Monday, March 29, 2004
Kerry has been dutifully playing attack ads in a similar strategy, but the problem is that he hasn't defined himself, to offer a counter-narrative to the Bush one. This article in the WaPo takes Kerry to task on these grounds:
As the general election begins and Democrats play to a broader audience, Kerry is under pressure to define himself clearly and to offer voters a post-Clinton blueprint for a Democratic presidency.
"My greatest worry about the Kerry candidacy is that the competence and confidence it's demonstrated early on in rapid reaction to news of the day will come at the expense of an organized and systematic effort to tell the American people what John Kerry would do as president of the United States," said William Galston, a University of Maryland professor and former Clinton domestic adviser. "By the end of the campaign, if people can't spontaneously name two or three things that are big things that he would do differently, then I think the campaign will not have succeeded in getting across the whole message."
I tend to agree with Ezra that Kerry needs to delegate defending himself against the Bush attacks to a "shadow cabinet" of prominent Democrats. The advantage of this is that it frees Kerry to entirely focus on what he would do / why a Kerry Presidency would be different, and thus rise above the partisan pray (just as Bush has done). After all, there's only one Kerry with finite time to campaign, so his time is better spent on the positive and leaving the negative to surrogates.
Friday, March 26, 2004the following would be interpreted by the GOP logic used against Kerry.
WASHINGTON – John Kerry, promising to create 10 million jobs and keep them in America, said Friday he would cut corporate taxes by 5 percent and eliminate tax loopholes that push jobs overseas.
The plan would face a series of obstacles should the Massachusetts senator defeat President Bush in November, starting with politically powerful corporations that benefit from the overseas tax breaks he wants to scrap.
Kerry also may be second-guessed by Democrats who would prefer to transfer his plan's savings to more targeted jobs initiatives or programs that benefit middle-class voters.
But he settled on a blend of loophole-cutting populism and business-friendly moderation, casting his package as jobs-producing tax reform. Polls show jobs are the top issue with most voters, and Kerry is viewed as best suited to improve the economy. Terrorism is the No. 2 issue, and most voters say they trust Bush most to protect the nation.
"John Kerry's plan to reshuffle the corporate tax code does nothing to help America's small businesses and entrepreneurs be more competitive," Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt said.
Hello, you want to help small business? Lift the burden of health care from their backs by providing single-payer. That will free up more capital, generate more entrepeneurship, and have an immediate boost on jobs. I'd like to see a conservative economist I respect critique my logic, I think it would be a good debate.
Tuesday, March 23, 2004full text of Kerry's speech outlining his approach to the War on Terror is on the official campaign website. But the central point is this:
I do not fault George Bush for doing too much in the War on Terror; I believe he’s done too little.
The revelations by Richard Clarke that the Administration ignored terror prior to 9-11, and fixated on Iraq after 9-11, have supported Kerry's claim. Of course, the more important question is, what would Kerry do differently? Kerry makes his case first by pointing out that he would retain - and use - the option of force at the sole discretion of the United States without limitation by other governments:
If I am Commander-in-Chief, I would wage that war by putting in place a strategy to win it.
We cannot win the War on Terror through military power alone. If I am President, I will be prepared to use military force to protect our security, our people, and our vital interests.
But the fight requires us to use every tool at our disposal. Not only a strong military – but renewed alliances, vigorous law enforcement, reliable intelligence, and unremitting effort to shut down the flow of terrorist funds.
To do all this, and to do our best, demands that we work with other countries instead of walking alone. For today the agents of terrorism work and lurk in the shadows of 60 nations on every continent. In this entangled world, we need to build real and enduring alliances.
Allies give us more hands in the struggle, but no President would ever let them tie our hands and prevent us from doing what must be done. As President, I will not wait for a green light from abroad when our safety is at stake. But I will not push away those who can and should share the burden.
The rhetorical position of reserving the option of unilateralism while seeking multilateralism is frankly a difficult one to articulate. It's probably impossible to avoid being misrepresented as "Kerry gives the UN a veto over American defense.
Ultimately, what are needed are specific details, not general guidelines. First, Kerry will strengthen the military - though I would prefer he use the word "rebuild" :
The next President must ensure that our forces are structured for maximum effectiveness and provided with all that they need to succeed in their missions. We must better prepare our forces for post-conflict operations and the task of building stability by adding more engineers, military police, psychological warfare personnel, and civil affairs teams.
