure out how I'm going to handle a Kerry loss. The temptation for many progressives will be simply to give up on politics altogether, to concentrate on single-issue activist groups and organizations, or to leave the Democratic party for the Greens or some other upstart. But I think that precisely the opposite is true.

Even if Kerry loses, the long-term struggle remains. How can the Democrats become competitive in places across the U.S. where the Republicans have established dominance? If Democrats abandon the party en masse because of a narrow election defeat this year, it would catastrophic for the short and medium-term prospects for progressive causes. To abandon control of governance in this country to the current leadership of the Republican party would be to capitulate to an agenda of top-down class warfare, militarism, and discrimination. The erosion of progressive values would continue apace, as Bush and his successors dominate the Supreme Court and use the next census to entrench GOP control of the House.

Though a Kerry loss would involve tremendous losses for labor, the working class, women, gays, and others over the next four years, it should not be cause for undue despair or flight to Canada. Bush in unlikely to win with anything more than a bare majority in the popular vote or the Electoral College. A substantial number of Americans would be receptive to positive, visionary alternatives to the Republican agenda. It is these people that the Democrats should focus on after November 2nd.

We will not have George W. Bush to run against in 2008. Four years from now the Democrats will have to offer a candidate with a real vision about the future. In the next four years, it is imperative that we get the think tanks cranking out policy papers, progressive public intellectuals working the editorial pages, and organizations like America Coming Together maintaining staff and momentum, re-establishing the Democrats and their ideas as the party with the ideological vision and creativity to usher in another era of peace and prosperity.

It's about the brand name of the Democratic party. And it needs to be done no matter who wins on November 2nd.

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Monday, October 18, 2004

That's all I can really say about Jon Stewart's recent appearance on Crossfire. The buzz over the weekend was that Stewart had somehow spoken truth to media power, and as a ferocious admirer of The Daily Show, I watched the clip eagerly, thinking the best news anchor in America would skewer the mainstream media's he-said, she-said approach to this campaign.

Instead, Stewart went after Begala and Carlson. From the transcript:

STEWART: In many ways, it's funny. And I made a special effort to come on
the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in
occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.
BEGALA: We have noticed.
STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come
here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's
hurting America. (LAUGHTER)
CARLSON: But in its defense...(CROSSTALK) STEWART: So I wanted to come here
today and say...
STEWART: Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.
STEWART: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.
STEWART: And come work for us, because we, as the people...
CARLSON: How do you pay? STEWART: The people -- not well. (LAUGHTER)
BEGALA: Better than CNN, I'm sure. STEWART: But you can sleep at night.
STEWART: See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping
the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.
BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when
they make mistakes.
STEWART: No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their
strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks. (LAUGHTER)

Now, I'm no big fan of either Begala or Carlson, but they are hardly the worst either side has to offer. And its disappointing to me that Stewart chose to go after these guys, because they are not the problem in the mainstream media. The problem is so-called mainstream journalists who end up parroting partisan talking points in so-called "news" broadcasts, providing coverage for groups like Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. As Pandagon noted today:

CNN's election coverage this morning: show a poll with a hefty Bush lead, interview a Bush flack, tell everyone what the Kerry campaign is saying and thinking. Show a Kerry speech, but only in the background as a reporter talks over it. Cut to a Bush speech, uninterrupted, in a fluff ceremony for Olympians. Set for this afternoon: let Miles O'Brien talk about his incontinence while Kerry is giving a speech to supporters in Florida while Daryn Kagan gives a fifty minute thumbs-up during a Bush speech, carried in its totality with Swift Boat Vet ads running in the upper left corner of the screen.

I really thought Stewart got it. His show isn't a send-up of people like Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. There's nothing wrong with partisan-ship. The Daily Show is a vicious satire of people like Andrea Mitchell, Wolf Blitzer, and Brit Hume, who pretend to be neutral but are nothing of the sort.

I'm not going to stop watching his show or anything, but I think Stewart really embarrassed himself here.

