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50 days until Election Day 17 days until the first proposed presidential debate


With John Kerry trying a bit of offense on assault weapons and North Korea; major Iraq chaos; some book background noise; and a pair National Guard showdowns, we bring you …

… .A simple Monday Note quiz (intended for ages 16 to 76) to re-set the presidential race for one and all:

1. History will record August through early September was the period in which:

A. Sen. Kerry effectively lost the White House.


B. Sen. Kerry effectively reorganized his campaign and found his message, learning many lessons from the nature and ferocity of the attacks on him in July/August.

2. The documents on which CBS based its report last week raising new questions about the special treatment President Bush received as a member of the Texas National Guard are:

A. forgeries, the exposure of which will create a great media whodunit that will distract the press away from the real issues in the election, get the right riled up against the dominant media, and give additional firepower to the Bartlett-led allegations of "desperate attacks" on the President.


B. the real deal that will put unprecedented pressure on the president to explain his time in the National Guard and his "young and irresponsible" years, providing a wedge into the "trust," "privilege," and "character" issues Democratic strategists dream about, and forcing the White House to engage the facts on a level beyond (the comic mantra) "the president served honorably and was honorably discharged."

3. The newspaper stories in which various Kerry advisers trash each other on background and talk about what the candidate's message "should" be — exposing the rifts between the Boston-consultants-staffer-family camps and leaving Karl Rove scratching his chin wondering why less than two months before election day his opponent doesn't know what his message is:

A. will continue all fall, giving the press its much desired "if he can't run a presidential campaign, how can he run the country?" storyline.


B. saw their last gasp in Saturday's New York Times , Sunday's Los Angeles Times, and the Bob Shrum profile by Ken Auletta in the New Yorker (LINK) — after which the Senator demanded that such nonsense stop forever.

4. As he struggles to find a message, Sen. Kerry will

A. enter the debates with the Bob Dole '96 problem of how to go negative and catch up without looking, well, negative.


B. soon figure out how George W. Bush can simultaneously (in the same speech!! even in the same paragraph!!) go positive and negative and not face a series of stories about the inevitable "choice" between the two.

5. No matter what the allegation or negative development, until and unless George Bush loses his lead in the polls, his campaign will:

A. answer every attack or fact from any source with a version of "Sen. Kerry is making another desperate charge at the end of the campaign because he is behind in the polls. Once again, Americans are tired of the same old political flip flopping from a desperate man who doesn't know what he believes," and never themselves answer the substance of the charges.


B. face increased scrutiny of Bush's record on Iraq and the economy in ways that (even) Sen. Kerry will be able to take advantage of.

6. Polls between now and the first debate will be read by the Gang of 500 to show:

A. President Bush is ahead by enough that he can't lose.


B. Sen. Kerry has cut down the president's post-convention bounce lead enough to be in easy striking distance of winning.

7. The seemingly late-starting Bush-supporting 527 efforts, combined with groups such as the NRA, and with Blaise Hazelwood's genius will:

A. swamp the efforts of Big Labor and the Democratic 527s on election day.


B. turn out to be no match for the anti-Bush energy that defines Blue America.

8. The upcoming Springsteen-led concerts against the President announced with much fanfare will:

A. be as important historically as the nuclear freeze concert in which Jackson Browne recorded his classic version of "Stay."


B. be historic, galvanizing events that are part of a Kerry comeback story.

9. In the debate-about-debates, James Addison Baker 3d will:

A. clean Vernon Jordan's unsuspecting clock.


B. suffer his first major political defeat in years.

10. John Kerry's much ballyhooed, legendary capacity to turn it on at the end of a campaign will:

A. prove to be only applicable to beating someone with the political, uhm, skills of Howard Dean, or when running as a Democrat in Massachusetts.


B. amaze a nation in the next 50 days.

If you answered "A" more than seven times, well . . .

The first full week after Labor Day offers a trifecta of political events: box office-energy books (Kitty Kelley, Seymour Hersh); policy pronouncements (a "new" "crime prevention plan" from Kerry and Edwards on the day the assault weapons ban expires); and the intriguing political play of Kerry and Bush speaking to the same group that so happens to represent the National Guard.

We'll take the second part first, Jack.

Ten years after President Bill Clinton signed it into law, the assault weapons ban expires today without even a whimper.

Kerry and Edwards will try to make the most of that when Kerry is endorsed by the 236,000-member National Association of Police Organizations and accuses Bush of "caving to the gun lobby" and making "it easier for criminals and terrorists to obtain these deadly weapons against the advice of our nation's police officers."

Kerry also gets the nod from the National Coalition of Public Safety Officers, and will also be joined on the trail by Sarah Brady, wife of former Reagan press secretary and gun violence victim Jim Brady, New York Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and Washington, DC Mayor Anthony Williams.

As for those books, we will of course see Kitty Kelley spout her thinly sourced innuendo about current and former Presidents Bush on a certain morning show (three days in a row?!). And just as her book hits stores Seymour Hersh packages much of the reporting he debuted in the New Yorker for "Chain of Command," in which he argues that the Iraq war distracted from the war on terror and that responsibility for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib went very high up the chain of command.

On the candidates' calendars this week, as reporters continue to focus on the authenticity of documents that may of may not have described President Bush's National Guard status 35 years ago, Bush and Kerry both speak to the National Guard Association in Las Vegas — Bush tomorrow, Kerry on Thursday.

