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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Bush in 2000: we will not enter into a war without an exit strategy

Here's what George W. Bush had to say during the Oct. 3, 2000 Presidential debate, when asked about when he would use military force:

JIM LEHRER: New question. How would you go about, as president, deciding when it was in the national interest to use US force, generally?

GOV. BUSH: Well, if it's in our vital national interests, and that means whether or not our territory -- our territory is threatened, our people could be harmed, whether or not our alliances are -- defense alliances are threatened. Whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force.

Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear; whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be. Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to -- to -- win. Whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped. And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.

I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation-building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation-builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.

And so I take my responsibility seriously. And it starts with making sure we rebuild our military power. Morale in today's military is too low. We're having trouble meeting recruiting goals. We met the goals this year, but in the previous years we have not met recruiting goals.

We're -- some of our troops are -- are not well -- well equipped. I believe we're overextended in too many places. And -- and therefore I want to rebuild the military power. It starts with a billion-dollar pay raise for the men and women who wear the uniform, a billion dollars more than the president recently signed into law. It's to make sure our troops are well housed and well equipped, bonus plans to keep some of our high-skilled folks in the services, and a commander in chief who clearly sets the mission. And the mission is to fight and win war, and therefore prevent war from happening in the first place.

Now who's a flip-flopper?

Bush calls health insurance "a Washington term"

"One thing about insurance, that's a Washington term. The question is, are people getting health care And we've got a strong safety net, and there needs to be a safety net in America. There needs to be more community health clinics where the poor can go get health care. We need a program for the uninsured -- they've been talking about it in Washington, DC. The number of uninsured have now gone up, for the past seven years. We need a $2,000 credit, rebate for people -- working people who don't have insurance so they can get in the marketplace and start purchasing insurance. We need to have -- allow small Businesses. to write across -- insurance across jurisdictional lines so small business can afford health care, small restaurants can afford health care And so health care needs to be affordable and available."
-George W. Bush, speaking in 2000

What has he done since then?

Where's the Outrage?

Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek online edition:

"Republican lapdogs on Capitol Hill rushed to cash in on 'Rathergate.' Rep. Chris Cox, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, urged the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications to investigate CBS's use of potentially falsified documents. This is a party that launches investigations into Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction—and now this—while ignoring the intelligence lapses that led the country into an unnecessary war in Iraq, and covering for Bush when he exaggerates the progress in that nation’s development. The National Intelligence Estimate prepared for the president in late July, and reported Thursday by The New York Times, describes Iraq in far more pessimistic terms than Bush does on the campaign trail, with civil war a likely outcome.

The White House kept the report under wraps for two months, yet where is the outrage?"

The outrage is right here, right here. And the outrage will continue to be reported here through November 2.

CBS: story debating war rationale is "inappropriate"

CBS has abruptly cancelled a scheduled news special questioning Bush's rationale for going to war in Iraq, news outlets reported today. The segment was originally scheduled to air Sept. 8.

Apparently, in light of CBS's own dubious documents debacle, the network feels it cannot criticize a president for launching an entire war based on bogus documents.

"We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," said CBS spokeswoman Kelli Edwards in a written statement released to the press.

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball report on Newsweek's website:

"In its rush to air its now discredited story about President George W. Bush’s National Guard service, CBS bumped another sensitive piece slated for the same '60 Minutes' broadcast: a half-hour segment about how the U.S. government was snookered by forged documents purporting to show Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger.

The journalistic juggling at CBS provides an ironic counterpoint to the furor over apparently bogus documents involving Bush’s National Guard service. One unexpected consequence of the network’s decision was to wipe out a chance—at least for the moment—for greater public scrutiny of a more consequential forgery that played a role in building the Bush administration’s case to invade Iraq."

Journalist Joshua Micah Marshall, one of the contributor's to the uranium story, said, "This is like living in a Kafka novel."

George W. Bush diverted the war on terror

John Kerry, speaking in Philadelphia on Friday:

"President Bush was right to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban. I supported that decision, so did our country and our allies, so did the world. All those people that Joe just referred to who joined with us on September 12th with those headlines that said, All of us are Americans now. 

But since then, again and again, the president has made the wrong choices in the war on terror around the world and here at home.

Instead of using U.S. forces, the best trained military in the world, the most capable, the most willing to go out and capture Osama bin Laden, the president outsourced the job to Afghan warlords who let Osama bin Laden slip away. That was the wrong choice.

Instead of listening to career uniformed military officers, instead of listening to his own State Department, to Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, and outside experts about how to win the peace in Iraq, he hitched his wagon to the ideologues who told him that our troops would be welcomed as liberators. That was the wrong choice.

