Slarrow

"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.

Name:
Location: Ozarks, United States

Thursday, September 30, 2004

No Mockery, But A Quick Fade

Well, it looks like I was wrong. I really didn't see anything in Kerry's performance tonight that's ripe for mockery, and I think attempts to spin something are doomed to failure.

Yet....

First things first: I didn't sit down and watch the thing straight through; in fact, my viewing was very sporadic. I missed the first half hour because I was playing with my little boy, then I spent the rest of the debate switching between getting him to bed (he was cranky), watching TV, and hitting the liveblogs. I may watch the whole thing straight through later, but I'm not sure.

That said, here's what I think. Viewing the debate as such, it was a draw on points. Kerry succeeded in not being overwhelmingly arrogant, and Bush succeeded in talking about the real accomplishments he's had on the ground. The back-and-forths frequently answered one another's charges as well as reiterated the planned talking points, and the zingers were fairly evenly matched. The comedians will be disappointed (which is a big deal--more on that later.) The fact-checkers will be stretching to "refute" certain alleged misstatements because the debate ended up being about judgement. Within the standard circles (probably including much of the blogosphere), the evaluation will be that both sides did pretty well but that Bush comes out ahead because Kerry needed to do more.

That's the inside-politics viewpoint. But when we zoom out into the larger world, we find that Kerry had a stacked deck and could only force a draw. It's the Boston Convention all over again, and it sets Kerry up for an October much like the August he had.

Here's the reasoning. Bush was on the defensive much of the night because the questions were set up that way. That means two things. First, it is the President's actions and ideas that set the terms of the debate. After the initial buzz has faded (and maybe sooner), people won't come away with what Kerry's view of U.S. foreign policy is except that it involves more foreign countries. In other words, the bulk of the debate wasn't about analyzing and critiquing Kerry's ideas, it was about analyzing and critiquing Bush's ideas. At the end of the day, all people will remember about Kerry is that he mostly played Monday-morning quarterback but did a pretty good job of it.

The second thing it means is that Kerry didn't have to defend his ideas and his record in the biggest public venue he's likely to get before Election Day. He didn't have to defend his nuclear freeze position when it came to nuclear proliferation. He didn't have to say why he's praising the 1991 war now but voted against it then. Instead, he got to make nice, calm, definitive statements about what he supposedly believes now. (I'm curious what Dick Morris' take on this will be since he's been focusing on Kerry's divided base.) The initial impression from pundits is that this is a good thing for Kerry, but that's also what Terry McAuliffe thought about the rushed primaries. What it 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. Kerry must either then spend precious campaign dollars to refute it with his own ads or ignore it and risk the charge getting embedded into people's minds (that is, those people who still want to tune in.) (Oh, and I suppose outside groups might jump in for him, but they've been amazingly ineffective in the actual heat of the campaign.) Because Kerry didn't actually have to defend himself in the debate where he's apparently most comfortable (more than I expected, really), now he must do so in a venue in which he's already proved himself to be lacking (e.g., Swift Vets.)

John Kerry's major loss in this debate was that he didn't seize the opportunity to set the terms of the presidential race (Boston all over again.) It's still about Bush, and the positive things Kerry said will dribble out of memory as he's put on the defensive. Since Kerry's arguments still boil down to "elect me because I'm smarter and better", this missed opportunity to make this about his ideas will cost him two to three points between now and next Friday, I think. (Besides, that debate is far more dangerous to Kerry than most realize; that's where his inability to connect with regular folks will show up. Of course, I also thought he'd do something tonight he'd be mocked for, so I could be wrong.)

Incredibly Bold Prediction About Tonight's Debate

John Kerry will do something that causes conservative bloggers to mock him. George W. Bush will not do something that will cause liberal bloggers to revile him. As a result, Bush will win, and pro-Bush/anti-Kerry bloggers will have fun.

I don't expect anything in the dynamics to change tonight, especially with the stringent format they're using. What will happen will just reinforce the existing perceptions, and right now those perceptions are not in Kerry's favor.

John Kerry's had a bad couple of weeks. What's hurting him the most, in my view, is that he's starting to become a comic figure. There was the windsurfing ad, then the flag football game, and of course the Oompa Loompa escapade. The pattern has been set, and the important thing is that Kerry's detractors are having fun doing this to him.

So I predict Kerry will do something (possibly something with the lights) that plays into at least one of the above themes which are largely about flip-flopping and phoniness (with a third possibility of sheer unattractiveness). He will be mocked for it by the blogosphere, which will creep into the mass consciousness. With the Swift Boat Vets are still out there attacking him substantively and the blogosphere happily satirizing him, Kerry will be stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place for the rest of this election cycle.

How will the liberal bloggers react to Bush? Easy. They'll howl over the fact that he didn't admit to being wrong, didn't admit to lying, didn't admit to being a war criminal, and didn't apologize for being a conservative. They'll work themselves into a frenzy over the mockery of Kerry while attempts to do the same to Bush fall flat (no new material). They will be unattractive because they will not be having fun.

So not only will Bush win the perception game in the debates tonight, Bush supporters will have more fun over the coming days about the episode.

(Necessary caveat: yes, I could be wrong, especially if something catastrophic happens like a terrorist attack or a Bush meltdown.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Lileks Is So Awesome

I join the teeming legions in stating that James Lileks is one of my favorite writers on the Web. He wrote a Bleat the other day that illustrated just why.
Anyway. I digress. The draft isn’t coming back. But it would make for an interesting exchange at the debates, eh?

