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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

August 20, 2004 PERMALINK
The Counterattack
(posted Aug. 20 1:45 AM ET)

As Talking Points Memo already noted, John Kerry furious counterattack at the Swift Boat Liars and their ties to Bush was "critical on many levels."

TPM's assessment was in line with what Sidney Blumenthal said to LiberalOasis last year:

If you don't stand up for yourself, people aren't going to think that you can stand up for them.

Kerry is most definitely standing up for himself, and doing it well.

However, Kerry is still facing limitations in what he can accomplish, because of what Eric Alterman just deemed "The Foolish Dishonesty of 'On-the-One-Handism'."

For example, both ABC World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News ended their pieces on the matter with an effective shoulder shrug.

ABC: 35 years later we may never know the exact truth, we do know this group has received major support from some wealthy Repubicans.

NBC: New charges about what happened there 30 years ago suggest this fight isn't over, and that some old wounds, are far from healed.

And today's NY Times mega-piece, while largely a helpful article debunking the Swift Liars, still gives them a platform to level cheap shots at Kerry.

The point is that Kerry can't take control of the election dynamic unless he follows up this counterattack -- smart, tough and necessary as it was -- with some original attacks of his own against Bush.

Kerry did turn this counterattack into a bit of an attack, charging Bush with being tacitly complicit with the Swift Liars.

But there will need to be more where that came from to get Bush on the defensive and off-balance.

QUICK HIT

More Swift Lies From George Elliot

From yesterday's ABC World News Tonight:

JAKE TAPPER: Kerry's and [Larry] Thurlow's citations were signed by then-Commander George Elliot, who also appears in the anti-Kerry ad.

In this heated election year, Elliot is now disavowing his own report, saying he OK'd the medals based on a report by Kerry he no longer trusts.

ELLIOT: I did not expect my officers to be submitting inaccurate reports.

From today's NY Times:

The group says Mr. Kerry himself wrote the reports that led to the medal.

But Mr. Elliott and [Adrian] Lonsdale, who handled reports going up the line for recognition, have previously said that a medal would be awarded only if there was corroboration from others and that they had thoroughly corroborated the accounts.

The ABC report amazingly didn't bother to mention Elliot's credibility-destroying 360: recanting his anti-Kerry affidavit to the Boston Globe, pathetically followed by a second anti-Kerry affidavit.

While the NYT apparently doesn't watch ABC. It reported that after the Globe fiasco, "Mr. Elliott has refused to speak publicly since then."

(UPDATE 8/20 1:30 PM ET -- The online version of the ABC story went into more detail on Elliot than what aired on TV.)

August 19, 2004 PERMALINK
The First Debate Was Last Night
And You Probably Missed It
(posted Aug. 19 1:15 AM ET)

Last night, CNN's Paula Zahn Now organized a town hall-style debate between Kerry aide Tad Devine and Bush aide Tucker Eskew, in the swing county of Stark in the swing state of Ohio.

This provided a preview of how well each campaign's messages play in front of a cross-section of voters (the crowd was evenly divided between Kerryites, Bushites and undecideds).

LiberalOasis can't cover every topic from last night in this space, but let's examine three of the big ones: jobs, taxes, Iraq.

Creating Jobs

An unemployed voter asked:

I'm going to Stark State College on a training program. I'm one of the 12,000 that you talked about losing their jobs here in Stark County.

My question is about training of people that might lose their jobs.

Is there anything else going to be done for any of the new people, or will this be carried on?

Eskew couldn't give them "anything else". He only stressed a new training program proposal, while touching on health care:

[Bush] has proposed a billion dollar new program for high-tech vocational training, particularly for adult education, for those going through transition…

… [That] is one example of how education, [and] focus on healthcare, that really returns ownership and responsibility to real people, is addressing the kind of concerns you have.

Devine did the opposite, touching on training and stressing health care:

I think John Kerry and John Edwards have something enormously more effective. They have a real plan to help someone like you with specifics.

Job training is part of it. And another part of it is healthcare.

For someone who's in between jobs, John Kerry and John Edwards have a plan for targeted tax cuts and proposals to help you afford healthcare.

A 75 percent tax credit to help someone in exactly the situation you're in so you can afford healthcare…

…John Kerry and John Edwards have an ambitious healthcare strategy…but most importantly, a strategy to create millions of new jobs in this country to help someone just like you.

