Obama Appears Unlikley To Repeat Kerry’s Errors of 2004

Prior to the conventions in 2004 John Kerry had a lead against George Bush but made three errors. He made a poor vice presidential pick, he failed to respond adequately to the Swift Boat Liars, and he failed to take advantage of his convention to make the case against Bush. Obama is unlikely to repeat these errors.

We will probably know who the vice presidential pick is any day now. Without knowing the answer it is premature to say he will do better than Kerry, but at least it is safe to predict he will not make the same mistake. Both Kerry and Obama have learned an important lesson from the Swift Boat attacks and any Democratic candidate will be better prepared this time. Kerry wanted a positive convention without criticism of Bush, but Obama plans to take on McCain:

Barack Obama’s campaign plans to use the four-day Democratic National Convention next week to relentlessly portray John McCain as a carbon copy of President Bush, in a strategic shift foreshadowed by two days of tougher attacks on his GOP rival.

The criticism itself, which will focus on the Arizona senator’s economic policies, ties to lobbyists and decades-long tenure in Washington, is not new. But the intensity of the attacks is — and it is meant to minimize the heavy emphasis on Obama’s charisma-driven campaign.

McCain has hammered the theme in recent weeks that Obama is an aloof “celebrity” unprepared to be commander in chief.

“The convention will offer a series of contrasts and comparisions of the McCain record so voters can see how clearly the choice will be in November,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton told FOX News. “The convention will also introduce Senator Obama to the country, but it will make sure to convey strongly the differences and choices Obama’s campaign presents over McCain’s.”

The move is a rejection of John Kerry’s decree in 2004 that his convention would project a positive message about Kerry and the Democratic Party while minimizing attacks on President Bush and the GOP.

Obama strategists believe Kerry’s convention was too passive and gave Bush and the Republicans space to create their own message without having to respond to Democratic criticisms. Advisers say the convention contrasts will not be personal, but will cast a harsh light on McCain’s record, lobbyist relationships and similarities with Bush. Aides say the campaign is setting out to offer a stark contrast between McCain and Obama.

Obama and His Fanatic Critics

Right wingers, who are generally more interested in distorting the positions of their opponents as opposed to serious discussion of real issues, have been attacking Obama over a vote in Illinois which they dishonestly cite as evidence he supports the killing of live babies. The Politico sorts through this.

I had already known that the attacks on Obama were bogus. What I did not know was exactly how extreme one of his major critics on this issue is. While it is dishonest to portray Obama’s votes as favoring baby killing, it would not be incorrect to say that Jill Stanek is actively trying to bring about increased deaths from AIDS in Africa. Ben Smith writes:

Since long before Obama entered the presidential contest, Illinois conservatives have cited his opposition to a state bill called the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. But while the cause seems rather hard to oppose — the bill nominally aims to prevent the murder of children who have been born — the debate is firmed up around the old, familiar and utterly polarized lines of the abortion debate, a fact the identity of his long-time critic on the issue makes clear.

The bill, which Obama opposed in various iterations in the Illinois state Senate, aims to bar killing infants who have already been born, an utterly uncontroversial stance. Obama opposed it in Illinois, as did women’s groups there, because they thought it was a backdoor way to regulate abortion. (It was an Alan Keyes favorite in 2004.) The newest twist on the story is that he opposed one version identical to a version passed by Congress (on the grounds, again, that it has no effect), arguing that it would have different implications under state than federal law.

The New York Sun has the clearest coverage of the argument, and David Freddoso dwells on it in his book. But given that the bottom line is that the bill has only passed when its critics are satisfied that it’s utterly meaningless, this doesn’t seem like a particularly substantive debate over whether or not he wants to kill living infants.

The notion that this fight is actually about killing live babies, rather than regulating abortion, seems a bit absurd; however, the website of the Illinois activist who championed the legislation, Jill Stanek, bears that out.

It turns out she doesn’t just oppose child-murder. Or late-term abortion. Or abortion. She’s also against condoms — in Africa. She’s raising money for more billboards in Tanzania with the message: “Faithful condom users die.”

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan, who also has a previous post pointing out differences between the Illinois bill and the bill Obama voted for in the Senate.

AP Calls Lieberman a Prick

Why does everyone assume that this assessment of Joe Lieberman in this AP report on vice presidential prospects was a typo? (Hat tip to Crooks and Liars for the screen grab.)

