Mourning In America

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

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Friday, October 15, 2004
Rum and Romanism I can't be the only one who found it odd that Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput would be photographed by the NY Times speaking to young Catholics in a bar.

The overall piece, about the efforts of conservative bishops to inject themselves into this year's election, essentially by saying a vote for John Kerry is a sin, was disappointing. The writer found only one on-the-record voice dissenting from the hard-liners (an auxilliary bishop from LA), at a time when the National Catholic Reporter notes that somewhere north of 80% of the nation's bishops disagree with the hard-liners' tactic of denying communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians, and the newspaper's Vatican correspondent reports that Kerry is favored in St. Peter's Square.

Apparently, I'm not the only on disappointed, though. Chaput himself called the article misleading, although his objections seem to do more with the fear that his political statements could be used to challenge the archdiocese's tax-exempt status. The Archdiocese has posted a transcript, so you can judge for yourself.

Thursday, October 14, 2004
Smackdown! This is what a VP candidate should be doing -- getting under the other guy's skin. Thanks to Noam Scheiber of The New Republic for highlighting this exchange from John Edwards' Tonight Show appearance:
"I run, and I played a little football back when I was in school. And the president, I think, was there at those football games too. He was, I think, on the side maybe with his pompoms?" drawled Edwards, contrasting his youth as a mill town athlete with Bush's tenure on a prep school cheering squad.

As the audience responded with scandalized laughter, he added: "Can you run fast with those cheerleading outfits on? I don't know."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
The Other Guy Blinked The biggest surprise from the last debate, for me at least, as the observation I made at 10:22 in my running debate-blog below: Where was Bush’s incessant harping on Kerry’s alleged lack of consistency? Is the administration admitting that their chief attack strategy has failed?

"The President's Wrong" Beyond that tactical observation, this is basically tonight's theme. Bush lied repeatedly. Kerry called him on some of them, and was content to let the fact-checkers catch him on others. Was he tough enough? The Fox chatterers didn't think so in the initial aftermath. Will it matter -- is anybody not watching the Yankees-Red Sox or Cardinals-Astros?

I was frankly concerned going into this debate. While Democrats talk about domestic issues as "their turf," they're not Kerry's. But overall, I thought he did well -- especially in the part of the debate I listened to on the radio, when Bush sounded very whiny. On TV, it was more even, especially given the continual adjustments to camera angles that were being engaged in by the debate director (and exposed by NBC's Andrea Mitchell), which served to make Bush look larger in the screen.

There were so many factual challenges and counter-challenges that tomorrow's "factcheck" responses will be important, and Bush already lost a big one on that score, denying he ever said he "wasn't concerned" about Bin Laden, when he's on camera saying that in just so many words. I also think Kerry's line that "being lectured to by the President about fiscal policy is like being lectured by Tony Soprano on law enforcement" will be the best takeaway sound bite from the night. We'll see. Here are my other reactions, presented as they unfolded:

9:10 pm Bush is dealt a softball on addressing the out-of-work American, then swings and misses. That's a great rhetorical question and something on which he should have a personal anecdote teed up, so he can demonstrate his connection to people worried about their jobs (like he did more or less effectively with the example of his meeting with the soldier's widow in the first debate).

9:15 pm "I sent up my budget man to the Congress." I wonder if Bush knows his name. Treasury Secretary O'Neill? Snow? OMB Director Bolten? Or a mystical superhero wearing a blue leotard with the initials BM on the chest?

9:19 pm Bloomberg radio just cut away to a tape of Bill O'Reilly whining about being the target of a sexual harassment lawsuit. This is off-topic, but the lawsuit was news today, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. The court filing is here -- be warned, it includes extended explicit quotes from late-night phone calls Mr. O'Reilly made to the plaintiff, a former associate producer on his show. The quotes are so extended and detailed that observers immediately concluded that plaintiff must have recorded the conversations. If that exists, I'll look forward to the audio.

