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saturday, january 31, 2004

Bush's Military Non-Service
Here's some first-rate blogging. Go to Bolo Boffin for an outstanding reconstructed history of the AWOL days of George W. Bush.

7:53 pm | link

And Another Thing
Get a load of this -- It's a news story about a potential investigation into the missing WMDs, now known as the WMDRPAs --
"One White House official said Thursday that there was clearly a risk that an inquiry could spin out of control, exactly what many administration officials fear has happened to the inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks."
Out of control? The 9/11 investigators don't even have access to their own bleeping notes!
Quiddity of uggabugga found the "out of control" quote, and added, " To repeat: Has happened? Are there some surprises in store for us as that inquiry moves forward -- and when it issues its report?"
Well, if they can't get hold of their own notes, I suppose not.
The White House is dragging its feet about an investigation into pre-war intelligence. This morning's newspapers carried stories with headlines like "Bush Declines to Support Call for Intelligence Investigation," but this afternoon the web versions changed to "Bush May Back Iraq Intelligence Panel." In other words, he's thinking about it. He'll get back to us next year.
The point of many stories is that an investigation would be politically risky for Bush. Poor baby. He sent more than 500 Americans to their deaths, but we can't expect him to do anything risky.

Think about it. If he had been fooled by faulty intelligence, if he genuinely believed the CIA or other intelligence agencies just plain screwed the pooch and gave him bad information, you'd think he'd be hopping mad. You'd think he'd want an investigation.

Wouldn't you? Wouldn't any normal (innocent) person?

But we can't have an investigation of the decision processes that led us into war, because it would be politically risky for the President. We can't have a proper investigation into an atrocity that cost the lives of more than 3,000 Americans because it would be politically risky for the President.

To which I say, Mr. President -- if you don't have the guts to be a leader, get the bleep out of the way.

Sooner or later, we will learn the truth. Count on it.

6:07 pm | link

Hot Links Plus Believe It -- Or Not!
The White House is holding notes taken by the 9/11 Commission and won't release them. The Commission is considering issuing subpoenas for its own notes.
I'll pause here for a moment so you can read that again. I had to read it five times myself.

The White House, already embroiled in a public fight over the deadline for an independent commission's investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is refusing to give the panel notes on presidential briefing papers taken by some of its own members, officials said this week.

The standoff has prompted the 10-member commission to consider issuing subpoenas for the notes ... [Dan Eggen, "White House Holding Notes Taken by 9/11 Commission," The Washington Post, January 31, 2004]

So the next question is, how did the White House end up with these notes? Last November, the White House agreed to allow a four-member panel of commission members to examine the highly classified President's Daily Briefs (PDBs), including an August 2001 memo that discussed the possibility of airline highjackings by al Qaeda terrorists.  
Early this January, 9/11 Commission chair Thomas Kean revealed in an interview that

he is only permitted to read the most important classified documents concerning 9/11 in a little closet known as a "sensitive compartmented information facility" (or SCIF). He cannot photocopy the documents, and if he takes notes about them, he must leave the notes in the SCIF when he leaves. [Joe Conason, "What's Bush Hiding from 9/11 Commission?" New York Observer, 1/21/2004]

However, according to the Dan Eggen Washington Post article quoted above, the deal reached in November "allowed the team -- made up of three commission members and Executive Director Philip D. Zelikow -- to take notes on the materials that would be passed along to the rest of the commission, but only after the White House gave its approval."
And we expected the White House to approve?
The White House fought hard against an independent investigation of September 11. When that fight was lost Bush tried to appoint Henry Kissinger to head the commission. After worldwide howls of outrage and plenty of conflict of interest questions about Kissinger, Kissinger was replaced by Kean, the genteel former governor of New Jersey. And after the Commission was formed it was treated to more stonewalling from the White House. And now this.
Last week the commission said it needed more time to complete its report (not unreasonable, considering the degree of "cooperation" it has received from the White House). The White House, of course, refuses.
"It smacks of politics to put out a report like this in the middle of a presidential campaign," said an anonymous senior Republican official to the New York Times. "The Democrats will spin and spin." Of course, shutting down the investigation doesn't smack of politics at all, huh?
Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman have made noises about an extension bill that would give the commission more time. Maybe if enough people contacted Senator Lieberman and explained that making such an effort might improve his standing in the eyes of Democratic (primary) voters, something could get done.
There's a level of desperation in the White House's actions that reminds me of the last days of Richard Nixon. There must be something in those notes that could finally collapse the artifice that is the Bush Administration.

12:04 pm | link

friday, january 30, 2004

Are We Making Sense Yet?

Facing revolt from within his own party for out-of-control spending, President Bush plans to save money by not spending it in Iraq:

Even though the Pentagon is all but certain to need $40 billion or more to fund operations in Iraq in fiscal 2005, the White House has told lawmakers that Bush's $401.7 billion military budget for next year will leave that out, congressional aides and analysts said. [Adam Entous, "To Cut Deficits, Bush Delays Tax Change, Iraq Funds," Reuters, January 30, 2004]

Now let's see -- last year, when Democrats John Kerry, John Edwards, and Dennis Kucinich voted against an $87 billion supplement spending bill for Iraq, Republicans skewered them for not supporting our troops. For example, this week Max Boot of the Council of Foreign Relations wrote,

Kerry had the nerve to criticize the Bush administration for a "cut and run strategy" in Iraq. That's pretty rich coming from someone who voted against the $87-billion aid package that's essential to our nation-building efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kerry's inconsistency is stunning: He (like Sen. John Edwards) supported the war — kind of — but then refused to give our troops the resources necessary to finish the job. [Max Boot, "War Hero -- and Waffling Windbag," Los Angeles Times, January 29, 3004]

Kerry's inconsistency is stunning?

