Thursday, July 29, 2004

Highway 80 Revisited 

Mary and Fred are heading back to the Midwest over the next few days, so we probably won't be posting until Monday.

In the meantime, since I won't be able to blog Kerry's acceptance speech tonight, I'll just pre-blog it now. We will certainly get the themes that have been central to this Convention (and, in my view, rightfully so) -- Vietnam, strength, unity, racial and ethnic inclusion, counting all the votes, anticipating Republican attack tactics, etc.

But I have a small hunch that we'll get something more. The media spin has been that this has been a very conservative (small "c") convention, consumed by the need to avoid making gaffes or alienating anyone. To an extent, that's all true, but it's also been a very, very well run convention (referring to what the public is seeing, not the snafus on the ground). The Kerry team has appropriately tried to limit expectations, but I just don't think they are going to end this on a whimper. I'm betting on a very good speech by Kerry -- at least one memorable moment or catch-phrase, some humor, and, most important of all, a Kerry that people will like.


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The New Dog 

I can't add much to the general adulation about Barack Obama's excellent, excellent speech. (And let's give credit to the Kerry team for selecting him.)

I must say, though, that Mary objected to David Brooks' and Mark Shields' repeated comparison of Obama to Tiger Woods, and I agreed that I was troubled by it. I guess I see the superficial similarity -- handsome, skinny (Obama's word), men partially of African American descent who are very, very good at what they do. (There's also an obvious difference, since a theme of Obama's speech was that we all have a stake in how those who are worse off do, which is apparently not Tiger's view.)

But don't those similarities fall apart without the African-American thing? Wouldn't we have all thought they were crazy if they had compared him to, say, a young Joe Dimaggio? And how does comparing a politician to an athlete add to the discussion anyway? What, in other words, is "Tiger Woods" code for that they were uncomfortable saying directly?

UPDATE: Kos notes that the right-wing spin on Obama is that the speech was so good because it was really "conservative". For me, the adjective that has always come to mind about Obama is "Clintonian", because he can explain liberal positions in a way that makes them appealing to the vast middle (Joe Klein's "third way"). That is what drove the right crazy about Clinton, and I think it is what they are reacting to when they try to label him "conservative". They tried the same thing with Clinton, and it didn't work either.

UPDATE 2: Small editorial changes in body of post.


Monday, July 26, 2004

The Big Dog 

How good was that?

I hope I'm not overreacting to the moment, but that was one of the best speeches I've seen from an excellent speaker. It had passion, humor, optimism, conviction, spirituality, and humanity. He told the truth about Bush, but without rancor. He spoke to folks who only tune in every four years, but the speech had a great deal of depth for the faithful, who understood the paragraphs and paragraphs that supported single sentences. And he was having fun.

It sure made me feel we're going to win.


Not An Argument I'd Want to Make in Court 

Josh Marshall reports that Scooter's defense is going be that Plame's identity was already known, whether through an alleged leak by Aldrich Ames or another alleged intelligence failure that Josh hadn't heard of. He quotes the Wall Street Journal as follows: "The law says that to be covered by the act the intelligence community has to take steps to affirmatively protect someone's cover," one official said. "In this case, the CIA failed to do that."

That is what the statute says:
Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
50 U.S.C. 421(a) (emphasis added) (via TalkLeft).

The argument, however, is obviously flawed. The statute says "taking affirmative measures". It does not require that those measures had worked perfectly. Ames was arrested almost ten years before Novak's leak, yet Plame still had a CIA-provided cover, so the CIA obviously thought it was still worth the effort. Can you imagine in a non-political case that a court would even possibly buy the argument that a single individual with security clearance could assert as a defense his unilateral conclusion that the CIA's covert procedures weren't working and that, therefore, agency secrets really weren't secret any more? I didn't think so. I don't think it will fly any better here.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Every Office 

Whoviating correctly finds New York City's refusal to permit convention protesters to gather anywhere reasonable to be "disgraceful, shameful, undemocratic, an insult to the First Amendment, shoddy, disgusting, and dangerous". Haberman is likewise articulate about the hollowness of the City's claim that it was merely trying to protect the grass on the Great Lawn.