Bottom Line: Bush Beats The Spread

Bush is at an inherent disadvantage on this issue, and Eskew's response was thin and weak.

But Devine missed an opportunity.

The question was about jobs. Talking about health care only addressed what happens when you lose your job, not how you will stop job losses.

All Eskew had to say concerned training.

Devine could have made him pay for that by noting as important as training is, it's meaningless if, once training is over, there are no jobs available.

Then, he could have ticked off some of the many things in the Kerry plan about creating jobs.

Like ending tax incentives for outsourcing, creating tax incentives for jobs at home, enforcing trade agreements, and improving access to venture capital for manufacturers.

Kerry on Taxes

Devine was asked by Zahn how Kerry would pay for his health care plan, and Devine responded by discussing Kerry's tax position:

DEVINE: We are going to have to increase taxes to pay for healthcare. And if anybody in this room makes more than $200,000 a year, you're the taxes that we're going to increase, OK?

And if you make less than $200,000 a year, your taxes will not be increased.

In fact, if you're part of the middle class and John Kerry and John Edwards are the president, your taxes will be cut significantly...

ESKEW: Grab your wallets, folks...

...the Kerry campaign has already admitted it's not $200,000, it's $147,000 dollars that will be the bottom barrier.

And what most people don't understand up in Washington is that it's small businesses that pay personal income taxes...

...And John Kerry wants to sock it to them. He absolutely will sock it to them...

DEVINE: …He said we admitted two things. I admit neither one of them. They're both false.

[The second thing was an Eskew contention that "the Kerry campaign admits their own plan wouldn't do a thing to slow down outsourcing."]

Bottom Line: Edge to Bush

Devine was forceful in disputing, but more needs to be done so this doesn't end up as a He Said-He Said.

Instead of simple denials, the campaign needs to "Expose The Tactic."

That should not only nip this particular lie in the bud, but make it harder for Bush to lie in the future on other matters.

Rebutting on the specifics is often tricky. For example, Sadly, No and Not Geniuses recently explained why the $147K charge is a distortion.

But as you can see from their posts, the details are complicated. Getting into that level of detail is a non-starter.

Instead, Devine and others to need to say to the public (perhaps in an ad?) that:

1. The Bush campaign is making a habit of putting words in Kerry's mouth and twisting the truth.

2. So whenever you hear them say "Kerry said this" or "the campaign said that", go to johnkerry.com and get the real deal.

Plan to End The Iraq War

A schoolteacher asked simply, "when it will end, and what plans there are to end it?"

Eskew basically gave a stay-the-course answer, while Devine made the multilateralism case:

ESKEW: The president takes seriously what want to do, which is of course, to bring troops home.

But to set a date certain for that, as he has said about John Kerry who did indicate that he wanted to start withdrawing troops, is to give heart and hope to our enemies...

DEVINE:.. John Kerry, unlike the president, has a specific plan to end the war in Iraq...

...It begins with involving our allies and not turning our back on allies. And that is a fundamental difference in this race...

...He will travel to our allies, he meet with them.

Second, he will immediately allow other countries to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq...

...He will not keep other countries out and save it for companies like Halliburton...

...Third, he will seek for the U.N. to name an international high commissioner, so that the United States ambassador is no longer functionally running the country of Iraq...

ESKEW: ...we got 30 nations in Iraq today as part of the coalition that they continue to insult...

...[And] we won't sacrifice a decision about America's security at the U.N. to one or two nations…this president I can assure you, will not do that.

And if that means not sounding quite as warm and fuzzy toward governments that oppose some of our national security interests, so be it...

DEVINE: ...Today, American troops and American taxpayers are bearing the burden in Iraq almost alone.

$200 billion in your taxes are paying for Iraq and almost a thousand of our fellow citizens have died.

Because this president rushed to war without a plan for peace.

Bottom Line: Edge To Kerry

In this case, Devine answered the question head-on and sounded much more realistic (and less stubborn) than his counterpart.

Devine did let hang Eskew's lie that Kerry has picked a date certain to withdraw troops. That should be countered.

But Devine laid out a succinct and reasonable plan. Eskew laid out nothing. Kerry wins.

Final Thought

At times, Devine did well on issues that Kerry arguably starts at a disadvantage (he also bested Eskew on the issue of frivolous lawsuits).

But came up a little short on some issues where Kerry is naturally strong (he later biffed a question on health care).

