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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

There Are "Terrorists" And Then There Are Terrorists

Via Orcinus I find that a real live, rock 'em sock 'em terrorist/assassin was arrested by pure luck last week:

Police came upon Breit after an anonymous caller reported a gunshot going off in his apartment Sunday night.

When officers arrived, Breit told them, "I screwed up."

He explained he accidentally shot off his AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifle in his home, blowing a hole through his door frame.

Breit agreed to a search of his house and car, according to the complaint.

The search turned up several hundred rounds of ammunition, components for pipe bombs, shotguns, more than 700 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, a cannon fuse and a recipe for dynamite.

The search also turned up a list of federal officials, political and public figures with the word "marked," next to the names. Breit told agents it meant "marked to die," because the people were liberal, opposed to gun rights or opposed to the current government.

Police also found a note that reads: "I will die for my cause, for it is just. I won't put my hands up and surrender -- I will not rest till I purge these United States from the treasonist (sic) parasites."

What the Sun-Times story neglects to tell readers is that it appears that nearly the entirety of his targets were Democrats and liberals. That information comes from a news release from the Brady Campaign:

Federal agents say they recovered seven guns, more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition, pipe bomb making components and other explosives, a list of government officials and political and public figures with the word "marked" written next to them, and a written plan for 15 heavily armed men to kill 1,500 people at a Democratic presidential meeting.

Breit's library included The Turner Diaries, the anti-government cult novel that inspired Timothy McVeigh, and Guns, Freedom and Terrorism, the book authored by National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, investigators said.


Information about this case is nowhere to be found at the Web sites of either the FBI or the Justice Department -- though of course, both carry voluminous reports discussing threats from international terrorists. And of course, the FBI has a full phalanx of reportage on various aspects of "eco-terrorism," which is currently the agency's prime domestic-terrorism focus

Hey, this guy is nothing like an eco-terrorist. He was just planning to do what many would consider a good deed, fighting the good fight, respecting the culture of life and all that. It's not like he's out of the mainstream or anything:

You know, there are two wars going on in the world right now. There's the United States war against international terrorism and there is the Democrat Party war against George W. Bush.

The good news is that the government is ruthlessly running down the terrorists who are a real danger. Like this evil web-master:

Not long after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of Muslim students led by a Saudi Arabian doctoral candidate held a candlelight vigil in the small college town of Moscow, Idaho, and condemned the attacks as an affront to Islam.

Today, that graduate student, Sami Omar al-Hussayen, is on trial in a heavily guarded courtroom here, accused of plotting to aid and to maintain Islamic Web sites that promote jihad.

As a Web master to several Islamic organizations, Mr. Hussayen helped to maintain Internet sites with links to groups that praised suicide bombings in Chechnya and in Israel. But he himself does not hold those views, his lawyers said. His role was like that of a technical editor, they said, arguing that he could not be held criminally liable for what others wrote.

Civil libertarians say the case poses a landmark test of what people can do or whom they can associate with in the age of terror alerts. It is one of the few times anyone has been prosecuted under language in the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, which makes it a crime to provide "expert guidance or assistance" to groups deemed terrorist.

I feel safer just knowing this computer geek is behind bars. He may not actually believe in everything that appears on that web-site, but he ought to be a little bit more careful about the company he keeps.

Yet, I worry that a fine upstanding gun-owner like Mr Breit could be persecuted just for "screwing up" and firing off his AK-47 inside his home, bringing the jack-booted thugs of the Federal Gestapo to his door. It's not like he actually offed a bunch of Democrats or anything. You can't blame a guy for dreaming.

I'm just glad that a patriot like John Ashcroft is in charge of these things. He knows how to set the right priorities.

Let Freedom Ring

Our quest -- our quest for freedom -- our quest for freedom is around the world. Good foreign policy is a foreign policy that insists upon freedom in our own neighborhood. Good foreign policy is a policy that insists upon freedom in parts of the world where there's hatred and the lack of hope. That's why I will continue to work, so long as I'm President, for a vision of peace based upon the cornerstone of free societies. And we will succeed. George W. Bush

Headlines on FoxNews at 12 noon, Tuesady, April 27, 2004:

Police Clash With Terror Suspects in Damascus

Fallujah Shaken by Intense Blasts, Gunfire

Marines engaged in door-to-door fighting in Fallujah; U.S. troops kill 64 gunmen during heavy battle in Najaf

Related Stories

Iraqi to U.N.: We Want 'Complete Sovereignty'
Kidnappers Threaten to Kill Italians in
Blair: Britain Has Sufficient Troops in Iraq
Fight Goes Door-to-Door

Friday, April 23, 2004

What Does Perle Want From Chalabi?

Via Kevin, I find this question from Juan Cole about our good friend Ahmad:

It would be really interesting to know the list of secret promises Chalabi has given Perle (and presumably the Israelis through Perle) that would explain this Neocon fervor for the man.

The question rang a bell for me and I recalled that I had written about this very thing a little over a year ago in this post in which I discussed at great lengths the delusions already being perpetrated in the name of "demahcracy." I excerped a very interesting Washington Post article that contained this little gem:

In public comments last month, Perle suggested that installing Chalabi in power in Baghdad would alleviate any Muslim fears of U.S. imperialist aims. It would also improve the chances for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Perle said, because "Chalabi and his people have confirmed that they want a real peace process, and that they would recognize the state of Israel."

It all comes back to "Clean Break."

Myth Takes

On TAPPED today, Matt talks about Victor Davis Hansen's lame assertion that left wing arguments about the war are "myths." In his usual convincing fashion, Matt demolishes Hansen's tired wingnut defense that while the WMD issue was put forth perhaps "erroneously" it doesn't matter because there were other good reasons for invading. And anyway, when everything comes up roses it won't matter why we did it. Matt gets to the meat of the matter and brings up the related fact that the repeated assertions of "grave and gathering" danger made majorities of the public believe until this day in what has been proven to be a complete falsehood about Saddam's WMD and ties to terrorists. He says:

I've written previously, these false beliefs correlate highly with support for the war. Now there's a case to be made that the president's done the right thing here. I can imagine an argument that the American people are just too unsophisticated to grasp the needs of American grand strategy and that, therefore, they need to be tricked into doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. But if that's the case you want to make, you need to produce an argument. Just deriding liberal arguments as myths when they are, in fact, perfectly accurate doesn't cut it.

I can imagine that argument, too, particularly coming from a bunch of phony Straussians. But it would be more than a little bit contrary to Crusader Codpiece's happy talk about liberating the Iraqi people and in total contradiction to the self-righteous Republican oratory about their commitment to freedom and democracy. Let's be clear about the real "myths" at play here.

If you look closely at the last few years you have no choice but to believe that Republicans think democracy itself is a myth. For instance, there was that little matter of impeachment over a private sexual matter -- a manipulation of the constitution to overturn the public will, to which the public, thankfully, registered its displeasure in midterm elections and polls. Not two years later there was the bizarre sight of Republicans in Florida professing that arbitrary deadlines and the mere possibility of human error were more important than the principle of making sure that all votes were duly counted --- even by judges who are charged with matters of life and death every day. Now we see Republicans slyly admitting that the public needs to be tricked into doing the right thing rather than being told the truth and being allowed to make their wishes known. It's been clear for quite a while to anyone paying attention that the GOP "reverence" for the principles of freedom and democracy is strictly a marketing device.

And this may present a little problem for Junior's Freedom Crusade because even though some Americans may be, shall we say, "biased" enough to believe that all Arab bad guys must be in cahoots and trying to kill us, I doubt that either Americans or Iraqis are gullible enough to believe that "freedom and democracy" can possibly mean this:

The Bush administration's plans for a new caretaker government in Iraq would place severe limits on its sovereignty, including only partial command over its armed forces and no authority to enact new laws, administration officials said Thursday.


The arrangement would be, I think as we are doing today, that we would do our very best to consult with that interim government and take their views into account," said Marc Grossman, under secretary of state for political affairs. But he added that American commanders will "have the right, and the power, and the obligation" to decide.

Sure, you can call a foreign military occupation "freedom" and you can say that "democracy" is a caretaker government or a handpicked governing council, but that doesn't make it so. What it does do is make a mockery of the very values we are supposedly trying to impart. A good number of Americans see it, most of the rest of the world sees it and the Iraqi people definitely see it. At this point it might be better part to have Junior just shut the hell up. His mindless blathering just draws attention to our government's rank hypocrisy.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Enemy Within

History is going to show that a nutcase by the name of Laurie Mylroie and a group of equally nutty followers, including the Vice President and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, led the United States into a war on the basis of a daffy conspiracy theory.

