Sunday, October 24, 2004

The role of religion in politics....

It is a troubling fact of life that religion is playing an ever-growing role in American politics just as Europeans have awakened from their long slumber and are, finally, marching in precisely the opposite direction.

No longer willing to swallow religious DOGMA obediently and unquestioningly, Europeans have largely opted to live by the "Golden Rule," a rule that is clearly not tailored to satisfy those who use the Scriptures to justify their personal prejudices.

Given the discriminatory commandments found in the Old/New Testaments/ Koran/ Torah and other religious literature, most Europeans have discovered what to some of us had been obvious for a very long time, namely, that hypocritical religious dictats often stand in sharp contrast to the "Golden Rule."

Twenty-thirty years ago I would not have suggested that the air of freedom is purer in Europe than it is in the U.S. However, after various trips to Europe during the nineties and early twenties I found a much more relaxed, tolerant attitude embraced particularly by the younger generation.

Not only did they learn the painful lessons of WWII by turning against oppressive regimes but, they also turned against intolerant religious DOGMA and rebelled against it. Cruelty is a game that most Europeans are no longer willing to play....

Conversely, on the other side of the pond, more Americans are seemingly willing to dismantle the wall that separates church and state, guided by a "Crusader for Jesus" and his deceptive right-wing cohorts who understand the power of religion as a political tool.

Europeans have discovered, belatedly, that fairness and equalty for all citizens can only be achieved when both, the political and religious powers that be are challenged. They realized that as long as their lives were still largely controlled by church mandates, be they by the majority of Protestants or Catholics who dominate the Continent, discrimination against females, homosexuals and others whom the churches found wanting would continue plaguing their lives.

As a result, most Europeans adopted a more secular stance based on mutual respect and equality as opposed to the discriminatory practices demanded by church leaders.

It's no wonder that the Vatican is concerned....

That is not to say that Europeans have lost their moral compass. In fact, I would suggest they finally found it by using the "Golden Rule" as their guide.

True. I am indeed generalizing since traditionalists have not yet disappeared totally from the landscape. However, the younger generation is not only wiser but much more willing to decry openly the double-standards and hypocrisy that accompany the "articles of faith" largely designed by white males living in the "stone age."

Unfortunately, such a wise course of action has not reached parts of the world such as the Middle East where religious differences continue wreaking havoc with no sign of abating.

Jerusalem, the city where all great religions supposedly converge has been painted, sadly, with the ugly face of discrimination.

And, finally, unless the "faith-based" U..S. government is replaced on Nov. 2 with individuals who are NOT intent on using religion as a political tool, as clearly signaled by Sen. Kerry, Americans will find that their political/religious powers that be will increasingly sneak into their PRIVATE lives as well as continue their inexorable course toward a war of civilizations.

Those are the reasons why insightful individuals view the upcoming election as a watershed that will affect their lives, either positively if Sen. Kerry is elected, or negatively if the "faith-based" powers that be are allowed to remain in office and alter the direction of our nation and the world...for decades to come.

Washington Post Foreign Service - Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Vatican Is Alarmed by Political Trend In Europe - Policies in Many Countries Contradict Church Doctrine By Daniel Williams

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican is becoming increasingly alarmed at what it regards as official anti-Roman Catholic sentiment and secular trends in Europe, as government after government approves measures on abortion, family law and scientific study that run counter to Catholic teaching.

Vatican concerns rocketed into view during a controversy in the European Parliament this month over remarks on homosexuality and women by an Italian politician who has close ties to the Holy See.

On Oct. 5, a committee of European Parliament members voted to oppose Italy's nomination of Rocco Buttiglione, a Christian Democrat, to be the European Union's justice commissioner. During a hearing before the Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee, he had labeled homosexuality a sin and asserted that the family exists so a woman can raise children under a man's protection. Buttiglione is a friend of Pope John Paul II and various high-ranking Vatican officials.

"It looks like a new Inquisition. It is a lay Inquisition, but it is so nasty," Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, told reporters this week in response to the dispute. "You can freely insult and attack Catholics and nobody will say anything. If you do so for other confessions, let's see what would happen."

The controversy was new proof of the heat of a long debate in Europe over issues of women's equality in the workplace, gay marriage, abortion, scientific research using human embryos and separation of church and state.

Such debates are also intense in the United States, where the Vatican has waged a campaign against abortion, advising U.S. bishops on the inadmissibility of giving Communion to Catholic politicians who persist in supporting abortion rights. It did not specify names, but some bishops in the United States have said they would not administer the sacrament to Sen. John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Yet trends that go against the preaching of the pope are more advanced in parts of Western Europe than in the United States, some Vatican officials contend. To the Vatican, Europe's moral landscape is bleak.

Vatican officials and media outlets have expressed alarm over new policies being prepared in Spain by the Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. His government is considering legalizing gay marriage, speeding up divorces and ending obligatory religious instruction in public schools.

Concurrently, Britain has approved research on the curative possibilities of stem cells from human embryos. In the Netherlands, the practice of euthanasia continues over church objections. In Italy, secular politicians have mounted a campaign to hold a referendum aimed at loosening a new law on laboratory-assisted fertilization. The law currently prohibits the use of donor sperm, frozen embryos and surrogate mothers.

In a speech on Sept. 20, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the head of Italy's bishops conference, criticized Spain for "emptying the family of its significance." He accused the Italian press of "hammering" the issue of artificial insemination in order to promote a referendum. Stem cell research in Britain and euthanasia for children with incurable diseases in the Netherlands "clearly demonstrate developments that result in the loss of recognition of the uniqueness and inviolability of the human subject," Ruini said.

The lay offensive, as some Vatican officials call it, has prompted the pope to intensify the search for common ground with non-Catholics on key moral and ethical issues. In particular, the pontiff has called for teaching and promoting the philosophical notion of "natural law," unchanging truths that underlie human activity across religion and cultures.

In February, during an audience with Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, the head of the Vatican department of doctrine, the pope said, "Natural law, accessible per se to every rational creature, indicates the first and essential norms that regulate moral life." He urged construction of "a platform of shared values . . . on which a constructive dialogue can be developed with all men and women of goodwill and, more in general, with secular society."

References to natural law are designed "to emphasize that issues like preserving life are not imposition of Catholic teaching but rather truths that are not religion-specific," explained the Rev. Augustine DiNoia, an assistant of Ratzinger's.

DiNoia said that over the past 20 years, John Paul and senior Vatican officials have become disillusioned with moral and ethical trends in Europe. He said the pope, more than any of his predecessors, had embraced Western democracy on the assumption that it was rooted in natural law, including a consensus for the protection of life at conception and the sanctity of marriage and family.

Dialogue with Europeans is complicated by histories of violent religious conflict that in some cases left behind strong sentiments against the Catholic Church, and not only in Protestant countries. Spain's civil war in the 1930s pitted Republicans against Fascists who were backed by large segments of the Catholic clergy. Catholic support for the long rule of the dictator Francisco Franco colors today's view of the church among Spain's Socialists, historical heirs to the Republican backers of the civil war.

Even Italy, home of the papacy, contains a streak of anti-clericalism dating from the Italian nationalists' 19th-century defeat of the pope's state in central Italy and the crushing of his political power.

Buttiglione, a seasoned politician and political science professor, was nominated to the European Commission by Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

In Buttiglione's appearance before the European Parliament panel, he argued that he could keep to his own moral standards and still do the job, which would include upholding E.U. prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation and other grounds. "I may think that homosexuality is a sin, and it has no effect on politics unless I say homosexuality is a crime," he said.

On women, he said, "The family exists to permit a woman to have children and be protected by her husband."

Buttiglione's opponents insist they are not anti-Catholic but believe that it is proper to veto a commissioner whose views run counter to anti-discrimination laws and who has politically opposed equal rights for gays. "The justice portfolio is not appropriate for him," said Sophia Helena in't Velt, a member of the Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe, a bloc that opposed Buttiglione's nomination.

A final, full vote on Buttiglione's candidacy is scheduled for Oct. 27, when the entire list of two dozen E.U. commissioners is to be put before the European Parliament for ratification. It cannot veto only one candidate. Negotiations among E.U. politicians are underway about Buttiglione's fate. He has said he will not withdraw.<<

The "Bush-Sharon Axis" NOT in the U.S.'s best interests

Echoing the views expressed in my previous post, Tom Friedman's article in today's NYTimes is right on the mark.

As I watched the establishment of the "Bush-Sharon Axis" and subsequent developments in Israel and the U.S., I asked the following questions:

Are their policies in the best interests of Israelis?

Answer: NO!

Are their policies in the best interests of the global Jewish community?

Answer: NO!

Are their policies in the best interests of the United States of America?"

Answer: HELL...NO!!!

Well aware that these policies triggered ever-growing anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism, I simply could not understand why anyone with even half a brain in good working condition would support actions/INactions that were so highly counterproductive for all involved.

Tom Friedman seems to have reached largely the same conclusion and, as a Jewish American, has the guts to write about a subject that has been largely taboo, namely, the high price we are all paying for the stupidity of right-wing extremists, both in the U.S. and Israel.

