Monthly Archives: March 2004

Milestones

Well, with the nine Americans(!) killed in Iraq today, we’ve gone over the 600 dead mark(!), and enjoyed the second-deadliest month(!) since the end of major combat eleven months ago.

As I saw the AP photos of the four charred American bodies (all civilians!) being hung from a bridge in Fallujah, I was struck by the complete and utter absence of rose petals at what was once their feet.

I was depressed about this, but then I thought about that knee-slapper of a joke Bush told the other day — you know, the one where he showed slides of himself crawling around looking for the WMDs? Hee hee hee! Took those blues o’ mine away! Gosh, it’s so darned refreshing to have a President — no, a compassionate President — in the White House to make us laugh on days like today. Har har har!

Powell Adds Credence to Clark Testimony

Not intentionally of course.

Here’s the timeline which tells the story:

December 16, 2000 – Powell nominated by Bush to be Secretary of State.

December 20, 2000 – Powell meets with CIA, FBI and the State Department for the transition. "We talked about al Qaeda," Powell later admits.

January 17, 2000 – Powell testifies at his confirmation hearing. Outlining the new administration’s priorities, he talks on about 20 topics, including China, Balkans, Russia, Iran, and Iraq (saying that U.N. sanctions must be "re-energized"). Number of times "terrorism" is mentioned: twice (one time, it is lumped in with "organized crime"). Number of times al Qaeda is mentioned: zero.

Front burner, my ass.

Source

Outsourcing Torture

The Village Voice has an interesting article on a CIA practice known as "extraordinary rendition". What it basically means is this: we pick up a suspect (i.e., a terrorism suspect) in a foreign country. Then, rather than interrogate him here in the United States, we ship him off to Syria or someplace where the authorities there can practice, uh, more persuasive methods of interrogation on him — in a word, torture.

Now, one can see the advantages of such a practice. Our government can (in theory) get information which it wouldn’t be unable to obtain here, where it is constrained by pesky little things like the Bill of Rights and all that. And that might translate into saving lives.

But the article brings up a larger issue. What message does that send about our system and values? We express outrage (rightfully) at Saddam’s torture of his people, but if the Syrians do it on our behalf, then torture is okay?!?

It makes no sense. Third-world countries will adopt the unmistakable perception that America is a principle-less country — i.e., that we are hypocrites. There is no moral absolutism, just transitory arguments of convenience.

So . . . an open question: If the key to ending terror lies in planting seeds of democracy and fostering moral principles of human rights in these regions, shouldn’t we examine the practice of "extraordinary rendition" more closely

Eric Embarrassment Watch I

Who’s "Eric"? I don’t know — perhaps a Special Assistant to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Whoever he is, chances are he’ll be out of a job by the end of the day.

Why? It looks like he left his notes regarding strategy sessions on how to deal with Clarke, etc. at a D.C. Starbucks. (Included in his notes was a hand-drawn map to Rumsfeld’s house — probably not a good thing to leave laying about).

Make of it what you will, but it’s interesting and/or ironic that, like the floppy disk found some time ago and Andrew Card’s revealing admission, the emphasis is once again on selling a message rather than, you know, actually doing government work. One gets the impression that PR is job number one in the Bush Administration, and "the business of the people" (to use an old Nixon phrase) is secondary.

Actually, I guess that’s good. I’d rather have them leaving notes like these at a Starbucks rather than, say, military secrets.

Update: If you can ignore their gratuitous editorials and rhetoric (and you should if you want to make up your own mind), The Center for American Progress has the "Eric Notes" here (PDF format). Yes, they wisely redacted the map to Rumsfeld’s house.

Rice To Testify

The White House is backpeddling. Which is fine. Doing the right thing . . . eventually . . . is the best we can hope for from the Bush Administration.

But here’s something that struck me as odd — today’s letter to the 9/11 Commission from the White House counsel, especially this self-serving statement:

The President has consistently stated a policy of strong support for the Commission and instructed the Executive Branch to provide unprecedented and extraordinary access to the Commission [emphasis mine]

Call me crazy, but for the past several days, the White House and Condi have been relying on "precedent" to avoid having her testify. So how can it be seriously asserted that the Exec Branch’s "unprecedented . . . access" has been "consistent"?

Interestingly, the next paragraph discusses the lack of past instances in which a sitting NSA testified in public. Again, I ask . . . has the WH access been "unprecedented" or not?

Also, did anybody catch this "catch"? In order for Rice to testify, the Commission must agree in writing not to request any more public testimony from any White House official (including Rice herself) (see page two of the letter) Mmmmmmm . . . .

