Man Without Qualities

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Candidate, The Doctors, The Times

Here is an interesting web site of obituaries of real people who, in the judgment of the site's author, might still be alive today if only they had an EBT heart scan. The list begins:

Jim F Fixx 1932 - 1984, (although Jim lived in the pre-EBT and pre-statin era, it seems appropriate to put his obituary first) 52-year-old Jim Fixx collapsed while out jogging July 20, 1984 and died of a massive heart attack. Autopsy revealed extensive heart disease with coronary artery blockages of 99%, 80%, and 70%. Jim took up running in the 1960's when he weighed 220 lbs. He is credited with helping start America's fitness revolution, popularizing the sport of running. His best-selling book, 'The Complete Book of Running' was published in 1977 and sold over 1 million copies. By that time he was jogging an average of 60 miles every week and his weight was down to 159lbs. In 1980 he published Jim Fixx's 'Second Book of Running: The Companion Volume to The Complete Book of Running'. Jim's father died of a heart attack at age 43 and Jim's cholesterol levels was above 250 mg/dl. He was survived by four children.
The end of Jim Fixx is not obscure. Moreover, the combination of high-performance in athletics and heart difficulties is not unprecedented - indeed, a disturbing number of even very young athletes die suddenly of heart attacks that could have been detected by various forms of heart scans, including ultrasound - as detailed here.

Yet, the New York Times today runs an article proclaiming Senator Kerry's vigorous health by a reporter who identifies himself as a physician, an article that includes this remarkable sentence about Dr. Gerald J. Doyle, John Kerry's personal physician in Boston:

Because of Mr. Kerry's excellent performance in vigorous activities, Dr. Doyle said he had not performed tests for heart disease, like an echocardiogram, exercise stress test or noninvasive CT scans.
That's it. No follow up question asking whether any other physician had conducted or recommended such tests. Nor does the reporter ask a single other doctor for a second opinion on this line of reasoning about the treatment of Senator Kerry.

The whole article is like that, from beginning to end. It is bent on reassuring the reader, and never comes down from its opening sentence: John Kerry, a lean athlete who is the picture of health as he skis, skates, cycles and windsurfs, is in robust condition, he and his doctors said in their first extended interviews discussing his medical history. But even if John Kerry is in sufficient health to become President, a 60 year old man who had cancer surgery just months ago is definitely not any reasonable person's idea of the picture of health.

The article is particularly notable in that it relates at length interviews with the Senator and three of his doctors. But there is no claim that these are the only doctors who have treated John Kerry, even recently - although the report in the article that Mr. Kerry gave three of his doctors permission to speak about his health with this reporter suggests that he does have other doctors. But the reporter seems not to have asked even for a list of all of John Kerry's doctors. Nor does the article even suggest that the Senator has released his medical records, or any of them. And although the reporter does state that the interviewed doctors were instructed by Senator Kerry that they could discuss any topic, there is no indication that the reporter had seen a written release to that effect (in practice, such a release must be in writing) or whether the doctors were even asked whether they had restricted themselves in their answers.

This article appears just days after Senator Kerry appeared with a glowing, unnatural orange tan. He has been ribbed by some for having a bad, fake tan administered in advance of his first debate with President Bush. That's probably right. But one might want to consider that orange skin is sometimes a symptom of much more than vanity:

Kennedy's Addisonism was diagnosed in 1947 by a physician in London. Kennedy had probably been suffering (literally) from the disease for years, if not decades. After the diagnosis, he was given less than a year to live. He was so ill during the sea voyage home from England, in October 1947, that he was given the last rights. Yet, during the 1960 presidential race, the JFK campaign flatly denied that JFK had Addison disease. The Kennedy campaign used a very narrow definition of Addision disease, namely, insufficiency of the adrenal glands caused by tuberculosis. This was deliberate, calculated, and grossly misleading. Bumgarner calls it "undoubtedly one of the most cleverly laid smoke screens ever put down around a politician". Adrenal insufficiency, no matter how caused, is a serious matter. .... It is sometimes mentioned that Kennedy had a tan year-round. In most of North America, this is unusual, and raises the question of disease. Addison disease, for example, causes bronzing of the sking that is often mistaken for a tan.
This New York Times story is far from reassuring. The Times has apparently failed to ask basic questions, especially follow-up questions, or to corroborate claims made by the candidate and his physicians through independent evaluation of medical records or otherwise. There is no legal or absolute obligation of a candidate to reveal his medical history. But the Times should not be reassuring its readers as to Senator Kerry's health unless the Times has done a reasonably thorough investigation to back up its reassurances. The Times reporter is well aware that it is more than treacherous to rely on such sources as the candidate and his physicians alone, as this passage from the article reveals:

Earlier, Mr. Kerry gave three of his doctors permission to speak about his health with this reporter. Each doctor, interviewed separately, said that Mr. Kerry had instructed him not to withhold any information about his medical history. .... In the past, White House and personal physicians have at times misrepresented or lied about a president's health. For example, Franklin D. Roosevelt's doctors did not disclose the heart and vascular disease that caused his death, and John F. Kennedy and his family denied reports that he had Addison's disease, or adrenal
insufficiency, and required hormone injections

Even this passage is odd. It wasn't just John F. Kennedy and his family who lied. John F. Kennedy's doctors also lied ... a lot. And much of the media went along with the lies then and at least recklessly - in many cases probably knowingly - facilitated the misrepresentations. Including the Times.

UPDATE: Concern over the propensity of politicians to misrepresent their health should be further intensified by this report from Drudge, although one should keep in mind that it has not been confirmed and may not be true:

DOWNING Street tonight is embroiled in sensational claims that Tony Blair risked his life by trying to hush up the true scale of his heart problems. An eminent cardiologist has told The Mail on Sunday that No 10 knew for almost a year that the Prime Minister had a potentially life-threatening atrial flutter but did not act quickly to correct it. .... Instead, for criminally irresponsible political reasons, Mr Blair s office refused to acknowledge the scale of the health problems, he said.
FURTHER UPDATE: Astute reader DC shares some professional skepticism about the Times coverage:

I am an internist. You are perceptive beyond what your medical expertise would allow. "Because of Mr. Kerry's excellent performance in vigorous activities, Dr. Doyle said he had not performed tests for heart disease, like an echocardiogram, exercise stress test or noninvasive CT scans." This quote shows that Dr. Doyle is perpetuating malpractice. Vigor of a human being does not always correlate to being risk-free. There have been many patients who have had an excellent evaluation that included stress testing who was later tragically found to have a terrible illness including heart disease. This has to do with all medical tests being limited by their sensitivity and specificity. I only need to remind you of President Clinton's recent experience.

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Monday, September 27, 2004

Herr Doktorprofessor "Simply" Tells Another Whopper ...

... and is causing it to be sent to voters by mail and electronic communications with the specific intent to pervert a presidential election.

Don Luskin is fortunately on the case.

The good news for the New York Times is that they are definitely not participating in mail or wire fraud by distributing Herr Doktorprofessor's claptrap despite what the guy with the office down the hall from his thinks, and the First Amendment definitely doesn't allow Congress to criminalize Herr Doktorprofessor's rants even if they wanted too.
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Cocoon With a View

USA TODAY reports:

President Bush leads Sen. John Kerry by 8 percentage points among likely voters, the latest USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows. ... Among all registered voters, Bush's lead widened a bit to a statistically significant 11 points.

Among some observers - especially some cocooning liberal Democrats - Gallup has been a particular target for its party-weighting and turnout procedures, especially its determination of "likely voters." It has been said that the Gallup "likely voter" determination formula assumes too many Republicans will vote - and therefore pulls the poll results sharply to the right.

But this Gallup poll shows Mr. Bush with a substantially bigger and growing lead among registered voters (11%) than he has among Gallup's "likely" voters (8%).

And if that weren't enough to trouble one's comfortable, silk bound metamorphosis, the Washington Post-ABC Poll brings this news:
Bush leads Kerry ... 51 percent to 45 percent among likely voters... In the previous Post-ABC News poll, taken in the week after the Republican National Convention, Bush led Kerry 52 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. Among registered voters, the new poll shows Bush ahead 51 percent to 44 percent... Bush holds a double-digit lead among men (53 percent to 41 percent) and a narrow lead among women (49 percent to 46 percent).

So the good news for Kerry-Edwards is that the gender gap is back and they're on the right side of it. The bad news is that they're trailing among women, too.

How do the liberal cocooners like them apples? Or are they too snugly cocooned to come out, take a tart bite - and enjoy the view?

