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August 17, 2004
9:02pm EDT




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The Presidential Election: Six Weeks & Counting
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BY JAMES TARANTO
Tuesday, August 17, 2004 4:20 p.m. EDT

Meet Us on the Web
Tomorrow we'll be participating in an online seminar sponsored by the Tom Peters Co. on the topic of "Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House." (Sneak preview: We'll mention that you can buy it from the OpinionJournal bookstore.) The hourlong presentation runs from noon to 1 p.m. EDT. As we understand it, you'll log in to see the PowerPoint slides, and you'll phone in to hear the audio. It's free, and you can register and find more information here.

Kerry's Identity Crisis
Remember when John Kerry went to the prom and got doused with pig's blood? Oh wait, sorry, that wasn't Kerry; it was Carrie, Sissy Spacek's character in the eponymous 1976 film. We regret the error.

The Kerry campaign seems to have made a similar mistake. Bloggers Eugene Volokh and Robert Tagorda note that campaign press releases from Jan. 29 and March 24 describe Kerry as a former vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. But although Kerry was a member of the committee until 2000, Volokh and Tagorda show that he almost certainly never served as vice chairman.

A fellow senator with a similar name did, however. The biography of Bob Kerrey, now president of New York's New School University, says that he was the commmittee's vice chairman between 1995 and 1999. Kerrey also, by the way, served in Vietnam.

The Dangers of Normalcy
Time magazine reports on a March 2004 "gathering of terrorism's elite" in the Pakistani province of Waziristan:

Although some summit participants have been arrested, others are still at large and are considered very dangerous. At least two are believed to have done some of the surveillance of targets in New York City and elsewhere that authorities found out about last month. Some U.S. officials fear that the meeting may have been a pivotal planning session, much the way a 2000 meeting in Kuala Lumpur was for the 9/11 attacks. "This was a meeting of a bunch of cold-blooded killers who are very skilled at what they do and have an intense desire to inflict an awful lot of pain and suffering on America," says an official familiar with the summit. A senior counterterrorism official said analysts are scrutinizing the recent pattern of enemy activity against timelines of previous attacks. This, he said, has contributed to the worry that at least some members of a strike team are already in the U.S.

It's been almost three years since terrorists last succeeded in striking on American soil, but that doesn't mean they aren't trying. Voters would do well in November to consider how seriously each candidate takes the terrorist threat. Here's an excerpt from John Kerry's convention speech that makes us uneasy:

My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime. The stakes are high. We are a nation at war--a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have ever known before. And here at home, wages are falling, health care costs are rising, and our great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends; they're working two jobs, three jobs, and they're still not getting ahead.

We're told that outsourcing jobs is good for America. We're told that new jobs that pay $9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do. They say this is the best economy we've ever had. And they say that anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can't do better.

So there's a pro forma mention of the war before Kerry jumps into what he really wants to talk about, namely "outsourcing," the latest left-populist economic fad and the sort of thing politicians could be excused for dwelling on back before Sept. 11.

Last month, before taking leave to work on the Bush campaign, Peggy Noonan wrote that she feared John Kerry would win the presidency through a Hardingesque appeal to "normalcy." Mickey Kaus subsequently (albeit grudgingly) endorsed Kerry on precisely these grounds. Normalcy is certainly appealing, but "normalcy" now would mean a return to the 1990s, when al Qaeda was plotting Sept. 11 and carrying out various smaller attacks. Real peace, and normalcy, will come only through victory.

What Would We Do Without Witnesses?
"Witness: Alleged 9/11 Helper Was Anti-U.S."--headline, Associated Press, Aug. 17

Mr. Populist
"British researchers . . . predict that Democratic challenger John Kerry will oust President George Bush on November 2 because he boasts more royal connections than his Republican rival," reports London's Guardian:

After months of research into Mr Kerry's ancestry, Burke's Peerage, experts on British aristocracy, reported yesterday that the Vietnam war veteran is related to all the royal houses of Europe and can claim kinship with Tsar Ivan "The Terrible," a previous Emperor of Byzantium and the Shahs of Persia.

Burke's director, Harold Brooks-Baker, said Mr Kerry had his mother, Rosemary Forbes, to thank for most of his royal connections.

"Every maternal blood line of Kerry makes him more royal than any previous American president," Mr Brooks-Baker said.

"Because of the fact that every presidential candidate with the most royal genes and chromosomes has always won the November presidential election, the coming election--based on 42 previous presidents--will go to John Kerry."

We wouldn't place much stock in Brooks-Baker's predictive model, seeing as how his statement that the royalest candidate "has always won" is impossible. Consider:

  • In 1796 John Adams beat Thomas Jefferson. Four years later Jefferson beat Adams.

  • In 1824 John Quincy Adams beat Andrew Jackson. Four years later Jackson beat Adams.

  • In 1836 Martin Van Buren beat William Henry Harrison. Four years later Harrison beat Van Buren.

  • In 1888 Benjamin Harrison beat Grover Cleveland. Four years later Cleveland beat Harrison.

Presumably if, say, Adams had more royal blood than Jefferson in 1796, the same was true in 1800.

Lloyd Grove of the New York Daily News, meanwhile, reports that Kerry "flew his Washington-based hairstylist, Isabelle Goetz, across the country to give him a camera-ready trim."

