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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Person of the Week?

Last night on World News Tonight, ABC named David Kay their "Person of the Week." I agree it must have taken courage, as Bush's hand-picked weapons czar, to go before Congress and say the WMD threat was a bunch of hooey, but the ABC portrait of the man as an all-around great guy may not be entirely accurate. Why do I say this? Cue Josh Marshall:

He has also said two other things.

First, he's said that the CIA was not pressured to reach its erroneous conclusions. Second, he has said that rather than the president owing an explanation or apology to the American people, the CIA owes an explanation or apology to the president.

As to the first point, how would he know?

To the best of my knowledge, Kay wasn't involved in any of the relevant inter-agency processes and he hasn't investigated this question after the fact. So how would he know? I think the answer is clear: he doesn't.

The second point is a classic example of that phenomenon we've become so familiar with in the Bush years: up-is-downism.

It's worth a read in full.

Michael Tomasky on "The Price of Loyalty"

Tomasky reviews Ron Suskind's bombshell in Sunday's NYT and he mentions toward the end some of my misgiving about Paul O'Neill serving as the messenger:

The end of O'Neill finally came in December 2002, when Cheney--not Bush--called to give him the sack. For all of the arguments ''The Price of Loyalty'' advances deftly, one point it allows only grudgingly is that the administration had several legitimate beefs with its man at Treasury. In early passages, Suskind turns somersaults to establish O'Neill's probity, apparently so great that even inanimate objects reflected it (at one point, O'Neill settles into a ''ladder-back chair'' that was an ''emblem . . . of rectitude and transparency''). And though Suskind does acknowledge O'Neill's maverick nature and tendency for unguarded comments, the missteps are usually represented as the frank talk of a courageous truth-teller, when sometimes they were just impolitic mistakes. Finally, there are one or two surprising omissions. In the section on the Africa trip, Suskind doesn't even mention that while O'Neill was abroad, the Dow Jones industrial average suffered a drop of more than 350 points, and that it was kind of his job to be in Washington to steady the markets.

I know that O'Neill has evidence to back up his claims that the administration was up to no good, I just wish he had more credibility himself so that his charges held more significance.

MoveOn Ad War

MoveOn is continuing to raise a stink over their ad being banned from the Super Bowl telecast by CBS. An email sent to members yesterday advised a "one-minute boycott" of CBS during the game to watch when the 30-second ad plays on CNN at both 8:10 and 8:35 tomorrow night. Switch the channel if you're in the mood (I think I'll keep it locked on the game, thanks).

Saturday's New York Times has an editorial that puts the issue perfectly: "Enhancing male sexual performance is one thing, but public policy advocacy is beyond the pale when it comes to acceptable Super Bowl fare." Bill Maher also has some good perspective on the "Boner Bowl."

With the budget deficit projection climbing higher still, the ad's claim of a "$1 trillion deficit," which I've criticized as exaggerated in the past, may come true yet.

MORE: Billmon on the budget issue and GOP gripes. Dan Kennedy on "A grateful CBS pays its White House dues."

Connolly Watch 1.30.04

I managed to catch Ceci Connolly's segment on Washington Week in Review last night. I actually hadn't watched the show in a few years since it seemed to go downhill to me after Gwen Ifill took over, and that impression was reinforced last night. The show really is a "review" of the news of the week, not adding much information or analysis at all beyond what someone would already know by reading the papers and watching the TV news.

Anyway, I sat there while the bland panelists (no ideologues--that might add too much color to the show) infromed me that David Kay said this week there were no WMDs in Iraq, John Kerry had won the New Hampshire primary, etc. Connolly delivered her report from Kansas City, where she was traveling with the Kerry campaign. Most of her points were pretty safe ones that didn't rock the boat. Was Kerry's emergence more about his rise or Dean's fall? Some of each, she said. Was Kerry still being open with reporters and people at his events, or was he retreating back into a shell as he did last year, playing it safer as front runner? He's now doing some of both, Connolly answered. I thought she made a good point that Kerry focused exclusively on Iowa and New Hampshire while the Dean campaign may have tried to go national too early. The only slightly controversial point that emerged came when David Sanger asked her how Kerry had managed to get past Democratic voters' anger at his vote for the Iraq resolution. Connolly answered that she didn't think Kerry was beyond the Iraq questions at all. (The transcript will be available here, probably by Monday afternoon.)

I found this last answer less convincing. After all, Kerry had won plenty of votes from anti-war voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire. It has become a piece of CW the last week or two that Dean was being hurt by the war becoming somewhat less important of an issue to primary voters. Dean has already tried to make political hay out of the apparent contradiction between Kerry's no-vote on the '91 Gulf War and his yes-vote in 2002, and Connolly wrote these charges up in the Post, as Monday's Watch noted. Nearly a week later, that line of attack appears to have been futile, and the other Dems have moved on to attack Kerry for other reasons.

Even if some people still have misgivings about Kerry on Iraq, who are they going to vote for instead? Edwards voted for the resolution, Lieberman voted for it, Clark has been hurt a lot by making contradictory statements on the war a few months ago when he got into the race, and Dean doesn't serve as a good alternative for these people who think he can't be elected (I'm not judging whether that's reasonable or not, just saying that's what they think). Kerry, as far as I see it, is getting by in spite of his war vote. People don't like it much, but they see him as a strong contender for the presidency all the same. Unless Kucinich or Sharpton undergoes an incredible transformation, or in a more likely scenario Dean convinces people he's a viable November alternative after all, I don't see Kerry being hurt by Iraq.

John Ellis says the papers are getting hostile toward Kerry now, in a move that was utterly predictable. Funny how the Post didn't tell us Kerry was taking all of this lobbyist money back when they were talking up his come-from-behind effort in Iowa. Connolly's work has been reasonably fair lately, so maybe VandeHei is playing the attack dog role now?

Is He Joe-ing to Quit the Race?

DKos diarist audibledevil points to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times saying Joe Lieberman and his Joe-mentum will be pulling out of the presidential race on Tuesday once his FEC check arrives to cover his debts. The UConn poll of Lieberman's home state, putting him 25 points behind Kerry there, is an indication that his candidacy is doomed. But we knew that already.

MORE: Jesse Taylor is feeling the Joementum.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Lazy Friday

Before I go...

Zachary Roth of Campaign Desk cites Tom Brokaw for some problems with his performance as moderator in last night's debate, echoing my concerns Saletan has a good wrap-up too, though I'll leave the debate linkage at that.

Another key under-the-radar campaign development is that the Massachusetts State Democratic Party last night made their support for gay marriage official in a vote. Chairman Phil Johnston said he didn't think this would have any impact on the Kerry campaign. Right. No one from the campaign was available for comment, the Globe says. The legislature is due to take up this matter on February 11, rather awkward timing for Kerry's presidential bid. He's gonna get lots of questions on this, and I'm sure his people are trying to figure the best way to deflect them.

And finally, a bit of Friday humor: George W. Bush as a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize (via Metajournalism).

Confident Sports Writers

Bruce Allen points to the Boston Globe writers Super Bowl picks and--surprise!--they all pick the Patriots. "The hype surrounding the Super Bowl has gone on for almost two weeks now, and while the fans are enjoying it all, the writers have for the most part run out of storylines," Allen notes. No kidding?

He also linked yesterday to the Football Outsiders Super Bowl preview which features enough arcane stats to keep the sadists happy.

Political Wire: Dean Goes On "Meet the Press"

Super Sunday, indeed--for the Dean campaign, that is.

More Primary Notes

Good stuff in The Note today, which is hardly surprising.

The Washington Times predictably leads their debate coverage with the alleged Kerry gaffe of calling the threat of terrorism exaggerated. The quoting is nice and selective, so as to hide the fact that Kerry was talking about the case for war in Iraq, not 9/11. John Edwards' cheap shot on this point is presented as though it were totally reasonable. For a primer on my gripe here, check out my verbose debate recap from last night.

Deborah Norville's show got the only interview with Joe Trippi last night. The Note complains:

Exclusively, Deborah Norville managed to conduct an interview with Joe Trippi yesterday without asking about Kate O'Connor or Bob Rogan or budget authority or anything else.

Amusingly, MSNBC put up a picture of "Roy Neal."

Trippi cried twice. (Several in Burlington cried along with him as they watched it.)

Catch Trippi next on tonight's Hardball with Chris Matthews.

The ABC folks don't seem to realize he probably chose Norville because he knew she wouldn't get into the nasty political gotcha stuff. As best I can tell, Norville's new 9pm MSNBC show is trying to appeal to women viewers with a less combative style than, say, Hannity and Colmes, which it competes with directly. I wonder if women mind Larry King's dozen (or so) marriages?

No mention of the Trippi interview on Blog for America, but they do have a introductory message from the new chairman, Roy Neel. It's also pretty interesting timing for this GQ piece on Trippi to be coming out, no? (via Josh Marshall)

The Note further informs my comments on the lack of a Super Bowl bet between Kerry and Edwards. Apparently the two made a deal: Kerry wouldn't attack Edwards for a lack of Patriot pride in New Hampshire, and in turn Edwards wouldn't play the Pantehrs card in South Carolina.

