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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Blogging the US election - III
Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson is keeping a weblog as the US prepares to go to the polls on 2 November.

He'll be recording his thoughts and observations - both serious and not so serious - as well as finding answers to your questions.

17 October

WASHINGTON DC :: 2100 GMT

Every once in a while, a TV news show doesn't go according to plan, goes off the script, and that happened Friday on CNN's Crossfire.

The programme has two hosts, one from the right and one from the left, and asks guests to debate - and often shout - about the political topic du jour.

Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart has the ears of many young Americans
In conversation, I often refer to these folks as part of the "shouting classes" as opposed to what once was once called the "chattering classes".

Crossfire's hosts probably thought they would score a ratings coup by having Jon Stewart on the programme.

Jon Stewart hosts cable channel Comedy Central's news satire show, The Daily Show.

The Daily Show proudly says on its website: "The one news organisation with no credibility to lose."

It might be a stretch, I don't have the numbers to back this up, but I would have to say that Jon Stewart and the Daily Show is easily one of the most influential political programmes with young voters this election.

But instead of Jon Stewart being a deferential guest, he skewered Crossfire and its hosts as "partisan hacks".

He said he made a special effort to be on the show because he has often publicly stated that Crossfire is a bad show.

"I felt that wasn't fair, and I should come here and tell you that it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America," he said.

Conservative Crossfire host Tucker Carlson wasn't having any of it.

Tucker accused Jon Stewart of lobbing softball questions to John Kerry. "Why not ask him a real question instead of just sucking up to him?" he asked the comic newsman.

But Jon Stewart fired back: "I didn't realise - and maybe this explains quite a bit - that the news organisations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity."

Liberal host Paul Begala tried to defend his show as a debate programme.

Jon Stewart said: "To do a debate would be great. But that's like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition."

After that, it just got ugly, albeit still entertaining.

A very tetchy Tucker then said: "I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion."

To which, Jon Stewart said: "You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show."

Washington Post TV critic Lisa de Moraes said: "Isn't CNN lucky that FCC Chairman Michael Powell can't touch it because it's a cable network? 'Cause these days, that line alone would've cost them about a million bucks."

While I'm sure there were some red faces over at CNN - some out of embarrassment and some out of anger - this was the best debate of the political season.

It's scary and highly entertaining when truth breaks out on television. Wow, something real on TV as opposed to reality TV!

WASHINGTON DC :: 1800 GMT

Engaging in a Washington tradition of watching the Sunday morning politics shows, even though I usually skip them when I'm in town to play soccer.

They did a look back at the debates, a look to the final two weeks of the campaign and even were considering cabinets of a second-term Bush administration and a Kerry administration.

Gloria Borger of US News and World Report said on NBC's Chris Matthews show, that the debates really helped him with women.

She echoed the impression of a lot of journalists here that the Bush campaign had erred in its strategy to create a cartoon, a caricature of John Kerry, portraying him as a laughable flip-flopping liberal.

"John Kerry escaped that caricature with women," she said.

There was a lot of discussion about whether the Bush campaign's switch from attacking John Kerry as a flip-flopper to an out of the mainstream, "on the left bank" liberal will be effective.

George Stephanopoulos
Political Sunday shows looked back at the debates
Conservative columnist David Brooks with the New York Times said on NBC that he thought the Bush campaign should have stuck with the flip-flopper attack.

He thought that liberal attack was more effective in the 1980s and 1990s when there was high crime and run away spending. "I think that liberal carries less of an impact," he said.

And there was lots of talk about whether John Kerry had made a huge blunder in referring to Dick Cheney's gay daughter in responding to a question about whether homosexuality was a choice.

There was little disagreement. All of the journalists and pundits thought it was a mistake, a rare lack of discipline by John Kerry.

The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, said, "Kerry raised it in a way jarring to a lot of people."

But conservative commentators thought Senator Kerry's comment was an intentional attempt to damage the president in the eyes of evangelical Christian voters.

On NBC's Meet the Press, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman rolled out the new attack line that "John Kerry showed that he will say anything that get elected" with respect to the Mary Cheney lesbian reference.

And he compared it to the Dean Scream, Howard Dean's primal yell in Iowa. Mr Mehlman said that it was a "window onto something larger" about the candidate.

And now, we're in the last two weeks.

On ABCNews' This Week with George Stephanopoulos, author Ron Suskind said the president's team had expected him to sag in the polls during the debates because it wasn't his strong point.

