Weekend Wrap: 2 Weeks Left

Just a big roundup of news stories I felt need posting, since there's not much "real news" this weekend.

First up, here's a bit I wish John Kerry had brough up in the third debate. When Bush accused him of voting to raise taxes "98 times," Kerry should have been prompted to send viewers to FactCheck.Org for the truth about those numbers:

Bush Still Fudging the Numbers on Kerry's Tax Votes

Ad claims Kerry cast "98 votes" to raise taxes, but the total is misleading.

...The Bush-Cheney campaign released a television ad August 23 accusing Kerry of casting "98 votes for tax increases." The number is an improvement on Bush's earlier claim that Kerry cast 350 votes for "higher taxes," which we described as inflated. But even the new, reduced total is padded.

Of the 98 votes for "tax increases," 43 were cast on budget measures that only set targets and don't actually legislate tax increases. Often, several votes are counted regarding a single tax bill.

The ad also strives to blame Kerry for raising taxes on the "middle class" and says "There's what Kerry says and then there's what Kerry does." But a close look shows the votes cited in this ad are in fact fairly consistent with Kerry's promise only to raise taxes on those making over $200,000 a year.

...the ad released August 23 is called "Taxing Our Economy," accusing Kerry of voting repeatedly to raise taxes on the "middle class."

Bush-Cheney '04 Ad

"Taxing Our Economy"

Announcer: Now Kerry promises...

John Kerry: We won't raise taxes on the middle class.

Announcer: Really? John Kerry's voted to raise gas taxes on the middle class ....10 times....

He supported a 50 cent a gallon gas tax increase.

Higher taxes on middle class parents.... 18 times.

He voted to raise taxes on social security benefits.

98 votes for tax increases.

There's what Kerry says and then there's what Kerry does.

Stretching for 98

Bush has scaled back an earlier claim that Kerry voted 350 times for "higher taxes," a number we previously described as bogus . However, Bush is still using misleading numbers.

Of the 98 votes "for tax increases," 43 would not actually have increased taxes. They were for budget bills to set target levels for spending and taxes in the coming fiscal years.

To be sure, such votes did express Kerry's general approval for the higher tax levels they contained. But strictly speaking, separate legislation would be required to bring about an actual tax increase. In fact, budget resolutions are not even submitted to the President, much less made into law.

The Bush campaign also exploits the complexity of the parliamentary voting system to pad the number. Most of the 98 votes were on procedural measures, such as votes to end debate or votes on amendments, and not on passage of the measure itself. More than once, the 98-vote total counts half a dozen votes or more on on a single bill.

For example, the total includes:

* Sixteen votes -- by the Bush campaign's own count -- on Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction package, which raised taxes (almost exclusively on the highest-earning one or two percent of households) and cut spending. Only one of the 16 was on final passage of that measure, and the rest on various amendments and parliamentary maneuverings.
* Six votes on Sen. John McCain's 1998 proposal to raise taxes on cigarettes by $1.10 a pack to deter youthful smoking. Four were votes for cloture (to end debate). One was a procedural vote to waive budget restrictions requiring 60 votes to approve the McCain bill. The sixth vote was against stripping the tax-increase provisions from a broader measure McCain was using as a vehicle for his proposal.
* Seven votes that were cast on one budget resolution for the 1996 fiscal year, one of them a vote for a Democratic alternative to the Republican-proposed budget, increasing funding for Medicare, veterans' benefits, and education, financed by higher taxes on corporations and persons making over $140,000 a year. The other five were votes to increase spending on such things as student loans and health research, funded by closing tax "loopholes" or raising the tobacco tax.
* Six votes on the 1997 budget resolution. Kerry voted variously for higher funding for education, Medicare, the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and veterans benefits, financed by "closing corporate tax loopholes" and extending expired tax provisions.

That's all I'll quote as the article is almost painfully long. Needless to say, many more points are raised and it paints a far more accurate picture of Senator Kerry's record than the Bush campaign has. Hey, John Kerry! You can run, but you can't hide behind "facts!"

Next up, John Kerry has been visiting battleground states this weekend. Yahoo! has a story about his visits to Wisconsin and Ohio:

John Nusbaum, retired after 30 years in the cheese business, voted three times to put a man named Bush in the White House. This year, he's voting for John Kerry.

"I just won't do it again," Nusbaum said. "What turned the tide for me was when I read the Medicare bill."

Nusbaum's upset that Republicans prohibited the government from negotiating bulk discounts when purchasing prescription drugs for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. He's also a decorated Vietnam veteran and an organizer of Republicans for Kerry.

It's voters like Nusbaum, a 60-year-old resident of De Pere, Wis., that the Democratic candidate wants to unearth by touring traditional GOP counties in Wisconsin and Ohio, two states virtually deadlocked in the race for the presidency.

"We're obviously going to places where we think there's a concentration of swing voters," said Kerry spokesman Mike McCurry.

... Kerry's pitch included a mix of appeals for bipartisanship and promises to take on local issues.

At a town hall meeting in Xenia, Ohio, Kerry said he's still hanging onto a buckeye that he picked up in the primaries and promised to set it on the desk of the White House. He also vowed to tackle the problem of the decline of manufacturing jobs, a national trend hitting Ohio particularly hard.

"We're losing good jobs," Kerry said. "Consumer confidence in America is plunging downwards as people have more and more doubts about the economy. Doubts are one of the things a president is elected to deal with."

