Saturday, October 30, 2004
actually less than that in most of the country but...
The bad news is continued voter suppression efforts. In Wisconsin the R party is demanding that EVERY voter be required to show an ID or they will challenge EVERY voter. It's in the courts. And nationally, the Ashcroft Justice department has gone to several state courts with the same claim---that voters can't sue to restore voting rights, only Ashcroft can! Here's the LA Times story:
Bush Seeks Limit to Suits Over Voting Rights
The good news: the latest state polls! Kerry is up by 3pts in New Hampshire, 3 pts. in Iowa and by 8 points in Minnesota. Kerry is up by 1 in New Mexico and by 1 in PA. Nevada is tied, and Bush is only up by 3 now in Virginia, which hasn't been in play for months. And New Jersey, where Bush went just a week or so ago (who can keep track of the time), Kerry is up by 12.
The last Ohio poll (before this batch) had Bush up by 3, but there should be new ones coming Sunday. Kerry will be in Ohio Sunday and Monday (though in other states too.)
Also: Democracy Corps polled 250 voters Saturday morning, equal number of Dems and Rs. The horserace remained unchanged from pre-Osama: Kerry up by 1 pt. They asked specifically about the Osama tape: did it make you think Bush took his eye off the ball, or think positively about Bush's approach to terror. The first prop won by 10.
It's difficult to understand why anyone would vote for Bush, given his record. It's been the most disastrous presidency in our lifetime, characterized by deceit, incompetence and extremism. It has resulted in untold suffering at home, and death and more suffering abroad.
Bill Moyers' Now on Friday catalogued the ideologically driven deceit leading up to the war in Iraq, with the help of a man who had been an intelligence expert in the Bush state department, a career expert named Thielmann. His commentary on what American intelligence knew and was analyzing totally devastates the Bush case. (We've stolen from this segment for some of our 99 reasons.)
But he said something quite profound that goes to the heart of American support for Bush. He called it the psychological element: "a desire to believe the President of the United States. The realization that the President of the U.S. would knowingly distort issues, or even negligently misinform them on issues that will result in the deaths of American sons and daughters, is so monstrous, that most good and decent and patriotic Americans can't believe that. They don't want to believe that. That's just too awful to contemplate, that the President would do that to them."
Speaking of psychology, here is C.G. Jung's description of an inflated consciousness:
"...always egocentric and conscious of nothing but its own presence. It is incapable of learning from the past, incapable of understanding contemporary events, and incapable of drawing the right conclusions about the future. It is hypnotized by itself and therefore cannot be argued with. It inevitably dooms itself to calamities that must strike it dead."
3. Osama still at large is Bush failure. Kerry has the judgment and experience to take advantage of opportunities, like Tora Bora, to effectively fight terrorists.
4. A fresh start in Iraq now. Chaos and killing accelerate, while Cheney calls Iraq "a remarkable success story."
5. Fresh start in the world, after Bush lies ruin U.S. credibility. "Once you've been misled on an issue, you're very reluctant to give [the U.S.] the benefit of the doubt." Former intelligence official Thielmann. What are those lies?
6. "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is now amassing them to use against our friends, our allies and against us."-Cheney
7. " We know that [Iraq] is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon....No terrorist state poses a greater threat to us than Iraq."
8. Of the aluminum tubes in Iraq, Condi Rice said, they were "only suited for nuclear weapons." Bush stated the same, though state department, intelligence and energy department experts agreed the opposite.
9. When UN atomic energy experts went to Iraq and examined the tubes, they announced there was no evidence they were for nuclear program. Their findings were ignored by Bushies.
10. UN arms inspectors in Iraq, given extraordinary access by Saddam Hussein, find no evidence of WMD. They are ignored and the U.S. invades.
11.On Iraq: "Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the first proof---the smoking gun that can come in the form of a mushroom cloud." GW Bush. At the same time as state department experts were saying that Iraq did not pose an imminent security threat to the U.S. It did not pose the same magnitude of threat of North Korea.