But the Bush team is ready for the final sprint. Mr Suskind said, "I think Karl Rove has been planning for this for years, and this is his last two-minute drill."

A two-minute drill refers to American football, when teams practice how to win in the final two minutes of a game.

And there was a lot of talk about President Bush's drive to energise evangelical Christians to vote for him.

Gloria Borger said that Bush campaign was willing to drive these voters to the polls to make sure they cast their vote.

People who regularly attend church prefer President Bush over John Kerry, 55% to 39%.

That's just some highlights.

My favourite moment of the Sunday morning shows came when Tim Russert asked Ken Mehlman what the bulge in Mr Bush's jacket was in the first debate.

"Let me clear up this. Let me come clean. He was receiving secret signals from aliens in outer space. You heard it first here," Mr Mehlman said in a convincing dead pan.

Kerry strategist Bob Shrum said, "You've sent Karl Rove into outer space?!"

Read more: [External websites]

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16 October

WASHINGTON DC :: 2100 GMT

Sitting at home on a Saturday, blogging while I contemplate blogs, as reflexive as that might seem.

Markos Moulitsas, the Kos over at DailyKos.com, is out at the California Democratic Party convention and has unwittingly played into my post today.

Talking about covering the convention, he writes, "Of course, we'll face the journalism hacks who are offended that bloggers are being credentialed."

"You know the types - 'I went to journalism school and worked hard to earn my living, so why should they let the riff raff in?'" he said.

And the bloggers love to heap contempt of the Mainstream Media, or the MSM, as they call us.

Conservative bloggers really had a party trashing Dan Rather and CBS for basing a story about President Bush's military record on false documents.

Markos Moulitsas
Markos Moulitsas says journalists dislike bloggers - or is it the other way round?
And just to further muddy the mudslinging, the bloggers don't really consider me a blogger because I get my paycheque from the MSM. I'm so establishment, you know.

Sorry guys, even though I consider my blog a labour of love, love don't keep the lights on, so I'll keep collecting that check from my corporate keepers.

No fear Kos, I'm not that precious about what I do and the fact that I have a piece of paper from a J-School (translated: a university degree from a journalism school).

I'm a little, but not all that surprised, that the MSM is a little tetchy about bloggers.

For years, I've had to deal with folks treating me as somehow less of a journalist because I publish on the internet. Somehow, pixels aren't as honest as print.

But I always cut the newspaper folks some slack. I started off as one of them, and I knew that some of the mudslinging came from fear.

As a recent New York Times piece on bloggers pointed out, DailyKos and another blog, Eschaton, together have more readers than the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ouch.

I'm a bit surprised journos have not embraced blogs, their own and others.

Again I understand. The MSM is just beginning to get two-way media. It all used to be one way.

We told you the truth, and that is definitely truth with a small "t", and we occasionally heard back from you, letters to the editor, calls of complaint, that kind of thing.

But a lot of journalists still aren't all that into audience participation.

For me, that's what I love about the internet is that it's really a conversation, and I think the better for it.

I'm not just writing about my observations about the US election, you are too.

But what do you make of the blogging phenomenon? What about the MSM? What kind of job do you think we've done this election? How can we do it better?

Keep those comments coming. On Sunday, I'll respond to some of them.

Read more: [External websites]

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

WASHINGTON DC :: 1558 GMT

Well, I've been in denial for a while, hoping more than knowing that this election wouldn't end in the legal morass like Al Gore v George W Bush.

No, it's not simply for the completely selfish reason that it would be nice to have a few days off, to be able to sleep in, relax, and think about something other than American politics.

No, it's much bigger than that. I think it would actually be good for my country, the United States, if the election ended without it being decided by judges and lawyers.

I think that the more the courts get involved, the more people will think that the candidate who is ultimately elected is somehow less than legitimate.

Inspecting a ballot paper in Florida
Votes will be scrutinised and lawyers are at hand
You still hear some Democrats say of President Bush that he was "Selected not elected".

It will stoke already fever-pitched partisanship.

And at this critical time in US - no world - history, American leaders will be locked in mortal political battle with one another instead of focusing on the very real threat of global terrorism and the myriad of challenges at home.

"You can say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." But yes, it seems like a silly pipe dream at this point.

We don't even have to wait until 3 November for the crack legal teams to leap into action.

I'm not even going to go into the allegations of ripped up Democratic voter registration forms by a registration group linked to Republicans in Nevada. There are allegations by both parties.

