My Prediction: I never understood why political types make predictions. If you're right, nobody cares. If you're wrong, people hold it over your head forever.
That being said, I spent some time procrastinating at work compiling what I think the final Electoral College tally will be. So, I thought I'd share. All predictions wrong, or your money back (apologies to Gregg Easterbrook).
Final Tally: Bush 276 and Kerry 262
State by State Breakdown, in order of percentage of the popular vote won, from Bush to Kerry. (Electoral vote count for each state in parentheses):
Wyoming (3) Bush
Utah (5) Bush
Idaho (4) Bush
Texas (34) Bush
Oklahoma (7) Bush
Kansas (6) Bush
Nebraska (5) Bush
North Dakota (3) Bush
South Dakota (3) Bush
Montana (3) Bush
Alaska (3) Bush
Alabama (9) Bush
Georgia (15) Bush
South Carolina (8) Bush
Indiana (11) Bush
Kentucky (8) Bush
Mississippi (6) Bush
North Carolina (15) Bush
Louisiana (9) Bush
Tennessee (11) Bush
Arizona (10) Bush
Virginia (13) Bush
Arkansas (6) Bush
Missouri (11) Bush -- (208 definite votes for Bush)
New Mexico (5) Bush
Nevada (5) Bush
West Virginia (5) Bush
Colorado (9) Bush*
Florida (27) Bush
Iowa (7) Bush
Wisconsin (10) Bush -- (68 iffy votes for Bush)
Ohio (20) Kerry
Pennsylvania (21) Kerry
Michigan (17) Kerry
New Hampshire (4) Kerry
Minnesota (10) Kerry -- (72 iffy votes for Kerry)
New Jersey (15) Kerry
Hawaii (4) Kerry
Delaware (3) Kerry
Maine (4) Kerry
Oregon (7) Kerry
Washington (11) Kerry
California (55) Kerry
Connecticut (7) Kerry
Maryland (10) Kerry
New York (31) Kerry
Vermont (3) Kerry
Rhode Island (4) Kerry
Illinois (21) Kerry
Massachusetts (12) Kerry
District of Columbia (3) Kerry -- (190 definite votes for Kerry)
*There is that item on the Colorado ballot to change the state's electoral vote winnings from a winner-take-all standard to a proportional distribution, effective this election. If that passes, then Bush would most likely get 5 and Kerry would get 4, changing the final outcome to Bush 272 and Kerry 266.
My Prediction: I never understood why political types make predictions. If you're right, nobody cares. If you're wrong, people hold it over your head forever.
Now for Something Completely Different: A trained dog saves a woman's life by dialing 911 and barking for help. The Rottweiler used its nose to hit the speed-dial button, then removed the handset and barked continuously in the receiver. The dog also unlocked the door for the police. Money quote:
"I sensed there was a problem on the other end of the 911 call," said dispatcher Jenny Buchanan. "The dog was too persistent in barking directly into the phone receiver. I knew she was trying to tell me something."I'm assuming the dispatcher must have grown up watching Lassie reruns. I wonder if the police were originally dispatched for a young boy trapped in a well on a farm, or something.
Please Disregard: According to Drudge, ABC News soon will be showing a terrorist video threatening massive attacks that dwarf the destruction of 9/11 -- as punishment for electing Bush as president.
I appreciate that the terrorists are reminding everybody that we have an evil enemy in need of being destroyed. However, we should not kowtow to their demands, either by voting for Kerry in fear or voting for Bush out of spite. Every American should disregard any "advice" from terrorists and continue to vote as already planned.
As I've said before, the reason terrorists want to help Kerry win isn't because they think he would go easy on them. They simply want to influence the American elections, like they did in Spain, as a demonstration of power. Both Bush and Kerry have pledged to destroy the terrorist networks. And I have confidence that both men will stand by their word.
On a side note, it is interesting that terrorists have released this video, giving a vague threat instead of carrying out an attack. It almost seems like they don't have the capability to follow through with an actual attack, so they sent out a vid instead. Still, I do expect some sort of attack to occur within the next few days. I hope I'm wrong.
Stay Out: The Russian and Italian presidents have openly endorsed Bush. The Spanish and Venezuelan chief executives are openly supporting Kerry. All around the world, an unprecedented number of foreign leaders are offering their two cents worth in the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
With all do respect, foreign leaders should keep their mouths shut. It is diplomatically inappropriate for national leaders to try to meddle with any other country's election, even through a simple endorsement.
This election is going down to the wire. We truly don't know whether Bush or Kerry will be taking the oath of office in January. While I'm sure foreign leaders have strong opinions on the matter, they should maintain the public appearance that they are just as willing to work with one man as president as the other.
Cursed Worst: Now more than ever, it's gotta suck to be a Cubs fan.
