Sunday, October 31, 2004

1-866-OUR-VOTE That's the number to call (toll-free) to report polling place incompetence, election law misapplication and voter intimidation. Lawyers are standing by.

Spread the word.

Friday, October 29, 2004

SNEAK PEEK A pair of Halliburton execs watching the latest Bin Laden tape?

No, the image below is actually a still shot from the set of THE BOX, a short film based on a play by CONTRAPOSITIVE editor Dan Aibel, with a script he adapted for the screen.

Photo by David Faithful.

Mark Rimer and Ralph Guzzo on the set of THE BOX.

The film, which was shot in Los Angeles this summer, is currently in what the cool kids call "post-production."

SUPER DUPER TUESDAY One of the things that's frustrating about televised election night coverage is that, after spending months and months focusing almost exclusively on the horse race, the networks do an abysmal job of reporting that race's results.

And here I'm talking not just 2000: On election night in each of the last several cycles, the broadcast and cable networks have in large measure steered clear of the untelegenic but journalistically crucial work of number crunching and data analysis, prefering instead to focus on "trends" and to gossip about the outcome's implications for the future.

At CONTRAPOSITIVE, posting on Tuesday will likely be sporadic during the day. In the evening, the plan is to open up threads relating to several topics (e.g. PRESIDENTIAL RACE, TENENBAUM vs. DeMINT, etc.) and to update those threads as the evening unfolds.

To be sure, we will be consulting our near-empty rolodex of media and political contacts throughout the night in an effort to get the inside scoop and pass it along.

But the site's focus will be on the kind of raw results that the networks are likely to spend most of the evening downplaying and misunderstanding.

Not sure how it will all work out, but for now that's the plan.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

CONGRATS RED SOX FANS On the other hand: Michael Bérubé, looking a gift horse in the mouth, wonders whether this kind of psychic release is truly in Red Sox nation's long-term best interests.

ACROSS THE AISLE In staunchly conservative South Dakota, the latest Senate poll has Sen. Tom Daschle ahead by 2%.

The poll's margin of error is 3.5%. (Photo by Willow Lawson.)

COVERING THE BASES USA Today reports that the Democratic National Committee is buying TV ad time in Hawaii, a state the Kerry camp has thus far taken for granted. This on the heels of a statewide poll showing an even race.

(The poll also finds, puzzlingly, that 12% of Hawaii likely voters remain undecided. So the results should be viewed with at least some skepticism.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

THINKING AHEAD Why exactly has Bush campaign senior advisor Tucker Eskew started a blog, just days before the election?

A way to fill time between TV appearances? A chance to explore his little-known interest in music criticism?

Or is it instead a savvy career move by a partisan pessimistic about Bush's chances--a way to both launch the next phase of his professional life and establish "first-mover advantage" over the soon-to-be-unemployed Matthew Dowds and Ken Mehlmans of the world?

Monday, October 25, 2004

CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS FLASHBACK It was a bad idea to leave 380 tons of RDX and HMX high explosives vulnerable to looting by jihadists.

It's easy to say that in hindsight.

But was the threat of high explosives widely understood during the period when U.S. action could still have made a difference?

Here's the Los Angeles Times on April 27, 2003:

By failing to secure suspect sites, Kay and others warned, the Pentagon could not guarantee that critical blueprints, weapons parts, precursor chemicals and other valuable material have not been spirited out of the country for sale to other nations or to terrorist groups.


Terence Taylor, who heads the Washington office of the nonpartisan International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he fears there is a "real risk that certain materials could leak out" of Iraq.

He said U.S. teams have yet to recover crucial nonnuclear components from Iraq's former nuclear bomb program, including HMX high explosives and sophisticated circuitry.

"They haven't got the right people on the ground yet," said Taylor.
Even more to the point is this July 5, 2003 piece from The Washington Times:
Some of the [Iraqi insurgent] bombs are simple devices set off with a nine-volt battery, the former Iraqi military officer said. But he--and coalition analysts--fear that the more powerful weapons now being deployed have been put together from munitions left behind when Iraqi soldiers abandoned their ubiquitous storage facilities during the recent war.

Sometimes, these weapons could be obtained simply by breaking locks on storage facilities and, at other times, by removing arms and grenades stored in schools and hospitals by Iraqi irregulars under Saddam.

"They're using high explosives, each comprising either a quarter--or half--kilogram of TNT or RDX," also known as cyclonite or hexogen and considered the most powerful and shattering of those high explosives. "Tie them together and attach a long wire, and they can make one heck of a bang," said the former Iraqi officer.
(Emphasis added.)