I have had liberal friends tell me that Bloomberg is not so bad, that he's really still a Democrat at heart, etc. Don't believe it. Northeastern Republicans do tend to be a bit less scary than the ones who are actually running things, but let this be a reminder to us (as Katherine Harris was in 2000). Every single office matters. The Christian Coalition grasped this in the 1970s. I think we are starting to get there.


Not So Pessimistic 

Atrios is rather pessimistic about the value he and other bloggers will add to the convention coverage. I'm not.

Of course, we won't know until the event, but I think they can add a lot:

First, and most obviously, the conventions of blogging put much less restraint on what they can say, even compared to opinion journalists. On the whole, I expect greater candor and less self-censorship.

Second, coverage of the public face of the convention may look different from the room than from TV. As Mary pointed out to me at the time (offline), the "Dean Scream" was perfectly understandable and appropriate for those in the room, but looked downright unhinged on TV.

Third, most of what goes on at conventions isn't on TV -- and isn't covered in any way by most traditional reporters. I went to one night of the '92 convention, and you couldn't turn around without bumping into someone like Paul Simon. I didn't have any particular "ins" to find anything out, but people will talk to Kos or Josh Marshall and they will find out things that are not obvious to those of us at home. (This will be trickier for Atrios, of course; I assume he will be quite circumspect about introducing himself as Atrios. Since he's not Sidney Blumenthal, I have no idea how much of an entre he gets as A. Smith.) As a lawyer, I have seen this many times: talking to your client on the phone is no substitute for going to his or her place of business and meeting with a lot of people -- you can learn an awful lot by showing up, even when you don't expect to.

Fourth, since the bloggers will have press credentials, they will be interacting with members of the traditional press. That has to be a good thing.

Will the bloggers' value added go beyond blog readers to general press coverage? That I can't guess. I suspect that if they do it will be more on one or two stories (a la Trent Lott) than on coverage as a whole.

So, if all Atrios et al. add is well written coverage, I'm sure we'll all be appreciative. But I would not be surprised to learn a lot more for their presence.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Man of Principle 

I think it is reasonable for the Yankees to have continued the playing of "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch for longer than any other team. New York was the site of the largest 9/11 attack. And, so long as remembering our soldiers doesn't become an excuse for pressing a particular policy view about the Iraq War, I think it's a good idea to take a moment to reflect on world events and how they may relate to an enjoyable day at the ballpark.

However, Carlos Delgado's decision not to participate in the proceedings is a principled one. As reported by the AP, he declines to participate due to his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (the latter of which I supported). He does so in a respectful way that is not disruptive or attention-seeking:
Fervently anti-war, Carlos Delgado quietly carried out his personal protest this season, refusing to stand when "God Bless America" was played at ballparks across the majors.

Most fans never saw him disappearing up the dugout tunnel or staying on the bench....

"I am not pro-war; I'm anti-war," he said. "I'm for peace." ...

"This is my personal feeling. I don't want to draw attention to myself or go out of my way to protest," Delgado told the Times. "If I make the last out of the seventh inning, I'll stand there. But I'd rather be in the dugout."
On the whole, though not as proud as I was of the Yankee fans who booed Cheney, it sounds like the majority of Yankees fans also behaved well.  ("[B]rief chants of 'USA! USA!'" and "scattered boos" were heard, but considering that Delgado is the Jays' top star, that's pretty mild by New York standards. I remember when the Islanders' Dennis Potvin, then subject to domestic violence allegations, used to be met by Rangers fans with lusty howls of "Beat your wife, Potvin, beat your wife!")


Hypocrisy vs. Privacy 

Barbara Ehrenreich today argues against the hypocrisy of women who have abortions for "medical" reasons criticizing other women who have abortions because they "don't want their babies," and makes the case that if all women who support the right to choose don't "own up to" their abortions, the right may be taken away.

Women's reasons for having abortions, and which reasons are "legit," have been a hot topic on a number of blogs, including Kevin Drum and Amanda at Mousewords, since this piece in the Times Magazine, in which a woman discusses her reasons for aborting two of three fetuses when she found out she was pregnant with triplets.

