Wednesday, June 30, 2004

National Public Rock-N-Roll?

I did a double take when I turned on my radio this morning. Instead of hearing the normal top of the hour NPR news report I heard the soft sound of crystals blowing in the wind and a dulcet voice announcing that I was listening to "99.5 -- The Mountain." Turns out it was an early morning NPR advert for an All Things Considered story later in the day on the topic of "neo-radio" stations. The funny thing is that when my radio is not tuned to 1490 AM -- my local NPR station -- it's tuned to 99.5 The Mountain. Besides being a local station for me, KQMT has one other huge benefit in that it seems to be the only other non-Clear Channel station in the state of Colorado.

Apparently, a few radio stations have wised up to the fact that most radio is crap. Inane morning shows, crass DJ's, too many commercials, limited play lists of horrible music -- these are not the ingredients upon which to grow an audience. Listening to the NPR story I learned that 99.5 The Mountain is one of but a few radio stations around the country taking a decidedly different approach. One obvious focus of this "neo" approach is, certainly, the music -- no talking over songs and large playlists of obscure songs. (I seem to recall a staple of my college experience, 106.1 WRDU, hewing to a similar philosophy.

But another tenant of the neo-radio approach is being decidedly anti-hype. WRDU, as I also recall, did engage in a fair amount of hype even 15 years ago. KQMT, on the other hand, steers away from anything that smacks of hype and showmanship. Interestingly, according to the story, the model for such anti-hype is none other than National Public Radio. NPR's tremendous audience growth over the past few years has not gone unnoticed.

A few months ago I wrote about the death of local radio. Perhaps anti-hype will spur more stations to copy the KQMT model and maybe (good) local radio will be around for a little longer.

Monday, June 28, 2004


I was hedging when I wrote this:
It is my firm belief that if the movie opens on enough screens nationwide that it will be the #1 movie in the country on the weekend it opens.

Any attempt to block the showing of this movie is not only un-American it is also a short-sighted and naive business decision.
I knew that Fahrenheit 9/11 was going to have a limited release its opening weekend. I wasn't sure that with a limited release the movie could open at #1. Well, turns out that 868 screens was more than enough.

A few people got educated and a few people made some money. Not a bad weekend if you're in either of those groups.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

More Pointless Veep Speculation

Matthew Yglesias provides another rationale for a John Edwards Veep candidacy. Yglesias paints Gephardt as the "safety" candidate. (This, of course, assumes that Gep can deliver certain votes which, as noted before, is not necessarily true.) Edwards, on the other hand,
is the kind of guy you pick if you're planning on going big. He's the guy who was able to sell a pretty conventional Democratic message in North Carolina a guy who, potentially at least, can get support across a broad swathe of the white working class, unionized and otherwise.

And that's what I'd like to see. Not the Gore states plus one, but the Gore states plus New Hampshire, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia, and Florida, with surprisingly close results in Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
I think this is a reasonable point. To the extent Kerry shares this perception one might speculate that the longer we go without an announcement the more likely that Edwards is the choice. If trends continue to show support for Bush falling off Kerry might be inclined to go for the "win big" strategy.

For what it's worth, I would like to see Edwards as the pick. However, I still think two Senators (one with an ability to outshine the other) put Edwards out of contention. I hope I'm wrong.

Update: This is an example of what I'm talking about. If stories such as this become more widespread in the coming days then it ought to bolster the case for Edwards.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Bush Woos Liberals With New Attack Ad

The Bush-Cheney campaign has a new ad called "Coalition of the Wild-Eyed." I guess it's supposed to be a Kerry attack ad. But I think it's actually a pretty compelling pro-Kerry ad -- until the last five seconds at least. At that point it descends into satire and I burst out laughing while looking for the SNL logo.

Is this ad actually being broadcast on TV? I didn't here the ubiqutous "I'm Dubya and I approve this message" so maybe it's just an Internet advert? The website says it's a "tv ad" but I just can't believe they're actually paying money to broadcast that.

Then again I'm definitely not the target audience for this ad. But it seems to me that the only people who are going to find this ad effective -- in a pro-Bush sense -- are those who already think Gore, Moore, Gep, and are instruments of the devil (i.e. the GOP base). The ad seems just as likely to fire up anti as well as pro-Bush audiences. Is that an effective use of ad dollars?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Cheney Woos Liberals From Senate Floor

Vice President Dick Cheney dropped the F-bomb on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. Political observers were shocked and awed with the news that the unabashedly homophobic Dick Cheney was encouraging Senator Patrick Leahy to practice sodomy on himself. The less than friendly tone of Cheney's remarks also seemed to call into question the sincerity of Cheney's previously expressed intent "to change the tone in Washington, to restore a spirit of civility and respect and cooperation."

Hard core conservatives breathed a sigh of relief when it was revealed that the F-bomb gambit was actually part of a carefully orchestrated effort on the part of the failing and flailing Bush-Cheney campaign to reach across the aisle and encourage liberals to support Bush in the fall elections. Said Dennis Prager of the conservative online magazine
I also believe that he used the f-word thinking it would impress the largely liberal and hip young readers of Rolling Stone. In other words, [he] believes that he can appeal to many liberals by coming off as one who has overthrown some of the disciplines of our society.
Top aides in the Cheney inner circle confirmed that dropping the f-bomb was part of a concerted effort to show that Cheney has cast off the shackles of society's disciplines.