UPDATE: Josh Marshall explains why the argument being made by Matt Drudge and Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita--that the weapons were gone by the time U.S. forces arrived--doesn't hold up. Marshall's analysis continues here.

AND IN COLORADO Running for an open Senate seat against Ken Salazar, Pete Coors has triggered the "Millionaire's Amendment" provision of campaign finance law by pouring more than $571,840 of his own money into his candidacy.

Under the law, Salazar's contribution limits are automatically bumped up to $6,000 per donor--triple the normal limit--for the rest of the campaign.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

ENDORSEMENT WATCH Among the weekend endorsements noted in Editor & Publisher's Sunday update are several more defections from the Bush camp. Papers backing Kerry after supporting Bush last time:
Chicago Sun-Times
Los Angeles Daily News
Orlando Sentinel
Commercial-Appeal (Memphis, TN)
The tally of newspapers endorsing Kerry after having backed Bush in 2000 now stands at 35. (For the record, the Orlando Sentinel's endorsement marks the first time in forty years that the Florida paper has backed a Democrat.)

Meanwhile, Bush (finally) picked up a pair of crossover endorsements--from papers that supported Gore in 2000:

Columbus Dispatch
Denver Post

Friday, October 22, 2004

ELECTION NIGHT CHEAT SHEET As promised, here's your hour-by-hour guide to election night 2004.

There are bound to be at least a few mistakes and misjudgments buried in here. (Spot one? E-mail us.) On the whole, though, this run-down should give readers an idea of what to expect as the evening of November 2 unfolds.

Three preliminary notes:

1) For the purposes of this post, best-case results for a candidate are results in which he wins every state he has a realistic chance of carrying, according to recent polls.

Expected results are the results each candidate's camp is counting on to provide the margin of victory. (These numbers are based on CONTRAPOSITIVE's own research and analysis, rather than public statements by either campaign.)

Finally, the needs category refers to the totals required for each candidate to maintain a realistic chance of ultimately emerging as the winner.

2) Results in many of the battleground states will likely be slow to trickle out, and in some states it may be hours (or weeks!) until we know the winner. So the hour-by-hour tally below is very much a theoretical snapshot. The actual counting of votes is likely to be a more fluid process, especially if the numbers are close.

3) All times are EST.


58 Electoral Votes in play

Polls close in Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. (Some Florida and New Hampshire polling stations close as well.)

ANALYSIS: If it takes more than a few minutes for the networks to call Indiana or Virginia for Bush, that may bode well for John Kerry.

And if Daniel Mongiardo or Inez Tenenbaum are able to keep the numbers close in early returns from their respective Senate races in Kentucky and South Carolina, it means the Democrats have a chance of taking over the Senate.

Having learned from past mistakes, the networks are unlikely to have much to say about the early returns from New Hampshire or Florida. And CONTRAPOSITIVE doesn't expect any reputable news organizations to call the Sunshine State one way or the other till at least 8pm.

But if word trickles out that John Kerry is ahead in New Hampshire, we may be in for a long evening. By contrast, if Bush pulls ahead in that state, Florida starts to look like a "must" for Kerry.


Bush expects: 55
Bush needs: 55

Kerry best-case: 16
Kerry expects: 3
Kerry needs: 3


83 Electoral Votes in play

Polls close in Ohio and West Virginia.

ANALYSIS: This will be our first real sense of where the presidential election stands. Ohio's results may trickle in slowly, but the candidate who winds up with that state in his column will be breathing a lot easier, and the candidate who loses it will have almost no margin for error.

If Kerry winds up ahead in West Virginia, Karl Rove will be cursing the repeal of steel tariffs. The phrase "one-term president" will likely find its way into the thoughts of senior administration officials even before it passes through Dan Rather's lips.


Bush expects: 80
Bush needs: 75

Kerry best-case: 41
Kerry expects: 23
Kerry needs: 3


260 Electoral Votes in play

Polls close in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

ANALYSIS: A lot to keep track of here.

But first and foremost: If Bush wins New Jersey, it's over. Find a bad movie on cable, break out the booze, and cry yourself to sleep.

And in Pennsylvania: If Kerry is down here, it'll be wise to at least keep the booze close at hand.

Also of note: Keep an eye on the Senate race in Oklahoma--if Rep. Brad Carson is unable to give the Democrats a pick-up here, the Republicans will almost certainly retain control of the Senate.

And in Florida, Betty Castor's numbers will be another indication of where Democratic prospects for control of the Senate stand. Not quite as important as a Carson victory for Democrats, but close.