In Washington, the Senate task force assigned with overhauling the country's intelligence setup meets for the first time this week. And on Tuesday Rep. Porter Goss begins his hearings that are expected to make him the new Director of Central Intelligence.

And do not forget: Red Sox-Yankees in the Bronx this weekend, AL East pennant on the line.

Kerry receives the NAPO endorsement in Washington today at 9:30 am ET and spends the day without public events in Washington until flying to Milwaukee tonight.

President Bush spends the day talking about health care in Michigan. The message, in spokesman Scott Stanzel's words: Bush has a plan to "strengthen" health care while Kerry favors "putting government in charge and shifting the costs to taxpayers." Bush visits the Democratic-leaning Muskegon first (11:00 am ET) before traveling to Republican-leaning Holland (1:20 pm ET), and battleground Battle Creek (4:35 pm ET).

(Ralph Nader isn't too far away, by the way. He speaks at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor at 1:00 pm ET and at Michigan State University in East Lansing at 7:00 pm ET.)

Vice President Cheney and Mrs. Cheney begin the day in Iowa with an 11:30 am ET town hall meeting in Ottumwa and finish with a 4:00 pm rally in Beaver, WV.

Senator John Edwards hosts a town hall meeting in Santa Fe, NM then flies to Tucson, AZ and Reno, NV for rallies. He overnights in Portland, OR.

In Washington, the Senate begins voting on amendments to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill at 5:30 pm ET, when Sen. Chuck Schumer's amendment that would provide $100 million for tracking HAZMAT trucks is up for vote.

On Tuesday, Kerry begins his day in Milwaukee before stopping in Toledo, and then on to Michigan. Vanessa Kerry talks health care in Mason City, IA. President Bush heads to Colorado, then on to Las Vegas for his speech before the Conference of the National Guard Association of the United States. First Lady Laura Bush hits the stump in Ohio. Vice President Cheney makes stops in Arkansas and West Virginia. Edwards spends Tuesday talking to voters at community colleges before hitting a reception and then flying to West Virginia.

Also on Tuesday, nine states and the District of Columbia will hold primaries. Washington's Democratic gubernatorial primary between Attorney General Christine Gregoire and King County Executive Ron Sims is the highest profile race in the mix. The other states holding primaries are: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

On Wednesday, Sen. Kerry addresses the Detroit Economic Club before heading to Madison, WI, and on to Washington, DC, where he speaks to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The president is back in Washington, DC on Wednesday, to speak at the Hispanic Heritage Month concert and reception at the White House. Sen. Edwards begins his Wednesday in West Virginia before heading to Ohio.

Kerry spends Thursday in Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado. President Bush heads to Minnesota, where he speaks at a rally in St. Cloud, participates in a "Focus on Health with President Bush" event in Blaine, and speaks at a Minnesota Victory 2004 rally in Rochester.

On Friday, Sen. Kerry heads from Colorado to Minnesota. The president stops at events in Washington, DC, and Charlotte, NC, and Mrs. Bush talks about the economy in West Virginia on Friday, followed by stumping for Rep. Jim DeMint for Senate in South Carolina and attending a rally in Pennsylvania.

Sen. Kerry is in New Hampshire on Saturday, and the president spends the day in Kennebunkport, ME.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush v. Kerry:

"With barely two months before the presidential election of 2004, the campaigns of Republican President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry are haunted by past campaigns involving the president's father, George Bush," write Bill Adair and Wes Allison of the St. Petersburg Times. LINK

"But while the current Bush camp is obsessed with avoiding the elder's mistakes, addressing them almost point by point, the Kerry campaign seems oblivious to some of the biggest lessons of Dukakis."

In Newsweek, Howard Fineman and Mike Isikoff wade into the mud pit and try to figure out how we got here. LINK

The Washington Post 's Howard Kurtz looks at how covering the news and actions of the candidates 30 years ago, not to mention the tawdry, the press not only has made everything fair game, but gives short shrift to actual issues that affect voters. LINK

"If journalists devoted the same investigative energy to the candidates' efforts to bolster Medicare and Social Security or deal with the mess in Iraq — as opposed to precisely what happened on the Bay Hap River in 1969 — perhaps more people might find campaign coverage compelling."

The Wall Street Journal 's Jacob Schlesinger and Greg Hitt examine the war on character that's taken prominence in the campaign. LINK

Key graphs: "The character tilt to the campaign so far has helped Mr. Bush and could continue to give him an edge if it remains the dominant theme through the fall. Republicans have been more persistent with personal attacks against Mr. Kerry than Democrats have been against Mr. Bush, and polls show Mr. Kerry's negative ratings rising more sharply than Mr. Bush's. While Democrats vow to fight back, it is harder to change public perceptions of an incumbent president than a lesser-known challenger.

"Democrats also risk taking the focus off the economy, health care, and Iraq, where polls show voters still have serious concerns about Mr. Bush's record. A character debate 'is clearly much more effective for Bush because it takes him away from the issues,' says Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, which analyzes public opinion. 'Kerry has to talk about how bad conditions are.'"

"The danger for both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush is that a nasty personality fight, while exciting core supporters, turns off undecided voter."

