Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Should we tolerate radical Islam?

Since he is too much of a gentleman to promote his own writing, I have to let you all know that my colleague David Foster has written an excellent piece for another web site on whether those who support a free society should feel obligated to tolerate radical Islam. Anyone who loves political thought and is concerned about how to deal with Islamists in the West should read this piece. Be prepared, it’s serious.

Kerry, no home run

Joseph Knippenberg writes thoughtfully and elegantly about last night’s debate and declares that Bush won it because Kerry "offered us no compelling reason why the incumbent should be given the boot." Read the whole thing.   

Some reactions - Dick Morris

Here is a reaction to last night’s debate from Dick Morris. I think he’s largely right and offers similar thoughts as some of those commenting on previous postings here: Bush had a more coherent view of the Iraq war and did retort well on some issues (e.g., global "test"), but he also seemed - in a few places - a little too defensive in responding (e.g., the situation in Iraq is not a "catatrophic failure") and missed a few big opportunities (e.g., bunker-busting nukes). He almost seemed too tired or annoyed to really turn the tables on Kerry. As Morris concludes, if Bush had been a little quicker on his feet, this election would be over. I look for Bush to be stronger than people expect on domestic issues.

Feedback on the Debate

A Gallup Poll suggests that, by a wide margin, those watching last night’s debate believe that Kerry won (53%, as opposed to 37% who thought Bush performed better). But it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in terms of overall voter preference. Slightly more believe that Kerry would do a better job than the president in handling Iraq (43%, as opposed to 40% before the debate). A solid majority, though, still think Bush would do better in this regard--54%, unchanged since before the debate. The percentage of folks who think Kerry would make a better commander-in-chief is also up, from 42% to 44%, and Bush’s numbers dropped very slightly, from 55% to 54%.

In short, if these numbers are any indication, the debate doesn’t really mean a thing. Which is why I made a point of not watching it.

Kerry at War with Himself

Let’s face it: Kerry proved to be in a no-win situation at the first presidential debate. His Senate record since 9/11 combined with his wavering campaign statements prevented him from being either for the war or against it in any principled way. Kerry could not find a coherent way to voice an anti-Bush/non-Howard Dean middle ground on the war against terrorism on which he has staked his presidential prospects. Bush forces him to defend the noble sacrifices of our troops while Kerry tries moments later to criticize our even being in Iraq. This is the kind of "nuance" for which Democrats have praised Kerry but through which he is unable to articulate what his plan for Iraq would be.

Kerry can repeat forever that he has a plan, a better plan, a stronger plan for winning the war in Iraq and getting our troops home, but he is at pains to explain just what that plan is. Mercy, at one point the man actually said if you wanted to know what some plan of his was, you could just look it up at his website! You could just sense Dems and Indies across the nation screaming at the television: "Tell us, please, please tell us what it is! Give us a reason to vote for you!"

Simply put, Bush was more adept at setting the terms for the debate over foreign policy and put Kerry the challenger on the defensive rather than the other way around (like you’re supposed to do to an incumbent). The president actually made Sen. Kerry say, "I have never wilted in my life." Pathetic. On several occasions, Bush countered Kerry’s assertions of weak implementation or insufficient resources with specific numbers and the results of his administrations efforts to get the bad guys.

Also, Kerry never explained how he would bring additional nations on board for the fight in Iraq; he simply asserted that this was the best way forward. Not a bad distinction to make before the American people, who will have to decide if Bush’s way or Kerry’s expanded multilateralism is the best approach to finishing the job in Iraq and continuing the fight against global terrorism.

I thought Bush, despite a few awkward pauses and repetitive statements, won this round handily. Kerry has yet to give the clear, succinct, and coherent plans for a Kerry presidency that are necessary to fire up voters enough to replace the current administration.

The Debate Aftermath

Kerry did better than I expected. He was smooth, and clearly had the better delivery. I think the overall edge on debating form goes to Kerry. Aside from Bush’s ordinary pronunciation gaffes, Bush was repetitive, but that may ultimately play to his advantage. The repetition likely drove the points home, or assured that the viewer who tuned in for just a few minutes got his message.

But before Bush and Kerry readers draw the wrong conclusions, let me say that Bush did what he needed to do. Bush didn’t need a slam dunk--he just needed to show. He had the lead--Kerry needed a strong win, and Bush needed to be crushed for the dynamics to change. This didn’t happen.

Furthermore, Kerry’s substance was quite thin. Does anyone really think that Kerry is going to win the war in Iraq by holding a summit? He needed more to overcome his indecisive policy.

My one regret is that Bush didn’t score a few easy points. Kerry attacked Bush’s State of the Union statement about Yellowcake uranium. But we now know that Bush was fundamentally right: Saddam had been in negotiations to purchase uranium. Kerry said that he would stop the development of bunker-busting nuclear weapons. Bush should have given him a "there you go again--yet another weapon that Kerry is voting against." You get the idea. But, as I said, Bush did enough.