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Saturday, October 16, 2004

The view from May 2003
I wrote this editorial in May of 2003, two months after the "end" of the war in Iraq. Not only has the situation in Iraq failed to improve in the last 18 months, but nearly every worrisome aspect I noted has gotten worse. The hardliners have totally muscled the moderates out of Iranian politics, the Israelis are busy consolidating their control over the West Bank, and the security situation in Iraq has remained steadfastly miserable, with dozens of Americans and hundreds of Iraqis losing their lives every single month. The hawks truly were wrong. Here's what I wrote:

As the dust settles in Iraq, and as President Bush tries to mend fences with allies, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the hawks were dead wrong about almost everything related to the invasion. The case for war made by think tanks like The Project For a New American Century, and prominent conservatives like William Kristol, was premised on a number of assumptions that now look disingenuous, naïve, counter-intuitive, or all three.

The first assumption was that Saddam Hussein and the Baath regime in Iraq represented an immediate threat to the United States, due to a conventional military threat other Middle Eastern states, and a more nebulous threat from WMD programs. But the regime’s quick collapse and the lack of casualties inflicted on the allies by the Iraqi military clearly points to the smashing success of the prewar strategy of containment. And the fact that not even a trace of prohibited weaponry has been found calls into question the hysterical WMD fears pushed by the hawks.

A more important assumption was that the war would be followed by a quick and fluid transition to democracy. Goaded on by Iraqi exiles, prominent hawks spoke as if instituting Iraqi democracy would be as easy as conducting a gubernatorial election, and that a U.S. occupation would be welcomed, and would soon become unnecessary anyway after Iraqis took control of their own fate. But with ethnic tensions boiling, demonstrators calling for U.S. troops to leave, and law-and-order still a distant fantasy, postwar Iraq is looking a lot more like Lebanon after the Israeli invasion rather than Pennsylvania.

But the boldest supposition was that an invasion of Iraq would magically redraw the geopolitical map of the whole region. With the Iraqi “threat” neutralized, the U.S. could make peace between Israelis and Palestinians. And cowed by U.S. military might and the specter of free people successfully overthrowing tyranny next door, dictators in Iran, Syria, and Egypt would either be toppled or forced to relinquish control to reformers. And it would certainly convince these leaders that the pursuit of WMD doesn’t pay.

But the hawks were wrong again. Syria and Iran are not playing the parts envisioned for them in this grand scenario. Bashir al-Assad of Syria has made some promises to close offices of Palestinian rejectionist groups, but this isn’t exactly what everyone was after. Iran, while it has temporarily agreed to compromise on its nuclear ambitions, has strengthened ties with Syria and Lebanon while continuing work on nuclear reactors. To make matters worse, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon publicly humiliated Colin Powell and the Bush administration by rejecting the “Road Map” before finally “accepting” it with a number of reservations that are likely to doom the entire enterprise.

Their domino strategy having failed, the hawks are now ratcheting up the pressure on a defiant Iran. While military action against the Iranian state is still a distant and hypothetical possibility – left-wing histrionics notwithstanding – clerical refusal to bow to U.S. demands has demonstrated once again the hawks’ massive ignorance of Middle East realities. These foolish assumptions all come from a group of people which routinely chides academics for not making the correct predictions.

The geostrategic key to change in the Middle East remains – as it was before the war -- the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From Syria’s occupation of
Lebanon to pan-Arab and Islamic resentment of U.S. support for Israel, a viable
Palestinian state alongside Israel would immediately change the political situation in the Middle East for the better. The longer statehood is delayed, the more popular Hamas and other rejectionist groups become, and the harder it will be for the new Palestinian state to crush terror.

The release of the “Geneva Accord” negotiated by leading Israeli leftist Yossi Beilin and his Palestinian counterpart Abed Rabbo, demonstrates the emptiness of the claim that there is “no one to talk to” on the Palestinian side, or that the Palestinians don’t really want peace. And for those who would conspire to paint all Palestinians as bloodthirsty villains, opinion polls demonstrate that 85% of Palestinians support a mutual cessation of violence.

Two months after the end of the war, the Middle East looks more unstable and violent than ever. Far from being weakened, dictators have drawn new strength from popular resentment over U.S. actions. Far from creating the opportunity for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the war was a sideshow merely delayed the
inevitable refusal of the Sharon government to make a genuine effort at peacemaking.