Ehrenreich has a point when she criticizes women who consider their own abortions justified or necessary but other womens' abortions trivial or unjustified:
The trouble is, not all of the women who are exercising their right to choose in these cases are willing to admit that that's what they are doing. Kate Hoffman, for example, who aborted a fetus with Down syndrome, was quoted in The Times on June 20 as saying: "I don't look at it as though I had an abortion, even though that is technically what it is. There's a difference. I wanted this baby."

Or go to the Web site for A Heartbreaking Choice, a group that provides support for women whose fetuses are deemed defective, and you find "Mom" complaining of having to have her abortion in an ordinary abortion clinic: "I resented the fact that I had to be there with all these girls that did not want their babies."
The prejudice is widespread that a termination for medical reasons is somehow on a higher moral plane than a run-of-the-mill abortion.

She's right--this is hypocrisy. The mature married woman who decides to abort a fetus with Downs Syndrome and the young unmarried woman who decides to abort a fetus without Downs Syndrome are both making decisions about their emotional, psychological, physical and financial ability to be pregnant with, give birth to, and raise a particular child at a particular stage in their lives. That's what we're talking about when we talk about women choosing.

But Ehrenreich's solution--that all women who support the right to choose and have had abortions should "own up" to it--is deeply flawed. One major foundation of Roe v. Wade (which, I know, has been criticized) is a right to privacy. There are times when a woman may have an abortion in part because she does not wish to have it known that she ever became pregnant in the first place. For the woman in an abusive relationship, or the young woman who wants to finish high school or college, or the woman whose family relationships might be damaged by either a pregnancy or an acknowledged abortion, it's not just about the right to choose not to have a baby at a particular time, it's also about the right to make that decision herself and not have her safety, her relationships with others, in some cases her job or her education jeopardized. This is where not just privacy but equality comes into play. Remember, men who participate in the creation of pregnancies neither have to carry them to term, nor have to decide whether or not to carry them to term, nor have to "own up to" the decision not to carry them to term.

So let's attack hypocrisy and encourage everyone who is pro-choice for themselves for whatever reason to recognize that other people's reasons are as important to them as ours are to us. But let's not initiate an "outing"--even a self-outing--campaign, because in doing so we lose something fundamental to the right we have and should be supporting.

Update: Rivka adds a valuable additional perspective to this issue.


Bush Talking Points Watch, Part III 

A blast from the past:
But instead of seizing this moment, the Clinton-Gore administration has squandered it. We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence. Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, "Not ready for duty, sir."

This administration had its moment, they had their chance, they have not led. We will.
George Bush Accepting Republican Nomination, August 3, 2000.

Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are running $12.3 billion over budget this year, and Pentagon officials are trying to make up for the shortfall by transferring money from other accounts and delaying refurbishment of worn-out equipment in Iraq, the General Accountability Office said Wednesday.
New York Times, July 22, 2004. (I've seen other reports saying that pilot flight time is being reduced and training exercises cancelled as a result of the cost overruns.)

In what critics say is another sign of increasing stress on the military, the Army has been forced to bring more new recruits immediately into the ranks to meet recruiting goals for 2004, instead of allowing them to defer entry until the next accounting year, which starts in October.

As a result, recruiters will enter the new year without the usual cushion of incoming soldiers, making it that much harder to make their quotas for 2005.
New York Times, July 22, 2004.

Well, you know, at least there hasn't been anything in the meantime to spur Mr. Bush to action.

UPDATE: I just couldn't resist adding this gem from the Bush acceptance speech:
A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Racial Profiling 

Rivka at Respectful of Otters makes an interesting and important distinction in discussing Annie Jacobson's "tizzy of racist paranoia" upon observing a group of Middle Eastern men on her airplane. As amplified in her comments section, Rivka (a psychologist) makes the point that it was reasonable for Jacobson to be nervous at the time, but that it was not reasonable to continue in her conviction that the men were sinister when an investigation had revealed no evidence of wrongdoing.