More Corroboration of Clarke

[Outgoing Deputy National Security Advisor Lieutenant General Donald L. Kerrick], who stayed through the first four months of the Bush administration, said, "candidly speaking, I didn’t detect" a strong focus on terrorism. "That’s not being derogatory. It’s just a fact. I didn’t detect any activity but what Dick Clarke and the CSG [the Counterterrorism Strategy Group he chaired] were doing." General Hugh Shelton, whose term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff began under Clinton and ended under Bush, concurred. In his view, the Bush administration moved terrorism "farther to the back burner."

As reported here. Oh, and neither of them have books out. (Yes, yes. "Obviously" Clarke — who is now richer than Bill Gates from his astounding book sales — is giving these guys a cut of his lucrative pie . . . blah blah blah)

And here‘s a nice little historical nugget. This is Judy Woodruff, reporting on CNN. The date is April 30, 2001.

"The State Department officially released its annual terrorism report just a little more than an hour ago, but unlike last year, there’s no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden. A senior State Department official tells CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden and "personalizing terrorism."

Mmmmmm. I guess Judy and/or the State Department is on Clarke’s payroll, too.

New Rule (with Apologies to Bill Maher)

Politicians cannot engage in political humor, if they don’t know what’s funny.

At last night’s Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association 60th annual dinner, Bush presented a series of slides:

A recurring joke involved photos of the president in awkward positions — bent over as if he’s looking under a table, leaning to look out a window — accompanied by remarks such as "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere!" and "Nope, no weapons over there!" and "Maybe under here?"

From WaPo.

As has been noted here, "Bill Buckner doesn’t get to joke about the 1986 World Series (at least, among a lot of Bostonians). O.J. Simpson doesn’t get to joke about Ron and Nicole. Bush doesn’t get to joke about the lack of WMD in Iraq."

Why not? Ask the families of the two American soldiers who died in Iraq yesterday if they find Bush’s antics funny.

[To be fair, other things that Bush did were (arguably) humorous. But the point is that making light of one’s own bone-headed rationale and/or intelligence failures that resulted in close to 600 G.I. deaths, is amazingly inappropriate and insensitive. And that’s true even if you believe that Bush shouldn’t be held responsible for the lack of WMD in Iraq].

Uh . . . Question?

Fox News in August 2002 had an interview with Richard Clarke (then working for Bush White House). Clarke was on background, which is why Fox had to seek permission from the White House to release the transcript yesterday, identifying Clarke as the source. (The White House, of course, granted permission)

Apparently, this is how it is done.

I have no quarrel with that, but it does lead me (and others) to wonder — why can’t the White House de-"background" whoever it was who talked to Novak about Valerie Plame?

Newdow v. Rehnquist

Michael Newdow, the atheist-doctor-attorney from California who wants "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, made his argument to the Supreme Court today. And HE made it HIMSELF, not some high-priced experienced appellate lawyer.

By one first-hand account, Newdow wasn’t too shabby for a guy who doesn’t actually practice law for a living. He even one-upped Rehnquist at one point:

In response to his assertions that the Pledge’s reference to "under God" divides, rather than unites, the country, the Chief [Justice Rehnquist] asked by what vote Congress added the phrase in 1954. Newdow responded that it was unanimous, to which the Chief joked, "That doesn’t sound very divisive," to which Newdow responded, "That’s because no atheist can get elected to office in this country." Several members of the audience then broke out in applause, a serious breach of decorum at this Court, causing the Chief to say angrily that the courtroom would be cleared if there was any more clapping.

From a post on SCOTUSblog

Powell Failed His Own Challenge To Identify Supporting Nations

"And this particular coalition of the willing now has 47 nations; 47 nations are openly members of the coalition, and have asked to be identified with this effort. And there are many other nations that for a variety of reasons don’t want to be publicly identified, but are also a part of the coalition of the willing".

– Colin Powell. March 26, 2003 (Source)

Another double standard of the reeling right.

Law Enforcement & Intelligence vs. Terrorism

Kerry’s still singing that same tune about how law enforcement activities and intelligence activities are going to win the war on terrorism. He said it again yesterday, even though it makes him look "soft" (to some):

This is the time to redouble our efforts in every way – law enforcement activities, intelligence activities — and deal with this threat to the civilized world.

Except . . . . that’s not a Kerry quote. It was Colin Powell, yesterday, in Baghdad. Source is here (click on "NPR Hourly News" — the quote is about 1:15 into the audiostream — I’ll try to get a better link or transcript if I can find one)

Good Gramma!

I’m an English snob. I admit it. When someone says they want to "axe" me a question, I want to plant my foot in their behind.

So let’s take a moment out of our busy days to make sure we’re not butchering the English language, shall we? This is a good place for us to brush up: The 100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English. How broken is your English? (I must admit, I thought "spitting image" was the correct phrase — it’s not — it’s "spit and image").

Hat tip to Eugene.

Yes, Foreign Leaders Want Kerry To Win

Why? Because those allying with Bush lose in their elections. Germany in ’02, South Korea in ’03, and Spain in ’04. Bush is the kiss of death.

And now, the President of Poland (part of the ever-dwindling "coalition of the willing disenchanted") is distancing himself from Bush in a big way, saying that Poland too was "misled with the information on weapons of mass destruction."

Freedom Sausage, anyone? How about Freedom Springs Bottled Water?

UPDATE: Even Blair? The Observer apparently thinks so.

Downing Street knows that pictures of a grinning Bush clasping Blair by the shoulder are not what might be described as ‘politically helpful’.

‘We need a US that constructively engages with the European Union and the wider world,’ Giddens wrote in last week’s Prospect magazine. ‘I hope a Democratic President will be elected who pursues such an aim.’

(Anthony Giddens is Blair’s "Dick Morris").

Who’s the Dupe?

Please read this story . It is a story saying that an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group issued a statement saying that it wants Bush to be elected.

I assumed it to be a joke, like the recent fake "NY Times" article that got the NYT all worked up. Part of the tip-off for me was the reporter’s name, "Opheera McDoom".

Daily Kos, however, seems to think it is accurate. Am I wrong? Or is he?

Assuming the story itself is authentic, I don’t know how much stock to put in it. Do they REALLY want Bush to win, or are they just SAYING they want Bush to win, so that we will vote for Kerry?

Cue The Princess Bride:

Vizzini: Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

…You only think I guessed wrong – that’s what’s so funny. I switched glasses when your back was turned. Ha-ha, you fool. You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia", but only slightly less well known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian, when *death* is on the line.". Hahahahahah.
[Vizzini falls over dead]

Hat tip to Corrente for the analogy.

Bush Embarrassment Watch CLXIII

With all the "One Year Later" retrospectives going around, a reader at Atrios’ site posted Bush’s speech of March 13, 2003 — the start of the war. Many of us thought it was a crock then — and now — with benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it clearly was one.

This passage particularly struck me:

The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.

What can one make of this statement, now that we know that Saddam had already been disarmed? If we are to take Bush at his word, then "the terrorist threat to America" was not as big as we thought it was — even one year ago!

That’s the problem with speculating about the present and the future when you don’t know the facts (or don’t care about them) — you have to eat your words. Bon appetit, Mr. President!

Gotta Love This Ad

Even if you disagree with the message, I hope you can agree that Moveon.org’s new ad is unique and captivating. It’s powerful in its simplicity. It doesn’t manipulate with music. It doesn’t have commentary and voice-overs. It doesn’t pay actors to pretend to be something they’re not, with scripted words. It doesn’t twist words, or selectively edit. Just 30 seconds of Rumsfeld speaking on "Meet the Press". Well done.

Pew Research – A Year After Iraq War

Even though the headline is "Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher, Muslim Anger Persists", there’s tons of other interesting "meat" in this survey — some good and some not-so-good. Personally, I am particularly pleased that Europeans draw a distinction between the American people (who they generally like) and American policies (which they generally dislike and distrust). But in any event, there’s some good fodder for discussion and reflection, and I present it without further comment (for now).

Why They Voted Socialist

Afraid of al Qaeda? It doesn’t look that way . . .

But interviews with scores of Spaniards of both parties indicated that a number of things happened after the attacks that shifted the balance to the Socialists. Voters flooded the polls on Sunday in record numbers, especially young people who had not planned to vote. In interviews, they said they did so not so much out of fear of terror as out of anger against a government they saw as increasingly authoritarian, arrogant and stubborn. The government, they said, mishandled the crisis in the emotional days after the attacks.

Voters said they were enraged not only by the government’s insistence that the Basque separatist group ETA was responsible, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, but they also resented its clumsy attempts to quell antigovernment sentiment.

For example, the main television channel TVE, which is state-owned, showed scant and selective scenes of antigovernment demonstrations on Saturday night, just as it ran very little coverage of the large demonstrations against the war in Iraq last year. It also suddenly changed its regular programming to air a documentary on the horrors of ETA.