The proposal, pressed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, called for President George W. Bush to declare Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as an enemy combatant in the war on terror. This would have allowed Yousef to be transferred from his cell at the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s “supermax” penitentiary in Florence, Colo., to a U.S. military installation.

Wolfowitz contended that U.S. military interrogators—unencumbered by the presence of Yousef’s defense lawyer—might be able to get the inmate to confess what he and the lawyer have steadfastly denied: that he was actually an Iraqi intelligence agent dispatched by Saddam to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 as revenge for the first Persian Gulf War.

The previously unreported Wolfowitz proposal—and the high-level consideration it got within the Justice Department—sheds new light on the Bush administration’s willingness to expand its use of enemy-combatant declarations inside the United States beyond the three alleged terrorists, two of them American citizens, who have already been designated by the White House.

Actually believing this nonsensical conspiracy theory about Ramsi Youssef, and attempting to change 200 years of legal precedent in order to prove it, would be the equivalent of Bill Clinton using Oliver Stone's JFK as the basis for prosecuting the remaining members of the Johnson administration for the assassination of Kennedy.

There is no greater reason to get rid of Bush than to put this little Mylroie/Wolfowitz freakshow back in its little Lyndon Larouche conspiracy corner.


The Memory Hole Photos of Military Coffins (Casualties From Iraq) at Dover Air Force Base

While the Republicans are trying to distract everyone with spooky tales of the boogey man, we all must remember that Americans are already dying every single day in a useless, goddamned war. Again.

They're Comin' Ta Git Yah!

House OKs Speedy Elections if Attacked

Get out your gas masks. And I don't mean because of an impending bio weapon attack. I'm talking about the impending Republican gasbag attack.

The Mighty Wurlitzer is pumping up the volume and I'm sure the media are panting and groaning with anticipation of another RNC generated spin cycle.

Critics of the 45-day election plan said it was both too short a time for some states to prepare for elections and too long to leave Congress in a paralyzed state. Several warned of a martial law condition, with the executive branch taking over legislative authorities such as declaring war during the 45 days that Congress is unable to function.

"A catastrophe that could prevent whole states from being represented for 45 days is at the heart of the concern," said Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., another backer of amending the Constitution.

Run for your lives!

Hearings were also scheduled on the issue of incapacitation, or how to define when a member who is still alive is unable to carry out his congressional duties, possibly because of a biological or chemical attack.

As our Dear Leader once sagely inquired, "what's the difference?"

Truth "Available Soon"

Susan reports the shocking news that the Bush administration lies about absolutely everything.

Six months have passed since the Phoenix reported that the US Census Bureau’s latest income and poverty reports contained significant errors (see "The Politics of Poverty," News and Features, October 10, 2003). The reworked numbers, which will show that median after-tax household income declined far more in 2002 than the bureau reported, have been ready since January, according to sources in the agency. All that remained was to work out a "release strategy," according to one manager in the Housing and Household Economics Statistics Division. A follow-up call in March to find out when the new numbers would be made public yielded this information from Dan Weinberg, chief of the division: the bureau still needs to establish a "release strategy." It’s starting to look an awful lot like the "release strategy" is to not release the new numbers at all.

As first reported by the Phoenix last fall, the bureau used erroneous marginal tax rates in calculating 2001 data. As a result, the reports released last September falsely claimed that median after-tax household income remained stable in 2002, when in fact it dropped significantly — probably about 1.5 percent. The Census Bureau conceded the error and promised to redo the figures.

Since then, the words "Available Soon!" have adorned the Web page where the after-tax figures should be (ferret.bls.census.gov/macro/032003/rdcall/toc.htm). Meanwhile, the original report, containing incorrect data, is still available from the bureau’s main page — as are the September press release and briefing documents that tout the false numbers as evidence that things are not so bad. The bureau has known that this is not true for six months, and has had the corrected data in hand for at least three.

This would hardly be the first time that, given a choice between an upbeat falsehood and a dour truth, the Bush administration embraced the comfortable lie.

In other news, George W. Bush won the Nobel Peace Prize for smiting evil doers everywhere and bringing freedom to the world. You can look it up.

Another Whiff 'o Freedom

Via Kelley Kramer:

A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.

Silicio was let go yesterday for violating U.S. government and company regulations, said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the contractor that employed Silicio at Kuwait International Airport.


Pentagon officials yesterday said the government's policy defers to the sensitivities of bereaved families. "We've made sure that all of the installations who are involved with the transfer of remains were aware that we do not allow any media coverage of any of the stops until (the casket) reaches its final destination," said Cynthia Colin, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Maytag also fired David Landry, a co-worker who recently wed Silicio.

Silicio said she never sought to put herself in the public spotlight. Instead, she said, she hoped the publication of the photo would help families of fallen soldiers understand the care and devotion that civilians and military crews dedicate to the task of returning the soldiers home.

Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democracy. I love democracy, don't you?

Framing Fear

Bush warned the editors that the United States "is a battlefield in the war on terror" and said he can understand public fears of a terrorist attack before the November election. "This is a hard country to defend," he said. "Our intelligence is good. It's just never perfect, is the problem. We are disrupting some cells here in America. We're chasing people down. But it is a -- we've got a big country."

On Tuesday evening, Bush told Republican congressional leaders during a meeting at the White House that it was all but certain that terrorists would attempt a major attack on the United States before the election, according to a congressional aide. The leaders were struck by Bush's definitiveness and gravity, the aide said.

Still, Bush told the editors, the administration is "making good progress in the defense of America."

Condi said similar things the other day, as well. So, what's the deal? Are they hearing some of that famous "chatter" or is this some kind of election year gambit?

Since they lie by reflex, it's hard to tell, and while I am this close to believing the absolute worst about these people, I haven't yet concluded that they are capable of controlling a massive enough conspiracy to actively allow another terrorist attack for political purposes. So, I expect that this is just Framing The WOT for Dummies.

First and foremost they want to ratchet up the fear level so that everyone will gather around their hero Boy George. For whatever reason they believe that people trust him to keep the babies safe. I doubt that, but I agree that it is a default position for those who aren't paying much attention or are not very bright. Terrorist-attack-scary-president-bullhorn-bombs-safe.

Secondly, this frames the election in case there actually is an escalation of terrorism and I don't think it matters all that much if it's on American soil. After their blatently phony partisan reading of the Spanish election it's clear that the Republicans are going to say that voting for anyone other than George W. Bush is rewarding terrorism. Osama hates Bush, therefore we must love Bush or be accused of appeasing Osama. Nice and Neat. And if Kerry allows any daylight between himself and Bush on national security, he's "cutting and running," and appeasing the terrorists, too.

But, I think this fear mongering is an opportunity. I say go right in his face and hammer him for saying that the mighty USA can't protect itself from a bunch of pissant terrorists. (It's logical, of course, that we can't protect ourselves against all possibilities, but since the Republicans successfully tossed logic down the garbage disposal for the last four years, I see no reason why we should allow them to dredge it out now.) Our purpose is to get this dangerous incompetent out of the White House.

If we do get hit before the election, we've been innoculated because we said he wasn't adequately protecting America. Time for a change. If we don't get hit, Bush doesn't get the credit because he's already admitted that he doesn't think the country can be protected. Its dumb luck.

"This is a hard country to defend?" That's defeatist talk, boy. But it's no wonder, coming from the man who vacationed through the month of August before the first terrorist attacks while the entire intelligence community was running around with its hair on fire. Looks like you still haven't learned from from your mistakes. You've had almost three years to shore up our defenses, the treasury is almost bankrupted and now you whine to us that the country is a battlefield but it's really big so you can't protect it?

You refused to figure out what went wrong the first time until the widows of the dead insisted; you wasted months before you agreed to a new department of Homeland Security and you still haven't funded it; you decided to fight a foreign war based on bad intelligence and phony claims of grave danger, tying down our troops in Iraq when they could be catching the terrorists overseas and protecting us here at home. (In case you forgot, that's what the National Guard is supposed to do, flyboy.)

Now you tell us the terrorists are planning to attack us again and there's not much you can do about it?

