Thursday, September 30, 2004

The First Debate

It's about 5 minutes until 9, and the debate is about to start. I'll be liveblogging as it happens, providing my thoughts and comments as the event unfolds.

I'm watching Fox News Channel at the moment, and Michael Barone is explaining the significance of the "light" controversy to Bill O'Reilly. All the other talking heads agree that Kerry will be "unrelenting" in his attacks on Bush.

And here we go, it's on like Donkey Kong!

9:02-- I think Jim Lehrer needs to be traded in for a younger, harder hitting model.

9:04-- A quick handshake, and the men are now at the podiums. First question to Kerry: "Could you do a better job than Bush at making us safer after 9/11?" He is emphasizing alliances, which he says are "shattered." No veto to other countries though. Reaching out to the Muslim world? He wants a summit with all our allies in Iraq. Lovely, lets all get together to talk!

--Bush's response seems to be slower and more relaxed than Kerry's question, which was a quick laundry list of what he wanted to do different.

9:09-- Will a Kerry presidency make us more likely to be hit by terrorists? "It's not gonna happen because I'm gonna win." It's tough in Iraq because "the enemy understands the stakes."

"This president has made a colossal error in judgment." There's the first real jab from Kerry. "$200 billion dollars in Iraq that could have been used on health care, prescription drugs." Bush's response: Kerry's statements in 2002 and 2003 in favor of war. Nice riposte. 16 failed UN resolutions which Saddam flaunted.

9:16-- We can go after Saddam Hussein AND Osama bin Laden. I'm glad he made this point, that we don't have only a single focus in the war on terror. Nice use of PM Allawi, "He doesn't want US leadership to send mixed signals."

Kerry feints, "President called Iraq a center on the war on terror." Actually, he didn't, he said there were many fronts in that war, and Iraq was one. Kerry is talking about the lack of funding for body armor, BAD move, if Bush can bring up the $87 billion vote. Bush swings back, with Kerry's vote in favor of war.

Kerry is going to try and work in as many domestic policy points as he can during this debate. He's complaining now about no cops, no firemen, and tax cuts for the rich. "We didn't need that tax cut."

"I wake up every day thinking about how to protect America. That's my job." Good line from Bush.

9:27-- "When the generals on the ground tell me the Iraqis are ready to take over their security, then we'll be ready to bring our men home." Glad to hear him put some responsibility on the Iraqis. "A free Iraq is essential for the security of this country."

Kerry's message to the troops: "Help is on the way." Now Kerry says American troops are occupiers, and that the only facilities we are guarding are oil facilities. Again, he wants a summit and renewed alliances.

Here's the $87 billion comment from Bush, nice comeback to the "Help is on the way" comment.

Kerry says he made a mistake on the $87 billion, but the president's mistake on Iraq was worse. Then mentions Vietnam. Sounded slightly childish.

Kerry admits he believed the intelligence on Iraq. Now he quotes Richard Clarke...not sure that's the best person to be quoting in light of the fact that he is a proven liar.

Do any of you remember Kofi Annan offering the UN's help? Bush's response: "That's totally absurd." Now he is naming our allies by name, Blair and the PM of Poland (can't recall his name at the moment).

Great hit by Bush on Kerry's "coalition of the coerced and the bribed" comment. "You can't lead other nations when you insult them." Powerful lines regarding the torture and executions in Iraq.

Kerry is emphasizing troop numbers for his position that we don't have an alliance. Is he saying France and Germany will send troops? Now he brings up the Nigerian yellowcake statement in Bush's state of the union address.

9:40-- Kerry is going on a laundry list of how we rushed to war, so I'll just comment right now, Kerry is attacking consistently here, but I don't think he has landed any serious punches yet. All of his points so far are old news and rehashed talking points which I don't believe most swing voters will be swayed by. He needs to come up with something that Bush can't effectively rebut, because so far every attack has been nicely parried by the president.

Kerry: "I've had one position, one consistent position." I can't believe Kerry said this...expect to see this line in NUMEROUS subsequent Republican commercials.

Very heartfelt moment, with Bush describing his conversations with a widow whose husband died in Iraq. It's this kind of topic that Bush is most effective at, where he shares his emotions with the American people.