9:35 pm Whose fault is rising health-care costs? Bush says, "I sure hope it's not the administration's." I guess he hasn't asked his staff. Kerry is effective in spelling out the ways in which it is, indeed, the administration's fault.

9:40 pm Ah, the famous Bush sense of humor. A snide, unexplained comment apparently referring to the controversy surrounding CBS News' reporting on the allegedly forged records purporting to show deficiencies in Bush's Guard service?

9:50 pm Bush's "people listening out there know the value of the tax cuts" has a weird tone, just like his earlier comments about "veterans know they're getting good health care" and his "you got more money in your pocket." Who's he talking to? If people know those things, why does he have to repeate it? Is he trying to reassure himself that he's loved? These answers are more evidence of how he resents having to defend his record -- I gave you a tax cut, you should appreciate me.

9:59 pm Um, Mr. President, the question's about the minimum wage, not education.

10:18 pm Nice, new line on religion from Kerry -- "we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do." He could have fallen back on his somewhat tired (and already used) "faith without works is death" line, but this was a lot more elegant.

10:22 pm It's getting awfully late in the night, and we haven't heard Bush harp on "consistency." I guess they've decided that the "flip-flopper" attack isn't working, so they've cast it overboard in favor of the "he's too liberal" whine.

10:26 pm Kerry effectively channels one of the highlights of his convention (his daughters' introduction), and humanizes himself with the "my wife and daughters don't let me take myself too seriously" line. Then he moves into a legitimate, uplifting closing statement. I think he did well.

10:29 pm Bush's painted-optimism metaphor is a good start, but he cheapens it by blaming hardships on the stock market. Either way, he delivers a good closing statement. He can be persuasive when he's scripted and brief.

Postscript: There were a lot of claims on both sides tonight -- the "fact-checkers" will be busy, and if there are any major gaffes, they will probably overwhelm even the Tony Soprano line. Bush's denial of his line about not being concerned about Bin Laden, is already being exposed as a lie on MSNBC. We'll see what's next.

Post-Postscript: Michael J. Fox was sitting next to Teresa! Waiting for a stem-cell question that never came, presumably...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004
The Other Debate Lost in the hubbub surrounding Friday's Presidential debate, was this rich sequence from Sunday's Meet the Press debate between Colorado Senate candidates Pete Coors (the beer magnate) and Ken Salazar (the Attorney General). Presented verbatim for your amusement:
MR. RUSSERT: This on Tuesday from the Rocky Mountain News: "Pete Coors' company will be among the sponsors of the Black & Blue 2004 Festival in Montreal, a weeklong gay benefit"--that begins tonight-- "that attracts up to 80,000 people to events such as the Leather Rail, Raunch Fetish Night and a male nude revue. ...Coors Light is one of two free beers that will be served at the official launch cocktail party. ...Pete Coors is a social conservative who has campaigned against gay marriage." And yet you oppose gay marriage, you oppose gay adoption. Why the conflict between the marketing your company does, which in effect tries to pander to the gay community, and these positions which are opposed to those taken by the gay community?

MR. COORS: Look, I'm very proud of our company. We've done many good things for lots of people in Colorado and around the country. I don't--you used the word "pandering." One of the values of our company is that we respect all of our employees and their hard work. We respect their passion, their integrity. One of our qualities or our values include equality, and that's a company issue. It's a company position. I feel very strongly that that's the way it should be. Companies ought to be able to make decisions on how they deal with these issues.

MR. RUSSERT: You see no inconsistency between sponsoring male nude revues and fetish balls, and opposing gay adoption and gay marriage?

MR. COORS: I don't.

MR. RUSSERT: None whatsoever.


MR. RUSSERT: And you're comfortable sponsoring those kinds of events? That's part of traditional family values?

MR. COORS: Look, this is a very--you know, people are going to have a lot of different ideas about what this is all about. But it is about recognizing that everybody--everyone in this country should be valued for what they are...

Yeah, especially twins, right, Pete?