Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Military resists anti-drug roleBy Rowan ScarboroughTHE WASHINGTON TIMESPublished October 26, 2004
Advocates of a direct combat role for the U.S. military in counternarcotics in Afghanistan have lost their fight inside the Bush administration, according to military sources. For months, the Pentagon's counterdrug office and government allies have pressed top officers to OK a new role in Afghanistan: hitting opium labs and supply routes that are funding anti-coalition forces, including Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. But top officers have succeeded in repelling such arguments, saying drug-busting should largely remain a mission for law enforcement and that Afghan authorities should be trained to do the job. The U.S. military is, however, likely to take on a bigger role in assisting Afghan counternarcotics forces, the sources said. The 18,000 American troops are already hard-pressed in Afghanistan, fighting insurgents along the Pakistani border, said one official. "The attitude is, this is not a military mission; it's a law-enforcement mission," said the military source knowledgeable about the internal debate. This official said the White House could overrule the generals at some point, perhaps after the Nov. 2 election. For now, most drug labs will stay off-limits since, in the opinion of military sources, the Afghan army does not yet have the capability to conduct sophisticated operations to find and destroy production sites. The sources, who asked not to be identified, said that without direct U.S. military interdiction the poppy crop will continue to grow, producing more opium and heroin for the world market, with profits going to warlords, the Taliban and al Qaeda. The hard-line Islamic Taliban rule, which was ousted by the allies in December 2001, did away with much of the poppy crop. But it also hoarded stashes of existing opium and heroin, driving up the price before being sold to sustain the regime. Since the liberation, farmers have gone back to the poppy plant in record numbers, rejecting government invitations to grow replacement crops, such as saffron. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, told Congress earlier this year that the administration misjudged when harvesting would begin, so much of the crop escaped irradiation. The British are the lead agency in Afghanistan for destroying the drug trade. But U.S. officials describe U.S. troops as too overburdened to do the job adequately. "They don't have the time, the energy, the personnel to mount the kind of long-term effort they need," this official said. Several prominent lawmakers, including House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, have urged the White House in writing to order U.S. troops into the drug battle. Mr. Hyde has said he may work to get funds for foreign troops to do the job if the administration refuses. In Colombia, the world's largest producer of cocaine, U.S. military personnel play a large role by training anti-drug units and provide intelligence, but do not directly participate in operations against communist guerrillas who control the drug trade. Statements last week by Army Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, the top commander in Afghanistan, suggests the military may take on that role. Gen. Barno, fresh from successfully protecting Afghan voters in an historic presidential election, was in Washington for discussion with Pentagon leaders. Saying his troops already have a "full plate" of missions, Gen. Barno said troops would not become involved in crop eradication. "I think we will play larger roles in assisting in other aspects of the drug fight, particularly in the interdiction aspect of it," he said. "We also recognize that the threat of narcotics, particularly as we go into this coming year, is very significant and threatens our overall strategic objective," he said. "So we're assessing right now how the military will be able to re-look what our current roles are, within our capabilities and our missions, to provide further assistance in that fight." Copyright © 2004 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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October 26, 2004
It's All About The Issuesby tgirsch
According to Jeff over at the Dawn Treader, this election isn't about the issues, it's about the worldview:
What is at stake? Winning the war on terror? Friends, Bush is not going to win the war on terror, although he cannot say that. Kerry is not going to win the war on terror either. To win a war against individuals (versus a nation), you will have to kill or imprison every terrorist on the planet. This will not happen in our lifetime.
The issue is not about health insurance. No one's health insurance proposal stands a chance of getting passed in a congress so evenly divided. Things will get so compromised that the candidate's original ideas won't even be recognizable.
The issue is not about the war in Iraq. Our troops are in Iraq, and both candidates know we need to get them out of Iraq somehow. In four years, my prediction is that our troop levels are going to be much, much lower than they are now: regardless of who is president.I like Jeff, but his take here is very misguided, and dangerously so, for a number of reasons. First, it takes the Green/Libertarian B.S. view that there are no significant differences between the two candidates on the substantive issues. As 2000 should have taught us, nothing could be further from the truth.
No one can, with a straight face, argue that Kerry would take a similar course in the war on terror as Bush would take -- to do so would take away one of the primary reasons conservatives keep telling us we shouldn't vote for Kerry. And despite the fact that neither candidate's health care package is likely to survive the legislature without substantial compromise, that does not make the two plans -- even post-compromise -- equivalent, or trivial, as Jeff seems to imply. Further, though I agree with Jeff that there will be substantially fewer troops in Iraq in four years regardless of who is president, this greatly oversimplifies the situation in Iraq, which will be handled very differently by Kerry than it would be by Bush. Among other things, our international reputation is at stake here, as well as the future of the Middle East. (For an outstanding piece on why continuing Bush's Middle-East policy would be a big mistake, see publius.)
Friends, you are not going to agree with every choice that either candidate makes while in office. I don't align with every decision "W" has made.
So how should you decide to vote?
Let me make this as simple as possible. The only issue that matters is worldview.
What is the worldview of each major candidate? Which worldview best corresponds with the way the world really is?
Now let us take Kerry at his word. He is a Roman Catholic. He is a theist. "W" is an evangelical. He is a theist too. Both believe in God. Both claim to be Christians. I know some of you are howling out there. Just stick with me on this one. Let's call the "God" question a draw.
Here is where the water divides.
When it comes to ethical and moral truth, which candidate is closer to relativistic thinking, and which is closer to absolutist thinking?
Don't forget, the truth question is a worldview question too.
Moral relativism asserts that nothing can be truly wrong (in every circumstance, in every culture); the answer to the "is it wrong?" question is always, "it depends." Moral relativism cringes at the word "evil", because in a world without true right and wrong, evil is too strong a term. For example, a terrorist to one person, is a freedom fighter to another: so says the relativist. This line of thinking diminishes terrorism.
In case you have not figured it out, even though both are allegedly Christians, Kerry is not very absolutist in his worldview. Bush is.I'll let the Kevins address the moral relativism allegation. For now, I'll just state that the allegation that Kerry's answer to "is X wrong" is always "it depends" is patently false.
Let's take a look at what Jeff is suggesting here: that someone whose worldview is absolute is automatically superior to one who leaves room for play in his worldview. (What happens when the absolutist has an absolutist worldview that's absolutely wrong? That's left to our imagination.) But there's a deeper, darker implication to Jeff's line of reasoning, particularly with respect to abortion: he faults Kerry not for his position on abortion (he is personally opposed, in accordance with his religious faith), but because Kerry is unwilling to make a tenet of his religious faith into official policy.
What Jeff is calling for here, whether he realizes it or not, is a Christian Theocracy. And without saying so directly, he tells us that we ought to vote for Bush because a vote for Bush moves us closer to that goal.
It gets even worse:
Because of the imperfections in the way our democracy works, the judicial branch wields too much power. The legislative branch is supposed to have the power to correct this but is unwilling to exercise this power and reign in the courts.
Up to four of your Supreme Court justices for the next several decades will be picked by a Christian president during the next administration. One who leans toward relativism, and one who leans toward absolutism. Again, both are ostensibly Christians, so the religious part of the equation is a draw. This puts the focus squarely on the philosophical difference in the grounding of their worldviews: relativism –vs- absolutism.Jeff basically states, without substantiation, that the judicial branch "wields too much power," and that the legislative branch is supposed to have the power to prevent this. The former is just another iteration of the conservative view that courts that make rulings they don't like (e.g., MA gay marriage ruling, for example) have somehow "overstepped their bounds," whereas courts that make bad rulings with which they agree (e.g., Bush v. Gore 2000) are well within their rights. And the latter claim about the legislature's ability to limit the power of the courts is discussed in detail in the comments here, so I won't rehash it here.
We can spend all day finding faults in either candidate. I know the last of you "undecideds" out there are struggling because you really do not like either man. I am sympathetic to that.
However, my point is this. Forget the issues, forget the personalities, and focus on difference in their worldviews.
Vote worldview.In a nutshell, Jeff says that we should vote for Bush because Bush will take us closer to a Christian theocracy (as he thinks it ought to be, and right or wrong he's got resolve!), and will appoint justices that will eschew the long-held doctrine of church/state separation and uphold that theocracy.
I shouldn't have to explain why this is dangerous. There's a reason people came here in the first place: to escape the sort of religious oppression that Bush and his ilk would codify. Remember that old saying about those who forget history being doomed to repeat it? It's imperative that you not forget that history.
All that said, there's one more important point to address: Bush's policies, as far as I can tell, are not terribly Christian. He talks the talk, but does not walk the walk. As with so many religious conservative politicians, he invokes God as often as possible, reducing the divine to a cheap political prop, and hammers at two issues -- abortion and homosexuality -- that are so crucial to Christianity that Jesus never bothered to address either one. And as long as he continues to beat those drums, he can do whatever else he wants, and Christian conservatives don't seem to care.
Hypocrisy? Jesus hated it, but it doesn't faze the administration. Deception? There may be a commandment against it, but this administration has turned it into an art form (as Spinanity.com puts it, "Perhaps the most troubling -- and most effective -- tactic has been President Bush's strategic use of language to imply controversial conclusions or outright untruths he wouldn't dare state publicly."). Concern for the poor? Only in election years, and only in ways that advance an overtly religious agenda. Respect for life? Only that of the unborn. Once they're here, it's perfectly acceptable to kill them and call them "collateral damage."
In recent memory, we've only had one president who's talked the talk and walked the walk, and it wasn't George W. Bush. It was Jimmy Carter. And look where it got him.
To sum up, the idea that our religion should not just influence but dictate whom we vote for, and that policy doesn't matter, is a dangerous, dangerous idea, for a myriad of reasons. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you should vote for Kerry no matter what. What I will say is that policy is about the only thing that matters. If you feel that George W. Bush's policies are truly what's best for America, both near-term and long-term, then by all means, vote for him. But if you're ignoring his ineffectual, counterproductive policies because his nebulous, intangible "worldview" is similar to yours, then America is clearly moving in the wrong direction.
(In all quotes from Jeff's site, the emphasis was in the original).TrackBack Other weblogs commenting on this post
WWW.NYPRESS.COM OCTOBER 26, 2004
CELIA FARBERNEWS & COLUMNS
The conjoined lawsuits of Bill O’Reilly and Andrea Mackris contain everything future generations might want to know about what made this era so hopeless and rotten. Everything that made a farce of women’s struggle for equality in the workplace, causing outbreaks of violence against lawyers on the streets of major cities and eventually enabling the Taliban to become the third major party to come close to winning a U.S. election.
Their teachers will tell them it was lawsuits like this. Situations like this. It was the slow humiliation of a once-great nation having to constantly talk and think about fake crises and lurid garbage at a time when we needed our minds to be clear, at a time when we were facing true catastrophe. Most sexual harassment lawsuits are specious, driven by greed and rooted in their own brand of misogyny, the kind that infantilizes women, by sexualizing them and by commodifying their sexual distress. The only true liberation for women lies in their being freed from all angles of sexual determinism.
If we can't stop lechery, we can at least stop building a church upon it, stop measuring and quantifying and collecting it. Because to do so is only to be complicit with the very formula for regression that it implies, that we are inseparable from our sex value to a man, be it positive or negative.
The trouble here, as everywhere, is that we have lost all sense of proportion, justice and, most importantly, standards. Lechery is a drag—but it is not a crime. If the lechery makes it difficult to work, then report it. There isn't a corporate workplace in America that doesn't have an effective anti-sex-harassment policy in place that will instantly put the fear of all hell in any man who forgets the rules.
Bill O'Reilly is what he is, love him or hate him. But a $60 million sexual harassment lawsuit really ought to have some sexual harassment in it.
Instead, we have some very "inappropriate" whiskey-talk, or "boorishness" that can't quite attach itself to the larger conspiracy that is so hotly implied by its peddlers.
Nobody wants to deal with this on the human plane, like the fairly pedestrian matter it actually is. In America we don't think about things as emanating from the human realm, but rather from the unfathomable, alien realm, where only $60 million might set things straight again. "America is a pathetic place where something stupefying must always happen for fear we wake up," wrote William Carlos Williams. There must always be a fresh bogeyman in the unending flogging for purity, and everything must always be driven by fear and ugliness.
Liberals and conservatives have exploited this with equal relish over time, and lost most if not all of their credibility to address sexual harassment with a straight face. Still, the same hypocritical racket rises up each time, the same hand-wringing about sexual propriety, lust, power and judgment.
As of press time, the two sides appear to be negotiating a settlement.
What a bore.
I've read all the documents on both sides, and clearly O'Reilly has a strong case for extortion and could have used this moment to actually set some standards in this country. Everybody agrees it's one of the weakest sex-harass suits ever to come down the pike; for one thing, because it contains no touching, no quid pro quo sexual harassment (i.e., threats) and not a single complaint from Mackris prior to the big shakedown.
Tidbits emerge that aren't exactly confidence-inspiring: Andrea Mackris went to dinner repeatedly with Bill O'Reilly. She even went to his hotel room (where nothing happened). She herself is sexually outspoken, and maybe even exhibitionistic. She was divisive and capricious in the workplace, melodramatic, and deep in debt. She is rumored both to have had a crush on Bill O'Reilly and to have openly vowed to take him down. She returned to work for him after a few months at CNN, and he gave her a big raise. She never complained to anybody at Fox about the harassment, and even wrote an email to a friend gushing about how happy she was to be back at Fox, which she called "home."
Still, earnest liberals will ask of you that you entertain this as a serious case of sexual harassment.
I have been decrying the tyranny of sexual- harassment law for a decade, since I experienced one of these lawsuits first-hand in a lengthy federal court trial aimed against my then-employer. These things are carnivals of shame, fear, sadism and pedantry, and yet they have remained cloaked in a patina of pseudo-feminism and progressiveness. Far from liberating women, the terror reign has the potential to send women back to the stone age and ensure eternal warfare between the sexes.
When I offer up this point of view, those around me always get that fear in their eyes, as if I'm asking them to follow me underground to worship Satan. "But…but…don't you think sexual harassment is a real…problem…for women in the workforce?" they ask nervously.
Maybe. But I'm far more worried about the dictatorship that has grown up around these lucrative laws, the kangaroo courts and the mob-style whackings. The way people have been disappearing from their offices, around the country for years because they said something weird or inappropriate and their firms or universities didn't want any trouble. Can we talk about that?