Grove continues: "A knowledgeable source told me that the French-born Goetz . . . caught up with the candidate in Portland [Ore.] on Friday (after flying commercial, I'm told), trimmed his luxuriant salt-and-pepper locks and then returned to Washington the same night."

"That's where John Kerry gets his hair cut," our friend Rich Miniter quipped last week as we strolled through a small city in France. We looked up at the sign to read the name of the establishment: Nuances Coiffeur.

Meanwhile Richard Leiby, who replaced Grove at the Washington Post, says that in a forthcoming interview in GQ, Kerry offers some "advice on what to seek in a woman":

"Look for what gets your heart. Someone who excites you, turns you on. . . . It's a woman who loves being a woman. Who wears her womanhood. Who knows how to flirt and have fun. Smart. Confident. . . . And obviously sexy and saucy and challenging."

It's sad to think that some people just marry for money.

The Last Refuge

"Tonight, we have an important message for those who question the patriotism of Americans who offer a better direction for our country. Before wrapping themselves in the flag and shutting their eyes and ears to the truth, they should remember what America is really all about. They should remember the great idea of freedom for which so many have given their lives. Our purpose now is to reclaim democracy itself. We are here to affirm that when Americans stand up and speak their minds and say America can do better, that is not a challenge to patriotism; it is the heart and soul of patriotism."--John Kerry, July 29

"When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil."--Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Aug. 16

Laughing All the Way to the Bank
Yesterday we published a letter from once Bruce Kieloch, who defended the "comedic" stylings of Rep. Linda Sanchez, whose performance we'd earlier panned. It turns out that Kieloch is not exactly a disinterested observer. He is president of Kieloch consulting, a Washington-based firm, which, according to OpenSecrets.org, has received a total of $45,000 from Sanchez's campaign during the 2003-04 campaign cycle for "consulting" and "fundraising" services. In addition, the Sanchez campaign paid Kieloch himself $300 for "room rental." During the 2001-02 cycle the Sanchez campaign also paid Kieloch's firm $6,875.

Her campaign was successful, so we suppose she got her money's worth--but we hope she's not paying too much to whoever writes her jokes.

Kieloch, meanwhile, wrote us to explain why we received similar letters from him and Christine Dorr:

I am both Bruce Kieloch and Christine Dorr. Having wrongly thought my first letter was lost when I was mistakenly logged off my friend Christine Dorr's computer, I wrote another from my own computer the following Monday. The first must have somehow been sent "three days later" from Dorr's computer. There was no letter-writing campaign--just a guy with technical problems.

I appreciate your response to my letter as I do your work in general (albeit in frequent need of retort).

P.S. Don't you think "South Park" is "unfunnier" than "The Simpsons"?

Actually, we think "The Simpsons" and "South Park" are both quite funny.

Last Name First
"Torpedo Sinks Phelps' Shot at Spitz Mark"--headline, Press Associated, Aug. 16

Reports of My Birth Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
This "clarification" ran in the Houston Chronicle Saturday: "Today's Star section includes Julia Child in the birthdays list on page G3. That section was printed before news of her death was reported Friday morning."

Not Too Brite--CLVI
"A man and his two sons have been arrested on suspicion of murdering a neighbor and then eating parts of his body after he tripped over a woman relative at a dance," Reuters reports from Manila.

Oddly Enough!

(For an explanation of the "Not Too Brite" series, click here.)

Garden of Bleedin'
"Police say they are seeing a surge in the number of gang-related attacks involving machetes," the Associated Press reports from Boston. "The troubling trend has led some departments to crack down on machetes, and not just in urban areas. Some suburban communities have also enacted new laws to ban the knives."

But machetes have their defenders:

Some Hispanic community leaders say the use of machetes in crime has tarnished the image of a useful tool used to cut sugarcane or clear underbrush.

"For people in El Salvador, the machete is not looked at as a weapon," said Luis Morales, who grew up in El Salvador. He is now the pastor at the Vida Real Evangelical Center in Somerville.

Members of Boston's Hispanic community often hang machetes on living room walls as a reminder of home or gardening.

Some say they are dismayed that the machete is increasing [sic] being seen a weapon.

"What about baseball bats? They are also used in gang-related attacks. Even a shoe can be considered a weapon if someone uses it to hit someone else," Morales said.

Ah, the agony of the feet!

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Mike Williamson, Erik Andresen, Joe Seely, Nicholas Zeisler, John Williamson, Jim Fehrle, Paul Wood, Skip King, Michael Napier, Michael Segal, Alex Mishulovich, Ethel Fenig, Mike Daley, Tom Linehan, Joe Deltoro, Michael Hopkovitz, Jeffrey Shapiro, M. Gilbertson, Alisa Duncanson, Kenneth Kruger, C.E. Dobkin, Jason Hupe, Kevin Schmidt, Steven Freeman, Russell Zweig, David Singh, Ray Samori, Paul Siebenshuh, Ronald Miller, Royal Dellinger and Rick Schwalbach. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: Germany no longer gets the benefit of so many U.S. troops.
  • Dorothy Rabinowitz: Lynndie's defense is that she wasn't mature enough to abuse the inmates.
  • Amy Finnerty: Julia Child combined a Puritan work ethic with a love of life.

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