Kerry also has an ad in Spanish out, according to ABC:

The Kerry campaign will release their first Spanish language ad, a 30 second spot airing only in Arizona and New Mexico. Although the narrator highlights Kerry's commitment to health care and education in Spanish, the candidate, whose wife speaks fluent Spanish, utters only one foreign language line: "Soy John Kerry y he aprobado este mensaje proque quiero devolver la esperanza a este pias." (Translation: "I'm John Kerry and I approved this message because I want to return hope to this [non-existent word].")

The Note suspects Kerry, who claims to be listening to Spanish language tapes in his rare spare time, means to restore hope to this country.

Country in Spanish is "pais" with an accent on the i, as I'm sure all of you espanol scholars are aware. Too bad the campaign let such a silly error through (although I haven't heard the audio myself).

Finally, I seem to have left out a few of the funnies in my debate post from last night--I guess I got too wrapped up in criticizing Brokaw and trying to discern what the event meant for the race. Pandagon and En Banc have threads up pointing out such moments as Dennis Kucinich holding up his hands and promising to heal the country with them, and Kucinich's claim that "43 million people" were watching the debate when he meant that that number were without health insurance. Jeremy Blacjhman of En Banc: "'There are 43 million people watching this debate right now asking who's gonna take care of me.' If there are 43 million people watching this debate, American Idol eight times a week is going to be replaced with nightly presidential debates, and MSNBC is going to be through the roof."

But my favorite had to be this selection from Lieberman (from the transcript):

And part of what that means is that I have the capacity not only to unite Democrats, but to get independents and disgruntled Republicans to come together so I can actually get elected and defeat George Bush.

Talk about delusional! Lieberman lived in New Hampshire for five weeks, campaigned non-stop, and finished in fifth place. Sure, you can complain about Sharpton and Kucinich as vanity caniddates too, but at least they don't make electability the centerpiece of their campaigns.

Connolly Watch 1.30.04

Again there's nothing in the Post by Connolly today as she continues her brief break to thaw out after New Hampshire. An emailer, however, has given me a heads-up that Connolly will be appearing on Washington Week in Review tonight from Kansas City. I'll be tuning in.

The PBS site also has a bio of Connolly and a link to video of her recent appearances on the show from that page.

In the interim, check out the Campaign Desk post titled "Be Careful What You Link To." I actually noticed this yeaterday too when Howard Kurtz wrote of Joe Trippi's ouster, "Was it Trippi who suggested that Dean start yelling during his Iowa concession speech?" Zachary Roth of CJR responds, "As a matter of fact, the answer appears to be 'yes'" and he links to this Times story that notes, "It was also Mr. Trippi who suggested that Dr. Dean give a rousing, fired-up speech after his crushing third-place finish in Iowa, a speech--and screech--that may have led to his undoing in New Hampshire."

Uggabugga makes a similar discovery about Andrew Sullivan's complaint that Josh Marshall's New Yorker essay on imperialism doesn't mention September 11. In fact, Marshall does mention the terrorist attacks of that day.

Lesson: don't trust the likes of Howard Kurtz and Andrew Sullivan to read articles for you. Read them yourself.

Pro Picks, Super Bowl Edition: Fortnight of Anticipation

I've made a running theme this entire football season of the excessive coverage the NFL gets in the media. Sure, I'm adding to it myself through this little column, but I think there are some points that are worthy of making in this regard, and the two-week break leading into this year's Super Bowl gives us some of the most inane sports reporting you're likely ever to see. Not that I'm bothered by it all, mind you, I just think I enjoy it more because of its ridiculousness than anything else.

Boston.com has truly been leading the charge in this regard, with too many zany Super Bowl angles covered in the past two weeks to count. There was a contest on the message boards to figure out the number of times this season Bill Belichick has called an opponent "explosive" (it's a lot, as anyone who has watched a Belichick press conference knows). There was another message board set up for people to submit haikus about Tedy Bruschi. And another today to list the top ten things Paul Revere would say on a ride through Houston. And yet another asking what people were doing to pass the time until the big game. "Participating in Internet message boards" I felt tempted to respond. All their stuff is here.

The latest to come out tonight is an AP story on local colleges preparing for possible violence Sunday night. Nice, huh?

The other staple of the Super Bowl week diet has been Bill Simmons and his SuperBlog from Houston on ESPN.com (that's the latest entry, which also links back to previous days). In his inimitable, pro-Patriots style, Simmons has been in his element all week, mocking the overhyped event and all the silliness it has brought to the city. The highlight had to be Simmons' annoyance at the video game simulation of the Super Bowl that has become a staple of the week (scroll down the Thursday link above for this entry). This year, Carolina defeated the Patriots, and the winner of the video game has actually been undefeated in the real game for eight years running. Simmons gets really riled up about Stephen Davis somehow running for 300+ yards, even complaining bitterly to a video game rep at the event, and he's humorously upset with Troy Brown, the Pats' man at the joystick, for his tactical moves. You don't see much writing like it elsewhere. Tuesday was great too, including some shots at Roger Clemens and a description of the NFL Experience, which sounds pretty crappy (scroll down).

Pops linked earlier in the week to a Yahoo article that in turn linked to all the bets you could ever want to make (PDF link). For example, you can find within the 30 pages of propositions the odds on whether Allen Iverson will have more total points, assists and rebounds in Sunday's NBA game than the distance in yards of the Super Bowl's longest field goal. This must be like Christmas for the Pete Roses of the world (DK and Pro Picks do not advocate sports betting of any sort!).

At least thus far John Kerry and John Edwards have refrained from making a bet on the game. I'm actually rather amazed that Kerry, who has tried to serve his own political fortunes by appealing to Red Sox and Patriots fans, hasn't thrown down the gauntlet on this one yet. Perhaps having seven primaries on Tuesday has squeezed this non-essential publicity stunt off the schedule.

Then we've got the ads that everyone will be going nutty over. The reporter must have had fun with this assignment about the dueling commercials for impotency drugs.

Two recently approved pills designed to help guys score big in the bedroom will compete for penis supremacy during Super Bowl XXXVIII between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots.

Newcomers Levitra and Cialis have each purchased 60 seconds of air time during the game, which kicks off on CBS about 6:30 p.m. According to Ad Age, industry leader Viagra will also keep up with the Johnsons and purchase a 30-second spot, purchasing a spot.

At roughly $2.3 million a pop for a 30-second ad, drug-makers are expecting a lot of bang for their buck.

The highlight of Tuesday's Media Day had to be when a reporter asked John Fox, "Viagra or Levitra?" The worst was the spectacle of the Nickelodeon guy dressed up as a super hero asking players how to spell words. Too bad Simmons didn't give the event as full a treatment as he did two years ago (worth the flashback).

Back on the TV spots, though, for some reason, people seem more excited about getting to see a certain Pepsi ad than the impotency ones. You can drop $2 at this site and watch a bunch of historical SB commercials (via Sports Filter).

Janet Jackson is doing the sure-to-be-crappy halftime show. If you want to blow $20, you can tune in to the much-discussed Lingerie Bowl instead.

I guess there's actually a football game on Sunday too. Anyone who has read my football commentary before probably knows where I'm headed with this, so I won't bother breaking down every aspect of the game (I'm pretty sick of that stuff too--I think SportsCenter was analyzing which team had a better holder on field goals earlier tonight). Let's just recall, though, that the Patriots have won 14 games in a row, the best streak in pro football in three decades. That's not a team you want to pick against, and yet plenty of prognosticators are picking the Panthers on a whim, it seems. They've been thinking too hard about this. If New England loses, it's a huge upset. Did these morons see the Colts game, by chance?

I'm expecting the Friday newspapers in Boston to include no Carolina picks by any of the local writers. If the scribes do go against the home crowd, I foresee much anger being directed their way. Sports radio, for example, has been an inhospitable place this week for anyone who even entertains the notion that the Panthers might have some sort of success come Sunday. Ron Borges is still taking flak for predicting a Rams blowout two years ago (73-0!), remember.
And then, once the game is over, I'll be sad. Another football season is coming to an end, and we'll be left with the dreaded dead period in the sports-viewing calendar until March Madness arrives. Then we get baseball starting, NBA and NHL playoffs, and it's all good again. But until then, maybe I'll have to read some novels or something. The NBA isn't appealing to me much at the moment either since I'm upset about Jim O'Brien's departure from the Celtics. In any case, I'll be resuming more regular sports coverage next week in a concerted effort to help readers (OK, myself mostly) cope with the extra time on their hands.

I've enjoyed writing up my half-assed NFL picks and lame jokes in this space for the past few months and, God-willing, I'll be back for more in September. Just to confirm, I'm going with the Patriots to win Super Bowl XXXVIII. I'm 6-4 in the playoffs so far (1-1 in the conference championships) after a 163-93 (.637) regular season.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

South Carolina Debate Impressions

The transcript from tonight's Democratic presidential debate in Greenville, SC, has a few goodies.

