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John F. Kerry in 2004?

A skeptical blog examining John F. Kerry's candidacy for President in 2004.

"The longest journey begins with the first step. And that first step is electing John Kerry." -- Howard Dean, 3/25/04

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Why Blog about Kerry?
The means influence the ends
Comparing Kerry and Bush's record from 1966 - 1973
Kerry's service record and biography
"I request duty in Vietnam."

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Friday, February 27, 2004

Kerry's Senate testimony about Vietnam 

I know I promised to be on hiatus, but this is important since it's so widely micharacterized by the GOP and Kerry's anti-veteran pro-war detractors. I'd also like to publicly salute Vietnam veteran and Kerry-skeptic Ed Chamberlain for his service to our nation. Thank you, sir.

I am not here as John Kerry. I am here as one member of the group of 1,000 which is a small representation of a very much larger group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit at this table they would be here and have the same kind of testimony....

WINTER SOLDIER INVESTIGATION

I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command....

They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

We call this investigation the "Winter Soldier Investigation." The term "Winter Soldier" is a play on words of Thomas Paine in 1776 when he spoke of the Sunshine Patriot and summertime soldiers who deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough.

We who have come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now. We could come back to this country; we could be quiet; we could hold our silence; we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country, the fact that the crimes threaten it, not reds, and not redcoats but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out.

FEELINGS OF MEN COMING BACK FROM VIETNAM

...In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.


More info on the Winter Soldier Investigation here.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:34 AM

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

on hiatus until the General election 

The purpose of this blog was to explore Kerry as a candidate, and I think I achieved that to my satisfaction. I think he's a good man, and the characterization of him from the left as a pandering unprincipled schemer simply doesn't hold water after a careful examination of his record. I also learned a great deal about his service and his biography, which is useful in combating the steady stream of misinformation from the right.

As a candidate, Kerry is still too stiff. He expresses one sentence as ten, puffs his speech with vocabulary and rhetorical flourish, and has a grating monotone.

But on the question of who is the best candidate to beat Bush, Kerry is enough. I have long said that ANY of the major candidates could defeat Bush if they ran on a strong liberal platform and did their research. And on the issues I am closer to Kerry than I am to Edwards. More pleasing is Kerry's signaling that he won't be passive in the face of attack from Bush's smear-hatchet team, which is what i would expect from a man with Kerry's service.

It's essentially impossible for Edwards to prevail over Kerry, but I hope he stays in the fight, because Edwards is a good influence that keeps Kerry in check, and will mold him to be a better candidate. And I intend to vote Dean for the primary on Super Tuesday because I want the Dean movement to have real currency after the nominee is selected.

But it's clear that 2004 will be Bush vs Kerry, and I can live with that, after this experience. I'll be back here when we have a nominee and we can focus on the main goal: removing Bush from office.

posted by Aziz P. | 12:28 PM

Monday, February 23, 2004

John Kerry's service record and biography 

His Purple Heart awards were for more than just skinned knees. See the link in the sidebar comparing his Vietnam years to George Bush's - and also don't miss this 7-part biographical piece from the Boston Globe.

Hey if we are gonna talk about the man's accomplishments, we should be on the same page, right?

posted by Aziz P. | 11:15 AM

Bring. it. On. The voting record is sound 

quote by Max Cleland, triple amputee Veteran :

"For Saxby Chambliss, who got out of going to Vietnam because of a trick knee, to attack John Kerry as weak on the defense of our nation is like a mackerel in the moonlight that both shines and stinks."


Cleland knows of what he speaks - Chambliss was the hit man against his own decorated service record in 2002. This morning the head of Bush's re-election campaign spoke on NPR, asserting piously that "we respect Sen. Kerry's service and honor his sacrifice" (or words to that effect. But the same Bush team is sending out their slime tool Chambliss against Kerry now.

In other words, President Bush is attacking Kerry's service record - and Chambliss is a not-so-transparent fig leaf.

The GOP spin is that they are attacking Kerry's voting record, not his patriotism. But this is simply rhetorical cover for the undelrying charge that Kerry's voting record somewhow reveals a man more concerned with political gain than the public interest of our common national defense. You can't argue that Kerry votes against the best interest of our nation's defense, and then suggest you aren't impugning his patriotism. If the GOP attack was about Kerry being simply wrong on the issues, then that would be different, but the specific charge that Marc Raciocot made this morning on NPR is that Kerry is "inconsistent" and that he "says one thing and does another."

Kerry didn't vote in approval of every war that the US ever fought. That's a good thing and is not inconsistent. In fact, having reviewed his voting record myself (as an avowed skeptic), I am pleased at the level of nuance that Kerry brought to the debate. The use of force is not a schoolyard impulse but a serious responsibility to which the current administration seems to have little respect for.

The fact is, the conservative right has very little credibility on critiquing anyone's record on national security. They's engaged in serious revisionist history in that regard.

There is an EXCELLENT piece on NPR that reviews Kerry's record, which makes for an excellent overview.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:59 AM

Saturday, February 21, 2004

repeating Vietnam's mistakes  

Billmon has a detailed essay on the recent op-ed by James Webb, that explains just who Webb is and why his statements signal a true sea-change among the most ardent supporters of the American military. It's essential reading. And Billmon concludes that Webb, who during Vietnam reviled Kerry for his anti-war protest, may be sending a political feeler to Kerry now. You simply have to read Billmon's full post to understand the context, so I am not going to even bother excerpting.

posted by Aziz P. | 1:05 PM

Friday, February 20, 2004

Kerry/Graham wins in 2004 

In another development on the Democratic campaign trail, Sen. Bob Graham of Florida -- who dropped out of the race last year -- said he would accept the No. 2 spot on the ticket if it were offered.

Following a speech Thursday at the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee, Graham, 67, said he would do what it takes to get a Democrat in the White House.

"I want a Democrat to be elected president. If I can be in whatever way a contributor to that, I'll do it," said the four-term senator, who announced in November he would not run for re-election in Congress.

"And that includes vice president?" one reporter asked.

"Yes," Graham replied.

The former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a strong critic of President Bush's Iraq policy, Graham abandoned his presidential bid in October, saying he didn't have the money or organization to win due to a late start.


Graham's presidential bid was widely seen as a Veep run from the start. He brings more foreign policy Bush-critique to the table, and the combination of his credentials (which have drawn praise from stalwart conservatives like Tacitus) with war-hero Kerry add up to a pretty impressive ticket.

Bush, meanwhile, has unveiled his campaign strategy:

The Washington Post reports that beginning next month, the president's campaign will launch a multi-million dollar ad campaign that will focus on Kerry's past, including his days as a Vietnam War protester.

"The beauty of John Kerry is 32 years of votes and public pronouncements," Mark McKinnon, the campaign's chief media adviser, told the Post.


thus almost guaranteeing his defeat.

posted by Aziz P. | 1:38 PM

someone is lying... 

Ryan Lizza analyses the latest Pew poll so that I don't have to:

While opinions of Bush are now polarized equally between those who call him honest and those who call him a liar, Kerry's favorabilty rating is high (58%) and his unfavorable rating is low (28%). By far the most common word used to describe him by respondents was "honest." This is a big improvement for Democrats. At this point in 2000, a Pew poll showed the most common word used to describe Gore was "boring." At the very moment Bush's credibility craters, Kerry is successfully defining himself as a trustworthy alternative. Maybe this year the Democrats will welcome a debate about character.


I have to ask the obvious question. The antipathy towards Kerry (especially among my comrades who support Dean) is predicated on the "political convenience" view of him. Howard Dean himself has alluded to Kerry's political instincts by making explicit note of how his message and themes have been appropriated into the Democratic debate (and as he acknowledges, this is a good thing), but then pointedly asks whether it will persist (part of why I will vote Dean in the primaries is precisely because I share Dean's desire to make it persistent).

But the polls among the public seem to indicate a different view towards Kerry's character. I admit to being too plugged in, I'm quoting a political analyst from TNR after all :) So if there's a systematic error being made in evaluation of Kerry, then I'm as susceptible to it as the rest of the media and press. But clearly the wider public doesn't see this.