Colin Powell did his best to refuse to enter the fray over Vietnam service in the presidential campaign, but did repeat his claim that "the system was disturbing to" him to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos when asked about those who were able to avoid the draft. The Los Angeles Times has a look at Powell's Sunday circuit. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's John Harwood gives front-page real estate to the Colorado ballot measure seeking to apportion the state's electoral votes based on the percentage of votes each candidate receives.

"If voters approve the measure, and it withstands court challenge, the reverberations could reach well beyond the 2004 campaign. Analysts in both parties expect a change in Colorado would spur similar moves elsewhere and make the Electoral College system itself once again a battlefield in the war between Republicans and Democrats for control of a narrowly divided nation."

"Such a change nationwide would dramatically alter presidential campaigns by giving candidates new incentives to compete in vote-rich states that now are safely in the hands of the opposition. Republicans would spend far more time in states like California and New York that lean toward the Democrats, while Democrats would stump harder in Texas."

On Sunday, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times took a very smart look at how the President is painting himself as an agent of change despite being the incumbent. With roughly half the public unsure about the direction of the country, this may prove to be a necessary tactic. LINK

The critical thing in this Saturday New York Times story by Richard Stevenson and David Halbfinger is about "internal divisions" in the Kerry campaign about how harshly Bush should be attacked is that these concerns see the light of day in the first place. Organized and disciplined this campaign is not. LINK

Perhaps the possible new addition of a yet another senior, senior communications czar with Clinton ties will turn the tide.

"Now, the more difficult question, officials say, is just how the Kerry campaign — even if Mr. Kerry does not take part directly — should go after Mr. Bush. Some of Mr. Kerry's closest friends and longtime political operatives from Boston, who have now set up shop at Democratic headquarters in Washington, are pressing for more, saying the campaign and the candidate must go on the offensive, to restore Mr. Kerry's own character as a political asset and to hold Mr. Bush accountable for attacks on Mr. Kerry. These friends and former aides, led by David Thorne, a Yale classmate, fellow Navy veteran and brother of Mr. Kerry's first wife, are agitating for the candidate himself to answer what they called the character-assassination attacks of people like Vice President Cheney and members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. They are pushing for Mr. Kerry to make a dramatic statement of his own to settle voters' doubts about Mr. Kerry's Vietnam War period."

"Officials in the campaign, however, including both longstanding consultants like Bob Shrum and new additions like Joe Lockhart and other veterans of the Clinton administration, have balked at such a move, saying it could be a disaster and alienate too many swing voters who would view such an approach as mean-spirited. They said Mr. Kerry would do better to concentrate on issues where he outperforms Mr. Bush in polls, like jobs and health care."

The Los Angeles Times' Matea Gold and Mark Barabak on Sunday followed Saturday's New York Times story on the debate within the Kerry campaign about how hard to go after President Bush and how to go about doing that in the most effective manner. LINK

"One continued disagreement is over how sharply the Democratic presidential nominee — as opposed to campaign surrogates — should attack President Bush. Also in dispute is how much change would be too much for Kerry to advocate in these anxious times."

Time magazine's Michael Duffy and Karen Tumulty wonder whether Kerry's get-tougher stance with Bush will do the trick.

"In the course of about a month, Bush had found a way to level the playing field on the one issue on which he was most vulnerable. . . . And Kerry helped him at every step. . . .Perhaps what's most frustrating for Kerry's supporters is that his position is not that complicated — and is intellectually defensible." LINK

Time's Joe Klein tries to deconstruct why Kerry's having trouble gaining a foothold on terror — even in the aftermath of Cheney's controversial comments. LINK

"Kerry seems unable, or unwilling, to confront Bush directly on this ground. Every word he utters about Iraq smacks of politics. Last week he finally said the war was 'wrong,' but then — in a crass, consultant-driven moment — turned the disaster into a financial transaction."

Johnny Apple on Sunday explored this election's ground zero, Ohio, and wonders why if things are ripe for Kerry's picking, President Bush seems to be running strong. LINK

On Sunday, Dan Balz of the Washington Post sized up the smaller battleground and writes "the 10 most competitive states are, in order of electoral vote strength, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, West Virginia and New Hampshire." LINK

John Broder offered up a New York Times Week-in-Review piece on Sunday that wondered if Republicans are tougher and rougher than Democrats on the campaign trail. LINK

Note to Mr. Broder, who should know better: the '88 Bush campaign did not make the famous Willie Horton ad.

On Sunday, the Boston Globe 's Anne Kornblut outlined the flip-flop charges flying from both the Bush side and the Kerry side at one another. LINK

Check out the Nicolle Devenish and Stuart Stevens quotes.

On Saturday, the Washington Post 's Dana Milbank and Lisa Rein Noted an escalation in the president's rhetoric:

"Friday was the first time Bush made the accusation that Hussein would still be in power if Kerry's view had prevailed, although Cheney has said it several times. Kerry campaign spokesman Phil Singer did not directly rebut Bush's allegation but said: "Dick Cheney crossed the line earlier this week, so it's no shock that George Bush is following his lead." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: polls:

Brian Braiker writes up the latest Newsweek poll, which shows President Bush's post-convention bounce narrowing to 6 points, with the Bush-Cheney ticket leading the Kerry-Edwards ticket, 49 percent to 43 percent — and 2 percent for Ralph Nader. The survey also shows President Bush's approval rating dropping to 48 percent, and his favorability rating slipping to 52 percent. Yet 60 percent of registered voters said they think the president will win reelection in 50 days. LINK

Mark Schulman writes up Time magazine's latest poll, which shows President Bush leading Senator Kerry among likely voters, 52 percent to 41 percent, with Ralph Nader at 3 percent — considerably different from the Post -Democratic convention poll that showed Kerry with 48 percent and Bush with 43 percent. LINK

"Troubling for Kerry is that the Republicans have continued to shift the nation's agenda toward terrorism, a Bush stronghold, and away from the economy, as the voters' decisive issue. Terrorism is now at 26%, up 8 points from early August, among registered voters."

