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September 17, 2004 PERMALINK
Suggested Answers For Tough Questions
(posted Sept. 17 1 AM ET)

Click here to download a Word Doc of "Suggested Answers For Tough Questions About John Kerry".

The purpose of this unofficial document is to help independent grassroots volunteers, who are engaging undecided voters, disseminate info that can counter the lies and distortions.

Kerry and his top surrogates don't have the luxury to knock down every lie and distortion point-by-point.

They need to push back of course, but getting too much into the details takes the focus off Bush and puts Kerry on the defensive.

In turn, the lies linger.

But counterspinning on the ground is a great way to complement Kerry's aggresive campaign in the air.

Furthermore, if you're out engaging voters, and you're not prepared for the tough questions, you're not going to be as helpful as you can be.

So download this doc, get out there and talk up some voters.

September 16, 2004 PERMALINK
The Truth Can Be Odd
(posted Sept. 16 12:30 AM ET)

Sometimes, the crazy, counter-intuitive, convoluted explanation that somehow makes sense of it all is staring at you right in the face.

And the political-media Establishment, so deathly afraid of complexity, often ignores it.

Now, LiberalOasis has not concluded the CBS memos are fake, and most likely will not, so long as CBS stands by them.

But for the sake of argument, let's open ourselves up to the possibility that they are not.

Here's what we know:

The key expert CBS relied on has said all along that he couldn't make a judgment about the typeface because he did not have originals, only degraded copies.

However, he thought he could assess the signatures, and gave his expert opinion that the signatures were Col. Killian's.

CBS apparently got a lot of conflicting opinion about the memos from experts, not that surprising since degraded copies lend themselves to subjective interpretation.

But CBS concluded that since all its other reporting corroborated the content of the memos, they made a reasonable journalistic judgment that the memos were legit.

Now, yesterday we heard from Killian's former secretary.

She made a compelling case that the memos were fake.

But she has also said their content reflected Killian's views at the time, and that she herself typed such memos for him.

Well, if that's the case, (let's stress "if") it's no wonder CBS got snookered, and no wonder CBS' reporting backed up the memos.

Because who would ever figure that there were fakes of memos that really exist?

It doesn't make obvious sense.

But then again, we should know by now that sometimes reality doesn't always make sense on the surface.

You may recall, a lot of people were convinced Saddam had WMD.

Well, why wouldn't he?

He surely had them before, and he hadn't properly accounted for what he did have.

Who would have foreseen the possibility that Iraq's government was so screwed up that Saddam may have thought it advantageous to bluff, or that he might have been misled by his own scientists?

(This is not to let Dubya off the hook, as we also know now that within the Administration doubters existed and were ignored.)

But we don't have a media that is interested in explaining complicated truths and challenging knee-jerk logic.

We have a media that would rather let partisans mask complexities with simplistic rhetoric.

And in the case of the memos, a media more interested in scoring points on one of its own.

Even if it distracts from the real story about the honesty of a man in power.

September 15, 2004 PERMALINK
Your Mission: Maximize The Strategy
(posted Sept. 15 1:45 AM ET)

There's a million decisions a campaign has to make, a good many of them tough ones.

Every decision in a winning campaign is praised as genius. Every one in losing campaign, wholly derided.

When in fact, any campaign, winning and losing, makes good and bad decisions.

Kerry's campaign team made a tough strategic decision in advance of Labor Day, what to stress most: domestic issues, Iraq or terrorism.

They apparently decided domestic issues come first, after plausibly concluding that's the area where public trusts Kerry most.

In theory, if they can make the election about that, they win.

Bolstering the case, a recent Democracy Corps poll tested the main messages of the campaigns.

It found that Kerry's middle-class squeeze message (which touches on terror and Iraq too) trumps Bush's by 7 pts (15 pts in the battleground).

However, there's another argument, which Paul Krugman advanced yesterday.

That terrorism and Iraq are just too big. You can't shift the focus away. You have to take them head on.

And Kerry has a strong (if counterintuitive to the CW) argument to make.