That was the last straw for some Spaniards, who said it evoked the nightmare of censorship during the Franco dictatorship little more than a quarter of a century ago.

Meanwhile, within 24 hours of the terrorist attacks, the Socialists, through their own intelligence and diplomatic contacts in the Muslim world, were already leaning toward the theory that Al Qaeda and not ETA was responsible, two senior Socialist Party officials said.

. . . from the NY Times.

So, it seems, the Socialist Party won because its opponents weren’t open and honest. Not a bad lesson. Anyone here listening?

The “Iraq On The Record” Database

The Bush Administration’s deceptions regarding the War on Iraq are so numerous that Rep. Henry Waxman has put them on a searchable database.

This Iraq on the Record database contains statements made by the five officials that were misleading at the time they were made. The database does not include statements that appear in hindsight to be erroneous but were accurate reflections of the views of intelligence officials at the time they were made.

That sounds like a reasonable and fair criteria.

Of course, most of it is nothing we haven’t all seen before, but it’s packaged well. A good tool for both sides . . . i.e. search for the word "imminent" to see if anyone DID say that threat from Iraq was "imminent".

House Republican Embarrassment Watch

I try to have toleration for people with different viewpoints than me. There’s nothing I respect more than loyal opposition.

But it’s hard for me to respect conservative House Republicans. I truly feel that many of them have no concept of how our government works.

Here’s their latest foray into stupidity:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004′.

SEC. 2. CONGRESSIONAL REVERSAL OF SUPREME COURT JUDGMENTS.

The Congress may, if two thirds of each House agree, reverse a judgment of the United States Supreme Court–

(1) if that judgment is handed down after the date of the enactment of this Act; and

(2) to the extent that judgment concerns the constitutionality of an Act of Congress.

SEC. 3. PROCEDURE.

The procedure for reversing a judgment under section 2 shall be, as near as may be and consistent with the authority of each House of Congress to adopt its own rules of proceeding, the same as that used for considering whether or not to override a veto of legislation by the President.

SEC. 4. BASIS FOR ENACTMENT.

This Act is enacted pursuant to the power of Congress under article III, section 2, of the Constitution of the United States.

You don’t need to be a lawyer to know how preposterously unconstitutional this is. All you need is a 7th grade civics education. And these guys (not ALL House Republicans are this way, mind you) don’t have it.

And I’m sure everyone catches the irony of an unconstitutional bill which permits Congress to decide the constitutionality of its own acts. The bill itself is the best argument for its own defeat — because obviously, those in Congress (at least, those sponsoring the bill) wouldn’t know the constitutionality of their legislation if it came up and bit them in their collective asses!

The War on Terror So Far . . .

Pluses:

  • Saddam Hussein out of power
  • Many dead/captured terrorists or Iraqi resistence

Minuses:

  • 550 dead American soldiers
  • 200 dead Spanish citizens
  • Lord knows how many dead innocent Iraqis
  • Lord knows how many wounded
  • No new democracies (just two police states, and a new socialist leader in Spain)
  • Bin Laden still alive
  • al Qaeda still active (obviously)
  • Taliban controls 1/3rd of Afghanistan
  • Coddling of Saudi Arabia (despite its ties to al Qaeda)
  • Coddling of Pakistan (despite admitted nuclear proliferation)
  • U.S. no longer world’s leader — it just has the most guns

You know what? I’m not impressed with Bush’s "toughness" on terrorism.

“What Can 30 Million Evangelicals Do For America? Anything We Want.”

That was the slogan on the back of the program at yesterday’s National Association of Evangelicals convention, according to the NY Times. (President Bush spoke at the convention via teleconference).

They’re wrong, in my view, but it’s scary that they think that.

Robert Schuller, who many of you probably know, sounded like the only voice of reason in the bunch. According to the NY Times, he "delivered an address gently criticizing some conservative evangelical Christians for acting as if they know the only possible route to salvation."

"What upsets me about religious leaders of all faiths is that they talk like they know it all, and anybody who doesn’t agree with them is a heretic," he said later in an interview.

"Politics is a force that pulls answers towards mediocrity," he said, "That is why when issues are politicized, I am gone."

Good man, that Schuller.

That’s A Fisk?