If the Patriot Act worries you, this stuff ought to make your blood run cold.
THE LAW NEEDS to be amended to correct the rampant abuses, and the only way that will happen is if people don't settle. If, instead, they fight, we might see better standards enforced.
Sexual Harassment law, a part of the Title VII Civil Rights Act, is an open-ended set of loosely connected and ill-defined laws that "prohibits sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace." Examples of sexual harassment include: "Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and sexually suggestive or offensive personal references about an individual."
Then there is a laundry list of conditions that broaden the scope for the "victim," who does not even have to face the accused harasser once she's made the charges. The victim may be male or female, need not be of the opposite sex, need not have been economically injured or discharged, and does not even have to be the person harassed. It can be "anyone affected by the offensive conduct." The harasser in turn need not be the victim's supervisor, but can be a coworker, or even a non-employee.
Show me the behavioral psychologist who can delineate what "verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature" may entail. It could be just about anything; people tend to weave sexual references into their patter and banter in a free society.
Add to those nebulous laws a mass influx of women into the workplace, bringing the dynamics of the home with them—father/daughter, mother/daughter—etc. Now add to that a hot market, a financial incentive for grievance. Millions of dollars start to change hands due to increasingly opaque charges and situations in which women were "made to feel uncomfortable."
And there you have a disaster in the making. Fear drives the prices up. The settlements are reached behind closed doors. Nobody fights it. Nobody dares question the substance or integrity of the "victim" because this may signal ideological impurity and may render that person vulnerable to attack.
If there were a way to measure the damage caused by sexual harassment in the souls and careers of the afflicted women next to the damage caused by the litigious and often extortionist machinery that cracks down on it, I am certain we would see that the cure is worse than the disease.
This is what makes the Bill O'Reilly case interesting, and pivotal.
TAKING KNEE-JERK exception to the idea that Bill O'Reilly may have been wronged, and fending off the bogeyman of their own sexuality, the legal pundits are busy redefining the word "extortion" for the American masses.
But lawyers are the worst people in the world at figuring out right from wrong. They only like to talk about what the law says, not what common sense says. If you want to know what's right and what's wrong, ask a child. What is betrayal? What is entrapment?
The legal punditry is arguing that what went down in the O'Reilly case is "common practice" in sexual harassment lawsuits: The aggrieved party goes knocking on a back door with cracked knuckles, seeking a "resolution" before a suit is filed. In this case, the aggrieved asked for anywhere between $60 million and $600 million.
Yes, it's "common practice." All that proves is that sexual harassment suits filed against high-profile, wealthy men (who coincidentally seem to commit all the sexual harassment you ever hear about) are generally preceded by extortion. No matter how much you may dislike Bill O'Reilly, surely you would agree that $60 million is too high a price to listen to him talk about vibrators. And this brings us to the next station of incoherent hypocrisy.
Only women are permitted to talk about vibrators in this country, and they can do it on prime-time tv. It's a sign of liberation.
If you find all of this a little confusing, you are not alone. The legal eagles are struggling mightily to make sense of it all, to keep the nation's soul dry-cleaned and germ-free. But O'Reilly complicated matters by getting mad as a bull. Clinton failed to get mad when he ought to have gone berserk. He should have said: "I am not going to let you people examine my genitals. Rewrite the Constitution if you have to. It's not going to happen."
I was hoping Bill O'Reilly would resist a settlement deal, and instead tell the American public what he means when he says this is the "most evil" thing he's ever seen. If that is indeed the case, then Thoreau would have wanted him to fight it—risk his career, risk everything and use "the whole of his influence."
O'Reilly is far from a clean-spun hero, and he is not even saying that he is "innocent" of the charges. He did what he did, and it was crude and bad and stupid. But it seems to me that by fighting back he could stand up to the tyrannical elements of sexual harassment accusations and focus our attention on how they operate. At this point in our history, that is far more important than the question of whether he's a sex fiend.
FOR EVERY IMPORTANT and honest sexual harassment claim, there are 99 dishonest, evil ones. What's now coming to light is the other side—the terror, the extortion, the sheer cowardice.
"I call it graymail," said my old friend Bob Guccione Jr., who prevailed in a sexual harassment lawsuit at Spin magazine at the peak of the hysteria in 1994. "It's legalized blackmail, because there is a presumption of guilt when they make the charge."
In that landmark case, plaintiff Staci Bonner's lawyers asked for several hundred thousand dollars in hush money prior to filing a lawsuit. Guccione, like O'Reilly, surprised his accuser by fighting the case rather than settling.
It was a bouillabaisse of charges: Guccione had "sexualized the workplace," permitted a "hostile work environment" and "offered professional advancement in exchange for sexual favors."
The entire female staff was thereby subject to a taxidermy that removed their hide, stripped it of all they'd ever tried to achieve as professionals and hung it back onto them branded with a scarlet letter that supposedly proved they were nothing but objects of Guccione's desire.
The prosecuting attorney identifies herself as a feminist, as did the plaintiff and all of their supporters.
This is how I came to learn what these lawsuits are really about, and why I think Bill O'Reilly chose the right word when he said "evil."
I don't want to dignify the lawsuit by describing it further, but it is worth noting that despite several years of ruthless interrogation and a month-long Federal Court trial, they lost their case. The jury sided overwhelmingly with Guccione. I was central to the case, and affected in ways I can barely describe. The plaintiff had been my best friend at the magazine, somebody I thought of as a sister and trusted.
There is no stopping these juggernauts, no mechanism for protecting innocent people against having their lives destroyed by opportunistic lawsuits.
In those days, anything and everything sexual that was uttered or even hinted at in the workplace was treated like a form of rape. Somebody glanced at somebody's breasts in a corridor in 1989. Maybe. Somebody asked somebody's bra size for fact-checking purposes. Guccione repeatedly addressed female employees by saying: "Hello gorgeous!"
The insults and accusations were so random, in many cases having nothing to do with sex and something vaguely to do with being personable in the office. I recall being attacked in my two-day, 16-hour deposition torture session for writing "Happy Valentine's Day" at the end of a memo to two colleagues. The prosecuting attorney thundered: "Do you think that is professional Miss Farber?"
For god's sake. We were kids in our 20s, working at a rock magazine, and suddenly we were asked to defend, explain, justify and atone for everything we'd ever said, written, expressed, laughed at… to a total stranger who was suddenly empowered to impose her own standards for what "appropriate" behavior looked like at a mid-sized magazine in the 1980s.
It was weird. Inexplicable. Astounding. Terrifying. It was a net that came down from the sky.
The fear spread as more and more women found summonses slipped under their doors. There were lists, good women and bad women: Who had flirted with whom? Who had had sex with a colleague? With a boss? Who had laughed at sexual jokes? Who had worn short skirts?
At one point I said to Guccione's lawyers: Fine, if we must fight this as though it is a real "lawsuit," then so be it. But let's be clear: This is a mass hallucination. This is not real. It is a demonic fever and one day it will break, and we will look at all these accusations that once looked so damning and see that they are nothing at all. Nothing. A bunch of incoherent garbage.
Three years and many blighted lives later, when the jury returned its verdict it found substance in only one of six counts Bonner had leveled against Guccione and Spin—a charge of unequal pay—and awarded her a mere $10,000 in damages.
The lesson is twofold, and contradictory. If you choose to fight, you will be broken, driven half out of your mind from the ugliness of it all. It will take on average 10 years before you even begin to recover. But on the other hand, you may well win, because when this kind of reductionist, Newtonian, PC stuff actually lands in court, it rarely flies.
THE FEAR AT the core of sex-harass mania is spun from an outmoded blueprint on female sexuality that assumes exposure to unwanted sexual banter and/or pressure is not merely annoying, but profoundly "traumatic."
It can be—in severe and real cases. But the assumption itself is subject to the ever-changing mores and beliefs in the culture. And this is not the 1990s.
Just 10 years ago, it was assumed that any exposure to a sexual reference in any work context was demeaning, harassing and de facto horrifying to a woman. I don't know how or why that belief came about, but it may have to do with the 1980s über-idea that sex is lethal, that every erection is a gun in a game of Russian Roulette. If sex is lethal, then sexual banter is dangerous.
Sexual harassment law, culture and beliefs grew during an era of unprecedented sexual hysteria, and we were left with the subtext of those old, dead beliefs.
But now the pendulum has swung, and we are once again in an era of sexual indulgence, if not mania. How can sexual harassment be measured in a culture awash in sex? How can anybody know what's "inappropriate" when television pours out sex continually, peaking with a hit show about four women who don't even wear underwear and share every single gory detail of their sex lives with anyone willing to listen?
Asking whether Bill O'Reilly is "guilty" is the wrong question. The question is how to measure the alleged damage, once the culture has reversed itself and gone from anti-sex hysteria to pro-sex hysteria. In sexual harassment cases, the supposed injury is internal, subjective, personal and impossible to quantify. That's what makes them so dangerous, not just to men, but to women. To humanity. What's dangerous is the lack of objective standards. Sexual harassment has become anything anybody wants it to be.
In the case of Andrea Mackris, there is no touching, there is no quid pro quo, no threats, no firing. If she chose to stay on the line as O'Reilly "climaxed," and if she was indeed taping it, then she was consciously enabling—even staging—the very trauma for which she is now seeking multi-million-dollar recompense. It's an amazing case in many ways. A plaintiff who serves as a technical engineer to her own trauma: Rather than interrupt it, she records the trauma. This would seem to obviate the notion that the trauma was so severe as to require a $60 million salve.
You can't choose trauma, enable it and then sue for it. It has to be inflicted entirely against your will. Hence, the price is extortionist.
Yes, it may also be sexual harassment. But they blew that, by extorting Fox as a first move. Sexual harassment must be recorded in the form of, among other things, complaints to managers at the workplace. You're supposed to try to stop it as a first measure. You can't just lay out a Roach Motel to collect specimens of boorish behavior and cut straight to the shakedown.
Like everyone else, I've read the parts of the lawsuit that were clearly verbatim transcripts of O'Reilly's decontextualized sex-talk. It's pretty generic stuff. What I really want is her end of the conversation. Were we to be given the full transcripts, we might resolve once and for all the so-called mystery of these unfortunate debacles.
These sorts of sex-eruptions never happen in a vacuum, and everybody knows it. They happen inside of a dynamic that is fully understood only by the two people involved. This took a long time to develop. There were billions of signals between these two, a cosmos of communication both spoken and unspoken, and at some point the signals began to misfire; it got ugly. She might have been complicit up to a point, but that doesn't mean she encouraged it. She may have suddenly relived a childhood trauma and slammed on the brakes. A guy like Bill O'Reilly may not have been attuned to that. Men are not attuned to a lot of things. These things are impossible to decipher.
What was he doing? What was she doing? What were they after?
WHAT MADE HIM call her over and over? What made her go to dinner with him all the time? What made her not hang up when he allegedly pleasured himself on the phone?
Mackris' lawsuit, almost comically, concludes every x-rated monologue from O'Reilly with a clean, punctuating, "Plaintiff was repulsed."
The awful thing about these lawsuits is that we wind up in obscure chambers of the female psyche, where plaintiff is "repulsed," and it is simply the end of the world. This utterly subjective emotion is intended to justify a request for $60 million. Or $600 million.
What is repulsive is the market in corporate America for feminine sexual repulsion. It's a completely inflated market, where the price is arbitrary and infinite, because the injury can never be measured. It is a matrix of feelings that are being manipulated, and ultimately sold on a blackmail market driven by fear. This is a catastrophe of the capitalist system, one that commodifies every last bit of our humanity.
Having grown up in Sweden, that silly country where sex is viewed as part of nature, I have a split lens. It is a cliché and it has been said before, but Americans have very bizarre perceptions when it comes to sex, pornographically inclined yet puritanical at the same time. The women wield their sexual power, but don't understand it; they imbue it with way too much drama, hostility and paranoia.
The men, meanwhile, are severed from their feminine side, unable to express normal emotions; they interact with women like angry zoo-keepers. Sexual harassment is a symptom of a deep imbalance in the ecosystem between the sexes. I doubt there is any culture on Earth where women are expected to be as impossibly, relentlessly sexy as they are here, and at the same time, so uptight and punitive. As a Swedish male friend recently remarked: "Sexiness can itself become a kind of burqa, where the woman can't be seen."
I have been loath to admit it, but in America sex is the ticket to survival for women—still the meal ticket. It has taken me many years to grasp this. I could never understand why sexiness and femininity were so overwrought here—why such desperation? It must be fear. Fear of not surviving.
Sex, then, is a currency that can bring financial stability. If a woman's sexual "Yes" is commodified, then so is her sexual "No." In both cases, the culture objectifies the woman, obviates the private universe and creates a litigious hell on Earth. In a purely mechanistic world, you are nothing but the sum of your parts.
Bill O'Reilly's heavy breathing is no longer just a miscommunication between a man and a woman, but a miscommunication worth millions.
Consider the specifics of the O'Reilly/Mackris case and maybe you will begin to see why O'Reilly used the word "evil" to describe it. Premeditated entrapment and betrayal, for starters. Public humiliation on a scale beyond belief. The possible destruction of an entire career. Does this punishment fit the "crime"?
I do think that Bill O'Reilly objectified this woman. I also think that she objectified him, only much more egregiously. The strange thing is, she must have absolutely hated him to be able to do this. A woman with a normal heart fends off unwanted advances with skill, grace, deftness, consideration and maybe the occasional irritation. Not with an atomic bomb. Where is the humanity? And if we can conclude that she is bereft of humanity, then why must the nation drop what it is doing to address her violated emotions?
Her violated emotions?
ONE MAY ARGUE that a healthy man doesn't behave like O'Reilly did either. A man with a normal heart listens and decodes and senses a woman's responses—before he becomes expressive. For starters, they should be in a romantic relationship before the rest even begins.
But men are tone-deaf in that kind of corporate American culture. They are trained to think in terms of exchange and barter and power and sex. The more corporate an environment, the more likely it is that a man will become a sexual autist. If he has feelings for a woman, he beats them back like an evil snake. He can express sexual urges, but rarely with any real sense of direction or purpose. It's just sexual friction that goes out everywhere all the time—a deflated currency.