Instead of responding to the greatest intelligence failure in our history with a rapid overhaul of our intelligence system, starting on day one, the president dragged his feet and actually resisted reform, stood on the side of the status quo, blocked new ideas, resisted creativity. 

After opposing the 9/11 Commission, after trying to block its extension, as you've heard from two wives who are principally responsible for helping to keep pushing to make it happen, after finally agreeing to testify, but only with Vice President Cheney at his side... he still fully refuses to implement all of the commission's recommendations... 

Instead of expanding programs to keep weapons of mass destruction in Russia out of terrorist hands, the president tried to cut the programs, and even after 9/11, did little to strengthen them. That was the wrong choice. 

Instead of facing the urgent nuclear dangers in North Korea and Iran, he allowed these dangers to mount on his presidential watch. That was the wrong choice...

Instead of speaking forcefully to the Saudis and others about terrorist financing, instead of being able to hold people accountable for the money that flows to the terrorists, the president has said little and done less. That is the wrong choice...

On September 11th, there were no Democrats, no Republicans; we were only Americans. We stood together, we stood together in the ways that Joe described, in blood lines and helping lines, searching for people, helping to comfort our fellow Americans. 

We all supported the president. We all prayed for victory, because we love our country and we despise everything our enemies stand for. 

But three years after 9/11, we see our enemies striking in Spain, in Turkey, in Indonesia, in Kenya, and now every day in the most despicable, gruesome ways in Iraq, which was not a terrorist haven before the invasion... 

The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, Al Qaida, which killed more than 3,000 people on 9/11 and which still plots our destruction today. 

And there's just no question about it, the president's misjudgment, miscalculation and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the war on terror harder to win. 

Iraq is now what it was not before the war: a haven for terrorists. 

George Bush made Saddam Hussein the priority; I would have made Osama bin Laden the priority...

As president, I pledge to you, America, I will finish the job in Iraq and I will refocus our energies on the real war on terror. I will wage this war relentlessly, with a single-minded determination to capture or kill the terrorists, crush their movements and free the world from fear."

Words President Bush could learn from

In the 1984 Presidential debates, Ronald Reagan said, "We are busy trying to find the centers where these operations stem from and retaliation will be taken, but we are not going to simply kill some people to say, oh look, we got even. We want to know when we retaliate that we're retaliating with those who are responsible for the terrorist acts."

Where's Osama bin Laden?

Bush takes away $1.1 billion from poor children's health insurance

By Ceci Connolly, Washington Post:
In his convention address in New York, President Bush announced a new $1 billion initiative to enroll "millions of poor children" in two popular government health programs. But next week, the Bush administration plans to return $1.1 billion in unspent children's health funds to the U.S. Treasury, making his convention promise a financial wash at best.

The loss of $1.1 billion in federal money means six states participating in the State Children's Health Insurance Program face budget shortfalls in 2005; it is enough money to provide health coverage for 750,000 uninsured youngsters nationwide, according to two new analyses by advocacy organizations.

"If the Bush administration really cared about covering uninsured children, one of the things it could do immediately is make sure this $1 billion is used for SCHIP," said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. "The irony is this president talks constantly about not leaving any child behind and how he is going to cover so many kids. In truth, that ended up being false. He's just moving money around."

Article continues at the Washington Post website.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Bush's small business scare tactics don't pass FactCheck

From FactCheck.org:
A Bush-Cheney '04 ad claims Kerry would raise taxes on 900,000 small businesses and "hurt jobs." But it counts every high-salaried person who has even $1 of outside business income as a "small business owner" -- a definition so broad that even Bush and Cheney have qualified while in office. In fact, hundreds of thousands of those "small businesses" have no jobs to offer.

Furthermore, by the Bush definition 32 million "small businesses" would see no tax increase. The ad doesn't mention that, of course. Nor does it mention Kerry's proposals for some tax cuts specifically targeted for small businesses...

Actually, Kerry proposes no specific tax increase on small businesses at all, and in fact is proposing some targeted tax cuts for small businesses. What the Bush ad refers to is Kerry's proposal to raise taxes on individuals making more than $200,000 per year.

For FactCheck's full analysis, go here.

Expunging files

"If, as seems to be the case, the underlying point of the 60 Minutes II episode was accurate, then it's a sad comment on the rest of the press that they have relentlessly and repeatedly focused on what Dan got wrong and relatively ignored what Dan got right (namely, that pressure was put on Killian to 'sugar coat' Bush's National Guard record, that Bush got into the Guard via favoritism, that he got paid for meetings he didn't attend, that he missed the physical he signed up for, and all the rest).

What Rather got right relates to yet another presidential narrative--the one having to do with the President's character. If indeed Bush skipped out on his National Guard obligations at the time, that does not speak well for his character then. And if he arranged to have this dereliction expunged from his file after he became President, that does not speak well for his character now. (It may also be a violation of the law.)"