At the Bush-Cheney blog, they’re trying to make some inroads by pointing out Kerry flip-flops. Here‘s an example (NOTE: I’ve put Kerry quotes in italics, but otherwise, this is a cut-and-paste from the Bush-Cheney site):

Let’s go back to the Time piece for some historical reference:

TIME: What would you have done about Iraq had you been the President?
KERRY: If I had been the President, I might have gone to war but not the way the President did. It might have been only because we had exhausted the remedies of inspections, only because we had to—because it was the only way to enforce the disarmament.

Which directly contradicts what he told Rolling Stone in December:

If I were president, we would not be in Iraq today — we would not be at war.

Which is kind of hard to square with this, from the first Democratic debate in May 2003:

I would have preferred if we had have given diplomacy a greater opportunity, but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. When the president made the decision, I supported him and I support the fact that we did disarm him.

Why is it so hard to square these three quotes?

In the first quote (from Time), Kerry is saying that if he had been President, he might have gone to war but only if other remedies were exhausted.

In the second quote (from Rolling Stone in December 2003), Kerry said if he were President, we would not be at war. (And why not? Clearly BECAUSE OTHER REMEDIES HAD NOT BEEN EXHAUSTED!)

Are the first and second quotes "direct contradictions" as the Bush campaign claims? Hell, no. They’re consistent!

In the third quote, Kerry talks about his support of Bush’s decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. That’s a different subject altogether from the decision to go to war. It IS possible to support disarming Saddam Hussein, and still be opposed to the Iraq War.

Is this the best they can do???

Don’t These Guys Know How To VET?

You know, if I were to do Bush Embarrassment Watches, I’d do nothing else in my life but post here. But this one is too good to let go:

Last Labor Day, Bush announced that he was creating a new office — the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services. In doing so, he noted that that the U.S. had "lost thousands of jobs in manufacturing . . . some of it because production moved overseas." The position was intended to help with those issues. The announcement was followed by months of delay, and Democratic criticism for the delay.

So who did Bush (finally) plan to nominate? A guy named Raimondo, who is a longtime board member of the National Association of Manufacturers. Michael E. Baroody, the group’s executive vice president, called Raimondo "a class act who understands manufacturing and understands public policy."

But Kerry’s campaign, tipped off about the impending nomination several hours earlier, hastened to distribute news reports that Raimondo’s firm, Behlen Manufacturing Co. of Columbus, Neb., had laid off 75 U.S. workers in 2002, four months after announcing plans for a $3 million factory in northwest Beijing.

Result?

Seventy-five minutes after the administration announced a news conference with Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans to name the official, an advisory went out saying the event had been "postponed due to scheduling conflicts."

Yeah, right. Full story here.

What’s Wrong With The Iraqi “Constitution”

According to the people at Gun Owners of America, the Iraqi interim constitution is flawed because it omits the right to keep and bear arms.

Look, I’m more pro-Second Amendment than many of my liberal colleagues, but a bad idea is a bad idea. And freedom to have guns in Iraq is a bad idea.

Yes, the report is in WorldNetDaily, but I believe it anyway.

“Just Don’t Get TOO Creative . . .”

You can go to the Bush-Cheney site here and create your own custom color Bush-Cheney poster.

They even let you insert your own "custom text" into the poster. Well, not really. I wasn’t able to insert MY "custom text" (heh heh heh).

Play around with it and you’ll see what I mean.

Special Interests Favor Who?

For a while, Kerry was tagged as being in the pocket of "special interests". Then it all died down. Good thing, too, because . . .

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that "nearly half of Kerry’s biggest financial supporters contributed more money to Bush than to Kerry himself through Jan. 30 of this year . . . In all, nine of Kerry’s top 20 donors favor Bush with their contributions." Read all about it here.

Bush Weak On Nuclear Terrorism?

This article in Foreign Affairs begins:

President George W. Bush has singled out terrorist nuclear attacks on the United States as the defining threat the nation will face in the foreseeable future. In addressing this specter, he has asserted that Americans’ "highest priority is to keep terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction." So far, however, his words have not been matched by deeds. The Bush administration has yet to develop a coherent strategy for combating the threat of nuclear terror.

The article sets forth "a new doctrine of ‘Three No’s’: no loose nukes, no new nascent nukes, and no new nuclear states", all of which the Bush administration’s efforts are (according to its author) far from what they could be. Despite the opening paragraphs, it’s not a slam-Bush piece, and I don’t present it as such. Just something to mull over, and perhaps lose sleep over.

Blame the Media

This is still premature and third-hand, but according to Josh Marshall, the President today blamed the economic downturn during the run-up to the war on . . . you guessed it . . . the media. In other words, if that damned media hadn’t reported on Enron, Worldcom, and the uncertainties about going to war, then everything would be fine!