Does Kerry really think that a summit is going to win the peace in Iraq? I don't think that summits are what American voters are looking for.

9:58-- Can Kerry give specifics on his plan for getting us out of Iraq? Jim Lehrer wants to know! Kerry actually tries to flank Bush on the right, saying we should have gone in and cleared out Fallujah, as well as closed up Iraq's borders. I happen to agree with him on the Fallujah point, and I'd love to see the borders closed as well (it's not feasible).

Bush's now standard counter to the Kerry alliances position is to bring up every time Kerry has insulted our allies, this time mentioning the insulting comments Kerry made about Allawi.

The tone of this debate is shaking out pretty much as predicted, with Bush presenting the optimistic view and Kerry focusing on the pessimistic.

Bush needs to address Kerry's repeated hits on Osama supposedly getting away in Tora Bora, as well as the charge that Bush allowed North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons.

10:04-- finally, Bush gets into the North Korea issue.

Did John Kerry just say "nucular"?????

Nice clear distinctive moment here, Bush wants multilateral talks, and Kerry wants bilateral talks.

Jim Lehrer brings up the Darfur tragedy, since neither candidate has addressed it. Kerry starts off talking AGAIN about Iran. Says that we are overextended and says Bush is using a "back door draft." Calls for two additional active duty divisions in the U.S., but he doesn't say how he's going to get those divisions. Maybe he would institute a draft himself?

10:17-- Does Bush think Kerry has character flaws preventing him from being president? Bush goes on a very gracious list of character traits that he thinks are commendable, including Vietnam service and devotion to his daughters. He then zeroes back in on Kerry's inability to be decisive and his tendency to denigrate our coalition partners.

Kerry does score some points here where he says "You can be certain and be wrong." This line is one that swing voters could easily identify with. Kerry then goes and dilutes the impact of that line by saying again that his position on Iraq has been consistent. Another byte for the attack ads.

10:25-- Almost into the home stretch now. Both candidates are essentially agreeing over non-proliferation, which does not help Kerry.

10:27-- Last question: does Bush agree with Putin's consolidation of power in Russia? No, but it's important to keep a good personal relationship with Putin. Kerry agrees, then swiftly jumps back to bilateral talks with North Korea. Then Bush brings it back to Iraq.

Kerry's closing statement: Basically a summary of all his main points during the debate, ie building alliances and reaching out to other countries. Oh, and he served in Vietnam

Bush's closing statement: Key phrase, "the transformational power of liberty," "a free Iraq is essential to American security," "we have climbed the mountain, and can see below us the valley of peace."

And that does it. My overall impression: Kerry made only one real gaffe, stating twice that his position on Iraq has been clear and consistent. But unfortunately for him, he did no real damage that I could see to the president. He had to take Bush down in this debate, and I believe he failed in that regard. I'll sleep on it and try to provide some more detailed analysis tomorrow.

Pre-Debate Thoughts

The debate begins in half an hour. At this stage, Bush clearly has the momentum coming in, and is in a much better position than Kerry. All Bush really has to do tonight is reiterate his well-known positions on Iraq and terrorism. Bush can afford to be relaxed and allow simply play keep-away with Kerry. In other words, Bush comes into the debate ahead on points, and just has to keep Kerry from landing any knockout punches. However, Bush has shown himself over and over to be a risk-taker, and I fully expect him to go after Kerry on his multitude of positions on Iraq. Bush will attempt to keep the initiative and stay on offense in order to prevent Kerry from mustering any momentum of his own.

Kerry, on the other hand, MUST score a knockout during this debate. For better or worse, Kerry has ceded the domestic agenda to Bush and is zeroing in on Iraq and the war on terror. He will not get another chance between now and the election to seize momentum. This puts him in the unenviable position of having to attack Bush on the president's favorite terrain. Not only must he constantly attack, he must inflict serious damage in order to win this debate. His plan of attack is therefore one-dimensional at the time he can least afford it. I expect that Kerry will be so locked into attack mode that he either a) commits a serious gaffe, b) does not defend against Bush's counterattacks, and/or c) turns off voters in much the same manner as Al Gore did with his huffing and sighing in 2000.

Personally, I'm looking forward to a real slobberknocker.

