Sunday, May 28, 2006

NYT: Kate Zernike's driving the cab again, it's low on gas and she's worked a double shift

Kate Zernike's back to playing world weary cab driver today in the New York Times. Her front page article is entitled "Kerry Pressing Swift Boat Case Long After Loss." She didn't write the headline but it reflects the article.

We'll note that John Kerry's war record was smeared. With lies of the worst sort. Zernike's not sure if it cost him votes. It did. With the campaign he was running, it did. (Running away from the activism against the war left him with only his record to stand on. As always with the Bully Boy, they don't attack your weaknesses, they spread lies about what's perceived as your strength so that you're neutralized.)

Did it cost him the election? That depends on whether you buy Ohio as a legitimate count. (Not to mention the spoiled votes from around the country.) Zernike appears to buy the election as legitimate.

When you try to run on the right flank of your opponent, when that's your strategy (and when all the new people showed up as the primaries were winding down, that became the only strategy -- that and attempts to muzzle Teresa*), you can't have your bonafides attacked. Those were the only bonafides the campaign wasn't interested in.

(The campaign was not Kerry alone. He got bad advice but he's responsible for following it. But the ones who were quick to stab him in the New York Times shortly after the election -- no vision, etc -- rushed in to lay blame for the very things they were hired by the campaign to create.)

So you saw the embarrassing convention. With even the non serving John Edwards trying to act Military Man. How embarrassing was that convention?

Travel back with me for a minute. Who wasn't going to be allowed to speak? Think hard.

Hillary Clinton. Why? Because they didn't want to appear "soft." Hillary as soft?

When Hillary's seen as soft, you start to grasp why the DNC is still so puzzled that Lieberman's struggling in his home state. That's how out of touch they are. When The Best Little War Hawk in Chappaqua can be seen as potentially coming off "too soft," that's when you grasp how serious this latest war on the non-White, non-male, non-straight membership of the Democratic Party is. Hillary who can out fundraise anyone and that's been true for years. It was true before she was in the Senate.

They needed her. She's a natural star. (That's not an endorsement of her for president.) People are interested in her, she can excite a crowd in a way that Elizabeth Dole can only dream of and envy. In a manner that most in Congress will never be able to approach, let alone match.
But she had on X chromosome too many.

So it took a battle to get her any kind of individual speaking role. When she got it (and she made the most of it -- that's not a slam, that's noting she knows how to reach an audience), it was as the wife of. Wife of Bill Clinton introducing him to the nation.

That's about all the party (and the fools running the convention) were going to risk.

When you think about Hillary's stepping away from reproductive rights, you might feel sympathy for her. You might think, "Well after she has to compete for a speaking slot that should rightfully be hers, she has every reason to bend and scrape."

Mabye she does. My way of looking at it, she doesn't. She saw, in that moment, what the people in power, controlling the party really thought of her. She was the circus ride they'd use to raise money, they'd kiss her ass like crazy. But when it was time to allow her a space (one she'd more than earned), they didn't want her.

I'm dead tired, hang with me on this. There are two movies from the same basic period (early 80s), Private Benjamin and An Officer and a Gentleman. Goldie Hawn plays Judy Benjamin (and, of course, she produced the film as well) in the former, Richard Gere plays Zach in the latter. Both films are about social conditioning. Early on, Judy rejects the social conditioning. It comes from being tricked into joining the army. But hang with me.

Zach doesn't reject it. He stays with it. He stays with it so much that he sees the sadistic treatment he receives as for his own good, something that makes him better. He goes through the movie playing a role and he ends it the same way.

Judy, on the other hand, is playing a role early on. The role she's supposed to play as a woman of a certain economic class and background. She ends up rejecting that (only when she's faced with an out from the military that's far worse than anything Captain Lewis can do to her). Once she rejects it, she's unstoppable. Unlike Zach, Judy doesn't go into a "Well, it was for me own good . . ." bit of nonsense. That's a lesson that serves her well when she gets to her next assignment. If she'd seen things happening to her for her own good, she would have probably been willing to write off the sexual assault. Instead, she's not playing that game.

In the third act, in Paris, Judy loses everything she learned. She reverts. At the last minute, surrounded by old friends, she's able to see what's happening and regain her strength.

For a lot of people, that third act process comes up a lot.

So here's the thing. Hillary didn't pull a Judy. She pulled a Zach.

They don't like me for who I am, I'll become what they want! That's what's at play as she ditches her former support for reproductive rights. Will she have an 'awekning' at the alter?
There are some who are writing that speech for her right now. It will ring hollow. Her most convincing moments are when she believes in what she's doing and saying.