Kausfiles? Kausfiles? Any word, Kausfiles?

UPDATE: Gallup responds to the cocooned:
Party ID ("In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent?") is not a variable that is measured by the U.S. Census Bureau, is not fixed, and in fact is to a significant degree a measure that is quite likely to change based on the environment. After 9/11, polls showed many more people identifying with the Republican Party than the Democratic Party because citizens were rallying behind the president. This winter during the primary season, polls showed more people identifying with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party because the news coverage was focused almost exclusively on the Democratic primaries. Analyses shows that polls had more identification with the Democrats than Republicans after the Democratic convention this summer, and then more identification with the Republicans than Democrats after the Republican convention. The measure of partisanship we and other pollsters use is not measuring some lifelong fixed value like gender or race. It is an attitudinal identification with one or the other party at the time of the survey. So, if there are forces at work out in the environment that are favorable to the Democratic Party, for example, they will cause more people to identify with the Democratic Party in the survey, and also cause more people to say they will vote for the Democratic candidate. ... This whole issue of partisan identification is one that pollsters and survey scientists have been discussing and dealing with for years in publications and scholarly conferences....
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Kerry, Bush And Hispanics

A little while ago there was a flurry of Big Media articles reporting that President Bush's effort to win more Hispanic votes was a failure. We'll have to wait until the post-November 2 post mortem to know for sure. But consider this report from Arizona:
Democratic Sen. John Kerry made four visits and spent nearly $4 million on television commercials in an attempt to make [Arizona] competitive. But polls this fall show President Bush with a comfortable lead, and Kerry has tabled plans for advertising in the first week of October. ... Kerry has not ruled out airing Arizona ads in late October, but advisers say privately it would take a significant shift in the race to put the state back in play. Four years ago, Bush won the state with 51 percent of the vote compared with Democrat Al Gore's 44.7 percent. Kerry's team thought there was a chance to close that gap, partly because of Arizona's fast-growing Hispanic population. ... Nearly one-fourth of Arizona's voters register as independents. But the president has courted Hispanics as well as Republican-leaning voters in the state's suburbs and rural areas.

The Arizona polls to which I have access do not include ethnic breakdowns. But it is obvious that the Kerry-Edwards strategy of playing to Arizona's growing Hispanic population has roundly failed. Mr. Bush's lead is probably well north of his 2000 winning margin of 6% - recent polls show him leading Senator Kerry by up to 16%. The size of that lead suggests that Mr. Bush has increased his support in more than the Republican-leaning voters in his suburban base that he already carried so nicely in 2000. Of course, none of the foregoing guaranties that Mr. Bush's strategy of making inroads among Hispanics has succeeded. But these development are suggestive. Very suggestive.
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Funhouse Mirror Image III: More Notes from the Ironosphere

A number of readers have written noting many media claims that the British intelligence report on which President Bush relied for his famous "16 words" may have itself relied on the forged Niger document received from Italian sources. It appears that the displaced Sixty Minute II item was would have made that assertion. The assertion is an old one. For example, this old CNN article focuses on the supposed reliance of United States and British intelligence on the forged Italian Niger documents and connects them to the 16 Words. (By the way, this site claims to show the forgeries).

Seymour M. Hersh works the same angle in his New Yorker piece. The piece is a marvelously constructed house of innuendo cards. Perhaps my favorite passage: Some I.A.E.A. investigators ... speculated that MI6 - the branch of British intelligence responsible for foreign operations -had become involved, perhaps through contacts in Italy, after the Ambassador's return to Rome. Mr. Hersh also states:
What is generally agreed upon, a congressional intelligence-committee staff member told me, is that the Niger documents were initially circulated by the British President Bush said as much in his State of the Union speech.

But Newsweek reports that the fake Italian Niger documents didn't come from British intelligence, but directly from:
Elisabetta Burba, the Italian journalist who first obtained the phony documents... Burba ... then provided the documents to the U.S. Embassy in Rome in an effort to authenticate them. The embassy soon passed the material on to Washington.
Perhaps most curiously, Mr. Hersh works hard to suggest that British intelligence may have actually generated the documents as part of a "disinformation campaign." And that means the British were supplying the White House with intelligence reports based on their own disinformation. How likely is that?

