Mar 312004
 

Bought and Paid For

It’s official: President Bush’s re-election campaign is underway.

For those who haven’t been paying attention – and Bush, Cheney and their corporate cronies certainly hope you haven’t – the president officially launched his campaign at a March 20 “kickoff” rally in Orlando. “I’m looking forward to this campaign ahead,” Bush told the assembled party faithful between chants of “Four more years!” and “USA! USA!” “With you at my side, there is no doubt in my mind we’re headed to a victory.”

Bush may claim the “political season” is just beginning, but he has spent the past nine months crisscrossing the country on a dash for cash, personally headlining 46 million-dollar fundraising events on the way to amassing an unprecedented $170 million campaign war chest. Awestruck by the sheer amount of cash on hand, the media sometimes mistake Bush’s piles of money for popularity. Venality is more like it. Bush has turned the election into an auction, an invitation-only opportunity for Corporate America to prove its loyalty to the president.

The engine in Bush’s money machine has been an elite regiment of 455 “Rangers” and “Pioneers,” the honorary titles bestowed on fundraisers who can collect at least $200,000 or $100,000, respectively. Legally, each of these individuals is limited to a maximum donation of $2,000. But the Bush campaign has perfected a sophisticated system of bundling – by which corporate executives, lobbyists or other insiders pool a large number of contributions to maximize their political influence. The Rangers and Pioneers have collected at least $64.2 million so far.

In return, these worthies have received access to the administration, relaxed regulations, legislative favors, targeted tax breaks, lucrative federal contracts, and plum appointments at home and abroad. But some hold more of a stake in Bush’s re-election than others: The 10 industries profiled here have been among the most generous supporters of the president – and they stand to reap the greatest rewards if Dubya prevails in November.

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Faith based

 Posted by at 15:00  Election 2004
Mar 312004
 

Todays assignment…

The Faith-Based Presidency

by Jack Beatty, The Atlantic online

George W. Bush has made rationality an antonym of Republican. His is the first faith-based presidency. Above the entrance to the Bush West Wing should be St. Paul’s definition of faith—”the evidence of things unseen.”

So much of President Bush has to be taken on faith. His integrity, for example. You have to trust the evidence of things unseen to believe him, for the visible evidence indicates a disposition toward deceit. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the cost of his prescription-drug bill, the effect of his tax cuts on the deficit, the number of lines of stem cells available to scientists after his restrictions on research. You name it—from who hung the Mission Accomplished banner up behind him for his “victory” strut on the USS Abraham Lincoln to his claims that on September 11 he, not the Air Force Chief of Staff, was the one to order the military to highest alert—he’s lied about it.

Alternatively, Bush could be seen as what Al Sharpton called “an unconscious liar.” He asks us to accept his feelings about something as evidence of the something. In this view, he’s not deceitful; he’s innocent of the procedures of rationality—he can’t think.

Or his troubles with truth arise because he bases his thoughts on authority not reality. Bush offered an example of his dependent mind on the night of his election. When Al Gore called to retract the concession he’d offered to Bush before the race tightened in Florida, Bush told him, My brother Jeb says I won fair and square. Gore came back that Bush’s “little brother” was not an oracle. He was to George. So Bush is not a liar; he says whatever his authority figures, “Dick” or “Rummy” or “Condi,” tell him he should say. In a recent edition, The Wall Street Journal had a long backgrounder on what Bush did on September 11, showing how, under Cheney’s control, the stream of his government flowed around the President as if nobody expected leadership from George.

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America now the bad guys

 Posted by at 02:52  Politics
Mar 302004
 

Paul Krugman again…

This Isn’t America

Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, “This isn’t America; the government did not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the threat to justify their attack.”

So even in Israel, George Bush’s America has become a byword for deception and abuse of power. And the administration’s reaction to Richard Clarke’s “Against All Enemies” provides more evidence of something rotten in the state of our government.

The truth is that among experts, what Mr. Clarke says about Mr. Bush’s terrorism policy isn’t controversial. The facts that terrorism was placed on the back burner before 9/11 and that Mr. Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence are confirmed by many sources — including “Bush at War,” by Bob Woodward.

And new evidence keeps emerging for Mr. Clarke’s main charge, that the Iraq obsession undermined the pursuit of Al Qaeda. From yesterday’s USA Today: “In 2002, troops from the Fifth Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to prepare for their next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in Spanish cultures.”

That’s why the administration responded to Mr. Clarke the way it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination.

Some journalists seem, finally, to have caught on. Last week an Associated Press news analysis noted that such personal attacks were “standard operating procedure” for this administration and cited “a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit Richard Foster,” the Medicare actuary who revealed how the administration had deceived Congress about the cost of its prescription drug bill.

