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September 24, 2004 PERMALINK
Out of Touch, Mixing Signals
(posted Sept. 24 1:30 AM ET)

ABC's Terry Moran called yesterday's congressional address and Rose Garden press conference by Iraqi PM Allawi was "a big election-year political gift for President Bush."

He should have said that the Bushies thought it would be a gift when they scheduled it for the campaign season.

But instead, all across the media, their staged event was directly juxtaposed with images of an Iraq in flames.

Which only served to reinforce John Kerry's message that Bush "needs to live in a world of reality, not in a world of fantasy spin."

Dealing with dissonance is not Dubya's strong suit.

And he was feeling the pressure from Kerry, leading him to make a mess of contradictions and mixed signals.

The Administration regularly chastises the media for not reporting the "good news" from Iraq, and yesterday Allawi criticized the "Western media" for ignoring how "safe" the bulk of Iraq is.

Yet in the same presser, Bush found it necessary to go off-message, conceding the camera doesn't lie:

BUSH: It's hard work in Iraq. Everybody knows that. We see it on our TV.

(That's also an acknowledgement that Kerry's comment -- a "glance at the front pages or a look at the nightly news shows the hard reality" -- is hitting a nerve.)

Bush also belied his carefully crafted image as a man who dismisses polls, with this bizarre response to a question on why Iraqis in several polls still view us as occupiers:

BUSH: I saw a poll that said the right track/wrong track in Iraq was better than here in America.

It's pretty darn strong. I mean, the people see a better future.

Though when asked a similar question in Dec. '02, Bush had a very different response:

Q: There's a report out today that shows a sharp deterioration in public attitudes abroad about this country, particularly among Muslim nations and key allies like Turkey and Pakistan.

Are you concerned, sir, that your message...that the anti-terror campaign is not a war against Islam is somehow not getting to those people?

BUSH: Well, I haven't seen the report.

As you know, I remain skeptical about polls. I don't run my administration based upon polls and focus groups.

More importantly, Bush is really out of touch if he thinks Beltway lingo like "right track-wrong track" can wash away concern about "what we see on TV".

Bush's Two-Face approach to masking the Iraq reality rubbed off on Allawi.

At the presser, Allawi followed the Bush line, and said Iraq did not need any more foreign troops:

ALLAWI: To have more troops, we don't need.

What we need really is to train more Iraqis, because this is ultimately for...Iraqi security forces to take responsibility for their own security and to defend the rest of the civilized world.

But just five days ago, on ABC's This Week, Allawi gave the Kerry line:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you need more US troops?

ALLAWI: No, we need more participation from other countries and the international family to join in...

...Iraq is fighting this war on behalf of the civilized nations...That's why countries in the world should understand this and should [be] in this fight.

Looks like someone from the White House put a stop to that talking point in time for yesterday (though Allawi is still actively looking for outside help.)

But back to Bush.

He knows what killed his Dad in '92, the perception that he was out of touch.

But it's hard to be in touch close to Election Day when being in touch requires acknowledging failure.

And it will get harder and harder for Bush, as Iraq gets worse and worse.

Two-Face







QUICK HIT

Q&A For Kerry Volunteers

Campaigning for Kerry this weekend?

Download the LiberalOasis Word Doc "Suggested Answers For Tough Questions About John Kerry" and be prepared for dealing with undecideds.

September 23, 2004 PERMALINK
Interview With Greg Palast
(posted Sept. 23 1:15 AM ET)

Investigative journalist Greg Palast releases a new DVD documentary, "Bush Family Fortunes," next week.

The hard-hitting film features Palast's reports for the BBC, delving into Bush's financial dealings, his Saudi ties, the Florida election and his National Guard service.

Palast discussed "Bush Family Fortunes" with LiberalOasis on September 19, click here for the full transcript.

September 22, 2004 PERMALINK
ABC Sends a Message
(posted Sept. 21 11:30 PM ET)

For the second time in two weeks, (click here for the first time) ABC World News Tonight actually performed a basic media function: truth-squadding.

PETER JENNINGS: We were struck today by a very pointed attack by President Bush on John Kerry.

First of all, this is what Mr. Bush said.

[begin video clip]

BUSH: We agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell.

And that stands in stark contrast to the statement that my opponent made yesterday, when he said that the world was better off with Saddam in power.

I strongly disagree.

[end video clip]

JENNINGS: And this is what Mr. Kerry actually said. [emphasis original]

[begin video clip]

KERRY: Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in Hell.

But that was not...in and of itself, a reason to go to war.

The satisfaction...that we take in his downfall does not hide this fact:

We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure.

[end video clip]

JENNINGS: Trying to keep track of the Iraq debate.

This is not to say that ABC is by any means a flawless media operation.

But this is a positive development for the presidential race.