It's time for a new president who'll put the safety of the American people first.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Compare and Contrast

Intelligent, mature and rich in educational backround and experience.


major strength is his ability to work with others. He makes a welcome addition to any group or team effort.


He utilizes the English language expertly, both orally and in writing. He is an alert and active original thinker with great potential...


a good representative of the military ... in the business world.

[He] constantly reviewed tactics and lessons learned in...operations and applied his experience at every opportunity


I have personally observed his participation and without exception, his performance has been noteworthy.


The detachment of this officer will be a definite loss to the service. He is the dedicated type that we should retain and it is hoped that he will be of further perhaps earlier greater service to his country, which is his aim in life at this time


[This officer] has not been observed at this unit during the period of report.

Read the whole thing at The American Street

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Who's On First?

Pressed on how Iraq would assume sovereignty amid weeks of spiraling violence, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called June 30th "just one step in a process," and not "a magical date" in which the U.S.-led occupation will shift responsibilities to a new Iraqi government.

But at a news conference last Friday with British prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush said of the June 30 handover:

"One of the essential commitments we've made to the Iraqi people is this: They will control their own country. No citizen of America or Britain would want the government of their nation in the hands of others and neither do the Iraqis. This is why the June 30th date for the transfer of sovereignty will be kept."

Crisco Drippings

This is obviously one of those days designed to make me feel like I'm not completely going crazy. (I'm grateful for this because I have a terrible cold and I feel like driving my car into a guard rail to end the misery.) But, glory of all glories, the Washington Post has published an editorial taking Attorney General Ashcroft to task for his disgraceful testimony last week.

IN HIS TESTIMONY last week before the Sept. 11 commission, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft loosed a remarkable attack on Jamie S. Gorelick, a commission member who served as deputy attorney general during part of the Clinton administration. The "single greatest structural cause for the September 11th problem," Ashcroft said, "was the wall that segregated or separated criminal investigators and intelligence agents," and the "basic architecture for the wall . . . was contained in a classified memorandum" from 1995 -- which Mr. Ashcroft had conveniently declassified for the hearing. "Full disclosure," he said, "compels me to inform you that the author of this memorandum is a member of the commission" -- that is, Ms. Gorelick. Mr. Ashcroft's allegations, which triggered criticism and demands for her resignation from prominent Republicans, are grossly unfair.


Pretending that such a deep-seated institutional problem was Ms. Gorelick's single-handed creation should have been beneath the attorney general.

It wasn't all that much commented upon as far as I can tell, but it truly was one of the most shocking performances by an Attorney General I have ever seen. As I wrote in my mildmannered piece entitled Consummate Prick:

Has there ever been a more blatantly partisan Attorney General than the Crisco Kid? This testimony today was contemptuous, dishonest and disturbingly inappropriate.

I also haven't heard anything from Senator Kill Bill yet about citing Thomas Pickard for perjury:

BEN-VENISTE: And you told the staff according to this statement that Mr. Ashcroft told you that he did not want to hear about this [terrorism] anymore. Is that correct?

PICKARD: That is correct.

Ashcroft denied he ever said that. Somebody's lyin' under oath.

Junior Mint

President-elect Bush asked some practical questions about how things worked, but he did not offer or hint at his desires.

The Joint Chiefs' staff had placed a peppermint at each place. Bush unwrapped his and popped it into his mouth. Later he eyed Cohen's mint and flashed a pantomime query, Do you want that? Cohen signaled no, so Bush reached over and took it. Near the end of the hour-and-a-quarter briefing, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, noticed Bush eyeing his mint, so he passed it over.

Mmmmm. Candy.

Pushn' Polls

Josh and Atrios discuss the new polls showing Kerry falling behind even though Bush has had the worst couple of weeks of his presidency. Quite rightly, Democrats are asking, "what will it take?" Both bloggers ponder the idea that this is because "the president gains as national security and war issues become more salient, even if they are becoming more salient because of what seem to be objectively bad news about his policies."

I think this is essentially correct. People associate war leadership with Bush and when the war is in the news some still feel a rally 'round the president effect. But more importantly, I think it is because John Kerry was becoming a cipher. Without him out there offering a strong rhetorical counter argument, people who don't pay attention to the details get the impression that he's not offering any alternative.

I said a couple of weeks ago:

It's one thing for Kerry to allow Bush to swing in the wind on the pre-9/11 stuff. Let the widows and the whistleblowers take that on. The less partisanship the better. But, Iraq is something else entirely.

Iraq is a crisis and an ongoing problem and it isn't enough for it to be seen blowing up on television. Kerry has got to convince people that Bush is the problem and that he can fix it. Instead, he's acting clueless and disengaged.

A lot of my readers commented that he shouldn't allow himself to get caught up in a specific plan and that his best bet was to lie low. I agree that he needn't offer a specific plan, but I disagreed that he should lie low. I believe that he needs to offer some hot, critical rhetoric about Bush's mistakes and that he should simply say, over and over again, that Bush can't solve the problem because Bush is the problem. I suggested he say (among other things):

"...this crisis untimately requires a political solution and George W. Bush has run out of political options. A new president and a fresh start are what's required to fix this problem. Only then can we rebuild the trust of our allies and go back to the drawing board with all the parties and set a proper course for a free and democratic Iraq."

Not that I have any illusions that his people are reading this blog, but I was nonetheless I gratified to hear him on Russert and quoted in USA Today saying:

More U.S. troops and a new president could be needed to win international support for U.S. efforts in postwar Iraq, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Sunday.The Massachusetts senator said President Bush has created a "quandary" for the nation by failing to develop a broad coalition to fight the war, to secure Iraq and to let countries that didn't fight participate in rebuilding.

"It may well be that we need a new president, a breath of fresh air, to re-establish our credibility with the rest of the world" and bring other countries into Iraq, Kerry said on NBC's Meet the Press.

If Kerry doesn't make it clear that Bush is the problem, there are enough people out there who are likely to do a rally round the flag bit to swing the election. Saying "I've got a plan" every five seconds isn't going to get the job done. It's about framing the election in terms of Junior's mistakes, which considering the news of the last few weeks shouldn't be all that difficult. And it has to be done with the kind of rhetoric that makes the media focus on Kerry.

Up to now, Kerry's people have been convinced that it wasn't his responsibility:

A Kerry spokesman told Salon on Thursday that it's incumbent on Bush -- not Kerry -- to address the crisis in Iraq. "What has the president said about this?" the Kerry spokesman asked. "He needs to explain what his policy is, what his plan is to address what's going on right now. But he's been down on his ranch in Crawford. The spotlight isn't on John Kerry. The spotlight needs to be on Bush. He's the president, and he's the person who has carved out these policies."

That was the problem. The spotlight is on Bush and unless Kerry sticks his neck out a little bit, Americans don't even know he exists on the issue. People don't have to know what he's going to do in detail --- in fact they don't want to listen to it. But, they must be convinced that Bush has screwed up the War on Terror and that he is now the greatest impediment to fixing it before they will be persuaded to abandon the president in "wartime." It's Kerry's job to make that case and then to persuade them that his experience, his philosophy and his leadership qualities make him the better man to get that job done. The Kerry campaign made a mistake in assuming that the press could do that for them. It appears they are changing course now. We'll see if the polls improve.


Mistah Kurtz's column explains some of the problem:

When President Bush delivered a routine stump speech to a group of New Mexico homeowners on March 26, CNN and Fox News each carried his appearance for 35 minutes, and MSNBC for 33 minutes.

When John Kerry gave what was billed as a major address on national security at George Washington University on March 17, he was knocked off the screen by a large explosion in Baghdad. CNN and Fox each dropped Kerry (who had been reduced to small box) after three minutes, and MSNBC never picked him up. But as the Iraq coverage continued, all three networks carried Vice President Cheney in California attacking Kerry as weak on national security -- Fox for 28 minutes, MSNBC for 23 and CNN for 13.

In the daily battle for airtime, Bush has drawn more than three times as much live cable coverage as his Democratic challenger, yet another example of the advantages of incumbency.

A review by The Washington Post, using a video monitoring service, finds that the cable news networks have covered more Bush events and stayed with them longer. From March 3, the day after the senator clinched the nomination, through Friday, they have devoted 12 hours and 11 minutes to live appearances by Bush -- including Tuesday's prime-time news conference, which was also carried by NBC, CBS and ABC. Kerry's live cable coverage during this period: 3 hours 47 minutes.

Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt calls the coverage "a testament to who's making news. . . . We think being on the cable news programs is very important because people who follow politics and cover politics keep a close eye on their TVs during the day."


MSNBC Vice President Mark Effron says that "we take more of President Bush when he's acting in his legitimate role as president of the United States." Yet even "if he's in a plant talking about the economy, for our world, that's news." Kerry, says Effron, "hasn't exactly been out there grandstanding and making a lot of news." But most of these appearances generate newspaper stories.

Politics is TV with the sound turned off. For many Americans, if you aren't on TV, you don't exist.

Extension Chord

Via Catch.com, this e-mail (excerpted) from the wife of a soldier in Iraq. She describes how her husband's company was literally waiting at the airport to leave for home when their tour was abruptly extended. Her husband briefly stayed behind but the rest of his unit was ambushed on their way back and one of the soldiers was killed:

This extension was a death sentence for that poor soldier. This extension cost three children their father. And it will cost much more. And now, to touchstone: My husband signed up so that he could go to college. If we would have forseen this, there is no way that he would have put his name on that dotted line. He has missed the birth of his third child.....he could die out there. He's supposed to be sitting safe in Kuwait right now, but instead, he's in a tent because their barracks were taken over by 1st Cavalry soldiers who went in to replace them. They haven't got enough food right now, because there are too many soldiers on that base, and DoD was too short sighted to think that they might end up needing more troops. All their stuff is out to sea at the time being, so they are just sitting ducks waiting for their equipment to come back. This is a fiasco and a logistical nightmare. DoD and Rummy have been denying that there is a troop shortage for MONTHS! General Shinseki predicted this and was forced to retire. In November, Senator McCain called for at least 15,000 more troops. Well, shucks, seems they were right after all.

This is why grunts in the military coin phrases like FUBAR, although this ranks right up there with the FUBARest civilian brass in history. Rummy simply refused to entertain the idea that his RMA, electronic battlefield, third wave wet dream wasn't working. Now, the shit comes down and you've got troops being extended at the very last minute and they don't even have enough food.

I heard McCain on the radio yesterday saying something about mistakes are always made in battle and yadda, yadda, yadda. He cited McArthur's gloriously successful Inchon landing maneuver which was followed by his absurd calculation that the Chinese wouldn't push back into the south as an example of a major achievement followed by a major mistake. Of course, he fails to mention that McArthur followed up that major mistake by insisting that we should start WWIII, and got fired for it, so I'm not sure how much water that argument holds. In any case, we are reaching a point where somebody needs to be fired. For my money, if you want to take care of the ongoing FUBAR problem, that somebody should be George W. Bush.

Monday, April 19, 2004

You Can Believe Me or You Can Believe Your Lyin' Eyes

Michael Tomasky gets to the point. It's really very simple:

My overwhelming reaction to the 60 Minutes segment on Bob Woodward's new book and the reports and leaks about the book over the weekend is that Woodward's account shows a man who just doesn't have the intellectual capacity to do this job. This may not strike some readers as a newsflash, I know, but Woodward does shed some new light on the question. Bush took this country in a radically new foreign-policy direction without really thinking through the consequences of his actions; without reckoning in a serious way with the question "What if we're wrong?"; without seeking the input of aides who might have disagreed or painted a more complex picture than the one he wanted painted for him. It's a profoundly irresponsible way to govern.

What his defenders will continue to call his "idealism" -- the belief that God put him in the Oval Office to spread liberty's bounty across the globe and so on -- is in fact a rather shocking shallowness. It's fine and indeed admirable for a world leader to speak this way, to aspire to greatness and fairness for his nation and for the world; Tony Blair did so in the run-up to the war, and his pro-war speeches were considerably more convincing than Bush's. But clearly, Bush actually believes this and looks at global geopolitics this way. This, too, might be fine, if it were balanced by more hard-headed and skeptical assessments, but Bush seems to have embraced it as a totalizing explanation. And as such, it has barred other interpretations of world events at the door.

Even this might be fine, if the consequences had not been so tragic. But once Bush transformed himself in his mind into God's messenger of liberty, things like the State Department's multi-volume report on post-war Iraq -- a report that predicted many of the tragedies that have come to pass -- became irrelevant. What was the research of mere mortals next to the fiery inscriptions of God, emblazoned across his welcoming mind?

And so hundreds are dead today who didn't need to die, because the possibility of their deaths was not supposed to be part of the great plan and therefore was not contemplated in its mandated fullness. There exists no acceptable definition of "idealism" by which the above qualifies as such. Neither is it quite malevolence. Dick Cheney is malevolent, all right, but he's not the president, at least officially; not the one making the final call. It is incompetence. It is shallowness. To put it more colloquially, it?s trying to wish something true; we've all done it in our private lives, so we all know how irresponsible it is.

And it's happening because the guy in charge doesn't know any better. Our first impression was, catastrophically, right.

Yessiree. But to listen to bespectacled, waspy, Episcopalean beltway insider Fred "Nascar" Barnes, this is wrong because "real Americans" like him don't need no stinkin' Kissingerian nuance.

I'll leave it to the inimitable Charles Pierce to retort:

One of the reactions to C-Plus Augustus's prime-time blithering that makes me truly angry is the notion that only elitist Blue Staters expect the president to get from a subject to an object without breaking an ankle, but that the good plain-spoken average American doesn't cotton to such book-larnin', consarn it.

What a huge steaming crock of beans. One of the nice things about being a sportswriter is that you actually get to see a lot of the country and you get to meet a lot of its people, many of them living in places that people like David Brooks and the Crazy Dolphin Queen visit only in their smug condescension. I have seen the sun rise over the Piedmont and I have seen it set over the Mississippi Delta. I know the way Puget Sound looks on a clear morning, and the way the snow blows straight up off the surface of Lake Superior on a cold afternoon. I know how the Ohio sounds, and how it sounds different from how the Fox River sounds. I have played bingo in Wisconsin and I have played poker in Reno and I have gambled on horses in the sweet breezes of Keeneland. I've seen Tracy Chapman in a subway, and Muddy Waters on a midway, and Bob Dylan at Bally's Grand on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. I have seen Michael Jordan play. I have been around.

Don't tell me what this country and its people think -- and, especially, don't be using that "We" thing to do it. Don't tell me that, as a nation, we can't distinguish courage from stubbornness, philosophy from platitudes, and an empty suit from a full one. Don't tell me we prize simplicity when you really mean we prize the simple. Don't tell me about my country and my countrymen, you smarmy, honorarium-fattened, makeup-encrusted hyenas. Don't you freaking dare. I been there.

And, by the way, all of her Beltway Heather pals should note that Peggy Noonan this week intimated that asking the president of the United States what in the hell he's doing makes you less of a real American. Go on. Go on the shows with her again, and know the contempt she feels for your craft. Then, go home and break every damn mirror you own.

It is foolish for Democrats to buy into the notion that it is too dangerous to question Bush's competence to do this job. That is blatent GOP propaganda designed to cow us into discarding a potent argument. The vast majority of American people don't follow politics to the extent that we junkies do and they don't care all that much about the details. But they are remarkably good at cutting through the bullshit when it's right in front of them.

Throughout the 90's the Republicans cried wolf on average of once or twice a week. Clinton was the anti-christ. A corrupt, murdering, philandering communist was running the country. When he was finally caught with his pants down (literally), the American people were fascinated but unmoved. His approval rating remained strong even through impeachment procedings. And that, of course, is what saved him.
And it was because they believed what they saw with their own eyes --- a competent president caught in an entertaining political spectacle that didn't affect their lives.

Bush is dumb. People can see that with their own eyes, too, and Fred Barnes knows it. That's the real subtext of that whole "the grown-ups are back in charge," nonsense. Most people thought that Bush was a middle of the road fella who would listen to his Dad if anything big came up and would calm the partisan waters. After all that wild sex with Clinton he was supposed to be the cigarette in the afterglow. But, they knew he was dumb. Times were so good that quite a few people didn't think it mattered all that much who was president.

