Scott's Soapbox

Monday, August 30, 2004

Republican Convention - Day 1

10:00 - John McCain likes blue- blue suit, blue shirt, blue tie.

10:06 - McCain is wrong, the terrorists do attack us for what we do, not who we are. Does anyone think they sit around in a cave and say "We hate freedom." That is so stupid. They hate us because we prop up dictators, abandon revolutionaries in Afganistan (like Osama bin Laden), support Israel, and so on. They do hate our culture- our food, our movies, our belief in certain things. But no one flies planes into buildings because they hate McDonalds, right?

10:12 - McCain is praising Bush's leadership on and around September 11th. His finest moment.

10:16 - McCain describes Michael Moore as a "disingenuous filmaker" which to me is letting him off lightly. Moore is there however, in the media section, and doffs his cap playfully as boos rain down around him. McCain tells Chris Matthews on MSNBC later that he was unaware Moore was in the hall. However, this whole part does not appear in his prepared text ( so who knows? Good moment, or cheap shot?

10:22 - He is using the word "love" an awful lot for a guy who is such a tough guy. Maybe he is really just a big softie.

10:25 - McCain looks more and more like a turtle, with little neck and that round, craggy face poking out from his suit.

10:30 - The convention's tribute to 9/11 with speechs from relatives of the dead and classical music is on. Carried live on all 3 cable networks- I only mention this, becuase Fox did not carry the Dems tribute.

10:31 - Just as an aside, much has been made of the choice of NYC for the convention and whether or not this represents "politicizing" the tragedy. This was the biggest event of Bush's presidency, his finest hour, and will influence our foreign policy forever. Are they supposed to pretend it never happened? I think it also helps show that New York is back, andbarring anything happening, New York is secure enough to host this huge event.

10:40 - "Amazing Grace" is being sung. This beautiful song sucks all the air out of the room as Rudy Giuliani takes the stage. Hearing it, I am thinking about my grandmother's funeral twenty years ago, not a political speech.

10:46 - Giuliani says the terrorist cannot determine where we go and what we can do- damn straight!

10:49 - "A nation of courage" as a sign...I don't know- why not use the word "America" or "United in Courage"?

10:50 - Rudy seems like he is just talking out loud, not giving a speech. He is really "in the moment" and connecting with people. This would be very effective in a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire in a few years. I'm just saying. Okay, actually Rudy could never win the Republican nomination.

10:51 - 9/11 was "the worst crisis of our history"? Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis might disagree.

10:52 - Also, as I recall the British burned Washington DC in 1812- that seems like a big deal. Pearl Harbor launched us into the biggest war of all time. But anyway.

10:54 - Giuliani says we cannot appease terrorists, mentions specifically European nations (to audience boos) who have released terrorists in the past. He lists long history of terrorism from Israeli athletes in Munich, Achille Lauro planecrash, et cetera. He compares appeasing terrorists to Europeans appeasing Hitler and Bush to Churchill for standing up to them. For some reason, he does not mention Lebanon, a lesson all terrorists learned very well. A terrorist attack completely changed American policy, defeated the US military, and drove us away from the Middle East, tails-betwixt-legs. But that was Reagan, so would not fit our theme.

10:55 - He wants us to go on offense, not just defense. Okay, I think we all agree on that, don't we?

10:57 - Bush stands by his principles, and does not do just what is popular. "What others call stubborness, I call principled leadership!" The crowd roars. Okay, 2 points.
1) This argument- Bush stays course, Kerry flip-flops has become an underlying dynamic of this race in the media and public perception. The Bush people have brilliantly taken credit for others' ideas that they first opposed (in Texas, the Patients Bill of Rights he boasted of against Al Gore- he vetoed it, Homeland Security department- Joe Leiberman, campaign finance). Is this caricature true? No. Or at least arguable. But that does not matter, and it is not the argument the Dems can win, so it is a bad line of attack for them.
2) Giuliani says this making-a-decision-and-staying-with-it is the "most important characterisitic of being a great leader". No, the most imprortant part is making the right decisions and then being able to convince others to follow. They follow, you lead- get it? Sticking with an idea even when it is unpopular because you think it is the right thing to do is admirable. Sticking with an idea even when it is contrary to the facts is an error. That is the difference. And what has Bush ever propsed that is so brave?

