Group Hugs, Truck Pulls, and Cookies

Vietnam has long stood as the insta-analogy for any modern conflict. With the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day only days away, however, both Newsweek and Time take a shot at comparing the war on terror with World War II. Simply put, both magazines evidently think Bush could learn a thing or two from the wartime leadership of FDR and/or Churchill.

Meanwhile, Howard Fineman and Tamara Lipper report on Bush’s speech last week to Congressional Republicans. Apparently, his appearance was all appearance, so much so that one of the “departed attendees” told Fineman and Lipper that “it was a forced group hug [with] little substance — and no chance for feedback.”

Less warm and fuzzy, Adrian Campo-Flores Newsweek outlines the growing discontent amongst Cuban-American voters in Florida with President Bush’s anti-Castro policies. In sum, new regulations introduced by Bush have made it more difficult for Cuban-Americans to visit loved ones in Cuba. The Kerry campaign, however, has struggled to capitalize on the politically unpopular decision, scrapping a media buy because it was uneasy with the hard-line rhetoric advocated in the advertisement by Rep. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a Cuban-American. In the end, Campo-Flores prognosticates, “For Kerry to capture Cuban voters, he’ll have to do better than that.”

In its third installment of a series on battleground states the Economist takes a look at Jesse Ventura’s former stomping ground of Minnesota, laying out why it might be a Bush convert (though concluding its electors will probably go to Kerry). The weekly reminds us that “Conservatives used to joke that [Minnesota] belonged to Canada; but it now has only the tenth-heaviest tax burden in the country,” thanks to cuts in library and park services. Furthermore, Minnesotans go to church, a behavior synonymous with Bush’s religious rhetoric, but “evangelical influence is still much fainter than in, say, Texas; Minnesota Christians, with their Lutheran cast, devote their energy to social justice in the third world rather than dreaming up new ways to punish the wicked at home.”

Time’s Karen Tumulty updates the status of Ralph Nader 2004, offering insight into the Nader campaign’s effort to get on the ballot and Democratic Party/Kerry campaign efforts to keep Nader off the ballot.

The best of Tumulty’s story comes in the form of two reported anecdotes. The first appears in the story’s lede where the reporter introduces us to Jim Polk, Nader’s Virginia campaign manager. Polk directs his volunteers to collect ballot petition signatures at truck pulls. “People think they’re doing George Bush a favor if they sign these. I’ve had some of my best luck at truck pulls.” Creative marketing within the Nader camp? Or pandering by a Nader aide? Like Tumulty, we’ll leave that decision up to the reader.

Tumulty also tell us that Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe calls Nader on a regular basis and kicks off the conservations by asking, “So, are you dropping out, Ralph?” McAuliffe then presses Ralph to keep his activities out of the purple states. Nader tells Time he hasn’t promised McAuliffe anything yet.

Tumulty strikes again in the Notebook section, hinting that Kerry’s controversial idea to postpone officially accepting the nomination in order to even out the financial playing field was first floated by failed candidate Howard Dean “back when Dean thought he would be nominee.”

And finally, over at U.S. News & World Report we learn that President Bush is lending greater attention to his Old Testament constituency. Noam Neusner, a Bush speechwriter and former U.S. News economics writer, is burning both ends of the menorah working on Jewish outreach. Neusner, quotes his Bush campaign predecessor Tevi Troy, who claimed that marketing Bush is so easy it’s “like selling matzo to Jews before Passover.” No word yet on whether or not it’s easier than selling cookies to Bostonians.

Thomas Lang

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Thomas Lang was a writer at CJR Daily.