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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

October 22, 2004 PERMALINK
Misreading The Electorate
(posted Oct. 22 2:30 AM ET)
(minor edit Oct. 22 12 PM ET)

The largest of the GOP 527 groups, Progress For America Voter Fund, is pushing the ad "Ashley's Story" to the hilt.

It is spending $14M for two weeks of spots.

For comparison, all of the ads placed by the Bush campaign and the RNC for last week cost about $12M.

PFA-VF is also complementing the ad buy with "Ashley" direct mail, emails and phone calls.

Is "Ashley's Story" that powerful to warrant this much money and effort?

The GOPers sure think so. According to the W. Times, they think "Ashley's Story" is "devasting," quoting one who says the election is hereby over.

But that just shows the kind of bubble the GOP is in.

The truth is "Ashley's Story" isn't much of a story.

Surely Ashley and her father, who are featured in the ad, must have gone through hell, losing their mother on 9/11.

But all that happens in the ad's "story" is that Bush saw Ashley at a rally, gave her a hug, and asked if she was "all right". That's it.

A perfectly decent thing to do, but not exactly a dramatic tale for the ages.

The complimentary website is similary thin.

Obviously, this is an emotional appeal, a chance to paint Bush as a strong but sensitive father figure.

But there's just not much emotional wallop.

Furthermore, it misreads where the electorate is at right now.

It practically asks voters to forget recent developments and go into a time warp to 2001, 2002 at the latest.

But voters have learned more about Bush and his policies since then, and it's not so easy to go back.

Swing voters may not feel the same intensity of dislike of Bush that partisans do.

But they certainly have their concerns about his competence and stubbornness, and the future direction of his policies.

(And there is a slew of ads reinforcing those concerns. "Ashley's Story" does not exist in a vacuum.)

There is a reason why the debates received such high ratings, why voter interest in election news is the highest in 12 years, why TV news is doing more issues reporting than in 2000.

The ad makes an emotional appeal, and a somewhat weak one at that, when a substantive one is craved.

Whereas in Kerry's new 9/11 ad, featuring widow Kristen Breitweiser, there is a strong emotional component, but there's some substance as well (and there's more of a story.)

The irony is that when GOPers defended the use of 9/11 in ads, they made an argument based on substance: that 9/11 was "central" to Bush's "record" and impacted "public policy."

When they really believed 9/11's value as a political trump card was its emotional punch, as you can see in "Ashley's Story".

However, their smokescreen arguments about policy were more politically astute than their actual political instincts.

The GOP is fond of saying 9/11 has changed everything, but the electorate has changed even more than they realize.

QUICK HIT

Blog Fundraising Throwdown

There is a contest to see who can raise the most money by Tuesday for the DCCC to take back the House.

And this humble blog is battling with Archpundit for the top spot.

Word on the street is that Archpundit sleeps with trial lawyers, can't tell you the Webster's definition of terrorism, and eats babies for breakfast. He must be stopped. Give today!

October 21, 2004 PERMALINK
Losing Zarqawi
(posted Oct. 21 2 AM ET)

John Kerry gave a pretty gutsy speech yesterday, aggressively going after Bush's perceived strength as a strong leader.

But the media largely ignored one of his most damning charges:

[Before the war,] Zarqawi was operating out of a no-man’s land in North Eastern Iraq, next to territory controlled by America’s Kurdish allies, not by Saddam.

He and his terrorist allies were reportedly producing Ricin, a horrific biological weapon.

We could have -- but did not -- take them out.

That was a terrible mistake that this administration has never explained.

Kerry was referencing a March edition of NBC Nightly News which reported that three separate plans to attack the camp were scuttled by the White House.

Further, NBC concluded:

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi’s operation was airtight.

But the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

Like the failure to capture Osama at Tora Bora, the decision to let Zarqawi remain at-large is mind-blowing information that most Americans are not aware of.

That's why when Kerry mentioned Tora Bora at the first debate, much of the media treated it as old news, but there is anecdotal evidence that it struck a disturbed chord with viewers.

From ABC's Oct. 1 edition of The Note:

ABC's Kate Snow spoke to six voters in Columbus, Ohio...[One] was taken by Kerry's Tora Bora argument.

He was dismayed that Bush never dismissed that and he wants to know: did the US let Bin Laden to slip out?

The Kerry campaign sensed an opening and has been pounding Tora Bora ever since, with little rebuttal from the Bushies.

It's arguable that this has helped close the terrorism gap in the polls.

The Zarqawi story could prove to be the second part of a powerful one-two punch, further sullying Bush's credibility on terrorism.

But not if the media refuses to touch it.

On the wires, AP mentioned Kerry's Zarqawi comments in passing, without needed explanation for voters to know what really happened. While, Reuters and Knight-Ridder ignored it.

Even more egregious was the treatment from the NY Times and CNN.

The NYT quoted Bush's speech from yesterday -- "Zarqawi ran a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan until our military coalition destroyed that camp" -- but ignored Kerry's cite of the Kurdish-area camp that was left alone before the war.

And CNN's Jeanne Meserve, in a segment about Kerry's so-called "blows to the facts" said this after a clip of Kerry's Zarqawi comments:

Pentagon officials say there was no real-time intelligence that would have justified attacking the facility and no guarantees Zarqawi himself would have been killed.

She refused to mention NBC's reporting, which attributed the exact opposite sentiment to the Pentagon.

That left viewers to presume Kerry was making something up, instead of relying one of the most-watched nightly TV news programs in the country.

Newsflash to reporters: getting party-line CYA comments from higher-ups does not constitute "fact checking".

Now, if Kerry succeeded in getting the Zarqawi story in the headlines, Bush would be put on the defensive, forced to explain how he let the terrorist he can't shut up about get away.

Since the bulk of the media appears reluctant to acknowledge what has been reported by NBC, perhaps the answer is for Kerry to grant an exclusive interview to NBC to talk about it.

EDITOR'S NOTE

LO On Air America Tonight

Instead of the usual Friday segment, Exec. Ed. Bill Scher will be on Air America's The Majority Report tonight in the 9 PM ET hour.

To listen online or to find a station in your area, go to airamericaradio.com.

October 20, 2004 PERMALINK
The Incremental Draft
(posted Oct. 20 1:30 AM ET)

In yesterday's edition of the stream of lies known as David Brooks' column, it said:

Kerry's second wild attack is that Bush would reinstate the draft.

This is a lie because Kerry has never said Bush "would" bring back the draft, only that Bush's unilateralism means a "great potential" for a draft.

But we digress. Brooks continues:

There may be some in the bureaucracy taking precautions, but it is hard to imagine an attack with less basis in fact.

Hmm. Maybe the attack that Kerry "is not prepared and equipped to be the Commander-in-Chief" has less basis?

But we digress again.

Here's some basis.

A few pages behind Brooks in the NYT, some of those "precautions" were being revealed in the article titled: "U.S. Has Contingency Plans for a Draft of Medical Workers".

"Contingency" of course, is the standard fall-back line when ominous preparations come to light.

Back in May, when a Selective Service memo surfaced in the Seattle P-I, raising the prospect of a draft for "men and, for the first time, women, ages 18 through 34, with an added focus on identifying individuals with critical skills," officials downplayed it as mere musing during contingency planning.

But yesterday's NYT story did not involve simple brainstorming memos.

It spoke of hiring a "contractor" which fleshed out a plan that "described how such a draft might work".

The story named the contractor, Widmeyer Communications, but didn't really explain what Widmeyer is and what it does.

Widmeyer is a high-priced boutique PR firm, one of the top Beltway PR firms, which boasts a "crisis communications" specialty.

For the Selective Service to shell out for such a firm to conduct focus groups and develop a full-blown PR strategy is not something you do as a routine contingency, or in Brooks' words, bureaucratic precaution.

It's not only expensive, but the focus group data the PR strategy is based on would be worthless after a year or so.

Furthermore, the NYT quoted a Wisconsin Medical Journal article by a senior National Guard physician that said a "special skills draft," including medical workers, was far more likely than a general draft.

That is in line with what the May 2004 Seattle P-I report (which uncovered a Feb. 2003 memo) said about plans to "identify[] individuals with critical skills".

(There already is a system in place to draft health care workers. Selective Service would need a new policy before tracking people with other desired skills like linguistics and computers.)

Mind you, it is the Seattle P-I article that sparked the "rumors on the Internets" (they did not just suddenly appear on the Web).

And as we move from today's "back door" draft to tomorrow's "special skills draft," that memo is proving to be relevant, even if its contents are not fully realized.

The media's newfound interest in "fact checking" doesn't take this burgeoning trend into account when they examine Kerry's remarks.

Yesterday's "Fact Check" segment on ABC World News Tonight relied on factcheck.org's Brooks Jackson to assess Kerry's view. Jackson said:

The Pentagon says it doesn't want a draft, that volunteer soldiers make better soldiers, and they don't need drafted soldiers.

What Kerry says is a matter of opinion, but I'm not sure what he's basing that opinion on.

(Uh, Brooks, here's what he based it on: "if we go it alone, I don't know how [else] you do it with the current overextension".)

And yesterday's NY Times, in a separate article analyzing some of Kerry's charges (that seemed not to realize that another draft story existed in its pages), said:

Everyone agrees that the Army is overextended.

But Mr. Bush insisted in the debate on Oct. 8: "We're not going to have a draft, period. The all-volunteer Army works."

In any event, the chances are extremely remote that Congress would approve a general draft.

Both simply state the Administration's disavowal to imply Kerry's out of line, as if that's the end of the story.

But of course the Bushies are not eager to have a draft. That would destroy the already shaky political support for the war.

Bush knows that the fewer Americans who are directly affected, the easier it is to continue a unilateral war.

Part of the subtext of the line "fight the terrorists over there so we don't have to over here" is to say "don't worry, you don't need to get out of your chair to win this thing, continue watching 'Fear Factor'".

A war that had real broad support would have more willing recruits.

Instead, Bush has to convince people they won't be inconvenienced.

But just because you don't want something to happen, doesn't mean it won't.

With that in mind, it makes sense that any such draft would not happen in one fell swoop, but occur subtly and incrementally. Otherwise, political support would plummet.

And perhaps at each incremental step, policymakers will swear to the public, and even convince themselves, that they don't need to draft anymore -- until they do.

In both fact-checking cases, yesterday's evidence that an incremental draft is already in the offing was not even mentioned.

But the evidence exists, not in internet rumors, but in mainstream newspapers.

Not that a "secret plan" exists to conscript everyone on Nov. 3.

But that little by little, not necessarily by devious design, the potential for a draft to creep forward exists.

And that potential is greater with a unilateral president than with a multilateral president.

October 19, 2004 PERMALINK
The Battleground Is Big
(posted Oct. 19 2:30 AM ET)

The political-media Establishment's artificial winnowing process of what states are in play has begun. Ignore it.

On Sunday, the Associated Press attempted to write the definitive battleground piece.

It concluded the White House will go to "whoever conquers this shrinking battlefield" of 8 states and 99 EVs: FL, OH, PA, WI, IA, NV, NH and NM.

And it further argued (through a Dem consultant) that whoever wins two of these three -- FL, OH, and PA -- will win. Newsweek echoed that.

This is way oversimplifying the lay of the land (though you can bet hack pundits will be repeating the "two out of three" mantra through Election Day).

The battleground is too big to boil this down to a few states.

It is not hard to come up with scenarios where either Bush or Kerry wins two of those three and still loses.

And with such a big battleground, it is very easy to come up with so many scenarios that your head will spin.

Even the other paragons of CW resisted AP's take: MSNBC's First Read added OR, ABC's The Note thought CO and MN were overlooked.

And the Wisconsin Advertising Project said, based on ad buys, MI should be included as well.

Now we're at 12.

But even beyond the CW, the situation is fluid.

It is not predetermined that the battleground will shrink. It may be growing.

Case in point: Colorado wasn't on the battleground map four weeks ago.

In turn, where the ad buys were in early Oct., doesn't necessarily predict where the action is in late Oct.

Take MO. The Establishment has tried to write this off for a while.

The NY Times said three weeks ago: "Is Missouri a swing state that has already swung? So it seems to many...".

But Newsweek is reporting that Kerry's camp may be headed back into MO as well as AR.

A head fake? Maybe. But there are poll numbers saying both states are too close to call.

And while no one is really talking about it now, don't be surprised if NC returns to the battleground.

Swing The State puts NC on its top 5 states it is recruiting volunteers for, saying:

According to our affiliates on the ground, if we can increase the Democratic voter turnout in Wake County, North Carolina by just 15%, then we can take North Carolina.

Are they crazy? No. A new NC poll has Kerry behind by only 3 pts.

Also, yesterday's LA Times reports continued grassroots activity for Kerry in AZ.

And on the other side, the Bushies are trying to at least give the appearance of making a play for NJ, though the Kerry folks and some unaffiliated analysts think it's a head fake.

What's the point of getting into all this?

Because anyone who is able to should be heading to a swing state to campaign at some point, particularly to do GOTV on Election Day.

And while the biggest needs are in the biggest states, that does not make the small and mid-size states unimportant.

Your help is valuable in any battleground state, defined broadly.

Remember, in 2000, Gore got spooked by Ohio polls that showed a big Bush lead and pulled out major resources.

Yet a good ground game made it very close, only a 3.5% difference. Which is why it's seen as a battleground state today.

Of course, Gore had less resources to work with, and had to make tougher calls.

Yesterday, Kerry's top ground game strategist, Michael Whouley, sent this mass thank you email to supporters:

Towards the end of every presidential campaign, strategists like me crowd into small conference rooms and huddle around spreadsheets with polling data and financial reports.

We argue about the best course of action in key battleground states and then we argue with the finance guy about if we can afford it...

...The meeting we had this weekend was different.

Time and time again when we decided on the best strategy to win a state and turned to the finance guy his answer was "go for it."

The campaign is feeling bold. You should too.

Don't let the CW shrink our ground game. Let's get out there in as many states as possible.

If we do our job, it won't be a squeaker, hashed out by courts and lawyers.

