Saturday, October 09, 2004
I was flabbergasted when I learned that was not true. My view of political character is that an honest politician is one who lies only when he has to. In this case, it was more than not true; it was obviously a deliberate and unnecessary lie. You do not forget meeting people who are after your job. It is not only politicians who lie in predictable situations. We all do, of course. Honesty is almost always a virtue, but there are times for all of us to sin, perhaps when someone asks, "How do I look?"
So I conclude by citing a lie by our president, an untruth that John Kerry did not rebut in his first debate with George W. Bush. The president twice used the line, "You saw the same intelligence I did before the war ..."
That is absurd, and it was foolish for Kerry to let it go. I have been around the White House under six presidents and have written, quite extensively, about their decision-making. I know, and so does Bush, that no one, no one at all, sees what a president sees. That is what the classification "Eyes Only" means. We now know that Bush was a wannabe war president who was holding back a great deal of pre-war intelligence for his own purpose - and his purpose was to go to war.
Sadly, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were deliberately deceiving the people of the democracy. There are lies, and then there are deliberate lies. They did not trust the people - and it is for that they deserve to be thrown out of office next year.
I couldn't agree more.
Friday, October 08, 2004
But the scathing indictment that Mr. Bush offered of Mr. Kerry over the past two days - on the eve of the second presidential debate and with polls showing the race tightening - took these attacks to a blistering new level. In the process, several analysts say, Mr. Bush pushed the limits of subjective interpretation and offered exaggerated or what some Democrats said were distorted accounts of Mr. Kerry's positions on health care, tax cuts, the Iraq war and foreign policy.
To cheers in Michigan, Mr. Bush asserted that under Mr. Kerry, the nation would have to "wait for a grade from other nations and leaders" before acting to protect itself. Mr. Kerry has repeatedly said that he would not give up the right to act pre-emptively "in any way necessary to protect the United States," but has suggested that any president would need to demonstrate legitimate reasons for such an action.
To laughter, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Kerry would impose "Hillary care" on America, a huge national health care program that would impose increased federal control over the health care decisions of citizens. Mr. Kerry's health care plan is significantly larger than the one Mr. Bush has offered, and it includes increased reliance on Medicaid and state health insurance programs for the poor. But unlike what Mrs. Clinton proposed in 1993, it would not create any big new federal bureaucracy and would retain the current employer-based system, and Mr. Kerry said he was averse to any kind of national health care plan.
To boos, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Kerry had set "artificial timetables" for pulling troops out of Iraq, which the president warned would embolden the enemy and endanger the troops. In fact, Mr. Kerry said that he could envision beginning to withdraw troops in as little as six months, but only if he succeeded in moving Iraq toward stability, and has decline repeatedly to set a timeline.
So the new Bush campaign strategy is to simply dispense with the truth altogether.
[Translator's Note: "pushed the limits of subjective interpretation" means "lied".]
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have lately been touting three sets of statistics to justify their claims of great progress in Iraq. First, they say, we've trained 100,000 Iraqi security forces. Second, 31 other countries are contributing troops as part of the vast international coalition. Third, Iraqi reconstruction is moving along on schedule, thanks to the $18.4 billion in U.S. economic aid.
Yet the U.S. State Department's most recent Iraq Weekly Status Report, dated Oct. 6, reveals that all three of those claims are either false or so misleading that they might as well be.
What's really happening — in numbers as clear as day — is that the training of security forces is proceeding way too slowly, the coalition is a misnomer, and reconstruction has barely got off the ground.
But the political ability of the Bush administration to deny reality - to live in an invented world in which everything is the way officials want it to be - has led to an ongoing disaster in Iraq and looming disaster elsewhere.
How did the occupation of Iraq go so wrong? (The security situation has deteriorated to the point where there are no safe places: a bomb was discovered on Tuesday in front of a popular restaurant inside the Green Zone.)
The insulation of officials from reality is central to the story. They wanted to believe Ahmad Chalabi's promises that we'd be welcomed with flowers; nobody could tell them different. They wanted to believe - months after everyone outside the administration realized that we were facing a large, dangerous insurgency and needed more troops - that the attackers were a handful of foreign terrorists and Baathist dead-enders; nobody could tell them different.
Why did the economy perform so badly? Long after it was obvious to everyone outside the administration that the tax-cut strategy wasn't an effective way of creating jobs, administration officials kept promising huge job gains, any day now. Nobody could tell them different.
Why has the pursuit of terrorists been so unsuccessful? It has been obvious for years that John Ashcroft isn't just scary; he's also scarily incompetent. But inside the administration, he's considered the man for the job - and nobody can say different.
