The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Hmm, it's been about ten days, looks like the new fake Andy Kaufman ran out of material.

Friday, May 28, 2004

In a followup to my observation yesterday that, true to form, right-wing pundits are collectively questioning Al Gore's sanity, Media Matters has a pretty comprehensive roundup.

I'm pretty sure that falsely attributing mental conditions to political opponents is something better reserved to Stalinist Russia. Don't tell Krauthammer, John Podhoretz, Dennis Miller, Mark Levin, Joe Scarborough, Michael Savage, David Frum, and so on.

We all know what this is about: Al Gore got more votes than George W Bush. Thus, Bush's legitimacy as President will always be in some form of question, no matter how many firefighters he puts his arms around. Thus, the right has decided that the best way to ensure Bush's legitimacy is to falsely paint the guy who got more votes as being a crazy headcase who's liable to blow at any minute, so that way Americans can go "Whew! We really dodged a bullet in 2000 there!"

Stalinist bastards.

The President's "Compassion" photo gallery has made Slate

If the link provided doesn't work so well, you can always click here.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Via Political Wire, Howard Dean has a new gig starting next week: Nationally syndicated columnist.

Seems like a natural to me. I wonder what Don Luskin* will do...

(* - for the uninitiated, Luskin is the blog-stalker of the fearless Paul Krugman. Since odds are that Dean will be equally fearless as a national columnist, he may draw some of the fire currently directed at Paul)
And as far as reactions to Gore's speech go, I prefer Hoffmania's.

Thank you to John Podhoretz and James Taranto for not letting me down on my little prediction.

Of course, that was the same John Podhoretz whose first instinct in hearing about the Abu Ghraib torture revelations was to blame the Democrats for being, you know, outraged.

From David Brock's The Republican Noise Machine:
In the 2000 presidential campaign, the Republican Noise Machine, which worked for years to convince Americans that the Clintons were criminally minded, used the same techniques of character assassination to turn the Democratic standard-bearer, Al Gore, for many years seen as an overly earnest Boy Scout, into a liar. When Republican National Committee polling showed that the Republicans would lose the election to the Democrats on the issues, a "skillful and sustained 18-month campaign by Republicans to portray the vice president as flawed and untrustworthy" was adopted, the New York Times reported. Republicans accused Gore of saying things he never said -- most infamously, that he "invented" the Internet, a claim he never made that was first attributed to him in a GOP press release before it coursed through the media. Actually, Gore had said, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet," a claim that even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich verified as true.1

The right-wing media broadcast this attack and similar attacks relentlessly, in effect giving the GOP countless hours of free political advertising every day for months leading up to the election. "Albert Arnold Gore Jr. is a habitual liar," William Bennett, a Cabinet secretary in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, announced in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. "...Gore lies because he can’t help himself," neoconservative pamphleteer David Horowitz wrote. "liar, liar," screamed Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post. The conservative columnist George F. Will pointed to Gore’s "serial mendacity" and warned that he is a "dangerous man." "Gore may be quietly going nuts," National Review’s Byron York concluded. The Washington Times agreed: "The real question is how to react to Mr. Gore’s increasingly bizarre utterings. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines ‘delusion’ thusly: ‘The apparent perception, in a nervous or mental disorder, of some thing external that is not actually present...a belief in something that is contrary to fact or reality, resulting from deception, misconception, or a mental disorder.’"


Two years after the election, Gore gave an extraordinary interview to the New York Observer that could be read as an explanation of what happened to his presidential campaign. Gore charged that conservatives in the media, operating under journalistic cover, are loyal not to the standards and conventions of journalism but, rather, to politics and party. Gore said:
The media is kind of weird these days on politics, and there are some major institutional voices that are, truthfully speaking, part and parcel of the Republican Party. Fox News Network, the Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh -- there’s a bunch of them, and some of them are financed by wealthy ultra-conservative billionaires who make political deals with Republican administrations and the rest of the media.... Most of the media [has] been slow to recognize the pervasive impact of this Fifth Column in their ranks -- that is, day after day, injecting the daily Republican talking points into the definition of what’s objective as stated by the news media as a whole....

