Call the Fight?

Readers wonder if it’s too early for the Dems to consolidate.

Are the Democrats in the Fray ready to anoint Kerry and get down to the business of ousting the administration, or do they want to see how Kerry plays in the Sun Belt? Subject: “Yearning for the ‘Foregone Conclusion’”
Re:     “Never Say Die: Candidates who aren’t conceding anything.”
From:  JimmytheCelt
Date:  Thu Jan 29 2004 0900h Nice to see some MK drollery, especially when he pricks media bloviators in the last paragraph. [Did you notice how it took Wolf Blitzer about two hours Tuesday (post-8:00 Eastern) to change his description of the same percentages from “a very tight race” to a “solid, double-digit victory?”]

To go deconstructionist just for a moment, can we interpret MK’s lampooning of reporters who resist “foregone conclusions” as a manifestation of a tacit desire to get the primaries over with, anoint Kerry, and move quickly to the serious business of unseating W? [I don’t say this as derogatory, by the way. It’s how a lot of Dems feel, me included.] If so, I wonder: What does MK think of the idea that Kerry should concentrate on South Carolina over the next five days? Kill the Edwards candidacy (and help Edwards resign himself to the VP slot); wound the Kerry-can’t-win-in-the-South assumption; and thus build an irresistable momentum that would allow him to concentrate on uniting the party and re-building the Dem base in the lower-middle-class.

Of course, were he to concentrate on South Carolina and lose… [Find this post here.]
Subject: “To the Bone”
Re:     “Break Through or Die: The fallout from New Hampshire.”
From:  The_Bell
Date:  Wed Jan 28 2004 1114h When Howard Dean was the Democratic frontrunner, it became de rigueur for pundits everywhere to play up his weaknesses and deride his strengths as illusionary. Now that John Kerry has assumed the mantle, Mr. Sullentrop, Mr. Saletan, and Mr. Kaus have been busy questioning the success of someone they see as so underwhelming a politician. Today, Mr. Saletan finally moves from the self-interrogative and warns that Democratic voters, “should ask what they’re getting in Kerry.” Saletan’s conclusion is that Kerry lacks the political charisma to put up a good fight against President Bush and this more than makes up for this political experience and policy chops.

I empathize with such an analysis. Back in June, I posted [] about how much I liked Kerry’s message but wondered then if he was the best Democrat to act as messenger… I watched Kerry’s victory speech last night and just as I did not see Dean’s Iowa concession speech as the much-anticipated meltdown/implosion that so many have characterized it, neither did I see Kerry as the stiff, awkward figure that Mr. Saletan describes. To me, he appeared relaxed, jovial, and at home… I think what the voters of Iowa began and those of New Hampshire have now confirmed is that Democrats are less concerned about what they are getting in Kerry and more interested in who they are getting with him as their nominee. As Mr. Saletan pointed out just the other day, it is the Dean campaign that was focused on what voters were getting – “a campaign about itself…” Kerry is not perfect but it is the blemishes and not the beauty upon which real character is built. It is precisely because his message rises beyond his faults – especially on economic and other domestic issues – that I think many Democrats have begun turning to him as someone real enough to stand up against the President. A perfect ideal sounds great but in the real world you need someone you can respect as a real person. In the end, I think Kerry’s years of experience and intelligent message are providing a satisfying fill for voters that Dean’s anger/energy left wanting… It is possible that as Mr. Suellentrop maintains, Kerry will “wear poorly on voters” but I am not so sure. Mr. Saletan’s lament that supporters at a Kerry rally “were there to inspire him” rather than vice versa may be the whole secret of his appeal. It plays to the energy of a Dean-like “campaign about itself” but trades that off with real solidity in the object of the crowd’s adoration. And Saletan’s counter that internal beauty inevitably translates to ugliness kind of depends on how superficially you think people fall in love and/or vote. Maybe voters deserve more credit than the pundits are willing to extend. To put it another way, Kerry supporters may see electability as skin deep but authenticity as going clear to the bone.