The point is that in the real world, as opposed to the political world, ignorance isn't strength. A leader who has the political power to pretend that he's infallible, and uses that power to avoid ever admitting mistakes, eventually makes mistakes so large that they can't be covered up. And that's what's happening to Mr. Bush.
John Dean, the former counsel to President Richard Nixon, made a case last year for impeaching President George W. Bush if the president intentionally misled Congress and the public into backing a war with Iraq.
“To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked,” Dean wrote in a June 6, 2003 column for findlaw.com. “Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be ‘a high crime’ under the Constitution’s impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony ‘to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.’”
On Wednesday, a 918-page report released by the Iraqi Survey Group, headed by former United Nations weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, said Iraq eliminated all of its illicit arms programs in the mid-1990s, shortly after the first Gulf War. In other words, Iraq wasn’t a threat. Bush’s dire warning turned out to be misleading and, as we now know, factually wrong, and, even worse, lies. That’s grounds for impeachment.
You would think.
After almost four years of an unprecedented assault on the wildest places in America, the Bush administration is pulling out the greenwashing brushes so that it can paint a more palatable picture of its environmental policies.
But you cannot simply gloss over the scope and magnitude of the Bush administration's assault on America's wild heritage. It's time for a reality check.
Since taking office, the Bush administration has opened up an area larger than Washington, Oregon and Montana combined to logging, mining and oil and gas drilling — including some of the nation's most environmentally sensitive places — stripping protections from 10 percent of America's public lands.
In a recent analysis on oil and gas development, The Washington Post pointed out "the administration's most enduring environmental legacy may lie here in the West, where a series of policy decisions and little-noticed administrative actions have eased development restrictions on millions of acres of federal lands."
Photo-ops and rhetoric will not erase the damage from Bush administration policies that leave communities at risk from wildfire, pollute the air and water, fail to fund salmon-recovery efforts, and open up our last wild places to destructive development.
Don't be fooled. This administration has not been a good steward of America's great estate.
[Carl Pope is the executive director of the Sierra Club.]
On health care, the president charged that Kerry's plan "would put bureaucrats in charge of dictating coverage, which could ration care and limit your choice of doctor," adding: "Senator Kerry's proposal would put us on the path to `Clinton-care.'"
"That is a joke," declares [political scientist Kathleen] Jamieson. "Anyone who has paid any attention to health care policy knows the architects of Kerry's plan avoided every mistake the Clinton plan made. They worked to make sure it wasn't a government takeover or government run."
Indeed, the part of Kerry's program that would affect those who currently have health insurance works through incentives, not mandates. Companies wouldn't be forced to join - but if they did, the government would assume 75 percent of their catastrophic costs, thereby lowering premiums for others in the risk pool.
Now, it's certainly true that upper earners carry much of the income-tax burden in America. But if Bush feels that retaining tax relief for them outweighs the value of using those dollars to help expand health care and lower premiums, he should make the case forthrightly, rather than blurring the issue.
So why, instead, is the president engaged in a campaign of blatant distortion?
Simple: George W. knows that running against a caricature of John Kerry gives him a better chance at a second term than embracing his own record. Or the truth.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
A US report on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which cleared Iraq of possession of such arms, triggered fiery condemnation among the Iraqis on Thursday.
The report, prepared after 1,200 inspectors headed by American chief weapon inspector Charles Dolfer conducted a 18-month search campaign, said that Iraq had no biological, chemical or nuclear weapons before the US occupation of the oil-rich Arab country.
The report virtually overturned the US pretext for invading Iraq in March 2003, igniting angry emotions among Iraqis, who also harbored hatred toward the occupation forces for the war and ensuing chaos, destruction and bloodshed.
Many Iraqis believed that the report would not change anything in reality, rather it might even worsen the situation.
"The results of the report confirm that there was no justification for invading and destroying Iraq the way they did, and the report would only increase hatred of Iraqis against America and gives the resistance more enthusiasm and justification to escalate the resistance campaign against occupation," said Mohamed Hussein, a writer.
"It is time now that the world would say to America 'that's enough, stop what you're doing to Iraq and its people,'" said Mohamed Al Imam, a clothes shop owner.
Haven't these guys heard - we're liberators!
Note Mr. Kerry's use of the phrase "the right to pre-empt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America." Note also his use of the past tense in that final clause: "and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."
What is unclear about the meaning of those words? Plainly, Mr. Kerry would reserve the right to act as needed in our defense, with or without the assent of allies. And just as plainly, he would exercise that right responsibly, upholding the international prestige and leadership of the United States.
Within days, however, the President was warning about a dangerous "Kerry doctrine." According to Mr. Bush, his opponent had "said that America has to pass a global test before we can use troops to defend ourselves." That is precisely the opposite of what Mr. Kerry actually said, as should be obvious to anyone who understands the meanings of "did" and "before."
Ms. Rice claims that she didn't know about those warnings, although scientists at the IAEA publicly echoed them well before the invasion. Along with the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State, she ignored all the evidence that contradicted their ranting about an Iraqi "mushroom cloud." Blinded by incompetence and ideology, they proceeded to mislead the American public and the world. They have done irreparable damage to our reputation as well as their own, at a time when we need allies and credibility in a struggle against very real enemies. As their criticism of Mr. Kerry suggests, they still have no idea what terrible damage they have done.
Maybe the Rapture or whatever it is will occur before the election, carrying all the Bush cult members bodily to Heaven, or Hoboken, or somewhere else far away. Wouldn't it be great to be Left Behind?
Vice President Dick Cheney asserted on Thursday that a report by the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, who found no evidence that Iraq produced weapons of mass destruction after 1991, justifies rather than undermines President Bush's decision to go to war.
The report shows that "delay, defer, wasn't an option," Cheney told a town-hall style meeting.
While Democrats seized on the new report by Charles Duelfer to bolster their case that invading Iraq was a mistake, Cheney focused on portions of the report that were more favorable to the administration's case.
Although it says Saddam's weapons program had deteriorated since the 1991 Gulf War and did not pose a threat to the world in 2003, the report also says that Saddam's main goal was to get international sanctions lifted.
"As soon as the sanctions were lifted he had every intention of going back" to his weapons program, Cheney said.
Duelfer's report said what ambitions Saddam harbored for such weapons were secondary to his goal of evading those sanctions, and he wanted them primarily not to attack the United States or to provide them to terrorists, but to oppose his older enemies, Iran and Israel.
Incredible! Saddam had no weapons and represented no threat to us or anyone else. Saddam had nothing to do with Osama, al-Qaeda, or 9/11. Yet for Vice President Dick, these facts support the administration's "case" for a foolish, unnecessary war.
When you spend so much time torturing the truth, it's hard to keep your story straight - or even remember what you just said.
The most remarkable moment in Wednesday's debate between Vice President Cheney and Sen. John Edwards came when Cheney issued a blanket denial of the obvious.
Edwards, who proved both his value and his loyalty to Democratic nominee John Kerry, declared that "there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11. Period. The 9/11 Commission has said that's true. Colin Powell has said it's true. But the vice president keeps suggesting that there is."
What Cheney said next was, literally, incredible: "I have not suggested that there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11."
This is the same Cheney who, just minutes before, in the very same debate, had defended the attack on Iraq by declaring flatly that Saddam Hussein "had an established relationship with al Qaeda." Hello? If that is not a "suggestion" of a connection, what is?
Well, this: On Sept. 14, 2003, Cheney called Iraq "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, most especially on 9/11."
If the Cheney-Edwards debate made nothing else clear, it is that the central issue in this presidential election is becoming the administration's lack of credibility and its tendency to say whatever is convenient to make whatever case it is trying to make.
Dick, Dick, Dick.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating 1,500 voter registration forms received by the Leon County elections office that apparently were altered to register local students as Republicans.
County elections supervisor Ion Sancho said it was suspicious enough that the registration forms were all photocopies, but the new voters were also between the ages of 18-24, a group that often registers with no party affiliation.
"When we saw that all of these individuals were registered as Republicans, a buzzer went off," Sancho said.
Most were students at Florida A&M University, Florida State University or Tallahassee Community College. The office began calling the applicants, contacting a couple of dozen before deciding to turn the voter forms over to the FDLE.
"Once it became clear that their information did not jibe with the information on the application forms, that's when we decided to act," Sancho said. "The overwhelming majority of them had not selected the Republican Party as the party they wanted to be registered in."
The Leon County case is one of several being looked at around the state. In some cases, there are reports of bogus addresses, forms coming in with false information and registered voters who are being reregistered without their knowledge.
It must be sad to be a Republican and to realize that the only way your party can "win" is by cheating.
Based on the Bush administration's actions I think it is clear that these people care about image over substance, and the people pulling Bush's strings have an ideology that is much closer to fascism than it is to democracy. This extreme right-wing ideology, that merges government and corporate interest into a form of belligerent nationalism, is also obvious in the three previous Republican administrations including Bush I, Reagan, and Nixon. It is also clear that George W. Bush, the people in his administration, and the Republicans in Congress fully support this fascist ideology and are assisting their greedy bosses in a secret plan designed to undermine our democracy and rob our government of its sizable assets and cash flows.
