John Kerry, A Mangled Joke, And The Truth

Remember when David Letterman told that “Oprah, Uma” joke on the Academy Awards show? Not very funny, and Letterman has never been invited to host the Academy Awards again. Yesterday John Kerry told a poor joke and even mangled the punch line. Definitely think twice before inviting John Kerry to host the Academy Awards, but beyond that this episode should not have very much significance.

Despite its minimal significance, we may never hear the end of this because the right wingers who, just like during the 2004 presidential campaign, are afraid to respond to John Kerry’s actual positions are jumping all over this. Why discuss his actual views on Iraq, making health care affordable, or increasing support for the troops when they can attack him over a mangled joke?

Kerry intended to make a joke about all the mistakes made in Iraq by George Bush, who certainly has not made good use of his education:

“I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.” [Update: Journalists who have since reviewed the actual prepared text report that it ended with “you end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.” ]

Unfortunately Kerry got off the script, leaving out the word us, changing the apparent meaning of the statement. If critics want to say he should not be the next host of The Tonight Show after messing up a punch line like this, they may have a point. Beyond that, their attacks on Kerry make absolutely no sense, especially considering his strong record for supporting the troops and his fellow vets.

If the literal words rather than intended meaning are to be the litmus test, certainly there are a couple of gaffes from Kerry which can be exploited, but there are whole books of them from George Bush. By the standards of those who are now attacking Kerry we should also condemn George Bush for “admitting” he is working on new ways to harm our country:

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
–George Bush at signing of defense appropriations bill, August 5, 2004

More classic Bush gaffes are available here. Do we attack each as if it was a real statement of his beliefs?

This was not the greatest delivery of a joke and, as I said above, this might be used as evidence to argue that John Kerry would make a poor host for The Tonight Show. Kerry did live up to the reputation of Johnny Carson in one way. When Johnny Carson told a poor joke, he would make an even better joke of his failure and save the show. Instead of responding with a joke, Kerry provided an excellent follow up by relaying the truth: (more…)

Republican Free Market in Judges

Who says the Republicans are choosing judges based upon ideology. These are Republicans after all. Salon shows that judicial appointees are actually based upon donations to key Republicans. Is this privitization of the judicial appointment process? Will Republicans respond by showing how the free market is doing a better job of picking judges? From Salon’s report:

At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

There are no laws or regulations prohibiting political contributions by a candidate for a federal judgeship. But political giving by judicial candidates has been a rarely scrutinized activity amid the process that determines who will receive lifelong jobs on the federal bench. Some ethics experts and Bush-appointed judges say that political giving is inappropriate for those seeking judicial office — it can appear unethical, they say, and could jeopardize the public’s confidence in the impartiality of the nation’s courts. Those concerns come as ethics and corruption scandals have roiled Washington, and on the eve of midterm elections whose outcome could influence the makeup of the federal judiciary — including the Supreme Court — for decades to come.

Revenge of the Sinners

John Tierney believes that Republicans will fail to win with the so-called moral majority due to the immoral majority:

As usual, Republicans are hoping that righteous voters will come through for them on Election Day. But this year looks like the revenge of the sinners.

The sinners aren’t easy to count, since they don’t spend a lot of time doing grass-roots politicking. There is no Washington lobby for the Coalition of the Damned. They don’t like to confess their urges to pollsters. But there are enough of them, particularly in places where Republicans are struggling, to cast doubt on the party’s long-standing strategy.

He writes that Republican efforts against internet gambling and medicinal marijuana will turn off libertarian leaning voters, especially in the west:

Western Democrats have been siphoning off libertarian voters by moderating their liberal views on issues like gun control, but Republicans have been driving libertarians away with their wars on vice and their jeremiads against gay marriage (and their attempt to regulate that from Washington, too).

Libertarian voters tend to get ignored by political strategists because they’re not easy to categorize or organize. They don’t congregate in churches or union halls; they don’t unite to push political agendas. Many don’t even call themselves libertarians, although they qualify because of their social liberalism and economic conservatism: they want the government out of their bedrooms as well as their wallets.

They distrust moral busybodies of both parties, and they may well be the most important bloc of swing voters this election, as David Boaz and David Kirby conclude in a new study for the Cato Institute. Analyzing a variety of voter surveys, they estimate that libertarians make up about 15 percent of voters — a bloc roughly comparable in size to liberals and to conservative Christians, and far bigger than blocs like Nascar dads or soccer moms.