"By outing a covert CIA agent and advocating the use of tortue Vice President Cheney has amply demonstrated his disregard of societal convention and federal law," said Cheney Chief-of-Staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby. "Dropping the f-bomb is just the next logical step in appealing to hip young readers of Rolling Stone and Maxim."

Libby declined to reveal what Cheney's next stunt might entail but he hinted that it would include a dead goat and a live dwarf.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

My Point Exactly

I've been insisting for eons now that the Democrats should strive to own the national security argument.

Contrary to popular opinion -- you know, the GOP is the party of "strong" defense -- national security will be a winner for the Democrats. It will be a winner primarily because the Republicans (or at least one Republican in particular) have proven to be so inept on the issue. George Bush has demonstrated a complete lack of foresight, creativity, and diplomatic sophistication regarding national security in general and terrorism specifically. His administration has a complete misunderstanding of the threat and he is woefully incapable of mounting an effective response to a threat he does not comprehend.

His binary rhetoric may sound good to the bubbas with the Pabst Blue Ribbon and the turkey pot pie. But "bring it on -- you're either with us or agin us" don't mean jack to Muqtada on the Iraqi street. Given enough time, Muqtada and his IED will have a greater effect on Bubba's thinking than Dubya's latest "we've got em on the run" canard.

And time may have just run out. Kevin Drum has found a graphic that clearly demonstrates the growing recognition that Bush is simply out of his element when it comes to national security and the threat of terrorism.

It is not enough, as I've noted before, for Kerry to sit around and wait for the public to become disenchanted with Bush's mishandling of America's security. It is not even enough for Democrats to fan the flames of the wreckage of Bush's policies. Democrats must establish a legitimate, coherent alternative to Bush's strategic and tactical failures. Thankfully, Kerry has begun to do just that. Establishing a framework for international cooperation complete with power sharing and actual respect for our allies is a strong start (which Bush finally, reluctantly, embraced). Fully funding first responders and infrastructure security initiatives will go a long way toward actually improving national defense as opposed to merely appearing to improve our safety. And, perhaps most importantly, Kerry brings to the table a certain gravitas and ability to think deepely and deliberately about the cause and effect of America's actions.

Perhaps these are some of the reasons why Kerry is now outscores Bush on the question of who is more qualified to handle terrorism.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Dick and George's "Relationship"

Amidst Dick and George's continued petulance a big African country may have slipped right past even the most ardent afficianado of the news.

But first, you're probably intimately aware of the Dick and George Dating Game.

Bush, doing his best Clinton impersonation, has spent the last week or so defining what the definition of "relationship" is.
The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two.
There. Did you see it?

Probably not. You were hoodwinked by Cheney, doing his best impersonation of an honest man.
There clearly was a relationship. It's been testified to. The evidence is overwhelming...It goes back to the early '90s. It involves a whole series of contacts, high-level contacts with Osama bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence officials.
For Dick and George a "relationship" that is a justification for war and American occupation is predicated on "numerous contacts." No actual intimacy need be necessary, mind you. Just contacts. You know, just general hangin' out together at the malt shop.

Well, while Dick and George were busy gossiping and complaining like middle school girls about who might have been hanging out with whom, you may not have noticed the news about those who truly were hanging out together. Embedded in the 9/11 Commission Staff Statement -- the document which set off the whole "relationship" brouhaha -- are these telling facts about al Qaeda's "contacts" with another country.
In 1989, the regime in Sudan, run by a military faction and an Islamic extremist organization called the National Islamic Front, invited Bin Ladin to move there. He sent an advance team to Sudan in 1990 and moved there in mid-1991. Bin Ladin brought resources to Sudan, building roads and helping finance the government's war against separatists in the south. In return, he received permission to establish commercial enterprises and an operational infrastructure to support terrorism.

...In Sudan, Bin Ladin built upon the al Qaeda organization he had established back in the Afghanistan. Al Qaeda had its own membership roster and a structure of "committees" to guide and oversee such functions as training terrorists, proposing targets, financing operations, and issuing edicts -- purportedly grounded in Islamic law -- to justify al Qaeda actions.

...Bin Ladin set up training camps and weapons and supply depots in Sudan. He used them to support al Qaeda and other members of the Islamic army. Bin Ladin's operatives used positions in his businesses to acquire weapons, explosives, and technical equipment such as surveillance devices. To facilitate these activities, Sudanese intelligence officers provided false passports and shipping documents. At this time al Qaeda's operational role was mainly to provide funds, training, and weapons for attacks carried out by allied groups.

...Bin Ladin also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein's secular regime. Bin Ladin had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Ladin to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Ladin in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.

...In May 1996, Bin Ladin left Sudan and moved back to Afghanistan. His departure resulted from a combination of pressures from the United States, other western governments, and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Libya, all three of which faced indigenous terrorist groups supported by Bin Ladin. The pressure on Sudan intensified in April 1996 when the UN sanctioned Sudan for harboring individuals from the group that had attempted to assassinate Egyptian President Mubarak in June 1995.
So, while Bin Ladin may have been flirting with Iraq he was undoubtedly married to Sudan. Alas, this was not the first time the GOP family values team was distracted by their prurient interest in a superficially titillating (potential) dalliance at the expense of understanding and acting upon real issues and actual problems.

