Thursday, August 26, 2004
The next time Downing Street lets it be known that Tony Blair is sanguine about a second term for George W Bush, do not believe a word of it. The Prime Minister wants a transfer of power at the White House not because he admires John Kerry - he has yet to meet him - but because he has finally understood what others have been telling him for a long time: association with Bush is bad for his own political health.
For all the denials, Operation Bush Distance, which began in the spring, has been gathering pace. Look back over the past few months and compare the language with what went before. From Bush's inauguration in January 2001, through the events of 9/11, and on to the run-up to Iraq and the events that ensued, Blair's people talked up the links. Telephone calls were briefed heavily. Meetings were projected as close and personal. "Tony and George" talked often; so did "David" (Manning, the PM's former foreign policy aide) with "Condi" (Rice, US national security adviser); so did "Jack" (Straw) with "Colin" (Powell).
Now, with the Republican clan converging on New York for their convention, it is the differences with the US administration that are stressed. Britain's condemnation of Israel's construction of new settlements in the West Bank contrasts with Washington's green light for the same. And journalists are briefed that Blair will make a major speech on the global environment criticising the Americans over Kyoto.
"There is no question he would rather Kerry win than Bush," says one senior government member. "Working with the neo-cons has been a millstone for him." Asked which policies were causing the problems, he replied: "Just about everything in sight." Of growing concern at the moment is US policy on Iran. The increasingly belligerent talk from the Bush camp fills Whitehall officials with dread.
Blair, according to aides, only now understands the extent of Bush's unpopularity in the UK. "We've been trying to tell him that even Tory voters detest Bush," says one official.
Remember when we had "Tories" in America? If memory serves, they were the right-wing supporters of the British monarchy during our Revolution, the Loyalists who didn't want America to be created in the first place. And their descendants still don't seem that happy about it, as shown by their contempt for our Constitution (a liberal document) and our system of government (a liberal democracy).
[Also, check out this item to see how far back Mr Bush's right-wing roots go.]
After the charges took root, Bush distanced himself from the veterans group that made the attacks, called the Arizona senator's service "noble" and cruised to a nomination-saving victory in the South Carolina primary.
Monday, in a series of events that some observers say are eerily familiar, Bush distanced himself from a veterans group running fierce attacks on John Kerry's military record and called his rival's service in Vietnam "admirable." Rather than focus on the Democratic nominee's Vietnam record, a matter that has engulfed the presidential contest for the past week, Bush said "we ought to be debating who (is) best to be leading this country in the war against terror."
"In every case, the approach is the same: You have a surrogate group of allies, independent of the Bush campaign, raising questions not about the opponent's weakness but directly about the opponent's strength," Slater said. "In every case, it works."
And in every case, it's slimy and immoral. Just when you think the Republicans cannot sink any lower, in comes Karl and down they go!
The March 18, 1969, weekly report from Task Force 115, which was located by The Associated Press during a search of Navy archives, is the latest document to surface that supports Kerry's description of the event. Crew members on Kerry's boat and a Special Forces soldier Kerry pulled from the water that day insist there was enemy fire, and they have appeared on behalf of the Kerry campaign.
The weekly report cites the incident twice, referring to its code name of Sea Lords 358. The first reference says the boats "encountered an enemy initiated firefight with water mines and automatic weapons fire." The second reference also mentions "an enemy initiated firefight ... with water mines and automatic weapons."
Thurlow, the commander of another swift boat who won a Bronze Star for helping the crew of PCF-3, insists there was no enemy gunfire during the incident. The citation and recommendation for Thurlow's Bronze Star, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also mention enemy fire, however.
Thurlow's medal recommendation, for example, says he helped the PCF-3 crew "under constant enemy small arms fire." That recommendation is signed by George Elliott, another member of the anti-Kerry group. It lists as the only witness for the incident Robert Eugene Lambert, an enlisted man who was not on Kerry's boat who also won the Bronze Star that day.
Thurlow says his Bronze Star documents are wrong.
And all of the official documents pertaining to the incident are wrong, and all of the eyewitnesses are wrong. Why did Thurlow accept a "fraudulent" medal in the first place? He has had 35 years to set the record straight.