After 9/11, people wanted to believe that Bush had risen to the occasion because it was too frightening to think otherwise. The GOP successfully framed criticism as lack of patriotism. And, as with Clinton's TV soap opera, the press liked the big budget war movie. So, for a short time Bush was seen as bold, resolute, strong, decisive, whatever. Unfortunately for him, he then made the huge mistake of selling a war on a demonstrably false premise. They can try to ignore that big fat GOP elephant in the middle of the room, but it isn't going away. There are no weapons of mass destruction and Bush is babbling about turkey farms and mustard gas. He can't testify before the 9/11 commission without Vice President Gepetto. Republicans are writing tell all books about his failures even before his first term is finished. Everyone is being reminded that he never was very bright.

Now, candidates and their surrogates can't go around saying that too obviously because people will begin to feel sorry for him. But, they should be constantly talking about the complexity of the problems we face. They should discuss what leadership really is and tie it in to experience, maturity, trust and brains.

And the rest of us should use humor to hammer the point home. I'll never forget Jon Stewert's countdown of the biggest stories of 2000. The top story of the year was Florida, naturally. We'd been watching footage from the state for one reason or another for the entire 12 months. He ran down the story of the recount and the supreme court decision and then said something like "and at the center of the storm that was Florida this year was one small frightened little boy." At which point he showed a picture of George W. Bush.

It was obvious then and it's obvious now that Bush is in over his head. And Fred Barnes's protestations to the contrary are as phony as Bush senior chomping on that bag of pork rinds.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Fools Rush In

The media reports of smiling Iraqis leading inspectors around, opening up buildings and saying, "See, there's nothing here," infuriated Bush, who then would read intelligence reports showing the Iraqis were moving and concealing things. It wasn't clear what was being moved, but it looked to Bush as if Hussein was about to fool the world again. It looked as if the inspections effort was not sufficiently aggressive, would take months or longer, and was likely doomed to fail.

George W. Bush, Master and Commander of the Royal order of the Codpiece had sworn that you could fool him once, but fool him twice ... won't get fooled again. And Saddam was trying to fool him.

As we all know, this is total crap because VP Gepetto had told GWB that he was going to war over a year before. The president rather endearingly thought he was making a decision that had long ago been made. He's so cute when he's confused.

You can't exactly blame the lil' guy, though. Condi Rice, obviously suffering from a late night of single gal Pinot Grigios with Gwen Ifill, groaned this pile of nonsense when Junior asked her if we should go to war:

"Yes," she said. "Because it isn't American credibility on the line, it is the credibility of everybody that this gangster can yet again beat the international system." As important as credibility was, she said, "Credibility should never drive you to do something you shouldn't do." But this was much bigger, she advised, something that should be done. "To let this threat in this part of the world play volleyball with the international community this way will come back to haunt us someday. That is the reason to do it."

It isn't about American credibility it's about international credibility. Credibility shouldn't drive you to do something you shouldn't do, but if you don't do this international credibility will suffer so you should do it.

This answer explains why Condi's was the only opinion he sought. His poor head ached for days after that one.

He knew what Vice President Cheney thought, and he decided not to ask Secretary of State Colin L. Powell or Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"I could tell what they thought," the president recalled. "I didn't need to ask them their opinion about Saddam Hussein. If you were sitting where I sit, you could be pretty clear. I think we've got an environment where people feel free to express themselves."

Well, sort of:

In all the discussions, meetings, chats and back-and-forth, in Powell's grueling duels with Rumsfeld and Defense, the president had never once asked Powell, Would you do this? What's your overall advice? The bottom line?

Perhaps the president feared the answer. Perhaps Powell feared giving it. It would, after all, have been an opportunity to say he disagreed. But they had not reached that core question, and Powell would not push. He would not intrude on that most private of presidential space -- where a president made decisions of war and peace -- unless he was invited. He had not been invited.

Bush's meeting with Powell lasted 12 minutes. "It was a very cordial conversation," the president recalled. "It wasn't a long conversation," he noted. "There wasn't much debate: It looks like we're headed to war."

The president stated emphatically that though he had asked Powell to be with him and support him in a war, "I didn't need his permission."

He's so wonderfully masterful, isn't he? Especially for someone with his cognitive handicaps. It reminds me of Junior's quote in Woodward's BlowJob Part I:

"I'm the commander. See, I don't have to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

He didn't need to ask Powell for his opinion because he knew his opinion and anyway he didn't agree with it. Why bother listening to him go on and on and be so, like totally boring? Cheney and Rumsfeld were both telling him he should do it so there was no reason to ask them. They made him feel like a man. However, he did have to ask one other very, very important and highly experienced person her opinion on the matter:

"I asked Karen," the president recalled. "She said if you go to war, exhaust all opportunities to achieve [regime change] peacefully. And she was right. She actually captured my own sentiments."

It's pretty clear that Junior has no sentiments until he talks to Karen to find out what they are.

The only people Junior explicitly asked for opinions on whether to go to war with Iraq were Condi Rice and Karen Hughes. Both women told him he should do it --- Condi babbling something confused about playing international volleyball and Karen basically telling him to look both ways before crossing the street.

Meanwhile Vice President Richelieu sits in the corner saying nothing except a well timed "Saddam's toast" to our Secretary of Oil, Prince Bandar --- who is informed of our decision to go to war before anybody tells the Secretary of State.

Oh, sorry. Bush had informed one other person over the holidays:

The president also informed Karl Rove, his chief political strategist, of his decision over the holidays. Rove had gone to Crawford to brief Bush on the confidential plan for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. While Laura Bush sat reading a book, Rove gave a PowerPoint presentation on the campaign's strategy, themes and timetable.

Opening his laptop, he displayed for Bush in bold letters on a dark blue background:


Strong Leader

Bold Action

Big Ideas

Peace in World

More Compassionate America

Cares About People Like Me

Leads a Strong Team

I don't think even Shakespeare could do this farce justice.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Onward Christian Soldiers

In two interviews with Woodward in December, Bush minimized the failure to find the weapons of mass destruction, expressed no doubts about his decision to invade Iraq, and enunciated an activist role for the United States based on it being "the beacon for freedom in the world."

"I believe we have a duty to free people," Bush told Woodward. "I would hope we wouldn't have to do it militarily, but we have a duty."

The president described praying as he walked outside the Oval Office after giving the order to begin combat operations against Iraq, and the powerful role his religious belief played throughout that time.

"Going into this period, I was praying for strength to do the Lord's will. ... I'm surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that. Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible. And then, of course, I pray for personal strength and for forgiveness."

The president told Woodward that "I am prepared to risk my presidency to do what I think is right. I was going to act. And if it could cost the presidency, I fully realized that. But I felt so strongly that it was the right thing to do that I was prepared to do so."

Wow, that's quite a sacrifice. And hey, if it costs many thousands of other people their lives he's prepared to do that too.

Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: "History. We don't know. We'll all be dead."

Maybe sooner than we think.

An unelected simpleton feels strongly that he has a duty to free the world so the mightiest nation on earth has no choice but to do as he says.

Are freedom and democracy great, or what?


David Brooks admits that he has always been wrong about everything, but he's sure that in 20 years he will be right about something.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Freedom Crusade

Both TAPPED and the Political Animal praised Ron Klain's admonition against making mock of President Bush's invocation of religion in his press conference the other night. I think it's probably true that his statement about the "Almighty" giving the gift of freedom to every human being is inspiring to many Americans and shouldn't be laughed at. . However, Klain also seems to imply that the use of the term "unalienable" rights in the Declaration of Independence somehow justifies what appears to be a new global moral crusade to "bring freedom" to the world:

Rather than laughing at the president's invocation of the notion of natural rights to justify his policies in Iraq, Democrats should make it abundantly clear that they share the president's view that all humans are created free and are entitled to enjoy the benefit of that innate freedom. After all, wasn't the idea of an "unalienable" right to liberty put into writing in 1776 by the father of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson? And more recently, haven't these been the ideals that Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Gore pursued around the world -- often with great derision from conservatives?

Instead of belittling the president's reliance on the Almighty, Democrats should make clear that we share the president's goals but think that his methods have been deeply flawed. The mission may be from above, but the planning has been from someplace else.

I don't belittle his reliance on the Almighty, but straying from that to a messianic message of "spreading freedom" is quite obviously translating into the belief that the United States may use this as a pretext to invade countries irrespective of international law and civilized behavior. That kind of "liberation" is a goal I most vehemently do not share because the truth of the matter is that the United States is not imbued by the Almighty with omnipotence or any special claim to goodness and wisdom. Our crime statistics our justice system our poverty rate and any number of other serious flaws in our society prove this.