Dick and George's sixth grade logic infers mortal threat from "numerous [possible] contacts." What then is implied by actual long-standing, widespread operational cooperation, coordination, and financing relationships? If a few "contacts" are sufficient justification for an invasion, occupation, humanitarian assistance, and nation building -- we are still calling what we're doing in Iraq "nation building" aren't we? -- then surely al Qaeda's actual presence merits at least a little Sudanese penetration. But no -- sigh. Sudan wasn't, shall we say, sexy enough. Dick and George could only be satisfied with hunky Saddam.

And it really is a shame that Dick and George are so easily distracted. Because the second thing you may have missed (though the story has been brewing for weeks) is the burgeoning genocidal crisis in the known al Qaeda consort of Sudan. Unfortunately, you'll probably be hearing a lot more about Sudan in the coming weeks. Like Rwanda (10 years ago this month), Sudan is on the verge of, at best, a massive humanitarian crisis. At worst we may again being hearing about widespread ethnic cleansing.

Already over 30,000 people have been killed by government sponsored death squads. Optimistic projections forecast at least 300,000 deaths as Sudan heads into its rainy season when it will be more difficult to intervene in the ongoing rebellion and deliver aid. That number will likely go much higher unless substantial relief is delivered quickly.

Can the United States do anything at this point? Diplomatically, perhaps. Militarily, no. In both cases, America finds itself forlorn and impotent in the face of a different relationship. One predicated on "contacts."

One Little Man

I've noted on more than one occasion the importance of the Padilla case that is currently awaiting ruling by the Supreme Court. Michael Froomkin is watching that case and 6 others which he characterizes as having "major consequences." Decisions in these cases have the potential erode of Civil Rights and Constitutional safeguards to an alarming degree.

Of the Padilla case in particular Froomkin writes:
The basic question in Padilla is very simple: can the federal government grab a citizen off the street and hold them in a military prison without charging them with a crime, without giving them a hearing or a trial, without access to lawyers, family, friends. And, can it do it indefinitely. If the answer is yes it can, then our citizenship is devalued to nothing better than that of the citizens of Argentina during their military dictatorship, a period in which thousands disappeared into military jails, many never to emerge.

...If we set the precedent that people can be grabbed off the street, next time Ashcroft, or some future Ashcroft, or some horrible cross between Nixon, John Adams and Burr, won’t bother going through the civilian justice system at all (which is how Padilla’s case got attention — he was first held as an ordinary criminal, and it was only when the government realized it didn’t have the evidence to try him that they decided to reclassify him as an enemy of the state illegal combatant, and put him in the brig). Next time, whenever that is, the victim will just vanish.

That’s bad enough. But I don’t think I understood how much was a stake until I read the Torture Memos. Those memos claim the right to legally inflict hideous intentional pain — what I and most people would call torture — on enemy combatants. That’s right—on people whom this administration considers equivalent to Padilla. So the US government is not only asserting the right to Disappear people, but to torture them in secret as well.
It is important to keep in mind that the Padilla case concerns an American citizen. American!

The low character of the Bush administration is already abundantly clear. His soaring rhetoric -- "freedom is not America's gift; it is God's gift to the world" -- contrasts sharply with his actual practice. Although the Constitution animates "God's gift to the world" the positions argued by George W. Bush in these cases (Rasul, Al Odah demonstrate that Bush does not wish to extend this gift to non-citizens. The Padilla case takes this insidious view one step further by asserting that "God's gift" ought not even apply to American citizens.

Bush sycophants quibble by claiming that Bush only wishes to deny the benefits of Constitutional rights to those who seek to harm America. To this I say that harming America need not come only from the barrel of a gun or even a terrorist guided 747.

Nine people in black robes can do harm enough.

Or even one little man in a white house.

Friday, June 18, 2004

The Next Best Thing

I'm generally opposed to the use of ballot initiatives. When it comes to managing state finances I think constitutional strait jackets are no substitute for elected representatives actually doing their jobs. (Colorado and California, as just two examples, illustrate how easy it is for voters to cast themselves into a fiscal ditch through well meaning but uneducated votes for ill-conceived ballot measures.)

And though I recognize that referendums may offer the only genuine hope for certain reform measures, I remain naively optimistic that elected representatives could, if they really wanted to, tackle some of the vexing problems that continue to get passed off to voters.

Yet despite my general opposition to most attempts to mess with a state's constitution, I'm hopeful this fall I'll have a chance to vote for a change in the Colorado constitution. The issue is apportionment of presidential electoral votes.

According to the Denver Post there is a ballot measure afoot to try and amend the state constitution such that electoral votes would be awarded strictly proportionally. Pure proportional allocation is definitely not my first choice for how the system should be reformed. But I'm hopeful that the proportional approach advocated in the ballot measure might be a step in the right direction.

I'm actually a fan of the electoral college and I think efforts to eliminate it are uninformed. But the fact is that the winner take all manner in which most states allocate their electoral votes means most states have little opportunity to contribute to the national campaign. There's no suspense, for example, in how Texas, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho are going to vote. As a result of the foregone GOP conclusion in these states, the Democratic candidate has no incentive to campaign in those states. (Hawaii, DC, and Rhode Island demonstrate the obverse.)

I would actually prefer Colorado (and most states) to adopt the congressional district model used by Maine and Nebraska. Under the system in place in these states the popular vote winner of the state is awarded two electoral votes. The remaining electoral votes for the state are allocated based upon the popular vote winner within each congressional district. The benefit of this approach is that the winner is justly rewarded (with at least two additional electoral votes) while there is a potential payoff to a state-wide second place finisher with strong support in certain congressional districts. In a state with varied constituencies in different congressional districts (e.g. urban Democrats in one part of the state versus rural Republicans elsewhere) the district model offers a greater chance for the state's electoral vote to reflect the popular will while preserving the benefits of the electoral college.