I am a firm believer in the Rational Actor theory of people's motivations. In this case, is it because I have too much information that blinds me to a simpler explanation? After all, I believed that the polls reflected mass deception when they indicated the public's belief in Bush's honesty last time around. Someone is wrong here and I'm starting to question whether it makes sense for me to always be right.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:29 AM

Thursday, February 19, 2004

trade populism is bad policy 

I'm frankly uncomfortable with Edwards' anti-NAFTA populism. Granted, the loss of manufacturing jobs is a serious problem, but what's the alternative? Forcibly requiring manufacturers to employ US-based labor? Higher prices on expensive consumer goods like automobiles? I evaluate NAFTA's success from the same perspective that Matthew mentioned, namely that the benefits are widespread and outweigh the relatively focused costs.

Matthew quotes from Stanley Goldberg's book, The Two Americas, which as he notes is an excellent resource for demographic data on policy issues (I am currently reviewing this book):

It gets -5 from white evangelicals, -6 from rural whites, -4 in exurban counties, -5 among white male seniors, and a whopping -17 among white non-college married men. And that's NAFTA among Republican loyalists. The only GOP-voting groups who like NAFTA are residents of the Deep South (+1) and college-educated white married men (+10).

When you look at Democratic voting blocks, union families, unsurprisingly, don't like NAFTA (-12) but all the others do. African Americans +3, Latinos +7, seculars +4, women with postgraduate degrees +13, and residents of "cosmopolitan states" +2.


It's hard to imagine that NAFTA would have such widespread support if it brought uniform hardship to these demographic groups. In other words, it's sound policy. And the main appeal of NAFTA to me is that it increases pressure on our trading pressures to raise the standard of labor there. John Edwards himself has used the language on the stump, that we need fair trade, not free trade. I argue that we need both, and that fair trade will lead to freer trade, because the gradient of labor costs and worker rights won't be as steep across the border.

That's the real problem with NAFTA. It doesnt put in enough muscle for the fair aspect of trade, and therefore Edwards has a legitimate critique. It's only fair to note that Howard Dean was there first, however:

Creating and keeping good jobs for Americans also requires the rigorous enforcement of fair trade policies. I would not negotiate trade agreements that do not include meaningful labor, environmental, and human rights protections. I would not pursue trade policies that undermine important U.S. laws and regulations, especially those that protect American workers. I will vigorously enforce anti-dumping laws.

In every way, I would use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to shine a spotlight on worker’s fundamental rights and mobilize community pressure in support of working Americans. As President, I would be a strong ally in the fight for the rights of workers across the country.


It's odd to see the fair-trade and labor-rights discussion being transferred from a Dean-Kucinich disagreement to a Kerry-Edwards one, but as Kerry noted, Edwards' position isn't really as different as he would like to make it seem. NAFTA needs to be fixed as Dean pointed out, and from the rhetoric used by Edwards thus far I'm not sure if he understands the value in the Dean position rather than the Kucinich one (the latter being the one that seems to get Edwards more cheers).

And of course I worry that Kerry will try to move towars protectionism based on fear of Edwards populist stance on the issue. If he stands form on his position, though, it will mean good policy. On the issue of trade, Kerry simply engenders more trust.

That's another reason to vote Dean, however, in the primary. Send a message to Kerry that Dean's message on trade is where we need to be, not the Edwards popilust approach.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:59 AM

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

don't think they haven't noticed 

Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, who emerged as the Democrats' front-runner a month ago, said Dean "has done an extraordinary job of invigorating a whole group of people who were divorced from the political process," the Reuters news agency reported. Kerry added, "Whatever happens, it's impossible not to express general admiration and respect for the campaign he's put together and what he's achieved."

posted by Aziz P. | 1:18 PM

Edwards can't compete 

Ryan Lizza argues that Edwards needs to make an electability argument:

In other words, the kind of Democrats who should have voted for a candidate like Edwards didn't. The reason? Electability. Kerry destroyed Edwards among the 48 percent of the electorate that said experience and the ability to beat Bush were their top priorities in a candidate. Voters that actually care more about the issues, especially the economy and jobs, supported Edwards. But Kerry's electability argument is fragile. It's already been damaged by Edwards's strong showing. The more Edwards can prove that he's just as electable as Kerry, the more he can steer the race towards jobs and trade, and start to peel off the rank-and-file Democrats (especially blacks and union members) backing Kerry more with their heads than their hearts. A larger chunk of Kerry voters actually agree with Edwards more than Kerry. They just need to be convinced he can win.


I think that Ryan is speaking more from wishful thinking than unbiased analysis here. Kerry's electability argument has been damaged? I don't see any evidence for this. And Edwards is operating at a distinct disadvantage in terms of money and resources, meaning he has to focus on Georgia and maybe Ohio for Super Tuesday, whereas Kerry has the means to run in all the states at stake. The intervening primaries before Super Tuesday are negligible and will likely swing to Kerry, adding to the Kerry stampede.

It's not an electability argument, it's an inevitability argument. People are choosing Kerry because everyone else in previous primaries already has, not because they are making an honest assessment of the two candidates in terms of the Bush matchup. There's serious inertia here and Edwards can't derail it with the occassional victory here and there in a Southern state.

Until yesterday, Edwards trailed Dean in delegates, trailed Dean in money, and lost to Dean more than he bested him in the various primaries to date. By all reasonable metrics, Edwards has been a weaker candidate, perhaps because unlike Dean he didn't have as much on the line, or as fall to fall.

Edwards needs to stay in the race, because as I have argued he plays a much needed role in preparing Kerry for the showdown against Bush. However, that's the only role he has left to play. Hampered by federal matching funds as he is, he's not even the candidate who we in the ABB crowd should even want to face Bush.

posted by Aziz P. | 9:44 AM

Deaniac against Bush 

I intend to vote for Howard Dean in the primary. This is why. And I will then support John Kerry against George W Bush. I do not want Edwards to face Bush, because I think Kerry brings more offensive capability to the table by virtue of his war record and his independence from federal matching funds.

But Edwards must remain in the race. His presence keeps Kerry from malaise, from taking it for granted. It forces Kerry to earn the vote. Edwards can preview the Bush attack in the general and make sure that Kerry never forgets that the Democratic nomination is given to him by choice, not birthright. It will make Kerry a better candidate and it will help defeat Bush.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:23 AM

Monday, February 16, 2004

the gauntlet 

Howard Dean, when front-runner, faced a withering barrage of fire. It came from the left (Sharpton and Kucinich), the center (the DLC), and the right (Lieberman). It came from his opponents, both respectable (Kerry and Gephardt) and much less so (Limbaugh, Hannity, the RNC). And he responded to the barrage by improving as a candidate. He never went off-message and became tougher and more focused in his critique. Where he went astray was in going negative against Gephardt rather than taking the high road and focusing all his critique at Bush. This cost him Iowa.

But that wasn't what finally dethroned him from front-runner hood, it was simply the media overamplification of the infamous "Dean Scream", which essentially ruined the carefully planned and hard-fought image of himself in the minds of the general public. The mea culpas of the major networks in admitting they overplayed the Sream by some 600 times came conveniently too late to repair the damage in advance of New Hampshire.

Take two lessons from this. One, that the media is more powerful than all the negative attacks from all the political players on the stage combined. And second, that the barrage of withering attack fire is actually essential for a candidate to face.

As Ryan Lizza points out in his debate review, that's the role that Edwards plays in the race. Kerry has thus far been insulated from the kind of feedback-loop media takedown that Dean endured. And so today's front-runner candidate doesn't really know what the barrage feels like. But in the general election, Kerry is going to take massive incoming fire - and knowing how he will respond is essential. Lizza notes:

[Edwards] was also hinting at Kerry's great vulnerability, one that Republicans are making the center of their campaign against him, which is the perception that Kerry has been on both sides of several big issues. He voted for NAFTA, the war in Iraq, No Child Left Behind, and the Patriot Act, but has made criticism of all four central to his campaign. Kerry has a decent case for his post-vote reservations on all these issues. (He's just responding to the unforeseen effects of NAFTA. He voted yes on the war as leverage to start inspections again. Bush hasn't funded NCLB. Ashcroft isn't implementing the Patriot Act properly.) Everyone wants the race to be over Tuesday night. But what's wrong with finding out how Kerry fares for two weeks in a two-man race against a candidate making a version of the case Bush will make for the next eight and a half months?


