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The daily view from the oasis

March 19, 2004 PERMALINK
Fast Ads Aren't Always Good Ads
(posted Mar. 19 12:30 AM ET)

Karl Rove is bragging about how "nimble" the Bush campaign is, but working fast doesn't always mean working smart.

The campaign appears to be particularly proud of its latest ad, released yesterday.

It grabbed Kerry's awkward soundbite from 48 hours prior -- "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it" -- and tacked it on to a previously made ad focusing on that vote and calling Kerry "wrong on defense."

Brilliant? Maybe not.

The problem is, to see Kerry say those words is quite a bit different than reading them in the paper.

To read it, he sounds like the lamest of politicians, a straddler, and not a very good one at that.

But watch the ad for yourself (available at the excellent resource, BushOut.tv).

Reactions to ads aren't uniform of course, but to LiberalOasis, the inflection in Kerry's voice clearly indicates he's not finished with his explanation.

And the bite is cut off abruptly, leaving a feeling with the viewer that he's being taken out of context.

If the audience is left feeling skeptical at the end, it undercuts the credibility of whole ad, which already borders on the histrionic, charging the Navy vet with opposing body armor and good health care for the military.

(Sen. John McCain's defense of Kerry's defense record, on the day of the ad's release, will also help undercut its argument.)

In all likelihood, this version of the ad was not focus grouped, as there was little time to test it, running the risk that swing voters will be unimpressed.

It may be that Rove feels in an eight-month campaign, it's alright early on to go with your gut, and test out things in open view.

Maybe. But credibility, once lost, is not so easy to reclaim.

March 17, 2004 PERMALINK
Understanding The Threat: Euro-Style
(posted Mar. 17 1 AM ET)

Conservatives want to you think that much of Europe, spooked by Spain's 9/11, is about duck the war on terror.

When Europe may be on the verge of taking it on more directly than ever.

The Right rushed to condemn and mock European Commission President Romani Prodi, who said this week to an Italian newspaper:

It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists.

We must remember that it has been a year since the war in Iraq started. Terrorism is infinitely more powerful than a year ago.

The W. Post's Robert Kagan said, "apparently Prodi accepts al Qaeda's logic."

Andrew Sullivan called the remark, "classic appeasement" and concluded, "the trend in Europe is now either appeasement of terror or active alliance with it".

And Charles Krauthammer, on Fox News, remarked, "we are hearing the voice of European decadence...It's a way of saying we have to run away."

But of course, they all ignored Prodi's other comment from the same interview:

This event forces European countries to come up with a joint action plan.

In Madrid, there are explicit demands from the population for Europe to ensure people's security and protection.

So, it's not that Prodi wants to "run away." He just wants a more effective strategy.

As does much of the rest of Europe it seems.

From CNN.com:

The leaders of France and Germany have pledged to step up the fight against terrorism and coordinate with other nations to protect citizens and institutions.

"Europe must always fight terrorism with all its strength," French President Jacques Chirac told reporters on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, appearing with Chirac after their bilateral talks in Paris, said he agreed with that assessment...

...Military force is not the only solution, Schroeder said. "One needs to look at the roots of it," including lack of development in the developing world.

And from EU Business:

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called for better international cooperation in fighting terrorism Tuesday and stressed the need to address the "root causes".

"Cooperation between important actors in the world against terrorism is fundamental," Solana said on the first day of a two-day visit to China.

"We have to fight not only the symptoms but also the causes and make an effort to stabilize countries and make this world a more freer place and also to find solutions to outstanding issues which have not been resolved."

Basically, the Euro sentiment appears to be not anti-force, but force-plus, recognizing that force alone leads to more terror, since it can't win the overarching battle of ideas.

And the European Union is quickly moving ahead, holding an emergency counterterrorism meeting with its interior and justice ministers this Friday.

Ducking? Far from it.

Will it work? That's harder to say.

Obviously, as indicated yesterday, LiberalOasis wholeheartedly supports a comprehensive strategy that combines force and substantive help for Arab and Muslim peoples.

