Want To Feel Old?

How’s this for a slap in the face?

Jessica McClure, who held the attention of the nation as a toddler when she fell into an abandoned well 17 years ago, is now a high school graduate.
In October 1987, when she was 18 months old, Jessica slipped into an uncovered eight-inch-wide pipe in her aunt’s yard. Crews struggled for two and a half days to rescue her, digging a deep parallel shaft and then a 63-inch horizontal tunnel through bedrock to join the two shafts. They finally brought her to the surface in a moment covered on live television.

For those of us old enough to remember, the Baby Jessica story riveted the nation, one of the first moment-to-moment crisis not involving war or an assassination attempt that kept people glued to the 24-hour news sources for constant updates. And it sure doesn’t seem like 17 years have gone by, but it has. Jessica fell down the well before the Berlin Wall fell, before the Soviet Union fell, seemingly in another world from today.
Best of luck, Jessica McClure. We’ll be taking our Geritol if you need us for anything.

Herseth Wins In South Dakota

In a special election that both parties maintain holds special significance for the November contests, Democrat Stephanie Herseth narrowly held off Republican Larry Diedrich to take over the remainder of Bill Janklow’s term in Congress. Herseth’s narrow margin, however, means the two will meet again in November:

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Herseth had 124,647 votes, or 51 percent, to Larry Diedrich’s 121,719 votes, or 49 percent. … Her victory gave the Democrats two straight triumphs this year in special elections waged for GOP-held seats, and coincided with Democratic claims that a national tide is running their way ahead of the fall campaign.

Jay Reding live-blogged the election, which shows you what a dedicated blogger Jay is; would anyone else in the blogosphere live-blog an election in South Dakota? His conclusion:

At the same time, it’s a Pyrrhic victory for the Democrats. Stephanie Herseth may give the Democrats a seat in Congress, but she’ll have to give her vote to Bush more often than not. At this point she will not have much of a mandate at all, and she could well face a tough campaign this November. She can’t afford to lose that crucial Republican crossover vote that gave her this narrow margin. She can’t afford to link herself with the more extremist wing of the Democratic Party – if she does, she’s toast.
Moreover, Daschle should be worried. A very moderate Democrat with a very positive image is barely able to squeak by. What chance does a highly-partisan Democrat who has spend millions only to run neck-and-neck with someone who hasn’t spend a dime have? The Democrats will be gloating over a Herseth win, but it may be a case of counting one’s chickens before they’ve hatched.

One other item I’ll add to Jay’s analysis — Herseth won by being on the same ballot as the Democratic primary. How much effect that had on the outcome is debatable, since Kerry has long since clinched the nomination. I agree with Jay about her latitude in voting along party lines, and I still think Daschle loses in November. Still, I’d rather that Diedrich won than be conducting optimistic analyses this morning.

First Mate Back Home

Just an update for everyone — the First Mate has returned home, with her blood pressure stabilized for the moment and all symptoms cleared up. Even better, I spoke with the transplant center this afternoon, and while they still need to review all of the records and doctors’ notes from this incident, they believe she can stay on schedule for the transplant. They’ll make a final determination later this week.
Thank you, thank you, thank you all for your thoughts and prayers this week. They have been more of a blessing than you know. We’re both blessed to have the support of such a wonderful group of people on all points of the political spectrum.

Raines Rants, Advises Kerry To Lie Better

Howell Raines writes an editorial in tomorrow’s London Guardian expressing serious concerns about John Kerry as a candidate, and in the process exposes the obvious bias he inculcated into the New York Times as editor-in-chief before his ignominious fall from the Jayson Blair affair. Raines’ Bush-hatred comes through, loud and clear, even while he argues persuasively that John Kerry hasn’t demonstrated any of the requisite skills to beat the incumbent.
First off, though, Raines displays an amazing lack of historical knowledge that explains why the New York Times only discovers homelessness during Republican administrations:

As America’s first war-hero candidate since John F Kennedy, he ought to be leading the national discussion on what went wrong in Iraq.

Raines either forgets or never knew that the first President Bush flew fighter missions in World War II, was shot down in the Pacific, and didn’t come back to the US afterwards to accuse his fellow soldiers of atrocities. Unfortunately, Raines’ silliness doesn’t end there, even when his target is ostensibly Kerry:

But for his current series of speeches on national security issues, he rounded up a series of experienced hair-splitters from the Clinton years – Richard C Holbrooke, James Rubin, Sandy Berger – and they produced a script that would have played very well before the Council on Foreign Relations. The speeches were intended to fire up his campaign, toughen his image and to modify – without disowning – his Senate vote for the war. The problem is that speeches that sound right at the Council don’t necessarily work for an electorate schooled to respond to simple messages.