Quick rap

The short of it is that it proved more interesting than I thought it would be. Kerry did better than I thought he would. But Kerry did not surprise. He seemed to be himself and predictable, although was a bit nervous at the start. Everything he said he had said before, and was able to deflect some of Bush’s attacks. Bush seemed to me to be a bit more feisty than I expected, maybe even more annoyed than he should have been. He even seemed ill at ease at times.

Perhaps Kerry’s greatest virtue was that he emphasized that Iraq was a mistake and Bush didn’t respond directly to his characterizations. But this is now a dangerous position for Kerry because he seems more than ever to be an anti-war candidate. This may revivify his base, but will not get him elected president. Interestingly Kerry never mentioned Vietnam (I think), although he made at least two references to his experience in war. It seems to me that Bush could have come back with greater force. It was interesting to note that Kerry used JFK and Reagan and the elder Bush (and Powell) to try to buttress his positions. Poor attempts, and the fact that he thought he needed to appeal to such authority is not to his advantage. But he couldn’t, in the end, overcome the "multilateral" tone he always has and his "global test" remark was revealing and Bush took advantage of it. It should noted that Kerry endorsed (in his way) pre-emptive war. I liked Bush’s emphasis on the connection between our strategic interests and freedom, and his closing remarks were effective. In all, Kerry may have helped himself by showing he had a grasp of policy, but his inconsistencies did not dissappear. He also showed that his persona is limited and not especially appealing. In the end, it was at best a draw for Kerry. Although Kerry may have done himself some good, it will no effect on the race (or the polls).

Second Quarter

Homeland defense. Kerry first. Firehouses in Iraq but not here, Bush doesn’t invest in homeland security. I believe in protecting the homeland first. And by the way, the pres has given in to the chemical industry. I can also keep Russian nuclear stuff out of the hands of terrorists. Bush we are funding it enough, but staying on the offense is the most important thing. Brings up the Patriot Act as vital. Repeats staying on the offense is the most important thing. Kerry connects tax cuts with out inability to protect the homeland. Bush is emphatic first time by saying that the president has to go after the bad guys. Good line, well delivered. Bush then explains that you can’t have artifical deadlines to get out of Iraq. A free Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror. It will lead to reform of the region, and is essential for the security of our country. Kerry repeats old theme to troops, "help is on the way." Kerry praises the senior Bush for not wanting to stay in a land that opposes us. Nice te-a-tet, which Bush wins. A commander in chief can’t say its the wrong war, etc. Kerry comes back, mentions he misspoke when he said he said he voted for it before he voted against it. Not effective. Kerry repeats that we should have listened to Gen. Shinseki. Other countries have to recognize the stake they have in the war. Bush has pushed them away, including the UN. Now Haliburton is mentioned. Bush claims all that is absurd. We have allies, we talked to the UN. What about England and Poland? "Please join us for a grand diversion." Is that what we should potential allies. They are not going to follow someone who has no core conviction. Bush is effective here. Brings Powell into it. Kerry: UN offered help, we didn’t take it. Bush breaks in and explains that the world can’t be led if you call our allies the coerced and the bribed. Seems very effective to me. Johnny and Vicki like it.
"I get the casualty reports every day." I know this is hard. But our objectives will not be achieved if we send mixed signals. We have a plan in place. It is working. It is hard to go from a tyranny to a democracy. Good line.
Kerry: Truth is what leadership and good policy is based on. I respect Tony Blair. But this isn’t a genuine coalition. We are ninety percent of casualties. And now North Korea has nuclear weapons. I’d change that.

First Quarter

Bush explains that he knows how to lead. Be strong, never waiver, stay on the offensive, spread liberty. Hard work but we must do it. We are fighting an ideology of hatred. Kerry says Bush made a "collosal error of judgment." Military guys support me, he lists a few few of standard Demo names. What misjudgments? "Where do you want me to begin." Vicki says, "sarcastic s.o.b." She’s right. That didn’t serve him well.
Then sounds like a standard stump speech. Cost of war, opium, etc. Misspeaks a couple of times. Not especially effective.
Bush responds. An attempt at wit, gentle, it worked. Saddam explanation, connect to U.N. Kerry has a "Pre-September 10th mentality." We can go after both Saddam and UBL. This is a global war. Kerry doesn’t understand the nature of the war.
A bit of list of the progress in the war. The front is not just in one place. The worse thing that could happen is that we don’t succeed in Iraq. Praises PM Allawi.
Kerry. Iraq not at the center of the war on terror. Bush rushed to war without a plan to make the piece. Soldiers don’t have body armor. That’s wrong. Humvees are not armored. The president doesn’t see.
Bush quotes Kerry, "wrong war, wrong time wrong place." Wrong stay resolved. Kerry. So am I, and I know we can’t leave, but this president can’t do it. We need allies.