The only drawback to widespread use of the congressional district model -- and it's not an insignificant consideration -- is that because of gerrymandering and power politics the outcome of voting in many congressional districts nationwide is really not in doubt. In such cases, candidates would likely tend to avoid wasting resources in districts already known to favor their opponents (as evidenced by congressional representatives from the opposing party).

Unfortunately, it is a proportional model and not a congressional district model that is being proposed for fall consideration in Colorado.

The proportional model is already being criticized because of the possibility that the margin separating two candidates might be as little as a single electoral vote. This is a valid concern, I think. (Hence, my support for the congressional district model in which the winner earns a more significant margin.)

Yet in elections as closely contested as 2000 and 2004 a single electoral vote can make all the difference. So it's not necessarily true that Colorado would fall in importance. Besides, it's hard to be less important than we were in 2000 when an expected -- but not so easily obtained -- Bush victory resulted in little national attention.

And if, after a few elections when a single electoral vote separates the two candidates, there is a hew and cry to give the winner a greater margin, it ought to be a trivial matter to move from a proportional model to a congressional district model.

The key at this point is to overcome the inertia of 100 years of winner take all apportionment. So in the absence of an opportunity this fall to choose the congressional district model for Colorado I'm inclined to support the next best thing.

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Via Kevin Drum (via Instapundit) we get a Guardian story of Tony Blair's reinterpretation of the link between Saddam and al Qaeda:
Deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein did let al-Qaida operate out of Iraq, Downing Street insisted today.

...No 10 said it was not claiming a direct link but a spokeswoman said: "The prime minister has always said Saddam created a permissive environment for terrorism and we know that the people affiliated to al-Qaida operated in Iraq during the regime.
Careful there Tony. If "creating a permissive environment" is enough of a justification to go off the deep end then your To Do List is going to get pretty long. The first thing on your list will be to pop over to the Hague. While there you'll need to file war crimes charges against your good friend George for the permissive environment created by his government which bred a culture of tortue and abuse.

I realize that justifications for the war have all but dried up. But do you really want to make your last stand on "permissiveness?"

Blog On Stan

Stan Matsunaka Blog AdI've seen my first blog ad for Colorado 4th congressional candidate Stan Matsunaka. The ads may be running elsewhere as well but my sighting was in the prime position over at Dan Drezner's blog. I think Drezner's is a good choice for Stan's ads. Drezner caters to a moderate, slightly right of center audience. However because of his even handedness Drezner attracts a fair amount of traffic and comment from lefties as well. And, despite the right leanings of his core audience, they are not knee jerk reactionaries. On the contrary, they are thoughtful and well spoken. As such I anticipate that they are likely not as supportive of the radically strange, sexually obsessed, homophobic Marilyn Musgrave as they might be of Republicans in general.

Best of luck to Matsunaka in his blog-based fund raising efforts.

Update: Stan also has an ad up over at Political Wire.

Update: Colorado Luis calls Mike Miles out for not yet having any blog ads. I don't recall blog ads being discussed at the Big Time Political Shindig. They should have been if they weren't.

Update: Matsunaka owns the blogsphere right now. He's got the prime spot on Atrios right now, upper right, above the fold.

More Gephardt Knocks

All this veep talk, of course, is a waste of time. Those who know what's going on aren't talking and those talking don't know what's going on. Still, there's a certain amount of entertainment in valueless prognostication. So, with that understanding let's dive in.

Matthew Yglesias explains why Gephardt would be a miserable failure as the number two man. There are couple of reasons. Gephardt doesn't balance Kerry's resume; Kerry "has no need to bring an experienced, sober-looking veteran of political conflict like Gephardt onto the ticket to reassure voters." Gephardt's voting record is longer than Kerry's and would offer a windfall to an opponent desperate for ammunition. Leaving aside the inevitable distortion of his record at the hands of the GOP, Gephardt has done a decent enough job on his own of choosing inconsistent positions for perceived political gain. Gephardt's poor showing in his brief primary run amply demonstrates his lack of resonance even on issues for which he's supposedly known. All of which raises the question of Gephardt's ability to Missouri much less Ohio.

For pure electoral considerations, Yglesias prefers Edwards to Gephardt. Smiling John would seem to offer as much value in Ohio as Gephardt and Edwards would certainly seem to be more helpful in surprisingly close North Carolina.

But for those of you hankering for a Heartlands veep have no fear. Iowa governor Tom Vilsack continues to be mentioned in all the press as among the "top three." And a name I had not previously heard was mentioned today: Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius. I don't know anything about her. Her short bio also is short on specifics. For a man with a Washington resume as lengthy as Kerry's, an unknown mid-western woman governor might be just the ticket.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Popcorn and Raisinettes

The good folks over at Political Strategy are engaged in a valiant effort to counter right-wing efforts at blocking showings of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. Their Action Alert includes details and e-mail addresses for all the relevant theater operators who need positive reinforcement.

Here's my contribution:
-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Buck

Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 11:56 PM
Subject: Fahrenheit 9/11 - Show It - Don't Censor It

To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing this letter to request that you show Michael Moore’s documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11”.