Speaking of Florida: Both candidates can win the election without picking up this state. The task is harder for Bush--especially if he doesn't win in New Hampshire.

So, to be clear: If, sometime between 8pm and 9pm, Kerry gets the call in both Ohio and Florida, it means George W. Bush is headed for the door. At that point only the Supreme Court will be able save him.


Bush best-case: 201
Bush expects: 161
Bush needs: 143

Kerry best-case: 179
Kerry expects: 150
Kerry needs: 91


281 Electoral Votes in play

Polls close in Arkansas and North Carolina.

ANALYSIS: All things being equal, if Kerry is able to keep either of these states close, the Bush team will have reason to sweat.


Bush best-case: 222
Bush expects: 182
Bush needs: 164

Kerry best-case: 190
Kerry expects: 150
Kerry needs: 112


431 Electoral Votes in play

Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska New Mexico, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

ANALYSIS: At this point, the election could be over--but only if George W. Bush has won contested states (Arkansas, Florida and Ohio) earlier in the evening. (In theory, Kerry could also wrap up the election at 9PM, but he would need to have won North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia to do it--far less likely.)

A few minutes after 9PM, though, in all likelihood, the result will still be up for grabs. All eyes will then turn to Michigan. If Kerry wins there (as polls suggest he should) attention will shift to Minnesota and New Mexico.

If the Democratic nominee has taken Pennsylvania and at least one of New Hampshire and Maine--and if things are either split or not yet decided in Ohio and Florida--the contest now enters the nailbitting phase on both sides.

Of the two toss-up states with polls closing at 9PM, Bush has the better shot in New Mexico. A win there could take him to the brink of victory.

By contrast, a Kerry upset in Colorado or Arizona would be a catastrophe for the Bush campaign. Expect smoke to pour out of the ears of conservative pundits if Republicans lose in either of those states.

If Kerry is able to build a big lead early in Minnesota, that will bode well for the Democrats in Wisconsin--which (at least if Kerry is on the plus-side) is likely to be tighter. An even race in Minnesota could be a bad sign for Kerry.

On the Senate side, with the polls closing in South Dakota and Colorado, we should have a reasonably good idea of where control of that body stands. If Tom Daschle and Ken Salazar are both able to squeak by, the Democrats should have a shot at gaining control. Without those victories, forget about it.

Finally, on the presidential front: If things remain close (which is to say, if Bush and Kerry are both near their targeted tallies of 257 and 200, respectively) you will want to keep an eye on the referendum to amend Colorado's state constitution. (Note: Totals below assume that this proposal fails.) You may not have heard much about it yet, but you might just be in for a crash course.


Bush best-case: 372
Bush expects: 257
Bush needs: 239

Kerry best-case: 279
Kerry expects: 200
Kerry needs: 181


451 Electoral Votes in play

Polls close in Iowa, Montana, Nevada and Utah.

ANALYSIS: We will probably know who the next President is sometime before 11PM--or not until December.

But even if things remain close, it's likely that one of the two camps will have lost a state it expected to win by this point. Iowa and Nevada will are the last solid opportunities for either side to pull an upset.

Unless Kerry has won both Florida and Ohio or pulled off a surprise somewhere (e.g. in Missouri, or Arkansas) earlier in the evening, he will need Iowa.

Similarly, unless President Bush has won both Florida and Ohio or pulled upsets of his own (e.g. in Michigan or Pennsylvania), Nevada will be essential for his chances.

To put it in even starker terms: If at this stage Bush doesn't have 259 actual or potential electoral votes--potential wins in states with closed polls but no clear victor--he is extraordinarily unlikely to win re-election.

If at this point Kerry has accumulated fewer than 193 actual or potential electoral votes, for Democrats it will be all over but the crying.


Bush best-case: 392
Bush expects: 276
Bush needs: 259

Kerry best-case: 291
Kerry expects: 206
Kerry needs: 193


535 Electoral Votes in play

Polls close in California, Hawaii, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington.

ANALYSIS: By now we will either have a winner, or we'll be waiting for confirmation from uncontested states. Or David Boies will be headed somewhere on a plane.

President Bush does have a chance of sneaking past Kerry in both Oregon and Washington. But if he's counting on those states for his margin of victory at 11PM, it means he's in deep, deep trouble.

On the other hand, if the election is tight all night long, we could wind up having to wait all the way until 1AM for Alaska, with the country's final three electoral votes, to seal the deal for Bush.

Not a pleasant prospect.