And to replenish our overextended military, as President, I will add 40,000 active-duty Army troops, a temporary increase likely to last the remainder of the decade.
I have a feeling that this will make Phil Carter very happy :) Phil has long been an advocate of increasing the number of Military Police MPs) especially in light of the increased duty of nation-building that our troops are being asked to undertake.
Next, Kerry focuses on intelligence capabilities, making a fairly controversial statement:
Second, if I am President I will strengthen the capacity of intelligence and law enforcement at home and forge stronger international coalitions to provide better information and the best chance to target and capture terrorists even before they act.
But the challenge for us is not to cooperate abroad; it is to coordinate here at home. Whether it was September 11th or Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, we have endured unprecedented intelligence failures. We must do what George Bush has refused to do – reform our intelligence system by making the next Director of the CIA a true Director of National Intelligence with real control of intelligence personnel and budgets. We must train more analysts in languages like Arabic. And we must break down the old barriers between national intelligence and local law enforcement.
Many would argue that the barriers between local law enforcement and national intelligence exist for a good reason. They are right, but this isn't a simple black and white issue. Kerry himself was investigated by the FBI during Vietnam for excercising is free speech, by President Nixon, so it's safe to assume he is sensitive to the potential for abuse.
I think that there's ample reason to be optimistic that the increased capabilities he describes won't be abused without attracting the notice of the civil liberties watchdogs - made far more effecient and effective thanks to the Patriot Act advocacy. I am currently not as concerned about the Patriot Act as I am about the creation of the "enemy combatant" precedent which allows the government to incarcerate citizens without due process - that's an executive branch excess as far as I am awar of and not a problem rooted in the Patriot Act itself. Kerry's failure to mention the case of Jose Padilla for example is troubling.
Next, Kerry focuses on the money trail:
Third, we must cut off the flow of terrorist funds. In the case of Saudi Arabia, the Bush Administration has adopted a kid-glove approach to the supply and laundering of terrorist money. If I am President, we will impose tough financial sanctions against nations or banks that engage in money laundering or fail to act against it. We will launch a "name and shame" campaign against those that are financing terror. And if they do not respond, they will be shut out of the U.S. financial system.
The problem with Saudi is that there are high-level actors there who are at the root of funding for terror and who still remain untouched by the government. Dan Darling has made an extensive case for the failure of the Saudi government to perform with due diligence on the matter. However, I am not convinced as Kerry seems to be that sanction against the Saudis will work, because their fear of destabilization from within is stronger, and we will always need some of the kid-gloves approach given their ability to affect the oil market (even if we were 100% independent of Saudi imports). Whether the Bush Administration is excessively kid-gloved, I am unqualified to comment upon.
A better solution with Saudi is to try and innoculate them against the religious fundamentalists within, by working with them on ther own counter-terror programs. But that's really a separate issue. The main gist of Kerry's program is the "name and shame" strategy and subsequent isolation from the US financial system - both long-overdue ideas which the Bush Administration does not seem willing to entertain.
Finally, Kerry focuses in the "root cause" of WMD:
Fourth, because finding and defeating terrorist groups is a long-term effort, we must act immediately to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. I propose to appoint a high-level Presidential envoy empowered to bring other nations together to secure and stop the spread of these weapons. We must develop common standards to make sure dangerous materials and armaments are tracked, accounted for, and secured. Today, parts of Russia’s vast nuclear arsenal are easy prey for those offering cash to scientists and security forces who too often are under-employed and under-paid. If I am President, I will expand the Nunn/Lugar program to buy up and destroy the loose nuclear materials of the former Soviet Union and to ensure that all of Russia’s nuclear weapons and materials are out of the reach of terrorists and off the black market.
That the Bush Administration has actually cut funding for this goal is astounding. It's far more important than national missile defense (a program I'd like to see Kerry repudiate).
There is actually more, including a critique of Bush for insufficient funding for homeland defense. Overall, though, it's the direction I feel we need to go.
Together, McCain, Hagel, Clarke and O'Neill, wittingly or not, are helping Kerry undercut Bush's chief reelection message: that America is safer with this president in charge, GOP and Democratic strategists say.
