Monthly Archives: September 2004

Jon Stewart on Fresh Air

I also heard an interview with Jon Stewart on Fresh Air tonight. He talked at length about how the broadcast media in America is failing us. Namely, both the left and the right are allowed to tell ever bigger lies, and the broadcast media never questions them. (The questioning often happens days later in the print media, if at all.) He compared it to a referee allowing both teams in a game to do whatever they wanted as long as no one got killed. I thought it was an apt comparison.

I haven’t heard the second part of the interview yet, but I’m going to make an effort to listen to it online soon. Highly recommended.

Debate Response

Before the spin machine gets up to full dizzying speed (or at least before I expose myself to it), a couple of impressions of the debate. I listened to the first half on NPR while driving back from some erannds in Roanoke; the second half I watched mostly on C-SPAN, but I flipped around to some other channels to see if there were differences.

Kerry had some good zingers here and there. It’s hard to say, though, how an undecided voter would respond to the content of the debate as a whole. Very little was said that we didn’t already know, although I was a bit surprised by the emphases. (For instance, although I expected North Korea to come up (as well it should), I didn’t expect the pros and cons of bilateral talks to get so much airtime. You’d almost think that was the number one foreign policy issue on which these two men disagree.)

The absolute most stunning thing to me though, was when I turned on C-SPAN. C-SPAN showed a split screen view of both Kerry and Bush throughout the entire debate (or at least the half that I watched). When I flipped channels, NBC also had a split screen, but CBS, ABC, and PBS did not. The split screen may save our nation. When Kerry was talking, Bush had his head cocked to the side with a smirk on his face. He had this very weird blinking thing going on. Once he did this weird face twitch that looked like he was about to have a seizure. Occasionally, he jotted down a note. When Bush was talking, Kerry looked engaged. He wrote lots of notes. He occasionally grinned in a rather scary fashion, but for the most part, he looked like he respected his opponent and respected the debate.

I’d like to say that thing about the debate that stood out to me was a stark contrast on the issues, but it was not. It was the way the debaters behaved when they weren’t speaking. Bush looked bored. Strangely, that seemed to help him in the debate against Al Gore, but I think it could hurt him severely here: I don’t think Kerry has quite the wooden, policy wonk reputation that Gore had, and Kerry is a much more engaging debater.

On the issues, though… Bush made at least one swipe at Kerry saying that he couldn’t pay for all of the things he planned to do for the sake of homeland security. I thought Kerry’s response, emphasizing how much we had spent in Iraq, was a little weak; he should have also stressed how little many of his proposed measures would cost in comparison. He also could have capitalized on the fact that Bush practically admitted that he was unwilling to pay the dollar cost of keeping our nation safe.

It was pretty amazing the way the Bush completely co-opted Kerry’s message on moving forward in Iraq. Perhaps Kerry’s Iraq speech last week gave away the farm, as Bush is now practically parrotting Kerry’s plan. (It isn’t rocket science, mind you, but it is an order of magnitude more clear than Bush has been on the issue in the past.) Kerry seemed to be left mostly saying that he was going to hold a summit.

Kerry didn’t hit as hard on Bush’s lousy record as he might have. Iraq was a touchy subject on which to do that, though, and he did reasonably well pointing to the lousy record with regards to Iran and North Korea. The line about there being 30-35 nations with more weapons capability than Iraq at the time of the invasion was a good one; I’d like to see where that number came from. (And is he counting friendly nations or only unfriendly ones?) I hope we see more direct attacks on Bush’s record in later debates — it should be easier when talking about domestic issues, frankly.

I didn’t think Bush was able to make as much of his “flip-flop” meme as I expected.

The quote from the George H. W. Bush book was an outstanding play.

Knowing what I know of the way the media in our nation works, though, I think that Bush’s mannerisms are going to be a big story. Especially when those mannerisms caught the eye of an engineer like me. (Engineers are socially inept and unable to read even the most obvious human gestures, don’t ‘cha know?) I actually remember the first half of the debate more clearly than the second, and I think the reason is that I became so distracted by Bush’s mannerisms once I got home to the TV (and then I would watch Kerry to see if he had similarly annoying mannerisms).

