"Slarrow" refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" from Hamlet's soliloquy. Here are the chronicles of such darts and whatever attempt there may be to take arms against such a sea of troubles.

Location: Ozarks, United States

Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Little Halloween Poetry

This is dedicated to Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette (since he posted something nice about my poetry and got me to writing it again) and to all our troops out there hunting down our enemies. They are the "strong stirring wind" and the "fiery whirlwind".

The Ghoul

The year moves near to night of dread.
The Ghoul comes back to feast on dead.

The voice first cackles, and then it moans.
Skin too tight over too tight bones.

Spider moss hanging from bone bleach chin.
Gaping maw opens, nightshade within.

"Freedom or death," the lie gurgles out.
From somewhere the wind whips dust about.

"Here is your death," it whispers with calm.
A small glowing pill on a cold withered palm.

"But freedom for all, just leave from this land."
The same poison pill in that outstretched hand.

"Hurry and choose, your time it is short."
Its bones start to buckle, snapping report.

The strong stirring wind that whips dust about
Is tearing off limbs, rip-roaring, a rout.

The Ghoul's ghastly grin says, "Your end is near."
The fiery whirlwind takes all but the fear.

The Ghoul is a ghost that tumbles alone
In the boneyards of sand and the houses of stone.

Friday, October 29, 2004

He's Back, Is He?

I see that al-Jezeera's released a new bin Laden tape. So the old murderer's still alive (maybe; this ain't live TV). Well, that's just begging to be corrected.

Apparently in the video he's telling Americans what to do; he says, "We fought you because we are free .... and want to regain freedom for our nation. As you undermine our security we undermine yours," In other words, get out of town, and we'll leave you alone. Right. So he pops up out of nowhere on the eve of our election and essentially demands our surrender and withdrawal. How interesting.

He also says this about Bush's initial reaction:
At one point, bin Laden ridicules Bush for reacting slowly to the 2001 attacks.

“We never thought that the high commander of the U.S. armies would leave 50,000 of his citizens in both towers to face the horrors by themselves when they most needed him because it seemed to distract his attention from listening to the girl telling him about her goat butting,” he says, referring to Bush’s decision to wait more than seven minutes after being informed of the attacks before leaving an elementary room classroom in Florida where a student was reading a story called “The Pet Goat.”

The story, bin Laden intimated, “was more important than paying attention to airplanes hitting the towers, which gave us three times the time to execute the operation, thank God.”
I wonder how people will react when they realize that Osama bin Laden is echoing Michael Moore talking points.

I'm sure a lot of wailing will occur now from certain segments of the political spectrum: "See! Bush was diverted! He's still alive!" But the people of Afghanistan are still making their own destiny, and the people of Iraq are still birthing their new nation. Whatever bin Laden's been up to, he hasn't hit us again. Instead, he releases a videotape. I like Gerry Daly's thought on that: "They would have hit us if they could."

Now we decide if we're going to leave him alone, or go get him. Since both our presidential candidates have said they'll get him, he's just stuck his neck out. I still know who I think is more liable to chop it off, but it does do one thing: it guarantees that the political pressure to pick up the gauntlet will be enormous, and we need our will stiffened.

So for Kerry voters, it's put up or shut up time. Your guy says he will hunt down and kill the terrorists wherever they are. He won't make the mistake of taking his eye off the ball. Well, the "ball" just popped up and said, "Hit me!" Here's your chance. Are you ready? Do you really believe?

The Importance of Being Upbeat

First of all, if you are coming here from Greyhawk at Mudville, God bless 'im and you. You are more than welcome! Now to our regularly scheduled program....

It seems to me that the power of polls and newspaper endorsements these days is not so much to convince people to vote one way or another but to affect the enthusiasm and outlook of those voters who have already made up their minds. It may be that in the past endorsements convinced people and polls helped undecideds go with a winner, but in today's high-information society, I think the impact has to do with mood and energy more than sorting those still choosing.