Last year Bush made passage of his $87 million supplement a test of patrotism itself. This year he realizes that his out-of-control spending is a liability, so he'll just cut Iraq out of the budget?

And the fact is that even as Bush crows that he doesn't need a "permission slip" from the UN to start wars, the Bush Administration quietly is begging the UN for help cleaning up the mess we made of Iraq. For example, the Bush Administration recently asked the UN to settle a U.S.-Iraqi dispute over how to select leaders to rule the country after U.S. occupation authorities hand over sovereignty on June 30.

Inconsistent, indeed.

8:20 pm | link

Hot Links 6:07 am | link

thursday, january 29, 2004

A pleasant little debate, no fireworks. Al Sharpton had one of his best nights, I must say. A mellow evening now spoiled by Chris Matthews and some other yapping dogs analyzing it. Patrick Buchanan says Kerry won because no other candidate laid a glove on him. (I thought Kerry was the blandest of the bunch and botched one question on terrorism, although I want to see a transcript before I say more.)
Now Chris Matthews is interviewing Howard Dean, and Dean is responding very reasonably to questions about deception regarding Iraq.
Oh, please -- while interviewing Al Sharpton, Matthews drags out the Old Big Lie that the Democrats tried to stop overseas veterans ballots from being counted in Florida 2000. And Sharpton doesn't set him straight. Jeez Louize, I am tired of the lies.
Any thoughts on the debate or the Dem campaign in general? 

8:40 pm | link

Distrusting David Kay
David Kay is all over cable news these days explaining why there were no weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq. As gratifying as this may be to many of us, it's important to remember that Kay is a minion of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and to look for the motives behind his apparent candor.
Fred Kaplan wrote in Slate:

Kay was the CIA's chief weapons inspector until he resigned last week. The difference between his report of last fall and his statements of recent days is that he was still on the Bush administration's payroll when he wrote the former and a free agent when he made the latter. It's the difference between obfuscation and clarity—political allegiance and public candor. [Fred Kaplan, "The Art of Camouflage: David Kay Comes Clean, Almost," Slate, January 26, 2004]

I respect Fred Kaplan, but anyone who doesn't realize this guy is still working for the Bushes is dreamin'. It is critical that we all recognize the true nature of Kay's disinformation campaign and counter it effectively.
Fred Kaplan's point is that what Kay is saying now about WMDs is exactly what he said in his report last October. In the October report, however, the facts are camouflaged by inflammatory language. "His report did not tell lies. But it puffed up enough smoke to let President Bush proclaim it as a justification for the war." Now, Kaplan writes, Kay is telling the same story without the camouflage.
That's all well and good. But while coming clean about the non-existant WMDs, Kay is working hard to deflect criticism away from the Bushes and onto the CIA.
Coincidence? I think not.

David Kay, the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, called for an independent inquiry into intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, but said he did not believe the Bush administration had pressured intelligence analysts to exaggerate the threat.

The White House immediately turned aside the calls from Kay and many Democrats on Wednesday for an immediate outside investigation, seeking to head off any new wide-ranging election-year inquiry that might go beyond reports already being assembled by congressional committees and the Central Intelligence Agency.

This is slick, people, and it's got Karl Rove written all over it. This is just as good as the phony public statements from the Saudis claiming they begged Bush to release the redacted pages from the congressional 9/11 inquiry and clear them from allegations they support terrorism. 

Kay is making a great show of breaking away from the White House and candidly telling the truth about Iraq's WMDs. And I have no reason to think he is not now telling the truth -- that there weren't any to be found. But while playing at whistleblower, Kay's subliminal message is always this was not George W. Bush's fault. And if you watch Kay do the cable news interview circuit, you see the entire exercise is all about pounding home that message and making sure the "pundits" understand it and repeat it.

For example, on January 28 Wolf Blitzer featured Kay and his WMD story on his afternoon CNN news show. This began with a video:

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, top critics of the war had hoped to make this a very bad day for the administration but David Kay kept the focus on intelligence, not politics.


David Kay's assessment was straightforward on the intelligence that led the U.S. to war.

KAY: I deeply think that is a wrong explanation.

JOHNS: Kay predicted that try as they might, inspectors who remain on the job searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq probably won't find much.

KAY: That it is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed militarized chemical and biological weapons there.

JOHNS: Still the hearing was frustrating for the Democrats who came prepared to rake the administration over the coals. Kay refused to play.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you give us any explanation why these agencies in retrospect appear to have had it right, and the information that the administration used appeared to have it wrong?

KAY: It's a lot easier after the fact and after you know the truth to be so lucky that you were right.

JOHN: Also helpful to the White House, Kay said there was no attempt to pressure intelligence analysts to reach certain policy conclusions.

KAY: Almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that. We get rid of the people who, in fact, were exercising that.

