there's something about mary...
great title, huh? hey, it's friday. i've had a long week.
anyway, in my analysis of the last presidential debate, i briefly mentioned john kerry's tasteless invocation of the vice president's lesbian daughter:
what focus group told [kerry] that outing the vice president's daughter on national TV for transparently political purposes was a good idea? bush has kerry beat on gay marriage even without gaffes like that...
since that time, some liberals--including a typically prissy fray editor in an apparent direct response (i'm honored)--have taken issue with my usage of the word "out." the ed makes the case as well as anyone:
Kerry did not out Cheney. Unlike Alan Keyes, he did not call into question Mary Cheney's moral character. The only thing Kerry sought to do was humanize an issue which is being discussed in alarmingly abstract terms. In fact, the vice president has alluded to his daughter on numerous occasions in public statements and appearances.
like the majority of politically minded fraysters, i was well aware of the sexuality of dick cheney's daughter. i would be willing to bet, however, that if you were to take a sample of your typical nationwide TV audience, the sort that tuned into the last debate, you would find that mr. joe sixpack hadn't the slightest notion of mary cheney's sexuality, probably didn't know the vice president had a daughter, and may or may not have even known who the vice president was. things really are that stupid out there. mr. joe sixpack, who tunes into politics on debate night once every four years--much the same way he attends sunday services every other easter--certainly knows nothing of what goes on in dick cheney's "public statements and appearances" and wouldn't be equiped to recognize any "allusions" even if he did. john kerry has had twice the visibility in the past year as cheney has his entire career, and people are just now starting to figure out who this man they call kerry is.
so hi, america! meet dick cheney's lesbo daughter!
moving on, kerry's remark clearly alienated conservatives and the latest polls would indicate it did him some damage in other places as well, but even some intellectually honest gays, liberals, and--oh yes--gay liberals have taken his alledged gay baiting to task.
this may come as a bit of a shock, but i don't buy into the prevailing sentiment that kerry was trying to damage bush's support among his conservative core. i didn't get that impression at the time of the debate and i don't get it now. i see no reason to interpret kerry's remark, however ill-advised, as anything more than a rather poor gotcha. "oh yeah, mr. president, well how can you be out there demanding we rewrite the constitution while your own vice president has a gay daughter?" i'm not going to attribute to malice what i can just as easily attribute to stupidity. i don't like john kerry personally or as a presidential candidate, but using mary cheney as a wedge to pry the redneck vote away is about the most cynical, homophobic thing a politician could do. you could disagree with bush's constitutional ammendment, but it's at least a principled stand. if kerry's doing what some people think he's doing (ditto edwards, who i believe is guilty of nothing more than the same stupidity) then he's a monster, or, as lynn cheney graciously put it, "not a good man." camp kerry may be guilty of consistent, coordinated idiocy, but that doesn't automatically make them homophobes.
nor does it get them off the hook. homophobic or not, politicians have no business dragging the sex lives of each other's children into a presidential debate. it's quintessential gutter politics. don't you democrats give me that old bill clinton crap again--we aren't talking about an elected official giving interns oral examinations while osama was bombing embassies, we're talking about someone's daughter. a daughter who is entitled, i think, to not have her sex life paraded around in front of thirty million viewers. a daughter who is indeed quite human, but whom john kerry's "humanizing" efforts reduced to a mere symbol of sexual politics.
mary cheney aside, what i'd really like to know is why are so many democrats, and, more importantly, so many in the gay community willing to look the other way on kerry's flacid stance? kerry's got three choices, he can oppose gay marriage, he can support it, or he can try to do both. care to guess which of the three he's doing? kerry's mary cheney remark stole the attention from his awful response and has gone on to drive the post-debate news cycles--big win for bush there, by the way. but kerry's actual, uh, position deserves a closer look.
basically, john kerry believes that gays are sweet and wonderful and cuddly and special and just the bestest folks in the whole wide world and he loves them very, very much, but for some unknown reason, he won't allow them to marry.
