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Leading With The Left
The daily view from the oasis

April 30, 2004 PERMALINK
Head Fake?
(posted April 30 1:45 AM ET)

Following days of mocking from the left about how Dubya and Cheney will do a Charlie McCarthy routine for the 9/11 Commission, Fox News was subtly crowing (if not embellishing) after the session.

JIM ANGLE: One person tells us that 99 percent of the questions went to President Bush himself, with just a few going to Vice-President Cheney...

...the President answered all of them fully, without turning to anyone for any kind of guidance....the president did very well, he was relaxed, he was candid, he was thorough, he was direct...

...

MORT KONDRACKE: So much for the reports that some of us credited, including myself, that Cheney might appear to be the dominant figure here.

I mean, if the president answered 99 percent of the questions then Cheney was sitting by his side and only answered one percent.

And the president carried it off apparently, according to everybody.

(For the sake of accuracy, W. Post put that stat at "80 to 95 percent".)

So, taking these reports at face value, Bush was grown up enough to handle questions by himself.

Does that mean liberal critics were wrong in voicing suspicion of the joint appearance?

No.

But that doesn't mean we didn't get snookered.

And not just by giving Bush another low bar to clear.

Perhaps (and this is just speculation) the whole idea of the joint appearance was not to protect Bush.

But to protect Cheney.

Perhaps they reasoned the president, especially in the Oval Office setting, would be a magnet for questions.

Which would steer questions away from Cheney, and leave unexplored his inactive terror task force, and his actions on 9/11 itself.

Remember, in Cheney's Meet The Press interview on 9/16/01 he said:

I was in a position to be able to see all the stuff coming in, receive reports and then make decisions in terms of acting with it. [emphasis added]

In turn, he also implied the decision to order planes shot down if necessary, and to keep Bush out of Washington, were his calls.

(He said he made the recommendations to Bush, which Bush then agreed to)

As the 9/11 Commission pieces together its narrative of the day's events, the White House may not have wanted Cheney's actions to be held up to major scrutiny, and ruin the Bush-as-Great Leader Hollywood storyline.

As outsiders, we can't be sure exactly what the impetus was behind the joint appearance.

Though we can be sure it was not because "it was important for them to see our body language."

And if it was to protect Cheney, it worked beautifully.

Having said that, does it matter in the end?

John Kerry is wisely taking the homeland security issue straight to Bush.

Yesterday, he nailed Bush for resisting mandatory security measures on chemical plants, something the chemical industry loathes.

Of course, scoring these substantive points, won't instantly turn around Bush's glowing approval numbers on his handling of terrorism.

But a sustained, multi-prong attack from Kerry, highlighting the nooks and crannies where Bush has failed to invest in homeland defense, should at least reduce the terror gap, and enhance Kerry's overall credibility.

So let Bush pat himself on the back for today's maneuver. Because the scrutiny of his terror record isn't over.

QUICK HIT

Mercenaries Gone Wild

From the cover of the today's Guardian (flagged by Aaron Brown on CNN's Newsnight):

Graphic photographs showing the torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a US-run prison outside Baghdad emerged yesterday from a military inquiry which has left six soldiers facing a possible court martial and a general under investigation.

The scandal has also brought to light the growing and largely unregulated role of private contractors in the interrogation of detainees.

According to lawyers for some of the soldiers, they claimed to be acting in part under the instruction of mercenary interrogators hired by the Pentagon. [emphasis added]

April 29, 2004 PERMALINK
Pollicious
(posted April 29 2 AM ET)

The polling shows that Americans are still behind the mission in Iraq.

They say we're doing the right thing, but we may not be doing it right.
-- Bill Schneider, CNN's Inside Politics, 4/28/04

Do you think the United States made a mistake getting involved in the current war with Iraq, or not?

Mistake -- 48%
Not a mistake -- 46%
-- CBS/NY Times poll, 4/23-27

Now, that's a cheap shot at Schneider. He made his comments a few hours before the CBS/NYT was released.

But it does show how bad this latest poll is for Bush, how he is losing the public, and how the Establishment's assumptions about the war's support need to be rethought.

Coverage of the poll -- from CBS, Reuters -- didn't flinch from the negative results it had for Bush.

And the negative headlines for Bush should quell the nervousness some Dems were feeling following last week's polls showing Bush leads.

In turn, much of this poll and last week's polls show similar things: majority dissatisfaction with Bush's policies and small, but manageable, rises in Kerry's negatives.

