B/K II aftermath

Okay, I’m back from dinner.

There seems to be only one representative national poll out so far, from Gallup for CNN/USA Today. It shows showing Kerry barely beating Bush, 47-45.

But the sample was for Bush 50-46 going in, and consisted of 38% Republicans and only 32% Democrats. If Bush couldn’t win that sample, it’s fair to say he lost.

Update: Gallup reports the breakout. Kerry carried the independents 53-37.

Update: ABC has Kerry squeaking by 44-41, in a sample that was 35-32 Democrats to Republicans. That’s a less encouraging result than Gallup. Frustratingly, no one seems to have a sample of undecideds.

SUSA has samples from the West, showing Kerry winning by ten-point margins in Washington, Oregon, and California and a draw in Colorado. No mention of panel composition.

Bush is faring poorly in the early fact-checking, as well. His quizzical “do I own a timber mill” is legitimate; he doesn’t. But that’s not the point. Factcheck.org — certified by Dick Cheney as a reliable arbiter — explains. (Indeed, it looks as if Factcheck might have been Kerry’s source.)

Remember, Kerry’s point was that Bush’s claim about “raising taxes for 900,000 small business owners” and thus destroying jobs was bogus. Here’s the Factcheck analysis:

Republicans count any individual as a “small business owner” who reports even as little as $1 of income from a sole proprietorship (reported on schedule “C” of federal income-tax returns), a partnership, or a “Subchapter S” corporation (one with fewer than 75 stockholders). In fact, the majority of those being counted as “small businesses” are really individuals who aren’t primarily business owners, and a huge number have no employees.

Bush & Cheney as “Small Business Owners”

To find examples of this we need look no farther than the top of the Bush-Cheney ticket:

President Bush himself would have qualified as a “small business owner” under the Republican definition, based on his 2001 federal income tax returns. He reported $84 of business income from his part ownership of a timber-growing enterprise. However, 99.99% of Bush’s total income came from other sources that year. (Bush also qualified as a “small business owner” in 2000 based on $314 of “business income,” but not in 2002 and 2003 when he reported his timber income as “royalties” on a different tax schedule.)

Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne qualify as “small business owners” for 2003 because 3.5% of the total income reported on their tax returns was business income from Mrs. Cheney’s consulting business. She reported $44,580 in business income on Schedule C, nearly all of it from fees paid to her as a director of the Reader’s Digest . But giving the Cheneys a tax cut didn’t stimulate any hiring; she reported zero employees.

So Bush’s puzzlement actually makes Kerry’s point: in real life, Bush isn’t not a small businessman, but in GOP spin he is, and raising his taxes therefore counts as bad for the economy.

CNN hits Bush on “voted 98 times for tax increases,” “75% of al-Qaeda,” and “the most liberal senator.”

On the other hand, CNN doesn’t like Kerry’s assertion that Shinseki was retired early to punish him for saying we needed more troops. Did Kerry in fact get that one wrong? If so, he ought to take it back.

Being less mendacious than GWB is not the standard to which we should hold our Presidential aspirants.

Brad DeLong argues that Bush’s (to me) incomprehensible gabble about Dred Scott turns out, when parsed, to be historically wrong.

Bush: Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges years ago said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights. That’s a personal opinion; that’s not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we’re all — you know, it doesn’t say that. It doesn’t speak to the equality of America.

Brad points out that the (pre-Thirteenth Amendment) Constitution did recognize slavery, though in fact it did so only via circumlocution. True.

But Bush is right to say that Taney’s interpretation of property rights as meaning that Congress couldn’t prevent slaves from being taken into the territories was a novel one, neither stated nor clearly implied by the text. Nor was a doctrine that sweeping required to decide the case. So to call Dred Scott “judicial activism” wouldn’t be wrong.

It looks to me as if Bush was winging it. He started to say that the Constitution says we’re all equal, and at the last moment realized that was in the Declaration of Independence. All in all, I think I would score this as a Bushism rather than as a mistake.

Remaining to be nailed:

Bush’s answer on drug reimportation. It was dishonest (claiming that safety was the issue) and flip-floppy (since, as Kerry pointed out, Bush said he was for reimport four years ago, and since Bush said that he might change his mind again after the election). This is one the folks care about.

Summary: Unsurprisingly, I overestimated how well my guy did. But this still looks like a good night for Kerry on balance, and it leaves Bush with many more vulnerabilities.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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