Get that? Raines thinks that Americans are just too stupid to understand Kerry. In fact, that becomes the central point of Raines’ entire screed — that the American public elected Bush out of affinity for his cluelessness, and that Kerry needs to put on an act of simplemindedness in order to get elected. In fact, Raines goes so far as to encourage Kerry to lie outright in order to get votes:

[Kerry] must appeal to the same emotions that attract voters to Republicans – ie greed and the desire to fix the crap-shoot in their favour. That means that instead of talking about “fixing” social security, you talk about building a retirement system that makes middle-class voters believe they will be semi-rich someday. As matters now stand, Kerry has assured the DLC, “I am not a redistributionist Democrat.”
That’s actually a good start. Using that promise as disinformation, he must now figure out a creative way to become a redistributionist Democrat.

Does the Gray Lady’s performance over the past few years come into clearer view now? No wonder Jayson Blair did so well at the Times. He wrote what Raines wanted to read, regardless of whether what he wrote was true. It’s amazing that a representative of the American media can write such a bitter and cynical column. Without a doubt, Raines manages to score some points off of Kerry, the supposed subject of his column, in between insulting George Bush and American voters in turn:

I personally find him easier to talk to than Al Gore, but there’s no denying that he’s ponderous. And he’s pompous in a way that Gore is not. With Gore, you feel that if he could choose, he would have been born poor and cool. Kerry radiates the feeling that he is entitled to his sense of entitlement. Probably that comes from spending too much time with Teddy Kennedy, but it’s a problem. The TV camera is an x-ray for picking up attitudinal truths, and Kerry’s lantern jaw and Addams Family face somehow reinforce the message that this guy has passed from ponderous to pompous and is so accustomed to privilege that he doesn’t have to worry about looking goofy. It’s as if Lurch had gone to Choate.

Other than that, Raines spends most of his time at the Guardian rolling out the hoary canards with which he stuffed the New York Times’ news and editorial sections. Bush is greedy and stupid. Bush is a draft dodger whose daddy kept him out of Vietnam (although I fail to see Raines reconcile this meme with his and Kerry’s support in 1992 and 1996 of Clinton’s efforts to avoid the draft). Bush looks like Goofy — no, I’m not kidding, go read his conclusion. All in all, it’s a great imitation of the NYT’s editorial page with the politesse surgically removed with a rusty scalpel. Too bad his removal has done little to improve his former soapbox.
Addendum: Just to rebut Raines — the American public isn’t too stupid to understand that every issue has more than one side, nor does it fail to appreciate leaders who consider all options. But what elections recognize is leadership, which means making decisions and sticking with them. Kerry tries to pander to all sides by voting one way and arguing another on almost every issue. The problem that Raines misdiagnoses is that Kerry doesn’t seem to stand for anything except whatever will get Kerry elected, which hardly inspires anyone except Mrs. Kerry. Unfortunately, Raines’ advice only magnifies his problem.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!
UPDATE II: Welcome, Neal Boortz readers! For all of you who may be new to Captain’s Quarters, take a look around, and bookmark or blogroll CQ if you like what you see. Enjoy your visit!
UPDATE III: A big welcome to Best of the Web readers, too! [Hope this makes you happy, AST!]

Can We Just Stick To The Debate?

The ever-reliable NewsMax (hah!) ran a story today that my friends on the right just can’t resist — that John Kerry, in the middle of a presidential campaign, with every major media outlet haunting each step, on a day honoring fallen American soldiers, flipped the bird to a protesting veteran:

Democratic senator – and certain presidential nominee – John F. Kerry gave the middle finger to a Vietnam veteran at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Memorial Day morning, NewsMax.com has learned. … Just then Kerry – in front of the school children, other visitors and Secret Service agents – brazenly ‘flashed the bird’ at Sampley and then yelled out to everyone, “Sampley is a felon!”

