Monthly Archives: July 2004

Wondering Where Your Dollars Went

For those who think the economy is turning around and that we’re all doing better because a few are, read this item from the Center for American Progress. Apparently the number of people who think Bush’s tax cuts have been good for the country – or even themselves – are few.

What Will Kerry Say?

The most anticipated and important speech of John Kerry’s career is Thursday. Many wonder if he can make it a defining moment. I’m afraid it better be – or it’s four more years of the idiots.

Ken Baer, a former Gore speechwriter (how’s that for a tough task), writes a little bit of what Kerry shouldn’t say and more about how Kerry should deliver his speech.

Overall, his six points aren’t bad:

First and foremost, speak to the audience at home, not to those gathered in the convention hall.

…Second, mesh biography with destiny.

…Third, do not be bold.

…Fourth, mention Ronald Reagan.

…Fifth, less John F. Kennedy and more John Wayne.

…Finally, don’t go over the time allotted.

Catergorically, I agree with numbers 1,2 and 6. Number three is also a pretty good idea in that you don’t want to offer some new far reaching policy that is subject to instant analysis.

I don’t think there’s a need to mention Ronnie. The glow from his funeral has already dimmed considerably. But certainly, as Baer suggests, optimism is important. We don’t want another malaise speech, a la Jimmy Carter.

And “let us” and other rhetorical flourishes aren’t necessary but neither are they antithetical. Any speaker should first and foremost be comfortable with his own words.

Writing yesterday in The Washington Post, Clinton speechwriter Jeff Shesol, agreed. But Kerry has to be careful not to try to sound like an eastern cowboy. If anything, Kerry needs to present a clear alternative, not a slightly leftist version of “Bring it on” bravado.

More important than any of these suggestions is to stake out a clear and compelling vision of the future. And that will take the courage to disagree not only with what Bush has done but what he seems prepared to do in the future.

It’s OK for Kerry to say that he understands that Americans want affordable health care and retirement before they want tax cuts. It’s OK to say that our role in the world is not to bully those we disagree with but to understand their positions and work for peace. Bush doesn’t want peace; he wants to win a war. There’s a big difference.

Kerry needs to articulate how he will address some of the reasons terrorists exist. It’s not because “they hate freedom and our way of life.” As Anonymous, the author of the book “Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror,” has articulated, we are fighting with people who don’t like our policies. Some of those fixes are easy: Get our troops of Saudi Arabia. Others are harder but possible: Seek a balanced approach to the Middle East and pressure repressive regimes in the Arab world to embrace democracy.

On the domestic front, I hope Kerry dwells on the two Americas John Edwards has identified. Kerry needs to tell us that there’s no longer a level playing field. People who work hard should be able to provide for their families and they should be judged no more harshly than “them that’s got.”

What seems to upset a lot of people is that there is no sense of fair play anymore. Whether its greater prison sentences for black kids for crack cocaine vs. a few months at Club Fed or parole for white kids sniffing the same stuff to white collar crime that’s viewed as almost a cost of doing business, there are plenty of fairness issues that would resonant. My father used to say that in his time when a company went bankrupt, the leaders resigned in disgrace and avoided the limelight. Now they negotiate a multi-million dollar severance, appear on talk shows and then remerge as the chief executive of another firm.

Kerry can evoke the idea of personal responsibility in a way that all can embrace. Yes, those who aren’t born lucky have to work a little harder. But those lucky ones also have a personal responsibility to others. We all have a responsibility to each other. The next dollar the millionaire earns should be about as hard to make as the next one the plumber makes. We shouldn’t allow some people to live in decadence and outside the law when some who abide by the law are starving, especially when they’re children. Perhaps no better example exists than in the nation’s capital where “the top 20 percent of the city’s households have 31 times the average income of the 20 percent at the bottom.”

If Kerry doesn’t hit a home run this week, his candidacy may be doomed. If that happens, what might become of the Democratic party? Daily Kos has some thoughts.

Kerry On the Nightly News

I’m not sure if I should be concerned about this or not. Since I rarely watch TV news – especially the evening network news, I don’t care what Jennings et al report. But I’m not most people. If I were, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.


Home and online after two weeks in Europe. Family vacation for the most part, but talked a little politics with friends in Denmark, Germany, France and England.

My friends there say there is little anti-Americanism, but plenty of anti-Bush sentiment. You and I are OK, but they don’t think much of Dubya and Dick.

The most interesting observations were in Britain (because I could actually read the local newspapers), where problems reflect those we have here: higher real estate taxes due to cutbacks in national spending, gang problems (called yobbing there) and Prime Minister Tony Blair (called “B-LIAR” by his harshest critics) under the gun from a new report criticizing intelligence failures.

Blair was unscathed by the so-called Blair Report, helped in part by the Tories pulling a Kerry. The party’s leader Michael Howard, who had supported the war, now say he wouldn’t have if he knew the intelligence was bad.

