Playing The Smear Card Once Too Often

The Kerry campaign flamed out again yesterday after pictures showing John Kerry looking, well, geeky were released by NASA after a Kerry visit to one of their facilities. The blogosphere pounced on the photographs — one of them will likely be our Caption Contest photo this week — and the Kerry/Edwards campaign went into full offense, trying desperately to keep the comparisons of Michael Dukakis and tank-riding out of the public consciousness. This effort led Mary Beth Cahill, Kerry’s campaign manager, to tell Fox’s Brit Hume that Kerry had been set up — by NASA!

HUME: i must ask you about this photograph that suddenly turned up and fell in our laps last night nobody thought it was come. nobody had reported on the event which led to-t but there he was, the senator, on all fours in this very peculiar outfit, which i guess nasa had given him. how did that come about?
CAHILL: well, yesterday senator john glenn, obviously he was an astronaut in his previous life sexrvings senator carr took a tour of a bio facility at nasa. it was just the two of them, and the nasa staff, and all of a sudden this is a leaked photo.
HUME: it was leaked?
CAHILL: yes.
HUME: it was made by nasa, right?
CAHILL: yes, it was.
HUME: so the campaign had no idea there would be any photographs.
CAHILL: none.

No idea that they took any photographs?

None at all?

Perhaps this was just a meeting to discuss rocket science. Too bad they were all smiling into that hidden camera, including those long-time Republican operatives, Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson (D-FL) and former Senator John Glenn (first on left, hat tips Leather Penguin and Dr. A. Mark Gambee):

The Left likes to talk about how paranoid Nixon was, but these days Nixon almost seems like Pollyanna compared to the Democrats. According to Mary Beth Cahill, John Kerry is so stupid that he doesn’t realize that when someone points a camera at him and asks him to smile, he doesn’t know they’re taking a photograph, even when the flash goes off, and even when he’s asked to pose with three other Democratic politicians. Is that what Cahill wants us to believe?
Or, perhaps, it’s more likely that John Kerry and his campaign continue to blame his own missteps on others. He didn’t fall, that son-of-a-bitch pushed him. They weren’t his medals, they were Some Other Guy’s, and besides they were ribbons, which mean the same thing as medals, except when they don’t. He didn’t vote for war, Bush misled him into voting for the war. He voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it. He didn’t smile, those NASA bastards used a camera to fool him into thinking that his visit was a secret.
If Kerry isn’t man enough to take responsibility for his own actions, why should anyone vote to give him responsibility for leading and protecting the free world?
UPDATE: Noted all of the people in the final picture, thanks to IDs from Leather Penguin and reader Dr. Gambee.

Maybe He Was ‘Da Bomb’

Yesterday a United Airlines flight out of Sydney, Australia returned to the airport in mid-flight because of a bomb threat. The AP reports this morning that the problem may have been more that a bombshell was on board:

A note indicating the most attractive person on board may have triggered an aviation alert that forced a Los Angeles-bound flight to turn back to Sydney, Australia on Tuesday.
United Airlines Flight 840, carrying 246 passengers including a senior U.S. diplomat was turned around 90 minutes after takeoff Tuesday and returned to Sydney after a flight attendant found the letters “B O B” written on an air sickness bag in one of the Boeing 747’s toilets. Flight crews commonly use the letters as an abbreviation for “Bomb On Board,” and the captain decided to go back after learning of the find.
However, police who searched the plane found no bomb and flight attendants in Australia have said the letters are also commonly used for “Best On Board,” referring to the most attractive passenger.

Color me uninformed in the ways of socialization among flight attendants, but if they use one particular abbreviation for life-and-death emergencies, why would they also use it for sexual rankings while in flight? If indeed this turns out to be the cause — and one would think that UAL wouldn’t release a story this embarrassing unless they were pretty sure it was — then they should immediately implement an intelligence test for its flight attendants to weed out the mouthbreathers. Of course, such a after-hire test would certainly raise the ire of their labor union, and as it turns out, their representative knows all about sexual rankings:

“A BOB could mean both things . . . I certainly can understand it could be taken as bomb on board as well,” said Michael Mijatov, from the Flight Attendants Association.