In fact, I support both Edwards and Dean staying in the race till the bitter end for precisely this reason. Dean's presence puts pressure on Bush, and Edwards puts pressure on Kerry. The question is, how will Edwards react if Dean doesn't vanish? Hopefully, he will play it smart and continue to ramp up the attacks on Kerry.

In effect, Edwards needs to do Karl Rove's work for him.

posted by Aziz P. | 9:15 AM

Sunday, February 15, 2004

the ghost of Vietnam 

Diana has a great post on just who is entitled to hate John Kerry on Vietnam. Hint: honorable people holding a valid opinion (with which I disagree entirely), and who don't vote Democratic anyway.

Who would have thought that the manifestation of Vietnam in the 2004 election would take the form of a photo-shopped Jane Fonda?

posted by Aziz P. | 5:14 PM

Aides Want Dean to Quit if He Loses WI 

This story suggests that top aides, including Steven Grossman (national chairman of the DFA campaign), are pressuring Dean to drop out if he loses WI:

Steve Grossman, national chairman of Dean's campaign, said the former Vermont governor would seek to convert his grass-roots network into a movement that helps expand the party and elect the Democratic nominee — "and, obviously, that looks likely to be John Kerry."


The OBlog has a denial by Neel, but I'm starting to regard Neel's credibility on these kinds of things to be equivalent to Muhammad Saeed al Salaf.

But I haveto admit that the idea of converting our movement into something aimed at reforming Congress from the gerry-mandered, incumbent-dominated, playing-it-safe inertial mass it has ecome would be a great use of our resources - and a good check on Kerry to keep him on the path of Dean's Legacy. I want Dean to be active until the convention but not at the expense of damaging the nominee, and this seems like a good alternative. The campaign still has millions of dollars and they could coast on it, leaving Dean on the ballot so all of us who don't want to rubber-stamp Kerry caan cast our protest vote. Dean would amass a lot of delegates and have a chance to speak at the convention before endorsing Kerry. And the grassroots movement would have a new purpose.

What's not to like?

posted by Aziz P. | 5:04 PM

Saturday, February 14, 2004

the candidate of special interests: Bush 

The Bush campaign sent out an email linking to a web-based video attack ad against Kerry, accusing him of being a tool for the special interests. This is a hilarious claim, as FactCheck.org demonstrates with ease:

Looking only at individual lobbyists, Bush has reported getting four times more than Kerry in this presidential race.

Looking at the other categories of "special interests" mentioned specifically in the ad, Bush has received five times more from HMO's, seven times more from the pharmaceutical industry, and 28 times more from telephone utilities.

Bush has even edged out Kerry -- so far -- for Hollywood money, a traditional source of financial strength for Democrats. Bush took in more than half a million from the TV/Movies/Music sector, while Kerry reports getting $475,000.

It is just as the Post story said in a sentence not quoted in the Bush ad: “All the presidential candidates take money from special interests. . . . And Bush has far outpaced them all.”


Howard Dean's attack on Kerry for the special interest issue is valid in the context of comparing the two Democratic candidates, but compared to Bush Kerry is a saint. It's doubtful that the minimal effectiveness of Dean's attacks justify the risk in making them at this stage. Again, FactCjheck does a valuable service in proving that Kerry is NOT the same as Bush.

UPDATE: The Washington Post notices and takes Bush to task by pointing out the relevant numbers. It's clear that the Bush ad is targeted at the loyal base of Hannitized ditto-heads.

posted by Aziz P. | 9:09 AM

this better be a commercial running in September 2004 

This is an absolutely brilliant timeline detailing what John Kerry and George Bush were doing from 1966 - 1973. It is essential that this timeline is aired in television advertisement format during the anniversary of 9-11 in order to negate the impending War Leader Propaganda that Bush's political team will try to saturate the airwaves with during the anniversary.

The election needs to be about Hope and Principles, not Fear and Priveleges.

posted by Aziz P. | 8:31 AM

Friday, February 13, 2004

the means influence the ends 

we have all heard of the old axiom "the ends justify the means." I evaluate it according to moral, not ethical, standards. For example, if the ends are valid, but the means are immoral, then I consider that route to the desired end invalid. However, if the means are simply unethical as opposed to immoral, then I would have to seriously evaluate whether the cost-benefit of achieving the ends at that expense if favorable or unfavorable, on a case-by-case basis. And I may well choose wrongly.

Complicating issues are of course the non-fine line between morals and ethics, the impossibility of ever knowing the true cost-benefit analysis, and the possibility of bias in your estimation of the desirability of the end in question.

However, suppose for the sake of argument that you have wrestled with the issues above and concluded, however reluctantly, that the desired end (in the specific case, removing Bush from office) is enough of an imperative that the unethical route is neccessary to achieve it (for example, rewarding the politics of special interests and anti-Democratic power-mongering by the Party elites, by voting for their candidate). Then the means chosen to achieve that route will influence the ends.

What I mean, in the context of my specific example, is that rescuing our country from the failed domestic and economic policies and the blatantly anti-self-interest foreign policies of the Bush Administration will take a form directly related to the means by which the present Administration is evicted (itself, remaining a desirable end). If Dean wins the Presidency, then there are concrete benefits to a Dean Presidency in terms of healing the national (and artificial) political divide of Left-Right in this country, and of pursuing domestic policy that can be influenced by factual analysis rather than power-play. With President Kerry, we will probably end up with a status quo of political special interests balanced by public and democratic institutions, but it still will not be the actively harmful policy that is promoted by the Bush Administration.

Some purists reject the latter scenario because they are comparing a Dean Presidency to a Kerry Presidency, and concluding (rightly) that the latter is inferior. Thus they are "casting a vote" against the Kerry scenario, a protest rather than an affirmative choice. But the problem is that the real choice is not between Dean and Kerry in November. It is between Bush and only one of them. To rationalize their protest, they will argue that there is "no real difference" between Kerry and Bush. However, this is as demonstrably false as it was during 2000 when Nader argued that Gore and Bush were of the same coin.

There basic problem is that "special interests" are not the sum total of the political problems we face. We have the attempted social takeover of our culture by the extreme religious right, the blatant assault on the fabric of the New Deal by clever Trojan Horse legislation (the Medicare Bill comes to mind) that actually undermines the net further, and the gross fiscal mismanagement that arises under Republican rule when the party rewards its natural constituency, large corporations and mega-wealthy people (>$1M/yr) with allocation of resources in excess of their proprtion to society, at the expense of the middle class (and the poor, whom no one really seems to pay much attention to).

By any intellectually honest evaluation, there are basic differences between conservative and liberal ideologies, and there is real value in having a national debate on those differences, because that can drive informed policy. A complete capitulation does not serve the public interests., Of the two spheres, only the conservative one has attempted to impose by outright deceit and fiat their supremacy, whereas during the past periods of Democratic rule there was a much more diffuse response to obtaining power. This is partly ecause conservatives have spent the better part of two decades cultivating an integrated system of media message distribution across Internet, television, radio, and cable. National Public Radio is inherently moderate, not liberal; the liberal attempt to emulate the conserative media is still in its infancy, but it will grow. Its impossible to tell if, when the liberal media matures, it will provide detente and balance to the conservative on or heighten and accelerate the political division of society. As an avowed conservative on many issues myself, I want to see a more fair atmosphere for discussion of the issues, out of simple self-interest.

Arguing that there is no difference between the intellectual positions of liberal and conservative is a self-delusion. It is the expression of "perfection is the enemy of the good", whose corollary is that in any human (ie, flawed) endeavour, perfection is unattainable. A Kerry Administration will bring hundreds of good and principled public servants back to government, who will view their positions as extensions of their professional pride rather than instruments for political pressure. There is no liberal media echo chamber that can amplify ideology across governmental partitions and branches the way that the conservative message has been.

To argue that Kerry would be equal or worse to Bush is a fallacy of cynicism. I am not that cynical yet. Rather I want to learn from recent history - and Nader's influence on the 2000 election, where his campaigning in swing states actively tipped the balance from Gore to Bush and thus delivered the election to the loser of the popular vote, remains the most formative political lesson of our time[1].