The latest exchanges come as the controversy continues to take over the presidential campaign and threatens to hurt Kerry among veterans, a group he has courted by emphasizing his service in Vietnam. The Democrat has argued that his months as a swift boat commander in the Mekong Delta gives him the military credentials to be commander in chief.
Those credentials have been questioned by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose Web site shows a photo of Kerry with 19 officers from his division. The group said only one man in the picture, Skip Barker, supports Kerry. Rich McCann and Rich Baker are among four listed as “neutral.”
But McCann, 60, a consultant from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, said he told the group he was neutral about whether it used his picture. “I was never neutral about (Kerry) as president,” he said. “If the question is whether John Kerry is fit to be commander in chief, my answer is absolutely.”
Baker, 61, now a baker by trade, says he was never contacted by the group, perhaps because he recently moved to Pittsburgh. Kerry is “very well fit for command,” he said. “He was one of the most courageous and aggressive swift boat captains in the division.”
Both men say they voted for Bush in 2000 but won’t again.
As time goes on, the SBL's are being discredited in many ways. I wonder if we will reach a tipping point where the controversy will begin to backfire on the Bushies. Hope so!
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Over the past few weeks of Presidential WrestleMania MMIV, the Bush campaign has fired off more than a dozen press releases about John Kerry's policies on energy, nuclear-waste storage, forest and water protections, and other environmental issues -- a hodgepodge of smears, exaggerations, and obfuscations intended to besmirch Kerry's pro-environment reputation.
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, says the Bush campaign is responding to polls indicating that voters are taking the environment seriously in key battleground states. "The polling in Nevada is showing that people are voting on the Yucca Mountain issue. The polling out of Arizona says voters are very concerned about forests and water; Wisconsin polls have shown that the mercury issue could hurt [the GOP]," he told Muckraker.
Hence the Bush campaign's efforts to neutralize the environment as an election issue: "They know they can't persuade voters that Bush is good on the environment, so they're trying to create enough confusion about Kerry's record that people decide it can't be the issue that decides their vote," said Pope.
Kerry strategists agree: "The Bush campaign has got Kerry written all over it," said Roger Ballentine, a senior environmental strategist for the Kerry campaign. "From Day 1, the goal of the Bush campaign has not been to get voters to like their candidate and respect his record, but to get people to dislike John Kerry even though on this issue Kerry is widely thought to be the greenest candidate America has ever seen. They want people to go into the voter booth, hold their nose, and pick the lesser of two evils."
Have you noticed that most George Bush commercials, like most John Kerry commercials, begin with the words "John Kerry"?
Saying their "occupied" country should not be held up as a symbol of freedom, the coach and several players of Iraq's celebrated soccer team are furious over a campaign commercial for U.S. President George W. Bush.
In the commercial, the flags of Iraq and Afghanistan appear as a narrator says: "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations — and two fewer terrorist regimes."
Team coach Adnan Hamad told reporters yesterday: "We don't wish for the presence of the Americans in our country. We want them to go away ... You cannot speak about a team that represents freedom. We do not have freedom in Iraq, we have an occupying force."
Star player Ahmed Manajid asked: "How will (Bush) meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes."
Manajid said if he was not playing soccer "for sure" he would be home in Falluja — a hotbed of resistance to the U.S.-led occupation — fighting American soldiers.
It's all politics with George and Karl.
President Bush has repeatedly criticized his opponent for joining with Republicans to slightly reduce funding for intelligence after the end of the Cold War. But a new report shows that the President recently nominated a CIA Director who tried to make far deeper cuts in intelligence, even as terrorist attacks against the United States increased.
Despite the known threat of terrorism, Bush nominated Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) to be the new CIA Director - a man who has led the effort to cut the very intelligence priorities that are most critical to the fight against terrorism. As the Washington Post reports, Goss actually "sponsored legislation that would have cut intelligence personnel by 20 percent in the late 1990s." Goss insisted on these cuts even after the 1993 World Trade Center attack when America became aware of the serious terrorist threat. As the story notes, the cuts Goss supported are far larger than those proposed by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and were specifically targeted at "human intelligence." That is the very same priority which the 9/11 Commission and other independent experts say was lacking in the days and months leading up to the 9/11 attacks.
