I'd like to say a few words about anonymous sources.

Not the formerly anonymous CBS source Bill (Hey, I told you to authenticate the documents) Burkett, who has helped torpedo the network's credibility.

Not the anonymous administration sources who outed Valerie Plame to Bob Novak.

Not the unnamed bureaucrats who give these usually dull background briefings to Washington reporters, like the one whose cover was just blown by Slate's Jack Shafer | http://slate.msn.com/id/2107082/.

Not the Deep Throat types who would be risking their jobs if the bosses found out they were spilling the beans about corruption.

No, I'm talking about garden-variety campaign aides who whisper to the press for routine political stories.

Even here, I make some distinctions. The average campaign spinner will tell you, on the record, that his team expects to win 50 states. On background, he might say 40. On deep background, he might be willing to admit that his candidate doesn't walk on water. So if you're trying to get a reasonably honest assessment of the boss and the state of the campaign, you sometimes have to grant anonymity.

But when it comes to talking about the other guy--say, Kerry or Bush--each side has legions of paid flacks and hacks who are supposed to do just that. So why on earth would such a person have to be quoted as an unnamed source?

Take the lead political story in Newsweek. | http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6039833/site/newsweek/ Now that Kerry is engaging in straight talk about Iraq, one of his "longtime loyalists" says: "I'm thrilled, because it's the John Kerry I know and love."

The reaction at Camp Bush? "Good," says a "senior Bush aide." "We're glad he's talking about Iraq." Couldn't put that on the record, now could we?

Okay, a "senior Bush strategist" concedes that Bush hasn't defined the current mission in Iraq well. But how about this Team Kerry hit on Bush: "The flip-flop tag has already been priced into the market," says a "senior staffer. Bush's failure in Iraq hasn't." (Ever notice no one quotes junior staffers?)

Now here's a really risky quote from a "Kerry confidant": "He is just furious that there is this Orwellian world out thee now where Bush is seen as strong on terrorism and strong on the war in Iraq when he's screwed both of them up fairly well." Doesn't Kerry say some version of that every day?

Yet another "senior" Kerry aide on the Republicans: "They lied about John Kerry and tried to tell people he was unfit to be president." Wow.

Okay, there's one Lockhart quote and then this out-on-a-limb comment from a friend of Kerry's and John Sasso's: "It's really about the candidate carrying himself with confidence and clarity." But don't use my name!

I don't mean to pick on Newsweek. You can find the same sort of thing in Time, The Washington Post and most other major publications. But it made me want to scream: Won't anyone in this joint go on the record?

Out in campaign land, the prez plays the Allawi card:

"Apart from the heavy Iraqi accent, he sounded almost like a Republican official introducing President Bush at a campaign stop," says the Boston Globe. | http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/articles/2004/09/24/in_prime_minister_presidential_race_gets_a_touchstone/ "But as interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi of Iraq toured the diplomatic circuit in Washington yesterday, praising Bush for 'standing firm' in the war on terror and admonishing Senator John F. Kerry as a 'doubter,' he took on a far more significant role in the presidential campaign than any American partisan ever could.

"'When political leaders sound the sirens of defeatism in the face of terrorism,' Allawi said, standing next to Bush in the White House Rose Garden, 'it only encourages more violence.' With that remark, Allawi, the former CIA operative installed in June at the helm in Iraq, became the face of the Bush administration's aspirations for Iraq, and a symbol of freedom that Democrats may attack at their peril.

"The prime minister presented an especially thorny dilemma for Kerry, who has built the final phase of his campaign around the notion that the violent upheaval in Iraq is exacerbated by errant US policies."

The New York Times | http://www.9nytimes.9com/92004/909/923/politics/campaign/23CND-KERR.9html?hp has the Kerry pushback:

"Stepping up his attack on President Bush over Iraq, Senator John Kerry said today that conditions there were so bad that the elections planned for January were in jeopardy and that the president's upbeat assessments was contradicted by reality and intelligence reports.

"Speaking shortly after the interim government's prime minister, Ayad Allawi, gave Congress a portrayal of progress toward peace, Mr. Kerry said, 'The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy. But the fact is that C.I.A. estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story,' he said...

"Senator Kerry's advisers said he was emphasizing Iraq -- and planned a speech on Friday in Philadelphia on how Iraq had proven a distraction from fighting terrorism -- to reframe the way the two sides were fighting over foreign policy heading into the first presidential debate next Thursday."

