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GlennReynolds.com

March 12, 2004 | 3:06 PM ET

DEMOCRATS LEADING IN SMEAR CAMPAIGN

Morton Kondracke has it right:

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The media seem to be uncritically accepting the Democratic charge that any criticism of Sen. John Kerry's, D-Mass., public record is "sliming" or "smearing."
But for months now, Democrats have accused Bush of being a "liar" who "misled" or "deceived" the nation into the Iraq war; a "usurper" who "stole" the 2000 election in Florida; "a right-wing extremist" on tax, social and foreign policy; and a "menace to the nation's basic liberties," owing to his employment of Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Former Vice President Al Gore said Bush had "betrayed" the country in Iraq. No major Democrat said afterward that Gore had gone too far.
Democrats claim that Republicans either have questioned or will question their patriotism in this campaign, but actually the only accusations of lacking patriotism have come from Democrats.

Read the whole thing.  But what Kondracke misses is the way in which the press has actually participated actively in the smear campaign against Bush.

Just look at the coverage of Susan Lindauer, a former Democratic Congressional staffer, journalist, and "peace activist" who was indicted as an Iraqi agent yesterday.  She's also the second cousin of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.  I couldn't even name my second cousins, but guess how a lot of media played it:

Accused Spy is Cousin of Bush Staffer

Honestly, you couldn't make this stuff up.  And, sadly, you don't have to.  But for those who don't get it -- which appears to include most of the political press, here's some clarification from James Lileks:

Criticizing someone’s record is not a personal attack. “My opponent is a sad half-man who licks laudanum off the bellies of toothless syphilitic doxies” is a personal attack. . . .
Accusing one’s opponent of treason is a personal attack.  Al Gore accused Bush of “betraying this country.”  Reasonable people could say he misled the country, or misruled the country, and make the argument to support the assertion, but “betrayed” is a word that has a special quality when talking about the President of the United States.  I’ve heard General Wesley Clark question the President’s patriotism, and insist that his religious beliefs were misguided, because the Democratic Party is the party that truly hews to Christian doctrines.  And of course we heard Governor Dean insert the “Bush was warned” meme into the body politic.
There’s nothing comparable on the other side.  Nothing.  I mean, the Bush team runs an ad that has a second of 9/11 footage, and his opponents
pitch a carefully staged fit – because that’s all they have.

It does seem to be all they have.  But it seems to be enough for the press.

MADRID
I was going to put up a post here on the cowardly terrorist attacks in Madrid -- probably by Al Qaeda, possibly by the Basque terrorist group ETA, quite conceivably by both working in concert-- but I've already blogged a lot about them over at my InstaPundit blog.  Go here for lots of links and commentary, here for some thoughts on something we can do, and here for firsthand photos and reports from the antiterrorism demonstration in front of the Spanish Embassy in Washington this afternoon.

John Kerry called our coalition, of which Spain was part, "fraudulent."  I wonder how our allies in Spain feel about his comments now.

March 11, 2004 | 10:40 AM ET

KERRY'S TEMPER

John Kerry says that he'd like to blow Osama's head off.  Hey, who wouldn't?  (Except maybe Australian journalist John Pilger, who thinks the United States must be stopped before it topples more fascist dictatorships.  I told you there were journalists who want the United States to fail!).  I have to say, though, that Kerry's comment reminded me of the pistol-packing Geraldo Rivera's  promise to "take Osama down" if he encountered him while reporting on the war in Afghanistan.

Tough talk, however, seems to be the hallmark of Kerry's campaign.  He also called the Bush Administration "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen."  Harsh words from a man who serves in the United States Senate.

Kerry's bluster is disturbing, but the media treatment is revealing:  It's been largely ignored.  Imagine the reaction if Bush had said these sorts of things.  He'd be savaged for viciousness, and people would wonder if that sort of macho posturing suggested a temperament unfit for the White House.

No double standard?  Indeed.  But not in the blogosphere, where one blogger observes:

John Kerry needs to put up or abjectly apologize. If Kerry has evidence of corruption or lying, then put it out for all to see. Then we can all be enlightened and investigate it, and determine if Kerry is right or a full-fledged member of the Tinfoil Hat brigade. If he refuses to do so, then he is a coward and a sneak, a mumbler who won't take responsibility for his rumormongering.