Something will start at the Republican National Committee, inside the building, and it will explode the next day on the right-wing talk-show network and on Fox News and in the newspapers that play this game, the Washington Times and the others. And then they’ll create a little echo chamber, and pretty soon they all start baiting the mainstream media for allegedly ignoring the story they’ve pushed into the zeitgeist. And then pretty soon the mainstream media goes out and disingenuously takes a so-called objective sampling, and lo and behold, these RNC talking points are woven into the fabric of the zeitgeist....
True to form, the right-wing media greeted this factual description with yet another frenzy of repetitive messaging portraying Gore as crazy. Speaking of Gore on FOX News, The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes said, "This is nutty. This is along the lines with, you know, President Bush killed Paul Wellstone, and the White House knew before 9/11 that the attacks were going to happen. This is -- I mean, this is conspiratorial stuff." Also on FOX, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said of Gore, "I’m a psychiatrist. I don’t usually practice on camera. But this is the edge of looniness, this idea that there’s a vast conspiracy, it sits in a building, it emanates, it has these tentacles, is really at the edge. He could use a little help." "It could be he’s just nuts," Rush Limbaugh said of Gore. "Tipper Gore’s issue is what? Mental health. Right? It could be closer to home than we know." "He [Gore] said it’s a conspiracy," Tucker Carlson said on CNN’s Crossfire. "I actually think he’s coming a little unhinged," The Weekly Standard’s David Brooks, now at the New York Times, said of Gore on PBS.


Governor Schwarzenegger is getting pretty high approval ratings so far:
California voters are very approving of Arnold Schwarzenegger?s performance as Governor after six months in office. Almost two in three voters (65%) approve of the job that Schwarzenegger is doing and just 23% disapprove.

In two previous Field Poll surveys the job that the new Governor was doing was viewed veryfavorably, but this latest measure finds his ratings higher than any received by his two immediate predecessors, and approaching the record highs given two former Governors.

During the past forty-five years six men -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- other than Schwarzenegger have served as Governor. A Republican, George Deukmejian, received the highest rating of any Governor when in August 1985, during his third year in office, 72% of Californians approved of his performance.
Let's break down Arnold's support:


--McClintock righties approve: "He hasn't raised taxes yet"
--Moderate Republicans approve: "He hasn't raised taxes or cut spending yet"
--Partisan Republicans approve: "He has an (R) next to his name"


--Moderate Democrats approve: "He hasn't cut spending that much yet"
--Some partisan Democrats approve: "He snubbed Bush when he came to Cali, plus he's pro-choice"
--Some partisan Democrats disapprove: "He has an (R) next to his name"


--Independents approve: "He was great in them Terminator movies"
--Independents disapprove: "He sucked in Junior"
--Independents approve: "He sucked in those movies, but his new job will keep him from making any more of them for a while, so let's keep him in Sactown"

And there you have it.

Though the Field Poll summary notes that Gray Davis was also in the 60's in his first term.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


...I get to enjoy this sight.

By the way, this was my test of Blogger's new picture-hosting feature, which will make this blog a whole lot prettier, and yes, a much longer load!

Absolutely refreshing, passionate, and true.

The text can be found here.

The video can be found at C-SPAN's website.

For the next couple days, be on the lookout for editorials by Safire, Krauthamer, Will, and the goons at the Wall Street Journal about how Al Gore is mentally unstable, neverminding, of course, that they spent 8 years caricaturing Gore as a wooden, hyper-earnest bore.
Great line from Mark Kleiman on the June 30 transfer:
We're turning over full sovereignty to the Iraqi government to be installed June 30, except that the Iraqi army will still be taking orders from the American Army and the newly sovereign government won't be able to ask the American Army to leave. (As the LA Times headline put it, "Full power -- with limits." Someone ought to have the President read Hobbes -- or maybe have someone read Hobbes out loud to the President -- so he will understand that "partially sovereign" makes about much sense as "partially pregnant."

Lots of people are chiming in on the motivations for Kerry floating the idea of delaying the actual acceptance of the Democratic nomination for President until well after the Convention in late July.

Some people think that money is behind the reason: Because Kerry would have to adhere to spending limits after a formal nomination, and because the Dem Convention is 5 weeks before the GOP Convention, he'd be at a potential financial disadvantage to accept the nomination in late July. That's a compelling explanation, indeed.

Other people with a lower opinion of John Kerry believe that he is doing this to lower the emphasis on the Convention, thus lowering the amount of attention the media pays to Kerry, who is of course an impotent bore on all fronts. To those who are thinking that, I'd say "Mickey, shut up".

Both those rationales aside, here's my tinfoil-hat idea for what the real reason is...