The start

About five minutes into the debate. Bush does his Texas walk, Kerry strides. Kerry’s much taller. Advantage Kerry. Bush is smiling and so is Kerry. Both look comfortable and friendly. Advantage to both. Kerry starts. Already hangs his hat on Bush: we are both patriots. Begins a prosaic listing of how to strengthen America. The president has not reached out to the Muslim world. I can do everything better. Bush is halting at the start. 9/11 counts and changes everything. Starts a list of accomplishments. From al Qaeda to Lybia. Freedom is important. Only a fair start for both.

Jonah’s suggestion

Jonah Goldberg recommends that Bush, at some point in the debate, ask the moderator something like this: "You should have asked him if that was his final answer." I like it!

A Defeat for the Patriot Act?

By now you’ve probably seen the newspaper headlines claiming that a federal judge has "struck down an important surveillance provision of the antiterrorism legislation known as the USA Patriot Act." But over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr demonstrates that this really isn’t so. What was struck down was a portion of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, but the New York Times, Washington Post, and Associated Press have all gone out of their way to make it appear as though this were some sort of setback for the administration.

Later on, Kerr found out the real source that reporters were using for this story: a press release from the ACLU, breathlessly proclaiming that the ruling "is the first to strike down any of the vast new surveillance powers authorized by the Patriot Act." But one can’t help but sympathize with the plight of legal reporters:

I can understand the difficulties that long and complicated legal opinions raise for many reporters. Imagine you are a reporter who covers legal issues and terrorism. It’s late on a Wednesday afternoon, and a court hands down a 122-page legal opinion. You have just a few hours to write a story on it. The Justice Department declines comment, so that’s no help. But then the ACLU gives you a nice and easy-to-understand press release that tells you what the opinion does, what it means, and offers a few great soundbites. With a deadline just a few hours away, what are you going to do — wade through 122 pages of hypertechnical legalese yourself, or base your story at least in large part on the ACLU’s press release?

Of course, it helps if the ACLU’s agenda fits your preordained vision of what the world should be like.

Questions for Kerry

Bill Kristol also poses a few questions to John Kerry. I like this one: "You have said that we cannot cut and run from Iraq and that we could ’realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years.’ But if you now consider the war to have been a mistake, how could you, as president, ’ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake’"? Victor Davis Hanson also poses a few. Here is the short one: "President Bush was the first American president to isolate Yasir Arafat. Do you agree with the president’s radical step of ostracizing Mr. Arafat? If so, would you also ensure that he is no longer a party to the Middle East peace negotiations?"

Why the Demos can’t take the South

Apparently Glenn Reynolds will be writing a weekly column for the London Guardian. This is his first. He claims--I think he is essentially right, subtleties aside--that Democrats don’t have a chance to take the South because they are not strong enough on defense. The movement away from JFK’s "bear any burden, pay any price" language to the "peace at any price" language of the anti-war people of the 60’s is the turning point. I would add, in passing, that the election in 2004 is the first time the Democrats have actually given up on the South. At least in the past, for example 2000 (and 1976, 1980, 1992, and 1996), they had nominated a Southerner; that helped. Now, having Edwards on the ticket doesn’t even help. In giving up the South, the Demos are forced to pull on inside straight this time. I also remind you that if Gore had won his home state in 2000, it would be a different political world.

Kerry’s problem in the debate

Andrew Busch explains why Kerry is facing an uphill battle in all the debates, not just tonight’s. He gives four reasons: One, with the exception of the JFK-Nixon debate, all challengers who have benefitted from debates were governors or ex-governors. Two, Kerry is not personally engaging; the more people see of him the less they like him. Three, because Kerry is behind, he has to prove to voters that he should be elected and in order to do that he has be aggressive. There are dangers here for him. Four, Kerry can no longer expect a sweet media spin in this new world of Fox News and talk radio and blogs. In short, a draw will not be good enough for Kerry. Read the whole thing.   

One question for Kerry

George Will cleverly asserts that Bush should ask Kerry just one question, and give him all the time he needs to respond:

"Everyone in the solar system knows my thinking on Iraq. But no one, probably not even anyone on my opponent’s campaign plane, knows his thinking, as of now, 9:17 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. So, I invite him to take my time — all of it — and tell a bewildered nation what he thinks, at least tonight, at least between 9 and 10:30 p.m. Specifically, he says we must ’succeed’ in Iraq. What would he call success? What is more important, success or meeting his deadline of removing U.S. forces in four years? What, aside from the allure of his personality, makes him think ’the world’ will help?" Do read the whole thing.  

Low-ball politics

Morton Kondracke thinks that this is a harsh, if not low, campaign: Each party often unfairly attacks the other. Yet, it is the Democrats who are getting a free pass from the MSM (Mainstream Media), witness the lie about the reinstituting the draft. 

Who Supports the Draft?

Thanks to James Lileks for catching this one. I’ve already pointed out here that certain Kerry fans are trying to undermine support for Bush by stirring up fears that he will reimpose the draft if reelected. This is ironic, given that Kerry himself has proposed "a comprehensive service plan that includes requiring mandatory service for high school students and four years of college tuition in exchange for two years of national service."

Note that this page is only available through the The Wayback Machine internet archive. The Kerry campaign has, wisely, taken this little gem down from its official site.

FOX News beats all rivals

For the first time in its history Fox News "beat the combined competition in primetime during the third quarter of 2004, with major headlines of the summer including the national political conventions and a brutal string of hurricanes. According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News averaged 1.8 million viewers, while CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Headline News averaged a combined total of 1.7 million. The quarter ended Sunday." And note: "Fox News’ third-quarter performance further solidified its dominance in the field of cable news, as well as its increasing strength against even the broadcast nets. During the Republican National Convention in late August, Fox News won out over ABC News, CBS News and NBC News, also a first for a cable news net."

Violence in Iraq, how widespread?

James Glanz and Thom Shanker’s front page article in The New York Times reports that violence in Iraq is "sweeping" and "sprawling" and "widespread." They base their analysis on data compiled by a private security company. The Belmont Club looks at the article and the data and concludes: "The first thing to notice is that 2,139 of the 2,300 attacks took place in 6 of the 18 provinces. In the absence of data for the other provinces, I have assigned a uniform number of 13 attacks to the remainder in order to make up the total of 2,300. The real hotbeds are Baghdad and areas to the northwest -- the Sunni triangle. By far the greatest density of violence is in Baghdad, where 1,000 attacks have taken place in 732 kilometers." Also: "So everything checks out just as the New York Times article reported it. All the facts are individually true, but Prime Minister Allawie’s assertion that most provinces are ’completely safe’ and that security prospects are bright are also supported by those same facts. Such is the fog of war." Very informative; nice chart. You should read The Belmont Club every day without being sent there by me!  

Kerry, an inarticulate moment

The AP reports: "On the eve of a foreign policy debate with President Bush, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said in an interview that his explanation of why he voted in favor of additional funding for the war in Iraq before voting against it was ’one of those inarticulate moments’ in the campaign." Kerry said: "We should not have gone to war knowing the information that we know today. Knowing there was no imminent threat to America, knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction, knowing there was no connection of Saddam Hussein to Al Qaida, I would not have gone to war. That’s plain and simple." Yo’all can figure out whether this is line with other of his clarifications, including some recent ones. This is tiring.

Outsourcing of jobs as a non-crisis

Daniel W. Drezner explains why outsourcing is a non-problem. "Now, however, we can add some actual figures to the overheated debate. The Government Accountability Office has issued its first review of the data, and one undeniable conclusion to be drawn from it is that outsourcing is not quite the job-destroying tsunami it’s been made out to be. Of the 1.5 million jobs lost last year in ’mass layoffs’ - that is, when 50 or more workers are let go at once - less than 1 percent were attributed to overseas relocation; that was a decline from the previous year. In 2002, only about 4 percent of the money directly invested by American companies overseas went to the developing countries that are most likely to account for outsourced jobs - and most of that money was concentrated in manufacturing."

"The data did show that from 1997 to 2002, annual imports of business, technical and professional services increased by $16.3 billion. However, during that same half-decade, exports of those services increased by $20.5 billion a year. In 2002 alone, the United States ran a $27 billion trade surplus in business services, the sector in which jobs are most likely to be outsourced. The G.A.O. correctly stressed that it is impossible to compute exactly how many jobs are lost because of outsourcing, but unless its figures are off by several orders of magnitude, there’s no crisis here." Read on.    

Other bad signs for Kerry

Jesse Jackson has joined Kerry campaign team. According to the Pew Poll, Kerry’s support among African-Americans has slipped to 78%. (Gore got 90% of the black vote in 2000). Also note this piece in the Boston Globe arguing that many Democrats running for the Senate or House are distancing themselves from the Kerry campaign (and, in some cases like Daschle, actually pretending to embrace Bush). This estrangement will become more obvious over the next few weeks, once the likelyhood of a Kerry loss settles into their (more public) consciousness.

Kamikaze as suicide bombers?

This Los Angeles Times examines the lives and views of the few surviving Japanese kamikaze pilots and considers whether or not they are comparable to today’s Islamist suicide bombers. Woorth a read.  

Catholic vote to Bush

Barna Research Group reports that there has been a seismic shift of 22 points among likely Catholic voters to Bush in the last four months. Also note that Bush has lost votes among Protestants. (Also see this story on the survey).

"One of the big stories of the campaign is the seismic shift in preference among Catholic voters. Almost one out of every four likely voters (23%) is Catholic. In May, John Kerry held a small lead over President Bush, 48% to 43%. In the ensuing four months, however, a myriad of events have stimulated a reversal among Catholics. Currently, President Bush holds a commanding 53% to 36% lead over the Massachusetts Senator among Catholics who are likely to vote. That represents a 22-point shift in preference in just four months." But also note this:

"Equally surprising, among Protestants who are likely to vote in November, President Bush has seen his 24-point lead over the challenger cut in half at the same time that his fortunes have reversed among Catholics. Since May, Mr. Kerry has picked up a small degree of support among Protestants (from 35% up to 38%) while President Bush has lost significant ground among Protestants (dropping from 59% to 50%). In total, that’s a 12-point drop in support for the President."

