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February 08, 2004


It was not his best. Particularly disappointing given that he prepped for it. He missed some very good opportunities to reset the debate, so I would agree with the "underwhelming" judgment. However, I doubt his strategy was to go in a hit a grand slam. I imagine he's quite pleased with the choice of Kerry as the nominee and I don't think he wants to do anything to upset that apple cart. It is in his interests to look beatable by Kerry right now.

I disagree with Mac that it's in his interest to look beatable by anyone right now. One of Bush's strongest selling points is "strong leader" - which is an odd beast; it can and often is entirely divorced from effectiveness in leadership (in that those polled who disapprove with a president's handling of the economy or of foreign policy often still call him a "strong leader") but is very closely tied to the appearance of strength. Hence the constant touting of Bush as a popular wartime commander-in-chief - an odd spin, since with these kind of numbers Clinton was always described as "embattled" - and having an actual concrete figure who in some sense appears to be "better liked" than him makes him look weak. That's damaging.

As for the interview...

It wasn't a good performance, but it could have been a lot worse (if, for instance, Russert pressed him for a solid response on any number of those questions). Many of his responses seemed too rambling and protracted for his own good. He did avoid most of his "bad interview" habits - letting slip gaffes like "What's the difference" or getting snippy - but this wasn't the "put your fears to rest" performance he probably really wanted.

Of course, I'm not the kind whose fears are going to be put to rest by Bush anytime soon, barring a presidential visit by the Ghost of Christmas Past. But then again, I'm not one of the ones who viscerally loathes the man, either.

...to follow up, I agree with Mac on the notion that between, say, Kerry and Edwards, Bush would much rather have Kerry. But I think he'd rather just see Kerry winning all the primaries than see Kerry beating him in Gallup polls.

Moe, check out Drum's link to the comments over at NRO. K-Lo, Derbyshire, etc. These folks are more than unimpressed, they're getting nervous, and this comes from the team that wants to rub olive oil all over the manatee before buying it dinner.

Oh, and Mac's take is huggable. Ya see, Shrub didn't want to do all that well, cuz he's so happy Kerry is going to be the nominee. This isn't just wishful thinking. This is I Dream Of Jeannie bottle rubbing. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

^ Unless your mom catches you doing it.

I agree that it was an underwhelming performance. I don't know if it was on purpose (= strategery) or not; we'll likely find out in the coming debates.

rub olive oil all over the manatee before taking it to dinner

The image is hysterical, but what does it mean?

Harley it's too bad there isn't a prize for intentional misreading. You get bonus points with the amusing comment, but it's still a misread.


I have to admit that I don't know what your comment is supposed to mean. You're implying that the Democrats wouldn't pick Kerry if they thought Bush would be hard to beat?

Mac's comments never mean much. That said, one of the more interesting points of the interview was when Bush agreed to release all his military records. Russert had to press Bush to get this promise, but it was quite explicit. Expect Scotty to get avalanched udring the WH press briefing tomorrow.

If you cut out all of Mac's and Harley's spinning, the transcript reads better than the actual interview. The weekest point, a poor explanation of his new select committee. We are also talking about nine months before the election. The majority of people who watched it have already made up their minds on who they are going to vote for come next November.

Marky, Bush agreed to release all of his military records when he ran in 2000.

Don't bother, Timmy: marky's already declared that without Katherine posting he's going to stop reading this site until she gets back.





My guess Moe, Marky will stop by just to keep you on your toes. :)

I do look forward to your naming of Katherine's replacement. I hear Howard Dean will soon be looking for a job.

"I do look forward to your naming of Katherine's replacement."

I'm working on it.

Kevin Brennan,

My comment regarding Kerry was cryptic. My point was that I don't think Bush was going to try and win the election in one appearance on MTP and that it wasn't necessarily in his interests to do so "right now".

You're implying that the Democrats wouldn't pick Kerry if they thought Bush would be hard to beat?

Not really. And I apologize that I will continue to be cryptic because I'm pressed for time. I'm saying that if the Democrats were trying to win, instead of trying to beat Bush*; the second weakest major candidate wouldn't be the front-runner.