Way to go, Red Sox! Hopefully this will keep you quiet for the next 85 years. :)
Endorsement: I'm breaking new ground this Election Day. For the first time ever I'm going to vote for a major-party candidate for president. Last time I chose Nader, not because I agree with his views but because I was hoping to help him reach 5-percent so maybe we could grow some viable third parties. Before that I chose Perot for the same reason.
This time, though, too much is on the line. First of all, I probably contributed to the election fiasco of 2000 by wimping out and not making a real decision. And now that we're at war, we need to pick a commander-in-chief who will best fight that war. That's why I'm going to vote for George W. Bush for a second term as president.
For regular readers of this blog (both of you) this doesn't come a big surprise. While I won't try to defend everything Bush stands for or has done while in office, I do believe he's done a great job as president.
Since 9/11, Bush has put our team on offense and put the terrorists on the run. We turned Afghanistan from a Taliban stronghold controlled by Osama Bin Laden to a free country that just held its first democratic elections. Terrorists are hiding in caves on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, unable to find a home to coordinate their global terrorist attacks effectively.
Now that our spies and allies (and we still have many, despite what others try to say) are helping us continue to round up Al Qaeda and other terrorists, we decided to finish the job in Iraq by removing Saddam Hussein from power and planting the seed of democracy there to help change the culture of the Middle East. This is an endeavor that won't spring immediate results, but it will make our country and indeed the world safer in the long run.
Bush has been able to conduct operations that lead to immediate tactical victories while also setting the wheels in motion for long-term change. Bush has a vision about how we can wage this war and make the world a safer place, and I'm impressed by what he is accomplishing.
I do disagree with Bush on many issues, including his opposition to same-sex marriage and stem-cell research. But right now the war is the most important issue facing us. The Federal Marriage Amendment will not pass, so I can rationalize that away. Stem-cell research will continue without federal support. And Bush simply will not be able to harm other liberal causes, such as abortion rights.
I would be open to removing Bush for a viable opponent. But I just don't see that in John Kerry. I want my president to be resolute and firm. It's not so much that Kerry flip-flops, it's that he never really takes a strong stand. He always chooses his positions in such a way so that he has a quick exit strategy from his own beliefs. His evolution from advocating the removal of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction to claiming that the Iraq war was a distraction is a textbook example of political pandering. When the war became unpopular, he echoed that sentiment on cue, despite his past beliefs.
Yes, I wish that the war had gone better. I wish that we had made no mistakes. But no war ever goes perfectly.
What I can't stand the most is the hatred coming from Bush's opponents. The "Anybody But Bush" crowd really believes that our president is an evil man who is recklessly blowing up people for oil and wants to bring about some sort of fascist state in this country. I can't trust the irrational hatred of those people, and I don't want to put them in charge.
This was not a war of choice. We were attacked, and we will be attacked again, no matter how successful we are. Our enemies want to create a world-wide Islamofascist state, to remove women from schools and public life by hiding them in burqas, to prevent people from having the choice to read and do what they please, and to destroy any wealth and prosperity that others enjoy. These are barbarians who want to bring down our society. I don't think they'll be successful. But I want to make sure by keeping Bush in charge so we can defeat them.
P.S. No, this doesn't make me a Republican, a conservative, or any other predetermined status. This makes me a single-issue voter. I'm still a staunch moderate, for the reasons outlined in the "about" section. And I pledge that whoever wins on November 2 will get my unwavering support as well as my scrupulous critiques.
Flip-Flop? During this campaign, I've become a big fan of Christopher Hitchens and his articles. He is a liberal who has been able to articulate a hawkish stance with powerful evidence and rhetoric. So, like many others, I was curious to see which candidate he would endorse.
Apparently he embodies the national mood right now, because he can't seem to make a decision.
He wrote an article for The Nation entitled "Why I'm (Slightly) for Bush". Then in Slate, he joined other contributors in offering a couple paragraphs explaining how he plans to vote. And there he chose Kerry.
The funny thing about both contributions, if you read the text without reading the headline, you wouldn't know for sure who he supports. Maybe he's being purposely ambiguous. Maybe he can't make up his mind. Or maybe we could just use two better candidates.
Dismissive: We don't expect many newspapers' opinion sections to endorse Bush over Kerry this year, considering that most editorial writers lean left. But I don't think you can just dismiss them all either.
Dick Cheney tried to do that when asked on the "Today" show about The Washington Post's endorsement of Kerry. Cheney responded, "I don't deem The Post a friendly paper."
Normally that could fly, but The Post has been a strong ally of the administration, from news reporters breaking stories about Rathergate to the opinion section supporting Bush's invasion of Iraq. While the charge of liberal bias is sometimes true, you can't use that response against all your critics, because some of them were your friends.
Info: This Web page, MyPollingSite.com, not only tells how to find your polling place, it also lets you easily find out what all is going to be on your ballot. Newspapers don't usually publish that until the Sunday before Election Day, forcing you to quickly cram information about a possible state constitutional amendment you didn't even know existed. Looks like a good resource.