Also at 1AM, Democrats will find out whether Tony Knowles has given them a once-in-a-generation Senate pick-up in Alaska. Depending on what happens elsewhere, a Knowles win will either be icing on the cake, or an almost worthless consolation.


Bush best-case: 399
Bush expects: 283
Bush needs: 266

Kerry best-case: 368
Kerry expects: 294
Kerry needs: 270

[Clarification: Bush needs only 266 electoral votes at 11pm because he is sure to win Alaska's three votes later in the evening. If the night ends in a 269-269 tie, the election will be thrown into the Republican-controlled House of Representative, where Bush is likely to triumph.]


The Green Papers: 2004 Poll Closing Times.
Electoral Vote Predictor.

Find an error? E-mail us.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

CLEAR YOUR HEAD Even political junkies need a diversion now and then. To wit:

Truly adventurous theatergoers may want to check out the American premiere of Sarah Kane's 4:48 PSYCHOSIS, in a production by the Royal Court Theatre. The difficult, fragmentary piece runs Oct. 26-31 at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn.

BAD CALLS A Mets fan for twenty years, CONTRAPOSITIVE was rooting (against the Yankees) for the Red Sox last night.

But talk about bad coaching:

Bringing Pedro Martinez into the game in the seventh inning with a seven run lead ranks as one of the most inexplicable, ridiculously bone-headed managerial decisions I've ever seen.

And Red Sox third base coach Dale Sveum should have been summarily fired for waving Johnny Damon home in the first inning. Another amazingly stupid call.

The curse may have lifted last night, but the Sox earned themselves some particularly bad mojo with those two moves.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

HOSTILE TERRITORY Ryan Lizza debunks the myth coming out of the Bush camp that the closing battles of the election are being waged on Democratic turf.

Monday, October 18, 2004

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Monday that enough flu vaccine will be available for most people who need it and told seniors to stop standing in long lines to get a shot.

"We want people to relax," Thompson said at a news conference. "The flu season is not here."
(Emphasis added.)

POLL WATCH SurveyUSA has several new polls out tonight. Among the results:
Kerry 50%
Bush 49%
(net +6 for Kerry since 10/6 poll)

Kerry 47%
Bush 50%
(net +4 for Kerry since 10/5 poll)
Both polls have a margin of error of 4.1%

SENATE SITUATION Daily Kos has a nice round-up of the most competitive races. The upshot? If the election were held today, Kos sees a net gain of two seats for the Democrats.

Of course, things remain fluid--nowhere more than in the tightening Tenenbaum-DeMint race in South Carolina. Those two candidates will debate tonight at 7pm.

POLL WATCH In fifteen days, CONTRAPOSITIVE will return to a balanced diet of film recommendations, theater tips, trans fat-related diatribes, and more--the mix of political and non-political coverage you've come to know and love.

But right now, we're in the homestretch of the most important election of most of our lives. So at least for the next two weeks, that's where the focus will be.

Your patience is appreciated.


In the last couple days, a lot of attention has been paid to the latest Gallup poll--the one showing an eight percent lead for President Bush among "likely" voters. It's been used by pundits and reporters to support all sorts of wacky theories, and it's been cited widely as evidence of a Bush bounce.

CONTRAPOSITIVE's advice? Disregard the poll.

First, some context: As Andrew Sullivan has noticed, Gallup had Bush up over Gore by thirteen points on October 26, 2000. Even on November 4 of that year, Gallup was showing a five point Bush lead. And we know how that one turned out.

But more important: National polls are a distraction at this point in the process. State-by-state results are the only thing that matters--at least as long as we're saddled with the electoral college.

And on a state-by-state basis, things look just about deadlocked.

Or, to put it another way: If you know anyone in Ohio or Florida--or know people who know people--now would be the time to get on the phone.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Keep an eye out for CONTRAPOSITIVE's handy election night cheat sheet. Arriving at fine internets everywhere later this week.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

ENDORSEMENT WATCH Five more newspapers that supported Bush in 2000 have gone for Kerry:
Bradenton Herald in Florida
The Daily Camera in Colorado
The Columbia Tribune in Missouri
The Daily-Herald in Arlington Heights, Illinois
The Muskegon (MI) Chronicle
Just as interesting, three papers that endorsed Bush last time now say they will not back either candidate this time:
The Tampa Tribune in Florida
The Wichita Falls Times-Record in Texas
The Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina
The Tampa Tribune explained itself thus:
We find ourselves in a position unimaginable four years ago when we strongly endorsed for president a fiscal conservative and "moderate man of mainstream convictions'" who promised to wield military muscle only as a last resort and to resist the lure of "nation building."


