Does John Kerry see himself as surprise Red Sox hero Johnny Damon, homering his way to victory over a favored foe in the deciding game?

If a Boston team can break the 1918 Curse of the Bambino at Yankee Stadium, can Kerry believe he can break the curse of Massachusetts Democrats and become the first since JFK to win the White House? Against a former team owner to boot?

And has it escaped anyone's notice that if the Houston Astros win today, we'll be looking at a Massachusetts-Texas World Series to mirror the campaign's final days?

Just a thought.

So here's today's Rorschach test:

Pat Robertson says President Bush told him before the war that there would be no, as in zero, casualties.

The New York Times says Tommy Franks told his Iraq commanders in April 2003 that combat forces should be prepared to start pulling out within 60 days, and if all went as expected the 140,000 troops would be reduced by that September to just 30,000..

Dick Cheney warns that terrorists may one day have a nuclear bomb and that Kerry is weak on terrorism.

Condi Rice, breaking with tradition, is out there giving speeches and interviews in swing states.

Teresa Heinz Kerry says she doesn't think Laura Bush ever held a real job.

Which gets bigger play in the media?

That's what I think, too.

Now there's no question that Teresa has an uncanny ability to say impolitic things, from "shove it" to letting poor children run naked. She did apologize after being reminded that the first lady had been a librarian. What exactly did she think she was accomplishing, anyway, by going negative on Laura?

But in the larger scheme of things, aren't these other matters more important? Along with John Kerry insisting there's a secret plan to reinstate the draft?

The White House says the president never made the no-casualties comment to Robertson. But the reason it resonates, I think, is that it plays into the notion--put forth by Ron Suskind in that NYT Magazine piece Sunday--that Bush is not part of the "reality-based community," as one of Suskind's sources put it. That, as critics say, he lives in a very thick bubble.

That may be totally unfair. But this is a president who says he can't think of a mistake he's made (except perhaps for a few bad appointments.) So that makes some folks think he refuses to recognize, for example, the magnitude of the mess in Iraq.

The question before the voters is whether they trust John Kerry to do better. It's easy to criticize the other guy's mistakes, but can Kerry, who got 4-1/2 hours of exposure standing next to Bush, make the sale? And is that sale just a little bit harder if he has to keep explaining his wife's remarks? Because that's the kind of thing people remember.

"Teresa Heinz Kerry issued an apology yesterday for saying she doubted that Laura Bush, the president's wife, 'ever had a real job.' Bush's work as a teacher and librarian in Texas, and then as a mother of twin girls, has been well publicized," says the Boston Globe. | http://www.boston.com/news/politics/president/articles/2004/10/21/heinz_kerry_apologizes_over_remarks_about_presidents_wife/

"In comments that touched off a bit of panic among some Democrats, and some disgust in the Bush camp, Heinz Kerry -- wife of Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry -- told USA Today that she would differ from Bush as first lady by continuing her career as a philanthropist and also because her 'experience is a little bit bigger' than Bush's."

So is her mouth, by the way.

"'I don't know Laura Bush,' Heinz Kerry said in remarks published yesterday. 'But she seems to be calm, and she has a sparkle in her eye, which is good. But I don't know that she's ever had a real job -- I mean, since she's been grown-up. So her experience and her validation comes from important things, but different things. And I'm older, and my validation of what I do and what I believe and my experience is a little bit bigger -- because I'm older, and I've had different experiences. And it's not a criticism of her. It's just, you know, what life is about.'. . . .

"Kerry aides said they were a bit unnerved when they read Heinz Kerry's remarks. As media outlets began highlighting the remarks, the campaign opted for an apology that was also aimed at the working mothers whom Kerry is courting."

The Washington Times | http://washingtontimes.com/national/20041021-120942-1462r.htm leads with the Bush side's reaction:

"President Bush's re-election campaign yesterday expressed indignation at Teresa Heinz Kerry for suggesting that first lady Laura Bush, a former teacher, librarian and full-time mother, never 'had a real job.' 'I think most Americans would agree that teaching is a real job, that being a librarian is a real job,' campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said. 'Staying home, working from the home and raising children is not only hard work, but that's a real job also.'"

Heinz Kerry's apology "did not satisfy Bush campaign officials, who found it impossible to believe that Mrs. Kerry had forgotten that Mrs. Bush raised twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, who have made high-profile campaign appearances for the president. 'The apology almost made the comment worse because she seems to have forgotten that being a mother is a real job,' said Bush adviser Karen Hughes, who gave up her full-time job at the White House two years ago to spend more time raising her son."

