It's certainly true that Mr. Kerry said certain things in his war protestor days that can now be used against him with some audiences. But until he was well into middle-age President Bush's most noteworthy public utterances seem to have been limited to various invocations and inflections of 'par-TAY' and reciting the alphabet under legal compulsion.
A similar thought occurred to me while eating the world's largest stromboli: anyone who's spent significant time in national office will have this sort of history, and so anyone with a long political resume will be subject to this sort of ostensibly damning attack. What upsets me is the notion that these attacks work only because we've got a relatively underinformed electorate, and because we've got something of a double standard with respect to misspent youth. Kerry doesn't get a pass for being a (fairly moderate) young anti-war guy, but Bush gets carte blanche to do whatever for much of his adult life. That's a really lousy incentive structure.
Ogged took the time away from his hiatus to send along this interesting item from Gallup. It's an account of why the race is still neck and neck, but it includes this interesting bit about the predictive power of various opinions about the candidates. (I've reformatted a bit for your convenience.)
Personal Traits of Candidates -- Importance in Predicting the Vote for President
Traits & Importance Score in Predicting How People Will Vote
Shares your values: 100
Can manage the government effectively: 49
Is honest and trustworthy: 43
Party affiliation (of respondents): 35
Is a person you admire: 30
Is knowledgeable about the issues: 13
Is a strong and decisive leader: 9
Does not change his positions on issues for political reasons: 5
Cares about the needs of people like you: 3
Has an optimistic vision for the country's future: 3
(Note that the top consideration is assigned 100; others are reported as % of that consideration's correlation with voting choice.)
This result actually makes a bit of intuitive sense-- you'd expect that a capacity for effective management could be a drawback, depending on the content of the candidate's policies. But values, whatever these really are, give some indication of substance. I wonder how this squares with "admire" being relatively unimportant.
I'd like to reiterate a point I made in Adam Kotsko's comment space, since it's also a response to what I take to be Glenn Reynolds' misunderstanding of the Ghailani issue.
I have to say, I've never heard of Ahmed Ghailani. Neither, I strongly suspect, have very many potential voters. Which to me makes it absurd to argue that Bush is trying to upstage Kerry by yelling "look! we captured Ahmed Ghailani!" -- to an inevitable chorus of "who?"
And Greg Djerejian has similar thoughts:
Did 'dirty tricks' Dick Cheney know it would take five months to get a second-tier HVT delivered up by Islamabad after a gunbattle this past Sunday? Just, er, to crowd out Kerry from the Boston podium action?
The allegation is not that Bush ordered the Pakistanis to produce Ghailani in particular. It's that Bush pressured the Pakistanis to produce some high-level prisoners by the election, preferably around the time of the Democratic convention. Reports of Ghailani's capture are suspicious only insofar as they provide some confirmation of the charge. Not a smoking gun, surely, but noteworthy.
Again, if there's a real scandal here, it's mostly independent of Ghailani: what matters is whether the US exerted pressure on the Pakistanis to follow the election timeline. The mistake from Djerejian and Reynolds, it seems to me, is to consider a crazy charge ("Bush demanded that Ghailani be captured just as John Kerry gives his speech") instead of a much more plausible one ("Bush demanded some terrorists captured during the election season, preferably during the convention")-- and then to dismiss the allegation because of its implausibility.
And just to be clear: of course the Ghailani capture isn't anything like conclusive evidence. It's merely suggestive. But we need to keep in mind just what the allegations are before assessing the probabilities.
I think we might have just topped ourselves in the Best Referring Search Ever competition. From the Netherlands:
you do not have problems to scream, i mean, all that about a car ?!!! that does not imply that that person is the purple pen though !!! aschwin !!! aschwin@hoe level !!! hoe !!!
(No, I'm not back, but I had to share.)
This Freakgirl entry prompted much furious googling on my part for some of the most clever commercials I've heard in a long time. They're for Arlington Racetrack here in Chicago. They're just a litany of events in someone's day, but styled as if each event were a horse, with a racetrack announcer (a la Phil Georgette) making the call. Horse racing doesn't do much for me one way or the other, but these commercials are really funny. I can't seem to find it via Google (thus, I understand, they may not in fact exist), but do our Chicagoland readers agree?
"A young man with a ridiculous pseudonym sits at his desk, tired after a hard day, wondering whether he'll ever post new content again. And I say to him: help is on the way."
Not a bad speech, I guess. I was a bit surprised that he went after Bush so directly, and the whole sweating thing was super-distracting, but he picked some good platitudes. I had hoped that 2000 marked the end of the ubiquitous shout-out to individuals who epitomized the nation's problems/virtues/spirit. Sadly, no.
And this isn't remotely disturbing:
But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections."
What an amazing coincidence that Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani's capture was announced at just. the right. time.
The Nation has posted a number of suggestions for what the Democratic Party might put in its platform if its members could run for office in an imaginary left-leaning country, and not the United States of America. Some of the suggestions actually make sense, and most of the rest are pretty boilerplate. However, Gary Indiana (the person, not the city) is the only contributor who can really combine a keen sense of good policy with a well-informed view of what works with the American swing voter:
Ratify the Kyoto Protocol and withdraw from NAFTA and the WTO. Replace the World Bank and the IMF with a single Islamic structure that doesn't charge interest. Offer tax credits for the purchase of small, fuel-efficient automobiles. Cut taxes for individuals and couples who decide not to reproduce. Make abortions available and free at shopping malls, along with blood- pressure and glucose-tolerance tests. Cut the military budget in half to fund healthcare, childcare, education and job training. Cut the remaining half by another half to rebuild urban infrastructures and expand public transportation. Cut the remaining half in half and give it to the families of civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. Restore full civil rights to convicted felons who have served their sentences in our gulags, the vast majority railroaded by the plea-bargaining process. Pay ex-convicts $100 an hour to meet their parole officers. Revise the grand jury system to allow defendants legal representation and the right to call their own witnesses. Simultaneously eliminate all plea bargaining so that every felony indictment results in a jury trial. Restore the exclusive right of Congress to declare war, and declare any deployment of American troops "war," even if it's supposedly against abstractions like "drugs" or "terror." The only drug-related combat we need is a few years of intense forensic auditing of drug companies and punitive-damage awards to everyone they've overcharged. Make war profiteering and outsourcing of jobs federal crimes punishable by ten years of community service clearing litter from poor neighborhoods and seizure of corporate assets. Rescind the elements of the legal code that allow corporations to be considered "persons." Make recreational drugs safer and available over the counter at pharmacies and liquor stores.
My own bet on the answer to the question posed by this story would be Lenny and Carl. Two single guys, always hanging out together, never with girlfriends - it may not be Jacob Levy-John Holbo level obvious, but it does make you think.
That is, unless the producers go the rather boring and predictable route of it being Smithers.
The NYT has a cute article-n-chart placing Kerry, Edwards, Bush, and Cheney on the left/right spectrum. The "#1 liberal" talking point is misleading because it cherry-picks data (practice pays off!), because it's an artificially small sample (Kerry missed a lot of votes because he was campaigning), and because it classes votes against tax cuts as liberal, even though they're not a left/right issue as much as a sane/completely-[redacted]-lunatic issue. I guess a more polite way to put it would be: it's a vote fiscal conservatives can agree with. None of this matters, of course, because Kerry has already been thematized with a Mao jacket.