The perfection is the enemy of the good. The means influence the ends. But this particular end does indeed justify the means, and I intend to vote ABB, not ABK, in 2004.


[1]I actually Vote-swapped my vote with a principled Nader supporter in Oregon, since my Texas vote was rendered effectively meaningless by the winner-take-all system.

posted by Aziz P. | 3:01 PM

the War on Fear(mongering) 

Jim Henley praises Kerry for bringing attention to the culture of fear that the Bush Administration has attempted with no great subtlety to culture in the petri dish of social culture:

... as I've said over and over, what's despicable about the Bush Administration is that it wants us to wallow in perpetual, low-grade panic. That is what I can't forgive.

Which brings us to Kerry. It was already vital that the Bush Administration utterly reform or go. But a major Presidential candidate running a forthright campaign against fearmongering would have incalculable value. It would make up for everything I am fated to dislike - even hate - about John Kerry. It is the whole ball of wax. It is the national soul. It trumps fiscal policy, regulatory policy, even the particulars of how any particular politician did or did not vote on the use-of-force resolution in late 2002 or the PATRIOT Act before that. Because let the country recover its courage, and these other matters can be mastered. Keep the country in terror and we are doomed on all fronts.


YES. It's become standard conservative dogma that we must never forget 9-11, though that doesn't seem to translate into any actual concern over what really happenned. I just wish Dean had been able to articulate this earlier - it might have triggerred a more substantive chord than mere oppoistion to the war did.

posted by Aziz P. | 12:09 PM

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Dredged 

Simon over at John Kerry Sucks (but Vote For Him Anyway) picks up on Drudge's recycled-from-1998 supposed exclusive about A Democratic Presidential Candidate's Marital Infedility:

The problem is that while I'd love for the press to pick up lots of other, substantive stories about Botox and run with them, so we might have a glimpse of issues during the primary, that just ain't gonna happen. This one might, which pisses me off more because even though I loathe Kerry, I'd hate for this to be the thing that brought him down.

All I have to say is: It better not be true. I swear to God, if this story is true, the Democrats should tie Kerry up and set him on fire because this sort of thing is why people don't trust us in the first place. Republicans were able to take Clinton's infidelities and wrap it around the neck of every Democrat in the U.S., and if it happens again... I don't want to think about it.

Until further notice, this story is bu****it. And because it is such bu****it, it just may be the thing that unites even the Kerryphobe with all Democrats in rallying to send Kerry to the White House.


Thankfully Simon links to Dregs so I don't have to.

posted by Aziz P. | 10:56 AM

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Kerry releases service records 

excellent timing on this! it keeps the pressure on the White House while also keeping Kerry above the fray. Not that there aren't some Bush true Believers out there who think otherwse - Diana has been receiving some rather deluded email on that score.

posted by Aziz P. | 10:21 AM

so what? 

explain it to me. UPDATE: Diana has more.

posted by Aziz P. | 8:50 AM

slandered by the right 

As Atrios notes, the following bald-faced lie about Kerry's Vietnam protests is rapidly making the rounds of the conservative media and blogsphere:

A brave man in Vietnam, he returned home to appear before Congress and not merely denounce the war but damn his "band of brothers" as a gang of rapists, torturers and murderers led by officers happy to license them to commit war crimes with impunity.


Read Kerry's relevant testimony to the Senate - at age 28 - and decide for yourself:

"I would like to talk on behalf of all those veterans and say that several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia. These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit - the emotions in the room and the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam. They relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do."

“They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.


Note that President Bush also tried to slander Kerry obliquely during his MTP interview - on the topic of AWOL, Bush proferred the following straw man argument:

President Bush: I would be careful to not denigrate the Guard. It's fine to go after me, which I expect the other side will do. I wouldn't denigrate service to the Guard, though, and the reason I wouldn't, is because there are a lot of really fine people who have served in the National Guard and who are serving in the National Guard today in Iraq.


Kerry has in fact said that he doesn't consider whether anyone did or did not serve to be an issue, though he has indicated he will fight back if attacked. Never has he denigrated National Guard service, in fact it is Bush who denigrated the Guard by his treatment of the corps as an escape hatch from Vietnam and a lower priority than campaign politics in Alabama. "Kerry disrespects the Guard!" was a common refrain on Hannity's radio show this past week.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:46 AM

Monday, February 09, 2004

Can Kerry beat Bush? 

yes. ANY of the current top 4 democratic candidates can beat Bush. Bush is vulnerable on every issue - domestic, foreign policy, economy, national security, you name it. His Meet the Press softball interview - taped on Saturday in the Oval Office - was so clueless that it was compared to Al Sharpton's answer about the federal reserve - by the conservatives over at The Corner!

The way Bush will win is if the Democratic nominee runs a poor campaign. That means dumb ads, questionable strategy, verbal slips, etc. There isn't a single candidate on the Dem field who isn't guilty of these or who would be magically immune. Kerry has as much a shot as anyone else - and as least of a shot as anyone else.

The Naderites screwed this country in 2000 by arguing there wa sno difference between Bush and Gore. Those who would follow them on the road to damnation by arguing there is no difference between Kerry and Bush are the ones who have inflicted this long national nightmare upon us. I reject them utterly.

posted by Aziz P. | 9:13 AM

Doing the right thing 

This piece on Kerry in TNR argues that the "beholden to special interests" line on Kerry has at least one counterexample:

And here is where the story, at least for Kerry, got interesting. One doesn't become the master of Washington without accumulating a few friends, and those friends now turned out in force to defend Clifford. Jackie Onassis, Ted Kennedy, and other Democratic bigwigs rushed to Clifford's side, pressuring Kerry to drop his investigation. Nor was it just liberals who defended the old Washington hand--Orrin Hatch verbally attacked Kerry on the Senate floor, insisting that the case was closed and that Kerry was merely grandstanding. One famous story has Kerry and an aide getting into a Capitol Hill elevator, where they were soon joined by an unnamed ranking senator. The senator turned to Kerry and, with just a hair's breadth between them, said, "What are you doing to my friend Clark Clifford?" Clifford himself went so far as to contribute money to Kerry's 1990 campaign; he even appeared, alone and unannounced, at the campaign's victory party. "Of all the races in the country," he told Kerry, "I thought yours was the most important." In the old days, this was all it should have taken to keep a tormentor at bay--nothing explicit, nothing threatening, just a wink and a nudge from a powerful operator.

But that wasn't the case with Kerry. Determined to get to the heart of the matter, he settled on a two-pronged strategy: First, he'd see to it that his committee amassed as much evidence against Clifford as possible. Then, since a Senate committee can't launch criminal proceedings, and since the Justice Department was dragging its feet, Kerry dispatched Blum to New York, where First American was headquartered, to convince District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to press criminal charges.

Kerry finally got Clifford into the hot seat--that is, before his committee--in October 1991, a full three years after the two first met in the senator's office. After fighting the Washington establishment for so long, it would have been reasonable for Kerry to milk the moment for everything it was worth. But by this point Clifford was in his mid eighties and, though healthy mentally, clearly degrading physically. When Clifford stonewalled, claiming he was unable to remember crucial names and dates, Kerry backed off. "He's an old man," he told his incredulous aides, who pleaded with him to move in for the kill. "He couldn't remember. I'm not going to humiliate an old man."


It's an interesting story and certainly expands the portrayal of Kerry beyond the one-dimensional view of him espoused by most of his critics. Perhaps the problem with Kerry is less a lack of principle but more a lack of will. The Clifford affair was over a decade ago and you could rightfully ask, what has he done since?

posted by Aziz P. | 8:58 AM

need to establish a new direction here 

I apologize to you both, TS and Dana. But I'm afraid that your angle on Kerry just doesn't fit with the direction I want to take this blog. The appeal of the Dean campaign has been its idealism and its ability to bring voters into the fold, to make people believe in the process again. The tone I see from the Anybody-But-Kerry crowd is just too disturbingly similar to the Naderite puritanism of 2000 and that's something I simply refuse to be a part of.