Bill O'Reilly is a kind of cultural id. He's a wounded, edgy, rather mean animal whose perceived virility lies in his courage to express what he likes in times of great censure. You might say his refusal to be repressed extended to his sexuality, and you might say that that's truly terrible. He's filled with vengeance over the emasculation of men in America over the past several decades, and with this injured libidinal pride, he's the perfect Avenging Hammer to the police state of sexual harassment law.
On behalf of many people who never got to fight back, I hope he resists the temptation to settle. That will only encourage the next dreadfully painful lawsuit and lead us nowhere in the real fight, which is the fight to understand ourselves and each other—to become more human, not less human. It may be strange to suggest that Bill O'Reilly could in any way protect the powerless, but I do hope he chooses the hard road—on behalf of all those who are walking around silent and maimed from things far stranger, far darker, far more evil than…phone sex.
Volume 17, Issue 43
© 2004 New York Press
By Lakshmi Chaudhry, AlterNetPosted on October 27, 2004, Printed on October 27, 2004http://www.alternet.org/story/20309/
An interview with Seymour Hersh is never dull – to put it mildly. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist can be contentious, just as willing to challenge a question as answer it. He can be unpredictable, ever able to throw a hapless reporter off-balance with the unexpected. "Did you ever take a stewardess' course?" he might inquire just as you're trying to get him to discuss the role of the media.
When Hersh does answer the question – which he will, with eloquence and at great length – he is likely to make your head reel as he follows four separate lines of thought – at the same time. In other words, it's a bit like being on a roller-coaster: often disorienting and a little daunting, but always a hell of a ride.
For when Seymour Hersh speaks, he does so with unparalleled insight, passion, and candor. He is willing to say what most other star journalists rarely permit themselves to even think in this era of celebrity journalism, when image is king. When Hersh speaks, it's for two simple reasons: it's important and he cares. It's why we care to listen.
Be it his coverage of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War or his recent work exposing the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq, Hersh has been a dedicated watchdog for democracy. His latest book, ""Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib," builds on his reporting as a staff writer at The New Yorker. The book – among other things – reveals how National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was made aware of human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay two years before the torture in Iraq took place. It is a searing indictment of the Bush administration for its willful ignorance, ideological agenda, and above all, a profound failure of leadership.
He spoke to AlterNet from his office in Washington D.C.
So what does the Abu Ghraib scandal say – the fact that it happened and the way it was handled by the Bush administration ...
Oh, c'mon. You can ask a better question than that.
No, no, no, does it reveal a deeper truth ...
OK, fine. Abu Ghraib is a symptom, a terrible symptom of a system that went bad from the beginning. From the first days of the war, the attitude was 'We can do anything we want.' When John Walker Lindh – that young boy who was captured with al Qaeda, that lost kid from California – was first captured, the mistreatment was astonishing. He was stripped, thrown around. There was a bullet they didn't take out for days. The soldiers spit on him. There were people at the time who thought it was just madness what we were doing and that it would stop soon. But the American public liked it.
So in a funny way, we got what we wanted. We wanted payback, we wanted revenge. And we saw everybody in al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Muslim world as our enemy.
So you're describing a blood-lust on the part of the American people.
No, what I said was what happened is ... OK, one of the amazing things is the first report [on Abu Ghraib] that was done by Antonio Taguba, a wonderful, highly motivated, brilliant officer. And he traced the tracks of Abu Ghraib back to Afghanistan. The prisoner abuse began then.
And here's my complaint about Bush, and Cheney and Rumsfeld. Of course, none of these people knew about Abu Ghraib – all that madness, piling up naked people. But at no time did the people at the top of the chain of command say, "You will not mistreat people."
In an article in the New Yorker, you included the testimony of one of the soldiers who was one of the whistleblowers that exposed the abuses in Abu Ghraib. Yet in the bit that you quoted, he referred to the prisoner as an "it." And this is someone who was appalled by what he saw around him. Doesn't that reflect the larger environment within the prison – where these prisoners were simply not seen as human beings?
Ah, I think you may be over-intellectualizing. You can't begin to know what's in their head. Look, America is a very racist country and war brings out the worst in it. I have said – several times, publicly – that the one thing I've always liked about Bill Clinton is that he was the first American president since World War II to bomb white people.
There's a lot of racism. And when you fight a war, you dehumanize the other side – that's inevitable. And that's why you need leadership from the president. That's why you need clear guidelines to be established.
The reality is that anybody could do what they goddamn wanted in that prison. They couldn't kill them, but they could do anything else they wanted. And that's exactly what happened. It was just awful.
And we will discover that as bad Abu Ghraib was, the torture in the prison in Guantanamo is going to turn out to be more systematic, more brutal.
So you're saying that racism is a given fact and it takes rules in order to ...
Of course. Is there anything more dangerous than a 20-year-old with a weapon? C'mon! In a war zone, you'll steal and kill and do pretty much anything.
The interesting thing to me with this war is that the American public – left, right, and center – is not mad at the soldiers as they were in Vietnam. In this war, there seems to be an understanding that these Army reservists and National Guard members are as much victims as the people they have to kill and shoot and maim. This is the war that the president wanted and he made people go to battle – and the public seems to understand that.
Why has Abu Ghraib not had any political impact? I just read this piece in the American Prospect which shows that many of the senior officers implicated in the scandal have been promoted. What's more, neither presidential candidate has even mentioned Abu Ghraib.
Why should they? Since when is having a disciplined, finely-tuned sense of morality an element in the presidential campaign?
But do you think it is also because the American public is not interested in hearing about Abu Ghraib?
What I was trying to say with the previous remark is that one of the things that a leader does is lead. And yes, neither leader is taking the chance for the reason that you mention.
As for the American people, look, you're never going to be able to persuade me that even the most rabid Bush supporter in Texas wasn't horrified by what he saw. The question though is how do you deal with it. And for a lot of people in America, they simply expunge it or deny it.
When I wrote my first stories about My Lai, I remember vividly a Minnesota public opinion poll that showed that more than half of the American people didn't think I should have published that story. They weren't accusing me of doing anything wrong, but they didn't think I should have written about it. So you always have this resistance to an ugly truth.
I think it would take enormous amount of guts and integrity for Kerry to have pushed the story. But he didn't. On the other hand, he's trying to win an election. Kerry has nothing to gain, politically – anybody who hates Abu Ghraib is not going to like the war. And if he raises this issue, people will interpret him as being anti-military – which he doesn't want and in fact is not true.
So you're not surprised that the scandal didn't have a bigger fallout than other ...
What I'm saying to you is that it did have a bigger fallout. It just didn't come the way that you'd see it. It left an enormous scar not just here, but around the world.
Even the most devout Bush lover in the Deep South knows what those pictures mean – whether they want to acknowledge it or not. It's completely implausible that anyone could look at those pictures [of torture] without an enormous sense of shame.
The thing that drives me crazy is that Bush has won on this issue. He's prosecuting seven or eight "bad seeds." This one guy [Ivan "Chip" Fredricks] got eight years yesterday – are you kidding me? Eight years? They're prosecuting the hell out of them and I still don't see any officers charged. At most they're talking about doing reprimands. And I haven't even seen anyone getting reprimanded yet.
Bush has gotten away with it. He won the public relations battle and we're all happy. It's a little traumatic, a little horrible, a little discouraging.
And that's because we live in this post-9/11 era where there is a sense there should be no limit in what we can do to keep ourselves safe.
The mistreatment began immediately and why is that crazy? Real simple, you don't want their prisoners treated any differently than you want our prisoners treated. And two, you can't get good intelligence by coercion – with bombs or bullets or breaking fingers with people who are willing to die.
It was a really, really dumb decision.
You've said in other interviews that it would be better to have a realist like Henry Kissinger in the White House than utopians like the neoconservatives. So is there a lesson in Iraq then for the so-called humanitarian hawks – the liberal hawks who believe in going to war for moral reasons?
I'm one of those people who believes that Bush really did go to war to free the Middle East and turn these nations into democracies. I don't think he went to war for oil primarily or Israel. He went because he has this idee fixe that it was his mission, his crusade to change the Middle East – to turn it into a democratic stronghold of good, well-meaning people who would buy American and support Israel against the Palestinians and keep the oil flowing.
It's idealistic. It's utopian. Is there anything more dangerous than an ideologue who doesn't know he's wrong?
Now, one of the things I've heard from people who found themselves supporting the war is that whether the UN went in or not, the fact is that there was a moral imperative. That Saddam was doing terrible things to his people and suppressing the Shi'ites, violating human rights and so on.
The only problem with that thinking is that it's been more than a year and a half since we went in. And right now, the abuses in the prisons, the bombings, and the attacks, the violence in the country are now being caused by us. Is that a moral position we want to be in? Of course, it is an unintended consequence, but it is still very much a consequence.
If Bush wins re-election, he will bomb and bomb and bomb. He's been doing that steadily every since the Allawi government was put in place by us. Since June 28, the bombing has gone up exponentially. Bombing, bombing, bombing. Civilian targets, civilian neighborhoods.
But I don't see anyone in the press worrying about it. I don't see them demanding to know how many sorties we're flying – have they grown? Are more bombs being dropped? What's the tonnage? We don't know any of that, do we?
Michael Ignatieff's review of your book posited you as the mirror-image of Bob Woodward. Where Woodward's writing is based on his access to the inner circle, your reporting is based on relationships you've built with insiders who make up the rank-and-file. But then he goes on to say that both of you run the risk of being "played" by the sources. How do you respond to that?
Of course, it's absolutely true that both of us are vulnerable to being played by our sources. But the question is to what extent.
Bob was reflecting what he thought their views were. And I would bet he is pretty accurate about that. One of the things that amazed me about the first book ... So I read Bob's first book, "Bush at War," which begins with 9/11 and ends with the invasion [of Iraq] in March, 18 months later. And it was not until months later that I realized what it was about that book that really troubled me.
It was that at no point in these 300-400 pages of this book does any of the major players in the Bush administration say to one of his aides, "Hey, what's this Muslim thing here? And why don't you give me a little paper on this thing they call the [putting on a Texan drawl] Koh-ran."
This lack of curiosity about Arab motives. What the assumption was that the Muslim world was mad at us because we had what they wanted. The president still has this notion.
So Bob's books are really valuable. And I don't think he was played by his sources. He did exactly what he wanted to do – to play back what they gave him. And I think in my case, I've been dealing with people for a long time. And over the years, you establish trust. It doesn't mean someone can't or won't use me.
But since 9/11 I've been writing an alternative history of the war which is clearly being perceived – now – as having a lot of accuracy. It wasn't seen that way two years ago. I was considered to be out there – looney tunes, if you like.
Someone like Judith Miller (of the New York Times) seems a more likely anti-Hersh, so to speak. She represents the flipside of anonymous sourcing, where unnamed sources become a way to disguise sloppy reporting. So given these kinds of examples, what future do you see for your type of reporting – the kind which as you point out relies on ...
Do you really think I'm going to get into a discussion of this?
OK, you don't want to? We can move on.
I'll stay away. All I can say to you is I do find it absolutely, utterly amazing that Judy Miller is suddenly the poster child for the kind of reporting we want in America. But that's OK. [hesitates]
Fine, we don't really ...
I didn't really like what she wrote about Iraq, but I think she's taken the right stance in the case she's involved in now. Anyway ...
I don't want to talk about that kind of stuff because it's ... It gets to be self-serving and I don't want to get into that aspect of it ...
Well, some people have sources and some people have real sources is all I'm saying. There are sources that tell you the White House spin and there are sources that tell you what's really going on. And that's a tough level to get to.
OK, let's talk about the media in general.
Let's, oh let's. Ask me something that I can answer so it isn't self-serving – that doesn't have me brushing snow from my mantle.
Michael Gordon [the New York Times' war correspondent] has done an excellent three-part series, full of interesting information. Oh would be that he wrote some of that stuff or knew some of that stuff before the war – instead of the stuff he actually wrote before the war, which generally reflected the opinion of guys who were dead wrong about what was going to happen. What am I supposed to think? Am I glad he wrote it? Yes.
Look, I'm glad the New York Times and the Washington Post have done their mea culpa. I just think they should have done those mea culpas before March of 2003 – before the war began, because that would have been important.
Yes, there have been mea culpas, but do they get the fact that the media now faces a credibility gap? The public seems to have lost a certain amount of trust in the major media outlets, be it the New York Times or CNN, because of their coverage since 9/11, and especially during the war.
I've been speaking around the country quite a bit. I presume that most of the people who see me are pro-Kerry or on the fence about him. It's more than a credibility gap – it's utter disillusionment with the American press over this war. It's sort of shocking. The lack of respect for the press is pretty astonishing.
There is a sense that the press failed us. If you ask the good reporters, they'll tell you, "We did."
So do you think people in the media understand what a big crisis they're facing?
Ask the question again. Ask it differently ... Here's my issue. I don't feel good about putting down the tremendous number of good reporters in the press. But I do feel there was a collective attitude at the top of newspapers that after 9/11, we're going to be good soldiers. And there were guys coming up with rough nasty stories, who were not welcome. It was like farting in church. Even at the good newspapers, they want happy stories, [to] hear about our heroism. And the idea that [Saddam] didn't have weapons of mass destruction ... should have been reported on extensively before the war. There should have been a debate instead of accepting what the president said.
But the failure is really very significant and very depressing. I don't know how the mechanism failed. I just don't know.
The right wing was never very happy with the so-called "liberal" media. But now liberals – and not just the far left but moderate liberals – have lost faith in these same outlets. So what does that mean for the future? And how do they begin to win back the trust?
Just as long as it's going to take the United States – many more years than you want to believe – to win back the trust of the people in the Middle East. They are reeling from Abu Ghraib – it was stunning to them. They really did view us as preternaturally sexually perverse people.
In terms of the press ... [sighs] I can't even begin to tell you what we have to do. I think time will heal things, like it always does – if we get a couple of years of no war and some prosperity between us. But in the short term, no one is going to believe the press very much any more. Just like no one is going to believe the United States if we start screaming about nuclear weapons some place. So I think we're in real trouble.
I hope it comes out the right way in the election. If it doesn't then we're all in trouble. The Europeans so far give us a pass on the grounds that, well, you've got these crazy leaders and they do crazy things. But if we re-elect them, then it's not just the president they're mad at. They're going to be mad at all of us.
