Kerry Might Win . . .

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

. . . if only he’d stop saving the lives of Republicans.

First, we heard about Rassmann (the Vietnam Special Forces dude Kerry plucked from the water, a Republican), and now this guy:

Former U.S. Sen. Chic Hecht of Nevada is a staunch Republican, but he thanks his lucky stars for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

On July 12, 1988, Hecht was attending a weekly Republican luncheon when a piece of apple lodged firmly in his throat.

Hecht stumbled out of the room, thinking he might vomit but not wanting to do it in front of his colleagues. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., thumped his back, but Hecht quickly passed out in the hallway.

Just then, Kerry stepped off an elevator, rushed to Hecht’s side and gave him the Heimlich maneuver — four times. The lifesaving incident made international news, and Dr. Henry Heimlich, who invented the maneuver in 1974, called Hecht to say that had Kerry intervened just 30 seconds later Hecht might have been in a vegetative state for life.

"This man gave me my life," the 75-year-old Hecht said Thursday.

Compare and contrast the heroic, life-saving, Heimlich-maneuvering Kerry, with this guy:

Bush lost consciousness for a brief time in the White House on Sunday evening while eating a pretzel and watching a professional football game on television. He fell from his couch and has a scrape and large bruise on his left cheekbone, plus a bruise on his lower lip, to show for his troubles. His glasses cut the side of his face.

(Source)

Okay. It’s s cheap shot. I know it. Just having a little fun, is all.

Bush and Rugby — A True Spoof

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

Since the time machine is set on 1968 or thereabouts, let’s poke around. Let’s see . . . Kerry may or may not be on a secret mission in Cambodia. Check that. And where’s W? Oh, THERE he is. Playing varsity rugby at Yale:

In her new book, “Ten Minutes From Normal,” [former Bush aide Karen] Hughes recounts a conversation with Bush after Russian President Vladimir Putin grilled him on his Yale days. “President Putin knew you had played rugby, but he didn’t have the context. I mean, you just played for one semester in college, right?” Hughes said. Bush corrected: “I played for a year, and it was the varsity.” Yesterday, a Yale spokeswoman confirmed that there’s no such thing as varsity rugby at Yale – not when Bush was an undergrad in the 1960s and not today.

(Source). Mmmmm. He played rugby for one year at Yale, and was on the varsity team when there was no varsity team. But wait! What’s this?

Bush joked with Eales and Howard that he used to play rugby for Yale University from 1964-68, but gave it up because he was no good.

(Source). So Bush played rugby for several years at Yale one year, and he was so bad at it that he gave it up . . . even though they put him on the Yale varsity team which, um, didn’t exist. CONCLUSION: obviously, THIS guy can’t be trusted to sit in the Oval Office: Bushsuckerpunch

Cambodia Christmas Controversy For Beginners

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Matt Yglesius has the definitive post on Kerry’s Christmas in Cambodia, to wit:

This much we know to be true:

(1) John Kerry was in Vietnam serving in the vicinity of the Cambodian border

(2) John Kerry has said repeatedly that he crossed into Cambodia

(3) Some U.S. forces were crossing into Cambodia during the period in question

(4) During the period in question it was being officially denied that U.S. forces crossed into Cambodia

(5) The disjoint between (3) and (4) was the point of the story John Kerry has told

(6) Official records seem to deny that Kerry crossed into Cambodia.

So, either Kerry made this up, or else the official records we’ve seen to date reflect the contemporaneous official lie that no one was in Cambodia, or else it’s somehow in between (like Kerry was immediately adjacent to Cambodia supporting a cross-border incursion and misrepresented his precise location in order to make the point). Which is true? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, the usual suspects on the right have lept to the conclusion (a) that Kerry was definitely lying, and — even more preposterously — that (b) voters choosing on the honesty factor would be well-advised to vote for George W. Bush, a man who has never — ever — sold a policy initiative without misleading the American public about the nature of the initiative.

The remarkable thing to me — and everyone glosses over this — is that even if Kerry WAS bolstering his own story, the UNBOLSTERED version still beats Bush, who was several thousands miles from Cambodia AND Vietnam on Christmas Eve 1968.

Conservative Guns Now Point at McCain’s Vietnam Record

Ken AshfordElection 2004, RepublicansLeave a Comment

Cheesed off that Sen. John McCain, while not moving away from his endorsement of Bush, attacked the Swift Boat Veteran ads as "dishonest and dishonorable", certain elements of the so-called "compassionate" right are now taking their shots . . . at McCain . . . again.