This blog is going to be about explaining why Kerry is not as qualified as another Dem candidate to be the Democratic nominee. But it will also be about holding Kerry accountable if he is indeed the nominee. That task requires subtlety and care if we are going to preserve the legacy of Dean's campaign in bringing citizens back into the fold of active participants in their political system.

I'm looking for a pro-Kerry blogger to act as a counterweight and reality check - but no Kool-Aid addicts, please. And I'll expand the blog team with other Dean supporters - and maybe some Clarkies or Edwardites too. What I want is to create an atmosphere of critical but fair review.

posted by Aziz P. | 8:16 AM

Edwards or Clark 

I do NOT neccessarily want Dean to quit the race if he loses Wisconsin. The reason is because Clark and Edwards are directly competing against each other to be the Southern anti-Kerry, but neither is immune to the steamroll effect of the voter ABB desperation than Dean has been thus far. Look at the upcoming races in TN and VA - polls show Kerry is leading in both states, and the Edwards and Clark camps are in direct competition to fight for 2nd place. Dean could have been a contender in VA, but has essentially abandoned his support there. And Dean could have tried to use Gore in TN to try and establish a delegate beachhead. But now it's just Edwards and Clark who are in the running against Kerry there, and Dean has zero momentum going into WI.

Both Edwards and Clark have a win, though Clark is weaker overall since his win in OK was a tight one and he trails Edwards in delegate count. Still, neither of them are anywhere close to Dean in delegates:

Kerry - 409
Dean - 174
Edwards - 116
Clark - 82


TN has 69 delegates tied to the primary, Virginia has 82. It's virtually certain that the lion's share in each case will go to Kerry. So if Edwards and Clark split the two states, it's still unlikely that they can get to seond place in delegate count. And both are running out of resources, not to mention facing seriousquestions about viability in the non-South.

What Dean has to do is look at the outcome of Feb 10th and see which candidate is weaker (probably Clark, who has already considered dropping out anyway). Then offer a VP slot to that candidate and start running as a joint ticket.

Dean/Clark or Dean/Edwards would be a true alternative to Kerry. It would give an immediate momentum boost going into Wisconsin, where the new joint ticket would have a full week to campaign. It would let the VP go negative on Kerry without fear of the Gephardt-Dean-Iowa effect. It would be a huge media story and would deftly solve the electability concerns. Plus it is simple math - you get two for one instead of Kerry/X (insert Special Favors here).

posted by Aziz P. | 8:10 AM

how any presidential candidate can win my immediate support 

by simply issuing a challenge to Bush to answer the following two questions:

Can you give us the names of three National Guard Service colleagues who served with you between May 1972 and October 1973?

If Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons program, why didn't we invade Iraq before Afghanistan? In fact, why would we have to wait until 9/11?

posted by Aziz P. | 7:46 AM

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Character 

Christopher Hitchens on Slate when asked to pick which of the Democrats he'd support:
The only shard of wisdom I have acquired over the years is this: Personalities count for much more than issues. This might not be true in the few remaining countries that have programmatic and parliamentary contests based on competing political manifestos, but it is absolutely true of presidential elections in the United States. The character of the candidate is itself the only "issue," and it is furthermore the only "issue" about which a thinking voter can be expected to make up his or her mind. ... Party-mindedness is an enemy in itself, if only because it makes intelligent people act and think stupidly. But the belief in the candidate's "program" is hardly less of a trap. I hate to say it, but a successful contender for office can change his mind on, say, universal health care. What he cannot change is his personality. If he's a money-grubbing, narcissistic, and approval-seeking psycho at the start, he will not doff these qualities in the Oval Office.


Naturally, I thought that this would turn into a excoriation of Sen. Kerry. Isn't "money-grubbing, narcissistic, and approval-seeking psycho" a pretty good description of Kerry? Well, he seems to have gotten distracted from his thesis, but nonetheless, it got me thinking about character and why it is so important to me as a voter. After my first round of posts, Aziz mentioned that he wanted me to look more at policies and qualifications. Frankly, like many voters, I don't have the time or interest to look up each candidates record and compare the stances on ethanol or how they voted on a bill 15 years ago.

I can however, get a sense of a candidate's character without a subscription to Nexis. It is for this reason that I am against Kerry. It's going to be hard/impossible for a Democratic president to get much legislation through a likely Republican congress, so I weight leadership and character over policy. I would much prefer to see Bush out of office, but I can not in good conscience vote for Kerry because of what I consider to be his extremely questionable character. Listening to him gloat on TV brings to mind something Emerson once said: "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say."

posted by TS | 9:35 PM

Fear Of Belief 

Michael Kinsley's tongue-in-cheek article about how Democrats are shopping for a candidate deserves further scrutiny.

I think that, for most Democrats, it's fairly accurate. What turns them off about Howard Dean is that people believe in him, and he believes in what he says. He is, on the issues, actually to the right of John Kerry. But he's straightforward, and this leads many to equate him with Barry Goldwater.

Kerry is more like Nixon. He's slimy. He puts on beliefs like they were new clothes. He will say and do anything for power. He has proven this, in his 1996 campaign against William Weld, and in the themes he used in his two previous races. He certainly proved it in Iowa. He stayed under the radar, used political pros, conducted "robo-calling" on Dean supporters, and lied through his teeth to win the prize.

To continue the comparison, Kerry's political apotheosis was his work with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. It did the same thing for him that McCarthyism did for Nixon. It cemented his place in the public consciousness. It put him into the game.

What Democrats most want, they say, is a Democrat in the White House. But I think what they really want is someone who will be as ruthless as Bush, as willing to sucker-punch as Bush, as willing to approve dirty tricks as Bush. They don't want Bush beaten -- they want him kicked in the balls and turned into a soprano. And to get this, they're perfectly willing to go with a Soprano.

What Kerry needs to convince me of is, if we can get all that AND Bush, too, why not re-elect Bush? I spent 8 years defending the personal pecadillos of Bill Clinton, and I don't intend to spend the next 8 years defending another sleazebag.

Simply put, if Bush comes up with, say, Rudolph Giuliani or John McCain as his running mate, I'm not certain who I'll vote for. I'd rather have my despotism pure than taken with the base alloy of hypocrisy. I'm not sure their Nixon for our Nixon is much of a trade.

posted by Dana | 1:17 PM

Saturday, February 07, 2004

getting noticed 

Dana's morose post about the Atlanta meetup drew attention from some quarters, as supposed evidence of the deep malaise affecting Dean supporters. However, Atlanta is not exactly representative of the campaign strategy. I submit that the events in Madison are rather more representative.

I also have to take some issue with Kaus's characterization of this blog as "We're not really going to end up with Kerry are we?" - it's more of a "is there any way to avoid Kerry as our nominee?" blog. Maybe not, but I'm still optimistic. Tune back on Feb 18th to see me either arrogant or humiliated depending on events.

posted by Aziz P. | 2:05 PM

truth is always a technicality 

In the morning, [John Kerry] stood at Second Ebenezer Baptist Church in Detroit with more than 50 black clergymen behind him. There, before giving a standard stump speech, Mr. Kerry apologized for missing an N.A.A.C.P. candidates' forum on Thursday night that only the Rev. Al Sharpton attended. Mr. Kerry said he had to campaign instead in Maine, which holds its caucuses on Sunday, "to pay them the same kind of respect I pay you by being here today."

"I just want to tell you head-on, because that's the kind of president you deserve, and that's the kind of person I am," Mr. Kerry said.

In fact, Mr. Kerry had left Maine in early afternoon and spent the evening raising money in New York.


That's the kind of person Kerry is. sigh... (via Ryan)

posted by Aziz P. | 1:58 PM

Michigan caucus sites moved; other sites run out of ballots 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Some voters in Saturday's Democratic presidential caucuses found that their caucus sites had been moved or were out of ballots.

Michigan Democratic Party Executive Chairman Mark Brewer said some caucus sites had to be changed because building landlords decided at the last minute that the caucuses were a political event and they didn't want that in their building.

"This always happens," he said. "Some of these changes occurred literally within the last 24 hours. There was no way to get the word out. So we're doing the best we can. If people call us, we tell them where the new sites are."