-Victor Navasky, writing in The Nation

Fox network seeks to prevent students from voting

"Juliana Zuccaro and Kelly Kraus thought they were exercising their civic rights and responsibilities on August 31 when, as officers of the Network of Feminist Student Activists at the University of Arizona in Tucson, they helped set up a voter-registration drive on the UA mall. Imagine their astonishment when the local Fox affiliate news team showed up and lit into the young women. 'The reporter asked if we knew that we were potentially signing students up to commit felonies,' Juliana told me--by registering out-of-state students to vote in Arizona. When Kelly then asserted that Arizona law requires only that those registering be resident in the state twenty-nine days before the election, Natalie Tejeda, the Fox reporter, insisted it was illegal to register students. On the news that night, student voter registration was the crime du jour..."
-from "Fox Hunts Student Voters" by Kathy Pollitt

But seriously

The Republican party sent out mailings to residents of two states advising them that liberals plan to ban the bible. The Charleston Gazette responded: "Holey Moley! Who concocts this gibberish?"

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Running from the Media II

Like his opponent, John Kerry has also been less than accessible to the media in recent days. John Hanchette writes, "Democratic candidate for president John Kerry decided last month to stop unscheduled conversations with reporters on his campaign plane. The decision, which gained wide attention only last week, followed a precipitous drop in the polls that some political analysts blame on just such an informal chat.

Er, um, ahem...three words of advice from an aging professor who once covered half a dozen campaigns for the White House: Not a good idea...

The problem with shutting off reportorial access to so-called 'spontaneous' moments of give and take is that it indicates to veteran journalists a loss of confidence on the part of the candidate, be he incumbent or challenger. It portends a possible smell of death in the campaign, a bow to the political grim reaper. At least reporters often interpret it that way."

Discourse on the journalist method

In an article for USA Today, Philip Meyer suggests journalists adopt a "scientific method" approach toward reporting rather than faux objectivity.

In Meyer's own words:
Scientific method is designed to let us ask questions of nature without being fooled by the answer. Its objectivity is in its method, not in giving equal weight to all of the possible answers as journalists are wont to do.

Two key aspects of scientific method that journalists need to adopt are transparency and replication. A scientist tells how he or she arrived at a conclusion in enough detail so that another investigator can follow the same trail, examine the same data and get the same answer.

Investigative journalism that relies on paper trails and documented interviews can do that. CBS did the right thing when it posted its documentary evidence on the Internet. That let users who had more technical knowledge spot the anachronism in the papers' typefaces. A sole reliance on anonymous sources no longer works, although those sources still can be useful if they point an investigator to information that can be documented.

No one comes out clean in the spin cycle

New York socialite (and occasionally, money-losing magazine editor) Tina Brown weighed in on the CBS/blogosphere issue yesterday, saying "Are the media having a nervous breakdown?... The New York Times betrayed the passive-aggressive guilt complex that lingers after the Jayson Blair fabrications by playing the CBS story above the fold on Tuesday's front page and the beheading of an American hostage in Baghdad below the fold, at the bottom. A Manhattan news factory screwed up big time -- and it wasn't us! Will Dan lose his job? That's the big news. An American hostage losing his life -- that's the small news."

Brown adds, "Journalists the length and breadth of the land publicly beat up on Dan, but privately -- even in the capital of schadenfreude -- they were not as gleeful as you might expect. Every editor, producer and reporter knows that the warp speed of the news cycle means we are all only one step ahead of some career-ending debacle. But still the panic to beat the competition trumps every other concern. Reports this month that Fox News had surpassed the other networks' ratings with its GOP convention coverage only inflamed the terror of mounting obsolescence."

A blogger writes about blogging: blogging ensues

Blogger Andrew Sullivan used the CBS memo controversy as an opportunity to pat his (our?) developing industry on the back.

Sullivan, the former editor of The New Republic, writes: "While CBS had a handful of experts look at the dubious memos (and failed to heed their concerns), the blogosphere enlisted hundreds within hours. Debates ensued, with different blogs challenging others over various abstruse points. Yes, some of this was fueled by raw partisanship and bias. The blogosphere is not morally pure. But the result was that the facts were flushed out more effectively and swiftly than the old media could ever have hoped. The collective mind also turns out to be a corrective one.

Does this mean the old media is dead? Not at all. Blogs depend on the journalistic resources of big media to do the bulk of reporting and analysis. What blogs do is provide the best scrutiny of big media imaginable—ratcheting up the standards of the professionals, adding new voices, new perspectives and new facts every minute. The genius lies not so much in the bloggers themselves but in the transparent system they have created. In an era of polarized debate, the truth has never been more available. Thank the guys in the pajamas. And read them."