Maybe that is why Democrats seem to be increasingly content that by nominating Kerry, “you just get him.” And maybe that is what the pundits just don’t get about him… [Find this post in its entirety here.] Political Roundups: From the right, locdog offers his take on John Kerry and David Kay here; AdamMasin’s analysis of New Hampshire’s geographical lines is here. Red Carpetbagging: While Fraywatch was filing its last installment, lamenting the lack of Oscar handicapping, MaxFischerPlayers was simultaneously posing The Small Question on said subject. Here it is:

Your task is to come up with the ultimate UberOscar film by combining the following Oscar contenders:

Lord of the Rings
Lost in Translation
Pirates of the Caribbean
Cold Mountain
Mystic River
Master and Commander
In America
Girl with the Pearl Earring

Come up with the new title, recast if necessary, and a short plot summary.
Variety reports that Tobey Maguire has placed a call to Charlize Theron’s agents at UTA. He wants his thirty pounds back … KA2:45 p.m.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Pathology or Punditry? The Kaus backlash among Kerry supporters and non-Kerryites alike is growing more pronounced each day. CaptainRonVoyage and zinya are Kerry’s two staunchest supporters in Kausfiles, and the pair tag-team to bodyslam Kaus in KF Fray. CRV, with facetious concern, worries that “as the Kausian anti-Kerry slime machine furiously slides into overdrive, it seems increasingly to be overheating and in danger of blowing a gasket.”CRV here:

Kaus seems to feel that Kerry’s position is a calculated political have-your-cake&eat-it decision with an eye towards how events would shake out 10 months down the road. Kerry’s record, his comments during the campaign and his and public statements made before the Resolution passed raise another convoluted possibility, however: that what Kerry said was really how he wanted the situation dealt with. Gosh, I don’t know which version of Occam’s Razor, Kaus shaves with, but mine would leave the latter standing.
For Kaus’ edification, zinya adds a comprehensive chronicle of Kerry’s public statements on the war here — and continuing here — prompting CRV to suggest that zinya change her name to “zinya.” De-Soto carries the Kucinich icon, but can’t follow Kaus’ logic on Kerry here: Kaus says that Kerry’s actions in not attacking Bush after Bush decided to go to war should be “devastating” to anti war types. Well, I am anti-war and I wish Kerry had spoken out like all those other national politicians at the time. Like, like, er, well, Barbara Lee? Yeah, that’s about it. So Kaus’ logic is that I must now shift my support to Barbara Lee for President? Here, MarkThomp confesses that, sure, Kerry’s view on the war is “conflicted,” but…
Most Americans feel the same way. It’s the simplistic ideologues who have got it wrong.
Over in On The Trail Fray, A-Bierce has had it with “Slate’s vendetta against Kerry”:
What’s up with the constant stream of invective against Kerry here? Why is it his fault that Hollings gave a lame speech and exposed his ancient bigotry? Why is it is his fault that one woman got tired of hearing about veterans and war heroes? Is it because his campaign fails to validate the prejudices–oops, I meant to say “wisdom”–of Slate writers? Kaus is apparently going to repeat the same “bad” stuff (the medals, the flip-flops) until it makes a difference, but what if it doesn’t? Does Suellentrop have to jump on this bandwagon too?
AdamMorgan, for one, agrees with Suellentrop that the Kerry surge is inexplicable:
Like Chris, I find Kerry to be a strange choice to be popular. He looks like who a casting director would choose to play a … rich, New Englander who wants to sell and tear down a toy store to build a poultry processing plant. During his speeches, he looks as if he’s battling arthritis. And, he talks like a math professor addressing cheerleaders.

The reason, however, I think he’s popular is because there isn’t an ideal candidate …
It may be that Kerry has war experience, and Edwards doesn’t, and that he doesn’t appear to be a nervous volunteer in a medical experiment, as Dean and Clark give the impression on television, and that he wouldn’t be considered too progressive for an ethnically homogenous, socialist ice palace, such as Kucinich.

