By contrast, we're here for the Democratic National Convention, where we plan to do some "real reporting." ("Apparently, you talk to more than one person," explains blogress Ana Marie Cox.) As we just arrived late yesterday afternoon, we haven't yet had a chance to do much "legwork," so today's column will be almost as heavy on blogging as usual. But tomorrow--well, who knows?
When we arrived in our hotel yesterday, we were greeted with a sign in the lobby reading: "Will Cheney steal the election?" The sign identified its source: the Lyndon LaRouche campaign, which apparently is headquartered in the same hotel. As John Judis explained in a 1989 book review, LaRouche was "an obscure Trotskyist and a leader of a minor New Left splinter group" who "was transformed sometime in the early 1970s into a publicity-hungry, mob-tied, neo-Nazi crackpot." He's also the Harold Stassen of conspiracy nuts, a perennial candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Democrats, of course, still view LaRouche as a mere pest. Unlike fellow also-rans Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton, he won't be speaking at the convention. (Nor does he merit a bye-ku in this column.) Yet what struck us about the sign in the lobby--"Will Cheney steal the election?"--was that this sentiment would not be out of place in any number of "mainstream" preconvention events. Indeed, John Kerry himself has been going around making paranoid statements about, in his words, "a million disenfranchised African-Americans and the most tainted election in history."
"Flights of paranoia, far-out analogies, conspiracy theories, and wild charges devoid of evidence are the stock in trade of the Loony Left," The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes notes. "Normally such ideas are ridiculed or ignored by those in the political mainstream. But these days the fantasies of the Loony Left are increasingly embraced and nearly always tolerated by the Democratic party and its auxiliary groups. The result? The Loony Left now has a toehold on the Democratic party."
Barnes enumerates some of the loony left's tropes: likening President Bush to Hitler, suggesting he had foreknowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, claiming he gave special treatment to Osama bin Laden's relatives after Sept. 11, accusing the president of "rolling back democracy as we know it."
All this must be very frustrating for Lyndon LaRouche. The Democratic Party has gone a long way toward embracing his paranoid style of politics, so you'd think this would be his year. But the Dems snubbed him yet again, giving John Kerry the nod because he's more "electable." It just doesn't seem fair.
The Democrats' mood this year is a very strange mix of rage, paranoia and confidence. They really seem to think John Kerry is going to beat President Bush--and who knows, they may be right. One big question is how successful they'll be at the convention in keeping the rage and paranoia beneath the surface. Certainly the party bosses are expanding enormous effort toward this end, as evidenced by yesterday's "Meet the Press" interview with Barack Obama.
Obama is a rising Democratic star: a young state legislator from Illinois who is a virtual shoo-in to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Peter Fitzgerald. He will deliver the convention's keynote speech tomorrow night, an unusual honor for a mere state legislator. When Tim Russert interviewed him, he came across as extremely well-spoken--but he had nothing to say. He just kept repeating variations on the convention's vacuous theme, "stronger at home, more respected abroad."
(To be sure, vacuous convention themes are a bipartisan phenomenon; in 2000, as Carl Cannon notes in National Journal's Convention Daily, the GOP theme was "Renewing America's purpose.")
In truth, Obama is not nearly as boring as he came across on "Meet the Press." Indeed, Russert threw back at him several old quotes that were quite provocative, in response to which he stayed relentlessly on-message:
Russert: In 2002 in October, you gave a speech at an antiwar rally and said this. "What I am opposed to is the attempt by potential hacks like Karl Rove"--the president's political adviser--"to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income--to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics."
You seem to say that George Bush took a country to war, lost nearly 900 Americans, 5,000 wounded and injured, on politics?
Obama: What I think is that it was an ideologically driven war. I think that George Bush was sincere and is sincere about his desire to maintain a strong America, but I think there was a single-mindedness to this process that has led our country into a very difficult position. It's a consequence of that single-mindedness that we did not create the kind of international framework that would have allowed success once we decided to go in. And I think that John Kerry is going to be establishing those relationships that allow us now, looking forward, to execute in Iraq and make sure that we are respected abroad and succeed in the difficult but now bipartisan process of making sure that we have a stable Iraqi government.
On the surface, the Democrats seem to be repeating their 2002 campaign strategy of acting reasonable, at least when it comes to foreign policy. But just as the 2004 Barack Obama is much more moderate than the 2002 version, the John Kerry we'll see Thursday night is likely to be much more moderate than the delegates who'll nominate him. The Boston Globe reports on the radicalism of those delegates:
Eighty percent of those polled said they opposed the decision to go to war against Iraq at the time it began, and 95 percent say they now oppose the war. A majority of 63 percent want US troops out within two years; only one in four say the United States should stay as long as it takes to achieve administration goals.
''I don't like Saddam Hussein any better than anybody else, but we are wasting our money to get rid of one dictator, when our needs are in the war on terrorism," said delegate Llewellyn Howell, 63, an emeritus professor of international studies at Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management, in Glendale, Ariz. ''This was nothing but a personal diversion that had to do with George Bush personally, his family's linkage with the bin Laden family and the Saudis, and much of Bush's effort here was to rectify his father's reputation.
