One Week To Go and Still a Crap Shoot

10.27.2004 | Russ Smith | Media Affairs, National Affairs | 5 Comments

Just a week until Election Day and no honest person can tell you who’s going to win the presidency. I’ve put modest amounts of dough on George W. Bush to squeak past John Kerry by a 1.5 percent margin in the popular vote, while taking the Electoral College with a tally short of 300. That’s a far cry from 2000, when I was certain the Texan would defeat Al Gore comfortably. There’s too much conflicting information buzzing on the internet about last-minute dirty tricks, upcoming stories that’ll embarrass either candidate and an absurd number of national state polls that are at odds with one another.

On Oct. 24, for example, if you logged on to Real Clear Politics, two shocks assaulted the eyes: a poll (500 likely voters) finding a 48-48 tie in Arkansas, a state Kerry had written off, and a similarly weird snapshot in Hawaii (as Democratic a state as Rhode Island, despite encroaching GOP gains in recent years) that has Bush ahead by a point, according to that state’s Star-Bulletin. It all makes you dizzy, and with any luck the final result will be conclusive sometime in the early morning hours of Nov. 3. Otherwise, it’s a month or more of litigation and a bonanza for lawyers, a group of professionals held in about equal esteem as politicians and journalists.

Not that the previous week wasn’t without its moments of high-octane hilarity. By all indications actor Matt Damon seems to be a fairly intelligent fellow, a celebrity who makes smart career decisions (unlike his buddy Ben Affleck) and can now open a movie to huge box-office receipts. I thought Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s depiction of him as IQ-challenged in Team America was a riot and, unlike Sean Penn, Mr. Bourne Supremacy hasn’t made a stink about it. But when it comes to politics, Damon does appear a little slow. Who cares one way or the other if he’s an ardent Kerry partisan—in Hollywood, endorsing Bush puts you on the fast track to a blacklist—but his recent statement in Berlin last week was downright nutty.

Damon said, “I would pay $1 million to have Kerry in the White House.” Yeah? Considering that the native Bostonian commands Curt Schilling-like millions for a single film, isn’t that kind of on the skinflint side? One lousy million! I’d still disagree with his choice for president, but would have a lot more respect for the relatively young man if he’d pledged his next monstrous paycheck to a Kerry-friendly charity. I’m sure the Sierra Club, NOW or the ACLU would be grateful for the donation.

At least Damon can take comfort that another entertainer, Eminem, appears even more stupid, according to a recent Rolling Stone story. The white rapper told the biweekly that although Kerry hasn’t closed the deal on his vote, “Bush is definitely not my homie.”

On about the same intellectual plane is Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham, who moaned in his November “Notebook” column that he, an affluent member of the Manhattan media elite, is a disenfranchised voter. Just like felons in Florida! Maybe Eminem can have dinner with Lord Lapham at Nobu, two “homies” just passing the time over $300 worth of sushi and sake while discussing Sudan, the inherent evil of Wal-Mart and those neat “No More Blood for Oil” posters that are for sale in certain parts of the country.

Lapham is disconcerted because, as a New Yorker, his vote won’t mean anything since the state is a gimme for Kerry, and then presents a repetitious condemnation of the Electoral College. The editor goes on and on—as if this is a new argument advanced by his ilk—about how most of the U.S. is shut out during presidential elections with the “swing states” getting all the advertisements and appearances by the candidates and their surrogates. Most people, I think, are pleased they’re spared the deluge of baloney, but not Lapham.

He writes: “The majority of the country’s African Americans live in the southern states, their presence unremarked upon and their concerns unaddressed by either presidential candidate, because the southern states routinely deliver their electoral votes to the Republicans. Similarly, in the New England states, the electoral vote routinely goes to the Democrats, with the result that both presidential candidates ignore the presence of conservative, socialist, libertarian, or independently minded voters in Rhode Island and Connecticut.”

What Lapham doesn’t grasp is that “swing states” vary from election to election—perhaps not every four years, but certainly in a 12-year cycle—and that it depends not only on the candidate but the era that puts a state in play. Surely he hasn’t forgotten Bill Clinton’s strength in the South in ‘92 and ‘96, or the not-so-ancient time when New Jersey, Illinois and even California fell into the GOP column.