We had fully expected to stand with Bush, whom we endorsed in 2000 because his politics generally reflected ours: a strong military, fiscal conservatism, personal responsibility and small government. We knew him to be a popular governor of Texas who fought for lower taxes, less government and a pro-business constitution.

But we are unable to endorse President Bush for re-election because of his mishandling of the war in Iraq, his record deficit spending, his assault on open government and his failed promise to be a "uniter not a divider" within the United States and the world.

REPORTING AND DECIDING Fox News junkies won't want to miss Joe Hagan's play-by-play account of the cable network's internal discussions just before the second presidential debate.

Hagan seems either to have done some first-rate reporting or finagled access to Fox's internal video feed--he never says which.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

ARKANSAS ON THE TABLE? It is according to a recent Zogby poll, which has President Bush over John Kerry by a measly 1.6%.

The poll, which was conducted last Sunday and Monday, has a margin of error of 4.5%.

STEWART ON THE ATTACK Jon Stewart seems to have gone more or less ballistic during his appearance on Crossfire this afternoon.

It started off slowly:

STEWART: I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.


STEWART: And I wanted to--I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't--it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America.
But things soon turned nasty:
CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I'm sorry. I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring.


CARLSON: Let me ask you a question on the news.

STEWART: Now, this is theater. It's obvious. How old are you?


CARLSON: Thirty-five.

STEWART: And you wear a bow tie...


STEWART: Now, listen, I'm not suggesting that you're not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie.


STEWART: What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. And I will tell you why I know it.

CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...


STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.


CARLSON: Well, I'm just saying, there's no reason for you -- when you have this marvelous opportunity not to be the guy's butt boy, to go ahead and be his butt boy. Come on. It's embarrassing.


STEWART: You know, the interesting thing I have is, you have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.

CARLSON: You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think.

STEWART: You need to go to one.
And finally:
STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.
UPDATE: You can watch the clip here.

Friday, October 15, 2004

TENENBAUM COMES ALIVE Inez Tenenbaum, the Democratic candidate for senate in conservative South Carolina, has pulled to within the margin of error, according to the latest SurveyUSA poll.

Tenenbaum and Republican opponent Rep. Jim DeMint will square off on Meet The Press this Sunday.

BUSH ON BIN LADEN Kevin Drum says it all. Here's the whole post:
One more quick note on Bush's Osama bin Laden gaffe. I think the most interesting question about it is: why? Why did he say it?

It's inexplicable at first glance. After all, he could have easily ignored Kerry's barb and moved on, or at worst just made a generic statement about how Osama is a top priority and always has been. Why did he specifically deny saying something that the whole world knows he's on videotape saying?

I suspect the answer lies in the cocoon Bush lives in. Not only has he convinced himself that he never really said that he wasn't concerned about Osama, but he has no idea that the outside world believes otherwise. He doesn't realize that not only is his Osama statement well known, it's actually quite a popular target of mockery. What's more, nobody on his staff has ever clued him in.

It's a pretty good metaphor for Bush's biggest problem: his staff spoon feeds him a rosy view of the outside world and he honestly believes that this rosy world is the real world--and that's why he makes so many disastrous decisions. After all, you can't solve real world problems if you refuse to understand the real world in the first place.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

MORE OF THE SAME Neither man matched his second debate performance, in my view. And toward the end of the ninety minutes, I got the sense that both candidates had nothing new to say.

There was this, though:

BUSH: "I don't think I ever said I wasn't worried about Osama bin Laden. It's one of those... exaggerations..."
BUSH (March 10, 2003): "As I say, we hadn't heard much from him...And, you know, again, I don't know where he is. I'll repeat what I said: I truly am not that concerned about him."
UPDATE: Here's your transcript.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

COLORADO TAKES THE STAGE The mainstream media has started talking about the Colorado referendum that CONTRAPOSITIVE mentioned back in June.

If the referendum passes and Bush is ahead narrowly in the electoral college, the election will almost certainly be decided in the courts.

ENDORSEMENT WATCH Via Daily Kos: Already, four newspapers that endorsed George W. Bush in 2000 have told their readers to vote for John Kerry.
The Oregonian (Portland): 342,040 daily circulation
The Seattle Times: 237,303
The Day (New London, Conn.): 39,553
The Albuquerque Tribune: 13,536
Thus far, not a single newspaper that endorsed Al Gore in 2000 has called for Bush's re-election, according to Kos.

A list of endorsements can be found here.