My case in point: Wednesday my local paper in southwest Missouri, the Springfield News-Leader, endorsed John Kerry for president. The case was fairly weak, and I was incensed. The paper the next day was filled with outraged letters from angry readers. One of those was mine. My concluding paragraph:
"The bottom line is that there are people out there actively trying to kill us because we are Americans. I have a son who just turned 1 year old, and there are Muslim terrorists who would gladly sneak into my country and murder my innocent little boy. I know that George W. Bush will move heaven and earth to prevent that from happening and let the chips fall where they may. John Kerry will not do that."
When I got home that night, I had three phone calls from people telling me how proud they were of what I wrote. (That often makes me a little nervous, but it's indicative of the impact a little pep talk can have on people.) One identified herself as a 52-year-old grandmother who was so furious with the paper that she cancelled her subscription. The other two were happy to see that someone had made a strong case for Bush after they had felt betrayed by their hometown newspaper.

What I hoped to do with that letter was to help raise the spirits of those who were disheartened by the hometown paper endorsing Kerry. To its credit, the News-Leader printed it and other critical letters. If there is a lesson to this little post, it's that we don't have to take what's given us anymore. There are information avenues that can be used to convince and invigorate people, and any forum right now is a great place to fire up the troops and get out the message.

It's like everything else in life: believing you can win helps you win. The stakes are especially high, but I think the momentum is on Bush's side in this election and on our side in Iraq. There's no reason to get our heads down when our opponents still aren't beating us on the ground.

The Strategic Vision of W

I've always been amused by those folks who think Bush is dumb because he mangles his language sometimes. I've always thought his stammering comes from being overcareful from watching what he has to say because I think his instinct is to be far more blunt and earthy. But others don't see it that way and think he must be a dunce.

But Charles Krauthammer has an excellent column today talking about Bush's strategic victories in Afghanistan. Stupid people don't transform regions this way. A couple of excerpts:
"Bush put in place a military campaign that did in two months what everyone had said was impossible: defeating an entrenched, fanatical, ruthless regime in a territory that had forced the great British and Soviet empires into ignominious retreat. Bush followed that by creating in less than three years a fledgling pro-American democracy in a land with no history of democratic culture and just emerging from 25 years of civil war.

This is all barely remembered and barely noted."
"This election comes down to a choice between one man's evolution and the other man's resolution. With his endlessly repeated Tora Bora charges, Kerry has made Afghanistan a major campaign issue. So be it. Who do you want as president? The man who conceived the Afghan campaign, carried it through without flinching when it was being called a ``quagmire'' during its second week, and has seen it through to Afghanistan's transition to democracy? Or the retroactive genius, who always knows what needs to be done after it has already happened -- who would have done ``everything'' differently in Iraq, yet in Afghanistan would have replicated Bush's every correct, courageous, radical and risky decision -- except one. Which, of course, he would have done differently. He says. Now."
I've always said this is a pretty clear choice. Given the contrast, who do you want to direct a global conflict?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Lileks Nails It Again

James Lileks has this little exchange in today's Bleat:
I admit. I have a fantasy. Kerry wins. He’s having a summit with Tony Blair. In the middle of the conversation, Chirac calls up; Kerry excuses himself and has a brief chat about a new resolution to let French oil companies bid on reconstruction projects, and they have an amiable conversation in French. Kerry hangs up.

“Your predecessor,” Blair says, “spoke to him in English.”

“I know,” says President Kerry. “He couldn’t speak French.”

“He didn’t have to,” Blair notes. He gives a tight smile. And sighs. And gets down to explaining what now must be done.
That says it all.

Friday, October 22, 2004


I've been at this for a few months now, so I might as well write up the post that I started the blog to publish in the first place. Besides, it's a nice break from the political stuff as I head into the weekend (where I usually don't blog.) It's quite long, though; be warned.

Why Slarrow? Well, it's short and would show up easily on a blogroll (hint hint!). It's got a nice round sound to it with a little bit of bite. But mostly it's a reference to a lesson I think I've learned from Hamlet's famous "to be or not to be" speech where he refers to the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." (Why not Slings and Arrows, then? Because there's already an excellent blog by that name. I'm not them, though I wouldn't be ashamed if I were.)

My approach to the soliloquy runs like this: the conventional wisdom is that it's about suicide, but I think the conventional wisdom is wrong. It's about risk. Rather than being incrutable and mystifying, it seems to me a very logical evaluation of the alternatives Hamlet faces and thus is applicable to anyone dissatisfied with their current state of affairs. It also says something about the limits of human knowledge and courage.