12. Kerry will replace Condi Rice, who is either incompetent, irresponsible or not telling the truth---or all three.
13. Kerry will replace Colin Powell, whose "credibility has been spent."
14. Kerry will replace Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, chief architects of the disastrous mistakes in Iraq: the war in the first place, the failures once there, and the attempts to cover it all up.
15. Bush is damaged goods, and re-elected, he will be ineffective in the world. America needs a fresh start. People don't like to criticize the person in power, or the leader in time of war. But this campaign has revealed so much disenchantment with Bush, not just from Democrats but from moderate Republicans, leaders of other nations, diplomats, career government experts, economists, scientists, recent U.S. military leaders, and even fiscal conservatives and libertarian Republicans, that Bush can never unite the country, or adequately represent the country to the world.
You can find it at moveonpac.org. For some reason I can't get a link to the exact page there, but a link to it is on the opening page of the site.
The card is printable, so you can take it with you to the polls. It's got numbers to call in various states if you're having a problem voting or you see some problem.
There are a number of election predictions emerging, many if not most foreseeing a Kerry victory. Even conservative Tucker Carlson is calling it for Kerry. A good analysis from an unbiased source (he's Canadian, and a political veteran) is here (the meat of it is towards the end):
CBC News - Viewpoint: Robert Vipond
Newsweek sees a trend towards Bush, though their polling data is questioned. Zogby's tracking poll has Kerry up a point for the first time in awhile, but at this point these little movements can be polling noise. The swing state polls continue to be close, either way, but Kerry leads in more of them than does Bush. So far the dynamics haven't seemed to change, and its turnout still.
That probably won't change.
Those poor guys at MSNBC. They do their best to become another Fox but every time they have a call-in poll, Bush loses. Right now Kerry is leading as the candidate who will do the more effective job in the war on terror, by 70% to 30%.
So far on this Saturday the TV news hasn't been dominated by the Osama tape, but the election is still the main story, followed by Marines killed in Iraq, a human rights group saying that they warned U.S. officials in Iraq about another huge missile and munitions cache left unguarded, but were ignored.
Although the Bushies are gloating over the Osama tape (one campaign official called it a "gift"), and some pundits are giving advantage to Bush, others and reporters are adding these factors 1. most voters have already made up their minds. 2. the tape cuts both ways, reminding people that Osama is still at large. CNN seems to be playing it pretty even-handedly. After showing Bushie officials fanning the flames by talking of new terrorist attacks (and saying that they don't think they're coming), they interviewed a terrorism expert on why on earth Osama is still not captured--and he confirms that the overwhelming evidence is that Osama was in fact at Tora Bora during that battle, just as Kerry says.
More later on these AmericanSamizat stations.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Let's see if we can do this by election day.
Reason #1: Not voting for Kerry is a vote for Bush. This is the premise of many reasons to come, a meta-reason. If you stay home, you're playing into Bush's hands, because suppression of the vote favors his re-election. And I hope we've all learned the Nader lesson. Even here in California, it's important to vote for Kerry. The polls show Kerry is farther ahead in Maryland than he is in California.
Reason #2 You hope to take a trip out of the country in the next four years. The New York Times had an item about a reporter covering a conference in Italy buying postcards, and asking to buy stamps to send them to America. The man behind the counter said one word, or expletive: Boosh. And turned his back, refusing to sell him anything. Everybody who has been to Europe or Australia or even Canada in the past couple of years has similar stories. I've noticed that in those interviews with "swing" voters, it often comes up: people who have been abroad have a whole new perspective on what the U.S. is doing, and how it is perceived.
On Friday before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a tape of Osama bin Laden talking mostly to Americans is rippling across the mediascape. What does it mean?
First, and this is a wild guess, if not a wild charge, it may be Act I in the October/November Surprise. The immediate effect of Osama's appearance is to prove that he is still alive. The tone of the message is relatively subdued, and one is tempted to say a self-elegy. Could Osama know that his capture or killing is imminent, and he has issued this last message? Are we going to wake up to that news on Monday? Or is it the accidental setup to a major attack on Faludja over the weekend or on Monday?