As usual, Krugman makes a good case.

But we can't know for sure which way is better, and only one strategy will be tested.

Besides, the reality is, the time is pretty much past to argue about strategy.

The broad strategic outlines have been made by the campaign. That's it. It's done.

At this stage of the game, those of us on the outside do the most good by helping the campaign execute strategy in the grassroots, not by rehashing strategy.

There may be news items to flag, and specific attack lines to suggest, but wholesale strategic overhauls are not worth batting around anymore.

And they can be debilitating.

What was worse in 2000?

The fact that Al Gore didn't ask Bill Clinton to campaign much for him?

Or the fact that people wouldn't shut up about whether Bill Clinton should campaign with him?

In that case, Gore had a tough call to make.

While partisans were convinced Clinton was gold on the campaign trail, polls showed he turned off a large chunk of independent voters.

Monday morning QBs still lambaste Gore for his call, under the "every decision was a bad decision" logic when assessing "losing" campaigns.

But to this day, they can't be sure that a heavy dose of Clinton would have meant a popular vote loss too, or if it just wouldn't have made a difference.

And we also don't know what would have happened if the party just got in line and backed Gore's strategy to the hilt.

Furthermore, in regards to today's campaign, we don't really know the degree to which Kerry's strategy is domestic.

They've publicly signaled it is to a very high degree.

And this week's been pretty domestic so far (and seemingly successful in redirecting focus to their favored turf).

But that may just be because they don't want to reveal their whole game plan for the next 7 weeks.

For example, now that notable 9/11 widows are backing Kerry, he has a fresh opening to criticize Bush's handling of the war on terror. [More on that below]

But whatever the strategic decisions are, they have been made, and they don't assume they were all that easy to make.

Now's the time to maximize the effectiveness of what strategic decisions have been made, and make it unnecessary to debate strategy on Nov. 3.

QUICK HIT

Kristen Breitweiser, One Powerful Advocate

The "Jersey Girls", the five 9/11 widows who effectively pressed for a 9/11 Commission, endorsed Kerry yesterday.

One of them, Kristen Breitweiser, arguably the quintessential "security mom," may be the most powerful advocate for Kerry in the country.

Her words need no extra comment. Here’s most of an interview she did with CNN's Judy Woodruff yesterday:

BREITWEISER: ...I spent, along with the other 9/11 family members, three years trying to get 9/11 issues addressed by this administration.

And it's been a long fight, and I use the word fight because that's what it was.

And I think it's disappointing to be this far removed from 9/11 and to still not feel as safe as we could be feeling...

...We tried to have accountability assigned, and it's just not happening under this administration.

And I have a five-year-old daughter. I want to know that I'm safer than I am right now.

And President Bush has not put me in that place, and I believe Senator Kerry will.

WOODRUFF: You said that you voted for George W. Bush in 2000. What has turned you around?

BREITWEISER: I think my own personal experience in the last three years...

...I'd hoped that President Bush -- someone that I voted for, that my husband voted for -- would have been my biggest ally in trying to correct the problems that occurred on the morning of September 11th and trying to make this nation safer.

And what I found out, for the last three years, is that he was our biggest adversary.

And I'm very disappointed --

WOODRUFF: Specifically because he what?

BREITWEISER: With regard to the 9/11 Commission, President Bush:

Fought the creation of the commission;

Fought the legislative language to make sure the commission was set up in a bipartisan manner;

Fought the funding of the commission;

Fought an extension for the commission;

Fought access to individuals and documents.

...

WOODRUFF: But in the last analysis, the president did come around on most of that, didn't he?

BREITWEISER: He came around after he was backed into a corner and after a 90-8 vote in the Senate. And it was a long year.

And I wonder, what if the president had started his own commission in the days after 9/11, much like happened in Pearl Harbor.

Maybe this wouldn't be a campaign issue this year. Maybe national security would be taken care of. Maybe I would feel safe.

Maybe I wouldn't be so scared three years since 9/11.

