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Crab Nebula

Mark, you haven't dealt with Kerry. I want to hear your take on him. Way I see it, the fears of his personality may be overblown because of the very real improvement in relating to people.

I think he even may have a weird kind of grandfatherly appeal. And I don't think using "liberal" in a pejorative context will work like it did 15 years ago (e.g. Dukakis and countless other downballot campaigns)

I think Bush will try to run against Kerry in the same way he ran against Gore, drawing distinctions on character. (since Bush can't run on fogged issue positions, this is what he's still got in his bag, along with WOT) He'll try to paint him as slippery and without principles. I think Kerry's more authentic than Gore, which would at least partially blunt that strategy. But it will force Kerry to be extremely savvy with message (which Gore also was not).

Can the apparently improved 2004 Kerry do it? I think maybe, I'd like a long primary season to find out. What do you think?


I was upset by the General's lame "free speech" defense of MMoore. The more important question about Bush's military service is more recent - as Commander and Chief. If Bush had had the combat experience of either Kerry or Clark (or McCain or Dole) I am certain he would have been less cavalier about sending the troops into Iraq. But then Bush has no sense of history...no memory.

I gather that Clark lost points for not having a precise view on the point of conception. Gosh neither do I. If it had been me talking with Blitzer I would have responded with a hypothetical. Did George Bush "practice" abstinence when he was a wastrel? Did the Republican men who oppose choice practice abstinence when they were younger.

Redefine the terms of the debate.


Mark, this is perhaps a little anti-climatic but here is the Army's definition of deserter. You can click the link for a slightly longer extract, and the link to the Army document is there also:

What is a Deserter?

On the 31st day of AWOL, this status is officially changed to Dropped From Rolls (DFR), or desertion. This can be called the "administrative" definition of the term. From a legal standpoint, individuals are considered deserters when they have been convicted of the crime through a court martial. In reality, most desertion cases do not come to this. Instead, the overwhelming majority of soldiers who desert are released from the Army with less-than-honorable discharges. (For instance, in the Calendar Years 1997-2001, 94% of the approximately 12,000 soldiers who deserted were released from the Army.) In this paper and project, the focus in on deserters as defined administratively.

Part of Clark's mistake here, as I see it, is to not have anticipated the response of the press, and to not have been prepared with a specific Army document to back Moore's assertion. "It is irrelevant to me, but Michael was using the Army's administrative definition of deserter ... look it up for yourself" would have been a nice reply to Jennings, Russert, and the rest.

Jon Moyer

As I recall, after John McCain lost South Carolina in 2000, he did attack Robertson and Falwell.

And his campaign died right there.

The truth is that the Robertson/Falwell "wing" is far closer to the center of the Republican ruling coalition than the constituent-less Moore is to the Democratic middle. Robertson and Falwell can't be attacked by Repbulicans (it's their base), Democrats (fearful of motivating them), or the media (much of which is owned by that wing, or too craven to face the counter attacks).

Moore, on the other hand, whatever you think of his views, if a perfect embodiment of the liberal caricature that Republicans have spent years painting for our benefit.

V. J. Meagher

I guess it takes all kinds.

You said: "I like Clark not because he was an anti-Dean, but because I loved the way he talked about domestic issues. It's exactly what I've been looking for in a candidate: Clear statements of meaningful principles, not the programmatic language of Senators, and a deep understanding of and respect for public institutions, such as the one in which he'd spent his career."

I turned off to Clark precisely because he didn't seem to have an interest in domestic issues or more than a superficial understanding of them.

Kid Dynomite

1. The Moore/deserter episode was unfortunate and unfair to Clark, even if he botched his response. But the most salient fact seems to be that people see him as slightly... weird. He simply has terrible political skills, methinks. Might help explain the disdain for him in the military.

2. I am anti-Bush and you are right about his record. The problem is that he's also running on a record of killing and capturing a lot of evil people. Even in a just world, that's not worth nothing.