However, for the Europeans to pursue it, while the US continues its blusterly unilateralism and selective support for friendly dictators, could be a giant mess.

(Of course, the European record on supporting dictators is far from clean.)

If the Arab and Islamic world still views the US as a negative force in their backyard, then the terrorists retain their foil, no matter what Europe does.

And Europe, still part of the secular and decadent West, still allied (strains aside) with the US, could still be just as much a target.

Then, Europe and the US could fall into a finger-pointing blame spiral.

For any comprehensive strategy to succeed, Europe and US need to be working off the same playbook.

And in all likelihood, somebody not named Bush needs to win in November for that to happen.

March 16, 2004 PERMALINK
Understanding The Threat
(posted Mar. 16 2 AM ET)

Terrorism has won a mighty victory in Spain.

The culprits who detonated those bombs of murder on 3/11 intended to use murder to alter the course of Spanish democracy -- and they have succeeded.
-- David Frum, National Review, 3/15/04

Wherever Osama bin Laden is, he has to be congratulating himself.
-- Mort Kondracke, Fox News, 3/15/04

Now, the notion that the terrorists planned to throw the election to the opposition Socialist party is perfectly ridiculous.

For one, it would be impossible to predict how the Spaniards would react.

They could have just as easily rallied behind the ruling government in a show of national unity (and may well have if the government didn't rush to scapegoat the Basque ETA terrorists).

And secondly, there no reason to believe that what radical Islamic terrorists really want is more secular left-leaning Western governments.

Remember, that pinko hippie Bill Clinton faced Al Qaeda attacks several years before Dubya did.

But these simplistic arguments, like Frum's and Mort's, are so readily thrown out and accepted because so little has been done by our political leaders and media outlets to help us understand what is driving radical Islamic terror.

And we can't develop a working strategy to fight terror if we don't really understand it.

LiberalOasis has, more than once, pointed readers to the 8/03 interview conducted here with Jason Burke, author of "Al Qaeda: Casting A Shadow On Terror," because insights into Qaeda's motivations are so rare.

In that interview, Burke said:

[This is] what the Islamic militants -- and it's not just bin Laden, but a whole range of other ideologues -- set out to do.

It's a myth that they set out to bring the American nation, or any western nation...to its knees through military attack [or] asymmetric warfare.

The aim of attacks is to radicalize and mobilize those people in the Islamic world who have so far ignored or rejected their message.

The attacks are propaganda. That's why they're so spectacular, that's why they're designed to be mediatized so heavily...

...[Their goals] will be achieved, in the view of the militants, if the world's 1.2 billion Muslims accept their ideas and act thereon...

...The call is...not saying directly to the West, "Back off. Go away. We're going to bomb you until you go away."

The call is direct to Muslims, "Rise up and together we will be able to free ourselves, liberate ourselves, have a just society."

That's why it doesn't matter to them who is in office in Spain, or any other Western country. In the end, it's not about us, it's about themselves.

The other important part of the interview, as it pertains to recent events, is the state of Islamic terrorism today:

Bin Laden is peripheral. His practical ability to commission or organize terror has been minimized.

Many of those operatives who were drawn to him in the late 1990s have been killed or imprisoned.

Others have had their efficiency vastly curtailed by the hugely enhanced monitoring by various secret services and cooperation between security authorities.

So the hardcore Al-Qaeda...defined in that narrow sense, is over effectively as a really powerful force in modern Islamic militancy.

But if you're talking about Al Qaeda as in a general phenomena, as in something far broader, something that involves groups all over the world, many of which predate bin Laden's involvement in Islamic militancy by decades.

Others that have sprung up subsequently to the end of 2001. Others that can be seen as individuals who are attracted by bin Laden's ideas and bin Laden's tactics.

If you're looking at Al Qaeda in that sense...then it's immeasurably strengthened, and has been by the war on terror.

The notion that radical Islamic terror is spreading without direct involvement of bin Laden's Al Qaeda was articulated by CIA Director Tenet last week, and is hitting a number of mainstream outlets today.