*They are two distinctly different strategies.

"I do look forward to your naming of Katherine's replacement."

Shall we say, successor?

Okay, from now on whenever I make no sense, please assume that I am being cryptic. Just kidding, Mac! And while there's certainly no need for Bush to try to win the election 'right now', he's not doing a Sunday morning show becuz he likes the venue. Rove etc. must have some worrying internal numbers, and if nothing else, they wanted to change the subject. But like the SOTU, it doesn't seem to be taking, and the promise to 'release all records' re his Nat'l Guard duty will come back to haunt him in the future. Timmy's probably right re the transcript, but if transcript's were all we had to go on, Al Gore would be in the White House. Now back to Mac, cuz I can't help it. The following sentence "...the Democrats were trying to win, instead of trying to beat Bush..." is sorta more than cryptic, as I always thought winning and beating Bush were more or less the same thing. (The Democrats win the Prez election! The Democrats beat Bush! What's the difference!) As for 'second weakest major candidate', the latter formulation only works if we're talking about two men, Edwards and Kerry, and it is certainly debatable as to who would fare better in the general election. And my guess is that both will be on the ticket anyway. (Good luck in the debates, Dick! Er, Colin!)

Back to Timmy! Bush's records have not been released. Plenty of sources for this. See Kleiman, Josh, et al for details.

Timmy, I'll save you a google. Here's Dana Milbank calling the Prez, er, untruthful, in the WaPo:

"Bush's promise to release all of his military files, including pay stubs and tax records, has the potential to resolve the long debate over Bush's service from May 1972 to May 1973. No records have been found showing he performed his duties during that period, but he received an honorable discharge, indicating that he had served properly.

"Experts in such matters have said payroll records and Bush's annual retirement "point summary" from the time -- neither of which has been uncovered -- should demonstrate definitively how often Bush participated in drills. Such records, unless they have been purged, should exist on microfiche in St. Louis or Denver.

"Bush said it was unlikely those records still exist. Asked whether he would allow their release, he replied: "Yeah, if we still have them. But, you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records." Bush also said his campaign had authorized the release of such information in the 2000 campaign, but no such information has been released. A spokeswoman, Claire Buchan, said yesterday that all existing records, including pay stubs and retirement points, had already been made available."

And last but not least -- Kevin Drum is following an interesting paper trail over at Calpundit. Enjoy!

"Shall we say, successor?"

No. Katherine's coming back, after all. :)

I meant in a Sean Connery as Bond kindova way.

Harley, thanks for saving my time.

Bush also said his campaign had authorized the release of such information in the 2000 campaign, but no such information has been released. A spokeswoman, Claire Buchan, said yesterday that all existing records, including pay stubs and retirement points, had already been made available.

Thanks Harley I've read Kevin (unimpressed). I stopped reading Josh after his explanation about the two versions of unilateral. And the above reference points out the obvious, you want records released which don't exist, you must be eating too much grilled manatee.

Speaking of records Harley when is Kerry going to rerelease his first book, The New Soldier, or has he misplaced it.

Harley, you should probably read this to help provide some clarity where Josh is (or is not) coming from.

"bad interview" habits

He stepped back so much I thought he finished the interview behind Russert.

Was reading this found it interesting. Unsure if it was posted on Ob Wings or not...

Timmy, bless you, as always, for the clarity. But in fairness, your link re Josh, however interesting, and it was, also has a great deal to say about the infamous 'torn document' -- rhymes with blue dress, sorta, well, maybe not -- that Calpundit has been writing about. You may be unimpressed. But the story hasn't died just yet.

And let me make one thing clear. I don't care what Shrub did in the Guard anymore than I cared what Clinton did at about the same time.

I'm just curious, and to be honest, amused, that this long-dead story suddenly has newfound legs. Which says more about Bush's standing at the moment than the story itself. The guy was elected in large part because he was likable and folks trusted him to be straight with them. The latter was always a tenuous foundation for a presidency, and the last two months have been proof of that. I'm in Paris at the moment -- blue sky, the sun's out, a perfect day -- and the first thing I saw at the newstand was a TIME magazine cover (American edition) with two Bush heads on the cover and a little somethin' somethin' about a credibility gap. The latter is emblematic of a serious problem for the Bush team. Cuz if people stop liking him, stop trusting him? There is absolutely no continuing rationale for a Bush presidency.