My favorite had to be Tom Brokaw's stupid use of the phrase "nation of Islam" to describe the Middle East when the Nation of Islam is also a black Muslims group in the US that is now providing security to Michael Jackson, among other things. Brokaw repeated it a few times before Al Sharpton finally called him on it:

BROKAW: Reverend Sharpton, there is a great war going on in the world between the West and the Nation of Islam. And the United States, at the moment, is losing the war for hearts and minds. Everyone agrees on that, whatever their political position happens to be.

Specifically, what should the United States be doing in terms of programs? And how much money should it commit to find common ground between this country and the democratic ideals that we all embrace and the Nation of Islam?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I assume when you say "the Nation of Islam" you're talking about Islamic nations, because there is a Nation of Islam in the United States that has nothing to do what you're talking about.

(LAUGHTER)

So I'm just asking for clarity.

(APPLAUSE)

BROKAW: I'm talking about Islamic nations.

SHARPTON: You're talking about Islamic -- first of all, I think...

BROKAW: No, no, I'm talking about the Islamic movement around the world, because it really does transcend nations in many ways.

If you're going to be the questioner at these things, shouldn't you at least plan out your questions carefully ahead of time, with multiple people checking them to avoid embarrassing gaffes like this one? Unfortunately, blowhards like Brokaw and other bigshot anchors think they can just get up on stage and run their mouths.

While I'm bashing Brokaw, I'll add that he started off with the horse-race questions and asked some others that seemed to be plants from the White House. Here are the first questions of the night:

How can you come South, given what you said about the Democrats making a mistake in spending too much time worry about the South...

KERRY: I never said that.

BROKAW: ... and expect to do well here.

KERRY: I never said Democrats made a mistake. I never said that all. ...

[BROKAW]:Senator Edwards, you've got a lot at stake here. Is this a do- or-die race for you? ...

Governor Dean, you have made a big change in your campaign this week. You fired the man who brought you to this dance.

DEAN: No, I didn't.

BROKAW: You brought in somebody from Washington D.C. who was in the Clinton White House, promised he wouldn't go to work as a lobbyist, then immediately went to work as a lobbyist. He is a quintessential Washington insider, admired by a lot of people in the party. But doesn't that change the whole DNA of the Howard Dean campaign?

DEAN: Well, first of all, I didn't fire anybody this week. We did bring in Roy Neel, and I think he is going to do a great job, former President Clinton's deputy chief of staff, Al Gore's chief of staff.

BROKAW: Now a telecommunications lobbyist.

DEAN: Who never lobbied and kept faith with his ethics pledge, I might add. ...

BROKAW: I want to get out of the horse-race business and into the substance of this campaign in just a moment.

But let me ask you, General Clark, and Senator Lieberman, and Congressman Kucinich, and Reverend Sharpton, the party chairman Terry McAuliffe says if one of you guys doesn't win one of these primaries in the next week, let's make it the next two weeks, in which there are a lot of primaries, you ought to think about getting out of the race.

If any of you don't come in first in any of these many primaries coming up in the next two weeks, will you get out of the race?

To review, the debate began with one question to Kerry implying he's disrespecting the South by not working to win there, a question to Edwards about how he needs to win South Carolina, a question to Dean that serves to tell viewers his campaign is in disarray (asking about what happened with Trippi is fine, but the insistence on labeling Neel as a scummy lobbyist was overzealous), and the first question of the debate the four others get is about when they'll get out of the race. I was groaning at this point, fearing that Brokaw had attended the Ted Koppel school of debate questioning.

Then there's the pro-Bush stuff:

BROKAW: Senator Kerry, Governor Dean has made a very serious charge against the vice president, saying that he went to the CIA. We know that he did that, but do you believe that he berated middle-level people at the intelligence agency to, in effect, shape the intelligence that he wanted?

This is beside the point. Whether there was overt pressure or not, the case for war was made on faulty info. As in the BBC story, the media are obscuring this basic fact by focusing instead on specific allegations of wrongdoing, ignoring the more general wrong.

BROKAW: General Clark, your friend, Congressman Kucinich, would pull the United States troops out of Iraq right away and go to the U.N. and say, "You go in and take over the peacekeeping there."

Would you tell him about what happened when we had U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia?

KUCINICH: Tom, you've mischaracterized my position.

Kucinich then proceeded to tell Brokaw what his actual position on Iraq is, a plan more nuanced than what Brokaw gave him credit for (it's still a bad plan, just not lacking in detail). Why did Brokaw think he could use a question to Clark about Bosnia to bash Kucinich's Iraq plan? Obviously Kucinich, who isn't shy to speak up, was going to do so here. Clark doesn't want to be put in a position to trash someone else either. Why not give Kucinich's Iraq plan a fair hearing? As it turns out, Brokaw was forced to do that, though not by his design. Clark wisely just answered with what he wants to do in Iraq now. Clark himself would be victim to an unfair query from Brokaw a few minutes later:

BROKAW: General Clark, you've been quite outspoken in blaming the Bush administration for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. You better...

CLARK: No, no, no, Tom, no, I didn't blame the Bush administration for the attacks. We know who did the attacks. It was Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida. But what I have said is that the president did not do all he could have done to have prevented that attack.

The phrasing Brokaw used intentionally tries to make Clark's position sound more extreme and anti-Bush than it is. Playing politics through the willful misrepresentation of this issue is not an honorable way to run a serious debate.

BROKAW: Senator Lieberman, the president said the other night in the State of the Union address, "I don't need a permission slip from the United Nations to defend the natural security interests of this country."

Isn't that a legitimate position for a president of the United States?

Why the leading question? Why not ask, "The president received a lot of attention for saying in last week's State of the Union that we don't need a permission slip to defend the security of our country. Do you agree with the president on this point, and why or why not?" You will get exactly the same answer from the candidate, perhaps subtracting only the need for the start of the answer to be used up clarifying the issue and the Democrat's position on it. And you won't be giving the audience the false impression that the president is right and the Democrats are up to something.

In short, this was a bad performance by Brokaw. Sure, I've seen worse, but this is far from what I see as an ideal way to run a debate.

On the substantive end, the important stuff concerned Kerry primarily, since he's the front runner. This exchange with Brokaw will be an important one because it will probably become the seed of Republican attacks:

BROKAW: Where has the exaggeration been in the threat on terrorism?

KERRY: Well, 45 minutes deployment of weapons of mass destruction, number one.

Aerial vehicles to be able to deliver materials of mass destruction, number two.

I mean, I -- nuclear weapons, number three.

I could run a long list of clear misleading, clear exaggeration. The linkage to Al Qaida, number four.

That said, they are really misleading all of America, Tom, in a profound way. The war on terror is less -- it is occasionally military, and it will be, and it will continue to be for a long time. And we will need the best-trained and the most well-equipped and the most capable military, such as we have today.

But it's primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world -- the very thing this administration is worst at. And most importantly, the war on terror is also an engagement in the Middle East economically, socially, culturally, in a way that we haven't embraced, because otherwise we're inviting a clash of civilizations.

The part about seeing the struggle against terrorism as a challenge to law enforcement is a position that Bush explicitly has criticized, notably in his State of the Union last week. The White House will twist it as a position that is not tough enough to protect America adequately. The substance of the answer notwithstanding, the response from Kerry can also be distorted by claiming Kerry is now on record as saying that the threat from terrorism has been exaggerated. How do you make this into an attack? John Edwards showed us how when he next had a chance to speak:

Can I just go back a moment ago--to a question you asked just a moment ago? You asked, I believe, Senator Kerry earlier whether there's an exaggeration of the threat of the war on terrorism.

It's just hard for me to see how you can say there's an exaggeration when thousands of people lost their lives on September the 11th.

Of course, 9/11 had nothing to do with the response Kerry gave--he was discussing the intelligence used to push the Iraq war. This was a stunningly cynical attack coming from Edwards, who has cultivated the image of "Mr. Friendly!" during the recent weeks. Now he's in South Carolina, though, a state he must win, so he's willing to do whatever it takes, apparently. Edwards' panderful response to a question about trade and manufacturing jobs was one of the low points of the debate, I thought:

EDWARDS: No, it's not the truth. We can have a real impact on the loss of jobs. We can do something to bring jobs back to replace the jobs that we've lost.

But we can't stop it entirely. What John just said about that's exactly right.

But I want to say that this personal to me.

You know, 40 miles from here, when I was born 50 years ago, my parents brought me home to a mill village, to a textile mill village. I have seen this my entire life growing up.

I've seen mills close, I've seen what it does to communities, I've seen what it does to families.

And all this talk among politicians in Washington about, "We're going to get you job retraining program, we're going to make sure that we give you the transportation to get to a new job," say that to a 50- or 55-year-old man who's been supporting his family his entire life working in a mill.

I think the truth of the matter is, we need to start by recognizing the pain. And not just the economic pain--the pain that these families are in.