But Burke was on top of it months ago.

Further, Burke noted that how we went about the war on terror contributed to the spread and that "the battle that's being fought is actually a battle for hearts and minds, and it is on that battlefield that the war on terror will be won or lost."

But Tenet's testimony acknowledges none of that.

Which is actually somewhat odd, because he does recognize that "we must overcome a movement -- a global movement infected by al-Qa`ida's radical agenda."

He just refuses to take the next logical step: that you can only defeat a movement on the battlefield of ideas.

Force will have its place, but it can't finish the job.

That may sound like politically suicidal rhetoric.

But, as argued here before, since Dubya has already made the case that it's freedom for oppressed people that leads to long-term security, Dems can more easily use similar rhetoric.

While stressing that Bush doesn't live up to his own standards.

The key here is education, lifting up the public by better informing them about the threat we face.

This is tricky, because a lot of long-winded lectures can quickly get boring.

And the last thing Kerry needs is to be seen as having an egghead approach to terror.

But Ross Perot's 1992 infomercial budget seminars showed that the public appreciates being treated like responsible citizens, not morons.

Further, one of the advantages to an eight-month campaign is that there is time to actually educate the public on important issues.

And there a few more important issues than the terror threat.

Let's hope that by November, Americans will have a better grasp of what the terrorism threat really is, without having to face it directly.

If for no other reason, that we'll be a better nation for it.

March 15, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Mar. 15 1:30 AM ET)

One Year Later: No WMDs!

The entire Bush foreign policy team was sent to cover all five shows yesterday.

This was probably an attempt to shift the national focus away from the economy, and also to push a positive message on Iraq, as this week begins several days of "One Year Later" coverage.

(The war started March 20, the Saddam statue was toppled April 9).

But what's glaringly obvious one year later is that there are no WMDs.

And it's just too easy a target for the media to let it go.

And try as the Bushies might, the more they try to bob and weave this, the more pathetic they look:

On Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE: ...did you feel some responsibility for giving the world bad information?

COLIN POWELL: I don't know that I -- I wasn't giving the world bad information. I was giving the world the information that we had at the time we had it.

On NBC's Meet The Press:

TIM RUSSERT: ...leading up to the war, the rhetoric of the administration was much different than Saddam could be a threat or he has weapons programs.

The president said he was, "a unique and urgent threat."

It was, "a unique urgency," "a grave threat."

You and the president both talked about the mushroom cloud.

Scott McClellan, deputy press secretary, said it's "an imminent threat."

Ari Fleischer, the press secretary, said, "absolutely," it was an imminent threat.

In hindsight, looking back, it was not an imminent or urgent threat.

CONDI RICE: I think what the president said in his State of the Union...is that we cannot wait until it becomes imminent.

And on CBS' Face The Nation:

BOB SCHIEFFER: You're saying that nobody in the administration said that ["immediate threat"].

DONALD RUMSFELD: I can't speak for...everybody in the administration and say nobody said that.

SCHIEFFER: Vice president didn't say that? The --

RUMSFELD: ...if you have any citations, I'd like to see 'em.

TOM FRIEDMAN: We have one here.

It says:

"Some have argued that the" -- this is you speaking -- "that the nuclear threat from Iraq is not imminent, that Saddam is at least five to seven years away from having nuclear weapons. I would not be so certain."

RUMSFELD: And. And --

FRIEDMAN: It was close to imminent.

RUMSFELD: Well, I've tried to be precise, and I've tried to be accurate...

FRIEDMAN: "No terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world and the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq."

RUMSFELD: Mm-hmm.

My view of the situation was that he had -- we believe, the best intelligence that we had and other countries had and that we believed -- and we still do not know. We will know.

This is the conundrum for the Bushies.

They want to tilt to playing field to national security, and away from the economy, rightly thinking that's better political ground for them.

But when they do, the "credibility gap" questions keep coming, because they refuse to take responsibility for their misleading statements.

Schieffer threw at Rummy this advice from David Kay, the former head of the post-war WMD hunt.

