So, Has the Smear Worked?

Larry Kudlow: Swift surge for Bush:

“Clearly, the Swift boat veterans are having a major impact on this presidential race. In truth, not one of the political pundits saw this coming. Perhaps John Kerry should have anticipated it, but judging from his tepid, halting, and per-usual flip-flopping responses, it would appear that he was totally unprepared.

And the worst may be yet to come for Kerry: Two other surveys show that the impact of the Swiftees could be even greater than established polling data suggest.

The survey shows Bush opening up an absolutely incredible 58 percent to 42 percent lead over Kerry. Two weeks ago this survey had them locked at 50. Similarly, the Iowa Electronic Market has Bush surging with a 55 percent to 45 percent lead over his opponent. That’s also up from a dead heat only a few weeks ago.”

This is from a wing nut, but still… The Iowa Electronic Market chart. And, the Electoral College Predictor.


Keeping in m ind what I wrote about Americans looking for a leader who will protect them, take a look at the “prepared remarks” of Laura Bush, in Laura Bush Says Husband Leads with ‘Strength’:

First Lady Laura Bush said on Tuesday that President Bush (news – web sites) had led the United States with “strength and conviction” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and deserved re-election so he could finish the job of making America safer.

As Republicans hoped to show a softer, more compassionate side on the second night of their convention, the first lady said in prepared remarks her husband was leading “the most historic struggle my generation has ever known. The stakes are so high.”

I repeat: People are scared and they want leaders who will protect them. Kerry needs to tell the public how he is better at protecting them against terrorists than Bush is. He needs to make a convincing case. That is what the public wants to know. That is the ONLY question today. The Republicans know this.

Seven Minutes

I just saw Andrew Card (White House Chief of Staff) on CNN, saying that when he told Bush on 9/11 that the country was under attack, he also told him not to scare the kids. He explains that this is why Bush sat there and did nothing for 7 minutes. They have been using this “didn’t want to scare the kids” story for a while to explain why Bush froze up when it counted. It must have tested well in the focus groups. (Better than the other stories they tried, anyway…)

The country is under attack, but they don’t want to scare the kids in the room by responding to the attack that is occurring. Bush doesn’t want to stand up and say, “There is something I have to take care of.” Right, THAT’s the reason he sat there for seven minutes.

Seven minutes.

Seven minutes is a very long time when you are under attack. If we are attacked by a missile launched from a submarine that missile is going to hit in just a few minutes. Such an attack could very well start with an attack exactly like what happened on 9/11. Or, the 9/11 attack could well have been followed by other kinds of attacks. We could have been mobilizing our forces. But we weren’t. Our government literally sat paralyzed for seven minutes.

This happened On His Watch. For our own protection it is time for a change. I repeat, People are scared and they want leaders who will protect them. Kerry needs to tell the public how he is better at protecting them against terrorists than Bush is. He needs to make a convincing case. That is what the public wants to know. That is the ONLY question today. The Republicans know this.

When the Chips Were Down …

George Bush threw up. (Play the movie…)

The point is that even the smallest comparison of what Bush and Kerry were doing in their youth tells us Bush has NO BUSINESS being in the White House. He is in WAAAYYY over his head! Think about the pure audacity of Bush running a smear on Kerry’s war record, considering his own background!

But, look at it another way for just a minute. With all the smears and lies and dirty tricks, Bush and the Republicans are demonstrating that they are willing to do what it takes to get what they want. (“You got some shit I want, I TAKE it.” Movie – DSL or cable recommended.) People on “our side” don’t respect this, but people on the other side do. Digby has been running with a “Triumph of the Will” theme, talking about how they respond with a fight. I don’t think the Republicans are making a mistake running with this theme at this time.

If you think about it, roughly half of the public is convinced that we are in a war to the finish, Christians against Muslims, and that the Muslims will stop at nothing to kill all of us. The Right is spreading this, and a lot of people believe it. (More on this shortly.) So people are afraid and WANT leadership that will stop at nothing – nothing – to destroy their opponents. Sure, we could try educating the public between now and the election. We could try that…

I think what is happening with this Swift Boat smear is a metaphor for this larger battle. The Republicans are fighting like there is no tomorrow (because a lot of them are going to jail if honest oversight is restored to our government…), and a good part of the public wants fighters. So their ruthless unprincipled stomping of Kerry tells the public that they are the ones to do the job against the Muslims.

