Mondo busy so far today. I've been collecting links for more than two weeks that I've never gotten 'round to posting, so I'll try to post a roundup later on today. My apologies, and thanks for your patience.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Friday talked up his economic and energy policies as he sought to chip away at President Bush's support among rural voters.
...Bush has a strong advantage in rural areas, easily outpacing Al Gore in 2000 among rural voters, 59 percent to 37 percent, according to exit polls. Bush also won the vote of those in small towns (10,000 to 50,000 population) by about the same margin.
Still, Kerry's campaign hopes to attract some of those votes. His focused on his plan to repeal tax cuts for those making more than $200,000, support farmers and ranchers by prohibiting unfair practices such as packer ownership of livestock, and increase renewable fuels from corn, soybeans and other sources.
The Bush campaign on Friday defended a memo in which it sought to mobilize church members in support of the president's re-election bid through efforts such as providing church directories to the campaign, arranging for pastors to hold voter registration drives, and talking to various religious groups about the campaign.
Some religious organizations have criticized the document as inappropriate and perhaps having the potential to cause churches to jeopardize their tax-exempt status by becoming involved in partisan politics.
Taken together, these two data points suggest that Bush is having to work hard to shore up his base, while Kerry is playing on Bush's turf, which in turn indicates that Kerry is fairly confident of his own support. And why not -- Democrats are raring for a chance to turn this loser out of office, while polls indicate that independents are increasingly disenchanted, and the overall indcators spell bad news for Bush. These stories also support the impression that even before the Edwards pick and the upcoming Democratic convention -- which would naturally focus attention and energy Kerry's way -- it's the Democrats who have the initiative, and the Bush team who are forced to react to events.
Speaking of which, I'm also pleased to see that just as the Bush camp releases a campaign commercial touting Republican Senator John McCain's support, the Democrats respond with another that demonstrates that McCain and Bush do differ on a number of issues. John Kerry's D-Bunker (now permalinked) weighs in as well.
Update:The Stakeholder (thanks for the link!) has more on McCain's lack of love for Bush's policies.
The local paper presented a mildly surprising take this morning on Kerry's choice of Edwards as his running mate. The paper's editorial declined to parrot the GOP's talking points -- perhaps wisely, avoiding their faint odor of desperation -- offering instead only a mild rebuke about Edwards' rhetoric on trade. (Given the paper's pro-free-trade stance, this opinion is hardly surprising. Even cartoonist Gary Varvel couldn't seem to muster much spleen at the choice.
Perhaps most astonishingly, the paper ran this E.J. Dionne column praising the selection. As opposed to many liberal papers, which run conservative op-eds to balance their editorial take, the Star runs even more conservative op-eds (Jonah Goldberg, Cal Thomas), and rarely runs a piece by a liberal columnist unless it happens to criticize the Democrats. But here's Dionne with an unabashedly pro-Democratic message that pre-empts the GOP spin.
Republicans were in a foul mood because John Kerry's choice of Edwards as his running mate muddied up all the story lines they were itching to trot out. To understand why Edwards was the best choice for Kerry, consider what the Republicans (and the media) would have said if the nod had gone instead to Rep. Richard Gephardt.
Kerry would have been described as "insecure" at the prospect of standing next to the "charismatic" and "populist" Edwards. Gephardt's experience would have been trotted out to turn him into the "tired" face of the "old" Democratic Party.
This would have been unfair to the decent Gephardt, Kerry's sentimental favorite. But Kerry's advisers knew the price of picking the old war horse, which is why they formed an Edwards lobby inside the campaign.
Putting a Southerner on the ticket was essential. Since 1960, five of the eight Democratic tickets that included a Southerner were elected. Edwards allows Democrats to contest North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia and Arkansas. Democratic optimists think Edwards' native South Carolina might also be within reach.
Forcing the president to compete on terrain he had mostly considered safe alters the election's dynamics. And in the primaries, Edwards' appeal seemed strongest in constituencies that the Democrats must win over. He ran especially well among rural voters and appealed simultaneously to blue-collar whites and upper-middle-class professionals.
The key to Edwards' twin appeal -- to upscale voters and to those trying to climb the ladder or helping their kids do it -- was explained many years ago by the great American sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset. Lipset argued that the two core American values were "equality" and "achievement." Americans want a level playing field and don't like people who put on airs. But they also admire strivers. Edwards can give his "two Americas" and "dad in the mill" speech as someone who used the education system to rise up and get rich. That's the American story.
Ah, but he got rich as one of those "trial lawyers," Republicans were quick to say. Here's a bet that when trial lawyers are paired up against corporations that abuse their power, Edwards' profession will have a fighting chance.
Republicans grumbled that Edwards was Kerry's "second choice" after Republican John McCain. Can't blame the GOP for trying. But it's hard to think voters will hold it against Kerry that he tried to reach out to Republicans during a period of rancid partisanship.
Oh, yes, and one more point on that experience thing: "When it comes time to make the decision to send our young men and women into harm's way, that decision should be made by a leader who knows that such decisions have profound consequences. There comes a time when our nation's leader can no longer rely on briefing books and talking points." That was McCain in 1999. He was talking about the man who became our current president. You wonder which side will be most eager to cite that quotation.
(Dionne also spoke about Edwards yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, along with David Brooks. Dionne, of course, echoed several of these points, but again, perhaps surprisingly, Brooks could find little bad to say, and seemed generally impressed with the choice.)