TNR ON SALAZAR Unfortunately, The New Republic's profile of Colorado Democratic senate candidate Ken Salazar is subscriber-only. But here's an excerpt from the piece (written by Michael Crowley):
As a 49-year-old up-and-coming Democrat, Ken Salazar hasn't been one-tenth as hyped as the younger, swoon-inducing Barack Obama. But, should he win his tight race here--and several recent polls have shown him with a small-to-medium lead over beer baron Pete Coors--he'll join Obama in Washington as a new Democratic rock star.

As a senator, Salazar would become one of the most prominent Latinos in national politics--second only to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. (Florida's Republican Senate candidate, Mel Martinez, is also hoping to join this club and signal to Latinos that the GOP is their ally, making it all the more important for Democrats that Salazar succeed.)

If elected, Salazar would bring to Washington a claim few other Democratic minority politicians, including Obama, can make: He will have survived a competitive statewide election in a pro-Bush state with the help of conservative swing voters and even some Republicans.

Monday, October 11, 2004

JUST NOT SERIOUS In case you've forgotten, here are President Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice a couple weeks back, announcing the administration's new doctrine of Either You're With Us or Against Us or If You're Nationally Humiliated That's Okay Too:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES [from the debate]: The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice.


BLITZER: To justice? The guy has been -- Khan has been freed. He's been pardoned by President Musharraf... Khan himself lives in a villa. And the IAEA would like to question him, and the Pakistani government doesn't even allow that to happen.

RICE: I think we all know that A.Q. Khan was a particular kind of figure in Pakistani lore, a national hero... if you don't think that his national humiliation is justice for what he did, I think it is. He's nationally humiliated.
These people aren't serious.

NUISANCE VALUE So apparently the President is taking issue with John Kerry's desire to "get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they're a nuisance."

The comment suggests, apparently, that John Kerry isn't serious about the war on terror.

I'm almost speechless. Almost.

Remember, this is the same George W. Bush who recently said about the war on terror (a war he himself declared): "I don't think we can win it."

It's the man who read a Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) titled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US"--a memo warning that "FBI information since [1998] indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings"--and did nothing in response.

It's the man who, the morning after receiving that briefing, took his PDB during a twenty minute limo drive to a golf game.

It's the man who has allowed programs for port security, air cargo security and chemical plant security to go underfunded.

And it's the man who took special forces out of Afghanistan to pursue a war with a country his advisers concede wasn't an imminent threat at the time, but believe has since become the "central front" in the war on terror.

Clearly one of these men isn't serious about terrorism.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

THE MORNING AFTER Clearly, John Kerry got the better of President Bush in last night's debate. Thankfully, the wire services are calling it like it was:
Bush was sharper and more aggressive in Thursday night's debate in St. Louis than he was during their first encounter, but many analysts said he sometimes appeared angry and defensive in an effort to compensate for his lackluster performance in Miami on Sept. 30.

The president dampened the scowling expressions of the first debate, but several questions brought his emotions bubbling up as he moved aggressively to counter the Massachusetts Democrat...Kerry showed a cooler and wordier bearing to the participants and television viewers, but he was no less argumentative than the more heated president.
--Associated Press

Both candidates scored points essential to their case for the presidency, but neither dominated the issues or the forum enough to fundamentally change a tight race.
--Gannett News Service

After eight days of unrelentingly bad news, President Bush needed some good news. In his second debate with Sen. John Kerry last night, though, the best the president got was that he held his own.
--Copley News Service

SENATE RACES TO WATCH There are a number of tight senate races worth keeping an eye on. Over the next three weeks, CONTRAPOSITIVE will be tracking two of them:


When Ernest Hollings announced he wouldn't seek re-election in 2004, South Carolina Democrats knew they'd face an uphill battle in the conservative state.

But State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (D) is holding her own against Congressman Jim DeMint (R): She's made an issue of his support for replacing the federal income tax with a national sales tax, successfully skewering the unpopular proposal at every turn.

Recent polls are inconclusive: One shows a twelve-point DeMint lead while another has him up by only three points.


Yes, that Pete Coors (R). Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar (D) is taking on the beer magnate in a seat being vacated by Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell. If Salazar is able to hold onto the small lead he's garnered in recent polls, the result will be not only a Democratic pick-up, but one in a Republican-leaning state.
Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Salazar and Coors will debate Sunday morning on Meet The Press.

LOPSIDED At least I thought it was. More later. Here's your transcript.