JOHNS: The committee's top Democrat, Carl Levin called for an outside investigation of the quality of the intelligence and the way it was used to make the case for war. Levin got an important ally in Republican Senator John McCain, who decided to support an outside probe after raising the issue with Kay.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Do you believe that we need an independent, outside investigation?

JOHNS: Kay suggested it's almost inevitable in order to ensure the quality of future intelligence.

KAY: You will finally determine, that it is going to take an outside inquiry, both to do it and to give yourself and the American people the competence that you have done it.


Kay and CNN plant the message that somebody did something wrong, but it wasn't the White House. Then comes the interview with Wolf: 

BLITZER: Let's turn once again to the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. I'm joined once again by Dr. David Kay, the man who, until recently, led that hunt.

Unfortunately, I guess that hunt never materialized, from your perspective. You had access over these nine months, when you led the hunt, to everything in Iraq, Dr. al-Sadi, the chief scientist of the Iraqi regime, the so-called Dr. Germ. You spoke to all of them?

KAY: We did, although, I would say, Wolf, it dead lead to something. We were after the truth. I think we are much closer to understanding the truth today because of that hunt, because of that access than we were in March and April.

BLITZER: Is it possible the Iraqis transferred their chemical and biological weapons to a neighboring country to get rid of them?

KAY: Look, that's a possibility we examined, because we know a lot of things moved, although we don't know what moved. We try to answer that question by going back and saying, did they have the production capability that would have produced it? If they didn't have it, they didn't move it. My conclusion is, there's no sign that they had the production, ongoing capacity, and were producing large amounts of WMDs.

BLITZER: So you don't believe they're being hidden in Syria, let's say?

KAY: I don't believe large numbers. It's perfectly possible that technology documentation and even small amounts might well be hidden in Syria.

BLITZER: The man who is replacing you, Charles Duelfer, is a good man. He knows the subject quite well. Is it possible, when the dust settles, do you think, months from now, a year from now, he'll find weapons of mass destruction?

KAY: Actually, I hope so. And I have the highest regard for Charles Duelfer. The thing is, he is on the record essentially saying the same thing I said, that he doubts that there will be major discoveries.

BLITZER: When all is said and done, though, when you look at situation, was it still worth going to war and removing Saddam Hussein from power?

KAY: Absolutely, and I think not just for the Iraqis, which is clearest. I think the world is far safer.

I actually believe that Saddam and Iraq were becoming more dangerous to us, not less dangerous. It was a society that was breaking up. Yet, it was a stockpile of scientists and technology and actual equipment for producing WMD, while we're in a world where terrorists and others are seeking those weapons. They would have acquired it.

BLITZER: Did you come across evidence, a very controversial subject, of a link, an alleged link, between al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's organization, and Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime?

KAY: We collected evidence about WMD. Occasionally, in that collection, we would collect evidence of terrorism. But I passed that off to others who were leading that hunt.

We collected no evidence that would have tied al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden to WMD. But there clearly were terrorist groups passing through and operating in Iraq.

BLITZER: David Kay, you spent nine months in Iraq. You risked your life for the American people. Thanks very much for joining us.

KAY: Thank you, Wolf. Happy to have been here.

Kay said a lot of things in that exchange a real journalist conducting a real interview would have jumped on, but aside from that -- the casual listener is going to come away from that interview still thinking the invasion of Iraq was entirely reasonable. But here's the best part -- a short time later in the broadcast, Sam Donaldson commented on the interview we just read:

BLITZER: His [Bush's] father, of course, was not reelected. They had looked at that experience. You and I covered that whole experience.

Right now, what do they have to do at the White House to make sure George Bush has a second term?

DONALDSON: Well, steady on the course.

David Kay, your last guest here, did him a great favor. I don't know that he did it for that reason. But of the two choices, that our intelligence was wrong, that's bad. But the worst choice would be that people got to believe that the president manipulated it and said something he knew not to be true.

So, if everyone decides that the president actually was taken in and Colin Powell, the man who doesn't sell out to anyone, was taken in, then that's not so bad. And that helps him out.

And if David Kay doesn't manage to stay on message, Sam Donaldson will help him out.
I suspect strongly that David Kay is acting on orders from someone in the White House (and we all know who). David Kay's "disclosures" amounts to Karl Rove's way of packaging the story to keep the White House out of it. 
As an antidote to David Kay, please read "Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong," by Kenneth M. Pollack in the current issue of Atlantic Monthly. Pollack says,
The intelligence community did overestimate the scope and progress of Iraq's WMD programs, although not to the extent that many people believe. The Administration stretched those estimates to make a case not only for going to war but for doing so at once, rather than taking the time to build regional and international support for military action.
It's worth reading the entire article for background on the issue of cooked intelligence and Iraq's WMDs. But if you want to know where the Bushies were at fault, skip down to the section called "The Politics of Persuasion."

Throughout the spring and fall of 2002 and well into 2003 I received numerous complaints from friends and colleagues in the intelligence community, and from people in the policy community, about precisely that. According to them, many Administration officials reacted strongly, negatively, and aggressively when presented with information or analysis that contradicted what they already believed about Iraq. Many of these officials believed that Saddam Hussein was the source of virtually all the problems in the Middle East and was an imminent danger to the United States because of his perceived possession of weapons of mass destruction and support of terrorism. Many also believed that CIA analysts tended to be left-leaning cultural relativists who consistently downplayed threats to the United States.