--the hell is that?
here's a clue for all you homos out there: remember how jacked catholics were when john kerry said that he believed life began at conception and supported abortion anyway? that's how you should be feeling now. if you're not, then you just very well might be a partisan.
bush is guilty of the same hypocrisy to a lesser extent. really all bush needs to do is tack support for gay civil unions onto his current position and he's got an iron-clad stance which would translate to a difference in semantics rather than tangible discrimination against gay couples.
could kerry do the same? i suppose so, but bush has his reasons for wanting the marriage moniker left to heteros. what are kerry's?
aside from the political, locdog means
final debate (thank God)
i consider myself something of a political junkie, but honestly, how many of these things can a guy be expected to watch? i guess i'm not the only one keen on civic duty, though, because the debate trounced baseball in the ratings, pulling in a combined 36 share to baseball's 16 according to matt drudge.
who won? kerry. those ultra-rightwing hacks at the gallup organization gave him a 52-39 edge. not asked was the extent to which viewers felt kerry was the better performer, i.e., do those who felt kerry won feel he won big, just barely eked it out, etc. do i as a viewer feel that kerry's performance was 13 points better than bush's (whatever that means)? no, i can't honestly say that i do.
it's worth noting that while republicans and democrats predictably backed their own guy, kerry's support among democrats was 13 points better than bush's was among republicans and 9 points better among their voters, i.e. kerry's got the more enthusiastic base. that alone counts for a hefty chunk of his lead. independents favored kerry by 20, which i would interpret as a combination of kerry's success in portraying himself as a fiscal conservative, and his more independent-friendly leftish social views. a pretty compelling case for kerry so far, but let's keep digging.
kerry continues to do himself good with these debates. 42% of viewers had a more favorable impression of him, 15% less, and 43% unchanged. perhaps the most significant number there is the 43% unchanged figure: a lot of people are still making up their minds about john kerry, and the verdicts are increasingly favorable. bush's more/less/unchanged numbers were in line with the previous debates at 27/17/56.
how is kerry helping himself? the viewers felt he expressed himself more clearly by a remarkable 32 points. he understands the issues and cares about the needs of people like you by 12 points. he agrees with you more on your issues by 7 points, shares your values by a less convincing 4 points, and was the more believable by 3 points (those last 2 numbers being within the poll's 4 point margin of error.) despite all that, bush was the more likable by 5 points--that smartass kerry.
alright, we've been in the tall weeds here for a while, but if you've stuck with me this far, it's about to pay off: who won the issues?
healthcare: kerry +14
economy: kerry +5
education: kerry +1
taxes: bush +3
so despite kerry's powers as the great understander, communicator, and carer-abouter, his only breakout win is on the issue of healthcare. his economy number is just barely outside the margin of error, herbert hoover and all (if you democrats aren't worried about that, you should be.) he's got a statistical tie on education and, somewhat surprisingly, the republican-friendly tax issue. despite being the more effective tactical debater by far, kerry did not do enough to win people over on what are supposed to be his issues. what he won was the professional admiration that is his due as a skilled orator, but that's not the same as convincing people you're right. and that's why i don't think kerry won this thing as cleanly as the thirteen points might suggest at first glance. i also thought that, on a question by question basis, bush gave as good as he got most of the time. kerry's just too consistent. he's not going to beat himself.
a few general impressions:
1. bush did a lot better in this debate than anyone thought he could. kerry had to feel good about his chances going into wednesday night. he'd pulled out a shocking upset in the first debate, tied in the second, and had the table set for a big win in the third. kerry should have mopped up the floor with bush--one would have thought he could have easily bettered his 16 point victory from the first debate--but bush had him back on his heels, particularly in the first half of the debate. most of the post-game wagging i heard had to do with how surprised everyone was by bush's aggressiveness. well why should they be? bush's gutsy domestic showing in the second debate may have been a bit of a shock, but should have clearly foreshadowed how he'd handle the third. and besides that, isn't the weaker candidate on a given issue usually apt to be the more aggressive?
2. for a guy cracking mob jokes, kerry ought to know that even tony soprano would have second thoughts about going after someone's daughter. when edwards started that crap in the veep debate, i couldn't believe cheney didn't reach across the table and strangle him. now kerry brings it up as well, and for the life of me i can't figure out why. what focus group told him that outing the vice president's daughter on national TV for transparently political purposes was a good idea? bush has kerry beat on gay marriage even without gaffes like that, but fortunately for kerry, it's one of the few he made in three otherwise solid debates.
3. was kerry wearing john heinz's shoes last night? sure he's nailing his wife and spending his billions, but since when did the most liberal senator in washington start snuggling up to ronald reagan? kerry the fiscal conservative? kerry the warm'n'fuzzy social moderate? it wasn't his san francisco/new york base john kerry was talking to last night, it was topeka and little rock and birmingham. john kerry seems to be convinced that to win this election, he's going to have to do it as a republican. good on bush for slapping him back into place with that "john mccain endorses me" line. shades of you're no john kennedy, who, by the way, was a genuine fiscal conservative and, by today's standards, a social moderate.
4. line of the night again goes to bush. he took the softball "what have you learned from your womenfolk" and knocked it out of the park with "to listen." i find it hard to believe his writers scripted it for him. that's just bush. kerry also got in a good one on the same question with "marrying up," but didn't get quite the laugh bush did. a bit too real. one more thought on the same topic: after bush's gasser listen-line, he basically ducked the question and proceeded instead to ramble romantic nothings like a starry-eyed freshman poetry major. A+. kerry gave a detailed list of specifics that he'd picked up from his spouse and his mother (did he really just quote his mother's dying words in a presidential debate?) with a demeanor that was not all that different from the one he used to discuss the relative merits of balancing social security on tax increases as opposed to retirement savings accounts.
5. i think that while kerry won the debate, he also lost the election. look, kerry isn't going to defeat bush on iraq, terror, or national security. he just isn't. every poll i know of gives some combination of these three as the key issues in this election, followed by the economy, healthcare, education, etc. kerry's strength lies in what for this election will be secondary issues, which means he needed to be able to win on things like the economy by a lot more than five points. he needed to not only dominate bush on these issues, but to shift the entire focus of the campaigns to the domestic front, where (theoretically) he could put bush on the defensive. that's a tall order, one that perhaps no democrat but bill clinton could have pulled off. kerry is no bill clinton.
locdog is glad these debates are over, because he's tired of writing about them
one conservative's take on sinclair
i can't tell you how it pains me to say this, but sinclair broadcasting group is wrong.
if you haven't heard the leftist caterwauling over sinclair's decision to preempt regularly scheduled broadcasts on stations all across america in favor of a decidedly anti-kerry documentary, then your ears are probably packed with concrete. liberals are a hysterical bunch in general, but to hear them tell it, you'd think the dead hand of joseph goebbels was seizing control of the airwaves.
but who, exactly, is sinclair and what, exactly, are they airing?
sinclair broadcasting group is a collection of 62 stations spanning major and not-so-major markets nationwide. it's CEO and president david smith is a bush donor and, judging by some recent editorial decisions sinclair has made, quite conservative. it's fairly well known, for example, that sinclair ordered their ABC affiliates to spike the nightline episode where the pictures and names of all the u.s. troops killed in iraq up until that point were given. sinclair maintained (correctly) that presenting these images without context was an act of political speech parading as news. indeed, anti-war protestors frequently employ the exact same tactic, by displaying coffins, empty boots, crosses, anything that could divorce the raw emotional impact of death from the broader significance of those deaths. nixing koppel doesn't constitute proof of sinclair's conservatism per se--the decision could have been based on nothing more than reasonable standards of journalistic integrity--but then, a liberal in david smith's position wouldn't have even noticed how grossly political koppel's actions were.
stolen honor, the documentary sinclair stations will shortly be airing, is a collection of interviews from vietnam prisoners of war who were in captivity at the time of john kerry's now-infamous "jenjis" kahn congressional testimony. it's made by a group calling themselves "red white and blue productions" based out of harrisburg, PA. these are not the swifboat vets and this documentary (as far as i can tell without having seen it) focuses not on john kerry's inflated war record, but on his anti-war activities and how those activities affected american POWs--many of whom were being tortured to obtain confessions to the very atrocities kerry accused them of.