Senator Kerry, you’ve said that President Bush intends to reinstate the draft. On what evidence do you base this assertion?

“This president has consistently underestimated the nature of the threat, and the nature of the forces we need to deal with, and confront, in this new century, and in doing so has placed us in a position where we find ourselves overextended. And alone. And we’re the target. I have a plan to bring our allies to the table, to forge new alliances as well as strengthen old ones, in such a way that fills out our options and gives us the flexibility to meet the changing needs of today with a military that will not be asked to shoulder the burdens of the world, when the world itself has a stake in these obligations. That’s what I meant when I suggested that there might be a draft in a second term of this president. He has boxed us in to a situation where our only solution to our go-it-alone policy might well be forced conscription of our young people, and I’m against it.”

Thank you. President Bush?

"There won’t be a draft."

(Pause) (Pause.) (Pause) (Bush grin) (Scattered laughter)

"I don’t know what else there is to say. There won’t be a draft. We’re going to move some forces around, uh, change our strategies. My opponent wants more German participation, and that’s fine with me. You know, they have a draft. Nine months, have to serve. I’d rather American men and women choose to join, choose to serve. Peace Corps, National Guard, our Armed Forces, however. But it’s up to them. Choices. We have the greatest armed services on the planet, and see, it’s because they want to serve. Love of country. And that’s a tradition I want to maintain. If my opponent has some inside information about plans to bring back the draft, I’d be happy to take a look, as long as he didn’t get it from some fellow in Texas who says he found the plans in a wastebasket."

The MSM would consider the latter answer an insufficient response to the Kerry's reply. They'd see the lines and staves, not the notes.
I haven't seen anyone capture the voices of the two candidates so beautifully. Wow.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Challenging Kerry's Patriotism

Okay, I'll do it. I challenge John Kerry's patriotism.

Note that I am challenging his patriotism, not questioning it. I'm not saying in a mealy-mouthed sort of way that John Kerry's not a "real" American. I am saying that John Kerry loves his personal political future more than he loves his country, and I am challenging him to change that.

I've never quite understood the taboo against "questioning" someone's patriotism, especially someone so instrumental in leading protests. Let's break it down. "Patriotism" is roughly "love of country." Like other loves, though, such a love can vary in breadth and intensity, and other loves or commitments may sometimes take precedence. Perhaps questioning patriotism is akin to saying that some parents love their children more than others do. That kind of statement evokes outrage while being absolutely true. (To claim that it is false puts a mother who sacrifices her life for her daughter on the same plane as one who kills, abuses, or abandons her children.)

So patriotism is a love and has a particular range of intensity. Most of us have a strong love of country that nevertheless is not as intense as our love for other things, such as our families or our own lives or own standard of living. In some cases this is blameworthy, but not always. Two men may have the chance to join the army in a time of war but choose not to because other things call more to them. This isn't blameworthy on its face. But suppose the first man simply chose not to volunteer while the second was drafted and took steps to avoid service. Then the first is still faultless, but now the second deserves condemnation. So patriotism allows other loves to take precedence unless the need is great; at that time, though, failure to put love of country above other loves becomes dishonorable.

It is rare that someone does not love his country at all. Usually, the love has a particular intensity and placement on a spectrum. Two points arise from this. First, those who naturally place their love of country above other loves deserve our thanks and praise. Such love of country causes them to sacrifice themselves, even risking death, for the sake of other citizens; this is a high ethical bar, and they meet it. Second, while there may be nothing blameworthy in itself with having a certain degree of patriotic intensity, circumstances matter, and when the call comes to someone to place love of country above other loves and he fails to answer the call, then he is culpable.

Back to John Kerry. I believe John Kerry loves his country, but he loves his personal political fortune more. I think he is willing to temporarily see his country humbled or humiliated and for her to lose blood, treasure, or allies if it means he can become President of the United States. I think that is behind his charges of "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time", his swipe at Iraqi interim prime minister Allawi, and his claim that the war's been too expensive.

As a strategic political tactic, it's backfiring, depressing the sensible in his base and turning away genuinely deciding voters like Ann Althouse. Others have more ably pointed out the down-to-earth consequences it would have for a President Kerry in building alliances and creating coalitions.

But ultimately the strategic concerns don't matter. What matters is that the position of Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces demands the highest level of love of country such that it sweeps away all personal loves. What the position demands is a man who will reward and sacrifice for our friends, stand steadfast against our rivals, and relentlessly pursue our enemies. I think right now that it is not as important to Kerry that a man with those qualities be president as it is that the name on the door is John Kerry.

I do not think John Kerry can rise above his political love of himself to put his country's interests first; his performance on the campaign trail seems little removed from the slanders of his callow youth. But I am willing to be surprised. John Kerry must be willing even to become the shadow of George W. Bush if it means that our enemies know that a change in leadership does not mean a change in purpose or resolve. I challenge John Kerry to become someone to whom the fate of the country is more important than how many votes he receives in November.


Friday, September 17, 2004

Where is Dumbledore?

Hugh Hewitt solicited some Lord of the Rings analogies for the Rather debacle. With respect, I think Hugh's barking up the wrong tree. He shouldn't be looking to Tolkien for his literary analogy; he should be looking to J.K. Rowling.