I don't think Pollack is hard enought on the White House. For example, Vice President Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press on September 14, 2003, "The judgment in the NIE was that if Saddam could acquire fissile material, weapons-grade material, that he would have a nuclear weapon within a few months to a year. That was the judgment of the intelligence community of the United States, and they had a high degree of confidence in it." The NIE had actually said it would take Iraq five to seven years after aquiring fissile material to make a nuclear weapon.
Pollack says Cheney's statement was "not untrue"; I say if it wasn't, I'm the next Kentucky Derby winner.
Unrelated but not unimportant: Be sure to read what Chris Lydon says about new media versus old media, new politics versus old politics, the successes and failures of the Dean campaign, and the blogging of the revolution -- "After New Hampshire" on BOP News.

11:18 am | link

Hot Links
Links with Comments: Don Erler writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that many conservatives are unhappy with George W. Bush. Noting that total "federal spending topped an inflation-adjusted $20,000 per household for the first time since World War II," Erler says,

Ronald Reagan used his bully pulpit and veto power to shrink such spending by 1.3 percent per year.

But remove him from the equation, and you find that expenditure growth during Democratic administrations during the last 39 years was 2.93 percent -- less than half of the 6.75 percent of Republican presidencies.

Look at it this way: If profligate spending is the proper yardstick, Republicans (except Reagan) have been more liberal than Democrats in the last four decades, with the current Bush being the least frugal. [Don Erler, "Unhappy With Bush," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 29, 2004]

Economists like Paul Krugman have been pointing this out for some time, so it's not news. But what's funny about this op ed is that it dissolves into Democrat-bashing -- Bush may be bad, but those Democrats are so much worse. So vote for Bush anyway.

David Corn writes "A Dis-Endorsement of Dean" for The Nation's web site. Howard Dean has been stumping against the powers of corporate lobbyists for months now, but his new campaign manager, Roy Neel, is a long-time corporate lobbyist. 

Neel was part of Washington's insider network--which does not look out for the people Dean claims he wants to empower. In 1999 and 2000, the USTA spent $3.5 million to lobby Congress, according to lobbying reports it filed. (The association probably spent more; not all lobbying activity is reported.) To help the telecoms, Neel recruited other influence peddlers in town, including the lobbying firm of Haley Barbour, who then chaired the Republican National Committee. Other Barbour clients: British American Tobacco, the Edison Electric Institute, Glaxo Wellcome, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Philip Morris. Neel's outfit also retained Wallman Strategic Consulting, which represented General Motors and WorldCom.

To increase the odds that members of Congress would heed the pleas of telecom companies, the U.S. Telecom Association, through its political action committee, donated generously to incumbent legislators. In the 1998 and 2000 election cycles, it doled out $266,000 to members of the House and Senator. Nearly 80 percent of that went to Republicans. GOPers helped by this PAC included Representatives Dick Armey, Bob Barr, Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert and Henry Hyde and Senators John Ashcroft, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott.

Yesterday Josh Marshall commented on this also:

I'm no purist in political matters, but isn't Neel a Washington lobbyist? An insiders' insider? I don't think that makes him a bad guy. But isn't it a little out of tune with the campaign Dean's been running?

Something very weird happened here.

The truth is, Howard Dean never was the flaming leftist his supporters and enemies made him out to be. His record as governor shows him to be a financial conservative with mostly progressive leanings on social issues. Now, I happen to think this may the sort of guy we need in the White House right now; I'm not knocking Dean for this. But last year a lot of people on the leftist edges of the Democratic Party embraced Dean as their Great White Hope and since refused to look at any evidence that he wasn't really as far left as they were. There are a number of Dean supporters I've stopped trying to communicate with because they savage Wesley Clark as a "hard right winger" and corrupt "corporate lobbyist." (The Washington Post today has an article about Clark's corporate career. The Boston Globe has an op ed by Joan Vennochi on the messy relationship between Democrats and corporate fat cats. See also "Dean Goes Bust" in today's Salon.)

Should I be gloating now? It's tempting.

Maybe it's because I'm a jaded old lady, but I've been telling people for years that if you want purity, vote for Jesus. Human beings will fall short of perfection every time.

I see that George Will has an op ed in the Washington Post called "The Politics of Manliness." I am afraid to read it. George Will writing about "manliness" is like Donald Trump writing about "modesty." I provide a link in case you have more guts than I do.

I've run out of time for now, but I want to comment on David Kay and also about the crisis of confidence at the BBC. Later.

Bush in Denial

Bush's Fuzzy Math

Kerry Keeps Overcoming

    Awaiting Answers on Iraq    

Robert Reich: The Dead Center

Ellen Goodman: Wives in the Crossfire

Robert Kuttner: The Privileged Act Worried

     Battle Over 9/11 Panel's Deadline Intensifies   

6:00 am | link

wednesday, january 28, 2004

Politics Bites
Howard Dean supporters -- especially the young ones -- must feel their world is crumbling. Joe Trippi is leaving the campaign, and this afternoon I heard Wolf Blitzer say the Dean campaign is running short of money. It looks bad. And the campaign is heading into the south and southwest, which many of us suspect will be less hospitable to Dean than Iowa and New Hampshire were.
On the other hand, I'm the worst predictor of politics in the world. If I think Howard Dean's campaign's in trouble, it must be due for a miracle turnaround.
The Republicans are already turning their guns on John Kerry by calling him a liberal. Maybe Moveon ought to be sponsoring ads explaining what "liberals" are. Like, they really don't eat their babies.