Running from the media

Thought Bush's press conference today was a rare occurrence? You were right. Time Magazine reports, "Until the week of the Republican Convention, it had been three years since Bush had talked to the Washington Post or the New York Times. In his 3 1/2 years in office, he has given 15 press conferences, the fewest of any President in 50 years."

Howard Dean on corporate media

From a Columbia Journalism Review interview with former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

Dean: I’ve heard ninety percent of Americans get their news from eleven corporations.

I think that the biggest problem is that the enormous pressure on the bottom line affects editors’ judgments. And it doesn’t take too many forced revisions of reporters’ stories to teach them that they shouldn’t be writing anything that isn’t fascinating and scintillating and somewhat scandalous.

Do you think that leads to a focus on personality instead of candidates’ political positions?

I do. And I think it also leads to putting a lot of things in the newspaper that just aren’t so.

Do you think there’s any truth to the idea that the press slighted you because you didn’t schmooze them enough?

Yes, I do. I have a bit of a doctor’s personality, you know. I tend to get to the quick of it.

I think it’s a dangerous thing to have that schmoozy Washington relationship between reporters and principals, because that’s when news doesn’t get reported. But everybody is so cozy in Washington. I went to the Gridiron Dinner, and I was appalled to hear [Vice President Dick] Cheney make a remark about duck hunting with Nino [Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia]. Everybody laughed. The truth is, this is a blatant conflict of interest for the bench. If you did that in my state, you’d have to step aside and recuse yourself. But in Washington, it’s no harm, no foul. That’s not very good for democracy.

Conservative columnist: Iraq policy has fostered nuclear proliferation in Iran, North Korea

U.S. policy in Iraq has encouraged Iran to develop nuclear weapons, according to a today's column by conservative pundit George F. Will.

Will writes:
Negotiations cannot succeed without one of two things. One is a credible threat of force, which America's Iraq preoccupation makes unlikely. The second, which is also unlikely, is a mix of incentives, positive and negative, that can overcome this fact: Iran's regime is mad as a hatter, but its desire for nuclear weapons is not irrational.

Iran lives in a dangerous neighborhood, near four nuclear powers -- Russia, India, Pakistan and almost certainly Israel -- and the large military presence of another, the infidel United States. Iran has seen how the pursuit of nuclear weapons allows the ramshackle regime of a tin-pot country such as North Korea to rivet the world's attention. Iran knows that if Saddam Hussein had acquired such weapons, he would still be in power -- and in Kuwait. And even if the major powers could devise security guarantees sufficient to assuage Iran's geopolitical worries, there remains the regime's religious mania.

GOP logic: Up is Down and Down is Up

In today's Washington Post, John F. Harris writes of how Republicans have maneuvered to paint John Kerry with the "flip-flop" label, even as George W. Bush has repeatedly been guilty of his own about-faces on public policy.

Among them:

"In 2000, Bush said he would include carbon dioxide on a list of air pollutants requiring federal oversight, a stand he abandoned within weeks of taking office. A month after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush's spokesman said the president believed a homeland security department that Democrats proposed was just not necessary.' A year after that, Bush had switched course and was lashing some Democrats for not moving quickly enough to approve the agency.

While Bush professes himself a strong free-trader, most other free-trade proponents said he bent on principle in March 2002 when he ordered tariffs on imported steel -- a move that resonated politically in electorally important industrial states such as Pennsylvania. Facing an escalating global trade dispute, he lifted the tariffs at the end of last year."

Bush's tax plan: borrow and spend

Edmund L. Andrews reports in today's New York Times: "Putting aside efforts to control the federal deficit before the elections, Republican and Democratic leaders agreed Wednesday to extend $145 billion worth of tax cuts sought by President Bush without trying to pay for them."

Democrats were apparently fearful that if they tried to block the Republican legislation, even to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, it would be used against them in the upcoming elections.

Andrews writes,
With Democrats capitulating to the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, the handful of Republican holdouts have quietly surrendered as well.

The Republican rebels - Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine - infuriated Mr. Bush and many Republican leaders. But their ability to block action evaporated without the votes of Democrats.

The result of the reversal on the part of the Democrats and the Republican moderates is likely to be a tax measure that will last longer and increase federal deficits more than a two-year extension that Republican Senate leaders offered this summer. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that debt will climb by $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years, and that making all Mr. Bush's tax cuts permanent would cost an additional $1.9 trillion by the end of 2014.

It's like an 18-year-old with a credit card.

A rosy picture from the Rose Lawn

Iraq's interim prime minister Ayad Allawi is expected to appear with George W. Bush today, "where the two leaders were to assert from the White House Rose Garden that progress is being made and the future is bright in Iraq," the Associated Press reports.

Jennifer Loven writes in the AP,
Allawi's visit comes as troop casualties and civilian kidnappings in Iraq have increased, large parts of the country have come under the control of insurgents and doubts have surfaced at the United Nations that democratic elections can be held in January as planned.

