Saturday, September 25, 2004

Finally: Enough is...enough!

As I listen to the outrageous statements made by Bush-Cheney and their right-wing cohort's vicious allegations, the words Goebbels and Fascism invariably come to mind.

Is this happening in the United States of America? It has been a question that I've asked repeatedly and, until now, had not been asked by members of the newsmedia.

The ruthlessness of Bushites is second to none. The lies and distortions come fast and furious in what is clearly a desperate attempt to remain in power. There must be a limit to the abuses perpetrated during a political campaign.

Fortunately, voices of reason are finally speaking up and, hopefully, Bush and his cohorts will stop mud wrestling and behave as civilized members of the American family...for a change.

New York Times - September 25, 2994

An Un-American Way to Campaign

President Bush and his surrogates are taking their re-election campaign into dangerous territory. Mr. Bush is running as the man best equipped to keep America safe from terrorists - that was to be expected. We did not, however, anticipate that those on the Bush team would dare to argue that a vote for John Kerry would be a vote for Al Qaeda. Yet that is the message they are delivering - with a repetition that makes it clear this is an organized effort to paint the Democratic candidate as a friend to terrorists.

When Vice President Dick Cheney declared that electing Mr. Kerry would create a danger "that we'll get hit again," his supporters attributed that appalling language to a rhetorical slip. But Mr. Cheney is still delivering that message. Meanwhile, as Dana Milbank detailed so chillingly in The Washington Post yesterday, the House speaker, Dennis Hastert, said recently on television that Al Qaeda would do better under a Kerry presidency, and Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has announced that the terrorists are going to do everything they can between now and November "to try and elect Kerry."

This is despicable politics. It's not just polarizing - it also undermines the efforts of the Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency to combat terrorists in America. Every time a member of the Bush administration suggests that Islamic extremists want to stage an attack before the election to sway the results in November, it causes patriotic Americans who do not intend to vote for the president to wonder whether the entire antiterrorism effort has been kidnapped and turned into part of the Bush re-election campaign. The people running the government clearly regard keeping Mr. Bush in office as more important than maintaining a united front on the most important threat to the nation.

Mr. Bush has not disassociated himself from any of this, and in his own campaign speeches he makes an argument that is equally divisive and undemocratic. The president has claimed, over and over, that criticism of the way his administration has conducted the war in Iraq and news stories that suggest the war is not going well endanger American troops and give aid and comfort to the enemy. This week, in his Rose Garden press conference with the interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, Mr. Bush was asked about Mr. Kerry's increasingly pointed remarks on Iraq. "You can embolden an enemy by sending mixed messages," he said, going on to suggest that Mr. Kerry's criticisms dispirit the Iraqi people and American soldiers.

It is fair game for the president to claim that toppling Saddam Hussein was a blow to terrorism, to accuse Mr. Kerry of flip-flopping and to repeat continually that the war in Iraq is going very well, despite all evidence to the contrary. It is absolutely not all right for anyone on his team to suggest that Mr. Kerry is the favored candidate of the terrorists. And at a time when the United States is supposed to be preparing the Iraqi people for a democratic election, it's appalling to hear the chief executive say that loyal opposition gives aid and comfort to the enemy abroad.

The general instinct of Americans is to play fair. That is why, even though terrorists struck the United States during President Bush's watch, the Democrats have not run a campaign that blames him for allowing the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to be attacked. And while the war in Iraq has opened up large swaths of the country to terrorist groups for the first time, any effort by Mr. Kerry to describe the president as the man whom Osama bin Laden wants to keep in power would be instantly denounced by the Republicans as unpatriotic.

We think that anyone who attempts to portray sincere critics as dangerous to the safety of the nation is wrong. It reflects badly on the president's character that in this instance, he's putting his own ambition ahead of the national good. <<>>

Washington Post Staff Writer - Friday, September 24, 2004

Tying Kerry to Terror Tests Rhetorical Limits By Dana Milbank

President Bush and leading Republicans are increasingly charging that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and others in his party are giving comfort to terrorists and undermining the war in Iraq -- a line of attack that tests the conventional bounds of political rhetoric.

Appearing in the Rose Garden yesterday with Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, Bush said Kerry's statements about Iraq "can embolden an enemy." After Kerry criticized Allawi's speech to Congress, Vice President Cheney tore into the Democratic nominee, calling him "destructive" to the effort in Iraq and the struggle against terrorism.