It could be worse. Crafting strong answers for issues on your opponent's turf is usually the tough part.

Instead, Kerry's team needs to review last night's debate and make sure that in the future it knocks the "gimmee" issues, like jobs and health care, out of the park.

Finally, one last nugget: the only time the crowd booed was when Eskew touted the No Child Left Behind Act.

August 18, 2004 PERMALINK
Missile Defense Now, Intel Reform Later
(posted Aug. 18 1 AM ET)

I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system really don't understand the threats of the 21st century.

They're living in the past. We're living in the future.
-- George W. Bush, 8/17/04

That's rich.

Because in 2001 before 9/11, as LiberalOasis chronicled back in March, it was the GOPers whining for missile defense funds that were stuck in the Cold War past.

And it was the Dems that were looking at the future.

Desperately arguing that an unproven missile defense system would do nothing against the more pressing threat of terrorists with suitcase nukes, chemical weapons, or biological agents.

Here's just one example of the many red flag comments that were made in the summer of '01, from Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI):

The greatest threat to us are the terrorist[s] who could use a truck, who could use a ship, who could use a suitcase against us.

That [missile defense] system does nothing for that.

Now after 9/11, the Bush Administration still hasn't modernized its outlook, still hasn't invested in border security, still hasn't secured Russian loose nukes, still is pushing Reagan-era missile defense boondoggles.

Also of note in Dubya's remarks yesterday, he renewed his cry for "medical liability reform now."

Apparently tort reform is more urgent to Bush than our intelligence system.

Because there is no Administration cry for "intelligence reform now."

No, the message yesterday was "let's take our sweet time" as Def. Sec. Rumsfeld tried to dump cold water on the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

The Kerry campaign generally gets all of the above.

Today, advisor Rand Beers put out a statement which said:

In the months preceding 9/11 George W. Bush and his closest advisors were preoccupied with missile defense and their misunderstanding about the threats we face continues to this day.

And last month, in a more publicized move, Kerry called on Bush to immediately accept and implement all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

But these points could be tied together, and made more pointedly, to generate some news and put Bush on the defensive.

Today's speech by Kerry to the VFW wouldn't be bad place to do it.

QUICK HIT

You Can Take Back The House

Last week, the DCCC held a conference call with bloggers to stress how serious they are about taking back the House, and how we all can help.

Joe Trippi addressed the group, and noted that unlike presidential and Senate races, a relatively small amount of money injected into a House race late in the game can have a major impact.

Recently, LiberalOasis joined the DCCC's "Majority Makers" program to help with fundraising efforts.

So click here to give via LO, make sure that the campaign effort is well financed, and let Washington know that it's liberal grassroots money leading the party to victory.

August 17, 2004 PERMALINK
When Do The Gloves Come Off?
(posted Aug. 16 11:15 PM ET)
(edited Aug. 17 8:30 AM ET)

Based on a couple of callers to yesterday's Al Franken Show, LiberalOasis senses some frustration among the rank-the-file.

That Kerry's campaign is not hitting Bush hard enough, while Bush slugs away.

This is partly true, but some perspective is in order.

First, Kerry has the lead in almost every August poll. He's doing something right.

Second, Kerry has been hitting in Bush on a variety of subjects all month, such as:

Iraq, Saudi oil, Sudan, Yucca Mountain, taxes, trade, intelligence reform, outsourced labor on campaign goods, Bush's latest ad, prescription drugs, deficits, stem cells, "turning the corner", "results matter", the $87B, Cheney's House record, veterans benefits, the 8/01 PDB.

But most of these attacks haven't received the same level of media coverage as Bush's attacks.

Why? In most cases, the attacks on Bush were not made in a high-profile way, either by Kerry in a public speech, or in a TV ad.

Regarding speeches, Kerry has spent the last two weeks on the road doing convention follow-through.

Essentially, giving a variation of his acceptance speech, drilling its positive messages, expanding their reach into local media markets.

He hasn't dropped fresh attacks into those speeches.

That would have made bigger news, but would have detracted from his strategy to fully introduce himself to the nation in positive fashion.

Now, in the ad category, Kerry hasn't had any attack ads because he isn't running any ads at all right now.

He's conserving money for the 10-week homestretch after Labor Day, and he is aware that the DNC and independent groups (mainly The Media Fund, NDN and MoveOn.org) can pick up the slack during August.