''If it weren't for oil, this invasion would not have occurred."
The question for Kerry is whether he'll be able to keep his appeal to people like Howell subterranean enough to avoid alienating normal Americans. If he can do that, he just might win.
What Would We Do Without Early Button Sales?
"If early button sales are any indication, Democratic delegates are in an ornery, Bush-bashing mood."--National Journal Convention Daily, July 26
What Would We Do Without Poles?
"Poles Say 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Is Propaganda"--headline, Associated Press, July 23
'Kill That Nazi'
"Anti-war protesters tussled with an anti-abortion activist Sunday and sparked a debate within their own ranks about the meaning of free speech," the Rocky Mountain News reports from Boston:
The protesters included a mix of peace activists, revolutionary groups and others. . . . As the crowds of protesters grew and grew, an uninvited guest--anti- abortion, anti-gay activist Leonard Gendron, of Boston--took up a position along a pathway, hoisting a sign showing a picture of an aborted fetus on one side. On the other side were the words "Homo sex is sin."
To say the least, his ideology clashed with other messages in the predominantly left-leaning crowd.
At one point, a shouting match erupted between Gendron and several protesters. . . . Soon, Gendron was surrounded by dozens more people who called for him to take down his sign. A group of photographers and television cameras formed a tight circle around them. . . . "Kill that Nazi," someone from the crowd yelled.
"I think stuff like that is hate, and hate shouldn't be tolerated," said one unidentified man. He was referring to Gendron's sign, not the "peace activists" who attacked him.
Great Orators of the Democratic Party
"One man with courage makes a majority."--Andrew Jackson
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."--Franklin Roosevelt
"The buck stops here."--Harry Truman
"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."--John Kennedy
"I will stand up and struggle, as others have, to try to get that right balance between violence, and sex, and things."--John Kerry
Is 'My Life' Libelous?
Bill Clinton addresses the Democratic convention tonight, and of course he's been busy promoting his memoir, "My Life." But the New York Times reports that before publication of the British edition, "Mr. Clinton authorized changes to a dozen or more passages, most of them related to [Kenneth] Starr, apparently in an attempt to make the book and Mr. Clinton less vulnerable under Britain's tough libel laws":
Most of the changes center on what Mr. Clinton portrays as Mr. Starr's attempts to persuade potential witnesses to lie about the activities of the former president and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, now the junior senator from New York.
For example, in the United States edition, published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House Inc., Mr. Clinton speaks of Mr. Starr's "continuing efforts to coerce people into making false charges against Hillary and me, and to prosecute those who refused to lie for him."
In the British edition, published by Hutchinson, also part of Random House Inc. and its German parent, Bertelsmann, the word false was deleted and the final clause was changed to "and to prosecute those who refused to tell him what he wanted to hear."
Also on tonight's agenda: Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Ted Kennedy. The New York Times' Bob Herbert describes Kennedy as "a stubborn, barnacle-encrusted anchor to the gleaming but always vulnerable democratic ideals that are so essential to the greatness of America." That's an odd metaphor, given that Kennedy is most famous for an incident in which he didn't sink.
Generalissimo Francisco Franco Is Still Dead
"Kucinich & Co. Still Tilting at Windmills"--headline, National Journal Convention Daily, July 25
All the News That's Fit to Print?
"Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?" asks the headline of yesterday's column by the Times' "public editor," Daniel Okrent.
The answer: "Of course it is."
All we have to say is that the timing here is awfully suspicious. The Times sat on this story for decades, and finally reports it yesterday, when it's sure to be buried by the Democratic convention.
Kick the Can
The Kedwards ticket may feature two Johns, but reporters covering the convention say there aren't nearly enough johns, the Associated Press reports:
Twenty portable restrooms, like those used on construction sites, are lined up in front of the media pavilion to service nearly 1,200 members of the print media who will be working around the clock. That's about 60 serious coffee-drinkers per toilet.
"That's absurd," said [the delightfully named] Jim Drinkard, a political reporter for USA Today, when he heard of the ratio of toilets per media member. "This is not the type of planning you'd expect out of someone trying to be a good host."
Drinkard, who is also the chairman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, said he was told by the DNCC, the committee in charge of planning the convention, that the lack of toilets was a move aimed at cutting costs.
It could be cost-cutting, but we wouldn't be surprised if the committee just misunderstood an order to cut back on press leaks.
(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Lawrence Peck, Thomas Dillon, Jim Peterson, S.E. Brenner, Joel Goldberg, Clay Calhoun, Steve Weir, Steve Roberts, Stephen Barton, Samuel Walker, Michael Segal, Jim Orheim, Jason Osborn, Edward Himmelfarb, Barak Moore, Allen O'Donnell, Chris Lynch, Bennett Stern, Jim Trager, C.E. Dobkin, Ethel Fenig, Ned Thompson and Mark Davies. If you have a tip, write us at [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email], and please include the URL.)