3. The Decemberists are a good band!

Mark Bowllan

I wish Clark had said:

"Having Michael Moore supporting me... a Four Star General... shows the width and breadth of the coalition we are putting together.
It's a coalition of liberals, centrists and conservatives sharing the common goal of bringing our country back.
Of course there will be differences of opinion on the fringes... and I welcome that.
But I will not entertain or allow Republicans and others to use divide and conquer tactics to distract us from our common mission."

Javier Saviola

Hmm. Shrub couldn't have been a deserter, because ALL deserters are executed; Shrub wasn't executed, therefore he couldn't possibly have deserted. Right. Can't argue with that kind of logic.


Mark Bowlian,

Actually, Clark pretty much said what you recommended:

"Well, I think Michael Moore has the right to say whatever he feels about this.

I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I've never looked at it. I've seen this charge bandied about a lot.

But to me it wasn't material. This election is going to be about the future, Peter. And what we have to do is pull this country together. And I am delighted to have the support of a man like Michael Moore, of a great American leader like Senator George McGovern, and of people from Texas like Charlie Stenholm and former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton.

We've got support from across the breadth of the Democratic Party, because I believe this party is united in wanting to change the leadership in Washington. We're going to run an election campaign that's about the future. We're going to hold the president accountable for what he did in office and failed to do, and we're going to compare who's got the best vision for America."


What this comments page shows is that it's easier to be clever and precise sitting on your butt behind a screen than standing on your feet in front of an indifferent audience or hostile press. Maybe candidates should only offer interviews via Instant Messenger with multiple aides helping them sculpt the right response.


Actually, what it shows is that the So-Called Liberal Media will not only excuse stuff from a Republican that they wouldn't from a Democrat, they'll actually attack people for pointing to what the Republican did.

One of the predictions I've hear d over the last two years [1] is that what happened to Gore in 2000 will happen again to *whomever* is the Democratic nominee in '04.

The media will attack him mercilessly, repeating any GOP attack talking points, distorting what he said, and then presenting the distortions as truth. It won't be due to what the Democratic nominee did, it will be due to him being the Democratic nominee.

We've seen that with two years of oral servicing of Bush, and spinning Dean as the 'angry man', without pointing out why anger is justified. This culminated with pulling the mic-only audio feed of Dean's speech, converting a speech to a crowded, noisy room into just a scream.

We *will* see more - watch for it. If you're watching, you'll realize that they aren't random mistakes, but deliberate 'errors'.


[1] IIRC, Media Whores Online has made this point, as well as Krugman and Atrios. Probably a number of others.


Re: Clark running a "non-partisan" campaign in the primary, where you said: How many Democrats would be upset by that? Who's loyalty today is really to a party?

Lots of people. Particularly those who vote in primaries in bad weather.

Here in the Bay Area, there's a lot of identification with the Democratic Party; being a Republican makes it nearly impossible to have a political career in the more urbanized areas, and makes one unpopular socially. When Audie Bock, a nice white female liberal, got elected to the State Assembly as a Green, rather than working with her, the local Democrat establishment got their shit together and ran a candidate against her to punish her for being uppity.


Clark is finally getting more comfortable in his skin - his candidacy only began in aug/sept, so it's amazing how much he's improved just since new hampshire. He's dropped some of the more canned lines in favor of straightforward answers, fleshed out his progressive policies, & emphasizes that he may be inexperienced in political campaigning but not in executive matters & diplomacy. He did great in the South Carolina Democratic Candidate Forum, 01/30/04, available on c-span.org , article http://www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/bawnews/impact04/scforum ).

He's been virtually shut out by the press after iowa, but he should be getting some more coverage soon, and it'll be up to him to convince people he's a viable candidate.

He might not be able to recover from the early smears/spin on iraq war position(http://www.spinsanity.org/post.html?2004_01_11_archive.html), disagreements with Cohen/Shelton etc. But at least outside of the michael moore criticisms from the NH debate, the president's sketchy military history is finally being questioned in the press - http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4114162/

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