6:45 pm | link

Hot Links With Comments
Poll analysis. Kerry won by a larger percentage than any of the polls predicted, and Dean also received more votes than most of the polls predicted. Gallup called the percentage of first and second place votes most closely and got the order of finish right, although Gallup was a little off on the near-tie between Clark and Edwards for third (with 97 percent of votes counted, Clark is ahead of Edwards by only a few hundred votes). Zogby got the order of finish right, but I think overall I have to say Gallup won.
My reading of the I Ching predicted that Dean, Lieberman, and Edwards would do better than expected. I think Dean is probably reasonably happy with his big second place, but Lieberman and Edwards can't be all that thrilled. I predicted Clark would be disappointed, and I suspect he is. The I Ching may yet prove to be useful as an election prognosticator. (The I Ching is never wrong, but sometimes it is hard to interpret.)
No poll measures a politician's butch rating, but nearly every voter thinks about it—and Democratic strategists obsess about it. When they talk about electability, manliness is a big part of what they really mean. ...

People don't vote on the basis of gender expectations alone, but the butch factor plays a much larger part in our politics than is usually acknowledged. In the age of Rummy, not to mention the Gropinator, there's no such thing as too much machismo in a pol. So who can blame the Democrats for manning up? For years now, their leaders have been tarred with the wuss brush very effectively by Republicans. If overcoming that liability means channeling the ghost of Evel Knievel, I say bring it on. But why does that seem presidential? Could Franklin Roosevelt compete today with a hunk on a Harley?

Call it a response to 9-11, a reaction to feminism, or show business taking over the world. But the kitsch of masculinity—the studwear, the Clint Eastwood stare, the programmed finger-stabbing dare—has enormous credibility now. We are trusting our very lives to the man who makes the best action figure. ... [Richard Goldstein, "Who the Man?" The Village Voice, January 28, 2004]

What I've been sayin'.

Also in the Village Voice, see James Ridgeway on "Bush's War Record: Missing, Inaction."

Yesterday I quoted from Michelle Goldberg's Salon article about attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference who are disappointed with Bush. There's a subscribers-only online article on the New Republic site that says the same thing. In "Acid Base," posted January 27, Brian Montopoli writes that conservatives are starting to see Dubya not as their champion but as the lesser of two evils.

"People are still going to vote for President Bush, but the question is, will they volunteer?" [Genevieve] Wood wonders. "Will they drag their neighbors to the polls? Down the road, people are going to have to decide if the president is really doing enough to get them involved."

(Genevieve Wood is a spokesperson for the Family Research Council. See also what People for the American Way says about the FRC.)

Regarding electability, here's the very beginning of Montopoli's article:

It's the last day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held this past Thursday through Saturday, and Warrior--formerly The Ultimate Warrior, the World Wrestling Federation champion--is in the middle of a pretty good impression of Howard Dean's Iowa concession speech. "We're going to spread Deanmania like SARS," he screams, WWF style, to wild applause from the campus conservatives in the audience.

First, why is it OK for a fake wrestler to scream but not Howard Dean? Our only clue is that Mr. Warrior screamed "WWF style," which I assume refers to some manly style of screaming that Dr. Dean has not mastered.

But my other concern is that the CPAC minions and fellow travelers have already worked up steam against Howard Dean, and my guts are telling me that of the Final Four, Dean is the Dem candidate most likely to get right-wingers galvanized to support Bush. In truth he is not more "liberal" overall than the rest of the Dems. But I suspect that, for a lot of intangible reasons, he is the candidate most likely to frighten away conservatives who might be tempted to cross party lines to vote against Bush. Therefore, Dean is not the man we should be running against Bush in November. It's a shame, but that's how it is.

News in the News. There's an interesting article called "Mandate or Muddle?" in the Washington Post that I might have added to the "Hot Links" list below, except it's by Howard Kurtz. Please see today's Media Whores Online (no permalinks, sorry) for the scoop on Kurtz. In brief, Kurtz is accused of serious ethics violations, including using his column to promote the financial interests of his wife.

In today's article, Kurtz said the news pundits seemed confused and muddled as they covered the New Hampshire results last night. (Well, of course they did. Those people couldn't find shit in an outhouse.) Further, Kurtz revealed (?) that  many of the television pundits and pollsters who were passed off as objective observers are in fact allied to specific candidates, and their allegiances colored their opinions.

I'm shocked, shocked I tell you ...

The Deserter

Dems Are Playing to Win

Baghdad Is Bush's Blue Dress

For Dems, Issues Are Not the Issue

Northeast Chill and Global Warming

9/11 Commission Asks for More Time

Ellen Goodman: What Planet Are We On?