Rivka's observations offer an important insight into how we are to make ethical sense of observed facts, such as the facts that al Qaeda does exist, that its stated goals include hijacking American aircraft, and that it is an organization comprised principally, though not exclusively, of Middle Eastern men. In essence, it is not productive to deny that in some circumstances it is natural (leaving to another time what that means) to respond to race, sex, or other superficial characteristics. At the same time, that acknowledgment does not require us to turn those responses into policy without very careful reflection.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Things You Don't Tell Your Mother 

Eric Rasmussen finds "evidence of the honest[y] of Valerie Plame" in the claimed inconsistency between Plame's telling Joseph Wilson that she was CIA on their third or fourth date (during a "'heavy make-out' session" Rasmussen reports breathlessly) but claiming that "members of her family did not know" before Novak and Scooter outed her.

This doesn't seem inconsistent at all. As Plame no doubt knew by a third date, Wilson was a former ambassador, a current adviser to the U.S. general in charge of the European command, and the soon-to-be senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council. In other words, he probably had security clearance to know Plame's identity and, even if he didn't, I suspect he was within a group of "insiders" among whom such secrets are, for better or for worse, regularly shared. She certainly had a good reason to discuss her status with him since they were apparently already or soon to be contemplating marriage.

None of that makes it incredible that she hadn't told "members of her family" -- even assuming that means (and it may not) that she didn't tell any members of her family.


Sunday, July 18, 2004


I'm glad Barbara Ehrenreich has finally woken up about Ralph Nader. But how could she have really believed in 2000 that Bush wouldn't be too bad, kind of like Gerald Ford as she puts it? Did she not understand what the consequences of the tax cut would be? Was she not aware of the agenda of his fundamentalist Christian base? Had she not heard his remarks about Antonin Scalia as a model Supreme Court justice? Did she think he was joking about reviving Star Wars? Did she think his invoking Ronald Reagan rather than his father was mere rhetoric?

Yes, Bush did not tell us he was planning on invading anyone. And maybe he wasn't. But for the most part Bush was very clear in 2000 about what he planned to do if elected. I found it incomprehsible at the time that anyone could ignore all of the warning signs just because he used the word "compassion" and seemed comfortable with the press -- but someone like Ehrenreich, who prides herself on seeing through our society's myths, should have known better.

At least she has learned a lesson. At least she isn't doing anything foolish now, like supporting Dennis Kucinich two weeks before the Democratic Convention or withholding her support from John Kerry. Oh, never mind....


Friday, July 16, 2004

Something Must Be Wrong ... 

when I agree with a post on the Independent Women's Forum. From Catherine Seipp, who is guest blogging at Volokh:
"And compare [Barbara Ehrenreich’s July 4 op-ed] to a similarly parallel-finding column Dowd wrote on June 13, which contrasted Ronald Reagan's state funeral in Washington to Katharine Hepburn's estate auction at Sotheby's....

"Ronald Reagan and Katharine Hepburn, though...what on earth does a strained connection between them (and there really is no connection, other than that they both lived long lives, worked in Hollywood and recently died) have to do with anything?

"Nothing, except that they both happened to catch Dowd's fancy that week. Her insightful observations included this: 'He was famous for starring in a movie with a chimp; she was famous for starring in a movie with a leopard.' (Uh, I don't think that's exactly what either Reagan or Hepburn were famous for.) And the column continues in that typically flitty way before mercifully concluding: 'The Connecticut Yankee was a great businesswoman in her final deal, as the California cowboy departed into the sunset on his final ride.'

"Well, OK, Maureen, if you say so.

"This past month really wasn't a particularly inane one for Dowd...."
Dowd has clearly become a waste of some of the most valuable journalistic real-estate in the world. I just hope Seipp's point isn't that Dowd is a pillar of the "liberal media" -- because with friends like those....


Bush Talking Points Watch, Part II 

From Bush's current stump speech:

"You cannot be small business and pro-trial lawyer at the same time," the president said. "You have to choose. My opponent made his choice and he put him on the ticket."  Pennsylvania, July 9, 2004.