The main difference is in this week's poll, Bush's problems are more up front than in last week's.

While the mainstream coverage is not friendly to Bush, there are results, like the dramatic "mistake" data above, that will probably get overlooked.

So let's look at them:

Both candidates have low favorable ratings, but only Kerry has upside.

Bush's favorable-unfavorable rating is a net -5 (38% fav, 43% unfav), and Kerry's is -6 (27-33).

But that's not a wash, because Bush's numbers are more fixed.

19% say they are undecided, or haven't heard enough about Bush to say if they have a favorable opinion or not.

For Kerry, that's 40%.

More minds are made up on Bush, as he's been in the spotlight longer.

Though Bush is somewhat succeeding in getting negative distortions about Kerry in the pipeline, minds are still very much open, and Kerry has time.

Everybody loves the UN

Should the United States manage things in Iraq on its own for the time being or should the United Nations be brought in now to help the U.S. manage things in Iraq?

Bring in UN

All -- 76%
GOP -- 72%
Dem -- 85%
Indy -- 72%

Remember what they said about people who watch Fox?

Do you think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

GOPers
Yes -- 52%
No -- 39%

Dems
Yes -- 28%
No -- 62%

Indys
Yes -- 38%
No -- 51%

Indys slam Bush

Conservatives often complain about the CBS/NYT poll, because they feel it improperly adjusts the results to give more weight to Dem respondents and less to GOPers.

But the poll also separates out the views of the Indys.

So if the Right bitches that the overall numbers are skewed in this poll, you can shut them up with these numbers from the swing:

Bush fav-unfav
34%-42%

Bush approve-disapprove
40%-47%

Trial heat
Kerry 43%, Bush 39%

Country on right direction or wrong track
Right: 30%
Wrong: 59%

Bush approval on foreign policy
36%

Bush approval on economy
36%

Bush approval on Iraq
37%

Bush policies on terrorism
Made us safer: 44%
Less safe or no effect: 51%

Does Bush have the same priorities as you?
Has -- 33%
Does not have -- 62%

April 28, 2004 PERMALINK
Beltway Dems: Shut Up (Part 7,943)
(posted April 28 1:30 AM ET)

Yesterday, ABC's The Note offered it's assessment of "what's going on inside the brains of the senior party and presidential campaign strategists for both sides."

It was helpfully broken down under the headers "Oh yeahs!!" and "Oh no's".

Under both Republican "Oh yeahs!!" and Democrat "Oh no's!!" was: "It appears as of today that John Kerry might never have a message."

In addition, the LA Times yesterday wrote, "Even some Democrats concede the GOP has turned the debate in its favor."

And the W. Post today reports, "Some Democrats worry Kerry is falling into a trap of making the 2004 election all about national security -- past, present and future."

This self-defeatist hand-wringing is played. So played.

And, as usual, wholly unfounded.

All this speaks to a concern that Kerry's Rust Belt jobs tour isn't getting the attention that the medals flap is.

First off, it's out of Kerry's hands that Vietnam is a hot topic now. He didn't plant the medals story.

But he has to deal with it.

And as noted here yesterday, he dealt with it quite well, with a counterattack on Dubya's spotty National Guard service.

Several of today's headlines continue to bear that out, as they show Kerry on the offense, preventing a media pile-on:

NY Times -- Kerry Turns Tables on Bush and Cheney Over War Records

Reuters -- Kerry Attacks Bush on His National Guard Record

USA Today -- Attacked on defense issues, Kerry fires back

Plus, Kerry gave a strong, forceful performance on MSNBC's Hardball last night, where he tackled the medals flap and swung freely on other matters.

Secondly, it's not even true that Kerry's message was "overshadowed" (as NYT "reported") by the Vietnam chatter.

While his jobs message wasn't given time by national media outlets, the swing state outlets Kerry was trying to hit this week heard it just fine.

Charleston Gazette (W. Va) -- Kerry Criticizes Bush Over Trade: Democrat Begins 'Jobs First' Tour in Wheeling

Youngstown Vindicator -- Kerry Puts Jobs First

Cleveland AP -- Northeast Ohio Audience Receptive to Kerry's Jobs Message

More Cleveland AP -- Kerry Promises Mayors He'll Help Solve Economic Problems

Also, both Youngstown's Channel 33 and the cable Ohio News Network ran stories that were all jobs, no Vietnam.

(And it's no small thing that "local TV news" is the #1 place where people get news about candidates.)

Jobs message delivered in the swing. Tables turned on Bush in the national press.

Pretty damn good week so far. Beltway Dems, stop your off-the-record bitching.

April 27, 2004 PERMALINK
It Has Been Brung
(posted April 27 1:30 AM ET)

The Bushies were warned.

This is not the Dukakis campaign. We're not going to take it.

And if they're going to come at us with stuff, whatever that stuff may be, if it goes to a place where the '88 campaign did, then everything is on the table. Everything.
-- unnamed Kerry adviser, 2/5/04, NY Times

And so, when the Bushies tried to "Gore" Kerry -- feeding a '71 videotape to (a friendly reporter at) ABC to paint Kerry as disingenuous -- over a dispute that is nothing more than semantics, Kerry did not flinch.

He defended his past actions, but more importantly, he got on the offensive at the same time, calling on Dubya to "prove" he fulfilled his National Guard duty.

The result?

Headlines showing him driving the news (AP: Kerry Demands Bush Prove Guard Service, NYT: Kerry Questions Bush Attendance in Guard in 70's) or in a wash with Bush (W. Post: New Clash On Military Service).

Not on the defensive, not looking like he's in trouble. That's what you want in rapid response.

Interestingly, the knee-jerk reaction from some quasi-prominent Rightists was that Kerry blew it.

After the Drudge-produced, typo-plagued Good Morning America transcript was posted -- where Kerry first responded yesterday -- Instapundit called it "pretty devastating" for Kerry.

And the National Review's Tim Graham remarked:

How can liberals now insist that Bush can't handle a press conference after this blustery piece of so-called damage control?

How can conservatives not realize how Bush has survived?

True, Kerry was his long-winded self, unable to explain his past actions simply and crisply.

But -- just like a forehead-slapping Bush performance -- it didn't matter.

Amidst the loquaciousness on GMA, Kerry worked the key bite in:

This comes from a president and a Republican party that can't even answer whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard.

He added two more variations of that during the interview, to make sure the point wasn't lost.

And for good measure, he threw down a "Prove it" demand to Bush later in the day.

The bites live on. The long-winded interview is already forgotten.

This is why Bush's many lame performances have not been fatal.

Even if it's painful to watch him strain to remember what his spoon-fed talking point is, he still gets it out.

And it usually looks fine on the page, and the TV clips often leave out whatever awkward pause preceded it. Hence, no snowball effect.

So even though LO said after Dubya's April presser, "his long-winded, stammering, meandering answer-dodges made John Kerry look like a sound-bite machine," the ramifications were not major.

Neither will they be with Kerry's wordy GMA performance.

Kerry is not slick and smooth, and never will be pithy.

But that doesn't mean he doesn't have some skills, and can't play tough.

Now, if he'll just get a major ad buy on the air...

April 26, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted April 26 2:30 AM ET)

The White House ceded the Sunday terrain yesterday, sending no reps to the shows.

And the Bushies found once again, similar to two weeks ago, that when Iraq is the issue, they have few surrogates who will squarely back them.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), on CBS' Face The Nation, continued pressuring the Administration to call up more troops.

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), on CNN's Late Edition, seconded that, and added that giving Ahmed Chalabi a high-profile role in Iraq was "in retrospect, probably not a good idea."

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), on Fox News Sunday, seconded Lugar on Chalabi ("He's not trusted in Iraq, and yet he's part of the government.") and broadly criticized the post-war strategy:

We made some big mistakes...

...We should have kept the government in place and then routed out the bad folks. We should have left the army in place and gotten rid of the bad folks there.

UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who Bush is publicly leaning on to shape the new government, on ABC's This Week, criticized US officials who said Iraq will only have "limited sovereignty" after June 30:

I don't know what limited sovereignty is.

(A sidelight: Brahimi implied Chalabi should be off the interim government, if he has plans to run for office later on. Chalabi lambasted Brahimi on FNS, saying with a straight face: "[Brahimi] already is a controversial figure in Iraq. He is not a unifying figure.")

Leading Senate Dems were venting concerns also.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), on This Week, while stressing that "I want the President to succeed," demanded that Bush "level" with the public on the future costs.

And he also fretted about possible military offensives in Fallujah and Najaf:

There's a siege in two cities now. I don't want to see us to have to have a siege in 10 cities or 12 cities...

