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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

ON THE TRAIL, 1st edition
The campaign season is in full swing. The incumbent is spending the majority of his time out on the stump. The challenger is in the middle of a cross-country whistle-stop tour. The candidates and their surrogates are fiercely attacking one another. Supporters are clashing in the streets. And every day brings a new movement in the polls. Isn't late October great? Wait, it's only mid-August? What the hell??

Typically, August is a quiet month in an election season, but not this year. No, Kerry and Bush have been duking it out every day through the media, and sometimes, as was the case in Davenport, Iowa last week, in person. For this reason, I'm starting a regular feature here at Days to keep track of the many machinations of this campaign. Let's see what's happening On the Trail, shall we?

Your First Born? Yeah, That'll Do.
Ever watch any of W's campaign stops? Do you notice how enthusiastic the people that attend them are? At Kerry rallies there always seem to be a few dissenters in the crowd, as was the case last week in Missouri when Teresa Heinz-Kerry responded to hecklers chants of "four more years" with a tart retort of "four more years of hell!" (I'm liking her more and more every day). But not at Bush's rallies, nope. Earlier this week in Pensacola, Bush was unable to be heard (probably for the best) because the "four more years" chant was so loud. It's pretty impressive really, and great for the cameras of course. It's an overwhelming site when you watch these events on television.

So how is this possible? Are Bush supporters that numerous and that overpowering? Well, no, not exactly. The truth is, Bush's handlers 'screen out' any would-be dissenters through a variety of methods. At an event this upcoming Friday in Oregon for example, supporters who want to attend the president's speech are being asked to 'volunteer' to call voters in swing states in order to get tickets. In West Virginia on the 4th of July, a couple was arrested and dragged away in handcuffs because they were wearing anti-Bush t-shirts. And in New Mexico last week, it was revealed that people who wanted to attend the president's speech were forced to sign an oath declaring their loyalty to the Bush administration. No, really, that's what they did.

When asked about the policy and whether they would continue to ask for pledges, Republican party spokesperson Yier Shi said, "Yes, if we feel our event will get disrupted again, we will use the same method to make sure it's a positive event." When asked what the party's definition of positive was, Shi said"without interruption, without debate - just (without) disruption, period." This is democracy in George W. Bush's America folks, love it or move to Canada.

Of course, you can't take these people to seriously - here's exactly how the pledge was worded: "I ... herby endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States."

I had no idea the United States was up for reelection...

Today's To Do: Churn Butter, Raise Barn, Vote
We've all heard that this election may be as close, maybe even closer, then in 2000, (but hopefully more accurate). As evidence of this, the candidates are pulling out all the stops and going after every demographic they can. As was reported last week, the Bush campaign is courting the Amish vote. I guess touchscreen voting is out of the question for this group, eh? And since when did the Amish become so hot?? They're like the new gay! Amish Eye for the Atheist Guy.

Meanwhile, Kerry went after a different group: Cubans. Babalu!

Take This Job and -say it Teresa, say it!- Shove It!
The Bush team received some unwelcome news last week in the from of the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department. They had expected job growth of 228,000 in July. They got 32.,000. Not bad, they were only off by 200,000. Uh, how's that recovery coming George?

"Today's employment report shows our economy is continuing to move forward," the president declared at a campaign rally in Stratham, New Hampshire.
According to The Nation, a joke was circulating among Wall Street traders on the heels of last week's dismal jobs report:

"Fewer jobs were created in the US in the entire month of July than the number of people who will be inside Madison Square Garden for the GOP convention at the end of August."
And the Washington Post calls W's tax cuts into question here.

Pick a Team John!
Late last week, wildcat Senator John McCain came forth to strongly criticized advertisements from the Bush-friendly group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, (or better put, Bitter Veterans for Bush). McCain lashed out at the ads, calling them "dishonest and dishonorable." He said the ads were "the same kind of deal that was pulled on me" while he was running against George W. in the 2000 primaries. He said he couldn't believe the "president would stoop to this level," and called on W. to immediately condemn the ads. Bush has offered no condemnation.

McCain had finally had enough, thank god. It seemed as though he was through toeing the party line and publicly supporting the president and his policies, right? Wrong. Today, McCain introduced Bush at a campaign rally in Florida, saying Bush has "earned our admiration and our love." He will campaign again with the president today. Really John, take a stand. Please. We know you hate Bush, we can see the grimace on your face when you say things like "admiration" and "love" when speaking of him. Come over to this side John, please.

McCain's political dithering aside, the ads themselves show just what level Bush supporters with big money will stoop to in order to get their man re-elected. For one, none of the vets featured in the ad even served with John Kerry. Sure, they were in Vietnam, but they weren't on his boat. Keep in mind, these are the same people who attacked Georgia Democrat Max Cleland, another Vietnam vet and a triple-amputee, as being unpatriotic during his senate race in 2002. As spokesman for the group, Mike Russell, even had the audacity to say the ads "are not meant to influence the presidential election." Are you kidding me? One of the veterans featured in the ad has since come forward to say that he regretted his participation in the smear.

I have one question: Does George W. Bush really want his surrogates to take him down this road, particularly in light of his own service record, or lack thereof? As one combat veteran stated recently in an open letter, "John Kerry went, served and bled, while George Bush found himself a safe, smug and secure haven. So how do you ask any man to be the last man to die for a lie?" As we approach the 1,000th American military death in Iraq, the question seems more than appropriate.

For a more humorous take on McCain's public denouncement of the ads, (you know, without the whole 1,000 deaths thing), check out Wonkette's interpretations.

This is Your President on Drugs
Of course, the Republicans aren't the only ones who can participate in smear campaigns, the Dems do it too - it's just that the GOP is so much better at it. But the Dems are catching up, as evidenced by this story from Capitol Hill Blue, a DC-focused alternative news site. Clearly, this story is nothing but conjecture and innuendo, but when an article features the following line, it's just too good not to post:
“We have to face the very real possibility that the President of the United States is loony tunes.”

Chuckle at the full story here, and it's follow up here.

Not Strong on Crime
And perhaps the highlight of the early campaign season came last week when Kerry and Bush's paths crossed in the small town of Davenport, Iowa. It seems strange that in a country as big as America, the two men would end up in the same podunk 'burg at the same time. But that synchronous happenstance was overshadowed by a few entrepreneurial thieves who decided there was no better time for a stick-up. Perhaps they had seen this news report, which begins "Nearly every police officer in Davenport will be on the job Wednesday morning when President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, visit the town just a quarter of a mile apart," because as the candidates were speaking, three banks were robbed and a bomb threat was called in.

All I can say is, watch out Portland, and beware Seattle... both candidates are coming through the Northwest this Friday.

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