portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting oregon & cascadia

human & civil rights cheney protests

Cheney Protester Assaulted in Eugene

Free speech in a headlock again...
A chilling aspect of the 6:00 news report on Cheney's Eugene bund rally yesterday was the completely tolerated violent group assault on a protester. A man in a white t-shirt with "Pro-Jesus, Bring the Troops Home" written on it began shouting during Cheney's speech. A 66 year old man, Art Briga of Springfield, in a red-orange jacket, lunged at the protester and put him in a wrestling headlock -- with a hand clamped over the protester's mouth. Another man shoved the protester backwards as others began pulling the protester from behind. The protester's female companion (similar t-shirt) seemed to be appealling to them to stop the assualt. The TV report then showed the man (Art Briga) who committed the initial assault outside after the rally, saying that protesters are "snakes in the grass" and need to be stamped down.

This is certainly similar to the hand-over-mouth assault on Kendra in Beaverton during the Bush bund rally, and a pictured hair-pulling attack on another protester inside another Republican rally recently. The double standard is obvious -- imagine if a protester did such a thing -- we would be doing time. But apparently for Bu$h/Cheney supporters it is open season on protesters, with impunity. The violent attack in Eugene was so obvious that Cheney himself had to mention it: "Treat him with kindness, now."

News reports below. And note Cheney's description of the Willamette Valley as a "piece of real estate."

===

Protestors greet Cheney in Eugene, Portland

09:08 PM PDT on Friday, September 17, 2004
By kgw.com and AP Staff
EUGENE -- Standing underneath a giant American flag, Vice Predident Dick Cheney spoke to a boisterous crowd of about 3,000 inside a Monaco Coach Corp., hangar at the Eugene airport on Friday afternoon.

A few minutes into his speech, while Cheney was touting the Bush administration's record in the Iraq war, an unidentified protester wearing a white T-shirt that said "Pro-Jesus. Bring home the troops now," started shouting "Stop the war!"

Audience member Art Briga, a former U.S. Marine from Springfield, then ran up from behind the protester, and grabbed him in a headlock, until security guards could escort the protester and a friend out of the hangar.

"I thought it was discourteous for him to do that. That was the Vice President of the United States," Briga said.

As the two were being led out of the hangar, Cheney quipped, "Treat them kindly now."

Earlier Friday, the site of a Cheney town hall meeting in Oregon City also drew protests.

A small group of protestors stood near the Cheney event, and read aloud a letter that said, in part, "We have spent $200 billion on this war after you promised it would pay for itself — but the money is not being used to keep Oregon soldiers safe. So where is the money going?"

A handful of veterans also attempted to hand deliver that protest letter signed by 174 military families to the vice president, but they were kept away from the event by police.

"If I would have had the chance, I would have asked him why he rushed to war without a plan to win the peace," said protester Kris Rein, whose husband is stationed in Mosul, Iraq.

Another protester, Marica Skinner of Oregon City, held up a sign that read: "Cheney self-serving profiteers not welcome in Oregon City." The sign was an apparent reference to the millions of dollars in no-bid Iraq contracts awarded by the U.S. government to Halliburton, an oil services company that Cheney headed prior to being elected vice president.

===

Vice President Dick Cheney speaks during a Bush-Cheney rally Friday in Eugene.
TOBY MANTHEY
Statesman Journal
September 18, 2004