The political content of the Osama message is that American security is not up to Kerry or Bush or al Qeda but the American people, presumably meaning the American policy in the Middle East. But Osama does single out Bush for specific insult, as if he'd seen the scene in Michael Moore's film of Bush sitting stunned in front of schoolchildren after he's learned of the Twin Towers attacks.
Bush's first reaction to the tape was remarkably statesmanlike, Kerry's was also statesmanlike and nonpartisan while rather skillfully boosting his own credentials as a terrorist fight. However in a very short time, everybody--including Bush and Kerry--- were trading charges and accusations again.
So far we've seen two prominent blogs comment, kos and Marshall's Talking Points, and they both caution that the tape's release may not be a major factor in the election, especially to Bush's advantage. That's apparently the opinion of some TV talking heads, though that caution could change should one side or another get control of the spin over the weekend.
Maybe it's wishful thinking but absent Act II, we agree. That bin Laden is hale and hearty actually supports Kerry's arguments that Bush took his eye off the war on bin Laden to go after Saddam and in the process, has provided more new terrorists and ammunition than bin Laden had ever dreamed of.
The test of the tape's effect will be if it is dominating the news on Monday. It's the weekend, with Halloween in it. Foremost on many people's minds is to remember to set the clock back an hour Sunday night. But Monday will be the last time a lot of people will focus on the news the media is reporting.
It is also so late in a year when the undecideds are few that there aren’t too many votes to influence. Some soft supporters of one candidate may switch, of course, based on what they are most afraid of and who they feel will protect them. Though Bush does much better on terrorism in polls of those people being polled, the other major stories of the week---the missing munitions, the favoritism to Halliburton—--fall into line with Osama’s sudden reappearance in Kerry’s argument that Bush, however resolute, is resolutely screwing up with tragic results, likely to get worse. How this tape affects your feelings depends on where your thinking is. To us, it’s a strong argument for Kerry. It will be for others, too. It may do some damage in skewing the momentum Kerry had been building among undecideds, splitting some folks off. But it is unlikely to affect the new voters and the Remember the Chads disenfranchised who are the army of the future.
Although the impact of the tape may be to raise fears of a new attack, its appearance and message that Americans can guarantee their own security by not intervening in the Middle East, seems to suggest that no attack is imminent, especially aimed at disrupting the election, if anyone was afraid of that any longer.
But its specific impact won't be known until after the election, if ever. The polls that will come out this weekend won't measure it, and polls taken on weekends are even less reliable than others.
Several news sites today are reproducing the last polls from the year 2000, especially the CNN tracking poll which gave G.W. Bush 52% to 39% for Gore, going into the final weekend. Questioning the reliability of polls is becoming a chorus, and pollsters seem to be ducking their heads by issuing tie votes whenever possible.
This pollster caution in substance and flair in show biz also characterizes the TV network plans for election coverage, but more on that later.
As if this election needed more drama, the five day weather forecasts for swing states are just as iffy as the polls. Most call for cloudy with a chance of rain. No clear skies. No prediction of rain. Undecided. A tie.
However, everybody talks about the weather and the polls, because they have to talk about something. And the latest state polls, issued in the past two days and covering this current week, show that Kerry has a lead in PA, Michigan, Florida, Oregon and Wisconsin. One poll has a tie in Florida, and different polls give Bush a lead in Wisconsin and Iowa (by 1%).
This year's Florida has been the subject of speculation. What state tips the balance? For a long time it was Ohio or Pennsylvania, and now the favorite is Wisconsin.
Here's the thing. There are a growing number of observers who either predict a Kerry victory or who say that the outcome may not be as close as it seems, which if you accept the trend lines amounts to the same thing. Everybody knows a record number of new voters have registered. Most accept that Democrats have at least a slight edge overall and in most states. The question is whether these folks will vote.
Some won't, because registering became easier in lots of places, the commitment of a minute or two at a shopping center or a concert. But the level of feeling is so high, especially among those who are afraid for the country if Bush is re-elected, and who are offended by what he has done with their goodwill post 9-11. Those people are going to vote, and Republicans aren't going to stop them.
The word coming out of Miami-Dade (where the Boss appears with Kerry tonight, after a rally in Madison, Wisc. yesterday that drew 80,000---and marched many of them to the polls immediately afterwards for early voting) is that Kerry could take a 100,000 vote victory just in that county.
