Now that all the issues have pretty much been vetted--Iraq, health care, outsourcing, manufacturing tax credits, the future of Yucca Mountain--there's one question left for the media.
What's in it for us?
By which I mean, which candidate gives us the best story for the next four years?
If there's one thing journalists can't stand, it a boring administration.
So in that sense, we have a rooting interest.
If Bush wins, we have the continuing controversy over this president--the left will be apoplectic--and the narrative over how he deals with the mess in Iraq. On the other hand, it will be the 9th through 12th years of a president named George Bush.
If Kerry wins, there is the initial excitement over new Cabinet members and appointees--who gets to be Energy secretary?! CIA director?!--and a whole new avenue in the Teresa beat. But can a long-faced president who's not exactly a laugh a minute provide sufficient entertainment value?
Plus, one of my colleagues has acknowledged a bias for vacation duty in Nantucket over Waco.
Yes, I know, I'm trivializing an election on which the future of democracy hinges. But journalists have to earn a living.
Besides, I always believe that the subtext in every election--for real voters, not just media hacks--is the living room factor. Do you want this candidate in your living room every night for the next four years? That question hurt Al Gore in some undefinable way, but Kerry helped dissipate the caricature of him in the debates.
Good omen for Kerry: He looked genuinely pumped up in his Boston cap as he exulted over the Red Sox sweep.
Bad omen for Kerry: Sox pitcher Curt Schilling goes on "Good Morning America" and urges everyone to vote for Bush.
Frank Rich | http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/31/arts/31rich.html?oref=login addresses this very theme in his column:
"John Kerry is a flip-flopper. He's 'French.' Whether he's asserting his non-girlie-boy bona fides by riding a Harley onto Jay Leno's set, 'reporting for duty' at the Democratic convention or hunting geese in Ohio, he comes off like a second-rung James Brolin auditioning for a Levitra ad. And let's not forget the words - all those words. When Mr. Kerry starts a sentence, you know you're embarking on a long journey with no interesting scenery along the way and little likelihood that you'll get wherever you're going on time. 'Vote for Him Before You Vote Against Him' is one of the more winning slogans at the hilarious Web site Kerry-Haters for Kerry.
"If the cliche of 2000 remains true, that entertainment-addicted Americans will never let a tedious president into their living rooms for four long years, then Mr. Kerry, like Al Gore, is toast. But now that Mr. Kerry enters the final stretch of 2004 with a serious chance of unseating an incumbent in wartime, a competing theory also rises: it's possible for America to overdose on entertainment. No president has worked harder than George W. Bush to tell his story as a spectacle, much of it fictional, to rivet his constituents while casting himself in an unfailingly heroic light.
"Yet this particular movie may have gone on too long and have too many plot holes. It may have been too clever by half. It may have given Mr. Kerry just the opening he needs to win."
That's a lot of mays.
Bill O'Reilly settled that sexual harassment lawsuit last night; I've got the details here. | http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7578-2004Oct28.html He also ripped "stealth journalism" for trumpeting bad news from Iraq as a way of trying to "sink" Bush. "There could be a backlash against the pro-Kerry press," he said, charging that "many in the media are now subverting the truth in order to advance ideology."
O'Reilly then spent three segments interviewing White House communications chief Dan Bartlett and Newt Gingrich.
ABC News has a breakthrough on the ammunition story, as picked up by the New York Times: | http://nytimes.com/2004/10/29/politics/29bomb.html?hp&ex=1099022400&en=3386d85551d694e2&ei=5094&partner=homepage
"A videotape made by a television crew with American troops when they opened bunkers at a sprawling Iraqi munitions complex south of Baghdad shows a huge supply of explosives still there nine days after the fall of Saddam Hussein, apparently including some sealed earlier by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"The tape, broadcast on Wednesday night by the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis, appeared to confirm a warning given earlier this month to the agency by Iraqi officials, who said that hundreds of tons of high-grade explosives, powerful enough to bring down buildings or detonate nuclear weapons, had vanished from the site after the invasion of Iraq.
"The question of whether the material was removed by Mr. Hussein's forces in the days before the invasion, or looted later because it was unguarded, has become a heated dispute on the campaign trail, with Senator John Kerry accusing President Bush of incompetence, and Mr. Bush saying it is unclear when the material disappeared and rejecting what he calls Mr. Kerry's 'wild charges.'
"Weapons experts familiar with the work of the international inspectors in Iraq say the videotape appears identical to photographs that the inspectors took of the explosives, which were put under seal before the war. One frame shows what the experts say is a seal, with narrow wires that would have to be broken if anyone entered through the main door of the bunker."
The ammo debate goes on, with Andrew Sullivan | http://www.andrewsullivan.com weighing in:
"The reason the story of missing munitions at al Qa Qaa is an important one is not that, in and of itself, it's a huge deal. As Bill Kristol points out in one of the weakest defenses of the administration yet, the NYT story 'didn't put it into context how important 380 tons are when there are tens of thousands of explosives in the country.' Yes, that's right. Compared to all the other munitions sites that were looted during and after the invasion, al Qa Qaa is not that devastating.
