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October 1, 2004, 9:55 A.M.

Dianne and I made it home in time to watch the debate last night, but missed the opening 5 minutes or so. I’m told that President Bush, in an aggressive opening move, greeted Senator Kerry on his half of the stage. If that’s the case, that was the only bold, offensive move made by the President in the debate.

Kerry appeared decisive and intent on putting the flip flop nonsense to rest. The President, on the other hand, continued to resort to his standard responses and cliche descriptions of Kerry’s ability to lead. In the end, Bush looked to be all hat and no cattle.

If the sighing and pacing of the Bush/Gore debate were damaging to Gore, the distant or disturbed looks and grimaces from the President should be fatal. The President clearly looked displeased with the fact that he was actually being challenged. After all, this President consistently surrounds himself with people who agree with him, and he admits to getting his news and information from among the same circle of friends. Under these circumstances, Bush must have found Kerry’s straightforward attacks on the President’s policies disturbing. So disturbing, in fact, that the President had to lapse into his ineffective “mixed message” theme as a last resort. All form, no substance.

Senator Kerry discussed real plans and strategies for dealing with Iraq and other terrorist nations, and for cleaning up the loose nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union (by the way, did you notice how infrequently the President said the word “nuclear”?). When asked what the most significant threat to the U.S. was, Kerry jumped on the answer, “nuclear proliferation.” The President sort of agreed, but said that the most significant threat was WMDs in the hands of terrorists. This reveals a serious misunderstanding of the threat posed by nations and not just terrorist organizations that possess the capability to produce and deliver nuclear weapons, like North Korea, and nations that are close to being able to do so, like Iran.

President Bush looked adrift, erratic and without any real plan for dealing with Iraq or Osama bin Laden. When pressed on these issues, he looked irritable and defensive. His campaign and his supporters must have him convinced that everyone who expresses disagreement with him is sending mixed messages to “the enemy” and therefore no matter what Senator Kerry says, the President interprets it as a win for himself. The problem is that just about everyone is questioning what is currently happening in Iraq, except the President. He appears out of touch with reality and unwilling to adopt a strategy to address the problems in Iraq, other than “stay the course.” Senator Kerry correctly pointed out that there is benefit to learning from your mistakes and correcting the problems that confront us on the grounds. That’s real strength, rather than sticking with a failed, dangerous and increasingly costly strategy because you don’t want to appear wrong or weak or worse, because you don’t know what else to do. It looks like the President is more about perception than reality. Kerry wins in this category hands down.

I wonder if, during his debate preparation, anyone actually dared criticize the President. From his demeanor on stage, it certainly did not look that way. He also didn’t look prepared to deal with being called on misquoting or mischaracterizing comments by Senator Kerry because every time he was called on something, he had no comeback, almost as if he knew he had not been accurate and just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. My observation of the Bush debate strategy was that it was about politics and the President hoped to stay on the political offensive, wave the flag and move on to St. Louis. That strategy did not work cause when pressed the President paused, mumbled and often had trouble filling his allotted time.

I loved hearing Senator Kerry point out that the President’s tax cuts benefitted people like him and the President, undercutting the President’s carefully cultivated aw-shucks routine. Again, no comeback because of the substance and truth of the comment.

The President also told some flat out lies. For example, the al Qaeda-Khan network has been brought to justice. Khan, you will recall, is a Pakistani who was spreading nuclear (there’s that word again) technology to all comers. The White House actually backed a deal in which Khan was pardoned after simply apologizing for his proliferation activities. Not exactly “brought to justice”

All in all, a good debate for Senator Kerry. What is now most important is that he not lose the post-debate spin in the press.

September 29, 2004, 1:45 P.M.

During my Tuesday radio appearance on WEMJ with Alan Harrison and Bill McLean we discussed the upcoming presidential debate. Of course we all have our own ideas about what the candidates need to do to win the debate, we talked about their relative strengths and weaknesses and we talked a little about substantive issues that favor our respective candidates. Bill McLean then commented, as Paul Krugman had in his column that morning that the interesting question was, what would the press say?

In the Bush-Gore debate, Gore clearly won on substantive issues. The press, however, focused in on Gore's body language, the infamous sigh, and the claim that he looked menacing. The press is already being fed tidbits of what the Republicans want them to focus on: Will Kerry sweat? Will he be properly deferential? Will he flip flop?

By feeding these suggestions to the press the Republicans are intending to influence the press coverage. They have been effective at this in the past and will certainly step up their efforts. This only works with the mainstream and corporate press. The real coverage and analysis will be on the web. Hopefully that is where most of those elusive undecided voters will go for their news and reviews.

September 28, 2004, 9:55 A.M.

Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has recently issued two decisions critics claim will unfairly limit the ability of some residents to vote in upcoming elections. On decision requires that all voter registration cards be printed on thick, 80-pound stock paper. The other requires that county boards of election strictly interpret rules regarding provisional ballots which are the ones cast by voters who move before an election but are still registered in Ohio.

Ohio is a battleground state in the upcoming election and is important to both parties. This is evidenced by the voter registration push by both parties recently. The republican effort has lead to a 25% increase in registrations. The democrats on the other hand have increased registration by 250%. Who is the insistence in 80 weight paper going to benefit?

Many Ohio registrations have been sent in on newsprint because of voter registration drives in the papers. County registrars are required to send out the proper cards. This must be done before the October 14 registration deadline. It seems that the republicans are afraid of the popular vote, as well they should be. Their response, however is to cheat and to deny citizens their basic right to vote.

September 27, 2004, 6:00 P.M.

Bouncing Bush, Benson and Boyce I am pleased to be supporting Beth Arsenault in her bid to unseat Robert Boyce as our District 4 representative in the New Hampshire Senate. After entering the race late two years ago, Beth was able to put up some very impressive numbers against a well-established campaign. This time around, Beth has had the opportunity to get her message out to the voters of District 4.

Unlike her opponent, Beth has some positive, forward-looking ideas to address problems facing us in the legislature, and she is poised to actually represent the city and towns of District 4. Rob Boyce has been nothing but a negative voice in his two terms as Senator in Concord, and while it might be easy to tell what he is against (like affordable health care, workers rights and education funding, to name a few), but not as easy to tell what he is for. Rob Boyce represents his own agenda, not his constituents’.

Beth Arsenault has an understanding of the need for legislation that protects our valuable and fragile environment. On a state level, our lakes are under assault from increasing numbers of powerboats and personal watercraft and the resultant effects of MTBE on our fish and wildlife and on our water supplies. New Hampshire tourism depends on the pristine nature of its natural resources. Rob Boyce has stood lock step with the Benson administration in slashing budgets and critical funding for environmental protection. The Bush/Benson administrations and their supporters like Mr. Boyce have attempted to absolve oil companies and producers of MTBE from liability for polluting our waters. They have also worked to weaken the hard fought federal regulations designed to prevent midwestern coal-burning factories and utilities from pouring millions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere, which fall on us as acid rain.

Rob Boyce supported SB110, legislation passed by the New Hampshire Legislature, that boosts insurance company profits at the expense of individuals and small businesses across the state. Mr. Boyce’s belief is that those who use healthcare should be ones who pay the lion’s share of its costs, instead of spreading the health care costs across the entire population. Beth points out the "this narrow definition of an insured population defies the purpose of insurance, which has always been to spread the risk as broadly as possible, realizing that any one of us might sat some point incur catastrophic costs that exceed our ability to pay." What SB110 does is "insure the continued profitability of insurance companies by allowing them to cherry pick their customers, and to set rates based on risk factors such as how old and sick workers are." Beth argues, correctly, that the net effect of SB110 will be to put healthcare costs further out of reach for small businesses and individuals while maintaining obscene levels of profitability for insurance companies and their executives, like Anthem’s CEO who received a $42.5 million merit award on top of his $1.4 million salary and $2.3 million bonus last year. Rob Boyce, Craig Benson and George Bush believe that if insurance companies and large corporations are left to their own devices, they will in turn raise up the level of the rest of us, through their own largesse. The fallacy here is that this type of legislation is designed to "let market forces work." The opposite is true. SB110 is protectionist legislation, pure and simple. Anthem saw increases in revenue in the first 6 months of 2004 that were up 11 percent from $8,075,000,000 to $9,002,000,000. At the same time, net income rose 34%, from $369,000,000 during the first half of 2003 to $533,500,000 for the same period in 2004. Have you seen proportional decreases in your premiums?

The single biggest failure of our legislature is the failure to find a solution to funding the state’s obligation to educate our children. Rob Boyce has been consistent in his observation of what can’t be done. Boyce has offered no solution, has offered no suggestion and has voiced no plan to deal with the education funding crisis. His rhetoric and record suggest that he has no intention to work on behalf of his district to find a solution. For this alone he should be turned out of office. With every state cutback and unfunded federal mandate, local taxpayers are forced to shoulder an increasingly disproportionate burden to support their schools. Boyce’s lack of a policy and his lack of leadership will serve only to further neglect and avoid to state’s responsibility to provide an adequate education for all of its students. A child in Claremont is entitled to the same advantages as a child in Bow.

Beth Arsenault has served for six years on the Laconia School Board. It was my pleasure to serve on the board with her. She will take an understanding of the needs of schools and a perspective as a parent with her to Concord. She is a New Hampshire native and an experienced and responsive public servant with a vision and a plan for where we can go and for what we can do to protect and preserve the unique character of our state.


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