Look, as anyone who reads my blog knows, I am no fan of the most liberal Massachussetts Senator. I think he’s dangerously vacillating, pompous, and narcissistic. But he’s no idiot, and the last thing John Kerry is going to do is to provide some enterprising photographer with an opportunity to catch him demonstrating his grasp of French.
Not only do I not believe it based on my knowledge of Kerry’s campaign experience, I also disregard it based on the news outlet — NewsMax is to politics as Weekly World News is to science — but also on its hysterical, atonal delivery, as well as its source, former Congressman John Leboutillier, a right-wing crank regularly published on NewsMax. Was Leboutillier there? The article leads with him as the source but he never mentions who supposedly reported the rude gesture. It has all the hallmarks of an urban legend. (“He did it in front of kids! We have to protect the children from a Kerry presidency!“)
However, according to Technorati and Memeorandum, several bloggers have already linked to this “story”, including some I read frequently. Why? For those of us convinced of Kerry’s unsuitability for the Presidency, does unsubstantiated NewsMax gossip really add anything to our understanding of John Kerry? All it does is undermine the legitimacy of their arguments opposing Kerry by diluting it with nonsense, an incident that would be so far out of character for the droning and dull Senator that it might actually convince some that he’s developed a personality.
At least this story only involves Kerry and Sampley and not innocent victims (except “the children”). In a related twist, Alexandra Polier writes a compelling and sympathetic article in the New Yorker relating to the last breathless and unsubstantiated Kerry rumor. Polier, you may recall, is the young woman who the Sun alleged had an affair with John Kerry after Drudge broke the bimbo eruption without naming the paramour. The media chased her down in Kenya, got quotes from her parents by deception, and in general embarrassed themselves and us.
Bloggers obsessed on this story, including some (again) that I read on a regular basis. After all, the media provided the coverage, and it’s no secret that we have a strong symbiotic relationship to the major news outlets. At the time, I wrote this:

I’ve seen just enough of the details to see that none of this applies to Kerry, and anyone who pursues this as an election strategy will find themselves covered in the muck almost as much as Kerry, including Drudge and any other news sources. It’s silly, it’s pointless, and it will only serve to generate sympathy for Kerry in the long run. (See Bill Clinton and Gary Hart.) Let’s bury this garbage and focus on the issues.

And that was me assuming the story was true. Of course, it turned out to be entirely false, based on nothing except innuendo, circumstance (Polier dated a member of Kerry’s campaign team for a brief time), and probably something significantly more malevolent; Polier explores some possible origins of the scandal, most convincingly Chris Lehane. In the end, Kerry wound up the least damaged of all. Polier lost her reputation and her privacy, and like it or not, those of us who dabbled in the schadenfreude of the story lost a piece of our credibility.
Perhaps we all live a little too close to this contest, me included, so that the attraction of such a slam-dunk moment like Kerry flipping a bird at a Vietnam vet in the midst of schoolchildren sounds too good to be too good to be true. In the one alleged gesture, all the tumblers click and we grasp the opportunity to portray the man as we see him; to us, it’s true whether it really happened or not. When it’s that easy, that’s when we should take the most care not to overreach.

Iran: You Caught Us, We’re Innocent

Iran reversed itself today and finally admitted that it had imported parts for nuclear centrifuges designed to create weapons-grade fissile material, but still claims that the US falsely accuses it of pursuing a nuclear-weapons program, according to the AP and CNN. The AP covers the Iranian reversal:

In a reversal, Iran has acknowledged importing parts for advanced centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium, the U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Tuesday in a confidential report obtained by The Associated Press. …
In an interview with The Associated Press before the report was leaked, U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton accused Tehran of engaging in “denial and deception. … We are convinced that they are pursuing a clandestine program to acquire nuclear weapons,” he said. …
Iran has rejected the U.S. allegations, saying its nuclear program is geared only toward generating electricity.

CNN, meanwhile, covers another aspect of the IAEA report that looks pretty damning as well:

The inspectors found that the enrichment level on the centrifuge parts was at 36 percent — a level typically found only at Russian nuclear reactors.
This means Iran either has been importing nuclear material or has been enriching uranium itself, both of which Tehran has denied, said a Western diplomat who is intricately familiar with the IAEA.

The US remains adamant that Iran has an active, clandestine nuclear-weapons development program. The European nations, notably (surprise) France, want to take a softer line with Iran, preferring to work with the Iranians to nudge them into compliance than risk a showdown. However, even the IAEA, which normally would favor the softer line, says that their patience is running thin with the Iranian government:

The 21-page report said “good progress” is being made toward reaching a conclusion about Iran’s nuclear program. It compliments Tehran for its cooperation, but also notes that Iran officials have sometimes not been forthcoming with information and other times sought to delay inspections.
One source close to the IAEA didn’t parse words over the delays, saying Iran “continues to dribble out information” and it’s “annoying as hell.”
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said inspectors are continuing to go into Iran almost constantly. “Inspections will continue until outstanding questions are answered,” she said.