Except.... From the conservative Hoover Institution:
"Just as a growing number of studies show that private property, a consistent rule of law, and a lack of burdensome governmental regulations are crucial for encouraging investment in the developing world, the same holds for reservations.... [T]ribal judicial systems are noted for their bias[ed] decisions that discourage outsiders from contracting with tribes or individual Indians. Indeed, tribes that have relinquished their judicial authority to the states wherein they lie had growth rates for 1989–1999 that averaged 20 percentage points higher than tribes without equivalent state oversight." T. Anderson & D. Parker, The Wealth of Indian Nations, June 16, 2004 (emphasis added). (A slightly modified version of this piece was highlighted by Hoover in a full-page back inside cover ad in July 5-12 New Republic.)
So which is it?  Are lawsuits good for business, or bad?
I suppose we all know the answer.  They're bad only when
regular folks are plaintiffs, but good when businesses are.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Dictatorships, Then and Now 

Camejo today:

Camejo said the Democrats' message about the danger the Nader candidacy poses to Kerry was undoubtedly scaring away voters who would otherwise cast ballots for their ticket.

"This is how people act when they are under a dictator," Camejo said. "This is a capitulation to the role of money, and we are the rebels."
And the last time he ran on a national ticket:

Wealth should be redistributed, peacefully if possible, and industry nationalized. (Emphasis added.)


Bush Talking Points Watch 

From Bush's current stump speech:

"Members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence, and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it saw a threat." July 12, 2004, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

WASHINGTON, July 13 - The White House and the Central Intelligence Agency have refused to give the Senate Intelligence Committee a one-page summary of prewar intelligence in Iraq prepared for President Bush that contains few of the qualifiers and none of the dissents spelled out in longer intelligence reviews, according to Congressional officials.
Arguably, this does not make Bush's statement false, since the document being withheld is a summary of the National Intelligence Estimate that was provided to Congress in October 2002. (Depends on what the meaning of "same" is, no?) And the assertion of executive privilege seems plausible (though Senator Durbin has some interesting contrary arguments).

However, Bush's speech is misleading because "same" conceals the administration's role in packaging the intelligence to support its policy objectives. It also ignores Bush's public statements about Iraq that far outran what the intelligence actually supported. That is why Bush does not want to disclose another document that sheds light on the intelligence packaging process.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Contingency Plans 

There has been a great deal of discussion recently about discussions among members of the Bush administration concerning delaying the election in the event of a terrorist attack.

In my view, it is beyond doubt that, under some circumstances an election would have to be delayed, as Balkin and Volokh rightly agree. A nuclear weapon goes off in Miami on Election Day morning? I don't think we'd be worrying too much about chads. But distrust of Bush's motives is palpable. And it is not necessarily ill founded. We have seen that administration lawyers are busily justifying their view that the President's power is not constrained by law or treaty. The Chief Justice has taken a similarly broad view:
"As for Abraham Lincoln, he himself did not approve in advance most of the arrests, detentions, and trials before military commissions which took place during the Civil War. His cabinet secretaries and other advisors did that, but Lincoln acquiesced in almost all of their decisions. In this respect, he seems to me to have acted similarly to the way President Franklin Roosevelt did during the Second World War. Lincoln felt that the great task of his Administration was to preserve the Union. If he could do it by following the Constitution, he would; but if he had to choose between preserving the Union and obeying the Constitution, he would quite willingly choose the former course. . . . It may be that during wartime emergencies it is in the nature of the presidency to focus on accomplishing political and strategic ends without too much regard for any resulting breaches in the shield which the Constitution gives to civil liberties." (Emphasis added.)
The end of constitutional democracy, were it ever to occur, would likely not be announced as such. Consider that we mark the end of the Roman Republic as when Caesar appropriated for life the absolute powers of "dictator", which had been reserved for short-term emergencies. It was only in retrospect that the end of the Republic was clear (though many Romans had been worrying about it for years).

The solution, it seems, is to make a plan now. Like they plan the debates, the major parties should settle on a contingency plan consisting of what, exactly, would trigger a delay, and how and when the delayed elections would be held. I'm sure there would be a lot of details to hammer out, but the basic plan would be along the lines of, no delay unless a terrorist attack in the United States resulting in greater than x casualties occurs, in which case the election will be delayed y days with all other deadlines modified accordingly. Balkin has an excellent summary of some of the key legal issues, but at bottom I am confident that a properly-drafted federal statute authorizing a delay within the existing presidential and congressional terms would be workable and constitutional. Such a plan would seem to provide little risk to democracy. In contrast, letting these decisions be made on the fly and at the time of high emotion seems highly risky. (Here, I would agree with Rehnquist that "Peacetime offers an opportunity for detached reflection on these important governmental questions which are not so calmly discussed in the midst of a war.")


Sunday, July 11, 2004

Judges and CIA Directors 

Diane Feinstein and Trent Lott were on Stephanopoulos today, where subjects included the new CIA director. Stephanopoulos mentioned four possible appointees, including Armitage, Goss, and Nunn (I missed the fourth). Lott said he would support any of the four, while Feinstein said she urged Bush to "go slow" and that this would be a "hot" confirmation process. She indicated that she would prefer an interim director to someone who was not committed to the systemic reforms she has proposed, even if that meant not confirming a director until after the election. (Summary from memory, not transcipt.)

Feinstein makes a reasonable point on the merits, but I think we (and she) have to be very careful on the politics of this. Voters don't care that the Democrats have held up a few of Bush's Court of Appeals nominees. They expect that process to be political and, in any case, most voters aren't too worried about whether one judge or another is on the Fifth Circuit. The expectations for CIA Director will be very different.

By all means, the confirmation should be hot. Past intelligence failures, the Bush Administration's misuse of intelligence, and future reforms are all appopriate topics. But hot does not mean obstructionist -- and we must be very careful to avoid that. If they can spin the situation as Democrats playing politics with national security we will have a big problem.

And remember, any CIA director is "interim" until January 20 anyway.


Friday, July 09, 2004

Deceits, Ashcroft Edition 

I promise I won't go through all the "deceits", but how about these three on Ashcroft:

Deceit 36 -- Ashcroft lost to a "dead guy". Kopel claims it's a "cheap shot", but he is purporting to be a fact-checker, not a movie critic. Ashcroft did lose to a dead guy. Moore doesn't footnote his joke by saying that the governor had promised to appoint Jean Carnahan, but the story is well-known and, anyway, most viewers would know that the "dead guy" wouldn't serve and the voters therefore preferred whoever the governor would appoint to Ashcroft. Of course, the results of that election don't "prove" Ashcroft is a "bad" AG.

Deceit 37 -- Moore says that "[Ashcroft's] own FBI knew that summer that there were Al Qaeda members in the US and that Bin Laden was sending his agents to flight schools around the country". This is, of course, true. Kopel argues that it is misleading because the staff memo on the subject was not widely circulated and did not reach Ashcroft. But that's why Moore says "[Ashcroft]'s own FBI" -- i.e., Moore acknowledges that Ashcroft didn't know.

Deceit 38 -- Ashcroft "turned a blind eye" to terrorism warnings in 2001. How about what the Chicago Tribune's article, Ashcroft Ignored Terrorism, Panel Told? ("Former interim FBI chief Thomas Pickard testified Tuesday that Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft didn't want to hear about terrorism when Pickard tried to brief him during the summer of 2001, as intelligence reports about terrorist threats were reaching a historic level.")
A difference in interpretation is not a deceit.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Update on Deceits 

Apparently in response to my earlier post, Kopel has removed his claim that Fahrenheit 9/11 was deceitful about Bush's sinking approval ratings pre-9/11. He does still count a deceit here (Deceit 5), which (as I read Kopel) is based on Moore's assertion that Bush "had trouble getting his legislation passed". Kopel is right that Bush got his first priority, the tax cut, and that his success on other items was mixed. I would not have chosen the phrase Moore chose. However, "had trouble" is, on its face, vague and subject to multiple possible interpretations, and there is no doubt that Jeffords' switch meant that Bush would face more "trouble" than he might have expected, so I think "deceit" is not correct.

In the same revision, Kopel has also acknowledged that the deceits I discussed here are really matters of opinion. For example, as to Deceit 8 (now renumbered Deceit 9), Bush's continuing to read to school children for seven minutes after learning of the second WTC attack, he writes, "As with the previous item, people may differ about whether this segment should be considered deceitful, or perhaps just a very cheap shot." I guess I don't even see the cheapness of the shot. Isn't it obvious that if a major attack is launched against New York, the President should calmly excuse himself and start working on responding to the crisis? I have no idea if "the September 11 events might have turned out better" if Bush had done so, but as of that moment Bush didn't know either -- it was his job to get to work.