An assessment of Iraq's future put together recently by U.S. intelligence officials spoke of possibilities ranging from tenuous stability to civil war, and even some GOP senators have said there is a need for more candid talk from the White House.

Loven adds, "Bush has made clear that the importance of Allawi's visit lies largely in the opportunity for the Iraqi leader to reinforce for Americans the president's own confident assessment of Iraq."

Loven also quotes Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who "suggested that the administration should spend less time staging an attractive photo opportunity and more adopting a realistic view of the challenges ahead."

"As Prime Minister Allawi comes here, we need real accomplishments and real progress and honest measures of capability, not soundbites of rhetoric which are not substantiated by the figures being issued in detail by the United States government,'" Cordesman told the AP.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Today's Lesson

"Conservatives should stop slavering over Dan Rather's scalp, and liberals should stop pretending that noble ends justify fake-evidence means. Both should focus on the lesson of the early 70's: from third-rate burglaries to fourth-rate forgeries, nobody gets away with trying to corrupt American elections."
-William Safire, The New York Times

Tom DeLay's PAC: 24 felony indictments

The Houston Chronicle reports:

"Three people linked to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay were indicted Tuesday along with eight out-of-state companies on charges of illegally using corporate money to help Republican Texas House candidates in 2002.

The indictments by a Travis County grand jury focus on how the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee raised corporate money to help Republicans take control of the Texas House for the first time since Reconstruction. That majority gave DeLay the power to push a major congressional redistricting bill through the Legislature that is designed to give the GOP a majority in the Texas delegation in this fall's elections...

TRMPAC raised almost $600,000 from corporations, much of it at fund-raisers where DeLay was the featured guest. The money was used to pay for additional fund-raising and political activity to help Republican candidates win about 20 House seats.

Texas Ethics Commission opinions have said corporate money can be used only to pay a political committee's basic expenses, such as rent and utilities."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Fudging the Numbers

In his stump speech, George W. Bush claims Americans' after-tax income is up 10 percent during his first term. FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan site run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, points out just how false this claim is:
[George W. Bush] says "Real after-tax incomes are up almost 10 percent since December of 2000," Clinton's last full month in office. That's from the Department of Commerce, a statistic  called "real disposable income." It refers to the total of all inflation-adjusted income earned by all persons, minus taxes.

Bush fails to mention that much of the increase is due to simple population growth.  Adjust it for that, and the per-capita growth is less than 6%.

And even that doesn't tell you who got the income. Roughly half of all personal income goes to the most affluent one-fifth of the population.

Typical families and households haven't seen such an increase. The Census Bureau's annual survey shows that inflation-adjusted income for the median household -- the midpoint -- fell by $1,535 in Bush's first 3 years, a decline of 3.4 percent.

FactCheck.org also addresses another issue: Bush's claim that unemployment now is lower than the average for the 1990's. This claim is true--when you include the years George W. Bush's father was in office, 1990, 1991, and 1992.
What Bush leaves out, of course, is that 5.4% is slightly worse than the average for the full eight years of Clinton's two terms, which was 5.2%. And not nearly as good as the under-4% rate reached in several months of Clinton's final year. Bush also says nothing about the fact that as of August,  the number of persons employed in payroll jobs was still 913,000 below what it was when Bush took office in 2001. At the current rate of growth it is almost certain that Democrats will be proven right about Bush being the first President since Hoover to suffer a net job loss over a full four-year term.

FactCheck.org is an equal opportunity critic, and they also note some funny numbers being used on the Democratic side. An example:
Kerry's stump speech hammers away at Bush for spending money on Iraq instead of domestic needs, but he uses an inflated figure. "It's almost $200 billion now," Kerry said Sept. 7 in Greensboro, NC. But that's too high.

As we pointed out in detail recently, Kerry is using Office of Management and Budget figures which put the cost at just under $120 billion through the end of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. That's what's actually been spent on military operations and reconstruction. Kerry then adds money that is to be spent in the future -- lumping in a lot of funds that actually won't go for Iraq at all, but are earmarked for Afghanistan (a military operation Kerry supports) and the Pentagon's domestic anti-terror operations, such as combat air patrols over US cities.

Bush's national mortgage

John Kerry read the Top 10 Bush tax proposals on David Letterman today.

#1: "George W. Bush gets a deduction for mortgaging our entire future."

Taking away my brother

From the Emory Wheel student newspaper:

I found out that my brother, Sgt. Ryan M. Campbell, was dead during a graduate seminar on April 29.

Immediately after a uniformed officer knocked at my mother's door to deliver the message that broke her heart, she called me on my cellphone. She could say nothing but, "He's gone." I could say nothing but, "No." Over and over again we chanted this refrain to each other over the phone as I made my way across the country to hold her as she wept.