John Kerry wants to put the importance of the Convention into question, but not for the reasons cited by any of the above. Here's why...

Remember this tidbit from Josh Marshall's blog a couple of weeks ago?
Just to pass on some added information, about which we'll be saying more. There is chatter in Pakistani intelligence circles that the US has let the Pakistanis know that the optimal time for bagging 'high value' al Qaida suspects in the untamed Afghan-Pakistani border lands is the last ten days of July, 2004.
For the sake of my tinfoil hat, let's assume that this chatter is for real. (Marshall isn't one to lie to us, btw) Could there be any reason for the "last ten days of July" to be named, other than to steal the thunder of the Democratic Convention? Ok good.

Now we have Kerry floating an idea that would de-emphasize the importance of the Convention itself. To me, this strikes me as some sort of tacit game of chicken with the Bush administration. The Kerry people are saying "look, if you guys want to fuck with our convention, then we're not gonna give you anything to fuck with". People make a big deal about Kerry's political timing, but perhaps it's not his timing which caused this turn of events. (Not to mention the RNC bending election laws to have their convention so late)

I dunno, it's as plausible as anything else out there. Certainly moreso than Kaus' idea.

UPDATE: Okay, it's all moot, now let's get on with our lives.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Bush's approval ratings drop to their lowest point ever.


Federal officials have information suggesting that al Qaeda has people in the United States preparing to mount a large-scale terrorist attack this summer, sources familiar with the information said yesterday.

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III intend to hold a joint news conference this afternoon to discuss the threat and to ask Americans to watch for several suspected al Qaeda operatives who may be in the country, officials said.

The concerns are driven by intelligence deemed credible that was obtained about a month ago indicating an attack may be planned between now and Labor Day.
(emphasis mine)
The Mighty Reason Man distills the right-wing blogosphere down to its essence, saving all of us a lot of time.


Read the whole thing.
There's bad news for both candidates in the latest polls. Bush keeps falling in overall approval, but the voters seem to think less of Kerry as time goes on. It's a bizarre race to the bottom.
Read that, and then mosey over to the CBS/NYT poll and scroll about halfway down.
I agree with O-Dub: The Kerry campaign jet is, indeed, pretty cool-lookin.
If I may say so, Mrs. Atrios Rocks!

Glenn McCoy is unable to resist the urge to bash both Michael Moore and the French at the same time.
1988 LIKE 2004? TRY 2000!

Mickey Kaus is doing his usual thing:
Dem Panic Watch Bonus: Kerry defenders (and numerous kf e-mailers) like to argue that by historical standards he is in relatively good shape against an incumbent. That's true in many comparisons (e.g. 1992). The template I carry around in my head is the 1988 race, in which a beatable, (semi-incumbent) Bush was challenged by somewhat unexciting, respectable, not widely-known Massachusetts politician. And at this point (May) in the 1988 campaign, Michael Dukakis was ahead by 16 points, 54-38, according to this Gallup poll trend line. If Kerry can't top the charismatic Dukakis, I suggest "panic" is not a completely irrational response among Democrats.
This is a dumb comparison. And it's disproven by the much more reasonable comparison to 1988.

That would be the 2000 election.

Al Gore was essentially in the same position then that George H. W. Bush was in 1988. Both were vice presidents under 2-term presidents who were wildly popular within their own parties (if somewhat divisive with others).

Both Bush I and Gore were overshadowed by their bosses, particularly in terms of charisma. Compare Bush's "John Wayne meets Mister Rogers" to Reagan's speaking skills. And I don't think describing the differences between Gore's charisma and Clinton's is necessary.

As a result of being overshadowed by popular, charismatic 2-term Presidents, in both 1988 and 2000 the electorate was initially reluctant to embrace the two Veeps as the next Commanders in Chief. Thus, polls showed Dukakis with a sizable lead over Bush I in 1988. And polls showed then-governor Bush with a sizable lead over Al Gore for much of the 2000 campaign.

In both cases, the seemingly down-and-out Veep came back. One tank and one hypothetically murdered wife later, Dukakis fell, convincingly, to Bush the Elder. And in 2000, Gore came all the way back and won the popular vote (and as some argue, the electoral vote).

Of course, in 2004, Dukakis' tank has become Bush's flight suit. Wonder what that means!

