In retrospect, Kerry seems to have done fine as Secretary of State. Perhaps John's 2004 assessment of his foreign policy skills was incorrect. I do like the phrase with which John starts his post.
Debate 2; Kerry Undermined; Ant-Zionist Email; The Derivative Dead
I have just three points about Friday's townhall-style debate between President Alfred E. Newman and Senator Nyarlathotep:
(1) Bush had it within his power to sew up the foreign-policy element of the campaign once and for all. When Kerry lamented that the Blix inspections of Iraq had not been allowed to continue, Bush came back and said, "But that was Saddam's plan: to deceive the inspectors!" Actually, anyone familiar with the final WMD report from Iraq knew that Saddam's plan was to make sure the UN inspectors found there were no WMD stocks, and then go back into production when the sanctions were lifted as a result of their report. In effect, Kerry's position is that Iraq should have been allowed to resume WMD production, once the international process had been completed.
I am pretty sure that Bush almost said that, but declined at the last moment to stray too far from his prepared points. The mistake was not fatal, but he could have turned a narrow win into a resounding victory.
(2) Bush conceded the pro-science argument about embryonic stem-cell research to Kerry. He did this despite a well-informed question from the audience, which pointed out that somatic stem cells actually are much more promising. Bush should have mentioned the rejection problem associated with unrelated embryonic stem cells, and suggested that singling out embryonic stem cells as a panacea is a cruel hoax.
(3) Bush made a bit of a fool of himself in the first debate by emphasizing how hard his job was. Kerry seems to create much the same impression by saying, "I have a plan."
By the way, I have a new, campaign-related animation online[NB: this page wasn't crawled and I have no copy]. It is no challenge to JibJab, but at least it has no pictures of New Jersey politicians in diapers.
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Has someone hacked into the New York Times and entered anti-Kerry propaganda? I have rarely seen such damning pieces about the senator as the two that appear in today's edition. The lesser of the two is on the frontpage: Wealth of Others Helped to Shape Kerry's Life, by Robert F. Worth. The burden of that article is that, though Kerry's own parents were merely well-to-do, his extended family dwelt in picturesquely situated castles to which he was often invited as a boy. Now that he is married to Theresa Heinz, of course, he lives in unexampled opulence.
At another time, people might view these details and say, "What a lucky guy!" When you are running for president, however, you want people to think of you what tactful Russians said of themselves after the Bolshevik Revolution: "My father was a factory worker, and my mother was two peasants!"
More serious is the article in the Times Sunday magazine, Kerry's Undeclared War, by Matt Bai. It's a about Kerry's foreign policy, but the reporter's account of Kerry as a person are not reassuring, particularly for a candidate who is campaigning in large part for a chance to use his diplomatic skills. For instance:
Those who saw Kerry that morning [of 911] recall mainly that he was furious, an emotion, those close to him say, that comes easily to him in times of trial.
What the reporter himself saw of Kerry was no better:
A row of Evian water bottles had been thoughtfully placed on a nearby table. Kerry frowned.
''Can we get any of my water?'' he asked Stephanie Cutter, his communications director, who dutifully scurried from the room. I asked Kerry, out of sheer curiosity, what he didn't like about Evian.
''I hate that stuff,'' Kerry explained to me. ''They pack it full of minerals.''
''What kind of water do you drink?'' I asked, trying to make conversation.
''Plain old American water,'' he said.
''You mean tap water?''
''No,'' Kerry replied deliberately. He seemed now to sense some kind of trap.
The substance of the piece is not wholly to Kerry's discredit. The reporter points out that, in the 1990s, Kerry was advocating enhancements of the laws against international money laundering that were blocked in the Republican Congress, and which became law only when the USA Patriot Act was passed. Still, the final assessment is damnation by faint praise:
[Kerry's] aversion to Big Think has resulted in one of the campaign's oddities: it is Bush, the man vilified by liberals as intellectually vapid, who has emerged as the de facto visionary in the campaign, trying to impose some long-term thematic order on a dangerous and disorderly world, while Kerry carves the globe into a series of discrete problems with specific solutions...
And he may well be right, despite the ridicule from Cheney and others, when he says that a multinational, law-enforcement-like approach can be more effective in fighting terrorists. But his less lofty vision might have seemed more satisfying -- and would have been easier to talk about in a political campaign -- in a world where the twin towers still stood.
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Readers may have heard of an odd piece of email propaganda aimed at undercutting Evangelical support for President Bush. Some evil server finally sent me a copy. It purports to come from "Charles E. Carlson," which a hasty glance may render as "Chuck Colson," the evangelical activist. The email contains observations like this:
It is also not generally understood by evangelicals that what fires them to think and vote as a bloc is that, like robots, they have been conditioned to accept the state of Israel as a world power by an aggressive movement that was launched almost a hundred years ago--World Zionism-and that this conditioning has diverted them from their true path into one that serves Israel, not Jesus.
The point of origin is given as www.straitgateminstry.org. The URL was not working when I tried it.
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Last night, I viewed Godsend, one of those modest but high-quality horror-flicks that the Canadians do so well now that they have lost the hang of hockey. I suspect the screenplay originally had a simple, original premise: a boy who was killed in an accident is cloned by his grieving parents; the cloned boy begins to be haunted by, in effect, his own ghost when he reaches the age when his prototype died.
Apparently that was too simple. The movie has it that the evil scientist who did the cloning spliced some DNA from his own dead, psychopathic son, into the new boy. For some reason, this nasty streak begins to express itself only when the cloned boy reaches the age when his primary prototype died. Go figure.
We are back with Igor stealing the wrong brain from the medical school. That detail was absent from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Could we not lose it again?
Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly