The Chinese Rebuttal To John Kerry

John Kerry tried to put George Bush on the defensive in tonight’s debate by faulting Bush’s refusal to use bilateral talks to disarm North Korea. Bush insisted that the US needed global leverage, and shortly afterwards, the BBC provided Bush with some support for his position:

The US and China have said they were confident North Korea will return to six-party talks to end the stand-off over Pyongyang’s nuclear programmes.
US State Secretary Colin Powell said after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing the format was “what we should be concentrating on”.
Mr Li described the talks as the “only feasible and correct option”.

After excoriating Bush for not working hard enough to build a larger coalition to handle Iraq, Kerry reversed course and accused Bush of too much multilateralism on North Korea. Kerry said he’d hold concurrent multilateral and bilateral talks — which Bush rightly pointed out would cause the multilateral talks to become redundant and the four other nations to walk away. If anyone paid attention to that exchange, China just confirmed Bush’s contentions and his plans for dealing with the NoKos.
When we say Kerry is incoherent and vacillating, this is a great example of what we mean. (via Instapundit)

Liveblog: Debate #1

7:30 – I started watching C-SPAN, but the inane questions being asked on all sides drove me to AMC to watch a bit of Escape From New York. It seemed like the intelligent choice …
7:39 – Michelle Malkin — thanks for your link and your kind comments!
7:47 – Back to C-SPAN, just in time to see Donna Shalala introduce Lauren Williams (according to Shalala), but C-SPAN says it’s Janet Brown. Teresa Heinz Kerry gets introduced ahead of Laura Bush, and she’s chewing something as she walks up …
7:51 – Jim Lehrer tells the audience to sit on their hands and shut up for 90 minutes, and now he says, “Don’t make me pull this car over, kids!!” Oh, great, now the wives are the Hall Monitors. Yes, I can see this is “serious business”, as Lehrer puts it …
7:54 – If they don’t want audience reaction, why have an audience? Why bother with the town-hall format at all?
7:57 – Northern Alliance links: Mitch, King, Rocket Man, blogging from here.
8:03 – Nice warm handshake and a laugh to start things off …
8:05 – I have a better plan, I have a better plan — well, you’re on stage, let’s hear it! …
8:07 – Free nations. Not a bad start for either one …
8:10 – One reason only for taking out Saddam? Outsourced the job? Where do you want me to begin? I guess Kerry’s decided to take the snotty route …
8:14 – John Kerry, so far, is doing pretty well. George Bush had a great response to Kerry’s question … but nothing we haven’t heard before from both …
8:18 – No body armor? Did he not vote against the funding for that?
8:19 – Bring the allies back to the table — what if they’re not hungry?
8:23 – So far, both men seem to be doing fairly well. This seems to be the Battle Of The Alpha Males, though. A lot of finger-jabbing and fist-pumping. Maybe it’s just the adrenaline of the moment, but I think both men were coached to project strength. Kerry does seem to be more comfortable with the format, a product of his 20-year Senate career …
8:29 – Bush dropped the $87 billion bomb, and Kerry’s response was pretty damned weak, and obviously they were working on it this week. It needed more work ..
8:30 – “Last man to die for a mistake” — Kerry now says that it’s not a mistake. It’s a mistake, it’s not a mistake — which is it? I mean, HE JUST GOT DONE SAYING THAT INVADING IRAQ IS A MISTAKE! Sheesh! …
8:31 – No, it’s like invading North Africa in response to Pearl Harbor, Senator. It’s the difference between tactical and strategic thinking. Oh, Halliburton just made its first appearance. Now Bush gets to run the list of allies in Iraq, and he’s making minced meat out of Kerry’s arguments …
8:34 – Kerry forgot Poland??? And Bush just chewed him out over the “coerced and bribed” comments earlier. Scoring big points here.
8:40 – He cut it off , sort of arbitrarily — well, after France stated publicly that they would never support the use of force in Iraq. That’s when we stopped trying to get the UN to get off its butt. Kerry’s meeting with foreign leaders again. Osama needed Iraq to attract followers??
8:42 – He’s had one consistent position (at a time) …
8:45 – A good, thoughtful answer at the halfway mark from Bush on “was it worth it” – and yet another Viet Nam combat reference. Not confuse the war with the warriors?? Yes, it happened before — and you were a large part of the reason for it, Senator!