He understands that it could be taken as “bomb on board” as well? I’m not sure what frightens me more: that the union considers the “bomb on board” explanation to be secondary, or that “best on board” apparently is so widespread that union spokespeople feel well-versed enough to comment on it. How often do the stews run around writing “B.O.B.” on puke bags, anyway? And are they all required to chug their beers if one of them greets the winning passenger with “Hi, B.O.B.?”
It’s great to see the airline professionals take security so seriously. It truly inspires me … to take the train whenever possible. Plenty of people in Sydney probably feel that way today, after finding out that the lockdown through which their city struggled yesterday was necessary only because flight crews lack the imagination to pick different nomenclature for their adolescent goldbricking.

AP: Republicans Won’t Name Credentialed Bloggers

The AP reports on what they say is the first wave of bloggers to be credentialed for the Republican National Convention next month. Anick Jesdanun writes that the GOP plans to limit credentials to 20 or less bloggers:

Republican convention spokesman Leonardo Alcivar said his party plans to give media credentials to 10 to 20 bloggers. … Though Alcivar said he did not know how many bloggers got invitations this week, he expected additional ones will be invited based on how many accept by Thursday.
Alcivar refused to provide a list of invited bloggers, saying the party does not disclose traditional media who are approved for credentials, either. He said the list reflected a mix of ideologies and consisted of “those who we believe are moderate in their tone.”

Actually, as one of the first few bloggers to receive a credential and confirm it, the GOP reticence to disclose our identities seems a bit unusual. No one told us to keep it quiet — at least no one told me — and I assume the GOP won’t mind the promotion. In fact, getting out the first wave of credentials during the Democratic convention makes for a pretty good counterstrategy against the attention that DNC bloggers will receive this week. Had I been handling the press corps, I would have released the names of the bloggers, a few each day, as they confirmed, just to keep the suspense and attention away from the Democrats’ hate-in at Fleet Center.
The slow roll-out accounts for the lack of blogosphere proclamations of acceptance, something I found puzzling. I had assumed that the RNC made all of the decisions regarding blogger credentialing at once. Michele at A Small Victory even gets a mention in the report (shame on the AP for not providing the hyperlink!), as does Brian Reich, a former Gore operative that perhaps the GOP chose for balance. (Again, no hyperlink, and I don’t recognize the name.) But the GOP says that they need to see how many from the first round confirms before the deadline on Thursday to determine how many more they can invite on the second round:

Democrats approved credentials for about three dozen bloggers out of some 200 applicants. They rescinded approvals for another 20, blaming a computer gaffe. To avoid such problems, Alcivar said, Republicans opted to invite bloggers in smaller waves.
Because of time constraints, staffers sought out bloggers to invite rather than initiating an open application process, he said.

This explains a few puzzling things about the process. Because I also contribute to Blogs For Bush, I received notice of the GOP effort at the beginning of last month and an invitation to apply for one of the spots. This did not get publicized, and some blogs felt slighted by the lack of an open application process. However, the DNC’s effort taught the GOP a few lessons, first of which was that bloggers don’t have expense accounts and need at least three weeks lead time in order to make reasonable travel arrangements. Bill at INDC Journal got stiffed on both the failure to that that through and the second lesson learned by the GOP, which is to make sure you’ve vetted your invitees prior to extending the invitation. The DNC rescinded his invitation the day after Bill — an excellent blogger — spent hundreds of dollars on non-refundable accommodations to get to Boston.
So the GOP had to create a process where they could make sure that they knew who they invited, their content, and their viewpoint, while waiting to see how many people would express an interest. Given the time constraints (they launched this effort at the time when the DNC announced their own blogger program), they opted for a closed selection process. In 2008, they will have plenty of time for a more open process in which all bloggers interested can throw their hats in the ring, but they made a reasonable decision under a lot of time pressure. And since they’ve apparently not completed their invitation list, perhaps some bloggers can still send in letters of interest.
Many thanks to those of you who have sent donations using the PayPal and Amazon links on the sidebar. For those who don’t want to go through the effort of opening a PayPal account just to chip in for the CQ coverage, the Amazon tip jar just uses a credit card or virtual check — no account required. Your donations just in the last 24 hours have covered about 15% of the estimated flight and hotel costs for the event, a very generous response indeed!
UPDATE: Bloggers so far are the biggest story of the convention, it appears. USA Today’s Mark Memmott writes a long feature article just to tell us that the story is overrated:

The arrival of the bloggers is perhaps the most overcovered media story of the convention so far. Chosen by party officials from about 200 bloggers who applied for media credentials, those now here have been welcomed by organizers as full-fledged members of the press. It’s the first time online commentators and diarists have been admitted to a political convention. Republican officials are considering doing the same at their convention in a month.

The LA Times takes a different tack — if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. It won’t be long before every major news outlet has its own blog, although most will have editors to turn them into mush. In fact, Lisa Stone’s blog at the LAT already resembles that, combining the pointless arcanity of the worst of live-blogging with hardly any attempt at analysis.

Iran Defies World Community, Breaks Seal On Equipment

Iran has broken the seal on its proscribed nuclear equipment and started rebuilding the centrifuges needed to enrich uranium into weapons-grade material, according to the London Telegraph. The move comes despite the intense negotiations that European countries have used to keep the issue from coming to the UN Security Council:

Teheran’s move, revealed to The Daily Telegraph yesterday by western sources, breaks a deal with European countries under which Iran suspended “all uranium enrichment activity”. …
America has in recent weeks renewed its call for Iran to be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
However, diplomats said senior officials from the “EU-3” – Britain, France and Germany – would try to coax Teheran back to the path of co-operation at a secret meeting in Paris on Thursday.

Anton La Guardia writes in his analysis that the Iranians have chosen this moment to press its luck as it sees America as “paralyzed” during the presidential elections. One can only wonder why they would think that. Could it be that one of the two candidates has spent the past month denouncing the other for taking action with a coalition of the willing instead of holding America hostage to the whims of the Security Council? This attack has put pressure on Bush to follow the EU-3’s lead on Iran and not force the issue to the UNSC for action. Otherwise, we’d hear more wailing and gnashing of teeth about ‘unilateralism’.
Now we need to move past that. If Iran remains defiant, then the EU-3 needs to defer to the Security Council before Iran builds itself a fissile weapon and it’s too late. And the irresponsible rhetoric from the left needs to be rebuked by their party leaders if they want to be taken seriously on national defense, but unfortunately it’s the party leaders who indulge themselves in the irresponsible rhetoric.
UPDATE: The Watcher’s Council has nominated this post for the best of the week. Make sure you read all of the other blogs that will kick my rear end in the weekly contest!

Captain’s Quarters Invited To Republican Convention!

I am thrilled to announce that I received an invitation from the Republican National Convention to represent the blogging community when George Bush is nominated for a second term!
The Committee on Arrangements sent out the invitations this evening:

For the first time, bloggers will hold an on-site presence at the Republican National Convention called “Bloggers Corner.” Positioned near Radio Row, credentialed bloggers will have the opportunity to connect with delegates, guests and other surrogates for interviews, and to provide original content, including multimedia, to their audiences. Through this behind-the-scenes look at the convention’s proceedings and events, bloggers will play an important role in telling the story of the 2004 Republican Convention.
Bloggers Corner will be located in Madison Square Garden’s Theater Lobby in the corridor adjacent to Radio Row. Electrical outlets, tabled work stations and necessary hook-ups for laptop and other portable computers will be available for high-speed Internet and Intranet access. Main TV monitors will also be accessible in all convention common areas including Bloggers Corner and will carry closed circuit coverage of all floor activities.