In any event, Newsweek reported:
The NSC man asked if it would be all right to cite a British intelligence report that the Iraqis were trying to buy uranium from several African countries. The CIA official acquiesced. [T]he British have not backed off that claim (a British official told NEWSWEEK that it came from an East African nation, not Niger)

Did Niger figure in the British intelligence assessment? Of course it did, but not in the way the CNN's, Marshall's, Hersh's and others of such stripe claim, as this July 17, 2003 Guardian article explains:
Tony Blair insisted the UK claim was based not on the forged documents but on independent intelligence. He added that the link between Niger and Iraq was not an invention of the CIA or Britain. "We know in the 1980s that Iraq purchased from Niger over 270 tons of uranium, and therefore it is not beyond the bounds of possibility - let's at least put it like this - that they went back to Niger again."

In addition to the 16 Words, the US "reliance" on the forged Italian Niger documents CNN focuses on the US forwarding the documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency. One has to read rather far down in the CNN article to find this indication that the IAEA was actually warned that the documents had not been authenticated:
A U.S. intelligence official said that the documents were passed on to the International Atomic Energy Agency within days of being received with the comment, " 'We don't know the provenance of this information, but here it is.' "

Why would US or British authorities provide fakes to the IAEA under any circumstances - especially before verifying them? Well, the article from The Guardian suggests one possible reason:
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN body responsible for non-proliferation, yesterday reminded Britain it had a duty to hand over any new intelligence for verification. An IAEA spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said: "If there was any other evidence, it would still be appropriate for the IAEA to receive it." The forged documents were passed in February this year by the US to the IAEA, which a month later declared them to be forgeries. The IAEA has not released the documents. Ms Fleming said: "We are not able to discuss the details of classified documents or documents given to us by member states."

So it seems that the IAEA may have (and, by its reckoning, should have) demanded copies of the fake Niger documents for verification by the IAEA. If, as the Guardian article indicates, the IAEA asserts a right and a duty to obtain and itself "verify" evidence of nuclear activity, evidence such as these documents, that would go a long way towards explaining why the documents were eventually turned over to the IAEA with nothing but a warning (similar to the one the White House and the CIA received) that their provenance had not been established. It seems passing strange that after releasing and discussing exactly the details of the classified-but-fake documents that tend to protect the IAEA officials, Ms Fleming said: "We are not able to discuss the details of classified documents or documents given to us by member states." Ah, yes. Security and policy concerns begin with the follow-up questions!

By the way, everyone seems to agree that the Italian Niger documents are fake, and I take that as a given. But I note that some of the aspects of the Niger documents cited (by the IAEA and others) as indicating them to be "obvious fakes" are pretty strange. For example, one reporter relates that the IAEA noted that the signature of a high official was "childlike" and obviously not his and that dates didn't match quite right. That's not good, of course. But official documents are often generated on a nunc pro tunc basis bearing dates far earlier than the actual date on which the document was generated. And it is common for high officials to seldom, or even never, actually sign official documents the way people such as, say, Mr. Killian, sign their own memos. They let their assistants and subordinates sign their names - or even use stamps (a form of the "cut and paste," supposedly also a sign that the Niger documents were fake). Paul Johnson notes in his wonderful book Modern Times that Adolph Hitler appears to have written not one letter and signed not one official document at any time after assuming control of Germany. Does the reporter mentioned above and his IAEA contact throw away all American currency once determining that the "signatures" of the Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer of the United States on it are obvious facsimiles?

Mr. Hersh also includes some sketchy and highly elliptical references to the documents being later mentioned in Congress. Given the sketchiness of those references and the fact the Congress voted to authorize the Iraq war long before these documents came on the scene, Mr. Hersh seems to take no ground with this device.

Meanwhile, deep in the ironosphere,Bill Burkett is suing CBS News because Mr. Burkett says he warned CBS and CBS promised to authenticate the fake Killian memos. Nobody seems to be expressing doubt that Mr. Burkett is blameless if what he says is completely true.

Go figure.

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Sunday, September 26, 2004

Saving Private Rather: The Pajama Game

Former CBS News executive Jonathan Klein famously dismissed a blogger as just some "guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas." He probably didn't know the Dan Rather story Mr. Klein was then defending had displaced another highly questionable item Sixty Minutes had produced in collaboration with Joshua Micah Marshall, a particularly self-indulgent and partisan pajama boy. The irony suggests a way of perhaps salvaging something of the CBS News investment in Dan Rather and Sixty Minutes.