Lots of people in Florida and elsewhere have lined up for hours to vote early (which may mean that most voters will have a faster trip to the booth when many more polling places open---but everyone should be prepared to stand in line for awhile. It should be a blissful wait.) Others will vote this weekend. But everything depends on total turnout, especially on Tuesday.
So before getting on the phone again to recruit volunteers in the swing states, we've got some errands, including picking up some sweets for the Haloweeners, with enough excess to get us through the weekend. And in that regard, there was yet another poll this week, of the most villainous villain in this year's movies. Somebody called Leatherface got second place, a character in some horror movie. First place? The scary star of Fahrenheit 9-11: George W. Bush.
Bob Novak, the elder "Mr. Right" on Crossfire, boasted Thursday that pollster John Zogby, who came the closest to getting 2000 right, had changed his mind from April (when he thought Kerry would win) and now predicted a Bush win. Hours later, on "The Daily Show," Zogby himself appeared and when asked his prediction, said quickly and succinctly, "Kerry."
J. Stewart made sure he wasn't kidding and wasn't saying something else "on other shows."
No, Zogby thinks Bush's numbers are too low, and undecideds are likely to break for Kerry. As noted previously, the Pew scholars have concluded that so far the undecided have in fact been breaking more for Kerry.
So besides Bush, Cheney and Gulliani, Mr. Right has some explaining to do Friday.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
David Kay, U.S. arms inspector, confirmed to Aaron Brown that the Twin Cities video shows that U.S. troops found the sealed, high-powered explosives now missing. He said that the presence of those explosives had been known since 1991, and it was one of the most important sites in Iraq. He finds it incredible that U.S. forces didn't know what they were seeing, but since they knew at least they were seeing explosive powder of some kind, that the facility wasn't secured. Bush has been attacking Kerry for wild charges and not knowing the facts, but this fact is certainly not contradicted by the video: the Bush league team ordered troops to guard the oil ministry, but not huge caches of dangerous explosives.
If that isn't bad enough, the truly frightening comment Kay made was this: the munitions present in Iraq, most in the hands of insurgents, is equal to two-thirds of the non-nuclear munitions possessed by the U.S. armed forces. Not just in Iraq. Everywhere.
On a related issue, the FBI has opened a CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION into favoritism in granting a no-bid contract to a subsidiary of Halliburton for Iraq. According to one report, a Defense Department whistleblower has an email which shows White House involvement, specifically the office of vice president Cheney. The investigation led Thursday's Hardball, with Chris Matthews opining that this has the potential to crystallize the Democratic charges of Bush and Republican favoritism to huge corporations.
Apart from the name of the Iraqi prison, there has been no more potent word this year than Halliburton.
Pundits argue whether there are any undecideds left, or whether they are reachable on issues. But it's hard to see how Bush is helped by headlines clearly demonstrating incompetence that has led to Americans being killed and crippled, and that enriched a partisan corporation in a war that a new Johns Hopkins estimate says killed 100,000 Iraqi civilians, many of them children. Perhaps this won't change minds, but only further sicken hearts. Tonight we mourn those hundred thousands, and our thousands. Tomorrow we resolve to stop these people with our ballots before they do even more harm.
USATODAY.com - FBI investigating how Halliburton got Bush administration contracts
If you don't hear about this on the TV news tonight, call them up and ask why not!
kos has photos from the Twin Cities TV station proving the munitions were under seal at the Iraqi dump when U.S. troops arrived and looked at them. Scroll down the kos page to see:
Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.
Additionally, the NY Times is reporting Iraqi sources saying that the explosives were looted during the U.S. occupation.
The missing explosives in Iraq continues to be an explosive issue in America. President Bush's first comment on it has furnished the Kerry campaign with a potentially damaging ad line: "For a political candidate to jump to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as Commander in Chief." Today Rudy Guliani blamed failure to find the munitions on the troops. A Minnesota TV station believes it has footage of American troops in fact finding the munitions which have since disappeared.