Allawi drew some old-fashioned Democratic oppo, says the Los Angeles Times | http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/la-na-assess24sep24,1,7081693.story?coll=la-home-headlines:

"Democrats moved quickly to fuel skepticism, denouncing Allawi's message in unusually pointed terms. "While Kerry was relatively restrained in disputing Allawi's upbeat portrayal, some of his aides suggested that the Iraqi leader was simply doing the bidding of the Bush administration, which helped arrange his appointment in June.

"'The last thing you want to be seen as is a puppet of the United States, and you can almost see the hand underneath the shirt today moving the lips,' said Joe Lockhart, a senior Kerry adviser.

"White House officials denied scripting Allawi's remarks. And the Iraqi leader has said he has no preference in the presidential race. But in interviews this week and his Thursday speech, Allawi forcefully rebutted virtually every major argument Kerry has raised against Bush regarding the war."

Time for our poll watch, starting with

USA Today: | http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-09-23-bush-poll_x.htm"President Bush narrowly leads Sen. John Kerry in electoral vote-rich Florida, a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll finds. Those results give Bush a lead in eight of 11 battleground states surveyed this month.

"Bush's Florida lead -- 49%-46% among likely voters contacted Sept. 18-22 -- is within the poll's margin of error of +/ 4 percentage points, as are his margins in five of the other seven battleground states where Bush is leading. He and Kerry are tied in Minnesota."

Within the margin of error. Meaning that it could just as easily be tied.

The Philadelphia Inquirer | http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/special_packages/election2004/polls/9714974.htm also takes a shot at the swing states:

"President Bush is cutting into John Kerry's base, leading or drawing virtually even with the Massachusetts senator in six of seven swing states that Democrat Al Gore won four years ago, according to a new Knight Ridder-MSNBC poll and two other single-state polls.

"In Iowa, Bush led Kerry by 48-42 percent; in Minnesota, by 46-44; in New Mexico, by 47-43; in Oregon, by 47-43; and in Wisconsin by 46-44.

"Kerry held a razor-thin lead of 45-44 percent in Pennsylvania. In Michigan, he led by 47-41, his strongest state among the seven."

If Kerry is struggling to win Pennsylvania, he is struggling.

Kevin Drum | http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ is also watching the polls:

"ARG has finished their massive nationwide poll of 600 people in each state (plus DC), a total of 30,600 respondents. Here are the basic results:

"Nationwide, Bush leads Kerry 47% to 46%.

"Kerry has the lead in 20 states with 270 electoral votes.

"Bush has the lead in 29 states with 253 electoral votes.

"Two states are tied (Wisconsin and West Virginia)."

Jonathan Cohn | http://www.tnr.com/etc.mhtml doesn't mention the latest polls in the New Republic, but sees a "case for an imminent Kerry-is-surging storyline. All the ingredients are there:

" --Kerry staff shakeups and the hiring of old Clinton hands, which gives reporters a handy inside-baseball explanation for how things got turned around.

"--Kerry's engagement on Iraq, which puts the actual situation there front-and-center rather than Kerry's position on it.

"--The intelligence report [this summer's pessimistic National Intelligence Estimate], the [equally pessimistic] CSIS report, and all the bad news from Iraq (that was there all along but vanished for a while).

"--Guilt over overhyping the swift boat story and letting Bush be unaccountable for past dishonesties (or do I overestimate their conscience?)."

That's always a danger.

In National Review, J. Edward Carter | http://nationalreview.com/nrof_comment/carter200409230820.asp dissects Kerry's plans:

"John Kerry, despite an unwavering twenty-year record of support for high-calorie federal-spending binges, now promises to keep spending in check should he win the presidency. Is he to be believed?

"According to the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union, Kerry's 65 campaign proposals for new and expanded government programs would balloon federal spending by $256 billion a year. Taking into account the handful of spending cuts Kerry has proposed, the net increase amounts to $226 billion a year.

"Just how much is $226 billion? It is more than twice what the United States spent last year on crude oil imports; nearly four-times the value of the all the gold stored in Fort Knox; more than the federal government will spend in fiscal year 2004 on education, social services, community and regional development, veterans' benefits, international affairs, and agriculture combined."

Funny--not a word on Bush's spending plans, estimated by The Post at $3 trillion over a decade.