© 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/20309/
DAILY EXPRESSOff Keyes by Tom Frank
Only at TNR Online Post date 10.22.04
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n the Illinois Senate race, Barack Obama leads Alan Keyes by a margin so wide (over 50 points, according to one poll) that a debate between the candidates must--almost as a matter of science--help narrow the campaign. But that would be to underestimate Alan Keyes. As people know, Keyes is candid, eloquent, and intellectually consistent. He argues rather than spins, allowing his logic to take him where it will. He panders to no (earthly) constituency. And he may well have pulled off the impossible last night: lowering his poll numbers even more. Obama is an unconventionally gifted politician, but even an incompetent one--let's go farther, actually: even a dolphin or trained seal--could have done better last night than Alan Keyes. All Obama had to do yesterday was play the Earthling card; Keyes took care of the rest.
It helps that Keyes holds a few controversial beliefs: Abortion should be outlawed in almost all instances; homosexuality is an "abomination"; the Seventeenth Amendment (which allows citizens rather than state legislatures to elect U.S. senators) should be repealed; and the Constitution recognizes no separation of church and state below the federal level. But to his credit, Keyes is performing an important service in this race: He is reminding us just how frightening--okay, also funny--ideological clarity and consistency can be.
Here is Keyes last night on abortion, explaining how it differs from capital punishment: "Abortion is intrinsically, objectively wrong and sinful, whereas capital punishment is a matter of prudential judgment, which is not in and of itself a violation of moral right." Not terribly conciliatory, but Keyes was just getting started. When Obama lamented his opponent's "rhetoric"--citing Keyes's equation of abortion rights with the "slaveholder position"--Keyes objected:
In point of fact, I don't call people names. I make arguments, and in point of fact it is the slaveholder's position. The slaveholder took the view that black people were not developed enough to be treated as human beings and therefore could be bought and sold like animals. People looking at the babe in the womb take the view that that child is not developed enough to be treated as a human being and therefore can be killed at will.
Soon to appear in a book with a title like Things It's Probably Better Not To Say. Having been handed a gift like this, Obama had only to repeat the word "slaveholder": "Essentially, what Mr. Keyes does is equate a woman who's exercising her right to choose--in extraordinarily painful circumstances--with a slaveholder." The see-what-I-mean defense was enough. And Keyes kept making it possible.
Asked how, given his characterization of homosexuality as an "abomination," he would react to being told by one of his children that he or she was gay, Keyes took offense at being accused of "statements that I didn't make." "I do not say that homosexual relations are an abomination," he clarified. "The Bible says so." He then offered a lengthy indictment of unions "where procreation is in principle impossible," calling them "irrelevant," and said that any legislation regarding "private friendships" is a "fundamental degrading of those private friendships." Keyes looked satisfied after this, as if he'd taken everyone on a thrilling ride to Jupiter. Obama, for his part, calmly came back with, "To answer your question ... I would love that child and seek to understand them and support them in any way I could." It is hard to imagine a parent--even a parent who deplores homosexuality--balking at Obama's return to the home planet.
The more impassioned Keyes got, the easier things became for his opponent. Discussing the role of Christianity in his life, Keyes made an impassioned speech about his "faith-shaped conscience." "Without faith," Keyes declared (well, yelled, really), "there is just a faith-shaped void where the conscience ought to be!" In case anyone was still in doubt as to where his campaign fit into this equation, Keyes addressed the congregation of Illinois: "I challenge all the voters who profess to believe in Christ: How can you vote from such a faith-based void?" To which Obama replied, with a well-executed weariness: "Yeah, I don't need Mr. Keyes lecturing me about Christianity. That's why I have a pastor, that's why I have my Bible, that's why I have my own prayer. ... I'm not running to be the minister of Illinois. I'm running to be its United States senator." Keyes looked momentarily non-plussed by the reasonableness of this reply.
When Obama asked Keyes to defend his call to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment, Keyes began his response with a happy lack of politesse: "I think that the question actually illustrates the ignorance that I've noticed of your understanding of the American Constitution and its background," he explained, before going on for a while about "more and more important issues ... being more and more decided by distant bureaucrats." This allowed Obama to note that, actually, he teaches a class in Constitutional law.
Before the debate was over, viewers had heard the following snippets and phrases from one of the two candidates: "the persecution of our Christian citizens," "social self-destruction," "the use of the body in this way is ... an abomination," "no one has the information necessary to avoid incest," and "gun-control mentality is ruth-less-ly absurd." Guess which one.
This is, of course, why Keyes loses votes every time he speaks. It's obvious. But Keyes is also a vital contributor to social cohesion in America, because, somehow, he makes us realize we are all--regardless of our political beliefs--Obama. It's not because we disagree with Keyes, or even because we find stridency inherently suspect. Most of us have used our reasoning to reach unexpected conclusions once in a while. Sometimes the results are weird--"It follows, therefore, that we should abolish bricks and live in trees!"--and we reexamine our premises or toss the thoughts altogether. Other times they may be logically valid--"Stubbing my toe hurts, and being burned at the stake hurts, so, actually, both Joan of Arc and I have experienced pain"--but so likely to give offense that we keep them to ourselves. In other words, we recognize that life among other people often requires applying the brakes. Alan Keyes, to his credit, does not. This makes him more courageous, more consistent, and more interesting than most of us. Fortunately, it also makes him unelectable.
Tom Frank is a reporter-researcher at TNR.
New Study Finds Media Favored Kerry in First Half of October By E & P Staff Published: October 26, 2004
NEW YORK A new study for the non-partisan Project for Excellence in Journalism suggests that in the first two weeks of October, during the period of the presidential debates, George W. Bush received much more unfavorable media coverage than Sen. John Kerry. In the overall sample (which included four newspapers, two cable news networks and the four leading broadcast networks), more than half of all Bush stories were negative in tone, during this period. One-quarter of all Kerry stories were negative, according to the study. At the same time, one in three stories about Kerry were positive, one in seven for Bush."This is the mirror image of what happened four years ago," the report states, when Bush benefited from coverage in the same period, enjoying twice as many positive stories. This raises the question of how much the results have to do with a candidate doing well in the debates, and the liabilities of the incumbent, who receives negative coverage not just for performance on the stump but also for the policies of his administration.The study also concluded that despite media promises every four years to focus less on campaign dynamics and more on issues, this once again has not occurred. Also: "The coverage this year has been even less likely than four years ago to describe how campaign events directly affected voters." The four newspapers in the sample were all based in very large cities, with three East Coast dailies (The New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald) and the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch. The cable channels were CNN and Fox, but the study only focused on two programs: the Aaron Brown and Brit Hume evening shows. Only broadcast TV produced a large sample, as it included the PBS NewsHour and the three morning shows and three evening news programs on CBS, NBC and ABC. In all, from all outlets, 817 stories were coded and decoded. In the final accounting, 59% of stories that were mainly about Bush told a mainly negative story, while 25% of Kerry stories played out the same way. While bias could be factor, there are other possible explanations. Fully 40% of stories logged by the researchers had to do with the debates, where Kerry was generally seen as "winning" or doing very well, especially in debate number one. Another 9% concerned Iraq, with many setbacks during this period for the U.S. that also would drive Bush's negatives up unrelated to the campaign.The study also notes "some differences in tone between different media," finding that newspapers "were the most negative medium by a sizable margin." Some 46% of newspaper stories carried a negative cast, compared with 28% for the networks and 30% for the two cabee shows. Newspapers were also harsher in tone about Bush than the others media. Newspapers "tended to cover a wider range of themes than other media studied." Even, so, the press, like other media, "still framed the news largely through a tactical, insider lens."These judgments, however, are based on just four not very typical newspapers in a not very typical period of the presidential race.
E & P Staff (email@example.com)
HOW STEM CELLS CHANGE ABORTION.
by Michael Kinsley
Post date: 10.26.04
Issue date: 11.01.04
he one unavoidably admirable thing about the Right to Life movement is the selflessness of its cause. For all the damage it has done to American politics (as the seed of what used to be called the New Right and is now better known as the government of the United States), for all the misery it would create if it got its way, for all the thuggishness of its rhetoric and sometimes its actions, for all the essential wrongness of what it believes and wants to impose on nonbelievers, the organized movement against abortion rights must be given this tip of the hat: Almost uniquely among powerful interest groups, it is dedicated to the interests of someone else. Or, rather, something it believes to be someone else.
Although I have not checked, I suspect there are no fetuses on the board of the National Right-to-Life Committee. Right-to-lifers are the anti-aarp: looking out for innocents at the beginning of life, rather than politicizing geriatric self-obsession near life's end.
The right-to-life cause demands selflessness from others as well. It calls upon fully formed humans, who hold all the controls, to defer to a group that is utterly powerless: fetuses. But, once you decide that humanity--and full human rights--begin at the moment of conception, there isn't much choice, is there?
So the task of the right-to-life movement has been to persuade people that human life begins at conception. And it's not a tough case to make. There is a comforting intuitive logic to it. Any other line you might draw--birth? second trimester? age 18?--raises the question of how you can confer humanity on a being just this side of the line and deny it to a virtually identical one just the other side.
What makes the sale easier, though, is that abortion doesn't fully test the premise that human life and moral equality with every other human life begin at conception. On one side, you have a fetus, several weeks or months along from conception, with perhaps the beginnings of real human characteristics: tiny arms and legs, rudimentary brains. Abortion kills that, whatever it is. On the other side, you have something serious at stake for an indisputable human being, but it is usually something less than life. A woman's right to choose is important, but, if the fetus is a human being, its life is at stake. Obviously, if you accept that, the fetus wins.
he stem-cell controversy is different. On one side is not a fetus some distance along the way to birth, but an embryo just days after conception. You need a microscope to see it. And what you see is a few dozen cells. There is nothing physically human about it--nothing that even resembles the most primitive animal or plant. Any humanity you confer on it must derive from faith, not observation or logic.
This time, human life is at stake on the other side. And not just a single human life, but potentially many if stem-cell research realizes its potential. That is a big if, of course. But it is an if that can be assessed with facts, not one that depends completely on faith. And the facts look good. Especially when you include the fact that stem-cell research uses embryos that are produced but not used in the booming business of in vitro fertilization. Thousands are destroyed or, at best, frozen indefinitely every year. A small fraction of these might be used for medical research. The odds that this research will ultimately save more than one human life for each embryo used are more than favorable.
None of this matters if a microscopic embryo is a human being. We don't grab innocent people off the streets and take their body parts--even if one man's parts could save half a dozen lives. But stem cells frame the issue more starkly than abortion. And more personally. How many people on either side of the abortion debate face the possibility of being in a situation where they might consider an abortion? Some, but not nearly as many as those who face the possibility of getting a disease that stem-cell research might cure.
In short, stem cells make the essential premise of the right-to-life movement a much harder sell. It's a real person like you, or it's many people like you, or it's actually you--versus that microscopic dot. The selflessness required to say, "OK, I'll suffer and die prematurely so that this dot can stay frozen for the next thousand years," is much more dramatic than the mostly theoretical selflessness involved in opposing abortion.
Recognizing this unfortunate constraint, the opponents of stem-cell research have nearly abandoned their principled argument--the one thing that made their cause sympathetic. In California, where the November ballot includes a proposal for the state to spend $3 billion over ten years on stem-cell research, the organized opposition barely mentions the word embryo. The pitch is mostly about side issues, such as whether the referendum language could be interpreted as lowering the standards of informed consent for people who sign up for research experiments.
And, in the national debate about the federal near-ban on embryonic stem-cell research, supporters of the ban harp on the allegedly great promise of stem cells taken from the bone marrow of adults, which are blessedly uncontroversial. As someone who stands to benefit most from early breakthroughs if they happen (I have Parkinson's), I have nothing against spending lots of money on research with adult stem cells. Bring it on. Please. But whatever promise there is in adult stem cells doesn't negate the promise of embryonic ones.
Scientists overwhelmingly believe that embryonic stem cells are more promising, and they rail against Bush's restrictions on research. Opponents of this research ludicrously insist that scientists are ignoring the promise of adult stem cells for political reasons--a hatred of embryos so fanatical that these scientists apparently prefer the pleasure of slaughtering them to the glory of curing terrible diseases. Obviously, it is the research opponents who have let politics cloud their judgment, or simply make them liars, about a question of science. This way, they don't have to ask people point-blank to give up their lives or their hopes of good health for a microscopic dot.
The stem-cell debate inevitably affects the older argument about abortion. Once you decide that a five-day-old embryo maybe isn't as human as you or me, the tempting logical clarity of the absolutist right-to-life position disappears. The slippery slope suddenly slopes the other way. The possibility that human life emerges gradually, like so much in nature, and doesn't turn on instantly like an electric light, doesn't seem so implausible. Does this mean that people are hypocrites? No, it means that people are human.
Michael Kinsley is a contributing editor at TNR.
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Conservatives have long distrusted experts. But, inside the Bush administration, that distrust has grown into a war against scientists, economists, intelligence analysts--and the very idea of objective truth. The case against George W. Bush, the first in an occasional series.
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I saw this article (shown below0, and even though I knew I was likely to find it worthless, I would see if it have something to stimulate my thinking.
After first thinking about what an incredibly weak argument the article makes, and how flawed it argument is when it invokes the situation in Haiti, and how little depth there is: Voila, that's it. The Bush Admin has been using flawed arguments and shows little depth, and the resulting illegal and immoral actions are the not so unexpected result of such arrogant, blinded and deranged Machivellians.
When one is relieving an obviously incompetent CIO, the absolute last thing you'd think is: Are we sure the next one we hire is going to be better?
In the case of the US, the President's dysfunction has been enabled by a vicious enforcer-like Repub Congress. For those of us who cry out for decency, the idea that Kerry, a Democrat, who at times has shown intelligence and signs of a conscience, is a preferable alternative to the utterly contemptable Bush is not hard to support.
More Democrat Wars
By Jeremy Lott
Published 10/26/2004 12:07:06 AM
LYNDEN, Wash. -- One of the arguments advanced for electing John F. Kerry this November is that the senator from Massachusetts would be able to steady our ship of state. By refusing to take decisive action until he has built world consensus, the senator and his surrogates argue, the former Swift boat captain would steer us clear of the foreign policy recklessness of the Bush administration.The only problem with this argument is that there is precious little evidence to support it. To state the bleeding obvious: Kerry voted against the first Gulf War, which was a model of a limited engagement that accomplished the country's goals without requiring a protracted troop presence, and in favor of the second one, which he now runs against.That's all water under the bridge or oil under the sand to Kerry supporters. And I'll give them this: It's understandable that they would rather take their chances with a candidate who made his name protesting a war than with one who has prosecuted a couple of them during his first term. But their support is badly misplaced. The Democratic nominee is likely to be the peace candidate in about the same way Woodrow Wilson was the peace candidate.There was a lot of guffawing last Monday when Kerry spoke French on the stump (apparently badly) but the thing that caught my attention was the content of the message. At a rally in Orlando, Florida, he noticed some foreigners in attendance and said what translates to "You are from Haiti? All right! I'm going to help the Haitians!"But, as this publication has noted in the past, very few Haitians are going to want what Kerry has to offer. After a military coup deposed ruler Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, Kerry was one of the loudest voices for the U.S. to intervene and forcefully reinstall the president. For an op-ed in the New York Times, Kerry went so far as to argue that the United States' "credibility as a world leader is at stake" if the U.S. government didn't huff and puff some more and then "seek international approval to use military force."SENATOR KERRY ARGUED IN the May 1994 op-ed that though "Father Aristide" (Don't. Ask.) might have been a bit unsavory, the real issue was the "restoration of the democratic process in Haiti." Kerry called the Haitian army an "undisciplined collection of gun-wielding bullies" and then marched readers through a guided tour of recent crushing victories by U.S. forces. An international coalition led by U.S. troops, he wrote, could make quick work of the "junta" and then pull out, having made the world safe for democracy.Later that year President Bill Clinton, who was normally allergic to such things, ordered the invasion of Haiti. The Haitian military leaders went quietly, so the invasion and brief occupation was largely bloodless. Aristide returned from exile and served out the remainder of his term and then proceeded to undermine Haiti's democracy. Threats and intimidation were the normal way of things, as was vote-rigging and outright violence. One component of Aristide's goon squads was a group with the cute nickname the "Cannibal Army."Readers might think that Kerry would have learned from this experience but they would be very wrong. When Aristide was driven from the country this February by armed opposition, Kerry entertained charges that the Bush administration had orchestrated it. Though he admitted that Aristide "had a lot of problems," the candidate charged that the White House was "very ideologically colored in their approach," and had a "theological" axe to grind with the president cum dictator.Flash forward to the present: Wracked by recent hurricanes and tropical storms, Haiti is even more of a shambles than usual. The flooding in some places has been nearly ten feet of water. Thousands drowned and food and sanitary water are in short supply. The massive erosion of topsoil may mean a sharp drop in crops from farming next year.About the worst thing that could happen in this environment would be for rich foreigners to be driven away, and yet that is precisely what is occurring. Violent forces are killing all kinds of people -- political opponents, cops, foreigners -- and often in brutal ways. Over 50 people have been killed so far and, given the lack of decent coverage in Haiti, that number is sure to be revised upward with time.ONE SUCH EVACUEE is Bernie Bovenkamp, founder of Starfish Ministries, which funds and runs an orphanage in Tricotte, in northern Haiti. Though he lives in Lynden, Washington, he tries to spend a week or two out of every two months in Haiti, and has extensive ties with the locals. On his last visit, Bovenkamp was delayed from getting to the orphanage by floods and then decided to get out of Dodge when reports of decapitations started to fill the news.In an interview Sunday, Bovenkamp acknowledged that the timing was awful. The orphanage has had to take in more children after the flooding, and it's no mean feat to supply over 100 kids with food and clean water while the normal channels of distribution have broken down. For a cause of the unrest, Bovenkamp fingered Kerry's support for Aristide and the possibility that the Democrat will win in November: "The word is -- in Haiti and other parts of the world -- that if Kerry is elected, Aristide will go home." In this interpretation, pro-Aristide forces are "keeping the heat up" to destabilize the current regime and invite the intervention of a President Kerry.Bovenkamp's account is consistent with several news reports and it makes a sort of gruesome sense. After all, the U.S. has a long history of intervening in Haiti and Kerry did play a large role in bringing Aristide back to power last time. Would local Aristide supporters be loco to think the senator might be nudged into doing it again?Now follow the plumb line all the way down. Kerry is not yet elected and his candidacy is helping to destabilize a country that was already precariously perched. He played a big part in installing a politician who turned out to be a tyrant and when that strong man was removed he insisted that the guy was misunderstood, accusing the White House of ideological rigidity, which very likely contributed to political intimidation and bloodshed. This is the man who will bring sanity to our country's foreign policy?Jeremy Lott is the foreign press critic for GetReligion.org.
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Righties tell the Cheneys Mary can be curedWe're sure that Republicans will be shocked and appalled to learn that Mary Cheney is once again being dragged forward to make a partisan political point about homosexuality. Today, Concerned Women for America, the veteran right-wing organization founded by Beverly LaHaye, released "About Mary: An Open Letter to Dick and Lynn Cheney." Under the guise of praising the Vice President's daughter -- "Mary is, I'm sure, a fine young woman with many wonderful qualities," it says -- the missive actually uses her to make an argument about whether or not homosexuality is a choice.
Authored by Regina Griggs, executive director of a group called PFOX, or Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, the letter nods to the Cheney's paternal love, saying, "As parents, we can and do love our children unconditionally no matter who they are attracted to. Loving unconditionally allows us the freedom to maintain our values and viewpoints while keeping a bridge open to our children." But loving isn't the same as accepting. "Homosexual activists like those working on the Kerry-Edwards team want 'gay marriage' and civil unions in order to gain public affirmation," it says. "They think this will make them happy. Happiness requires hope, and real hope is the knowledge that many men and women overcome unwanted same-sex attractions every year, even those who believed at one time that they were born that way and had no choice." When Kerry mentioned Mary -- far more sympathetically -- her mother blasted it as "a cheap and tawdry trick," William Safire wrote an outraged column entitled "The Lowest Blow," and William Kristol vituperated against the Democratic nominee's "cheap, cold, calculating cynicism--and cruelty."
Granted, Concerned Women for America doesn't have anything near the same platform or responsibilities as a presidential candidate. But it is influential. One of its major figures is former Bush senior speechwriter Janice Shaw Crouse, who consults with the second Bush administration on UN family planning issues. If CWFA is just a fringe outfit that no one should pay attention to, we urge Republicans to say so. Otherwise, we eagerly await demands that the group apologize for once again pulling Mary from her non-existent closet.
-- Michelle Goldberg
[12:57 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
Katherine Harris makes friends in CongressFour years after making her star turn on the national scene during the Florida recount fiasco, Katherine Harris has been busy making friends in Washington, serving as a Republican Congresswoman from the state's 13th district. It seems Harris has brought a fresh and friendly approach to legislating.
As captured on this CSPAN video earlier in the month, Harris always has time to socialize. While Rep. Bob Simmons, R-Conn., drones on two rows ahead of her about the need for open source intelligence, Harris has all her attention focused on telegenic Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., who is sitting inches away from her. (Could she sit any closer?) The two share light moments as Harris alternatively tosses her hair back, giggles, leans in close for a whisper, and simply cannot leg go of Renzi's left arm. "Congressman Renzi and Congresswoman Harris are good friends. They exchanged a laugh on the [House] floor. Nothing more," says Renzi's spokesman, while a spokswoman for Harris declined to "dignify" War Room's inquiry with a response, insisting it was "dirty politics."
-- Eric Boehlert
[12:15 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
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The battle for the SenateEarlier this year many analysts agreed that the Democrats' only chance of winning control of the Senate was to win by such a large margin in the presidential election that it would filter down-ballot. While a big Kerry win may seem unlikely, Democrats still have a chance to take a majority in the upper house, thanks to some remarkably incompetent Republican opponents.
Top honors in that category, of course, go to Illinois GOP contender Alan Keyes, of whom the National Review magazine has said "there is not a worse candidate for a major office in America this year." But he's not the only who is flailing: In Alaska, South Carolina and Oklahoma, three states that President Bush is expected to dominate by 15 to 30 points, Republican candidates are struggling to stay afloat.
In South Carolina, Congressman Jim DeMint is still backing away from earlier support of a national sales tax and his comment that unmarried, pregnant women aren't morally fit to teach children. His opponent, State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, has managed to cut DeMint's lead in the race down to four points, according to the most recent poll released shortly before the candidates' final debate on Monday night.
In Alaska, former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles narrowly leads Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, who was appointed by Governor Frank Murkowski. Apparently, Alaskan voters don't agree that the most qualified candidate the Republican Governor could've found for an open senate seat was his own daughter -- and they may elect their first Democratic senator in 23 years. With one week to go, Knowles holds a slight 2-point lead -- in spite of the fact that Ted Stevens, Alaska's popular Republican senator, is pushing for Murkowski's reelection.
In Oklahoma, one of the most solidly Republican states in the country, Democrat congressman Brad Carson is leading Republican Tom Coburn, a physician and former U.S. representative who has been sinking under allegations of fraud and medical malpractice. On Monday Coburn told an Oklahoma radio station that his faith in God helps him survive the attacks on his character, but he's still losing to Carson 47-40 in the most recent poll.
Republican candidates in some other key races are faring better. In South Dakota, Republican Jim Thune is gunning for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's seat in what is the most heavily funded contest in the country, with more than $31 million poured into the race between the two parties. A Daschle loss would be a big blow to the Dems; the latest Rasmussen poll shows Thune has tied the race, 49-49.
In Florida, State Education Commissioner Betty Castor is fighting former Bush administration HUD Secretary Mel Martinez for the seat currently held by Bob Graham. The White House is said to have handpicked Martinez, a Cuban-American they hope will bolster President Bush in the state. But Democratic turnout is expected to be strong, in part due to a ballot measure that would hike the minimum wage. The candidates are tied at 44, according to a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times poll.
In Colorado, Democratic State Attorney General Ken Salazar is campaigning against millionaire beer brewer Peter Coors. Zogby's most recent poll puts Salazar ahead by 9 points -- though other recent polls have given Coors the lead.
In Louisiana, the Republican candidate, David Vitter, is losing by a slight margin -- even while running against a party that hasn't settled on its own contender. Louisiana's unique election system allows for multiple candidates from the same party to compete, and Vitter is opposed by several Democrats. He currently polls at 35 percent; his top two Democratic opponents poll at a combined 36 percent. If, as expected, no candidate receives a majority of the vote in November, Louisianans will vote in a runoff in December.
Finally, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is battling Republican representative Richard Burr for John Edwards' North Carolina senate seat. After months of trailing just behind, Burr has now tied Bowles 45-45, according to a Mason-Dixon poll released last week.
That makes a total of eight, and if Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning continues to fall apart, nine truly competitive senate races -- of which Democrats would have to win at least six to gain a true majority. This year's fight to the finish is by no means only for the White House.
-- Jeff Horwitz
[12:05 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
First Sinclair, now PappasIs it just us, or are Republican media moguls becoming increasingly brazen down the campaign homestretch, as they ignore decades worth of broadcast guidelines in order to use the public airwaves in blatantly partisan ways? First, the Sinclair Broadcast Group tried to order its 62 stations nationwide to air an anti-Kerry hit piece. Now in another unprecedented move, Pappas Telecasting, one of California's largest broadcast owners, is donating $325,000 worth of airtime exclusively to Republican candidates locked in tight local races.
According to the Associated Press, the company's CEO, Harry J. Pappas--a big GOP donor--decided to make the contributions "because they reflect his political views in support of the Republican Party." The privately-held company owns 28 TV stations, with outlets in most of California's major markets, including Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Modesto, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Pappas' give-ways to Republican candidates are good on seven of his television and two radio stations, most of which are based in California's Central Valley
In order to skirt federal regulations that require broadcasters to give major candidates "equal time" during campaigns, Pappas is donating $25,000 to seven local GOP committees--not to the candidates--and setting aside broadcast minutes for Republicans only. Pappas' spokesman told the Sacramento Bee, "We're not denying (Democrats) any opportunity. They have the opportunity to purchase an equivalent amount of airtime. I think Mr. Pappas has the right to express his political opinions as much as anyone else."
In a statement this afternoon, Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, an advocacy group that battles media consolidation, denounced the Pappas move: "This is yet another example of a huge media company abusing the public's airwaves to advance their own political agenda. Pappas is making a bogus claim that the ads are not contributions, that they're 'buying' ad time from themselves. This is nothing but smoke and mirrors to avoid what appears to be a violation of federal laws requiring equal time." Free Press, which helped mobilize protests against Sinclair in recent weeks, vows to press its fight against Pappas.
-- Eric Boehlert
[11:53 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
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Hillary goes Hollywood -- in BrooklynIt was an odd moment, just a week and a day before the election, when Hillary Clinton, in a black-belted coat, sparkly earrings, and boots so spiky they could be classified as weapons, made her way down a paparazzi-lined red carpet into the arms of Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. Odder still was that this scene took place in the middle of Brooklyn -- not a borough typically littered with red carpets or paparazzi.
As far as we could tell, Clinton was taking an evening's break from her tour of swing states in support of John Kerry to fulfill a promise she'd made to menschy Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. She'd promised the enthusiastic Markowitz that she'd try to exercise her considerable influence over Democratic work-horse (and donor) Weinstein to persuade him to have a national premiere in this outer-borough. So here they all were at the Brooklyn Museum, at the premiere of "Finding Neverland," a movie about Peter Pan playwright J.M. Barrie starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie and Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman and Winslet, along with Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor, Glenn Close, novelist Paul Auster, former Monkee Mickey Dolenz and Tony Danza were all making their way past crowds of locals shouting "Thank you for coming to Brooklyn!"
Don't ask. War Room lives in Brooklyn, and we didn't get it either.
Inside, Mr. Markowitz took the stage, claiming improbably that "in days ahead, Brooklyn will be known as Hollywood East!" He gave local shout-outs to Weinstein and his brother Bob, "two Brooklyn boychiks" and introduced the junior senator by proclaiming that he had two wishes: "Hillary in the White House and Chelsea a Brooklyn resident!"