Bush v. Kerry, Round 1

The first presidential debate takes place tonight at 9 P.M. EST. I will be attempting to blog the debate live, depending on whether I can find a long enough modem cord (a WiFi connection, a WiFi connection, my kingdom for a WiFi connection!). Regardless, I will have the Debate Facts news feed running at the top of the page while the debate is in progress. All the talking heads are saying that this will be the critical debate to watch, and I am looking forward to it.

O'Reilly's Bush Interview, Pt. 3

I watched the final section of the Bush interview, and I have conflicting feelings about it. First, my quibbles. Whoever cut the interview on O'Reilly's end did a poor job in my opinion. This final segment struck me as much shorter than the first two. I would surmise that the goal was to divide the segments by topic (foreign policy, domestic policy, personal reflections), but this had the effect of making the final segment seem less weighty than the first two. Quite frankly, this final portion of the interview left me wanting more than I got. This nit is a problem with the editors at Fox though, and not an issue with the president's answers.

On the other hand, I think that Bush's final answers revealed him at his most human, giving a true glimpse into the man's character. O'Reilly essentially asked three questions: 1) What were you thinking in the Florida classroom on 9/11/01, 2) Why do people get upset over your faith, and 3) What don't Americans know about you? The first two questions were the most personal questions of Bush over the course of the entire three-part interview, and the answers were sincere and compelling. The final question made me chuckle out loud, but Bush's response struck me as profound. He really didn't know what to say. O'Reilly had just given him the chance to plug himself and his character one last time for the audience, and the man just didn't have an answer for him.

I think the reason is that the American people know this president in a way that few presidents have been known by the public, certainly since FDR and his fireside chats. Bush, love him or hate him, is a very transparent person. His feelings and his passions are not hidden or masked. He laughs when he is amused, he becomes short and terse when he is angered, his eyes tear up when he is sad. And for all the blather about "Bush lied," most honest liberals will admit that Bush makes his intentions known, and then follows them through. Since 9/11, this man has experienced the breadth of human emotion, and his responses to these emotions have been public for all to see. What don't we know about George W. Bush? Not much, in my opinion. Even those who hate the man will tell you that his character flaws are plain to see. So when the president halted, thought, and stammered a bit to think of an answer that never came, I suspect that many Americans had the exact same response. And I think that just such a moment of shared emotion and experience is what John Kerry is totally lacking.

Grade for the third interview segment: A, despite its brevity.
Grade for entire interview: A-

As for the impact of the interview as a whole, that remains to be seen. However, I believe it will be quite positive for Bush, and I look forward to seeing this week's polls to track whether there was any noticeable change in his numbers. All in all, the interview was a good campaign decision for Bush. Let's see if Kerry follows suit (I'll bet he doesn't).

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Sacre bleu! The Expos are moving!

In a long anticipated move, the Montreal Expos will be playing in Washington D.C. next season. My condolences to the loyal Canadian fans who are losing their team. However, it will be nice to have a baseball team playing out of the capitol again. I just hope they don't go with the idea of calling them the "Grays" (an homage to a 1930s Negro League team of the same name). At least the Reds have an attention-grabbing color as a team name. Kinda hard to get excited about Gray, in my opinion. Why not call them the Senators after the previous D.C. team of that name? For some reason I can't put my finger on, I suspect that the new team name will be neither of these. I just hope they can pick a name that fits with the local history without being lame.

I knew him when he was young!

Matthew Downer makes it big, getting this article in the Harvard Crimson linked to by the good people at RealClearPolitics. Comparing both the form and the substance of his article with this anti-Bush piece by Princeton grad student Kai Chan, I think that Matthew's piece is the better article both stylistically and rhetorically. I am not compelled when a non-citizen (Chan is apparently Canadian) tells me why the rest of the world loves Kerry and hates Bush, and that America's problem is just that we can't see the plank in our eye. We just need our wonderful international friends to point it out to us.

But hey, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I am predisposed to support Mr. Downer. He is one of a group of extremely bright young homeschooled students who I had the honor and privilege of coaching at the National High School Mock Trial competition for two years in a row. Incidentally, those two teams were the only back-to-back national champions in the history of the competition. Matthew, when you are elected President of the United States twenty years down the road, all I ask is for a nice cabinet position. Defense would be nice. Or maybe I could be your own personal Dick Cheney. I'm still working on those Big Oil ties.