New York Times - October 24, 2004

Jews, Israel and America by Thomas L. Friedman

I was speaking the other day with Scott Pelley of CBS News's "60 Minutes" about the mood in Iraq. He had just returned from filming a piece there and he told me something disturbing. Scott had gone around and asked Iraqis on the streets what they called American troops - wondering if they had nicknames for us in the way we used to call the Nazis "Krauts" or the Vietcong "Charlie." And what did he find? "Many Iraqis have so much distrust for U.S. forces we found they've come up with a nickname for our troops," Scott said. "They call American soldiers 'The Jews,' as in, 'Don't go down that street, the Jews set up a roadblock.' "

I have no idea how widespread this perception is, but it does not surprise me that some Iraqis would talk that way. Our communications in Iraq have been so inept since we arrived, many Iraqis still don't know who America is or why it came. But such talk is also indicative of a trend in the Arab media, after a century of Arab-Jewish strife, where if you want to brand someone as illegitimate, just call him a "Jew." Indeed, this trend has widened since 9/11. Now you find a steadily rising perception across the Arab-Muslim world that the great enemy of Islam is JIA - "Jews, Israel and America," all lumped together in a single threat.

This wider trend has been fanned by Arab satellite TV stations, which deliberately show split-screen images of Israelis bashing Palestinians and U.S. forces bashing the Iraqi insurgents. The trend has also been encouraged by some mosque preachers looking to explain away all the Arab world's ills by wrapping all the Satans together into JIA. This trend has been helped by the Bush team's failed approach to the Arab-Israel problem, which is to tell the truth only to Yasir Arafat, while embracing Ariel Sharon so tightly that it's impossible to know anymore where U.S. policy stops and Mr. Sharon's begins.

This trend of JIA is now metastasizing from the core of the Arab-Israel conflict, across the Muslim world and into Europe. There is no quick fix. One thing that Israel can do is push harder to defuse the conflict with the Palestinians in order to deprive the Arab media of the raw images that help to feed this phenomenon, not because the continuing conflict is all Israel's fault - it is not - but because Israel has such an overriding interest in forging a partnership with a legitimate Palestinian Authority, and getting this poisonous show off the air. A generation of Muslims raised on these images on the Internet is enormously dangerous for Jews, Israel and America.

This brings us to this week's vote in the Israeli Parliament about whether to proceed with Mr. Sharon's plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Mr. Sharon, a man of the right, has finally realized the demographic threat posed by Gaza to Israel and wants to get out. He is being opposed by the Israeli far right - the Jewish Hezbollah. This includes settler rabbis who have urged soldiers to disobey orders and, with winks and nods, have let it be known that if someone were to eliminate Ariel Sharon he would be acting out God's will. In this struggle between Jewish fanatics and Ariel Sharon, we must stand with Mr. Sharon. These settler rabbis are a blot on the Jewish people.

But in the struggle between Mr. Sharon and common sense, America should be with common sense. The late Yitzhak Rabin wanted to get out of Gaza to make peace with the Palestinians, because he understood the danger of "Jews, Israel and America" all getting melded together in the nuclear age. Mr. Rabin knew that no peace deal would resonate in the Arab-Muslim world if it did not have a legitimate Palestinian partner. Mr. Sharon seems to want to get out of Gaza to make peace with the Jews. His aides have made clear that he is getting out of Gaza in order to entrench Israel even more deeply in the West Bank and the Jewish settlements there.

In the face of this plan, the Bush team is silent. This is partly because the Palestinians continue to stick with Arafat as their leader, even though this bum has led them to ruin - so the U.S. has nothing to offer Israel. And it's partly because the Bush team, which is so inept at diplomacy, has never had the energy or creativity to shape a better Palestinian alternative to Arafat. As a result, the Sharon vision of getting out of Gaza in order to take over the West Bank will probably win by default. If that happens, "Jews, Israel and America" will be bound together more tightly than ever as the enemies of Arabs and Muslims.<<

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Politicizing intelligence

Politicizing intel....

Zillions of tax payers' dollars are spent for intel gathering every year with some 15 agencies in the snoopin' business.

Unfortunately, the views of analysts who do not toe the official line are often ignored and/or their views skewed to justify preconceived notions.

Once intel is tailored to the requirements of a given administration to justify its actions, such as dragging our nation into an UNprovoked war, all the money spent is basically wasted.

To this day, Bush-Cheney use DISinformation provided by Douglas Feith's office (read: Sharonites) on the campaign trail that does not accurately reflect the views of intelligence services.

"Neoconservatives" such as Wolfowitz, Feith, Abrams, Libby and others with close ties to Israel's Likud party (Sharonites) have been instrumental in making the case for war on Iraq starting in the mid-nineties.

In fact, their "Project for a New American Century" called not only for removing Saddam but, for restructuring the whole Middle East thereby "cleaning up" Israel's neighborhood.

Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld proved receptive to their goals given that they too were interested in removing Saddam to allow their campaign contributors access to an OIL-rich nation.

Thus, the "Bush-Sharon Axis" was born and Americans were dragged into war under false pretenses.

New York Times - October 23, 2004

How to Skew Intelligence

It's long been obvious that the allegations about Saddam Hussein's dangerous weapons and alliance with Osama bin Laden were false. But as the election draws closer, the remaining question is to what extent President Bush's team knew the allegations were wrong and used them anyway to persuade Americans to back the invasion of Iraq.

A report issued Thursday by the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan, shows that on the question of an Iraqi-Qaeda axis, Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others offered an indictment that was essentially fabricated in the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.

Mr. Levin's report does not prove that President Bush knew that the Hussein-bin Laden alliance was fiction. But officials like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz - as well as Mr. Cheney's chief of staff and the deputy national security adviser - knew that Mr. Feith's tailored conclusions were contrary to the views of the entire intelligence community. Mr. Cheney presented them to the public as confirmed truth about Iraq and Al Qaeda.

The Levin report is a primer on how intelligence can be cooked to fit a political agenda. It is another sad reminder of this administration's refusal to hold anyone accountable for the way the public was led into the war with Iraq.

It focuses on the intelligence operation set up by Mr. Rumsfeld, who had been advocating an invasion of Iraq long before Mr. Bush took office and wanted more damning evidence against Baghdad after 9/11 than the Central Intelligence Agency had.

This operation, run by Mr. Feith, tried to persuade the Pentagon's own espionage unit, the Defense Intelligence Agency, to change its conclusion that there was no alliance between Iraq and Al Qaeda. When the Defense Intelligence Agency rebuffed this blatant interference, Mr. Feith's team wrote its own report.

It took long-discredited raw intelligence and resurrected it to create the impression that there was new information supporting Mr. Feith's preordained conclusions. It misrepresented the C.I.A.'s reports and presented fifth-hand reports as authoritative, all to depict Iraq as an ally of Al Qaeda.

Bipartisan reports from the 9/11 commission and the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that the intelligence community had been right and Mr. Feith wrong: there was no operational relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and no link at all between Mr. Hussein and the 9/11 attacks.

For those who were confused before the war, and still are, by all the Bush administration's claims - that the hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi official shortly before 9/11, that a member of Al Qaeda set up a base in Iraq with the help of Mr. Hussein, that Iraq helped Al Qaeda learn to make bombs and provided it with explosives - the evidence is now clear. The Levin report, together with the 9/11 panel's findings and the Senate intelligence report, show that those claims were all cooked up by Mr. Feith's shop, which knew that the C.I.A. and the Defense Intelligence Agency had already shown them to be false.

We don't know exactly how much of that the White House knew because Mr. Feith tried to confuse things. He eliminated points that the C.I.A. disputed when he showed the intelligence agency his report, and he put them back in when he sent it to the White House.

The Bush administration called Mr. Levin's report pre-election partisan sniping. It is far more than that, but voters, unfortunately, won't get final answers.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has reported on the C.I.A.'s actions before the war, has delayed a review of the administration's behavior until after the election. We also will not see the C.I.A.'s own report because Mr. Bush's new intelligence chief, Porter Goss, has rebuffed a bipartisan request from Congress to release it.

Voters have to decide whether to hold Mr. Bush accountable for the skewed intelligence cooked up by his administration to justify the war. <<>Intelligence

Pentagon Reportedly Skewed C.I.A.'s View of Qaeda Tie by Douglas Jehl

As recently as January 2004, a top Defense Department official misrepresented to Congress the view of American intelligence agencies about the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, according to a new report by a Senate Democrat.

The report said a classified document prepared by Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, not only asserted that there were ties between the Baghdad government and the terrorist network, but also did not reflect accurately the intelligence agencies' assessment - even while claiming that it did.

In issuing the report, the senator, Carl M. Levin, the senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he would ask the panel to take "appropriate action'' against Mr. Feith. Senator Levin said Mr. Feith had repeatedly described the ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda as far more significant and extensive than the intelligence agencies had.

The broad outlines of Mr. Feith's efforts to promote the idea of such close links have been previously disclosed.