He denied accusations from the state directors of Howard Dean and John Edwards' campaigns that the problems were disenfranchising presidential caucus voters.

"You're talking about 1 to 2 percent of 600 caucus sites (being moved) around the state," Brewer said. "Nobody's disenfranchised. ... I think this is much ado about nothing on the part of the Dean campaign."

Edwards state director Derek Albert, however, said most of the moved sites were affecting minority voters and were robbing them of their right to vote.
[...]
Dean state director Daren Berringer said changing polling places at the last minute was hurting voters, especially in low-income areas such as Detroit where people might not have arranged transportation to get to a caucus site outside their neighborhood.

"They're walking to their polling place and they're finding their caucus site has been changed," Berringer said. "The sites in Detroit and Southfield are in minority areas. This is direct voter disenfranchisement."


The logic of the Kerry guy quoted in the article cuts both ways, of course - sure, Dean and Edwards are sensitive to the issue since they are losing. But perhaps Kerry's campaign is dismissive of the serious charge of disenfranchisement because they are winning - and thus, don't have any reason to care.

posted by Aziz P. | 1:30 PM

Friday, February 06, 2004

Rove vs. Rove 

I share Noam Scheiber's admiration for Kerry's rhetorical trick last night on Fox News:

I would defend the president's choice with respect to going into the Guard. I've never made any judgments about any choice somebody made about avoiding the draft, about going to Canada, going to jail, being a conscientious objector, going into the National Guard. Those are choices people make.


As Scheiber notes, this neatly lumps in Bush with draft-dodgers. It also keeps respect for serving in the Guard and leaves the door open to slamming Bush on the issue of going AWOL. It's basically the same kind of tactic that the Bush Administration has been using against their political opponents: smear under the table, shake hands above it. And preserve the option to kick at the shins.

Maybe Kerry is exactly the kind of nominee we need. I'd still rather fight a principled campaign with Dean though - while some argue that the ends justify the means, I personally believe that the means influence the ends.

posted by Aziz P. | 9:01 AM

skeptical, not implacable 

Looks like the blog is getting attention. I should clarify, for both my fellow bloggers and for anyone stumbling across the blog from elsewhere that it is NOT my intent to run an "anti-Kerry" blog here. This blog is intended to be a skeptical look at Kerry, true - but not one that is implacably opposed. Dana and TS have their own opinion which differs from mine, and that's fine. But for me it is indeed all about Anybody But Bush, and I'd like to make a editorial appeal to my fellow bloggers here that we keep things focused on Kerry's qualifications and policy proposals.

posted by Aziz P. | 8:52 AM

Kerry Links of the Day 

In the style of the Note, but without those pesky inside jokes:

Detroit Free Press Editorial on Kerry's role in draining Michigan money for the Big Dig in Boston.

AP investigation into donations made to Kerry right before the donators were appointed to positions of power by the Senator. Doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me, just Washington politics as usual, which may be why it's such a big deal.

posted by TS | 12:35 AM

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Portrait of a Frontrunner 

Didn't think I'd post again so soon, but I ran across this link which was too good to ignore. It may be a bit overly caustic, but I think it provides anecdotal evidence for a lot of the Kerry qualities that turn me off so much about him.

Elitist: Check

Kerry lives in a mansion on Beacon Hill on which he has borrowed $6 million to finance his campaign. A fire hydrant that prevented him and his wife from parking their SUV in front of their tony digs was removed by the city of Boston at his behest. The Kerrys ski at a spa the widow Heinz owns in Aspen, and they summer on Nantucket in a sprawling seaside "cottage" on Hurlbert Avenue, which is so well-appointed that at a recent fund-raiser, they imported porta-toilets onto the front lawn so the donors wouldn't use the inside bathrooms. (They later claimed the decision was made on septic, not social, considerations).

Lack of Substance: Check

In the Senate, his record of his constituent services has been lackluster, and most of his colleagues, despite their public support, are hard-pressed to list an accomplishment. Just last fall, a Boston TV reporter ambushed three congressmen with the question, name something John Kerry has accomplished in Congress. After a few nervous giggles, two could think of nothing, and a third mentioned a baseball field, and then misidentified Kerry as "Sen. Kennedy."

Arrogance: Check

ONE of the surest ways to get the phones ringing on any Massachusetts talk-radio show is to ask people to call in and tell their John Kerry stories. The phone lines are soon filled, and most of the stories have a common theme: our junior senator pulling rank on one of his constituents, breaking in line, demanding to pay less (or nothing) or ducking out before the bill arrives.

"Do you know who I am?" Apparently the Democratic voters don't... yet.

posted by TS | 1:35 PM

ABK 

Hi everyone. I'm new to the blogosphere as a participant, but I'm a longtime blog enthusiast. Aziz kindly invited me to share my views on the cadaver, errr... John F. Kerry. To be fair, post botox, he looks more like a muppet than cadaver, his face may be lifted but it's not any more full of life. Anyway, I feel somewhat qualified to comment on the junior senator from Massachusetts because I grew up in the Bay State where I developed a strong distate for the man who's name has become synonymous with political expediency. I'll be sharing my views more over the next few weeks in an effort to convince the people of the 41 states (and D.C) who have not yet voted that they will end up regretting a any vote for Kerry.

There's an interesting summary of the race so far by Michael Kinsley of Slate linked above. In it he writes:

Some Democrats cheated and looked into their hearts, where they found Howard Dean. But he was so appealing that he scared them. This is no moment to vote for a guy just because he inspires you, they thought. If he inspires me, there must be something wrong with him. So, Democrats looked around and rediscovered John Kerry. He'd been there all along, inspiring almost no one. You're not going to find John Kerry inspiring unless you're married to him or he literally saved your life. Obviously neither of those is a strategy that can be rolled out on a national level. But he's got the résumé. And gosh, he sure looks like a president (an "animatronic Lincoln," as my Slate colleague Mickey Kaus uncharitably described him).


In my opinion, America deserves better than this. And this.

At this point, I haven't made up my mind who to support. Dean seems to have passion and backbone. Edwards seems sincere and energetic. Clark hasn't done too much for me, but for my money, any of those options are better than Kerry.

Sen. Kerry seems to have become a poet on the stump lately. In that case, I have a couplet for him. "Make my day, and vote ABK."

posted by TS | 12:41 PM

It's not over, Dana 

I admit that the simple fact that I've even begun a Kerry blog is a tacit recognition that Dean's chances of winning the nod are substantially diminished. But it isn't over until the people of Wisconsin speak their mind on Feb 17th - and Dean has done the responsible thing by drawing his line there. The route to the Dean nomination lies through Madison.

Frankly, historical comparisons are worthless. That's especially true when predicting the future! The thing to ask is whether Dean is the candidate we want or the candidate we need. I believe it's both, but the qualification for the latter will be proven false by the simple act of losing. If that happens, I intend to fall in line, and I'm going to change the direction of this blog from skeptic to committed supporter. But I do honestly have faith that this will not come to pass.

There is one thing that I will save for Dean Nation though that I think can turn things around for Dean. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: ok, take a look at this post at Dean Nation: after (winning) Wisconsin

posted by Aziz P. | 10:16 AM

Dean's legacy 

The Kerry campaign, which includes several veterans of the Dukakis campaign, says it will not make the mistakes of 1988, when Mr. Dukakis was widely seen as too passive in the face of the attacks. "We welcome a debate with the likes of Ed Gillespie, Karl Rove and this White House about who's out of sync with Main Street America," said David Wade, a Kerry spokesman.

"Their tired old G.O.P. attack dog just won't hunt," Mr. Wade said, adding that Republicans would be running against "a Democrat who fought for his country in war, put criminals behind bars as a prosecutor, stood up for balanced budgets in the Senate," and "kept faith with America's veterans."

Another Kerry adviser was more blunt. "This is not the Dukakis campaign," the adviser said. "We're not going to take it. And if they're going to come at us with stuff, whatever that stuff may be, if it goes to a place where the '88 campaign did, then everything is on the table. Everything."