No, I'm just going to deal with Pennsylvania, Ohio and Washington where courts have ordered extensions for the counting of absentee ballots.

And Pennsylvania is one of eight states that missed the 19 September deadline for mailing out absentee ballots.

Pennsylvania has been locked in legal challenges to independent candidate Ralph Nader appearing on the ballot.

A court has now ordered that his name be struck from the ballot. New ballots have to be sent out.

The state wants to contest a court-ordered two-week extension to allow for the counting absentee ballots, pushing the deadline to 17 November.

I better stock up on coffee. This is going to be a long one.


On this mornings breakfast news, as per usual was coverage of the US elections, and I was delighted and horrified to see the new adverts from both sides not, as one would think promoting themselves, but simply two minutes of slandering the opposition. Incredible. Is this how elections are won now? Is anyone fit to run America? Obviously Bush is not but Kerry is hardly setting a shining example either. Quite frankly, to swiftly change the subject, who cares if Mary Cheney is gay? Is she running for president? No? Then shut up about it, the two of you. I do however sympathise with the US public. We have the same dilemma over here with the need to replace Tony Blair, but no suitable candidate.
Stan Hoffenski, Edinburgh, Scotland

As US citizens living in Rome, my friends and I registered last March to vote in the elections. In my group I am the only one who has received an "unofficial" voting ballot which does not include Ralph Nader's nomination. They told me when I called my county in Pennsylvania it was because there was a court case going on against Nader and he couldn't be officially included. If he is then officially included, will my vote on the unofficial ballot be invalidated since it did not include that choice? Why haven't any of my American friends received their ballots?
Ana Maria Guerra, Rome, Italy

Kevin: It's fun to read an outsider's viewpoint. Since this US election has turned into a real mudfest, I contend that the best and brightest do not choose to run for office in America. What sane person would want to be raked through the mud, have his/her past sins exhumed for all the world to see, and would take a job that pays only $400,000 per year. It's not worth it! I guess we get what we pay for.
Ben P, Ohio, USA

The electoral college is a must. Without this system the United States would cease to function as a collection of states. New York, California and Illinois would control a lot of what happens elsewhere in the United States. The EU is doing the same thing... Germany, with a population of 80 million, gets more votes than Luxembourg, with its population of 453,000. Luxembourg, however, has some say in what happens.
Todd, Virginia, USA

I'm enjoying following a more "detached" perspective of our political process through the BBC news website. I'm curious about Michigan... If Bush is pulling his ads, does that mean he is expecting to win Michigan? I am also curious to hear what you think of Kerry's "vision" for America - because as Bush said it is far from the mainstream current, however I think his type of vision is what America needs because the mainstream current is headed in a direction that looks pretty grim.
Amy, Marquette, Michigan, USA

Rhode Island has been assumed one for the Democrats, maybe from the beginning of time! So there have been NO presidential political ads. Imagine that - we are blessed indeed!
Tim Wholey, Narragansett, Rhode Island, USA

While I live on Canada's West Coast, during the week I live and work in Washington DC. This gives me an almost unique view of politics on both sides of the border. Currently the issue of cross-border shopping for drugs in Canada is sensitive for both nations. In the US the third debate had George Bush condemning the importation of drugs from Canada by seniors and saying that the FDA was protecting them from unsafe pharmaceuticals. Then minutes later explaining he was working with Canada to expedite secure supplies of flu shots. Strangely, this contradiction seems to have gone unnoticed in the US. In Canada, the health system has plenty of flu vaccine, but is now scared of the prospect of millions of US citizens flocking over the border to get protected. Now, the provinces have told health providers NOT to give shots to Americans or non-Canadians. For many Canadians who have heard nothing positive about their health care system for years - the recent developments are an eye opener.
Crawford Millen, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada

In response to BF (below), I have to say that the Democrats are in many cases simply responding to Republican gerrymandering. In most states, there is a requirement for candidates to get a certain number of signatures in their support to get on the ballot (to stop every Tom, Dick or Ralph from turning the election into a farce like the California recall where there were candidates in the hundreds). In a number of key states, where there aren't anything like enough Nader supporters who are willing to put him forward, as much as 95% of the signatures needed to get Nader on the ballot have not come from people who support him, but from Republican organised signature drives. Does that make the Democrats antics any more palatable? Possibly not. But understandable? I would certainly say so
Mark Hampton, San Francisco, USA