Check out this editorial from the conservatives’ favorite "I-don’t-believe-it-except-in-a-pinch" source, WorldNetDaily.

I swear, if some Republicans had the option to eat their young merely to score a political point, they would.

Read More

Veteran Retracts Criticism of Kerry

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

WASHINGTON — A week after Senator John F. Kerry heralded his wartime experience by surrounding himself at the Democratic convention with his Vietnam ”Band of Brothers," a separate group of veterans has launched a television ad campaign and a book that questions the basis for some of Kerry’s combat medals.

But yesterday, a key figure in the anti-Kerry campaign, Kerry’s former commanding officer, backed off one of the key contentions. Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a ”terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star — one of the main allegations in the book.

***

Yesterday, reached at his home, Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star.

”I still don’t think he shot the guy in the back," Elliott said. ”It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I’m the one in trouble here."

Elliott said he was no under personal or political pressure to sign the statement, but he did feel ”time pressure" from those involved in the book. ”That’s no excuse," Elliott said. ”I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake."

The affidavit also contradicted earlier statements by Elliott, who came to Boston during Kerry’s 1996 Senate campaign to defend Kerry on similar charges, saying that Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star.

Heh.

Bush Administration Officially Goes ‘Round The Bend

Ken AshfordBush & Co., War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

The better title for this post is "Trust But Verify", but that was already taken. But seriously, what is up with this?

In a significant shift in U.S. policy, the Bush administration announced this week that it will oppose provisions for inspections and verification as part of an international treaty that would ban production of nuclear weapons materials.

For several years the United States and other nations have pursued the treaty, which would ban new production by any state of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons. At an arms-control meeting this week in Geneva, the Bush administration told other nations it still supported a treaty, but not verification.

***

Arms-control specialists reacted negatively, saying the change in U.S. position will dramatically weaken any treaty and make it harder to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

The announcement, they said, also virtually kills a 10-year international effort to lure countries such as Pakistan, India and Israel into accepting some oversight of their nuclear production programs.

The announcement at the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament comes several months after President Bush declared it a top priority of his administration to prevent the production and trafficking in nuclear materials, and as the administration works to blunt criticism by Democrats and others that it has failed to work effectively with the United Nations and other international bodies on such vital global concerns.

"The president has said his priority is to block the spread of nuclear materials to rogue states and terrorists, and a verifiable ban on the production of such materials is an essential part of any such strategy," said Daryl Kimball, director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. "Which is why it is so surprising and baffling that the administration is not supporting a meaningful treaty."

These guys don’t know what they’re doing . . .

Skanks

Ken AshfordElection 2004, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Back here, I posted about an article in the New Republic, the gist of which was this:

A White House aide asked the Pakistani government (specifically, their intelligence agency) to find or kill a high-level al Qaeda operative, adding "it would be best if the arrest or killing . . . were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July" — the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston

The reason, of course, is because announcing an al Qaeda capture or kill would take some of the headlines away from the Democratic Convention and John Kerry. So the White House was hoping to manipulate the outside news in a clear case of underhanded political opportunism.

That post and the New Republic article was about three weeks ago. And now we’re AT the time of the Democratic National Convention.

And . . . . guess what story is now coming over the wires? Guess what the Pakistanis are announcing? Go to your favorite news carrier of choice.

UPDATE: Here’s how it is being reported at CNN:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Pakistani security forces have captured a high-level al Qaeda operative in a raid in central Pakistan, Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said Thursday.

Hayat said the east African, who was sought internationally, was captured "a few days back," and his capture shows "Pakistan is committed to fighting terrorism."

The man is being questioned, Hayat said.

"We have been quite successful … in apprehending key figures," Hayat said.

I see. You captured him "a few days back" and are now announcing the capture during the highest day of the Democratic National Convention . . . just like the memo you got from the White House told you to do. Interesting . . . .

UPDATE: Josh Marshall, who has been nursing this story has the proper take:

This is just the latest, but perhaps the most blatant, way in which this administration has placed politics and, really, political dirty tricks above national security itself, and along the way continued to define political deviance down until tactics we used to associate with banana republics start to seem commonplace here.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Well, a backdate actually. Let’s rewind to what WH Press Secretary Scottie McClennan said when asked about the New Republic allegation:

Q Well, what would you say to these Democrats who came out to — let me go quickly — they’re citing this announcement today, some are also citing this New Republic article that says the administration is somehow pressuring Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden in time for the Democratic Convention.