Kerry’s situation is hopeless

Dick Morris argues that Kerry has a tough line to walk in the debate because of the inherent contradictions in Kerry’s position on the issues. Kerry can thank his staff, according to Morris, for putting him in this position. I think that Morris is correct, as far as he goes. But there is one more point that needs emphasis: People don’t like John Kerry. There is not one aspect of his personality or character that is seen as good or interesting or noble or even pleasant. In theory he has the opportunity in these debates to get people to think well of him, for some reason or another. I do not think he can do it. All the footage we have seen of him--even back to 1971--he reveals himself to be dour and haughty. He doesn’t have conversations with people, he talks at them. He has no sense of humor. I have never seen him laugh at anything in the world, especially himself. I have never seen him reveal any ordinary human trait that citizens find endearing. Even sarcasm or irony would do. Nothing. I have continued to overestimate John Kerry. I have continued to think--despite all the facts--that he is not as boring and inhuman as he seems, that he is no simply one-dimensional, that he may well be conscious of the fact that he at least looks like a grim and severe man and that he has to at least appear to be real. He has not seen this; or, he is incapable of even seeming different. So, while I agree with Morris that he carries an impossible burden in opposing Bush’s policies in the war, I think his character (or personality, if you like) is the greatest burden he carries into the vote. This is the main reason that he has alwasy flatlined in the polls; or, arguably, and even less to his advantage, why the more people see of him, the less they like him, so his numbers have even declined. Bush will speak from the position of power and authority, he will be relaxed and pleasant and never condescending, and he will seem ever so human. And he will walk away with it. The situation for Kerry is hopeless, but not yet bad. It will get worse.

Gore on the debates

Al Gore gives advice to Kerry on the debates in today’s New York Times. I miss Al. I wish he were more public during the next few weeks. He would remind people, again, why it is a good thing that he did not get elected president. The advice Gore offers is that Kerry shouldn’t underestimate Bush. O.K., that’s the spin of the week, and it is good advice. But then Gore says, "notwithstanding the president’s political skills, his performance in office amounts to a catastrophic failure." Right. The absolute condemnation of Bush is the main reason that Kerry has never gotten any traction; it is clearly over the top and those who hold such an opinion reveal that they are out of touch with the public sentiment: only a small minority of folks think this. With the exception of Jimmy Carter no president has been simply a "catastrophic failure." It is not a reasonable axiom upon which to base a campaign. This is a boring op-ed, fully revealing of the author’s character. The best line in it is from Jon Stewart.

Pew Research Poll

USA Today reports that Moveon.Org is complaining about the Gallup poll; the poll is biased in favor of President Bush. Yes, certainly, of course. That’s the first thing I would have thought of, bias in favor of Bush! Gallup showed Bush ahead by 8 points among likely voters, and by 11 points among registered voters. In the meantime the Pew Research poll has come out and it shows Bush ahead by 8 points. "George W. Bush has reopened a significant lead over challenger John Kerry over the past week, even as voters express less confidence in the president on Iraq and he continues to trail Kerry on the economy. Two successive nationwide surveys of nearly 1,000 registered voters each show Bush’s margin over Kerry growing steadily since mid-September (Sept. 11-14), when the two men were tied at 46%-46%. Bush’s slight 45%-42% advantage in the Sept. 17-21 survey has grown to 48%-40% in the current poll (Sept. 22-26)." Also this: "Despite Bush’s lukewarm evaluations on the issues, he maintains a significant advantage on most personal traits. Kerry has slipped slightly on some key personal assessments, including honesty and empathy."

Kerry’s October comeback

Mike Murphy, in brief, predicts that the media will see a surge for Kerry after the first debate.

"A sure bet in this campaign is that the media will write a big October comeback story for John Kerry. It is evitable for three reasons. First, the media works in a pack that is happiest when following a simple narrative. Second, from moribund to miracle campaigner is Kerry’s tiresome myth turned worn-out cliché. Third, this is indeed a tight race and--as with any incumbent seeking reelection--the undecided vote will break heavily against Bush, which will make Kerry look like he is surging late. (Even hapless Michael Dukakis had such a late surge.)

The signs of this pending storyline are already apparent in the coverage of Kerry’s new team of savvy advisors. Their decision to bet the entire Kerry campaign on a debate over the Iraq war--a strategic suicide note in my view--is the required "big move" such stories demand and is being applauded as a masterstroke. This is where narrative and reality truly differ. If President Bush wins this campaign, the decision to focus the entire Kerry campaign on a debate over the war, instead of on domestic issues, will be a key ingredient to the president’s success. Kerry’s mistake is that it is impossible to have a serious campaign-winning political victory over the administration without a serious policy difference between the two. Howard Dean had a policy difference with the Bush administration on Iraq; Kerry essentially does not."

Tribe and plagiarism

The pajama clad guys at Powerline have been following the plagiarism issue surrounding the great Lawrence Tribe of Harvard. They have the goods and the links, you follow it there if you have the heart, I’m working on Lincoln the rest of the day.