That's why she's so convincing as a hawk now, it's what she's internalized and who she is. And here's the sad part, and she knows this now, that easy ride by being just like them, was never going to be an easy ride. The pimps for Mark Warner are out for her. You'll see them toss out a few names which is basically like strategy for voting in the Emmys -- you pick yourself and several sure to be losers so you get the nomination. So they pick Warner and toss out a few feeble names that they honestly know don't stand a chance and they use that position to attack Hillary. (If you've paid attention, you've seen it happening. And, yes, Hillary's noticed it as well.)

Now there's not a bit of difference between Mark Warner and Hillary Clinton other than their gender and the fact that Hillary is a party star. But what's she's having to face is that no matter how to the right she's gone, in the eyes of those that want to control the party, she's still a woman and that's just not good enough and, for them, it never will be.

What she's going to do with that, who knows? She's exploring several options (re: Iraq) and while Bill Clinton is the master at strategy, she hasn't been there doing her part all this time without learning something. She thought the balancing act would require moving away from (and writing off) the left. She's learning now that the so-called center of the party, leadership wise, isn't going to be her natural base, not when she's up against a man. It's a lesson she should have already known (and, in fact, did know at one time).

Better she learn that now then to be in the midst of a primary (all it will take is one bad primary outcome, overall for an election cycle, to destroy any future chance of being president) than learn it too late. John Kerry learned it too late.

He learned that he should have trusted his natural instict to fight the Not So Swift Floaties. Zernike wants to play dumb and marvel over the fact that even now, after the election, he's bothered by the fact that he was called a war criminal (that's what the charges of shooting someone in the back, the false charges, amounted to). She just can't get over the fact that he wants to make this issue.

He played the game the way they dictated. It was a mistake. But whether he runs for president again or not, he doesn't want this to stand. No one would (except maybe bean counters and those quite successful at losing elections).

He was told, becacse Democrats in power are always too scared and frequently too stupid, that to respond would give credence to the accusations. That's true in many ways for public relations. For instance, if a tabloid says ___ is gay, the actor or actress should look the other way. A law suit only invites attention from the mainstream media and leads to more discussion of a topic that would otherwise be dismissed as too tabloid to take seriously. But there's a difference between the Globe or the Star printing something and someone being given a seat on Nightling (with soft questions and uneffective questioning). When it reaches that stage, it requires a response. Not to do so is to let the charges go unanswered and at that point, by not answering, in the minds of many, you have answered.

To the voters Kerry was trying to peel off from Bully Boy, his nonresponse said way too much. It said not only that the charges might be true but that even if they were false, Kerry was so weak willed that he'd let anyone insult him and just look the other way.

The campaing made a huge mistake in running from the Iraq war. Having made the decision to take Iraq off the table, all they were left with was peeling off votes from Bully Boy and a lack of response to vile charges weren't going to be seen as "high roading" it or "mature." Kerry, instead, was going to look like the kid who gets shaken down for his money each day. And if he can't hold on to his own lunch money, how's he going to defend or represent you?

The strategists were too focused on the big moments. The end of act one, two and three. They'd have Kerry show up for those with a speech that might inspire. But they forgot that there's a turning point that propels into the second act and into the third act. Those moments were things like the attacks by the Not So Swift Floaties. They're human garbage and I won't try to sugar coat my opinion of them. But by being human grabage, they got attention. And there actions repeatedly sunk any well thought or planned move by the campaign that refused to deal with them.

The campaing had big moments and photo ops for Kerry to appear "manly" in the traditional sense (hunting, for instance). But before those moments could take hold in any news cycle, the Bully Boy campaign had already lept in with the most childish and the most petty comments. The campaign thought, "It doesn't matter! We have our soundbyte!" And they saw the soundbyte lose out in nearly every cycle.

Childish remarks or not, when made by Dick Cheney (for instance) go into the news cycle. Standing on the sidlines silently may be a sign of goodness but it doesn't translate into votes.
Take the nonsense over Kerry making the statement about Mary Cheney (who's suddenly out again! and marketing it!). Cheney attacked and it was petty and made no real sense. He knew his daughter was a lesbian. She was out, she was photographed with her partner. It wasn't a secret.

But Cheney ended up getting sympathy because Kerry didn't express his own outrage. To some it was, "Oh, he must not know about his daughter. Poor man, he's in denial." To others it was the "She can be whatever but don't talk to me about it." (Cheney knows exactly what his daughter is and has for many years. But the "don't talk to me about it" view played well with homophobes.) Kerry should have attacked. Kerry should have said, "The woman is an adult, she's an open lesbian and her father's pushing programs that will take her rights. Instead of slamming me, she should have the guts to fight for herself. But that's what I'll do as president, I will fight for every American. Not just the ones who vote for me, but the ones who need me, who need someone to say, 'No, you're not going to harm me."" That would have been on the news. Cheney would have had to respond and respond quickly and that's when his asshole qualities come out the most. (Not when he's savoring a well polished line that's been fed to him and rehearsed.)