Andrew Sullivan | http://www.andrewsullivan.com ruminates on a second Bush term:

"I'd love it if he made a real push for a flat tax, or social security privatization (or whatever euphemism they're going to come up with for it), but I don't believe he'll do anything that ambitious (or conservative). Second terms are not good opportunities to do that, especially since his first two years will be consumed with trying to find a way out of the morass in Iraq he has created these past eighteen months or so. Iran? I have zero confidence the administration will do anything that different from a hypothetical Kerry administration. NoKo? Ditto.

"Tax cuts? Bush can hold the line, since the true fiscal calamity won't happen till after he's left, and then he can blame his successors. Socially? With the war working everyone's nerves, he'll shift even more to his base. More anti-gay stuff, I presume; more government funds for fundies; a right-turn on immigration maybe. Excited yet? Me too."

Repeat after me: The race is tightening!

Columbia Journalism Review | http://campaigndesk.org/ is on a cliche watch:

"In the past few days, 'security moms' have become all the rage with the political press corps, who have promptly elevated these moms to the top of the swing voter heap -- all based, we must say, on a smattering of recent (and often conflicting) polls. And the usual crowd of pundits and partisans have popped up to interpret those polls and confuse news consumers everywhere.

"Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen."

Wondering what Jayson Blair thinks about Dan Rather? I wasn't either, but Rathergate.com | http://www.rathergate.com/index.php?p=200 has the scoop:

"My first reaction when a friend asked about the Dan Rather memo flap was to ponder whether anyone learned anything from the mess I got myself into. Nobody knows the value of credibility better than I do. I'd give up the book royalties if I could get my credibility and career back.

"It is encouraging that CBS has appointed an independent commission to look into the situation, but the real issue isn't so much simply what went wrong on this one story -- but what is broken at CBS that allowed something like this to happen. I hope that the first priority is not simply protecting the brand name, but fixing whatever is broken. I think it would do all news organizations good to look inside before scandal takes them.

"Amazingly enough, you are the only media outlet that has contacted me, although I heard from my publicist that he heard that CNN was considering me for a panel, but that didn't happen. Although, a number of news organizations have put me in their stories and editorial cartoons as an example."

Fame is funny that way.

Sumner Redstone, | http://nypost.com/postopinion/editorial/29138.htm chief honcho at CBS parent company Viacom, yesterday told a convocation of senior corporate executives that he is "very concerned" about Dan Rather's now-infamous "60 Minutes" report on President Bush's military record.

As well he should be. The reputation of what was once America's premier television news network was shredded by Rather's credulous embrace of documents that most charitably can be termed amateurish forgeries.

Glenn Reynolds, | http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,10859477%255E7583,00.html writing in the Australian rather than as InstaPundit, sees the end of an era:

"Journalism -- particularly journalism practised as it's practised at CBS (or as the similarly humiliating Andrew Gilligan affair demonstrates, at the BBC) is easy. Those who have lived within the comfortable big-media cocoon have done so not because they possess unusual talents, but because they have had access to the tools for disseminating news and opinion, tools that were until recently so expensive that only a favoured few could use them. They had the megaphone; the rest of us did not.

"Those days are over. Nowadays everyone has a megaphone and those with something interesting to say often discover that their megaphone can become very large, very fast. Meanwhile, those in the legacy media are discovering that their megaphones are shrinking as the result of journalistic self-abuse. With the tools now available to everyone, the biggest asset is credibility, something they have already squandered in the belief that no one would know the difference."

Even bloggers aren't perfect: National Review's Jim Geraghty | http://www.nationalreview.com/kerry/kerry200409231516.asp accused Terry McAuliffe of knowing about the CBS Guard story in advance--a smoking gun of a charge--and then had to retract it.

She just won an Emmy, so that gives me an excuse for this New York Daily News | http://nydailynews.com/front/story/235315p-202043c.html front-page screamer, "SAME SEX IN THE CITY":

"Cynthia Nixon is trying a different kind of sex in the city, the Daily News has learned.

"For almost 10 months now, the Emmy-winning actress has been dating another woman, sources say.

"Back in June of 2003, Nixon split with Danny Mozes, the father of her two children. Last January, according to friends, she began a lesbian relationship.

"Right now, Nixon, 38, does not want to be as outspoken as Rosie O'Donnell, the sources say. But Nixon did not flinch when we asked her yesterday whether she is involved with another woman.

"Speaking exclusively with the Daily News, she said, 'My private life is private. But at the same time, I have nothing to hide. So what I will say is that I am very happy.'"

Would have made a great plot for the HBO show.