The president should say, "We were simply mistaken and we're determined to find out why."

Kay noted American credibility won't be restored until this happens.

The pro-war Kay was not trying to humiliate the Bushies. He was trying to help them.

(That's probably why he made the comments to a British paper, so to minimize their distribution in the US, but still give a kick in the ass to the Administration.)

But since they're not listening to him, they're being humiliated.

So It Is A Law Enforcement And Intelligence Operation!

Back In January, LiberalOasis offered advice to the Dems on how to debate the War on Terror.

John Kerry had just made the "it's primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation" argument, and LO said that was dangerous rhetorical ground, as the GOP wants to paint that as the old, failed, Clinton way.

Now that's Kerry's the nominee, he's stuck with this line of reasoning.

But yesterday, he caught a lucky break.

Colin Powell made Kerry's argument on ABC's This Week:

The President...made it clear right after 9/11 that we all have to come together and go after these kinds of organizations:

Sometimes with military force, more often with law enforcement activities, intelligence activities, going after their financial infrastructure... [emphasis added]

Now, Powell wasn't trying to side with Kerry. In fact, he later took a shot at him:

I think the Senator is wrong when he says it's all a law enforcement matter.

It's a law enforcement matter. It's an intelligence matter. It's a financial matter -- getting inside their financial systems to see how they move money around.

It's a matter of using military force...in a preemptive way if that's appropriate.

But what Powell did there was distort Kerry's comment (Kerry never used absolute language like "it's all"), then followed it up by making Kerry's argument.

Here's Kerry, also on ABC's This Week, three weeks ago:

STEPHANOPOULOS: ...you did say that the war on terror was "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement [operation]."

KERRY: It is primarily...Primarily means first. Secondarily means once you know who they are, and where they are, and what they're planning, you can go get them...

...I think that intelligence is critical...to knowing what you're target is.

Once you know what you're target is, I'm prepared to use any combination of military force that's necessary to take them out and protect the United States of America...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You would have your own doctrine of preemption, then?

KERRY: Every president, from the beginning of time, has had a sufficient doctrine of preemption.

Throughout the Cold War, the entire first-strike doctrine was based on a doctrine of preemption.

But that's very different from the Bush doctrine of preemption.

I don't subscribe to the George Bush doctrine as he has described it...a preemptive war for the purpose of simply removing a dictator.

There is zero daylight between that and Powell's prescription, as articulated yesterday.

So when the Bushies go after Kerry for pushing "primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation," all Kerry needs to do is whip out Powell's parallel quote, that terror is "more often [fought] with law enforcement activities [and] intelligence activities".

Powell gave him a gift (unintentionally?). He best take advantage.

The Sandbox
Humor Column by John Cougarstein

TOO HOT FOR TV!
JOHN KERRY "LIVE-MIKE" CLASSICS!

If you thought John Kerry's "crooked...lying" live-mike shocker was the last of his reckless side, think again.

Now, with the brand-new video "John Kerry Live-Mike Classics," you can be a fly on the wall and hear more Kerry Kraziness, as all of his accidently overhead moments have been compiled into one uproarious package.

Hear Kerry sound off on:

What he really feels about his opponents

-- "George Bush, where does he get off?"

-- "Boy, this White House is really conservative."

-- "I'm telling you, Rumsfeld looks like Skeletor from ╬He-Man', and Karl Rove looks like that guy Paul on ╬Cheers.'"

His fellow Democrats

-- "Teddy, will you clean the spit of the mike after you introduce me next time?"

-- "Dukakis? Put it in my voice mail."

-- "I told Lieberman, ╬You don't get first dibs on Vice every time. Send in the application like everybody else.'"

And see the real, unvarnished Kerry on the campaign trail

-- "We gotta get back to the hotel before 8. There's only a few episodes of ╬Friends' left."

-- "Mmmm. Good cheeseburger."

-- "Puff, the Magic Dr-aa-gon. Lives by the seeeea."

Don't delay. Order today!

**************

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