If the Iranians had been telling the truth, they would have revealed the existence of the centrifuges and their importation. They make it apparent that they’re hiding something, and the IAEA and the various nations involved in squeezing compliance out of the mullahs need to keep digging. The Anglo-American effort to depose Saddam made an impression on the area, and we cannot allow France or other nations to “soften” the approach now.
Make no mistake about it: the Iranian mullahs see themselves as the leader in the fight against Western civilization and would like nothing better than to eventually gain hegemony over the entire area of Asia Minor. Having access to uranium in any case should give everyone pause; they sponsor or control Hezb’ Allah and Islamic Jihad, and inspire many other terrorists and their organizations. Even without fission, those groups could use that radioactive material for so-called dirty bombs. However, if the Iranians develop a nuke, the danger would be far greater than that of North Korea’s program. North Korea may be paranoid, but Iranians’ motivation is profoundly expansionist and fanatical.
The US has to keep the pressure on the Iranian mullahs to disarm, and must also ensure that the Western nations don’t go wobbly. We lost the initiative with North Korea in 1994 and wound up with a fait accompli, and now have to tiptoe around Pyongyang to achieve security for our East Asian allies. If Iran goes nuclear, expect to see demands for American withdrawal from the Persian Gulf, with Tel Aviv as the Iranian hostage for this century.

Captain’s Caption Contest #12 – Global Warming Edition!

It’s Friday, and so it must be time for the next Captain’s Caption Contest! In honor of the new Roland Emmerich film, The Day After Tomorrow, Captain’s Quarters has adjusted its normal contest material in order to highlight the terrible global warming problem that faces our planet. In an exclusive (yeah, sure), CQ has identified a major source of hot, noxious gas — and all we need is your description of the image:

It looks like John Kerry can breathe a sigh of relief this week!
The contest stays open until 6 PM CT on Tuesday, June 1, at which time our guest judge will decide which of your entries wins out. Enter as often as you like, no purchase necessary, winner need not be present to win, bribes freely accepted … you know the drill. Make sure you put your entry into the comments section — e-mail will be shredded, set on fire, and force-fed to Michael Moore.
Have fun and let the captioning commence!
BUMP 5/29 – Edward Yee will be our guest judge this week, and Edward will have a job ahead — we’ve already received 61 entries! Keep ’em coming …
BUMP 5/30: Great stuff so far! …
BUMP 5/31: Hey, we’re on our way to burying poor Edward in work! Don’t forget to drop by his blog and check it out …
COMMENTS CLOSED: Thanks for all of your great entries! We’re calling for the judge now …

Cautiously Optimistic

Iraq took large steps towards independence and representative government with the formal creation of an interim Iraqi executive and cabinet, which will replace the US-formed Iraqi Governing Council. The IGC, which suffered from its association with the occupation, used its considerable political heft to install its own choices in key positions despite some opposition from both the US and the UN representative Lakhdar Brahimi. The BBC reports that President Bush waxed ebullient about these developments and the people chosen by the Iraqis:

US President Bush has welcomed Iraq’s interim government saying it represents a broad cross-section of society and has the “talent” to guide the nation. He said that the first priority for the new leadership will be to pave the way to nationwide elections by January.
Mr Bush insisted the US had played no role in selecting the new cabinet, and instead praised the UN for their input. The cabinet will assume power at once, after a surprise decision by the Governing Council to dissolve itself.
“This is a very hopeful day for the Iraqi people and the American people. It’s going to send a clear signal that terrorists can’t win,” Mr Bush said. “Mr Brahimi has recommended a team that possesses the talent, commitment, the resolve to guide Iraq through the challenges that lie ahead,” Mr Bush said, referring to UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who was asked by the Americans to oversee the selection process.

While the media has, over the past few hours, chosen to treat the newfound Iraqi independence as a slap at the US, in fact it demonstrates that the Iraqis can come together to create a substantial structure for a future representative government. The Iraqis chose a Sunni moderate to lead the transition, a Western-educated engineer who wants to see the occupation end but understands the need for American troops to provide security. The new cabinet says that the first priority will be the elimination of the militias that threaten civil governance, and that cannot be addressed without Anglo-American troops until a stable Iraqi security force can be established.
Unlike the media, I tend to agree with the idea that the new government and the dissolution of the IGC indicate a better chance for success for the Iraqis. We’re seeing moderates rising to the occasion, working across ethnic and religious barriers; the two Vice-Presidents are a Shi’a and a Kurd. All involved have stated that the new Iraq must be secular, federal, and united, rather than the assumed instinct to split the country along their political lines. Having a Sunni as the executive will allow the moderates in the Sunni Triangle to advance politically and cut the justification for the minor insurgencies that erupted this spring.
Lots of problems will appear before this is all over, and Bush warned that we can expect a further escalation of violence as the radicals get desperate. But one must take the first steps in order to arrive at any destination, and at least Iraq points in the right direction.

