The Facts Machine

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

Saturday, July 31, 2004


Christopher Hitchens gets the implication of John Kerry's "firehouse" line from his acceptance speech completely backwards, takes it miles out of context, and stretches it out into an entire column!

First of all, he misses the point of the quote:
To borrow the current sappy language of "making us safer": Who would feel more secure if they knew that we weren't spending any tax dollars on Iraqi firehouses?
The point of the Kerry line -- "we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America" -- is the latter part, not the first part. Anyone not thoroughly inebriated (hint hint) knows that Kerry was not advocating the end of reconstruction projects in Iraq, such as firehouse building. He's not saying we should value firehouses in America instead of their counterparts in Baghdad; he's saying we should in addition.

Hitchens' biggest offense is in taking the quote out of context, deliberately I might add. Here's the paragraph which included the firehouse quote:
And the front lines of this battle are not just far away they're right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city. Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9/11 Commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans, and the 9/11 families. As president, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn't be letting 95 percent of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn't be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America.
Now I'm not good with tea leaves, palmistry or code-cracking, but I could swear that John Kerry is talking about homeland security. Without providing the actual context, Hitch frames the quote as if Kerry was outlining a Buchananite policy of xenophobic, isolationist spending policies. And then he turns it into some sort of moral crisis for the left. No link to the speech is readily available from his column, of course.

In short, George W Bush's efforts on homeland security have not been as serious as they should be, and John Kerry is calling him on that. No, we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America. We should be opening them in both, and that's John Kerry's point: We need to be serious on both Iraq and homeland security.

Naturally, Instapundit links approvingly.

P.S. Incidentally, the portion of the paragraph from Kerry that concerns me is with the 9/11 Commission. I understand the politics of wanting to appear more receptive to the Commission's reccomendations than Bush is, but "I will immediately implement..." seems a bit over-eager to me. While I'm willing to interpret Kerry's statement as that he will also decide on how he implements those reccomendations, and while a comprehensive implementation would probably be a good short-hand way to describe what a Kerry administration would do, further clarification on this will be in order soon.

On the other hand, if he had made a more ambiguous statement than that one, the usual suspects would have been all over him for it. So in the end, it was worth it to strangle the flip-flop meme.

Mark Kleiman has a post up about Kerry's support among veterans compared to Gore's. He notes a study showing that Kerry's vet support is no higher than Gore's.

Kleiman concludes:
That doesn't mean Kerry's emphasis on his service record is a mistake: the audience for that is much wider than veterans. But it isn't good news.
Let's think about this a little more.

The journey from 2000 to 2004 isn't exactly a straight line.

In 2000, Al Gore was the Vietnam vet (a reporter, but he was there, and therefore could have been killed), while George W Bush was a towel-snapper from the Texas National Guard who may or may not have skipped out on several months of duty in Alabama (though the media didn't exactly get into that in 2000). The vast Bulk of Bush's military cred (and thus, veteran cred) came from the positive public association of Republicans and the military that existed at the time. And Gore's campaign did not talk very much about the military, the focus was mostly domestic and economic. The result? Bush held a modest lead over Gore among veterans.

In 2004, like it or not, Bush is a "war president" in the sense that he is irrevocably associated with military action. Afghanistan and Iraq changed perceptions of Bush, no matter what anyone thinks of those actions and how they were conducted. Going by that, it would be logical to see a relative increase in Bush's vet support compared to what he had in 2000. The result? Bush holds a modest lead over Kerry among veterans.

Despite Kerry's record, I didn't expect to see Kerry overtake Bush among veterans. But I was guessing he would keep it close, and close he has kept it. And it hurts me down to the bone to say this, but it may not have been this close with Dean.

Friday, July 30, 2004


Josh Marshall:
Now this is rich.

President Bush's new line of attack is that John Kerry is a man of few achievements.

"My opponent has good intentions," the president said today. "But intentions don't always translate into results. After 19 years in the United States Senate, my opponent has had thousands of votes but very few signature achievements."