The polls aren't showing much movement, and they continue to be all over the place. However, at least one poll within the past two days gives Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, PA, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan to Kerry. But other polls show Bush slightly ahead in several of those states. Chuck Todd of the Hotline now has 10 disputed states, and believes the pollsters don't have a handle on the race and are too unsure of their numbers to be credible. Polls weigh for turnout, and nobody knows how high the turnout will be.
One indication of turnout is Florida, where thousands have already voted. A poll of those voters shows Kerry leading by 17 points, but the size of the poll makes the margin questionable.
While Zogby tracking poll continues to show Bush ahead nationally, the Economist is one of several new polls giving Kerry a 49% to 46% edge. The Economist has also endorsed Kerry; the magazine endorsed Bush in 2000.
The Pew Research Center issued a report saying that Kerry has picked up more undecided voters in the past month than Bush, and the overwhelming factor was his performance in the debates. This contrasts with CNN etc. who keep saying that the race is back to where it was before the debates.
To be fair to the cable stations, the other night CNN's Aaron Brown responded to Dick Cheney's comment that Iraq is a "remarkable success story" with a blistering recap of the situation and a rebuke. On MsNBC, the voice of reason continues to be the voice of Reagan---Ron Reagan---who said yesterday that the importance of the missing explosives in Iraq isn't whether they were there after U.S. troops arrived, but that the Bushies hadn't ordered the troops to look for them. And he characterized Bush's misstatements of Kerry's words as "lying."
The strongest hope for Kerry supporters continues to be turnout and the Get Out the Vote Effort. Several of the lefty blogs are showering praise on the professionalism of the combined effort of traditional Democratic party and union efforts and the new organizations, all working together under the rubric of America Votes.
On the ground organization suggests not only that all of the swing states are in play, but that some generally given to Bush---Arizona in particular---are also in play.
The mainstream media has picked up the story of attempts to prevent or discourage voters, which has had some good effects in shining some light on Ohio, for instance. There the state's newspapers had little to say about GOPer efforts to subvert voting rights until the national media ran with the story. However, the prospect of possible conflict on voting day, resulting in challenges and at the very least, long lines, could in itself discourage voting. Which makes election day get out the vote efforts all the more important.
And activists and reporters are already looking at 7 day weather forecasts for Tuesday. In a normal year, the weather could decide a close race. This doesn't appear to be a normal year.
Not when the Boston Red Sox win the World Series, during a full lunar eclipse. Not only is Boston John Kerry's hometown team, but the St. Louis Cardinal ownership has strong ties to Bush, having formerly owned the Texas Rangers when Bush was their front man.
T-Shirt of the Day: Drop Bush, Not Bombs.
Button of the Day: Bring Back Complete Sentences. Vote Kerry-Edwards.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
The missing explosives story continues to stay in the news, with evidence accumulating that the explosives were lost after American troops were there and victory was declared. Now the story begins to emerge that Bush plans to ask for an additional $70 billion to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan, and an additional 20,000 troops.
Also making news, the Iraqi government accusing U.S. of gross negligence in deaths of Iraqi national guard. Under the radar but significant: North Korea has refused to rejoin nuclear talks because of the U.S. hostile attitude.
Campaign news: Kevin Drum via kos reports that in a survey by Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who factors in minority turnout based on 2000 exit polls, plus census changes since 2000, the race in 12 battleground states goes from a tie to Kerry by more than five points. Fabrizio concludes that unless the GOPers successfully suppress the minority vote, Bush is doomed.
Turnout is going to be a key indicator, with high turnout favoring Kerry. But we don’t have to wait for election day to catch the drift: in early voting states, turnout is tremendous. Hundreds of thousands have already voted in Florida, despite sporadically successful efforts to destroy Democratic registrations and lose tens of thousands of absentee ballots in Broward County.
Early voting is also high in Nevada.
The Zogby national tracking poll, which showed Bush up several points, is closer to even.
"Today was a big day for Kerry," pollster John Zogby said.
Kerry has consolidated his base support just as Bush did early in the race, taking a 2-to-1 lead among Hispanics, 90 percent of blacks, 84 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of union voters and 65 percent of singles. Only 4 percent of likely voters remain undecided.
