POSTED: 14 October 2004 - 10:00am

Early poll gives Kerry the edge in final debate

illustration by Peter Scanlan in The Village Voice

Edited by Andrea Botha for 14 October 2004

Bush is 'like Tony Soprano'
President George W Bush and Democratic rival John Kerry fought over who is the most wasteful spender in their televised election debate on Wednesday.

Kerry likened a Bush lecture on running the economy to letting television show mafia boss Tony Soprano dictate law and order.

The Republican president hit back by saying Kerry was on the "far left" of American politics and an irresponsible tax-and-spend politician.

The economy was one of the key issues in the third and final debate between the two before the November 2 election.

The session was devoted to domestic issues and Kerry has sought to highlight the difficult employment situation in the United States and the huge budget deficit under the Bush administration.

Kerry has insisted he is fiscal conservative who supports the "pay-as-you-go" system of balanced spending and revenues.

Bush said "Pay-go means 'you pay' and 'he goes ahead and spends'" as he launched a strong attack on Kerry record on tax votes in the US Senate as well as his policy plan.

"Senator, no-one is playing with your votes. You voted to increase taxes 98 times. And they proposed reducing taxes and you voted against it 96 times.

"You know there's a mainstream in American politics and you sit right on the far left bank."

Bush has used huge tax cuts to relaunch the US economy, but Democrats say these have been focused on the richest Americans. Kerry has said he will cancel tax cuts for those who earn more than $200 000 a year.

"He has proposed $2.2trillion of new spending and yet the so-called tax on the rich, which is also a tax on many small business owners in America, raises $600bn by our account, 800bn by his account," said Bush.
"There is a tax gap."

Kerry said that "being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country."

He added: "This president has taken a $5.6trillion surplus and turned it into deficits as far as the eye can see."
Kerry highlighted rises in health care costs, college tuition fees and gasoline prices paid by drivers.
"But guess what, America, the wages of Americans have gone down."

Economic policy
The Democratic challenger also called for a "fair trade playing field" in international commerce to help US workers fight for their jobs.

He said the administration should have given faster help to Boeing Corporation in its battle with European rival Airbus Industrie over government subsidies and been more forceful with China over its exchange rate which many say is deliberately kept low.

"The fact is that the president had an opportunity to stand up and take on China for currency manipulation. There are companies that wanted to petition the administration. They were told: 'Don't even bother - we're not going to listen to it'."


Kerry & Bush shake hands before round three 14 October 2004

Sen. John Kerry appeared to gain more momentum heading toward November 2, easily beating President Bush in the third and final debate, a poll taken late Wednesday night suggests.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup snap poll taken immediately after the presidential debate found that respondents gave a significant edge to Kerry over Bush , 52 percent to 39 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The numbers were similar to the results of a poll taken the night of the first debate September 30 in Miami, Florida. That night Kerry was favored by a 53 percent to 37 percent margin.

Kerry and Bush were almost even in the second debate on October 5, with the numbers falling within the margin of error.

The respondents Wednesday were 511 registered voters who watched the debate. Their political affiliations broke down as 36 percent Republican, 36 percent Democratic and 28 percent independent.

The poll is a reflection of immediate impressions of only those voters who saw the debate on television, and cannot be applied to all registered voters. Views of all Americans can change in the days after a debate.

Kerry scored big gains, as 42 percent of respondents said they had a more favorable opinion of him after the debate. Bush only increased with 27 percent of those polled.
When asked who would handle domestic issues better, Kerry scored higher in health care (55-41). There was no clear leader on the economy (Kerry 51, Bush 46), education (Kerry 48, Bush 47) or taxes (Bush 50, Kerry 47).

Kerry's biggest win came on the question of who expressed himself better, where 61 percent of respondents chose him over Bush (29 percent).

The president was viewed as more likeable, but Kerry appeared to respondents as having the better understanding of issues (49-37).