8:48 – Not “you break it, you fix it”, “you break it, you own it”. Kind of a silly muff to pull at that point …
8:49 – How does Kerry think that there is a difference between “pull troops out in six months” and “pull the troops out in six months if we’re successful”? Ah, he says that Bush has imperial designs on Iraq because we’re building bases in the outer parts of the Iraq. Well, we’re fighting a war on Islamofascist terror — does Kerry propose fighting it from Germany? Or maybe Fort Dix?
8:53 – George Bush needs to stand up straight. He’s hunching over. Looks bad. Other than that, he’s doing great, plainly speaking. I have to say that Kerry sounds better than I thought he would, but he’s delivering more contradictions as he goes along …
8:57 – Outsourced the attack on Osama — and now Kerry’s showing why he’s clueless on the war on terror. He says that the sanctions were weakening Saddam. What about all those billions he got from UNSCAM? Did the weight tire him out?
8:59 – Darfur is Bush’s fault?
9:00 – Oh, Lord, Kerry voted AGAINST the Kyoto Protocol, and now he blames Bush for not signing it. Instead of attacking that, Bush brings up the ICC, but he finished on a strong point — he’s looking out for American interests, not looking to win a beauty contest.
9:03 – Iran: Kerry would give the mullahs nuclear fuel. Up to now, only Edwards had offered that, and it’s a stupid, stupid idea. Now he thinks that North Korea only started cheating after 2001. Yeah, sure.
9:08 – Why don’t we have troops in Darfur? Because we’re at war now against terrorists, which has to come first. Terrorists are in Iraq. “We could never allow another Rwanda” … but who allowed the first one?
9:10 – Bush seems more in command of the details than Kerry does. He’s made several factual corrections of Kerry that stick …
9:11 – Character. Actually, both men took the soft approach on this answer, which is smart … “I’ve never wavered” — well, he’s trilled quite a bit …
9:17 – He’s going to shut down another weapons program — good flashback to 1984, Senator.
9:22 – Good question on Russia, and Bush takes us back to Beslan and ties Russian policy to the war on terror. Kerry talks about visiting the KGB and seeing reams of files. Was Sandy Berger there then? …
9:25 – I think we’re coming to the closing statements soon, and thank God. 90 minutes is too long…
9:26 – Kerry: Different set of convictions, respected again in the world, get your kids home and win the peace (in that order). “I’m not talking about leaving …” Well, that’s all he’s been talking about for the past month. He got a chance to throw in a Viet Nam reference again…
9:28 – Bush: Weakness will push world towards tragedy, no draft, fight terrorists around the world instead of here, will put America first. Vision of democracy as a cure for terrorism and the oppression. “We’ve climbed a mighty mountain, and I’ve seen the valley below, and it’s a valley of peace.” Nice close.
9:31 – Both candidates greet their wives, Kerry taking the time to give an extra-long liplock on Teresa.
My assessment: Personally, I don’t think either man did badly, although I think that Bush mauled Kerry about the “coerced and bribed” remark and Lockhart’s “Allawi is a puppet”. Also, his in-debate reversal on whether invading Iraq is a mistake will get some play. I’d give the edge to Bush, but you know I’m biased. Now C-SPAN has the lame phone callers, so I’ll switch to Fox instead.
Good panel discussion on Fox. I don’t agree with everything being said, but Brit Hume is leading the discussion and doing a good job of moderating it …
Another thought — one of Kerry’s problems is that Bush has a number of home runs he can hit, thanks to Kerry’s vacillations over the past nine months, and Bush hammered on Kerry for his policy flip-flops all debate long. Kerry’s counter is that Bush is too resolute, which hardly damages a leader during wartime. …
I missed the Republican spinmeister, but Joe Lockhart claims that the debate will be all about the “annoyed smirk”. Eh? Actually, I think that sells this debate short. It actually produced substantive policy statements and differences between the candidates, and they both behaved in respectful and professional manner. Is Lockhart really that desperate? …
Last thought from the Fox panel – Bush may have edged Kerry, but the polls will narrow slightly, and Kerry lives to fight another day. About what I’d say, too. But I think Poland will continue to dog Kerry, and now that I think about it, he forgot Australia, too. Kerry still has the same problems that he had going in, and expect Bush to hammer on those more in the next couple of weeks.