First, the soliloquy in whole:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
Let's remember to set the stage. Hamlet's returned from abroad to find his father murdered and his mother in the arms of his murderer. In order to buy some time to assess the situation, Hamlet feigns madness. He's not totally convinced of his new stepfather's guilt and decides to compose a risky test by hiring an acting troupe to reenact his father's murder and see how the new king reacts.

At this point, Hamlet hasn't committed to anything. He's feigning a madness he could plausibly come out of and regain his place in society, though it be less than he deserved. Granted, he would never really know whether Claudius murdered his father, but as long as there's doubt there is excuse for inaction so that he doesn't put himself at risk. On the other hand, if he succeeds, he has avenged his father's murder and regained his rightful throne.

Thus it stands: do nothing, or press on. The decision must be made soon.

This is the dramatic setting for the soliloquy. This choice is what Hamlet's talking about when he asks "whether it's nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune [just take it, in other words] or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. [fight the demons and conquer]." The traditional understanding of this passage referring to suicide falls apart here, I think. In the typical context, "to be" seems to be interpreted as "to exist", so that the question may be rephrased, "should I live or die?" But that reading would require that opposing troubles and ending them was code for killing yourself (or that suicide was the only "enterpris[e] of great pith and moment"), and I just don't see it.

Now, if "to be" is understand as "to remain", then the contrast is much clearer: should I stay as I am with my present circumstances, or should I act to change them and so conquer? I think this is a far better reading of the "slings and arrows" passage.

If this is the case, though, why is the next bit about death? Hamlet seems at first to desire death for the release from heartaches, which lends credence to the suicide reading. But what's going on here, I think, is an implicit chain of logic that flows from the stark contrast established in the "slings and arrows" passage.

I think Hamlet reasons like this: I do not like the current state of affairs. I have a desired state of affairs. If I act, I will either improve my standing toward my desired state, or I will reduce my standing from the rough situation I'm already in. Then I have the choice again, and again and again until I either attain my goal or I die, thus reducing his options to a binary option. (Hamlet, being young and strong, does not account for worsening his situation beyond his capacity to act--not in this life, anyway.) Obviously attaining my goal is a great good and requires no further thought; is death, then, such a corresponding evil that it would encourage me to stay where I am? It's this chain of reasoning that leads so quickly to Hamlet's thoughts on death.

He begins by saying that if death just means release from all the ills of life, just as sleep is sanctuary from troubles, then the price for failure is low. But then he recalls dreams and is frozen: does he dare risk the continuance of consciousness in a situation where he might have less power to change events than he does now? Yes, there's a way to escape all those insupportable wounds to his spirit, but he might just be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

So there's the rub: in an attempt to analyze his options with certainty, Hamlet instead finds that he cannot in fact quantify the worst-case scenario, so his exercise in logic leaves him little comfort. Instead, he too is stymied, lacking the full confidence in his plans,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action...
Despite Hamlet's hope, it's still a gamble. His attempt to explain away risk fails, and he must act without the reassurance that would come from knowing that death is no fearful thing.

Therefore, this is not a question of whether it's preferable to live or die but rather a beautifully poetic analysis of whether risk arising from major actions can be explained away. It cannot. That, however, makes Hamlet more heroic as he presses ahead without the guarantee of success or surcease from sorrow. Such ignorance of "The undiscover'd country from whose bourn/No traveller returns" thus lends heroism to any enterprise that seeks "to take arms against a sea of troubles,/And by opposing end them[.]"

Then there are those of us who "suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" and live fairly quiet lives with an occasional cry into the darkness (like a blog.) But that's okay. I don't wanna be king.

The Educator Thomas Sowell

Man, I love Thomas Sowell. He's one of the best I've ever seen in taking basic economic concepts (and misconceptions), laying them out, and showing the realities in plain, understandable terms. He's done it again with a column on tax cuts. He makes clear what politicians deliberately muddle.

People who misunderstand economics think it's about numbers when it's about people. That's why they howl if we cut tax rates by 10%; they think the government will get 10% less money. That's simple math. But a 10% rate cut changes people's behavior and increases economic activity, which is more complex than a word problem. It's the Laffer Curve in action, and it works.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Cardinals Win The Pennant! The Cardinals Win The Pennant!

For the first time in 17 years, I'll get to see the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Man, that was some good baseball. Jeff Suppan outpitched Roger Clemens, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen came up big, and some of the Cards like Womack and Tavarez gutted it out there on the field. After the heartbreaks of the past few years--Daryl Kile's death, the Johnson-Schilling monster in 2001, Rick Ankiel's meltdown--this was sooo sweet.

What a gutsy performance from a team that's been consistently underrated all year. What a great time to be a baseball fan. What a great day to be part of Cardinal Nation.

Go Cards!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A Pet Peeve: Open- v. Closed-Minded

I was reading Dean Esmay's Are You A Liberal?" post, and it reminded me of one of my own pet peeves: what constitutes open v. closed minded.

One day I happened to get into a political conversation with an elderly liberal woman about President Bush. I was polite and amused; she grew more flustered the more we discussed matters. I don't think she'd had her views seriously challenged in many years, and I think she found it especially discomfiting when I pointed out I wasn't breathing fire or anything. She finally said, "I hope you can learn to be more open-minded about these things."

Now that's just an abuse of the term "open-minded." What I've always understood the term to mean is that one comes to one's beliefs through reasonable thought, weighing reasons pro and con. It also means one is willing to hear new evidence and seriously consider changing one's mind on an issue. Being closed-minded, on the other hand, is to reach conclusions without evidence or reason and being so set in those beliefs that contrary arguments or evidence isn't even acknowledged.

There may be some quibbles about what these definitions cover and don't cover, but I think that's what most folks understand these concepts to mean. But here's the thing: they describe how one develops one's beliefs. They do not describe the content of those beliefs.

But that's not how that woman used the terms. Rather, she thought that because I believed X, Y, and Z, I must be closed-minded because she believed I could not reach those positions rationally. On the other hand, if I were "open-minded," I would naturally change the contents of my beliefs to match hers--even though I was quite adept in telling why I believed what I did (more so than she was herself.)

This is a common abuse of "open-minded," and it's committed most by those on the modern Left, I would venture. It's not a mere distasteful mangling of syntax. Rather, it indicates an extraordinary arrogance and anti-intellectual bias that absolutely refuses to accept that contrary positions can be reached through reasonable and rational means. It is parochialism masquerading under the guise of cosmopolitanism, and it hacks me off.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Why Vote For Bush?

This is in response to Hugh Hewitt's call for an online symposium, "Why Vote For Bush, and What's Wrong With Kerry?" My entry:

I’m politically and socially conservative, so Bush is naturally my guy. I like him on taxes, Social Security, and health care because he promotes an ownership society. In plain terms, that helps protect me when politicians come along and want to play Robin Hood with my money. I appreciate his courteous courage when it comes to social issues like abortion, marriage, and religion. He also strikes me as a fundamentally honest and decent fellow, which is itself a delightful surprise; spoiled rich kids aren’t supposed to grow up to be this humble and real.

John Kerry, of course, is a Massachusetts liberal and an opportunist to boot. That means he disguises what he really believes on key social issues, believes in treating my money and property like his own, and jumps back and forth between bandwagons. He actually is the adult version of a spoiled rich kid.

So if this were a run-of-the-mill election, my vote would go to W. But it’s not an ordinary election.

The bottom line is that there are people out there actively trying to kill us because we are Americans. I have a son who just turned one year old, and there are Muslim terrorists who would gladly sneak into my country and murder my innocent little boy. I know that George W. Bush will move heaven and earth to prevent that from happening. I don’t think John Kerry will.

Besides, one death would probably just be a nuisance. Right, John?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Sands of Babylon

Wow. Greyhawk posted that little poem I put in the comments at The Mudville Gazette. Then he posted about the mass graves we know about now but just suspected before going to war.

Look, I know Iraq is messy (not a mess, but messy; there's a difference). But what serious response is there when we uncover mass graves like this? Is it not something to be celebrated that no more mass graves will be filled in that country by that tyrant?

(To those who would say, "Yeah, but other tyrants are filling mass graves elsewhere, and we didn't attack them. What about them?" gotta start somewhere, eh?)

Anyway, if anyone's interested, here are the links for the original Poets For The War, its current incarnation, and the poems I wrote. (There are only three, I'm afraid.) If you don't know what the fuss is about, you can read my original poem "Sands of Babylon" here.