In advance of elections scheduled for next year, Blair, from the Labor Party, is touting conservatives credentials by calling for a cracked down on crime and blaming today’s permissive society on the culture of the 60s. (Unfortunately, some British newspapers require subscription for back issues, so I don’t have links to all the specific articles I read.) One suggestion by a national task force was to ask neighbors who there most troublesome neighbors who would then be targeted by authorities. When my 15-year old son heard about it, his comment was, “Sounds like 1984.” I’ll second that.

Though the undergrounds and subways are better than anything we have except probably in New York, traffic congestion is a problem, and in the U.K., they are proposing an expensive way of paying for it.

There’s row brewing over property taxes. As in the U.S., people are complaining about being taxed out of their homes.

Overall, the cost of living in London and the U.K. in general is much higher than I realized during previous trips to U.K. Rents in London are astronomically. And houses have appreciated substantially in the last few years. Food is high and with the dollar depressed, it’s an expensive vacation spot, but then so is the rest of Europe. The declining dollar is hurting U.S. tourism.

While I was in Europe, Siemens announced a new contract with its workers that called for an increase in the work week from 36 to 40 hours. Probably made the papers here, too. Other European companies are following suit.

Still, in talking to my friends, I sense they have it better than they would in the U.S. My Danish friends say they pay about 40% in taxes but for it get free health care and free higher education. In fact, they are paid a stipend to attend universities there. They said the minimum wage in Denmark – one that someone who leaves school at the minimum age of 16 and goes to work flipping burgers is the equivalent of $25 an hour. Costs are higher there, but my friends tell me minimum wage is a livable wage there.

In Germany, my friend tells me she pays about 500 euros a month for health care, but that the plan recently introduced a $10 maximum charge per quarter for doctor visits. She pays about $750 a month for a small flat in a beautiful old section of Essen called Kittwich.

My English friends say things are tighter there. Now making about 40,000 pounds a year and living in a small three bedroom townhouse in Bristol, they say they’re OK, but with two small children, 50,000 pounds a year (about $88,000) would put them in fine shape.

These fragments of information don’t really add up to much, but my overall impression is that these friends (all of who are in their late 20s or early 30s) suggest Europeans are comparing better against us than I’ve observed in the past. They’re giving up some benefits of their more socialist states, but overall, the disparity among the working class is less than it used to be.

No Blogging for a Couple of Weeks

I’ll be traveling out of the country for two weeks with limited access to computers. But perhaps I’ll come back with a better understanding of how Europeans feel about America. Stand by.

F 9/11 Discussion

A showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 tomorrow (Thursday, July 8) at the Cinema Arts Theatre in Fairfax will be followed by a discussion moderated by Rich Rubinstein, professor of conflict resolution and public affairs at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in Fairfax. The panel includes, in the left corner, Marcus Raskin, co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies. In the right corner, Lee Edwards, distinguished senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

The Cinema Arts Theatre is in the Fairfax City Mall on Little River Road in Fairfax, near the intersection of Pickett Road. The movie begins at 7:40 p.m. The panel will discuss the film for about a half an hour and then time will be devoted to audience participation. A similar panel was held after “The Passion.” Then as now, the movie is playing to packed houses, so it’s a good idea to get your tickets early.


So we got the VP nominee many progressives wanted. John Edwards’s greatest attraction is his vitality, especially compared to Kerry’s dour, some say sour, disposition.

For Edwards, it’s a no-brainer. If Kerry loses, Edwards becomes the front runner for ’08, if he can figure a way to keep his profile high without being in the Senate. If the Dems wins, , he gets four or perhaps eight years to cement his place as Kerry’s successor.

The worry is that against Cheney, Edwards will be perceived as a lightweight on foreign policy. But then, Cheney’s record isn’t all that impressive the last few years. His tenure recalls the old saying that it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be perceived a fool, than open it and remove all doubt. I hope Edwards, when confronted with such attacks, reminds us that Bush had even less foreign policy experience when he became president. So even being a heart beat away, he can’t be any worse.

In a debate, Edwards’s skills will take him a long way against Cheney, especially on domestic issues, where Edwards’s “two Americas” speech resonates with many voters.

But there’s likely to be only one VP debate. What will be interesting to see his how much media coverage Edwards’s campaign can attract.

And will Edwards assume the typical VP role of being an attack dog? That wasn’t his style during the nomination races. Will he abandon his sunny optimism or use it to provide contrast to the mean-spirited obscenity of Dick Cheney?

More than anything, the benefit of Edwards may be that he will energize the grassroots. Or at the very least, he won’t deflate them as a Gephardt nomination would have.

I think it’s a great choice.

Journalism: What Went Wrong?

The Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk web site had an excellent piece yesterday on how – and a little of why – journalism has become the profession of the timid. Some reporters, of course, risk their lives to get the story. But few risk their reputations.