11:01 - Rudy Giuliani just lied. by saying Kerry voted for "the war." He voted to give the president the authority to go to war. This is a distiction he is too smart to not pick up.

11:01 - Kerry voted for the $97 before he voted against it- Giuliani says this was the exact same bill. Nope, another lie.

11:02 - I guess this is why John Edwards needs his two Americas. That is hilarious- we will all be hearing that line a lot!

11:04 - In another alleged flip-flop, Kerry told an Arab group that the Israeli barrier is "a barrier to peace" and told The Jerusalem Post it was a valid form of self-defense for Israel. Okay, cannot it be both? Depends on which side of the barrier you are on, right? Our offensive operations in Iraq are not peaceful but yet Bush says they are a valid form of self-defense for us, right? This is like something Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh would do.

11:09 - Okay, maybe this is a cheap shot, but listening to Rudy list all these "flip-flops" is making me angry. He is simply lying and has lowered himself here in my opinion. Let's look at Rudy. Marries his second cousin Regina Peruggi , they get divorce (he has marriage annulled). Marries second wife Donna Hannover, has two kids. Cheats on her very publicly with his own press secretary and then with another woman. In her divorce papers, she cites Rudy's "open and notorius adultery" like say, walking with his paramour Judith Nathan in New York's St.Patrick's Day Parade, leaving his wife at home. Now they have married for his third marriage. So, Rudy, who's a flip-flopper? Oh, and if you run in '08, good luck with the religious right. They love pro-choice, pro-gay marriage candidates who have been married 3 times.

11:10 - Overall, though, Giuliani is very effective. McCain seemed like he was reading- almost as if he was reading someone else's words. Giuliani has clearly made his speech his own. Again, he is so conversational that it softens his edges.

11:15 - Post-game begins, CNN is interviewing someone on the floor, MSNBC same deal. Fox actually discussing speech- Mara Liasson says "2 Americas" riff is the soundbite (I agree). Mort Krondracke says if these speeches were auditions for 2008, then Giuliani is "10 miles" ahead of John McCain. Maybe, but they had different missions, and it is McCain's turn next time.

11:20 - Fox's Chris Wallace is interviewing Matthew Dowd, BC04 strategist, who says admiringly that Giuliani's speech was "quintessentional New York." I swear. I assume he means quintessential but maybe he learned his phrasing from the president.

11:30 - Joe Scarborough on MSNBC says he is struck by how muhc the Democrats ran a positive but vague "incumbent" convention and how the Repubs are running an aggresive attacking "challenger" convention. I agree- the Kerry campaign seems to think people are ready to make a change, and all they had to do was clear the bar of acceptability. For the most part, I agree, but eventually Kerry needs to give people a reason to vote for him, not just against the other guy. His convention was his big opportunity to do that, and he didn't.

11:51 - Greta Van Sustren is interviewing Steven Baldwin- click! Chris Matthews has a pro wrestler- "Big Show" or something like that- click!

Time for bed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Christopher Hitchens

A lot of times when I read the prolific (books, Vanity Fair, Slate, New York Times) Chris Hitchens, I end up asking myself "Why do I even bother?" he can be at times unnecessarily argumentative, contrary, and obtuse. I can read an entire essay about a subject and have no idea what he thinks by the end. Sometimes his words just swim around looking beautiful without congealing into an idea.
But then I read a sentence like the following from last Sunday's NYT article about Kerry and the Iraq war- "When critical votes on the question come up, Kerry always looks like a dog being washed." Isn't that just perfect! The head tilt, the slightly frustrated expression of what he is being subjected to, the acknowledgement of the fact there is no escape, and finally the resigned acceptance of his fate. It's either John Kerry talking about the war in Iraq or my dog soaped up in the utility room sink. Interestingly, both roll around outside in the grass and try to avoid human beings trying to towel them off afterwards...but I digress.
Anyway, Chris can turn a phrase. But I am still unsure why I try.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

We Did It!

Our roller hockey team won both games tonight and so won our league. We ended up 11-0-1 for the season. Both games tonight were exhausting, 4-3 and 3-2 wins. Tough playing twice in one night, my back, legs, heck even my arms are complaining. We get a week or so off before our next season starts up again- we are moving up to the next level.

Nice work lads!

No Blogging Today

Hockey Playoffs for us tonight- wish us luck all!