What Good Are Debates?

As I prepare to live blog tonight’s debate from my den (instead of at Our House, where the rest of the Northern Alliance are free from my germs), it’s worth revisiting my previously-expressed opinion on the usefulness of these gladitorial spectacles that we stage three or four times every election cycle. Unfortunately, I got caught agreeing with Teresa Heinz Kerry — always a dangerous position:
I completely agree with Teresa Heinz Kerry:

Heinz Kerry said debates have become about scoring a punch with quick soundbites. “It’s just silly,” she said. “I think those debates are really unproductive and they made it hard for all of them to (get their message across).”

In fact, I would call them exceedingly silly, made so by live audiences who ooh, aah, gasp, titter, and applaud the most banal and trite comebacks. These debates embody the vacuity of modern hight-tech media sound bite-ism. The formats do not allow for thoughtful policy discourse, and in fact are designed to eliminate any hope of that. They are entertainment, at least in theory, a type of gladiator arena where the fight is not so much between the gladiators themselves as it is between the audience members to stay awake long enough to punctuate their champions’ verbal jabs with the appropriate sound effect.
To be sure, they’ve produced memorable, even classic moments:
* Richard Nixon’s facial meltdown under the hot lights against Kennedy
* Ronald Reagan’s “There you go again” against Carter, and
* Reagan’s “I won’t hold his youth and inexperience against him” comeback against Mondale
* Lloyd Bentsen’s “You’re no Jack Kennedy” against an outclassed Dan Quayle (VP debate)
* Al Gore acting like he had better things to do against George W. Bush
If pressed, 99% will only remember these moments from those classic debates, not anything about policy or philosophy, and especially not anything specific. So if these events are the only things memorable about televised debates, what exactly about the debates informs your choice as a voter? Or, if you make decisions based on these superficial and irrelevant incidents, maybe the debates are enabling you to avoid the serious work of evaluating candidates based on their record, their policy positions, and so on, which is a lot more work than having this pablum force-fed to you via the boob tube. I’ve stopped watching them; they’re embarassing and they’re pointless. One cheer for Mrs. Heinz Kerry for pointing it out.
Power Line has a great post demonstrating just about everything I said above. The big memorable question for the evening?

“I’d be curious to find out, if you could pick one of your fellow candidates to party with, which you would choose.”

Great Moments in Democracy, Part 9. Will someone please drive a stake through the heart of the debate idea now?
I wrote that last November, and my opinion hasn’t changed much since then. I still think presidential debates are so artificial and uninspiring that viewers only tune in to either reinforce their already-made choice or to look for “gotcha!” moments. Neither one are particularly edifying for political discourse.
Who knows? Maybe tonight will change my mind …

Kerry Campaign Throws A Tantrum

Ron Fournier reports that aides to John Kerry had an “angry exchange” with the Debate Commission about the placement of timer lights on the lecterns for tonight’s presidential debate:

Democratic candidate John Kerry’s campaign demanded Thursday that the lights signaling when a speaker’s time has expired during debates with President Bush be removed from the lecterns because they are distracting, but the commission hosting the debates refused.
An angry exchange between representatives of the Kerry campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates took place just hours before the candidates were to meet at the University of Miami for the first of three debates, The Associated Press learned. Kerry’s team threatened to remove the lights when they visit the debate site with Kerry later in the day.
“We’ll bring a screwdriver,” said a Kerry aide familiar with what several people called an angry exchange. The commission did not return a call seeking comment.