O'Reilly's Bush Interview, Pt. 2

Unfortunately, due to an unexpectedly late office boating party, I missed the second part of the three part interview. Too beat to wait up for the re-run, I will have to try to find a transcript or online video of the interview in order to comment. I don't foresee any reason why I should miss tonight's final interview, so hopefully I will come out of this batting .667.

UPDATE: I have now reviewed the second part of the O'Reilly interview with Bush, and I think the result was slightly better than the first portion of the interview. While the substance of Bush's answers was slightly leaner than on Monday, I believe that he became more relaxed and comfortable as the interview progressed. As we have seen before, this is a president who has a sense of humour and is not embarrased to show it.

His comments on the growth of government spending left something to be desired. I was disappointed that he passed the buck on to Congress as far as controlling spending. It would have been nice to hear him pledge to send a leaner budget to Congress, but I understand that he wants to be free to increase spending as necessary for the ongoing war effort. Bush's answers regarding health care, while less than satisfactory for me, will probably go over well with undecided and independent voters. He did work in a plug for private health savings accounts, so there was some consolation for the conservative base.

I think Bush quite emphatically and effectively put the National Guard question to bed once and for all. This story will get no further traction as a means of damaging Bush. His comments on media bias, while subtle, should probably ring true with most people.

Overall, I think that this second portion of the interview built quite nicely on the first. I would grade it as an A-.

Monday, September 27, 2004

O'Reilly's Bush Interview, Pt. 1

The first part of Bill O'Reilly's interview with President Bush aired tonight on Fox News Channel. The interview is being shown in three parts, Monday through Wednesday, completely unedited. Before commenting on the details of the interview, some general thoughts.

I think that sitting down for this interview was an incredibly smart move for Bush to take, for several reasons. First, the interview gives Bush great exposure. O'Reilly has the number one prime time cable news show on the air, regularly attracting over 3 million viewers each night. Furthermore, many of these viewers are "independent" voters, who remain in the undecided category for the presidential election. Bush will essentially get three days of free publicity with a key voter demographic.

Second, the format of the interview plays to Bush's strengths. Say what you will about O'Reilly from the left or the right, but the man is an old-school journalist who makes his living asking tough questions. Bush's direct, determined personality is tailor-made for O'Reilly's "no-spin" questioning. Whether you agree with his answers is almost beside the point. When quick, confident answers are provided to pointed questions, it reinforces Bush's decisive nature with the viewers. Also, the unedited airing lends the whole interview an aura of credibility to swing voters.

Third, timing. The interviews lead directly into Thursday's first presidential debate. I don't know if the Bush team planned the interview this way, or if O'Reilly decided when to air the interview. What I do know is the timing of the interviews essentially allows Bush to define the terrain of his first battle with Kerry. Bush's responses in the interview will most likely sow seeds in the minds of voters which will be harvested during the first debate.

Fourth, campaign initiative. The O'Reilly interview is the most serious question/answer session that either candidate has had with any journalist so far in this campaign. By making the first move and interviewing with a hard-hitter like O'Reilly (as opposed to Jon Stewart of The Daily Show), Bush has upped the ante for Kerry. He is practically daring Kerry to follow suit and put his own record up for tough scrutiny. The assumption is that Kerry is so "nuanced" that he will fare poorly in a real no-holds-barred interview. And if Kerry declines to take the bait, Bush can crow about how he is confident enough in his positions to put them to the test. While O'Reilly claims he would be fair to Kerry, the fact is simply that with the number of different positions Kerry has taken on so many issues, an O'Reilly interview would likely make him come out looking worse for wear.

Now, for some specific thoughts on tonight's interview, in no particular order:

-- Bush appeared relaxed and confident, as expected.

-- He could have answered better on the WMD issue--he may have no idea where they are, but I'll bet he has suspicions. Why not say so, without getting into too many specifics? Plenty of people have commented on the Syria connection, couldn't that have been alluded to?

-- I think he gave a good explanation on the "Mission: Accomplished" carrier landing, essentially saying it was a morale-booster.