The First Mate and I discussed the opportunity to do this, and she supports my decision to go 100%, even though she has some security concerns. (She won’t be able to accompany me, as she won’t get accredited for the floor and probably wouldn’t be up for sitting in a hotel room all day and all night long.) However, we both feel that political activity has become even more important in the war on Islamofascist terror, and if I backed away from this extraordinary opportunity, it would constitute little more than a Spanish-style surrender to fear.
Besides … what could be more fun, and more meaningful, than being part of the most crucial presidential election in a generation?
I’ve already booked my flight, and have asked for some guidance from the COA on finding a room (which they offered as a courtesy to the bloggers invited). As accommodations can be rather expensive, I’ve added a PayPal tip jar to the left sidebar to defray some of my expenses for the trip. I can guarantee you that I will be going regardless of what funds I receive, but if you think you’ll enjoy my coverage of the convention and you have a few bucks to toss in, I’d certainly appreciate it.
And even if you don’t have a few bucks, let me tell you, it was you folks who got me credentialed for the RNC. You’ve made this blog far more successful than I ever dreamed possible, and I’ll never be able to tell you just how much I appreciate it. Thanks for everything!

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UPDATE: Fixed PayPal button … Hat tip to Pete at One Big Swede!
UPDATE II: Wizbang and Slant Point are also invited. Looking forward to meeting you all there! And if you aren’t comfortable with PayPal but you’d still like to donate (bless you!), drop me an e-mail and I’ll let you know where you can send a check.
UPDATE III: More bloggers get credentialed — Michele at A Small Victory, and Matt Margolis (a no-brainer — he does run Blogs for Bush, after all). (Hat tip: Mind of Mog)
UPDATE IV: Added an Amazon donation option, per your requests!
UPDATE V: Big thanks to This Blog Is Full Of Crap, which has suggested sending money to CQ rather than Andrew Sullivan, since Sullivan has decided to endorse John Kerry. At least one of his readers has already put that plan into action.

Democrats Run From Their Own Convention

Despite the fact that the Democratic Nominating Convention reaches its planned climax on Thursday night, with cheering crowds hailing John Kerry as their standardbearer, some Democrats will have already skulked out early, the Washington Post reports — and some may not even have come at all. Rather than be seen with their nominee, some Democrats want to put as much distance as possible between themselves, Kerry, and the people surrounding him on the dais:

Boston is the place for Democrats this week, but some will be conspicuous by their absence Thursday night, when John F. Kerry accepts the presidential nomination. The top Democratic candidates from seven of the eight most competitive Senate races will be back home, as will dozens of House candidates. … The list of who’s going and who’s not is telling: Democratic candidates from states that look strong for Kerry generally plan to attend the convention, while most of those in tight races in states leaning toward President Bush are staying away.
In the eight Senate races seen as virtual tossups, the Democratic nominees or front-runners from North Carolina, Oklahoma and Alaska are skipping Boston altogether. Inez Tenenbaum, the Senate nominee in South Carolina, mingled with her state’s delegation Sunday night but goes home Monday, when the four-day convention begins.
Rep. Chris John, the Democrats’ top contender for a Senate seat in Louisiana — and a “super delegate” by virtue of being a House member — will be here Monday and Tuesday. Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota and Senate candidate Betty Castor of Florida will attend Monday through Wednesday, but not Thursday.

Tom Daschle, the party’s leader in the Senate, will skip out on John Kerry’s nominating speech? I’m sure this is without precedent, but it does point out the pusillanimous nature of these Democrats. They’re willing to bloviate about the Bush “regime” away from home, but when public scrutiny is certain, they scurry back to the darkness. In Daschle’s case, locked in a tight race for the first time in many years, he may be afraid that Michael Moore will hug him again, and this time on national television. (Come to think of it, it is a frightening notion.)
Out of eight Senate candidates facing tough elections in November, only one of them has the courage to stand up with John Kerry. In the House, only one out of five candidates from Texas in contested districts will bother to attend their party’s convention. Jim Jordan, the Kerry campaign manager fired three weeks into Kerry’s candidacy, points out that the convention is not merely a pep rally to the presidential nominee, but also a fund-raising effort for lower-ticket races. After all, all of the donors will be in Boston this week. Having people locked in tight races skipping out on fundraising opportunities demonstrates palpable fear.
So why do Democrats fear the Kerry juggernaut? Could it be that they know their candidate will tank their own campaigns? If that is the case — and sources tell the Post’s Charles Babington they fear linkage to John Kerry and Ted Kennedy most of all — it shows that despite the polling from the liberal media, the Democrats have huge problems in the swing states. Most Senate and House candidates count on coattails during presidential elections. Running away from the top of the ticket equates to rats abandoning a sinking ship. That should tell you all you need to know about the enthusiasm for the Kerry/Edwards ticket among the electorate.