EUGENE — He doesn't have Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards' movie-star hair and mega-watt smile.
Still, Vice President Dick Cheney has an appeal all his own, Republicans said at a rally in Eugene on Friday.
"Excellent. Steady. Honest. Forthright," is how Tom Shattuck-Smallwood described the vice president. "He's made good decisions in tough times."
Dwight Isborn, 57, a pharmacist from Cottage Grove, said Cheney "puts out what he has to say and means it. At least you know what he's running on."
Liz Cheney, the vice president's daughter, had her own view.
"He's not slick," she said. "He's not a glad-hander. He's not a back-slapper. And unlike his opponent, his hair is not his best asset. But he is real and honest and true."
A crowd of about 3,000 saw what many called Cheney's straightforward appeal Friday at a rally at the Monaco Coach Hangar at the Eugene Airport.
The vice president called the Willamette Valley "a fantastic piece of real estate" and said a second Bush administration would act on issues such as deepening the Columbia River shipping channel, imposing malpractice reform and ending lawsuit abuse.
Cheney blasted opponents John Kerry and John Edwards, emphasizing Kerry's reputation of having a tendency to — as the crowd chanted repeatedly — "flip-flop."
"His liveliest disagreements are with himself," Cheney said of Kerry, adding that the Democratic presidential candidate has shifted positions on issues such as the Iraq war, NAFTA and the No Child Left Behind Act.
Republicans contrasted Kerry's image with their vision of the vice president himself.
"He looks you in the eye when he's talking to you," Liz Cheney said. "He has a firm handshake, and his word is his bond."
Steve Weintraub, 53, of Lebanon, met the vice president up close and could testify to the handshake, at least.
"It was pretty firm considering how much shaking he had to do," Weintraub said.
Balloons and confetti dropped. Placards and banners read "Chicks for Cheney," "Winning the West," "Viva Bush" and "Republicans live in Eugene."
One such Republican is Gabe Granger, a 24-year-old African-American Bush supporter and first-time voter. Granger said he is among the minority in the black community in Eugene to support President Bush.
"I love my president for sure," said Granger, who had Bush's name on the back of his football jersey. "This is a man who does not play to what people want to hear."
Granger said he liked the parts of Cheney's speech where he "tears up John Kerry. That needs to be done more." Cheney, he said, was "one of the best vice presidents we've ever had."
Pamela Farley, 36, a nanny from Springfield, is pregnant. That made Cheney's anti-abortion stance an important issue to her, she said, along with his leadership on the war in Iraq.
"With the situation in Iraq, I don't think we should make changes (in presidents)," she said.
Charles Fowler, a 47-year-old service technician for a manufactured homes company, said he supported Bush and Cheney mostly for their anti-abortion stance.
"That's the overriding factor," he said.
Molly Bordonaro of the Bush-Cheney campaign called the vice president "not only an extremely capable leader. He's a man from the West."
"(Kerry) says he's in touch with the West," Cheney said. "He must mean western Massachusetts."
The West lived up to its rough reputation Friday; two protesters appeared in the back of the crowd with shirts featuring political slogans while Cheney was talking. One protester wore a shirt that said "Pro-Jesus" and "Bring home the troops now."
"Stop the War!" he yelled, and was drowned out by cries of "Four more years!"
Art Briga, an audience member from Springfield, lunged at the man and put him in a headlock. "Treat them kindly now," Cheney told the audience as security took the two protesters away.
"I thought it was discourteous of him to do that," Briga said of the protester. "That was the vice president of the United States."

===
From the transcript of Cheney's speech, at the point when the assault happened (chant of "four more years" breaks out):

Now, we love this part of the country. The Willamette Valley, obviously,
is a fantastic piece of real estate -- some flying -- I've been on the road
too long. (Laughter.) Some fine fly fishing. And I know a thing or two about
fishing. I spend a little time on the stream myself. But also by the looks of
things, this is Bush-Cheney country. (Applause.)
We've been traveling the country extensively ever since the convention.
And that was a great convention in New York City, wasn't it? (Applause.) You
can't do much better than getting somebody like Zell Miller to come and brag
for George Bush. (Applause.) The President, of course, made a tremendous
speech, laid out a forward-looking plan to make America more hopeful and our
world more secure. And although he's not here today, also I want to report
that your senator Gordon Smith is doing a superb job for all of us in
Washington. (Applause.) And the President and I are tremendously -- the
President and I are tremendously grateful --

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Treat him with kindness now. Treat him with
kindness. Maybe he'll see the light. (Laughter.)
But we are -- we're delighted to have the support of so many great folks
all across the country. The President and I, of course, came within just a few
thousand votes of victory in Oregon in 2000. We're going to work even harder
this year to earn your support and victory on November 2nd in Oregon.

===
September 18, 2004

Cheney: Stay the course

By David Steves 
The Register-Guard

Vice President Dick Cheney spent most of his brief stop in Eugene on Friday ridiculing Democrat John Kerry as a flip-flopper and urging voters to keep America safe by sticking with the current administration.

In his 28-minute speech before 3,000 people at the Eugene Airport, Cheney made several references to the accomplishments of his running mate, President Bush - cutting taxes, pushing legislation to speed up logging in fire-prone Western forests and adding jobs to an economy that has been struggling to emerge from the 2001 downturn. But among the biggest selling points he made for a vote for Bush was keeping the United States safe from terrorists.