President Bush and the National Guard: the politics of the documents:

No new investigative leads in the paper today, though journalists of all stripes continue to chase all aspects of the story — be the documents valid or counterfeit.

These maddening document experts, with their insistence on originals and their "could be, maybe" wishy-washiness are sometimes missing the point.

Over the weekend, a man who originally authenticated the documents' tone, Ret. Major General Bobby Hodges, recanted and said that had he seen the documents and known that Col. Killian's family disputed them, he would not have vouched for their authenticity.

And experts consulted by ABC News continue to doubt whether an IBM Composer typewriter of any flavor could have easily produced the documents in question.

USA Today , which — Note this twist — obtained the four documents in question and two others before CBS gave them to the White House, has a good summary of where things stand. LINK

" USA TODAY obtained copies of the documents independently soon after the 60 Minutes segment aired Wednesday, from a person with knowledge of Texas Air National Guard operations. The person refused to be identified out of fear of retaliation. It is unclear where the documents, if they are real, had been kept in the intervening three decades."

Watch Jim Drinkard and Dave Moniz very carefully in the days to come . . .

CBS continues to defend its story but acknowledges it is working on it. LINK

Bill Safire calls for CBS to blue-ribbon-panel its way out of this. LINK

Ron Brownstein weighs the potential political impact of the Guard story on the presidential contest. Does it just make Democrats feel good or will it actually move some points? LINK

Brownstein writes of four different ways in which Bush critics may hope the Guard service flap will raise questions about the president's character. However, Brownstein writes of the potentially most potent being an aggregate feeling opponents hope to create of President Bush as a son of privilege.

Brownstein also includes this bit of news: Texans for Truth "raised $400,000 within 72 hours after unveiling its television ad last week . . . With that money, Smith says, the group may both expand the buy for that initial ad and air others questioning different aspects of Bush's Guard record."

Lots of folks noted that Colin Powell "restated on Sunday his long-standing objections to Vietnam-era draft policies that allowed the "sons of the powerful" to escape combat." LINK

Newsweek is on the trail of Bill Burkett. LINK

The New York Post on Burkett and his breakdowns. LINK

On Saturday, the Dallas Morning News reported that "A CBS staffer stood by the story, suggesting that Col. Staudt could have continued to exert influence over Guard officials. But a former high-ranking Guard official disputed that, saying retirement would have left Col. Staudt powerless over remaining officials." LINK

A Saturday Los Angeles Times story said that CBS had two other experts verify the documents. LINK

Note that the expert CBS trotted out late last week now says he only confirmed one of the four documents and that one only based on the signature.

The New York Times on Saturday focused on the typewriters. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Francie Latour and Michael Rezendes reported on Saturday that the experts their paper consulted think the docs are real. LINK

The Washington Post 's Howard Kurtz on Saturday focused mainly on CBS damage control. LINK

"One staff member, who has examined the documents but did not work on the "60 Minutes" piece, saw potential problems with them: 'There's a lot of sentiment that we should do an internal investigation.'"

USA Today 's Mark Memmott writes, "The controversy also renews questions about whether the media are more vulnerable to being manipulated by partisans seeking to influence the presidential campaign." LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

President Bush's first event today is dubbed "Focus on Health with President Bush." Per the BC04 campaign, this event is a conversation with a community health center representative, two beneficiaries of Health Savings Accounts and a small business owner who is supportive of Association Health Plans (AHPs), ABC News' Karen Travers reports. In 2000, President Bush lost Muskegon County by 7,837 votes (43.3 percent to 54.7 percent) and lost Michigan by 217,279 votes (46.1 percent to 51.3 percent).

Bush heads to rallies in two other counties today, Ottawa and Calhoun. Bush won Ottawa County by 49,103 votes in 2000 (71.2 percent to 26.8 percent) and lost Calhoun County by 1,021 votes (49.6 percent to 47.7 percent).

The AP's Riechmann previews President Bush's focus on health care today in Michigan. LINK

The Washington Post 's Mike Allen writes that skeptics on both sides are looking at President Bush's commander-in-chief emphasis with clenched teeth, as it puts him in a vulnerable position, regardless of his poll numbers, if things go south in Iraq, there's a terrorist attack, or economic troubles. We wonder, though, what else the incumbent would emphasize. LINK

The AP's Tom Raum Sunday wrote that if Senator Kerry is a flip-flopper as the Bush team has defined him, then he has company in his opponent. LINK

The New York Times ' Elisabeth Bumiller on a new "looser, livelier" President. LINK

Al Hunt's campaign journal takes us to the exurbs of Millersville, PA. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