It was the latest instance in which prominent Republicans have said that Democrats are helping the enemy or that al Qaeda, Iraqi insurgents and other enemies of the United States are backing Kerry and the Democrats. Such accusations are not new to American politics, but the GOP's line of attack this year has been pervasive and high-level.

• On Tuesday, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said terrorists "are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry." On Fox News, Hatch said Democrats are "consistently saying things that I think undermine our young men and women who are serving over there."

• On Sunday, GOP Senate candidate John Thune of South Dakota said of his opponent, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle: "His words embolden the enemy." Thune, on NBC's "Meet the Press," declined to disavow a statement by the Republican Party chairman in his state saying Daschle had brought "comfort to America's enemies."

• On Saturday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) said at a GOP fundraiser: "I don't have data or intelligence to tell me one thing or another, [but] I would think they would be more apt to go [for] somebody who would file a lawsuit with the World Court or something rather than respond with troops." Asked whether he believed al Qaeda would be more successful under a Kerry presidency, Hastert said: "That's my opinion, yes."

• The previous day in Warsaw, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said terrorists in Iraq "are trying to influence the election against President Bush."

Such accusations have been a component of American politics since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and surfaced in the modern era during the McCarthy communist hunt and the Vietnam War protests.

"Rhetoric this sharp and ugly is not by any means brand-new," said Jeff Shesol, a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and author of a book about Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy. "What we're seeing now isn't just offhand comments by outliers but clearly a decision by the Republican hierarchy to put this charge out there consistently."

Pollster Frank Luntz, who has advised Republicans on rhetoric, cautions that "statements like that can cause a backlash" against the accuser. "Candidates have to be careful of going over the line," he said.

Earlier this month, Cheney provoked an uproar when he said that on Election Day, "if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating" and that the United States would not respond vigorously. Cheney later said that he was not suggesting the country would be attacked if Kerry were elected. But a few days later, he said: "We've gone on the offense in the war on terror -- and the president's opponent, Senator Kerry, doesn't seem to approve."

The White House and the Bush campaign said they would neither endorse nor disavow the remarks by Hastert, Armitage and others. "Those statements speak to the great concern many people have about John Kerry's consistent vacillation under political pressure on the most significant issues the nation faces with regard to the war on terror," Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan had no quarrel with the remarks. "They are expressing their opinion," he said.

The Kerry campaign, which previously branded Cheney's accusations "un-American," extended that complaint to Bush's remarks yesterday.

"Not only is it un-American, it's un-democratic the way they attack your patriotism when you tell the truth about Iraq," Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton said. "It's called an election, and people deserve an honest debate."

Responding to Hastert and Cheney's remarks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said yesterday: "These despicable comments cross the line from partisan politics to shameless fear tactics. . . . Republicans should remember that the reason Osama bin Laden is still able to threaten the United States three years after the September 11th attacks is the utter failure of the Bush administration to catch him and destroy al Qaeda."

Such charges surfaced soon after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Late that year, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said tactics used by critics of the USA Patriot Act "only aid terrorists" and "give ammunition to America's enemies." In 2002, Bush charged that opponents of his version of homeland security legislation are "not interested in the security of the American people." In 2003, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that if terrorists think Bush's opponents might prevail, "they take heart in that, and that leads to more money going into these activities or that leads to more recruits or that leads to more encouragement."

This year, the accusations began at lower levels. In March, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) told a group of Republicans: "If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election." Republicans say Democrats, while not suggesting Bush is guilty of treason, have indulged in questionable rhetoric themselves; they point to a tasteless performance at a Kerry fundraiser by performer Whoopi Goldberg (which the candidate did not disavow) and by Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.), who on a visit to Baghdad two years ago defended Iraq and said Bush was misleading the public.

On Fox News, conservative commentator Ann Coulter said, "It's unquestionable that Republicans are more likely to prevent the next attack." Kerry, she said, "will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry."

Whatever the merits, the charges that terrorists prefer Democrats have been echoed by independent commentators and journalists. CNN analyst Bill Schneider, asked about Hastert's remarks, agreed that al Qaeda "would very much like to defeat President Bush." <<


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