MORE: In 1988 Bush I wasn't a known quantity in the way an incumbent President is in re-election season; thus he had room to increase his support, allowing him to zoom past Dukakis. Dubya, on the other hand, is just about as known a quantity as can be in presidential politics, so he doesn't really have a way to substantially increase his popularity the way his father did in 88.

EVEN MORE: I don't have them in front of me, but if I had to guess, 1988's "right track, wrong track" polls were probably closer to 2000's than they are to 2004's.

From the Guardian:
An urgent investigation has been launched in Washington into whether Iran played a role in manipulating the US into the Iraq war by passing on bogus intelligence through Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, it emerged yesterday.
Some intelligence officials now believe that Iran used the hawks in the Pentagon and the White House to get rid of a hostile neighbour, and pave the way for a Shia-ruled Iraq.

According to a US intelligence official, the CIA has hard evidence that Mr Chalabi and his intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, passed US secrets to Tehran, and that Mr Habib has been a paid Iranian agent for several years, involved in passing intelligence in both directions.

The CIA has asked the FBI to investigate Mr Chalabi's contacts in the Pentagon to discover how the INC acquired sensitive information that ended up in Iranian hands.

The implications are far-reaching. Mr Chalabi and Mr Habib were the channels for much of the intelligence on Iraqi weapons on which Washington built its case for war.

"It's pretty clear that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner," said an intelligence source in Washington yesterday. "Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the US for several years through Chalabi."

Larry Johnson, a former senior counter-terrorist official at the state department, said: "When the story ultimately comes out we'll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history. They persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy."
Hmm, goodbye Great Satan, hello Gullible Satan?

Okay okay, let's put that dumb joke aside. If all this is accurate -- Chalabi denies it, but his credibility level resides somewhere between that of Jayson Blair and OJ -- then it certainly reframes the measured cooperation the Iranians have been giving the UN and others since the start of the Iraq war. "Sure, yeah! Bring your people in to look at our stuff, what do we care, you're already giving us more than we could have ever hoped for!"

The only reason the Iranians aren't publicly laughing it up right now is because their plan is not yet complete. If we actually manage to create of legitimate representative democracy in Iraq, then yes, we will have made the authoritarian regime in Iran worse off for its trouble. The problems we face in our self-assigned task are large mountains to climb: History and demographics, both of which Iran sees as their greatest advantages. Iraq has no significant history of democracy, and you have to go back maybe to Hammurabi for a real rule of law there. Furthermore, the strong Shi'ite majority in Iraq means that even a repesentative government has the potential to be Shi'ite dominated.

The Iranians must be salivating at this situation, and said salivating is only bolstered by continued perceptions in Iraq of America being an occupier not immediately interested in democracy.

This brings us to a problem inherent in Bush's speeches on Iraq, particularly last night's. Both Kevin and Matt are concerned with Bush's repeated use of the phrase "full sovereignty", given that we'll still have around 150k troops there (Bush gave us a 138k figure last night). It wont be just the Iraqis who notice this disconnect; the neighboring Iranian Shi'ite population will be more than happy to point out, and amplify this discrepancy. How hard will it be for them to present the situation as it actually is, and say "this is 'full sovereignty'?"

Of course, maybe appealing to Iraqis wasn't what Bush had in mind last night. Kevin ponders the domestic implications:
It's true that Iraqis won't be fooled by this, but for that reason they aren't going to be disappointed either. Americans, however, are going to be fooled by it, and that's all Bush cares about. A hundred million people are going to hear that we're handing over "full sovereignty," and maybe 1% of them will read or hear an explanation of why that's not true. So it's a win for Bush.

The real danger is that it sets up Americans for disappointment, not Iraqis. The Iraqis will shrug their shoulders and continue to agitate for American withdrawl, and Americans will be left wondering why the Iraqis continue to be so ungrateful even though we've turned over full sovereignty to them just like we said we would. Of such things is American self-delusion born.
There have been whispers of this before, but Bush's speech last night, despite its strong, base-happy rhetoric, begain to lay the groundwork, oh so subtly, for shifting the blame for the mess in Iraq to the Iraqis on the whole. When Bush says "full sovereignty", repeatedly, to an American audience, it can potentially be translated as "That's what I'm givin' Iraq, and if they don't like it, it's their loss". It doesn't help our cause in Iraq to downplay the level of influence the American occupation will have on Iraqi sovereignty, when your average Iraqi can walk out his-or-her front door and see an American troop presence. It only makes sense if the "full sovereignty" statements are meant to convince the domestic audience that we're giving them more than they think we are.