LoTR analogies don't really work because the epic is a titanic struggle between good and evil, and however tempting it is to cast newsman and Democrats as Saruman or Sauron, they aren't our enemies. They are our opponents, to be sure, but their sin is corruption, not a desire for complete domination despite the means.

But the last two Harry Potter books provide a perfect model for the CBS document fraud scandal: Cornelius Fudge.

For those who don't know the books, Fudge is the Minister of Magic, a kind of head of government for the magic world. When Harry sees the rebirth of Voldemort, the leader of evil in Rowling's world, he tells his story to Fudge and to Professor Dumbledore, head of the school of magic Harry attends. When confronted with this hard tale, Fudge denies it and its ramifications, choosing rather to treat Harry as some addled kid and putting political considerations ahead of the truth.

Dumbledore finally rages at him: "You are blinded...by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius!"

Cornelius Fudge is emblematic both of the national Democratic party since 9/11 and Dan Rather's CBS crew in this latest scandal. 9/11 should have changed everything, but it didn't change the Democratic party. Rather than be willing to stand by the President or take the bold initiatives required to defeat the new evil, they retreated to politics-as-usual positions, like demanding union protections for homeland security and desperately trying to ignore the war and run on health care and the economy. Protecting their position became more important than defeating our enemies which destroys them when reality intrudes, just as it devastates Fudge when Voldemort's return is confirmed.

As for CBS and Dan Rather, I'm put in mind of an early scene in Order of the Phoenix, the fifth and latest Harry Potter book. Harry is summoned to a trial for the underage use of magic, even though he does so to save himself and his cousin from soul-sucking ghouls. Fudge runs the trial and means for it to be a sham trial to discredit Harry and remove him from the fight. Fudge ignores testimony, denies plain reality, and otherwise tries to force the trial into his predetermined desired outcome, no matter the evidence. Sound familiar? Harry is saved by Dumbledore who uses the law and logic to defeat Fudge's pattern of smear and innuendo, thus granting Harry a reprieve. Foiled, Fudge plants stories in the magic world's newspaper of record to discredit Harry, and a minion is dispatched to school to keep the natives in line.

The character, motives, and actions of Cornelius Fudge seem to me to align much more naturally with the Democrats and CBS news than the LoTR characters. At the end of the day, Fudge just can't bring himself to believe there's really a threat from Voldemort, especially when acting in that fashion brings such a high personal political price. His ramrodding of the trial and his defense mechanism of imputing political ambition to his opponents are an excellent mirror of Dan Rather's actions in this scandal.

So, for the analogy, we know who Cornelius Fudge represents. What about the others? I tend to think of the blogosphere as Harry; like Harry, they're the ones pressing the issue, bringing things to a head, and doing the heavy lifting. Like Harry, the establishment tries to brush them off or discredit them because of the damage they can do to the establishment (pajamas, anyone?) The Swift Boat Vets might also qualify as Harry. If someone wants to cast Susan Estrich as Umbridge, I have no objection.

But who is Dumbledore? Oh, you might try to make a case that the Bloodhound Blogs use the same tactics, but they don't (yet) have the stature a Dumbledore does. Bush doesn't really fit, nor does the national Republican party, because they're natural opponents of Democrats while Dumbledore is not Fudge's natural opponent. Dumbledore's analogue would need to be a highly respected member of the media and/or Democratic establishment who steadfastly and sympathetically would take Fudge to the woodshed to make him see reason.

But who in the Democratic party has those kinds of credentials and that kind of courage? Where is the figure who will work to see that we have two strong parties united at least against our deadliest enemies? Who will be--or can be--Dumbledore?

Without such a figure, the Democrats--and the country--are in trouble.

Rather Open To Ridicule

When you persist in sticking to your guns despite all reasonable evidence, you leave yourself open to stuff like this great post from Soxblog:
RETRACTION (SORT OF)
Earlier in the day I posted a story about Sophia Parlock, the little girl who while perched on her father’s shoulders had her doubtlessly beloved Bush/Cheney sign destroyed by a thug wearing a union t-shirt. Turns out little Sophia’s father is a first class Grade-A idiot who often uses his children as political protest props. And it also turns out that the union t-shirt bedecked thug was likely a plant, either a Parlock friend or a Parlock himself. In other words, the story is a hoax, and this is the part where I apologize for disseminating the hoax and call Parlock pére to task: I was fooled and Parlock is beneath contempt.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me say this: I stand by my story. In spite of the mountain of the evidence to the contrary, I’m stickin’ with it ‘til the cows come home. Sure the event itself was a hoax, but my story is still accurate. Democratic Union supporters behave like jerks at rallies. And liberal Democrats make three year olds cry. So even if the union guy in the photo wasn’t a union guy at all, I don’t see how that changes the fundamentals of my assertion about politically active union guys in general. Hell, I even provided eye-witness testimony from an event a decade ago to prove as much; this testimony came from an unimpeachable source – me!

If it turns out that union guys behave like perfect little gentlemen at political rallies, I look forward to breaking that story. But I’ve talked to several experts who say I’m in the right on this one. And for every expert who says I’m wrong, there’s another one who says I’m right. Certain partisans question the authenticity of my story because they don’t want to deal with its accuracy. Well, rest assured, this cowboy can take the heat
Beautiful, James, just beautiful!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Why Kerry Attacks Don't Work

Just keep on throwing Bush into that ol' briar patch!