When the smear first appeared, I wrote,

And now a big Kerry smear arrives. What response has Kerry prepared? . . . we all knew it was coming. This is what Bush Sr. did to Dukakis. This is what Bush did to Gore. The Big Smear. This is what Republicans do.

[. . .] To me, this goes beyond the campaign. This goes beyond protecting their own political careers. This goes to protecting us. What is the criticism of Bush for 9/11? That all the signs were there that we were going to be attacked, and they ignored it.

Does Kerry have a devastating response ready for The Big Smear? To me this is the same question as: Is Kerry ready to be president?

Josh Marshall also wrote about this, calling it the “bitch slap” tactic of demonstrating toughness.

“Consider for a moment what the big game is here. This is a battle between two candidates to demonstrate toughness on national security. Toughness is a unitary quality, really — a personal, characterological quality rather than one rooted in policy or divisible in any real way. So both sides are trying to prove to undecided voters either that they’re tougher than the other guy or at least tough enough for the job.

In a post-9/11 environment, obviously, this question of strength, toughness or resolve is particularly salient. That, of course, is why so much of this debate is about war and military service in the first place.

One way — perhaps the best way — to demonstrate someone’s lack of toughness or strength is to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves — thus the rough slang I used above. And that I think is a big part of what is happening here. Someone who can’t or won’t defend themselves certainly isn’t someone you can depend upon to defend you.

Demonstrating Kerry’s unwillingness to defend himself (if Bush can do that) is a far more tangible sign of what he’s made of than wartime experiences of thirty years ago.”

How did you feel when Lieberman said it was OK to go ahead and count illegal absentee ballots in Florida? Did you feel like your party leadership standing up and fighting for you? No, you felt like Democrats were the party of wimpy appeasers. So seriously, after that would you want Joe Lieberman leading the fight to protect your family if they were in danger from a terrorist attack?

Of course, the other side of asking for a “ruthless leader” is that when you get people like Bush and his cronies in power there is no reason to believe they are going to fight for you — these guys would just as quick take everything you have and leave you naked in the cold. Look what the Bush administration and Enron did to California just after the election. And look how they gutted your retirement by handing out the Social Security surplus as tax cuts to their rich buddies.

I was VERY HAPPY with Kerry when he finally (after waiting two weeks) responded to the smear. But even then I wrote,

I hope they keep this up, and make the Republican tactic of smearing the issue in the campaign. Take it back to Bush, talk about the history of Republicans smearing opponents, and make THAT a big issue in this campaign. That makes it hard for them to try another smear, and gets them on the defensive about this on an issue they really can’t defend. It’s what they DO! So make them pay for it.

Well, they started running a very effective ad, telling Bush “Shame on you!” for the smear. BUT THEN THEY TOOK IT OFF THE AIR because they THOUGHT that John McCain might not approve — the same John McCain who is campaigning for Bush right now. The same McCain who said this weekend that he didn’t see what else beside the smear could be causing Kerry’s drop in the polls.

So I am not sure what to think today. Today it seems like the Kerry team has backed off from fighting back, doesn’t have it in them to see this through, SEEMINGLY DOESN’T SEE THE LARGER ISSUE IN PLAY HERE. Is the Kerry campaign ready for the fight to come? It’s going to get a LOT worse than just this Swift Boat smear. But Kerry is running against a fraud, a man who received a memo warning of a coming attack and went on vacation, who sat reading “My Pet Goat” for SEVEN MINUTES, after being told the country was under attack. Thinking purely in terms of being protected from terrorists, I do not want the Pet Goat man in office. I do not want to trust my life to the man who CREATED the terrorist threat that Iraq is now, but wasn’t before. But to get that man out of office we need a campaign team that is willing and able to explain these points to the public.

People are sc ared and they want leaders who will protect them. Kerry needs to tell the public how he is better at protecting them against terrorists than Bush is. He needs to make a convincing case. That is what the public wants to know. That is the ONLY question today. The Republicans know this.

UpdateCharles Pierce over at Altercation today:

If this campaign is lost, it was lost on the day on which John Kerry was persuaded to “denounce” a MoveOn ad concerning C-Plus Augustus’s blithe attitude toward his sworn military duty. What in God’s name did Kerry hope to gain by this? Did he expect to shame the Bush people out of the Swift Boat hoax? Did he expect to get credit for taking the high-road on the campaign-reform issue by a press corps that has treated this pack of obvious lies mainly as an effective campaign tactic? That decision more than any other enabled the R’s to shift the debate onto “shadowy” 527 organizations and off the Bush family tradition of outsourcing the really nasty stuff to the hired help. No surrender, my aunt Fannie. And now Kerry can’t go back.

Maybe he was afraid that Rush Limbaugh would say something bad about him if he didn’t.

Welcome to La La Land

So that effete little prince who cross-dresses as a cowboy and loves to don macho uniforms sometimes sporting medals he doesn’t seem to have earned is planning to run for his second term on the basis of what happened in New York on 9/11, is he? And he’s so lacking in decency and good taste that he dares to present this here, in New York City? All this simpering sentimentality over 9/11! This guy really knows how to tug at the heartstrings, doesn’t he? This whole damned (and I mean damned in the religious sense of the word) convention is nothing more than a slick — very pretty, very slick — lie.

What did Bush have to do with 9/11 except to allow it to happen because he was too arrogant and ignorant to pay attention to Clinton’s warnings about al Qaeda? The 9/11 Commission seems to have been able to find plenty of indications that something major was about to happen. Even strong indications that whatever was about to happen would involve hijacked planes. To not have enough airport security to prevent four — count em, four — planes from being hijacked at the same time, and then to not even notice that four planes had been hijacked until they began to crash into buildings — and then, once aware that something was amiss, not be able to figure out what to do about it, has to mean that those responsible for protecting public safety were not only asleep but in a deep coma.

And what has he done since then for this city besides showing up three days later for a photo-op? His immediate REAL response was to betray us by not allowing the REAL reports on air quality at the WTC site to be released, thus poisoning all who worked there and everyone who lived near there. How many of the workers at the site, who could have been protected by at least wearing a mask, are now sick, probably damaged for life? Yeah, now he calls them heros. I guess they just weren’t heroic enough or important enough to protect their safety by telling them the truth. The police and firemen who sacrificed so much that day certainly aren’t being rewarded like heros — they’ve been working without a contract for two years. Or, in the Bush every-man-for-himself ideology, they should have figured out for themselves that the air was poisonous and not believed the reports that the air was safe? Oh, there’s a long list of sins against the city, a history of utter contempt for the city and its suffering, the most recent being that remark about the “unseemly scramble for money” by city officials afterwards. Only a bunch of psychopaths could act like this and then come to this wounded city to claim credit for how noble their response has been. Their response? Establishing the huge, incredibly expensive, meaningless “Homeland Security” department, taking away the workers’ rights to do it, which seems mainly tell us to buy lots of duct tape, to issue dubious terrorist alerts based on a color scale — and, of course, the amazing decision to attack Iraq while ignoring the real terrorist danger.

Yeah, McCaine has to tow the party line if he wants to advance his political career. I can understand that. I can understand Giuliani, too. I’ve always known that he’s a man of overriding political ambition. If anyone in the Republican party has a right to talk about 9/11 he does. He went to the site immediately, at great personal risk, and the city owes him a lot for the calm way he handled the aftermath. At least the officials in NYC had been aware ever since the first attack on the WTC that something was going to happen, had planned for this, and had held disaster drills for years. I know this, and know this began long before Giuliani was on the scene, because I worked for city government. But he deserves full credit for steering the city through impossible times. Even so, shame on both these men for pandering to Bush!

Then, of course, there’s Pataki. A notably weak governor who can’t ever get a state budget passed on time, to the point where last year the Assembly rebelled and overrode his veto. He will introduce Bush for his acceptance speech, He also has his political ambitions and knows how to pander. A perfect courtier for the effete little prince. We’ll see how long it takes Bush to turn on him. Bush has a charming habit of doing that to his “friends.” What’s weird about Pataki is that he seems to actually believe the lies and the garbage about why we’re at war in Iraq and that it has something to do with 9/11. He’s said that he wants to include a piece of that statue of Saddam that was famously pulled down, thus “liberating” the Iraqis, in the foundation of what gets built at the WTC site.

Yes, they’re all still insisting that the war in Iraq is part of the “war on terror” to the point where it becomes impossible to tell which they’re talking about. In spite of the fact that it’s perfectly clear that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda. Wrong religious sect for one thing — al Qaeda had ties with Iran, and maybe Bush didn’t know the difference between the two countries? Well, a large portion of the country still believes there was a tie between Iraq and al Qaeda, and that if Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, they would have gotten hold of them.