And far from creating a democratic, stable, Iraq and eliminating a dire threat to U.S. security, the war exposed the weakness of Saddam’s regime and has saddled the U.S. with an endless occupation over an increasingly bitter and fractured population. Iraqis may be free, but they are not safe, they are not particularly grateful, and they certainly aren’t quite on their way to a blissful democratic future. The recent bombings of the Red Cross headquarters, and today’s ambush of a mighty Abrams tank, killing two GI’s, underscores the fragility of the U.S. postwar order in Iraq.

Unfortunately, the hawks are far from seeing the fundamental errors and contradictions in their prewar assumptions, and the Bush administration is far from changing its disastrous diplomatic and strategic posture in the Middle East.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Cheney remark
I agree with Sully. The scuttlebutt over Kerry talking about Cheney's daughter in the debate last night is indicative of rampant prejudice against gays in this country. BC04 made gay marriage an issue in the campaign, cynically pushing a divisive amendment that they knew would fail in order to gain political points. The moderator asked Kerry and Bush about choice and homosexuality, and Kerry gave a courageous answer, using Cheney's daughter to humanize people who are still second-class citizens.

The GOP's faux-outrage about Cheney's daughter is completely hypocritical, since Cheney responded positively to a remarkably similar comment by Edwards in the VP debate. The fact that this little tussle is overshadowing Bush's much more substantive lie about Osama bin Laden is a crying shame.

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The Red Sox look finished
Down 2-0 to the Yankees after throwing their aces at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox are in much worse shape than the Astros. Houston at least gets to throw Clemens and Oswalt on normal rest at home in games 3 and 4, with a chance to get back in the series. And I wouldn't count them out in Game 2 either. But the Red Sox now must avoid going down 3-0 with Bronson Arroyo, a good pitcher but no one's idea of an ace. Schilling apparently is crippled by an ankle injury and may not return in the series. Pedro looks human. The bats went to sleep against a very ordinary Jon Lieber at precisely the wrong time. Will these guys ever get over the hump?

I have to admit that with all the political excitement, I haven't been this tuned out of baseball's postseason in years. I don't think I've watched even a single game all the way through.

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Why Kerry won the debates
I'm trying to post this before having read too much spin or information, other than the three polls clearly showing a Kerry win in the third debate (CNN, CBS, ABC). Looking back over the debate tonight, there were a few points at which Kerry stumbled. His answer on Social Security was god-awful. He never adequately answered the cost questions about health care. And his answer about his wife was just beyond all realms of weird. But he still won, and won decisively. Why?

First, what the folks at the National Review simply don't seem to understand is that the smirking, snarky, petulant, angry, and impatient Bush who showed up for the most of these three debates does not appeal to swing voters and independents. Republican partisans think that he showed "resolve" and "decisiveness" in the first half an hour tonight, but the man seemed completely unpresidential and rattled. This has been the most damaging contrast for Bush throughout the debates. While the president repeatedly lost his cool and his focus, Kerry maintained a calm and serene manner throughout all 270 minutes of the three debates. Forced to confront biting criticism directly for the first time in four years, Bush reacted badly, and appears to have damaged his standing with independents and undecideds. Kerry, meanwhile, seemed like a man of significant stature in contrast.

Second, Bush simply has no response to Kerry's most effective lines of attack. He never once denied or offered an explanation for under-funding No Child Left Behind. Kerry's attacks on port security have gone utterly unchallenged. Kerry's attacks on Bush for taking the focus off of al-Qaeda to invade Iraq have been very effective, and have elicted no coherent response from the incumbent. The Bush team apparently believed that an attack on the older portions of Kerry's record would suffice as responses to these criticisms, but frankly, no one gives a hoot which way Kerry voted on the first Gulf War or whether or not he voted to cut the MX missile in 1986. Most people don't know what the MX missile even is. The idea that Kerry has voted to raise taxes hundreds of times is patently implausible, and even the most gullible voter realizes that Bush is fudging the numbers. Bush keeps claiming that Kerry would give a veto over foreign policy to foreign governments when he obviously said no such thing and merely needs to refer to the debate transcript to refute this ridiculous charge.