I mean, we have to fight hard to protect our jobs better for some of the reasons others have already talked about. We need to close loopholes in our tax code to give breaks to companies that are leaving, give tax breaks to American companies that will keep jobs here.

Edwards adds nothing to the discussion on this topic. He decries "all this talk among politicians in Washington" only to offer... more talk. He feels your pain, Mr. and Mrs. unemployed mill worker! Like no one else realizes that losing jobs and having plants close is a painful thing--thanks for the insight, John. You don't have to have been born in a mill town to know that it sucks. The question remains, what will you do about it? On this issue, Edwards just piggy-backs on the proposals others had thrown out in previous responses, sounding just like another "politician in Washington" again. I hope his profound understanding of the pain people feel somehow makes those programs more effective. For some reason, I have a feeling that's not the case.

The only other interesting clash of the night came when Dean attacked Kerry over healthcare; I've done a lot of good things with regard to healthcare in Vermont, he said, and Kerry's sponsored a bunch of health bills that have failed in Congress. Kerry was ready for the attack, though, rattling off a prepared list of his accomplishments in the healthcare field.

As has been the case with most of the previous debates, the front runner wasn't hurt and so he emerges as the winner of the evening by default. Since the others can't seem to draw any blood from Kerry directly, they had better hope Kerry makes some sort of mistake on his own that brings his way a lot of negative stories in the press. That's what brought down Dean, and it can happen to Kerry too, though I have a feeling that Kerry's greater care with his words and the tight schedule from here on in make that scenario less likely. Maybe the botox rumors will bring him down? At this stage, that's what the other Dems need to be hoping.

Atom Syndication

A quick computer dorkiness note: I've activated my site's syndication in Atom, an option the people at Blogger have made available as of a week ago. The URL for the feed is http://dimmykarras.blogspot.com/atom.xml. Feel free now to read Dimmy Karras in syndication through news readers such as NewsMonster, NewzCrawler, NewsGator and BottomFeeder, if you're so inclined. More info about this stuff from Blogger is here. I've added a link to the Atom feed near the top of the right-hand navigation panel, below the link to send me an email.

Barney Frank's Challenger

Via Wonkette, I see that the Washington Times has adopted the lost cause of trying to defeat Barney Frank in the fall by pumping up his challenger, Chuck Morse.

Declaring Rep. Barney Frank "out of place" and "the last gasp of limousine liberalism," native Massachusetts businessman and conservative talk-show host Chuck Morse is out to unseat the liberal incumbent.

The Times neglects to mention that Morse is bonkers. First of all, that's former talk-show host, on WROL-AM, a station I didn't know existed. Jonathan Saltzman explains in an August 28, 2003, Boston Globe article (Lexis, no link) that Morse writes online columns in favor of things like a flat tax and has self-published his books, including one titled "Why I'm a Right-Wing Extremist." Then there's the familiar Republican strategy of dishonestly presenting Barney Frank's votes:

Morse, a Republican and political newcomer, said in a statement that as a "husband and father of a young child," he was baffled by Frank's vote against a wide-ranging package of child safety measures that President Bush signed into law April 30.

The centerpiece of the legislation was a national expansion of a voluntary rapid-response network to help find kidnapped children - the so-called Amber Alert. The alert is named after a 9-year-old Texas girl who was kidnapped and later found murdered in 1996.

"I felt outraged that he voted against this bill," said Morse, who lives in Brookline and until recently hosted a show on Boston radio station WROL-AM. "This gives law enforcement a tool to help save kidnapped children. I'm concerned about that as a father, obviously."

Morse and his wife, Barbara Morse, a lawyer for the federal government, have a 4-year-old daughter.

But Frank, a Newton Democrat who has represented Massachusetts' Fourth District since 1981, said he voted against the bill because the House version--unlike the Senate one--contained a raft of unrelated measures that he opposed.

Some of them gave federal judges less discretion than ever to craft sentences for criminals - a change that US Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has lamented, Frank said. Another measure made it easier for federal prosecutors to close nightclubs when owners know that patrons are using illegal drugs such as Ecstasy.

Frank said at least one parent of a murdered child implored the House to reject the omnibus bill and pass the stand-alone version of the Amber Alert.

"This guy doesn't know what he's talking about," Frank said of Morse.

Morse also criticized Frank for opposing the Homeland Security Department bill when Frank did so not because he wanted to weaken domestic defense but because he wanted there to be union protection for departmental workers.

Morse apparently believes that since Frank's congressional district voted for Romney in 2002, it may go Republican for him. He forgets that Romney is a slick, media-savvy campaigner, and I highly doubt Chuck Morse will prove to be another Mitt Romney.

Never Say Die

Michael Kinsley has me struggling to stifle the laughter emanating from my cubicle. It's been too long since I posted something humorous.

Abandoning Ship

Oliver Willis is no longer backing Dean now that the profligate spending has been revealed, calling his campaign "the Enron of politics." Meanwhile the money crunch has forced Dean not to run TV ads in the seven upcoming primary states that will vote on Tuesday. The campaign's fall has been truly stunning. Even Nedra Pickler doesn't need to go out of her way to slam Dean in the article since the campaign has been generating so much negative press on its own these last few days.

Tom Brokaw is moderating tonight's MSNBC debate from South Carolina. It's at 7:00 and will run 90 minutes. Watch out for pandering to Southern voters and arguments over who can win in the South, especially given Kerry's remarks from the other day and John Edwards' repeated campaign theme emphasizing his roots. The other big question is whether anyone chooses to go negative on Kerry.

No WMDs = Good News

The Post has a front-pager on David Kay and the myth of Iraqi weapons.

Some in the administration favor a frank public acknowledgment that the intelligence on Iraq was wrong, but that is not yet the prevailing view. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to appear today on news shows, in which she is expected to continue calling for more time to search.

I find it amazingly cynical how the Republicans, including those who had a chance to question Kay in the Senate Wednesday, keep desperately trying to create the impression that at some point, Hussein posed some sort of a weapons threat, maybe.

Sure, the weapons were the main part of Bush's case for sending the country to war and finding some evidence of them would be helpful to the president politically, but that perspective completely loses sight of what actually matters here, the safety of the US. If we found some evidence of weapons, that would be bad--it would mean a likelihood that some had been moved from the country and perhaps fallen into the wrong hands. No weapons, however, eliminates this scenario.

Republicans like to claim that Democrats want the war effort in Iraq to go poorly for political reasons, but what about the Bushies hoping that we can confirm our fear of a weapons threat to national security? Who's pessimistic now?

Connolly Watch 1.29.04

No Ceci Connolly in the Post Thursday, so we'll have to wait another day to see if she responds to the suggestion from Mickey Kaus. I also previously neglected to link to this Wednesday article by Connolly about Kerry, which ran inside the front section. The article is standard fare with nothing controversial--much of it just quotes from Kerry's victory speech. It's positive coverage, but on the day after a win in the New Hampshire Primary, Kerry was a logical recipient of such coverage.

Howard's End

Yes, I shamelessly used the obvious headline that's been used by several others, including Alterman the other day.

In the initial post-NH hours, I assumed Dean was still in decent shape to stick around and battle in the coming primaries. I thought his chances were certainly hurt, but not gone entirely either.

Well today, things turn out to be worse than I'd thought. So bad that Dean-o-Phobe Jon Chait has declared his work over now that a Dean nomination looks highly unlikely. Josh Marshall says that Roy Neel makes no sense as Dean's replacement at campaign manager for Joe Trippi. Taegan Goddard also has details on the stunning news that Dean appears to have blown almost all of his war chest--he's gone from having $40 million to under $5 million, and staff will be going without pay for a while. No wonder Trippi is on the outs (Oliver Willis correctly observed this loose spending likely had a lot to do with Trippi's ouster).

The stuff on Dean for America about Trippi's departure is kinda strange too. There's the message from Dean about it, which praises Trippi and is pretty extensive. Then there's Trippi's laconic farewell, which only endorses "Howard Dean's cause" and not Dean himself, who we now know has clashed with Trippi recently.

Moving forward, TNR is following Chait's lead and switching the focus to a dialogue about Kerry between Dan Kennedy and Jon Keller, two knowledgeable Mass politics guys. Kennedy's blog also points to a TCS essay by John Ellis that I think is correct that Kerry needs to keep the momentum or else he could still be in trouble (Ellis, like me, is no Kerry fan). Amy Sullivan is calling for another campaign chief, Chris Lehane, to get the axe with Clark not generating much buzz out of New Hampshire either.

Meanwhile, at the Blogging of the President, Al Giordano has initiated a discussion about what we now can say about the Internet and politics in light of the Kerry victories.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

CBS Defends Censoring MoveOn Ad

Link from Drudge:

The policy is decades old. It is designed to prevent those with means to produce and purchase network advertising from having undue influence on "controversial issues of public importance." From the Network's perspective, we believe our viewers are better served by the balance and perspective such issues can be afforded within our news programming.

So basically an advocacy group can't get its views onto CBS air without the message being filtered by CBS News such that it won't ruffle the feathers of their advertisers. The public owns the airwaves, not Viacom.