Second Debate Won by Kerry

SOURCE: JUAN WILSON 9 October 2004 - 9:00am

Kerry & Bush leaning to hear quesion from audience

“My opponent said that America must pass a global test before we used force to protect ourselves. That's the kind of mindset that says sanctions were working.” George Bush

"The president just arbitrarily brought the hammer down and said, 'Nope. Sorry, time for diplomacy is over. We're going'. He rushed to war without a plan to win the peace." John Kerry

Kerry wins on points, but misses the knockout
After a disastrous week, Bush is wobbly but still standing

selection from article by Tim Grieve for published 9 October 2004

With bad news coming at him from all directions, the president frequently came off as either oblivious or willfully ignorant. In a week of car bombings in Iraq, dire safety warnings within the Baghdad Green Zone, and another beheading, Bush told the tale of meeting the Iraqi finance minister, who thought everything was going swimmingly in his country until he "turned on the TV and listened to the political rhetoric."

Faced with September job numbers that were lower than expected, lower than needed to keep up with population growth and way, way lower than his own Council of Economic Advisors projected just last year, Bush could say only that the country would be better off if the Senate cracked down on trial lawyers and passed Dick Cheney's energy bill. The economy is "growing," Bush said, and "freedom is on the march." ...

And yet Bush still came off sometimes as a little unmoored. Why was he winking at someone in the audience when Kerry was talking about nuclear proliferation? Why did he giggle when Kerry was pounding on him for rushing to war in Iraq? And what did poor Charlie Gibson do to warrant Bush's going off on him early in the debate?

Except for the giggling, Bush did manage to keep himself composed when Kerry took him to task. Kerry was good at that at times Friday night, especially when he got around to challenging Bush on the Duelfer report. When Bush said that U.N. sanctions weren't working and that the United Nations "was not effective at removing Saddam Hussein," Kerry explained: "The goal of the sanctions was not to remove Saddam Hussein. It was to remove the weapons of mass destruction. And Mr. President, just yesterday the Duelfer report told you and the whole world they worked. He didn't have weapons of mass destruction, Mr. President. That was the objective. And if we'd used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq. And right now, Osama bin Laden might be in jail or dead. That's the war against terror."

Later, Kerry made his best case yet for how Bush rushed to war -- and for how he would have done things differently. "The president just arbitrarily brought the hammer down and said, 'Nope. Sorry, time for diplomacy is over. We're going,'" Kerry said. "He rushed to war without a plan to win the peace."

Bush had no response. Kerry changed the subject to Paul Bremer's charge that Bush failed to send enough troops to Iraq. Rather than accept responsibility, Bush blamed "Tommy Franks and the generals on the ground." Kerry shot back: "You rely on good military people to execute the military component of the strategy, but winning the peace is larger than just the military component ... A president's job is to win the peace."


Bush's mystery bulge: Part 1
The rumor is flying around the globe. Was the president wired during the first debate?

by Dave Lindorff for published 8 October 2004

Was President Bush literally channeling Karl Rove in his first debate with John Kerry? That's the latest rumor flooding the Internet, unleashed last week in the wake of an image caught by a television camera during the Miami debate. The image shows a large solid object between Bush's shoulder blades as he leans over the lectern and faces moderator Jim Lehrer.

The president is not known to wear a back brace, and it's safe to say he wasn't packing. So was the bulge under his well-tailored jacket a hidden receiver, picking up transmissions from someone offstage feeding the president answers through a hidden earpiece? Did the device explain why the normally ramrod-straight president seemed hunched over during much of the debate?

Bloggers are burning up their keyboards with speculation. Check out the president's peculiar behavior during the debate, they say. On several occasions, the president simply stopped speaking for an uncomfortably long time and stared ahead with an odd expression on his face. Was he listening to someone helping him with his response to a question? Even weirder was the president's strange outburst. In a peeved rejoinder to Kerry, he said, "As the politics change, his positions change. And that's not how a commander in chief acts. I, I, uh -- Let me finish -- The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at." It must be said that Bush pointed toward Lehrer as he declared "Let me finish." The green warning light was lit, signaling he had 30 seconds to, well, finish.

Hot on the conspiracy trail, I tried to track down the source of the photo. None of the Bush-is-wired bloggers, however, seemed to know where the photo came from. Was it possible the bulge had been Photoshopped onto Bush's back by a lone conspiracy buff? It turns out that all of the video of the debate was recorded and sent out by Fox News, the pool broadcaster for the event. Fox sent feeds from multiple cameras to the other networks, which did their own on-air presentations and editing.

