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.