Joe Conason: Bush's War Stories Don't Fly

Georgia Removes Evolution from Curriculum

Jimmy Breslin: All of a Sudden, Kerry's the One

Thomas Oliphant: A Strong Finish, Broad Support

The Press Won't Look at Dubya's Military Record

5:58 am | link

tuesday, january 27, 2004

The Results?
It appears the order of finish will be Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Clark, Lieberman, Kucinich, and Sharpton (although there's only one percentage point separating Edwards and Clark, so that might switch). If you compare the polls as they stood on January 25, the Boston Globe poll seems to me to be closest. Zogby is pretty close, too.
[On edit] With about 60 percent of precincts reporting, I notice Clark has moved into third. Go, general!
The CW says the top four will keep fighting. The dynamics of the race are likely to shift considerably when it moves south and west. I see there is to be a debate in South Carolina Thursday. I would like to see a debate among the top four candidates only. We'll see.
But on to the other side of the general election, which is George W. Bush. Joe Conason says Bush doesn't need a program to go to Mars, because he already lives on Fantasy Planet. Based on remarks made today, Bush still does not understand that Saddam Hussein had permitted weapons inspectors back into Iraq before he started his war. He also doesn't seem to realize that the hunt for WMDs is, at this point, just a formality. They ain't there. And the boy still can't speak English.
"How dare the press mock Howard Dean when they listen respectfully to this arrant lunacy?" writes Mr. Conason. 
But the best news is in this Salon article by Michelle Goldberg (who does great work; I always read her stuff when I find it). Apparently conservatives are getting turned off by the Bush Regime. Reporting from the Conservative Political Action Conference, Goldberg writes that many conservatives don't much care if Bush wins in November or not.

This year's CPAC, in fact, was more encouraging for liberals than conservatives. Bush's right-wing base is demanding more concessions than he's made so far, but those concessions are likely to erode whatever moderate support the president has. At one of the most fervently Republican gatherings in the country, it wasn't hard to find people who were planning to vote for third-party candidates from the Constitution or Libertarian parties, and a few even confided in whispers that they might vote for Joe Lieberman or John Edwards if given a chance. The mood was like that of liberals in 2000 who saw Al Gore as nothing more than a lesser evil and yearned to send a futile message through Ralph Nader. While the grass-roots left is more motivated and disciplined than it's ever been, the grass-roots right has turned sullen and uncompromising.

"A lot of people here don't care if Bush wins or not," said Rick Shaftan, a right-wing political consultant and pollster based in New Jersey. [Michelle Goldberg, "The Conservatives Are Outraged -- About Bush," Salon, January 27, 2004]

The Conservatives are angry about Bush's runaway spending and the "immigration" proposal. ("The economy sucks and he's letting all the damn wetbacks in.") And they believe the White House takes them and their votes for granted. They're so upset the vendors were marking down Bush baseball caps -- no sales. 

"The only way I'd vote for Bush," said Jeffrey Becker, a 41-year-old engineer from West Virginia, "is if Hillary got in the race."

Electability, people. We have to get some people to switch from Bush to the Dem. We don't want to pick a candidate who will scare them off. Kerry may be a good choice.  

9:08 pm | link

The Suspense
In just a few minutes we may find out which polls (or the I Ching) called the New Hampshire race most closely. I can't wait!
Today I ran into people who were bemoaning the fact that some voters are basing their choices on "electability." This is wrong, they said, because people should vote for the guy they think is the best candidate and not try to calculate which guy will appeal to others.
However, I am not concerned. People who feel strongly in favor of a particular candidate will vote for that candidate. For voters who can't make up their minds, "electability" is as good a tie-breaker as any. "Electability" is generally something you feel in your gut, and in my experience guts are smarter than heads. 

And "electability" is real. For example, see this quotation from an interview of Kevin Philips by Joan Walsh in Salon. Philips is responding to a remark by Walsh that the Bush family is "good at politics."

See, I don't think they're even that good at politics. I think they got a terrific break in 1988: The Democrats picked Michael Dukakis, a Harvard dweeb type of Democrat. Then in 2000, they get Albert Gore. OK, he didn't really claim he invented the Internet, but here's this guy, the son of a senator, he certainly couldn't use the dynasty issue, he couldn't use any of that. So the Democrats have run people against the Bushes who've given the Bushes a fair pass on their issues. [Joan Walsh, "'I couldn't stand to support this dynasty of deceit,'" Salon, January 27, 2004]

OK, now we're getting the first results, and it sounds as if Dean will be a close second to Kerry. This would mean Dean is still a contender. This also might indicate that the I Ching called the race closer than the polls. But now James Carville is saying that we won't know for another hour how the numbers are really going to fall.  

7:50 pm | link

Hot Links and More
Andrew Sullivan wrote an op-ed for Time magazine called "The Nanny in Chief" in which he reveals a spark of an inkling of a clue that, maybe, George W. Bush isn't a traditional conservative after all.
Within the U.S., the Bush Administration has shown an unusually hostile attitude toward the exercise of personal freedom. When your individual choices conflict with what the Bush people think is good for you, they have been only too happy to intervene. The government, Bush clearly believes, has a right to be involved in many personal decisions you make — punishing some, encouraging others, nudging and prodding the public to live the good life as the President understands it. The nanny state, much loved by Democrats, is thriving under Republicans. [Andrew Sullivan, "The Nanny in Chief," Time, February 2, 2004]
Give Sully another decade or so, and he'll announce to us that there were no WMDs in Iraq.
Or maybe sooner, given this headline in today's New York Times: "White House Is Less Certain Now About Iraq's Arms."  Brad DeLong spotted this and wrote,
The White House is not "less certain" about Saddam Hussein's weapons than it used to be. It is more certain that it ever was: it is certain that he had only trivial amounts of chemical and biological weapons and weapon-making capability, and no nuclear weapons program at all.