"But what about all the other sites? What about the fact that a war begun as a means to restrain Saddam's weaponry actually helped disperse it? That's the real issue. And as the facts emerge, I've become convinced of one astounding thing: the Bush administration didn't care very much about the dangers from Saddam's alleged WMDs, or conventional munitions. Safeguarding those sites, keeping those weapons out of the hands of terrorists, was not a major priority. . . .
"Yes, as [Christopher] Hitchens has put it, this is near-impeachable negligence. We are less safe as a result. How can anyone say that Bush is our best bet in the war on terrorism when his own conduct has put this country at grave danger from the very weapons he was supposed to defend us from? And when his campaign then comes out and says that this kind of criticism is smearing the troops, they have told us all we need to know. They have no real answers. So they smear their critics."
But Cliff May, a former GOP spokesman writing in National Review | http://nationalreview.com/may/may200410271536.asp, disagrees:
"The Times neglects the fairly obvious fact that looters could not have stuffed 380 tons of explosives into shopping bags. To transport that much material would have required about 38 large trucks -- 10 tons per truck. Before the U.S. invasion, such truck convoys moved about Iraq freely. Once the U.S. was in occupation, that kind of effort could hardly have gone unnoticed.
"On Tuesday, the Times ran another page one headline: 'Iraq Explosives Become Issue In Campaign.' Yes, that's true -- thanks to the Times. As for the holes in Monday's story, the Times tried to fill them this morning with a page A17 story: 'Commander Says Brigade Didn't Inspect Explosives Site,' quoting Col. Joseph Anderson of the 101st Airborne Division, saying that when his troops arrived at Al Qaqaa, they didn't look for the HMX and RDX. But what does that imply? That tons of HMX and RDX were still there? Or that the explosives were no longer there? The Times doesn't know and doesn't appear to care."
The Chicago Tribune | http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0410290341oct29,1,5132233.story?coll=chi-news-hed wraps up the day's campaign rhetoric:
"Nearing the conclusion of their close and bitter contest, President Bush labeled Democratic rival John Kerry 'the wrong man for the wrong job at the wrong time' on Thursday, as Kerry accused Bush of failing to take responsibility for his own mistakes: 'The buck stops everywhere but with the president.'"
USA Today | http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-10-28-kerry-interview_x.htm snags interviews with both candidates. First, Kerry:
"John Kerry wants voters to understand an important thing as Election Day approaches: They will be safer if they change leaders than if they stay the course. 'I think proceeding with four more years of George Bush is very risky for America, and I think Americans will realize that,' Kerry said."
Now Bush: | http://www.usatoday.com/news/politicselections/nation/president/2004-10-28-bush-interview_x.htm"President Bush said Thursday that the presidential race 'boils down to a matter of trust' and he believes he'll win because he has 'shown the American people I can do the job in tough times.'"
JFK has some very rich folks helping him, reports the New York Post: | http://nypost.com/news/nationalnews/31317.htm
"Bush-hating billionaire George Soros and four other super fat cats have poured nearly $74 million into an all-out push to defeat President Bush -- about as much tax-payer money as Bush received to fund his entire fall campaign, records show.
"Soros has thrown in $23.7 million from the billions he's earned in hedge funds and currency speculation, according to the Political Money Line.
"Soros' anti-Bush bucks have been matched by $23 million from insurance billionaire Peter Lewis -- who cruises the Mediterranean in his 250-yacht, the Lone Ranger, and crusades for decriminalizing marijuana.
"Another $13.9 million came from Hollywood mogul Stephen Bing, the father of model/actress Liz Hurley's son, Damian."
Haven't I read something about extremely wealthy people also bankrolling the Bush campaign?
When it comes to Jewish voters, says the Los Angeles Times, | http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/2004/la-et-jewish29oct29,1,6145573.story?coll=la-news-elect2004 Kerry has a secret weapon: his brother Cameron, who's been showing up at synagogues and delicatessens "and any other place where Jewish voters gather, especially in swing states. Warming up the crowd at B'nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton the other day for that political rock star, former President Clinton, Cam Kerry told the audience that 21 years ago, 'I became a Jew by choice.' There are audible gasps from the audience. John Kerry's brother is Jewish? Who knew?
"Accompanying Kerry on this campaign of voter outreach in southern Florida -- where an estimated 15% of households are Jewish -- is a busload of comic, legal and political prowess. Eight Jewish members of Congress come along to attest that John Kerry, who is Catholic, is dedicated to Israel; Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard legal expert, is here to warn voters of the dangers of another contested election; and Larry David, creator of 'Seinfeld' and star of HBO's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' is here, well, because this election could save his marriage.