UPDATE: Looks like Mort Kondracke and I agree again. Here are a list of comments from talking heads, as assembled by Daily Kos:

Mort Kondracke: "... I think Kerry won this debate as he won the first debate I don't think... I thought that Kerry was much more aggressive and the president was basically on the defense and didn't have new arguments didn't have...wasn't as facile as he should have been." [Fox News Channel, 10/8/04]

Bill Kristol: "I guess I think if you think the President was doing okay and didn't need a win in this debate, he did fine, but I think, if one thinks that Bush missed an awful lot of opportunities to go after Kerry in the first debate he had to make some of them up in this debate, I'm not sure he really succeeded in doing so." [Fox New Channel, 10/8/04]

Jonah Goldberg: "On the question of whether Bush did everything he needed to tonight, I don't think so. I think he helped himself, but Kerry leaves these debates energized." [National Review Online, 10/8/04]
And here's one-time Bush supporter Andrew Sullivan:
But [Bush] was also evidently flailing at times. Throwing around the old "liberal" label was hackneyed and seemed a substitute for argument. His distortion of Kerry's healthcare plan didn't flirt with being mendacious; it was an outright lie... He had absolutely no answer on his spending spree. None. If you're a one-issue voter on fiscal responsibility, Kerry is obviously your man; and this debate rammed that point home...

Kerry was as strong and as presidential as he was in the first debate, and effective, I think, in countering the flip-flop charge...

Stylistically, Kerry seemed, well, calmer. When the camera cut to him during Bush's walkarounds, he was generally serene and respectful. His parries were cleaner than Bush's; his mind seemed more complicated--but not to the point of complete paralysis. Far from it. The contrast between a man who can make an argument and one who can simply assert what he believes to be a truth was striking.

If we have learned anything these past three years, it is that conviction is not enough. Skepticism, openness to other arguments, thinking outside the box or against a bubble mentality: All these are useful in a war leader and Bush has none of them. In some ways, Kerry seemed more experienced than Bush, which, of course, he is. All in all, I'd say that Kerry had a minuscule edge in both the substantive and stylistic contest. But the fact that Bush seemed alive and kicking as a candidate will help him regain some initiative as well.

Friday, October 08, 2004

DISSENT ON THE RIGHT The National Review appears to have left the building.

CERTAIN BUT WRONG Eric Alterman continues the discussion of the Bush administration's tendency to draw sweeping conclusions from uncertain evidence:
The point...is not that Bush and company believed one thing to be true and discovered it wasn't. Rather, it is the fact that they believed something to be true so strongly that they left no room for honest disagreement.

Clearly the evidence was confusing. Clearly it was easy enough for even experts in the field to misread in either direction. But because these Bush ideologues wanted an invasion they read it only one way and worked overtime to de-legitimize anyone who sought to question them.

That is the point of phrases like: "no doubt...There isn't any debate about it...[It is] beyond anyone's imagination...know for a fact...sure he does...leaves no doubt...No question...No doubt...Absolutely sure."
Here are some of the quotes to which Alterman refers:
"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
-Dick Cheney Speech to VFW National Convention, Aug. 26, 2002.

"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
-George W. Bush Speech to U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 12, 2002.

"We know they have weapons of mass destruction...There isn't any debate about it."
-Donald Rumsfeld, September 2002.

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
-George W. Bush Address to the Nation, March 17, 2003.

"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. And... as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them."
-Gen. Tommy Franks Press Conference, March 22, 2003.

"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
-Donald Rumsfeld ABC Interview, March 30, 2003.

"I'm absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We're just getting it just now."
-Colin Powell Remarks to Reporters, May 4, 2003.
(Italics added.)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

STATE BY STATE The latest, post-debate round of American Research Group and SurveyUSA battleground state polls have John Kerry closing in on--and in some places overtaking--George W. Bush.

(All results remain within the margin of error.)


ARG: Kerry net +1 [from last poll] to 47%-45% advantage
SUSA: Kerry net +1 to 46%-51% deficit
SUSA: Kerry net +3 to 49%-47% advantage
New Hampshire:
SUSA: Kerry net +4 to 47%-47% split
ARG: Kerry net +3 to 48%-47% advantage
SUSA: Kerry net +4 to 49%-48% advantage

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

GET THE FACTS FIRST In response to one of Gwen Ifill's questions last night, Dick Cheney alleged he hadn't met John Edwards until they sat down to debate.

Later in the evening, the Kerry folks produced this pic as evidence to the contrary.

ABC news has more.

UPDATE: I don't want to press this point too hard, but the more I think about Cheney's comment, the more revealing it seems.

