Man Without Qualities

Monday, October 25, 2004

A Parallax View

The Washington Times reports:

U.N. ambassadors from several nations are disputing assertions by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he met for hours with all members of the U.N. Security Council just a week before voting in October 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq. An investigation by The Washington Times reveals that while the candidate did talk for an unspecified period to at least a few members of the panel, no such meeting, as described by Mr. Kerry on a number of occasions over the past year, ever occurred.

Does this matter? Probably not in the sense of moving many voters. Senator Kerry's claim to have spoken at length to all Security Council ambassadors was always ridiculous at bottom and lacking in detail. It is very hard to imagine that any substantial number of voters at all points in the political spectrum actually believes that Senator Kerry wasn't grossly exaggerating on this point. So there is very little new information in this report with respect to Senator Kerry's character or experience. (Senator Kerry's potential supporters just don't care that he lies.)

But nonetheless there is a major piece of new information in one aspect of this report: The ambassadors of all those Security Council members were willing to speak to the Washington Times and squarely refute Senator Kerry's claims.

Those ambassadors could have merely said to the Times reporter that as foreign ambassadors they didn't want to get involved in a United States presidential race by responding to the question. Or that they generally don't talk to reporters. Or just refused to take or return the reporter's call. But the ambassadors didn't do any of those things. Instead, they responded to a conservative newspaper in a way guaranteed to undercut the Senator's prospects. That doesn't seem very consistent with the ambassadors and their home countries believing that John Kerry will soon be the President of the United States.

And those ambassadors are not alone in behaving as if they believe President Bush has the race sewed up unless something very big and new happens to put the other man in the White House. Kerry-Edwards, for example, seems to greet every recent morning with a new "Hail Mary" pass with enormous risk. Today, for example, John Kerry fully embraced the New York Times' odd and highly incomplete report of the "disappearance" of 380 tons of high explosives in Iraq. Senator John Kerry seized on the missing cache as "one of the great blunders of Iraq" and said President Bush's "incredible incompetence" had put American troops at risk.

But it was John Kerry who put his campaign at risk by naively accepting a weakly supported report on which to base his harsh assault on Mr. Bush. In addition to being weakly supported, the report comes with many unanswered questions, including why it is being put out after much delay and with obvious intent to influence the American elections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a body that has shown itself to be capable of highly partisan and questionable maneuvers in the past. Now DRUDGE reports that the report is really re-cycled blather from months ago despite the Times' breathless claims to "exclusivity" and Senator Kerry's Hail Mary may have been summarily rejected:

Tonight, NBCNEWS reported: The 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives were already missing back in April 10, 2003 -- when U.S. troops arrived at the installation south of Baghdad! An NBCNEWS crew embedded with troops moved in to secure the Al-Qaqaa weapons facility on April 10, 2003, one day after the liberation of Iraq. According to NBCNEWS, the HMX and RDX explosives were already missing when the American troops arrived. "The U.S. Army was at the site one day after the liberation and the weapons were already gone," a top Republican blasted from Washington late Monday.

Simply put: If NBCNEWS is right, Senator Kerry is going to look like a very big and highly incompetent ass just days before the election. If he believed that the election were really as close as the polls and media are suggesting, his decision to take the risk of embracing a flaky, partisan Times story on the very day it appeared.

But a premature embrace of what may be a major Times embarrassment poses a small risk compared to the risks represented by Senator Kerry's embrace of Bill Clinton.

Why is Kerry-Edwards taking these chances if they believe in their "winning scenario": President Bush's lead is small, and undecideds "break" in favor of the challenger. That's it, right? Just stay the course, and everything should be all right. So why does Kerry-Edwards seem not to be staying any identifiable course at all?

Other items also suggest that Senator Kerry is doing a lot worse than the national public polls and media reports suggest:

Three polls (one in Florida) indicate that between 15% and 20% of African-Americans have "trended away" (Donna Brazille's term) to the point of saying that they will vote Republican. The Florida poll is consistent with the most recent Gallup results in that state placing Bush-Cheney much in the lead there. Kerry-Edwards has also had a great deal of trouble securing its female suburban base. These minority and female problems of Kerry-Edwards appear to be the justifications for yanking the volatile (and popular) but now almost cadaverous-looking Mr. Clinton from his hospital bed to campaign. Mr. Clinton's Philadelphia performance - which urged voters to vote for the candidate who appealed to their hopes more than their fears - was as dubious and "nuanced" as his dreadful Boston convention address that flogged Senator Kerry's blind vanity and the theme that he was a child of privilege.

Bush-Cheney has a small lead in Hawaii and Connecticut in some polls - states that are supposed to be unquestionably and unambiguously in John Kerry's corner.

Senator Kerry actually took time yesterday to drone on about the attenuated and almost irrelevant micro-issue of flu vaccine. This behavior does not suggest that he thinks his big issues are working ... or are going to work.

Mr. Bush is not personally campaigning much in Ohio, as if he and his campaign believe the state is secured. This is consistent with the recent Zogby Poll results in that state that give Mr. Bush a 5% lead.

Tony Blair agreed to move British troops from Basra to points near Baghdad.

The economic models predict Mr. Bush will take about 57% of the vote - that's not a close race at all, even if one allows for a generous margin of error.

There has been no sign, yet, that undecided voters are "breaking" for the challenger. Quite the contrary: Mr. Bush's lead seems to be slowly growing in the better polls and at least stable in the rest. His margin in the better polls seems to be converging to a point within the margin of error of what economic models are predicting.

Even the grifters who manufacture the hilariously manipulated Los Angeles Times poll (the very same people who predicted that California Governor's Grey Davis' landslide recall election would be "close") can't bring themselves to award Kerry-Edwards more than a "tie."

Some liberal Democratic columnists whose work generally reads like the DNC's daily talking points, such as Ron Brownstein at the Los Angeles Times, are wringing their hands over the possible "illegitimacy" of the likely election results.

It is curious that so many factors, including the behavior of many knowledgeable insiders of various political stripes and of international actors, suggest that the race is really not all that close.

MORE: On the NBCNEWS report.

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