Nightmare Election: This race is gearing to be as close as in 2000, but with one little twist -- both sides believe that if the wrong guy wins, the world will essentially come to an end.
Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post calls it Pre-Election Anxiety Disorder. People are literally losing sleep, waking from nightmares, and having trouble focussing at work [You sometimes let your political blogging interfere with your work. -ed --That's true, but ... Hey! This blog doesn't have an editor. Who the hell are you?] Ahem. Some people are close to losing their minds over this election.
It's true that we're at war and we have run into some difficulty not only executing the ground war but also gathering credible intelligence to protect ourselves. But both candidates have vowed to fight the terrorists. And both candidates have indicated that they have no plans to launch any more pre-emptive strikes against any countries. The difference is mostly over tactics and priorities. While we should pay close attention to the candidates' proposed tactics and decide which we support, we don't need to blow the differences out of proportion.
Still, that doesn't prevent hand wringing on both sides. Liberals are concerned that four more years of President Bush will bring the collapse of freedom in the United States, or worse. We've already seen what four years of Bush will bring. In the face of terrible crises, things have gone surprisingly well. If you're not satisfied, then vote for Kerry, but don't invent some terrible dooms-day scenario if Bush takes the oath of office again.
On the other hand, conservatives fear that Kerry will try to appease the terrorists and turn all our foreign policy decisions to France. Not only would Kerry not do that, but also he wouldn't have that power as president. While I do question some of his priorities, I will never question his dedication to wanting to protect this country from others.
In past elections, apathy has always been the main concern. Now the opposite is true. It's true that only half of eligible voters plan to actually visit the polling booth next Tuesday. But that half seems to worry disproportionately about the results.
Remember, apathy is a good thing. Apathy is usually a sign that life is stable and that things are moving along just fine. And apathy also is crucial to a democracy. In a 50-50 country, people need to care little enough so they don't try to stage a revolt if their guy loses. So I encourage everyone to vote, but then head to the bars for a drink, and remember that no matter who wins, we're going to be just fine. [You almost sound like you're trying to convince yourself. -ed --Get out of here. You're fired.]
Chosen People: While most of the world would vote for a Kerry presidency if they could, Bush does have at least one ally left -- Israel. An opinion poll found that most Israelis strongly support Bush for a second term. Conversely, Palestinians back Kerry.
While Bush has backed up his vocal support for Israel with strong actions, some people have openly questioned Kerry's commitment to the Jewish state. Much of this is unfounded Republican accusation, but even The Washington Post ran a column (thanks Centerfield) saying Israel may be a President Kerry's bargaining chip to get more allies involved in Iraq. The column comes across as wildly speculative, and Kerry has consistently says he supports Israel.
But it's a reminder that no matter what we do, good or bad, a large segment of the Middle East will hate us because of our sponsorship of Israel's right to exist. Of course, that's not Israel's fault, that's the fault of our enemies and their anti-Semitism. While it's a difficult balance to address the concerns of Arab leaders without neglecting Israel, that country is a stronger ally than a liability. It's also the most successful democracy in the Middle East at a time when we need freedom to flourish there in order to defeat terrorism.
Swingin': It's fun to travel to swing states so close to Election Day. I finally get to see in person what I've been reading in the news, the barrage of attack ads by both Kerry and Bush. But what interested me most were not the ads for national elections, but for the local ones here in Colorado.
On Monday, between the time that the Red Sox-Yankees game ended and Fox Sports put on the remainder of the Astros-Cardinals game, I must have seen six political ads and one Kia ad. The ads against Pete Coors actually say, "His beer is great, but his views are hard to swallow." And after viewing one particular ad, I feel compelled to vote against Amendment 34. Apparently the amendment is meant to help this one lawyer get rich by allowing him to file a whole bunch of lawsuits that will hurt the poor and needy -- at least that's what the commercial says.
And on the national scene, I had never heard this before, but now CNN is advertising that it is number one among undecided voters. Why would you ever brag about that?
Well, it's been busy as hell here, and I'm still on East Coast time. Time for bed.
Evil Empire: Hardly anyone likes the Yankees. Even here in Denver, the crowd in the bar lit up when the Red Sox won the game, tying the series after rallying from three games behind. You can bet that most of the nation is behind them this year.
Remote Location: I'll be traveling for a conference this week. Blogging may be light, but I'll try to pop in now and again.
Back in Action: At least seven former detainees of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that the U.S. released from prison have again joined the terrorists who threaten us and our troops.
If you wonder why we still have foreign prisoners at Gitmo, it's because this War on Terrorism is far from being over.
Let Dogs Lie: The latest bickering in this election seems to be over which campaign is lying more. Some people have tried to quantify both the number and severity of the lies. I'm not going to try to tip the scales in either direction. I do, however, want to point out that both campaigns are getting called liars even when they are making legitimate political points.