Also, Kopel is now up to 59.


Quality Control, Folks, Quality Control! 

Kos has a great picture up of the New York Post's "exclusive" that Dick Gephardt will be Kerry's running mate.

That reminded me of the Post's equally accurate assertion last year that the Red Sox had won the pennant.



Sunday, July 04, 2004

54, 53, 52 ... 

Having now read a bit more of Kopel's Fifty-six Deceits in Fahrenheit 911, I wonder whether it is even worth the time. Look, I don't doubt there are inaccuracies in the film, and Kopel has probably found some of them (many would take more time or effort to investigate than I care to invest so I will remain agnostic) -- but isn't it, er, deceitful, to claim that you have documented 56 of them when many of them are obviously bogus?

Kopel's count includes the following:

Deceit 7 -- Portraying the horror of 9/11. How is that deceitful? Because in his heart Moore does not feel the horror. How does Kopel know? Because Ed Koch claims Moore said, in an unscripted and off-the-record remark, “I don’t know why we are making so much of an act of terror. It is three times more likely that you will be struck by lightening than die from an act of terror.” Even if Koch were a reliable source, this could easily mean something like, before we throw away our civil liberties, let's step back from our emotional reaction and try to take a clear-eyed view of the real risks involved. Given the movie's emphasis on the Patriot Act, this sentiment would be consistent with the movie's. I really doubt it proves that Moore was not horrified by 9/11.

Deceit 8 -- "Fahrenheit mocks President Bush for continuing to read a story to a classroom of elementary school children after he was told about the September 11 attacks." Deceitful? Yes, Kopel concludes, because the school's principal defended him: "“What would it have served if he had jumped out of his chair and ran out of the room?”…
Bush’s presence had a calming effect and 'helped us get through a very difficult day.'" Well, who cares what she thinks? Wasn't Bush's job to worry about the protecting 275 million Americans from a major attack, not to calm a few first graders? And why couldn't he just excuse himself without upsetting them? Does Kopel really think honesty requires including the principal's views?

Deceit 53 -- Moore relies on Washington Representative Jim McDermott. Why is that deceitful? Because McDermott has an agenda and questionable ties. OK. So does that mean it's inherently deceitful to rely on, say, Donald Rumsfeld, or Richard Perle? Does McDermott say anything untrue? I doubt it, since I'm pretty sure Kopel would have told us if he did.

Deceit 54 -- He quotes Britney Spears supporting Bush. But other celebrities oppose Bush. Aha! Got him there.


Make that 55 

Randy Barnett links approvingly to David Kopel's Fifty-six Deceits in Fahrenheit 911.

I must say I didn't slog through all of them. But one jumped out at me:
Moore continues: "No President had ever witnessed such a thing on his inauguration day. And for the next eight months it didn’t get any better for George W. Bush. He couldn’t get his judges appointed; he had trouble getting his legislation passed; and he lost Republican control of the Senate. His approval ratings in the polls began to sink." . . .

Did Bush’s approval ratings begin to sink? Not really. Moore shows a screen displaying Bush with 53% job approval on May 3, and 45% on September 5. Strangely, the screen shot includes no source for this alleged poll.

University of Minnesota History Professor Steven Ruggles has compiled a chart showing Bush’s approval ratings in 13 major polls throughout his Presidency. According the chart, never during 2001 did Bush’s approval rating fall as low as 45% in any of the polls.

Well that should be easy to verify, no?

In fact, Bush's approval rating was reported as 45% on September 5, 2001, by the Investors' Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor. That poll also seems to be the source of the 53% on May 3, though Polling Report reports it as 52%. And the overall trend is certainly down (49/19 approve/disapprove from the first poll of Bush's presidency to 45/36 on the last one before 9/11). Kopel really couldn't find that? It took me about three minutes.