According to the 8/6 The Note, The Media Fund is leading the attack ad front for the Dems, with 5 anti-Bush ads running in battleground states.

LO is not sure exactly which ones are currently airing, but you can see their work at The Media Fund site.

The ads, generally focusing on outsourcing, Iraq costs and Halliburton, hit their targets most of the time.

But they don't make fresh charges that can generate headlines and force Bush to respond publicly (like Bush's new anti-Kerry ad "Intel").

That may well have been The Media Fund's intention, so they could maintain a lower profile while getting their message out to voters.

Which is fine.

But for Kerry to put Bush on the defensive, and make it harder for him to swing at Kerry freely, he will have to get some attack spots up that make news, and not just cover old ground.

For example:

He could develop a series of ads that level the "flip-flop" charge at Bush, using the best of what Center for American Progress, Daily Kos and the DNC have already compiled, undermining his straight-shooter rep.

An ad could go at the Bush team's incompetence at handling terror, juxtaposing Tom Ridge's recent statement that they "will not comment on specific sources" with Condi Rice's admission that they leaked the name of one, blowing his cover.

Another could go at both Bushes (yes, both Bushes) for daring to say on Larry King that they held the "same viewpoint" on stem cells as Nancy Reagan. (Ron Jr.'s NYT letter may be useful too.)

The time for such ads that go for the jugular is probably now.

It made sense for Kerry for stay positive during this "intro" phase of the last few weeks.

But with Bush on the offensive, to stay on the high road much longer risks 1988 redux.

However, since Kerry needs to sit on his money for a couple more weeks to avoid being outspent in the last few weeks, we'll probably have to live with being a little frustrated on this score until Labor Day.

Hopefully, no longer than that.

Kerry's team has to be careful not to get tight and cautious as we enter the post-Labor Day sprint.

While yesterday's constructive criticism from LO dealt with counter-punching, it is in the end more important to land some punches of your own.

(UPDATE 8/17 2 PM ET -- Another candidate for an ad comes from EJ Dionne's column today: ramming Bush's flirtation with a national sales tax down his throat.)

August 16, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Aug. 16 1:15 AM ET)

Overall, the Sunday show interviews were a draw for the Bush and Kerry campaigns.

On ABC's This Week, the edge was to Kerry, as the "good" Sen. Joe Biden showed up, and let loose on Dubya's lack of an Iraq strategy:

We appropriated 18.5 billion dollars to reconstruct Iraq…

…the commander of the First Cavalry…says, I need more money in Sadr City to fix the sewage, to take out the garbage, that helps me keep my guys from getting killed.

You know what we've spent? We have spent less than a billion dollars so far…

…It's incompetence. It's incompetence now.

So the president, what's his plan? What are we going to do, Mr. President?

Beyond troops. In addition to troops. What are you going to do?

He was going to give us six additional speeches…Where are the speeches? He was going to tell us about what he was going to do in Iraq…

…I wish that somebody come and tell, at least me, what in fact he has in mind.

At the same time, GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel couldn't answer the seemingly straightforward question: "Do you know what the president's plan is"

Hagel weakly responded:

Well, I don’t think the President has, just like the [Iraqi] Prime Minister, many options here.

The fact is we are where we are. And you can't…go back to 12 months ago and say, gee I think we should have calibrated it a little differently.

We've got a big problem on our hands…

…if you do put more troops in, then you sink deeper into that terrible word: quagmire.

And, it is not unlike what we found in Vietnam…you just keep putting more and more troops in, propping up governments, propping up governments.

And in the end, if the people are not with you, you lose.

So it's a tough, tough situation for both President Bush and the Prime Minister.

Surely, the Bush campaign's talking points are not "He may not have a plan, but give him a break! This is really hard!"

Hagel, widely known as a soft Bush supporter, was definitely on his own, making it easy for Biden to help Kerry and hurt Bush.

But while ABC was Advantage Kerry, NBC's Meet The Press was not.

Rep. Jane Harman, who is the top Dem on the House Intelligence Cmte, was inexcusably unprepared to rebut Dubya's recent attack ad on Kerry's intel record.

The ad alleged that Kerry had a poor attendance record for Intelligence Cmte hearings.

Guest host Andrea Mitchell showed portions to Harman and asked:

MITCHELL: Congresswoman, you are the ranking Democrat on the House side. How would you feel if some of your members showed up as infrequently as Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards have?