As I've said before, you never know which Kerry you're going to get:  The one who writes poetry and quotes André Gide ("Don't try to understand me too much") or the one who channels Geraldo?

But don't worry:  Kerry may have a steadying influence on the ticket soon.  There's talk of John McCain as a surprise running mate!  You'll never catch McCain shooting his mouth off...

MORE ON IRAQ
Oxford bloggers Josh Chafetz and Patrick Belton have interesting roundups of news from Iraq, which continues to be generally good.  You should also look at this Central Asia regional briefing from Winds of Change, and you might also enjoy this piece on China's growing thirst for oil, and the resultant efforts on China's part to extend its influence into the Mideast.

This is yet another reason why it's important to extend democracy into the Middle East, of course.  Fortunately, it seems to be working.  We're even starting to see pressure for reform in Syria:

A human rights activist who was detained for an extremely rare protest in this tightly controlled country, promised Tuesday to continue campaigning for democracy in Syria.
Aktham Naisse, who leads the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria, said Monday's sit-in outside parliament was a success even though police quickly detained all the demonstrators.
"As activists, we were able to send a clear message to the Syrian street, and to international public opinion, that we are serious about our demands and program," Naisse told The Associated Press in an interview.

As Roger Simon notes, the democratic resistance to the Iranian mullarchy is also trying hard.  It would be nice if, in between the death threats and the unsubstantiated charges of corruption, Senator Kerry could find the time to offer some support for these brave democratic movements.  Isn't he the candidate of the Democratic Party?

March 9, 2004 | 1:56 PM ET

IMPROVING IN IRAQ

I mention below that things in Iraq seem to be going rather well.  The real proof of that, of course, is that neither John Kerry nor Katie Couric want to talk much about events there, or about the new Iraqi constitution and what it means.

But Fareed Zakaria notes the progress:

Consider the progress of Al Qaeda and affiliated terror groups over the past three years. For a decade they had attacked high-profile American targets only—embassies, a naval destroyer, the World Trade Center.  Once the United States mobilized against them, and got the world to join that fight, what have they hit?  A discotheque, a few synagogues, a couple of restaurants and hotels, all soft targets that could not ever be protected, and all outside the Western world. As a result, the terrorists have killed mostly Muslims, which is marginalizing them in the world of Islam. . . .

In political terms they have fared even worse. Support for violent Islam is waning in almost all major Muslim countries. Discussions from Libya to Saudi Arabia are all about liberalization. Ever since September 11, when the spotlight has been directed on these societies and their dysfunctions laid bare to the world, it is the hard-liners who are in retreat and the moderates on the rise.  This does not mean that there will be rapid reform anywhere—there are many obstacles to progress—but it does suggest that the moderates are not running scared anymore.

This is not, as some might argue -- if they deigned to discuss the subject at all -- a fortunate byproduct of the invasion of Iraq.  This consequence was the primary goal of, and reason for, the invasion.  War critics are focusing on the lack of weapons of mass destruction because it's the only thing on which they can make any argument at all, given that all their predictions of disaster -- massive U.S. and Iraqi civilian casualties (ironically, often due to the very WMDs that war critics were then sure Saddam had), the "Arab street" in revolt everywhere, and a massive upsurge in Al Qaeda terror -- didn't materialize.  Why haven't we heard more about those failures of intelligence, or more about the success of the Bush plan in Iraq?  It's almost as if people want us to fail.

In fact, as Oxford blogger David Adesnik notes, it really is as if people want us to fail.  Adesnik looks at doomsaying reports from the Washington Post and New York Times regarding last weekend's Iraqi constitutional negotiations, and then points out that the same reporters neglected to mention how wrong those reports turned out to be by Monday.  He observes:

So, did the NYT report today that Friday's "major embarrassment" didn't materialize? Or that Paul Bremer has been successful in encouraging Iraqis to work together? And what about the WaPo? Did it report that the Shi'ites' compromise is an indication of how ethnic and religious divisions may not be as profound as originally thought?

