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Between the Lines

October 08, 2004

Debate 2 warmup

This piece is pretty good for a pre-debate thumb-sucker. It points out that unlike the totally scripted format of Debate 1, the so-called "town hall" format introduces a fair amount of uncertainty into the equation. The questions will come not from a media heavyweight, but from supposedly undecided voters chosen by the Gallup polling organization.

In other words, the questions aren't likely to resemble those featured at "Meet President Bush" events. Recent examples: "What do you like best about being president?" and "How has your faith helped you in your job?" and "Thank you for signing into law the partial-birth abortion ban."


Gallup had sole discretion to choose participants from a random sample in the St. Louis area. The organization asked people whether they were registered voters, whether they planned to vote and whether they were committed to a candidate.

If undecided, they qualified, but "those are few and far between," said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll. He noted that the most recent Gallup survey showed zero percent of voters undecided, the first time anyone can remember that.

If the Missourians answered that they favored one candidate, Newport said, they were asked whether there was a chance they would vote for a different candidate. If they said there was a chance, Newport said, they were told they could join the town-hall pool.

While Bush may be asked to answer real questions, rather than the marshmallows he gets tossed at campaign appearances, the president is usually judged to be much better than John Kerry at relating to ordinary folks, so the format of this debate could suit him better.

For an early check on how it's going, click in with our Backard Bloggers, Garrett and Ian.

The debate will air at 6 p.m. Pacific time on all major channels. In the Seattle area, KCTS, the PBS station, plans to broadcast the debate at 9 p.m.

Posted by tbrown at 01:03 PM

Reality control

As President Bush says all the time on the stump: No WMDs? No problem.

Columnist Paul Krugman, however, begs to disagree (free New York Times site registration may be required:

In the world according to the Bush administration, our leaders are infallible, and their policies always succeed. If the facts don't fit that assumption, they just deny the facts.

As a political strategy, reality control has worked very well. But as a strategy for governing, it has led to predictable disaster. When leaders live in an invented reality, they do a bad job of dealing with real reality.


The point is that in the real world, as opposed to the political world, ignorance isn't strength. A leader who has the political power to pretend that he's infallible, and uses that power to avoid ever admitting mistakes, eventually makes mistakes so large that they can't be covered up. And that's what's happening to Mr. Bush.

Exactly right.

One reason this kind of reality control works, as Josh Marshall points out, is that the conventions of journalism often give a tactical advantage to liars.

Posted by tbrown at 01:01 PM

The Bush defense

Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online says it's Kerry supporters who should be ashamed of themselves.

I'm not saying there are no good arguments against the war. I am saying that many of you don't care about the war. If Bill Clinton or Al Gore had conducted this war, you would be weeping joyously about Iraqi children going to school and women registering to vote. If this war had been successful rather than hard, John Kerry would be boasting today about how he supported it much as he did every time it looked like the polls were moving in that direction. You may have forgotten Kerry's anti-Dean gloating when Saddam was captured, but many of us haven't. He would be saying the lack of WMDs are irrelevant and that Bush's lies were mistakes. And that's the point. I don't care if you hate George W. Bush; it's not like I love the guy. And I don't care if you opposed the war from day one. What disgusts me are those people who say toppling Saddam and fighting the terror war on their turf rather than ours is a mistake, not because these are bad ideas, but merely because your vanity cannot tolerate the notion that George W. Bush is right or that George W. Bush's rightness might cost John Kerry the election.

Bogus, but that's just my opinion. Goldberg's rant actually is pretty funny regardless of what you think about the war. You can read it all here.

Posted by tbrown at 12:57 PM

How does Bush differ from Washington and Nixon?

Blogger Mark Kleiman has an answer.

Posted by tbrown at 12:54 PM

Bremer's mea culpa

It's on the New York Times op-ed page today. His assertion that the U.S. blew the occupation because it lacked enough troops to impose security was a bombshell the Bush administration is trying urgently to defuse. It's not working though, for reasons Phil Carter assesses at Inteldump:

You cannot say on the one hand, as the White House has done, that you will commit everything necessary to win in Iraq -- and then fight a war on the cheap without sufficient numbers of boots on the ground. I have been told by mid-level officers and commanders that the U.S. "troop to task ratio" never was what those commanders wanted. But at some point in the chain of command, political calculations entered the decisionmaking process, and the administration made the conscious choice to not send the resources necessary to Iraq in order to support the effort there. Bremer knows that, and Bremer said as much in his speeches that were reported this week. It's a shame he felt obligated to backpedal and spin his comments. Although, as we can see from this op-ed, the core of his opinions haven't changed: "I believe it would have been helpful to have had more troops ..." All that has changed is the spin.

Yes. More reality control.

Correction: I've previously referred to Phil Carter as a former Army intelligence officer. He is a former Army officer all right, just not in intelligence.

Posted by tbrown at 12:53 PM

The Afghanistan referendum

Afghans vote for their president for the first time tomorrow in what is being interpreted as a referendum on both the U.S.-installed president, Hamid Karzai, and the U.S. presence there.

The New York Times (free site registration may be required), says the intrusive, but essential, security provided by the U.S. has made Karzai a shadow candidate:

He spends most of his time confined in the palace compound in Kabul, where he takes nightly loops for exercise. When he leaves, he is accompanied by an armada of DynCorp Inc. guards -- one of whom slapped a government minister who got too close in a recent trip to the north -- and, at this rally, American attack helicopters.

Mr. Karzai was so frustrated after a trip to Gardez was aborted because of a rocket attack that he sneaked out with two guards to a neighborhood in Kabul, evoking a fablelike image of a king so eager to be among his people that he disguises himself as a commoner.

For many Afghans, as a result, Mr. Karzai has become an insubstantial figure, clearer for what he stands for than for who he is or what he has done. To supporters who will vote for him on Saturday, he represents three years of relative peace and national unity, as well as the leader of an important Afghan tribe. Opponents see him as weak, beholden to the West or incapable of fulfilling the expectations they had for reconstruction.

The 15 other candidates for president are far less known, however, so anything other than a Karzai victory (though it might take a runoff with the second-place finisher) would be a shocker.

Jeremy Barnicle at a Afghanistan Watch, a new site devoted to developments there, also notes the tight relationship between Karzai and the U.S.:

According to Afghanistan's election commission, Interim President Hamid Karzai's running mates are Ahmed Zia Massoud, brother of the legendary Tajik commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, and Karim Khalili, an ethnic Hazara leader.

But the casual Afghan observer could be forgiven for thinking another man, Zalmay Khalilzad, was joining Karzai on the ticket.

Khalizad is the U.S. ambassador.

Posted by tbrown at 12:49 PM

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Debate 2 warmup
Reality control
The Bush defense
How does Bush differ from Washington and Nixon?
Bremer's mea culpa
The Afghanistan referendum


Blogs to watch

Abu Ardvark
Andrew Sullivan
Atrios Eschaton
Best of the Web
Drudge Report
Joe Conason (subscription required)
Josh Marshall
Kaus files
No More Mr. Nice Blog
Real Clear Politics
The Corner
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Whiskey Bar

Mideast blogs

Salam Pax (Iraq)
G. in Baghdad
L.T. Smash (U.S. military in Iraq)
Lady Sun (Iran)

City blogs

L.A. Examiner

Africa blogs

Cathy Buckle

Media blogs

Dan Gillmor's eJournal
Media Whores Online


Newspapers online (guide to papers on the web)
International Herald Tribune
The Guardian U.K.
New York Times (free registration required)

Economy blogs

Brad DeLong

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