"Wearing a yarmulke and his trademark sneakers, David tells a crowd at Temple Samu-El OrOlom in south Miami that his wife, Laurie (who spent the day on a separate Florida bus tour with members of the group Women for Kerry), wakes him in the middle of the night ranting about Bush. He says he can't live with it for another four years. He complains that when John Kerry is down in the polls, he, Larry David, cannot 'function.' Which is to say that between the GOP convention and the first Bush-Kerry debate, 'I had no sex.'
"After Kerry's performance in the Miami debate, 'I performed like a teenager,' he reports, until his wife said 'what every Jewish man hears eventually -- "Enough already."' Which is how he feels about the Bush administration. 'Enough already.'"
Sounds like a future "Curb" episode. There was already one where Larry refused to get it on with an actress after spotting a picture of Bush in her dressing room.
New York Daily News | http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/246694p-211100c.html columnist Michael Goodwin has had enough of '04:
"I'm sick of it. Sick of Bush and Kerry. Sick of their wives. Sick of Cheney and Edwards. And their wives.
"Sick of the spinners, who, in plain English, are liars.
"I'm sick of the cable TV yellers, who try to make up in heat what they don't have in light. . . .
"I'm sick of Kerry pretending to be a normal guy. Killing a goose to get the gun vote. Saying, 'Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?' to get the racing vote.
"President Bush bugs me, too. He and his Stepford Wife were on a stage in front of bales of hay. I'm thinking about the poor shlub who had to carry the hay so Bush could stand in front of it. That's the one job that won't be outsourced.
"I'm sick of celebrities telling me whom to vote for. And of best seller lists gummed up with propaganda.
"I get no peace in newspapers, where ink-stained wretches scrounge for verbs to describe what happened. So attacks were 'sharpened' or rhetoric 'escalated.'"
I could add to the list, but I'd run out of bandwidth.
Everyone's got their nightmare scenarios about Tuesday--The Washington Post came up with 33 ways there could be a tie--and Slate's Mark Mollen | http://slate.msn.com/id/2108815/ gets in on the act:
"There's an election 'horror story' that should get the blood racing:
"First, imagine complications permanently incapacitate Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who is in the hospital recuperating from serious surgery, rendering him unable to carry out his Supreme Court duties. Second, suppose the presidential election is thrown into the courts. The result? A serious constitutional crisis, in which President Bush appoints the Rehnquist replacement who casts the vote that decides the election."
On a lighter note, if you want to see W. giving a one-finger salute, Salon | http://anon.salon.speedera.net/anon.salon/media/2004/10/BushUncensored.mov has the video.
Here's Jeff Jarvis of the Buzz Machine | http://www.buzzmachine.com/ on a truly revolting idea:
"NBC and ABC are each making miniseries based on the 9/11 Commission report.
"There are so many reasons not to:
"It's too soon.
"It's another effort to enshrine the 9/11 Commission report as gospel. It isn't.
"There hasn't been a decent miniseries in decades and the thought of turning this national tragedy into network kitsch is unbearable."
Newspapers don't often retract their endorsements, but North Carolina's Wilmington Star-News | http://www.wilmingtonstar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041027/EDITORIAL/410270301/1016/editorial has done just that:
"The Star-News suggested Friday that New Hanover County would be better served in the N.C. Senate by Woody White than by his opponent, Julia Boseman. That was before the Republican Party issued ugly and mindless campaign ads that focused on Ms. Boseman's sexual orientation and suggested she would pursue 'a liberal, activist homosexual agenda.' Mr. White seems to be a decent man. These are not decent ads. . . .
"It's something else to use language such as 'known lesbian activists' and 'radical homosexual rights and privileges' and to conclude by saying 'The truth is . . . Julia Boseman seeks to be the first openly gay or lesbian State Senator in North Carolina History.' So what? Most sensible voters don't care what a state senator does at home. They care about what he or she does at the legislature. . . .
"Now a vote for him would be a vote for intolerance and dirty politics."
Kausfiles has discovered a site called Kerry Haters for Kerry | http://www.kerryhatersforkerry.com/ :
"Kerry Rallies His Base of Kerry Haters! Lukewarm, hostile supporters plan for big turnout. Outpouring of ennui and fatalism. Election eve teeth-gritting, nose-holding, morale-fabricating events in D.C. and New York to steel staunch KH4Kers for the coming four years.
"· Meet fellow Kerry supporters who are just as unenthusiastic as you are!
"· Compare stories about how terminally lame your candidate is!
"· Figure out how you will try to avoid listening to him until 2008.
"· Pretend to work up a semblance of enthusiasm to do what all KH4Kers know they must do on November 2. Suggested meet 'n greet lines:
"-- Do you hate both of them, or just Kerry?
"-- Do you think he's a flip-flopper, or more of a straddler?
"-- Maybe he's just deep, you know. I have friends like that.
"-- My favorite Kerry Iraq position is #17. What's yours?
"-- He showed you his old Vietnam movies too? That's so weird!"
Well, every vote counts, even the nose-holding variety.