-- Started weakly on Iran, with emphasis on diplomacy, but then said the key words I was waiting for: "All options are on the table." Translation: military intervention is possible. I wish he had been a bit more forceful, but I suspect that we will see a harder line on Iran taken in a second Bush term, should he win.

-- Illegal immigration was I think the weakest part of this first chunk of interview. He tried to emphasize his temporary work permit plan (which I dislike), which avoided the real issue of how we can make our borders more secure. While I disagree with O'Reilly's stance that we should militarize the borders, I do think that we need both a drastic overhaul of INS rules and regulations for immigration, as well as major increases in Border Patrol funding and staffing. Temporary work permits, like restrictive gun laws, will be a problem only for those on the right side of the law, and not for any terrorist who tries to enter the country. O'Reilly rightly called Bush on the somewhat unresponsiveness of his answer.

Overall grade for Bush: B. I think he started the interview fairly well, and maintained his confidence and directness throughout. A more forceful response on Iran would have earned him a B+, while a better answer on the immigration issue would get him into the A range. I think overall a good first night. I think the cumulative effect of the three interviews will be very positive for Bush, even if answers to individual questions leave something to be desired.

Back tomorrow night with thoughts on the second interview.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Kerry reaches out to key Mideast ally

John Kerry shows us all how to reach out to other nations:

"The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story."
In case PM Allawi didn't understand that Kerry was accusing him of lying, Kerry advisor Joe Lockhart spelled things out in greater detail:

While Kerry was relatively restrained in disputing Allawi's upbeat portrayal, some of his aides suggested that the Iraqi leader was simply doing the bidding of the Bush administration, which helped arrange his appointment in June.

"The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips," said Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry adviser.

Welcome to the Kerry Administration's foreign policy. Oppose us, take every opportunity to thwart us, and we will grovel before you. Stand with us, support us, and you're a coerced, bribed puppet. John Kerry must not have read Thucydides when he was being educated in Europe: "We secure our friends not by accepting favors but by doing them."

As crass and insulting as the Democratic response to Allawi is, I think this strategy is not only destined to be a ballot-box loser, I think it was designed to be exactly that. Joe Lockhart, along with fellow Kerry advisors Paul Begala, James Carville, John Podesta, and Mike McCurry are all former aides to Bill Clinton. Early in the campaign liberals scoffed at claims by conservatives that Hillary and Bill were plotting to sabotage John Kerry's candidacy in order to pave the way for Hillary 2008. Lo and behold, a team of Clintonites swoops in to "invigorate" the Kerry campaign, and what happens? The wheels completely fall off.

The pathetic thing is, I doubt Kerry even realizes what is going on. He is surrounded by people who have a vested interest in making sure that an incumbent will not be on the ticket in 2008, and he doesn't have any core beliefs or ideas which he can stake out and claim for his own. If his advisors tell him one demographic wants to hear one thing, he will say it. If they tell him another group wants to hear something else, no problem, he'll take that position too. I think the Clintons knew this fatal flaw in Kerry's character, which is exactly why they sent in their old advisors. Kerry will do whatever he is told if he thinks it will help him win, regardless of any prior statement or position he has taken. I can just imagine Carville and Lockhart huddled up and giggling to themselves, "Let's see what we can get him to say next!"

You can almost see the hand underneath the shirt moving the lips. Ah, sweet irony....

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Homeschoolers are terrorists?

The lovely and gracious Michelle Malkin writes a column about this story from the Muskegon Chronicle, detailing how middle and high school students conducted a mock terror drill in response to a bombing attack perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists. Well, that's what the drill SHOULD have been about:

The exercise will simulate an attack by a fictitious radical group called Wackos Against Schools and Education who believe everyone should be homeschooled. Under the scenario, a bomb is placed on the bus and is detonated while the bus is traveling on Durham, causing the bus to land on its side and fill with smoke.

Malkin dissects the ridiculousness of this scenario with her usual precision:

This is not a joke. A taxpayer-funded drill is using public school students to enforce anti-homeschooling bigotry under the guise of preparing for terrorism. Terrorism by whom? By Islamic jihadists who hijack planes and incinerate kids headed to Disneyworld. Islamic terrorists who take hundreds of children hostage in Beslan, force them to drink their own urine and shoot babies in the back. Islamic terrorists who groom toddlers as suicide bombers.