And I think it's terribly sad that it is an issue in this campaign, because it's an issue -- because it hasn't been taken care of.

WOODRUFF: Are you going to get involved in his campaign? Will you campaign for him?

You were just telling me that you haven't flown in an airplane since 9/11.

BREITWEISER: I have not flown in an airplane since 9/11.

When I see planes in the sky, I have flashbacks of the plane entering my husband's building.

I have committed to the campaign that I will travel. I want to get the word out.

I want the people in this country to understand that national security must be a priority -- a priority in action, not just in words.

And I'm willing to get on a plane. And assuming I can do that, I will do that.

And that is how committed I am, and how much I believe in Senator Kerry being our president.

WOODRUFF: Some people are going to ask, were you in any way used by this campaign?

Are they in any way taking advantage of your obvious and understandable emotions in order to get you to --

BREITWEISER: And I can tell you from my heart, I reached out to the Kerry campaign.

I reached out after the Republican convention that was in New York.

And I felt that listening to people talk about 9/11 as incessantly as it was done during the campaign, or the convention in New York --

If you're going to use 9/11, use it to make this nation safer than it was on 9/11.

And that's not being done...

...Don't use 9/11 to go to war in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 -- not on my husband's name.

The war in Iraq has increased recruitment of Al Qaeda. It has increased animosity and hatred toward Americans.

I want to know that I'm safer. I lost my husband. I want to know that my daughter and I are safer.

And President Bush hasn't done that.

September 14, 2004 PERMALINK
Newsflash: Media Outlet Does Job
(posted Sept. 14 2:45 AM ET)

A rare moment of truth-squadding on yesterday's ABC World News Tonight, in reporter Terry Moran's piece on health care:

BUSH: I'm running against a fella who has got a massive, complicated blueprint to have our government take over the decision-making in health care.

MORAN: That new attack on the stump is matched with a new Bush ad.

AD VOICEOVER: Big government in charge.

MORAN: But that's not true.

John Kerry's plan does not call for a government takeover of the health care system. Far from it.

That's what reporters are supposed to do when politicians lie: call them on it.

Unfortunately, even though this Bush lie was that simple to debunk, most media treated the health care charge in typical he said-he said fashion, as if there was no objective truth.

Even in the Associated Press' "Adwatch" feature, which were designed to fact-check ads.

Despite the weak media handling of it, Bush is on dangerous ground putting the focus on health care.

Perhaps he was tempted to do so because some post-convention polls showed Bush cutting into Kerry's health care lead, while at least one pollster says health care is the number one issue among undecideds.

But after suffering double-digit deficits on health care versus Kerry all year, Bush can't seriously expect one week of 9/11 speeches to bestow him credibility on health care.

So the additional focus is likely to serve Kerry's interests.

Of course, it's also probable that Bush chose yesterday to level a fresh health care attack -- not because he wants to campaign on it long-term -- but because it was the day the popular assault weapons ban expired on his watch.

By making news on a different issue, he had a chance to distract attention.

It didn't work on NBC Nightly News.

Kerry's hammering of Bush on the lapsed ban led the broadcast, with this report from Carl Quintanilla:

QUINTANILLA: Kerry argues terrorists now have easier access to guns, putting a domestic issue in national security terms.

While putting the President, campaigning today in Michigan, on the defensive.

(Video of Bush outside ice cream stand)

REPORTER: Why did you allow the assault weapons ban to expire without a fight?

(Aide steps in front of camera as Bush turns away)

AIDE: Alright guys, thank you.

While over at ABC, the health care move did push the weapons ban lower in the broadcast.

But overall, it was a day where domestic issues dominated.

That's a reminder that even if Bush could stage a 9/11-24/7 convention, it's not so simple to do a 9/11-24/7 campaign.

We may hear more about 9/11 today, but that's because Kristen Breitweiser and four other 9/11 widows are expected to endorse Kerry.