This might be a plausible line of attack coming from another opponent. Unlike, say, Russ Feingold or Ted Kennedy, there's no prominent piece of legislation with Kerry's name on it, though admirers of Kerry point to his critical role in a series of high-profile Senate investigations.

But coming from George W. Bush? A guy whose handlers had to get some of the more gullible run of journalists to refer to his life before he turned forty as his 'lost years'?
Yes, this is a ridiculous line of attack. And yes, some of the Iran Contra veterans employed by the Bush administration might remember a thing or two about Senator John Kerry.

But given this new line of criticism from Bush, does this mean that the flip-flopper meme is dead? If so, Kerry killed it last night.

"How do you ask a meme to be the last meme to die in the 2004 campaign?" Hehehe.

Another interesting tidbit from the Reuters story to which Marshall linked:
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush did not see the speech.

"He went to sleep last night. That was a late speech," McClellan told reporters, but he said Bush had "read some of the coverage."
He was in Crawford, Texas at the time, which I'm pretty sure is in the Central Time Zone. That means the speech began at about 9:10 PM there, and concluded at around 9:50.

Let's just say that ain't exactly a Clintonesque schedule that man keeps.

Guess it's up to me to protect America during the mid-evening hours.

Watched a bit of Crossfire today, and I saw Tucker Carlson trot out a criticism of John Kerry's acceptance speech regarding Iraq that I thought was both interesting, and essentially irrelevant.

(note: I shouldn't take Carlson seriously, not after this)

The transcript isn't up yet, but the gist of it is that John Kerry failed to fully differentiate his Iraq policy from that of Bush, in terms of troop deployment, timeframe, democracy promotion, and so on.

Tucker is absolutely correct in this point, Kerry did not lay out a fundamentally different plan for Iraq from Bush's.

But he can't. Hell, Howard Dean wouldn't have, had he been nominated. Here are the reasons...

The first is that by choosing to invade Iraq, topple Saddam's regime and replace it with one more to our liking, the Bush administration committed the US to one path with a number of steps, only some of which have been reached as of today. There is certainly a "you broke it, you bought it" element to the situation; now that we've taken that first step and committed ourselves to a series of steps (which could last all the way to the end of this decade, or more) we really can't turn back. A failed Iraqi state would make the US less secure, period.

Howard Dean's candidacy was about that first step, a damning critique of the choice to invade. And he was right, and the polls now agree. The problem was that once Bush took that first step, thereby committing us to a series of other steps, it was much harder for Dean to differentiate himself from the other Democratic candidates, let alone Bush. The timing of the invasion meant that the choice to be made in the 2004 election is which candidate will be the best person to manage our efforts in Iraq and guide them towards success. Dean's Iraq message -- don't invade -- was enough of a rationale to give Bush a "one-way bus ticket back to Crawford" as Dean put it, but not enough to separate Dean from the Democratic pack on who could best manage the reconstruction and stabilization of Iraq. That, in a nutshell, was Iowa and the states that followed. Voters selected John Kerry as the candidate they thought best qualified and most able to manage "postwar" Iraq.

Flash forward to the present, and you have right-wing pundits like Carlson criticizing Kerry for not substantially differentiating his Iraq policy from Bush's. Well guess what. Because Bush's initial decision to invade has committed us to a series of irrevocable steps (lest we leave Iraq a failed state), this is a red herring of epic proportions from Carlson.

Bush and Kerry will say a lot of similar things about their Iraq policies during the campaign, but no, the differences will not be in what. Rather, they will be found in how and who.

The sketch of the near future in Iraq will not change. Get as much international cooperation as we can, in troops or otherwise. Secure the country and limit the insurgency. Expand employment and basic services to as many people as possible. Ensure the maximum perceived sovereignty of the interim government. See to it that Iraq is able to carry out a democratic election. Bush and Kerry want all of these things.

To me, John Kerry is preferable to George Bush because of who he is, and the nature by which he would take those necessary steps. The step in which Kerry will most differ from Bush in result is the most important step of them all: international cooperation. A bold statement: Kerry will get real help from countries from whom Bush failed to receive any.