Gee … will they stamp their feet and hold their breath until they turn blue as well? The Kerry campaign agreed to the timer lights and the provisos that the lights be visible to both the live audience and television viewers. Where else but the lecterns provide that viewpoint? Did the Kerry campaign expect that the cameras would be pointing downwards at the candidates’ feet?
Just when you think it’s impossible for the Kerry show to get more juvenile, their aides threaten to unilaterally dismantle a podium because they didn’t read the agreement they signed, or didn’t think the prerequisites through very well. It doesn’t build a great deal of confidence in the team that Kerry would bring to the White House, if elected.

Quick Links

Just trying to fit in a few last items that caught my eye today …
Bill at INDC Journal interviews Richard Schlesinger of CBS News about the draft story. It’s interesting and timely, and a great example of why Bill is one of the leading bloggers today …
Hugh Hewitt has his new column up at the Weekly Standard. Make sure you read it before the debate, and check to see if the Great Pumpkin makes an appearance. (I’d say not: According to Linus in Peanuts, the Great Pumpkin only appears in the most sincere pumpkin patches, a description that hardly applies to John Flipflopflip Kerry.) …
Saint Paul at Fraters Libertas continues to fact-check Nick Coleman’s ass, as the phrase goes, and hits pay dirt
Patterico tries dry humor, and some people find it a bit too dry to realize he’s joking — but it sounds like a great idea anyway …
Don’t forget that I’ll be live-blogging tonight’s debate!

Tina Brown Gets Impatient For “The Closer” To Show Up

Former magazine publisher Tina Brown writes in her Washington Post column today that Democrats have tired of hearing what a great closer John Kerry is, and wants the closing to start now rather than later:

With all the mythology about Kerry’s gift of coming from behind, New Yorkers are watching and hoping like fundamentalists awaiting the rapture. “What will it be like?” they ask one another. A mysterious subtle transformation of will that suffuses Kerry with winner’s luck? A defining moment when he soothes his wounded honor with a shaft of killing wit that at last unmasks Bush? If so, could it please happen in prime time tonight? (Maybe, just in case, Kerry should wear cowboy boots to reduce the president still further to the size of Dr. Ruth.)
Among the big-donor crowd, the good-closer cliche has worn out its welcome. They have had it with reading in the New York Times that the past two months of flubs were part of some weird subliminal strategy. Who does Kerry think he is? Bob Dylan? Enough already with the near-death experiences. Mr. Closer, give us closure.

I’ve thought about this reputation Kerry has garnered as some fourth-quarter genius who outlasts his opponents and scores a last-minute victory, but I’m not buying it, and it looks like Brown isn’t either. He’s won four terms in the Senate and a term as lieutenant governor in highly liberal Massachusetts as Ted Kennedy’s protege. Really, how difficult is that to do? The wonder is that he had to come from behind at all, even against William Weld. He survived the primary not so much because he won it but because Howard Dean pulled a Dan Quayle against Al Sharpton in a debate, imploded shortly thereafter, and the Democrats wanted someone with proven electability. The only options left at that point were Dick Gephardt and John Edwards, neither of which could have guaranteed to cary their home states.
So far, I see no evidence that Kerry will be anything more as a candidate in the final month than he has been up to now — an incompetent, outclassed vacillator who has squandered advantages in the polls and among the mainstream media to fall behind a vulnerable George Bush. Brown, however, see it differently. She claims that Kerry’s come-from-behind act is doomed because of a conservative media bias:

Part of the weird mood of frustration and self-directed anger is that it’s already clear that whatever brilliance Kerry pulls out of the hat, the post-debate spin from the Bush campaign and the cable news hunger for the political version of the Janet Jackson moment fuse perfectly with the likelihood of some emblematic sound bite or visual moment that purportedly buries Kerry.