But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke “wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they’re also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well.”

This administration’s reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics — even compared with Nixon’s. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power — to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics.

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Slippery slope

 Posted by at 05:13  Politics
Mar 282004
 

The slope that the Bush adminstration is sliding down just gets more and more slippery. This is good. More Americans need to be waking up to just how incapable and untrustworthy this administration really is.

9/11 Panel Provokes a Discussion the White House Hoped to Avoid

WASHINGTON, March 27 — In the summer of 2001, according to witnesses interviewed by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 hijackings, President Bush was told repeatedly of terror warnings pouring into American intelligence agencies, mostly about threats overseas.

The director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, who briefed Mr. Bush on threats almost daily, “was around town literally pounding on desks saying that something is happening, this is an unprecedented level of threat information,” said Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, who was quoted in a Congressional report last year.

But even as the warnings spiked in June and July that year, there appeared to be little sense of alarm at the White House, officials of the Central Intelligence Agency told the commission. It was not until Sept. 4 that Mr. Bush’s national security team approved a plan intended to eradicate Al Qaeda and not until Sept. 10 that Mr. Tenet was told to put the plan into effect.

Now, nearly two and half years later, the issue of whether Mr. Bush and his advisers failed to respond adequately to the threat of terror before Sept. 11, 2001, has become the focus of intense scrutiny and debate in Washington.

The White House had long hoped to avoid just such a discussion of Mr. Bush’s actions before the hijackings, fearing it would draw attention to the first months of his presidency rather than the period after Sept. 11 when he took military action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The White House had opposed the creation of the independent commission and for many months cooperated reluctantly with the panel.

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Missing in action

 Posted by at 19:35  Politics
Mar 262004
 

‘Wartime President’ MIA

David Ignatius, Washington Post

What would a “wartime president” have done this week, as a bipartisan commission’s public hearings on the Sept. 11 tragedy were being engulfed by political bickering?

I like to think that this hypothetical leader would have found a way to rise above the fray and unite the country: He would have embraced the commission’s work, forthrightly admitted his own mistakes, sent his national security adviser to testify publicly — and insisted that the security of the United States was too important to be buried in election-year squabbles.

President Bush and his White House handlers did pretty much the opposite. They fanned the flames of partisan debate; when asked awkward questions, they stonewalled; rather than testify before the cameras, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice spent part of her Wednesday afternoon dishing dirt to reporters about a commission witness who had criticized the president.

Bush flunked the test, in other words. Rather than working to bring the country together, the Bush team added to its nasty political divisions — and allowed them to contaminate the terrorism commission’s work.

It is this failure of leadership — not any critical comments in the new book by former White House terrorism adviser Richard A. Clarke — that poses the real problem for Bush’s reelection hopes. A wise president would have accepted the obvious truth of what Clarke said: that the White House didn’t do all it could have before Sept. 11 to prevent that disaster. He would have apologized, as Clarke did, to the victims — and moved on.

That kind of magnanimity could have defused Clarke’s charges and showed that Bush can lead a divided country. But the White House instead smeared Clarke personally, ignored his substantive criticisms and, in the process, helped turn Sept. 11 into a political football. That’s bad for the country and, I submit, bad for Bush politically.

Further illustrating that George W. Bush is not a leader, is not qualified to be where he is today and the sooner we are rid of him the better.

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Bush’s bad joke

 Posted by at 04:47  Election 2004
Mar 262004
 

Kerry: WMD `joke’ no laughing matter

In the hypercharged race for president, apparently even the jokes aren’t funny anymore.

Sen. John F. Kerry last night criticized President Bush for poking fun at his administration’s inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq during a media dinner known for its biting humor.

“If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he’s even more out of touch than we thought,” Kerry said in a statement issued to the press.

The statement showcased just how intense the general election campaign has already become.

At Wednesday’s annual dinner with television and radio journalists, Bush showed a photo of himself looking under furniture in the Oval Office and joked, “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.”

Kerry called that a “cavalier attitude.”

The Bush campaign wouldn’t comment on the new charges.

The joke flap came as Kerry gathered in Washington with top Democrats, led by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, for a “unity” event meant to showcase the party’s strength against Bush this fall.

Dean, endorsing Kerry after their primary feud, urged the party to rally behind its new standard-bearer.

“We had a tough campaign here,” Dean said at a George Washington University rally, noting that they once focused “on things that divide us. Now we are going to talk about the things that we have in common.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said the party, with $25 million and no debt, is ready to take on Bush.

“The tools are in place,” McAuliffe said. “Now we need to make sure to use these tools to make sure that John Kerry is elected president.”