That a major news broadcast, with an audience of about 8M to 9M, is sending a clear message: blatant lies will be called out.

The rest of the media should be paying attention.

While they may be gleefully piling on CBS, they should remember that they still have a presidential race to cover.

And while the CBS episode may well further frighten the press corps into being Administration mouthpieces, ABC appears to be trying to go against the current and set a minimal standard of decency.

Namely, no blatant lying.

It is the least ABC can do, but is anyone else doing it?

And will The Note take Note of it?

Because if Bush can't lie unfettered, then he’ll lose his main weapon to drive up Kerry's negatives and paint him as soft on foreign policy.

And the truth about Iraq gets clearer every day, with the big foreign policy debate just eight days away.

QUICK HIT

Terry Gross Nails Fox, on Fox

NPR's Terry Gross, promoting her new book, faced off with Bill O'Reilly on The O'Reilly Factor last night.

The two rehashed her earlier interview of him, where he walked off instead off answering all her questions.

This exchange from last night speaks for itself:

O'REILLY: ...you got scolded by your own ombudsman. Why didn't you just put that in the book?...

GROSS: Did I not mention that in the introduction?

O'REILLY: No.

GROSS: Well, I have no problem with the fact that he criticized the interview, because he thought --

O'REILLY: But...if you're going to set me up in your introduction as somebody which you have problems with...why wouldn't you put in your book that you were scolded by your own ombudsman?...

GROSS: I don't know why I left it out.

O'REILLY: You don't know?

GROSS: The point, Bill, is that I think the interview was very fair.

The ombudsman criticized it. That's fine.

That's the ombudsman's job…to stand back and pass judgment on how things were done. He's an independent voice.

Does Fox News have an ombudsman?

O'REILLY: Yeah, we have an ombudsman someplace, I think.

GROSS: Yeah, I don't think so.

O'REILLY: I think he's in a closet.

GROSS: Give me a call when you find him.

September 21, 2004 PERMALINK
Clear Signals On Iraq
(posted Sept. 21 12:45 AM ET)

Kerry levels an attack. Dubya calls him a flip-flopper.

Most likely, that's the way it's going to be throughout the next six weeks.

But it's far better for Kerry to be leading the charge in such a cycle than the reverse, as he'll control more headlines and show more strength.

And as the problems of Iraq become increasingly evident, the potency of the Bush's flip-flopper charge gives way to Kerry's competence charge.

(Does anybody think Iraq is going to get better by November?)

It's in Kerry's interest to find ways to keep the pressure on and keep controlling the daily headlines.

Doing so is inherently tricky.

You best keep pressure by staying on-message, but that requires repetition, which is by definition not newsworthy.

You pick that lock by offering variations on a basic theme.

Now Kerry, perhaps better than anybody, understands the pacing and rhythm of a campaign -- the pitfalls of peaking too early, the ability to keep things competitive, the importance of closing strong.

As such, he probably already has a six-week game plan that will offer variations of the basic themes of Bush's wrong directions on the home front and in Iraq.

But there's always a need for a little improvisation along the way.

So here's a couple of thoughts for ways to extend yesterday's Iraq speech, counter Dubya's barbs, and drive the points home.

1. Mixed Signals

In response to Kerry, Dubya said, "Mixed signals are the wrong signal to send to the enemy."

Why not take that head on and say:

"The Administration says we shouldn't send mixed signals to the enemy. I couldn't agree more.

"The Administration shouldn't have sent mixed signals, as Lt. Gen James Conway said it did, by attacking Fallujah, and then pulling back and turning it over to the insurgents.

"It shouldn't have sent mixed signals by saying it would defeat the insurgency, and saying the insurgency 'isn't going to go away.'

"And it shouldn't have sent mixed signals by saying we will win the war and terror, and then that we can't really win."

2. The Vietnam Connection

One of the many great parts of Kerry's Iraq speech yesterday was this:

It is never easy to discuss what has gone wrong while our troops are in constant danger.

But it’s essential if we want to correct our course and do what’s right for our troops instead of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

I know this dilemma first-hand.

After serving in war, I returned home to offer my own personal voice of dissent.

I did so because I believed strongly that we owed it those risking their lives to speak truth to power. We still do.

A lot folks say we shouldn't be talking about a war from 35 years ago, but the war in front of us.

Fair enough.

But the fact is the whole debate over Iraq is how to avoid turning it into another Vietnam quagmire.

And Kerry has a unique perspective to offer.

He alluded to it in that passage above, to set up himself as someone willing to tell needed, hard truths.

He can also use that experience to caution what the country will go through if we elect a president that is unwilling to change course in Iraq.

He can talk about how, when political leaders don't tell the public the truth about war and don't acknowledge and correct mistakes, wars can go grievously awry.

And when wars go grievously awry, they can tear our country apart.