The Dems, meanwhile, jumped on those comments by former presidential candidate Robertson, reports the Los Angeles Times | http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/2004/la-na-robertson21oct21,1,6730884.story?coll=la-news-elect200:

"Democrats trying to portray President Bush as too headstrong when he decided to invade Iraq got help this week from an unlikely source: televangelist and Bush supporter Pat Robertson.

"Appearing on CNN on Tuesday night, Robertson recalled a private meeting with Bush before the Iraq war began, at which he said the president asserted there would be no casualties.

"'I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties,' Robertson told CNN's Paula Zahn. But Bush said, 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties,' Robertson related."

The White House rolled out its defensive artillery: 'I think he must have either misunderstood, misheard or been confused about what the conversation was because I've never heard the president say anything of the sort, and he wouldn't have,' Karen Hughes, a senior Bush advisor, told reporters. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: 'Of course the president never made such a comment.' Bush strategist Karl Rove told reporters that he was in the room for the Feb. 10, 2003, meeting, and that Robertson was incorrect in his recollection. 'I was right there,' Rove said."

Fear is still a major campaign theme, as this Philadelphia Inquirer | http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/nation/9973916.htm report suggests:

"For all his tough talk, President Bush is a weak leader who has bungled the war in Iraq and left America more vulnerable to terrorists, Sen. John Kerry contended yesterday in a speech designed to confront the perception of a strength gap.

"Bush, speaking to supporters about the same time in Mason City, 80 miles away, fired back, suggesting that Kerry would put the nation at risk of another terrorist attack.

"The candidates' focus on terrorism and the Iraq war in the closing days of the campaign underscored the extent to which national security has shoved aside other issues. . . .

"In Clio, Mich., Vice President Cheney hammered home the same point, repeating a favorite line three times at a single event: that the biggest threats facing Americans are terrorists using a weapon of mass destruction in a U.S. city.

"Cheney, appearing at a coffee with supporters at a Big Boy diner in the Flint suburb and later at a rally in Traverse City, said the Democratic presidential nominee's 'pre-9/11 mind-set' meant he was not up to the task of protecting Americans from such a scenario."

Remember the flap about Kerry not officially accepting the nomination in Boston because, under campaign finance rules, he would have to stretch his federal money over five more weeks than Bush? The New York Times | http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/21/politics/campaign/21donate.html?oref=login checks on the checkbooks:

"President Bush's campaign and the Republican National Committee had roughly $108 million in the bank collectively as they entered October, enough to maintain a blizzard of campaign advertisements and an army of workers through the campaign's final days, finance reports show.

"Senator John Kerry's campaign and the Democratic National Committee that supports him had roughly $79 million on hand on Sept. 30, according to party and campaign officials."

In the National Review, | http://nationalreview.com/may/may200410200830.asp former GOP spokesman Cliff May recounts a talk radio battle with LAT columnist Robert Scheer:

"Scheer is hardly alone on the left in accusing President Bush, Republicans, and conservatives not just of being misguided or wrong or even ignorant -- but of being liars, people who intentionally say things they know to be untrue. In fact, this has become a central theme of the Left. On Amazon.com you can find Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. There's also Joe Conason's Big Lies: The Right-wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth. And, of course, there's David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. . . .

"In fact, the main theme of the Kerry campaign to date has been that Bush has 'not been straight' with Americans,' has not 'leveled' with Americans, has 'misled' Americans: that's he's a lying liar telling lies, to put it bluntly, which few on the left have been reluctant to do. I don't know whether this is an effective tactic. Maybe it appeals to 'the base,' or to women or to 'security moms' or to Floridians or some other designated demographic. But it should be obvious that the reflexive calling of one's opponent a liar pretty much forecloses the possibility of having a serious debate. I suggested as much to Scheer. He responded by angrily recalling that Republicans accused President Clinton of lying."

I do seem to remember something about that.

Salon's Eric Boehlert | http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/10/20/ron_suskind/index1.html interviews the aforementioned Ron Suskind:

"Q. What did you suspect would be the reaction to the Times article, and did the whole Social Security privatization flap surprise you?

"A. I wasn't expecting that. I was expecting Bush's quote -- 'I'm going to be real positive while I keep on John Kerry's throat' -- to create a lot of heat and light. I was surprised the privatization quote got so much play. I think it was largely because Kerry focused on it.

"Q. Did that then force the Bush campaign to deny the quote and call it fabricated and 'Kitty Kelley journalism'?

"A. Of course. At this point, with two weeks to go until the election, it is regrettable but expected that either side, frankly, will do just about anything. It's regrettable that both sides have jumped onto the little rowboat of that one word [privatize]. But the fact is, that's what Bush said.