Kerry also responded to local headlines about flu vaccine shortages by calling the administration's inattention to the problem "twilight zone-ish," and the campaign prepared a television ad criticizing Bush for ignoring the danger posed by a shortage of flu vaccine. "There's not even enough for veterans and pregnant women," the ad says. "It's a mess George Bush created."

I'm not so sure about Ohio, but Wisconsin should swing Kerry's way, I think. Only time will tell. In other news directly connected to the election, John Zogby has stepped up the frequency of his polling. Here are the latest results he came up with:

Democratic challenger John Kerry cut President Bush's lead to 2 points with just over two weeks to go before the Nov. 2 election, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released Sunday.

Bush led Kerry by 46 percent to 44 percent in the latest three-day tracking poll of the closely contested race for the White House. The president led the Massachusetts senator by 48 percent to 44 percent the previous day.

"The third debate is now registering among voters and Kerry had a good day," pollster John Zogby said.

The new tracking poll found Kerry regained a good lead among 18- to 29-year-old voters and consolidated his advantage among Hispanics. Bush and Kerry were tied among Roman Catholics, a group Kerry, himself a Catholic, must win to capture the White House, Zogby said.

Among the 7 percent of voters still undecided, Bush had a 34 percent positive job rating, versus a 66 percent negative rating. Only 18 percent of undecided respondents said the president deserved re-election, while 39 percent said it was time for someone new. In the latter group, 99 percent said they were likely to vote.

Excellent news, as Zogby is probably the most accurate pollster out there. I say, if it's close, it should swing for Kerry, pending some sort of massive disenfranchisement, thanks to the Republicans (and I don't count that out).

Another poll of note, CNN posted results of a poll taken amongst active soldiers and their familes:

Members of the military and their families say the Bush administration underestimated the number of troops needed in Iraq and put too much pressure on inadequately trained National Guard and reserve forces, according to a poll released Saturday.

The National Annenberg Election Survey questioned active duty troops in the regular military and the National Guard and Reserves, as well as family members of active duty members.

Family members were more critical of the administration's Iraq policy than those on active duty.

The poll found that 62 percent in the military sample -- 58 percent of troops and 66 percent of family members -- said the administration underestimated the number of troops that would be needed to establish peace in Iraq.

And 59 percent -- 56 percent of troops and 64 percent of family members -- said too much of a burden has been put on the National Guard and the reserves when regular forces should have been expanded instead.

This critical view comes from a military group that has a more favorable view of President Bush, Iraq, the economy and the nation's direction than Americans in general.

A slight majority of the military and families, 51 percent, said showing photos of flag-draped coffins being returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware would increase respect for the troops.

That broke down to 47 percent of troops and 56 percent of family members. Less than 10 percent of the sample said it would decrease respect for the troops.

The Pentagon has refused to release government photos of the coffins, saying it has begun enforcing a policy installed in 1991 intended to respect the privacy of the families of the dead soldiers.

I still think it's BS that they won't allow photos of coffins. What on earth are you going to get from a picture of coffins? Well, of course, it would make this war look a bit more unfavorable, and we wouldn't want that...

Theresa Heinz-Kerry said she doesn't completely agree with her husband's remarks about Cheney's daughter, but hindsight is 20/20:

Were you caught off guard by the indignation of the Cheney family at your husband's remarks?

I'm surprised John's comments have taken on a negative theme. John was being positive and complimentary of how the Cheneys have handled, openly, the question of their daughter's lesbianism, just as John Edwards was in his debate. Probably, if John had really thought about it, he'd have mentioned no name. He'd have talked about how people of all kinds of religious persuasions, conservative and liberal, have gay children, and that it's not a choice.

So it breaks down along political lines?

This is one of the big problems. A lot of people, particularly those of the more fundamentalist view, think of homosexuality as a sex thing rather than a sexuality thing. They are really very different. A person doesn't choose their sexuality. For the other side, there's a tinge of the suggestion of sin, of the choice of misbehavior, quote-unquote,
which is not the case at all.

Why not mention Mary Cheney?

If he'd been debating in the primary, he probably would have mentioned Dick's daughter.

You mean [Rep.] Dick Gephardt who has an openly lesbian daughter, Chrissy?

Right. The Democratic primary. So I don't think John meant anything but, "Look guys, it happens everywhere and to everyone," and some people deal with it well and some people don't.

It seemed to me the more newsworthy part of the debate is that the president of the United States said he didn't know whether homosexuality is a choice, despite the overwhelming evidence that -- as you say -- it's not.

That's that moral tinge of sex versus sexuality I was talking about. The fact that he doesn't know is part of that problem. The important thing for us is to respect science and gay people's views. John dealt very sensitively with the issue of people who have been married for a long time and realize finally who they are and what they are and actually end up being supported by the other spouse. He humanized it very well. I really think they are picking on this to divert attention from the other issues at hand.

On the other hand, I'm sure you can understand how painful the scrutiny of a campaign like this can be on a family. None of your three sons are gay. But what if one were? Wouldn't it make you especially protective of privacy?

No, not at all. As a parent, I love my children, and I hope I first gave them their roots and then their wings to fly. What a parent wants is for them to have the confidence to be who they are. I want to love all my children no matter who they are and to be proud of all of them.

Very interesting article that shows just how much Heinz-Kerry has endeared herself to the gay/lesbian community. So much so that they call her "Mama T." I wonder what they call Mr. & Mrs. Bush?
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