Suggestions have also been made that we are violating our own policy by allowing the airing of messages that aim to curb drug abuse and smoking by minors. CBS is unaware of responsible groups that advocate drug abuse and smoking by minors, so it is hard to understand how these laudable efforts would constitute "controversial issues."

Nice attempt at a dodge there. The ads that "aim to curb drug abuse" have actually made false claims about drugs supporting terrorism, for example. They also are part of the infrastructure supporting this country's wrong-headed drug policies. Far be it from CBS to recognize complexity, I guess.

In recent years, a cottage industry has arisen among groups that submit advocacy ads that they know will be rejected. They then resort to press releases and Internet diatribes about the rejection to reap considerable free media attention and financial contributions to support their cause. Editors and potential contributors beware.

Actually, MoveOn sincerely did want the ad to be on TV, no matter what nefarious purpose CBS wants to see behind this all.

If CBS really wants to ban all advocacy that's less bothersome to me, but that's really not what they do right now. I would prefer that they accept ads from whoever buys time since that comports more with my feelings of how things should be. I am in favor of all ideas getting a public airing, without any suits in a news department deciding what can or can't be aired. Sure, some viewpoints I really dislike will get on the air but consider: 1) The policy doesn't apply to local ads, so these things will get aired, just not on national TV--if the harm were so bad they would be banned across the board, right? 2) Commercial ads have plenty of pernicious effects already, such as convincing millions of people that they need to be on lots of prescription drugs when they don't. How much additional damage will advocacy ads really do?

And please recall, while I support the general mission of MoveOn, I don't actually like the ad that was picked as the winner of the contest--I think it's statement on the size of the deficit is inaccurate. I'm arguing from principle here.

ALSO: Meanwhile on Drudge, he's touting a Times article that reports Bush is seeking a major increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. What the hell?

Connolly Watch Addendum 1.28.04

Mickey Kaus makes light of the stuff that bothers me in campaign reporting:

Let the Turkey Shoot Begin! Reporters dread the idea of spending the next six months covering Kerry (the expression "Shoot me now" was heard when his picture came on the screen). The only way out--the only way to make the race interesting--is to present voters with a ... fuller picture of the New Hampshire winner. ... CeCi Connolly, our nation turns it's lonely eyes to you! Doesn't Kerry remind you of ... Al Gore? I think he does! ... And why do I feel the Democrats are due for the worst case of Buyer's Remorse in the modern history of the country! ... P.S.: Entry forms are still available for the Kerry Withdrawal Contest. ... 12:51 A.M.

Oh, isn't it funny how the press is harder on the front-runner just to be so? We'll see if Connolly plays along with the Kaus suggestion in the coming days.

BBC Fallout

The head of the BBC has resigned over the bad publicity stemming fom an erroneous report about the British government's use of intelligence on Iraqi weapons.

I'm sure there will be plenty of piling on from the right about this, and indeed the BBC was wrong to go public with a false report that questioned the intergrity of the government. At the same time, though, I hope that all the right-wing hollering about the "Baathist Broadcast Corporation" won't succeed in cowing the press into retreating toward a non-questioning stance with regard to the decision to go to war. The fact remains that the governments of both the US and UK built a case for war based on the existence of a threat to our security, and that threat has turned out to be far less significant than imagined, given Iraq's lack of ties to Al Qaeda or WMDs. I hope the media continue holding Blair and Bush accountable for these decisions, just without airing unverified claims.

MORE: Tom Tomorrow is on a similar wavelength.

Veep Thoughts

Now that Edwards has denied any interest in being vice president, I'm left to wonder: why do we need to speculate about this so much that we drive candidates into a corner to issue such firm declarations? Recall that Clark made a similar statement after being pressed by Tim Russert a few weeks back. Perhaps Edwards would be a good VP (I'm agnostic on this--depends on who the president is) and perhaps he would consider taking the job too, but of course he's never going to say as much now. If he had, he would've pissed off his supporters and discouraged donors who would've lost faith that he's in it to win it. Now that he's been forced to deny any designs on the VP job, it will make it extra-awkward for Edwards to pull an about-face in the event he gets tapped by Kerry or someone else (he would make a bad pick for Dean, and an unlikely one given their friction anyway).

Furthermore, why is speculation so rampant about which combination of two of the four leading Dems makes for the best ticket? I can't remember the last such unity ticket a party has had comprising two opponents from the primary season--I want to say Reagan and Bush in 1980(?). The point is that I think people are making a mistake by forgetting that the more standard procedure in recent presidential politics has been for the nominee to pick from among a group of VP options that don't include someone who ran in the primaries. There are plenty of other good possibilities out there, you know, and I don't want Edwards put on the ticket just in the hope that he might help garner some southern votes either.

Plus, what must make this all extra galling for Edwards is that he still has a decent shot at winning this thing, better than Dean now in the minds of a lot of pundits. So let's lay off the VP talk for now (remember how the blogs were all discussing Dean's VP choices after the Gore endorsement came down?)--there will be planty of time to speculate on that later.

DK Mention in Wired Article

I am quoted in a Wired article by Noah Shachtman out this morning about the adopt-a-journalist movement.

The quote from me doesn't appear until the second page:

"In 2000, bits of misinformation were picked up, repeated and run with. They took on the aura of truth," said a university research assistant who goes by the pseudonym "Dimmy Karras." Karras has "adopted" the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly.

I've already been getting some clicks in from the page, and if that's how you found me, welcome to the site. Shachtman also quotes a few of my fellow watchers in the piece, along with Glenn Reynolds and Jodi Wilgoren.

The only thing I wish had received some more emphasis is that this is still very much a small, fledgling movement. We've only started doing this consistently in the past month or so, and for that reason we're still finding our way on exactly how to proceed. I (and I'm sure others) am making an effort to avoid partisanship in this endeavor and to praise what I consider good journalism too. I am trying to settle on how much to hold individual reporters responsible versus the larger media organizations they work for. A lot of my "Connolly Watch" entries, in fact, use her work as an example of trends I see in the media writ large.

In short, I would submit that this is a good idea that is still getting worked out in practice.

Connolly Watch 1.28.04

A joint effort by Connolly and John F. Harris makes the front page of Wednesday's Washington Post. The article assesses why Kerry has risen and Dean has fallen. I largely agree with the stuff about why Kerry has improved on the trail by honing his message to appeal to voters and shaking up his staff after things weren't working last year. The reasons given for the decline of Howard Dean, however, seem far more suspect, as I'm sure Dean supporters will note.

Dean crashed in Iowa by winging it. On one graceless Sunday three weeks ago, he told an impertinent questioner at a rural town-hall meeting where he could get off. That evening, he breezed into a crucial debate with virtually no preparation time, and gave a performance that matched his effort. His stump speech, crackling with one-liners and colorful denunciations of President Bush began to fall flat with an electorate more interested in a substantive argument for Dean's candidacy.

If Dean has given himself a second life with his respectable second-place showing here Tuesday, he has done so with some of the same methods that worked for Kerry. His aides say he began to listen to their critiques of his performance. He pushed himself to do things that don't come naturally--talking about his personal side and coaxing his reticent wife out on to the campaign trail. He both toned down and beefed up his speeches, so they were not mere exhortations to the committed but sought to persuade those Democrats who were still shopping for the most impressive opponent to Bush.

All manner of outside factors--such as the apparent retreat of Iraq as a preeminent issue for Democrats in the wake of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's capture--have buffeted the race in ways at least as consequential as the individual performances of Kerry and Dean. But the constellation of factors had a similar effect: they placed ever greater demands on the candidates to demonstrate seriousness. Democratic voters no longer hungered simply for a powerful voice against Bush; they wanted that voice to be a steady and substantial one, according to a variety of strategists within the campaigns and close observers from outside.

Some of the items cited are things that were minor missteps blown up by the media--the incident of Dean's response to the heckler in Iowa and the hysteria about whether Dean's wife was with him campaigning (and why no mention of the screech?). The larger reason given for the turnaround--that Dean wasn't a serious, substantial enough candidate--doesn't make much sense either. Kerry has surged on the basis of a stump speech with such one-liners as "Bring it on!" and "I know something about aircraft carriers for real!"--not exactly the same as delving into the intricacies of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Exit polling I saw on CNN tonight also confirmed that more Democrats who voted on the issues went with Dean, while Kerry's supporters mostly did so because of the belief that he could win against Bush. Clearly Democratic voters have been given the impression that Kerry is more likely to find success in November and they're desperate to win back the presidency. Dean's reputation for making politically damaging statements has hurt him in this regard.

The whole electability argument doesn't make much sense to me because I think you can always make a case that the candidate you happen to like the most is also most electable; "I'm electable if you vote for me!" Kucinich memorably said at one of the debates. Already tonight I heard Chris Matthews repeating the RNC talking point that Kerry is "to the left of Ted Kennedy" which of course is not accurate. This is the same press corps that told us Dean, a moderate governor of Vermont who over a decade clashed with progressives in his states on several matters, was actually an extreme liberal.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that the media seem to be creating a narrative for the race that I don't believe is truly reflective of what has happened and why.