As I blogged yesterday, I am pleased to see Kerry fighting back. It's ironic that Dean couldn't carry this line of critique against Bush, but the sole reason Kerry is doing so is because of Dean.

posted by Aziz P. | 10:08 AM

It's Over, Aziz 

I won't post this on a Howard Dean blog. It's far too sad.

I went to the Atlanta meet-up yesterday. It was at Manuel's Tavern, a politician's hang-out that was so full of Deaniacs some months ago the event had to be moved.

This one was half-empty. It was a morgue. Some Superior Court judge made a pitch for our votes, saying nothing, as judges must. He was black. He was boring. He took all the air out of the room. I was embarrassed to be there.

The lady running the event tried to put the best face on things. She said we had changed the party.

Then someone else stood up and reminded us this would be the last Dean Meetup, that the Georgia primary is on March 2.

And everyone went home. A few stayed for an Irish wake, drowning their sorrows in beer. But most just left.

This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

posted by Dana | 6:52 AM

Goldwater, Nixon 


In the 1960s, the GOP was where Democrats are now.

They felt sure they had a case to make in 1962, but in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis they actually lost ground in Congress. They also lost in governorships. Richard Nixon famously said "you won't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore."

Out of that rubble came a leader of rare ideological vision. His name was Barry Goldwater. He told conservatives to take over their party. He told his party it must have backbone, that if it didn't stand for something it would stand for anything.

He was nominated. He was crushed. Vietnam casualties were still modest. Lyndon Johnson had the Camelot afterglow going for him. Goldwater won just five states. But he did take over the party.



By 1968 Nixon was back, but this was the New Nixon. This was a Nixon using Goldwater's mojo. This was also a lucky Nixon -- Reagan didn't get in until it was too late. By combining the far-right revolt of Wallace with his own base, Nixon created a political realignment we still live with today.

I once wrote that Howard Dean has a lot in common with Goldwater. Well, John Kerry has a lot in common with Nixon.

And, I'm trying to put the best face on this, maybe history is moving faster now. Bush is becoming less popular by the day. He is even alienating his base with his deficits. Suddenly, what looked like a walk is looking like a walk to the gallows.

So Kerry has done to Dean what Nixon did to Goldwater. He played hardball. He co-opted the message, and played the "electability" card.

Democrats have bought it.

Can he win? I don't think so. There's no Wallace to siphon off the majority's votes. And we should remember, also, where Nixon led us.

If Kerry is our Nixon, even victory will taste sour. Nixon wound up as the apotheosis of liberalism. It was Nixon who created the EPA, the CPSC, and OSHA, Nixon who appointed Harry Blackmun to the Supreme Court, and Nixon who nearly destroyed his party on the back of his own paranoia. (Thank God for Goldwater's vision, conservatives would say, and Ronald Reagan.)

History doesn't repeat itself. Cycles do. Dilemmas do. Patterns do. History does not. But I was a Republican once, in my extreme youth, and with President Kerry I can be a Republican again.

posted by Dana | 6:45 AM

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Underground Machine 

When I'm working, it's as a business strategist.

And while the "big story" in the world of business is the rise of the World Wide Web, there's another side that sheds light on what is happening today.

I learned this doing a strategy report for Company A. Company A was a big company, a leader in its market, but it was being hammered by Company B.

I found out why. While Company A did everything above-board and ethically, Company B did not. Company B put out products based on "standards" that had not been implemented. It forced customers to sign "non-disclosure agreements," then laid out a go-to-market strategy that was tailored to their needs. By the time it detailed its products on its Web site, it had already sewn up the market.

This, in a word, was what Kerry did in Iowa. While Dean was doing everything publicly, online, Kerry's operatives were working under-the-surface. He put professionals into every caucus, he quietly got a chemical facelift, and he delivered a public image that, while shallow, was simple, safe, and attractive. Meanwhile his people were putting the shiv in, out of sight.

Kerry stole the caucus, and then he stole our issues. He stole our stump speech. He stole our voters. Our strategy became his strategy and, as we see, it's working beautifully.

But it started by working in secret. It started underground. By the time it reached the public's attention (or that of the Dean campaign) it was two days before Iowa, too late to do much about it. And, just as Dean anticipated, that Iowa momentum became a runaway freight train.

Morality, ethics, and an above-board mentality are not what win, in business or in politics. It takes ruthlessness, a willingness to go for the jugular, unless a revolution is truly in the air.

And in 2004, perhaps, it wasn't.

posted by Dana | 8:20 AM

Tom Dewey 



I've been looking for an analog in America's political history to John Kerry. They are all losers.

But the man at right is the best of them, Thomas E. Dewey of New York.

Dewey seemed like the perfect candidate to take the Democrats down. As with Kerry he fit a profile, incorruptible at a time when Republicans were still associated with the corruption of the 1920s. And while he claimed Republican principles, he was always willing to bend them.

He looked unbeatable. He won nomination easily in 1948, for the second time, and was heavily favored against Harry Truman, Dean's hero.

As we know, he lost. Why? It was because voters saw his principles were something he put on like a suit of clothes. He was memorialized, in the end, as the kind of Republican a Democrat could love, father of the New York Thruway and the State University of New York.

I wish Kerry had those credentials, but he is a different man built for a different age. His inherent corruption is, I think, part of his attractiveness -- a brutal, cynical pol to fight the Republican Machine.

But in the end an echo never works. You must have issues. There must be a THERE there. And the THERE must be different from what the other side offers, not a pale imitation.

That is precisely what Governor Dean offers. He's a choice, not an echo, even though on many issues he is to the RIGHT of Kerry. But, because he is forceful, because we are fervent, he is not seen that way.

God help this country, and its Democratic Party, because they're going down.

posted by Dana | 8:10 AM

fight back 

Jonathan Alter points out that Kerry is positioning himself strongly against Bush with regard to the AWOL/military issue. I have to admit that the line is compelling:

When I asked Kerry why the Republicans wouldn't do to him what they had done to Cleland, he said that Cleland failed to fight back against attack ads, a mistake he wouldn't make. Cleland himself has learned his lesson and is now going preemptive on behalf of his man Kerry. While he challenged Michael Moore's claim that Bush was a "deserter" during Vietnam, Cleland did argue to me that "Bush was AWOL and was kicked out of the Alabama National Guard" when he worked on a Senate campaign instead of fulfilling the second year of his guard duties.

The Bush camp denies this, noting that the young guardsman received an honorable discharge. But even if Cleland turns out to be wrong (the facts are hazy and inconclusive), the dustup symbolizes the determination of Democrats to match the GOP blow for blow. Anyone who tries to make Kerry look soft will get an earful not just about Bush but Dick Cheney, who escaped the draft because he said he "had other priorities" during Vietnam. Raising this doesn't win many votes. But it might make it at least a little harder to depict the Democrats as girly-men who won't keep us safe, the not-so-subtle subtext of the GOP campaign.
[...]
The aim is muscular liberalism, an effort to "de-Dukakisize" the man who once served as Michael Dukakis's lieutenant governor. In 1988 it was Dukakis who looked silly in a tank. This time Kerry shivs Bush for "playing dress-up aboard an aircraft carrier" and builds his stump speech around the idea that the only ones with their "Mission Accomplished" are wealthy special interests coddled by the president. His attack on "Benedict Arnold CEOs" who get tax breaks to move jobs offshore is always a crowd pleaser. And he's already clocking Bush for trying to cut combat pay and veterans' benefits in wartime.


Admittedly it is almost impossible for Howard Dean to gain the same kind of traction against the "weak liberal" line of attack, and Clark has been essentially silent about this. So Kerry is taking the fight to Bush in a unique way.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:02 AM

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Where Do We Go From Here? 


Where do we go from here?
This isn't where we intended to be
We had it all you believed in me
I believed in you

Certainties disappear
What do we do for our dream to survive?
How do we keep all our passions alive
As we used to do?

Deep in my heart I'm concealing
Things that I'm longing to say
Scared to confess what I'm feeling
Frightened you'll slip away

You must love me



I don't know the answer to the question above. No one knows.

We do know the field is being winnowed down, as Roy Neel predicted a week ago, and so far we haven't been winnowed away.

But the failure in North Dakota rankles. The possibility of a close finish in New Mexico doesn't make up for losing big in Arizona. We were way under the "Mendoza Line" of 10% in too-many states. We didn't even have Joe-mentum in some, and Joe's now gone.