The view, a staple of the Bush administration's public statements before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, has since been discredited by the Sept. 11 commission, which concluded that Iraq and Al Qaeda had "no close collaborative relationship.''

The 46-page report by Senator Levin and the Democratic staff of the Armed Services Committee is the first to focus narrowly on the role played by Mr. Feith's office. Democrats had sought to include that line of inquiry in a report completed in June by the Senate Intelligence Committee, but Republicans on the panel postponed that phase of the study until after the presidential election.

In an interview, Mr. Levin said he had concluded that Mr. Feith had practiced "continuing deception of Congress.'' But he said he had no evidence that Mr. Feith's conduct had been illegal.

Mr. Levin began the inquiry in June 2003, after Republicans on the panel, led by Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, declined to take part. He said his findings were endorsed by other Democrats on the committee, but complained that the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency had declined to provide crucial documents.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the Levin report "appears to depart from the bipartisan, consultative relationship" between the Defense Department and the Armed Services Committee, adding, "The unanimous, bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report of July 2004 found no evidence that administration officials tried to coerce, influence or pressure intelligence analysts to change their judgments."

Senator Warner said, "I take strong exception to the conclusions Senator Levin reaches." He said his view was based on the Intelligence Committee's "analysis thus far of the public and classified records."

Among the findings in the report were that the C.I.A. had become skeptical by June 2002, earlier than previously known, about a supposed meeting in April 2001 in Prague between Mohamed Atta, a leader of the Sept. 11 attacks, and an Iraqi intelligence official. Nevertheless, Mr. Feith and other senior Bush administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, continued at least through the end of 2002 to describe the reported meeting as evidence of a possible link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mr. Levin's report drew particular attention to statements by Mr. Feith in communications with Congress beginning in July 2003 about such a link.

A classified annex sent by Mr. Feith to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Oct. 27, 2003, which was disclosed two weeks later by The Weekly Standard, asserted that "Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990's to 2003,'' and concluded, "There can no longer be any serious argument about whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to plot against Americans.''

In a Nov. 15 news release, the Defense Department said the "provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies, and done with the permission of the intelligence community.'' But Mr. Levin's report said that statement was incorrect, because the Central Intelligence Agency had not cleared release of Mr. Feith's annex.

The Levin report also disclosed for the first time that the C.I.A., in December 2003, sent Mr. Feith a letter pointing out corrections he should make to the document before providing it to Senator Levin, who had requested the document as part of his investigation.

Perhaps most critically, the report says, Mr. Feith repeated a questionable assertion concerning a Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Qaeda ally whose presence in Iraq was cited by the Bush administration before the war as crucial evidence of Mr. Hussein's support for terrorism.

In his Oct. 27 letter, Mr. Feith told Congress that the Iraqi intelligence service knew of Mr. Zarqawi's entry into Iraq. In recommending a correction, the C.I.A. said that claim had not been supported by the intelligence report that Mr. Feith had cited, the Levin report says. Nevertheless, the report says, Mr. Feith reiterated the assertion in his addendum, attributing it to a different intelligence report - one that likewise did not state that Iraq knew Mr. Zarqawi was in the country.

A reassessment completed by American intelligence agencies in September concluded that it is not clear whether Mr. Hussein's government harbored Mr. Zarqawi during his time in Iraq before the war, intelligence officials have said.<<

Why U.S. "regime change" is of the essence....

The reasons for the enormous importance of the upcoming U.S. election is summarized very effectively by Timothy Garton in the following article.

Foreign policy, an issue that is usually not high up on the agenda of most Americans as they enter the voting boot, is clearly front and center this election year given that the choice we make will affect our relationship with the rest of the world for decades to come.

If peaceful coexistence is our ultimate objective, "regime change" is imperative to achieve that goal:

"If, however, Americans choose Sen. John F. Kerry as their 44th president, we will have a chance of reconstructing the transatlantic West on a new basis. In Europe, Kerry will enjoy a huge opening bonus simply because he is not George W. Bush. His offer of working with allies will be greeted with open arms. Skeptics say the difference between the two candidates' approaches is style, not substance, but in this relationship, style is substance. The difference between unilateralism and multilateralism is all about how you do it, not what you do. Half the European objections to Bush's policy concern the how, not the what. Electing Kerry will encourage the silent majority of Euro-Atlanticists in Europe to speak up. Moreover, Kerry can credibly say he wants a united Europe as a strong partner of the United States, whereas no one in Europe would now believe Bush even if he said it."

Wash Post - Sunday, October 24, 2004

President Kerry and Europe - Revitalizing an Alliance Depends on Bush's Defeat By Timothy Garton Ash

This U.S. election will shape the future of Europe and the trans- atlantic West.

If President Bush is reelected, many Europeans will try to make the European Union a rival superpower to the United States.

Led by French President Jacques Chirac, they will find the main justification for further European integration in counterbalancing what they see as irresponsible, unchecked American power. In the great European argument between Euro-Gaullists and Euro-Atlanticists, these Euro-Gaullists will be strengthened. The temptation for Europe to define itself as Not America will be increased. All this at a formative moment when an enlarged European Union is hoping to give itself a new constitution and work out what it wants to be.

Specifically, even fewer of the European states will be ready to help pull Washington's irons out of the fire in Iraq. Poland has already said it will follow Spain out of that firestorm; Tony Blair's position will be more embattled than ever. Meanwhile, Iran seems likely to precipitate the next crisis of the West. If a second Bush administration were to unilaterally threaten the use of force to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability, one can imagine the furious reaction on the streets of Europe.

Yet the Iranian regime, unlike Saddam Hussein, probably is close to developing a nuclear weapons capability -- and Europe's soft diplomacy has been no more effective in preventing it than U.S. huffing and puffing. Only combined action stands a chance.

Even more important, in the longer term, is China. Chirac has been pursuing a shameless policy of wooing China, for French economic advantage and to poke Washington in the eye. He has endorsed Beijing's position on Taiwan and said the E.U. embargo on arms exports to China should be lifted. This raises the grotesque prospect of European weapons being pointed at American warships in the Taiwan Strait. But of course it's not France that is calling the shots here. In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger played the China card against the Soviet Union. Today, China is playing the European card against the United States.

The Euro-Gaullist attempt to create a rival European superpower would be catalyzed by the advent of a second Bush administration. It would not, however, succeed. The forces of Euro-Atlanticism are still much too strong, especially in an enlarged European Union of 25 member states. A second Bush administration would find plenty of opportunities to do what it has done already in the past few years: divide and rule. The result would be a divided Europe in a still more divided West.

If, however, Americans choose Sen. John F. Kerry as their 44th president, we will have a chance of reconstructing the transatlantic West on a new basis. In Europe, Kerry will enjoy a huge opening bonus simply because he is not George W. Bush. His offer of working with allies will be greeted with open arms. Skeptics say the difference between the two candidates' approaches is style, not substance, but in this relationship, style is substance. The difference between unilateralism and multilateralism is all about how you do it, not what you do. Half the European objections to Bush's policy concern the how, not the what. Electing Kerry will encourage the silent majority of Euro-Atlanticists in Europe to speak up. Moreover, Kerry can credibly say he wants a united Europe as a strong partner of the United States, whereas no one in Europe would now believe Bush even if he said it.

The difficulties are still immense. Germany and France won't send troops to Iraq. On Iran, Europe needs to get tougher while America needs to get smarter. As the largest emerging market in the world, China will find many more chances for divide-and-rule between export-hungry Western democracies.

So we may still fail. But there is a chance.

I think it important to make clear the position from which I write. I love America, spend part of each year at a great American university and believe passionately that it is possible to be both pro-European and pro-American. I have never belonged to any British political party, let alone an American one. As a contemporary historian, I conclude that some Republican presidents have done great things for Europe.

Ronald Reagan's dramatic turn from arms race to detente, in response to the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev, was one such. The current president's father, George H.W. Bush, made the peaceful liberation of central Europe possible by his wise and mature statecraft. But not this Bush, not this time.

In any sober analysis, the chances of the world's two largest assemblages of the rich and free being able to work together to confront the coming great global challenges will be better with a President Kerry. And only if America and Europe work together can we unfold, for the rest of the world, the transforming power of liberty.

The writer is professor of European studies at Oxford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His next book, "Free World: America, Europe and the Surprising Future of the West, will be published next month.<<

Thursday, October 21, 2004

From "The American Conservative"

Increasingly, Republicans have come to the realization that their "fearless leader" presently sitting in the Oval Office should be sent home to pasture on Nov. 2

Their rationale is based on opposition to Bush, not enthusiastic support for Sen. Kerry.

But, be that as it may, those of us who realize the enormous damage to the U.S. and the world implied in a Bush second term, are thankful to those conservatives who will vote for Sen. Kerry albeit as an "anyone but Bush" candidate.