They’re especially prevalent in the West, where half a dozen states have legalized medical marijuana. When Californians approved one of the first medical marijuana laws, in 1996, drug warriors were so convinced it would lead to a catastrophic spike in illegal use by teenagers that they sponsored a study to document the damage. But there was no catastrophe: after the law, marijuana use by teenagers actually declined in California.

Liberal Republican Suburbs Voting Democratic

Regardless of how the Democrats do next week if the Democrats are to build a majority coalition they are going to need to attract more votes from the suburbs. As long as Democrats remains susceptible to Republican claims that they are “tax and spend” liberals, or they represent only the poor against the interests of the middle class and business, the Democrats will remain a minority party. Fortunately the Republican hold on suburbia is breaking due to their far right social policies. The New York Times provides an example of a socially liberal Republican suburb which is going Democratic:

The M.B.A.’s have had it. The engineers are fuming.

For as long as anyone here can remember, Bellevue has been a stronghold of socially liberal Republicanism. First, it was a prosperous Seattle bedroom community, then a technological boomtown, where employees of Microsoft and Internet start-ups consistently voted for fiscal restraint and hands-off government.

But now, voters here are accusing the party in power of overspending and overreaching — and when they do, they sound like people who write manifestos, not software code.

“I’m a mild-mannered guy,” Michael Mattison, a partner in a software venture development firm, said as he stabbed a piece of halibut in the sunlit dining room of a local bistro. “But we can no longer be subdued.”

Bellevue has been growing more Democratic for several years, thanks to an influx of liberal voters and a professional class that is changing teams. This year, Bellevue may send its first Democrat to Congress. Darcy Burner, who even supporters admit is inexperienced, may unseat Representative Dave Reichert, a well-liked, longtime public servant, simply because constituents want Democratic control of the House of Representatives.

“I am a Republican and have traditionally voted that way,” Tony Schuler, an operations services manager at Microsoft with a Harvard M.B.A., said as he sat with his wife, Deanna, in their home above Lake Sammamish. But Mr. Schuler abhors what he sees as a new Republican habit of meddling in private affairs.

“The Schiavo case. Tapping people without a warrant. Whether or not people are gay,” he said. “Let people be free! It’s not government’s job to interfere with those things.”

While there are many things making them angry, Republican opposition to embryonic stem cell research is the most objectionable:

It is a matter of concern across the country, even across parties. But for many engineers and their ilk, restriction of stem cell research is what gay marriage is to conservative Christians, a phenomenon so counter to their basic values that they cannot vote for any candidate who supports it. After all, for Bellevue’s professionals, science is not only a means of creating wealth but also an idealistic pursuit, the most promising way they know of improving the human condition.

“For hundreds of years, science has had its own jurisprudence over the truth. It’s called peer review, and it works pretty well,” said Mr. Mattison, whose father had Alzheimer’s and his uncle Parkinson’s disease. “I’m outraged that a mere politician would interpret science for me.”

Kerry Defends Democrat From Attacks on Military Service

John Kerry may or may not ultimately decide to run for President in 2008, but if he does he is showing how he would do things differently next time. The Boston Globe contrasts Kerry’s response to the Swift Boat Liars (perhaps downplaying the responses which Kerry did make in 2004) with his response to Democrats currently being Swift Boated:

The military record of a Democratic House candidate was under attack. So, Senator John F. Kerry ventured to the Philadelphia suburbs last week to defend Patrick Murphy — and deliver the kind of speech the senator never quite gave when his own wartime service was called into question in 2004.

“Attacking Patrick Murphy for his service is a little bit like Jessica Simpson attacking Albert Einstein’s IQ,” the Massachusetts Democrat proclaimed Thursday at a chilly outdoor rally at Bucks County Community College.

“A lot of these people in the GOP, the Republican Party — they think somehow that they served because they played with GI dolls when they were little,” Kerry said. “The guys who really served understand what it means, and we’ve had enough of these lies.”

Many Democrats remain angry with Kerry over his failure to more aggressively combat Republican smears in 2004. Efforts to tar Kerry generated a new term for political hatchet-jobs — “swift-boating” — and Kerry’s slow response to the attacks ranks alongside his muddled position on the war in Iraq on Democrats’ list of complaints about the campaign.

Now, Kerry is making it a personal mission to defend veterans running as Democrats in this year’s congressional elections from Republican attacks. Should he run for president again in 2008, his efforts on behalf of veterans could leave him with a corps of fiercely loyal supporters in Congress, and could help erase memories of the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” attacks that he acknowledges he let stand for too long.