Ken Auletta's New Yorker piece on Bob Shrum is outstanding — most remarkable for (1) its relatively favorable treatment of the man; (2) Shrum's willingness to go on the record; (3) Ken's trip to the Shrum's Cape home and his capturing of the dynamics of a Shrum/Oates dinner better than anyone in the long history of Shrum profiles. LINK

None other than expert John Edwards says that President Bush's lead in the polls in temporary. LINK

The Washington Post 's Jim VandeHei takes a look inside Senator Kerry's debate prep — refocusing the campaign on the events that they're banking could turn around the BC04 post-convention lead. LINK

Kerry's energy problems get props from the New York Times : LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Savage explores the effects of having a trial lawyer on the ticket. LINK

"These days, the people who bring personal injury lawsuits against corporations, insurers and healthcare providers have replaced 'union bosses' as the group that corporate America identifies as its key public enemy. And this year, more than ever before, the war of words between corporate leaders and trial lawyers echoes in the battle for the White House."

Sen. Kerry tells Time magazine's Karen Tumulty that he's "been in worse situations" than the presidential race and the attacks that come with it at the moment, refuses to talk about the president's service during Vietnam, and outlines his domestic policy and what he needs to do to get the race going his way. LINK

"Draw the contrast; be crystal clear about it. That's what I've been doing every day. George Bush has made the wrong choices for America. He's leading the country in the wrong direction. John Edwards and I have better choices. We have a health-care plan for all Americans. We're going to stop subsidizing jobs that go overseas and create jobs here in America. We're going to fund education and not leave millions of children behind every day. The trail of broken promises and reversed decisions of this Administration is unlike any I have ever seen at any time that I have been in public life, and I'm going to draw that picture as clear as a bell."

"[Mario]Cuomo, who almost ran for president in 1992, told The Post that fellow Democrat Kerry has got to 'stop talking in sentences with three commas in them,'" reports the New York Post 's Fred Dicker. LINK

The New York Daily News comes out and calls Richard Holbrooke "a top choice for secretary of state in a Kerry administration," after his appearance on Fox News Sunday where he compared the war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam. LINK

The Washington Post ed board accuses Senator Kerry of waffling on his stance on Iraq. LINK

For her charitable work, it's still just Teresa Heinz on the letterhead. LINK

The Washington Post 's Evelyn Nieves on Sunday looked at Teresa Heinz Kerry's penchant for speaking off the cuff a bit more than perhaps the campaign would like for her to do, but also at how the crowds allegedly love her. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: The Big Four: Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin:

The Columbus Dispatch's Mark Niquette writes about the importance of northeast Ohio for Kerry under this headline: "Kerry must turn region's downturn into votes." LINK

The assault weapons ban expiration is the lead story on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's site. LINK

There are lots of worried US Airways workers on both ends of Pennsylvania. LINK and LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the battlegrounds:

In an e-mail to reporters this morning, Jim "You've Got Mail" Jordan announced that the Media Fund will "will unveil a multi-million dollar sustained national effort" today targeting "African Americans of voting age across the nation and specifically in battleground states of Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin." The campaign will consist of radio, television, and Internet ads.

Media Fund spokesgal Sarah Leonard tells The Note that it's a $5 million buy that will last several weeks.

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post looks at those spots, which target young African-American voters by accusing President Bush of trying to suppress the black vote. LINK

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Lewis Kamb and Phuong Cat Le have an extensive breakdown of the financial contributions of residents of the Montlake area of Seattle, which "has given more to [Bush and Kerry] than any other neighborhood — or area defined by a single ZIP code — in Washington." LINK

The Washington Times ' Don Lambro reports that the paper's "state-by-state review of how the electoral contest shapes up shows Mr. Bush leading across the South, the Western and Plains states and in several major Midwestern states, including Ohio and Missouri. If he actually wins these states, he would have 269 electoral votes, one vote shy of victory." LINK

Jeffrey McCracken of the Detroit Free Press talks with local voters while investigating the decision making process of the Michigan voters as Iraq and jobs remain driving forces in the state. LINK

Is Arizona a battleground? The Arizona Daily Star's Karamargin leads with the partisan dispute occurring on the ground and greets Senator Edwards today with: "Republicans are calling it 'the farewell tour.' Democrats say it's proof that Arizona still matters."LINK

Bush Administration strategy/personality:

HUD Sec. Alphonso Jackson has an opinion piece in USA Today in which he reflects on getting booed last week at the National Baptist Convention. LINK

Here Kitty, Kitty:

We have plowed through Kitty Kelley's 700+ pages of gossip and history about the Bushes — "The Family," and all we can say is — we are pretty confident that this will not affect the outcome of the election.

Busy as Dan Bartlett is, he probably should have used the time he spent trying to browbeat Neal Shapiro into keeping Ms. Kelley off of NBC playing with his new babies.

On Today today, Kelley appeared at 7:30, and Matt Lauer made the segment much more about the author's credibility than about her charges — sort of begging the question about why have her on once, let alone three days.

Then, right after that, Sharon Bush was on, and she repeated her denial that she made any statements serving as Kelley's second source for the marquee allegations in the book.

Masquerading as serious history of three generations of Bushes, "The Family" is mostly an excuse to use background and a few on-the-record quotes to dredge up all the allegations of sex, drugs, and poor behavior that have swirled around the clan for years.

The allegations by President Bush's ex-sister-in-law Sharon involving her on-the-record-but-since-retracted claims of drug use at Camp David (that made up the bulk of the pre-publication publicity) are clearly the item in the tome most likely to spark controversy and perhaps force the president to re-engage on his young and irresponsible days.