France is an example of this. Remember in March 2003, when Bush pulled the 2nd UN resolution? He did this shortly after France expressed support for a Chilean resolution giving Iraq just 30 more days to comply with the ongoing inspections after UN Resolution 1441. Part of the reason he did that was because France was much more useful to him as a hostile ally than a friendly one, both internationally (US trumps divided Europe!) and domestically (Freedom Fries!). Bush used France domestically to tap a "negative opinion reservoir". So you can imagine the French and German reaction when Bush went back to NATO this year and asked for help. Oliver Twist comes to mind.

With Kerry, we really do get a fresh start with France, Germany and Russia, no matter what some on the right might say. John Kerry is an internationalist in the best sense of the word, with a humility not poisoned by the cynical realpolitik of Bush's manipulation of Europe to his own electoral purposes. The right-wing naysayers, who point to "old Europe" as being a bunch of snooty "bourgeoisophobes", seek only to reify Europe to the point where they exist as static hostile egotists in the eyes of the electorate. It's just like Said-ian orientalism, but in different clothing.

In terms of our internatinoal credibility on Iraq, the slogan of ABB -- "anybody but Bush" -- is more than just a hollow statement.

So, 850 words later, that's why Tucker Carlson's criticism of John Kerry's speech is nonsense. It's after Iraq that the real foreign policy differences emerge. Now I'm off to get some honey for my throat.

UPDATE: It appears that wasn't all Tucker said today.

I'm up to E above middle C. Yes!

Time for some more tea...

Sandy Berger has been "cleared of all wrongdoing".

There's also a Wall Street Journal story to similar effect that I can't access, not being a subscriber and all. Excerpts here.

And the day I believe a NewsMax report on anything Clinton-related is, well, a day that isn't coming anytime soon.

Okay, I'm about to check in, but I wanted to sum it up:

Coming into tonight, I was an Anybody-But-Bush man. John Kerry was the vessel to realize that hope.

Going to bed tonight, I am a John Kerry man.

No retreat, baby. No surrender.

Salon's Eric Boehlert covers the punditocracy's reaction to Kerry's acceptance speech. Most everyone thought it was good to great, and the only response the pundits from the right had was, well, to nitpick:
MSNBC host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough critiqued Kerry's style, saying his speech had the "best text" of the week, but not the best presentation. Scarborough suggested Kerry stepped on too many of his applause lines: "If John Kerry had delivered that ‘Mission Accomplished' line and stepped away from the microphone the crowed would still be cheering. He blew through the best applause lines in a way Bill Clinton never would have."
Um Joe? Were you watching on Monday? Bill Clinton stepped on just about all of his applause lines. The reason? The 11 o'clock news. He wanted to make sure his speech ended at the right time. I thought Kerry paced himself rather well, with clock-management that would suit him for coaching an NFL team.

Here's my favorite:
The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes weakly told Fox News viewers that Kerry's "salute wasn't very good."

Thursday, July 29, 2004


Here's the full text.

Well gee whiz, what happened to that charicature of John Kerry the Rove Brigade has been spreading around the country for the last six months? Where was the wooden statue? The caveats and qualifiers?

Well guess what: John Kerry -- the good closer that he is -- pulled a fast one on all of them. He gave a strong, passionate, statesmanlike speech after the GOP spinners had defined the expectations down through the floor, practically to the upper mantle.

More than that, it was a relentlessly optimistic speech. Lots of "can"'s. The personal challenge to Bush to keep the campaign positive was effective. And the way he framed the potential of stem cell research (as the great potential innovation of this generation, like the Wright Brothers and the moon landing) was brilliant, and Bush deserves it, since hey, he gave Kerry a real opening on the issue.

All he had to do on national security was to pull even with Bush, and to prove himself as a viable alternative for commander in chief to a few thousand voters in Akron, Tampa and Manchester. He did that. And then some.

Oh, and yes, I was watching on CNN, so I heard this live. What annoyed me most was that Wolf and company, instead of talking about the speech, took a couple of minutes talking about the frustrated, potty-mouthed director. That's when I click over to PBS for Brooks and Shields' take.

