Sports: July 2004 Archives

Sunday Thoughts

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Polling and Pundits

I am watching PBS News Hour on Friday night, and I heard left-wing columnist Mark Shields say that Kerry is in good shape entering the Democrat convention: "since Ronald Reagan in 1980, no challenger has -- against an incumbent President -- has come in [to the convention] either tied or ahead in the polls." (He says it at about 8:40 in.)

Then I flip on CNN's The Capital Gang on Saturday night, where Shields is the moderator. There, he noted something different: "In 1992, as Democrats assembled in New York City for their national convention, the polls showed Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton taking the lead for the very first time with just 28 percent to 26 percent each for President George H.W. Bush and independent candidate Ross Perot."

I dunno, I don't really like Shields. When put next to reasonable people like liberal Al Hunt on Capital Gang, or conservative David Brooks on News Hour, it becomes devastatingly obvious how unreasonably biased he is. So when I see him make the above remark to Brooks on News Hour, which he denies the next day, it just makes me wonder if it was an honest mistake, or if he was bending the facts to puff up Kerry.

I realize this isn't important, but the contrast was particularly striking to me. Sometimes I feel myself more angry about how the news -- and news commentary -- is given to us than I am about the politicians themselves.

For example, on CNN this weekend, chief polling pundit Bill Schneider noted that all the current polls show both Bush and Kerry close to each other, within the margin of error, but that Kerry is ahead in each of them so therefore it's safe to say Kerry really is ahead!

Schneider makes two mistakes. First, the obvious: when the margin of error is small and the margin between the two candidates is smaller, you simply can't assume with any confidence that either candidate is ahead (in the CNN poll example, the margin of error was four points, and the candidates were two points apart). Now, it is true that if you do it enough times and get the same results, then you can be more confident in those results, but because you have different polls with different methodology and there are so few of them (over time, that have Kerry ahead in consecutive weeks), it really unreasonable to say one candidate is ahead of the other. To prove the point: the NBC/WSJ poll that just came out has Bush ahead by two points.

When the leading analysts misunderstand polling so much, is it any wonder the voters don't get it?

Then there's Andy Rooney -- barely qualified as a pundit, but I don't know what else to call him that's civil enough for this journal -- who said he'd like to ask John Kerry about when his outspoken mate speaks in public: "does your wife ever make you nervous?" I would like to ask the 60 Minutes producers the same question of Mr. Rooney. I wonder if there is any more ridiculous person on "serious" news programming.


I regret to note that, despite my urging late last week, the right wing has not held off on its criticisms of Berger, and the left wing has not failed opportunities to question the motivation and timing of the release of information about Berger's wrongdoing.

I still haven't come to any conclusions; how could I? Even the Democrats can't agree on what happened. Berger's lawyers say it was a mistake, while some of his friends say he just did it out of arrogance, that a disdain for the dumb rules of the National Archives caused him to thumb his nose at them by taking documents he had a right to.

But Berger took multiple copies, on more than one occasion, of a particular report. Neither of those explanations seem to fit the circumstances. The Democrats are quick to point out that the 9/11 Commission had a copy of that report, and that the report was available to John Kerry, so he surely wasn't trying to cover up any information, or provide anything to the Kerry campaign.

But is that so? Bill Kristol pointed out on Fox News Sunday that these were the White House copies of that report, which could have contained handwritten notes by administration officials, copies of which perhaps did not exist elsewhere. It's a plausible scenario, to be sure, but there's a lot of perhapses and maybes in there.

As to the "leak," there's no evidence whatever that such a leak exists. The veteran AP reporter who wrote the story gave no indication of it. It seems to me equally plausible that he uncovered the information through investigation as it is that someone leaked it to him.

Taking Cuts

A lot of stories about John Kerry getting preferential treatment have floated since he became the frontrunning Democrat, months ago. Fox News Sunday even featured Howie Carr, right-wing Boston-area talk show host, this week on its "Power Players" segment, where he brought it all up again. Last night ESPN showed an example on national TV.

Kerry and his entourage -- family (daughters, wife), colleagues (Dick Durbin, John Glenn), and others were sitting in the best seats in Fenway Park for the Red Sox / Yankees game, right next to the home team dugout. Red Sox top brass were with him, including owner John Henry and president Larry Lucchino.

This does make sense. Kerry is the Massachusetts Senator and a Red Sox fan, and the convention begins the next day across town. Kerry even threw out the first pitch of the game. Even George Mitchell -- you know, the former Democratic U.S. Senator from Maine, appointed by President Bush to be the vice chairmain to Henry Kissinger of the 9/11 Commission (before they broke up and Paul and John took over the band) -- is the team's director and a minority owner.

So it all seems fairly reasonable and innocuous; what's the problem? The problem is that Boston native, huge Red Sox fan, and longtime Democrat Ben Affleck usually sits in those seats, and he got bumped to the seats next to the Yankees dugout, where he sat in Yankees owner George Steinbrenner's usual seat.

I sense that your outrage at the indignity Kerry foisted on Affleck matches mine. But, at least the Red Sox won the game, and that covers many wounds.
<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page is a archive of entries in the Sports category from July 2004.

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