As I've said, I have no doubt that Indiana's electoral votes will go to Bush, and I assume the local paper will wind up endorsing him. But this unexpectedly mild reaction by the paper's editorial board leaves the impression that perhaps even they are no longer as enamored of Bush as they once were. Given that, after all, George W. Bush's vice presidential pick is Dick Cheney, it's hard to find fault with Edwards.
I picked up a couple of swank summer accessories over the weekend. For starters, BoingBoing pointed me to these swell swanky beach towels at Bed, Bath & Beyond. When my dad invited us swimming down in Louisville, we happened by a BB&B and, as we were short on towels, I popped in to look for them. They only carried the beatnik dance club design, so I grabbed it, and I found another item that sports a similar surf dance party theme on the clearance rack for five bucks. (I might yet pick up the tiki lounge towel later on.)
And yesterday, my lovely wife stopped into Target, and picked up a trio of clear plastic tumblers emblazoned with hula girls. They'll be perfect for sipping tall, frosty drinks out on the patio while Arthur Lyman plays in the background. Oh, yeah!
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry visited my town of residence, Indianapolis, yesterday. He spoke at the convention of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Here's the writeup in the local paper.
Speaking to the African Methodist Episcopal Church world conference in Indianapolis, Kerry called for "a new era of responsibility" that asks as much of government as it does of citizens. He spoke just hours after picking Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., to be his running mate this fall.
"All of us have to be responsible for our actions," Kerry told the 10,000 or so people attending the session at the Indiana Convention Center in Downtown Indianapolis. He said that includes the "president in the White House, where you have an obligation to tell the American people the truth about how you take the nation to war."
The choice of Edwards, his former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, drew widespread support from the almost exclusively black audience at the AME convention. People praised the North Carolina senator's Southern, working-class roots as a balance to New Englander Kerry's wealthy background.
Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, brings foreign policy experience, they said, while Edwards addresses the economic and social issues that so many people at the convention work on at their churches around the country.
Kerry borrowed from Edwards' standard campaign stump speech, speaking of the "two Americas, the haves and the have-nots."
To close that gap, Kerry called for the kind of personal responsibility that conservatives have long clamored for. Kerry, however, said he would back up that rhetoric with the government programs and money that liberals say are needed to help people become self-reliant.
Church officials said President Bush had been invited to speak but never responded.
Outside the convention hall, the reaction to Kerry's choice was fairly predictable.
Former Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Robin Winston -- who had been backing Edwards for president -- called the addition of the North Carolina senator to the ticket "huge."
Indiana GOP Chairman Jim Kittle, though, found it a huge yawn.
It not only won't help Kerry in Indiana, Kittle said, but he doubted it would help him in the South.
Kittle's right about one thing -- Indiana is solid red, and I doubt Edwards' selection will help Kerry here. I think he's wrong, however, in dismissing Edwards' impact in the south. While Kerry may not pick up any southern states -- although some, including Louisiana and Florida -- appear to be wavering -- Edwards may well force Bush to play defence in the south, spending resources defending his lousy record as opposed to using them to attack Kerry. That prospect suits me just fine.
Unfortunately, perhaps in recognition of Kerry's lackluster prospects in the state, the candidate's visit was not open to the public, and he made no other public appearance. A pity -- I'd have welcomed the chance to see him.
On Wednesday, the tabloid corrected its erroneous cover story that former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt would be Kerry's pick. Kerry named Edwards shortly after the edition hit newsstands Tuesday.
Mocking its headline from the day before, the Post's Page One read: "KERRY'S CHOICE: Dem picks Edwards as VP candidate (REALLY)." Underneath, it said "NOT EXCLUSIVE."
The tabloid called the mistake "Our Gaffe-hardt" and apologized to readers.
"Rest assured that generous helpings of crow were eaten here yesterday — and the leftovers will surely last a few more days," the tabloid said. "We do hope you'll forgive the error — it certainly was one for the record books."
Excuse me? Tony Blair as much as admits that Iraq didn't have the WMDs that he and Bush promised us not only that it had, but that they had proof that it had, and then in the very same breath, asserts that Iraq was still a threat.
"We know that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and we know that we haven't found them," Blair told a committee of lawmakers Tuesday.
"I have to accept we have not found them, that we may not find them.
"But what I wouldn't accept is that (Saddam) was not a threat and a threat in WMD terms," Blair said.
"Whether they were hidden or removed or destroyed even, the plain fact is that he was in breach of United Nations resolutions," he said.
Both Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush used Iraq's alleged weapons program as their primary reason for invading the country, but so far the Iraq Survey Group has yet to turn up any stockpiles of the illicit weapons.
Pandagon preempts the predictable anti-Edwards talking points. It's unfathomable how anyone who supported Bush in 2000 could compain with a straigh face about Edwards' inexperience, but if so, I'd just look at them and say sweetly, "It's okay...he'll have good advisers."
As regular readers (all four of you) must have noticed, I was offline over the July 4th weekend. We celebrated my high school buddy Joe's birthday at a pool party Saturday in Louisville, then spent the night at his house. Sunday my dad took us swimming, then we had dinner at a cookout at my mother's. (My friend Dodd dropped by as well.)
Mom offered to keep The Girls with her for the rest of the weekend, so my lovely wife and I had some time to ourselves. Monday morning we took in a matinee of Spider-Man 2 (it was wonderful), but then I spent too much time playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
I'm currently playing catch-up from the long weekend. I hope to be back into the swing of posting by tomorrow.