Apparently not. He’d rather be down with the masses and declare himself “disenfranchised.” And this guy still has a job. Just like Manny Ramirez could use a “designated fielder,” I think Harper’s might try out a “designated editor.”

There’s a wealth of choices for the position. Perhaps the UK Guardian’s Charlie Brooker, who may have done the impossible on Oct. 23, writing a column that’s so paranoid and devoid of reason that he makes the entire BBC seem like a non-partisan organization.

Brooker writes (and the Guardian subsequently apologized): “[At least Kerry’s] not a lying, sniggering, drink-driving, selfish, reckless, ignorant, dangerous, backwards, drooling, twitching, blinking, mouse-faced little cheat… On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. [Brooker, like too many Europeans, doesn’t consider Israel “civilized.”] And Sod’s law dictates he’ll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr.—where are you now that we need you?”

Harper’s could go the Rosie O’Donnell route, which would probably meet with Andrew Sullivan’s (this year’s David Brock) approval. Last Saturday night in Fort Lauderdale, O’Donnell headlined a sparsely attended Kerry rally and was sublimely on-message. After a rousing defense of the stout United Nations, Rosie turned on the accelerator, saying: “We were built on the foundation of freedom and truth and equality for all people. [I may have skipped history class one day, but Benjamin Franklin’s treatise endorsing gay marriage and his stinging rebuke of slavery eludes me.] And the rich, corporate, horrible, horrible people who have been destructing and ruining everything this country was made on has been really unbelievably damaging to all of us spiritually, emotionally, monetarily.”

Maybe Rosie didn’t sock away the millions she made from the corporate entities that funded her television show and magazine once upon a time, and it could be that unlike Damon she doesn’t have a million bucks to wish upon a star that Kerry occupies the White House, but couldn’t she do the public a favor and just disappear?

Or least take over Lapham’s job at Harper’s, which amounts to the same thing.

As I said above, the election results are anyone’s guess. But Democratic journalists are already preparing for the worst. Let’s start with Paul Krugman, who began his Oct. 22 Times column with the following message, undoubtedly approved by Kerry. “If the election were held today and the votes were counted fairly, Senator John Kerry would probably win. But the votes won’t be counted fairly, and the disenfranchisement of minority voters may determine the outcome.”

Nostradamus is alive and well.

Robert Kuttner, a Boston Globe contributor and president of the paleolib American Prospect, trumps even the noxious Krugman. His Oct. 20 Globe column, which doesn’t address the simple fact that voter fraud is a bipartisan vocation, worries, soulfully, that the country is heading toward catastrophe. He writes: “The Republicans are out to steal the 2004 election—before, during, and after Election Day. Before Election Day, they are employing such dirty tricks as improper purges of voter rolls, use of dummy registration groups that tear up Democratic registrations, and the suppression of Democratic efforts to sign up voters, especially blacks and students.”

Kuttner acknowledges that a handful of rich Democrats who, like the Kerrys, own multiple homes in different states, might vote twice or three times, but preposterously claims that the days of his side’s election shenanigans belong to the ages. Recounting the 1960 election, in which the campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were a bit slimy, Kuttner proclaims: “It was Richard Nixon, that scoundrel’s scoundrel, who resisted the temptation to mount a court challenge to the Illinois result because he felt the country couldn’t take it. Imagine longing for the days when we had Republican leadership as principled as Nixon’s.”

According to the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz (Oct. 25), who wrote about Kerry’s journalist buddies girding for the worst next week, some fear the apocalypse is right around the corner. Columbia professor Todd Gitlin, a frequent Times essayist, said: “I would not be surprised to see outbursts of political violence the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Weather Underground of the 1970s.”

Get a grip, man. Does Gitlin really believe, in private, that without the military draft, which mobilized the youth-led protests of the 60s, that another four years of Bush will result in “political violence”? Maybe he hopes so—a delightful acid flashback—but 21st-century kids, at least those not indoctrinated by Boomer academics like Gitlin, have more to worry about than the media-created hobgoblin named George W. Bush.