Of the people. By the people. For the people. We’ve managed to govern ourselves by this principle for a very long time. Either the State exists for the people, or the people exist to serve the State. These are two extremely different points of view. If you believe the state exists to serve the people, you believe that people are capable of intelligent choice. That’s why we’ve had free public education in this country. If you believe that the state is superior to the people, then you believe that an elite must subdue and control the “masses” because the “masses” are a churlish mob. Thus, if you’re a member of the elite, it’s not only OK but a duty to deceive the “masses,” lie to them, it’s for their own good. And who are those inferior masses? That’s us, folks, you and me and everyone we know, unless we happen to be members of that elite governing group. We’re those churlish brutes, and that’s how we’ll be treated. We’re expendable. That’s why there’s so much security around Madison Square Garden. To protect the elite from us churlish brutes. That’s why the Republicans are lusting for violent demonstrations to prove we’re the churlish brutes. That’s why there will be so many arrests justified or not, every incident reported by the media, true or not, instigated by the police or not. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There are those who understand this all too well. There were those who understood in ancient Rome, in Germany, in Russia, in every country throughout history that lost its liberty or its chance for liberty. That’s why that army of people in Sunday’s demonstration was chanting: This is what Democracy looks like. Well, folks, which is it going to be? Do we lose our Republic and allow ourselves to be conned into Empire?

The Uniter

President Bush will give a live interview on Rush Limbaugh’a radio show today at 1:45 PM ET.

Update – He AGAIN repeated that he had to go to war because Saddam refused to disarm (I again ask, DISARM WHAT?!!), and because of all the connections between Iraq and terrorists.

It’s obvious why they are keeping Bush away from any press people that might ask serious questions — this guy is in WAAAY over his head. Certainly there aren’t going to be any press conferences between now and the election.


The focus-group tested talking point word for yesterday was “Courage.” Republicans everywhere were using the word.

Remember when the word was “bold?”

Gotta give those right wingers credit for sticking to their talking points. A week or so back a focus group must have said that X% of target demographic Y responds favorably to the word “bold.” So now everything is “bold.”

The Courage Factor


GOP salutes Bush’s courage

Jeers for Moore as Bush courage hailed

In Search of Courage

9/11 Courage at Forefront of Republican National Convention

Lobbyist Received $40 Million for Swift Boat Smear

A Swift Shift in Stories:

“Four days ago, retired naval Rear Adm. William L. Schachte Jr. seconded accusations made by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth seeking to discredit Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry’s record in Vietnam. But since then, Democrats have discovered that Schachte is also a long-standing supporter of President Bush and a lobbyist whose client FastShip Inc. recently won a $40 million grant from the federal government.” [emphasis added]

And, of course, the so-called “journalist” that the Bush campaign arranged for Schachte to talk to? Who else?

They just lie! Sometimes they lie for money.

I lied: a bleg

OK, I lied. I swore off blogging a week or so ago, and I really tried to quit, but I’m obsessive. Dave predicted this.

So anyway, I’m trying to figure out how to keep on going at least until the election. In order to do that I’ll have to put a quick patch on the various deficits that impelled me to quit. One of them is an obsolescent, parasite-ridden, software-defective computer showing signs of impending hardware death. I need to replace it more or less immediately, or the question of blogging will become moot.

Another is just money to live on. I have a part time job for the rest of the month, but no prospects after that, and if I have to work and jobhunt both that will cramp me a lot. I have a small steady income, but it doesn’t really support me, so I always need a little more. Unfortunately I’ve been falling behind for months as I madly blogged along, and the day of reckoning has arrived.

And finally, I’ve been asking myself whether I haven’t really been taking my political writing too seriously as my finances deteriorated. I really don’t have much of an idea whether my writing means much of anything to anyone else. During my first year I was happy to just vent, but during the second year I’ve been hoping for it to become more than that. So I could use a vote of confidence.

So anyway, if you feel like it, chip in here: the tarsier (little bugeyed animal) is the paypal button. I realize that the campaign season is the worst time for almost everyone here, but in a way I suppose that this is also a referendum about the validity of the internet as a political tool.


John Emerson / Zizka

emersonj at easystreet dot com