I have heard that some theaters owners in America are contemplating not showing this film. I certainly hope yours is not one of them. This is an important film that I am very interested in seeing. Everyone to whom I have spoken about this film has expressed great interest in seeing it. It is my firm belief that if the movie opens on enough screens nationwide that it will be the #1 movie in the country on the weekend it opens.

Any attempt to block the showing of this movie is not only un-American it is also a short-sighted and naive business decision.

I want to have the right to see this documentary in theaters. Please show Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11”.

Thank you very much.

Michael Buck

Update: Here's a response I got from Jennifer Caleshu of Little Theatre:

-----Original Message-----
From: Jennifer Caleshu
Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2004 6:56 AM
To: Michael Buck
Subject: Re: Fahrenheit 9/11 - Show It - Don't Censor It

The Little Theatre will be showing FAHRENHEIT 9/11, opening June 25.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

For the Budding Political Activist

GOTV? Here's how.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Local Teen Aims to Make a Difference

We're expecting great things from this kid.

Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

In a study of fascist regimes (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’s Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia) Dr. Lawrence Britt quantified these fourteen characteristics which they shared.
  1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

  2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice—relentless propaganda and disinformation—were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

  4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

  5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

  6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.

  7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

  8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

  9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.

  10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

  11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

  12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

  14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

  15. Update: Added a link for "Obsession with crime and punishment."

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Mr. Cheney Waxes Ironical

"In the fight against terror, America's armed forces have faced enemies who have no regard for the rules of warfare or morality."
Vice President Dick Cheney
October 16, 2003

Traitors Are Everywhere

Don't we have a darkened room in some far off country filled with fierce dogs and urinating soldiers for these traitors?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

I Thought I Was Joking

Hard to know whether asking the Pope to intercede in support of Bush's election is unprecedented. But it appears that asking for help from the Vatican on thorny American political issues was part of the election campaign stratagem for visiting Rome recently.

My sardonic post on the propish Pope was intended as mordant satire as much as anything else. I guess if I want to be accurate I'll have to work harder at underestimating Bush and his motives.

Update: Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum have additional insight. Kevin, in particular, notes that enlisting the Pope in Bush's political campaign is neither new nor random:
These aren't just spontaneous shows of support, they're part of an ongoing and highly professional media campaign to win votes in swing states like Pennsylvania and Michigan. And judging by how the press credulously reports this stuff at face value, it's working.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Journalistic Necrophilia

This week's outpouring of fawning, adultatory haigiography is but the latest example of journalistic laziness that has been with us for years.
"The rules were different for him," notes Walter Pincus, veteran reporter for the Washington Post. "Reagan got all sorts of passes from the press."

That's not simply Pincus' opinion. Reagan's closest aides were saying the same thing in real time, back in the 1980s. David Gergen, Reagan's first communications director, is quoted by Mark Hertsgaard in his 1989 book, "On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency," as conceding, "A lot of the Teflon came from the press. They didn't want to go after him that toughly." Gergen added, "There is no question in my mind there was more willingness to give Reagan the benefit of the doubt than there was [for Presidents] Carter or Ford." And as Hertsgaard says now, "The taming of the media during the Reagan years was mostly self-inflicted."

Michael Deaver, Reagan's renowned image-maker, wrote in his memoirs that until the Iran-Contra scandal broke in November 1986, Reagan "enjoyed the most generous treatment by the press of any President in the postwar era. He knew it, and liked the distinction."


"Coming out of Watergate, there was a feeling within the press that we'd gone too far," says Robert Parry, who covered the Reagan administration for the Associated Press and Newsweek. He left the weekly, he says, after it refused to let him aggressively pursue what subsequently became the Iran-Contra scandal. "There was a feeling we should be more respectful on how we [went] about things and there were places we really shouldn't go."


While it's true that the Reagan White House raised uncritical presidential press coverage to an art, it received a helping hand from a self-conscious press corps. As Hertsgaard wrote, "Relieved by the departure of Jimmy Carter, gulled by false claims of a right-wing popular mandate, impressed by Reagan's recovery after being shot and seduced by his sunny personality and his propaganda apparatus' talent for providing prepackaged stories boasting attractive visuals, the Washington press corps favored the newly elected President with the coverage that even his own advisers considered extremely positive."

"We used to do a fact-checking exercise after his press conferences at AP," says Parry, referring to Reagan's tendency to manufacture or wildly misstate facts and figures. "And we got such hostility from David Gergen at the White House, and publishers who didn't like it, that AP backed off and dropped it. That was one of the ways we were not as tough or as skeptical as we should have been." (In that worshipful 1986 Time cover story, Morrow wrote, "Reagan committed so many press-conference fluffs that eventually no one paid that much attention anymore, assuming that that was just the way Reagan was. Who cared? The results seemed to come out all right.") When covering early developments in the Iran-Contra affair for AP, Parry experienced that timidity firsthand. When he went to Newsweek in 1987, "it soon became clear they didn't want to pursue the Iran-Contra story much at all. They didn't want another Watergate -- that's the way it was put. The magazine was owned by the Washington Post, and although people look back on Watergate as a crowning achievement, it was a very unpleasant experience to live through, and [publisher] Katharine Graham didn't want to go through it again. So the feeling at Newsweek was, Let's just take what the White House is telling us, the 'mistakes were made' explanation."