Washington Post/ABC poll

Here is the Washington Post story on the poll. And here are some details. Again, universally bad for Kerry. Bush is ahead 51-45 among likely voters, and 51-44 among registered voters. Bush is ahead 53-41 among men, and 49-46 among women (Gore carried women by 11 points in 2000). 59% approve the way Bush is handling war on terror, 38% disapprove. On Iraq 47% approve, 50% disapprove. But 53% say they trust Bush more to handle the situation in Iraq, and 40% say they don’t; 53% say that Bush has a clear plan to handle Iraq, 44% say he doesn’t. 58% have a favorable view of Bush, 38% don’t.

Why Writing is Like Praying

The New Yorker on-line posts a short and edifying interview of a writer with which I am unfamiliar but whose writings I will soon peruse. In "A Writer’s Time", Marilynne Robinson discusses topics as varied as the Civil War, prayer, and John Calvin (OK, maybe they’re not so varied!). She also explains what she has been doing between her first novel, Housekeeping, and her latest, Kansas, which is excerpted, as well. I will start with her collection of essays, The Death of Adam, which addresses Darwinism, Dietrich Bonheoffer, and the abolitionist subtext of the McGuffey Readers, among other intriguing topics. Anyone familiar with her prose or ideas, do chime in.

Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll

USA Today article on the Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll. And this is the detail. The short of it this: Bush leads Kerry by 8 points among likely voters, and 11 points among registered voters. Perhaps mosre important is that in almost every category Bush leads. Examples: Bush’s job approval is now 54%; Bush has a 27% edge on handling terrorism; Bush has a 6% edge on handling the economy; a 52% majority says Bush has a clear plan for handling Iraq; a 63% majority says Kerry does not.

No deep thinking is required here. Kerry has run the worst campaign in memory; he is not a candidate who can get the American people to like him or trust him. His only opportunities left are two: Bush has to collapse in the first debate (the second two don’t matter, in my view), or the economy or Iraq has to collapse in the next three weeks. The only other event that could work in Kerry’s favor is a terror attack before the election. I say it theoretically could work in his favor, but even that wouldn’t because Bush is trusted more, and therefore wouldn’t be held responsible. One last quick thought. Women. Bush leads Kerry among female voters (by 2 points). This is a massive fact, now starting to be noticed. The so-called gender gap, soccer mom’s, and all that silliness, is over. War and security is what is on the mind of married women, especially those with children. I think the barbaric attacks on the Russian school nailed it. Women (especially) were appalled. Kerry can’t get those voters back. Kerry needs to be remarkable in the first debate. He has to turn people in his direction. I don’t think he is capable of doing it. I think what you see is what he is, and he is very limited. It will end in a rout.

Hitchens on the Kerry campaign

Here Christopher Hitchens’ thinks that the Kerry campaign has put itself in the position of having to root for bad news on every front. "What will it take to convince these people that this is not a year, or a time, to be dicking around? Americans are patrolling a front line in Afghanistan, where it would be impossible with 10 times the troop strength to protect all potential voters on Oct. 9 from Taliban/al-Qaida murder and sabotage. We are invited to believe that these hard-pressed soldiers of ours take time off to keep Osama Bin Laden in a secret cave, ready to uncork him when they get a call from Karl Rove? For shame."

Ohio’s Budget Mess

Over at Division of Labour, Bob Lawson shatters the claim of the Columbus Dispatch that the state of Ohio faces a "structural deficit":

Hogwash. There is nothing "structural" about Ohio’s fiscal mess. Put simply, this state has suffered through a string of governors and legislatures that spend money like drunken sailors on shore leave.

The state’s spending grew by 5.8 percent every year from 1992 to 2002. Lawson notes that, if that growth had been limited to the rate of personal income growth over the same period, we’d be looking at a budget surplus today.

Foucault and Khoemini

Janet Afary and Kevin B. Anderson write an academic piece (detailed and a bit sleepy) on the relationship between the Iranian Revolution in which the Ayatollah Khoemini came to power (twenty five years ago this February) and Michel Foucault. A couple of people sent me this, and it was mentioned by Andrew Sullivan

How to write an essay

The Ashbrook Scholars are encouraged to write essays. They have been doing it on a regular basis for a few years, and they are getting pretty good at it. (They also write theses, but that’s a different issue and, frankly, something easier to comprehend.) Essays are attempts: An essay is something you write to try to figure something out. Along comes

Paul Graham (he is identified as holding a computer science PhD from Harvard). He writes ten perfectly clear pages on what an essay is, and how to write one. I will not steal anything from it to try to give you the flavor of the thing: You should read the whole thing.(Thanks to Raef Major)    

Shameless Fear-Mongering

This morning flyers were posted all over the building where I work. "Thanks to Bush and His Administration," it began, there’s going to be a "Mandaory [sic] Draft for Boys and Girls (Ages 18-26)." It then listed several web addresses that purport to prove the truth of this statement.