Kerry has done an excellent job of demonstrating that he has learned from the 2004 campaign and would make an excellent candidate in 2008.

Studio 60 Reportedly To Be Cancelled

Fox News is reporting that Studio 60 is to be cancelled. I’m awaiting confirmation from a more credible source but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true. I’m sure the conservative media will claim that this is a rejection of a show with a liberal bias which has mocked the religious right. The truth is that this is another example of how difficult it is for well written, quality shows to survive on network television.

Update: It’s old news by now, but this post keeps getting search engine hits from people asking about the cancellation of Studio 60. Since this original post, NBC did order a full season of the show. More on Studio 60.

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Higher Taxes Under Republicans

I’ve often noted that the traditional battle lines between Republicans and Democrats have been redrawn. In the past Republicans might have represented the interests of the upper middle class, but in recent years Republican policies have begun to benefit only the wealthy, at the expense of both the middle and upper middles classes. The New York Times provides another example of this in an editorial today:

One of President Bush’s be-very-afraid lines this campaign season is that Democrats, if elected, will raise taxes. What he doesn’t say is that if you are one of tens of millions of Americans who make between $75,000 and $500,000 a year, your taxes are already scheduled to rise starting next year — because of laws that Mr. Bush championed and other actions he failed to take.

The higher taxes stem from the alternative minimum tax, a levy that is supposed to snare multimillionaires who would otherwise get away with using excessive tax shelters to wipe out their tax bills. But these days, the alternative tax is snaring many upper-middle-income filers.

Mr. Bush set the trap in 2001 — and in 2003, 2004 and 2006. In each of those years, he flogged for new tax cuts without requiring corresponding long-term changes in the existing rules for the alternative tax. It was well known that failure to update the alternative tax would create perverse interactions with the new tax cuts, causing filers’ tax bills to drop because of the cuts, only to shoot back up again from the alternative levy.

Those with taxable incomes over $500,000 will benefit from reelecting Republicans if taxes are their only concern, but for the rest of us there is no longer a benefit in voting Republican to save on tax dollars.

ACLU Drops Constitutional Challenge to Patriot Act Following Improvements in Act

Since the 9/11 attacks The American Civil Liberties Union has been working to keep the country safe from terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties, understanding that it would be a victory for terrorism if we abandoned the principles this nation was founded upon. There has been a partial victory in reducing the violations of civil liberties in the Patriot Act, leading the ACLU to drop their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the act:

The ACLU said it was withdrawing the lawsuit filed more than three years ago because of “improvements to the law.” The Justice Department argued last month that amendments approved by Congress in March 2006 had corrected any constitutional flaws in the Patriot Act.

“While the reauthorized Patriot Act is far from perfect, we succeeded in stemming the damage from some of the Bush administration’s most reckless policies,” Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU in New York, said in a written statement…

The ACLU argued that Section 215, which allows theFBI access to any “tangible things” such as books and documents through an order from a secret court, does not require investigators to show probable cause. It asked that the Justice Department be barred from using the provision…

[U.S. District Judge Denise Page] Hood ruled on Oct. 3 that the ACLU’s clients had shown they were harmed by the anti-terrorism law adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and that the lawsuit could proceed. But the ruling came after the law had been amended, prompting the ACLU to drop its case.

The ACLU said it would continue to monitor how the government applied Section 215 and would remain ready to defend any individual, business or organization receiving demands for information under the provision.

The group also said it is continuing its legal fight against a more frequently used provision of the Patriot Act that authorizes national security letters. Such letters allow the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without a judge’s approval or a grand jury subpoena.

Ron Suskind: The President Understands More About The Mistakes Than He Lets On

Spiegel Online interviewed Ron Suskind on the use of torture. Here’s a portion:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: With all your access to high-level sources, have you come across anyone who still thinks it is a good idea for the US to torture people?

Suskind: No. Most of the folks involved say that we made mistakes at the start. The president wants to keep all options open because he never wants his hands tied in any fashion, as he says, because he doesn’t know what’s ahead. But those involved in the interrogation protocol, I think are more or less in concert in saying that, in our panic in the early days, we made some mistakes.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because they could have gotten information through normal interrogations …

Suskind: … yes, and without paying this terrific price, namely: America’s moral standing. We poured plenteous gasoline on the fires of jihadist recruitment.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the average interrogator at a Black Site understands more about the mistakes made than the president?

Suskind: The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators.

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