Trouble Brewing In New Jersey For Kerry

The Washington Post’s Evelyn Nieves analyzes John Kerry’s poor polling in New Jersey, a traditional Democratic bastion of support that Al Gore carried by sixteen points in 2000. Recent polls indicate Kerry’s support drifting downwards, to the point where the Quinnipiac poll of 5/10-16 shows Bush within the margin of error in a three-way race. Democratic activists proclaim their confidence in the safety of New Jersey, but as Nieves reports, privately they express concern over the lack of momentum in the Kerry campaign:

Democratic Party officials here and nationally dismissed the poll as a fluke. They pointed to the fundraising records that Kerry is breaking, to the polls that keep looking better for him as they get worse for Bush, and to the attention that Kerry will receive when the news focuses more on the campaign. One poll in New Jersey, they added, will not stand up when the state’s residents actually start paying attention to the race. …
But privately, party Democrats acknowledged that if Kerry has some work to do in capturing the hearts, if not minds, of the base, then he must really hustle to win over the crucial swing voters who will probably decide the election.

One humorous defense of Kerry’s position in the Garden State asserted that New Jersey voters weren’t energized because they get their TV from New York. If that truly impacted the race, though, one would expect the polling to demonstrate a heavy bias towards Kerry. After all, New York has been fairly reliably Democratic in presidential races. Gore won New York by 25 points in 2000, and Kerry leads there by 19 points now, according to polling in April. Perhaps one could surmise that absent the influence of the New York media, Bush could be leading in New Jersey.
Nieves’ article quickly descends into the traditional and completely unrevealing man-on-the-street interviews, where the most colorful quotes make it into the story. Nieves did perform a quick poll at a gym where, she notes, Democrats supported Kerry, Republicans supported Bush, and the five independents broke 3-2 for the incumbent. It’s only revealing in one way — none of the Democrats who spoke for Kerry did so because of any special passion for the Massachussetts Senator:

Eugene Bradley does not swing. At 50, Bradley, an operations manager for Synagro, a waste management company, has been devoted to the Democratic Party for as long as he has voted. … He would like to like Kerry. He would like to sing his praises. He would like to feel — something — about him. “I am not that up on him,” Bradley said. “I don’t feel a connection with him. He’s basically another politician. In my heart of hearts, I think they could have dug up somebody better.” …
George Coates, on the other hand, is torn. “I think Kerry licks his finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing,” said Coates, 65, a retired stockbroker from Clifton. He added that although he voted for Bush in 2000, “he’s someone who wore out his welcome for me faster than Clinton did. I can’t stand listening to him. I can’t stand watching him.”
Does that mean he has decided on Kerry? “No,” he said, with a shudder. “I don’t like Kerry, either.”

Most pundits expect the election to be a referendum on Bush, most likely focused on our performance in Iraq. What people did not expect is that the Democratic nominee would be such a non-entity in the equation. Democrats seem to embrace the Bush-referendum equation, resulting in the moribund Kerry campaign, as Kerry does best when he keeps his mouth shut. Either Kerry needs to find a way to inspire people with his leadership — something he’s managed to completely avoid during his nineteen years in the Senate — or hope that Bush self-destructs between now and November. If neither of those conditions come to pass, Kerry will be in real trouble this fall.

The Little Admiral Turns 2

Busy morning today, but I wanted to show you a couple of pictures from the Little Admiral’s 2nd birthday party, which unfortunately the First Mate and I had to miss. Thankfully, Sean from Everything I Know Is Wrong took a few snaps for me to enjoy. (Sean and I are related through my son’s marriage, and he’s a terrific guy with a terrific blog — check it out.)
I heard that she had been showing everyone a microscopic “owie” on her knee and demanding that everyone kiss it. In the first picture, you’ll see the only one who refused, Sean’s son Connor, who apparently won’t indulge such nonsense! The pictures are in the extended entry. I’ll be back to regular blogging a little later on.

Continue reading “The Little Admiral Turns 2”