The GOP is single minded in its simple approach to legislation, and that is "more for us". And the ends always justify the means no matter how immoral, fraudulent, or distasteful. In other words, its a con-game ideology and we the people are the marks and our governments resources are the prize. They have an equally simplistic approach to selling (tricking) the American people and it goes like this: "Vote for me and get a tax cut" and "Vote for us because we are the Jesus followers". They offer no cost/benefit analysis, no complex terms, no difficult to understand reasoning, and no thinking required, just faith. And they always have a simple answer for anyone who dares to question their generous unaffordable tax cut cash gift, or their religious hypocrisy. But what is really happening is that they are giving you a check with one hand while their other hand is busy picking your pocket, or they are telling you one thing when the exact opposite is true. The vast majority (99.9%) of the American people always lose in these exchanges.
The answer to these questions is what this website is all about. This website looks at all the Bush administration's actions, attempted actions, and plans for the future.
[There is a lot of interesting info at this site. Check it out.]
Only recently have America's Undecided, Unconvinced and Uncommitted voters come to understand that we are all less safe in our homeland today because our military troops were diverted from the urgent war to crush the enemy who attacked us to launch a new, less urgent war against an evildoer who hadn't, Saddam Hussein.
But while America's voters are frighteningly aware that we have been under a Code Orange high state of alert because al Qaeda has been given time to regroup and threaten to attack us again, they felt they hadn't seen evidence that proved President Bush deserves the blame for all that has gone so wrong.
Until now. A stunningly detailed and extensively sourced special report in The New York Times on Sunday has documented a pattern of evidence that leads any reader to an inescapable conclusion: Bush's White House deliberately and willfully misled and deceived the American public and the world by asserting that it had what Vice President Cheney called "irrefutable evidence" in September 2002, that Saddam was rebuilding his nuclear-weapons program. That so-called evidence was Iraq's purchase of thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes - tubes that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said on CNN in 2002 are "only really suited ... for nuclear-weapons programs."
But The New York Times report meticulously details the fact that many experts in the Department of Energy and even inside the CIA had reached a contradictory assessment long before Rice spoke and that their dissent was well-known inside Rice's staff. Energy Department and intelligence experts had maintained that these tubes were not suitable for building a centrifuge to produce enriched uranium in significant amounts for a nuclear bomb. These officials said the tubes were for building conventional rockets.
How did Cheney manage to assemble a cadre of advisers for Bush that put loyalty before truth to such a degree? Little Georgie wouldn't know any better, of course, but Dick - ah yes, Dick knows what he's doing. And now, we do too.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Here's what Kerry said: "No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, nor would I, the right to pre-empt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you do it, you've got to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."
It is difficult to imagine any listeners at the time, or any readers since, being alarmed by this completely commonplace utterance. Unless, of course, you willfully misconstrue it — and that is exactly what Bush and his allies, and most noisily of all the talk-radio's political hucksters, are doing.
The president declared that his opponent had now kited a "Kerry doctrine," in which, according to Bush, Kerry "has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations."
This is, put plainly, a lie — and the president knows that it is.
As he has said repeatedly throughout the campaign, Kerry said again in the debate that he would "never give a veto to any country over our security," but ignoring those plain words, Bush tells audiences that "Senator Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions."
This grotesque misrepresentation is not an accident. The Bush campaign has been pushing this alarmist line all along. It prepared the way for the current distortion at the Republican convention when Sen. Zell Miller claimed that Kerry "has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations."
(In the looney world of talk radio, this broad charge has now been boiled down to a claim that Kerry wants to give a veto over the U.S. military to France!)
How do they get away with lying about things that everybody heard? Right-wingers seem to believe what Limbaugh or Hannity or Bush or Cheney say even though it contradicts what they themselves have observed. Is there a psychological term for this? Is it "denial"?
It's a wonder that millions of TV screens didn't shatter as U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney's nose poked right through them last night. Just as he has in many, if not all, of his TV appearances since the terror attacks of 9/11, Cheney lied again during his 90-minute debate with Democratic vice-presidential contender, North Carolina Senator John Edwards.
Cheney even lied about lying about Iraq's supposed stores of weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein's supposed ties to Al Qaeda, and just about everything else in this supposed "war on terror" — not to mention the illicit activities of Halliburton, the oil field supply corporation he used to run in the 1990s.
"The senator has got his facts wrong," Cheney said after the first of many times Edwards hammered him on Osama bin Laden. " I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror."
If this column had a video component, right now we'd be rolling back the tape to show Cheney on CNBC's The Capital Report, as recently as last June, lying to host Gloria Berger. He denied what he said on Meet The Press in 2001, that it was "pretty well confirmed" that lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta had meetings with Iraqi intelligence.
"No, I never said that. ...Absolutely not," he told her — although he did.
