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Sunday, February 22, 2004

More Nader Bashing, Kerry DYKWIA? and "Stand by Your Ad"

More Nader bashing as I brace myself for the Russert interview in the morning: If you haven't seen this yet, go check it out. Matt Yglesias links to a few of the anti-Nader greatest hits, including Jon Chait's merciless review of Nader's book from November 2002. This piece should effectively put to rest any thoughts about Nader possibly having a just motive in running. The whole thing is a pretty devastating indictment of Nader with many great bits, including this preview of what we'll probably see on Meet the Press:
Throughout the campaign, Nader brushed aside concerns that he might help elect Bush by employing one of several blithe quips. If asked about being a spoiler, he'd invariably reply, "You can't spoil a system that's spoiled to the core." If asked about helping defeat Gore, he'd answer, "Only Al Gore can defeat Al Gore." Another Nader favorite was, "Would I be running if I were concerned about taking votes from Al Gore? Isn't that what candidates try to do to one another -- take votes?" Not since Steve Forbes has a presidential candidate turned aside unwanted queries so robotically. Nader's one-liners were pure, made-for-television nonsequiturs, all refusing to engage on any substantive level the fact that his candidacy might prove a decisive factor in Bush's election.

Let's see how many of those he fires off when Russert inevitably touches on the obvious concerns. I'll probably feel like doing this to my TV.

Moving on to this site's other favorite whipping boy, I see that even Dave Barry has a John Kerry "Do You Know Who I Am?" story. Jonah Goldberg earlier this week cited Back of the Envelope, who recalled that Barry wrote the following on September 14, 2003:

In conclusion, I want to extend my sincere best wishes to all of my opponents, Republican and Democrat, and to state that, in the unlikely event I am not elected, I will support whoever is, even if it is Sen. John Kerry, who once came, with his entourage, into a ski-rental shop in Ketchum, Idaho, where I was waiting patiently with my family to rent snowboards, and Sen. Kerry used one of his lackeys to flagrantly barge in line ahead of us and everybody else, as if he had some urgent senatorial need for a snowboard, like there was about to be an emergency meeting, out on the slopes, of the Joint Halfpipe Committee. I say it's time for us, as a nation, to put this unpleasant incident behind us. I know that I, for one, have forgotten all about it. That is how fair and balanced I am.

One of Barry's assistants has emailed that Barry isn't making this up and you can read the column this comes from here. Encountering Kerry in Idaho of all places has to be some really bad luck.

Peter Beinart has the best rebuttal I've seen of the Bush campaign's "special interest" anti-Kerry argument in his column a few days back. First, there's the statistical rebuttal to the Washington Post's charge that Kerry has taken more special interest money than his Senate colleagues:
But the Post figure is misleading because it ignores the fact that Kerry has largely eschewed money from political action committees (PACs), a major source of funds for most of his colleagues. When you combine money from paid lobbyists and PACs--which makes sense, since they're both conduits for "special interests"--Kerry actually ranks ninety-second out of 100 U.S. senators. That doesn't make him pure, but it makes him purer than most serious candidates for the White House. And it puts him on a different planet from President Bush, who accepted more money from lobbyists last year alone than Kerry has in the last 15.

Beinart also makes the "whose interests are 'special' anyway?" argument toward the end, framing it quite nicely.

The truth is that Bush, like most Republicans, is more influenced by corporate "special interests," and Kerry, like most Democrats, is more influenced by noncorporate "special interests."

You can argue that Kerry's selective use of the term is fair. After all, if an interest is "special" because it is narrow, then Bush's backers deserve the term more than Kerry's, since big companies represent a narrower group of people than labor, environmental, or consumer groups. (There are exceptions: The GOP-leaning National Rifle Association and Christian Coalition have broader memberships than the Democratic-leaning trial lawyers.)

But, ultimately, the semantics don't really matter. Rather than screaming about who is more indebted to special interests, the Kerry and Bush campaigns should simply admit that they have ties to different ones and defend their associations. The president, I suspect, would have the harder time.

Yes, that's the editor of TNR writing an article defending John Kerry, stop the presses.

Mickey Kaus is criticizing the "Stand by Your Ad" provision of the new campaign finance law, arguing that requiring candidates to appear in commercials to say they "approved this message" is a First Amendment violation. Legal details aside, he makes a few silly claims in the course of this argument.

First, Kaus asks, "how does requiring that the candidate himself or herself appear--as opposed to just requiring that funding be disclosed by someone, somehow--shed the 'light of publicity' on campaign financing?" This is simple: it's a far more obvious form of disclosure than requiring fine print on the bottom of the screen no one will notice, or having these things listed on some web site most people won't check. Making the candidate say the magic words ensures that any viewer will know the ad is from that person's campaign.

Kaus adds, "the provision was explicitly designed to protect politicians from negative ads. And it's helped turn the Democratic primary race into an uninformative blandwagon in which voters know much less, at this stage, about the characters of the two leading candidates than in previous multicandidate primaries." He's correct there haven't been many negative ads during the Democratic primaries, but he's wrong to attribute this entirely to the new advertising rules. Far more important in this development has been the impression that negative advertising can backfire, as it certainly did for Dick Gephardt in Iowa.

Finally, Wonkette noticed the same silly reference in Friday's article on Bush campaign ads to the preparation of a few anti-Kucinich scripts. She also links to this, which I've yet to figure out. "The classic children's book icon, Grandfather Twilight, broke twenty years of silence to endorse Congressman Dennis Kucinich for President in 2004. 'In these extraordinary times we must act with extraordinary sincerity,' he said." OK then...