For some bizarre reason, people actually seem convinced that John Kerry and the Democrats didn't attack the President until the past couple of weeks. (Apparently they didn't notice the Democratic primaries, MoveOn.org, George Soros, Michael Moore, and the overuse of the weasel word "misled.") So pundits and commentators have been begging John Kerry to go on the attack, and he's pledged to do so and has tried to do so.

John Kerry was on Imus this morning (still waiting for a media interview with a tough questioner.) He attacked Bush on: lost jobs, expensive health care, "miscalculating" the war, Enron, drugs from Canada, yada yada yada. In fact, his entire appearance is about attacking Bush, second-guessing everything he's done about Iraq, and saying he would be better just because he's new and supposedly so smart.

Here's Kerry's problem.

His attacks fall into one of three categories. First, most of what he's trying to pin on Bush is penny-ante kind of stuff when compared to the threat of terrorism. Nobody really cares about whether there have been fewer jobs lost under Bush or whether outsourcing happens when there are people actively trying to kill us. That's trivia, compared to what's happened over the past few years.

Second, the whole "I would have done everything differently" blather falls flat because John Kerry's been in the Senate the entire duration of Bush's presidency, and he didn't say any of this stuff at the time it should have been said (i.e., when it would have demonstrated leadership and political courage.) He made statements about what should have happened after negative consequences from decisions rose up. If Kerry really thought we shouldn't have rushed to war, then we should have a speech from mid-February in which he told President Bush to trust the inspectors instead of giving Saddam a deadline. (But wouldn't that have showed our enemy that we weren't united in the face of war and thus demoralized our troops and hurt our national unity? Yeah, but that didn't stop Kerry in the '70s, did it?) Monday-morning quarterbacks aren't leaders.

Third and finally, the Democrats' usual scare tactics just don't work when we've got a real enemy. When times are becalmed, a Halliburton or Big Oil or HMOs make a decent boogeyman. But it's hard to be afraid of the Big Bad Wolf when real wolves are out there trying to kill you.

Bush is only vulnerable to attacks from the right, and Kerry can't make those arguments. Consequently, the only thing Kerry can hope for is the personal smear, and the CBS hoax story is crippling that. Once someone comes out and just says, "CBS is lying to help Democrats and hurt Republicans," then it spreads to all kinds of personal smear tactics and reduces the public trust in the MSM to a level closer to which they actually deserve.

Yeah, John-John, just keep attacking.

Finally, A Respectable Lefty Who Keeps It Fair

Someone named Nikki Finke has an interview with Jay Leno in LA Weekly. Apparently Jay's pretty liberal in his personal life as he makes clear in the interview, but he's professional about it.

He points out to his often clueless interviewer (who desperately wants to turn him into an icon for the Left) that his business is comedy and his show follows the rules of that business. When asked about his beliefs, he says, "Let me ask you this. Can you figure out my politics watching the monologue?"

Truth be told, I can't. He goes where the material takes him, and I was surprised to see in this interview what he really thinks. But he seems the kind of guy I could sit down with and discuss politics reasonably without having it devolve into a shouting match. He's professional and fair, telling the jokes to give the audience what they want instead of making them think like him.

Dan Rather and CBS News should take lessons.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Linus's Law Meets The BloodHound Blogs

Eric S. Raymond coined Linus's Law: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

This observation was made in relation to open-source programming and utilizing the expertise of a diverse group of people in rapidly responding to errors in thought and planning. With the CBS Dead Sea Documents, we have the application of that principle to news reporting. (I love that as the catch phrase for this scandal: "Dan Rather and the Dead Sea Documents." Sounds like a Hardy Boys mystery.)

Jay Currie at TCS gives the breakdown of the story that prompted my little observation. It's also seen in the timeline given by ABC's The Note. The other main players are, of course, Powerline, Little Green Footballs, the Kerry Spot, and InDC Journal. (This episode has caused me to add several more blogs to my Bloodhound Blogs list.)

Like the bug hunting process, the challenge/question about the CBS documents was initially posted. The enormous readership represented a far more expert and varied audience than you would find in either a typical software company or news organization. Readers jumped all over the problem, sharing ideas and observations and cross-checking one another, just like they've done in the Linux development forums. Before the dinosaurs knew there was a bug, the nimble bloggers were demanding an explanation and solution (and if they don't like or trust the Official Answer, they simply won't accept it and will get to the real answer themselves.)

I've seen this process work out several times between software companies and independent coders. Often the Big Boys manage to keep the little guys off the radar. I don't know if CBS News will have the chops to do that this way.

Gut Check For World War IV

Three years after 9/11/01 and almost 18 months after the war in Iraq, where do we stand in the war on terror?

It seems to me that by any reasonable standard, we are winning and winning big. Our forces deposed the Taliban regime that harbored our al-Qaeda enemies in a matter of weeks. Two-thirds to three-fourths of the al-Qaeda leadership is dead or captured. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a state sponsor of terrorism, is no more and is being replaced by an accountable government that will focus on exporting goods instead of murderers. No further attacks have taken place on our soil. Our embassies and ships are intact. Our public holidays and special events happen without the kind of panic and turmoil that seized that school in Russia last week.