"The American CONSERVATIVE" - October 2004

Kerry's the One By Scott McConnell

There is little in John Kerry's persona or platform that appeals to
conservatives. The flip-flopper charge-the centerpiece of the Republican campaign
against Kerry-seems overdone, as Kerry's contrasting votes are the sort of baggage
any senator of long service is likely to pick up. (Bob Dole could tell you all
about it.) But Kerry is plainly a conventional liberal and no candidate for a
future edition of Profiles in Courage. In my view, he will always deserve
censure for his vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2002.

But this election is not about John Kerry. If he were to win, his dearth of
charisma would likely ensure him a single term. He would face challenges from
within his own party and a thwarting of his most expensive initiatives by a
Republican Congress. Much of his presidency would be absorbed by trying to clean
up the mess left to him in Iraq. He would be constrained by the swollen
deficits and a ripe target for the next Republican nominee.

It is, instead, an election about the presidency of George W. Bush. To the
surprise of virtually everyone, Bush has turned into an important president, and
in many ways the most radical America has had since the 19th century. Because
he is the leader of America's conservative party, he has become the Left's
perfect foil-its dream candidate. The libertarian writer Lew Rockwell has
mischievously noted parallels between Bush and Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II: both
gained office as a result of family connections, both initiated an unnecessary war that shattered their countries' budgets. Lenin needed the calamitous reign of Nicholas II to create an opening for the Bolsheviks.

Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed
to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism
for generations. The launching of an invasion against a country that posed no
threat to the U.S., the doling out of war profits and concessions to
politically favored corporations, the financing of the war by ballooning the deficit
to be passed on to the nation's children, the ceaseless drive to cut taxes for
those outside the middle class and working poor: it is as if Bush sought to
resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliché about predatory imperialism and
turn it into administration policy. Add to this his nation-breaking immigration proposal-Bush has laid out a mad scheme to import immigrants to fill any job where the wage is so low that an American can't be found to do it-and you have a presidency that combines imperialist Right and open-borders Left in a uniquely noxious cocktail.

During the campaign, few have paid attention to how much the Bush presidency
has degraded the image of the United States in the world. Of course there has
always been "anti-Americanism." After the Second World War many European
intellectuals argued for a "Third Way" between American-style capitalism and Soviet
communism, and a generation later Europe's radicals embraced every ragged
"anti-imperialist" cause that came along. In South America, defiance of "the
Yanqui" always draws a crowd. But Bush has somehow managed to take all these
sentiments and turbo-charge them. In Europe and indeed all over the world, he has
made the United States despised by people who used to be its friends, by
businessmen and the middle classes, by moderate and sensible liberals. Never before
have democratic foreign governments needed to demonstrate disdain for
Washington to their own electorates in order to survive in office. The poll numbers
are shocking. In countries like Norway, Germany, France, and Spain, Bush is
liked by about seven percent of the populace. In Egypt, recipient of huge piles of
American aid in the past two decades, some 98 percent have an unfavorable
view of the United States. It's the same throughout the Middle East.

Bush has accomplished this by giving the U.S. a novel foreign-policy doctrine
under which it arrogates to itself the right to invade any country it wants
if it feels threatened. It is an American version of the Brezhnev Doctrine, but
the latter was at least confined to Eastern Europe. If the analogy seems
extreme, what is an appropriate comparison when a country manufactures falsehoods
about a foreign government, disseminates them widely, and invades the country
on the basis of those falsehoods? It is not an action that any American
president has ever taken before. It is not something that "good" countries do. It is
the main reason that people all over the world who used to consider the
United States a reliable and necessary bulwark of world stability now see us as a
menace to their own peace and security.

These sentiments mean that as long as Bush is president, we have no real
allies in the world, no friends to help us dig out from the Iraq quagmire. More
tragically, they mean that if terrorists succeed in striking at the United
States in another 9/11-type attack, many in the world will not only think of the
American victims but also of the thousands and thousands of Iraqi civilians
killed and maimed by American armed forces. The hatred Bush has generated has
helped immeasurably those trying to recruit anti-American terrorists-indeed his
policies are the gift to terrorism that keeps on giving, as the sons and
brothers of slain Iraqis think how they may eventually take their own revenge. Only
the seriously deluded could fail to see that a policy so central to America's
survival as a free country as getting hold of loose nuclear materials and
controlling nuclear proliferation requires the willingness of foreign countries to
provide full, 100 percent co-operation. Making yourself into the world's most
hated country is not an obvious way to secure that help.

I've heard people who have known George W. Bush for decades and served
prominently in his father's administration say that he could not possibly have
conceived of the doctrine of pre-emptive war by himself, that he was essentially
taken for a ride by people with a pre-existing agenda to overturn Saddam
Hussein. Bush's public performances plainly show him to be a man who has never read
or thought much about foreign policy. So the inevitable questions are: who
makes the key foreign-policy decisions in the Bush presidency, who controls the
information flow to the president, how are various options are presented?

The record, from published administration memoirs and in-depth reporting, is
one of an administration with a very small group of six or eight real
decision-makers, who were set on war from the beginning and who took great pains to
shut out arguments from professionals in the CIA and State Department and the
U.S. armed forces that contradicted their rosy scenarios about easy victory.
Much has been written about the neoconservative hand guiding the Bush
presidency-and it is peculiar that one who was fired from the National Security Council
in the Reagan administration for suspicion of passing classified material to
the Israeli embassy and another who has written position papers for an Israeli
Likud Party leader have become key players in the making of American foreign

But neoconservatism now encompasses much more than Israel-obsessed
intellectuals and policy insiders. The Bush foreign policy also surfs on deep currents
within the Christian Right, some of which see unqualified support of Israel as
part of a godly plan to bring about Armageddon and the future kingdom of
Christ. These two strands of Jewish and Christian extremism build on one another in
the Bush presidency-and President Bush has given not the slightest indication
he would restrain either in a second term. With Colin Powell's departure from
the State Department looming, Bush is more than ever the "neoconian candidate."

The only way Americans will have a presidency in which neoconservatives and the Christian Armageddon set are not holding the reins of power is if Kerry is elected.

If Kerry wins, this magazine will be in opposition from Inauguration Day
forward. But the most important battles will take place within the Republican
Party and the conservative movement. A Bush defeat will ignite a huge
soul-searching within the rank-and-file of Republicandom: a quest to find out how and
where the Bush presidency went wrong. And it is then that more traditional
conservatives will have an audience to argue for a conservatism informed by the
lessons of history, based in prudence and a sense of continuity with the American
past-and to make that case without a powerful White House pulling in the
opposite direction.

George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost
any kind of thoughtful conservatism. His international policies have been based
on the hopelessly naïve belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated
by American armies-a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky's concept of global
revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft. His immigration
policies-temporarily put on hold while he runs for re-election-are just as extreme. A
re-elected President Bush would be committed to bringing in millions of
low-wage immigrants to do jobs Americans "won't do." This election is all about
George W. Bush, and those issues are enough to render him unworthy of any
conservative support.<<

Subliminal "strategery?"


Were Pat Robertson's remarks actually designed as subliminal "strategery" in support of Sen. Kerry?

I caught his remarks live on the tube and couldn't quite believe that I was hearing...well...what I was actually hearing.

" 'He was just sitting there, like, I'm on top of the world, and I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties,' " Robertson said.

"Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties," Robertson quoted Bush as saying. " 'Well,' I said, 'it's the way it's going to be. . . . The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy.' "

True. He then followed his implied criticism by stating:

"In a statement yesterday, Robertson did not back away from his comments about Bush and said, "I emphatically stated that I believe 'the blessing of heaven is upon him,' and I am persuaded that he will win this election and prevail on the war against terror."

But, the damage had been done and any subsequent reaffirmations that "God was on Bush's side" were totally ineffective.

The question then becomes: Was Robertson aware that his words would play into the opposition's hands or, is he too dumb to realize the damage to his "fearless leader" by painting him as what he truly incompetent, arrogant, self-righteous nincompoop?

Washington Post Staff Writer - Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bush Predicted No Iraq Casualties, Robertson Says By Alan Cooperman

The Rev. Pat Robertson said President Bush dismissed his warning that the United States would suffer heavy casualties in Iraq and told the television evangelist just before the beginning of the war that "we're not going to have any casualties."

Robertson related the conversation during an interview with CNN late Tuesday. He said he spoke to Bush before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and urged him to prepare the nation for heavy casualties. While Bush's response was a mistake, Robertson said, God has blessed the president anyhow.

Sen. John F. Kerry's campaign pounced on the remarks yesterday.

"We believe President Bush should get the benefit of the doubt here, but he needs to come forward and answer a very simple question," Kerry adviser Mike McCurry said in a statement. "Is Pat Robertson telling the truth when he said you didn't think there'd be any casualties, or is Pat Robertson lying?"

White House political adviser Karl Rove told reporters that Bush never said he did not expect casualties. "I was right there," Rove said of the president's conversation with Robertson.

In a statement yesterday, Robertson did not back away from his comments about Bush and said, "I emphatically stated that I believe 'the blessing of heaven is upon him,' and I am persuaded that he will win this election and prevail on the war against terror."