What I find interesting is that Cheney lies about things that are easily checked as a matter of public record. Like saying he had never met Edwards, when there are photos of them sitting together at a banquet. Like saying he never linked Saddam and 9/11 (if you didn't see the debate, yes, he actually said that). Immediately afterwards, MSNBC played a tape of Cheney on Meet the Press in which he explicitly linked the two (something he has in fact done many, many times). What kind of "man" tells huge fibs that can be checked out and refuted in a matter of minutes?
Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday night that the debate with Democratic Sen. John Edwards marked the first time they had met. In fact, the two had met at least three times previously.
Cheney made the remark while accusing Edwards of frequent absences from Senate votes.
"Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight," Cheney told Edwards during the debate.
* On Feb. 1, 2001, the vice president thanked Edwards by name at a Senate prayer breakfast and sat beside him during the event.
* On April 8, 2001, Cheney and Edwards shook hands when they met off-camera during a taping of NBC's "Meet the Press," moderator Tim Russert said Wednesday on "Today."
* On Jan. 8, 2003, the two met when the first-term North Carolina senator accompanied Elizabeth Dole to her swearing-in by Cheney as a North Carolina senator, Edwards aides also said.
Even given his reputation for lying, it was still shocking to watch as Cheney made one false statement after another throughout the debate. I really think there is something wrong with his mind - or his soul.
More than a week after a court-imposed deadline to turn over all records of President Bush's military service, the Texas Air National Guard belatedly produced two documents Tuesday that include Bush's orders for his last day of active duty in 1973.
The orders show Bush was on "no-fly" status for his last days of duty because he had been grounded almost a year earlier for skipping an annual medical exam.
The files, released to The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, are orders for Bush to appear for two stints of active-duty training: a 1971 exercise in Canada and eight days of duty in July 1973.
The records released Tuesday are the fifth set of documents related to Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard service to be released in response to the AP lawsuit. The federal judge overseeing that case ordered the Pentagon to disclose all of Bush's records by Sept. 24. Tuesday's four pages of records were the second set of files released after that deadline.
The Texas Air National Guard did not explain the delay in releasing the records.
The 1973 orders come from the most controversial period in Bush's years in the Texas Air National Guard. After May 1972, Bush skipped training for six months, failed to appear for the required physical examination, got permission to train at an Alabama unit whose commanders say he never showed up and put in a flurry of training in 1973 in an effort to meet minimum requirements before leaving for Harvard Business School.
Bush has insisted he fulfilled all of his Air National Guard duties and says he is proud of his service.
He's proud of the mess he made in Iraq, too. ("Come see what Georgie did!") And I notice they released the new papers just before the VP debate. How conveeeenient.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
If we lived in a halfway sane country, George W. Bush would be headed for a landslide defeat. But we don't, and John Kerry's politely critical performance in Thursday's debate wasn't enough to forestall the demise of his incompetent and weak-kneed campaign. Yes, quickie polls showed he "won" the debate, but an ABC survey of viewers found their candidate preference almost unchanged, with Bush still leading 51 to 47 percent.
Which demands the question: Given Kerry's refusal to state the obvious - that the emperor has no clothes - what would it take to bring swing-state America to its senses: to turn Nov. 2 into a referendum on the Bush disaster, instead of an idiot's poll about who looks "tougher on terrorists"?
So far, all we know is what hasn't worked. The inventory of President Bush's lies, hypocrisy and fantasies grows larger with every fresh Iraqi corpse and U.S. body bag - yet Kerry gets little or no bounce. Official reports pile up on the falsity of a Saddam Hussein - al-Qaida connection, as well as the nonexistence of an Iraqi A-bomb program, but Bush carries the day: At least half the people seem to think that the war against "terrorism" begins and ends in Baghdad.
Today, the "sovereign" government of Iraq is an American proxy that serves at the pleasure of the U.S. pro-consul, John Negroponte, and the U.S. Army.
More pertinently, the scheduled "elections" in Iraq will confer about as much legitimacy on the new Iraqi "republic" as Colin Powell's mendacious presentation at the United Nations conferred on Saddam's imaginary military arsenal. (Or, for that matter, as much legitimacy as the 2000 Florida election - stolen by First Brother Jeb, through the clever disenfranchisement of black voters - conferred on the Bush presidency.)
Four weeks before Election Day, Democrat John Kerry pounced on the acknowledgment by former Iraq administrator Paul Bremer that the United States had "paid a big price" for insufficient troop levels.
Kerry said there was a "long list of mistakes" that the Bush administration had made in Iraq.
"I'm glad that Paul Bremer has finally admitted at least two of them," Kerry said, referring to postwar troop levels and a failure to contain chaos.
At a campaign stop in Tipton, Iowa, Kerry said the question for voters was whether Bush was "constitutionally incapable of acknowledging the truth" or was "just so stubborn."