Now, I suppose in fairness to Kopel I should acknowledge that Moore did choose the poll that was the worst for Bush in that time period in terms of the absolute approval number. But, Moore did compare polls from the same organization to show the decline. And, in fact, Bush's approve/disapprove spread was declining according to a wide range of polls. According to Polling Report, here are the spreads from the first poll of Bush's presidency to the latest before 9/11:

NBC/WSJ: +35 to +15
CBS/NY Times: +32 to +12
Fox News: +32 to +23
Gallup/CNN/USA Today: +32 to +12
ABC/Wash. Post: +32 to +14
Harris: +30 to +9
Pew: +32 to +17
Every single one shows a substantial deteriorarion for Bush. Now most of the change came in Bush's disapproves going up, rather than his approves going down, but the data shows a clear trend of declining public approval for George W. Bush during the period in question. So, yes, Mr. Kopel, Bush's approval ratings really did begin to sink.


The New Disenfranchised 

Ezra at Pandagon wonders why the left so strongly prefers Edwards to Gephardt when "Gephardt isn't appreciably less liberal than Edwards". I think the answer is in Ezra's next sentence in support of that statement: "He's more of a protectionist, more committed to labor, more skeptical of globalization and more experienced in government."

By and large, those are not the issues of the college-educated (professional) left, myself included, who tend to take a more Clintonian view that free markets and globalization -- if properly managed -- can really raise all boats. (And, indeed, the second Clinton Administration was the first boom of my lifetime that actually helped folks at the bottom.) The college-educated left also tends to be more liberal on social issues than the traditional (labor) left.

The Iraq war, too, is another crucial reason. Edwards may have supported it, but Gephardt was actually in a position to exert some influence in the process, and he enthusiastically jumped into bed with Bush. Again, Iraq is a more powerful issue with the college-educated left.

And Gep's scurrilous trashing of Dean sure didn't help.

The college-educated left is increasingly the face of the Democratic left. This change comes from a variety of factors, including the obvious trend that more people are going to college and fewer are joining traditional unions. The bigger reason for the change, though, is that the period since November 2000 marks the first time that college-educated liberals have felt completely disenfranchised -- a feeling that did not exist during Reagan/Bush I because (a) they actually won their elections; (b) we controlled Congress and still believed in the Supreme Court; and (c) they weren't as radical as W. While much of America has "moved on" (witness Jeb's re-election), we still believe that the 2000 election was stolen. We see the country being run by ideological theocrats, kleptocrats, and imperialists. We see the media failing the scrutinize Bush the way it scrutinized Clinton, and yet still being labeled "liberal". And we are very, very angry about that.

The internet has harnessed that anger: Move On, Dean, Atrios, Pandagon, and most important for the present discussion -- $56 million in on-line donations to Kerry. If, as Barney Frank says, dollars are "a proxy for enthusiasm" (pay archive), how many of those dollars would vote for Edwards? I'm guessing it's over $50 million.


Friday, July 02, 2004

Call a Spade a Bloody Shovel, Part II 

Professors Bainbridge and Ribstein take issue with comparison of Bush to Tony Soprano or a "Mafia leader" in the "liberal media".

Now, clearly, Bainbridge and Ribstein are right in at least two regards: First, such comparisons aren't really very informative -- after all, no one evaluates a president based on how much he does or does not resemble Tony Soprano. Second, the essence of the mob is the illegal use of violence to maintain power, while the presidency comes with wide authority to exercise power and violence legally.

However, is the comparison really so misplaced? How does Bush rate on a check-list of mafia characteristics?

-- Obsessive secrecy? Check.

-- Destroying the disloyal? Check.

-- Personal profiteering from political influence? Check.

-- Revenge against enemies? Check.

-- Vulgarity? Check.

-- And, of course, illegal use of violence. Check and check.

-- Letting "Junior ... think he's running things"? OK, sorry, got carried away there.
Well, at least we know no one on the right would compare a Democratic president to a mafia boss. Oh, except for the Solicitor General of the United States. And except for an influential Republican "intellectual". Or another (bottom of link). Or .... Oh, you get the idea.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Today's Must-Read Article 

Salon goes in-depth today on Ralph Nader's dark side.

Toby Moffett was my much-admired congressman when I was growing up, so his story of betrayal by Ralph was particularly poignant.


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