For example, people say President Bush is lying when he charges that Senator Kerry's "global test" amounts to giving other countries a veto over our security. Critics rightfully point out that Kerry has said loud and clear that he won't give any other country such a veto.
But that's not where the story ends. Kerry has also said that he wants to form a "legitimate coalition" for Iraq and other endeavors. Yet he has not adequately explained at what point he would draw the line between "going it alone" and waiting for others. He criticizes Bush for rushing to war in Iraq, even though the president spent months pleading with France, Russia, and the rest of the U.N. to commit to force. When it was obvious that they would not come along, we went to war with a small coalition that supported us.
Kerry needs to make it clear what he would have done differently. If he would have spent years and years negotiating with the U.N., that's essentially giving other countries a veto over our military. If he would have waited a couple months longer and gone on without the U.N., then his position is essentially no different than Bush's. Kerry can't have it both ways.
On the other side, political observers have called Kerry a liar, too, because he repeats the refrain that Bush wants to bring back the draft. Bush has said time and time again that we will keep an all-volunteer military. But we are at war. The attack on this country on 9/11 cost more lives and destruction than what happened at Pearl Harbor. And there was a draft for World War II (enacted shortly before we entered the war). It's perfectly plausible to think that we may need one again to protect this country from Islamofascists. It may not be apparent now, but Kerry is right to warn us that it could happen later.
There are other examples, too -- from Bush claiming that Kerry will raise everybody's taxes while Kerry denies it, and Kerry claiming that Bush will privatize Social Security while Bush denies it. It's true that politicians often lie about their opponents' positions. But don't forget that politicians also lie and exaggerate about their own positions as well. And both candidates are right to call out the other when they think it happens.
In the Homestretch: Head to head, there's no competition this year. The presidential debate knocked out the most anticipated rematch between classic rivals duking it out in baseball's American League playoffs.
I don't know how this compares to previous contests, but 51.2-million viewers tuned in to watch politicians make semi-coherent jokes about their wives, and only 15.2-million chose to watch the Red Sox take on the Yankees to see who goes to the World Series.
There are also reports that cities are being flooded with voter registration requests by people who generally don't vote. Some of these requests are even legitimate.
The war, the emotion, and the closeness in the polls are setting this election apart from most others. And because of all the new voters coming in, pollsters may not be able to accurately determine who is a likely voter, since they generally gauge that by voting patterns in the past. With all these wildcards, I wonder if it's possible to predict the outcome ahead of time.
I don't know about you, but I plan on finding one of those bipartisan bars here in DC on election night and watch the show as the returns come in. It's turning out to be one hell of a game.
Politics as Usual: That debate was dull, uneventful, uninspiring, and largely unimportant. Moderator Bob Schieffer kept asking questions about problems the President of the United States can do little to nothing to solve: cost of health care, job creation, flu shots, economic growth, etc. One of the few issues brought up that the president can make a difference is Social Security, and both candidates ducked that one.
The most important domestic issue that the president can control is federal spending. And at this point, we don't have any reason to trust either one of them to balance the budget. For voters, the debate will largely come down to which candidate made the best self-depreciating joke regarding his wife.
It was still strange how often foreign affairs came up in a debate that was supposed to focus solely on domestic issues. But the two are inextricably tied. Our success in foreign affairs determines our security at home.
And the Bush campaign wasn't too happy that Kerry kept emphasizing that Dick Cheney has a (cue Jon Stewart's voice) GAY DAUGHTER! I guess the Democrats hoping some Republican bigots will be so shocked that they'll stay home on Election Day.
As for the candidate's arguments, I'm still tired of Kerry comparing today's economic situation to that of the 1990s. That period of rapid economic growth was an anomaly caused by a hyperactive technology sector. When that cooled, before President Bush took office, we went into a recession. Yet Kerry says it's Bush's fault that we went from a deficit to a surplus that same year, even though Bush wasn't even president when the economy took a downturn.
Now Kerry says growing the economy again like in the 90s will save Social Security. Alan Murray, the "Raging Moderate" at The Wall Street Journal, says that's like planning your family budget by expecting to win the lottery.
However, Kerry was right to nail Bush on his plan to let today's workers take money out of Social Security for private investments. That would destroy the program and drive up the debt by trillions of dollars in order to pay for the current beneficiaries.
On the minimum wage issue, Kerry clearly won. The senator laid out a case arguing that the real value of the minimum wage is too low. Bush countered that he supported a minimum wage increase, but said nothing as to why it didn't pass while he was president. Then he started talking about No Child Left Behind.
While Bush seemed a little quick to change subjects to education, he's right to link job opportunity with education opportunity. The more educated and productive people here are, the more jobs will come here from overseas. Right now we're insourcing more jobs than we're outsourcing, and we can keep doing that if we make education more accessible to everybody.
It's strange that Bush ducked the affirmative action issue by talking about Pell Grants. Bush has a solid record of supporting affirmative action with his own policies (take a look at his Cabinet). But it's not popular among Republicans, so Bush changed the subject.
So that's the end of that. Kerry seems to be getting a lot of momentum in the polls from the debates. And time's running out.
Still, I have a feeling that something is still going to happen, perhaps a terrorist attack here at home, that could render all this moot. We'll just see how the voters react to it.
Mental Handicap: Kevin Drum has been spreading rumors for some time that Bush may be suffering from a debilitating mental condition that causes him to mispronounce nuclear and make other verbal gaffes. His evidence? Nuggets of Bush speaking during the debate against Ann Richards for the gubernatorial race. Bush seems comfortable speaking in public, not hesitating before he gets to a big word or complicated thought. Not like the reputation he has now. Mr. Drum even links to a site that purports to quote a doctor who concludes that Bush is suffering from "pre-senile dementia". All that's missing is John Kerry popping up and saying that he approved the message.
Nevermind the fact that Bush's answers in the gubernatorial debate sound like typical canned campaign slogans. The truth is, I'll bet you could find a couple instances of Bush stumbling in the 1994 debate and compare it to a strong statement in the 2004 debate and say he's improved.
But to answer the accusation, yes, Bush has become less comfortable speaking after he ran for president. Before, he could mispronounce words and nobody would think anything of it -- because we all do that from time to time. Now he knows any misstep will be replayed ad nauseam on CNN. I'm sure he has been warned time and time again by his staff not to make any flubs, because that will overshadow anything else he says. John Kerry can make verbal gaffes without being crucified, and he does (his cross to bear is he can't even seem like he has changed his mind on an issue, ever, without getting slammed by the media -- something Bush does not have to worry about).
The truth is, we hold politicians to impossible standards. Bush mispronounces words, and he's considered a moron. Gore never mispronounces anything -- from years of political experience -- and he's called robotic. Kerry tries to appear presidential, and people say he's elitist. Clinton comes across as suave and clear, and he gets the nickname "Slick Willy".
If you want to know why it's hard to find quality candidates for office, it's because all the good ones are smart enough to stay out of that mess. Otherwise political opponents might start bringing up mistakes you made when you were 18 years old.
Case in point, Texas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions joined a group of hundreds of college kids in 1974 in a streaking stunt. Yes, a future conservative Republican got naked -- when he was 18. His Democratic rival, Martin Frost, is trying to make the stunt a campaign issue. That's what happens when people like Frost are losing in the polls 50 percent to 44 percent.
Media Rules: Michael Moore has been showing a lot of ads for movie Fahrenheit 9/11 now that it has come out on DVD. But there's something different from these ads compared to the ones he ran when the movie was in the theaters: No pictures of President Bush. As Election Day approaches, we won't get to see yet another clip of him standing on a golf course saying, "Now watch this drive."
That's because the McCain-Feingold law on campaign finance reform places strong restrictions on political ads. The law severely limits how groups can run ads close to an election that mention the name or show an image of a candidate.
While I don't agree with much that Michael Moore says, he should be allowed to say what he thinks about the president or any presidential candidate -- especially on television. But McCain-Feingold limits his freedom of speech.
The law puts more power into the hands of the media and less in the hands of people. We don't need to give more power to media powerhouses like Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which is forcing its 62 television stations around the country to run a movie that attacks Kerry's Vietnam record. Democrats want an investigation to see whether this violates campaign-finance law. But instead of restricting more speech, we should let more people participate in political debate by letting them air their concerns on television to set the record straight.
UPDATE: I originally overexaggerated my case. I fixed the language to make it more accurate.
White Conqueror's Day: Every day should be a government holiday. While I assume most normal people don't get Columbus Day off (I'm sure few are even aware it's today -- Google doesn't even have a Google-Doodle for today), federal government workers get a three-day weekend. Here in Washington, DC, that means almost everybody is gone.
Except for me, of course. But I still get to enjoy the day nonetheless. The Beltway was free of traffic for my drive home this morning. I didn't almost get run over as often as usual on M Street during my bike ride to work. And there was no line at Subway for lunch.
Funny, whether it's because of budget impasses or obscure holidays, life just seems better when the government shuts down.
Dred Scott? Judging from what I've seen on the Internets, most people think Bush did better this time at Friday's debate while Kerry still held on to his edge. Neither candidate apparently gained much from the exchange.
I was disappointed. This debate lacked the substance of the last confrontation. I watched it with my girlfriend, who disagrees with me on the Iraq issue, and we were articulating more informative arguments than Bush and Kerry during their debate.
Bush was a bit too excited early on. He wanted to appear more aggressive, but he just came across as hyper. I half expected one of his aids to come out and put an Abu Ghraib leash on him to keep him under control. The SAT word of the night: "facile", describing how he wants to improve the military. Not as many syllables as "vociferously", but we can tell Bush is still trying to shake off his dummy reputation.