CBS poll has Kerry up 4 points in Florida, after ordering a revision of a poll which showed Kerry up 8 to 9 points.
If you're watching a lot of cable news, you're not getting the impression that we're building towards a Kerry victory, until you notice how nervous the anchors and reporters are. They've built their entire makeovers on attracting the Fox audience, and now they're also fighting reality. Look also at the affect of Bush and Cheney vs. that of Kerry and Edwards on the campaign trail, and you know the GOPers are worried, the Dems are excited.
We’ve been talking personally with people in battleground states, and there is high interest among Kerry supporters in helping get out the vote on election day. The passions are cresting.
We need minority voters to show the kind of courage we saw in the Civil Rights movement, to fight for their rights to vote. We need the energy of young people and the dedication of the rest of us to make sure registered voters, especially newly registered voters, get to the polls.
Blood brothers in the stormy night with a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Four new state polls show Kerry ahead in Florida. All state polls show Kerry ahead in Pennsylvania. The latest state poll shows Kerry ahead in Ohio.
Two analyses of electoral votes, one at Cal State, one at Princeton, predict a Kerry victory.
The big news at the beginning of this week is the huge missing cache of powerful ammo in Iraq, apparently looted over many months while U.S. forces were in Iraq. The Bushies are are trying to minimize this, even as they claim it happened before U.S. occupiers were there, while contrary evidence is coming in. This story looks likely to continue for the week.
The other big story is Chief Justice Rehnquist's cancer operation, which reporters are saying is more serious than the official Court press release indicates. This is likely to boost turnout for both sides in the election, as people focus on the importance of the Court.
A story that hasn't gotten much play but is a significant indicator for the election is the sudden drop in U.S. consumer confidence. Our guess is that the tipping point is gasoline prices, so high that they are forcing changes in consumer behavior.
So far the blunders this week have all been GOPers. While bombing and killing continues in Iraq, Dick Cheney has called Iraq "a great success story." Feeding into the willful blindness image as if the Kerry team had written it for him.
President Bush said on terrorism, that a safe America is "up in the air." It was apparently an awkward attempt to create more fear of electing Kerry, but it came off as defeatist.
The BBC has uncovered a memo that implicates Florida GOPers in a conspiracy to suppress the black vote, with a "caging list" and attempts at intimidation. The same tactics are planned for Ohio, where several Bush operatives under investigation or even indictment in another state for election fraud are running the show.
Monday, October 25, 2004
The Big Dog is back.
Bill Clinton wowed a tremendous crowd in Philadelphia, estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000 . He'll be in Florida tonight and tomorrow, and has scheduled appearances for Kerry in New Mexico, Nevada and Arkansas.
In the latest state polls as we start the week, Arkansas has moved towards Kerry and is tied. Florida and Wisconsin are tied. Kerry has moved slightly ahead in New Mexico. The Zogby poll has Kerry ahead in Colorado but slightly behind in New Mexico.
Several newspaper endorsements in Florida went to Kerry, including the Orlando Sentinel, one of a number of newspapers that endorsed Bush last time but Kerry this time. The preponderance of editorial support in Florida is for Kerry, and some papers have declined to endorse at all, when they endorsed Bush last time.
Kerry is ahead in Ohio, has increased his lead in PA, has moved ahead again in Michigan, and has a solid lead in New Hamphshire.
The Columbus, Ohio paper endorsed Bush, reportedly pitting the editorial staff (for Kerry) against the publisher (a Bush supporter.) That same conflict was reported at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, with the result that their endorsement was postponed.
Bush is still slightly ahead in Iowa, Nevada and Minnesota (though Zogby has Kerry ahead in MN), but his lead has declined.
Nationally in the less important head to head polls, the usually GOPer CNN/Gallup has Bush ahead, as does the more reliable Zogby tracking poll, but the Rasmussen tracking poll puts Kerry ahead by 2 points among likely voters, tracking a steady decline in Bush's numbers last week. The Washington Post poll also has Kerry ahead, with 55% saying the Bush administration is leading the country in the wrong direction.