Christie Vilsack Responds

Howard Kurtz notes the laughable response of Christie Vilsack, wife of Governor Tim Vilsack of Iowa, to the surfacing of a column she wrote complaining of the way minorities and regional populations in America speak English. In her column, the Boston Herald noted that Mrs. Vilsack tore into African-Americans as hypocritical:

“I am fascinated at the way some African-Americans speak to each other in an English I struggle to understand, then switch to standard English when the situation requires,” Vilsack wrote in a 1994 column in the Mount Pleasant News, while her husband, Tom, was a state senator.

She also took “non-Midwesterners” to task for their slang and loose enunciation, complaining that well-meaning Southerners during the 1992 Olympics could not make themselves understood for all their “slurred speech”. So what did Mrs. Vilsack have to say for herself when confronted with her column?

Vilsack, who is slated to address the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, said in a statement that “these are attacks by people who want to divide us and not bring us together [emph. mine — CE].”

What? Making fun of the way people speak, and accusing African-Americans of speaking in a certain way to make themselves deliberately obtuse, brings people together? Only in the fourth grade, Mrs. Vilsack.
No wonder John Kerry picked John Edwards for his VP candidate rather than Tom Vilsack. One spousal embarrassment is more than enough, and Teresa paid good money to take that role in this election.

George Bush: Dances With Bears

Instapundit and Memeorandum both point out a strategy analysis from Asia Times published yesterday, which claims that sources reveal that George Bush and Vladimir Putin have made a deal to bring 40,000 Russian troops into Iraq. The Russians would be given the free hand in Fallujah that domestic politics withheld from American Marines, and in return, Putin plans to pay back the architects of the war on Serbia:

Do not be surprised to see three or four divisions of the Russian army in the Sunni triangle before year-end, with an announcement just prior to the US presidential election in November. Long rumored (or under negotiation), a Russian deployment of 40,000 soldiers was predicted on July 16 by the US intelligence site, and denied by the Russian Foreign Ministry on July 20. Nonetheless, the logic is compelling. Russian support for US occupation forces would make scorched earth of Senator John Kerry’s attack on the Bush administration’s foreign policy, namely its failure to form effective alliances. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, the chance to make scorched earth of Fallujah is even more tempting.
In exchange for a troop presence in Iraq, Russia would obtain a free hand in dealings with the countries of the former Soviet Union. It would gain leverage against a weakening Turkey in the Caucasus and Central Asia. And it would vastly enhance its leverage in negotiations over the placement of oil pipelines. Most important, perhaps, it would assert its old status as a global military power against the feckless Europeans. In short, the arrangement would benefit everyone, except of course the population of Fallujah.