I had made the very same trip in February, cutting classes to spend my brother's two weeks' leave from Baghdad with him. Little did I know then that the next time I'd see him would be at Arlington National Cemetery.

During those days in February, my brother shared with me his fear, his disillusionment and his anger. "We had all been led to believe that Iraq posed a serious threat to America as well as its surrounding nations," he said. "We invaded expecting to find weapons of mass destruction and a much more prepared and well-trained Republican Guard waiting for us. It is now a year later, and alas, no weapons of mass destruction or any other real threat, for that matter."

Ryan was scheduled to complete his one-year assignment to Iraq on April 25. But on April 11, he e-mailed me to let me know not to expect him in Atlanta for a May visit, because his tour of duty had been involuntarily extended. "Just do me one big favor, OK?" he wrote. "Don't vote for Bush. No. Just don't do it. I would not be happy with you."

-by Brooke Campbell, story continued here.

Monday, September 20, 2004

John Ashcroft: 0 for 5,000 on terrorist prosecutions

Number of foreign nationals detained by the Justice Dept. in anti-terrorism sweeps following 9-11: 5,000.

Number of jury convictions (for terrorist charges): 0.

Source: David Cole, The Nation.

Sending others to die

Michael Dobbs wrote last week in the Washington Post, "Whatever Bush's reasons for failing to take the physical, he seems to have put in minimal service at best in Alabama. According to his official personnel records, made public by the White House and the Pentagon, he failed to show for any drills between May and October 1972, even though Air Force regulations required him to attend 90 percent of scheduled drills, barring events 'beyond his control.'"

Meanwhile, as William Saletan reported in today's Slate: "Some 40,000 members of the Guard are in Iraq today—six times the number of guardsmen sent to Vietnam. Already, more Guard troops have died in Iraq than in Vietnam."

The higher they rise...

What was Dan Rather thinking? Media critic Jack Shafer attempts to answer this question in today's Slate.

Shafer writes: "The broadest explanation for CBS News' reluctance to correct the record applies, unfortunately, to all journalists, especially investigative journalists: Once journalists commit themselves to a version of events or to a point of view, they are all too often unwilling to change their minds... Investigative reporters also expect their scoops to be attacked, especially if the story's subject is powerful or shady, so they're emboldened rather than discouraged by the first round of criticism."

In the midst of a war in Iraq and genocide in Sudan, why has this become such a big story?

Shafer writes: "The Bush document hoax has become such a big story because TV journalists usually act as though they're infallible. When was the last time you heard Rather or any other network anchor issue a correction or a retraction? It's as rare as rain on the moon. Compare CBS's imperious behavior to that of the Times, which issued 2,867 corrections in 2002. With no systematic way to address errors, the network has no built-in safety valve that allows it to correct the record. It has only two choices: Stand by its story completely, or fold completely."

Shafer concludes: "Many are calling for Dan Rather's resignation today, but not me. Obviously, CBS News needs to rethink its approach to journalism if it hopes to restore viewer faith. A weekly corrections segment on the CBS Evening News and on its various newsmagazines would be a good place to start."

To read Shafer's full assessment, go to Slate.

CBS admits being duped, apologizes

CBS apologized today for broadcasting unauthenticated documents questioning George W. Bush's National Guard Service.

The documents were broadcast by CBS Sept. 8, after CBS received the documents from a source who wished to remain anonymous, and the documents were cleared by the White House without question.

Within hours of the CBS 60 Minutes broadcast, Harry MacDougald, a North Carolina attorney and Republican activist, wrote a blog entry questioning the memos' legitimacy. MacDougald, writing anonymously as "Buckhead" for www.freerepublic.com, was "outed" by the Los Angeles Times last week.

The CBS memos were said to be written by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian in 1972 and 1973. MacDougald pointed out that the memos were typed using proportionately-spaced fonts, a technology which is associated with the computer age and not typewriters used in the early 1970's.

CBS initially strongly defended the documents' authenticity, but backed down last week after an interview with Killian's secretary, Marian Carr Knox. Knox said the sentiments contained in the documents–that Killian was under pressure to "sugarcoat" Bush's record– were accurate, but that she did not believe the documents themselves were the true originals.

CBS has come under heavy fire since the Sep. 8 show with some calling it a "landmark" event in journalism history.

Personally, I would hesitate to throw CBS into the same mix of journalistic scandals which hit The New Republic, the New York Times and USA Today in recent years. Stories written by Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley were all deliberate frauds. CBS was clearly caught up in an accidental deception.

In their rush to get a scoop, CBS broadcast the documents too quickly, with too little effort to verify their reliability. It was very sloppy–but there's a difference between sloppiness and malice. The biggest problem with CBS's judgment on this issue, actually, was their continued insistence the documents were accurate until a few days ago.