Since those were all rhetorical questions, I won't bother telling you the answers. The fact is that professional journalists have a remarkable habit of overlooking their own short-sightedness. Unsurprisingly, the same correspondents at the Times (Dexter Filkins) and the Post (Rajiv Chandrasekaran) covered both the Shi'ite walkout on Friday and the Shi'ite compromise earlier today. Their coverage demonstrates how committed both men are (subconscioulsy, I think ) to telling the story of how America is going to fail in Iraq.  Of course, it's hard to tell a consistent story when the facts keep getting in the way.

Let's be honest here:  There are a lot of people in the media, and in American politics, who would rather see the United States fail in Iraq, if it means getting George Bush out of the White House and John Kerry in.  And if that failure doesn't materialize on its own, they'll do their best to portray what's going on in Iraq as a failure even when it's not.

Keep that in mind as you peruse the coverage, and listen to the debate.

March 8, 2004 | 10:53 PM ET

KERRY VS. KERRY ON THE WAR

Last week I wrote that Kerry was sounding more serious about national security, but I was worried:

Kerry has a record of flip-flops -- as Michael Grunwald writes in Slate, "If you don't like the Democratic nominee's views, just wait a week." (Don't miss Grunwald's handy comparison-chart on Kerry positions past and present). So which Kerry will we get if he's elected? Kerry the Hawk, or Kerry the Dove? It's a good question, and I'm not sure that Kerry himself knows the answer yet. Hopefully, we'll all know before the election.

It looks like what we're getting is Kerry The Waffle.  At least, Kerry's latest interview on the subject,  in Time Magazine, doesn't inspire much confidence.  Kerry's all over the map here:  I might have gone to war, I might not, it might have been the right thing to do, it might not, etc.

There's a way, of course, in which this is true:  Important national security decisions are always made under conditions of uncertainty, meaning that you can never be sure that any decision was right or wrong until much later.  (Example:  Jimmy Carter's Olympic boycott in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was derided as weak and even counterproductive, since it seemed to actually stiffen Soviet resolve to remain there.  But as it turned out, the Afghan War was a major factor in the Soviet Union's decline, meaning that, in fact, Carter's policy may have been a brilliant, if unintended, stroke of diplomacy.)

But it sounds suspiciously as if Kerry's trying to have it both ways here.  It looks like things are going well in Iraq, and he doesn't want to say anything that will make him look stupid next fall.  On the other hand, the Democratic base is marked by vitriolic opposition to the war, and he needs to distinguish himself from Bush, so he has to quibble.  The result is a collection of statements like this:

TIME: You've criticized the pre-emptive nature of the Bush doctrine.
KERRY: Let me emphasize: I'll pre-empt where necessary.  We are always entitled to do that under the Charter of the U.N., which gives the right of self-defense of a nation. We've always had a doctrine of pre-emption contained in first strike throughout the cold war.  So I understand that.  It's the extension of it by the Bush Administration to remove a person they don't like that contravenes that.

Got that?

Kerry's waffling isn't playing well in the blogosphere.  Steven Den Beste has a lengthy analysis of what's wrong with Kerry's comments.  Military blogger LT Smash is also unimpressed.  And Stephen Green has Kerry debating himself on the war, using a collection of contradictory quotes from different Kerry speeches and interviews.

And Kerry's waffling isn't just limited to the war.  Mickey Kaus is trying to put together a Unified Kerry Theory, noting that "Kerry's positioning is often so transparently and short-sightedly self-interested that it's actually not in his long term self-interest."  It's gotten bad enough that blogger Tom Maguire, after collecting multiple stories on Kerry's flipflops, observes, "His positions, and the painful way he gets to them, don't quite square with 'Kerry - The courage to lead.'  At some point, even his target base may wonder who they are bringing in to fight for them."  One wonders if Kerry is unsure sometimes, too.

Maguire suggests a news Kerry slogan:  "Kerry - He's everywhere you want to be."

As the humor site ScrappleFace put it last week:  "Edwards Drops Out, Now It's Kerry vs. Kerry."  May the best man win -- if we can only figure out who he is. . .

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