In Iraq schools are open and local governments are forming. Millions of people are preparing to vote in free elections in Afghanistan. Women and religious minorities enjoy freedoms and rights unknown in that part of the world.

What successes have our enemies had? They’ve managed some bombings in night clubs and hotels in isolated spots around the world. They’ve kidnapped and murdered journalists and contractors. They’ve killed some of our soldiers, showing they are still dangerous in the same way a beheaded rattlesnake can still poison the unlucky. But they have won no territory, conquered no states, and enslaved no people since we began to take the war to them.

Norman Podhoretz calls this conflict World War IV (the Cold War, which we won, would be World War III.) Viewed as a world war, it is clear we are winning. But there are many who don’t want to view it as a world war. A world war is too big, too permanent, too encompassing. It’s so much more comforting to limit its scope, to say that this conflict is necessary but that one could have been avoided. Maybe if we don’t call it a world war, they must think, it will all go away. Maybe if we slander those who direct it and fight it as a world war, some must believe, we can shrink it to something manageable we can shrug off.

But it is a world war, and the only war of choice is the option to fight it on our terms and timing rather than the enemy’s.

So as this anniversary approaches, let us salute and honor those who fight this world war for us. A particular person comes to mind for me. My neighbor’s son-in-law went to Iraq for a year and returned only recently. In the meantime, my baby son was born. In my mind, he took that year away from his little daughter and gave it to me to enjoy my son. I thank him and all like him deeply, and I honor them for holding the front lines against the enemy in this latest world war that we must win.

(A shorter version of this appeared in my local paper, the Springfield News-Leader)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Letter to CBS News

(We'll see if CBS gets many more of these and what they choose to do with them.)

Powerline Blog, Little Green Footballs, In DC Journal, and the Kerry Spot have strongly challenged the documents you cite from Col. Jerry Killian's personal file.

The documents in question do not appear they could have been created on a 1973 typewriter. These people have built a very strong case that you have attacked the president's National Guard record based on a forgery. I expect to see some confirmation of your sources within the next 24 hours or a public retraction of your story.

Your credibility is at stake. I hope you may satisfy these challenges promptly and openly.

Regards,

[slarrow]

This Is From 1973?

Powerline's got the goods on this document alleging pressure to rate George Bush when the purported author claims he wasn't even there. Powerline's guys think it's a forgery. I do too.

A couple of things strike me funny from this 1973 document. Now, I'm not military, so I don't know typical procedures; maybe military guys can help me on this. But the date is labeled "18 August 1973". First of all, is "dd month yyyy" standard date format for military communications of that time? Second, my little Microsoft Outlook calendar tells me that this date is a Saturday. Did this kind of administrative runaround (filing memos, taking admin phone calls) typically take place on Saturdays?

Finally, the subject line is "Subject: CYA". Now, I know there's a common interpretation of that little acryonym, and I wouldn't be surprised to find it's been around for decades, especially in the military. But a lieutenant colonel is supposed to file a memo with that as a subject line? Maybe it could be legit, but it just seems so clumsy.

UPDATE: After I posted this, I got a little sheepish about whether my observations made any sense. But the comment thread over at Little Green Footballs mentioned all three of my objections--and I posted this before that thread ever got started! *beaming*

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Windsurfer Kerry's Uriah Problem

The Swift Boat Vet story is now being joined by the Vietnam Veterans For Truth, so that tells me that Senator Kerry's problems aren't going to go away anytime soon. It strikes me, though, that Kerry's going to have two big problems.

Let's for a moment stipulate that all of Kerry's medals and decorations were earned. We'll even put aside his anti-war activities. The first problem is this: he got three Purple Hearts in Vietnam, and how does he spend his recreation time these days? Windsurfing and snow skiing.

These are already inaccessible to a lot of people, but these activities are especially out of reach to your typical veteran who would have survived three Purple Hearts. I can see the commercial now:

(fade into voiceover from 1971 Congressional hearing, Senator Symington speaking):
Mr. Kerry, please move your microphone. You have a Silver Star; have you not?

Mr. Kerry: Yes, I do.

Senator Symington: And a Purple Heart?

Mr. Kerry: Yes, I do.

(underlying images show Senator Kerry windsurfing, snow skiing, mountain biking, etc.)

Senator Symington: How many clusters?

Mr. Kerry: Two clusters.

Senator Symington: So you have been wounded three times.

Mr. Kerry: Yes, sir.

(underlying images show Senator Kerry windsurfing, snow skiing, mountain biking, etc.)

(camera pans out to show image on television screen. Further pan shows grizzled vet staring at screen. He grunts:) Huh. Must be nice. (fade to black)

Kerry's second problem is that he took advantage of the Navy regulation that let those with three Purple Hearts punch their ticket back home. Some will buy the line that everyone was trying to bug out and get back home.

But not all. Oliver North wrote about turning down a medal in order to stay with his guys. Ah-nuld spoke about a wounded soldier who wanted desperately to get back to his guys, telling the Governator, "Arnold...I'll be back." Sticking with your unit is a strong military tradition, and we have Biblical evidence for it in a story many veterans and veterans' families will remember.

King David's greatest sin has to do with his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite to cover it up. But before he sent Uriah to his death, he invited him home from the front, hoping to get him to sleep with Bathsheba so David could pass off his baby as Uriah's. David tries twice; the second time he even tries to get Uriah drunk. But Uriah sleeps on the palace steps. When David challenges him and asks why he didn't go home, Uriah replies:

"Uriah said to David, 'The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!'" (2 Samuel 11:11)

Veterans who know their Bible will not be impressed with John Kerry.