Newsweek wasn't alone. When the Iran-Contra scandal broke (exposed by a Lebanese newspaper, not an American one), newspaper editors and TV anchors around the country -- including CBS's Rather -- cautioned their staffs not to repeat the "excesses" and "mistakes" of the Watergate era, according to a Dec. 5, 1986, article in the New York Times. It was almost as if news executives were demanding passive and restrained reporting. Respected, centrist "NBC Nightly News" commentator John Chancellor seemed to speak for many in the national press corps in early 1987 when, breathing a sigh of relief when it appeared the worst had passed for Reagan on Iran-Contra, he said, "Nobody wants [Reagan] to fail. Nobody wants another Nixon." Although severely damaged by Iran-Contra -- he suffered the most precipitous drop in presidential job approval ratings on record -- Reagan was able to rebound to the point where his reputation, among the press at least, now borders on sainthood.
The only consolation in the collective blowjob the media is giving Reagan's corpse is that perhaps once his body's in the ground the press will realize they've gone too far. At that point maybe, just maybe Karl Rove's strategy of "Sainthood by Association" will backfire as the mainstream conservative media decides that a little balance is in order after 24/7 Reagan love-in.


At a press conference Thursday attended by world leaders George W. Bush once again declined to condemn the heinous torture carried out by American soldiers, possibly with Bush's authority and approval. His failure to unambiguously condemn torture as a tool of American foreign policy is further example of his moral failing as a president and as a man.
Q Mr. President, the Justice Department issued an advisory opinion last year declaring that as Commander-in-Chief you have the authority to order any kind of interrogation techniques that are necessary to pursue the war on terror. Were you aware of this advisory opinion? Do you agree with it? And did you issue any such authorization at any time?

THE PRESIDENT: No, the authorization I issued, David, was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations. That's the message I gave our people.

Q Have you seen the memos?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't remember if I've seen the memo or not, but I gave those instructions.

Q Returning to the question of torture, if you knew a person was in U.S. custody and had specific information about an imminent terrorist attack that could kill hundreds or even thousands of Americans, would you authorize the use of any means necessary to get that information and to save those lives?

THE PRESIDENT: Jonathan, what I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law.

Q Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we've learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law. So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that's not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I'm going to say it one more time. If I -- maybe -- maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you. We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at those laws, and that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions out of -- from me to the government.
The last question, which Bush did not answer, is the crux of the issue at hand. Bush claims to have authorized "that we stay within U.S. law." However legions of lawyers who work for him drafted memos indicating that relevant laws are inapplicable if the president so deems. Therefore his claim that he instructed people to follow the law degenerates into nonsense: I told people to follow the law. What is the law? It's what I say. What did I say? Follow the law.

Here's but one example a torture memo, leaked this week from the Pentagon:
In light of the President's complete authority over the conduct of war without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the President's ultimate authority in these areas...In order to respect the President's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign 18 USC 2340A (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority. (Section III A Part 3 a)
Did Bush formally implement the provisions outlined in this and other similar memos? We don't know for certain. However Bush's continued inability to denounce the use of the tactics which we've seen pictures of in recent weeks gives us a clue as to the answer.

We are not comforted.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


A few days ago The New York Times wrote a piece contending that John Kerry is vigorously competing with George Bush on the topics of patriotism, military service, and national strength. Noted the Times:
It is, in large part, a pre-emptive strategy. Mr. Kerry's advisers say they are well aware of the risks of challenging an incumbent president on foreign policy during a war. For days now, the Bush campaign has been accusing them, via surrogates and campaign advertising, of "playing politics with national security."
To the extent that John Kerry and the Democrats are forcefully wading into the national security debate I say "Bravo." I've been calling for the Democrats to sieze the national security debate for some time now (including posts here, here, and here.

But are John Kerry and the Democrats engaging in the forceful criticism of Bush that I've advocated? I don't know. Or at least I can't tell from reading The New York Times piece. Unfortunately, the Times is more interested in the flag-colored bunting at Kerry campaign events and "his new, red-white-and-blue campaign airplane" than in the real issues of national security which George Bush continues to ignore. Judging from this article I'd have to conclude that Bush is stronger on national defense because he is able to stand "before one of the most powerful and iconic scenes in American history - the beaches of Normandy."

Granted, this article is not intended as an exposition of the differences and similarities in the candidates' objectives and plans. But, unfortunately, like so much of what passes for journalism these days, the article doesn't accomplish much of anything else either.

Gephardt's Out of the Veep Race

According to Wonkette, Dick Gephardt's daughter is going to participate in the Showtime reality program "The American Candidate." The premise of the show, as I understand it, is to the presidential race what "American Idol" is to pop music.

If there's any truth to this rumor then I think we no longer have to worry about Dick Gephardt as a potential albatross on the Democratic ticket.

Thank goodness for small miracles.

Just to be clear, I think this sinks any chance Gep may have had not because his daughter is gay but because she's participating in a reality show about running for president. I've got to think the Kerry folks want to be as far away from that kind of farce as possible.

The Bush folks, on the other hand, who have been pretending to be presidential for nearly four years might want to get some pointers from Chrissy Gephardt and the good people at Showtime.

Moral Clarity?

The problem with the theory of Bush being a stellar leader because of his moral clarity is that it just isn't true. Or, if it is true, his moral clarity is so repugnant as to make him unworthy of being the leader of a good and decent people.

Kevin Drum sums up nicely when he writes:
I've got something simpler for the plain spoken President Bush: "We don't torture prisoners. Not on my watch." Why didn't he say that instead and just put the whole subject to rest?
It shouldn't be so hard for this man who likes to speak in simple sentences with monosyllabic words. In fact, when he spoke Denver last week Bush said "the American President must speak clearly and mean what he says."