Freedom is a wonderful thing and I'm all for it, but I am a long way from being convinced that the United States of America is the best of all possible free worlds and I am deeply concerned by the idea that we are empowering leaders to take the position that we are so spectacularly superior to all other nations that it is an unalloyed good thing to "free" people around the world, including little children, even if it kills them. The price for this kind of liberation for many an individual is extremely high. It is very, very arrogant to assume that people are willing to pay it.

This is one good reason to have international institutions and a requirement for consensus before nations can go willy nilly "liberating" others. What we may see as "liberation" is oppression and exploitation to someone else, even within the US itself. We are not equipped either morally or intellectually to take this task upon ourselves. We simply do not have all the answers and Thomas Jefferson would be the first to admit that.

This is some dangerous shit, people. This is the kind of thing that makes people start humming "Ride Of The Valkyries," and talking about Ubermenschen. I thought the shop worn myth of American Exceptionalism was disturbing but the "American Freedom Crusade" scares the hell out of me.

Bush and Blair Transcript

Q: Mr. President, some of your critics are saying that it's a political ploy by you to stand firm to this June 30th deadline, especially that you don't have an Iraqi organization to transfer power over to. What do you say to that? And what organization would you like to see transferred power over to - both of you, if you could answer that?

BUSH: The important thing to know is that if you look into an Iraqi soul you will see someone who doesn't know what time it is. See, you have to remember these people come from a place where if you cut 'n run you wind up raped in a grave, gassed and maimed and they can't forget that so we have to be tough and stay the course. That's why I will lead a coalition of the willing and I WILL disarm Saddam Hussein.

You have to understand that we don't know what fear is because we are free. And we love freedom and being free and we want everybody to be free so they can love freedom everywhere where there can be freedom and people can be free. See, that means they'll have hope. When they think we might cut 'n run and not stay the course time goes by very slowly because you think there will be maiming and torture and killing and mass graves and gassing and then you won't know what freedom is because you won't be free like we are free and everyone else should be free. That's why we will smoke 'em out o' their caves, where the evil doers hide in spider holes hating freedom.

We are great countries because we believe that freedom is for everybody not just us so we will make everybody in the world free so the world will be a better place of peace and hope.

We will show these Iraqis that because they have been tortured and maimed and raped and gassed in massive rooms with their own people that what it takes to be civilized is a document we call the TAR. It's a fantastic historic opportunity for them to learn how to protect tough minorities. I told the Iraqis we are giving them the freedom to be civilized and I meant it.

And the Palestinians have a fantastic opportunity for freedom at this historic moment, too, because they will have a solid foundation of big institutions instead of people just like us. They will live in security measures of peace and freedom. That means folks need to view it as a historic moment so the Palestinian state can live in peace with its neighbors. It's a moment we've got to seize. Because final discussion will become a lot plainer once there's a peaceful state full of hope and freedom. See, you have to understand that we think it's possible because possible is what we think it is. If the Palestinians find peace and hope and the neighbors of the Palestinians will support the emergence of hope and peace in a peaceful state of hope it will be a fantastic opportunity to love their neighbors like they'd love to loved themselves.

This is a momentous, historic seizure. But, I don't want to put words in the Prime Minister's mouth:

BLAIR: Fuck. me.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Democratic Unity

Matt Stoller at The Blogging of the President has a very interesting post up about the "Democratic Coalition." I urge everyone to read it because it discusses the challenge of governing if we do manage to wrest the presidency from Junior and the Retreads.

Matt sees the Party as being split between four groups. First, there is the party apparatus which consists of Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and the writers of The Nation who are basically concerned with preserving their power. The second group is made up of those like Howard Dean and Al Gore who are forward looking and believe in refreshing the talent pool rather than clinging to outmoded power structures. Then there is group three who are essentially reformers first and politicians later, many of them the independents and third party types who might work with Democrats if they are willing to reform themselves in a way that pleases them. The fourth are leftist vanity players like Kucinich and Sharpton who are the poster children for what the wing-nuts describe as the deviant left.

I think that Matt may be a bit unnecessarily cynical about group number one and perhaps a bit naive about group number two, but aside from that, I think this is a good definition of a large portion of the party. I do think that you can't discount the various constituency groups like unions, feminists, racial minorities and gays. This is an essential part of the coalition that is represented within our party for a reason --- Democrats care about these people and Republicans don't. Identity politics is a dirty phrase invented by the Wurlitzer to disparage Democrats.

I think that we will continue to have quite a bit of tension between all of these groups because well ... we always have. The Democratic Party does not respond well to top-down hierarchical models of governance which makes us intrinsically at odds. Even FDR had a helluva time keeping it together and he had the mandate of all mandates. I can certainly understand the outrage of the Dean supporter at being asked to sign a "unity pledge" at a Democratic Meet-up:

I was and still am a Dean supporter. I cannot speak for supporters of Clark, Edwards, Gephardt, etc., but the pledge is clearly directed at those of us that did not support Kerry in the primary campaign. Apparently the Democratic Party thinks that it needs us to sign a unity pledge, to prevent us from peeling off into apathy or Naderland. I have been a Democrat all my life, and don't feel that I need to sign anything to prove my loyalty, unity, status, etc.

Beyond that, I want to focus on the reason I was attracted to Dean in the first place. It was almost a year ago that I first saw Dean speak. He stepped up to the microphone and said "What I want to know is what all those Democrats in Washington are doing voting for George Bush's [x, y, or z]." That hooked me! For the first time, here was someone that understood that for the past 25 years the Democratic Party has been bending over and accommodating the Republicans. We've been letting ourselves get steamrolled ever since Day One of the Reagan Administration, and Dean was calling the party out on it!

So I should not be expected to sign a unity pledge, or loyalty oath, or anything like it. Nor should Howard Dean. The people that should be signing the pledge, in a very public ceremony, should be Terry McAuliffe, Al From and the rest of the DLC, and all the Democrats in the House and Senate, including John F. Kerry, who voted for the Republican war in Iraq and the Republican Patriot Act, John Edwards, who voted for the Republican war in Iraq and the Republican Patriot Act, and Dick Gephardt, who co-wrote the Republican Iraq war resolution, and Wesley Clark, who had the audacity to run for the Democratic nomination for the presidency when he wasn't even a Democrat.

Those are the people that need to be demonstrating that they will stand with the party!

Like I said, I would be outraged at being asked to sign any kind of "loyalty oath." I hate stuff like that and I think it is antithetical to everything Democrats are supposed to believe in. But, surely we can all see the internal inconsistency of the argument as expressed here, can't we?

"...The people who should be asked to sign a unity pledge ...in a very public ceremony ...are anybody...I ... don't...approve...of.

Matt says that this kind of rage is the result of a traditional party structure and he believes that someday the Party will "once again emerge as a source of self-expressive pride for a majority of the citizenry." I don't know that it ever has been that, really, but I certainly think it's possible.

However, I will be my usual dark Cassandra in this argument and issue my standard warning. There is a great big political battle going on with a bunch of guys who take no prisoners. We are not dealing with our daddy's Republican Party. They are not going to disappear and they are not going to allow us to enact a progressive agenda unimpeded. We'd best take that into account because simply reforming the Democratic Party into a fighting progressive voice for change ain't gonna get it done. We need every last person for this battle from all those awful DLC'rs and Democrats in the House and Senate to John Edwards to audacious faux Dem Wes Clark to Howard Dean. We don't have to sign any loyalty oaths but we do have to be serious and mature and understand how terribly difficult and how high the stakes are in trying to govern with the sort of opposition that puts a criminal like Tom DeLay into a leadership position. They will fight with everything they have.

If the Democrats take back the White House the Republicans are going to lose their minds, not because our party is faulty because theirs is. We need to remember that. We may be imperfect, but they are nuts.

Midterm Election Mistakes Redux

I've been supportive of John Kerry's need to find an acceptable strategy for dealing with this mess in Iraq. The fact is that until we wean ourselves from our childish dependence on gas guzzling penis-mobiles, we are probably not going to be able to simply leave Iraq now that we have totally destabilized the region with Bush's "call" to free the Iraqi's from their lives. I do think that with a different president we might be able to summon up some sort of legitimate multinational commmitment to pour money and manpower into the country and at least make a serious attempt to help the Iraqi people create a decent political system. I don't know if it will work, but I do know that it hasn't been tried and it needs to be. Like it or not --- and I don't --- unless we clean up this mess, the national security and economic ramifications are much more severe than I think people are willing to admit.