"Today we face an enemy every bit as intent on destroying us as were the Axis powers in World War II. ... This is, to put it simply, an enemy that we must destroy," Cheney said. "And with President George W. Bush as our commander-in-chief, that is exactly what we will do."

The campaign's stated goal for Cheney's appearance - revving up a partisan crowd of supporters and volunteers for the final 45 days of the campaign - seemed to be fulfilled, based on the raucous and frequent applause at the Monaco Coach hangar.

Twice, Cheney's speech was briefly interrupted by protesters who had infiltrated the crowd, which was made up of supporters who had received tickets from local GOP offices.

It was the sixth trip Cheney has made to Oregon since Bush's election and his first to Lane County since the 2000 campaign, when Cheney spoke in Junction City at a motor coach manufacturing plant. Prior to his Eugene stop, Cheney had appeared at a town hall-style event in Oregon City. That's where his Democratic counterpart, vice presidential nominee John Edwards, appeared Tuesday.

In Eugene Cheney tossed out plenty of red meat to the crowd, drawing huge cheers when he said he and Bush reject the partial-birth abortion procedure, support the right of Americans to bear arms, and believe that Americans ought to be able to say "one nation under God" when pledging allegiance to the flag.

But one of the major themes of the speech focused on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

Throughout the campaign, the Bush-Cheney campaign has sought to characterize Kerry as indecisive and prone to change his position on issues. Cheney maintained that drumroll throughout his speech, prompting the crowd to break out in chants of "flip-flop, flip-flop."

"America faces a choice on Nov. 2 between a strong and steadfast president and his opponent, who seems to adopt a new position every day," Cheney said.

Cheney criticized Kerry's vote against a bill to spend $87 billion for body armor and other military equipment for the troops in Iraq.

Adam Green, a Kerry spokesman in Oregon, said Cheney was mischaracterizing Kerry's vote on the military equipment appropriation by leaving out key factors: Kerry and other Democrats had proposed a version that provided the $87 billion by rolling back a portion of the Bush tax cut for the wealthiest households and businesses. Bush had threatened to veto that version. The one that passed Congress, and which Kerry opposed, did not provide the increased tax revenue to pay for it and included what the Democrat considered too much money for Halliburton and other contractors, Green said.

Green said Oregon voters should take into account Bush's own shifting statements on the war in Iraq.

"Let's talk about Bush's changing reasons for the war as lie after lie got debunked," he said. "Let's talk about Bush announcing 'mission accomplished' last year but telling Oregon parents who lost children in Iraq this week to stay the course."

Audience member Megan Wolf said she agreed to volunteer on a phone bank after calling a Republican campaign office for tickets. After hearing Cheney's speech, she said she was ready to devote more volunteer time on behalf of the Bush-Cheney ticket.

"I've never seen anyone this famous up close before," said the Corvallis resident, who turned 18 last month. "Now I'm getting really excited, so I think that will motivate me."

Two people in the crowd shed their outer layers of clothing after the speech began to reveal white T-shirts with anti-war slogans. One of them started shouting "Stop the war!" until an elderly man in the crowd rushed over to grab the demonstrator from behind and put a headlock on him. After security personnel broke up the scuffle, they escorted the two dissenters from the hangar.

"Treat him with kindness and maybe he'll see the light," Cheney remarked before resuming his speech.

The man who attacked the protester, 66-year-old Art Briga of Springfield, was allowed to stay.

"I just thought it was discourteous of the man to be doing that. He's the vice president of the United States," Briga said afterward. "And I'm an ex-Marine."

===

yeah, "good" thinking. 18.Sep.2004 13:37

this thing here

>"I just thought it was discourteous of the man to be doing that. He's the vice president of the United States," Briga said afterward. "And I'm an ex-Marine."<

but coming up from behind someone, and then putting them in a headlock with a hand clamped over the mouth is not discourteous. as if this person's mouth was a threat equal to that of a brandished hand gun or nuclear bomb, and a quick aggressive display of protection was in order...

there is such a noticeable, in my opinion, servile reverance for power and authority amongst republicans and right wingers. "bow down, your lord and master approaches". they love that kind of talk. such loyal pawns in the prescence of their kings. "the mere fact of his kingship means it is my honorable duty to sacrifice my own children upon his holy request." is it any wonder that god and guns turn them on...

Where are the voices of the Kerry supporters to challenge this? 18.Sep.2004 13:48

Pravda or Consequences

This is perfect PR for Kerry to spotlight the viciousness of Bushites.