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in that article. This is a publication that certainly opposes our views.

(Source)

Oooookay. Well, now that it has panned out to be TRUE, I guess we should put stock into publications that oppose your views. Thanks! I will!

How Money Hurts Politics

Ken AshfordCampaign Finance ReformLeave a Comment

I’ve been swooning rather out-of-character for Barack Obama all day, which is why I find this from Matt Yglesius to be particularly disturbing:

If the [Democratic] party leaders had had their way, not only would Obama not have been delivering the keynote address at the convention, he wouldn’t be the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate at all. Plan A was to hand the nomination to Blair Hull, a millionaire who could have self-financed the race. That’s a recruiting tactic the party’s increasingly relied on since the early 1990s; as we saw last night, it can deprive the country of some of the most dynamic and committed public servants out there in exchange for bland nonentities like Herb Kohl. Money matters in politics and I wouldn’t suggest the Democrats try to ignore it, but this just brings home the need to expand the sort of fundraising success Howard Dean and John Kerry have had at the presidential level further down the ballot.

*Sigh*. There you have it: money and party politics often forces the best and the brightest to remain largely unknown or unheard of. Sometimes, I think Independents and Reformists really have the right idea . . .

DNC Day Two – A Perspective

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Boy, was last night a night of contrasts. It started off with what I thought was a very bad, and somewhat bizarre, speech by Ted Kennedy. As recognized by Ezra Klein and others, this was one of Kennedy’s major faux pas:

"In the depths of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt inspired the nation when he said, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,’ Today, we say the only thing we have to fear is four more years of George Bush."

Kennedy doesn’t get it, I guess. The awful thing about Bush is his fear-mongering, and Roosevelt’s quote points out the WRONGness of fear-mongering. Kennedy takes that wonderful quote . . . and turns it on its head. He uses it to fear-monger against Bush. Bad, Ted. Bad!

Kennedy also said some rather bizarre things. I don’t have a transcript, but I could have sworn that Kennedy "invited" Bush to another Boston tea party a few blocks down the road from the convention hall. What was Kennedy suggesting? That we DROWN the President?

And then he suggested that if Bush hadn’t been elected, Cheney would still be CEO of Halliburton and would have ended up in an "undisclosed location". I pretty sure that’s the phrase Kennedy used — "undisclosed location". Again, what does that mean? Six feet under?!?

WTF with all this cloak-and-dagger stuff, Ted? He was getting a little to Ann Coulter-ish for my blood.

Anyway, HE spoke, and Gephardt spoke, and Dean spoke, and it then it happened. The dawn of a new day broke, and suddenly all of them — Kennedy, Gephardt, Dean, and even Clinton — looked like ghosts of the Democratic Party past. Yes, I’m talking about . . .

Barack Obama.

This guy is the real deal. His speech left every conservative pundit speechless. Because he eloquently defined America, and the so-called values of the so-called "liberals", in these wonderful words:

If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child.

(APPLAUSE)

If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent.

(APPLAUSE)

If there’s an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

(APPLAUSE)

It is that fundamental belief — it is that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters’ keeper — that makes this country work.

The audience went nuts. And then, he blunted conservative critics by rejecting their partisanship:

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats.

But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.

(APPLAUSE)

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

But everyone owes it to themselves to read his entire speech, found here. I tell you again — he’s going to be your President someday, so you better warm up to him soon.

Oh, Theresa Heinz Kerry spoke, too. Her speech was somewhat meandering, but in a way, it was a good companion speech to Obama’s. You know — the future of America thing. Her focus was on women, of course — and how women ought to be acknowledged for thier wisdom and good sense, rather than being dismissed for being "opinionated" and bitchy. You go, girl! She’s no doormat housewife, so you can bet Republicans won’t like her very much.

And all the while, I kept thinking — the Republican convention is going to be full of old white guys, except for the occasional token they will wheel out (Look! There’s a woman! Look, I see a black guy!). What a contrast to both the floor and the stage of the Fleet Center, where — for the first time perhaps ever — the REAL America, culturally diverse and rich, was represented in all its glory.

DNC Day One – A Perspective

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

Don’t kid yourself. Democrats are pissed. They really really really don’t like Bush. As many on the right have said, Dems dislike Bush more than they like Kerry. How true.

Last night’s festival in Boston was clearly an attempt to take that Bush negativity and channel it into Kerry positivity. This was most apparent in Al Gore’s speech, who reminded everybody of the 2000 election debacle, and blatently said to turn that anger into a movement to get Kerry re-elected. It was unsubtle Al, not at his fiery best, but passingly adequate.