"I could see this mood in the nods of agreement in an airport lounge recently as a television news clip showed Kerry saying the country needs “a fresh start.” This could be the most powerful phrase in Kerry’s arsenal during the closing days."
Craig Crawford, Congressional Quarterly Columnist
predicting a Kerry victory
Sunday, October 24, 2004
We never really could figure out what Christianity has to do with right wing Republican politics. In particular we can’t get our heads around the attacks on “bleeding-heart liberals.” Because the bleeding heart they are talking about is Jesus Christ’s. The heart of Jesus bleeds for the poor, the hungry, the sick and injured, the oppressed, the weakened old and the helpless children. Yet these are the people that the rabid right disdains, and the people who try to help them are the ones they insult with alarming venom, cynicism and hate.
In any case, we don’t believe religious faith should be an issue. Lots of Kerry supporters have strong religious faith. Kerry is apparently one of them. But Kerry talks about faith accompanied by works, which is an emphasis with a long history within the Catholic Church, that has led to many orders of monks and nuns being created, and many saints, as well as activists nearer to our time who may someday be proclaimed as saints. Like that bleeding heart liberal, Mother Theresa.
Of course, religion seems to enter in with issues like gay marriage and abortion. Yet people of faith, people who belong to organized Christian churches and may even be clergy, disagree on the politics of these issues. It’s true that in the history of the West some of the most violent disagreements, leading to individual deaths and even warfare, have been disagreements over doctrinal interpretations or political entanglements, within Christianity.
There is nothing that John Kerry would do that limits the ability of any person to make a moral choice based on their own conscience. There is nothing that John Kerry would do that prevents anyone from living their faith. This reflects a view about faith and the American political system. It also reflects a faith.
But when people talk about faith in this election, they can mean other things. There is the question of whether George Bush himself believes, as do some of his supporters, that he is an instrument of God to bring about the Apocalypse, the Rapture and the Last Judgment. Or if he believes he is a contemporary Crusader, at war with Islam.
There is the further question of whether people are relying too strongly on their faith in George Bush, either for religious reasons, or because they turned to him in a traumatic moment, and they have invested him with a faith that overrides perception of reality.
That question was raised in particular this past week by a study by the Center for Policy Attitudes and Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. It was conducted in September and October of this year, well after the 9-11 report (finding no real connection between Saddam and 9-11 or al Qaeda) and several reports confirming that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq at the time that Bush started the war, nor were there any ongoing or even recent WMD programs.
The survey asked the same questions of people who identified themselves as Bush supporters and Kerry supporters. But the questions weren’t on their opinions; they were on facts.
Here’s what the Bush supporters said:
72% said that Iraq had WMDs
75% that Iraq had given substantial support to al Qaeda
55% that this was the conclusion of the 9-11 commission
Yet 58% said the U.S. should not have gone to war if Iraq had no WMD.
Only 31% realize that the rest of the world was largely against the Iraq invasion.
Just 9% believe that people in other countries favor Kerry in the election. In fact, a widely reported recent survey showed that Kerry is favored in 30 of 35 major countries, and in population total by 2 to 1.
But their faith in Bush went beyond what Bush had claimed was true and isn’t, or didn’t turn out to be. They believed Bush had positions on issues contrary to his actual ones.
69% said Bush supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
72% that Bush supports the treaty banning land mines.
57% that Bush supports the Kyoto treaty on global warming
74% that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements.
Bush is on the record as being against all these. There are a couple of possible conclusions. One is that faith in Bush alone holds sway, and since these voters obviously favor these things themselves (since being Bush supporters they wouldn’t say he had positions they didn’t agree with), they naturally think he feels the same way. Maybe because they just like him, and don’t follow the news, or maybe because they are going on faith.
Another is a little more nuanced: that faith in Bush predisposes them to accept the public relations image the Bush administration has tried hard to project; for example, by naming a law that allows more pollution, Clean Skies, or by holding a White House press conference to announce funds to fight AIDs in Africa that they immediately withdraw, but quietly.