A lot depends on whether we can get folks in Maine and Washington and Michigan to give us another look. Kerry's support will be falling, that of Edwards will be rising. Both will come under greater scrutiny. The press will try to cut us more breaks, to keep the story going.

Will some money keep us from stalling?

If we can't get a W in our column by Wisconsin on February 17, it will be time to ask "what went wrong." If that is the case here is my answer.

We scared people. We didn't just scare Republicans. We scared Democrats. We turned this race into Dean (and Us) vs. the World, and the World won. We did it on the blog, we did it on the phone, we did it in person. We became a cult, a political religion. Skeptics joked that supporters "drank the Kool-Aid," alluding the the Jonestown massacre, and maybe they were right.

But in terms of history, and in terms of policy, let me say this. We were right. Absolutely right. On nearly every issue. On the war, on the deficit, on health care. And we had the right candidate, a true Reformer With Results.

Instead, Democrats may face a choice between two losers, John Kerry and John Edwards. Of the two, I prefer Edwards. I don't trust Kerry any further than I can throw him. A Democratic Party that nominates that scumbag as its candidate is not a party I wish to belong to.

But Edwards is no bargain, either. He is not running for Senate because he can't win North Carolina. What does that tell you? All his money comes from trial lawyers -- think you can sell that? And, most important, he will be naked in front of the Bush $200 million advertising firing squad, under literal house arrest, with Bush Family lawyers making sure he can't even pay his ISP bill.

One more tentative conclusion, then I won't ask anymore. If we go down (and that is not yet certain) it is partly because the Internet has not yet matured. New technologies take time to filter through the mass market, and impact politics for real. Newspapers as we know them date from the 1880s, but they didn't drive policy until the Spanish-American War. Radio delivered the 1920 election results, but it was Franklin Roosevelt who mastered the medium, in the 1930s. TV appeared in time for the 1948 election cycle, but TV didn't drive the race until 1960.

In terms of technology acceptance, this is 1956, and we pushed too hard. For that, God have mercy on our poor country.

posted by Dana | 6:39 PM

Cowardice 

Let's be clear as to why the Democratic Establishment is backing John F. Kerry.

Cowardice.

It's not that they don't have ideals. They're just afraid of standing up for them.

So Kerry is the perfect candidate, Bob Dole for the Vietnam Generation. One more mission, down in flames.

Kerry's entire public career has been played on the defensive. He has profited mightily for being against, and has gone through half a lifetime without building anything.

Look at the record. After serving as Dukakis' Lieutenant Governor he rode his boss' reputation into the Senate. As the Boston Globe noted about his Senate campaigns:

In his first two Senate campaigns, Kerry had walked over fairly light Republican opposition, millionaire businessmen Raymond Shamie in 1984 and Rappaport in 1990. He'd dispatched Shamie by painting him as a conservative extremist. Rappaport's challenge was waylaid by Kerry's clever television ads that ridiculed the Republican's past residency in Hawaii and questioned his business dealings.


And when he faced a real challenge, against William Weld in 1996, he cheated.

The candidates made a personal pledge to each other to abide by a cap on overall spending and media costs. They also agreed not to spend more than $500,000 in personal wealth. But in the final weeks, with Weld outspending Kerry, the incumbent blew off the cap, mortgaged the Beacon Hill townhouse he jointly owned with his wife, and poured $1.7 million into his campaign kitty. He claimed Weld was buying more media time than their agreement allowed, but there was scant evidence to back that up.


Every Kerry campaign has been marked by the same things -- personal attacks, skirting of rules where pressed, ambition without substance. There is growing evidence he has done just that to Howard Dean, to us. And I take it personally.

Why this instead of Dean? Why this Potemkin Man, this Democratic Nixon, instead of an honest, principled, even more conservative (in the best sense of that term) get-it-done Governor, Howard Dean?

I don't think it has anything to do with Dean. It has nothing to do with Kerry, either. Had Gephardt won in Iowa, they would be lining up for him. Same for Edwards. Same for Clark. If Edwards or Clark dents Kerry, they will line up with them. Most Democrats are ABB, Anybody But Bush. Democratic leaders are ABD, Anybody But Dean.

What are they afraid of?

They're afraid of us. They're afraid of our belief. They're afraid that, if Dean wins and we look under the carpet of the Democratic National Committee, we'll find a mob of Kerrys, pols whose principles are just things they put on for the cameras, careerists married (in fact) only to their own ambitions, desperate men (and women) addicted, not to the ideals of America, but to power, and the pursuit of power.

They're afraid we will learn that the Democratic Party is, in fact, no different than the Republican Party, deep down.

And in that they are right.

posted by Dana | 11:14 AM

symbolic, not pragmatic 

Matt points out something in Kerry's record worth admiring. True, he didn't support a ridiculous bill signed by a Democratic President that slammed the door on recognition civil unions, not just marriage, at the federal level. I don't think people should be rewarded for just doing their job, however. They should be rewarded for taking a real stand - an act of political courage. Kerryhad real courage under fire and after the Vietnam War, when as a young 28 year old veteran he faced down the most powerful politicans on the Hill and accused them of devaluing the sacrifice of American patriots by sending them to die without just cause. The Kerry of the past decade seems to prefer symbolic protest votes - when he votes at all - than to those that have real import. Supporting Bush on the Iraq war, in my opinion, negates his Vietnam activism.

If 28-year old veteran Kerry could meet aged Senator Kerry today, what words would be exchanged?

posted by Aziz P. | 10:31 AM

plus ça change 

Kerry isn't as much a hypocrite as he is blind to the nature of politics, swimming in its main currents as he has done for so long. I am sure that Kerry actually believes his own rhetoric:

“The new Bush budget is more of the same: record deficits, tax cuts for the wealthy and special interests, and cuts in areas that matter to families - such as health care and education.
[...]
“The Bush budget also includes more secrecy on behalf of special interests. For months the Bush Administration has kept it secret that their Medicare special interest giveaway bill costs $135 billion more than they told us. They are spending even more money than we thought for HMOS and pharmaceutical companies.

“I have a plan that will cut special interests out, cut the deficit in half, cut the cost of prescription drugs and make investments in health care and education. If we take on the special interests, we can restore an economy that works for America's workers.”


Special interests, special interests, special interests. Kerry seems genuinely unaware of the ludicrousness of critiquing Bush from this angle. As Dean points out, Kerry was AWOL for 36 of the 38 votes on the Medicare bill, yet suddenly he is the champion of the people against the Special Interests? Dean's statement cuts right to the point:

"This is a pattern for John Kerry on the campaign trail, he criticizes the Medicare bill after he skipped 36 of the 38 votes on that bill. He criticizes the war in Iraq after he voted for it. He criticizes the No Child Left Behind Act after he voted for it. And he pledges to end the grip the special interest lobbyists have on Washington after he took more money from them than any of his colleagues in the Senate.

"We need to nominate a Democrat who will stand up for what is right when it counts, not when it is convenient."


I'm skeptical that Kerry even understands this line of criticism, let alone being able to embody the its voice.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:56 AM

Why blog about Kerry? 

I support Howard Dean as the Democratic nominee for President in 2004.

John Kerry is of interest to me because 1. he might turn out to be the nominee despite my ongoing best efforts, and 2. because his candidacy affects that of Howard Dean. I don't want to blog about Kerry - positive or negative - on a Dean blog because it's literally off-topic, though Kerry is relevant to the larger theme of Anybody But Bush for the two reasons stated.

What I intend to achieve with this blog is invite people who support Kerry, and try to establish a record of Kerry's campaign that asks critical questions. This is not an echo chamber, any more than Dean Nation has been. I don't want to attack Kerry - I believe that he is as electable (but not more so) than any other Democratic candidate (aside from Sharpton). I want to critique Kerry on fair grounds as to why he shouldn't be the nominee, and I hope that I can lure Kerry supporters to defend him on those same grounds. But we won't be "doing Karl Rove's work for him" around here. Or drinking any Kool Aid, I hope.

Let's see where this leads.

posted by Aziz P. | 7:10 AM