In the past, the White House pretended to be certain that it knew that Saddam Hussein had powerful stockpiles. But it knew that it wasn't certain--what it had were some intelligence guesses that had then been warped in the direction of magnifying the threat by Rumsfeld's and Cheney's people, and then warped again to magnify the threat to rally support for the war.

For a view of the Davos conference you won't get from mainstream press, see Whiskey Bar.  
Which is better -- tracking polls or the I Ching? My reading of the coins says that Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean, and John Edwards will do better than expected today (especially Edwards), John Kerry less well than expected, and Wes Clark will be disappointed

5:48 am | link

monday, january 26, 2004

The Truth Is Marching On?
The gap between the online blogging community and the mainstream press is clearly evident in the ongoing "General versus the Deserter" flap. Mainstream newsies are clucking about Clark's "failure" to distance himself from Michael Moore's "deserter" speech. Bloggers are clucking about the failure of the so-called "professionals" to find out the facts about Bush's National Guard record.
I just got this week's issue of Time magazine, and read this:

Fire-breathing filmmaker Michael Moore is at a huge rally for Clark, with as many as 2,000 people at the Pembroke Academy in Pembroke, N.H., explaining why the author of Stupid White Men ... and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! has fallen in love with a military man. "We have been handed a gift," he told the crowd. "A four-star general, Rhodes Scholar, head of his class at West Point, captain of the debate team." Moore was interrupted by cheers at this point. "I want to see that debate! I want to see that debate! I want to see that debate!" he shouted. "That's right! The general versus the deserter!"

It was that moment Peter Jennings referred to when he asked Clark during Thursday's televised debate whether he agreed with Moore's "reckless charge" about President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard. This posed an interesting test for the general, who pundits say has three things going for him: resume, resume and resume. But Jennings' question revealed the kind of experience Clark doesn't have and can't fake: the ability to deflect or diffuse a question that is bound to hurt you with someone, no matter how you answer it. Clark responded that he didn't know the facts of the case, but he said, "I've seen this charge bandied about a lot" and that Moore was entitled to his opinion. That meant Clark had to spend precious time the next day answering the same question over and over, until he finally declared, "I can't agree with Michael Moore." But by then the damage was already done. [Nancy Gibbs, "What Becomes a President Most?" Time, February 2, 2004]

Compare/constrast to this article by Bob Fertig at

It may be too late to try this case in a military court. But as we enter the 2004 election - an election in which Bush's single most important claim is his record as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces he abandoned when he was young enough to fight - this case can be tried in the court of public opinion.

The Democrats should fight this battle, because it goes to the heart of Bush's lack of fitness to be Commander-in-Chief. And this is a battle the Democrats will win, because millions of Americans are outraged that Bush lied to them about the Iraq war.

The pro-Bush media has systematically downplayed this outrage. The anger is deep, and also broad. It is felt not only by the half of America that opposed the war, but also by millions who once supported it - including members of the armed services and their families.

The angriest members of the armed services are those in the Reserves and National Guard. They are carrying a burden they were not supposed to carry; they enlisted to assist the military and supplement their incomes, not to be full-time soldiers in the occupation of a country on the other side of the world.

This extended duty has caused great hardship to many in the armed services, and the media has covered many poignant stories. But Bush has not altered his strict policies to minimize these hardships. Yet when Bush was an officer, he put his personal desires before his orders.

And to make matters worse for those serving under him, Bush has invoked his "stop loss" power to force many to serve beyond the end of their tours.

Indeed, the "stop loss" issue makes Bush's "desertion" especially relevant today. Bush is forcing the troops under his command to serve long after their tours have expired; but when he was an officer, he deserted two years before his tour expired.

Bush is expecting the troops under his command to suffer hardships he was unwilling to suffer himself. Bush owes his troops - and the nation as a whole - the truth about his military career. If he is not willing to tell the truth, then he should resign. No one can command the respect of troops if he is a hypocrite - or a coward.

Needless to say -- I'm with Bob.

It's the eve of the New Hampshire primary, and the question on my mind is -- which one of these damnfool polls will be closest to the real outcome? You can compare four major poll at Daily Kos.
They all have Kerry first and Dean second, but after that the race is a muddle. I only hope we can finally eliminate Lieberman. And no one is even talking about Kucinich and Sharpton. Can we take a hint, boys? 'Course, Al is just in it for the publicity, so there's no reason for him to drop out until he is persuaded to.