But, I also think Kerry's framing and delivery of this message is just terrible. The choice in this is not between "cutting and running" and "staying the course" or between being "thoughtful" and "thoughtless." It is between being honest and dishonest, persuasive and bullying, succeeding and failing. Kerry needs to sharpen his words and punch up his energy. This tepid me-tooism will not work. Having said that, I do think that Kerry is substantially right on the issue of Iraq.

On the other hand, this is simply mystifying:

"I think that could be a positive step," the Massachusetts senator said, approving of the Bush-Sharon action regarding both refugees and Israel's borders. "What's important obviously is the security of the state of Israel, and that's what the prime minister and the president, I think, are trying to address."

I guess things just aren't hot enough in the mideast right now.

Honestly, you can't get any more cravenly chickenshit than this. Not only is it a monumental change in American foreign policy, it is a blatant domestic political maneuver at exactly the wrong moment.

There is a possibility that the action by Bush could further aggravate the situation in Iraq, just as Israel's killing of a prominent Palestinian militant set off rioting in Iraq several weeks ago. Independent pollster John Zogby, who has surveyed extensively in the Arab world, said: "This is pretty much the final nail in the coffin of the peace process as far as Arabs are concerned." He said his polling indicates the Palestinian cause is among the top three issues for 90 percent of Arabs in all Arab countries he has surveyed. "It's not even a political issue, it's a bloodstream issue," Zogby said


"This will make it that much harder for John Kerry to win Florida," said a Republican aide on Capitol Hill who refused to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. Associates said Bush's strategists believe that even small inroads into the Jewish vote could mean the difference between winning and losing Florida, and several Republicans believe the announcement could further inhibit Kerry's fundraising in the Jewish community.

For one thing, for Kerry to agree that the Florida Jews --- most of whom are retired New Yorkers --- will vote for Bush because of this is to completely insult them. They aren't drooling idiots like so many of the GOP's blind followers. They have enough sophistication to understand the complexity of this situation, no matter how much they may yearn for Israel's safety and security.

And they, of all people, have a mighty motivation to oust Junior from the oval office. He and his followers have been calling them idiots for the last three years for not being able to decipher Teresa LaPore's ballot hieroglyphics. They wouldn't vote for Bush if Kerry soul-kissed Yassar Arafat on Saturday night Live.

I suppose that it is possible Kerry genuinely believes that jettisoning any hope of getting rid of the settlements or even a symbolic right of return is a good idea. If so, then we have serious problems because he apparently believes that the best way to negotiate is to take all of your negotiating cards off the table. Regardless of where you hope the process wil eventually lead, this is not good. Bush got rolled and Kerry threw his arms around his neck and rolled with him.

I am honestly stumped by this. If Kerry plans to win the election by endorsing all of Bush's insane foreign policy pronouncements then it's lost before it's begun. I don't demand that he abandon all pretense of moderation or that he embrace some sort of isolationism. I wouldn't support that much less do I think it would win the election. I do however expect him to at least object to the Bush administration's crazy, fucked up neocon wetdreams that are likely to get a lot of people --- including Americans --- killed.

If this really is all about fundraising then I think Billmon has it right:

It strikes me that bin Laden has been going about this all wrong. If he'd just started his own PAC, and spread enough money around, he probably could have gotten Congress to vote to blow up the World Trade Center.

Faux Outrage For Dummies

The incomparable Sommerby discusses the piece of RNC propaganda posing as news on the front page of the NY Times this morning. Jim Rutenberg dutifully parrots the painfully obvious Gillespin that the Democratic 9/11 commissioners (particularly Ben-Veniste) are blind partisans who are all over the television promoting themselves at the expense of truth, God and the American Way. This talking point was ALL over GOPTV yersterday, bursting forth from the mouths of every Bush shill from Tuckie Carlson to Brit Hume. In fact, I haven't seen a case of such perfect conformity since the Taiwanese synchronized swim team got a perfect 10.

It so happens I was listening to my local NPR station on the freeway last night when I heard none other than Thomas Kean, Republican commision chairman, saying that the commission was encouraging the commissioners to give intereviews in the interest of openness. Even in the Times article he's quoted saying:

"We made a conscious decision, and part of it was under strong pressure from the families, to make this commission as transparent and as visible as possible."

I guess Cheney's stooges forgot to tell Tommy that he was supposed to keep a lid on the bad news. Let's hope Fredo doesn't find out.

Sommerby points out the obvious fact that Ruttenberg doesn't name any actual Democrats complaining about this openness (although they certainly could --- John Lehman is all over the place, too.) He says they are, but can't seem to quote one on or off the record. Maybe Zell's trying to keep a lower profile these days. But, the fact is that this is step two in the coordinated GOP effort to discredit the 9/11 committee and anyone with half a brain can spot it a mile away. (Gingerly trashing the widows was step one.)

I'm of the opinion that the single most partisan act of the commission hearings came from the Attorney General of the United States when he appeared before them and testified as if he were a political hatchet man for Dick Nixon. Now that was a little bit unseemly, in my book. (And in Gary Hart's book too.) But, apparently Jim Rutenberg loves those red kool-aid kamikazes they're serving up down at RNC headquarters so much that he can't help but grab Karl Rove's dictation and yank for all he's worth.

The NY Times is playing its useful idiot role once again. To use one of Karen Hughes's favorite words, I'm sure the Republicans find that "comforting."

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Liberal radio stations silenced

I wondered what the hell was going on when I turned on Franken and heard Spanish language radio. I know someone who works for Arthur Liu and he's a certifiable nutcase.

Update: Air America responds

Yep. He's Naked

The New York Times finally notices that the Emperor has no clothes:

...his responses to questions were distressingly rambling and unfocused.

...his rhetoric, including the repetition of the phrase "stay the course," did not seem to indicate any fresh or clear thinking about Iraq, despite the many disturbing events of recent weeks.

...Mr. Bush seemed to entertain no doubts about the rightness of his own behavior, no questions about whether he should have done something in response to the domestic terrorism report he received on Aug. 6, 2001.

...The United States has experienced so many crises since Mr. Bush took office that it sometimes feels as if the nation has embarked on one very long and painful learning curve in which every accepted truism becomes a doubt, every expectation a question mark. Only Mr. Bush somehow seems to have avoided any doubt, any change.

He was no more incoherent and stubbornly repetitive than usual last night. All you have to do is go back and read the transcripts of his other press conferences to see that he has always been this bizarrely robotic, unresponsive and ill informed. For some reason the press in this country decided not to notice for over 3 years that our president obviously has no grasp of the the complicated issues he faces.

It's good that they are finally beginning to say something, but an awful lot of misery could have been prevented if they had done their job and instead of regurgitating RNC lies about Al Gore had reported the fact that the Republicans had nominated an idiot to run the most powerful country in the world.

I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet...I hope I -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

This is the most powerful man in the world.

Update: NT Times Link fixed.

And Will Saleton has the stomach to deconstruct Junior's press conference. It's not pretty.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

He Must Be Defeated

The Teacher's Aid in Chief lectures the American people as if they are just as stupid as he is. As usual, he filibusters with his puerile incoherent blather, going on and on and on not making any sense, projecting arrogance and ignorance in equal measure.

I am deeply ashamed to be American right now.

Consummate Prick

Has there ever been a more blatantly partisan Attorney General than the Crisco Kid? This testimony today was contemptuous, dishonest and disturbingly inappropriate. In any other administration someone who acted out as he did today would be fired:

Attorney General John Ashcroft strongly defended the Bush administration and himself today before the 9/11 commission, laying the blame for intelligence failures prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks squarely on the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Mr. Ashcroft said Al Qaeda was able to plan and carry out the attacks that killed some 3,000 people in large part because of policies of the Clinton administration and its deliberate neglect of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's computer technology.


Mr. Ashcroft said that to the contrary, he personally went to the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, on March 7, 2001, and urged her to scuttle what he characterized as an ineffective policy of the Clinton administration specifying that Mr. bin Laden had to be captured, and only in a way that lawyers would approve.

"Even if they could have penetrated bin Laden's training camp, they would have needed a battery of attorneys to approve the capture," Mr. Ashcroft said sarcastically.

Mr. Ashcroft said that he wanted "decisive, lethal action" and had told Ms. Rice, "We should find and kill bin Laden."