ok, those are the basics. so why do i, a good conservative and bush supporter who believes john kerry betrayed his fellow veterans after and feel that the introduction of this issue into the presidential debate is long overdue oppose sinclair's choice?
quite simply, because it's wrong.
sinclair has defended their actions on grounds of the newsworthiness of the documentary. john kerry has made vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign and, as such, the issue merits attention. they further argue that they have invited john kerry to participate in the presentation and present his side of the story, an offer he has refused. so far, however, sinclair has made no commitment to providing equal time for the opposing viewpoint.
while i believe that sinclair's defense is sound, it's only half the story. news or not, they can't seriously expect me to believe that they're airing this documentary scant weeks before the election solely for the newsworthiness of it, and while the media has thus far been negligent in their responsibility to inform the public of the true nature of kerry's past, that doesn't mean that sinclair is merely righting the balances. i don't see how a reasonable person could look at sinclair's decision and come away with anything other than the overwhelming impression of political machination.
sinclair may be a private corporation protected by the first amendment, but the airwaves they use are owned by the public, and the privilege of broadcasting over them is extended on the condition that those airwaves will be used for the public good. but presenting only one side of such a politically charged topic so close to the election is not in the public's best interest. this is nothing more than a powerful media mogul shamelessly furthering his own political agenda. he is not justified by the fact that his agenda happens to be one i agree with.
i'm already hearing the usual "your side does it too" apologetic from the right--proof that on some level my conservative brothers agree with me. and oh how right they are. rathergate, NPR, the palpable bias of the nightly news broadcasts, the today show totally ignoring the swiftvets while offering sleaze merchant/bush biographer kitty kelly three full days, PBS, so on and so forth. all biased. all political. all abuses of the responsibility of broadcast television. all wrong. but because the left is wrong doesn't mean that we on the right get to adopt their tactics. if we're better than them, our conduct should show it.
to me, the most unsettling aspect of the whole stolen honor mess is the former POWs themselves. no one alive today has sacrificed more for their country than these men have. no one's story has been so underreported. no one has more of a right to be heard. and, ironically, no one has done more to preserve the freedom of the airwaves sinclair is seeking to exploit. these men deserve to have their story told and john kerry deserves to be disgraced and ruined--at the very least--for what he did to them. before you democrats dismiss these men as GOP operatives i implore you to consider that any single one of them has suffered more than most of you could even imagine, suffering that was exacerbated by john kerry's shameful hearsay testimony and the fuel it provided their captors.
their stories ought to be heard, but not like this. although i doubt they'd agree, they're being used. once more, their honor is being stolen from them for crass political purposes, this time to sink john kerry rather than to save him. that their story ought to sink kerry is irrelevant: if the truth can't withstand a fair rebuttal, then it isn't true.
another day, another network, another memo
almost as essential to the cliche conservative persona as God and guns is the belief in liberal media bias. it's gone beyond mere article of faith into enshrinement in the apostle's creed of conservatism; denying it is to deny the Holy Trinity or virgin birth. and, as a good conservative, i believe it myself.
but when conservatives discuss the matter, many liberals simply tune their complaints out. others acknowledge the bias but insist it's necessary to counter rush limbaugh, fox news, the white house spin machine, etc. others still deny it and point instead to a neutral media that's merely perceived as leftwing by far right types, or, my personal favorite, they'll argue that the corporate-owned media is actually slanted to the right and its conservative critics are paranoid. point out the numerous polls that show the establishment media far to the left of the general public (80% democratic registration, liberal views on abortion, guns, etc.) and you'll get a lot of denial for your trouble.
in their zeal to chisel through liberal obstinacy, some conservatives have posited the existence of a conspiracy of powerful media figures, a web of lies and collaboration aimed at systematically advancing their agenda. i have two problems with this. the first is that they may as well try arguing the existence of gravity to a man who believes he can fly. like convincing liberals of the seriousness leftist media slant, it's a waste of time. my second and more significant objection is that it turns off the few reasonable minds that might be willing to listen by making you sound like a kook.
it's just so unnecessary. we don't need terry mcauliffe showing dan rather how to make an ass of himself, dan can handle that just fine.