Our enemies are Islamic extremist murderers. Except if you happen to attend the Muskegon County, Mich., schools, where the menacing faces of terrorism belong to parents who make untold sacrifices to give their children the best education they know how by schooling them in the loving environment of their own homes.

The mock drill apparently provoked a huge response from homeschoolers nationwide, as the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District tried to backpedal from the wording of the drill scenario:

The Muskegon Area Intermediate School District Tuesday issued a statement saying the areawide organization was not aware of the scenario, but nevertheless apologized.

The statement said the MAISD "shared the disappointment of others when we learned the emergency preparedness drill referenced home-schoolers as the fictitious group responsible for a mock disaster. We apologize."

It said the MAISD and local school districts "were not aware of the scenario, and it was not shared with students or parents who took part in the exercise." "We sincerely regret offending home-school educators. We believe that all parents are educators and do important work at home with their children," the statement said.

I was homeschooled myself and I can verify that this type of bias and stereotyping of the homeschool movement is both common and laughably false. Homeschooled students as a group are just as well socialized (if not better, in my opinion) than their public school counterparts. Academically, homeschooled students are consistently head and shoulders above public school students. This success threatens the dominance of the public education establishment, as embodied chiefly by the National Education Association. This is why the stereotypes persist in the face of all the contradictory evidence: The NEA can't afford for homeschooling to erode its stranglehold on the education of America's youth.

This depiction of homeschoolers as crazed "Wackos Against Schools and Education," while insulting, is not that surprising to me. What concerns me more is that this incident is yet another example of the willful failure to identify the true perpetrators of terrorism: radical Islamofascists. Not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that substantially all of the world's terrorist activities are not carried out by Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, or Agnostics, but by jihadist Muslims. Homeschoolers do not kill innocent children with bombs. Radical Muslims do.

The establishment is so paralyzed by political correctness, that they have lost all connection with Reality. Unfortunately, for far too many Americans, the insidious disease of political correctness has already hampered their ability to face the truth about the dangers facing our nation. One of Sun Tzu's axioms for waging war is to "Know thy enemy." When we refuse to apply this most basic of principles, we effectively tie one hand behind our back in a struggle against an enemy who will take every advantage, exploit every weakness, and land as many blows below the belt as possible.

When will we untie ourselves?

Sweet, sweet braaaains

James Lileks is so enjoyable to read, I feel like I should link to his Bleats every day. Which is why he is a Key Operative. But today's Bleatage is particularly sweet. Hillbilly Madmen and Zombie Hippie Boomers figure in. Partake and give thanks.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The "Apology"

Here is the text of Dan Rather's statement on the Texas memo flap. I think it deserves a bit of parsing.
Last week, amid increasing questions about the authenticity of documents

They weren't just "questions" about authenticity, they were definitive statements by expert after expert that your documents were completely fake, from the address through the signature line.
used in support of a "60 Minutes Wednesday" story about President Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard, CBS News vowed to re-examine the documents in question-and their source-vigorously.

Vigorously? So it took you 5 days to figure out what professional document analysts told you BEFORE you ran with the story? And what even amateur, pajama-wearing bloggers figured out within hours of simply looking at the documents? The last time you did something this vigorously, you were investigating questions about John Kerry's Vietnam record...wait a second....
And we promised that we would let the American public know what this examination turned up, whatever the outcome.

Again, aren't you just a little late to be telling the American public what we've known for nearly a week?
Now, after extensive additional interviews, I no longer have the confidence in these documents that would allow us to continue vouching for them journalistically.

So how WOULD you vouch for fake documents? Maybe you have the confidence in the documents to vouch for them artistically? The fakery-as-art argument works for Michael Moore, after all.
I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers.

Let me get this straight, you weren't misled about the authenticity of the documents themselves, just how Bill Burkett got them? I can see this being accurate, if Clintonesque: "Sorry Dan, I told you I got these documents from Killian's wastebasket, but what I meant to say was, I got them from my printer after I typed them up in MS Word. My bad! Sorry to mislead you about where I got these documents!"
That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where-if I knew then what I know now-I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

You're starting to sound like John Kerry describing his Iraq policy, but that's not surprising. You've been carrying water for him so long that you must have picked up on his "nuance."
But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.