MORE: Via Political Wire, here's a link to the CNN exit polls cited above. The one I wrote about is "More Important to Your Vote" (scroll a little over halfway down) with choices "Issues" and "Can Beat Bush." Overall 57% picked issues and 33% Bush. Dean's voters cited issues 29% and Bush 14% of the time. Kerry's voters cited issues an equal 29% but Bush 56%.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

How About We Wait for More States to Vote?

Kurtz has a collection of some dizzying media spin out of New Hampshire about whose campaign is up and whose is down following the primary results tonight. Members of the press seem so quick to want to throw people out of the race, even though Iowa and New Hampshire comprise only a tiny sliver of the total number of delegates. What do you say we wait for a few more states to weigh in here before we declare some of these cadidacies done for?

Bill Safire, meanwhile, continues to fantasize about Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. His column about a potential brokered convention must have been written before John Kerry finished with his second decisive victory in a row.

I fell asleep for a while when Dean was giving his speech tonight, a contrast with Dean's post-Iowa fireworks that certainly made me take notice. Kos thinks Dean is done for, but my unscientific sampling of posts and comments on a few Dean sites just now indicates supporters are more optimistic than they were in the aftermath of Iowa.

Tim Noah's article on the South sums up some of my feelings. I'm sick of the cynical calculations about needing a candidate who can appeal in the South, usually meaning one who is from the South. If we assume Southerners are so closed-minded that they will only vote for someone from their own region, we may be selling them short in a way that will cause resentment. But if they really are that closed-minded, they're not going to vote for anyone who lives up to Democratic ideals anyway.

And finally, I'll make an exception to my claim in the first paragraph of this post and ask: can we please get rid of Joe Lieberman? He's pathetically trying to spin a fifth-place finish tonight as a split decision for third. His tactics throughout the campaign have been awful, including the claim that he's the only Democrat in the field who has consistently taken a tough stand against terror and tyranny (in his TV ads), a statement that is beyond the pale. His strategy so far seems to be to try to appeal to Republicans and independents, seemingly forgetting that it may help to get some Democratic voters behind you to win the Democratic nomination. His media strategy has mirrored this, as Lieberman has committed such outrages as using info from Drudge to attack Clark and touting an endorsement from the right-wing Manchester Union Leader. I know the likes of Jeff Jacoby and David Brooks will be sad to see him go, but it's time for Lieberman to exit the stage.

O'Brien Out as Celtics Coach

Long rumored since Danny Ainge came to town, now it's official: Jim O'Brien has resigned.

O'Brien was a godsend to this franchise, putting the pieces together after Rick Pitino skipped town in disgrace and getting the Celtics to the playoffs two years in a row after a seven-year absence. He deserved to be treated better by Danny Ainge, who arrived on the scene last spring with a clear agenda and no one, not even the team's best coach in a decade, was going to tell him otherwise. I viewed the Antoine Walker trade as necessary from a business standpoint, given he wouldn't be re-signed, but the Ricky Davis deal really didn't add up to me, as the Celtics sent away a few quality veteran guys for a bad character swingman when they already have Pierce and Welsch. Bugging Obie to give Vin Baker more playing time was another Ainge mistake, seeing how Baker has turned out.

Danny Ainge was brought in as a ploy by the franchise to try to rekindle excitement by reviving memories of the 1980s championship years. The honeymoon faded quickly, though, as evidenced by the booing Ainge took at the FleetCenter on Cedric Maxwell Night in December. When the team struggled to fit the many new pieces together during the early part of the season, some tensions arose, as did rumors that Ainge might fire O'Brien and take over on the bench himself. Ainge has denied them, but he'll definitely be hearing more grief now that O'Brien, viewed more favorably than the Basketball Ops man, has apparently had enough of the dictating from upstairs about how he run his team.

To put things bluntly here, I think the Celtics should be getting rid of Danny Ainge, not Jim O'Brien, who spent a whole one day as the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference after Byron Scott's ouster in New Jersey yesterday.

(Thanks to Sports Frog for alerting me to the news, even though it made me feel ill.)

Fight CBS Censorship

Media Haterism

Brian McGrory in today's Boston Globe writes that the media wants to fire the voters. Meanwhile, an editorial in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram apologizes for press coverage of Howard Dean.

Kos will probably have exit poll stuff this afternoon some time out of NH.

Why I Love the Golden Globes

Separating comedies from dramas is key so that you don't end up with Sean Penn and Bill Murray competing head-to-head. While both performances were outstanding, I think Penn will win simply because it's a more serious role and film he's in. Plus, the Golden Globes gives nominations like Billy Bob Thornton for Bad Santa too.

In honor of the Bennifer breakup I saw Gigli last night. After all the criticism it took, I was expecting a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style laugh-fest, but it didn't satisfy on that level either. While the plot and script were indeed terrible, not to mention the acting, there were a few redeeming elements, mostly the hijinks with the retarded kid Ben and Jen kidnap. We have to consider this movie the worst of all time, though, out of our envy at the rich and famous Lopez and Affleck, I guess.

Now back to excessive primary and Super Bowl coverage.

Credibility Deficit

Kicking Ass excerpts yesterday's White House briefing:

Q: When the President says that he wants to cut in half the deficit in five years, which budget deficit number is he referring to?

MR. McCLELLAN: Which budget deficit? What do you mean, which?

Q: Which number is he cutting in half, $480 billion, or something that's coming out yet?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, the budget is coming out, but I said any way you want to look at it, he has a plan to reduce the deficit in half. And the best way to look at it is to look at it in terms of GDP, and as a percentage of GDP it still remains relatively low by historical standards. But, again, the President has a plan to cut the deficit in half over the next five years and that's what we intend to do.

Q: But if the number, again, is not $480 billion, the projected amount, but it's going to be the number that will be coming out in the--

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you--I'll double-check the number for you, but it's cutting in half--

Q: I just want to know--

MR. McCLELLAN: --yes, I'll double-check that number for you.

Big Tuesday

It's both the New Hampshire Primary and Media Day for Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Wesley Clark has already carried the midnight voting up in Dixville Notch, though I'm making no predictions for the whole state. We should've learned by now not to put much stock in the polls. Fortunately the snow will hit on Wednesday and turnout should be good.

Bill Simmons, meanwhile, is writing what he calls "SuperBlog" from Houston all week. His upcoming mockery of media day should be a good time.

Connolly Watch 1.27.04: Accentuate the Negative

The day of the New Hampshire Primary has no Ceci Connolly bylined story in the Washington Post, though she is listed as a contributor to the John F. Harris front-page effort "In New Hampshire, A Testy Primary Eve: Democrats End Campaign With Crossfire."

As the headline suggests, the article focuses on the attacks flying back and forth among the candidates on Monday in New Hampshire. That focus is hard to reconcile, however, with this sentence from paragraph 15: "A generally upbeat day had a persistently testy undertone." If it's only an "undertone" and the general feeling was "upbeat" then why not put more of the positive campaign themes up front in the article?

Remember how last week we were told that the candidates were being nice all of a sudden and not attacking, and now they're attacking each other again? I wonder how much of this is really the case and how much of this is a matter of emphasis by the press.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Nets Go Scott-Free

Byron Scott has been fired by the New Jersey Nets in a move that everyone has seen coming for a while now, given the Nets poor play (the win over the Celtics yesterday notwithstanding) and Scott's clashes with Jason Kidd. Fortunately for Scott, he will no longer have to come up to this evil racist city of Boston for road trips.

More Kerry Scrutiny

TNR has a web article up (subscribers only, so I can't read it) titled "Home Groan" by Michael Crowley, and it has this tag line: "Judging from their recent support, you'd think that Massachusetts pols adored John Kerry. You'd be wrong." This is an important story that I don't think the national media has hit on much thus far--the tepid support for Kerry in his home state. Dan Kennedy had an excellent post on Thursday about how the Globe's anti-Kerry coverage is tame compared to some other local media outlets.

There may be no posting during the day Monday. In any case, relive my thrilling weekend in New Hampshire while I'm gone.

Connolly Watch 1.26.04

Is this the additional scrutiny that I thought Kerry might be receiving now that he's inherited the front-runner mantle?

Sunday's article co-bylined by Connolly and Jonathan Finer with various other contributors is headlined "Dean Criticizes Kerry's Stance on '91 War" on page A11. It highlights Dean's charges that Kerry's votes on the two Gulf Wars are inconsistent (Kerry voted no in 1991 and yes in 2002) and demonstrative of questionable leadership. Somehow the war issue receded enough in Iowa to allow Kerry to do well, but now Dean wants to press it, seeing it as his strong point against Kerry, and the media, again playing the role of wanting to see the race tighten, are going along.