At this point you might be saying "well duh, this new set of Bush speeches is meant, and has been advertised, to be a counteroffensive of perception, to build American confidence in the war and cultivate the belief among Americans that George W Bush has a plan for success in Iraq".

Well yeah, that's true. But actual seriousness about success in Iraq requires actual evolution in policy, considering where the existing ones have left us so far, and Bush seems either unwilling or unable to change course or even offer specifics. (His "plan" was essentially a speech-ready reorganization of the vagueries we already know) Since Bush is still unwilling to recognize that he is a mortal, fallible man who makes mistakes (despite his 2000 characterization of himself as "a lowly sinner"), the only option he has left himself is the following:

1) Do everything exactly as he has said all along, neverminding how screwed up things are right now.
2) Close those eyes, plug those ears, go "lalalala!" and hope for the best. Either
--2A) It works out, due to circumstances changing independently of Bush policy, and Bush cruises to re-election, or
--2B) It doesn't work, and Bush looks at the Iraqis as if they were Pete Sampras down two sets and a break in an early round match at the Australian Open, and says "gee, I guess they just didn't want it enough". After all, we did give Iraq "full sovereignty"

(by the way, the link on "makes mistakes" goes to an interesting analysis of Bush's speech by Bill Saletan, here's that link again)

Monday, May 24, 2004


David Brock's new site Media Matters -- quickly becoming an invaluable resource -- notices the same thing I did: Drudge and the Washington Moonie Times cited each other in dissing Kerry regarding his topical off-the-record joke about Bush's biking accident.

Also from Media Matters, looks like Michael Savage Weiner is once again taking the high road.
Not only is Kerry doing a lot better, he's doing well in the right places too.

According to Zogby, he's beyond the margin of error in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Ohio, and also leading in Florida, Missouri and Nevada.

At the conclusion of Bush's speech, I stood up from my laptop, positioned in front of the TV, and walked away.

And maaaaan, was I dizzy!

I despise being dizzy. All my life I have taken extra special care of my equilibrium, and I have a mild phobia of having my balance thrown off. Sure, Jimmy Stewart overcomes such problems in that Hitchcock movie, and sure, that all takes place in the SF Bay Area. But that's not for me.

Apparently, switching your focus back and forth between two items frequently in a short period of time is a sure-fire way to make me dizzy. Thus, I won't be doing anymore of that.

If I ever live-blog again, it will be with a radio.

4:55 - I've never done this before, mostly because I havent had my computer in such close proximity with a television in a while.

5:01 - Paula Zahn quickly cuts off Joe Klein to go to Bush. Good start.

5:02 - Boy, they sure cleaned up his chin nicely. And much better tie. No strobe effect whatsoever. Actually, wait...

5:04 - He pulls out the "central front in the war on terror" card. Interesting, since an Army War College editorial recently referred to Iraq as "a detour".

5:06 - Lots of optimism so far. Word has it there wont be much new policy discussed, and the speech is true to form in that regard.

5:09 - "The CPA will cease to exist". So is that Chalabi 1, Bremer 0?

5:10 - Oh, and shhhh, hundreds of thousands of American troops will be there, so things will essentially be the same.

5:11 - First long name of the night, looked mighty proud of himself for getting it right.

5:14 - 138,000 troop level. I hadn't heard that 115k estimate before. Of course, a far cry from what Wolfowitz and company were saying before the invasion. Goalposts, move thyselves!

5:15 - "Massive strikes in Falluja would have alienated Iraqis." True, but couldn't that reasoning have been helpful when the order was given to blow up a wedding celebration in Western Iraq?

5:17 - Is it me, or does he really, really enjoy saying "Kufa"?

5:18 - But then he makes an "overwhelming force" threat. (see 5:15)

5:22 - Weapons programs, eh? Hmm, that's as close as we're gonna get this time around, I gather. (and their "...related activities"? -ed Shhh!)

5:23 - Mispronounced the one thing he was supposed to be the most grave and serious about (Abu Ghraib, pronounced "Abu Gah -(pause)- ra..reb") . . . and now its "Abu Garahb"!

5:26 - Elections in January, Constitutional referendum in Fall 2005. No "Faster Iraq" there.