They threw out their taunts because they knew Kerry wouldn't respond. (Democrats rarely have.) They knew their taunts would be polished before they saw them as talking points on the printed page. They'd look funny, off the cuff, ready to think on their feet. Kerry? He'd look like he needed a conference with several advisors and several days to think of a response to a simple playground taunt. If he'd have responded (if any Democrat would respond) immediately, the smug self-satisfied smirk would fall of the faces of Cheney and Bully Boy. They have no come backs, they only have what's prepared for them. When they resort to comebacks off the cuff, they demonstrate their true ugligness and they turn off the electorate. It happend with Poppy and not just when Bill Clinton struck back. He lost it with Tabitha Soren, for God's sake.

So that's how Kerry got the point where he's only able to defend himself after the campaign, after the advisors are all gone. (The high paid advisors -- and the Dukakis refugee that no one in the press paid attention to, never needs to be asked back on a campaign, why that refugee was allowed back in the tent and working on the convention is a question that should be asked?)
Now he's just got the people he should have been listening to all along.

While Zernike puzzles over why someone, why anyone, would want to prove that several lies about them were not true, she might want to puzzle over why her paper didn't follow up when Kerry authorized the release of his records -- why no paper followed up?

Regardless of the election, those Not So Swift Floaties are still active (as Kerry points out) they still eat up face time on the cable networks. They made statements during the campaign that the press should have followed up on the minute Kerry authorized the release of his records. They didn't do it because a) it would have cost their news organizations money, b) they don't want to be attacked and c) it's easier to catch attention following today's disposable story than it is correcting the record.

Another question she might want to ask herself is why she buried Jeb Bush's comment so far into the article? Zernike notes Jeb "sent a letter thanking the 'Swifites' for 'their willingness to stand up to John Kerry." I seriously doubt that a similar letter praising the Willie Horton campaign would have been greeted with such a blase reaction in print. But things have gotten even worse since then. Jeb Bush, who holds public office, can think attack goons for savaging the repuation of someone's service record -- while we are at war -- this from someone who didn't serve himself -- the brother of the Bully Boy -- who also didn't serve.

And in Zernike's article, it's just one more anecdote. It has no weight and it has no context.

Instead of wondering why Kerry wants to set the record straight, she might want to ask herself what she thought her article accomplished today and how it advanced anything other than getting her own name on the front page?

If you made it this far, congratulations! I am all written out and had to go through all of the above to get to the points at the bottom. "*" On Teresa Heinz Kerry because I wanted to note, she refused the advice laregly, she refused to be silenced or made over. Good for her. She was the strongest about the campaign and, when people met her, they usually went away convinced that they'd met a strong a real person. If the campaign had used her the way Bill Clinton's used Hillary in 1992, that would have been a big help. Self-identified "independent voters" (swing voters) who got to hear her speak live, went away impressed. But the campaing was so sure they couldn't afford a "Hillary moment" -- forgetting the lesson that in 1992, Bill Clinton won the election.

Polly has a highlight she wanted to note early because it's not about Iraq. It is about Guantamo. From Severin Carrell's "The children of Guantanamo Bay" (Independendt of London):

The notorious US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay has been hit by fresh allegations of human rights abuses, with claims that dozens of children were sent there - some as young as 14 years old.
Lawyers in London estimate that more than 60 detainees held at the terrorists' prison camp were boys under 18 when they were captured.
They include at least 10 detainees still held at the US base in Cuba who were 14 or 15 when they were seized - including child soldiers who were held in solitary confinement, repeatedly interrogated and allegedly tortured.
The disclosures threaten to plunge the Bush administration into a fresh row with Britain, its closest ally in the war on terror, only days after the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, repeated his demands for the closure of the detention facility. It was, he said, a "symbol of injustice".

New content at The Third Estate Sunday Review (pay attention to notes before clicking):

A Note to Our Readers
Editorial: The Reailities of Occupation
TV commentary: About the women (This is the piece Ava and I attempted to complete on Wednesday and post here -- I think it's work environment friendly)
Quick one: Why is Kagan not i.d.ed by the Washington Post
Crapapedia: Kids don't use it to research papers! (Warning, contains the f-word at least twice, once in a direct quote, if you're on a work computer and could get written up, don't click -- e-mail and I'll send you a copy and paste with the words edited)
Carly Simon's Christmas albums
April Oliver got a fiancial settlement, whether Wikiepedia tells you it happened or not, It Happened
Laura Flanders and Anthony Arnove discussed realities about Iraq Saturday on RadioNation with Laura Flanders
Radio highlights for Sunday (and one for Tuesday)

Remember Polly's Brew is in inboxes already.

Isaiah goes up as soon as this publishes (probably 15 minutes).

About to start as I type (9:00 am Pacific, 11:00 am Central and noon Eastern) KPFA's Sunday Salon:

This week on Sunday Salon...
Hour 1: Conscientious objectors -
Hour 2: Reduce your travel woes

You can listen online. The e-mail address for this site is