The article also touts Dean's complaints about John Edwards' tactics in the Iowa caucuses, citing "reports that Edwards campaign officials had 'coached' Iowa precinct captains to distribute negative information about Dean during the caucuses." But I thought Edwards was Mr. Positive Campaign! Sullentrop is right to complain of Edwards, "His way of merely describing his message as 'positive' and 'optimistic' and 'uplifting' rather than, you know, actually having a message that embodies those qualities grates on me." The point that Edwards is optimistic has been repeated so much, though, that it's become fact-esque. With his success in Iowa, maybe reporters will begin challenging this dogma. Given Edwards' continued low standing in NH, I expect we'll see more reappraisals of Edwards when South Carolina, a state he may actually win, draws closer.

Monday's article by Connolly makes the front page and is headlined "Kerry Defends Votes On Military Action." I think the article does a good job showing why Kerry's war votes were indeed problematic because his defenses don't hold up that well, at least to me. This paragraph I like:

When Kerry entered the race more than a year ago, strategists believed that his stellar military record and expertise on foreign affairs would give him an advantage over the other Democratic candidates who had not seen combat and that it would put him in a strong position to debate national security with Bush. But it was Dean who capitalized on the Iraq war--unexpectedly riding a wave of antiwar sentiment in the Democratic electorate.

Note, though, Connolly wasn't writing this story as recently as two weeks ago. The January 14 entry highlighted how Connolly never offered much of an explanation for Kerry's lagging poll numbers in NH at the time. Now that he's leading, of course, the press treatment gets tougher. As I've made clear in the watch by now, I don't think this pattern should be acceptable because it illogically favors the candidate who is behind. I think it's pretty widespread as a reporting tendency, though, and may be hard to get rid of.

I was disappointed that the two articles contained only passing references to two of the events I saw in person, the Dean women's event he attended with Judy and Kerry's "exuberant campaign rally before 2,500 people." You really can attend these campaign events all day and not hear anything about the topics that get into some of the newspaper articles about those campaigns.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Primary Source on the Primary

As advertised on Friday, I was up in New Hampshire from late Saturday afternoon until late this afternoon checking out some of the primary-related program activities.

After picking up a friend and loyal DK reader (who fortunately knows how to read maps and tell me where to go--I am hopelessly without a sense of direction), we zoomed north to Nashua, arriving around 4:30 yesterday. The Sheraton Tara Hotel there, about 100 yards across the Massachusetts border, was hosting the "100 Club" Dinner, where all candidates except Sharpton were appearing. The "100" meant that you had to pay $100 to attend, and of course we didn't do that; we just loitered around the lobby for a good while, observing the crowd and picking up as much campaign paraphernalia as we could from the booths people had set up (I scored a DVD of Wesley Clark's "American Son"). I hesitate to make sweeping conclusions on the supporters of the various candidates based only on the small samples we observed this weekend, but I will say that I found the combination of union types and college kids backing Dean at the hotel to be quite a mix. After waiting a while for entrances and only getting the likes of Carol Moseley Braun and Patrick Leahy, we headed out to the parking lot, where we found an impromptu SEIU rally for Dean, which the police broke up to a round of boos. Chris Sullentrop attended the dinner and has a funny article summarizing it.

We drove north to Concord, where we shared a pizza (I swear, Concord, New Hampshire, must have the most pizza parlors per capita of any city in the US) and then headed into the cold to look around for the campaign offices, where we hoped we might learn news of any events that hadn't been listed on the web before we left. But it was really cold, and Kerry's office was the only one on the main street in the middle of downtown Concord. We didn't bother hunting around for others, instead continuing to head north another hour to my uncle's house in central NH. This was the toughest part of the trip, as I had trouble finding the house and then the car stalled, leading me to fear we would be marooned in frigid rural New Hampshire. Fortunately, the car started working again, and we found the house, but not until I had let loose quite a few expletives. And the kicker is that we went far out of our way since all the events we ended up hitting were in the south, just as close to Boston. Staying in a Manchester hotel room would've cost money but saved on the agony. Oh well.

Anyway, we were back at it this morning, driving south to Manchester for a Dean women's issues event at Southern New Hampshire University. The crowd was massive and we stupidly rolled in at 9:20 for a 9:30 event (I didn't want to get up too early though, and it was friggin' -8 degrees when we got into the car to leave at 8:30). We ended up in an overflow room that Dean luckily did visit prior to going to the main room for the address. I liked Dean in person a lot, as he spoke off-the-cuff for five minutes or so while standing ten yards away. He offered a funny take on his infamous post-Iowa speech, saying matter-of-factly, in dull tones, which states he would be going to next, adding, "and I'm so excited, I could scream." He is a short guy, as rumored.

The substance of the women's event was nice too because it wasn't just a run-of-the-mill stump speech (Dean sort-of apologized before beginning because he wasn't offering the "red meat" some people expected). Dean earned points with me by putting forward some policy ideas that you don't hear discussed much, if at all--plans he has for loans to small business, early childhood education, welfare reforms to help single moms, etc. It's kind of a shame none of that seems to be getting onto TV, since a few TV reports I've seen over the past couple of hours all just showed the same clip of Judy Dean introducing her husband. She read a brief introduction off a laptop screen (she did appear for a few seconds in the overflow room, arm-in-arm with her husband and not uttering a word there). I guess the big story, as reporters see it, is that Judy is out on the trail at all.

The event, including Dean's overflow-room antics, was on C-SPAN, I believe. C-SPAN is invaluable at times like this, a place you can see everything unfiltered, even when candidates are chatting with individual folks who come up to pester them after an event ends. Dean said in the overflow room that C-SPAN was "having a cow" because they were on live.

The one thing I didn't like at the Dean appearance was the vibes I got from some of his supporters (again, a non-scientific sample). These people seemed pretty self-involved and too wrapped up in Dean-as-messiah. One woman standing near me complained that "Kerry keeps changing his message!" and "it's infuriating!" What I found telling was that a kid in the overflow room led a chant starting "I'm a Dean-o-crat!" No, I wanted to yell, we're Democrats first and foremost, not partisans of our chosen guy in the primary only. Altering the world Democrat--and I doubt the kids doing the chant really thought this all through--had things backward.

Moving on, our next stop was a John Edwards rally in a junior high gym in Nashua. Josh Marshall apparently was there, and his comments are spot on. We got there early enough to actually get seats before the place filled up, eventually with hundreds more (according to Edwards) in an overflow somewhere. Jean Meserve of CNN came to our row and asked if anyone was a "hard-core Edwards supporter," seemingly shopping for a quote. No one responded in the affirmative and she moved on (also spotted there were NPR's Mara Liasson and former Mass state senator and gubernatorial candidate Warren Tolman). The vibe I got from some of the Edwards volunteers was that they were some ambitious young people who cynically had calculated that Edwards was the guy who could win and wanted to be on board early. Why do I say this? They all were walking around, calling back and forth about where there were open seats when it was plain enough and all they did was make it harder to pass by. They just seemed to want to be involved in everything, not out of the loop (I also recognized someone I've met before who fits my overly-ambitious charge). The guy leading the pep chants before the candidate arrived annoyed me too.

Edwards gave his standard speech about the "two Americas", the evils of lobbying, his response to critics who say he's too inexperienced, etc. Marshall is right about Edwards and his gestures, which look like he's the star pupil at elocution school. When he hits a strong applause line, Edwards puts on wide grin and beams to the audience. I think he would have a better presidential aura, one to match the perfect hair and gestures, if he were only a bit taller. Overall, I agree with Marshall's point that when Edwards is speaking, he's pretty impressive, but he never quite does it for me--a solid A-minus. He randomly had Glenn Close in tow.

Marshall somehow got over to the Clark event at 1:00, while we just moved on to the Kerry rally across town. Bad symbolism for Edwards: we (and several others) went from the Edwards rally at the Nashua junior high school to the Kerry rally at the Nashua senior high school. The Kerry thing was in an enormous gym with people in bleachers on one side, unions members and veterans standing on risers behind the platform on another side (in front of an enormous flag), and two walls of cameras. The platform was in the middle of the gym, with some standers, us included, alongside. While waiting, we were both interviewed by an excitable talk radio host from Seattle, Dave Ross of KIRO 710. Hey Pops, do you know the guy?

The Kerry event itself was a major show of force, trying to foster the impression that he is the guy with the most backing. Ted Kennedy was there offering some old-time religion--I wish he were running for president--along with his less exciting son Patrick, who has now become a Kerry supporter with Gephardt out. And Jean Shaheen was there doing some talking, and Teresa Heinz said a few words, and some Nashua pol said some stuff, and Heinz's son made some remarks, and Max Cleland showed up, and a bunch of members of Congress were in attendance to wave to the crowd, and Tolman was there too, and there were probably more I missed. The crowd totaled over 2,000 according to media reports I've heard.

Kerry did a rather typical stump speech, firing off his favorite lines about how he knows something about aircraft carriers for real, bring it on, etc. Marshall correctly notes that one seemingly-new rhetorical flourish was turning "Mission Accomplished" on its head by asking "is your mission accomplished on health care?" and so on for other issues. Kerry has come a long way in his presentation, dropping most of his stilted verbal ticks, though he did let loose a few times with constructions like, "And I say to you..."