QUICK HIT

Bushism of the Day

It's commonsensical. In other words, it makes sense to do it this way.
-- Bush on his health care plan, 9/13/04

September 13, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Sept. 13 12:45 AM ET)

Back in April, Dubya didn't budge an inch when it came to dealing with the Iraqi insurgency.

He fully equated the insurgents with Al Qaeda:

The terrorist who takes hostages, or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali, and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew.

And he vowed nothing less than a complete defeat:

Above all, the defeat of violence and terror in Iraq is vital to the defeat of violence and terror elsewhere; and vital, therefore, to the safety of the American people.

Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver.

Not waver, eh?

Here's Colin Powell on yesterday's Fox News Sunday:

This insurgency isn't going to go away...

...I think the insurgency can be brought down to a level...over time, you will see it being brought under control.

"Brought down to a level" isn't exactly "the defeat of violence and terror".

Say, isn't that one of those rhetorical signals that shows weakness and emboldens our enemies?

And those comments follow reports on how we have "relinquished control" in provinces where the insurgency has now flourished.

In fact, Powell's nuanced containment-style language is quite similar to Dubya's own lowering of expectations on the entire war on terror:

I don’t think you can win it.

But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world — let's put it that way.

A pattern is forming.

Lots of tough talk and bluster, followed by an embarrassing pullback after things don't go so well and reality sets in.

This is a point Kerry hits upon in today's NY Times, regarding the growing nuclear threat of North Korea:

I think that this is one of the most serious failures and challenges to the security of the United States, and it really underscores the way in which George Bush talks the game but doesn't deliver.

Now with Powell's comments yesterday, Kerry has more ammo to further this point, which goes right at the heart of Bush's competency on the world stage and his ability to keep us safe.

(Note that in Powell's comments Sunday, he sought to prevent a bad reaction by also saying "I'd like to see it go away entirely. I want to see it defeated." But that's merely expressing personal desire. By saying "the insurgency can be brought down to a level," he clearly was conveying what the Administration thought was realistic.)

QUICK HIT

Fair Elections Are So Funny!

Here's what Powell said on NBC's Meet The Press about elections in Iraq:

TIM RUSSERT: If, in January, the insurgency is still raging, might the elections be postponed?

POWELL: Nobody is planning to postpone the elections. Prime Minister Allawi has been quite clear about this.

Of course, we have to bring that insurgency under control, but keep in mind most of the country would be in a satisfactory position for elections if they were held next month.

So we have time to deal with the challenges that we face.

He made similar comments on Fox.

The implicit message in that is Powell would not guarantee elections in January if the security situation remained problematic.

On Fox, Richard Holbrooke caught the importance of this right away:

I don't think those elections in January of next year will take place.

And you'll notice that Secretary Powell did not make to you the same commitment that Rumsfeld made publicly at the National Press Club three days ago about those elections.

What were those Rummy comments?

Do I think it will go forward? Yes, I do.

I think it will go forward because if you look at any measure...the Iraqi people want elections.

They want to vote. They're determined to vote.

Now, will it be perfect election? Probably not.

Will there be places...where the violence is being targeted that will probably prevent people from voting?

No, it won't be perfect.

But I've never seen an election anywhere that's perfect.

There's always a little -- [INTERRUPTED BY LAUGHTER]

I didn't mean just the outcome. [LAUGHTER]

I meant the process.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Air America's Morning Sedition (6-9 AM ET) has former NRA exec Bob Ricker

Juan Cole assesses where we are in the war on terror on the 3rd anniversary of 9/11 (via Political Animal)

The Talent Show: CBS Faked Ben Barnes Interview!

TalkLeft: "CBS Responds to Bush Document Controversy"

Salon: "... there is clear evidence ... that the same conservative operatives who have been busily promoting the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ... are now ... pushing the story that CBS's '60 Minutes Weeknight Edition' aired forged documents ..."

Newsroom-l Public Journal, Amygdala, Daily Kos, Counterspin Central, Eschaton, and The Sideshow on the Bush Nat'l Guard docs

The Friday Thing interviews Air America's Sam Seder

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