We're waiting.

Friday, June 04, 2004

The Two-Edged Sword

On the topic of mixing religion and politics Marvin over at The Ivy Bush poses and then proceeds to answer this question:
Why not call out the President if you're slamming politicians who won't be instructed by religious officials?

Maybe because a lot of Christianity Today readers would cancel their subscriptions. Or maybe because what you really care about is getting Republicans elected, and you'll use any argument to advance that agenda. Careful there, Christianity Today. You're wielding a two-edged sword.
Marvin was inspired by a Christianity Today editorial that begins by noting that
In the centuries before Constantine "Christianized" the Roman Empire, the church was wary of politicians. Lists of professions that would bar a person from making gifts to the church, becoming a priest, or even being baptized included pimps, makers of idols, wrestlers, flute and zither players—and magistrates who "wear the purple" or do not deal justly.
Does that mean we can expect Pope John Paul II to refuse the gift that George Bush intends to bestow later today? After all, King George wears the purple robe while being something of a zither player. And he is inarguably not a just dealer. Then there is the matter of the pope being adamantly opposed to the defining event of Bush's term in office...

I heard on NPR today that there was some debate within the Bush camp regarding whether Dubya should meet with the pope. Those opposed argued that a meeting with the Pope would remind Catholic voters that Bush engaged in an unjust war. Clearly the Karl Rove faction won that debate. (Does Karl Rove ever lose a debate in this administration?) And why not? Are American's going to recall the Pope's condemnation of Bush's war while Bush is bestowing a medal on the pointy hatted servant of God? I doubt it. But I wouldn't be surprised if they're somehow reminded of the fact that Big John can't eat little white wafers because he's not good friends with the Popester. (Do you think Bush has given the Pope a nickname?)

And I'm sure the geriatric pontiff doesn't mind being a prop in Bush's reelection campaign.

UPDATE: Well, maybe I'm only part right. Apparently, the pope "is likely to use the opportunity to challenge Bush on a number of issues." So Bush may not get a pass on his past. But how much of a downer is that likely to be for Bush? Afterall, the invasion is over. And Bush hass pretty much backtracked to some degree on all subsequent issues involving America's unilateralism. So even if pointy hat dude issues a mild rebuke in public (a big if) it's not likely to harm Bush among the constituency to which he's trying to appeal.

The whole point of this exercise is that Rove Bush is counting on more press coverage like the last four paragraphs in this piece. This is the key graf:
Despite Bush's disagreement with the Vatican on political issues, the president's social agenda is closer to the Holy See's than that of his Catholic opponent, John Kerry. Bush and the pope are against abortion and gay marriage.
Prop John Paul II would have been better off sticking to his long-standing practice of declining "visits by presidents and prime ministers during election years, [due to fear] the meetings might turn into campaign stops."

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Big Time Political Shindig

The road to Washington D.C. runs through my parents' living room. Invoking the names of North Carolina politicians Harvey Gantt and John Edwards, my father introduced Democratic Senate candidate Mike Miles to a few dozen guests in his home. It was great to hear a dedicated public servant like Mike Miles speak about what motivates his quest for elective office and his ideas on how to confront some of the problems our nation faces.

But it was an even bigger treat for me to hear my father's introductory remarks in front of a not insignificant audience. My dad spoke eloquently of how his own experience as an army officer and educator informed his decision to support fellow educator and army officer Mike Miles. He weaved in a little North Carolina political history and even drew a laugh from the assembled crowd at one point. I haven't often heard my dad orate. I was impressed. And very proud.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Of Whom Was It Said...

Democracy has been the biggest frustration of the president's opponents. It seemed to us, the carping critics, that this man was not terribly bright, not terribly thoughtful or well informed, not terribly honest, and in most other ways not up to the most important job in the world. But a large majority of people seemed not to mind. And so a consensus grew that if he lacked conventional mental and moral assets, he had some special magic.
Of course this sounds as if it was written about good old Georgie Boy. But the text comes (via Atrios) from a 1986 Michael Kinsley op-ed. The whole piece is worth a read.

Weasel Words

Time was the GOP loved to berate the Clinton administration for the legal language and phrase parsing that characterized their public statements. But you know what? At the same time they were criticizing they were learning too. And they're pretty good at it too.

Mary Matalin provides the most recent legally precise denial of wrong doing. Concerning Dick Cheney's involvement in awarding contracts to Halliburton she says:
"The vice president had no operational involvement with letting of any contracts."
Operational is the key word. Let me translate what Ms. Matalin is really saying:
Sure, Dick was involved with awarding contracts to his cronies. But he wasn't involved on a regular, operational basis.
Thankfully, as I've noted before, these lies don't require investigation because they concern only such petty things as corruption, extortion, graft, and conspiracy. I'm comforted, however, with the knowledge that the GOP Congress will leap into action when Dick is alleged to have cheated on Lynne. That would be a betrayal of the public trust.

Manchurian Bush

If you're gonna be a blogger, you've got to be quick. You can't hesitate in the face of a half baked idea. You've got to run with it and run with it fast. Otherwise, some other blogger (most likely one with better name recognition and more readers) will beat you to the punch.

Such is the case with an idea that occurred to me on the way to work yesterday.