What is a "Kerry supporter"? 18.Sep.2004 14:08

Rubber

"Excellent. Steady. Honest. Forthright," is how Tom Shattuck-Smallwood described the vice president. "He's made good decisions in tough times."

Can you name one?

Did ANYONE Record This Event From The Corporate News??????????? 18.Sep.2004 14:18

wonderer

Did ANYONE record this event????? I would like to see it. Can you put the footage on Indymedia???

Brown shirts come in many colors 18.Sep.2004 14:19

kzoo

Let the world see that in America free speech does not exist. Not in the schools, not in the gyms, not in the streets. Anyone voicing opposition to the junta can be struck down while the police watch we've all seen this time and time again this summer.

Europe, we need your help do not let Americans go unchallenged in your countries. Do not buy american goods, picket american stores as you would have german stores in the thirties.

Who is Tom Shattuck-Smallwood? 18.Sep.2004 15:00

Pravda or Consequences

?

It Is Happening Here 18.Sep.2004 15:43

Mark

The Brown Shirts are already here, and they are getting bolder. What next?

Dim Bulb/Flip-Flop in 2004!!! 18.Sep.2004 15:53

Rubber

Great job, demonstrators!

The Cheney sympathizers are a bunch of terrified bullies. They won't switch asses in mid-cesspool, you can count on that!

let's make sense 18.Sep.2004 17:08

Fred Flinstone burtontom1@aol.com

The first poster said:

"is it any wonder that god and guns turn them on..."

Now if I'm right, the protester at the event was wearing a shirt on which part of the statement read "pro-JESUS". Chances are this guy was referring to Jesus as God, not Jesus as man.

Rubber, you still haven't answered my question... 18.Sep.2004 18:32

Pravda or Consequences

Who is Tom Shattuck-Smallwood?

So How Come.... 18.Sep.2004 18:52

Rednecked Red

You folks whine about this? Learn how to defend yourselves, and send the next fuck that tries to slap you around to the emergency room. Plus, generally, if you know how to defend yourself and train regularly, you'll look and act like it. If you look like you can kick someone's ass, they generally won't mess with you.

Re: Tom Shattuck-Smallwood 18.Sep.2004 18:55

Rubber

Was quoted in the Statesman Journal article portion of the original submission above.

Good idea, redneck 18.Sep.2004 19:30

White trash

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Soon the whole world will be blind and toothless.
-some person

Brutal Suppression of Opposition 18.Sep.2004 20:28

Richard Kobzey

This is the eternal story of state justice...

your violence is gonna get us all killes 18.Sep.2004 20:54

some body some body knows

you better believe that if a protester be smackin a republ- i can do whatever the hell i want ( as long as it makes some rich guy some money)
the six- o-clock news won't be recording his reactions on his way home.
it would be straight to jail with alittle smacking around too

Two way street 18.Sep.2004 22:40

joe

How come nobody cared or made a comment when that little girl had her sign ripped away from a Kerry/ Edwards supporter? You say you want peace and justice here? I think you just want things they way you want them.

Two Way Street 18.Sep.2004 23:59

TheReasonWhy

The girl's father has a history of staging such events at Democratic campaign rallies, and the fellow who ripped up her sign bears a remarkable resemblance to her brother. I can't say for sure that he is her brother, but it seems very likely.

To Rubber, here is a Kerry supporter... 19.Sep.2004 08:54

Pravda or Consequences

Posted on Tue, Jun. 01, 2004


Crawford mayor is Kerry supporter

BY GROMER JEFFERS JR.

The Dallas Morning News


(KRT) - Crawford may be the heart of Bush country, but the town's mayor says John Kerry is the best choice for president.

"I don't see where I'm better off than I was four years ago," Robert Campbell said Tuesday. "I don't see where the city is any better off."

The Kerry campaign recently listed Campbell as one of 100 black mayors around the country - seven of them Texans - who support the Massachusetts senator over President Bush.

Looks More Like a Bush Detractor... 19.Sep.2004 11:31

Rubber

...than a Kerry supporter.

No, it looks like a Kerry supporter... 19.Sep.2004 12:39

Pravda or Consequences

especially if you read the article.

To Rubber, here's another 19.Sep.2004 17:01

Pravda or Consequences

I case the former wasn't explicit enough.

 http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml%3Fi=20040301&s=villaraigosa

Get A Grip 19.Sep.2004 21:52

Rubber repost from Scotsman.com

THE American presidential election campaign of 2004 is taking place in a parallel universe. President George Bush's Iraq adventure is unravelling by the day and the security situation on the ground is becoming desperate; but he has a healthy lead in the polls and, though the campaign still has a long way to run, must be regarded as being on course for re-election.