As you know, the president has never ruled out EVER using illegal drugs (only that he hasn't used them recently), but we find it hard to believe that this book will suddenly force him to address the charges. Matt Lauer says that Bartlett over the weekend engaged enough to deny the Camp David allegations.

Oddly (or perhaps not) Sharon Bush's alleged charges are contained in the author's note at the front of the book.

Regarding the National Guard, both the circumstances of his service and allegations that attempts were made to sanitize his file before he ran for president, there is nothing new in here — although Bill Burkett (a player in the CBS controversy) makes a cameo.

The tone of the book is negative almost uniformly.

Some of the highlights:

p. 263: 43 gets really mad at someone at Yale who throws a football at him, and he throws it back REALLY hard.

p. 302: Marylouise Oates (a/k/a Mrs. Bob Shrum) is quoted as saying: "The Ellis family and the Bush family have had serious problems with booze. I remember when John Ellis called to say he couldn't come to my wedding because he was going to Hazelden. He was taking Antabuse and still drinking then … I'll bet George W. went to Hazelden, too, but I can't prove it. 448: A Howard Fineman quote!!!

p. 452: Claims that 41 lied about his war record to make it seem more impressive for political use (How Kerry-like!!)

p. 525: Barbara Bush cancels an interview with Deborah Orin.

p. 542: The character of Karl Rove is introduced.

p. 550:-1 The notion is floated that 43 is protected during his runs for public office from personal allegations by a "Rent-a-Spooks" operation resulting from his father's days as head of the CIA. (Note Note: we aren't kidding.)

p. 624: Ann Compton and the words "went down the bunny hole" appear for the first and last time in the book. (And Compton is misquoted; she actually said "rabbit.")

The politics of national security:

In today's New York Times David Sanger reports that John Kerry called the Times unsolicited to critique President Bush's policy toward North Korea and argue the Iraq war took the administration's "eye off the real ball." LINK

"They have taken their eye off the real ball," Mr. Kerry said, his voice almost shaking in anger. "They took it off in Afghanistan and shifted it to Iraq. They took it off in North Korea and shifted it to Iraq. They took it off in Russia, and the nuclear materials there, and shifted it to Iraq."

Sanger's take:

"Kerry's "language on Sunday, calling the situation 'a nuclear nightmare' and directly accusing Mr. Bush of leaving the United States more vulnerable to North Korea, was far harsher and more incendiary than the language he has used before. It is also highly unusual for Mr. Kerry to seek out a reporter on a Sunday, when he had no public appearances scheduled, to attack Mr. Bush. This comes as Mr. Kerry and his aides, during this final 50 days of the campaign, have promised to draw more consistent and sharper contrasts to Mr. Bush in response to criticism from supporters that their message has been too weak."

" . . . a top official of the reclusive communist state said early today that the massive blast was the deliberate demolition of a mountain as part of a hydroelectric project," reports Josh Meyer of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

The Washington Post 's Laura Blumenfeld looks at the biography of Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) and his uncertain future as the nominee to head the CIA. LINK

Doug Jehl of the New York Times does more of a policy take out, and an excellent one at that. LINK

Richard Lardner of the Tampa Tribune investigates the possible impact on Sunshine State voters of Senator Bob Graham's new book attacking President Bush. LINK

The politics of the assault weapons ban:

The AP's Oxley reports the expiration of the assault weapons ban and Notes the sketchy information on whether or not the ban itself was effective at lessening crime. LINK

As the AP's Mary Dalrymple previews Senator Kerry's remarks for today, she leads "John Kerry is criticizing President Bush for letting a decade-long ban on assault weapons expire while unveiling his own $5 billion plan to fight crime."LINK

"Let me be very clear. I support the Second Amendment. I've been a hunter all my life," Kerry says in prepared remarks. "But I don't think we need to make the job of terrorists any easier."

James Gordon Meek of the New York Daily News previews Sen. Kerry will be flanked by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, "whose husband was murdered by a gunman on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993, and Sarah Brady, whose husband, Jim Brady, the late President Ronald Reagan's press secretary, was shot by Reagan's would-be assassin," when he calls on Bush to renew the assault weapons ban in a speech today. LINK

The Washington Post 's Peter Slevin talks to gun dealers who say that the guns that will now be available for sale after the assault weapons ban expires are not significantly different than those that have been sold for the past 10 years. LINK

Matthew Wald of the New York Times reports that the Justice Department said Sunday "the rate of property crime and violent crime other than homicides remained at a 30-year low in 2003. . . . . Statistics on the homicide rate are gathered more slowly, but they appear to be following a similar trend." LINK

Not that the assault weapons ban is proven to have any effect on this whatsoever, but the Justice Department released timely 2003 crime rate numbers, reporting Sunday that assault, sexual assault and armed robbery rates are at a 30-year low. LINK

The Los Angeles Times editorial board: "Blood on the NRA's Hands" LINK

On the Hill:

Senate Republicans have postponed consideration of a controversial proposal that would give Sen. Frist more clout over rank-and-file lawmakers' Senate committee assignments, according to Roll Call . LINK

Shy of the votes needed to change the rules for putting in their judges, Republicans will probably wait until next spring to pick up the effort, according to Roll Call . LINK