The Importance of Pitch Counts

I've been a consumer instead of producer of blogs the past couple of days because stomach flu has hit the Slarrow household. Blogdom recedes from importance when one's wife is miserable. I have noticed a few things, though.

I didn't watch the debate last night; I taped it and watched the Cardinal game instead. Even though the Astros substituted Backe on three days rest (which I kinda expected), the Cards did just what they needed: revved up his pitch counts, got into the Astros bullpen, and ran wild (much like they did with the Dodgers.) Now if they can do the same thing to Munro tonight, they're sitting pretty for the series when it moves to Houston. It puts so much more pressure on Clemens and Oswalt to last into games, and I think the Cards are sharp enough to exploit that.

For some reason this makes me think of the Bush camp's continued assertions about the closeness and shape of the race. What's been lost, I think, in all the kerfuffle about the polls switching this way and that is how good the Bush camp's predictions about the state of the race have been. I haven't seen the Bush team get euphoric about good poll numbers or depressed about bad ones; they seem to have stayed steady-as-she-goes for a long time now and have predicted a close race from the very start. It's almost uncanny how the Bush team predicted, through highs (capturing Saddam) and lows (Abu Ghraib) in the polls that the October race would be so tight.

So this makes me wonder: have the Bush guys been working the pitch count all this time? Instead of knocking out Kerry early or putting him away in the first debate (like the Yankees thought they had the Sox on Tuesday night), maybe they've been wearing the Democratic team out. (A lot of this has been prompted by a Kerry Spot post that suggested that the flip-flop label was basically to kill time until the home stretch.) After all, they're past the conventions and debates now; from now on it's just events and campaigning, and no matter what the Democratic and press guys say, the battleground states are more red than blue.

The Dodgers had one of the great all-time closers in Eric Gagne. How do you beat such a good closer? Answer: you never see him in his accustomed role. I just wonder if the Bush team is going to make a push in the next couple of weeks--the equivalent of eating up Houston's middle relief--so that Kerry never gets to be the "closer" he's reputed to be (although ably disputed by the Kerry Spot's Jim Geraghty in a recent NRODT article.)

What would such a push look like? I don't rightly know, although massive ad buys in swing states, more hard-hitting campaign commercials, certain Congressional votes or executive actions, or the 72-hour ground push at the very end. If this is what they've got in mind, though, I expect the events to build on top of one another very quickly so that the Democrats are caught short-handed and without time to warm up another reliever.

Kind of like the two-out rallies from the Cardinals' modern-day Murderers' Row.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Cards-Astros: It's All About The Baseball

I see that Soxblog and some of the folks like Rich Lowry over at The Corner are getting revved up about the impending Yankees-Red Sox showdown.

Truth be told, there's often a regional flavor to the blogosphere. The eastern seaboard focus on the Yankees/Red Sox is coming through in some of the blogs attached to the major media organs. There's also the Northern Alliance which centers on Minnesota, and Instapundit is an able representative of Tennessee. Then there are the left-coast folks who talk of sand, surf, and Monday nights at Morton's.

Me, I'm an Ozarks guy, and I was raised on Cardinals baseball. I'm pretty excited about the Cardinals and the Astros in the NLCS. I think the Cards have the edge. Houston should be drained after the charge it took to make the playoffs, and their first postseason series victory may well have satisfied their drive.

Besides, their starting pitching is running on fumes. It looks like Pete Munro will be the Game 1 starter in order to get some of their other guys back on four days rest. It also looks like Houston can only get two rested starts from Clemens and Oswalt; if they want extra starts from them, they'll have to go on three days rest. If the Cardinals work the pitch count throughout this series, they can get into the Astros bullpen and do some damage (especially if they focus on knocking out Munro early on Wednesday.)

The Cards' front four, on the other hand, are rested and should match up well. I think Marquis will do a better job now that he's got his debut jitters out of the way, and Woody and Matty Mo and Suppan were quite encouraging. The Cards have a better defense and a better lineup top to bottom. I also think Rolen will break out in this series; he's been just a little off lately as he's tried to come back from his injury, and I think he regains his edge against the 'Stros. (Then, of course, there's Pujols. Ye gods.)

So while this series doesn't have the drama and national profile the ALCS does, it promises some awfully good baseball. Go Cardinals!