Republicans are unintentionally assisting Kerry on the domestic front, too. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and other congressional conservatives are accusing Bush of driving up deficits, a top Kerry campaign message, and misleading the country about the cost of the new Medicare law, another Kerry target. Kerry's campaign is circulating Flake's recent remark that Congress would not have passed the Bush Medicare law if members had been told of its projected cost. The Office of Management and Budget estimated the law would cost about $130 billion more than advertised, but those numbers were kept secret until well after the House passed the legislation by one vote. The flap over the Medicare number threatens to turn the law into a campaign liability for Bush.
Yesterday, Bush's new assault on Kerry's spending for his proposals prompted Democrats to highlight the large number of Republicans and conservative groups that have chided the president for his record-setting spending.
Monday, March 22, 2004Via Liberal Oasis:
No I don’t [agree Kerry is soft on defense].
And I tend to agree with John McCain on this, the facts just don’t measure the rhetoric.
You can take a guy like John Kerry who’s been in the Senate for 19 years, and go through that voting record -- you can take it with Biden, Hagel, any of us -- and pick out different votes, and then try to manufacture something around that.
Hagel has long been willing to criticize the Administration on matters of principle, most recently over the attempt by the White House to appoint Justin Raimondo as manufacturing czar, but also in the past about the WMD claims. S.1689), but co-sponsored an amendment with Senator Joe Biden (S.AMDT.1796) and several others that would have helped fund the reconstruction by suspending some of the Bush tax cuts for the highest rate taxpayers.
When that amendment was rejected, Kerry voted against the final bill, because supporting it under those circumstances was to ignore theequally important issue of fiscal responsibility. The Congress should not be a blank check and rubber stamp for the President with which to wage war - the Congress holds the purse strings and has a responsibility to ensure that the concentrated power of the Executive is balanced by the distributed power of the people.
Thursday, March 18, 2004this is great, but why are the actual Democrats MIA?
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday he did not believe Democratic candidate John Kerry, a friend and Senate colleague, was weak on defense or would compromise national security if elected president...
"This kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice," McCain said on "The Early Show" on CBS. "You know, it's the most bitter and partisan campaign that I've ever observed. I think it's because both parties are going to their bases rather than going to the middle. I regret it"...
"The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security," Cheney said in a speech Wednesday.
Asked on NBC's "Today" if he thought Kerry was weak on defense, McCain said: "No, I do not believe that he is, quote, weak on defense. He's responsible for his voting record, as we are all responsible for our records, and he'll have to explain it. But, no, I do not believe that he is necessarily weak on defense. I don't agree with him on some issues, clearly. But I decry this negativism that's going on on both sides. The American people don't need it."
When asked on "The Early Show" if Kerry's election would compromise national security, McCain responded: "I don't think that -- I think that John Kerry is a good and decent man. I think he has served his country."
McCain is a decent man. He's wrong on some issues, but he clearly is taking a stand.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Monday, March 15, 2004real pandering lie, not a nuanced position:
"I'm pretty tough on Castro, because I think he's running one of the last vestiges of a Stalinist secret police government in the world,'' Kerry told WPLG-ABC 10 reporter Michael Putney in an interview to be aired at 11:30 this morning.
Then, reaching back eight years to one of the more significant efforts to toughen sanctions on the communist island, Kerry volunteered: "And I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him."
—Peter Wallsten, "Kerry Stances on Cuba Open to Attack," in the March 14 Miami Herald
Kerry actually voted against the Helms-Burton bill, and later tried to qualify by justifying his vote agains the final passage because there were some things added that he didn't like.
I don't see the lie as any more malicious than a given lie by President Bush - both men seem to honestly believe what they say when they say it. I suspect that Kersimply assumed he had voted for the bill because he agreed with the original intent, and wanted to press his point so badly that he didn't bother with simple due diligence.
He'd better stop. I don't know what it is about the Cuban American community that makes Democrats collapse into withering piles of jello to try and appease them - Gore did something quite similar as I recall back during the 2000 election, also widely seen as pandering for pure political reasons.
The incident reveals Kerry's instinct to try and minimize risk - I wonder if he gets burned like this enough times, will the risk-aversion train him to stop? Let's hope so. The entire flap was especially pointless given that Kerry is leading Bush in Florida polling.
Friday, March 12, 2004
Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years -- would have "gutted" intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting.
The $1.5 billion cut Kerry proposed represented about the same amount Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), then chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told the Senate that same day he wanted cut.
Bush, not Kerry, is soft on defense - because Bush cuts money for Homeland Security, and because no one has STILL been held accountable for the intelligence failures of 9-11.