To watch the debate again, I ventured to the Web site of the most sober network I could think of: C-SPAN. And sure enough, at minute 23 on the video of the debate, you can clearly see the bulge between the president's shoulder blades.

Bloggers stoke the conspiracy with the claim that the Bush administration insisted on a condition that no cameras be placed behind the candidates. An official for the Commission on Presidential Debates, which set up the lecterns and microphones on the Miami stage, said the condition was indeed real, the result of negotiations by both campaigns. Yet that didn't stop Fox from setting up cameras behind Bush and Kerry. The official said that "microphones were mounted on lecterns, and the commission put no electronic devices on the president or Senator Kerry." When asked about the bulge on Bush's back, the official said, "I don't know what that was."

So what was it? Jacob McKenna, a spyware expert and the owner of the Spy Store, a high-tech surveillance shop in Spokane, Wash., looked at the Bush image on his computer monitor. "There's certainly something on his back, and it appears to be electronic," he said. McKenna said that, given its shape, the bulge could be the inductor portion of a two-way push-to-talk system. McKenna noted that such a system makes use of a tiny microchip-based earplug radio that is pushed way down into the ear canal, where it is virtually invisible. He also said a weak signal could be scrambled and be undetected by another broadcaster.

Mystery-bulge bloggers argue that the president may have begun using such technology earlier in his term. Because Bush is famously prone to malapropisms and reportedly dyslexic, which could make successful use of a teleprompter problematic, they say the president and his handlers may have turned to a technique often used by television reporters on remote stand-ups. A reporter tapes a story and, while on camera, plays it back into an earpiece, repeating lines just after hearing them, managing to sound spontaneous and error free.

Suggestions that Bush may have using this technique stem from a D-day event in France, when a CNN broadcast appeared to pick up -- and broadcast to surprised viewers -- the sound of another voice seemingly reading Bush his lines, after which Bush repeated them. Danny Schechter, who operates the news site, and who has been doing some investigating into the wired-Bush rumors himself, said the Bush campaign has been worried of late about others picking up their radio frequencies -- notably during the Republican Convention on the day of Bush's appearance. "They had a frequency specialist stop me and ask about the frequency of my camera," Schechter said. "The Democrats weren't doing that at their convention."

Repeated calls to the White House and the Bush national campaign office over a period of three days, inquiring about what the president may have been wearing on his back during the debate, and whether he had used an audio device at other events, went unreturned. So far the Kerry campaign is staying clear of this story. When called for a comment, a press officer at the Democratic National Committee claimed on Tuesday that it was "the first time" they'd ever heard of the issue. A spokeswoman at the press office of Kerry headquarters refused to permit me to talk with anyone in the campaign's research office. Several other requests for comment to the Kerry campaign's press office went unanswered.

As for whether we really do have a Milli Vanilli president, the answer at this point has to be, God only knows.


Bush's mystery bulge: Part 2
The bulge gets bigger

by Dave Lindorff for published 9 October 2004

My Salon story Friday about the mysterious rectangular bulge in Bush's suit jacket during the first debate, which has been rocketing around the Internet, crossed over to the major print media Saturday, with articles appearing in both the New York Times and the Washington Post.

While the White House and the Bush campaign repeatedly blew me off when I tried to elicit some explanation from them for the obvious bulge under the president's jacket, the Times and Post had better luck.

According to the Times, Bush's aides first tried to claim that the photo that appeared in Salon and on the Web was "doctored." When they were forced to admit that the image of the object was clear in the original video feeds of the debate, they changed their story, according to the paper, suggesting that it was nothing but a wrinkle in the president's jacket. Even the Times itself noted that they failed to explain why the wrinkle had a rectangular shape. The most important piece of information obtained by the Post reporter was a statement by the Bush campaign that the president was not wearing a bullet-proof vest during the debate appearance -- one of the most widely offered alternative explanations for the bulge in the jacket.

The Post reported that "Bush's aides tried to laugh off the controversy, with one official joking about 'little green men on the grassy knoll.'" Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt told the paper that it was preposterous to say that Bush was getting tips via a hidden receiver, although Schmidt "declined to elaborate or to suggest what could have produced the unusual photo."