This is, of course, just a paper version of an e-mail that’s been making the rounds among college students. The lie about a Bush-backed conscription bill has been fully debunked. Indeed, I visited the sites listed on the flyer, and they indicate clearly that the sponsor of the draft bill is the left-wing Democrat Charlie Rangel. I guess this is the sort of desperate thrashing about that we’re going to see on the part of the Kerry campaign in these final weeks before Election Day.

Safire on All-Kidnap-All-the-Time Media Manipulation

William Safire pens a timely and thoughtful op-ed, "The Kidnap Weapon," which argues for more responsible coverage of Zarqawi terrorist kidnappings. A few excerpts:

We know, too, that the kidnap weapon is aimed at the U.S. election. What we do not know is how its heavily publicized use will cut. Will Americans react to all-kidnap-all-the-time by being revolted at the savagery and turn to the candidate determined to wipe out the barbarians? Or will we be so revolted as to think Iraqis are hopelessly uncivilized or beaten down, and turn to the candidate who will get us out of there the fastest?

John Kerry, who has evidently decided to replace Howard Dean as the antiwar candidate, last weekend helped to magnify the terrorists’ kidnap weapon. In a scheduled commercial Kerry personally approved, just before charging that George Bush had no plan to get us out of Iraq, the Democratic campaign underscored the message Zarqawi has been sending: "Americans," said Kerry’s announcer, "are being kidnapped, held hostage, even beheaded."

It’s bad enough for some thoughtless media outlets to become an echo chamber for scare propaganda; it’s worse when the nominee of a major party approves its use to press his antiwar candidacy.

Steyn on John Kerry and Francis Crick

I love reading Mark Steyn (by the way, I know next to nothing about him). The guy is clear and exteremely funny. This piece is entitled "The Kerryness of Kerry," (although I think I have seen an earlier version and put it out, it’s worth seeing it again) and I don’t believe that it could be any funnier than it is. You must read it. A sample: "If it weren’t for the small matter of the war for civilization, I’d find it hard to resist a Kerry Presidency. Groucho Marx once observed that an audience will laugh at an actress playing an old lady pretending to fall downstairs, but, for a professional comic to laugh, it has to be a real old lady. That’s how I feel about the Kerry campaign. For the professional political analyst, watching Mondale or Dukakis or Howard Dean stuck in the part of the guy who falls downstairs is never very satisfying: they’re average, unexceptional fellows whom circumstances have conspired to transform into walking disasters. But Senator Kerry was made for the role, a vain thin-skinned droning blueblood with an indestructible sense of his own status but none at all of his own ridiculousness. If Karl Rove had labored for a decade to produce a walking parody of the contemporary Democratic Party’s remoteness, condescension, sense of entitlement, public evasiveness and tortured relationship with military matters, he couldn’t have improved on John F Kerry."

The thing with Steyn is that he can write a very serious piece with as much ease. The current issue (October) of The Atlantic Monthly has a precious Steyn article (last two pages of the issue, not avaliable on line) on Francis Crick, who, along with Jim Watson, "discovered the secret of life" (DNA), and is the most important biologist of the twentieth century (he died this year). If you think Darwin was off base, think again, for Crick is reductionist in the extreme. This is the guy who "set us on a path to a biotechnological era that may yet be only an intermediate stage to a post human future." Man and chimp share 98.5 percent of their genetic code, but we also share 75 percent of our genetic makeup with the pumpkin. We all evolved from the same soup of chemicals. Steyn: "It turns out there is a fly in my soup--and a chimp and a worm, and a pumpkin." You see the point. (The Churchill story about "I am a gloworm" seems unnecessary). Steyn doesn’t mean to be funny in this one, but you can’t help but smile through it. Crick was a militant atheist. No love, no mind, no free will. No human beings. Just pumpkins. Very clear. Read it.

The final attack against Bush

So the full court press is on. Ted Kennedy " told a national audience yesterday that the Bush administration’s Iraq policy has made America less safe because it has been a diversion from the struggle against Al Qaeda and the occupation has been marked by "blunder after blunder," foreshadowing a new election-season speech he is scheduled to deliver today at George Washington University." James Fallows in The Atlantic (the whole, long, article is not available on line) gives the more sophisticated view, while Ted Kennedy--the only great American statesman who has less authority on such matters than John Kerry--gives the practical view. And then Kerry will pick it up in the debates. This is it. This is what will determine whether or not Kerry’s latest mode will fly. I say bring it on, bring on even the CIA: Robert Novak reports that the CIA is at war with Bush; and publicly at war! They are no longer willing to call Rumsfeld and the other "ideologues" (i.e., neo-cons), they are going after the president. If this is true--and there are many other reasons to think so--then what you have is an extraordinary (i.e., unique, dangerous) situation wherein the CIA will be used--and has already let itself be used both by leaking the National Intelligent Estimate and by Paul Pillar’s public speech that Novak recounts--in a political campaign against the sitting chief executive. We will soon find out what Porter Goss is made of, will we not?

Registering voters

Sunday’s New York Times carried a front page story on how both parties are registering voters at a good clip. They looked at county by county date and discovered that in traditional Demo counties the registration has increased by 250 percent since January over the same period in 2000. The GOP registration has increased only 25 percent in Republican areas. "While comparable data could not be obtained for other swing states, similar registration drives have been mounted in them as well, and party officials on both sides say record numbers of new voters are being registered nationwide. This largely hidden but deadly earnest battle is widely believed by campaign professionals and political scientists to be potentially decisive in the presidential election." I have been hearing about this massive drive by the Dems from GOP operatives for many months; they are clearly worried about it. The Demos were organized early and threw a lot of money at it, most of it by soft money groups like America Votes, which will spend about $300 million on the project nationwide. As the registration drive winds down, emphasis will be placed on keeping in touch with voters and then making sure they vote. In Franklin County (Columbus) it is claimed that almost all potential voters have been regsited; it had 650,000 registered voters in 2000, and is now up to 800,000.

The end of liberal credibility

Victor Davis Hanson reflects on the Rather’s problem, and the old media’s problem as well. He agrees that there is a revolution taking place. Hanson: "It has taken a lot to end the credibility of the liberal dynasty, inasmuch as there were many prior provocations — Peter Arnett airing a blatantly dishonest 1998 mythodrama on CNN about Americans using Sarin gas in Laos; Dan Rather giving a flawed 1988 account of American grotesqueries in Vietnam (The Wall Within), replete with phony veterans spinning lies about horrific war crimes. But then we have not quite seen anything like the shamelessness of airing forged documents backed by unhinged witnesses and verified by suspect ’experts’ — all in a time of war and with the intent of smearing a sitting conservative president."

Che Guevara, the cult

Paul Berman writes a wonderful essay on Ernesto Che Guevara and the movie, The Motorcycle Diaries, (the executive producer for which, by the way, is Robert Redford). Berman gives a perfect characterization of Che Guevara as an enemy of freedom, his haughty fanaticism, and what mischief he wrought. Berman is not amused that at the Sundance film festival the movie got a standing ovation.   

Petraeus on Iraq

General David H. Petraeus, who commands the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq, offers his thoughts on how things are going.

Bush offends the sophists

John Zvesper doesn’t think that Bush’s speech at the UN was for domestic consumption. It was a serious speech, but many journalists, representatives of tyrannies, and even those who claim to represent liberal democracies took offense. Read the whole thing; but a sample paragraph:

What most offended these sophisticated UN delegates was Bush’s rejection of their postmodern pieties, their unwavering faith in the dogmas of pragmatism and moral and cultural relativism. Bush justified his call for the expansion of liberty by asserting that "the dignity of every human life" is "honored by the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, protection of private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance." Many of these traditional liberal principles have become suspect in pragmatic, "progressive" circles. But especially grating to the postmodern mentality that dominates sophisticated minds in liberal democracies is Bush’s claim that "we know with certainty" that "the desire for freedom resides in every human heart," and that therefore the "bright line between justice and injustice—between right and wrong—is the same in every age, and every culture, and every nation." Recognition of such self-evident truths is completely inadmissible in the postmodern faith, in which the only certainty is that nothing is certain.  

Dirty bomb suspects arrested

British police said Saturday they had arrested four men under anti-terrorism legislation after a tip-off from a newspaper which said the suspects tried to buy explosives for a

dirty bomb.

The Saudis were prepared to pay $540,600 for a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of "red mercury", a mysterious radioactive substance which is rumored to have been developed by Russian scientists during the Cold War. (Thanks to Little Green Footballs).

Indian Country

Robert Kaplan explains the importance of small tactical units in warfare now and in the future. This is fighting in Indian Country: "you want to whack bad guys quietly and cover your tracks with humanitarian-aid projects." Worth reading the whole op-ed. A piece of it:

"In Indian Country, it is not only the outbreak of a full-scale insurgency that must be avoided, but the arrival in significant numbers of the global media. It would be difficult to fight more cleanly than the Marines did in Fallujah. Yet that still wasn’t a high enough standard for independent foreign television voices such as al-Jazeera, whose very existence owes itself to the creeping liberalization in the Arab world for which the U.S. is largely responsible. For the more we succeed in democratizing the world, not only the more security vacuums that will be created, but the more constrained by newly independent local medias our military will be in responding to those vacuums. From a field officer’s point of view, an age of democracy means an age of restrictive rules of engagement.

The American military now has the most thankless task of any military in the history of warfare: to provide the security armature for an emerging global civilization that, the more it matures--with its own mass media and governing structures--the less credit and sympathy it will grant to the very troops who have risked and, indeed, given their lives for it. And as the thunderous roar of a global cosmopolitan press corps gets louder--demanding the application of abstract principles of universal justice that, sadly, are often neither practical nor necessarily synonymous with American national interest--the smaller and more low-key our deployments will become. In the future, military glory will come down to shadowy, page-three skirmishes around the globe, which the armed services will quietly celebrate among their own subculture."