But when all was said and done, last night remained an anti-Bush rally more than a pro-Kerry one. Although Kerry was highly praised, most movingly by a Vietnam crewmate of his, the Dems in the audience clearly responded with greater cheer to those comments directed at what was wrong with Bush, rather than what was right about Kerry.

Although the speakers were supposedly told to "play nice", the attacks on Bush were incindiary. It’s just that you often didn’t NOTICE it. Jimmy Carter could have called Bush a "rat-bastard whore", and due to his buttery-soft wilty Southern drawl, it wouldn’t have sounded like a huge attack. But attack Carter did. And although he didn’t go so far as to call Bush a "whore", much of what he said about Bush was simply electrifying. Carried more by his gravitas as a human rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner (rather than as a fair-to-middling President), Carter called Bush’s foreign policy "extremist", and come as close to calling Bush an outright liar as a Southern genteel-man could. It was, in its way, the most engaging speech of the night. Best line:

"The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of pre-emptive war."

Bam! One wonders how those words would have sounded coming from, say, Howard Dean.

Then came the Big Dawg, introduced by his wife . . .

Bill Clinton, as a speaker, always has the "it" factor. The "it" factor is that unidentifiable quality — sort of charisma, but not really; sort of charm, but not really; sort of snake oil salesman, but not really. Whatever "it" is, Dems really love it and Republicans really hate it. And last night, Clinton was dripping with "it".

I’ve often found Clinton’s "it" to be a distraction. I sometimes get too caught up in his presentation and mannerisms to actually let sink in what he is actually saying. I’m glued to him, but I’m not necessarily with him. For me, listening to a Clinton speech is like going on a long rollercoaster ride — parts of it are really good, but some parts of it are merely transitions where I wonder gee-what-is-to-come-next. Last night’s speech was like that.

But Clinton’s attacks on Bush were also quite forceful, albeit more subtle than Carter. Take his best line, which was possibly the best line of the whole evening:

"Strength and wisdom are not opposing values."

Everyone in that hall knew what Clinton was saying. You see, nobody is arguing that Bush lacks strength — therefore, what Clinton was saying was that Bush lacks wisdom. Or, put more bluntly, Bush is strong and stupid, whereas Kerry will be strong and wise.

Anyway, the show (yes, it is just a show) tonight will be the losers of the Democratic race, all of whom (we presume) will punch the same themes. And Theresa "Shove It" Kerry. For me though, the man to watch is keynote speaker, Baruch Obama. For many of you, this will be the first time you see him. Pay close attention — he will be your President one day.

P.S. Much ado has been made about bloggers being allowed to blog from the convention, and how revolutionary it all is, and how it is changing the fabric of the universe as we know it blah blah blah. But so far, these bloggers aren’t really saying much other than "Hey! We bloggers are at the convention and look how revolutionary it all is, and how it is changing the fabric of the universe as we know it blah blah blah blah blah blah". So far, I’m not impressed. It seems like much of the blogging community is obsessed with the blogging community, rather than, you know, on the world around them. Tch-tch.

USA Today Rejects Ann Coulter’s Writing

Ken AshfordRight Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

Ann Coulter, the witty, vivacious HUMAN EVENTS columnist and best-selling author, was hired by USA Today to offer commentary about this week’s Democratic National Convention, but her first column was summarily rejected late last night.

You can read all about it here, including the text of Ann’s column which was rejected (and USA Today’s editorial notes).

But the most embarrassing aspect to all of this are the adjectives used to describe Ann Coulter — the "witty, vivacious Human Events columnist". Who used those words to describe Ann Coulter? Follow the link above and check out the byline . . . why, it was Ann Coulter herself!

Pentagon Releases Bush’s National Guard Records That Were, um, Destroyed

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Election 2004Leave a Comment

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Friday released payroll records from President Bush’s 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard, saying its earlier contention the records were destroyed was an "inadvertent oversight."

(Source)

WTF?!?

Let’s recap. Bush promised (in his interview with Tom Russert) that he would release all his military records, which he didn’t . . . and when everybody complained about the incompleteness, we were told that some of the records were inadvertently destroyed, which they weren’t.

I know many of you think that those of us on the left make too much of this. But seriously, if the-powers-that-be would stop dicking the American people around about this, we wouldn’t have much to crow and caw about.