The revelations about Goss come only a few weeks after similar evidence came to light showing that Vice President Cheney has also repeatedly tried to stop intelligence reforms and cut critical defense programs. For instance, in 1992, Cheney led the effort to block the very same intelligence reforms the 9/11 Commission said would have made the United States better prepared to deal with the threat of al Qaeda. Similarly, while the Bush-Cheney campaign has attacked Kerry for supposedly reducing defense spending, it was Cheney himself in 2000 who admitted that as Defense Secretary, he "did in fact significantly reduce the overall size of the U.S. military." And in 1990, it was Cheney who went to Capitol Hill to tout his effort to slash defense, bragging about "programs that I have recommended for termination."
Gosh, this makes the administration sound like a bunch of hypocrites.
Monday, August 23, 2004
But to address the substance of this Big [Swift Boat] Lie is to risk falling into its logic. The true absurdity of the entire situation is easily appreciated when we consider that George W. Bush never showed any bravery at all at any point in his life. He has never lived in a war zone. If some of John Kerry's wounds were superficial, Bush received no wounds. (And, a piece of shrapnel in the forearm that caused only a minor wound would have killed had it hit an eye and gone into the brain; the shrapnel being in your body demonstrates you were in mortal danger and didn't absent yourself from it. That is the logic of the medal). Kerry saved a man's life while under fire. Bush did no such thing.
What was Bush doing with his youth? He was drinking. He was drinking like a fish, every night, into the wee hours. For decades. He gave no service to anyone, risked nothing, and did not even slack off efficiently.
The history of alcoholism and possibly other drug use is a key issue because it not only speaks to Bush's character as an addictive personality, but may tell us something about his erratic and alarming actions as president. His explosive temper probably provoked the disastrous siege of Fallujah last spring, killing 600 Iraqis, most of them women and children, in revenge for the deaths of 4 civilian mercenaries, one of them a South African. (Newsweek reported that Bush commanded his cabinet, "Let heads roll!")
That temper is only one problem. Bush has a sadistic streak. He clearly enjoyed, as governor, watching executions. His delight in killing people became a campaign issue in 2000 when he seemed, in one debate, to enjoy the prospect of executing wrong-doers a little too much. He has clearly gone on enjoying killing people on a large scale in Iraq. Drug abuse can affect the ability of the person to feel deep emotions like empathy. Two decades of pickling his nervous system in various highly toxic substances have left Bush damaged goods. Even for those who later abstain, "visual-spatial abilities, abstraction, problem solving, and short-term memory, are the slowest to recover." That he managed to get on the wagon (though with that pretzel incident, you wonder how firmly) is laudable. But he suffers the severe effects of the aftermath, and we are all suffering along with him now, since he is the most powerful man in the world.
Who would have thought a "dry drunk" could go so far?
As a Christian, as a Catholic, as a Democrat, as a citizen of this country, I am compelled to speak out against the actions of those Christians who back this President. I point to them because they stand up before the world and point to themselves, loudly proclaiming their religion, their moral and family values even though they have been warned by Christ to "beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father, who is in Heaven." (Matt. 6:1) Yet despite their professions, their words and actions do not give credence to the professions of their faith.
Stop and listen, listen to the venomous words now being spoken, not just in context to this election but about anyone you dislike, disdain or hate and you should be compelled to ask yourself what has become to us, as a nation - as a nation that claims to be under God? We should delete the phrase, if for no other reason than to avoid the sin of hypocrisy. Christ taught that "if you only love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even the sinners love those who love them." (Luke 6: 32-33).
So, because a President says he is born again, you will overlook the fact that he is unaccounted for by his own military records? You require no credibility yet you tolerate the debasement of the records and reputations of American soldiers who put their lives on the line and lost much. Senator McCain in his 2000 presidential bid against Bush in South Carolina was slandered as overdramatising his time spent as a POW - a charge just revived in the 08/14/04 Free Republic. There is the 2002 slander written against Max Cleland by Ann Coulter in her article "Dropping Political Grenades" where she accuses him of being the cause of his own injuries that required triple amputations And now there is the malicious slander of John Kerry's war record, all orchestrated by a campaign that keeps Bush looking clean. Do you really believe as Christians that looking clean is ALL that matters? This President sends many American children to war - where are his daughters? Or is the new Bush tradition of service that they are above the responsibilities of citizenship that he imposes on others?
