Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Need for Vatican II Debrief

I am currently teaching an adult faith formation/catechesis training class on Scripture. We've been doing a combination of reading Scripture and Dei Verbum, the Vatican II document of divine revelation which deals with Scripture. On saturday, I came to what I consider a regrettable conclusion after a lengthy discussion of Vatican II. It has been 40 years since the council and I found that many of the adults in my class were debriefing for the first time on Vatican II.

It is sad that for something so powerful and life changing, people never got the opportunity to speak to someone about what happened. Basically, the church deliberated without their input, then came afterwards and told everyone, "here's what we are going to do, deal with it." Still now, emotions run very high. I'm not speaking about catechesis or the why's of Vatican II, just the fact that human beings need to talk about things that affect them. I think the most pressing need today in the Church is for parishes to offer extensive discussions and dialog on Vatican II. I think it would help people begin to feel like they can be a part of the Church and her agenda again.

Friday, February 13, 2004

The more I watch the general election shape up, the more I'm convinced that it may not be as close as people think. I think most pundits and people think it is going to be another nail biter with Bush eeking it out. But I beg to differ. I'm going out on a crazy limb, but I Kerry just might win by 8-10 points. If nothing else, the Bush-Rove political machine has shown itself inept.

First of all, they completely misread the political landscape regarding the Democratic primaries. it is true that all the pundits and political handicappers were calling it for Dean and that Dean had raised an insurmountable $40 million, etc, but for the Rove team to have been caught off guard by the Kerry win is inexcusable. Kerry's win was not a surprise to Kerry supporters and a few analysts. In November and December, we all got a sense that we could win iowa, but the press and the pundits ignored that completely. For one, Kerry supporters are quiet but steely bunch. We were and are a group that goes down fighting, and fighting smart.

Anyway, the Bush political machine prepared a State of the union speech that was addressed to Dean. But it fell flat. The SOTU was right wing and the President's ratings fell afterwards. One miscalculation, i.e., writing with Dean in mind and not nimble enough to adjust to Kerry.

Miscalculation 2: Rove scheduled the SOTU right after Iowa and before NH. The idea was to steal at least 2 or even 3 days of news cycle from the Democrats and quash the news of the primary. Brilliant, except if Kerry wins hugely and Dean collapses, then nothing can get Iowa off the news cycle. Well, in fact, Kerry swept the floor with everyone else and Dean imploded and nothing could get the Kerry win off the front pages or the Dean scream off the headlines. Bush's speech, once brilliantly positioned to steal the spot light, was now clearly very ill-timed.

Miscalculation 3: When Dean was in his hey day. Whenver he gave his speeches at events, Dem. dinners, debates, etc., he always spoke about process, i.e., that he had raised such and such amount of money, average donation was $77 from so many people, blah, blah. He never talked message when he had that national spotlight. The mistake they made was that they thought that $40 mill was the election. Well they learned that people, not money, vote. Now, the Bush team is making the same miscalculation. All we hear is about how they will have $200 mill and they think that solves their problem. One thing that Dean learned was this, money's purposes is to buy you favorable recognition, but with Kerry winning and being catapulted to the national stage, Kerry got $100 million worth of free publicity which said "Senator John Kerry, Vietnam Vet, Fighter, WINNER!" Simple. You can't buy that kind of publicity. So having $200 mill means nothing, if that is nullified by the free positive publicity being given to your opponent.

Miscalculation 4: Bush has time, now, before he can begin to paint Kerry as Mass liberal and weak on national security. The thinking is that once this primary process is over, then the Bush team will unleash the fury of the millions and paint Kerry as a Massachussets Liberal and weak on national security. This would be a pre-emptive strike and paint Kerry negatively even before he gets out of the corner. However, the Bush team has been out flanked by Kerry. Kerry is riding a very strong wave of positive publicity, especially as a vet and war hero. On the other hand we are in the third week news cycle of Bush as AWOL. I've got news for Rove, the debate has already been framed: Heroic Vietnam Vet against AWOL bluster. Fair or not, Kerry v. Bush is already been framed by the media in these terms.

What may have once been an uneven playing field in Bush's favor has tilted somewhat steeply and he now has to climb out of that negativity. That already negates his $200 million because some of that is going to have to be spent to rehabilitate his declining favorability. This was the trick against Dean. We all watched as Dean's unfavorabilty increased and Kerry's went down. That's always the key, because people vote favorability as much as anything else. Favorability savs you publicity dollars, unfavorabilty sucks up money because you have the additional task of rehabilitating your image.

Miscalculation 5: Bush-Rove thought that AWOl story would dissappear. First Michael Moore called Bush a deserter and Clark would not disavow such comments, thus the first week of news cycle, of Bush associated with the word AWOL. The second week was McAulif calling Bush AWOL, that starting a media frenzy of investigations into the story. Bush goes on Russert and then spends 30 minutes having to deflect this AWOL story and promises to release ALL documents. This promise then gives this story one more week of life and then now a former Guardsman has come forward and is saying that Bush's records were cleansed. True or not, this is going to be at least another week of stories. And then another week if it dies out. But it won't because the Whitehouse is stonewalling on releasing documents and is all of sudden "finding" pieces here and there and jurnalists smell blood. The point is that there is going to be at least a 5-6 week news cycle associating Bush with AWOL, while, on the other hand, Kerry is riding a wave of positive publicity as a war hero. Negative news cycles are like inflation that eat into the value of your campaign war chest. There was a terrible miscalculation on the part of the Bush-Rove team that this story would die and they've only fanned the flames.