On the way out of the packed gym, I saw Ceci Connolly packing up her laptop. I'll be interested to see how she writes up the event for Monday's Post (Connolly Watch is coming soon) since I actually was there myself too. I also gained a renewed understanding of the challenge campaign reporters face, squeezing themselves and their gear into these overcrowded spaces (the Kerry rally was really hot inside, made worse by the multiple layers I was wearing on account of the outdoor conditions), and having to write something reasonably coherent on the spot. This is not writing that is crafted from a comfortable desk in a climate-controlled office, a fact I think we too frequently forget (I know I have forgotten it at times).

I don't want to draw any overly broad conclusions from the trip. Dean happened to be somewhat more impressive than the other two substantively, but that was based more on the happenstance of the types of events we attended. Edwards would win the election if it were an oratorical competition. Kerry put on a showing of how much institutional backing he has. The broader lessons I picked up are an appreciation of how much time it takes to go to these things (and the need to plan better so as not to miss out on Clark or Lieberman in the future) and a resolve not to go above the southern cities of New Hampshire when we're having unseasonably cold weather in late January.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Friday Data Dump

A few more things to throw out here before the weekend hits.

A mega page of Dean remixes. I'm still enjoying these, four days later. I'm easily amused.

NPR's "On the Media" program has a piece on the adopt-a-journalist movement in the blogosphere. You can listen to the piece, which includes interviews with the guy who runs Campaign Desk, Jay Rosen of Press Think, William of Wilgoren Watch and Jodi Wilgoren too. It's nice to see this stuff getting some notice--there's this AP article out now as well that references the Wilgoren Watch.

Wesley Clark has accused the questioners in last night's debate of having a Republican agenda in some of the things they asked him. I noted in my post-debate post that Clark's questions seemed especially hostile compared to the rest. (Article via Drudge) Mark Kleiman and Michael Moore's sites have more stuff defending the general today.

Once again, very bad news for the administration (David Kay says no WMDs in Iraq, Halliburton admits workers took kickbacks) comes out on a Friday. It figures.

I never got around to doing a Pro Picks or weekend sports preview this week. I guess I have the Democratic primary picking up the slack for my sports viewing these days, and I'll be sure to have a boffo Super Bowl XXXVIII edition next week. With the Super Bowl and the end of football season approaching, it's probably time to start watching more basketball as I try to endure the dead period until March Madness begins. Then we get baseball starting, NBA and NHL playoffs, etc.

My only comment on the football hype is that I continue to be astounded by the over-analysis of this game. Two weeks is too long to dissect one football matchup, I'm telling you. This article makes my case: when you're devoting a major Globe sports piece to one-week layoff versus two-week layoff before the Super Bowl, you know you must be in the middle of a two-week layoff, first, and second, you know why one week is preferable. And can the hosts on sports radio please stop comparing the Patriots to the '72 Dolphins, '85 Bears, etc. in debating whether they are one of the greatest teams of all time? Very bad karma.

I'm going up to New Hampshire tomorrow afternoon with a loyal DK reader and friend to check out the silliness of the primary campaign. I am not volunteering for anyone, just playing the tourist--perhaps one of the pols will sway me with a powerful performance in person. I should be back Sunday night with some first-hand impressions of the candidates to share! No half-assed observations based on watching TV and reading CNN articles this time! Also on Sunday night check out the Blogging of the President radio special. Connolly Watch's next installment will be late Sunday or Monday, when I'll review the full weekend of work. That is, if I don't freeze to death in New Hampshire.

Namath Seeks Help for Drinking Problem

This makes the on air proposition to Suzy Kolber less amusing.

If You're Complaining About Back Pain...

This woman doesn't want to hear about it.

Shocker

Could the Federal Reserve be turning into a campaign issue? Never would've guessed that one. I wonder if Dean got the idea of calling for Greenspan to be replaced from noted monetary policy expert Al Sharpton last night.

Globe Debate Reactions

The Boston Globe's lead editorial takes the reporters involved in last night's debate to task. "Outrage Number One was the arrogance of Fox News in deciding that the yammering of Chris Wallace, Fred Barnes, and Morton Kondracke was more interesting to voters than the final remarks of Democrats seeking to be president." I somehow didn't realize that's what Fox did, but now that I think of it, I never did see closing statements. After the Ted Koppel fiasco in New Hampshire last month, last night was a vast improvement I thought, even though the questions still could've been much better.

Jeff Jacoby also continues his ridiculous commentary on the Democratic race. "Hume really was terrific last night. Maybe it's not too late to get him on the ballot." Unfortunately for Jacoby, Hume is a Republican so he's unlikely to run in a Democratic presidential primary any time soon.

Dean's Top 10

His Letterman appearance sounds pretty lame (didn't see it on TV).

MTV has yet more Dean/music stuff.

Connolly Watch 1.23.04

No Ceci in the Friday Post, so I'll use this entry to discuss the debate I've been having a bit in the comments with Aeolus regarding last night's edition.

I was accused of being too charitable to Connolly for her Thursday horse-race article about Kerry in New Hampshire. Aeolus made the criticism that Connolly didn't say much of anything about the policy stances Kerry outlined during his campaign events on Wednesday, the day in question.

I agreed that a little more policy substance would have been good, but I also defended Connolly a bit by saying I didn't mind seeing some horse-race coverage right now since we're a few days from the vote in New Hampshire. My view is that the candidate's style on the stump, tactics for appealing to voters, etc. are significant insofar as they move votes and determine the outcome, and the outcome will be pretty significant in the nomination fight, and by extension in determining the future course of the country. Knowing how well these guys campaign is crucial to assessing whether they can beat Bush in November. The issue then becomes whether the press molds perceptions of candidates or just reports them, and of course it does both. There's a fine line to be drawn, though, between a news report that seeks to portray a candidate in a certain way that maybe isn't supported by the evidence, and one that instead reflects what people really are thinking and saying about a candidate already. I will be criticizing the first type of coverage and praising the second. As horse-race coverage goes, I think Connolly's Thursday article was pretty fair, as I explained, fitting into category #2.

Aeolus responded to my defense of the horse-race stuff (which I've now fleshed out a bit more) with the more general complaint that mainstream media never cover policy in depth, instead focusing on the drama and the politicking.

Whether Connolly is the one deciding how she covers the candidate or someone else at the Post makes that call, I'm not sure. In terms of assigning responsibility, I would hold Connolly responsible for not having a little more background on Kerry's healthcare proposals in the Thursday article, and I would hold the Post's editors responsible for not arranging to have more articles covering the substance of the healthcare issue throughout the campaign cycle. This is a meta-critique one could make of media in general, I feel, and bashing Ceci Connolly day after day for covering politics more than policy would make the Watch get stale pretty quickly.

In short, I'm not going to use the Watch to criticize the reporter on the basis of some other article I have in my head that I would've preferred seeing in the paper instead. I'm going to focus on whether the reporter cites accurate information, fairly representing events, positions, etc. I was inspired to follow Connolly on the basis of urban legends like Gore's claim to have invented the Internet or discovered Love Canal from 2000, and I am watching for similar transgressions this time around.

Of course, this whole adopt-a-reporter thing is new and the idea will continue evolving over time, I'm sure.

Reading Kurtz's debate notes I learned that ARG's latest tracking poll has Howard Dean in third place! Kerry 31, Clark 20, Dean 18. Wow.

More on Brady and Steroids

Since Kriston and I have an irrational obsession with the Tom Brady/SOTU/steroids thing, I'll post once more on the topic. I admit, I was half tongue-in-cheek (or the typing equivalent thereof) when I first noted this, but there is a semi-serious point to be made too.

My response in a comment below to this post was that the White House must have known that Brady would be on TV during the steroid line. No, they didn't explicitly plan for this, but when the Patriot Act comes up, obviously John Ashcroft will be the one in the crowd shown on TV. Similarly, when the president chides pro sports over performance-enhancing drugs, it's rather predictable that the only pro athlete in attendance (other than the WNBA's Tamika Katchings and ex-jocks like Steve Largent), who was invited by the first lady, would be the TV shot. Given how careful this White House is about imagery, I think they must have thought of this. And as the post I just linked notes, the NFL was pretty unhappy about the insinuation that the visual (Tom Brady, NFL player) somehow had something to do with the audio (Bush denouncing steroid use). Indeed, when audio and video appear simultaneously, viewers will presume there's some connection between the two.

Brady didn't seem upset at all about it at his news conference today. On the audio file, at 3:15 Brady is asked if he got to speak with the president. He says their words were "brief" since Bush is "a busy man", though he "wished us well, hoped he'd see us back there in a couple months." At 13:30 Brady is asked again about the SOTU and says "you can't turn down the first lady." Finally, right at the end, an ESPN guy asks if we might see Senator Brady down the line at 15:05. "I've got a long football career, hopefully. Get back to me in about ten years," te Pats QB replies, leaving the door open and lending to the credence that Brady does indeed harbor political ambitions.