"Found a spoon, sir!"

It looks like Pakistan really did try to deliver on the whole "capture someone during the Democratic convention" thing.
Pakistan says it has arrested a senior al Qaeda figure wanted for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed hundreds of people.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat identified the man as Ahmed Khalfan Ghailini and said he was a Tanzanian national wanted for the synchronised bombings that killed more than 200 people at the U.S. embassy in Kenya and 11 at the embassy in Tanzania.

"He carried head money of $25 million (14 million pounds)," Hayat told Reuters on Thursday.

He said Ghailani was one of about a dozen people arrested on Tuesday when security forces raided a suspected militant hideout in the city of Gujarat, about 175 km (110 miles) southeast of the capital Islamabad.
Precisely as some have predicted.

Before I say anything else, let me say that the capture of any senior member of Al Qaeda, particularly one closely involved in the planning of terrorist acts against the United States, is a net positive.

However, speaking as a cold hidden political hack, this will not be a development on the level hoped for by Karl Rove and his minions. No remarks at the convention tonight will need to be prefaced with caveats about today's news. September 11th is not "avenged" by this. And I will still quote Monty Python's Life of Brian at the top of this post.

So I guess it all works out. An embassy-bombing dick gets caught, and the Republicans won't be able to use it against the Democrats. USA!

I lost my voice.

I can't sing above about B below middle C.

I just woke up, and it was gone. I haven't been exerting it in any forceful manner in the previous days, and I don't feel sick.

And I had recording to do this weekend!

In a nutshell, this sucks.

Here's the full text of Edwards' speech.

By a wide margin, the absolute most important thing he said came in the middle of the speech:
And we, John and I, we will have one clear unmistakable message for Al Qaida and these terrorists: You cannot run. You cannot hide. We will destroy you.
And with that, came a monster round of applause.

Anyone familiar with Edwards' primary campaign knew that he would fire on all cyllinders in the domestic, economic aspects of his speech (the "two Americas" and such). But everyone wanted to know how the man who would be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office would address national security and the fight against terrorism. And John Edwards hit it out of the park.

To get the full effect of this, you need to see the video at C-SPAN, if you missed it live.

I was a bit concerned about how he would come off on national security. Edwards has an unbelievable oratory skill, honed from years of connecting with juries. The man built up a record mirroring that of Keanu Reeves' character in Devil's Advocate, and that was without the help of Satan! But those skills don't necessarily prepare someone to convey the demeanor of a Commander in Chief. But he did it. He slowed down, his youthful face brimming with intimidation and resolve, and delivered the line (from a speech he wrote and re-wrote 30 times, according to him) deliciously.

Yes, history buffs, "we will destroy you" might've reminded some a bit of Khrushchev, who once said of America "we will bury you". Of course, Nikita was talking about the Soviet economy, particularly the agricultural sector, outpacing that of the USA. Of course, poor Nikita didn't understand that well-known adage, "dude, some plants grow in some places, and, well, others don't".

Tomorrow, John Kerry gets his chance to speak. And let me say this: Nikita Khrushchev won't be the last person to underestimate a pro-choice Catholic politician from Massachusetts with good hair!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Does anyone think it was weird for Edwards to use the call and response "Hope Is On The Way" when four years ago the Cheney's signature chant was "Help Is On The Way?"

Maybe they did it just to bug him.
Hehe. I don't know what the GOP delegates will chant during Cheney's speech a month from now, but here at TFM we've received an advance copy of one of the signs delegates will raise during the speech.

Looks like Drudge has a time machine...
Roger Clegg of The Corner (the conservative National Review's blog) on Obama's speech:
Barack Obama gave a fine speech, but it was not a speech that reflects the current Democratic Party. It celebrated America as "a magical place"; it did not bemoan our racism and imperialism. It professed that this black man "owe[d] a debt to those who came before" him; it did not call for reparations. It spoke of an "awesome God"; it did not banish Him from public discourse. It admitted that black parents, and black culture, need to change the way black children are raised; it did not blame or even mention racism. It quoted "E pluribus unum" and translated it correctly as "Out of many, one"; it did not misquote it, as Al Gore infamously did, as "Many out of one." Most of all, the speech celebrated one America, "one people," and rejected the notion of a black America, a white America, a Latino America, and an Asian America--a notion completely foreign to the multiculturalism that now dominates the Democratic Party.
Show of hands, all of you who could picture someone at the RNC convention referring to "gay friends in the Red states"?