Kerry seemed adequately sedated. But he was just a downer to listen to. I found myself dreading his moments to speak. After Bush would tell us what great things we're going to accomplish, Kerry would attempt to shoot everything down and convince the audience that everything is going horribly wrong.
I understand that Kerry is the challenger and that he has to criticize the incumbent to convince voters to change presidents. But some politicians have a knack of criticizing the current situation while staying optimistic. Kerry doesn't know how to do that. And I think that turns a lot of people off.
Instead, Kerry just declares that the crucial and historic work President Bush has done is failing and is the wrong path to take. Kerry tells everyone that he can do better because he has "a plan". Unfortunately, he never gives the specifics of any of his plans. He'll tell you the goals, like getting more allies in Iraq and reducing U.S. troop levels (both of which won't happen), but he never explains how he will accomplish this, other than claim to do what Bush is already doing.
Sure, there's plenty to be negative about. Things are not going as well as we would like. But I don't hold it against the president to try to stay optimistic. Bush talks about what we can do. Kerry talks about what we can't do. Confidence tends to rub off on people for the better.
By the end of the debate, we didn't learn anything new, and my girlfriend had already fallen asleep. I don't expect any surprises in the next debate, considering they'll be arguing over the same domestic issue politicians have argued about for generations. But it will be the last time they'll have a chance to connect with voters directly before the election. Hopefully some of them will stay awake.
Refocus: It all comes back to Iran. We apparently are not the only ones concerned with that country's development of nuclear weapons and other WMD. Saddam Hussein felt threatened by his neighbor, and he wanted to appear as if he had more WMD than he really did.
Also, Iranian intelligent officers have already been caught in Iraq guiding the terrorist insurgency and working with Al Qaeda.
Despite all the ties to Iran, that country and its activities were barely touched upon during the presidential debate that focused on foreign policy.
The focus instead is on whether the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. The lack of WMD in Iraq undercuts Bush's reasoning for the invasion. It wasn't the only reason he gave, but it's the one that convinced Americans that we had no time to waste.
Now we find out that Saddam Hussein was bluffing. He hoped that our belief that he had WMD would act as a deterrent rather than an instigator. He was gravely mistaken.
It was commonly held before the invasion that Iraq had WMD. Now that the conventional wisdom has been proven wrong, critics are blaming Bush, as if he made up the whole idea. I'm sorry, but if a crazy man says he has a gun and begins threatening others, police are right to shoot him, even if he only had a water pistol.
And for those of you criticizing Bush for not connecting the dots in time to prevent 9/11, you have no standing to condemn Bush for invading Iraq, given the intelligence that was available at the time.
Plus, the unfolding UN oil-for-food scam shows that many of our allies were accepting bribes from Saddam Hussein to let him ignore the sanctions. Russia, France and China -- all on the Security Council -- were the top three benefactors of Saddam Hussein's bribes. Despite what Kerry says, they are the real coalition of the coerced and the bribed.
The fact remains that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous dictator in the Middle East who sponsored international terrorism and continued to pose a threat to the region.
People say we are neglecting Al Qaeda. That's not true. We are continuing to pursue Al Qaeda. After they lost their home base in Afghanistan under Taliban protection, they scattered like cockroaches. Many are holed up in the mountainous region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Others have fled to other countries. They aren't carrying out their operations from one country anymore. So we can't pursue them using our military without declaring war on several countries at once. This is mostly an intelligence and special-forces operation, which is under way.
Also, Al Qaeda is not one cohesive organization all under the same structural leadership. Osama Bin Laden is a spiritual leader who also provides finances and offers some ideas. But most of the group's funding comes from a network of shady business, phony charitable groups, corrupt governments, and other fundraising methods. The cells that have been carrying out further terrorist attacks in Asia and Europe are run by autonomous offshoots of Al Qaeda that use the name because they support the similar goal.
I have always argued that the war in Iraq was justified mostly because Saddam Hussein has ties to terrorism and has broken the cease-fire terms he agreed to so he wouldn't have been removed from power after he invaded the sovereign country of Kuwait. But mostly, I believe that in order to win the War on Terrorism, we need to change the culture of the Middle East by planting the seed of democracy, capitalism, and freedom in that region. Because of Saddam Hussein's multiple misdeeds, Iraq was the perfect candidate to launch phase two of the war.
The WMD factor gave the invasion urgency. We already waited 12 years while Saddam Hussein played games with the inspectors. We then waited several more months while we pleaded for the United Nations to enforce its own resolutions. We had no reason to wait anymore.
With the new findings, critics will argue that we should have waited so inspectors could have sought the truth. But we tried that game for long enough. While a few more years maybe wouldn't have hurt, we would have had to deal with the problem eventually.
