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Monday, May 17, 2004

Connolly Watch 5.17.04: Iraq Opinions

Ceci Connolly was on Fox News Sunday yesterday, sharing her views on the presidential race and the situation in Iraq. There was plentiful inanity from Chris Wallace, Brit Hume and Bill Kristol--too much to mention, really--so I'll stick with Connolly's lines as the moderate on the panel. First, on the Bush-Kerry polling:

Andy Kohut, who runs the Pew Center, has, I think, given us some nice sort of historical perspective on this, which is that frequently what you see happening at this point in the campaign is that voters are making decisions right now about the incumbent and how they feel about the incumbent.

And it's only later, probably around the time of the conventions and the debates, that, if they feel dissatisfied in some way with the incumbent president, that they then sort of go to the second step of the decision- making process here, which is, "OK, and do I think that John Kerry is an acceptable alternative if I'm unhappy with the incumbent?"

In short, wait and see. Then on Kerry's comments regarding Iraq and his criticisms of the president's policies:

It's a very difficult fine line to walk, and I think he's probably gotten mixed grades when it comes to this. Obviously, the biggest blunder he had politically was over the vote on the $87 billion. He voted against that and has spent... [crosstalk] ... before he voted against it, as he attempted to explain to all of us, and that's consistently haunted him ever since.

Interestingly, he came out right away this week and said, "I am for the $25 billion that's now being requested by the Pentagon. I don't want there to be any doubt about that." And he tried to explain it away by saying, "But this time it's because there are going to be some, you know, tighter oversight on it," or something like that.

So this is a sticky area for John Kerry, and he hasn't done it well.

She's right that Kerry has been losing out to the tyranny of the sound-bite in this area. While Kerry needs to speak more directly, the press and the voters bear some responsibility for not having the patience to figure out a complex position on something. Finally, she gave a middling assessment of Don Rumsfled's damage control:

I think that there are probably two schools of thought. The first is that he and General Myers and some of those other higher-ups in the administration did not get out in front of this. They certainly knew. They knew about the Taguba report, but they didn't read it right away. They knew about "60 Minutes" and, in fact, asked them to hold off, but they didn't, again, get out in front. ...

On the other hand, once it has come out, I think, you know, Brit makes the very good point that he has demonstrated a seriousness about this. His testimony up on Capitol Hill, a whole long day in front of two different committees answering questions, certainly not the overly confident, swaggering Don Rumsfeld that we generally see, a little bit of a more humble kind of stature. So probably a mixed bag.

But the one point is, there are a lot of unanswered questions here.

Again, wait and see. I bet most of the Fox viewers think Connolly is some sort of a liberal since she's up there with Wallace, Hume and Kristol all the time. Every time I read one of these transcripts I wonder why Juan Williams subjects himself to the show.

UPDATE: I have posted the full transcript of the Fox News Sunday panel segment because I think this week was an excellent example of how the show works, with Ceci Connolly playing the noncontroversial moderate woman while three conservatives drown out the lone angry liberal.