Robertson, who made a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988, has repeatedly suggested on his "700 Club" cable television show that he believes God favors Bush's reelection. But he denied in Tuesday's interview with CNN's Paula Zahn that he has tried to instruct Christians on how to vote.

"I just said, I think God's blessing him, and I think it's one of those things that, even if he stumbles and messes up -- and he's had his share of goofs and gaffes -- I just think God's blessing is on him. And you remember, I think the Chinese used to say, you know, it's the blessing of heaven on the emperor. And I think the blessing of heaven is on Bush. It's just the way it is," Robertson said.

Asked about Bush's mistakes, the evangelist recalled: "I met with him down in Nashville before the Gulf war started. And he was the most self-assured man I ever met in my life." Borrowing a line from Mark Twain, Robertson said Bush looked "like a contented Christian with four aces."

"He was just sitting there, like, I'm on top of the world, and I warned him about this war. I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties,' " Robertson said.

"Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties," Robertson quoted Bush as saying. " 'Well,' I said, 'it's the way it's going to be. . . . The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy.' "<<

Monday, October 18, 2004

Added bonus: John Kerry speaks...ENGLISH!

It boggles the mind to think that the deceptive gang presently in power could be allowed to govern for another four years.

How many more people will they antagonize and KILL before the whole world goes up in flames?

"There should no longer be any doubt that the war in Iraq is an exercise in lunacy. It was launched with a spurious rationale, the weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be a fantasy relentlessly stoked by obsessively hawkish middle-aged men who ran and hid when they were of fighting age and the nation was at war."

Once the inspectors were back in Iraq, why not allow them to finish their job? What was the rush to invade another Arab/Muslim nation when the work in Afghanistan was far from completed?

Answer: Members of the "Bush-Sharon Axis" had targeted Iraq as soon as both individuals were ensconced in their respective thrones.

It was never a question of IF but simply a question of WHEN they would occupy the nation and 9/11 provided the trigger they used to justify a war based on GREED and PARANOIA.

As a result, thousands of innocent Iraqis and Americans have been, and continue to be... KILLED.

Should Bush-Cheney be reelected, we, the American people, will be just as responsible for their deaths as they are.

As they say..."Fool me once, shame on you....Fool me twice, shame on me."

I, for one, don't believe that any individual(s) should be rewarded for dragging a nation into an UNprovoked war.

For Bushites to pretend that by invading Iraq the world is safer than it was before 9/11, is the ultimate exercise in deception.

Hopefully, the majority of Americans will awaken before Nov. 2 and elect an intelligent, insightful, experienced individual determined to unite the world at a time it is sorely needed.

Added bonus: John Kerry speaks ENGLISH!

New York Times - October 18, 2004

A War Without Reason by Bob Herbert

Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."
- President Bush, Oct. 7, 2002

There should no longer be any doubt that the war in Iraq is an exercise in lunacy. It was launched with a spurious rationale, the weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be a fantasy relentlessly stoked by obsessively hawkish middle-aged men who ran and hid when they were of fighting age and the nation was at war.

Now we find that we can't win this war we started. Soldiers and civilians alike are trapped in the proverbial briar patch, unable to move around safely in a country that the warmongers thought would be easy to conquer and then rebuild.

There is no way to overstate how profoundly wrong they were.

Our troops continue to die but we can't even identify the enemy, which is why so many innocent Iraqi civilians - including women and children - are being blown away. The civilians are being killed by the thousands, even as the dreaded Saddam Hussein is receiving first-class health care (most recently a successful hernia operation) from his captors.

Last week, in a story that read like a chapter from an antiwar novel, we learned that members of an Army Reserve platoon were taken into custody and held for two days after they refused to deliver a shipment of fuel to Taji, a town 15 miles north of Baghdad. They complained that the trip was too dangerous to make without an escort of armored vehicles. Several of the reservists described the trip as a "suicide mission."

The military said that was an isolated incident, but there is evidence of growing dissatisfaction among the troops, many of whom feel they are targets surrounded by hostile Iraqis -insurgents and ordinary civilians alike - in a war that lacks a clearly defined mission.

Even the heavily fortified Green Zone, which contains the U.S. embassy and the headquarters of the interim Iraqi government, was penetrated by suicide bombers last Thursday. At least five people, including three Americans who had been providing security for diplomats, were killed in the attack.

As the pointlessness of this war grows ever clearer, the president's grand alliance, like some of the soldiers on the ground, is losing its resolve. When John Kerry, in the first presidential debate, mentioned only Britain and Australia as he mocked Mr. Bush's "coalition" in Iraq, the president famously replied, "You forgot Poland."

Poland has 2,400 troops in Iraq. But on Friday the prime minister, Marek Belka, announced that he will cut that number early next year, and then "will engage in talks on a further reduction."

Mr. Belka has a political problem. He can't explain the war to his constituents. And that's because there is no rational explanation.

As for the rebuilding of Iraq, forget about it. Hundreds of schools were damaged by U.S. bombing and thousands were looted by Iraqis. It's hard to believe that an administration that won't rebuild schools here in America will really go to bat for schoolkids in Iraq. Millions of Iraqi kids now attend schools that are decrepit and, in many cases, all but falling down-lacking such essentials as desks, chairs and even toilets, according to the United Nations Children's Fund.

Military commanders are warning that delays in the overall reconstruction are increasing the danger for American troops. A senior American military officer told The Times, "We can either put Iraqis back to work, or we can have them shoot [rocket-propelled grenades] at us."

The president and his apologists never understood what they were getting into in Iraq. What is unmistakable now is that Americans will never be willing to commit the overwhelming numbers of troops and spend the hundreds of billions of additional dollars necessary to have even a hope of bringing long-term stability to Iraq.

This is a war that never made sense and now we are seeing - from the troops on the ground, from our allies overseas and increasingly from the population here at home - the inevitable reluctance to forge ahead with the madness.

The president likes to say he made exactly the right decision on Iraq. Each new death of a soldier or a civilian, each child who loses a parent to the carnage, each healthy body that is broken or burned in this war that didn't have to happen, is a reminder of how horribly wrong he was. <<

Sunday, October 17, 2004

"John Kerry for President"

And the OBVIOUS choice is....

New York Times - October 17, 2004

John Kerry for President

Senator John Kerry goes toward the election with a base that is built more on opposition to George W. Bush than loyalty to his own candidacy. But over the last year we have come to know Mr. Kerry as more than just an alternative to the status quo. We like what we've seen. He has qualities that could be the basis for a great chief executive, not just a modest improvement on the incumbent.

We have been impressed with Mr. Kerry's wide knowledge and clear thinking - something that became more apparent once he was reined in by that two-minute debate light. He is blessedly willing to re-evaluate decisions when conditions change. And while Mr. Kerry's service in Vietnam was first over-promoted and then over-pilloried, his entire life has been devoted to public service, from the war to a series of elected offices. He strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.

There is no denying that this race is mainly about Mr. Bush's disastrous tenure. Nearly four years ago, after the Supreme Court awarded him the presidency, Mr. Bush came into office amid popular expectation that he would acknowledge his lack of a mandate by sticking close to the center. Instead, he turned the government over to the radical right.

Mr. Bush installed John Ashcroft, a favorite of the far right with a history of insensitivity to civil liberties, as attorney general. He sent the Senate one ideological, activist judicial nominee after another. He moved quickly to implement a far-reaching anti-choice agenda including censorship of government Web sites and a clampdown on embryonic stem cell research. He threw the government's weight against efforts by the University of Michigan to give minority students an edge in admission, as it did for students from rural areas or the offspring of alumni.

When the nation fell into recession, the president remained fixated not on generating jobs but rather on fighting the right wing's war against taxing the wealthy. As a result, money that could have been used to strengthen Social Security evaporated, as did the chance to provide adequate funding for programs the president himself had backed. No Child Left Behind, his signature domestic program, imposed higher standards on local school systems without providing enough money to meet them.

If Mr. Bush had wanted to make a mark on an issue on which Republicans and Democrats have long made common cause, he could have picked the environment. Christie Whitman, the former New Jersey governor chosen to run the Environmental Protection Agency, came from that bipartisan tradition. Yet she left after three years of futile struggle against the ideologues and industry lobbyists Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had installed in every other important environmental post. The result has been a systematic weakening of regulatory safeguards across the entire spectrum of environmental issues, from clean air to wilderness protection.

The president who lost the popular vote got a real mandate on Sept. 11, 2001. With the grieving country united behind him, Mr. Bush had an unparalleled opportunity to ask for almost any shared sacrifice. The only limit was his imagination.

He asked for another tax cut and the war against Iraq.

The president's refusal to drop his tax-cutting agenda when the nation was gearing up for war is perhaps the most shocking example of his inability to change his priorities in the face of drastically altered circumstances. Mr. Bush did not just starve the government of the money it needed for his own education initiative or the Medicare drug bill. He also made tax cuts a higher priority than doing what was needed for America's security; 90 percent of the cargo unloaded every day in the nation's ports still goes uninspected.