And how we see, in this campaign, the painful scars that are still on this country 35 years later.

And how we have a chance in this election, to prevent that from happening again.

September 20, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Sept. 20 1 AM ET)

It received mostly page 5-type coverage.

But on Wed., GOP Sens. Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel lashed out at the Administration's handling of Iraq in a public hearing, with Dem Sen. Joe Biden piling on.

Fortunately on the Sunday shows, the same crew, plus Sen. John McCain, fanned out to press their points.

It seems to have worked, as the wires picked up the harsher comments:

Lugar, on ABC's This Week, blaming "incompetence in the Administration" for the lack of reconstruction spending -- only $1B out of $18B appropriated by Congress.

Hagel, on CBS' Face The Nation, calling for a "recalibration of policy".

And McCain, on Fox News Sunday, saying Bush has been "not as straight as maybe we'd like to see" on how things are going in Iraq.

Still, there were a few more notable comments that received less attention.

Biden, on This Week, flagged some more Administration flip-flopping, on the subject of training Iraqi security forces:

There seems to be no sense of urgency on the part of this Administration, and they continue to mislead us...

...the secretary of Defense said in February we have trained 220,000 Iraqi military, [an] "amazing accomplishment." And that was malarkey.

Then he said a week ago Friday, we've trained 95,000.

[But] we had a witness before us [in the Senate Foreign Relations Cmte] from the State Department on Thursday...

...I asked him…to the best of my knowledge, Rumsfeld was saying 32,000 cops have been trained. [And] to the best of my knowledge…not one single Iraqi policeman has gone through the full compliment of training. Is that true?

And the Administration witness said: Yes, that's true.

Biden also raised the notion that Bush is playing politics in Iraq, at the danger of strengthening the insurgency:

The only explanation I have as to why they haven't spent the money to put the programs in place to keep down the violence…is that they don't want to do it before the [US] election.

And they want to make it seem like everything is status quo.

So that's why you hear this happy ridiculous talk from the Secretary of Defense that we've trained 95,000 Iraqi forces...

...My only guess is they figure they're going to settle this thing when the election is over.

By that time, they may inherit the wind.

Also, notable were Hagel's ideas for getting Iraq back on track:

We need more regionalization. We need more help from our allies.

We need the Iraqi people to come around us in a more supportive way. That means more jobs, more development.

GOPer Hagel's "recalibration of policy" sure sounds a lot more like John Kerry's plan than George Bush's "stay the course" non-plan.

In fact, Bush-hugger McCain said on Fox, "I'd like to see more of an overall plan articulated by the president."

With the representatives of the center-right foreign policy Establishment strongly signaling their lack of confidence in Bush on the major foreign policy issue of the day, the foundation has been laid for Kerry to take advantage.

And Kerry is poised to do so, with three ads already on the air hitting Bush on mishandling Iraq, and a big speech this morning alongside the mothers of soldiers serving in Iraq.

The Bushies, in typical cocky fashion, claim to be unafraid of a renewed Kerry focus on Iraq.

But they're stuck with painting pretty pictures, unable to admit failure and change course.

So you can be sure, they won't have good answers to the issues being raised by Kerry...and pretty much everybody else.

QUICK HIT

Quote of the Day

George Will on This Week:

The President says over and over again, "Freedom is on the march around the world."

Well there's a country called Russia that spans 11 time zones that is sinking back far away from whatever freedom it had to begin with.

So it doesn't look to the untutored eye -- at least these eyes -- that freedom is on the march around the world.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Seeing The Forest: "It's The Draft, Stupid"

Isebrand offers a Help Kerry page of activist resources

Baghdad Burning: "Everyone is simply tired in Baghdad. We’ve become one of those places you read about in the news and shake your head thinking, “What’s this world coming to?” Kidnappings. Bombings. Armed militias. Extremists. Drugs. Gangs. Robberies. You name it, and we can probably tell you several interesting stories."

Bush V Choice calls out a racist right-wing 527, now running dishonest anti-abortion ads targeting blacks

Tapped: "[For Iraq,] what used to be the pessimistic scenario has now become the optimistic scenario."

The Gadflyer: Matt Lauer lies

Tough Enough: Kerry has 1 pt lead in Harris poll (also a 2 pt lead in IBD/CSM/TIPP poll)

Road To Surfdom: "Putin's crackdown is a much bigger threat to democracy ... and a much clearer concession to the pressure applied by terrorists than anything that happened in Spain. And yet, a deafening silence from the Spain-bashers."

The Nation: "A months-long investigation ... points toward the conclusion that Bush's personal behavior was causing alarm among his superior officers and would ultimately lead to his fleeing the state to avoid a physical exam he might have had difficulty passing."

The Washington Note: "Woolsey Watch: Mongering for World War IV?"

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

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