The war on terrorism is in danger of being lost and the national finances are drowning in a sea of red ink; yet the campaign has been dominated, so far, by Senator John Kerry's record in Vietnam over 30 years ago and how Bush behaved in the Alabama National Guard, also over three decades ago. For a forward-looking country, this is a very backward-looking election.

Despite periodic nastiness from both sides, it is also surprisingly sedate, given the immensity of the issues at stake, thanks partly to a domestic media which treats both candidates with kid gloves. Instead of incumbent and challenger being grilled mercilessly by robust inquisitors, both criss-cross the country hermetically sealed from all but the party faithful, unquestioned by journalists (who seemed more interested last week in Hurricane Ivan than the election) or even, perish the thought, voters.

This disconnection between the harsh realities facing America at home and abroad and the surreal nature of the campaign is playing into President Bush's hands. Senator Kerry's inability to strike a chord with the concerns of ordinary voters condemns him to remain locked in the campaign's parallel universe, which is to Bush's advantage, because an outbreak of reality would undermine his case for re-election; indeed by constantly harping on about his Vietnam record Kerry has only added to the unreality and let the incumbent off the hook. Kerry now thinks it was a mistake to make so much of Vietnam at the Democrats' Boston convention; but what compelling theme will take its place remains a mystery.

Six months ago the conventional political wisdom was, reasonably enough, that the election would be a referendum on George Bush's first term. Given the sluggish economy and the loss of jobs during his watch, plus the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, it was generally assumed that Bush was vulnerable. The conventional wisdom was wrong.

The Republican attack dogs have turned this into an election about Kerry. Six months ago they hit him with a sledgehammer by mounting a slick and well-financed campaign accusing him of being a serial flip-flopper. The Republican Party website even carried a hilarious cartoon boxing match, Kerry v Kerry, in which the Democratic candidate managed to take both sides of every issue - and knock himself out at the end of every round. At the time some Republican strategists worried it was too early in the election year to dip into the party's war chest. In fact, it was money well spent: the mud has stuck.

Presidential elections are much more about character than parliamentary ones, and Republican propaganda has succeeded in depicting Kerry as a politician who tacks and trims to the prevailing winds, a man "without a centre of gravity", as a leading Republican put it to me, in contrast to Bush who, for all his flaws and mistakes, is seen to be resolute and reliable. The attacks have been all the more effective because there is plenty of ammunition in Kerry's record to give the criticism credence.

His inconsistency over Iraq, for example, has been breathtaking, resulting in him having no clear message on the most pressing issue of the day. The senator voted for the war. He then voted against the $87bn the administration requested for post-invasion security and the rebuilding of Iraq. Last week he railed against the war's price tag to date ($200bn and rising), saying it should have been spent on health care and other domestic necessities. Yet a year ago, when asked if too much was being spent in Iraq, he replied: "We should increase funding [for the war in Iraq]... by whatever number of billions of dollars it takes to win."

The Kerry line on Iraq is that he would woo allies and create a much wider international coalition to rebuild Iraq. But Europe has already rumbled that this amounts to no more than George Bush with a smile rather than a smirk. It is inconceivable, given the bloody quagmire Iraq has become, that the French or Germans (or anybody else for that matter) would now deploy their troops there just because there was a new, friendlier broom in the White House. It also suffers from congenital Kerry inconsistency. There was no wider international coalition in modern history than the one the first President Bush put together to fight the first Gulf War. Kerry voted against it in the Senate.

This is the sort of stuff which makes Democrats despair. "Kerry should be ahead by 10 points at this stage of the campaign," a leading Democratic strategist said to me. "It is a measure of the ineptitude of his campaign that he's almost 10 points behind." It is not the only measure.

While Bush used his father's connections to sit out the Vietnam War in the National Guard, Kerry saw active service in the line of fire; he has the medals to prove it. But the anti-Kerry forces were so emboldened by the success of their "flip-flop" campaign that they even mounted an attack on his Vietnam credentials which succeeded in undermining his reputation as a war hero. It is not easy to be a brave Vietnam veteran who risked his life up against a man who shirked his military duty - and come out the worse for it. Such is the crass incompetence of the Kerry campaign that it has succeeded in doing just that.