John Kerry Is No Neville Chamberlain

Soxblog has a piece analyzing how Neville Chamberlain is remembered because he got the Big One wrong. Whatever else Chamberlain did, we remember him as the poster boy for appeasement in the face of evil.

Come to that, when it comes to getting the Big One wrong, it seems to me that John Kerry's hit the trifecta in three different decades. First, he blamed the good guys for Vietnam and grossly "misunderestimated" the impact our withdrawal would have, saying in his 1971 Congressional testimony that "we have an obligation to offer sanctuary to the perhaps 2,000, 3,000 people who might face... political assassination or something else." (He was a little off.)

Second, he fought Reagan's defense budgets, came out for a nuclear freeze, and referred to the eight years of Reagan's administration as a period of "moral darkness." So he was wrong on the issues that won us the Cold War.

Finally, he's wrong on the War on Terror; he can't seem to commit to calling it a war, and it's only against al-Qaeda because the Iraq war was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." And...he's wrong! It was the right war in the right place at the right time. It cut a hole in the middle of an enemy region, it let us maintain the initiative, and it nipped usable WMD proliferation in the bud.

The war with Iraq was a war of choice, all right, but it wasn't a choice between war and peace. It was a choice between war now, on our terms versus a future war on the enemy's terms.

Most importantly, Kerry's statements and votes on the War on Terror are aimed not at the most effective strategy against our enemies but for his own maximum political advantage. As a result, he's missed the Big One on World War IV because it takes firm, steady, and inexorable leadership to defeat our enemies.

Now, as it happens, Soxblog didn't mention Kerry in that post at all. Actually, I don't mean to compare John Kerry to Neville Chamberlain either. After all, from what I understand, Chamberlain was a principled man.

(rimshot)

Spittin' In The Wind

So John Kerry is babbling again about the "rush to war" and how he would have given the inspectors more time? It's just been too expensive?

Kerry says, "I call this course a catastrophic choice that has cost us $200 billion because we went it alone, and we've paid an even more unbearable price in young American lives...$200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford after-school programs for our children; $200 billion in Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford health care for our veterans; $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford to keep the 100,000 police officers we put on the street..."

Some observations:

1) Again, Kerry insults our allies by claiming we went it alone. What exactly is the point behind poisoning relations with people who actually helped us do this? It's astonishing to me that John Kerry is actually making ingratitude a campaign message.

2) So John Kerry tells us that about 750 combat deaths and 250 accidental deaths in Iraq is an "unbearable price"? Is John Kerry telling our enemies the entrance fee for unrestrained activity against our country without fear of reprisal? "Kill 1000 of our professional soldiers and we'll leave you alone"? Does this also mean that in any conflict, John Kerry would have a number of casualities in mind that would trigger his "get out of town" impulse? Is he advertising that number now?

3) After-school programs are nice, but I'd rather have fewer taxpayer-funded afterschool programs and an aggressive fight against our enemies than universal afterschool programs and commando squads having to raid those programs where terrorists are holding children hostage.

4) Health care? Cops? Those are important issues, especially for peacetime, but there are lots of resources that can assist in that battle: states, community groups, municipalities, changes in local laws, etc. But the city council of Akron, Ohio, can't take out Muslim murderers in Fallujah. The VA hospital in Columbia, Missouri, can't depose an enemy government that shelters terrorists bent on our destruction. The federal government runs the armed forces which is uniquely suited to do the job that needs to be done, and if other programs don't get the federal dollar for a little while, so be it.

5) John Kerry says he would have done everything differently to prevent the "rush to war." Suppose Bush had given the inspectors more time and closed the weather window for attack. Would that have improved things? I don't think so.

John Kerry has no answers. He has only wild accusations and vain assertions that things would all be better if only he had been in charge. (Don't we all know a guy like that at work?) He's just spittin' in the wind, and you know who gets wet when you do that.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Starting To Shape Up

Well, I'm starting to get this blog into shape (finally!) I got my links up to the side; it's rather embarrassing, actually, that it took me so long since I'm a computer/web programmer in real life. I'm even starting to get a few visitors.

Just for kicks, I'll throw this out. I'm hoping to get a few delightful little memes started. I like to hear myself talk and read my own writing (which suggests that this effort may be doomed to failure), but here are a few of the phrases, sentences, and concepts I'm trying to get into the Greater Blog Consciousness. (If you're visiting and pick up on any of these, naturally I'd like attribution. Credit is usually the only reward for a beginning blogger.) 'Nuff said: here's the list.