And Saddam Hussein admits that he was trying to end sanctions and restart his weapons program. So later on we would have had a much bigger problem on our hands.
In short, we did good. Despite your personal feelings toward President Bush, we have a lot to be proud of. We've protected ourselves, we've liberated a country, and we're taking major steps toward transforming an oppressive region so it won't continue to act as an incubator of hatred and terrorism that launches attacks against many people in the world. Now it's time to focus on the next step of the war.
P.S. I'll be watching the debates tonight, but I have no computer at home to blog a reaction. I'll post something on Monday. Have a good weekend.
Primary Colors: Lots of people are expressing their cynicism regarding the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded Terror Alert. I can see why Jon Stewart or Jay Leno would make fun of what is essentially a terrorist-threat mood ring. But some people really believe the alert system is just a political tool for the Bush administration.
Frederick Maryland started a pool a few weeks ago attempting to predict when the whole country would be put on Orange Alert (He picked October 4, but no money was wagered). The expectation is that Bush needs to scare people to remind the voters that he's commander in chief of a nation at war.
Kevin Drum found a study that determined that Bush gets a 2.75-percent increase in his approval rating whenever the alert level is raised. That bump lasts for about a week, then comes back down. That leads Mr. Drum to confidently predict that the alert level will be raised within a week before Election Day. I criticized the cynicism in his comment section, and of course Mr. Drum's extremist entourage began lobbing profane insults at me. I have a lot of respect for Kevin Drum and his opinions. I have hardly any respect for his commenters. They are an embarrassment to everything he believes in.
Then of course there was Michael Moore, who went so far as to call the Orange Alert "fictition". The guy is a moron.
The truth is, we know the terrorists like to coordinate their attacks with elections (ie, Spain). And we know that they desperately want to influence the elections in the United States. That's not because they prefer John Kerry to George W. Bush. It's because they want to show their power by changing the results of the presidential elections.
It should be common knowledge that the terrorists are going to try something just before the election. It would be irresponsible of the Bush administration NOT to raise the terror alert level before Election Day. Sure, they won't mind the insignificant political bounce, but they still have a job to do while in office.
Whenever the alert level is changed, it means something. My building beefs up security, bringing in extra guards and only allowing people with pass keys to enter. And fire, rescue, and police organizations across the country undergo substantial staffing and procedural changes when the alert level is raised. While many people don't pay the alert status any mind, others depend on it. The color-coded system is the most effective way to get the word out.
When the terrorist alert is raised, it's fine for opponents to remind people that this is no reason to give Bush another four years. But to publicly accuse him of doing it purely for political reasons is ridiculous. Critics say Bush is just spreading fear. But his critics do the same thing. Terrorists have already attacked us and killed 3,000 Americans. Bush warns us to fear the terrorists. His opponents tell us to fear Bush. One warning has more credibility than the other.
Sic 'im, John: We shouldn't be hearing any more questions regarding whether John Edwards can be an effective attack dog. Although the North Carolina senator has been strangely quiet this campaign, he spoke up loudly for the VP debate.
Edwards gave a superior performance over Dick Cheney, in my opinion. Both candidates were well spoken, knowledgeable, and aggressive. But Edwards added that extra bit of charm and directness that I think people look for in their elected officials.
Cheney, on the other hand, gave some compelling testimony, but his message wasn't always as clear. His use of facts and figures often seemed muddled compared to Edwards, who seemed Dubya-esque in his clarity.
The vice president also seemed to avoid debate. On more than one occasion he passed up a chance to speak an extra 30 seconds to drive his point home, even after Edwards spent 30 seconds eviscerating him and his running mate.
On the substantive level, both men did fine, for the most part. I agree with Cheney on Iraq. The domestic issues, discussed in a debate for the first time, are trickier.
I'm tired of the Kerry-Edwards argument that Bush is responsible for the downturn in the economy that started before he took office. That's a huge turnoff for me. But the Democrats should keep hammering the Republicans for their lack of fiscal responsibility. Although the deficits aren't in an emergency situation yet, they're heading that direction.
Cheney made it abundantly clear, if not explicitly in words, that he disagrees with his boss on the same-sex marriage issue. As well he should, because Bush's position is indefensible. Although I disagree with Kerry-Edwards' opposition to same-sex marriage, I respect their politically expedient decision not to advocate it now, and to fight back against the idea of amending the Constitution to introduce bigotry and homophobia.
The best performer of this debate, however, had to be the moderator, Gwenn Ifill. She was able to make her presence known just enough to call the candidates out when they screwed up without drawing too much attention to herself. Other than that little flub at the end when she gave Edwards a free 15 seconds, she did great.
But overall, nothing happened that was big, controversial, or even new. The biggest surprise came at the bottom of the screen when CNN's scroll informed us that Rodney Dangerfield had died. The debates, however, continued without even a moment of silence. That man gets no respect.