Expert after expert came forward to testify the documents were fake, and CBS wasn't able to answer basic questions about the documents' origin. Had CBS said right off the bat they were a victim to a hoax, the hit to the network's credibility would not have been as severe. As Jeff Birnbaum of the Washington Post said, "All of us have made mistakes. The first rule of journalism is to admit your mistakes."

One issue that has been sidetracked by the whole CBS brouhaha is the original story: George W. Bush's failure to fulfill his National Guard obligations.

Dan Rather noted no one disputes the story's basic premise: the Bush family pulled strings to get a relatively cushy National Guard assignment for George W., and George W. subsequently failed to complete the requirements of his service. For the latest on this, read the New York Times summary below.

Bill Burkett, a disgruntled National Guardsman, has been mentioned in recent New York Times and Associated Press reports as the suspected source of the documents. An interview with Burkett will be broadcast on CBS tonight.

More temporary jobs, fewer union jobs: income gap widens

The Washington Post today published the first in a series of articles on the fate of the middle class. Today's article focuses on administrative and blue-collar workers, particularly those without advanced degrees, whose prospects have grown more bleak even as other sectors (doctors, lawyers) have shot ahead.

Griff Witte writes:
All kinds of jobs that pay in the middle range -- Clark's $17 an hour, or about $35,000 a year, was smack in the center -- are vanishing, including computer-code crunchers, produce managers, call-center operators, travel agents and office clerks.

The jobs have had one thing in common: For people with a high school diploma and perhaps a bit of college, they can be a ticket to a modest home, health insurance, decent retirement and maybe some savings for the kids' tuition. Such jobs were a big reason America's middle class flourished in the second half of the 20th century.

Now what those jobs share is vulnerability. The people who fill them have become replaceable by machines, workers overseas or temporary employees at home who lack benefits. And when they are replaced, many don't know where to turn.

Perhaps most telling, "there are now about as many temporary, on-call or contract workers in the United States as there are members of labor unions."

The income gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow wider, Witte reports. "The ranks of the uninsured, the bankrupt and the long-term unemployed have all crept up the income scale, proving those problems aren't limited to the poor. Meanwhile, income inequality has grown. In 2001, the top 20 percent of households for the first time raked in more than half of all income, while the share earned by those in the middle was the lowest in nearly 50 years. "

To read stories about individual workers, go to the full article.

Senators call Iraq policy incompetent, pitiful and dangerous

Republican Chair Richard Lugar and other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued harsh condemnations of the Bush administration's handling of Iraq policy during interviews and hearings this week.

Noting that only $1 billion of $18.4 billion allocated by Congress for Iraqi reconstruction has been spent, Lugar said it "is the incompetence in the administration."

Sen. Joseph Biden, a Democrat, agreed. "There seems to be no sense of urgency on the part of this administration," Biden said.

Earlier in the week, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel called the administration's track record on Iraqi reconstruction "beyond pitiful and embarrassing; it is now in the zone of dangerous."

John McCain: serious mistakes made in war planning for Iraq

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Sen. John McCain said the following:

"[W]e made serious mistakes right after the initial successes by not having enough troops there on the ground, by allowing the looting, by not securing the borders. There was a number of things that we did. Most of it can be traced back to not having sufficient numbers of troops there.

But let me emphasize, things always go badly in wars. That's one of the reasons why we try to avoid them. The key is to correct our mistakes.

In the Fallujah issue, our general in Baghdad said we were going to go in and capture or kill those who were responsible for the deaths of Americans. And we went in, and then we pulled out.

As Napoleon said, if you say you're going to take Vienna, you take Vienna.

And so, we, by allowing these sanctuaries — and Fallujah isn't the only one; there's a number of them particularly in the Sunni triangle — then they were able to establish bases where they can equip, train and harbor people who are coming across the border from Syria and others contributing to this very serious challenge that we face."

Dec. 2002: Kerry says the U.S. should not "go it alone" in Iraq

The following excerpt is from a Dec. 2, 2002 CNN Transcript:


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I've made a decision to file a formal exploratory committee.
JUDY WOODRUFF (voice-over): With that, John Kerry jumped in, and immediately criticized President Bush on a range of issues, foreign and domestic. On Iraq, Kerry says the U.S. must have U.N. support to go to war.
KERRY: I think it would be very dangerous for the United States to go it alone in Iraq, under any circumstances, except if there were a clear, imminent threat.
WOODRUFF: On NBC's meet the press Kerry faulted the administration for failing to catch Osama bin Laden.
KERRY: Target number one, Osama bin Laden. Target number two, al Qaeda. Target number three, Mullah Omar. All three of them are still loose.
WOODRUFF: Kerry also laid out his domestic priorities -- education and health care. He wants universal health care coverage for all Americans, but not the type favored by former Vice President Al Gore.
KERRY: Well, a single payer is the Canadian plan, or the British plan, a plan where the government makes all the choices, the answer is no.
WOODRUFF: And on taxes, Kerry said he would cancel the Bush tax cuts from this point on.
KERRY: No new tax cut under the Bush plan, most of which goes to the wealthiest Americans, because we simply can't afford it.
WOODRUFF: Kerry has an impressive personal and political biography. He is a war hero, serving as an officer on a gun boat in the Mekong Delta in the Vietnam War. Kerry was wounded three times, and returned home to join the anti-war movement.