Gosh, Don, it was a pretty simple statement. What's to misunderstand?
Trying to undo the damage, Mr. Bush is now telling those loyalty-tested audiences that Senator John Kerry's use of the phrase "global test" means that he "would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions." He's lying, of course, as anyone can confirm by looking at what Mr. Kerry actually said. But it may still work - Mr. Bush's pre-debate rise in the polls is testimony to the effectiveness of smear tactics.
Still, something important happened on Thursday. Style probably mattered most: viewers were shocked by the contrast between Mr. Bush's manufactured image as a strong, resolute leader and his whiny, petulant behavior in the debate. But Mr. Bush would have lost even more badly if post-debate coverage had focused on substance.
Here's one underreported example: So far, Mr. Bush has paid no political price for his shameful penny-pinching on domestic security and his refusal to provide effective protection for America's ports and chemical plants. As Jonathan Chait wrote in The New Republic: "Bush's record on homeland security ought to be considered a scandal. Yet, not only is it not a scandal, it's not even a story."
Monday, October 04, 2004
Whatever his own understanding of the dire situation, Bush doesn't want anyone else to recognize it. His strategy for succeeding in Iraq is to pretend we are succeeding, regardless of any information to the contrary.
In the debate, he spent less time disputing Kerry's evidence than faulting him for speaking the unspeakable. "I don't see how you can lead this country to succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message does that send our troops? What message does that send to our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis?"
Hmm. Does he think our allies would be surprised to hear the war was a mistake? Does he think Iraqis are all under the impression that the country is stable, prosperous and secure? Does he think it has never occurred to our soldiers, as they dodge mortar shells or pluck shrapnel out of their flesh, that this may not be the best idea their commander in chief ever had?
To say a candidate shouldn't criticize the decisions made in this war is like saying a football coach shouldn't make adjustments in strategy during the course of a game, lest his team be reduced to sobbing despair. If a team is getting outplayed, it does no good to tell the players to ignore the scoreboard and keep doing the same thing.
That's why Bush was always a cheerleader, never a coach.
There are two main reasons why we must defeat George W. Bush on Nov. 2: Iraq and the economy.
No less a noted figure than former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough recently said, "We are in real economic trouble in this country today." The evidence in this statement is clear and present and cannot be denied.
And what a terrible mess Bush has us in with his illegal war in Iraq. A war that he immediately began planning after 9/11, with absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Iraq was involved. And the Bush fanaticism over his war has cost this nation dearly. Mr. Bush has offered up no less than 23 different rationales for the Iraq war. His two main rationales for it, WMDs and an al-Qaida connection, have been proven completely false. He has misused authority to use force. He has displayed colossal failure in judgment. His policy in Iraq has been plagued with incompetence. Bush has over-promised and badly under-performed.
His fanaticism over Iraq has weakened our very national security. America is isolated from the world. Iraq is a great diversion from our enemy, bin Laden. If elected in November, Mr. Bush will no doubt continue to cling to his failed policies. We cannot afford to stay the course in Iraq. We must change the course in Iraq. Our military is getting the short end of the stick there. We cannot solve political problems by military force. It simply will not and cannot work. We cannot play politics with national security.
The distortion of intelligence to justify a war is not grounds for re-election, but rather for impeachment. Mr. Bush persisting with a misinformed course of action is not a sign of leadership, but of fanaticism. The single issue of Iraq alone is ample reason to return Mr. Bush to Crawford, Texas, where he belongs. And contrary to what Mr. Bush would have us believe, he is not the only man in America who can lead a war on terrorism by any means.
In light of the Bush-Cheney campaign's anointment of Bush as a "champion of the environment" (Bush Respects and Preserves Park Land, Sept. 28), it is fitting we consider this brief reminder of the environmental attacks:
Forgetting our national parks. Quite contrary to the laughable claims made by Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign, the administration is not taking care of our national parks. Our National Park Service has a $600 million operating deficit and a growing maintenance backlog of up to $6 billion. This funding lack has caused a loss in needed park employees; Olympic National Park is down to one permanent park ranger for the entire park.
Chopping down pristine national forests. Racicot called Bush "a protector of national forests" in the column but this title could never pass the straight-face test if said out loud. Despite election year promises, Bush supports eliminating the popular Roadless Rule, which protects nearly 60 million acres of pristine national forest lands from logging, mining and drilling while keeping them open for fire suppression and recreational use. Bush supports logging and road building, and even more outrageously, his administration is making taxpayers subsidize private logging companies by paying for new roads through our forests.
Bush has also weakened the Northwest Forest Plan. His administration dropped a rule that had required forest managers to look for rare plants and animals before approving timber sales for logging and loosened the limitation on the amount of runoff that logging operations are allowed to put into salmon-bearing streams. These changes pander to special interests at the expense of protecting our local areas.