And as Salon's Tim Grieve reported from the debate in St. Louis on Friday, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card offered a slightly odd sounding explanation: "Maybe his suit had a little lump in it or something. I'll tell you, he was dressed for the opportunity to talk to the American people, and I am not aware of anything that was extra-ordinary in what he was wearing."

Such feeble denials are not helping the story go away. Already a new photo from Friday night's debate is making the rounds on the Internet. This time the photo of the president's back reveals what appears to be an oblong hump under his jacket. Some people have noted the jacket is not particularly well fitted (the sleeves appear a little long and the back is wrinkled -- both odd for a president in one of the key appearances of his presidency). Speculation that Bush is getting secret help via an electronic transmission will probably not be squelched until the president offers to be searched before the third and final debate next Wednesday. Don't bet on it.




First Debate Won by Kerry

SOURCE: JUAN WILSON 1 October 2004 - 4:30am

Kerry & Bush during the fray

"Invading Iraq was a colossal error in judgement" - Kerry

"Of course we're after Saddam Hussein - I mean bin Laden" - Bush

It was gratifying to see Kerry win the debate on Iraq in both style and substance. We watched CNN and were delighted to see that CNN defied the constraints of the understanding of memorandum and used a split screen too show the reactions of the candidates to one another throughout the 90 minute debate.

Reaction shots showed Kerry taking notes and thinking while Bush spoke. While Kerry spoke the reaction of Bush was bizarre. Sometimes Bush looked annoyed or frightened. Sometimes he looked confused. We watched a replay of the debate on PBS. They showed no split screen and showed no reaction shots and the debate did not seem as lopsided in Kerry's favor. Bush's handlers will be all over this issue. Their man looked weak while not parrotting a mantra containing the words "mixed message", "strong leader", "perfectly clear".

The question now is how this will play in the crucial swing states. But it is no mixed message" to say it is "perfectly clear" Kerry is back in this race. And if the spinmasters don't distort reality beyond recognitionl, Kerry should be ahead in the polls after the next debate a week from now.


Coming into the homestretch

SOURCE: JUAN WILSON 30 September 2004 - 7:30am

preparations at the podium for first 2004 debate

The debate between Bush and Kerry will begin in a few hours (3pm Hawaii time and rebroadcast at 9pm). The impact and the interpretation in the aftermath will likely decide who will be elected president in November. This first debate will be the one most widely anticipated and watched. It will be the one focused on the War with Iraq and will solidify the mindset of journalists and pundits about the conventional wisdom that leads us to November.

The winner in November will be the most powerful man in the world and will set the agenda for our future. This will have a great impact on Kauai. Whether Kauai continues evolving into another suburb of Los Angeles serving first the needs of the aero-spatial, communications and military interest of the United States or can retain some semblance of a quiet tropical paradise living in balance with nature will be decided.

But it won't be decided here. Hawaii will certainly give it's four electoral votes to John Kerry. It is the people in the swing states (with 100 electoral votes) who will determine our fate. Those states are:

Iowa (7 votes)
(9 votes)
(10 votes)
(4 votes)
New Mexico
(5 votes)
New Hampshire
(4 votes)
(27 votes)
(21 votes)
New Jersey
(15 votes)

There are 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. According to the New York Times George Bush has 257 leaning or strongly in his camp. Kerry has 181. If this is true, then with either Pennsylvania or Florida going for Bush, it is all over.

Looking at the map above it is clear that less populated "heartland" (or as the Germans called it "fatherland") are lined up for Bush. A solid swath, north to south, from North Dakota to Texas all Bush country. An intersecting solid swath, from east to west, from South Carolina to Idaho is also solidly for Bush.

Only a fringe of populated states in the northeast, midwest and westcoast are lined up on Kerry's side. This is a bit depressing. The situation is only slightly alleviated by looking at the same map biased for electoral college votes.

Unfortunately, there are many combinations of situations that will bring Bush the presidency. We can only hope that the news media is missing a crucial aspect of the electorate's mood, or that the debate tonight will alter the landscape.

I suspect we'll be surprised. I hope we'll be delighted as well.


hit tracker