That's what I thought.

Not only is this hackery, but it reveals something far more amusing: A Republican whining about a speech that does not conform to their party's preconceived charicature of what a Democrat is supposed to say.

And it didn't mention racism?
They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.
What speech was Clegg watching?

(here's the full text of Obama's speech)

Tom Maguire, in a generally positive post about Obama's speech, can't resist an easy joke:
Barack Obama gave a stirring "One America" speech to the Democratic convention, and good for him.

So what is John Edwards going to do, come on as a rebuttal speaker with his "Two Americas" speech?

How many Americas will we be hearing about by the time Kerry speaks? Hey, this is getting interesting.

But seriously, folks...
Bill Saletan can't avoid some likewise snark in his Obama post. Mickey, though, almost seems serious.

Just in case anybody tries to get really serious about this, might as well strangle that baby right here. Barack Obama's message of a united America is largely social and cultural ("we worship an awesome God in the blue states..."). John Edwards' message of there being "two Americas" is predominantly economic ("different set of rules for the rich and the working class").

Edwards is talking about conservative fiscal and economic policies that have "shifted the burden from wealth to work", and have increased the income divide between the rich and the working class. In other words, the two Americas as a product of Reaganomics.

Obama quoted chunks of the Declaration of Independence and the Bible because those two documents (for whatever else they are, particularly the latter) point towards the qualities that are present in all of us, the qualities that are the foundation for mutual understanding and tolerance in all corners of America.

To call these two assertions incongruent is to make a very lazy, superficial point that ignores their content.

Obama didn't talk very much about domestic economic policy in his speech, but Edwards certainly will. But here's why it works: Obama laid the groundwork for Edwards. He described the destination, the ideal, the one, united America, speaking predominantly in social terms, and identifying what has always been present in American society that can allow us to unite in such a fashion. Tonight, Edwards will talk about the journey to that goal, and he will frame it in terms of the obstacles that have been erected in the way, particularly the economic obstacles (that's where his "two Americas" kick in).

And does it occur to these people that maybe Edwards is so passionate about addressing the two-Americas problem because he believes strongly in Obama's united America? Just sayin'.
I can name maybe 5 or 6 of them. I need a life!

Tuesday, July 27, 2004



If the media has such a liberal bias, why was there so little prime-time coverage of tonight's speeches? I'm in Berkeley right now, and the only rabbit-ears-accessible station showing Kennedy, Dean, Ron Reagan Jr, and Teresa Heinz Kerry was PBS.

Remember, today was supposed to be the "liberal" day.

TBogg catches Ann Coulter masturbating.

David Brooks on Barack Obama's speech: "This is like watching Tiger Woods"

I'm trying to figure out whether that rubs me the wrong way or not.

Anyway, amazing speech from the soon-to-be Senator from Illinois. Far superior to 2000's keynote speaker, Rep Harold Ford Jr of Tennessee. From the moment Obama opened his mouth, he was instantly presidential.

Ditka wouldn't have stood a chance.

It had to happen at some point: The Elvis of the left-of-center blogosphere, Atrios, now has both a face and a name.

Maybe he agreed to this after having a few too many last night.

And is he on the staff at Media Matters?
Wonkette has discovered Barack Obama's startling addiction!
Drudge is crowing that the ratings for the first night of the Dem Convention were low:
Does this tell the whole story? Er, no. Couple things to keep in mind:

1) All three of those networds were showing, you know, the exact same thing. If you want a better feel for the broadcast network audience for the convention, add those numbers together. You end up with a rating of 10, which beats Drudge's precious CSI:Miami. Is that the entire broadcast audience, by the way? Let's see... Locally, the convention speeches were also shown on our Fox affiliate, on the now-independent KRON-4, and on PBS.