Along with the invasion of Afghanistan, which had near unanimous international and domestic support, Mr. Bush and his attorney general put in place a strategy for a domestic antiterror war that had all the hallmarks of the administration's normal method of doing business: a Nixonian obsession with secrecy, disrespect for civil liberties and inept management.

American citizens were detained for long periods without access to lawyers or family members. Immigrants were rounded up and forced to languish in what the Justice Department's own inspector general found were often "unduly harsh" conditions. Men captured in the Afghan war were held incommunicado with no right to challenge their confinement. The Justice Department became a cheerleader for skirting decades-old international laws and treaties forbidding the brutal treatment of prisoners taken during wartime.

Mr. Ashcroft appeared on TV time and again to announce sensational arrests of people who turned out to be either innocent, harmless braggarts or extremely low-level sympathizers of Osama bin Laden who, while perhaps wishing to do something terrible, lacked the means. The Justice Department cannot claim one major successful terrorism prosecution, and has squandered much of the trust and patience the American people freely gave in 2001. Other nations, perceiving that the vast bulk of the prisoners held for so long at Guantánamo Bay came from the same line of ineffectual incompetents or unlucky innocents, and seeing the awful photographs from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, were shocked that the nation that was supposed to be setting the world standard for human rights could behave that way.

Like the tax cuts, Mr. Bush's obsession with Saddam Hussein seemed closer to zealotry than mere policy. He sold the war to the American people, and to Congress, as an antiterrorist campaign even though Iraq had no known working relationship with Al Qaeda. His most frightening allegation was that Saddam Hussein was close to getting nuclear weapons. It was based on two pieces of evidence. One was a story about attempts to purchase critical materials from Niger, and it was the product of rumor and forgery. The other evidence, the purchase of aluminum tubes that the administration said were meant for a nuclear centrifuge, was concocted by one low-level analyst and had been thoroughly debunked by administration investigators and international vetting. Top members of the administration knew this, but the selling went on anyway. None of the president's chief advisers have ever been held accountable for their misrepresentations to the American people or for their mismanagement of the war that followed.

The international outrage over the American invasion is now joined by a sense of disdain for the incompetence of the effort. Moderate Arab leaders who have attempted to introduce a modicum of democracy are tainted by their connection to an administration that is now radioactive in the Muslim world. Heads of rogue states, including Iran and North Korea, have been taught decisively that the best protection against a pre-emptive American strike is to acquire nuclear weapons themselves.

We have specific fears about what would happen in a second Bush term, particularly regarding the Supreme Court. The record so far gives us plenty of cause for worry. Thanks to Mr. Bush, Jay Bybee, the author of an infamous Justice Department memo justifying the use of torture as an interrogation technique, is now a federal appeals court judge. Another Bush selection, J. Leon Holmes, a federal judge in Arkansas, has written that wives must be subordinate to their husbands and compared abortion rights activists to Nazis.

Mr. Bush remains enamored of tax cuts but he has never stopped Republican lawmakers from passing massive spending, even for projects he dislikes, like increased farm aid.

If he wins re-election, domestic and foreign financial markets will know the fiscal recklessness will continue. Along with record trade imbalances, that increases the chances of a financial crisis, like an uncontrolled decline of the dollar, and higher long-term interest rates.

The Bush White House has always given us the worst aspects of the American right without any of the advantages. We get the radical goals but not the efficient management. The Department of Education's handling of the No Child Left Behind Act has been heavily politicized and inept. The Department of Homeland Security is famous for its useless alerts and its inability to distribute antiterrorism aid according to actual threats. Without providing enough troops to properly secure Iraq, the administration has managed to so strain the resources of our armed forces that the nation is unprepared to respond to a crisis anywhere else in the world.

Mr. Kerry has the capacity to do far, far better. He has a willingness - sorely missing in Washington these days - to reach across the aisle. We are relieved that he is a strong defender of civil rights, that he would remove unnecessary restrictions on stem cell research and that he understands the concept of separation of church and state. We appreciate his sensible plan to provide health coverage for most of the people who currently do without.

Mr. Kerry has an aggressive and in some cases innovative package of ideas about energy, aimed at addressing global warming and oil dependency. He is a longtime advocate of deficit reduction. In the Senate, he worked with John McCain in restoring relations between the United States and Vietnam, and led investigations of the way the international financial system has been gamed to permit the laundering of drug and terror money. He has always understood that America's appropriate role in world affairs is as leader of a willing community of nations, not in my-way-or-the-highway domination.

We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better.

Voting for president is a leap of faith. A candidate can explain his positions in minute detail and wind up governing with a hostile Congress that refuses to let him deliver. A disaster can upend the best-laid plans. All citizens can do is mix guesswork and hope, examining what the candidates have done in the past, their apparent priorities and their general character. It's on those three grounds that we enthusiastically endorse John Kerry for president.

An endorsement of Senator Charles Schumer for re-election to the Senate appears today in the City, Long Island and Westchester weekly sections.<<

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Bushite LIES and distortions....

Why Bush is still standing in the polls, roughly two weeks before the election, is one of those mysteries that are difficult to grasp.

Lies and distortions are the trademark of Bushites who will say anything even if it can easily be proven wrong.

Talk about callousness and viciousness....

Wash Post - Sunday, October 17, 2004

We Hold This Dirt to Be Self-Evident By Michael Kinsley

The people running the Bush campaign are political alchemists: They can take anything and turn it into dirt.

Still naive, even after Swift boats and everything else, I couldn't believe that Bush's "nuisance" salvo would work. In fact, when I first heard the accusation (on a right-wing radio talk show), I couldn't even understand it. John Kerry, quoted in a New York Times Magazine profile a week ago, said that he hopes to see the threat of terrorism reduced some day to the level of a minor nuisance. The Bush campaign immediately launched a big offensive on the theme that Kerry thinks Terrorism is merely a nuisance.

Huh? Isn't there a difference between hoping that something will happen and thinking that it has happened already? Do you have to be mired in logic to suspect that these two states of mind are pretty much the opposite of each other? The distinction between how you want things to be and how they really are seems to be a particularly tough one for President Bush himself. But to count on voters to share this confusion is pretty courageous.

The media -- with an undiscriminating appetite for issues and a professional commitment to be fair and balanced between Republicans and Democrats, true and false, good and evil, crunchy and creamy, or any other dichotomy the news confronts them with -- were helpless to resist. By Monday the preposterous and baseless question whether Kerry thinks that terrorism is just a nuisance had become a major campaign issue. Bush brought it up the first time he opened his mouth at Wednesday's presidential debate.

By the weekend other issues, such as Mary Cheney, had been layered on top. Kerry, his stock soaring as polls showed him the big winner in the debates, probably wasn't too badly hurt. Bush, though, was not hurt at all. Now, with the race tightening up, there will be fresh issues emanating from the Bush-Cheney laboratories, all made entirely of artificial ingredients. Pick a sentence -- any sentence -- and see how it's done.

President Bush: "My opponent, you see, wrote -- or he helped to write -- this document, this so-called Declaration of Independence. And in it, see, he says something about how we hold these truths to be self-evident. Now, self-evident is just a fancy word -- or actually it's two words: Of course I know that! I can count! -- it's just a fancy way of saying you don't have to say anything because folks already know it.

"In other words, he's saying that you don't have to tell the truth. Well, I just happen to disagree with that. I think the truth is one of the most important things in our great country. The truth is American. And it's good. It's good to tell the truth. But my opponent disagrees with that. He thinks you don't need to tell the truth. And I happen to think that's wrong. It's a difference in philosophy, you see."

Newspaper Headline: "Kerry Opposes Truth, Bush Charges; Opponent Responds, 'Issue Is Complex' "

Sen. Kerry: "First of all, I'd like to thank President Bush for his important remarks about telling the truth. I also think the truth is very important. But so is falsehood. Falsehood is also very important. Truth and falsehood are both very important, and a president has to understand that. And I have a plan to increase both truth and falsehood by 23 percent over the next seven years by a tax increase on just two people: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.

"Now, as to this document, this Declaration of Independence, my position is very clear. I did sign it. But I didn't read it. And I opposed it before I signed it. And again after I signed it. I think it's an important document, with important values for our country. But I also think that it is flatly wrong. I signed it because I disagree with it -- because only after it is signed and enacted can it be amended."

Newspaper News Analysis: "Is the Truth Self-Evident?" (excerpt):

"Some experts question Mr. Bush's analysis of the Declaration of Independence. They say it should not necessarily be interpreted as intending to criticize the concept of truth as directly as the president seems to be suggesting. 'The president's interpretation is unique,' said a leading constitutional scholar yesterday. A few critics were even harsher. 'It's really very unique,' one of them said.

"But other experts believe that the president has a point. The late philosopher of language Jacques Derrida, reached just seconds before he died last week, said, 'The Declaration of Independence is a text, which ultimately swallows itself and spits itself out. The concept of truth in this context has no meaning. Although I am French, I strongly support President Bush for making absurdity a top priority.' Sen. Kerry now concedes that the Declaration of Independence 'should have been more carefully worded.' But the damage to his campaign has been done.