"As well, the president said, 'I'm going to have an opportunity to name somebody to the Supreme Court right after my swearing in.' That certainly suggests to me a quid pro quo, that there's been at least a passing of communication, if you will, between someone on the Supreme Court and the White House that immediately after the president's swearing in he'll have his first of what he considers, as he said at the luncheon, the first of four spots that he's expected to [be able to name] in his second term. . . .

"Q. Do you think there's a coordinated attempt to knock journalists down so that what they have to say is taken less seriously?

"A. There is a varied, national, forceful, coordinated campaign to do that, to try to create doubt about the long-held and long-respected work of the mainstream media. Absolutely. So that Americans believe that what we do and say, what the mainstream media offer, is not of value, is not honest, is not factually accurate. And [that we are] not in any way connected to strong traditions of American public dialogue, that we've been co-opted, that we're not objective, and that essentially we are carrying forward an agenda. I fiercely disagree with that."

Andrew Sullivan | http://www.andrewsullivan.com reacts to Pat Robertson on Bush's no-casualties remark:

"Did anyone believe that outside the presidential cocoon? The problem with this president is not that he doesn't have the will to win. It's that he seems to suffer from an inability to see reality. Any president who believed that there would be no casualties in the Iraq liberation is unqualified to be commander-in-chief. The same goes for a president who believes there will be casualties and tells a loyal supporter that there won't be. The only way this isn't damning about Bush is if Robertson is lying. But why would he?"

Washington Monthly Editor Paul Glastris | http://www.washingtonmonthly.com likes the "Senator" part of Kerry's career:

"I've never understood why the Kerry campaign hasn't made more of the candidate's record in the Senate of holding tough, thankless, let-the-chips-fall-as-they-may investigations of the rich and powerful. Especially impressive was his pursuit of BCCI, the Arab-owned international bank which turned out to be a massive criminal enterprise that enabled terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, to finance their activities--until it was shut down, largely thanks to Kerry's relentless efforts. The campaign's weird refusal to talk about achievements like the BCCI hearings has allowed Bush to paint Kerry as a do-nothing legislator with no record of achievement during 20 years in the Senate.

"But now, thanks to Newsweek, we have an explanation for the Kerry campaign's insane strategy. It seems that Bob Shrum thinks the American people are too stupid to understand what it means that Kerry shut down BCCI. 'You can't talk about that because people think you're talking about the BBC,' Bob Shrum, Kerry's top adviser, told one senior staffer. 'Why were you investigating British TV?'

"Should we string up Shrum after Kerry loses, or beat the rush and do it now?"

That Fox News producer is talking again, this time to the New York Daily News: | http://nydailynews.com/front/story/244541p-209555c.html

"Bill O'Reilly's accuser blasted him for pursuing a campaign of sleaze against her - and warned that her 74-year-old dad is out for blood.

"Andrea Mackris told the Daily News yesterday that the Fox talk-show host had 'a lot to answer for, to his wife and to his God.'

"In her first extensive newspaper interview, Mackris talked about how hard the last two weeks have been on her and her dad. 'Like any father, he can't stand the idea that this happened to his daughter,' Mackris said with her lawyer, Benedict Morelli, at her side. 'If he had his way, he'd challenge Bill O'Reilly to a duel.'. . . .

"'I feel badly for his family,' Mackris said. 'But I do not feel guilty. How is it my fault, what has happened here? I could have stood naked in front of him and there was still no way he should be allowed to get away with what he did."

O'Reilly says he's staying mum, on advice of his lawyer.

And InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds | http://instapundit.com continues to defend himself against the bias charge, which he sees as irrelevant:

"I see the blogosphere as a pointillist painting where lots of people are putting up the dots. Or, perhaps, some better metaphor that makes the same point. . . . At any rate, I don't try for 'balance' in the traditional sense because unlike a broadcast outlet or a newspaper, I'm not a quasi-monopolist, but one of millions of bloggers. You don't like my take on things? When I suggest you go elsewhere, I'm not being hostile -- well, usually. It's just that there are a hell of a lot of good blogs out there, and if you don't like mine there's sure to be another one that's more to your taste. And that's a good thing. It's why I'm always telling people to branch out. And I really mean that.

"Meanwhile, I'm sorry to disappoint Andrew Sullivan by not being 'more abusive.' But I've actually tried quite consciously to moderate my tone in the run-up to the elections, because I think that there's quite enough abuse out there. I realize that this only serves to underscore complaints that I lack fire. To which I can only respond that if you're coming to a blog written by a law professor in search of 'fire,' well, you really need to read some other blogs. . . . "