8:58 pm | link

Hot Links 6:33 am | link

sunday, january 25, 2004

Men and Polls
No More Mr. Nice Blog ponders masculinity and politics:
We're regularly told that no one from the Northeast can ever be president -- it's never said in so many words, but the implication is that the South and West breed real men, partly through rugged physical activity that's native to those regions, while the Northeast breeds pantywaists.
But New Englanders play hockey, which is a pretty tough game. Oh, sure, it's played all over the place now, but it's a game with deep roots in New England. Why shouldn't New England get a little respect from the press for characteristic activities that involve toughness? Why is Bush with a chainsaw regarded as any more mythically macho than Kerry with a hockey stick?
First off, I have a theory about the brush clearing. There can't be that much unwanted brush on the Bush spread that El Presidente hasn't tackled. I think the brush clearing is pure photo op stuff. But why brush clearing? Because he's afraid of horses and probably cattle as well, and if you eliminate interaction with fauna what else is there to do on a ranch in Texas but interact with flora?
It's also a perfect activity for Bush because the brush can't fight back.
But now to the masculinity question. There are two aspects to the Andrew Jackson/John Wayne mystique. First is to be a rugged man of action, yes. But second is that you have to be a little uncivilized. The macho-mystique guy is instinctual rather than intellectual; more rough than polished; and a person for whom the rules do not apply.  This might describe most hockey players, but not, I think, to John Kerry.
The New Hampshire race is going to tell us something about tracking polls. The three I've seen today are showing very different results.
They all have Kerry way in front, but ARG has Clark, Dean, and Edwards in close to a three-way tie for third, with Lieberman fading away in the distance. Zogby has Kerry comfortably in first, Dean comfortably in second, and Clark pretty comfortably in third, with Edwards and Lieberman tied for fourth. And Gallup has Lieberman overtaking both Edwards and Clark for third place after Kerry and Dean.

3:15 pm | link

Sunday Morning
I'm setting up to blog about Meet the Press, and lo, the usual meatheads (plus Eleanor Clift) are on McLaughlin razzing about the "General versus the Deserter" flap. Naturally, they are snickering mightily and calling Clark's veracity, not to mention his sanity, into question. Only Clift managed (by shrieking as loudly as possible) to inject the thought that, maybe, Michael Moore is right.
Also, note that I got the time wrong for the BOP News "Blogging of the President" radio broadcast -- it's tonight, not this morning.
Meet the Press
Oh, goodie. Tim Russert replayed the Dean scream.
Tim goes into "let's trip up the candidate" mode by asking, one more time, if Clark had guaranteed no more terrorist attacks. And after Clark answers, Russert asks the question again. And Clark answers again. Please ...
Clark says Bush has played politics with intelligence. Russert acts shocked, as if he'd never heard of such a thing before. That's a serious charge! What evidence do you have? Hey, Tim, pull up a chair ...
Now we're re-hashing whether Clark was or was not in favor of the Iraq invasion. And Clark explains for the thousandth time that he would not have given Bush a blank check. On the whole, I think Clark is sounding coherent and reasonable. Oh, oh ...
Michael Moore!
Clark is sidestepping the question. He's talking about jobs and living on a paycheck. Russert pushes again -- Clark was prepared for this.
Is there any evidence that you know of that President Bush is a deserter? Russert asks. Haven't looked at it. Isn't this a distraction? It's not distracting me, says Clark.
Okay, five minutes on the "deserter" flap. Now we're on to gays in the military. Notice that the other candidates don't get asked about gays in the military.
Clark is doing a good job of staying on his message, not permitting Russert to put him on defense. He ends with a ringing endorsement of abortion rights, very well put. A good job on the whole.
The reason these interviews are so phony and painful is, of course, that Russert is playing the Press Whore Corps establishment game. Which is:
  • Instead of doing his own investigation into Clark's background and asking original questions, he just drags up all the old charges generated by political opponents, no matter how bogus, and tries to get a reaction from Clark.
  • And, of course, we're not supposed to notice how corrupt and incompetent the Bush administration is. Bush plays politics with intelligence? Bush was AWOL from the National Guard? Not possible ...
Now the "roundtable" section is devoting itself to the Dean "scream" speech. I haven't been watching the clock, but it seems to me this segment is going on, and on, and on, and people, the horse is way dead.
Tom Brokaw is saying that Clark is struggling to answer questions about his stands on abortion and the Michael Moore "deserter" speech. I think he just made a beautiful statement on abortion rights. And we know that Clark is between a rock and a hard place on the deserter charge. The media whores want Clark to simply repudiate the charge, but if he does, a large chunk of the people supporting him will be very disappointed and possibly take their support elsewhere.

10:27 am | link

Hot Links
The Bad Maureen is back today, focusing on the state of Howard Dean's socks as she crows about how the almighty press corps has "declawed, de-clenched, de-Deaned" Dean. I'm not linking to this article, which is genuinely offensive; you can google for it.  Molly Ivins, bless her, gets it right:

The Washington press corps can do the most amazing imitation of a clique of snotty high school kids, and it was determined to find that Dean was not good enough for their clique from the beginning.

I have long cherished a line from Max Frankel, editor of The New York Times, concerning Bill Clinton: "He came from nowhere, and nobody had ever heard of him." Clinton, like Dean, had been a governor for 10 years when he ran, yet Maureen Dowd recently wrote that Dean "comes from nowhere and wants to lead the world."

The subtext here is: "Well, we never heard of him. He's not one of us. We never see him at the best Washington dinner parties, so who does he think he is?" [Molly Ivins, "And Further Adventures Ahead on the Campaign Trail," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 25, 2004]

BOP News (BOP stands for Blogging of the President) and Minnesota Public Radio will be airing a program on blogging today -- "The purpose is to air out the internet effects that the political campaign has suddenly made obvious. We want to encompass the new voices and communities, the critique of institutional journalism, the expressive possibilities beyond politics, the doubts, the hype, and the truth." It starts at 9 a.m.; go to BOP News for details. And Wes Clark will be on "Meet the Press" this morning.
Also, yesterday Colin Powell said Iraq may have had no banned weapons before the war. So how many months is he behind the rest of us? 

7:29 am | link

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

Terror Alert Level






"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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