Clinton's husband always did show business well. Like he might as well have been discovered at the milkshake counter at Schraffts. But the language of the industry does not trip as lightly from Hillary's tongue. Speaking of Weinstein, Clinton called him her "dear friend" and said that he's someone "I really admire and really respect for his craft." Uh-huh. Still, she made a (strange) case for the Hollywood-Brooklyn connection -- perhaps prepping her Brooklyn constituents to support her in her next race, which could be against local favorite Rudy Giuliani. "There are countless movies about people from Brooklyn," she explained. So naturally, "Brooklyn deserves a national premiere!" Clinton did not mention John Kerry's name.
But Weinstein -- who has lost so much weight that he is almost unrecognizable -- wasted little time. Though first, he (naturally) was forced to dispense with his Brooklyn credentials. "I know how to make an egg cream; I could probably name the last line-up of the Dodgers," he said. And that has earned him the right to invoke what he called "the chutzpah rule." He made the audience the following offer: "If you don't like this movie, you can hang my brother and me in effigy." Weinstein also generously offered the opportunity to hang a third producer, Richard Gladstein. "But if you like the movie, you have to call ten undecided voters in swing states and get them to vote for Senator Kerry." He paused. "Or you could do it Brooklyn style and go to the swing states and vote ten times for Kerry, which is probably one less time than Dick Cheney is going to vote for himself.
Weinstein couldn't stop himself. "I love the Republicans," he said. "They keep talking about free voting in Afghanistan and they're trying to prevent people from voting in this country. But that's OK, cause all the young kids are going to come out and kick their butts."
Weinstein laughed. "I promised my staff I was not going to be political tonight."
-- Rebecca Traister
[11:36 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
Bush weighs in on his bulgeWhat does the president himself think of the whirlwind of speculation that his staff was secretly piping him instructions during the debates? For one thing, he might be preparing to fire the White House tailor. From the Associated Press today:
"Please explain to me how it works so maybe if I were ever to debate again I could figure it out," Bush said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," regarding speculation that the bulge in his suit jacket was an electronic device.
"When asked about the bulge that appeared as he and Sen. John Kerry debated Sept. 30 in Coral Gables, Fla., Bush tantalized conspiracy theorists by saying, 'Well, you know, Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett had rigged up a sound system ... '
"'You are getting in trouble,' responded host Charles Gibson.
"'I don't know what that is,' Bush said. 'I mean, it is -- I'm embarrassed to say it's a poorly tailored shirt.'"
Bush denied the use of any sound system or electronic signal, according to the AP. He added that there was no hidden presidential dog collar, either.
"'I guess the assumption was that if I were straying off course they would ... kind of like a hunting dog, they would punch a buzzer and I would jerk back into place,' Bush said. 'That's just absurd.'"
-- Mark Follman
[11:25 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
In the pollsTwo new national polls today give Bush a lead. The Los Angeles Times shows Bush with the slightest of leads among likely voters, 49-48, and has the candidates tied at 47 each among registered voters.
Gallup is calling it 51-46 for Bush among likely voters, and 49-47 among all registered voters.
In national likely-voter tracking polls, TIPP looks the most favorable for Bush, putting him up 48-41. Zogby has Bush ahead 47-45, the Washington Post has Kerry by a 49-48 margin, and Rasmussen gives the Democratic ticket 48 to the Republicans' 46.
Today's state polls aren't great news for Kerry. The last four nonpartisan Ohio polls show Kerry down between 1 and 4 points, and the last six Florida polls are split: Kerry is up in 1, tied in 2, and down in 3. In Minnesota, however, Zogby says KE '04 has increased its lead to 5 points, 48-43.
-- Jeff Horwitz
[09:28 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
RNC pretends newspapers lean leftAs the mountain of newspaper endorsements pile up in favor of Sen. John Kerry, including dozens from dailies that backed Bush in 2000, the Bush/Cheney campaign is dismissing the trend as no big deal. "Look, the Republican candidate will never win the contest for editorial board endorsements. The major dailies across the country tend to skew liberal," RNC chairman Ed Gillespie told CNN last week. That spin comes straight out of the GOP handbook that insists the mainstream press tilts to the left, so of course newspapers love Democrats come Election Day.
Only problem is, it's not accurate. In fact, the complete opposite is true. Since 1940 when industry trade magazine Editor & Publisher began tracking newspapers during presidential elections, only two Democratic candidates -- Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and Bill Clinton in 1992 -- have ever won more endorsements than their Republican opponent. That's because newspaper publishers, who usually sign off on endorsements, tend to vote Republican (like lots of senior corporate executives), which means GOP candidates pick up more endorsements. A lot more. In 1984, President Reagan landed roughly twice as many endorsements as Democrat Walter Mondale in the president's easy reelection win. And in 1996, despite his weak showing at the polls, 179 daily newspapers endorsed Republican Bob Dole, which easily outpaced the Democrats' tally by nearly a 2-to-1 margin.
In 2000, the overwhelming trend toward Republicans continued. According to estimates, candidate Bush enjoyed a huge newspaper advantage, picking up nearly 100 more daily endorsements than Gore. On the eve of the election four years ago, Editor & Publisher spelled out the newspaper love affair with Bush in a Nov. 6 article: "The nation's newspaper editors and publishers strongly believe the Texas governor will beat Al Gore in Tuesday's election for president. By a wide margin, they plan to vote for him themselves. And, to complete this Republican trifecta, newspapers endorsed Bush by about 2-to-1 nationally."
E&P's results come from industry-wide surveys it conducted among 800 top newspaper executives one week before the election. Asked how they were going to vote in 2000, 59 percent of newspaper publishers signaled they were voting for Bush, compared to just 20 percent for Gore. And even among newsroom editors, Bush won support among 33 percent, compared to just to 24 percent for Gore.
As E&P noted in 2000, "One has to wonder: whatever happened to the so-called 'liberal press'?" The better question for the Bush/Cheney team is, why have all those GOP publishers abandoned the president this time around?
-- Eric Boehlert
[06:38 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
Seven-days-and-counting Tuesday must-readsLos Angeles Times: With one week to go before Election Day, voters still maddeningly and evenly divided between Bush and Kerry, who are tied with or without Nader as a factor; and the race is divided along lines of cultural values rather than class. To make things even more interesting, the Times says, with the race this tight, it could be tipped "by almost anything -- a misstatement on the campaign trail, favorable or unfavorable news for either side or the two parties' competing efforts to turn out the vote."
Washington Post: More bad Iraq-related news for Bush, more fodder for Kerry. The Bush administration plans to seek about $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which would make total war costs $225 billion since the invasion of Iraq. "The new numbers underscore that the war is going to be far more costly and intense, and last longer, than the administration first suggested."
USA Today: "Concerned that they won't get enough new troops from allies to help provide security for Iraqi elections in January, Pentagon officials are considering increasing the current U.S. force by delaying the departures of some U.S. troops now in Iraq and accelerating the deployment of others scheduled to go there next year." But wait, they forgot Poland! Actually, if you missed it, Poland will start pulling its troops out of Iraq as of January 2005, and in the words of the Polish Prime Minister, won't stay "an hour longer than needed."
New York Times: Another scientist compelled to speak out against Bush. This time, it's a top NASA climate expert who twice briefed Vice President Dick Cheney on global warming who says a "senior administration official" told him last year not to discuss dangerous consequences of rising temperatures.
Reuters: America learns 380 tons of explosives are missing in insurgent-swarmed Iraq, and where was Condi? On a swing through Florida promoting her boss' foreign policy, naturally.
Reuters: Army Corps of Engineers' whistleblower Bunny Greenhouse demands investigation into contracts given to Halliburton, citing "repeated interference" on behalf of Kellogg Brown and Root for work in Iraq and the Balkans.
-- Geraldine Sealey
[06:25 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
Supreme scenariosWeek after week, groups like People for the American Way have tried to remind reporters -- and through them, the public -- that control of the Supreme Court is at stake in next Tuesday's election. It's almost certainly true, but concerns about the judicial branch have a hard time getting air in a race consumed so completely by the economy and the war.
You might have expected that to change with Monday's news that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has thyroid cancer. But the Kerry campaign said nothing about it. Kerry didn't mention Rehnquist or the court on the stump, and Mike McCurry repeatedly told reporters traveling with the campaign that he didn't know enough about Rehnquist's health to comment.
Here's what we know.
1. If Rehnquist were to resign or -- how to put this gently? -- otherwise leave the court before Jan. 20, Bush would have the constitutional power to nominate someone to replace him.
2. Whether the Senate would act on Bush's choice before Jan. 20 depends on who wins next week. If Bush wins, there's no reason to delay consideration (assuming, of course, that there's no significant shift in Senate power on Nov. 2). If Bush loses, he could send up a nominee, but Senate Democrats would certainly stall consideration in order to let Kerry make his own pick.
3. If the election ends up in the courts and Rehnquist is either temporarily or permanently indisposed, well, who knows? An election case can't get to the Supreme Court unless four justices vote to grant certiorari. Without Rehnquist, the Republicans would have only four of the five who stepped in to save George Bush from the Florida Supreme Court in 2000. You can get a case before the Supreme Court with four votes out of eight, but you can't win one. If the Supreme Court hears a case with only eight justices and those eight split 4-4, the decision from the lower court stands. If that had happened four years ago, President Al Gore might well be running for re-election today.
-- Tim Grieve
[05:31 PDT, Oct. 26, 2004]
Inevitable Jon Stewart backlashIt's eight days till the election and the media has whipped itself into such a frenzy of cannibalistic blood lust that we have completely reversed the effects of our Paxil prescriptions and are charging blindly after anyone we can sink our teeth into.
Case in point: Jon Stewart.
We have had weeks of unrelenting, masturbatory press congratulating "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart for being the most trusted man in journalism. He's been deified in Newsweek, canonized in Rolling Stone, and his new volume, "America: The Book," is at the top of bestseller lists. Journalists and wisecracking couch-monkeys alike fantasize that he is just the kind of dry, observant political commentator they would be if they were good-looking and had their own show. By early October, the story that Jon Stewart was Aristophanes reborn -- by way of Edward R. Murrow's gene pool -- was about as revelatory as the news that bloggers were a major journalistic force on the election landscape.
But the moody chasm between early October and late October is vast. And in late October, the media is exhausted, frustrated, scared and eager to lash out. Conveniently, they also happen to be shocked, shocked by Stewart's dead-serious scolding of "Crossfire" hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala last Friday. And so they have turned.
"Has Jon Stewart jumped the shark?" Tina Brown asked on last night's episode of "Topic A." Brown's plummy query sounded downright cheerful, though that might have been her relief at having finished an interview with anal sex memoirist Toni Bentley, which Brown had concluded by darkly predicting that Bentley would "meet some very interesting new friends after writing this book." Brown was practically licking her lips as she played a clip of Stewart on "Crossfire" and asked her panel of media experts, "Is he taking himself a bit too seriously?"
New York Times reporter David Carr thrashed Stewart in response, cracking that he would have been better dressed for his "Crossfire" appearance had he shown up in a nun's habit. "His decision to go church lady start to finish, absent any sort of levity and humor ... was a little hard to figure out and probably not good in the end for his own personal franchise," said Carr.
A Sunday New York Times "Week in Review" story by Damien Cave led with the question, "Is Jon Stewart being coy?" and quoted the Boston Pheonix's Dan Kennedy, a Stewart fan who has criticized the "Crossfire" appearance. On Oct. 19, Kennedy wrote that Stewart "came off as something of a bully and a bore" as well as "slippery and disingenuous." Kennedy also argued that in the confrontation, "Stewart became what he criticized."
In Saturday's Washington Post, Howard Kurtz quoted Wonkette – aka Ana Marie Cox -- saying that Stewart had painted a target on his own chest, and that "The Jon Stewart backlash should start right about now." "To say his is just a comedy show is a cop-out in a way," Cox told Kurtz. "He's gotten so much power."
But in case you weren't sure that Cox's predicted backlash was upon us as of this weekend, we woke up this morning to a damning piece in the new issue of New York magazine. "The notion of Stewart as the Joker Who Speaks Truth to Power has now gotten away from the joker himself. His cult success on Comedy Central has become bloated and excessively esteemed," wrote Ken Tucker, going on to argue that Stewart's postmortem rehash of the "Crossfire" fight on his own show was just "nyah-nyah, can't catch-me baiting." Tucker writes that Stewart "tries so hard to be the anti-anchorman that he ends up being a disdainfully mediocre one, tossing verbal Twinkies and Ho Hos at everyone from John Kerry to Ralph Reed, ending up with sugary, jittery segments." Tucker also writes that Stewart "has developed this bad habit of wanting it both ways: Hey, I just tell jokes! and You can't handle the truth!"
Everyone has a point, and it seems that everyone -- including War Room -- has a blog, or a column or a guest spot on a talk show.
But maybe we should all just ratchet back the blood lust, rechannel the aggression. I strongly doubt that Stewart -- a man whose show I do not regularly watch because I do not have real cable -- ever asked to become the biggest story of this election season. He has seemed fairly content to host his show, publish books and nurture a comparatively literate fan base by squeezing this blood-chilling political climate for all the laughs the rest of us are too ethically bound to milk.
It's been his fans -- or at least his ideological fellow travelers, the culturally privileged and socially alienated media -- who have hoisted him into the stratosphere of political commentary, where he apparently now makes a fat, juicy goose at which to aim our shotguns. New York's Tucker admits to agreeing with Stewart's politics; the Pheonix's Kennedy to being a devoted fan. And yet they just can't help themselves.
None of us can. We are all jittery and bloated ourselves, overfed on coverage, statistics, polls, trends, heroes, villains, conspiracies, lies and anger. We have overfeasted on our own cleverness, on our own ability to gather information and process it instantly. We are sick of ourselves and sick with worry about what will happen next week. We can barely stomach the idea of the eight more days -- or God knows how long -- to come before we know who the next president will be. And so, wandering aimlessly, crazily looking for any piece of fresh meat to rip from the bone, the addled, self-loathing media have caught our own tail and are dumbly gnawing on it.
So let's just breathe in and breathe out. Drink a cool glass of water and maybe throw back a stiff drink. Head home early and get a good night's sleep. We are a week away from this thing. Jon Stewart is no one's enemy any more than he was anyone's savior: He is a funny guy with a funny show who happens to be a smart guy who had a smart point to make on a not-funny show. I think that most politically interested people -- including that "dick" Tucker Carlson, who has admitted as much -- have enjoyed a few belly laughs thanks to Jon Stewart. That doesn't make him Walter Cronkite; but it doesn't make him Jayson Blair either.