It will be a clear mandate bestowed by the people on to John Kerry and the Democratic Party.

October 18, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Oct. 18 2 AM ET)

The Kerry camp had a nicely coordinated effort yesterday, using a Kerry speech, a new ad, and surrogates on the Sunday shows, to successfully make news about Bush's plans to "privatize Social Security."

The Bushies had a Sunday show game plan also, using its surrogates to attack Kerry as someone who will "say anything to get elected."

This is actually the old 2000 attack line against Gore, drummed so diligently it became an Election Day exit poll question.

But today, as a last-minute gasp, it failed to make news (except as a weak reaction to the Kerry-driven Social Security headlines).

Kerry aides Bob Shrum (NBC), Tad Devine (CBS), Joe Lockhart (Fox) and Terry McCauliffe (CNN) all flagged the following quote from a recent private luncheon with Bush's "most ardent, longtime supporters," reported in this week's NYT Magazine:

"I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in," Bush said, "with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security."

That line was a very minor part of the highly disturbing article, which depicted a Bush White House that crafts policy through messianic faith while brazenly rejecting facts and reality.

But the fact that Kerry chose to stress the Social Security comment, and not the whole of the article, is an indication of the strong position Kerry is in as we head into the final stage.

He successfully used the three debates to turn back the flip-flop attack, and diminish the gap with Bush on foreign policy and terror.

He knows that Bush is in a precarious spot for an incumbent, with most poll numbers below 50% and undecideds ripe to go Kerry's way.

Not being on the defensive, Kerry was freed up to choose a proactive line of attack for the last two weeks.

And he is choosing to drill domestic issues, the well-established Democratic strength, for what he calls the "closing arguments."

While Bush, sensing the fading potency of the flip-flop campaign -- which he wasted 6 months on -- is flailing about for a fresh theme.

So even though the NYT Mag piece was a jaw-dropper (and should be sent to any undecided you know) Kerry did not have to junk his plans and attack Bush's excessive reliance on faith.

He merely picked the quote that easily fit into his desired strategy, aimed at what's on voters' minds.

Interestingly, the Bushies weren't prepared for the Social Security attack, as they did not have a consistent response.

On CNN's Late Edition, RNC Chair Ed Gillespie argued that Bush "never said" what the NYT Mag reported, calling it "Kitty Kelley journalism."

But on Meet The Press, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman did not deny it was said.

He simply made the case for privatization, disingenuously arguing that "there's no additional cost associated" with "allow[ing] younger workers…to set up personal retirement accounts" when it really will cost $2 trillion.

Similarly, on Fox News Sunday, after Lockhart said Bush wants to "privatize Social Security," Bush campaign chair Marc Racicot responded:

What the president is talking about...is allowing...younger workers to own a portion of their Social Security and invest it and make decisions.

That is sometimes referred to in the terms that Joe is mentioning.

That admission -- that what Bush is proposing can be described as privatization -- is something the Bushies have tried to deny for some time.

In 2002, an internal GOP memo claimed:

'Privatization' is a false and misleading word insofar as it is being used by Democrats to describe Republican positions on Social Security...

...It is very important that we not allow reporters to shill for Democrat demagoguery by inaccurately characterizing 'personal accounts' and 'privatization' as one in the same.

Racicot didn't get the memo.

So while Bushies scramble to figure out if they should admit what their leader said, and if they should call it privatization or not, Kerry's attacks are hitting their mark.

QUICK HIT

Lie of the Day

That transitional training is the honest answer to how you grow this economy.

Not this kind of pandering that Kerry does about, you know, "We're going to do away with all outsourcing."
-- Rudy Giuliani, CBS' Face The Nation, 10/17/04

You can't stop all outsourcing...I've never promised that.

I'm not going to, because that would be pandering. You can't.

But what you can do is create a fair playing field, and that's what I'm talking about.
-- John Kerry, 2nd presidential debate, 10/8/04

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Democracy Corps: new poll, Kerry 50 - Bush 47 (PDF file)

Juan Cole: A call to action to help an Iranian jailed for blogging

MyDD: "Republicans are scared of the draft as an issue, and they should be"

MyDD: Kerry has big battleground lead in W. Post poll

Annatopia: the real Oct. Surprise, "Supririse, You're Not Registered"

NYT Mag: absolute must-read piece on Bush's rejection of "reality-based" policy (via Daily Kos)

Newsweek: Bush 48, Kerry 47 (Ignore Drudge's misleading head); Time also statistical dead heat

Pacific Views distills Bush's Soc. Sec. view: "Bush thinks commitments to seniors should be honored, but not commitments to people who aren't."

Angry Bear catches Bush flip-flopping on health care in a matter of minutes last night

Velveteen Rabbi goes dead-tree, with an article in Bitch magazine on women religion bloggers

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

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