It's not proof that he's a liar or that he's losing his grasp on reality. But it does suggest that he overestimated his capacity for mental recall last night, and that he can be careless about double-checking his impressions against available evidence.

The decision to state flatly that you've never met someone--and to use this statement as an attack line in the most public of forums--ought to require an awfully high level of confidence in your claim's veracity.

Surely, the Vice President knows this. He was fully aware of the debate's stakes. And watching him make the claim, it seems clear he was utterly and completely convinced of the truth of what he was saying.

But what he said wasn't true.

As John Kerry might say, Cheney was certain but wrong.

Again, the lesson isn't that Cheney is a serial dissembler: I'm sure the Vice President was as surprised to learn he was mistaken as the rest of us were. But the gaffe is another example of Cheney's overconfidence in his own impressions and his less than vigorous pursuit of contrary evidence.

Don't get me wrong: Time and time again, people at the highest levels of this administration have misled the American people. No doubt about it.

But other times--and this seems like one of them--they just haven't done their homework.

UPDATE UPDATE: Dave The Pro over at Daily Kos gets the last word.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

A BORING DRAW Here's your transcript.

Monday, October 04, 2004

RICE ON KHAN Digby notices this recent exchange between National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice and Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: Listen to this one excerpt of what [President Bush] said briefly about Abdul Qadeer Khan, the former Pakistani nuclear scientist who helped create the Pakistani bomb...


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES [from the debate]: The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice.


BLITZER: To justice? The guy has been -- Khan has been freed. He's been pardoned by President Musharraf... Khan himself lives in a villa. And the IAEA would like to question him, and the Pakistani government doesn't even allow that to happen.

RICE: I think we all know that A.Q. Khan was a particular kind of figure in Pakistani lore, a national hero... if you don't think that his national humiliation is justice for what he did, I think it is. He's nationally humiliated.
It's time for these people to go home.

STEWART ON BUSH ON DR. PHIL In his Wednesday appearance on Dr. Phil, our President was apparently asked whether he believes in spanking.

Here's John Stewart's take from Monday night's episode of The Daily Show:

Does he believe in spanking? He believes in executing the retarded. Of course he believes in spanking.

Friday, October 01, 2004

LIZZA ON THE DEBATE Ryan Lizza of The New Republic has posted a first person account of the action last night in the spin room.

A couple of fun nuggets:

The first inkling that the Bushies know their man didn't do so well comes minutes after the debate ends when Karl Rove walks into the press filing center. Like a game of telephone, the conventional wisdom that Kerry won the debate is already seeping out across the sea of journalists in the room. Into this skeptical ether, Rove tries out a line: "It was one of the president's better debate performances and one of Kerry's worst." Vince Morris of The New York Post stares at Rove and asks, "Can you say that with a straight face?"

The tight time limits helped Kerry--always at his best when on deadline--control his message. Instead the lights served to emphasize that Bush didn't always have enough to say to fill out his time. In previous debates Bush would sometimes answer a question with a short declarative sentence and a sharp nod of the head. The lights would have made this embarrassing, and at times Bush started repeating stock lines and seemed as though he were filibustering. The Kerry campaign used the lights brilliantly. Before the debate they even mischievously demanded that the lights be removed when in fact they knew they would help Kerry. "We protested too much on the lights and you all fell for it," Joe Lockhart told me.

MARSHALL ON THE DEBATE Josh Marshall makes a good point:
What occured to me somewhat while I was watching the first time and even more on the second go through was just how long it's been since President Bush had to face someone who disagrees with him or is criticizing.

Every president gets tucked away into a cocoon to some degree. But President Bush does notoriously few press conferences or serious interviews. His townhall meetings are screened so that only supporters show up. And, of course, he hasn't debated anyone since almost exactly four years ago.

Frankly, I think it showed. It irked him to have to stand there and be criticized and not be able to repeat his talking points without contradiction.

PRE-SPIN Here's a Bush operative--as quoted by Rich Lowry of The National Review--clearly working to pre-spin the next round of polls:
If you understand the dynamic of this race, you know nobody is going to put this race away. It was already tightening and is going to continue to tighten. The trend line is toward an even race.
Trending toward even, eh?

It'll be a few days before any useful hard data is available. But the fact that Bushies are content to portray the race as dead-even is unquestionably a good sign for Democrats.

SPUN DRY As I mentioned last night, Joe Scarborough and Mort Kondracke both called the debate for Kerry.

Daily Kos rounds up some more soundbites here.

Wondering whose comments the Bushies are highlighting as proof that their man won the debate?

Answer: Former University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler and Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Baer.

No, I'm not kidding.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.