CBS should admit that Dan Rather's cover as "objective" has been irretrievably blown by this debacle. But that doesn't mean Mr. Rather has to go, although the New York Times is now reporting he is to be out by spring, 2005. Instead, Mr. Rather could be paired in his newscasts as a frank voice of the left with a younger, more conservative co-anchor - in the manner of Hannity & Colmes. Mr. Rather could provide the liberal view, as Mr. Colmes does, with the new co-anchor providing the conservative angle. The new co-anchor doesn't have to be as conservative as Mr. Hannity, indeed, the new co-anchor could be more of a intellectual libertarian than a traditional conservative. Where does the Josh Marshall involvement come in? Just this: CBS could get a leg up on Fox by choosing the new co-anchor to be a blogger, and have him (or her) remain a real blogger. Obviously, this would call for someone with lots of energy and scope. Hugh Hewitt, Mickey Kaus, Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds come to mind, but there are others. Coincidentially, a amazingly dreadful article in the New York Times magazine today refers to each of the latter three as a "credentialed gentlemen" - with Glenn Reynolds bizarrely termed "a conservative law professor whose blog, Instapundit, is read faithfully at the White House." I don't know about the White House claim - and, as is increasingly the case, the Times provides no evidence. But Mr. Reynolds is not a "conservative" as that term is generally employed in political discourse in this country.

Pairing Mr. Rather with a more conservative/libertarian would have several advantages. It would honestly admit what Mr. Rather is - and let him continue to do what he likes to do: slanting stories to the left while asserting he is merely pursuing "truth." Increasing the political diversity of CBS News, might reduce the risk that fatuous stories that only seem reasonable to those of a certain partisan orientation would reach the air in the first place. Partisan flavored stories that do reach the air would come with some skeptical commentary from the co-anchor (that would be his or her job). The co-anchor could be younger and better looking than what is seen now. And if he has to contend with real-time skepticism, Mr. Rather would seem less overbearing, self-satisfied and downright Stalinist - which would be a welcome relief.

Mr. Rather's terrible ratings might even improve.

Of course, that all assumes that Viacom actually wants to save CBS News, which loses lots of money. All broadcast network news divisions almost always have lost money. But times have nevertheless changed in a big way: in the old days network news divisions at least set the agenda for a campaign and national news coverage generally. The Sixty Minutes debacle has shown in spectacular fashion that not to be the case - although the inroads of bloggers and cable have long been known to anyone who cared to look. That, in turn, means that the ultimate corporate owners of these networks, and the owner's CEO's, no longer have the influence and bragging rights they once had. No wonder Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of Viacom, said of Mr. Rather's memo debacle "My reaction from the beginning was one of severe distress." That's probably not the half of it.

Something else has changed, too: The Federal Communications Commission at one time required any broadcast network to maintain a big news division. So if CBS wanted to make money on "I Love Lucy" it had to lose some on Walter Cronkite. That is probably no longer the case. Under Michael Powell, the FCC has taken a vastly more free market approach to broadcast regulation, an approach that recognizes the many new cmpeting electronic sources for news and information. Sumner Redstone specifically cited the FCC's degegulation policies when he backed George Bush over John Kerry. In short: The FCC would probably not be a substantial obstacle to a major contraction of CBS News. Given the obvious CBS News Democratic slant, it's hard to see a Republican controlled Congress rising up over such a regulatory stance.

There are increasing concerns from within CBS News that Viacom might take advantage of this debacle to rationalize the economics of its news division generally. Since the network news divisions can no longer set the national agenda or deliver bragging rights, and the current Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission probably doesn't care much whether a broadcast television network even has a big news division, and the news division loses lots of money, why the heck does Viacom or Disney or General Electric want one, anyhow? And no wonder Mr. Redstone is keeping all of his options open:

When asked if he sees a need for a change at the News division, he says: "I think it would be too early for me to judge. I intend to maintain a kind of independent view until I see what this panel has to report. And then you can assume that whatever is appropriate will take place."

Mr. Redstone says he votes for the interests of Viacom, and therefore this liberal Democrat prefers Mr. Bush over John Kerry. Is it in the interest of Viacom or Mr. Redstone to keep CBS News around in anything like its current bloated form?

Hard to see why.
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Who's Twisting?