Bush on Letterman

The Bush line — which we have heard often — is that we learned on 9/11 how dangerous the world is. And that was why there was a marked shift in Bush’s foreign policy after 9/11.

It holds water, except for one problem: David Letterman.

In October 2000, presidential candidate George Bush appeared on Lettermen, where they had (in parts) a surprisingly serious discussion. Here’s one account:

So Letterman then asked Bush about the terrorist murder of 17 U.S. sailors in Yemen. Seriously.

"If I find out who it was, they’d pay a serious price," Bush said of the bombing. "I mean a serious price."

"Now, what does that mean?" Letterman asked, a follow-up Bush doesn’t often get when he’s asked about such bravado.

"That means they’re not going to like what happened to them," Bush said, and the crowd went wild.

"Now are you talking about retaliation or due process of law?" Letterman asked.

"Heh-heh," Bush said. "I’m talking about gettin’ the facts and lettin’ them know we don’t appreciate it and there’s a serious consequence … And I’ll decide what that consequence is."

Macho man, huh? But, in all fairness, a fitting response.

Eventually we learned . . . before Bush was even sworn in . . . that the Cole bombing was the dirty work of Osama bin Laden. But, alas, there was no "serious consequence" until after 9/11.

I raise this so that readers will keep in mind — that when Bush says that "9/11 changed things" (and he will say it), he’s blowing smoke. If Bush on the Letterman show is to be believed, he was prepared to act as soon as the facts were in. And the facts were in by the time he was "elected". And tough-talking Bush didn’t act.

Wait! What?!?

CNN is reporting this:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might be preparing to move from Pakistan to Afghanistan, according to sources with access to the latest U.S. intelligence.

U.S. intelligence found signs of a network of al Qaeda couriers and safe houses on the Afghan side of the border, sources said. Such a network could be a sign bin Laden might be planning to flee Pakistan.

We (apparently) know where he is, we (apparently) know where he is going to . . . no disrespect to our fighting forces, or even President Bush, but I can’t believe we can’t get this guy.

Bad Numbers for Bush

Yes, it’s waaaay too early. Yes, much can change. But the latest polls show that Bush has the uphill battle, as opposed to Kerry — 57 percent want a change from Bush. The money paragraph from MSNBC:

Kerry’s advantage on many key issues was large. The Democrat currently has double-digit advantages over the president as the person best able to handle the economy (Kerry leads Bush by 12 percentage points), Social Security (16 points), education (12 points), the budget deficit (15 points) and health care (20 points). On only one major issue is Bush preferred to Kerry: the war on terrorism, where the president has a 21-point advantage.

Well that explains why Bush (and his supporters) don’t want to talk about anything but the war on terrorism.

Update: And how did I miss this, from Gallup?!? — holy crap!!:

. . . Bush is barely ahead in the states he won four years ago by more than five percentage points (which Gallup calls "red" states). He leads Kerry by just 50% to 47%. In the "blue" states, which former Vice President Al Gore won by margins of more than five percentage points, Kerry leads Bush by a substantial margin, 55% to 42%. In "purple" states — where the margin of victory for either candidate in 2000 was five percentage points or less — Kerry also leads by a substantial margin, 55% to 39%.

Heh.

Plame Affair Gets Interesting

According to today’s Newsday:

WASHINGTON — The federal grand jury probing the leak of a covert CIA officer’s identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer’s name was published in a column in July, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

And the subpoenas asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman’s press briefing in Nigeria, a list of those attending a birthday reception for a former president, and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news media outlets.

What juicy clues! What questions this raises!

Who was in the "White House Iraq Group" (Josh Marshall found out: Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy advisers led by Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, along with I. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.

Who was the "former president" and why are his birthday party attendees relevant?

What’s the common thread between those events and the press secretary’s statement in Nigeria??

I’ll go out on a limb — it was Mary Matalin. She was part of the Iraqi Group, it’s quite likely she attended Bush 41’s birthday party, she has many media contacts (including, undoubtedly, Novak), and she left the White House shortly after the Plame thing happened.

It Makes Me Sick . . .

I recently reported about the new Bush ads here.

Now the AP is reporting:

Relatives of victims killed in the 11 September 2001 attacks have criticised George W Bush for using images from the tragedy in his campaign advertisements.

Some of the families have complained that the images exploit those killed in the attacks and are in poor taste.

"It makes me sick", one woman, who lost her brother in the attacks, told AP.

Didn’t see that coming?