  • The Trash Generation: name for the children of the Baby Boomers
  • BloodHound Blogs (or BloodHound Media): handle for the "new media" (blogs, talk radio, online-only magazines, etc.) Counters Old Media.
  • The DNC was about the Kerry biography; the RNC was about the American biography.(link)
  • "When you're trying to sail along with a leg on two boats and the boats start to drift apart, you are in bad shape. Soon Kerry will need someone to come along and fish him out of the river."(link)
  • Never forget: the more the public sees President Bush being himself, the more they like him. The more the public sees John Kerry being himself, the less they like him. (link)
  • Hollywood types are Plastic People
  • Mark Twain said, ""The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." Isn't it true, then, that the reporter who does not get the facts has no advantage over the person who cannot get the facts?(link)
  • Kerry: the international man of mystery
  • The Coming Bush Landslide: hinted at here, stated here. (Note: looks good now that Time has Bush up by 11; I predicted 10-12 two weeks out.)
  • "Character" optimism v. "personality" optimism (link)
  • About Reagan: "They call him 'The Great Communicator' and mark his extraordinary optimism. They are right; Reagan did communicate well and was very optimistic, but that is to remark how beautiful a leaf is and ignore the stately tree that grew it."

That should do for a while. Enjoy!

Estrich Descends Into Evil

Susan Estrich has apparently decided that character assassination is the only way to win.

This must be nipped in the bud. Move past all the sickeningly woe-wah-how-unfair bilge she apparently believes. Forget whether it would succeed or backfire (probably the latter.) Estrich is proposing a nuclear option in politics that opens the door to raving hatred as a campaign tool. Such a move would establish that nothing is out of bounds, and that's the last thing we need in our political races when national security is at stake.

Susan Estrich can indulge in her little aggrieved-innocence fantasies all she wants. But threats to introduce deadly poison into the body politic are beyond the pale, and she needs her chops busted for even raising the spectre of such despicable action.

A Good Morning To Be A Republican

When are the Democrats going to stop throwing Bush into that ol' briar patch?

I thought the President did just fine last night (and I even missed the last ten minutes or so because I called my mom for her birthday; it looks like that was the best part.) He gave us some domestic stuff to hang our hats on (portable retirement and health insurance! woo hoo!), reminded us of the magnitude and seriousness of his decisions on the war on terror, and concluded with a frank conversation about who he is and who we are.

Last week I said his job Thursday night was to be President Bush. I think he did it, especially with this section:
In the last four years, you and I have come to know each other. Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand. You may have noticed I have a few flaws, too. People sometimes have to correct my English — I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it. Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called "walking." Now and then I come across as a little too blunt — and for that we can all thank the white-haired lady sitting right up there.

One thing I have learned about the presidency is that whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them — and whatever strengths you have, you're going to need them. These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget. I have tried to comfort Americans who lost the most on Sept. 11th — people who showed me a picture or told me a story, so I would know how much was taken from them. I have learned first-hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers, some with a very tough road ahead, who say they were just doing their job. I've held the children of the fallen, who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom.

And I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers — to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong.

The world saw that spirit three miles from here, when the people of this city faced peril together, and lifted a flag over the ruins, and defied the enemy with their courage. My fellow Americans, for as long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City and they will say: Here buildings fell, and here a nation rose.
The bottom line is that in a peculiar way, both conventions were about biography. The DNC was about an abbreviated, air-brushed biography of John Kerry. The RNC was about the biography of the United States of America, and that's why I happily await the coming Bush landslide.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Double Whammy For Kerry

Dick Morris' piece Dem's Deadly Divide" amplifies a point I made at the end of my post exploring Kerry's options with the Swift Vets. Morris sets up a list of major issues on which the Democratic voters are split and then wraps up by saying,
"The Republicans are skillfully exploiting this weakness in their opponent. At the outset of the campaign, they are making much of Kerry's inconsistent positions on issues and undermining his credibility by attacking his war record.

At the convention, the GOP is hammering home these issues to set them up for use down the road. Then, in the debates, Bush will close in for the kill, making Kerry fish or cut bait on these pivotal questions, always being prepared to say, "There you go again" if he waffles.
The Republicans are doing just what they need to do here. The basis of Kerry's superior claim for the presidency is that he's the better man: he's smarter, more nuanced, more persuasive to allies, braver, and more patriotic than Bush. He seemed to have a strategy of letting this remain unquestioned and just keep attacking Bush; if his character was attacked, he'd hide behind his Vietnam service, just like he's done so many times before.

But the Swift Vets have spiked his wheel. They flushed out his trump card before he could play it, and they've put his character into question. He had his shot at the convention to frame the debate in terms of issues: we stand here, Republicans stand here. But he chose not to do that, and now the Republicans have done it for him.

He can't skate over the issues like he'd hoped to. If he decides to try to win by taking a position and offering a clear choice, he's liable to turn off half his home team support. If he tries to pull the both-and nuance thing and basically run on how much wiser he would be as President, the Republicans will nail him on the flip-flip opportunism, and the Swift Vets will keep bringing up the character issues of his Vietnam exaggerations and his post-Vietnam charge against his country. (Incidentally, when the Swift Vets come back into focus with these commercials, that's when Zell Miller's comments are really going to sink in nationwide.)

It's a double whammy, and I don't see where Kerry can move to get out of it. (Good!) He has to hope Bush falters or something diastrous happens with war, terrorism, or the economy and hope the people blame Bush. (Even if he were to win under such a scenario, how could he govern?) Things don't look good for that team.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Breaking My Arm

Okay, I'm feeling pretty smart right about now. It started when I saw that Jim Geraghty in the excellent Kerry Spot was getting nailed by his readers who thought the Bush twins did just fine.

His mailbag said, "B) the parents watching at home loved it, because it reminded them of their own kids."

Last night I wrote: "And across America, millions of Americans said, 'That's just like my kids.'"