It could be that he’s competent enough on enough qualities, with enough of the right characteristics, to be better than the other candidates. He might be the winner by exclusion.
And 0Brien doesn’t have a problem with electing a C.V. for prez. Here he suggests that:
maybe voters might start treating the Presidency of the United States for what is actually is, the position of the of the nation’s top public servant to which a resume matters as much as any other job…

Then perhaps we can leave the “Jesus moment” where it belongs, in a revival tent.
DCCC recruiters, take note — meritocratic fundamentalism could be the new charisma. Fray Notes: The Department of Astral Affairs welcomes run75441 to the ranks. And Fraywatch wonders, what gives? Nothing going in Movies Fray or The Movie Club following the announcement of the Academy Award nominationsKA3:25 p.m.

Monday, January 26, 2004

The Washington Senators’ Pitching Staff: Fraywatch is counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report to the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues. In the meantime, the Democratic primary offers all the intrigue of a really compelling September pennant race. Adam_Masin has the metaphor down pat. He believes that “the lesson of the campaign so far is best summarized by the old baseball truism: Good pitching beats good hitting.” AM here:

Dean’s been in the batter’s box swinging wildly away at Bush, Bill Clinton, the DLC, the Washington establishment, Gephardt, and last night, Kerry) … But lost in all of that was Dean’s own message, his own pitch. People wondered if Dean’s fastball (his Iraq stance) was the only pitch he had, and any baseball fan will tell you what’s happens to a guy with only one pitch.

… Clark’s problem is that (rightly or wrongly) he has had to spend time swinging at his own comments or those who support him. While Clark has had unbeatable experience in the military, he is a political rookie, like batter trying to get used to the major leagues during the World Series. And some of Clark’s comments suggest that he too is a bit of a free swinger. As a result, Clark’s efforts to take the mound (he’s been trying to discuss his modest upbringing lately) have been largely thwarted.Who has been pitching? Kerry, of course … Kerry’s got good stuff now, but like a old veteran fireballer, its still early and it remains to be seen if he can make it past the middle innings. His reputation has been more of a closer. Has he peaked too soon?Meanwhile, John Edwards is throwing lights out right now. Like a young pitcher who finally mastered an easy curveball that took months to perfect, Edwards finally lulled Iowans with his hook. Edwards may not have had the time to turn that into a second place finish in New Hampshire, but if he keeps spinning his lazy curve out there, he could ease his way through the middle innings in the South.The way the primary race is shaping up, I suspect each of the four candidates will remain in the game until Feb. 3. Dean and Clark had better figure out how to adjust at the plate, and Kerry and Edwards had better not get complacent out on the mound.

Every pitch matters in the playoffs.
Fraywatch suspects that the Democrats will go with a three-man rotation following the Feb. 3 primaries. Special Kay: Dwa takes issue with Fred Kaplan’s charge that David Kay’s October report was an exercise in creative writing. Calling Kaplan out for selective reading, dwa writes:
Not only is his basic premise a major example of petitio principii (maybe Mr Kay is changing his opinions based upon new evidence, not exactly something I was taught to avoid), but he leaves out damned near every bit of qualification Kay makes to his claims that could possibly contradict his (Kaplan’s) thesis, and that reeks of shoddy journalism.
Which qualifications? Click here to find out. Blanketing Linux: Though he’s a shareholder, rob_said_that thinks that when it comes to “promoting its products Microsoft doesn’t look very smart,” particularly up against Linux’s Kubrick fantasy. Here, rob suggests that:
the drama of the IBM ad is very real. The thing about Linux is that it’s a potential giant-killer—a David that could theoretically put paid to Microsoft’s hegemony in the PC world. (Full disclosure: I’m a Microsoft shareholder.) The real story here isn’t whether IBM is literally “selling” anything with these ads. The real story is how Microsoft expects to counter them with the kind of lame advertising they put out. Their weak Office Suite campaign, a tired product-as-hero effort with the blandest big-company-bureaucracy look I have seen in quite some time, isn’t going to do the job.
According to geologyGnu, the kid in the ad “grows up to be milo, from antitrust.” Aside from the Ryan Phillippe swipe, the Gnu offers up an applicable theory:
i may be off the mark here, but i think ibm wants to push linux because it can run in any environment: desktop, server, mainframe. hence greater portability of applications, interface between webservers and the mainframe on the backend (particularly for the biggie financial corps, whose processing systems are often still in COBOL). get your apps hooked into linux, move your data around between your mainframe & servers in xml and while you’re at it, buy IBM hardware, cause it’ll run your new linux environment and our tech support will be able to service you.