Thursday, March 11, 2004blatant stereotyping of Arabs as terrorists in Bush's new 100 Days attack ad against John Kerry probably seemed likea good idea at the time, especially since the non-Arabs who share offense at this (like me) are also not likely to be Bush voters come November.
However, this ad does give Kerry an opening. After all, Bush himself appears as is required by law to personally "approve" this message. The headline should be clear: BUSH APPROVES OF RACIAL PROFILING.
That headline alone will set off alarm bells in the Hispanic community.
And wouldn't that be a great subliminal reminder to conservatives about how much they hate Bush's proposed immigration plan?
UPDATE: Just in time for the Arab-American tracking poll to be released tomorrow...
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
BUSH: I think the thing that discouraged me about the vice president was uttering those famous words, "no controlling legal authority." I felt like that there needed to be a better sense of responsibility of what was going on in the White House.
I believe that -- I believe they've moved that sign, "The buck stops here," from the Oval Office desk to "The buck stops here" on the Lincoln Bedroom. And that's not good for the country. It's not right.
-- George W. Bush, during the October 2000 Presidential Debate
Keep that in mind when reading this story today - Bush Fundraisers among Overnight Guests:
President Bush opened the White House and Camp David to dozens of overnight guests last year, including foreign dignitaries, family friends and at least nine of his biggest campaign fund-raisers, documents show.
In all, Bush and first lady Laura Bush have invited at least 270 people to stay at the White House and at least the same number to overnight at the Camp David retreat since moving to Washington in January 2001, according to lists the White House provided The Associated Press.
Some guests spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom, historic quarters that gained new fame in the Clinton administration amid allegations that Democrats rewarded major donors like Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand with accommodations there.
Let's circumvent the obvious response from Bush apologists right off - "the other guy did it too" is not an adequate explanation when discussing matters of ethics. However, what makes this newsworthy is the fact that Bush went to such pains to establish himself as averse to rewarding donors with overnight stays in the white house, and the insanely over-wrought moral crusade that the GOP launched trying to paint the fact that the practice occurred during the Clinton Administration as evidence of a deep moral decay.
Bush put himself atop a pedestal of ethics via his rhetoric. And now by his actions, he has revealed once again that he is willing to say anything to buttress the image he has cultivated of himself as a righteous force in politics.
Bush himself castigated Gore for the supposed ethical lapse of the Clinton Administration - and then when it was his turn, embraced the same behavior. While Bush and Clinton are both guilty (or innocent) of an ethics lapse regarding the Lincoln bedroom, only Bush is a hypocrite on this matter.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
The Senator's only real sin of nuance, however, is to do what every other Senator -- and every member of every legislative body throughout the world -- does on a regular basis: vote for some complicated pieces of legislation without approving of every single provision each bill contains.
Frankly I prefer a leader who evaluates facts and makes decisions on te merits rather than simple ideological tests. And more to the point, it is very difficult to extrapolae a complete world-view from a legislative voting record, for precisely the reason Matt says above. Each bill contains a vast number of issues, and thus you could concevably construct an entire record of flip-flops based on tangential issues attached to major bills.
The only positions that matter are Kerry's policy position papers as a Presidential candidate. Yes the legislative record is useful, but more to evaluate Kerry's thought process than his core beliefs.
UPDATE: Liberal Oasis points out that the main attack on Kerry will be along these lines. And has good advice to the campaign for accentuating why nuance is good and ideology is bad (as Clark brilliantly emphasised on CNN on Kerry's behalf).
Monday, March 08, 2004Tom Brokaw was a credible choice for Veep? well... after doing some cursory research into his biography, suddenly I think so too. Brokaw is retiring from his anchor position at NBC and at age 63 is still not too old to switch careers.
Reading over the transcript of Brokaw's moderation of the Iowa Debate, I come away impressed. Even the Village Voice grudgingly admitted that Brokaw did his job well, asking tough questions all around.
I was fascinated to find out that Brokaw dropped in unannounced to the Dean campaign headquarters the day before the Iowa caucuses, to chat with Trippi. A recent Q&A with Brokaw by the CJR asked him about his plans after retiring from NBC, and he also had some comments about Dean's campaign:
The mainstream media initially missed the strength of Howard Dean’s campaign. Was that because Dean was succeeding through the Internet — or because Dean’s message was so strongly antiwar, and the conventional wisdom at the time was that such a message was suicide?