5:29 - "I sent American troops to Iraq to protect America's security"

5:34 - And that's it. He basically outlined what we already knew, with no significant changes in policy. Though he did find some synomymous phrases to say instead of "stay the course". There's something to be said for that. But aside from that, virtually nothing in his speech was new. No timeline for American troops in Iraq, and no guarantees as to how the Iraq people will take all this.

5:36 - I'm quite impressed by CNN White House correspondent John King, who went straight from referring to Saddam's "torture" at Abu Ghraib to trying awkwardly to come up with a euphemism for what American troops did at the same place.

New CBS/NYT poll:
Bush’s overall job approval rating has continued to decline. 41 percent approve of the job he is doing as President, while 52 percent disapprove -- the lowest overall job rating of his presidency. Two weeks ago, 44 percent approved. A year ago, nearly two-thirds did.

61 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while just 34 percent approve. This is also the lowest rating of his presidency.

As concern about the situation in Iraq grows, 65 percent now say the country is on the wrong track -- matching the highest number ever recorded in CBS News Polls since the question was first asked in the mid-1980’s. Only 30 percent currently say things in this country are headed in the right direction. One year ago, in April 2003, 56 percent of Americans said the country was headed in the right direction.
Lots of other goodies in the internals of the poll. Only on terrorism does Bush receive positive marks, albeit not by a wide margin (51-42).

On page 2 of the poll, we see that John Kerry has opened up an 8-point lead over Bush among registered voters (49-41). CBS/NYT's April poll had Kerry leading by just 2 points (46-44). Independents are breaking for Kerry by a 51-36 margin. Kerry's favorables are up while his unfavorables are down, and the reverse is true for Bush.

With Ralph Nader in the race, Kerry still leads, but by 6 points (47-41-5)

Bush's greatest character asset -- the perception that he "says what he believes", or is honest -- is hanging by a thread, at 50-45.
Santa Barbara area Congresswoman Lois Capps makes it onto the Kerry blog.

Now the Washington Moonie Times gets in on the context-free training wheels. Here's the full text of their article:
Democrat John Kerry joked about President Bush's weekend bicycle accident by comparing the president to a child, Internet newshound Matt Drudge reported yesterday.

"Kerry told reporters in front of cameras, 'Did the training wheels fall off?' " Mr. Drudge reported on his Web site,

Interviewed by The Washington Times yesterday, Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter would say only that the words Mr. Drudge reported were "off the record."

Mr. Drudge said the debate among reporters over the on-camera "training wheels" remark has been "whether to treat it as on or off the record."

In comments reported by the Associated Press, Mr. Kerry said, "I hope he's OK. I didn't know the president rode a bike."

Mr. Bush, who is widely ridiculed by liberals and Democrats as dumb and incompetent, suffered "minor abrasions and scratches" in the accident, which came near the end of a 17-mile mountain bike ride on his Texas ranch Saturday.

Mr. Kerry had his own bicycling mishap earlier this month, taking a spill while riding with Secret Service agents through Concord, Mass. Mr. Kerry fell when his bike hit a patch of sand. He was not injured.
That's it. That's the entire article. Not even the slightest peep about the obvious topical context of Kerry's off-the-record remark.

Ignorant right-wing bloggers not getting the joke is one thing. But for a daily newspaper that aspires to credibility to willfully misrepresent and otherwise ignore the facts is quite another.

(And by the way, we think the bulk of the administration is incompetent, guys)

They even lie about the weather!

Apparently 8 consecutive days of zero participation means "raining a lot" to Bush's people.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


From Kevin Drum. If you want to know why so many people hate him, click the link. Of course, a great deal of this information was out there before the Iraq war, making it all the more frustrating.
You know, lost in all the Drudgish hoopla regarding John Kerry's topical humor following Bush's brief meeting with the ground yesterday while biking, is the fact that in explaining the accident, Bush spokesman Trent Duffy said something with, um, implications:
The Secret Service offered to give the president a ride back to the ranch house, which the president declined, opting to complete his ride. Duffy said the president was wearing a helmet and mouth guard. He also said the president is "a fitness enthusiast" and that, during the fateful ride, "he wasn't poking along, whistling show tunes."

Take from that what you will.
What is that supposed to mean?

Associated Press: Nader Advises Kerry on VP Candidates...
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader said Sunday he had advised John Kerry to choose North Carolina Sen. John Edwards or Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt as his running mate on the Democratic ticket.