"A longtime political strategist outside the Kerry camp yesterday said that Kerry should have pointed out that the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, which makes it highly unlikely that he was involved in writing it. But several other consultants warned against this strategy.

" 'It's just too risky,' one said, 'to call the president of the United States a liar.' "

The writer is editorial and opinion editor of the Los Angeles Times.<<

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Why "regime change" in the U.S. is of the essence

Why "regime change" is of the essence on Nov. 2 is brought to light by Frank Rich in the following article.

Richard Nixon was accused of abuse of power and forced to resign since he had managed to conceal these abuses before being reelected. This time around, however, we have ample proof of the abuses perpetrated by Shrub-Cheney and their right wing cohorts before voting in Nov. 2.

IF we allow this secretive, deceptive gang to remain in power, we will have no one to blame but...ourselves.

New York Times - October 17, 2004

Will We Need a New 'All the President's Men'? by Frank Rich

SUCH is the power of movies that the first image "Watergate" brings to mind three decades later is not Richard Nixon so much as the golden duo of Redford and Hoffman riding to the nation's rescue in "All the President's Men." But if our current presidency is now showing symptoms of a precancerous Watergate syndrome - as it is, daily - we have not yet reached that denouement immortalized by Hollywood, in which our scrappy heroes finally bring Nixon to heel in his second term. No, we're back instead in the earlier reels of his first term, before the criminality of the Watergate break-in, when no one had heard of Woodward and Bernstein. Back then an arrogant and secretive White House, furious at the bad press fueled by an unpopular and mismanaged war, was still flying high as it kneecapped with impunity any reporter or news organization that challenged its tightly enforced message of victory at hand.

It was then that the vice president, Spiro Agnew, scripted by the speechwriter Pat Buchanan, tried to discredit the press as an elite - or, as he spelled it out, "a tiny, enclosed fraternity of privileged men." It was then that the attorney general, John Mitchell, under the pretext of national security, countenanced wiretaps of Hedrick Smith of The Times and Marvin Kalb of CBS News, as well as a full F.B.I. investigation of CBS's Daniel Schorr. Today it's John Ashcroft's Justice Department, also invoking "national security," that hopes to seize the phone records of Judith Miller and Philip Shenon of The Times, claiming that what amounts to a virtual wiretap is warranted by articles about Islamic charities and terrorism published nearly three years ago.

"The fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before," wrote William Safire last month. When an alumnus of the Nixon White House says our free press is being attacked as "never before," you listen. What alarms him now are the efforts of Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame-Robert Novak affair, to threaten reporters at The Times and Time magazine with jail if they don't reveal their sources. Given that the Times reporter in question (Judith Miller again) didn't even write an article on the subject under investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald overreaches so far that he's created a sci-fi plot twist out of Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report."

It's all the scarier for being only one piece in a pattern of media intimidation that's been building for months now. Once Woodward and Bernstein did start investigating Watergate, Nixon plotted to take economic revenge by siccing the Federal Communications Commission on TV stations owned by The Washington Post's parent company. The current White House has been practicing pre-emptive media intimidation to match its policy of pre-emptive war. Its F.C.C. chairman, using Janet Jackson's breast and Howard Stern's mouth as pretexts, has sufficiently rattled Viacom, which broadcast both of these entertainers' infractions against "decency," that its chairman, the self-described "liberal Democrat" Sumner Redstone, abruptly announced his support for the re-election of George W. Bush last month. "I vote for what's good for Viacom," he explained, and he meant it. He took this loyalty oath just days after the "60 Minutes" fiasco prompted a full-fledged political witch hunt on Viacom's CBS News, another Republican target since the Nixon years. Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas, has threatened to seek Congressional "safeguards" regulating TV news content and, depending what happens Nov. 2, he may well have the political means to do it.

Viacom is hardly the only media giant cowed by the prospect that this White House might threaten its corporate interests if it gets out of line. Disney's refusal to release Michael Moore's partisan "Fahrenheit 9/11" in an election year would smell less if the company applied the same principle to its ABC radio stations, where the equally partisan polemics of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are heard every day. Even a low-profile film project in conflict with Bush dogma has spooked the world's largest media company, Time Warner, proprietor of CNN. Its Warner Brothers, about to release a special DVD of "Three Kings," David O. Russell's 1999 movie criticizing the first gulf war, suddenly canceled a planned extra feature, a new Russell documentary criticizing the current war. Whether any of these increasingly craven media combines will stand up to the Bush administration in a constitutional pinch, as Katharine Graham and her Post Company bravely did to the Nixon administration during Watergate, is a proposition that hasn't been remotely tested yet.

To understand what kind of journalism the Bush administration expects from these companies, you need only look at those that are already its collaborators. Fox News speaks loudly for itself, to the point of posting on its Web site an article by its chief political correspondent containing fictional John Kerry quotes. (After an outcry, it was retracted as "written in jest.") But Fox is just the tip of the Rupert Murdoch empire. When The New York Post covered the release of the report by the C.I.A.'s chief weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, it played the story on page 8 and didn't get to the clause "while no stockpiles of W.M.D. were found in Iraq" until the 16th paragraph. This would be an Onion parody were it not deadly serious.

It's hard to imagine an operation more insidious than Mr. Murdoch's, but the Sinclair Broadcast Group may be it. The owner or operator of 62 TV stations nationwide, including affiliates of all four major broadcast networks, this company gets little press scrutiny because it is invisible in New York City, Washington and Los Angeles, where it has no stations. But Sinclair, whose top executives have maxed out as Bush contributors, was first smoked out of the shadows last spring when John McCain called it "unpatriotic" for ordering its eight ABC stations not to broadcast the "Nightline" in which Ted Koppel read the names of the then 721 American casualties in Iraq. This was the day after Paul Wolfowitz had also downsized American casualties by testifying before Congress that they numbered only about 500.

Thanks to Elizabeth Jensen of The Los Angeles Times, who first broke the story last weekend, we now know that Sinclair has grander ambitions for the election. It has ordered all its stations, whose most powerful reach is in swing states like Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, to broadcast a "news" special featuring a film, "Stolen Honor," that trashes Mr. Kerry along the lines of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. The film's creator is a man who spent nearly eight years in the employ of Tom Ridge. Sinclair has ordered that it be run in prime time during a specific four nights in late October, when it is likely to be sandwiched in with network hits like "CSI," "The Apprentice" and "Desperate Housewives." Democrats are screaming, but don't expect the Bush apparatchiks at federal agencies to pursue their complaints as if they were as serious as a "wardrobe malfunction." A more likely outcome is that Sinclair, which already reaches 24 percent of American viewers, will reap the regulatory favors it is seeking to expand that audience in a second Bush term.

Like the Nixon administration before it, the Bush administration arrived at the White House already obsessed with news management and secrecy. Nixon gave fewer press conferences than any president since Hoover; Mr. Bush has given fewer than any in history. Early in the Nixon years, a special National Press Club study concluded that the president had instituted "an unprecedented, government-wide effort to control, restrict and conceal information." Sound familiar? The current president has seen to it that even future historians won't get access to papers he wants to hide; he quietly gutted the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the very reform enacted by Congress as a post-Watergate antidote to pathological Nixonian secrecy.

The path of the Bush White House as it has moved from Agnew-style press baiting to outright assault has also followed its antecedent. The Nixon administration's first legal attack on the press, a year before the Watergate break-in, was its attempt to stop The Times and The Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers, the leaked internal Defense Department history of our failure in Vietnam. Though 9/11 prompted Ari Fleischer's first effort to warn the media to "watch what they say," it's failure in Iraq that has pushed the Bush administration over the edge. It was when Operation Iraqi Freedom was bogged down early on that it spun the fictional saga of Jessica Lynch. It's when the percentage of Americans who felt it was worth going to war in Iraq fell to 50 percent in the Sept. 2003 Gallup poll, down from 73 that April, that identically worded letters "signed" by different soldiers mysteriously materialized in 11 American newspapers, testifying that security for Iraq's citizens had been "largely restored." (As David Greenberg writes in his invaluable "Nixon's Shadow," phony letters to news outlets were also a favorite Nixon tactic.) The legal harassment of the press, like the Republican party's Web-driven efforts to discredit specific journalists even at non-CBS networks, has escalated in direct ratio to the war's decline in support.

"What you're seeing on your TV screens," the president said when minimizing the Iraq insurgency in May, are "the desperate tactics of a hateful few." Maybe that's the sunny news that can be found on a Sinclair station. Now, with our election less than three weeks away, the bad news coming out of Iraq everywhere else is a torrent. Reporters at virtually every news organization describe a downward spiral so dangerous that they can't venture anywhere in Iraq without risking their lives. Last weekend marines spoke openly and by name to Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post about the quagmire they're witnessing firsthand and its irrelevance to battling Al Qaeda, whose 9/11 attack motivated many of them to enlist in the first place. "Every day you read the articles in the States where it's like, 'Oh, it's getting better and better," said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Snyder of Gettysburg, Pa. "But when you're here, you know it's worse every day." Another marine, Lance Cpl. Alexander Jones of Ball Ground, Ga., told Mr. Fainaru: "We're basically proving out that the government is wrong. We're catching them in a lie." Asked if he was concerned that he and his buddies might be punished for speaking out, Cpl. Brandon Autin of New Iberia, La., responded: "What are they going to do - send us to Iraq?"

