"It's about national security."
So write the editors of the Lowell Sun, who read Sen. John Kerry as well as anyone.
"We in Massachusetts know John Kerry. He got his first taste of politics 32 years ago in the cities and towns of Greater Lowell," the newspaper states. "Americans aren't fools. They know that without safe cities and towns, America will lose . . . our cherished freedoms . . . along with our opportunities for economic prosperity and our basic pursuit of happiness."
They write that "Islamic extremists, both here and abroad, have one purpose: To destroy America and halt the spread of democracy and religious tolerance around the globe."
And the endorsement goes to?
"Since the devastating terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, one American leader has maintained an unbending resolve to protect our homeland and interest against Islamic savages and those foreign governments appeasing them. That leader is President Bush."
If voting is a religious act, will worship be on the rise in November?
"Historically," says the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, "Americans voted out of a religion called civic duty. That religious impulse is almost totally gone."
Yet despite the underlying disengagement from the political system during the past four decades - turnout in the 2004 presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primaries reached record lows - next month's presidential election "should produce higher turnout."
Almost every poll measuring citizen interest in the 2004 election reveals "substantially higher levels" than in 1996 and 2000. In fact, the committee is predicting the highest voter turnout since the 1960s - upwards of 121 million, compared with 105 million who voted in 2000.
Reason for the sudden engagement?
"The presidency of George W. Bush has been a lightning rod, creating highly emotional supporters and detractors, and even those in the middle and uncertain about their choice feel conflicting but strong pulls in both directions," the committee states.
Case in point?
If electorate enthusiasm in Arlington County - a stone's throw across the Potomac River from the White House - is any indication, expect higher voter turnout for the 2004 presidential election.
Prior to this week's deadline in Virginia, the county experienced record levels of voter registration - nearly double the number of newly registered voters in September compared with the same month leading up to the 2000 presidential sweepstakes between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Wes Weidemann, founder of the nonpartisan grassroots registration group Virginia Votes, says because of the rapid rise in voter interest, the county ran out of state-issued voting applications and had to rely on "photocopies."
In addition, Linda Linberg, Arlington's general registrar, said she had to employ additional help to handle 3,000-plus voter-registration forms submitted each week. Applications for absentee ballots in the county were 55 percent ahead of 2000, while there was a net 530 percent increase of overseas voters.
Robert Andrews, who resorts to Washington's mean streets as the setting for his page-turning detective novels, was feted recently at Georgetown's Cafe Milano in celebration of his newest mystery, "A Murder of Justice."
A former Green Beret, Andrews was a top special-operations adviser to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the year after Sept. 11. He's done it all in Washington's national security circles, having once analyzed intelligence for the CIA and former Sen. John Glenn, Ohio Democrat.
The remnants of Hurricane Jeanne lashing at the cafe's front window provided a suitably dark and rainy backdrop for Mr. Andrews to tempt the crowd with his latest mystery, which follows "A Murder of Promise" and "A Murder of Honor."
Several Florida swing voters have swung - for Sen. John Kerry.
"It was a very good night for John Kerry," says Washington political pollster Frank Luntz, after the first of three presidential debates.
Eighteen Florida swing voters - split almost evenly between 2000 George W. Bush and Al Gore supporters - participated in a Luntz Research debate focus group and "Kerry outshined Bush in nearly every measurement," the pollster says.
Sixteen swing voters said Kerry won the debate; 16 said the Massachusetts senator was better prepared; and five of the 18 switched from "undecided" to Kerry's camp.
Three Kerry sound bites that resonated particularly well with the group:
- "I'm not talking about leaving (Iraq). I'm talking about winning."
- "The future belongs to freedom, not fear."
- "As I have said before, (ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein) was a threat. The issue is what you do about it."
The Bush campaign counters that the debate will be remembered for four "strategic mistakes" uttered by Kerry: (1) proposing a "global" response to Iraq; (2) calling the war in Iraq a mistake, but later saying Americans weren't dying in vain; (3) speaking of U.S. troops deserving better, albeit in a pre-debate interview saying his vote against additional troop funding was made in protest; and (4) insulting U.S. allies by saying the coalition was not "genuine."
Ironically, Luntz, whose MSNBC post-debate focus group analysis was abruptly dropped by the cable channel after a complaint that the pollster had "Republican ties," went so far as to say that Bush "lost the debate after just the first 15 minutes."