Work very busy.

I did fisk Cal Thomas's op-ed from yesterday- hope to have that up soon.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

More on Politics of a Terrorist Attack

So, after I posted my thoughts, I read Noam Scheiber in TNR write also about a terrorist attack possibly helping Kerry, not Bush. Great minds think alike. Read his analysis here:

More on Poll Analysis

Will Saletan on Slate says what I was trying to say about the "underlying queston" poll numbers and why these polls are good news for Kerry better than I could- link here
He says that of course, these could change and change again but then says the election is Kerry's to lose "at the very least". Huh? I still say 60-40 odds on Kerry.

Also, my brilliant analysis stands as to why this is so. Scott heart Scott!

Defying Conventional Wisdom

With the latest increase in the terror threat warnings in DC, New York, New Jersey and much discussion of al Qaeda attempting to upset our electoral process, I wanted to discuss the political implications. What if there is a terrorist attack between now and the election?

The conventional wisdom seems to be this helps Bush, for a couple of reasons. 1) Our first reaction is to rally around the flag, and by extension, our president. A la 9/11, Bush's approval rating would go through the roof, and folks would want to support the president. 2) Many are concerned about "switching horses midstream" and changing commanders during a crisis. 3) I think people would not want to "let the terrorists win" by changing the president.

However, if the attack is sufficiently removed from the election, I think it has the opposite effect. If, there is an attack earlier, I think it opens up a lot of questions about the war on terror and the way it is being conducted by the Bush administration (see below). I think it opens up room for Kerry to say how we would do better. Despite the fact it happened on Bush's watch, he has not generally been blamed for the failures of 9/11 (which I think is correct). If another attack happens, how much might we blame him? Long story short, I think despite what everyone says, another attack helps Kerry, not Bush.

(From Above) - It is such a hard question to answer- how is the war really going? Unless any of us get the NSC briefing in the morning, we only know what comes out in the press. Obviously, there is a lot going on behind the scenes none of us know about. But then we have these alerts, these "credible and specific" threats that make me wonder...have been we been good, or just lucky? How much has the system improved since 9/11? How much better are we at connecting the dots?

Monday, August 02, 2004

Election Theory

I wanted to comment on a couple things.

Number one- current polls show the following unclear picture:

CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll shows Bush 50, Kerry 47 among "likely voters."
Newsweek shows Kerry leading 49 to 42.
RealClearPolitics average is Kerry by 2.3%

Let's all agree on something, okay? This race is 50-50. Coin flip. Even money. Dead even. Split right down the middle.

Every article I read is all about horse race- "bounce" "bump" "boost". Where is it? Is there one? Let it go, everyone. I know it is easier than actually analyzing say, a helath care plan, but leave the polls alone.

This race I think will be close, close, close, and break one way or the other late. This election is so event driven, more than any others recently. Iraq, a terrorist attack, world events...

Number two- 1980 all over again?
A few people have mentioned this (Chris Suellentrop in Slate, Jerry Springer! at the convention) and I wanted to pile on. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was challenging Jimmy Carter. People had decided they were unhappy with Carter, but not sure if they were ready to trust the country to Ronald Reagan (obviously no national experience, and many thought of him as just a B-movie actor). The race stayed very close until the debates, and after the first one, where Reagan seemed presidential, it broke his way. Of course Reagan won resoundingly.

Fast forward to today- I think people have decided they are not happy with Bush. The right-track/wrong track number is 39.4%. If 53.3% of the country think the country is moving in the worng direction, that is a tough number for the incumbent. However, we are in a war. We have troops all around the world right now fighting terror in some places, "nation building" in others. So, Kerry faces a high threshold for this election.

I think his convention made good progress towards this, as in the underlying issue-specific questions (Iraq, terrorism, economy, so forth) Kerry has improved his standings to Bush. These specific gains just have not moved his main number yet.

I also think Kerry made progress towards a comfort level with the American people. People know they will see the president on the TV in their living rooms for the next four years. The press tends to talk down the "Who would you rather have a beer with?" type questions, but they do matter. Kerry seemed to me more likeable and as I watched his speech Thursday, I thought...yeah, this guy could be president. I would be okay with that. Likeability matters, and while Kerry will never match Bush in this, he seemed a little more human after the week.

For the first time, I really think Kerry wins. 60-40 odds maybe?