Anyway, it is now conventional wisdom that this debate will be won or lost in the post-debate spin. So, let’s see what happens.

I, for One, Welcome Our New Art Deco Overlords

Here’s the CNN story. The thing is described by an eyewitness as a plain white blimp, with no insignia or other markings at all. I don’t really have enormous problems with surveillance cameras, in general. (Though one should be very careful with what happens to the data — preferably destroy it after a short time.) I do, however, find it mildly spooky that the US Military is operating a surveillance blimp over our nation’s capital. [via IP, the title of the post was included in the message sent to IP by James P. Howard, II who works in downtown DC]

Good News

My morning news read was chock full of good news this morning, nearly (but not quite) pulling me out of my dark fear that Kerry’s campaign might be a sinking ship. In no particular order, we have:

  • John Eisenhower, son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and lifelong Republican, endorses John Kerry. Not a huge endorsement, I guess, but it’s just a reminder that I haven’t lost my mind. (Sometimes when I talk to Bush supporters these days, I think to myself, ‘That’s crazy talk. Has he lost his marbles? … Or have I lost mine?”) [via Medley]

  • Saw a few hints in the media this morning that the voter registration drives have been leaning strongly Democratic, with numbers like 2-to-1 cited in some regions of the country. So far, I haven’t found a nationwide number or a state-by-state breakdown (or for that matter an analysis of what this actually means at the polls), but it’s certainly good news. A major factor in whether or not you are a “likely voter” in most polls is whether or not you voted in the last election. Thus, new voters are pretty much excluded from such polls.

  • My favorite source for poll analysis shows some data this morning that the Gallup poll is an outlier, as suggested by the ad which ran in the NY Times earlier this week. Perhaps more interesting, though, is that Professor Wang shows how closely the polls track with the party ID. This adds further credance to the fact that the number one factor on November 2 is going to be who can get out the vote. This is a good thing from my point of view as I think that Kerry voters are much more motivated than Bush voters this year. I’m planning to take the day off work if I can find anything useful to do.

  • Finally, yesterday a federal judge struck down a provision of the Patriot Act which can only be described as horrible law. This provision allowed the FBI to issue a type of subpoena called a National Security Letter. This subpoena could be issued by the FBI without judicial oversight and could also bar the recipient from discussing the subpoena with anyone — even a lawyer. In some ways it’s a miracle that this case ever saw the light of day. If you can’t discuss the subpoena with your lawyer, how are you going to challenge the law under which it was issued? And if you didn’t receive a subpoena, then you don’t have standing to challenge the law. Very messy business.

Al Gore on the Debates

Al Gore has some good advice for John Kerry in today’s NY Times. From my point of view, the Kerry campaign has been doing a pretty lousy job. They aren’t controlling the news cycle very well, and they are constantly on the defensive. The debates, as scripted as they seem, are a good opportunity to change that. So, we’ll see what happens.

Jason pointed out on IM today that the thing about George Bush is that he is on message, all the time. Kerry should learn a thing or two, frankly. Although anyone in politics for very long could be labeled a “flip-flopper,” I think that one thing that makes the label stick to Kerry is the fact that his positions are nuanced. While I appreciate the nuance, Kerry needs to hone his message to simple phrases and then repeat them over and over and over. He needs to constantly cast light on Bush’s lousy record and on his plan for America. (The plan is on the Kerry website, and it’s pretty good. He needs to simplify the key points in a way that makes the news, though.)

Finally, I thought this might be a fake at first. But I found a couple of independent lists of Texas newspapers on the web, and they confirm that The Lone Star Iconoclast is the newspaper of Crawford, Texas. Now, they have endorsed John Kerry. [last item via La Di Da]

My Secret Oklahoma Readership

I got a link back from Running Scared, which is really excellent. Strangely, Jazz was tipped off by “a reader in Tulsa.” I don’t know anyone in Tulsa, as far as I know. (I can think of one person I know in Oklahoma, but she lives in or around Oklahoma City and probably doesn’t read my blog.) I’m always surprised to learn that anyone (other than my wife and the three or four people who comment regularly) reads this blog.