The mainstream media is having almost as bad an election as Kerry. The days when the public prints and airwaves were dominated by a few liberal-left voices from the Boston/New York/Washington corridor, mostly all saying the same thing, have come to an end. The loudest voices now come from the right, in the shape of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News and a variety of radio 'shock-jocks'; and the newest political force in the campaign are the web bloggers, who now hold the mainstream media to account as never before.

When CBS News, a citadel of the US media establishment, saw the chance to do to Bush's National Guard record what the Swift Boat veterans had done to Mr Kerry's Vietnam record, the documents it produced in support of its story - that today's commander-in-chief had disobeyed orders as a National Guard pilot in 1972 - were subjected to unprecedented scrutiny by web bloggers, who quickly established that the documents were likely forgeries, made on a word processor which had not even been invented 30 years ago.

CBS News's veteran anchorman, Dan Rather, tried at first to disparage the bloggers, then bluster against them when expert testimony largely backed the bloggers. By the end of last week, Rather was looking rattled, his story was crumbling in his hands and the ratings for his nightly newscast were in freefall.

The Rather saga is symbolic of the loss of the mainstream liberal media's power and influence to a myriad of online sources, many of them outside the liberal media establishment and a potent new force in elections. In fact, the US campaign of 2004 is the world's first online election. Bob Shrum, a senior adviser to Kerry, refers to the growing influence of the web on both fundraising and the flow of campaign information in the current New Yorker: "Thirty-five per cent of the money that Kerry raised through July, which was some $220m, was raised online.

"The Bush people say they have six million e-mail addresses of people who signed up at georgewbush.com, and one million web volunteers... with the click of a button, and without it costing them anything, they can send a message to 10% of the 55 million people they need to have in order to win the election, instantly. That's an amazing figure. In this campaign, the web is important."

In upcoming elections in Britain and continental Europe, the web will not be that important because blogging is still in its infancy and broadband penetration is lower. But what is happening in America today is the shape of things to come in democratic elections everywhere. The loss of confidence in the mainstream US media is already palpable: last week they were happier giving wall-to-wall coverage of Hurricane Ivan - which largely consisted of reporters standing in the wind and rain telling viewers how wet and windy it was in the path of the storm - than covering the election campaign.

So, thanks in part to Kerry and in part to a diminished mainstream media, the Bush campaign is enjoying something of a free ride, allowing their man to pose as an effective "war president" and to whip up his conservative base. In the president's standard stump speech, the war on terrorism is being won and "progress" is being made in Iraq. Events from Beslan to Baghdad suggest otherwise; but Kerry is unable to derail the Bush bandwagon.

When the Beslan atrocity dominated American television screens, Kerry was telling supporters in North Carolina that he would create a new US "Department of Wellness" to deal with pressing domestic problems such as house mould. When last week a classified national intelligence estimate was leaked telling the president that the most favourable outcome in Iraq was at best a "tenuous" security and at worst "civil war", thereby exposing the president's claims of "progress" as baseless, Kerry's response was lame. The best soundbite he could come up with was to label Bush as the "excuse President" - hardly riveting stuff.

The Kerry camp is now pinning its hopes on next month's presidential debates: they want three. The Bush camp is worried: they want two. Vice President Dick Cheney is known to be especially concerned about his man. Teams of debaters have already been assembled to put the president through his paces. Cheney fears that in a straight, old-fashioned debate Kerry could come off best. Those who were at Yale with the challenger remember him as a formidable debater. So the Republican strategy is to argue for a folksy format in which Bush's "good old boy" style would shine.

The Bush camp is always worried when their man is unscripted and has to think on his feet. But there is nothing in the Kerry campaign style to date to suggest he is capable of the killer debating blow. On the stump he is lugubrious and leaden. Last week he tackled the thorny issue of pensions in front of a group of retired folk with the use of cardboard slides to illustrate his points, looking and sounding more like a plodding professor than the next president. Even the Democratic faithful started nodding off.

The campaign would be ignited, of course, if there was another atrocity on American soil before polling day on November 3. It is widely expected in the US intelligence community. "We know al-Qaeda is planning something horrible before the election," an intelligence analyst told me. "But we don't know when, where or how. The co-ordinated bombings in Baghdad last weekend could be a precursor of something much bigger here. It shows how sophisticated and co-ordinated the terrorists have become."