UPDATE: Apparently Cheney's most successful jab, telling Sen. Edwards that they had never met before that night, was not true.
That's points off for Cheney. But Edwards should also be penalized for failing to call Cheney on the misinformation immediately. If Edwards couldn't remember that he met the vice president three times in the past, then we can give Cheney a pass for forgetting as well.
Cheney's point that Edwards had a bad attendance record still holds. But that doesn't mean much. Plus, Cheney said that, as president of the Senate, he showed up most Tuesdays. That doesn't sound like a stellar attendance record either. Of course, the vice president's role of being in charge of the Senate is largely ceremonial -- except in his tie-breaking capacity -- so he would be more productive elsewhere.
Lessons Learned: Remember when school districts were pushing to scale back PE, art, and music classes to leave more room for more reading, writing, and arithmetic? Now it appears all of that has backfired. Studies have already shown that students who participate in art and music excel at academics more so than their artless peers. Now experts are tracing the rise in child obesity to the lack of physical education in schools. Just an hour or two of PE noticeably reduces obesity among children, especially girls.
Wrath of God: Workers who were repairing a house that had been damaged by a tornado found a stash of child pornography. Authorities immediately arrested the man, who had a truckload of sexually explicit pictures and computer images of children. Score one for the tornado.
Dodging Controversy: Canadians have nixed plans to build a bronze monument honoring American draft dodgers of the Vietnam War. Apparently when the plans for the monument were announced, angry Americans threatened to boycott Nelson, British Columbia, where the memorial was to be erected.
That's a shame. I wouldn't mind seeing something dedicated to draft dodgers. They're not nearly as brave as the veterans who risked their lives in battle. But they do represent an American spirit of demonstration and dissent that is crucial to our society.
The era surrounding the Vietnam War was a difficult time for all Americans. Although we had good intentions of containing communism and supporting democracy, the war eventually became a mismanaged quagmire, and thousands of Americans died as a result. While some people still can find positives from our involvement, the idea of the war is widely considered a mistake.
Draft dodgers like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush helped end a misguided war by refusing to fight. They saved other men's lives as a result. And for that, they should be honored.
Debate on the Debate: Last night had to be the best presidential debate I've ever seen. That's probably because the candidates actually had something important to talk about and a message to convey. There were clear differences about a major problem that has to be addressed in the next term.
Polls indicate that Kerry is the perceived winner. I agree, simply because he was able to hold his own quite well as the challenger. Undecideds who are tuning into the campaign for the first time were probably very impressed by their first meeting of Kerry.
We can also dispense with both stereotypes about Bush being a moron and a figurehead and Kerry being a long-winded, flip-flopping bore. Bush sounded intelligent and knowledgeable. He intentionally kept dropping names of foreign leaders to show that he has a grasp at what's going on around the world. And he even used several SAT words, including "vociferously". He did make up the word "trans-shipment", but we can let that slide.
And Kerry was clear, concise, and resolute. From what I recall, his red light never started blinking to tell him he had gone over his time limit. He had a strong message, and he delivered it clearly.
The candidates had a few aesthetic faults. On the split screen, Bush looked flustered at times, and Kerry had the problem of nodding while Bush was criticizing him.
Bush kept repeating certain phrases, which is usually a good way to drive a point home. But he kept saying that the War on Terrorism is "hard work". It's good to remind people that we can't defeat terrorism, overthrow dictatorships, and create democracies over a weekend. But repeating how hard the work is sounds like Bush is whining and might not be up for the job.
Bush also kept criticizing Kerry for saying that the war in Iraq was "the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time". Bush said that so much that some people might associate that phrase with the war itself. On the other hand, one CNN pundit (I think it was Wolf) after the debate repeated that phrase and attributed it to Kerry. Although Kerry has been saying that repeatedly on the campaign trail, he never actually said it during the debate.
Now, I agree with Bush on the foreign affairs issue, so on a substantive level, naturally, I think Bush carried the day. He did a good job ripping on Kerry for wanting to gauge a "global test" before committing troops to war. Bush countered that we fight when we need to protect this nation.
Bush should have jumped on Kerry's insistence on "global summits". The terrorists have declared war on us. Bush wants to fight an offensive battle, and Kerry wants to conduct meetings.
Also, I'm tired of Kerry saying that the war in Iraq cost billions of dollars when the money could have been used for domestic programs and health care. We're at war, and that war will cost money. If the war were Kerry's number-one priority, he wouldn't be making such inane arguments.
And although Kerry stayed somewhat consistent during the debate, he still has to make up for his constant wavering on the campaign trail. And Bush delivered the best line of the night, pointing out that Kerry is trying to have it both ways, openly mocking the decision to invade Iraq and claiming he can magically get more allies to join us in the fight:
So what's the message going to be: "Please join us in Iraq. We're a grand diversion. Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time?"We've still got a lot of campaigning to do. It's going to be interesting.