For something more metaphysical, click here for Dubina’s work … KA 7:05 p.m.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Everyone Loves a Horserace? Not The_Slasher-8 who insists that, “What must NOT happen now, however, is that the process drags on right up to the convention.” Slasher adds here,

The next step is to see how Kerry plays vs. Clark and/or Edwards in the South. I’m of two minds on it. One is to write off the South as Bush Country even in a best case scenario and to say that the key is a candidate who can win Gore’s states plus FL or OH. The other is to think that although that may be true, a candidate who has no legs in the South is going to have serious trouble carrying FL (which is, after all, a Southern state, though not the usual kind) or OH (which is, south of Akron, pretty much the same as Tennessee). Frankly, if Kerry cannot get more than 15% there, Clark might be a better bet.
The_Bell comes into Ballot Box Fray with his own analysis, rebutting William Saletan’s contention that “by advertising [his rejecting of electoral spending caps], Kerry risks drawing attention to his extravagant wealth and his circumvention of campaign reform, creating an impression that he’s trying to buy the nomination.” The_Bell writes
I think it was an effective strategy even within a solely Democratic forum for two reasons. First, it shows his pragmatism. After all, he argues, the only reason I need to do this is because the Republican incumbent has already made it clear that he is not going to abide by such laws. It goes to the heart of electability, which is manifestly forefront in the mind of many Democratic voters. Second, and perhaps most shrewdly, was his observation that he is the only Democrat besides Dean to make this decision. For months now, Dean has hammered Kerry and set himself apart from a detrimental issue by pointing out that Kerry voted for the Iraq War Resolution with others in Congress while he had always opposed the war. Now Kerry takes an equally negative issue and happily shows how Dean is just “one of the boys” with him on it.
On the matter of Dean-as-hair-band-front-man, The_Bell defies conventional wisdom and “did not see anything so terribly damning about Dean’s Iowa concession speech besides the bizarre half-whoop at the end of it. The man had just suffered a huge and disappointing loss and was trying to motivate his supporters that all was not beyond hope. If Mr. Suellentrop is correct and Mr. and Mrs. Dean could lose simply because they are not willing to quit being “just ordinary folks,” then I think that is a far more damning comment on the shallowness of the modern American electorate than them.” Joe_JP offers up a similar defense here, while MHaag draws the McCain-Dean comparison here. Snowball’s Chance in Hell: A chilly Zathras, here, thinks that the White Mountain powder has clouded Jacob Weisberg’s impression of John Edwards’ candidacy:
Other things being equal I would rather have a President with some foreign policy background than one who can persuade Jacob Weisberg that he has an affinity for ordinary people. …He’s running against other Democrats as a slicker version of Howard Dean, without the anger or ideology or even the experience of running the government of a tiny state—the outsider uncontaminated by Washington, in touch with “the real world.” In an age of terrorism, nuclear proliferation and other international challenges made much more difficult by the election of two successive American Presidents who came to office with no experience and scant knowledge of foreign affairs, why would we elect another one?

In Jacob Weisberg’s case the answer is simple. John Edwards makes him feel good.
The official Fray New Hampshire Crystal Ball contest can be found here, the winner to receive the vaunted Fray 2003 Holiday CD.  Deadline for submission is Sunday, 3pm PST … KA10:30 a.m.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Field of Screams: “This may surprise you people,” Fray conservative locdog writes …

but i like howard dean. i really do. i like him because he’s got that whole michael keaton thing working—you know, the thing where he’s tripping the light fantastic on a dental floss tight rope stretched over the pit of madness. i dig that. i dig presidential candidates who look like they could pull out an M-16 and pepper the crowd with hot death at any given moment.
Locdog’s political roundup, including a critique of President Bush’s immigration policy, can be found  here.   Adam_Masin may have abandoned “Worst of the Slate,” but his BOTF-based analysis in recent days reads like a parallel Ballot Box—or an alternate minority response to that of the phlegmatic Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle. AM breaks down the State of the Union here. Some samplings:
Summing Up:

America is Confident and Strong in the face of killing that continues all over the world, outlaw regimes, terrorists constantly training, plotting ambitious plans, hiding in cities and caves, enemies that will do all in power to spread violence and fear and shake our will, and the fact that we are living in the shadow of serious continuing danger, because we have people looking at airline passenger lists, 1600 patrols a week and 180 raids a night in Iraq, armored charges, midnight raids, Bulgaria on our side and the Patriot Act! Good thing we are so beloved!

American security is in the hands of Poland! The Netherlands has their hands in the dike of terrorism!Moral lessons from Republicans:
We want to drug test all kids because we love you!
Bad pro sports players! Get rid of steroids!
STDs are bad!
Sex is bad!
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is bad!
Activist judges are bad!
Hey Ashley Pearson, listen to you mom or dad, but not your two moms or dads!

… among others.  Zinya, a stalwart John Kerry supporter, came in to the Fray yesterday to comment on Kerry’s auspicious performance in Iowa.  Zinya here on Kerry’s quietly effective internet organization, as well as the Chris Lehane saga. Antidisestablishmentarianism: Over in Poems Fray, rob_said_that gets the award for the longest contiguous word in a subject heading for “Unhip-popotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia” — the hyphen notwithstanding—in response to Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poem “Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia,” winner of said award in the Longest Contiguous Headline category. Nezhukumatathil’s poem conveys the trials of dealing with a classroom of kids who’d wish she’d buy a vowel for her serpentine last name. An unsympathetic rob writes:
Well, glad you got that off your chest, Aimee. I promise not to make fun of your name anymore. That goes for any of the confusing, foreign-sounding names that wash up on our shores, carried by swarthy or dusky foreigners with different ideas about sex or religion or food. I used to persecute these people horribly. After reading this, though, I have seen the light! It’s all good, brothers and sisters! Aimee Nezhukumawhateverthefuck has taught me that cruelty and intolerance are wrong! America is a rainbow! [Insert smiley face here.]… This is a tiny little didactic exercise. I could appreciate the language had it aspired to anything else—even just the sheer beauty of words without any particular meaning. But this is nothing more than a tiny little didactic exercise—a diversity pamphlet in poem’s clothing.
Apparently, the demise of BOTF hearings have bled over into PF. Montfort here, in response to rob, in a post titled “The reign of hopelessness on the Poetry Fray”:
it’s beyond disliking or even hating, beyond dismay, it’s worse than that, it’s moved into ennui, it’s like, who cares? it doesn’t make any difference. read and post poems you like, or surrender to ennui.

oh, is it Tuesday? again?
RyckNelson, who estimates that “about a third of the TA’s were international grad or PHD (maybe) students” at the University of Minnesota, appreciates the poem. His take is hereTaken to Task: NoStar’s indignation is duly noted by FrEd, who has carelessly omitted the Annual Fray Limerick Contest from Fraywatch mention.  NoStar has posted the winners here, among which is a tribute to the tenuous relationship between yours truly and the Fray antihero, the mysterious Fearless Pat Lillis. Newcomers be advised, this anthology falls into the “inside baseball” substance of the Fray … KA 7:55 a.m.