There is speculation that there could be a series of simultaneous bombings across the country. One scenario envisages 10 shopping malls being attacked on the same day; intelligence officers fear al-Qaeda is out to create a terrorist atrocity even more spectacular than 9/11, this time hoping for as many as 50,000 casualties. Of course, nothing might happen; but given the sorry state of US intelligence - the man Bush wants to take over the CIA said this week it would take at least another five years to bring US intelligence capabilities up to speed - it cannot be ruled out.

If there is a terrorist doomsday during the campaign, Bush's claim to be winning the war on terrorism would be in shreds. But America is not Spain: a terrorist attack in the US would likely solidify support around the president, in an outpouring of grief, anger and patriotism. The Kerry camp admits privately that it would not be to their man's advantage.

It is not easy to see what will be to Kerry's advantage over the next six weeks.

Iraq is a cauldron; but the Bush tactic is to keep a lid on it until polling day and to worry about what to do next after that. The war on terror is a shambles; but only about a third of Americans think John Kerry would be any better at fighting it.

The president's big-government conservatism has created a federal deficit this year of over $400bn and he plans to add trillions more to the national debt in his second term; but these are abstract numbers that do not resonate in an election campaign and Kerry would borrow just as much (though for different purposes). The performance of the US economy has hardly been spectacular under Bush but he managed to avoid a prolonged recession and it is now doing well enough for the economy not to be a strong reason to unseat him.

The Kerry camp's strongest card remains the widespread dislike, often bordering on hatred, of George W Bush. This has helped galvanise the core Democratic vote, but Kerry strategists are discovering that strong anti-Bush sentiment is not enough to win an election; they also have to give voters, especially moderate, centrist ones, a reason to vote for somebody; and so far that is something Kerry has failed to do.

Yet the opportunity still exists. There are millions of independents and moderate Republicans tempted not to vote for Bush. The more the president woos the fundamentalist right, the more other Republicans feel disillusioned. These 'Rinos' - Republicans in name only - are fiscal conservatives but social liberals who are against almost everything in the Bush platform, from his penchant for big deficit spending to his opposition to stem cell research, abortion and gay marriages.

If Kerry could prove to them he would govern from the centre then their votes are there for the taking. Last week in the Wall Street Journal he tried to woo them with an article in which he denied he was an old-style protectionist or redistributionist. It was an intelligent contribution to the economic debate. The problem is that his 'flip-flop' reputation and habit of telling particular audiences what they want to hear undermines his credibility. 'Rinos' still see a stilted, patrician Massachusetts left-winger - the pink moon that has always been in orbit round Senator Edward Kennedy's liberal-left star - and remain disinclined to vote for him, however disillusioned they are with Bush.

Back in the real world, beyond the parallel universe of the campaign, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are back in force in Afghanistan, where heroin production has reached record levels, to the financial advantage of the resurgent warlords. The US-backed security forces are capable only of sporadic raids into the hostile countryside and attacks on them are increasing. The country is on the brink of returning to its post-9/11 medievalism.

In Iraq there are now almost 90 terrorist attacks a day on coalition forces and their Iraqi supporters. The insurgents are increasingly well-organised, well-armed and have no shortage of recruits; many towns and huge swathes of the country are no longer under coalition or official Iraqi control. The prospect of Iraq becoming another terrorist-fostering Afghanistan which exports terrorist violence all over the globe is now all too real.

For its part, al-Qaeda and its allies are more widely deployed than ever, under new leadership and with fresh recruits. Terrorist training is now widespread in Pakistan, Syria and, of course, Iraq - and co-ordinated.

These are the fundamental problems that the campaign of 2004 is reluctant to confront but that no president will be able to ignore after the election. Kerry has nothing of significance to say about them and Bush would prefer not to talk about them at all. But they will be top of the Oval Office in-tray for whoever wins. Given the paucity of decent options in Iraq, Afghanistan or the war on terror facing the victor on November 3, this could be a good election to lose.

This analysis is irrelevant 20.Sep.2004 17:19

Pravda or Consequences

Past posts have already written off Kerry as someone to believe in and Bush's incompetence started with the necessary assist from the Supreme Court to get him into office (and Gore's lack of commitment).

Your original argument was who was a supporter of Kerry and I provided one.

If this latest post is to somehow enlighten myself or others, you should understand that regardless of how you feel I have not seen anyone write that Kerry is the best America can do. But he is better than Bush. Why? Because of someone is going to be resolute, be resolute where nobody dies.