How Odd

Slate's got a little survey of authors asking them who they're going to vote for and why. Not surprisingly from Slate, most are for Kerry, but I'm rather surprised at the number of responses that come from the fever swamp, particularly those of Dan Chaon, Amy Tan, Rick Moody, Judith Guest, Edwidge Danticat, Jane Smiley, Jennifer Egan, Russell Banks, Nicole Krauss, and Thomas Beller. (At least George Saunders tried to give a literary illustration of why he prefers Kerry to Bush, although his Huck Finn v. Tom Sawyer analogy is tortured.)

The odd thing is, these moonbats are successful authors who create stories that attract a large number of readers. Yet their responses show they are steeped in a zany, vicious mindset that for all its talk of nuance and sophistication is clearly us-versus-them. And these are the intellectuals. It's a funny old world.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Sleeper Question

I think there was a sleeper question at the end of the debate which will really hurt Kerry, and that's the abortion question. First of all, the woman who asked it almost seemed in tears to me. She also asked a very simple question: what do you say to someone who doesn't want her tax dollars to fund what she considers murder?

Kerry led with a very cautious (almost stammering) insistence of how much he respected her opinion. He claimed that he was on the same side personally, but he just couldn't make others follow his personal beliefs. So as president of all the country (except possibly those who don't want tax money used to fund murder), he'd have to say he supported the funding.

Now, I've got a degree in philosophy and am pretty good at following the stuff that comes out of politicians' mouths, so I knew the answer. But I imagine most of what he said will just glide past most folks...except this bit.

"I'm Catholic."

I'm picturing solid, blue-collar union people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, who just sat up at that and said, "He's what?" Because they're Catholic, or at least were raised that way, and maybe they didn't know that Kerry was Catholic (why should they?) But they've just listened to his answer, and it sure don't sound like what the priest back in the old neighborhood had to say about killing little babies.

It was absolutely the worst way to bring out his Catholic status, and I think Bush's straightforward clarity on the question will do some big-time damage to Kerry.

UPDATE: Instapundit thinks Kerry did a very good job on this question. But then again, he appreciates the answer. Most folks, however, don't like to even think about abortion, and I don't think the hair-splitting will impress them. Besides, the bottom line will still be: Catholic. Against partial-birth abortion ban. Against treating baby as murder victim. That won't sit well with people.

Why Bush Won

Bush won because he was the fighter in this debate his supporters know him to be in the war on terror. That's what his fans will be talking about as their neighbors are making up their minds.

He really invigorated his troops tonight. He did it by being in charge and because he was sure enough of himself to use humor effectively. Most importantly, last Thursday he was defensive; tonight he was persuasive. In both cases the substance was largely the same, but the audience made the difference.

I thought there were two key moments tonight, both of which had to do with personal believability. The first was when Bush just ran right over Charles Gibson and answered Kerry without letting Gibson redirect him. Bush certainly showed he was taking charge, which was very encouraging; the leader of the free world ought not be cowed by some talking head. But the key was this: Bush seemed to me in that moment someone who had seen his honor impugned and was going to confront the problem come hell or high water. It was a very honest reaction because it seemed like someone whose word was so important to him that he just couldn't let something slide. It was revealing.

The other big moment came when Bush said, "I own a timber company?" in response to Kerry's classification of Bush being a small business. It was a very relaxing, humorous response, but what it did was indicate to the audience that his opponent would say anything, even ridiculous things, in order to get ahead. To my mind, it was the most effective attack on Kerry's credibility, more intuitively effective than the most liberal senator thing (did he say Kerry or Kennedy?) or the number of times Kerry voted for taxes. That little exchange goes straight to the gut and buttresses what else Bush says.

This is a big win for Bush, coming after Cheney's performance, because it invigorates his base. (Little projection coming up here.) I dreaded watching this tonight; in fact, I wasn't going to watch it, and I couldn't help myself. I got into it about 8:30...and I couldn't pull myself away. I'm enthused about it, and that's important because of swing voters.

People keep getting the swing voters wrong this year. First there aren't any; then there are enough to swing the electorate 8 points in a week. Things that are said are conventionally supposed to either attract or repel swing voters. Everyone's always looking for that magic formula defining what swings swing voters. Well, I've got news for folks: this year, at least, partisans swing swing voters. It's the people who know the game who will convince their neighbors and family why someone did a good job or would make a good president. Bush got his rank-and-file excited again in this debate, and that should show up in the swing vote numbers pretty soon.