Lies My President Told Me

The New York Times weighed in today with an overly cautious analysis of George W. Bush's National Guard duty.

In the New York Time's polite estimation, Bush's stories don't add up. Bush has never provided an adequate explanation for his missed physical and flight suspension in 1972. Bush's payroll records indicate that he didn't serve his required hours, as reported by the New York Times. Furthermore, it is not clear that Bush even showed up for duty on those days for which he was paid.

Sara Rimer writes:
In his 1999 book, A Charge to Keep, Mr. Bush did not mention the missed physical or the suspension. "I was almost finished with my commitment in the Air National Guard," he wrote, "and was no longer flying because the F-102 jet I had trained in was being replaced by a different fighter." In fact, when he missed his physical he had almost two years left in the Guard.

Later, an aide to Mr. Bush explained that he had missed his physical because he was waiting to get examined by his personal physician. But pilots were required to be examined by military doctors.

More recently the White House has said that he did not take the physical because Alabama units were not flying the F-102. But his second application to transfer to Alabama - after the rejected transfer in July - was filed in September 1972, at least two months after he had missed his physical.

Whatever the reason, on Sept. 5, Mr. Bush was notified that he was suspended from flying "for failure to accomplish annual medical examination.

By that time, still without an Alabama unit, he had not attended a required monthly drill for almost five months, according to records released by the White House.

Rimer also notes:
Payroll records released by the White House show that in addition to being paid for attending a drill in Alabama the last weekend in October, Mr. Bush was also paid for a weekend drill after the Blount election, on Nov. 11 and 12, and for meetings on Nov. 13 and 14.

But there are no records from the 187th indicating that Mr. Bush, in fact, appeared on those days in October and November, and more than a dozen members of the unit from that era say they never saw him.

Note one other item. After disappearing from Texas in 1972 and reappearing in Alabama, George W. Bush went to work on the campaign of Winton M. Blount. Blount's campaign accused Democrats of showing "more concern for coddling deserters than for patriotic American young men who have lost their lives in Vietnam." Thirty-two years later, a question lingers: Was Bush himself shirking National Guard duty at the same time he was contributing to a political campaign full of smears about "draft dodgers"?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Bush's Lost Year: An Inventory of Opportunities Lost

"To govern is to choose, and the choices made in 2002 were fateful. The United States began that year shocked and wounded, but with tremendous strategic advantages. Its population was more closely united behind its leadership than it had been in fifty years. World opinion was strongly sympathetic. Longtime allies were eager to help; longtime antagonists were silent. The federal budget was nearly in balance, making ambitious projects feasible. The U.S. military was superbly equipped, trained, and prepared. An immediate foe was evident--and vulnerable--in Afghanistan. For the longer-term effort against Islamic extremism the Administration could draw on a mature school of thought from academics, regional specialists, and its own intelligence agencies. All that was required was to think broadly about the threats to the country, and creatively about the responses.

The Bush Administration chose another path. Implicitly at the beginning of 2002, and as a matter of formal policy by the end, it placed all other considerations second to regime change in Iraq. It hampered the campaign in Afghanistan before fighting began and wound it down prematurely, along the way losing the chance to capture Osama bin Laden. It turned a blind eye to misdeeds in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and to WMD threats from North Korea and Iran far more serious than any posed by Saddam Hussein, all in the name of moving toward a showdown with Iraq. It overused and wore out its army in invading Iraq--without committing enough troops for a successful occupation. It saddled the United States with ongoing costs that dwarf its spending for domestic security. And by every available measure it only worsened the risk of future terrorism."

-James Fallows, concluding the October cover story for The Atlantic

Tax Reform?

According to the Economist magazine, the tax code grew by 10,000 pages during George W. Bush's first term in office.

Furthermore, the Economist reports, "This year's deficit, at $422 billion or 3.6 % of GDP, is marginally lower than the [Congressional Budget Office] estimated six months ago. But the outlook for the next ten years has worsened, to a cumulative deficit of $2.3 trillion."

So while the Republicans proclaim themselves the party of tax reform and fiscal responsibility, it looks like this year the best party to push for either goal is the Democrats.