By the way, Washington insiders (and "West Wing" fans) are aware of this tactic: all the bad, embarrassing and/or outrageous stuff gets told to the press on Friday afternoon/evening. Because people are less tuned in to the news over the weekend. Friday is often called "take out the trash day" or "document dump day" in Washington. This is a prime example of releasing something and hoping it won’t get noticed as much.

UPDATE: And of course, much of the national media has left for Boston . . .

UPDATE: CNN is reporting that the new records indicate that Bush did NOT log any flight time in the controversial 3rd quarter of 1972 . . . .

Final Report of the 9/11 Commission

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

I’ve only read (quickly) the Executive Summary (available here in PDF format). The media is saying that the report is critical of the Clinton and Bush administrations, but I don’t quite get that from the Executive Summary.

Certainly, the summary has pretty harsh criticism for certain instututions (the CIA, FBI, etc.) across both administrations, but as for the administrations themselves, it seems to beat up on Bush more.

I am focusing on the section of the Executive Summary entitled "1998 to September 11, 2001" because, according to the summary, "The August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies . . . established al Qaeda as a potent adversary of the United States". Below is every quote from that section/time period referencing Clinton or the Clinton administration (in blue), as well as Bush or the Bush administration (in pink). Let’s compare and contrast what each did, according to the report. The emphases are mine:

After launching cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation for the embassy bombings, the Clinton administration applied diplomatic pressure to try to persuade the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to expel Bin Laden. The administration also devised covert operations to use CIA-paid foreign agents to capture or kill Bin Ladin and his chief lieutenants.

During 2000, President Bill Clinton and his advisors renewed diplomatic efforts to get Bin Laden expelled from Afghanistan. They also renewed secret efforts with some of the Taliban’s opponents — the Northern Alliance — to get enough intelligence to attack Bin Laden directly.

After the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, evidence accumulated that it had been launched by al Qaeda operatives, but without confirmation . . . The CIA described its findings as a "preliminary judgment". President Clinton and his chief advisors told us they were waiting for a conclusion before deciding whether to take military action.

The transition to the new Bush administration in late 2000 and early 2001 took place with the Cole issue still pending. President George W. Bush and his chief advisors accepted that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack on the Cole, but did not like the options available for a response.

The Bush administration began developing a new strategy with the stated goal of eliminating the al Qaeda threat within three to five years.

During the spring and summer of 2001, U.S intelligence agencies received a stream of warnings that al Qaeda planned, as one report put it, "Something very, very, very big.: . . . . While the United States continued disruption efforts around the world, its emerging strategy to eliminate the al Qaeda was to include an enlarged covert action program in Afghanistan, as well as diplomatic strategies

Let me stop right there. Throughout both administrations, the FBI and CIA were actively doing their part to get at al Qaeda. But beyond that, doesn’t it read to you like the Clinton administration was actively doing more?? And the Bush adminsitration was merely planning to do more?

The Clinton administration was launching cruise missiles. Applying diplomatic pressure. Getting intelligence so that an attack could be launched. And other active things that, you know, men do when they want to get things done.

While the Bush administration, on the other hand, was beginning to develop an "emerging strategy" (whatever the fuck THAT means), and taking their time about it, too.

And then there’s this:

The process culminated during the summer of 2001 in a draft presidential directive and arguments about the Predator aircraft [which could be used to kill bin Laden or his chief lieutenants]. At a September 4 [2001] meeting, President Bush’s chief advisers approved the draft directive of the strategy and endorsed the concept of arming the Predator. This directive on the al Qaeda strategy was awaiting President Bush’s signature on September 11, 2001.

So again, Clinton bombed, etc. And the Bush people argued about new strategy, drafted directives, and (my personal favorite), "endorsed" a "concept".

Look, my point isn’t to say that Bush could have prevented 9/11, nor to say that Clinton did everything humanly possible. As the executive summary of the report says, it is easy with hindsight to see the failures.

But the right-wing meme that Clinton ignored al Qaeda, while Bush was on top of al Qaeda even before 9/11, is simply bogus. And the 9/11 Commission report supports that.

The Current Probability of a Kerry Win is 98 percent

Ken AshfordElection 2004Leave a Comment

So says this Princeton professor (a biologist).

I’m not gloating. I think news like that, if widely circulated, will UNenergize the people who actually need to get out their and vote for Kerry.

I know a little about statistics, but I’m not sharp enough to find flaws in methodology. Is there anything anyone can find that is flawed? It just doesn’t SEEM right to say the current probability of a Kerry win is 98%.