HARMAN: Well, I don't know what the facts are on the Senate side. I really can't speak to that, and I think we'll just have to wait and see…

...

MITCHELL: But he's touting this as one of his major credentials, both of them are.

HARMAN: I haven't heard John Kerry tout this. I've heard him tout his service in foreign policy --

MITCHELL: Oh, in speeches and in advertisements.

HARMAN: ...as one of his major credentials, and I've heard him...

MITCHELL: No, in advertisements, he's touted, Congresswoman, that he is a member of the Intelligence Committee, that this is a credential.

HARMAN: All right. Well, I just can't speak to that specifically. But I can say that he has thought a lot about these [9/11] recommendations…

Doesn't "know what the facts are"??!! Arguing that Kerry isn't stressing intel credentials, as if that would be reassuring?

Inexcusable, especially for a Sunday show appearance.

A wire story about the ad was up two days ago. And Kerry's official bloggers, the same day, had a fact sheet rebutting the claims.

Even if for some reason there was poor communication between Kerry's staff and Harman's before the show, Harman's team should have at least checked out Kerry's site and blog to prepare for obvious questions.

That's what the damn Rapid Response blog is there for.

Finally, on CBS' Face The Nation, Kerry aide Tad Devine and Bush pollster Matthew Dowd directly battled each other to their own draw.

Having said that, Devine missed an opportunity to tie Bush's team to the Swift Boat Liars smear campaign.

Dowd generally stuck to the phony message: we won't discuss the Swift Boats Liars charges directly, but we'll attack all independent groups (inc. MoveON, ACT, etc.) that are putting money into the election.

(That's activity explicitly allowed by the new McCain-Feingold law, which Bush signed).

But at one point, Dowd attempted to give a subtle credibility boost to the Swift Boaters:

This is an independent group...we have a First Amendment in this country.

These are people that served in Vietnam. Some of these officers served alongside Senator Kerry.

[NOTE: Dowd ignores that none were on Kerry's own swift boat.]

They have a right to--as anybody, to bring up what they believe. We don't have a say-so in whether or not they run these ads or not.

Devine had a moment there to call Dowd on his sneaky tactic.

But he was too married to his pre-set game plan (which in fairness, was a pretty aggressive plan).

But the Kerry campaign would be well served if it could figure out how to play defense less.

One way is to call the Bushies on their tactics. Publicly. To their face. On the spot.

If Kerry can fully expose Dubya's tricks, it makes it that much harder for trumped-up charges to stick.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

The Narcosphere is tracking the Venezuela recall election throughout the day

The Stakeholder has a letter to turncoat Rodney Alexander

Kerry O-Blog posts Kerry's call: Declare "Genocide Emergency" in Sudan

Opinions You Should Have: Mayor Bloomberg Resigns, Admits He's Metrosexual

Talk Left: "Don't you just love when the media takes a stand ... for one of their own?"

Fiore: "Live And Let Leak"

To The Barricades says Michael Moore coming to Nebraska is front-page news, and an electoral vote or two may be at stake

The Nation is pushing its own TV ad

The Agora spots a racist talk show host in his home of Toledo

Grist: Bush cites national security as reason to skirt enviro rules

Chuck Currie reports on seminarians preparing to protest the GOP convention

Democratic Veteran: "Dear Swift Boat F***heads ... Here's what John Kerry's documented service record looks like"

TheHomelessGuy.net is being filmed for the upcoming Jane Pauley Show

Alas, A Blog and Pacific Views note the CA same-sex marriage ruling did not address whether the ban on such marriages is unconstitutional

Atrios shreds the GOP spin on the length of Kerry's tour of duty

Ron Reagan Jr. whacks Laura Bush in the NYT letters page

Bloviator looks at how prescription drug reimportation plays in the swing

Back To Iraq 3.0 on the showdown with Sadr

Quinnipiac poll: Kerry up 7 in FL. Up 20 w/Hispanics and 17 w/Indys

Lean Left: New Bush ad says, "Vote For Me or Kill Your Own Children"

Ken Sain reports on the CA Green Party blocking Nader's latest ballot effort (good graphic of 3rd party ballot access too)

Altercation and MyDD have opposite views on the potential impact of GOP convention protests

The Stakeholder reports action being taken to knock turncoat Rep. Rodney Alexander off the ballot, while American Street calls for $$$ to the DCCC to punish him

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

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