Kerry won't discuss whom he is considering for vice president, but his advisers have been examining Edwards and Gephardt, two of Kerry's rivals from the Democratic primaries.

"They're very careful," Nader said on ABC's "This Week." "They're not going to cause him any embarrassment. And they do bring an additional voter support for him."

Kerry met with Nader in Washington on Wednesday, but didn't ask the third-party candidate to quit the presidential race despite widespread Democratic fears that his candidacy could ensure President Bush's re-election.

Nader rejected the idea of Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona joining Kerry's ticket. Kerry has repeatedly praised McCain and many in Washington have speculated about the appeal of a Kerry-McCain ticket, but Nader said: "McCain really should be taken at his word. ... He's not going to do it."

Nader also said he wouldn't support Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh for vice president because "he's a very soft Democrat."
Okay, let me get this straight. Ralph Nader has reinvented himself this year as "the peace candidate" as his campaign website makes abundantly clear in numerous places. He mused last fall that he probably wouldn't run if Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich became the nominee, largely because of their unambiguous stances on Iraq. And suddenly, when asked about Kerry's VP choice, he floats the names of two Congressmen (Gep and Edwards) who both voted for the same Iraq war resolution Kerry did. Frankly, this makes my head hurt.

There are two possibilities at play here:

1) Either that meeting with Kerry last wednesday went a LOT better than anyone expected (as in, Nader will be our next Secretary of Labor or Energy?), or

2) Nader is trying to solidify his position as the anti-war candidate by urging Kerry to pick a running mate who voted for the war resolution. Nader says we should take McCain for his word, but can we do the same for Nader here?

Also, if Nader is sincere, his comments beg some other questions, the most prominent one being "if Kerry picks Gep or Edwards, will Nader alter, downscale or terminate his campaign?" If I had to guess, the answer would be a variation on "No, but...".

Adam Hochschild, of King Leopold's Ghost fame, has an op-ed piece in today's NYT on the administration's desperate quest to avoid using the T-word in talking about Abu Ghraib.

Since everyone else is linking to Michael Kinsley's review of David Brooks' new book (and of Brooks in general), I thought I might add myself to the pile.

I wanted to point to Kinsley's opening few paragraphs, which give a general description of ol' Brooksie:
For several years, in the world of political journalism, David Brooks has been every liberal's favorite conservative. This is not just because he throws us a bone of agreement every now and then. Even the most poisonous propagandist (i.e., Bill O'Reilly) knows that trick. Brooks goes farther. In his writing and on television, he actually seems reasonable. More than that, he seems cuddly. He gives the impression of being open to persuasion. Like the elderly Jewish lady who thinks someone must be Jewish because ''he's so nice,'' liberals suspect that a writer as amiable as Brooks must be a liberal at heart. Some conservatives think so too.

There is a prize for being the liberals' favorite conservative, and Brooks has claimed it: a column in The New York Times. With Brooks, The Times continues its probably unintentional experiment in reinventing the political column...
My favorite "Liberals love David Brooks" moment was when Paula Zahn interviewed Al Franken last August, and had this exchange:
ZAHN: Final question to you: is there any conservative you can name tonight that you like?

FRANKEN: David Brooks. I think he's great.

ZAHN: But some people would perceive him as making a little change along the way in his viewpoint.


ZAHN: Can you name anybody else other than David Brooks?
Yup, she confused Brooks with former right-wing hitman David Brock. I just brought that up to remind everybody that whatever cable network she's on, Paula Zahn is a friggin dolt. Still, she's better than Judy "General Clark, can I get you to say something inappropriate?" Woodruff. And according to the CNN advertising department, she is "a little bit sexy".

But back to Brooks.

Here's my take: In general, I like David Brooks in much the way described by Kinsley, certainly based on Brooks work with The Weekly Standard and PBS/NPR. However, the same could not be said of his New York Times columns for a long time since he started working there last fall. His columns, in general, were snide, snively, bent on scoring cheap partisan points and taking unfair shots at various people (including the Coulteresque "liberals", Howard Dean, and so on). Certainly, his penchant for self-amusing categorization of various groups has made its way into his columns -- the "liberal and conservative airlines" one from a month or two ago, for example.

But in general, he's been more unabashedly partisan in his NYT incarnation. The TFM theory on this is: He wanted to prove to his conservative bretheren that he could be a fightin' partisan while writing for a publication they perceive as being remorselessly liberal. This trend was exacerbated by the Iraq war at the peak of its perceived success, and the defensive pack mentality it spawned among the pro-war right.