[The article details several further examples of the Bush administration's attacks on the environment in the Pacific Northwest.]
Sen. John Kerry’s plan to disarm North Korea is more likely to work than the “chicken game” the Bush administration has been playing over nuclear weapons, said the chairman of the board of directors of the International Council on Korean Studies.
Hang Yul Rhee, one of the nation’s most prominent Korean political scholars, is Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Shepherd University in the state’s Eastern Panhandle.
“The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks will unwind,” Bush said. “It will mean that China no longer is involved in convincing, along with us, for Kim Jong Il to get rid of his weapons.”
“South Korea, Japan and China keep asking us to have more contact with North Korea,” he said. “We are kind of a reluctant party even in the six-party talks.”
If the United States thinks it can force North Korea to stand down simply by “trying to isolate and sanction it, sorry, that won’t work,” Rhee said. “Because China is [North Korea’s] main sponsor.”
In Thursday’s debate, Bush “made it sound like China is helping us” against North Korea, Rhee said. “I think the president was misleading in that sense... Thinking China is on our side, that’s a kind of fantasy, actually.”
This president has many fantasies.
Sunday, October 03, 2004
No, alas, while the Bush people applied the Powell Doctrine in the Midwest, they applied the Rumsfeld Doctrine in the Middle East. And the Rumsfeld Doctrine is: "Just enough troops to lose." Donald Rumsfeld tried to prove that a small, mobile army was all that was needed to topple Saddam, without realizing that such a limited force could never stabilize Iraq. He never thought it would have to. He thought his Iraqi pals would do it. He was wrong.
For all of President Bush's vaunted talk about being consistent and resolute, the fact is he never established U.S. authority in Iraq. Never. This has been the source of all our troubles. We have never controlled all the borders, we have never even consistently controlled the road from Baghdad airport into town, because we never had enough troops to do it.
Being away has not changed my belief one iota in the importance of producing a decent outcome in Iraq, to help move the Arab-Muslim world off its steady slide toward increased authoritarianism, unemployment, overpopulation, suicidal terrorism and religious obscurantism. But my time off has clarified for me, even more, that this Bush team can't get us there, and may have so messed things up that no one can. Why? Because each time the Bush team had to choose between doing the right thing in the war on terrorism or siding with its political base and ideology, it chose its base and ideology. More troops or radically lower taxes? Lower taxes. Fire an evangelical Christian U.S. general who smears Islam in a speech while wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army or not fire him so as not to anger the Christian right? Don't fire him. Apologize to the U.N. for not finding the W.M.D., and then make the case for why our allies should still join us in Iraq to establish a decent government there? Don't apologize - for anything - because Karl Rove says the "base" won't like it. Impose a "Patriot Tax" of 50 cents a gallon on gasoline to help pay for the war, shrink the deficit and reduce the amount of oil we consume so we send less money to Saudi Arabia? Never. Just tell Americans to go on guzzling. Fire the secretary of defense for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, to show the world how seriously we take this outrage - or do nothing? Do nothing. Firing Mr. Rumsfeld might upset conservatives. Listen to the C.I.A.? Only when it can confirm your ideology. When it disagrees - impugn it or ignore it.
If you've got a better theory, I'm open to it. All I know is that in recent weeks, we've seen that nation go from awful to whatever comes after awful. Yet, to hear the president talk, the situation is actually a lot better, more hunky and/or dory, than anybody really knows. We're moving forward, he says. We're getting the job done.
If there are not two Iraqs, we ought to be scared, because a man who filters out information that challenges his beliefs is a man ill-equipped to adapt to new circumstances, unable to formulate new strategies, slow to make necessary change. If there are not two Iraqs, it means such a man has ultimate responsibility for stewardship of American foreign policy in an increasingly volatile world.
Ergo, there are two Iraqs. Otherwise, how can we sleep at night?
I do wish the president had publicized his ability to pierce the space-time continuum. It would have saved a lot of confusion.
I also wish that from time to time he'd talk about the Iraq on this planet. You know, the one where they're planning an election in which maybe a quarter of the population won't be able to participate because it's too dangerous. The one where dozens of children were blown to shreds last week. The one where people we "liberated" hate us. The one that's dissolving into chaos.
But I guess I can't blame Bush for his silence. Why mention the bad Iraq when you have another to talk about?
Unfortunately for the rest of us, we have just the one.
It's hard to say, but it probably has something to do with the very next sentence: "It's precisely what Kim Jong Il wants." In other words, Bush just doesn't believe in negotiation at all. If the other guy wants something, that's reason enough to deny it to him, even if it's something that would benefit us too.