Did the BBC also send out a conservative to counter this blog... are there any of those left in Britain or Europe ?
James Calloway, Knoxville, TN, USA

As a Californian, I already essentially know who has taken my state in the upcoming election. I am bothered that a huge percentage of the "wasted votes" which resulted in giving Gore the popular vote, but Bush the electoral college were in my state. I hope we won't see a repeat of 2000. It would give an undeserved endorsement for a flawed foreign policy.
Soren Swenson, Tehachapi, CA, USA

Dear Kevin, glad that you liked the GB speech writer... I am just as guilty of spending too much time playing with it! I guess blogging in general is a welcome addition to the coverage of the elections. It's a great way to hear the "voices" of a wide spectrum of people whom you don't usually get to hear in the MSM. That said, I do still enjoy MSM, especially MSM websites online. Somehow there's that implicit trust that they might be a tad bit more impartial than bloggers who have already nailed their colours to the mast. Anyway, its a pleasure to contribute to this two-way communication.
Glenda, Australia

For me the most critical issues are the absolute managerial incompetence in planning the Iraq war, which has now become an absolute nightmare; and the fact that North Korea has gotten nuclear weapons on Bush's watch. Here is one hawkish conservative who is going to vote for Kerry. We need a man in the White House who has real military experience, in the crucible of combat, where not only character but good judgement are formed. Kerry may be a liberal, but at least he is no shirker when it comes to fighting for his country.
George Gleason, Oakland, California, USA

Why is it wrong to positively discuss Mary's Cheney's sexuality on national television? Mary Cheney is Out and has been so for years. And just the week before in the vice-presidential debate, Dick Cheney personally thanked Senator Edwards for his thoughtful words concerning Mary Cheney. Therefore, I find it hypocritical of both Lynne and Dick Cheney as well as those on the Right of turning Mary's sexuality and privacy into a political issue. It seems that although Mary is Out, the Republicans prefer to keep her in the shadows as much as possible out of fear that her presence in public would alienate their religious and conservative base. This should be a non-issue.
Chris Silva, Brooklyn, NY, USA

I can already tell how biased your "coverage" will be because you give an example of Democrats tossing out voter registrations, but you fail to mention that the RNC (a front company for the Republicans) has done this in several instances and is under investigation. A fair and balanced weblog - it doesn't sound like it.
Eileen, CA, USA

I can't really feel it's all that worthwhile to talk about the fine points of the election because it's all moot if the efforts to disenfranchise Democratic voters and suppress the Democratic vote succeed. In any case, a lot more of the media's and the public's attention should be paid to this assault on our democracy. And what about the role of the distortions put forth by the Swift Boat vets and John O'Neill? Won't it be a sad state if our election is decided by lies, vote tampering and voter suppression???
Bronwen Lu, Brooklyn Park, MN, USA

Kerry, a typical Democrat - promises much and no new taxes to boot. Reality tells us to not believe it. As Bush said, he has done more to force some change in DC while Kerry, who has been there for 20 years and done nothing, is now all full of ideas and solutions. If he were that good he'd be president. He is not and will not!
Bill, NJ, USA

Well, I've done it...I've just voted (actually yesterday) at the American Embassy here in Singapore. I did request a ballot from the state in which I am registered to vote, but it never arrived. The embassy has a supply of blank ballots for expatriates, with which one can vote for president and "vise" president. How embarrassing! Perhaps the next administration will be able to spell correctly.
CP, Singapore

George Bush's war on terror is a joke. There is no way his war in Iraq will put an end to terrorism. Will the young people of Iraq bless George Bush for their new found "freedom", or blame him for the destruction of their homes and lives? Sure we got Saddam, but where's Osama? That's all the reason I need to vote for John Kerry on November 2nd.
Michael Troub, Portland, Michigan, USA

After watching the three debates, it should be abundantly clear that we need new intelligent leadership. Kerry clearly demonstrated, he has a much better command of world and domestic issues, especially more knowledge and experience dealing with global issues. We need the rest of the world on our side and Kerry will be able to win back the respect US has lost under this administration.
Ray, Virginia, USA

Bush should debate Nader on US prime time TV to win the election. Nader needs more publicity in order to effectively split Kerry's vote bank. Two correctly timed debates with Nader between now and Nov 2 can almost certainly ensure a Bush victory in the US elections. Go Bush!
Sachin Gupta, New York, NY, USA




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