This would also predispose them to believe the untruths and the vicious lies that the Bush administration tells regularly. This in some ways is the most understandable. Because every American would like to have faith in their leaders. It’s the only way that we as a country can solve our common problems, and work towards a better future. But having faith in lies does no one any good, except perhaps the liars. Yet even they have to answer for their souls.
There is also a more cynical possibility: that people don’t care if Bush is telling the truth, as long as he gives them a good feeling. If this is so, it’s not clear just what they have faith in. Unless they believe Bush is sent from God and whatever he does must be right. Otherwise, it becomes a question of whether they have faith in the idea of the truth. This is what scares people about Bush and his supporters: that they aren’t “reality-based.” They don’t care what happens to people in this world, because their faith is fixed on another world, and on the elect, the people who believe exactly what they believe.
People of faith should not let faith become identified with that point of view. We prefer keeping faith with our children and the generations to come, as well as keeping faith with the people we depend on every day, our fellow human beings, and the life of this planet that sustains us, and of which we are a small part. In the end we find religious zealotry and its associated politics repugnant not only for ignoring justice and charity, but for its ungodly pride, its lack of humility.
The past week was a good one for the Kerry campaign. Kerry spoke in battleground states to huge crowds---30,000 in Minneapolis. He dominated the news with mostly positives, such as appearance of Christopher Reeve's wife and introduction by Caroline Kennedy. The news in Iraq, from the Pentagon and the CIA were all bad for Bush, as were headlines about further heights in oil prices and more problems with flu vaccine distribution.
The polls remained very close, though Kerry did consistently better in battleground states. But the numbers various pros and pundits point to are Bush's presidential approval rating, which remains below the magic 50%, and his poll numbers, which in most surveys don't get above the magic 50%; these are indicators for incumbents that historically point to losing.
Political junkies also note with some wonder that Bush has not campaigned much in Ohio, and that his plans for the final week are for a not very heavy schedule of appearances in mostly Iowa, New Mexico and Wisconsin. New Mexico is a close swing state, but it is also closest to Bush's Crawford TX ranch, where he is planning to spend two nights next week.
Going into the final week, Kerry looks strong in Ohio and PA, neither of which has Nader on the ballot. In Minnesota, the maverick former governor Jesse Ventura has endorsed Kerry.
In fact, Kerry looks so strong in virtually all the swing states that some pols have floated the idea that this election could be the reverse of 2000 in that Bush could win the popular vote and Kerry the electoral vote.
The week should start strong with Bill Clinton's first campaign appearance since his heart operation, in Philadelphia on Monday, an authentic news story that should get lots of coverage.
We get the sense that an undercurrent of movement began to flow for Kerry after the third debate, and it began to be perceptible this past week. It's an undercurrent of good crowds, of numbers within some of the more thorough surveys, of good news, of the look of the two campaigns, and of endorsements---not just newspapers, but individuals, including a growing number of Republicans. Plus the Pat Robertson flap last week which suggests to us (and to Kevin Phillips, we noted Friday) that there may be some dissatisfaction within the religious right with Bush.
The Republican efforts to suppress and intimidate voters not withstanding, there's also the sense that a huge turnout is expected on election day which will be very much for Kerry. If there is less that full enthusiasm in Bush's base, it could be decisive.
What will be interesting this week is the final round of polls, beginning Tuesday and ending next weekend. Right now you'd have to say that there appears to be reason that polls will show a movement towards Kerry, and that while such movement may signal a huge victory, a lack of movement either way, or even a slight uptick for Bush, won't be seen as definitive. Because of all those unknown voters out there, and the fact that the polls are more likely to find Bush voters than Kerry voters. So they may be measuring the top of Bush's numbers, but not Kerry's.
It's still possible there will be a final movement towards Bush, but why would there be? There's only a week left for the October Surprise to rear its ugly head. The Sinclair ploy largely didn't work, thanks to Internet activists. The news from Iraq continues to be bad. And several stories are brewing that are unfavorable for Bush, including a CIA report that might be leaked, new evidence about Bush's non-service in the National Guard and his drug use in those years.
While it's not time to take anything for granted, it is a time to feel positive. This will be a week to watch. While working to get out the vote on Tuesday.