Mourning In America

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

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Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Removing All Doubt New Jersey Senate President Richard Codey, who is slated to become governor when Jim McGreevey resigns of Nov. 15th, dismisses the idea of replacing New Jersey's awkward gubernatorial-succession process with an elected lieutenant governor. He tells the New York Times:
I have a problem with the lieutenant governor scenario and that is simply that I don't know who the lieutenant governor of New York is. He seems to be a guy whose only job is to stay alive in case the governor doesn't.

Mr. Codey's profession of ignorance should be taken literally -- the last male lieutenant governor of the State of New York was Stan Lundine, who left office with Mario Cuomo in 1994. The current holder of the office is Mary Donohue.

Advance Work, Please? I thought Our Next President was fine on The Daily Show yesterday -- comfortable and quick to laugh, yet still able to articulate the serious issues and appear presidential.

But couldn't somebody have WRITTEN HIM A DAMN JOKE? The appearance would have been a lot more effective if he could have delivered a couple of memorable zingers that show he could laugh at himself. A joke would also be a pretty effective way of dismissing the "Swift Boat Veterans'" claims as over the top and unimportant. It wouldn't have to be too involved -- he could just repeat his opponents' own words (the way Al Gore did to strong effect in 1992 after George HW Bush called him "Ozone Man").

In response to their disgusting claims that his purple hearts were undeserved, Kerry could have threatened to show us all where the shrapnel is still embedded in his body. "Jon, don't make me show you the evidence..." (I'm quite sure that Stewart, who was clearly awed, would have played it straight and let Kerry off the hook). OK, maybe that's not a good idea -- but you get the point.

There are good jokes out there. Once they decided to make this appearance (which was a legitimate gutsy move by the campaign), Kerry's handlers should have had a couple in his pocket.

That said, my guess is that the journalism world will be far more concerned with "what it means" that Kerry appeared on a fake-news show than on the content of his performance, so it's not a disaster, just a missed opportunity.

UPDATE: The New Republic (reg. req'd) takes a more charitable view of Kerry's appearance. MSNBC, on the other hand, finds him dull.

Monday, August 23, 2004
Things to Watch For, Part I As of this morning, 964 Americans have been killed in action in Iraq. It seems we will suffer our 1,000th fatality before Nov. 2.

Will the media's fascination with milestones lead to extensive coverage of the 1,000th fatality? Should it? Will the decision be influenced by a concern about appearing "political?"

There's no reason why fatality 1,000 should be treated differently than 964, but the truth is that "milestone numbers" do impact public perceptions, and this one should be expected to underscore the scope of the Iraqi expedition -- especially given the fact that the administration's policies have served to limit the number of people "directly touched" by the war.

Personally, my guess is that the media will not make much of this, mostly out of concern about appearing "partisan," but we'll see.

Things to Watch For, Part II -- Bounce-Killer? On a much lighter note, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to release its report on August nonfarm payrolls at 8:30 a.m., EDT on Friday, September 3rd (the morning after the President's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention).

Coming in the wake of two profoundly disappointing jobs reports, the August report should be a high-stakes moment for public perceptions of the administration's economic policy. The problem is that it's a sucker's bet -- Bush can't win, he can only lose.

A good (250,000+ jobs) or middling (125K - 250K) report will, rightfully or wrongfully, buttress the administration's claims that "we're on the right track," economically. But good news is going to be lost in what should be a generally positive post-convention buzz.

But poor (0-125K) or bad (net losses) reports will undercut the positive pronouncements from the podium and blunt the bounce going into the weekend.

Nice scheduling, Karl Rove!

Mission Accomplished, Part II The administration's grip on reality continues to slip. Apparently, Tony Blair is working overtime to remind the president that there's still a lot of work to do (and that blood is still being shed)
Prime Minister Tony Blair is refusing to fly to the United States to receive a medal bestowed on him by the nation for his support over last year's Iraq war ...

"But he has refused for more than a year now and for good reason. He cannot possibly accept an award for the Iraq war when British and American troops continue to risk their lives there." [quote from the Sunday Mirror newspaper].