The politics of health care:

You will continue to hear about Medicare premiums on the campaign trail, reported the New York Times ' Robert Pear and Carl Hulse on Sunday. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

The New York Times ' Michael Moss has a long, attention-grabbing take-out on the rise in absentee voting and concerns that fraud and intimidation are rising along with that option. LINK

Bob Herbert has fresh accusations of voter suppression in Detroit. LINK

The land of 5 + 2 = 7:

Newsweek's Mark Hosenball, Mike Isikoff, and Holly Bailey take a look at how 527 groups have changed the political landscape in Campaign 2004. LINK


Sometimes you just want to say: Really, New York Times . . . who else BUT Bush backers would you expect to give money to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Kerry backers? Non-partisans? On Saturday, we did, anyway. LINK

President Clinton:

The New York Post prints the first post-hospital photo and provides an update on President Clinton's reading material when spied on the deck of his Chappaqua home. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

Colorado Senate candidates Ken Salazar and Pete Coors laid into one another in their first one-on-one debate on Sunday. The Rocky Mountain News reports it was a more confident candidate Coors who came to the podium, who's biggest misstep was announcing, "We need a few more people from Main Street, people like you and me." Gwen Florio writes, "[T]he laughter at the expense of the multimillionaire was long and loud, and the remark served to set up Salazar's 'you and I come from different worlds' line, and his by-now familiar history of growing up on a San Luis Valley ranch without electricity or a telephone." LINK

The Chicago Tribune's David Mendell and Liam Ford write about how Barack Obama is trying to not talk about Alan Keyes while fielding questions about nothing other than Alan Keyes. LINK

Brian Crowley and Larry Lipman of the Palm Beach Post preview the clash between the Florida senatorial candidates who seem to disagree on almost everything. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Nader-Camejo '04:

Bob Novak ponders the possibility that the Democratic Party's strategy to limit Nader's ballot access may backfire, in his Chicago Sun-Times' column. "The party's limitation of Nader's ballot access has been most successful in non-battleground states. That keeps the independent candidate away from states where either President Bush or Senator Kerry will win easily. Nader then is free to concentrate on closely contested states where he could take away enough votes from Kerry to carry them for Bush, conceivably giving him a second term." LINK

The Columbus Dispatch's Jim Phillips reports on Nader's visit to Ohio University on Sunday. LINK

Maryland Nader supporters will have their day in court today. On Aug. 20 a board ruled that Nader fell more than 500 signatures short of the 10,000 needed to launch his new Populist Party in Maryland. But Nader's supporters say officials wrongly rejected more than enough for him to qualify. LINK

Cynthia Yeung of the University of Pennsylvania' student newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian reports Nader fired up his supporters from the pulpit of the First Unitarian Church on Saturday afternoon, speaking passionately about "excessive corporate power in politics, the need for a six-month exit strategy from the war in Iraq and the 'silent violence' of child abuse, air pollution, corporate fraud and unaffordable health care." LINK

Thirty-plus years after the fact, safety-man Ralph Nader is Noted in today's USA Today for his 1968 work to warn consumers about the dangers of power windows, which he said were "callously designed to thrust upward with cruel force." LINK


The Washington Post 's Helen Dewar writes that Sens. Kerry, Edwards, and Daschle may face a sticky vote on a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning before Oct. 8, the Senate's target date to adjourn. LINK

In California, "there are 16 propositions before voters this November . . . the third-highest number of measures since California instituted initiatives and referendums in 1911," reports the Los Angeles Times. And Gov. Schwarzenegger's reputation for persuasion may be at stake. LINK

"Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry:"

With the Kerry campaign trying to focus almost exclusively on domestic issues, Frank Rich on Sunday wrote that George Butler's glowing documentary about John Kerry's Vietnam era service and activism may be "akin to friendly fire." LINK

The Note got a sneak peek at George Butler's "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry." If the Kerry campaign wants to stop talking about Vietnam and focus almost exclusively on domestic issues, the film is whole heartedly off message.

The film is set to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival tomorrow and will be released in 200 movie theaters nationwide here in the United States on Oct. 1.

The film spends 75 to 80 percent focused on Kerry's post-duty anti-war activities. The other 20 to 25 percent looks at Kerry's service in Vietnam, with brief descriptions of "Silver Star Day" (beaching the boat, chasing down "the enemy," etc …) and the Bronze Star actions surrounding Rasmann's rescue. It is much more a film about the anti-war Kerry than it is about the lieutenant who traveled up and down the Mekong Delta. If Kerry's anti-war activities become a focal point of the campaign, we can imagine the campaign urging people to see this film in response to any attack.

Butler points to Dick Pershing's death as a critical turning point for Kerry in terms of beginning to seriously question the war. (We hear a Ben Affleck voice over of a Kerry letter to Pershing's family where this questioning is in evidence.)

There is no news, per se, in the film. Obviously the filmmaker is someone sympathetic to Kerry and paints the Senator in the most flattering light possible. For instance, none of the sections of Kerry's 1971 testimony before the Foreign Relations committee include the portions about alleged atrocities.

We expect the footage from the Winter Soldier meeting in Detroit will get the most press attention — Note the Boston Globe 's Pat Healy's lead today. LINK — (and provide the most fodder for the political right) as it is one of the more controversial aspects of the film. Shortly after David Thorne is on camera saying that John Kerry was active with VVAW in Massachusetts and only went to Detroit as an "observer," we see John Kerry with microphone in hand interviewing (and documenting electronically) one of the soldiers' tales of atrocities.