Second, after watching the Kerry campaign over the past three weeks (and especially the last week), I feel much better about writing this the day after the DNC in Boston:
"I got the funniest feeling last night while I was making my lunch for today. Out of nowhere, I got the idea that President Bush has just sandbagged the Democrats...

[I]n their one chance in the spotlight to make this a choice about governing philosophies and mission, the Democrats have chosen to make this a question about who's the better man, Bush or Kerry...

For all their talk of complexity, the Democratic message is, "We're the good guys, and they're the bad guys." Their one shot at setting the terms of the debate, and this is all they got?...

A lot of professional pundits are going to be impressed by the convention, saying "it did what it needed to do," but I get the feeling that the Democrats will soon realize they're facing George W. Bush with an empty gun...

At the convention the GOP can basically take back the issues of strength, patriotism, and military pride because they do it so much better than the Democrats (because they actually believe in them.)"
I also feel better about this post, "The Coming Bush Landslide" even before the Swift Boat Vets got real traction. I said, "(Stupid prediction: I think that two weeks after the convention, Bush will be up 10-12 points in the polls, and he won't give up much of that lead as Election Day draws nearer.)" I'm starting to think it might not have been that stupid after all.

But most importantly, the reason I'm liable to break my arm patting myself on the back is this. I have a son, my first child, who is ten and a half months old. He was putting his hands on his head. I asked him, "where is your head?" and he did it again. So, for fun, I asked, "Where are your feet?" And he looked at me, grinned, and slowly bent down to grab his foot.

My son is discovering language. To one who loves language, this is just great. I loved the speeches tonight and the sense that maybe I'm getting things right, but this is absolutely the highlight of my night. (Now think what else I can teach him: shoe, bottle, bear, President! Well...maybe not "president" yet. I'll save that for after the election.)

There's nothing more important left for me to say tonight, so this is it for the first of September. (The second of September will also be important, but largely because it'll be my mother's 50th birthday. She's so excited! Her attitude about birthdays changed after my aunt got cervical cancer. Funny how that works, eh?)

They Know What They're Doing

Zell Miller and Dick Cheney back-to-back showed us just how good these convention organizers are at their job.

As a partisan (meaning one who picks a team and roots for it; I'm just as partisan about the St. Louis Cardinals), ol' Zell tickled the fire out of me. I thoroughly enjoyed that speech. I thought that Zell Miller personified something that has largely gone out of style: the Southern gentleman orator. (It really has gone out of style, as the Republican crowd didn't know how to handle the rhythmns of the speech and kept busting the crescendos with ill-timed applause. I appreciate the enthusiasm, but you have to let a speech like Zell's just roll over you, and that takes training.)

Okay, as a Republican I had fun. What's the impact? Zell's immediate impact, I think, is going to be neglible as it's filtered through a scandalized (Northeastern ) media and puts a significant number of moderate Democrats and independents off their game. It'll just be too red hot for them in the immediate aftermath, which is why it was a stroke of brilliance to close with a sober, sedate Dick Cheney.

But Zell's going to have a profound mid- to long-range impact (defining mid-range as two to eight weeks.) First, he has just cleared the path for lifelong Democrats who've swallowed a lot of idiocy for years to jump ship this election. The sheer passion and righteous rage of the man will stay with people. What could have happened to get this man so fired up, they will think, and slowly begin counting all the slings and arrows they themselves have borne over the years to remain loyal to their party. Zell Miller breaks down those self-identification institutional barriers that would keep some from voting for the president because of the (R) after his name, and it'll happen before election day.

This will only be accelerated if the Democrats react stupidly, which I fully expect. If they attack Miller and keep his story alive, they'll look mean and petty and vicious. If they think that the "Zellout" gambit is going to win them any admirers...well, they deserve the reaction they get. (What kind of geniuses tell a man who claims his party has abandoned him that they want to kick him out?) Again, it highlights the complaints Zell has against the rampant liberalism of his party (the same fatal flaws the Democrats tried so desperately to hide in their convention), and it gives all those who identify with Miller permission to kick the dust off their heels and leave the party. (This is all part of the coming Great Realignment, about which I'll post sometime soon.)

Finally, Dick Cheney's methodical presentation again undercuts the image of a raving Halliburton stooge, but the juxtaposition with Miller presents a trap for partisan Democrats (especially Terry McAuliffe, whom I expect will jump feet-first into the trap.) What will likely happen is that the Democratic partisans will attack both Miller and Cheney with equal fervor. To an independent observer, it will seem bizarre that such radically different presentations receive the same level of passion and vitriol. It will make it quite clear to that observer that one side has to be living in the fever swamp, and it won't be hard to guess who that is.

Like I said before, this is brilliant.

UPDATE: Just reloaded the Kerry Spot after posting this to find that the Democrats are already calling Zell "rabid" and "Zig Zag Zell." It's almost worrisome to be proven right this fast.

Just Another Reason To Love Zell

In John J. Miller's interview of Zell Miller:
NRO: You're a big baseball fan. How are the Atlanta Braves doing?

MILLER: The Braves are doing good, but the St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in baseball right now. The Braves will have to go through the Cardinals if they're going to play in the World Series...

NRO: Who will win the World Series this year?

MILLER: Either the Cardinals or the Yankees.
Senator Zell Miller recognizes the prowess of the St. Louis Cardinals. What more evidence is required to indicate his good judgment?