But more importantly,

2) The most likely reason that broadcast network ratings for the convention are down is because the cable ratings are up. Ratings on CNN, Fox and MSNBC are probably all up considerably this week, with the first two of those networks far into the 2's, and the third up substantially. Something like three-quarters of Americans now have some form of basic cable, up from 2000, and that has to have a significant effect on the ratings for broadcast news networks.

But let's say, just for kicks, that the monday audience really was low. What matters, though, is thursday.

"Anti-abortion protesters march past transit police on Boston Commons Saturday, July 24, 2004, two days before the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Boston. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)"
I'm sure these guys have a space reserved to protest a month from now in New York at the RNC convention, where speeches will be made by Rudolph Giuliani, George Pataki and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

They are all, of course, pro-choice Catholic politicians.

See you there, guys!

Monday, July 26, 2004


I'll keep this short and sweet, as today was a relatively busy day (had a midterm)...

--The little intro music the convention band played for each speaker is awful, and has to go. If they're gonna do that, hire Paul Shaffer or something. Oh wait, he's Canadian. I'm sure Bruuuce would let McAuliffe borrow Max for a while!

--The round-table sock-puppet punditry on the cable news networks is bad enough. But as idealistic as my convention-watching was in its intent, the callers on C-SPAN are so much worse. The liberal callers stutter and stammer and get their facts wrong, and the righty callers spout verbatim RNC talking points. Then again, at least this boils down cable news roundtable coverage to its essence, and for that perhaps I should be thankful.

--Hillary's "5-minute" speech ended up running 12 minutes in length, so let's have none of this stuff about her getting shafted. She was very effective, and it took two brief shakes of my head to set aside my feelings of "boy, she'd make a great president".

--Saw portions of Gore and Carter's speeches. Gore was hard-hitting as usual, but more reserved at times, and peppered his speech with bits of humor, particularly when recalling the 2000 Florida debacle. Carter's speech provided the most pointed attacks of the Bush administration of the night, and as an 81-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, he was able to say pretty much anything he wanted without having to worry about any consequences for the party as a whole. Of course, the usual suspects didn't have many nice things to say about him.

--As for Bill? Blew the roof off (text). I was disappointed they didn't do the "hall walk" thing with him that they did back in 2000 in Los Angeles. He made a great explicit case for Kerry while also making an accidental case for repealing the 22nd Amendment. Ok it's kinda hard to reconcile those two, but you get the idea.

Will Clinton's speech overshadow Kerry's? I'm not sure. From an oratory standpoint I'd take Bill over John any day of the week. But the answer to this question is in our expectations: The knock on Kerry is that he's not charismatic, that his vocal delivery, while weighty, is a bit stale and tired. Thus, the expectations are low, so all Kerry has to do for his speech to be a success is to exceed those expectations. This, of course, was the advantage Bush had in the 2000 debates with Gore.

So the question becomes, will the low expectations for Kerry survive Clinton's lights-out speech? Given that they'll be three days apart, I'm guessing they will.

Tomorrow: Dean, RonRon, and more!

Sunday, July 25, 2004


But not from my site, given the oodles of copyrighted material to be found within this one.

My friend Alex came over today and we spent the balance of the afternoon recording a very amusing cover of a popular 90's dance song, you know, the one from the SNL sketch, Haddaway's infectious "What Is Love". Nothing like dance songs that are titled after Jeopardy! responses.

In the recording, Alex plays bass and provides some backing vocals, and I do the rest (lead vocal, guitars, drums). Three items of note:

1: Listen for the various other bits of highly copyrighted material we threw into this one!
2: Also listen for an unexpected parody!
3: This is a joke song, nothing to be taken seriously. If someone sounds like they're singing badly, we meant it that way, and most everything was done in very few takes.

Okay, here is the link (windows users: right-click and save)
The Downsized Duo - What Is Love? (mp3, 7.1 mb)
Oh yeah, and our ad hoc band name is The Downsized Duo.

Posted by Hello

Say hello to Bailey and Oliver as they take the day off.