The Associated Press reports:

President Bush ... twisted his rival's words on Iraq and made Kerry seem supportive of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

What form did the "twisting" take?
[The President] stated flatly that Kerry had said earlier in the week "he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today." ...But Kerry never said that. ... [H]e called Saddam "a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell." He added, "The satisfaction we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

But the President didn't purport to quote Senator Kerry. And no sensible person in Mr. Bush's audience thought that the President was quoting Senator Kerry when the Mr. Bush asserted "he would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein ...," unless the Senator has garnered a reputation for referring to himself in the third person (which, come to think of it, might not be shocking in Mr. Kerry's case - but that's another story) Mr. Bush was purporting to explain the likely meaning and implications of the Senator's words.

The AP also charges Mr. Bush with "twisting" Senator Kerry's reference to an alliance of "the coerced and the bribed" when the President cited that reference to support his argument: "You can't build alliances if you criticize the efforts of those who are working side by side with you." The AP says that was "twisting:"
Kerry did use the phrase to describe the U.S.-led coalition of nations in Iraq, in a March 2003 speech in California. He was referring to the administration's willingness to offer aid to other nations to gain support for its Iraq policies.

Was Mr. Bush "twisting" as the AP asserts? Ultimately, that's for the reader to decide. But the AP seems frightened to let that happen, and its own take seems partisan and tendentious, at best. With respect to the "bribed/coerced" matter, Senator Kerry's actual comment is reported here by the leftish-leaning Des Moines Register:
Kerry said during the speech at the downtown Marriott Hotel that Bush has been impatient, which has cost the U.S. support from its allies. "The greatest position of strength is by exercising the best judgement in the pursuit of diplomacy," he said, "not in some trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted, but in a genuine coalition."

The AP reads (but does not quote) that comment to refer only to a putative Bush Administration policy and not to the actual, current Iraq coalition. But Senator Kerry does seem to be talking about the actual coalition the Administration has ended up with by being "impatient" - which is just what Mr. Bush said. And to drive the point that he dismisses this actual coalition, John Kerry has said:
This president has done it wrong every step of the way. He promised that he would have a real coalition. He has a fraudulent coalition.
Similarly, is it true that Senator Kerry substantively "would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today?" Most people would say that Mr. Bush's charge is true if a President Kerry would not have actually launched an invasion of Iraq under any realistic circumstances. Is that right? After all, Senator Kerry did vote to authorize President Bush to launch this invasion, and Senator Kerry does sometimes suggest that he would not have launched an invasion unless what he calls a "legitimate coalition" had been formed. But it's pretty clear those circumstances as he is now conceiving them could never realistically have been satisfied:
"I said this from the beginning of the debate to the walk up to the war. I said, Mr. President don't rush to war, take the time to build a legitimate coalition and have a plan to win the peace." ... He called the president's talk about a coalition fighting alongside about 125,000 U.S. troops "the phoniest thing I've ever heard."
What is a "legitimate coalition" in the Senator's view? Well, certainly not one in which the participants are to be treated better that non-participants - that would be "the alliance of the coerced and the bribed." And members of a "legitimate coalition" can't just send a relatively few soldiers, since Senator Kerry has also intoned about the current coalition:
"You've about 500 troops here, 500 troops there and it's American troops that are 90 percent of the combat casualties and it's American taxpayers that are paying 90 percent of the cost of the war," he said. "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time."
From what we now know, it's preposterous to imagine that France, Germany and Russia could have been persuaded not only to participate in an invading or occupying coalition in which they received no favorable terms, but to send a lot of their troops as Senator Kerry indicates is necessary in his mind for a "legitimate coalition." [UPDATE:For example, the Financial Times reports: French and German government officials say they will not significantly increase military assistance in Iraq even if John Kerry, the Democratic presidential challenger, is elected on November 2.] So the bottom line seems pretty clear: No "legitimate coalition" could ever have realistically been formed. So there is no realistic possibility that a President Kerry would ever have launched an invasion of Iraq. In other words, under any realistic set of circumstances, John Kerry would prefer the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to the situation in Iraq today. And that is true even though Senator Kerry also thinks that Saddam was "a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in hell."

Doesn't seem like the President is "twisting" John Kerry's words to me, but the reader should consider what both men have said. I suggest ignoring the AP gloss - that is twisting.

Personally, I think that John Kerry's words are twisted enough already without any need for further rotation.

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