Edward R. Murrow would probably add that investigative reporting should also be carried on without fabrication, but maybe I'm assuming too much. And if anyone out there believes the line about reporting without favoritism, then please email me, I have a bridge that might interest you.
Please know that nothing is more important to us than people's trust in our ability and our commitment to report fairly and truthfully.

And defeating George W. Bush this November, that's important too.

Monday, Monday...

...Can't trust that day. Light blogging today, as I have an all day outing to Sevierville, TN tomorrow which requires significant prep time. The weekend was great; fall is starting to creep in, with slightly cooler temperatures and bright, clear skies. Of course, fall is football weather, and the stirring Tennessee victory over the hated Gators was extra sweet.

Is CBS about to admit that they were duped?

After days of expressing confidence about the documents used in a "60 Minutes'' report that raised new questions about President Bush's National Guard service, CBS News officials have grave doubts about the authenticity of the material, network officials said last night.

The officials, who asked not to be identified, said CBS News would most likely make an announcement as early as today that it had been deceived about the documents' origins. CBS News has already begun intensive reporting on where they came from, and people at the network said it was now possible that officials would open an internal inquiry into how it moved forward with the report. Officials say they are now beginning to believe the report was too flawed to have gone on the air.

But they cautioned that CBS News could still pull back from an announcement. Officials met last night with Dan Rather, the anchor who presented the report, to go over the information it had collected about the documents one last time before making a final decision. Mr. Rather was not available for comment late last night.

Even now, with the cat totally out of the bag, CBS still feels the need to clutch desperately to the veracity of the forged documents. Why? Other news organizations who have aired false stories (NBC Dateline and CNN's Tailwind story come to mind) have responded swiftly to correct error and give the axe to whomever authorized the airing of the story. Is it possible in this case that the responsibility for airing the TANG story goes higher than originally thought? Or is CBS really that committed to backing Dan Rather to the proverbial hilt? As dismal as his ratings have been for some time now, I find it hard to believe that he has that much stroke at CBS. Rather is due to release a statement shortly, so let's see whether he is still backing this dead horse.

UPDATE: Rather surrenders. Of course Drudge breaks the statement even as I finished typing the previous post.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Secret War Plans

Presidential candidate John F. Kerry says that President Bush has secret plans to call up National Guard and reserve troops after the election:
"He won't tell us what congressional leaders are now saying, that this administration is planning yet another substantial call-up of reservists and Guard units immediately after the election," Kerry said. "Hide it from people through the election, then make the move."

Several thoughts come to mind on this issue. First, is Kerry making an assumption at this point that Bush is going to win the election? If so, this could be a last ditch effort to swing some voters with the concept of a "backdoor draft." Second, if Kerry is not assuming a Bush victory, then he believes that Bush would be planning to take this action as a lame-duck president. In that case, what would Kerry's response be? He has said a number of times that he intends to bring troops back home, althrough the timetables have varied from six months to a year to "soon." If Kerry was confident in his campaign, I would have expected him to take this tack with the news of a post-election callup.

My third thought, is whether this is an effective charge for Kerry to make in the immediate wake of the CBS Rathergate brouhaha. "Bush has secret plans! We know he does! Take my word for it!" It seems to me that one side-effect of Rathergate is to increase public skepticism across the board for wild and shocking claims made by any source. If Kerry has any documentation on these secret plans, you'd think at this point that there are people in back rooms poring over those documents making sure they are real. And if he doesn't have documents, then it's just so much more hot air that voters are going to blow off.

I think that this unintended consequence (increased public skepticism) is a Very Good Thing. And it cuts both ways too, although by nature of his role as victim in TANG story, Bush has come out a winner. EVERYONE will have to be much more careful in the future about the accuracy of their claims. Whether this will result in more truthful, sane reporting, or more elaborate forgeries, time alone will tell.

Friday, September 17, 2004

What to do when your candidate is down 13 points in the polls:

Posted by Hello

Make a little girl cry. How brave.

This is the Nile. It's a river in Egypt.

This is Denial. It's not a river in Egypt:

President Bush has surged to a 13-point lead over Sen. John Kerry among likely voters, a new Gallup Poll shows. The 55%-42% match-up is the first statistically significant edge either candidate has held this year.