The attorney general sounded almost contemptuous as he spoke of a "legal wall" put into effect in 1995 to separate criminal investigators from intelligence agents in an effort to safeguard individual rights.

I'm afraid that Mr Ashcroft has a strange understanding of his job description. It was not his responsibility to tell the administration that he "wanted decisive, lethal action" overseas. It was his responsibility to deal with terrorism threats in the United States, a responsibility he failed miserably to meet.

I believe that he lied outright today when he denied (under oath) that he told Picker that he didn't want to hear about terrorism anymore.

BEN-VENISTE: And according to the statement that our staff took from you, you said that you would start each meeting discussing either counterterrorism or counterintelligence. At the same time the threat level was going up and was very high. Mr. Watson had come to you and said that the CIA was very concerned that there would be an attack. You said that you told the attorney general this fact repeatedly in these meetings. Is that correct?

PICKARD: I told him at least on two occasions.

BEN-VENISTE: And you told the staff according to this statement that Mr. Ashcroft told you that he did not want to hear about this anymore. Is that correct?

PICKARD: That is correct.


"First of all, Acting Director Pickard and I had more than two meetings," Mr. Ashcroft said evenly. "We had regular meetings."

And far from turning away from briefings on terrorism, Mr. Ashcroft said, "I care greatly about the safety and security of the American people and was very interested in terrorism, and specifically interrogated him about threats to the American people, and domestic threats in particular."

All of his actions indicate that he didn't want to hear about terrorism. I'll be expecting some harsh words from Senator Catkiller on the floor of the Senate tomorrow. Words like perjury and "letter of resignation."

Yeah, I know. And people in hell want icewater.


A couple of other questions I'd like to see raised in Junior's thrid prime time news conference:

1) Three months ago you proposed an ambitious multi-billion plan to send a mission to Mars and establish a permanent base on the moon in the next few years to harvest materials to process into rocket fuel and breathable air. How much of a priority will you place on this initiative in a second Bush administration?

2) There is no mention in your speeches of your immigration proposal announced this January, allowing large numbers of foreign guest workers to temporarily work legally in the United States. Do you plan to put the muscle of the White House behind the legislation proposals sponsored by Senators McCain and Hagel this session?


E.J Dionne quotes Bush at a fund raiser last week saying: "We stand for a culture of responsibility in America. We're changing the culture of this country from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you got a problem, blame somebody else, to a culture in which each of us are responsible for the decisions we make in life."

I heard that fundraising speech (dutifully shown in its entirely live on CNN) and I too was struck by the unbelievable irony of his statement. It's actually beyond ironic. It's deluded.

In my fantasy America a reporter would repeat those lines to Bush tonight and then ask him if he thinks there are any problems --- from 9/11 failures to the economy to Iraq --- for which he bears any responsibility.

But, I'm sure that is impossible. Instead, we will hear the "journalists" ask him something like "how soon will you be able to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq?" at which point he'll filibuster incoherently for half an hour blathering on about good 'n evul 'n thugs 'n caves 'n smoken 'em out. Then he'll tell a reporter how ugly he is and everyone willl laugh uproariously at his comedic genius and go home.

Ahmad At The Helm

I said the other day that I didn't know how to fix the problem in Iraq, but I do know that a good first step would be to uncermoniously dump that charlatan opportunist Ahmad Chalabi. According to this Cheney and Wolfowitz are as committed to him as ever:

Why did they do it? It seemed a safe bet to the civilian echelon policymakers at the Department of Defense when they approved Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer's fateful decision to close down the newspaper of Muqtada al-Sadr and to arrest an aide to the young firebrand Shiite cleric. Even after Shiite Iraq had erupted into fury over the moves on Saturday, April 3, top-level Pentagon policymakers were privately still convinced it was all a storm in a teacup.

A small event on Sunday, April 4, the very day after the move against al-Sadr prompted the revolt, provides the missing piece to the puzzle. For that was when the CPA announced the name of Iraq's putative new defense minister for the post-June 30 government. His name is Ali Allawi and he is a loyal, close associate of Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress. More, he is Chalabi's nephew.


There is no way that the move against al-Sadr was undertaken without Chalabi's prior knowledge and explicit approval. Instead, given the extraordinary degree to which the Pentagon policymakers and Vice President Dick Cheney continue to privately disparage the far more accurate, sober and reliable professional assessments of the U.S. Army's own tactical military intelligence in Iraq, it appears clear that, yet again, Chalabi was the tail that wagged the dog. He could have been expected to urge the move on al-Sadr in the first place.

The benefit to him is obvious. Chalabi believes -- as do his still-worshipful Pentagon backers -- that he has the blessing of supposedly moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the mainstream chief religious authority of the Iraqi Shiites, to take power on July 1 with the force of 110,000 U.S. soldiers and their automatic weapons behind him.

However, just as the neocons lead President Bush by the nose, and Chalabi leads them by the nose, Sistani and the Iranians have been leading him by the nose.

Sistani's policy toward the CPA and Chalabi has been no different from the way he survived as an ayatollah all those years under Saddam Hussein, which was no mean feat. Sistani is playing a cautious waiting game and avoiding the ire of those who currently are top dog in Baghdad. He will drop Chalabi -- and the United States -- at the drop of a hat as soon it becomes clear that they cannot run or tame Iraq.


The myth of Iraqization of this war is now dead. The Pentagon masterminds remain determined to push Chalabi through as prime minister and absolute ruler of Iraq de facto on July 1. GOP heavyweights have even been assured around Washington that hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks from U.S. companies to Chalabi to do business in Iraq will be used for a good cause: to spread democracy in -- read, destabilize -- neighboring Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Political Warrior

Kos and Susan are asking: "Why is Kerry running?"

Obviously, there are many reasons any person runs for president having to do with ego and accident. After observing him for a while, I think John Kerry is responding to the call in the 30 year political civil war with the Republicans. He understands that they have become dangerously radical and that it's time to break their hold on power. He knows this territory.

In that sense, I confess I'm surprised that liberals aren't taking more heart in the fact that John Kerry is a card carrying fighting Massachusetts liberal. We should be thrilled that somebody as liberal as Kerry has got a chance to be president. Because let's not kid ourselves, anybody more liberal than John Kerry is unelectable. The last non-southerner was JFK (with the younger JFK sitting on the left):

He's not a crook, he's not lazy, he's not stupid. He's very accomplished, he's highly experienced and he's got good instincts. But, I'm convinced that the most important character traits in a successful President at this point in history are resiliance and cunning; even if we win the election, politics are going to remain a bloodsport. The Republicans aren't going to fade away. This battle is ongoing and we must have someone who can withstand a punch and come back. It is going to be very, very difficult to govern. I think Kerry is running not because he's "electable," but because he's one of the few Democrats of his generation who has spent his life preparing to govern in the face of a radical political opposition. The job is not for the fainthearted.

But, even if you don't believe that any of that is tue, I think it is safe to say that the Democratic nominee for president is always going to be running to one degree or another:

To protect and defend the citizens of the United States.

To preserve the separation of church and state

To safeguard the right to choose.

To provide a decent safety net

To encourage progressive taxation

To protect the environment

To advance civil liberties and civil rights

To govern transparently

To provide opportunity

To promote equality

To advance progress

To preserve the American way of Life

These are good reasons to feel ok about voting for John Kerry. The other side has very different ideas.


Upon reflection I think I failed to make clear the fact that I believe that right now the Democrats are essentially the conservative party, which means as great an emphasis on preservation as progress. This comes as a result of the two party system that places us in contrast to the radical Republican paarty which seeks to overturn the New Deal and dissolve the international order of the last 50 years. By necessity, our candidates are not going to be able to run on as progressive a platform as many of us might wish. One has to take into consideration the nature of the opposition and the character of the body politic when framing a case.

Kerry is not a reformer as Dean was perceived to be, nor is he a champion of a particular constituency as Gephardt was. But, perhaps at a time like this it is more helpful to judge the candidate by the quality of his enemies than his friends. His career has been about fighting bad guys, from Vietnam to Dick Nixon to BCCI.

In light of that, I believe Kerry is running for the simple reason that this time and place requires somebody who has the experience and character to keep the country secure while fighting back a rabid political opposition at home and a series of difficult threats overseas. His life has uniquely prepared him for this political moment.

For a similar perspective read Soldier For Peace in todays Salon.