Miscalculation 6: Painting Kerry as Dukakis mode liberal. Kerry has one of the most compelling personal narratives of anyone who has ever run for President. Rich kid who volunteered to serve on what many considered crazy and suicidal type swift boat missions. There are stories of unparralled courage and adventure and on and on. Try as you may, it is extremely difficult to stick liberal on someone like that. Also he is constantly surrounded by firefighters and vietnam vets. He is a gun owner and apparently a great shot. he has a record as a tax cutter and was a fiscal conservative supporting Sen Hollins in the 80s on balancing budgets. He is pro business and viewed with some suspicion by labor unions even though he is pro-labor. So a play book that tries to define Kerry as liberal is old and tired. Also RNC chairman, Gillespie is trying to point to budget cutting requests by Kerry to show that he is weak on national defense. But the problem they have is that Kerry is a military war hero. The Mass liberal issue has legs only with conservatives who'd never vote for Kerry anyway, but it affects little, those who are wary of Bush. The one thing also that they hve failed to note about Kerry is that he is attracting an awful lot of Republicans. I know this as a Kerry supporter. In IA 6% of caucusers described themselves as conservative, a few thousand. Of the conservatives, Kerry got 43% of that vote. Something about Kerry is appealing to conservatives and the Rove team has not yet identified what it is. If they don't identify that so that they can go after it, then Kerry will pick off moderate Republicans right under their nose. Not that I am complaining about that.

There is more, but I'll leave it at this. I think the Bush Rove team has not shown itself adept at reading the situation and adapting to it. If I were a Bush supporter, I may not be frightened, but I'd begin to shift in my chair.

Monday, February 09, 2004

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The Fenaarq, a race of elegant aliens, come upon the earth in their extensive space exploration. They make a remarkable discovery about humans, a discovery that divides them and pits the closely knit crew against each other. As a result of this conflict, each faction seeks to manipulate geo-political forces and transnational organizations to achieve its aims. The Catholic Church emerges as a key asset for both factions as they attempt to exploit its institutions for gain in their conflict. This fast-paced and intelligent drama recounts the struggles between the Fenaarq factions and the human individuals and institutions caught in the middle of a conflict marked by bitter rivalry and lethal consequences. Ripped from the headlines of tomorrow, it is a story of love lost and gained, of tragedy and hope. If you have wondered about alien contact, or about future human evolution, or what the future holds for us, then this is the novel to read.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Five out of seven, seven of nine, tough numbers to beat in the Democratic presidential primary. Nonetheless, Kerry supporters like myself are still on eggshells, because there's still Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Maine, Tennessee, and Virginia coming up. Kerry will do well in all these states, the question is will he win and by what margin?

One good thing is that the money is going to start chasing Kerry now and Clark will have a hard time trying to convince the money people that his is a viable candidacy. There simply is little rational for his candidacy. He came into the race to dethrone Dean, but Dean took care of that, now he has no clear claim to fame. His line that he is not a professional politician ensconced in Washington is not resonnating because the voters are looking for electability and experience.

Noteworthy about yesterdays primary is that Kerry got 50% of the Black vote and Edwards barely beat him out on the Black vote in SC. What this means is that Kerry connects in some way with the Black community. This was one of my concerns, how Kerry would wear with the community. I had the inkling that he would do well, but it is hard to shake the memories of Clinton.

Kerry, vis a vis the Black community strikes me this way. Kerry is not one of the savior types who comes to the Black community and pats us on the head and tells us that we should relax, he'll fight for us. Rather, I see him more in a fight/war metaphor. We are part of his crew, we've got our guns, we are locked and loaded and he'll lead but he expects that everyone will pull their weight and watch each other's back. That's my take on him.

Michigan shouldn't be too hard. Kerry will win with 40-50% of the vote. The media buys are so expensive that Dean and Edwards are not going to be able to make big splashes to make a substantial dent in Kerry's 50% poll numbers. Washington, will winnow out Howard Dean. I am not convinced that he is going to show. The state has a strong environmental movement. The League of Conservation Voters has endorsed Kerry and will put foot soldiers and mailings to work for Kerry. Very timely independent expenditures. Kerry will also blanket the airwaves. If Kerry can dominate the weekend in Maine, Washington, and Michigan, so much so that the numbers for Dean look as bad as they did yesterday, Dean would have a very difficult time providing a rationale for support. For one the SEIU and ACFSME will need to reassess their allegiance because they are beginnng to look foolish in sticking with Dean. Kerry has completely embarassed the union political muscle with his IA and NH wins and those unions need to line up behind a winner to restore the glimmer and luster of credibility again.

Virginia and Tennessee are interesting. Harold Ford has been a long time Kerry supporter, and that's his home turf. It would be great if Kerry could win here, but that is going to be tough. But it Kerry did a bus tour through the state and splashed with ads featuring Ford in Memphis, Kerry just might pull through. Clark is making a stand here, but one interesting thing about Clark is that Clark did not place at all in SC, even though he hyped the southern roots thing. The other thing is that Rep. Rangel and Clinton aura notwithstanding, Clark barely touched the Black vote in SC. So something about him is not connecting. I think in TN, the Black vote will split between Kerry and Edwards and with Ford, I'd bet on Kerry, but it'll be close.