In reference to the statement about Israel, I don't think there is a great deal of love for President Bush there. Overall Kerry has been quite supportive of Israel, in both his campaign and as a senator. One should also look to the visit to Israel by Kerry's brother, where he was quite well recieved by Labor.
The Israeli left (and far right) both hate Bush because they feel that the administration has interfered with Israel's political process by shoring up Sharon. A degree of interference akin to imperialism.
To think that there is one candidate better or worse for Israel (or more or less supportive) is, I think, untrue.


10.27.2004 | M. Martin
While inspired by his high energy level, I remain mystified by the (rabid?) Mugger's insistence upon supporting as his leader a man thoroughly unlike Mugger himself.

Mugger is smart. W is dumb.

Mugger has never (I presume) killed 15,000+ innocent people and called it an act of liberation.

Mugger is not (I presume) likely to benefit in any significant way from the W tax cuts for the wealthy or the correlative corporate loopholes that reward businesses for moving jobs abroad.

Mugger (I presume) was disturbed to learn that W failed to secure tons, yes, TONS, of explosive materials in Iraq, thus clearly making the entire region less, not more safe.

Mugger (I presume) would like his children and his children's children to live in a world with green grass and trees.

Mugger (I presume) thinks it is wrong for W to charge reckless taxcuts to Mugger's children's credit cards while simultaneously abolishing social security.

I just don't get it. It cannot be (can it be?) that Mugger believes that because W swaggers and talks like a redneck illiterate hick from a blue collar family, that he really is just an average hard-working guy trying to run a country as best he can?

Mugger must know that W bankrupted every company he ever ran and is well on his way to bankrupting this country. Don't you see that, Mugger?

In conclusion, Mugger, you don't really believe (do you?) that W's policy directives are actually handed down to him by God? (Is God just a wealthy man?)
10.27.2004 | theo
Pout all you want to lefties. Kerry will sell out Israel just like Clinton and your made up crappola like 15000 dead innocents (why not 150000 since you're making stuff up?) won't convince anyone but the already loony.
10.27.2004 | Evil Sandmich
à propos of Evil's remarks:

1) You may have heard of the "felony murder rule", according to which all people killed during the commission of a crime are considered murder victims of the person committing the crime. The reasoning behind the felony murder rule is that, had the crime had not occurred, then the victims would not be dead, and so the criminal is directly responsible for their deaths.

George W. Bush invaded Iraq illegally. He violated international law by waging an offensive war, which is forbidden by the Charter of the United Nations(1945), a document largely composed by the U.S. itself, I might add. Since only the UN Security Council can sanction an act of war, unless it is a direct response to a direct attack (which would constitute an act of self-defense), and George W. Bush brushed aside the UN as "irrelevant", his war in Iraq is just as illegal as was Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Saddam Hussein also claimed at the time that his invasion was an act of "self-defense", but that did not make it any less a crime, according to international law. Just because a leader claims that he is acting in self-defense, does not mean that he is. (Another good example is Hitler.)

People who break laws are referred to in English as "criminals". Therefore, since George W. Bush violated international law, he is a criminal, and every person killed during his criminal war is a murder victim.

15,000+ innocent people have been killed in Iraq. George W. Bush is directly responsible for all of those people's deaths, since had he never invaded Iraq, they would not be dead.

QED

2) I am cheered by your use of verb tense in describing Kerry's prospective actions (as commander-in-chief). Like Susan Smith (who spoke of her "missing" children in the past tense), your use of language reveals that you believe that Bush will indeed be defeated next week. Let us all hope, in solidarity with the world community, that about this, at least, you are right.
10.28.2004 | ts brock
Addendum:

"In a medical study being published today, scientists have concluded that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has resulted in the deaths of at least 100,000 Iraqis, 'and may be much higher'. It further revealed that most of the 100,000 Iraqis who died were killed in violent deaths, primarily carried out by U.S. forces' airstrikes. 'Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children,' according to the study. The study was designed and conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad (The Lancet, October 29, 2004)."
10.29.2004 | ts brock

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