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Veronica Mars Might Return As A Movie

It’s a good thing Obama didn’t announce his VP choice today as there is even bigger news which would have eclipsed it. (Ok, maybe not.) Michael Ausiello reports that a Veronica Mars movie might be made:

The impromptu powwow took place last week in the offices of Thomas’ Hollywood-based production company, which just so happens to be located on the same lot where Bell is shooting Heroes. “Kristen and I ran into each other, and we did discuss a Veronica movie,” confirms Thomas, who says he has also had “a few conversations” with Mars executive producer Joel Silver…

For her part, Bell considers it a “major compliment” that people are still interested in Mars. “[Fans] still ask me all the time if the show’s coming back. Emotionally, I don’t want to think about Veronica Mars every day because it really does make me sad.”

Regarding her recent chat with Thomas about a Mars feature, the star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, perhaps not wanting to jinx things, flashes a Cheshire cat grin and says, “We’ll see.”

Translation: We’re halfway there to getting this thing greenlit!

Do We Really Want To Talk About McCain and the Cross?

There seem to be an awful lot of blog posts regarding whether John McCain altered his personal history and plagiarized the cross in the dirt story from a story in Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. The Jed Report summarizes the argument against McCain, but it turns out that the story wasn’t even from Solzhenitsyn. Andrew Sullivan argues for its significance and denies that he is Swift Boating John McCain. Regardless of whether this argument is valid, I wonder if this argument is really worthwhile.

If we are to make revision of one’s biography a matter for voting upon, we must keep in mind the fact that Barack Obama did take some liberties with his own biography in Dreams From My Father. Should the rumors be true and Obama choose Biden as his running mate, there’s also the problem that Biden has had his own problems with plagiarism in the past.

Even if the charges against McCain are true here, all this does is to keep discussion going of McCain’s experience as a POW, which will ultimately work to his benefit. The questions of whether he embellished his biography with this story are not even what anyone will ever vote on. There are considerable differences between Obama and McCain on the issues which matter. These are what we should be concentrating on.

Prayer and Medical Outcomes

One frustration in seeing reports on medical literature in the mainstream media is that the reporters generally oversimplify medical articles leaving readers with a misleading account. Yesterday there were news stories such as this AP report on this article in Archives of Surgery. The articles headline states that “1 in 2 believe prayer saves the dying.”  This headline can be supported from the article with the abstract stating, “More of the public (57.4%) than the professionals (19.5%) believe that divine intervention could save a person when physicians believe treatment is futile.” It also goes on to say that, “Other findings suggest further important insights.”

The article is more significant when evaluated beyond the provocative line quoted which formed the basis of many newspaper headlines. Orac does a good job of summarizing the full study at Respectful Insolence.

The pubic does come out looking better in reading the full article than in only looking at this one aspect. As the question of prayer changing hopeless medical outcomes has been the section discussed the most, it is worth pointing out that a closely related topic of prayer influencing other medical outcomes has actually been studied scientifically, as I have previously discussed here and here. It turned out that 1) prayer did not affect medical outcomes and 2) there appears to have been fraud practiced in some papers which did suggest that a benefit could be seen from prayer.

Another Vote for Kerry for VP

I recently quoted one report speculating on John Kerry as Obama’s running mate. While I still doubt it will happen, here’s another blog post in favor of choosing Kerry from The California Majority Report:

Over the course of a prolonged Rovian attack, Kerry got “swift-boated.” His decorated war service became a liability (although Kerry’s goofy “Reporting for duty” entry at the 2004 Democratic convention certainly didn’t help matters), and the campaign seemed far too unwilling to light the fire.

But that was then and this is now, and with President Bush’s approval rating now well lodged in the low 20s, there’s a bit of buyer’s remorse out on the campaign trail. Kerry can wear being slimed in the Swift Boat ads as something of a badge of honor these days. Here’s the man that should be president but for everything you hate about the Republican party, electorate! More importantly, Kerry has been an effective Obama surrogate, willing to go on the offensive at a time when, quite frankly, that seems to be Obama’s biggest weakness.

Kerry has moved on from his 2004 defeat to continue his work as a distinguished 20-year veteran Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee (where he chairs the obviously relevant Subcommittee on Near East and South and Central Asian Affairs), so if the Obama folks have deemed international experience to be their liability, Kerry’s easily fits the mold. Kerry also chairs the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, and sits on the Finance and Commerce, Science and Transportation committees, providing some helpful economic resume points to boot. And if Obama is destined to be eternally compared to Camelot, wouldn’t having a Senator JFK from Massachusetts, at a minimum, make the narrative just a little less attenuated?

There are other people out there who would make fine vice presidential nominees, to be sure, but since the moment of speculation will soon be over, it doesn’t hurt to remember that we could do much worse than a widely-known standard bearer of our party — the man with more Democratic votes than any other candidate in history.