POLITICS AND PASSION
Amidst all the mudslinging, love is in the air over Washington.
First, congratulations to Washington public relations mogul Linda Roth, who met her new husband, Silvestro Conte, at - where else - a heart conference.
"It's really not that kind of conference," to paraphrase Dr. Marty Leon, chairman and president of the Cardio Research Foundation, which produces the largest interventional cardiology conference in the world, held annually at the Washington Convention Center.
The couple wed at the St. Regis, where numerous cardiologists in attendance included CNN talk-show host Larry King's heart-saver, Dr. Richard Katz, as well as heads of cardiology departments in Israel, Spain and Conte's native Italy.
Meanwhile, Republican lawyer Dean Heyl says he was traversing Capitol Hill when he first laid eyes on Sarah Tanksley, a biologist with the National Institutes of Health. Now, a mere 10 weeks later, the couple eloped to Las Vegas - picking up a marriage license at the city's 24-hour courthouse, then calling upon "Ernesto, a heavily tattooed man" who touts a drive-through wedding ceremony.
"The late '70s vintage limo that Ernesto provided came complete with a bullet hole in the back window," notes the lucky bride. "Reverend Chip with the 'A Las Vegas Garden of Love' performed the ceremony in the back seat. The driver served as a witness."
Heyl, who once headed D.C. Young Republicans, most recently authored the paper, "How to Prevent Your Campaign from Being Hijacked on Election Day."
Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw was honoree of last week's annual Spina Bifida Roast at Washington's new Mandarin Oriental Hotel - although roastees who included CBS News legend Walter Cronkite and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder were equally skewered by one congressman.
"Snyder and I are just happy you all didn't sit us at the kids' table," said the 34-year-old Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., who noted the boyish Snyder was recently featured in Fortune magazine's 40 richest people under the age of 40.
"Then there's the great Mr. Cronkite, regarded as the most trusted man in America. Hard to believe that now he couldn't even get a job at CBS News with that on his resume," said the Tennessee Democrat. "It's been a couple of very tough weeks for CBS and particularly his successor Dan Rather, but at least Dan got some good news this week. He just saved a boatload of money by switching his car insurance to GEICO.
"But at last we are here to honor Bernard Shaw, and what an amazing record," noted Ford. "Actually, Mr. Shaw retired to write. He's still working on his memoirs. A brief side note: When Bernie told President Bush recently that he was going to work on his autobiography, the president responded, 'That's great, who's it about?'"
Perhaps Sen. John Kerry does have an advantage after all over President Bush in understanding the complex political issues of the Middle East.
New research by Burke's Peerage reveals that Kerry is the only presidential candidate in U.S. history who has genealogical descent from Muslims, Jews and Christians.
"Senator Kerry . . . is a virtual walking United Nations," says Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's.
Kerry is kinsman of the Shi'ite shahs of Persia (the most famous was Shah Abbas I, who reigned from 1587 to 1629), as well as the Muslim kings of Tunisia, all of whom - Democratic presidential nominee included - descend from the prophet Muhammad.
THAT DOG WON'T HUNT
Yes, you heard correctly - an ad produced by the National Rifle Association portrays Sen. John Kerry as a sweater-wearing poodle with a pink bow. Needless to say, the NRA doesn't buy the Democratic presidential nominee's timely outreach to gun enthusiasts.
Amidst their daily stack of congressional reading material, congressmen who sit on the House Republican Conference discovered colorful fliers advertising "The Dan Rather Library" - housing everything from "e-mails from Woodrow Wilson's Blackberry" to documents on "how General McArthur's rich father pulled strings to get him a cushy job in the Army."
The flier contains the fingerprints of Friends of Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, vice chairman of the GOP conference.
"This is no ordinary election year. Across our country, people are searching for security, hope and peace. The George W. Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress have delivered unemployment, economic insecurity, inequality, fear and war. Instead of freedom and democracy, the people of our country and the world have been subjected to unilateral military aggression and curtailment of democratic rights based on lies and deceit. ...
"In 2000 the Supreme Court disregarded the voters' choice and installed George W. Bush. Now is the time for all Democratic minded people to stand united, march on ballot boxes and vote in massive numbers to defeat right-wing Republican control of the White House and Congress."
- Election Platform 2004, Communist Party USA