President Bush will present what aides say will be a detailed second-term agenda when he is nominated in New York in 10 days, part of an ambitious convention program built on invocations of Sept. 11 and efforts to paint Senator John Kerry as untrustworthy and out of the mainstream.
Mr. Bush's advisers said they were girding for the most extensive street demonstrations at any political convention since the Democrats nominated Hubert H. Humphrey in Chicago in 1968. But in contrast to that convention, which was severely undermined by televised displays of street rioting, Republicans said they would seek to turn any disruptions to their advantage, by portraying protests by even independent activists as Democratic-sanctioned displays of disrespect for a sitting president.
And after months in which Mr. Bush stressed issues of concern to conservative supporters - from restrictions on stem cell research to a constitutional amendment to bar gay marriage - the convention will offer its national television audience a decidedly more moderate face for the president and his party. If "strength" was the leitmotif of the Democratic convention in Boston, "compassion" will be the theme in New York, marking the return of a mainstay of Mr. Bush's 2000 campaign, party leaders said.
So here we have the Republicans announcing in advance that they are planning to lie about the protesters. Amazing!
Swift Boat Veterans For Truth has a web of connections to the Bush family, to high-profile Texas political figures, and to President Bush's chief political aide, Karl Rove.
[New York Times, 8/19/04]
The corruption and dishonesty of this administration simply knows no limit.
From the beginning, our entry into Iraq has been controversial, with most of the opposition coming from President Bush's political adversaries. However, even well before the fateful decision was made clear, one of the most eminent of the Republican Party's senior military and foreign policy experts, retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft publicly warned against an attack on Iraq in an article he wrote for The Wall Street Journal and in numerous speeches. There were a number of other objectors, though muted, within the ranks of the active military leadership.
For a time after the war got under way, some members of the Bush administration accused war critics of being unpatriotic or, perhaps even worse, hopeless, wimpish "Liberals." Now, in recent weeks, things have changed.
The Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, generally highly supportive of Republican administrations and their policies, has published a task-force report calling on the United States to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. A similar appeal has come from a a leading military scholar at The Center for Strategic and International Studies, sometimes referred to as the "brain trust of the military-industrial complex" - certainly no wimpish liberal. Even Republican senators and congressmen are looking for face-saving ways to get out.
In the future, the invasion of Iraq will be seen as the biggest foreign policy mistake in our history up to this point.
[Landrum Bolling, president-emeritus of Earlham College, is director-at-large of Mercy Corps and is based in Washington, D.C.]
"A Democrat can't win a statewide election in Florida without a high voter turnout - both at the polls and with absentee ballots - of African-Americans," said a man who is close to the Republican establishment in Florida but asked not to be identified. "It's no secret that the name of the game for Republicans is to restrain that turnout as much as possible. Black votes are Democratic votes, and there are a lot of them in Florida."
The two ugly developments - both focused on race - were the heavy-handed investigation by Florida state troopers of black get-out-the-vote efforts in Orlando, and the state's blatant attempt to purge blacks from voter rolls through the use of a flawed list of supposed felons that contained the names of thousands of African-Americans and, conveniently, very few Hispanics.
Florida is one of only a handful of states that bar convicted felons from voting, unless they successfully petition to have their voting rights restored. The state's "felon purge" list had to be abandoned by Glenda Hood, the secretary of state (and, yes, former mayor of Orlando), after it became known that the flawed list would target blacks but not Hispanics, who are more likely in Florida to vote Republican. The list also contained the names of thousands of people, most of them black, who should not have been on the list at all.
Ms. Hood, handpicked by Governor Bush to succeed the notorious Katherine Harris as secretary of state, was forced to admit that the felons list was a mess. She said the problems were unintentional. What clearly was intentional was the desire of Ms. Hood and Governor Bush to keep the list secret. It was disclosed only as a result of lawsuits filed under Florida's admirable sunshine law.
How come these "unintentional" errors in Florida all work in favor of George Bush? If they were truly unintentional, wouldn't some go one way and some the other? These corrupt Florida pols evidently think we're all idiots. And maybe we are, for letting them get away with such outrageous hijinks. What cheaters they are.