So let's chill out a bit before we condemn our only decent jester to death.
-- Rebecca Traister
[15:20 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
The bulge lives!The presidential debates may be over, but the Bush bulge controversy won't die. In today's Doonesbury, cartoonist Garry Trudeau takes up the question: What was under Bush's jacket anyway? Maybe in tomorrow's strip the President will tell all. We can't wait.
-- Katharine Mieszkowski
[15:14 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
A Bush win? Lefty journos contemplate the unthinkableIt's something many liberals can barely stand to think about, much less talk about -- what if Bush wins? Today in the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz surveys prominent progressive journalists and pundits about that rancid possibility, and finds curdling, apocalyptic fear. Quoting from a Washington Monthly cover story, Kurtz relays CNN's Paul Begala's prediction that Bush would immediately seek to purge his enemies. "He and his allies are likely to embark on a campaign of political retribution the likes of which we haven't seen since Richard Nixon," Begala says. As Kurtz notes, the Monthly also quoted Todd Gitlin, a Columbia professor and liberal activist, saying, "I would not be surprised to see outbursts of political violence the likes of which we haven't seen since the Weather Underground of the 1970s."
In a recent Vanity Fair piece, media columnist Michael Wolff suggested that liberals might actually thrive during a second Bush term, since the president serves as such a galvanizing force. Kurtz pushes this insouciantly nihilistic hypothesis. After quoting Nation editor Katrina van den Heuvel speculating about "the dismantling of our democracy," Kurtz writes, "But her liberal magazine has grown from 100,000 in circulation to 170,000 in the past four years. 'Bush has been bad for the nation but good for the Nation,' she admits."
Later, he writes, "[J]ust as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News thrived during the Clinton years, the Bush era has given rise to liberal blogs, Air America Radio and a slew of Al Franken-like bestsellers. And Bush would remain a fabulous target for outraged liberals who might have to modulate their rhetoric during a Kerry presidency."
The people Kurtz quotes, though, are less than giddy at this possibility. "I think journalists will accept the judgment of the public and read the victory as an acceptance that the rules are now changed," Washington Monthly Editor Paul Glastris tells him. "The way they've been treated, the way the administration buries information and misrepresents almost anything they want to would just be an accepted fact of life. There will be a defining down of the acceptable standards of what government can do."
-- Michelle Goldberg
[14:34 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
Bush searches the Tora Bora hills for latest attackThere he goes again. In a stump speech at a Colorado rally today, one of George W. Bush's most popular lines of attack against John Kerry was to "quote" the senator from December 2001 saying he thought the search for Osama bin Laden, underway at the time in Afghanistan, was being run "effectively." Kerry, of course, now criticizes the president for his handling of the search and bin Laden's escape. After reading off the Kerry quote, Bush looked up mischievously at his Colorado audience and said to loud cheers, "I am George W. Bush and I approve this message," as if he had really caught that flip-flopping John Kerry in another one.
But just what were the circumstances of Kerry's quote? Funny you asked. It appears that, and we know you'll be shocked by this, the Bush campaign has taken Kerry's remarks out of context. At the time Kerry spoke about the bin Laden search -- on the Larry King Live program on Dec. 14, 2001 -- the Pentagon believed bin Laden was hiding in the hills of Tora Bora, and the Washington Post that morning published a report stating that "highly trained commandos" had been dispatched there to find him. The strategy of sending special forces in is what Kerry promoted.
And so while a guest on Larry King Live, Kerry was asked to respond to this (no link, sorry):
"CALLER: Hello. Yes, I would like to ask the panel why they don't use napalm or flamethrowers on those tunnels and caves up there in Afghanistan? KING: Senator Kerry? CALLER: My golly, I think they could smoke him out.KING: Senator Kerry?KERRY: Well, I think it depends on where you are tactically. They may well be doing that at some point in time. But for the moment, what we are doing, I think, is having its impact and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way.KING: Congressman Cunningham, what do you think of that question?CUNNINGHAM: I think Senator Kerry is right on the mark. To use a flamethrower, you've got to get right into the area close in. And plus, it doesn't penetrate that deep in those tunnels. You've got to go in there after him. So I think you have to neutralize that threat. And then you can get him out in a lot of different, various ways including what the gentleman spoke about."
With his answer, Kerry was politely explaining to the caller that maybe it wasn't time to whip out the napalm. As far as Kerry knew then, the U.S. was actually doing what he supported, which was sending in special forces to get the job done. But we've learned alot since then about what went down. In this campaign, Kerry has criticized the president for having relied too heavily on Afghan forces, or in Kerry's words, "outsourcing the job." Kerry didn't change his position; but saying so fits into the tiresome Bush-Cheney flip-flopping meme, no matter how far the truth needs to be stretched.
-- Geraldine Sealey
[14:16 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
Touch-screen voting ruled OK in FloridaOf the many pre-election lawsuits hanging over the race in Florida, one of the most important has been resolved. On Monday morning, a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale dismissed Congressman Robert Wexler's lawsuit demanding that electronic voting machines used in the state produce voter-verifiable paper trails that can be manually recounted in the case of a close election. In a lengthy opinion (PDF), U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn said that based upon the evidence he heard during three days of hearings last week, he saw no legal basis for scrapping paperless machines in the state. But in a clause that pleased many paper-trail advocates, Cohn, a Bush appointee to the federal bench, added that "the preferable voting system would include a paper printout reviewed by the voter to ensure that it contains his or her selections."
In an interview after the decision was handed down, Wexler, a Democrat whose district includes Palm Beach and Broward Counties, said that despite the loss, he took comfort in the judge's conclusion that machines that produce a paper trail are better than machines that do not. "For legal reasons he doesn't believe that we established the requisite legal case to warrant the court to intervene," Wexler said of Cohn's decision. "I think the court was reluctant to act seven days before the election. And that's really the fault of Governor Jeb Bush, who effectively ran the clock out for meaningful reform for 2004."
Wexler plans to appeal the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but he concedes that nothing will come of that effort before next Tuesday. This raises another question: For several months, Wexler and his supporters have been telling voters not to trust paperless machines -- so what should people do now that they have no choice but to use these systems?
They have to make do, Wexler says. "If they have requested their absentee ballots they can use those, but if they haven't, which is the situation I'm in -- I will go and vote on the electronic machines," Wexler told War Room. "I encourage everyone to go and vote on the electronic machines. The one thing that needs to be the result of all of this focus on these machines is, there needs to be the largest turnout in history in South Florida. And I think there will be. Yesterday in Boca Raton, there was a 20,000 person turnout for John Kerry at an outdoor rally in hot weather. As far as I know it was the largest reported political rally in Palm Beach County in the history of the world." Whatever worries people may have about the voting machines, Wexler says, nobody wants to miss out on a chance to vote in this election.
One additional note on electronic voting machines: Since late last week War Room has received several warnings of a serious problem with the touch-screen machines being used during the early voting period in Travis County, Texas. Our correspondents inevitably cite the experiences of friends of friends of friends who've been to the polls in the county -- a progressive bastion that includes Austin -- and, while attempting to vote a straight-party Democratic ballot, somehow, to their shock and everlasting suspicion, ended up selecting George Bush in the presidential race. To many online, the Travis County story is being seen as proof that touch-screen voting systems aren't to be trusted at the polls this year.
But don't panic; there's nothing wrong in Travis County. Dana DeBeauvoir, the county clerk, told War Room that only one voter has reported this mysterious vote-switching problem, and that voter seems to have just been a bit clumsy with the machine's buttons (the voter managed to cast the correct ballot in the end). "If you look at the e-mail it seems like a hundred people had this problem," she says, "but I only got one report." While local media debunked the story last week, DeBeauvoir's office continues to receive calls from concerned voters. Indeed, the story might say more about the psychic health of the electorate than the mechanical health of the machines. "People are so passionate and nervous, there's just such high emotion running around this election," she notes. "I don't think at this point it takes much to put people on edge."
-- Farhad Manjoo
[13:09 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
Fatuous FinemanThank God for James Wolcott, scourge of press poodles. His blog on the insufferable Howard Fineman is a must read. You can't escape Fineman's smug puss whenever you're channel surfing cable news world. The fact that the NBC cable empire has deemed his every hackneyed, lifeless observation to be worthy of our attention is yet one more sign of the utter collapse of American journalism. On Sunday morning Wolcott caught Fineman dispensing yet another vacuous piece of conventional wisdom on Chris Matthews' weekly show -- "the one where Matthews doesn't sound as if he's bouncing off the walls of his own brain," as Wolcott puts it.
Fineman, surrounded by his usual "translucent shell of professional narcissism," was commenting on the growing passion of John Kerry's crowds, but immediately felt compelled, of course, to assume the Beltway-approved tone of condescension toward the Democratic candidate.
Here's Wolcott: "'Are the (crowds) pumped up about Kerry?' Fineman asked. 'No. His job is to come across as normal and acceptable to --'
"At which point I changed channels.
"First of all, how does Fineman know the crowds aren't pumped up for Kerry? Did he attend these rallies? Did he ask anyone? No, he's assuming, as most of the media elite do, that no one could possibly be 'up' for a Kerry event because the media narrative is that Kerry is a stiff hunk of bark.
"Forgive me for shouting, but this stuff burns my waffles. It's the same junk we heard from Chris Matthews' crew and all the other clique queens in the press about Al Gore as Gore was wowing crowds and closing in for the kill in 2000.
"That's why Jon Stewart's takedown of Tucker Carlson was greeted with gratitude and joy everlasting."
-- David Talbot
[12:06 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
In the pollsOver the weekend, the New York Times announced that both campaigns were working feverishly to win a race that had narrowed to 11 battleground states. Polling data released over the last few days don't agree.
Let's start with the most improbable first: For the second time in the last three days, a poll has shown Hawaii to be in play. The Honolulu Advertiser gave both candidates 43 percent of the vote on Saturday; now the Honolulu Star-Bulletin puts Bush up 46-45 in a poll of Oahu voters. Restricting the survey to only Oahu (even though the island is home to 75 percent of the state's population) isn't great methodology, but the poll is still solid evidence the race is far closer than in 2000, when Gore took the state by 18 points.
Next comes Arkansas, where a survey by Little Rock-based Opinion Research Associates calls the race a dead tie, 48-48. Two weeks back, the same poll gave Bush a 52-43 advantage.
New polls released by Zogby offer some good news for Bush. The president leads in Ohio (47-42), Florida (49-46), Wisconsin (48-45), Iowa (47-45), Nevada (48-45) and New Mexico (49-45), a substantial improvement since the Zogby/Wall Street Journal battleground poll last week. Kerry's up in Pennsylvania (47-45), Michigan (52-42), Minnesota (46-45) and Colorado (49-45).
Finally, two new voting demographic results: Democrats seem to have done very well in mobilizing new voters, according to an AP/Ipsos poll -- among first-time likely voters, Kerry's ahead 60-35.
And a St. Petersburg Times poll showed Bush pulling 19 percent of the black vote in Florida. Considering that the sample size was under 100, that result wouldn't even be worth mentioning if it weren't for two other polls released last week showing Bush pulling 17-18 percent of the black vote nationwide, double the percentage he received in 2000.
-- Jeff Horwitz
[09:44 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
The Zen of the Fox interviewHow do Bush and Cheney have the energy to keep sitting down for those grueling, exclusive interviews with Fox News? So far the network has snagged three sit-downs with the press-shy president and V.P. Here's a sampling of the hard-hitting questions Bush and Cheney have subjected themselves to in recent weeks:
"I've got 15 questions for you. If they're dumb, tell me they're dumb."
"Do you think that when he says these things, John Kerry, your opponent, you were in these three debates with him, do you think he knows he's not telling the truth?"
"In light of the CBS document fiasco, do you think you get a fair shake from the network news and the elite media like the New York Times?"
"A guy over at Newsweek said 80 percent in the elite media favors Kerry. That doesn't surprise you, does it?"
"And you're healthy?"
"What's Chirac's problem? He hasn't been a great ally to the U.S. since 9/11. He doesn't want NATO forces to protect elections in Afghanistan. Come on."
"Do you have any theory on why college professors, pinhead press people why they go into the liberal realm?"
"Has the press given [Kerry] a pass?"
*"Is it a reality that we could turn on our television sets one day -- Fox News Channel, I hope -- and find out that a nuclear weapon has gone off here?"
"You've said one of the things you were most unhappy about is this issue of the tone in Washington. Let me just run down a list of prominent Democrats for a second here, because I can't remember a time in my life where it's been this bad."
"You're the president of the United States. You're also leading troops in harm's way. This is the leader of the opposition party [criticizing you]. Does that bother you?"
"John Kerry has flipped-flopped his way into a dangerous position [regarding Iraq]. So my question is, If John Kerry were president would he make this country more vulnerable and more susceptible to terror attacks?"
"Now, all this was propaganda. All of this that you didn't ... They say you didn't register in Massachusetts [with the National Guard in 1973]. Is that bogus?"
-- Eric Boehlert
[08:28 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
Missing munitions ammunition for KerryThere has been a lot of speculation about what Iraq-related events could affect the presidential race in the last week. Would heavy U.S. military action against insurgents help Bush? Heavy U.S. casualties hurt him? Would Bush pull Zarqawi out of a hat and declare victory? Well, on this Monday morning, Bush is being forced to contend with Iraq news he probably didn't expect -- news that underlines the Kerry campaign's assessment that he makes a mess out of everything he touches. The front page New York Times story about the disappearance of 380 tons of munitions from a military installation in Iraq, despite warnings from the IAEA that the site needed security, is the Democrats' ammunition du jour.
Talk of the missing munitions was the first thing out of Howard Dean's mouth on CNN this morning. And John Kerry wove it into his stump speech at a rally in New Hampshire, saying: "George W. Bush, who talks tough -- talks tough -- and brags about making America safer has once again failed to deliver after being warned about the danger of major stockpiles of munitions in Iraq; this president failed to guard those stockpiles ... Today we learned these explosives are missing, unaccounted for and potentially in the hands of terrorists. Now we know our troops are less safe because this president failed to do the basics. ... This administration has put our troops at risk and this country at greater risk than we oughta be."