...these poor guys we have in there, who we expect to be able to do everything now, to go in and surgically take him out...and surgically take out the insurgency, it's virtually impossible in my view...

...it's a little bit like saying...what we should do is have a siege of Rome during World War II, take out the Vatican, take out anything we need to do...

While the above were uninterested in criticizing Bush directly, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) -- the only one on the shows who voted against the war -- was the only one to explicitly take him head on, on FTN:

I don't think we're being given a straight story by this administration...in terms of cost, in terms of number of troops, I don't think we've been given a straight story at all.

And I don't think that they have expressed to the public what the true costs are going to be in this war, including the nature of the insurgency itself...

...When the administration says we've got two options, either stay the course or cut and run, that is a false choice.

There's a third choice, which is to correct the course, to change the course that we're on so that we can succeed by involving the international community...

The best Bush had was Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ), also on This Week, who effectively threw up his hands:

We're not competent, sitting here, to know exactly what should be done in this precise situation.

Give the guy the break. He's just a mere United States Senator.

Though he was daring enough to offer this keen insight:

At the end of the day, a military security force has to get security.

And if that takes military action, then at the end of the day, that's the way you're going to have to deal with bad people.

Fortunately, This Week's Fareed Zakaria was there, to say to those who casually talk about going in with guns blazing in Fallujah and Najaf, "This is insane."

QUICK HIT

What March?

The March For Women's Lives was nowhere to be found on the Sunday shows (save for brief news updates on CNN).

We can't be sure if that was direct oversight on the part of the networks, because they couldn't appreciate the significance of one the largest rallies in history.

Or if march organizers decided not to pitch themselves, sensing that they would probably get paired with anti-feminist women, muddying the day's message.

Despite the oversight, here's some on-site reports and photos from Women's eNews, Daily Kos, Feministing and more Women's eNews.

(UPDATE April 26 9 AM ET -- More from Ms. Musings and Livejournal for Choice.)

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Mark Spittle

Foolproof Candidate Selector Quiz

In this divided time, we are faced with the polarized nature of our country and the seemingly endless struggle between progressive Liberals and reactionary Conservatives.

However, the overwhelming number of people in the US consider themselves •À¸moderate,•À¸ which either means they are centrist in their policies, or afraid that if they admit to being liberal the Right will burn down their homes.

For those of you confused on which position to take this coming November in the Presidential elections, the following test will help determine which candidate is closest to your own personal ideology, or lack thereof.

Complete the test and score it as you go along.

1. Do you like kittens (+10) or sledgehammers (-10)?

2. Do you prefer quiet walks on the beach (+10) or wearin•À¸ a sheet and scarin•À¸ dem colored folk (-10)?

3. What kind of movies do you like the most: (choose one)
-- Comedies (+3)
-- Action/adventure films (-5)
-- Foreign intellectual films (+5)
-- Snuff films (-50)

4. Do you think homosexuals deserve equal rights (+10) or a good beating with a sharp stick (-10)?

5. In the debate between evolution and creationism, do you think it is important to give both issues equal merit (-10) or treat creationism like the backwards, prehistoric superstition it is (+10)?

6. C•À¸mon, admit it: you like watching girls kiss. (Choose one)
-- What people do in the privacy of their homes is none of my business (+10)
-- Yes, I do (+1)
-- No, it•À¸s gross (-3)
-- I•À¸d rather burn the witches (-10)

7. Tim Russert is (choose one):
-- A conservative (+10)
-- A liberal (-10)
-- A handpuppet (+20)

8. War is: (choose one)
-- Never a viable choice for civilized nations (+10)
-- The means by which nations defend themselves (+5)
-- The means by which we promote democracy (-5)
-- Fun for the whole family (-50)

9. In the 2000 Presidential Election I voted for (choose one)
-- Gore (+10)
-- Bush (-10)
-- Buchanan (-50)
-- Scalia (-100)

10. If Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh got in a food fight, who would lose? (Choose one)
-- Hannity (-10)
-- Limbaugh (-10)
-- The corn on the cob (+10)

RESULTS: If you scored less than 0, then Bush is your man. If you scored more than 0, then Kerry is your man. If you scored an even 0, then what the hell, vote for Sharpton; nobody can figure out whose side he•À¸s on anyway.

Mark Spittle is one half of the political satire duo Spittle & Ink. He is a former Washington lobbyist and congressional assistant.

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

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