- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 6, 2004

Say what?

“I call them utopians. I don’t care whether utopians are Vladimir Lenin on a sealed train to Moscow or Paul Wolfowitz. Utopians, I don’t like. You’re never going to bring utopia, and you’re going to hurt a lot of people in the process of trying to do it.” — Larry Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, comparing Paul Wolfowitz with Lenin in the latest GQ magazine.

Underestimating Kerry

The conventional wisdom in Washington right now is that John Kerry is such an awful candidate that he is doomed in the fall. If President Bush can stay even after the last three horrendous weeks — when he has shown that his administration has no real control over even the conduct of its own service members and contractors in Iraq — then Mr. Kerry is toast.

I’m not so sure. My instinct is that this election will not, in fact, be close. Either Mr. Bush will convince people that he is winning the war on terror and turning the economy around and win handsomely, or he won’t, and Mr. Kerry will win big. Recent history suggests that incumbent presidents either lose badly or win well. Think of Jimmy Carter’s and the first Bush’s decisive losses in 1980 and 1992 and Ronald Reagan’s and Bill Clinton’s decisive wins in 1984 and 1996.

The crackhead Rasmussen tracking poll shows Mr. Kerry with a real lead again. My sense of the mood among Washington neocons is something bordering on real depression. The president is campaigning in Ohio and Michigan as if he were in real trouble and knows it. He has spent $60 million and has seen his numbers sink. Go, Rove! Moreover, his approval numbers are now below 50 percent.

In most critical states, the candidates are neck and neck, but Mr. Kerry keeps being nominally in the lead, as in New Hampshire, where he leads by four points. Maybe the new ads reintroducing Mr. Kerry will boost him some more (or maybe the more people see Mr. Kerry the more he will bore them to death). But he’s been retooling himself for the center, as New York Times columnist David Brooks has shrewdly noted. Mr. Kerry also tends to finish well in campaigns and has said exactly the right things on Iraq lately, if he wants to reassure voters that he is the man to finish the job there. The Democrats are also energized. It’s a long, long way to go, and I’m predicting nothing (except a massive gay-baiting campaign by Karl Rove in the summer). But I do think that Republicans who think they’re a shoo-in are deluding themselves.

Liberal media bias

I have to say that the treatment given by Editor & Publisher magazine to the contretemps over Ted Rall’s disgusting cartoon denigrating fallen soldier Pat Tillman is really instructive. I’ve found the publication to be excellent at times — innovative and thorough and often news-breaking. And then you read its stories about Mr. Rall. Take the latest one, published Wednesday. It is, in essence, an attack on Bill O’Reilly, defending Mr. Rall from what the writer sees as unfair treatment on Fox News Channel. Or the original story, where, again, Mr. Rall is regarded as the victim of a smear, rather than the perpetrator of an obscenity.

Money quote

“When E&P called Rall, he had only received one message about the cartoon. But, as the interview went on, the messages started pouring in. A few were positive, but most were vicious. As Rall opened each e-mail for the first time, he quoted briefly from each one. ‘You make me sick’; ‘lies and distortions’; ‘move to France’; ‘I pity you’; ‘disgusting’; ‘sad and pathetic’; … ‘horrendous’; … ‘freak’; ‘I hope you’re killed by an Arab terrorist attack.’ ”

E&P also implies that the only reason for the outpouring of outrage was that the Drudge Report had whipped up conservative ire — as if only conservatives would be appalled by Mr. Rall’s bile against a fallen soldier on the day of his memorial service. Dave Astor, who wrote the pieces, is doing his job, of course. His readership — because it is primarily media establishment types — skews left. Same with leftist Jim Romenesko, whose media site is highly successful because it reflects and caters to the left-liberalism of its readers. But these people would still insist they’re not biased! They are about as credible in that respect as Fox News.

Right-wing hyperbole

“This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it and we’re going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I’m talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?” — Rush Limbaugh.

Quote of the week

“A strong culture permits diversity; a strong culture permits freedom of thought, deviation from the framework. When the Abbasid period was at its height, it became a culture of self-confidence. When there is confidence like this, you permit space and freedom. Lack of self-confidence leads to the lowest cultural point, from all aspects — human rights, women’s rights. In the Arab empire, there was more freedom than in the Arab world today.” — Salman Masalha, Israeli Arab intellectual and poet.

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