Hitler (*Sigh*) Again

What will it take for people — of both sides — to stop with the Hitler comparisons???

Now comes Rep. Tom Cole (R) saying that a "vote against the re-election of President Bush is like supporting Adolph Hitler during World War Two".

Oh, and Osama, too.

The press report only quotes Cole verbatim on the Osama quote, but that’s beside the point. This kind of hyperbole, whether in MoveOn.Org ads or from Corinne Brown, is ridiculous.

And anyone who thinks otherwise is, in my view, Hitler.

Speaking of 30 Year Old Quotes . . .

A former professor of Bush writes:

At Harvard Business School, thirty years ago, George Bush was a student of mine. I still vividly remember him. In my class, he declared that "people are poor because they are lazy." He was opposed to labor unions, social security, environmental protection, Medicare, and public schools. To him, the antitrust watch dog, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities Exchange Commission were unnecessary hindrances to "free market competition." To him, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was "socialism."

So is this true? Does Bush think poor people are lazy? I think we should open up Bush’s school records to find out. Get his essays, homework, etc., and make them public. (Personally, I doubt the veracity of this story — because I doubt that Bush attended classes and/or participated in them very much).

Strange Meeting

The Washington Post is reporting that Tuesday (March 2), Bush had "an unusual 80-minute session in the Oval Office with five network correspondents who agreed that his comments would not be directly quoted or attributed to him."

Unusual indeed. First of all, Bush was willing to devote a full 20 minutes more to chewing the fat with these reporters than to the committee investigating 9/11. Where are Bush’s priorities?

Secondly, why meet with reporters and ask them to promise not to attribute quotes directly to him? I guess it is an attempt to build camaraderie with the press, something he enjoyed during the 2000 campaign.

But for my money – the President — any President — cannot and should be able to talk to the press on "deep background". He’s the President — the American people have an interest in what he says and does — and the press has a responsibility to report it. The press should simply have rejected the offer and walked out.

Maybe Bush will only participate in debates as long as everyone excepts his disclaimer that we shouldn’t hold him to anything he says.

Kay to Prez – “Come Clean”

Looks like David Kay is getting more and more peeved with the administration.

David Kay, the man who led the CIA’s postwar effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has called on the Bush administration to "come clean with the American people" and admit it was wrong about the existence of the weapons.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Kay said the administration’s reluctance to make that admission was delaying essential reforms of US intelligence agencies, and further undermining its credibility at home and abroad.

As Calpundit sez, perhaps Kay will be doing commercials for Kerry soon.

Because Mickey Might Expose Himself?

Without comment, this:

Disney Removes Statue Inspired By Janet Jackson

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Walt Disney Co. has quietly shelved a life-size statue of Mickey Mouse inspired by singer Janet Jackson, who was roundly criticized for a risque Super Bowl halftime performance.

The 6-foot, 700-pound statue was one of 75 unveiled at Walt Disney World in Orlando last fall to celebrate the 75th birthday of Mickey Mouse (Photos from 75th celebration). The statues were inspired by celebrities such as tennis star Andre Agassi, actress Jamie Lee Curtis and comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

The Jackson statue used a tight black outfit Jackson wore in 1990 after the release of her album, Rhythm Nation 1814. It was replaced by a spare statue designed by Luis Fernandez, an in-house Disney artist.

New Bush Ads

You can see them here.

It’s pointless for me to review them objectively (as I originally intended). I can’t possibly be objective. But I would be interested to know what Bush supporters think. I’m even more interested to know what independents think (do these ads reach out to you or not?)

It’s clear that Bush is (for now) going for the positive. The first ad ("Lead") is the least convincing. Bush repeatedly says "I know. . .", as in "I know where I want to take the country . . . I know what we need to do to make this country safe . . . I know what we need to do to ensure the American dream . . . " (paraphrase). Any chance he might clue us in, or should we just vote for him based on his mere representation that "he knows" what he’s going to do?

The other two ads ("Tested" and "Safer, Stronger") predictably invoke 9/11. Both are interesting in that (a) there are no words (and few pictures) of GWB ("Safer, Stronger" has no spoken words at all), and (b) it appears to give "credit" to being "safer, stronger" to the American people, rather than George Bush.

Sadly, the two ads which have almost no George Bush in them are the better ads, in my view. Even the "Lead" ad relies heavily on Laura Bush as a supporting player. Which says a lot about the candidate, as well as (perhaps) the re-election team’s lack of faith in him.

But y’all decide for yourselves.