Indeed, the Kerry camp has been all over this since last night. We got a mass e-mailed statement from Joe Lockhart time-stamped at 1:15 a.m., and pasted below. (Note the dig at Condi Rice at the end. She is behind the curve on this national security problem, having just learned of the missing munitions in the last month, yet has been completely on top of campaigning for Bush's reelection.)
"Kerry-Edwards Senior Advisor Joe Lockhart issued the following statement on reports of missing explosives in Iraq:
"Today, the Bush administration must answer for what may be the most grave and catastrophic mistake in a tragic series of blunders in Iraq. How did they fail to secure nearly 380 tons of known, deadly explosives despite clear warnings from the International Atomic Energy Agency to do so? And why was this information unearthed by reporters -- and was it covered up by our national security officials?"
"These explosives can be used to blow up airplanes, level buildings, attack our troops and detonate nuclear weapons. The Bush administration knew where this stockpile was, but took no action to secure the site. They were urgently and specifically informed that terrorists could be helping themselves to the most dangerous explosives bonanza in history, but nothing was done to prevent it from happening."
"This material was monitored and controlled by UN inspectors before the invasion of Iraq. Thanks to the stunning incompetence of the Bush administration, we now have no idea where it is."
"We need to know what the administration knew about this and when. We need to know why they failed to safeguard these explosives and keep them out of the hands of our enemies. The National Security Advisor should be at her desk in Washington tomorrow to work this problem and answer these questions, instead of giving speeches in battleground states."
[UPDATE: Josh Marshall has more on the Iraq munitions story, pointing out that Iraqi officials say they warned Paul Bremer about the missing explosives back in May, while he was still the head of the U.S. occupation authority and before the "handover" of sovereignty to Iraq. It's unclear whom he told about the disappeared tons of munitions -- but the IAEA was not told while the U.S. was in power, and according to the Nelson Report, the Bush administration pressured the Iraqis to also not tell the IAEA.]
-- Geraldine Sealey
[06:58 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
Monday's must-readsNew York Times: Nearly 380 tons of powerful explosives that were supposed to be safeguarded by U.S. military went missing in Iraq sometime after the 2003 invasion. IAEA had warned U.S. about the need to keep explosives secured, but no one has any clue where they are. Condi Rice just told about the missing explosives within the past month, White House said.
Wall Street Journal: Former Bush administration officials and military officers "increasingly wonder" whether the administration made a mistake months before the start of the Iraq war by stopping the military from targeting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi because, in part, doing so would undermine support for toppling Saddam Hussein.
Boston Globe: As the last full week of campaigning begins, Kerry is ahead in key battleground states, the national numbers are tied or show Bush slightly ahead, and both sides are scrambling to close the deal. On Sunday, Kerry hit Bush for telling Sean Hannity it's "up in the air" whether America can ever be safe from a terrorist attack.
Editor & Publisher: Newspaper endorsement update; Kerry wins over 35 newspapers that backed Bush in 2000, while Bush only gets two Gore papers.
New York Times: Al Gore tours black churches for John Kerry, who's trying to shore up support from black voters as polls show Bush doing better than expected with this group.
New York Times: Clinton's back.
-- Geraldine Sealey
[06:25 PDT, Oct. 25, 2004]
Bush's hotline to JesusWith little to run on but a flight-suit photo op and threats of lupine mayhem under a Kerry administration, the Republicans' grass-roots campaign has resorted to touting their boy's personal hot line to Jesus. To help, the RNC has employed the services of a Texas theocrat named David Barton, founder of an organization called Wallbuilders, which is dedicated to remaking -- or "restoring" -- America as a Christian nation.
As the Web site Beliefnet reports, Barton has been "traveling the country for a year -- speaking at about 300 RNC-sponsored lunches for local evangelical pastors. During the lunches, he presents a slide show of American monuments, discusses his view of America's Christian heritage -- and tells pastors that they are allowed to endorse political candidates from the pulpit." In fact, such endorsements can cost a church their tax status -- an IRS rule that the religious right is ardently trying to change. This weekend, Barton spoke at a "Patriotic Rally and Celebration" at the Potters House Church of God in Ohio, which served as one of the headquarters of the push to get the anti-gay state constitutional amendment Issue 1on the Ohio ballot.
Beliefnet reports that, in addition to Wallbuilders, Barton is on the board of directors of the Providence Foundation, a Christian Reconstructionist group. The article links to an explanation of Christian Reconstructionism from Political Research Associates, a think tank that tracks the religious right. "Generally, Reconstructionism seeks to replace democracy with a theocratic elite that would govern by imposing their interpretation of 'Biblical Law.' Reconstructionism would eliminate not only democracy but many of its manifestations, such as labor unions, civil rights laws and public schools."
That may sound extreme but Barton is part of the mainstream of today's GOP. Indeed, as Beliefnet points out, he's vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party.
People like Barton are a large part of the reason that the Republicans, for all their optimistic predictions, never get more than a fraction of the Jewish vote. The Jews for Jesus vote, though, is another story. As an e-mail alert from the National Jewish Democratic Council points out, Bush recently reappointed Lon Solomon, a pastor at McLean Bible Church and leader of Jews for Jesus, to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (he has a severely retarded daughter, which appears to be his sole qualification in the field).
"Mr. Solomon takes his work proselytizing American Jews very seriously," NJDC writes. "In August, the Washington Times reported on an extremely well-organized effort to convert Jews in the Washington, DC area -- and Mr. Solomon's church was 'the hub of the evangelistic effort.' The Times called it the 'largest evangelistic effort in Washington in the 31-year history' of Jews for Jesus. To add insult to injury, the campaign was timed to coincide with the High Holidays."
Solomon's bio on the government Web site doesn't mention any of this, though it does say, "As a pastor with a strong Jewish and Christian tradition, he values the President's personal courage and interest in promoting his Faith-Based Initiative."
-- Michelle Goldberg
[13:49 PDT, Oct. 24, 2004]
The mood at BC '04: Not quite 'grim'Nine days to go before the election and safe to say we're all a little on edge. To read the Washington Post this morning, that includes Republican officials as they eye the polls in states where Bush needs a win. Bush aides may be cocky on the outside -- as Ed Gillespie was on Meet the Press this morning predicting a not-even-close Bush victory on Nov. 2 -- but some are nervous nellies on the inside. From the Post:
"GOP officials who talked to Bush-Cheney campaign leaders said the leaders have grown more worried about Ohio, Florida and other key states where Bush lacks a lead with just 10 days until the election. A poll by Ohio University's Scripps Survey Research Center, completed Thursday night, found Kerry leading 49 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, with a margin of error of five percentage points."
"Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), campaigning with Vice President Cheney in northwestern New Mexico, told the crowd that the GOP ticket will lose the state without a lopsided local victory in San Juan County, because of heavy Democratic activity elsewhere in the state. 'Without a huge margin in this county . . . we can't win this election,' he said."
"One Republican official described the mood at the top of the campaign as apprehensive. ''Grim' is too strong,' the official said. 'If we feel this way a week from now, that will be grim.'"
-- Geraldine Sealey
[10:46 PDT, Oct. 24, 2004]
Newspapers for KerryEditor & Publisher calls today "Super Sunday" in the newspaper endorsement game. And John Kerry is cleaning up. Along with the endorsement of the Washington Post, Kerry won the support of 17 "flip-flopper" newspapers, which supported George W. Bush four years ago but won't make that mistake again. Kerry has now won over 28 newspapers that went for Bush in 2000, while Bush has only won two endorsements from papers that went for Gore four years ago. According to E&P, "Kerry now leads Bush 111-70 in endorsements in E&P's exclusive tally, and by about 14.4 million to 8.6 million in the circulation of backing papers. "
With the endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel, Kerry made a clean sweep of the Florida papers. It was a momentous choice for the Sentinel editorial writers -- not only did the paper recommend George W. Bush for president four years ago, but it hasn't endorsed a Democrat for president in 40 years:
"Four years ago, the Orlando Sentinel endorsed Republican George W. Bush for president based on our trust in him to unite America. We expected him to forge bipartisan solutions to problems while keeping this nation secure and fiscally sound. This president has utterly failed to fulfill our expectations. We turn now to his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, with the belief that he is more likely to meet the hopes we once held for Mr. Bush."
"Our choice was not dictated by partisanship. Already this election season, the Sentinel has endorsed Republican Mel Martinez for the U.S. Senate and four U.S. House Republicans. In 2002, we backed Republican Gov. Jeb Bush for re-election, repeating our endorsement of four years earlier. Indeed, it has been 40 years since the Sentinel endorsed a Democrat -- Lyndon Johnson -- for president."
"But we cannot forget what we wrote in endorsing Mr. Bush in 2000: 'The nation needs a leader who can bring people together, who can stand firm on principle but knows the art of compromise.' Four years later, Mr. Bush presides over a bitterly divided Congress and nation. The unity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- the president's finest hour -- is a memory now. Mr. Bush's inflexibility has deepened the divide."
But it wasn't all bad news for Bush -- he won the endorsements of three out of four Ohio newspapers over the weekend, including the coveted recommendation of the Columbus Dispatch. But the Dispatch endorsement wasn't exactly a rousing expression of confidence or enthusiasm for the incumbent. The paper was "less than enthused about the choices" and said America "desperately needs" strong leadership and didn't trust John Kerry to provide it.
-- Geraldine Sealey
[08:45 PDT, Oct. 24, 2004]
"Catastrophic success"With the Iraq war and national security at the heart of this presidential election, Michael Gordon's three-part series in the New York Times this past week, "Catastrophic Success," is an essential read. From a series of interviews with high level military, intelligence and administration officials, Gordon offers a sweeping look at the juggernaut that the Bush administration unleashed when it launched the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
If taking the nation to war is "the hardest decision a president has to make," as George W. Bush has said, it is also a series of complicated and critical decisions once set in motion. Gordon surveys those that are the responsibility of the Bush administration in Iraq.
From part 1, on the failure to forsee a "second war" and commit enough U.S. troops:
"In the debate over the war and its aftermath, the Bush administration has portrayed the insurgency that is still roiling Iraq today as an unfortunate, and unavoidable, accident of history, an enemy that emerged only after melting away during the rapid American advance toward Baghdad. The sole mistake Mr. Bush has acknowledged in the war is in not foreseeing what he termed that 'catastrophic success.'
"But many military officers and civilian officials who served in Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003 say the administration's miscalculations cost the United States valuable momentum -- and enabled an insurgency that was in its early phases to intensify and spread. ...
"As the Iraq war approached ... a RAND Corporation study on nation building [concluded that] the larger the number of security forces, the fewer the casualties suffered by alliance troops ...
"'My position is that we lost momentum and that the insurgency was not inevitable,' said James A. (Spider) Marks, a retired Army major general, who served as the chief intelligence officer for the land war command. 'We had momentum going in and had Saddam's forces on the run.'
"'But we did not have enough troops,' he continued. 'First, we did not have enough troops to conduct combat patrols in sufficient numbers to gain solid intelligence and paint a good picture of the enemy on the ground. Secondly, we needed more troops to act on the intelligence we generated. They took advantage of our limited numbers.'"
From part 2, on failures with U.S. intelligence:
"Despite more than a decade of antagonism between Saddam Hussein's government and the United States, the Bush administration was operating with limited information when it began to consider the invasion of Iraq. ...
"[Shortly before the war] the United States gained a detailed understanding of Iraq's oil infrastructure and obtained a secret map of Iraq's Baghdad defense plan. The C.I.A. also helped debunk one threat that the military had worried about: the possibility that Mr. Hussein's government would flood the country to thwart an allied advance.
"The agency, though, turned out to have a less clear understanding of what the United States would face once it invaded Iraq, or of Mr. Hussein's military strategy. In January 2003, the National Intelligence Council issued its assessment of what might happen after the dictator was ousted. The report cautioned that building democracy in Iraq would be difficult because of its authoritarian history. And it warned of the risk that the American forces would be seen as occupiers.
"'Attitudes toward a foreign military force would depend largely on the progress made in transferring power, as well as on the degree to which that force were perceived as providing necessary security and fostering reconstruction and a return to prosperity,' it said. The report also noted that quick restoration of services would be important to maintain the support of the Iraqi public."
From part 3, on the decision to dissolve the entire Iraqi military:
"When Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus flew to Baghdad on June 14, 2003, he had a blunt message for the American-led occupation authority. As the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, General Petraeus had been working tirelessly to win the support of Iraqis in Mosul and the neighboring provinces in northern Iraq.
"But the authority's decree to abolish the Iraqi Army and to forgo paying 350,000 soldiers had jolted much of Iraq. Riots had broken out in cities. Just the day before, 16 of General Petraeus's soldiers had been wounded trying to put down a violent demonstration.
"Arriving at the huge Abu Ghraib North Palace for a ceremony, General Petraeus spied Walter B. Slocombe, an adviser to L. Paul Bremer III, who headed the authority. Sidling up to him, General Petraeus said that the decision to leave the soldiers without a livelihood had put American lives at risk.
"More than a year later, Bremer's disbanding of the Iraqi Army still casts a shadow over the occupation of Iraq. ...
"'It was absolutely the wrong decision,' said Col. Paul Hughes of the Army, who served as an aide to Jay Garner, a retired three-star general and the first civilian administrator of Iraq. 'We changed from being a liberator to an occupier with that single decision,' he said. 'By abolishing the army, we destroyed in the Iraqi mind the last symbol of sovereignty they could recognize and as a result created a significant part of the resistance.'"
-- Mark Follman
[08:36 PDT, Oct. 24, 2004]
Nader definitely out in PA
"WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (AP) - The Supreme Court refused on Saturday to place the independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in Pennsylvania, upholding a state court's finding of flawed signatures on voter petition sheets. Mr. Nader asked the court on Thursday to review the Pennsylvania decision to remove him. A state court cited legal problems with his nomination papers that left him thousands of signatures short of the number required for the Nov. 2 ballot.
"On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a lower court that had found the petition sheets were 'rife with forgeries.' The lower court determined that fewer than 19,000 of the more than 51,000 signatures submitted were valid; Mr. Nader needed at least 25,697 to be listed on the ballot."
The Nader camp expressed disappointment Saturday and vowed to keep battling. Hopefully Mickey Mouse won't take the court decision too personally.
-- Mark Follman
[17:03 PDT, Oct. 23, 2004]