Third, the debates, including the VP debates, have succeeded in crippling Bush's credibility and his reputation as a straight-shooter. It took the DNC about five seconds to come up with pictures of Cheney and Edwards meeting several times before the debate, and about 2 seconds to come up with the transcript of the interview where Bush says quite clearly that he isn't very concerned about OBL. Kerry's charge, that Bush "has not been straight with" the American people, has been hugely successful. The Cato Institute, no friend of Kerry, shredded Bush's assertion that non-defense spending has grown slowly on his watch. Even tonight, Bush was repeatedly put on the defensive, about Pell Grants, the NAACP, No Child Left Behind, and so forth. Bush's pathetic attempt to paint Kerry as "out of the political mainstream" were not particularly effective. Has Kerry stretched the truth too? Absolutely, but not nearly as often as Bush.

Substantively, not even I thought Kerry beat Bush too badly. But as we all know, the debates are about more than substance. That's a lesson that the Bush team used to defeat Gore in 2000. They seemed to have forgotten it this year, and Bush may end up paying with his job.

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Kerry wins again
The best thing about reading NRO's the Corner after the debate tonight was watching reality dawn on these star-fuckers slowly throughout the course of the evening. Early on, they were all convinced that Bush had scored a "big victory." Shortly after the debate, before the insta-polls trickled in, Stanley Kurtz wrote:

But the commentators seem to be scoring this as an even bigger win for the
president than I did. I am thrilled to concede the point! Bush didn’t just
win–he won big! It doesn’t take much to convince me of that.

He won big? Um, fellas, reality sucks, but at some point you have to face it. The CNN poll had Kerry crushing Bush 39-25. ABC had a 1-point Kerry win, but oversampled Republicans to the tune of 8 %. The media talking heads have been wrong after every single debate. Remember Brooks calling the first debate "a draw"?

The truth is starting to filter in at the Corner. John Hood just peeked in to note:

Lots of Cornerites may think that President Bush outperformed John Kerry tonight, but don't expect that to be the media spin over the next 24 hours. Insta-polls for CNN and CBS show a win for Kerry. Virtually everyone on CNN is calling it a win, even a "decisive win," for Kerry. MSNBC is noncomittal but mildly Kerryish. The media want all three debates as a unit to form an inflection point, pushing Kerry into a narrow lead so as to increase viewership and excitement. It looks like the Bush team will have to win the debate spin in order to claim a win of the third debate itself.

Please notice how pathetic this really is. Even though the post-debate commentators seemed slightly pro-Bush, somehow the media "spin" has turned what should have been a victory for Bush into a loss. Scientific polls showing that his man lost the debate -- again! -- are derided as "media spin."

It's also difficult to see how this could be blamed on the SCLM, since Schieffer turned the last half hour of the debate into a series of softballs for Bush about faith and, most astoundingly, about his wife. The most important election in years is weeks away, and Bob Schieffer thinks the most pressing issue is how much these guys love their wives.


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Friday, October 01, 2004

CNN polls show Kerry won debate
Both the scientific and unscientific polls done by CNN show that Kerry won the first presidential debate decisively. The internet poll has it at 71-22 Kerry, with well over a million votes. Just like Al Gore, the collected Kerry hosed Bush on substance, but unlike Gore, Kerry managed not to do anything annoying during the course of the debate. He sounded calm and presidential, whereas the president was petulant, whiny, and as always, utterly inarticulate, with the exception of his scripted closing remarks.

Watching the debate unfold, I thought that Bush was doing so poorly that even a partisan Republican could see what a disaster it was for the president. And I was right. The pitiful spin coming from the right -- that it was a draw because Kerry simply won the debate and didn't score an election-ending knockout -- stretches credibility beyond the breaking point. No one is going to put an election in the bag with a single debate. What Kerry did was prove to the few undecided voters left that he isn't some inscrutable intellectual bereft of gravitas, but rather a serious man with a serious critique of the administration. Bush's performance reminded me of Bart Simpson falling over and getting into "tantrum position" at the Springfield Mall. It was one of the most unpresidential performances I've ever seen by a major-party candidate for president.

If this performance doesn't put Kerry back into a dead-heat with Bush, then nothing will.

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