More importantly, though, this exchange sheds a light on Bush's almost supernatural ability to judge diplomatic situations incorrectly, consistently following precisely the opposite of whichever strategy would be most effective. Iraq and Iran, for example, cried out for multilateral action because the issues at hand fundamentally affect lots of countries — but in both cases Bush has largely spurned genuine multilateral cooperation. (Although, in fairness, the Europeans haven't exactly gone out of their way to make multilateral action an attractive option.) North Korea is exactly the opposite.
The case for multilateral action with Korea is simple: if we make a deal of our own with North Korea, nobody else has a stake in it. If the North Koreans renege, the rest of the world will shrug and wait for us to fix it.
That's a good argument for getting other countries involved, but it's not a good argument for refusing to also deal with North Korea directly. The reason is simple: although the rest of the world has a stake in a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, North Korea's demands are aimed almost solely at the United States. What they want (and what they've always wanted) is a nonagression treaty with the United States and diplomatic recognition from the United States. Other countries can help with things like economic assistance and monitoring, but we're the only ones who can deal with the primary negotiating points. That's best done in bilateral talks.
Thus, John Kerry has by far the better of the argument here: we should have both multilateral and bilateral talks. What's more, all the other countries involved in the talks agree, because they understand the reality of the situation. But George Bush refuses. After all, that would be giving Kim Jong Il something he wants.
Stung by John Kerry's overwhelming victory in the first presidential debate, George Bush today began to distort Kerry's ideas by taking them out of context. In the debate, which focused exclusively on foreign policy, Kerry said that he supported America's right to wage preemptive war, but only if it would pass "the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons."
Bush, however, grossly distorted Kerry's words, saying that "When [Kerry] laid out the Kerry doctrine, he said that America has to pass a global test before we can use American troops to defend ourselves."
Perhaps Bush wasn't paying attention at the moment, but he is clearly distorting the truth of what Kerry said. All Kerry asked for was that the president be honest and open with the American people, and that any war be legal by international standards. This contrasts sharply with Bush's tactics as he took us to war in Iraq. Bush was neither open nor honest. Instead, he used his well-honed powers of distortion to hype the danger of Saddam Hussein. And his feeble attempts to garner international support predictably failed when most foreign governments saw the weakness in his argument.
This conclusion is supported by recent declarations by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who said the invasion of Iraq was illegal, and by the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, which found that the Bush administration "systematically misrepresented" the evidence of Iraq's danger. In short, Bush misled us into an illegal war, precisely what Kerry vowed not to do.
My dictionary gives four definitions for the word "global". Definition 2 is "comprehensive", which is the sense in which Kerry used the word (global as opposed to local, you might say). Definition 1 is "pertaining to or involving the whole world", which is what the Bush campaign is pretending that Kerry meant. The Bush people seem to know only the first, most obvious definition for every word, come to think of it.
One especially satisfying moment [in the debate] came when Kerry pointed out how farcical Bush's claims of an international "coalition" in Iraq really are, considering the minuscule number of troops most countries have sent. The coalition was one of those Bush creations hammered into its own reality by constant repetition - until Kerry undid it with the hard truth of simple numbers.
It was that kind of night, a night to undo things held together by a flimsy cord of deception, spin and public gullibility. It showed that once all the props and all the handlers are forced to the sidelines, it comes down to who has the goods - the heart, the mind and the stomach - to make us believe. Kerry had them. Bush didn't.
George W. Bush deserved this public strip search. He has gotten away with too much for too long. Too many hideous mistakes have been spun into some kind of all-American adventure. Too many cliché-loaded speeches have been made in front of fawning, tightly screened audiences. And a war waged for false reasons has been artfully converted into something it never was nor can ever be.
But the Republican spin doctors could not help him Thursday night. There was no paid hit team available to come on stage and spread a slimy coating of lies over Kerry's war record. There was no way to screen the viewing audience for levels of Bush loyalty.
The president was by himself, left to his own ability to reason and react. And he bombed. He groped for words. He repeated himself. He said "hard work" about a dozen times. He looked lost and confused. And overmatched.
It was sad and pathetic to see the leader of the free world so embarrassingly ill-equipped to defend the things he's done. Some people I know said they almost felt sorry for him, but not quite. Bush has done too much damage, betrayed us in too many ways and squandered the goodwill other countries have felt toward us.
Jimmy Breslin, the last of the old-school, saloon-trained columnists, has been on Bush's case since before the war began. He wrote this about Bush in Newsday after the debate:
"He showed for all to see what a minor mind he goes around with. I looked at this guy Bush last night and thought about young people dying in Iraq because of him. And there will be more and more because he is a man sitting with a car full of people on the train tracks and he doesn't know enough to get off with the train coming."