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Another post-mortem

 Posted by at 03:20  Election 2004
Mar 262004
 

Carl With a K points us to yet another post-mortem of the Dean campaign. This one is written by the campaign’s pollster, Paul Maslin, and appears in the May issue of Atlantic Monthly. It is available now for online reading:

The Front-Runner’s Fall

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Donations

 Posted by at 21:50  Election 2004
Mar 242004
 

It has now been over a week since I installed the button in the left column through which you can donate to the Kerry campaign. Donations to date made through this site: zero.

From the Kerry weblog:

Until Thursday, April 8, John Kerry’s Massachusetts campaign is holding a March Madness contest.

The person who gets the most online contributions for John Kerry through April 8 will win a FOUR DAY PASS to the 2004 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION!

Second place will win a three day pass, third place a two day pass and fourth place a one day pass.

I guess you might say that it is a pretty safe bet that I am not going to Boston.

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Secret no more

 Posted by at 07:27  Politics
Mar 232004
 

Lifting the Shroud

by Paul Krugman

From the day it took office, U.S. News & World Report wrote a few months ago, the Bush administration “dropped a shroud of secrecy” over the federal government. After 9/11, the administration’s secretiveness knew no limits — Americans, Ari Fleischer ominously warned, “need to watch what they say, watch what they do.” Patriotic citizens were supposed to accept the administration’s version of events, not ask awkward questions.

But something remarkable has been happening lately: more and more insiders are finding the courage to reveal the truth on issues ranging from mercury pollution — yes, Virginia, polluters do write the regulations these days, and never mind the science — to the war on terror.

It’s important, when you read the inevitable attempts to impugn the character of the latest whistle-blower, to realize just how risky it is to reveal awkward truths about the Bush administration. When Gen. Eric Shinseki told Congress that postwar Iraq would require a large occupation force, that was the end of his military career. When Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV revealed that the 2003 State of the Union speech contained information known to be false, someone in the White House destroyed his wife’s career by revealing that she was a C.I.A. operative. And we now know that Richard Foster, the Medicare system’s chief actuary, was threatened with dismissal if he revealed to Congress the likely cost of the administration’s prescription drug plan.

The latest insider to come forth, of course, is Richard Clarke, George Bush’s former counterterrorism czar and the author of the just-published “Against All Enemies.”

On “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Mr. Clarke said the previously unsayable: that Mr. Bush, the self-proclaimed “war president,” had “done a terrible job on the war against terrorism.” After a few hours of shocked silence, the character assassination began. He “may have had a grudge to bear since he probably wanted a more prominent position,” declared Dick Cheney, who also says that Mr. Clarke was “out of the loop.” (What loop? Before 9/11, Mr. Clarke was the administration’s top official on counterterrorism.) It’s “more about politics and a book promotion than about policy,” Scott McClellan said.

Of course, Bush officials have to attack Mr. Clarke’s character because there is plenty of independent evidence confirming the thrust of his charges.

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Dean to endorse Kerry

 Posted by at 15:46  Election 2004
Mar 222004
 

Message from Gov. Dean

Hi folks,

Thank you all so much for the great response to the roll-out of DFA 2.0 as some of you call it, otherwise known as Democracy for America. We have already raised 40k without asking, and some of our partners have kicked in a lot in the cause of corporate responsibility (SEIU) and working to get George Bush a one-way bus ticket to Crawford. (AFSCME).

The grassroots part of this, which encourages and helps local folks to run for office is the key piece of this, and the meetups in April will focus on this. We want to have Chapters of Democracy for America in every state, and work through you to support grassroots candidates who can win, or who can credibly spread the message of empowerment, and teach Americans that there is another set of values besides the right wing values of the Bush Republicans that we can offer, and that are better for our kids and our lives.

I don’t want to give any of you a heart attack, but I plan to formally endorse John Kerry on Thursday, along with all 34 Congress people who endorsed me during the campaign.

One of the goals of the campaign was to send George Bush back to Texas, and the only person with a chance of doing that is John Kerry. I have spoken with him on numerous occasions. He is committed to universal health care, he has an excellent environmental record, and for that and many other reasons, he is a far better choice for president that the current resident of the White House who apparently (as revealed on Sixty Minutes over the weekend) ignored warnings of the potential of a terrorist attack before 9/11 in addition to costing us 2.3 million jobs!

In any case, I encourage you to support Sen. Kerry, but if you are not ready to do so, I hope you’ll put lots of energy into the other two goals: reforming the Democratic Party to nurture it’s recent backbone transplant, and making the grassroots stronger to get progressive voices on every school board, county commission, City Council, etc. in the country. Many thanks for all you do!!

Howard Dean

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