"We have seen some bouncing around in the numbers," says Mike McCurry, a top Kerry adviser, "but it is our sense that the race is moving back to a much closer race."

A 5-8 point bounce post convention turns into 13 points, and McCurry thinks the race is getting closer? Still more evidence that the Kerry team is living in Bizarro World.

Well now. Blogging from home may be old-fashioned, but blogging from the office gets me back into the 21st century. Now to figure out all these interesting HTML commands and such...

(...3 hours later...)

A blogroll! Now perhaps I can get down to actually writing something of substance. (crosses fingers)
Well, it turned out to be the big storm that wasn't, for my neck of the woods anyway. The poor folks in Alabama and the Florida panhandle sure got hammered though. The local forecast had been calling for torrential rain from Ivan today, so much in fact that the county schools were all closed. As I look outside now, I can actually see a small patch of blue sky, and there isn't a drop falling. A few of the local low spots are flooded, but it doesn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary. Your public education system at work. Anyway, here's what Ivan looks like now. I do so love high-res satellite imagery.

Though I'd wager that Dan Rather feels like the hurricane is still on.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

At least it's a start...

Sometimes it can be really frustrating to be poor.

By poor, I don't mean that I fall under the poverty line. I have a new house, a new car, a good job (attorney), good credit, and the bills get paid. Unfortunately, all of that leaves very little disposable income on the side. So I have to make do with posting on a 233mhz Powerbook G3 (Wallstreet edition for you Mac fanatics) on a dialup connection. Sigh. I am SO 1998.

This also means that I miss out on all the cool Blogger formatting toolbars that aren't available in Internet Explorer 5.1 for MacOS 9.x. Oh well. In time, in time...

UNTIL that time, here I am. I've been following the development of the blogosphere since the summer of 2001. I was just out of law school and looking for a job (without much luck at the time), and generally enjoying life post-education. Except for that whole bar examination thing. But I digress.

I've enjoyed reading blogs for some time, although I've never really had the time to do it myself. Heck, I still don't have the time. But here I am anyway. I think what really made me start this little blog o' mine was the recent retirement of my favorite blogger, the sorely-missed Steven Den Beste. I can't even begin to describe the sheer quality of this man's writing output. I highly recommend you go to his site and just browse through his archives. In my opinion, no other blogger can touch the depth and breadth of his thinking and writing. Period. I hope that the captain of the U.S.S. Clueless finds himself a nice home on Talos IV, where Starfleet General Order 7 will prohibit contact from swarming emailers.

In any event, with Den Beste's disappearance, I decided that I'd like to try my hand at this stuff. I've always enjoyed writing, although I haven't been able to write for pleasure in a long time. And I have strong opinions about most anything you can think of (does anyone in the blogosphere NOT?). So here I am.

To wrap up this long first post, I probably ought to set out my purpose here, and the rules by which I operate. At this point in my country's history, we face unprecedented threats and dangers, both foreign and domestic. The nature and appropriate response to these threats are matters of fierce debate. Some even debate the existence of a threat at all.

I have adopted "Section 31" as my own little corner of the blogosphere (if only Bill Quick had a nickel for every time someone used that term...). Trekkies will recall that Section 31 was introduced in Deep Space 9 (my favorite of the Trek series):

Director Sloan: We search out and identify potential dangers to the Federation.
Dr. Bashir: And once identified?
Director Sloan: We deal with them.
Dr. Bashir: How?
Director Sloan: Quietly.

While not adopting some of the more sinister aspects of Section 31, I plan to identify plainly the threats and dangers to the United States, and suggest, quietly, how they should be addressed. I also plan to write about whatever else strikes my fancy, whether it be politics, foreign affairs, Star Trek, the world's cheeses, stubborn hangnails, etc. My opinions are my own, as are my written expressions of said opinions. I intend to voice those opinions plainly and without softening them with politically correct drivel. I am beholden to no person, party, or organization, and I reserve the right to endorse or criticize any of the above as I see fit. Comments are welcome, as are emails, but I reserve the right to reply to or ignore either, as I see fit.

With all that said, welcome to Section 31. I hope your stay here will be a pleasant one.