Oh, sure, we all remember the dogpile at the White House earlier this year (and ever since) when the hounds were baying at Scott McClelland about George Bush’s National Guard service as a demonstration of the media’s conservative bias. Or how about that CBS story based on forgeries? That sure had a healthy dose of “White House spin”. Meanwhile, Brown’s associates still haven’t asked Kerry about his false assertions with David Alston that stole Tedd Peck’s service record, nor have they asked him about meeting with the Communists in Paris while still having a commission in the Navy.
Brown then gives a further demonstration of her cluelessness, in her hope for a Bush stumble:

On Bill O’Reilly’s show Tuesday the president showed encouraging signs. At one point he suddenly addressed the host as “Factor.” (“Did he call me Factor?” O’Reilly marveled to the camera with a quizzical smile.)

Perhaps if Brown had been awake the past four years, she would have known that Bush likes to pick out nicknames for people, a habit he’s had since Yale. (Really, Tina — it’s been in all the papers, even yours.)
It’s on slender reeds like this that Brown’s hope grasps, desperately looking for a debate debacle from George Bush — because she already knows that John Kerry can’t deliver a home run. For that to happen, Kerry would have to be decisive and take a clear position on Iraq, something he’s been unable to do over nine months now. If he could, his campaign wouldn’t have to be promoting his purported abilities as a “closer”.

Missouri Conceded?

How bad is it for John Kerry in those states that had been identified as “battleground”? So bad that even R. W. Apple notices that Kerry has made himself scarce in Missouri, a state previously considered ripe for plucking from Bush’s 2000 victory list:

Is Missouri a swing state that has already swung? So it seems to many people here on the eve of the first presidential debate. John Kerry has not visited the state in nearly three weeks and may not be back, local Democrats say, until the second debate, scheduled for Oct. 8 at Washington University in St. Louis. This is no accident of scheduling. …
Early on, the Kerry campaign poured advertising dollars into the state. From March 4 to June 20, St. Louis and Kansas City ranked among the nation’s top 10 cities in terms of television spending by the two sides, according to the Wisconsin Advertising Project, which tracks such matters. During that period, the average Kansas City household saw presidential political commercials roughly 280 times.
But ever since the Kerry strategists decided to omit Missouri from their major advertising purchase after the Republican convention, the intensity of combat has diminished. Though the reasons for the change in strategy are not clear, politicians of both parties in Missouri took it to mean that Mr. Kerry’s advisers thought it unlikely he could prevail here.

Right now, Kerry has his hands full trying to hang onto the states that Al Gore won last time out. States like Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota show either a dead heat or a lead for Bush. Even though the DNC has poured money into Missouri to fill the gap, voters and politicians have noticed Kerry’s absence.
John Kerry needs to show up in the Show Me State if he expects to compete.
UPDATE: Now that the storms have settled down, polling in Florida has started. Power Line notes that Gallup shows Bush up by nine in a non-corrected sample and Rassmussen shows Bush up by four in a corrected sample. Perhaps Kerry may start campaigning by proxy there as well …

If They Can’t Figure Out A Butterfly Ballot …

San Franciso will try a new form of voting that reformers have touted for years as a replacement for traditional, majority-based elections that America has used almost exclusively up to now. The New York Times reports that Frisco residents will use instant-runoff voting for its County Board of Supervisors, allowing voters to rank their choices in order to eliminate the need for a second run-off election:

The cooperation is in response to a new election system, instant-runoff voting. The system, which voters approved in 2002 and is having its first run, is viewed by critics of winner-take-all elections as the start of a long-overdue overhaul of the way Americans choose elected officials.
Under this system, voters can choose three candidates for each office, ranking them in order of preference. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, the lowest-placing finishers are eliminated, and the second and, if necessary, third choices on those ballots are counted until someone garners a majority.
The system removes the need for a separate runoff election, saving money and, if the recent past is a guide, increasing the number of voters who have a say in choosing the winner. Under the old system, turnout usually dropped significantly in runoffs.