The article doesn’t mention yet another benefit to Putin, one that should be obvious given the near-bankruptcy of Yukos: commerical access to Iraqi oil fields. It’s no secret that Putin opposed the war in Iraq because of the billions of dollars Russia stood to lose if Saddam Hussein was forced from power. The Russians need those oil concessions, and the only way back in is to make nice with Ayad Allawi and the rest of the Iraqi interim government, which now looks like it’s succeeding. That means putting boots on the ground to help eliminate Iraq’s internal and external enemies, and the Sunni Triangle is the best way to prove their seriousness. Besides, Russia holds no love for Islamofascists, and since they’ve decided to congregate in Fallujah, Putin may feel it hygienic to assist America in cleaning it out.
Asia Times does mention another, more political and personal reason to ally with George Bush at the eleventh hour, besides his personal friendship with the US President. A John Kerry win will likely bring back to power the same people who defied Russia and went to war against the Serbs (without UN approval!), a population closely related and allied with Russia. Richard Holbrooke, Asia Times predicts, will probably be Secretary of State or Defense in a Kerry administration, and Holbrooke delivered the ultimatum to the Serbs which immediately preceded the bombing campaign.
Spengler’s analysis of the Serbian war is that Clinton attempted to bolster American standing with Muslims by intervening in a centuries-old civil war on their behalf. [I supported the action at the time, but criticized the lack of resolution inherent in its planning — and time has proved me correct — CE.] Obviously this won us few friends in the Muslim world, and even the Bosnians have been radicalized, as the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend. Putin saw this as a cynical trade-off, especially since he had Muslim radicals using terror in places like Chechnya and hardly felt that the US should be intervening to strengthen them. Now, with a Kerry candidacy hiring most of the old Clinton team, Putin sees a real danger of another four years of Muslim appeasement. Small wonder that even despite his opposition to the war in Iraq, Putin made Russian intelligence available to the President on Iraqi plans to hit American targets using terror tactics.
What does George Bush gain? Two big and obvious wins. First, Russia’s addition of 40,000 troops to Fallujah will make them the second-largest contingent in Iraq, taking pressure off of the US to extend deployments and cycling Americans out of the zone with the most danger. Second, the alliance with Russia will, as Spengler notes, make hash out of the argument that Bush cannot attract allies. A third, more subtle win for Bush is the pacification of Fallujah, which will immeasureably strengthen the new Iraqi government, set Shi’ite minds at ease about the upcoming elections, and devastate the emotional momentum for Islamofascists worldwide.
What does Bush lose? Perhaps the introduction of Russian scorched-earth tactics, such as those used in Grozny, will backfire with a segment of the American public, but I tend to think that will only be limited to the rock-solid Kerry supporters. More troublesome will be the free hand in the former Soviet republics that the US would have to allow Putin to get him to sign off. It would mean a retreat, to an extent, on human-rights issues with the Russians. However, we are at war, and war means setting priorities — and Bush has consistently made American security his overriding priority all along, and appropriately so.
We shall see if the Asia Times prediction bears out, but the fact that the deal makes a great deal of sense for both sides certainly indicates a strong probability of its veracity. Both Fallujah and John Kerry should prepare for the shock.

Bush Steps Ahead Of Kerry Even As Convention Opens

More bad news from the Washington Post for the Kerry/Edwards campaign — the Democrats have fallen behind the Bush/Cheney ticket for the first time, 48-46, in the WaPo/ABC poll (via Hugh Hewitt):

A growing proportion of voters say Bush and not Kerry is the candidate who most closely shares their values, and four in 10 believe the Democrat is “too liberal.” Bush has even narrowed the gap on which candidate better understands their problems, an area in which Kerry has led. …
The survey found that Kerry and Bush remain virtually deadlocked, with 48 percent of registered voters supporting Bush and 46 percent Kerry. Independent candidate Ralph Nader claims 3 percent of the hypothetical vote. Kerry held a four-point lead over Bush in mid-June and was tied with Bush in a Post survey two weeks ago.

So much for the Edwards bounce. In fact, another finding of the poll may explain why Edwards not only hasn’t helped John Kerry but may actually be dragging anchor on the Democratic ticket, despite some still-high negatives for the President:

Although the electorate remains deeply divided, the survey found one area of broad agreement: Two in three voters say this election is one of the most important of their lives.

They’re right — this is the most significant presidential election in a generation, and the fact that Kerry chose a single-term politician who can’t even count on carrying his home state demonstrates Kerry’s lack of seriousness for the challenge. Serious candidates don’t select VP nominees for their pretty-boy looks and great hair. Now that Teresa has sabotaged the run-up and Andrew Stern stuck his knife in Kerry’s back, he’d better hope for a miracle to get the bounce he needs from the convention, because the way it looks now, he hit his high-water mark last month.