Now that Iraq is at best a mixed bag, and the unified pro-war front is in shambles with ChalabiGate and the prison torture scandal, Brooks is a bit more loose now, floating an unusual hypothesis about the situation from time to time (his "To win in Iraq, we must lose" column, for example). Perhaps he perceives that he has earned his stripes with the right by now, and he can more or less say anything he wants.

Bill Safire -- a relatively useless columnist -- will, from time to time, rip into an idea popular with the right. Of course, the rest of the time he still pretends that the Atta/Iraqi Prague meeting still took place, and that Hillary is still going to somehow take the Democratic nomination away from Kerry. But if I had to make a prediction on Brooks, it would be that his NYT columns, over time as he settles in, will more and more resemble the David Brooks who debates Mark Shields on public tv/radio. Not that he still wont occasionally give us some stereotyped condescension on the American left from time to time.
Hahahaha, Tim Blair didn't get the joke, and neither did his commenters.

Nor did they here.

Why didn't they get it? Because Drudge misrepresented it. And that was precisely the point.
Via Rittenhouse, here comes another Write your own Thomas Friedman column feature, courtesy of the NY Observer.

It's amazing how true #5 is.
Marshall has more on Bush's bike spill, its potential greater meaning (Bush's "Japanese-Prime-Minister moment"?), and Kerry's joke.

Apparently in early March, some Congressional Republicans introduced a bill to throw a wrench in our Constitution:
Mr. LEWIS of Kentucky (for himself, Mr. DEMINT, Mr. EVERETT, Mr. POMBO, Mr. COBLE, Mr. COLLINS, Mr. GOODE, Mr. PITTS, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. HEFLEY, Mr. DOOLITTLE, and Mr. KINGSTON) introduced the following bill



This Act may be cited as the `Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004'.


The Congress may, if two thirds of each House agree, reverse a judgment of the United States Supreme Court--

(1) if that judgment is handed down after the date of the enactment of this Act; and

(2) to the extent that judgment concerns the constitutionality of an Act of Congress.
Even going beyond the ridiculous Constitutional implications of a bill like this, consider the practical ones. No doubt it was written with gay marriage in mind. Do these Congressman really think that if the odds of a 2/3 majority of legislators emerging who support a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage are virtually nil, then the chances of another 2/3 majority emerging who'd be willing to overturn a decision more lenient to gay marriage would be any better?

Furthermore, judicial opinions are often complex, with many elements. Would these Republicans try to use the bill to line-item-veto portions of opinions?

Anyway, there's no reason to take such a bill seriously, they should be filed next to classics like the far right's annual attempt to put us back on the gold standard or something. (link via Fark)

Well that's odd:
President Bush wasn't the only one who skipped the pomp and circumstance of his daughter's graduation from the University of Texas on Saturday. Jenna Bush did not participate either.

Despite her name being listed on the commencement program, Bush was not among the more than 150 English majors receiving degrees Saturday afternoon at the Austin campus. Attendance at the event is not required to graduate from the university.

Aides have said President Bush and first lady Laura Bush decided to skip their 22-year-old twin daughters' graduations because their presence and that of White House security would be disruptive.

Jenna's sister, Barbara, will pick up a degree in humanities Monday from Yale, her father's alma mater. The family will celebrate with private dinners.

A White House spokeswoman said she did not know why Jenna Bush did not attend the commencement but added that the administation declines to comment on matters related to the president's daughters.

"I guess it's understandable, though," graduate Jaclyn Trantham said at Saturday's convocation. "She probably didn't want the attention and the Secret Service and everything."
Funny thing is, a close associate of mine attempted to convince her parents to adopt the very plan executed here by Jenna (skip the ceremony, have private family celebration instead). Also, since her parents were not going to attend, that kind of undercuts the point of taking part in commencement. So in that regard, I understand.

But this is a Bush daughter we're talking about, and since the twins are now both officially legal and officially working for daddy's campaign, they're fair game. So, game on!

Bonus lame joke: Maybe Jenna bolted when she heard there would be a mandatory physical and drug test at the ceremony. "After that I studied with my classmates for several years..."

Bonus Fairness-Doctrine joke: Maybe she decided against going when she found out she couldn't borrow Alexandra Kerry's dress.

Bonus Meaningless Personal Opinion: For asthetic value, file me under Barbara.