How does this work? Let’s take a hypothetical look at how this could work in this year’s presidential election in a generic state. The ballot could contain four names: George Bush, John Kerry, Ralph Nader, and Michael Bednarik (Libertarian). If none of these candidates get one vote over 50%, then only the top two survive and the eliminated ballots are retallied for their second choices — the so-called “instant runoff”, although the recount isn’t likely to be instant.
Let’s say the initial results look like this:
Bush – 48%
Kerry – 46%
Nader – 5%
Bednarik – 1%
After congratulating Bednarik for even showing up on this list, we have to eliminate both Bednarik and Nader and tally their voters’ second choices. If 80% of Nader’s voters select Kerry as their second choice and half of Bednarik’s voters choose Bush as the runner-up, then the vote totals end up thus:
Kerry – 50.5%
Bush – 49.5%
So despite George Bush having a two-point advantage among first-choice voters, he winds up losing the state based on second-choice polling. Can you imagine the different stages at which recounts and lawsuits appear in this system? It would only be used when vote results are so close that no clear majority arises. Then you have a recount of only those voters whose candidates are eliminated. In some systems, everyone above a certain percentage level survives the first round, and so the voters may have to go through three rounds instead of two.
In 2000, people got their panties in a twist over butterfly ballots and the supposedly insurmountable obstacle they represented to Florida voters, even though almost every election in which I voted in California used the same kind of ballot. If the great unwashed can’t figure out that a punch-card ballot has to be punched through to count, how are they supposed to understand that they have to vote for three candidates in a ranked order for each office? It’s only a matter of time before we hear about confused voters claiming that they were “disenfranchised” because they forgot to mark in a third choice, or marked four people instead of three, or more new complaints about their own incompetence.
And that is what people call reform?

He Died Of Exhaustion

MIT has determined that all six billion people descended from a single ancestor who lived just 3500 years ago, according to the London Telegraph:

Everyone in the world is descended from a single person who lived around 3,500 years ago, according to a new study. Scientists have worked out the most recent common ancestor of all six billion people alive today probably dwelt in eastern Asia around 1,415BC. …
Using a computer model, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology attempted to trace back the most recent common ancestor using estimated patterns of migration throughout history.
They calculated that the ancestor’s location in eastern Asia allowed his or her descendants to spread to Europe, Asia, remote Pacific Islands and the Americas. Going back a few thousand years more, the researchers found a time when a large fraction of people in the world were the common ancestors of everybody alive today – while the rest were ancestors of no one alive. That date was 5,353BC, the team reports in Nature.

I find this very intriguing. If MIT’s research holds up, it could explain much of the Genesis books in the Old Testament, which come down to two men at different times: Adam and Abraham. In both cases, the Scriptures tell us that we all descend from both. I’m not a Biblical scholar, and I didn’t even stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, but the two dates could have some Biblical connotations as well. Could the memory of our earliest common ancestor have been passed down for 7,000 years as Adam, and could our latest common ancestor be the Abraham of the Bible? The location and the timeframe are both within reason.
Scientifically, our genetic diversity seems pretty remarkable for a single ancestor less than 4000 years in the past — about 200 generations, give or take. We’ve branched out in almost an unlimited way in a short time frame, evolutionarily speaking, so much so that it shakes belief. If MIT can back this up, it may change the way we look at the history of human development.

Typekey Update, Among Other Things

A number of you have written to me to let me know about a problem with the Typekey registration. I sent a message to Six Apart describing the problem – I had it too – and they sent me a reply within a couple of hours:

Hi Edward,
Several other sites have reported similar problems and our echnicians are taking a look at what’s going on. I’ve forwarded your information to the technicians and asked them to look at your site too.
Thanks for getting in contact.
Six Apart, Ltd

It looks like the problem is on their end, and hopefully they’ll get it resolved soon. Keep trying!
Both Whiskey and I seem to have the same bug, even though we’re thousands of miles apart. Clever timing, eh? She tells me she’ll be back to blogging when she feels better. I managed to go into the office for half a day today. We’ll see how tomorrow goes …
Speaking of tomorrow, I’m planning on live-blogging the debate with my Northern Alliance friends at the Our House … er … house. If I’ve shaken it off, we’ll be group live-blogging from David and Margaret’s home using their wireless connection to the Internet. If I’m still sick, I’ll be blogging it from bed …
Read Fraters Libertas and Shot In The Dark for Nick Coleman updates. In fact, Mitch has issued a challenge to Coleman. Think he’ll accept? Or will he take the Boyd option?