Butler then spends several minutes showing a few soldiers telling their tales of atrocities from the podium at the event. One such story involves a soldier telling of his regret posing for a photo next to a dead naked Vietnamese person in a field. The image (the photo is in the film) will immediately call to mind the Abu Ghraib scandal for most (if not all) audiences.

The footage of Kerry throwing his ribbons will undoubtedly get some attention too if it remains in the film.

We doubt this film is going to sway anyone's opinion strongly in one direction or the other in terms of the election. However, if you are a Democrat who isn't that psyched about John Kerry but is going to vote for him, this film will probably make you feel better about your vote.

It depicts Kerry as a leader in a way he has rarely (if ever) demonstrates on the campaign trail. It depicts Kerry as a peaceful, restrained, responsible, professional, mature, (and — we dare say — conservative when compared to his fellow Vietnam Veterans against the War) young adult feeling passionately about a perceived unjust war and seeking the most effective way to communicate that passion to the American people.

You will see the familiar characters — Cleland, Alston, Rasmann, Thorne, Muller, etc. praising Kerry. There is also some great color in the film. Lots of never seen before Kerry childhood footage (it's amazing how much the very young John Kerry looks like his daughter Alex), his obsession with Orange Crush soda, and a bizarre moment of John Denver photographing John Kerry during an anti-war speech. (And then CBS' Bruce Morton gets a lot of screen time too.)

Kerry was not directly interviewed for the film. Butler did request an interview, but was not granted one due to his campaign schedule. (Of course, if Kerry and his strategists wanted to do this they would have obviously found time.)

Things we haven't seen before: — There is a 1970 George Butler interview of John Kerry which is used in the film where he describes his thoughts about the war and the administration's attempt to save face. We don't see any film of that, only audio.

— There is film of John Kerry in a chopper overlooking the landscape of Southeast Asia. And some John Kerry voiceover accompanies this footage, but it is unclear as to when that material was recorded.

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—8:15 am: American University hosts the "The Second Bipartisan Presidential Healthcare Solutions Summit" —9:30 am: The American Enterprise Institute holds a conversation on "Election Year Health Proposals: What Would They Cost?" in Washington, DC —9:30 am: Sen. Kerry attends a "Keeping America's Families Safe/Fighting Against Crime" event at the Thurgood Marshall Center, Washington, DC —9:30 am: Secretary of State Colin Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge testify before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee at the Capitol about U.S. intelligence, Washington, DC —10:00 am: Cate Edwards visits Sinclair Community College, Dayton, OH —11:00 am: President Bush discusses healthcare at the Muskegon County Airport, Muskegon, MI —10:15 am: Vanessa Kerry holds a conversation about health care at the North Senior Center, Des Moines, IA —11:30 am: Vice President Cheney and Mrs. Cheney host a town hall meeting at the Ottumwa Industrial Airport Hangar, Ottumwa, IA — 11:30 am: Gen. Merrill McPeak (Ret.) and Adm. Stansfield Turner (Ret.) hold a press conference at DNC headquarters regarding President Bush's National Guard service record, Washington, DC —11:35 am: Sen. John Edwards attends a town hall meeting at the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM —11:45 am: Cate Edwards holds a rally with the "Next Generation" at Wright State University, Dayton, OH —12:00 pm: Vanessa Kerry holds a conversation about health care at the Episcopal Church, Ames, IA —12:30 pm: Teresa Heinz Kerry delivers the keynote address at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Luncheon at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC —12:30 pm: The House of Representatives convenes for morning business —1:00 pm: Ralph Nader speaks at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI —1:15 pm: The Harvard University' Institute of Politics and the Chronicle of Higher Education hold a news conference to release a study about political activity on campuses, Washington, DC —1:20 pm: President Bush attends a rally at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds, Holland, MI —1:15 pm: Laura Bush speaks at a rally at the Marriott Madison West, Middleton, WI —2:00 pm: The Senate meets for morning business —2:00 pm: The House convenes for legislative business —2:45 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a rally at the Tucson Convention Cewnter, Tucson, AZ —4:00 pm Vice President Cheney and Mrs. Cheney attend a rally at the Raleigh County Airport, Beaver, WV —4:00 pm: Rep. Carolyn Maloney and others hold a news conference on the assault weapons ban —4:15 pm: Laura Bush speaks at a rally at the Polk County Convention Complex, Des Moines, Iowa —4:30 pm: Vanessa Kerry holds a conversation about health care at Marvin Gardens, Ft. Dodge, IA —4:35 pm: President Bush speaks at a rally at C.O. Brown Stadium, Battle Creek, MI —5:30 pm: The Senate votes on Schumer Amendment to provide $100 million got tracking HAZMAT trucks —6:30 pm: Laura Bush participates in an RNC fundraiser dinner in Indianapolis, Indiana —7:00 pm: Ralph Nader speaks at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI —7:30 pm: Gloria Steinem, Marisa Tomei, Eve Ensler, Isabella Rossellini, and others host "V is for Vote; Chicks Rock" concert sponsored by and Rock the Vote at the Apollo Theater, New York, NY —8:00 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a rally at the University of Nevada, Reno, NV