Update: Josh Marshall has a different — but equally unobjective — take on the ads.

Upon further reflection: I stated above that two of the ads reminded America about the tough times it had faced, and how Americans have persevered. Now that I ruminate about it, the ads gave no reason to vote for Bush. We, the people, are given credit for persevering. But couldn’t we persevere just as well under, say, any President???

Kerry’s VP

So now the guessing game begins. Edwards? Dean? Gore? McCain? (Kucinich???)

The most interesting potential nominee I’ve heard discussed is Clinton. No, not Hillary. I’m talking ’bout Bill.

A couple of potential stumbling blocks: the 12th and 22nd Amendments, which read (respectively, in relevant part):

But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of the Vice-President of the United States [12th Amendment]

and

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected as President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. [22nd Amendment]

The operative words are "(in)eligible" (in the 12th) and "elected" (in the 22nd). My former NYU Law Professor Stephen Gillers — correctly in my view — says that nothing in the 22nd prevents Bill from becoming Kerry’s VP and even succeeding Kerry as President (should Kerry die from an overinflated ego or whatever). He even says (at the Volokh Conspiracy) that the 12th is not a stumbling block (I’m less sure he’s right on that one).

Anyway, I seriously doubt that Bill Clinton is even on the short list, but for law geeks like me, it’s an interesting issue to think about.

Tell Me Something I DON’T Know . . .

A recent Knight-Ridder investigation concluded:

The administration’s case on ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda relied on intelligence that was weaker than that on Iraq’s illegal weapons programs.

The article linked above discusses some of the "evidence" that has been paraded about (here and elsewhere) purporting to show the alleged connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.

Yes, this too, like the (lack of) WMDs, will be an election issue.

Physician, Heal Thyself!

Dr. Paul Cameron is the founder of the Family Research Institute, and is cited often and reverently by the anti-gay (and anti-gay marriage) crowd. Recently, he opined on what was at stake in the present controversy. His belief is that in a few generations, homosexuality will become the dominant form of sexual behavior. Some selected quotes, based on his "research":

"If you isolate sexuality as something solely for one’s own personal amusement, and all you want is the most satisfying orgasm you can get – and that is what homosexuality seems to be – then homosexuality seems too powerful to resist."

"The evidence is that men do a better job on men and women on women, if all you are looking for is orgasm."

"People in homosexuality are incredibly evangelical. It’s pure sexuality. It’s almost like pure heroin. It’s such a rush."

"Martial sex tends toward the boring end. Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does"

I think the good "doctor" has some . . . uh . . . issues of his own that he might want to deal with. Not that there’s anything wrong with homosexuality, but there’s something wrong with not being able to admit it, while dictating to others the impropriety of it.

Tenuous Connection . . .

Dennis Prager at TownHall.com has an interesting perspective:

America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war — a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.

One enemy is led from abroad. The other is directed from home.

Actually, one enemy wants to blow you up and destroy your home. The other wants to make you look faaaab-u-lous and redecorate your home on national television.

Seriously, if Dennis Prager was doing satire, I’d laugh my ass off. But he’s not. He’s just plain scary.

Flight 11 Recording

As far as I know, this is the first (and only) recorded excerpt available to the public which reflects communications between one of the flights on 9/11 and someone on the ground. Recently posted at the Memory Hole, the tape is Betty Ong (flight attendant on Flight 11) calling the American Airline Reservation Desk.

In an abundance of caution, I think I should warn that the tape may not be suitable for everyone. It’s not gory or anything like that, but unsettling; for me, hearing the tape brought back that day in a profound way.

Groupthink 101

Okay. You’re President. You have some big decisions to make, and you want the best information possible. So you gather up all the information, hear all sides of the arguments, get all the viewpoints and perspectives, and then . . . you make your decision. Right?

Not if you’re GWB . . .

President Bush yesterday dismissed two members of his handpicked Council on Bioethics — a scientist and a moral philosopher who had been among the more outspoken advocates for research on human embryo cells.

In their places he appointed three new members, including a doctor who has called for more religion in public life, a political scientist who has spoken out precisely against the research that the dismissed members supported, and another who has written about the immorality of abortion and the "threats of biotechnology."

* * *

Bush created the council by executive order in 2001 to "advise the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology." He recently renewed its commission for another two years.

I mean, what’s the point of forming an advisory panel if you are only going to fill it with people who will just conform to your pre-determined outcome? (And yes, I do see the similarities between this and the run-up to the Iraqi War). Read more about this story here. Read a previous post regarding GWB misuse of science here.