It's fun to remember this debate ("you can run but you can't hide"!), and that's soooo much better than worrying about, "Could he really lose this election? Are we all gonna die?" Fun beats dread when it comes to picking up momentum.

What I Hope Bush Says Tonight

I hope the President is on the attack tonight. There are a number of things that he could attack on, but there are two Kerry talking points that I hope Bush nails him on.

First, Kerry and Edwards both said that Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. I hope Bush replies, "So would you have preferred to have waited until he did?"

When Kerry protests that he wouldn't have and cites the latest report that Saddam didn't have stockpiles (ignoring the parts where Saddam was bribing our "allies"), I hope Bush responds with, "I can't believe you're arguing the innocence of the Butcher of Baghdad."

This is to reflect the stark difference in what these men think American "credibility" means. Kerry thinks it means a good opinion in the global chattering classes. Bush thinks it means fear and dread in America's enemies. I hope Bush brings that out tonight.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

If Anyone's Interested...

Driving back from dropping my wife off for a school trip, I thought up the following commercial. Think it would be effective?


(Stock footage of U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq) Voiceover: While our soldiers were fighting terrorists in a struggling Iraq, Congress voted for $87 billion in support.

(Cut to black screen, text in white letters: "John Kerry Voted No...") Voiceover: John Kerry voted no...

(Add additional text: "...but he didn't mean it?") Voiceover: But he didn't mean it?

(Cut to Kerry video clip) Kerry: "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

(Cut to black screen, text in white: "Now John Kerry says it was a "protest" vote.") Voiceover: Now John Kerry says it was a protest vote.

(Cut to video of Kerry in debate:) Kerry: "That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did."

(Cut to black screen, text in white: "Yes, he did.") Voiceover: Yes, he did.

(Cut to still photo of Kerry before Senate committee) Kerry Voiceover:" they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads...shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam."

(Cut to video of Kerry in debate:) Kerry: "Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that's what I did with that vote."

(Freeze image of Kerry in debate, fade image tones to black and white. After 3 seconds, display text in red letters: "Presidents don't protest.") Voiceover: Presidents don't protest.

(Fade image to black. When full black, white text: "Presidents lead.") Voiceover: Presidents lead.


So is this fair? Effective? Thoughts? Anyone with some video and sound savvy interested in putting it together?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Wait A Second...No, Surely He Didn't...

Can this be right? I'm reading the transcript of last night's debate, and I've reached the part where Kerry rebuts the $87 billion for-against charge. From the Des Moines Register transcript:
KERRY: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?

I believe that when you know something's going wrong, you make it right. That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And that's what I did with that vote. And I'm going to lead those troops to victory.
Oh, no. No. Don't tell me that John Kerry is equating voting against body armor and ammunition with slandering American serviceman and lending aid and comfort to the enemy? That his vote against the bill because it didn't raise taxes reminds him of tossing his medals/ribbons/honor over the White House fence? Is he saying he actually wants credit for this!?

On the other hand, both actions did show lack of support for our troops in a time of war. So maybe they're not that far removed after all.

The Debate Rebuttal Begins

Well, I feel kind of smart right now. Last night I wrote the following about a Kerry vulnerability:
What [Kerry's position not attacked] actually means is that those positions aren't vetted thoroughly at a time when the candidate can dismiss them in person when the spotlight is on him.

So now all that's needed from the Bush campaign, the RNC, or a 527 is to pull one of the "I am strong and trustworthy on issue X" lines and build commercials around the unexamined stuff in his Senate record.
Well, what has the GOP done but made a video of the Top 10 Kerry Flip-Flops that does just what I expected? Granted, the video really isn't very good, but it shows what direction they're going to take. Now if they just pick two or three and make nice, professional commercials out of them, they not only blunt Kerry's momentum from the debate but erode his trustworthiness for the next time he's in front of the cameras. (Although I admit it would be more effective--and closer to my thesis--if they pulled from his Senate votes or speeches.)

Once again, the tactics of the situation work against Kerry even though people are praising the superficial benefits. It happened with the early primaries, it happened with the Boston convention, and it's happening here.