Mourning In America

A New York Democrat on politics, journalism, and the Mets

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Friday, March 05, 2004
Prosperity? Just Around the Corner! As the economy's job-creating performance falls 1.07 million short of the numbers the Bush administration forecast just last December, Treasury Secretary John Snow counsels patience.
"The numbers suggest we need to keep the economy growing and reinforce our view that it would be a terrible mistake to raise taxes on American families and American businesses that are working to create jobs," Snow said.

But the Treasury press corps, no slouches when it comes to sniffing blood, is getting ready to pounce:

When asked if he would resign if job creation rates do not pick up significantly, Snow said only, "The important thing is that we continue to be focused on what creates jobs. And what creates jobs is growth."

Thursday, March 04, 2004
Still Mis-Stepping After All These Months I've figured it out -- all of the time the President's aides spent hanging around with steel-company executives while they sold out their party's free-trade principles in the pursuit of a quick political boost left them with ... a tin ear! (ba-dum-dum)

Seriously, though, how else to explain the odd loss of all political skills by the President's vaunted machine? Maybe after four years of isolating themselves in the White House even more effectively than they've isolated the country from world institutions, they simply have lost touch.

Either way, their obsession with using the Sept. 11th attacks as an argument for the President's re-election is a mistake, I think. The media dutifully reported the camapaign's contention that these were "positive" ads, but the truth is that they really deal in darkness and fear. Josh Marshall's summary is right: "It's midnight in America. But if the Democrats were in, the sun might never come up!"

Meanwhile, as the NY Daily News reported, the families of 9/11 victims are justifiably upset over what they see as a crass use of their loved ones' towards a political aim, especially given Bush's stonewalling with the commission investigating the lead-up to the attacks. (the NY Times also accurately reported reaction to the ads. Shockingly, the right-wing NY Post missed this sure-fire tabloid red-meat story, letting its Washington bureau write a relatively approving piece).

As a Democrat, the only downside to this I see is that it might shock the White House out of the biggest overreach of all time -- the rumored plan for Bush to deliver his convention acceptance speech from Ground Zero.

It would be one thing if they were going to go forward with the once-floated plan to lay the Freedom Tower's cornerstone suring the convention -- construction is a sign of the future and hope. The problem is that they don't have a positive vision for the future. They see eternal war and increasing isolation. And while they won't talk about it, they see widening income inequality and environmental degradation as unpleasant but necessary by-products of human economy. They refuse to even entertain the idea that a different approach to these problems and the world can actually pay off.

So instead they are forced to fall back on increasingly strained scare-tactics about what may happen if Bush loses. Witness GOP Rep. Tom Cole's comment that "If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election." Last I checked, Osama wasn't exactly wasting away in Leavenworth under the Bush administration, but that's not the issue -- there's just no evidence that Kerry's going to be soft on terror, and the war hero aura he's cultivated over the last few months means the public just won't buy the argument as an ad hominem attack right now.

I'm not saying Bush can't win by spinning Kerry as soft on terror -- there's a good chance he can, especially giving his funding advantage. But these ads are not an effective tool to do that, and as long as he keeps misfiring, he's squandering the benefit from the cash. That makes it more likely that the administration will get more nervous, which makes it more likely that they'll get more negative, which is more likely to keep misfiring, and the cycle continues into the end of a presidency the people never chose.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Sympathy for the Devil I never thought I'd write this, but after witnessing NY Times White House correspondent Elizabeth Bumiller's intrusive, grandstanding performance in Sunday morning's Democratic presidential debate, I have a new respect for Scott McClellan. Who would have thought that Larry King would beat Dan Rather hands-down when it came to effectively moderating a presidential debate?

Will Saletan in Slate got it right, I think -- the questions from Bumiller and Andrew Kirtzman weren't designed to elicit information from the candidates, they were designed to make the reporters look smart.

One of the lowlights was when Kirtzman questioned whether Edwards was experienced enough to be president. I was dying to see Edwards come back with, "Well, Andrew, do you think your experience working for New York 1 qualifies you to be asking questions in a national presidential debate?"

The post-debate coverage was similarly flawed, I thought -- everyone seemed to focus on the feisty Edwards, without noting that Kerry effectively deflected most of the jabs. We'll see what happens at the polls -- I wouldn't be surprised to see Edwards outperform expectations: His are so low as to be laughable. In a low-turnout, rainy NY primary, for instance, is there any real importance in the difference between a 20-point Kerry win and a 40-point margin? We'll see.