how does media bias happen? it doesn't happen in smoke-filled back rooms, it happens in equally smoke-filled college bars on the columbia university campus, and in the classrooms and dorm rooms and rallies that program a generation of journalists whose most basic assumptions have been hardwired into them without the slightest hint of challenge. arrive at the newsroom and what's changed? nothing. everyone thinks just like you do and they probably always have. these people have spent their entire lives inside a liberal echo chamber--and we wonder how jayson blairs and rathergates happen? how could they not happen? especially when a meagre two sources--the new york times and washington post--have most of the say in what's covered and how it's done.
you don't need all the cloak and dagger stuff to get people to march in lockstep when they're assembly line automatons to begin with.
i was somewhat surprised, then, to see that abcnews political director mark halperin has actually instructed the abc staff to apply a liberal bias. with rathergate, a far less important network news memo scandal, one could at least make an argument that there was deception involved. but here we plainly see a general whipping the troops into shape:
The New York Times (Nagourney/Stevenson) and Howard Fineman on the web both make the same point today: the current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.
that this moving plea for service to the public interest comes in the context of its perversion reveals one of many blind spots halerpin and his organization--and the establishment press in general--are suffering from. let's look at a few.
first, note that the authority halperin derives his argument from is not the journalistic bedrock of fact, but the processed new york times and howard fineman version. i'm not sure if halperin is making an "everyone else is doing it" appeal or if he honestly believes that the nyt and howard fineman are reliable, dispassionate observers, but i suspect it's a little of both. his memo has the urgency of a man who senses that he's fallen behind ("Now is the time...")
the next three paragraphs form the crux of the argument. to paraphrase, both kerry and bush employ distortions, but in the case of bush, these distortions are central to his efforts to win. therefore, kerry and bush should not be "reflexively and artificially" covered the same. bush is trying "to get away with as much as possible," (read "they're trying to use us") in an effort "to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry." so, halperin concludes, we must "help voters evaluate" because we are "one of the few..." this he defines as serving "the public interest" and exhorts the staff to "step up and do that right."
according to halperin, abcnews has a moral obligation to be biased and would be remiss in their duty to the public were they not applying a double standard. bush, he says, is an arch criminal, and why should such a man be given the same treatment as john kerry, who is guilty of little more than jay walking?
even in the face of such flagrant conspiring, i feel vindicated in my kindler, gentler automaton analysis. it never even occurs to halperin that if bush is so much worse than kerry, the voters shouldn't need help evaluating since the truth would be self-evident to anyone acquainted with the basic facts. he doesn't seem to mind or even notice that he's not dealing in facts at all, he's dealing in prefabricated evaluations--and secondhand ones at that. better still, he later refers to those evaluations as facts, meaning that he fails to recognize the core journalistic distinction, the one that lies between fact and opinion. he is so convinced that his own outlook is the only one possible (and why shouldn't he be when he's never had to seriously consider otherwise?) that there is no distinction between fact and opinion. halperin, you see, doesn't see his responsibility as informing the public and letting us draw our own conclusions, he sees it as drawing the public's conclusions for them and then informing us as to what they ought to be. but he speaks with such unabashed idealism about it that one wonders if he's ever even been introduced to the simplest and most fundamental tenets of journalism.
you'll note that in my analysis, i've assumed halperin to be a well-meaning if misguided individual, trying to serve democracy to the best of his understanding. i have done this because whether you are a conservative or a liberal, that is, whether or not you happen to agree with the conclusions halperin wants to force feed you, you ought to resent the breakdown in journalistic standards. i have not gone the easier route of dismissing him as one more cynical DNC hack in the employ of the establishment media (although that is probably the case) because it's irrelevant: regardless of who mark halperin is or what he believes, he's dead wrong and he ought to be fired.
fired on account of one careless memo? no, fired because, like dan rather, he's either unable or unwilling to do the sort of brutal introspection so crucial to being a good journalist. good intentions or not, he's betrayed our democracy and shows no signs of even being able to comprehend his crime.
locdog however, does, and thinks he ought to be sacked