Why, I wondered, does Bush -- at every opportunity --make decisions so completely contrary to America's interests? Why, as I alluded to yesterday, has Bush failed to adequately fund vital national security programs like port protection? Why has he abandoned an incomplete mission in Afghanistan? Why has he degraded America's standing in the world while simultaneously gutting our military capabilities?

The only explanation is that Bush is actually a modern Manchurian Candidate. Matthew Yglesias, writing in Tapped, fleshes out the theory, albeit without the fancy cinematic reference.

Presidential Forensics, Fargo Style

I wonder if the Bushies like the movie Fargo. The story, in which a simple plan goes horribly awry with tragic results, is one with which the Bushies are intimately familiar. The panoply of luckless losers in Fargo is matched (even exceeded) by the cast of hapless characters that people the Bush administration.

As we head into the fall campaign I expect we'll even hear administration mouthpieces start to parrot lines from the movie. Like this from Steve Buscemi's character's: "I'm not gonna debate you, Kerry Jerry. I'm not gonna sit here and debate."

Of course, eventually, Bush will debate Kerry. Despite the doughty efforts of Bush's minions to dictate the quantity, timing, format, and topics there will be one (or more) opportunities for us to see these two men share the same stage and participate in what passes for political debate in the twenty-first century.

The Atlantic Online has a preview. It's a good introduction to what the article terms "asymmetric warfare." Both men are good debaters. (You'll have to read the article to see what that means as it applies to the malaproper in chief.) But they rely on vastly different tactics in their pursuit of a winning debate strategy.

Here's hoping it'll be a good show.

(Via Political Wire)

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

How Many Eyeballs Has Your Candidate Touched Today?

For aspiring political strategists and campaign volunteers, don't miss this BizReport article on the popularity of web advertising.

(Via Political Wire)

Where's Kerry?

More than a few of us have wondered where the putative Democratic nominee is hiding himself these days. Perhaps he's infiltrated the GOP's secure, undisclosed location and is cutting the puppet strings that give Dick "Stromboli" Cheney such power over Bushnocchio.

Okay, I guess Kerry is not (literally) using his vast military training to sneak up on America's favorite Chicken Hawk or his AWOL puppet boy. But Kerry does seem to be AWOL on the campaign trail lately. What's he up to?

In his defense, Kerry is in something of a tough spot right now. Bush, though not quite in free fall, is daily buffeted by the blowback of his inexperience and mismanagement. For Kerry to try and capitalize on poor, poor Georgie's misfortune would be perceived (especially by the not-so liberal media) as rank political opportunism. Furthermore, Kerry's campaign must be saying to themselves, what more can we add to the present debate on Bush's bumbling? For the time being they are content to let events speak for themselves.

A Newsweek article calls this the "Sock Puppet Strategy" in which Kerry need only present himself as a not unattractive alternative to the Bush debacle. The theory is that if the foreign situation continues to deteriorate then even a sock puppet could defeat Bush in November.

Thus, Kerry is attempting to present himself as a viable alternative in Red State America.
In a painstakingly balanced speech—crafted by a coalition of Democratic centrists—Kerry took dead aim at the mainstream, calculating that voters may want to change leaders more than philosophy. The president, Kerry declared, was an inept, simplistic, go-it-alone cowboy incapable of carrying on America's tradition of global alliance-building. Even so, Kerry agreed that creating a new Iraq was necessary for American security, and he proclaimed himself just as tough—and as willing to use military force, even pre-emptively—as the man he wants to replace.
Such a bland message -- tweak the strategy and choose a real leader -- is unlikely to land him much media coverage. Especially in today's environment of continuing bad news from Iraq and Abu Ghraib. So, although Kerry is out on the trail, he's not getting a lot of attention.

And as long as events continue to demonstrate that Bush is presiding over a hapless, rudderless, failing ship of state then it's probably in Kerry's interest to stay -- in the word's of another former one-term Texas president -- "above the fray." The problem for Kerry is that the "Sock Puppet Strategy" relies on events to drive Bush's negatives. And, as we've seen three times before, Bush benefits from short term spikes of public approval. Osama in October or a Madrid style attack before November would likely cause a rally around Bush effect that would be sufficient to hand him the White House.

Kerry needs to find a way to break through in today's crowded media environment and innoculate against the possiblity of a rally around Dubya. He needs to, as I've argued for over a year, own the security debate and hammer home that America's fundamental lack of safety in this moment results from Bush's weakness, inexperience, and lack of true leadership. Kerry needs to resurrect the message he used in New Hampshire in January. He needs to hammer George Bush not for doing too much in the War on Terror but for doing too little. He needs to point out that not only has Bush failed to secure Afghanistan and Iraq but that he's failed to secure the docks and harbours of New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Boston.

Kerry needs to point out that even Osama's eventual capture will demonstrate the fundamental failure of Bush's "leadership." No doubt, Osama will be killed or captured. But his capture comes years too late. Too late because George Bush lacked the courage and leadership to finish the job in Afghanistan, so eager was he to invade and occupy Iraq. To late because Bush's inexperience and arrogance cost American prestige and has created a new generation of Bin Laden's.

Current events have sowed seeds of doubt about Bush's ability. Kerry must tend to these seedlings. It is a difficult task to call for Bush's accountability without being excoriated for politicizing the issue. So Kerry must tread gently and weather whatever attacks come his way. For if the seeds of doubt are not sufficiently strong they will be trampled in the next stampede to rally around Bush. And if that happens, nobody will care where Kerry is.