Harley doesn't see the difference between winning the election versus beating Bush. That's all right; I'm sort of counting on that from the entire party.

On the story not dying, the media truely wants a contest and Kerry is going to continue to roll out his Nam experience. The weakness with Kerry's strategy is it provides a nice seque into his post Nam experience and his overall legislative record on national security as well as a long term problem of putting oneself on a pedestal.

Harley, the credibility gap is a concern, the question is how do the Democrats fill that gap. The last time a Democrat won an election on national security was in 1960 regarding the so called "missile gap".

Mac is right Harley, you can beat Bush like a rented manatee and still lose the election. Kerry is moving to Act II and we shall see if it is more substantial than Act I.

Mac, enuf with the dour flirting, how about a simple explanation? We can happily ignore the silly stuff, like the notion that the quality of Bush's face time on a Sunday morning show somehow impacts the Dem primary process ("However, I doubt his strategy was to go in a hit a grand slam. I imagine he's quite pleased with the choice of Kerry as the nominee and I don't think he wants to do anything to upset that apple cart.") and deal, er, non-cryptically with the issue at hand. The difference between winning the election and beating Bush. If by the latter you're talking about the party's success at the polls generally (Senate, House) versus its success in the run for the White House, er okay, wow, how inside baseball, get thee to Hardball forthwith!, and you've still got a point to prove re Kerry and Edwards' relative fitness in that regard. I understand that you've swallowed the Northeast Liberal meme/pablum whole, and I understand the appeal of all things retro, but I'm just not sure it's applicable in the same way in this century. We'll see, I guess.

Oh, BTW, Bush -- and Snow -- may be happy to watch the dollar sink. But just wait and see what it does to the price of a good bottle of scotch. And if there was ever a single issue for you to base your vote on....

Timmy, got it. Though please, if at all possible, avoid Mac's swamp of semantic unreason. I'm assuming that when someone says 'beat Bush' they mean at the polls, as in 'get more votes than him.' Which is different from beating him like, heh, a rented manatee.

Now if one wants to say "The Dems would rather smear Bush than win the election" this would put us all on much firmer rhetorical ground. And you're welcome for the rewrite.

It struck me that Bush was consciously setting lower expectations. He seems beyond modest except when it came time to prove he understood the weight of his responsibility. He came off as sincere, if tired, and actually gave an impressive answer as to "why Iraq and not, say, North Korea."

Only twice did I yell at the television while he spoke (compared with about 50 times during the SOTU address), so underwheming or not, I think it was a good performance. At least it was far less arrogant than we've seen him in the past, and that's a start.

I'll explain it to you when I've got time Harley. Enjoy Paris.

Hey, Harley no need to rewrtie Act I, the curtain is closing. Act II is just starting and someone just started a play across the street in direct competition.

Now you be careful in gay Pareeeeeee.

God. I'd just read the transcript. I saw the interview last night and I have to say, it looked pretty damn awful. Christ.

Saletan has written the last article anyone need write out BW Bush. Who knew the Prez was platonic and not aristotelean?

Money quote:

"No, it isn't. Bush isn't Clinton. He doesn't change his mind for anything, whether it's polls or facts. And he always tells the truth about what's in his mind, whether or not what's in his mind corresponds to what's in the visible world."

Please. Read this article and then tell me you can still bring yourself to vote for this man. Then explain why. Good luck!

Or, BTW, you have Andrew Sullivan over at TNR on-line, who sums up his fisking of the Prez's responses to Russert re the deficit, etc. with this:

"We have a captain on the fiscal Titanic who thinks he's in the Caribbean."

The latter is kinder than when he wonders aloud if the Prez is 'out of his mind.'

Look. At some point you're going to have to take a hard look at this man and decide whether winning is more important than the fiscal health of the country you live in. Sorry. But it's that simple and that exact.

This endorsement of Kerry sets the table for me.

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