I think it was a combination of those things. I also don’t think that you can discount the tepid response of Dean’s opposition to his early gains — it gave him running room in a way that not even Dean could have anticipated. But this speaks to what’s going on out there — which is that Dean is generating a new constituency of voters in the Democratic Party, and reaching them through the Internet. We’re always a beat behind on that technology.
and here are some comments by Brokaw on the Dean campaign during an interview with Roger Simon:
Tom Brokaw. The ascendancy of Dean is a surprise. To me, not to him! (Laughter)
I think it's a tribute to two or three things. One is that there is a large body of people who feel left out of the process and they feel he can bring them back in or that he's their ticket to get them back in in some fashion. Also, his ability to not be locked into "Washington speak" every time he opens his mouth on a subject. Even to run the risk of saying something that he has to pull back the next day. You know, it helps him.
Roger Simon: Right. His mistakes don’t seem to matter.
Tom Brokaw: It makes him seem human. And then finally, and I think this is partly generational, you cannot overstate for younger voters the place of the Internet in their lives. It's a force. It is the force. They're on it all day long as a means of communication with one another and as a means of retrieving information. It shapes their world. And he tapped into that.
What interests me is the explicit acknowledgement by Brokaw of the real innovation of the Dean campaign, which was to draw people into the political process. If he were to be Kerry's veep, then we can probably be confident that he would bring some of that recognition to the campaign and to the eventual Kerry Administration.
UPDATE: I guess Brokaw just slammed the door on any vice-presidential prospects.
When Tom Brokaw walked into NBC's daily editorial meeting Monday, his producer addressed him as “Mister Vice President.”
“As I have said repeatedly, I have no intention of pursuing a political career,” Brokaw says in a statement. “Any speculation to the contrary, however flattering, is simply wrong.”
It's also wrong to assume Brokaw is a Democrat. NBC says he has no party affiliation. Says Capus: “He doesn't carry his politics on his sleeve. I defy anyone to define the man politically.”
As for the vice presidency, well, “it would be such a step down for Tom,” sniffs Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, News and Cable Group.
*grin* nice one, Mr. Zucker. Since I take Gov Bill Richardson's denial of interest in a vice-president spot at face value, I'm forced to take Brokaw's as well. I doubt this scenario from Kos, as well.
Wednesday, March 03, 2004UNMEDIA or at Dean Nation)
Ryan Lizza beats me to the punch - and does a better job than I would have anyway in laying out the rationales of 1. whether or not Kerry should announce the Veep pre-convention, and 2. what the traditional criteria are for picking a veep.
I think Lizza does a solid and fair job of discussing the merits of picking a Veep early. It's a no-brainer - Kerry needs to get his VP sooner rather than later, and waiting till the convention is a disadvantage for all the reasons Lizza lays out in his piece. The only argument against picking early, that he forgot, was that the idea is championed by Chris Lehane, the attack-dog democratic advisor who nearly ruined Kerry's campaign before being fired, then moved to Clark and sank that boat. Lehane is likely also the reason Dean faced attack ads comparing him to Osama bin Laden - from the left. Still, the Lehane curse aside, I think choosing a Veep early would be a great idea.
The more interesting question is how do you choose your running mate - and on that score. Lizza lays out three historical models:
The first is the compensation model. Kerry could pick a classic ticket-balancer to make up for his flaws. This is what Gore did in 2000 when he chose Lieberman.
The second model is the magnification model. Kerry could pick someone who emphasizes all his own strengths. This is what Clinton did in 1992.
The final model for picking a veep is to go with someone whose primary asset is that he or she can carry a specific state. This one has actually fallen out of fashion in recent years.
Lizza offers Edwards, Clark, and Graham as possible options for each of these respective models. Let me also add that all the successful Democratic tickets since FDR have included at least one Southerner.
But looking at the criteria above, it's clear that there's one candidate that actually meets all three criteria - Bob Graham. Graham compensates for Kerry's aloofness, due to his long history of "town meeting" style representation among his constituency. Graham magnifies Kerry's foreign policy credentials, since he has a strong reputation on both sides of the aisle in that arena. And Graham would deliver Florida, the keystone to the 2000 election and likely to be equally influential to the 2004 outcome, given the stakes. Plus he's a Southerner.