What "they" can do is try to intimidate, harass, discredit and prosecute news organizations that report stories like this. If history is any guide, and the hubris of re-election is tossed into the mix, that harrowing drama can go on for a long time before we get to the feel-good final act of "All the President's Men."<<

Bushites "Addicted to 9/11"

The following article by Tom Friedman should be mandatory reading for every American before he is allowed to vote in November.

Of all the many reasons Bush-Cheney must be sent home to pasture on Nov. 2, allowing Osama to transform our society and using 9/11 as a political tool to manipulate the "unwashed masses" by using fear mongering tactics is way up on the list.

"That's why Mr. Kerry was actually touching something many Americans are worried about - that this war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies. "

"The Bush team's responses to Mr. Kerry's musings are revealing because they go to the very heart of how much this administration has become addicted to 9/11. The president has exploited the terrorism issue for political ends - trying to make it into another wedge issue like abortion, guns or gay rights - to rally the Republican base and push his own political agenda. But it is precisely this exploitation of 9/11 that has gotten him and the country off-track, because it has not only created a wedge between Republicans and Democrats, it's also created a wedge between America and the rest of the world, between America and its own historical identity, and between the president and common sense."

New York Times - October 14, 2004

Addicted to 9/11 by Thomas L. Friedman

I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hear the president and vice president slamming John Kerry for saying that he hopes America can eventually get back to a place where "terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance." The idea that President Bush and Mr. Cheney would declare such a statement to be proof that Mr. Kerry is unfit to lead actually says more about them than Mr. Kerry. Excuse me, I don't know about you, but I dream of going back to the days when terrorism was just a nuisance in our lives.

If I have a choice, I prefer not to live the rest of my life with the difference between a good day and bad day being whether Homeland Security tells me it is "code red" or "code orange" outside. To get inside the Washington office of the International Monetary Fund the other day, I had to show my ID, wait for an escort and fill out a one-page form about myself and my visit. I told my host: "Look, I don't want a loan. I just want an interview." Somewhere along the way we've gone over the top and lost our balance.

That's why Mr. Kerry was actually touching something many Americans are worried about - that this war on terrorism is transforming us and our society, when it was supposed to be about uprooting the terrorists and transforming their societies.

The Bush team's responses to Mr. Kerry's musings are revealing because they go to the very heart of how much this administration has become addicted to 9/11. The president has exploited the terrorism issue for political ends - trying to make it into another wedge issue like abortion, guns or gay rights - to rally the Republican base and push his own political agenda. But it is precisely this exploitation of 9/11 that has gotten him and the country off-track, because it has not only created a wedge between Republicans and Democrats, it's also created a wedge between America and the rest of the world, between America and its own historical identity, and between the president and common sense.

By exploiting the emotions around 9/11, Mr. Bush took a far-right agenda on taxes, the environment and social issues - for which he had no electoral mandate - and drove it into a 9/12 world. In doing so, Mr. Bush made himself the most divisive and polarizing president in modern history.

By using 9/11 to justify launching a war in Iraq without U.N. support, Mr. Bush also created a huge wedge between America and the rest of the world. I sympathize with the president when he says he would never have gotten a U.N. consensus for a strategy of trying to get at the roots of terrorism by reshaping the Arab-Muslim regimes that foster it - starting with Iraq.

But in politicizing 9/11, Mr. Bush drove a wedge between himself and common sense when it came to implementing his Iraq strategy. After failing to find any W.M.D. in Iraq, he became so dependent on justifying the Iraq war as the response to 9/11 - a campaign to bring freedom and democracy to the Arab-Muslim world - that he refused to see reality in Iraq. The president seemed to be saying to himself, "Something so good and right as getting rid of Saddam can't possibly be going so wrong." Long after it was obvious to anyone who visited Iraq that we never had enough troops there to establish order, Mr. Bush simply ignored reality. When pressed on Iraq, he sought cover behind 9/11 and how it required "tough decisions" - as if the tough decision to go to war in Iraq, in the name of 9/11, should make him immune to criticism over how he conducted the war.

Lastly, politicizing 9/11 put a wedge between us and our history. The Bush team has turned this country into "The United States of Fighting Terrorism." "Bush only seems able to express our anger, not our hopes," said the Mideast expert Stephen P. Cohen. "His whole focus is on an America whose role in the world is to negate the negation of the terrorists. But America has always been about the affirmation of something positive. That is missing today. Beyond Afghanistan, they've been much better at destruction than construction."

I wish Mr. Kerry were better able to articulate how America is going to get its groove back. But the point he was raising about wanting to put terrorism back into perspective is correct. I want a president who can one day restore Sept. 11th to its rightful place on the calendar: as the day after Sept. 10th and before Sept. 12th. I do not want it to become a day that defines us. Because ultimately Sept. 11th is about them - the bad guys - not about us. We're about the Fourth of July. <<

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Israeli think tank: War on Iraq a "distraction"

Oooooppppsssss....I suspect that Sharonites and their "neoconservative" U.S. cohorts will were not pleased with the conclusions reached by members of
the "Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University:"

_AP Wire 10/11/2004 Think Tank: Iraq War Distracted U.S._

Associated Press - October 12, 2004

Think Tank: Iraq War Distracted U.S. by MARK LAVIE

TEL AVIV, Israel - The war in Iraq did not damage international terror
groups, but instead distracted the United States from confronting other hotbeds of Islamic militancy and actually "created momentum" for many terrorists, a top
Israeli security think tank said in a report released Monday.

President Bush has called the war in Iraq an integral part of the war on terrorism, saying that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hoped to develop unconventional weapons and could have given them to Islamic militants across the world.

But the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said that instead of striking a blow against Islamic extremists, the Iraq war "has created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly al-Qaida and its affiliates."

Jaffee Center director Shai Feldman said the vast amount of money and effort the United States has poured into Iraq has deflected attention and assets from other centers of terrorism, such as Afghanistan.

The concentration of U.S. intelligence assets in Iraq "has to be at the expense of being able to follow strategic dangers in other parts of the world," he said.

Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli army general, said the U.S.-led effort was strategically misdirected. If the goal in the war against terrorism is "not just to kill the mosquitos but to dry the swamp," he said, "now it's quite clear" that Iraq "is not the swamp."

Instead, he said, the Iraq campaign is having the opposite effect, drawing
Islamic extremists from other parts of the world to join the battle.

"On a strategic level as well as an operational level," Brom concluded, "the
war in Iraq is hurting the war on international terrorism."

In other findings, Jaffee Center experts disagreed with the Israeli government's statements that its four-year struggle against Palestinian militants is part of the world fight against Islamic terrorism.

Yoram Schweitzer, who wrote the chapter about the Iraq war, said the local
conflict is a "national struggle," while international Islamic militant groups
like al-Qaida target not only Israel but also the entire Western world.

After interviewing Palestinian militants, including some in prison, Schweitzer said they do not consider themselves part of the al-Qaida campaign. "Many of them are critical of Al-Qaida and its methods," he told a news conference.

The Jaffee report found that Israel has succeeded in reducing Palestinian violence against Israelis.

Feldman said the motivation of Palestinian militants to attack the country remained unchanged, but praised the work of military intelligence in preventing many attacks.

"The only reason these (anti-terror) operations succeed is that we have
better intelligence," he said.

Feldman said the weekend attacks in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula aimed at
places where Israelis gather did not figure in to the assessment. Thirteen
Israelis were among at least 34 people killed in two car bomb attacks Thursday.

"We regard the attacks in the Sinai in a different category," he said, likening it to an attack at a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, last year that killed 10, including three Israelis.

The report includes statistical breakdowns of the military forces and their capabilities in the Middle East, as well as analyses of regional issues.i<< Finally, an honest, realistic assessment by Israelis of the differences between "terrorists" and "freedom fighters."

Monday, October 11, 2004

"Bush-Cheney Doctrine:" FOOLING most of the people...most of the time

The parallel world of Bush-Cheney

"Mr. Bush turned the findings of the Duelfer report upside down and inside out, telling crowds at campaign rallies that it proved Saddam Hussein had been "a gathering threat." It didn't matter that the report, ordered by the president himself, showed just the opposite. The truth would not have been helpful to the president. So with a brazenness and sleight of hand usually associated with three-card-monte players, he pulled a fast one on his cheering listeners."

Never have U.S. politicians been so skillful at painting a non-existent picture in their desperate effort to win an election.

"Bush-Cheney Doctrine:" FOOLING most of the people...most of the time

New York Times - October 11, 2004

Webs of Illusion by Bob Herbert

It's understood that incumbents campaigning for re-election will spotlight the good news and downplay the bad. The problem for President Bush, with the election just three weeks away, is that the bad news keeps cascading in and there is very little good news to tout.

So the president and his chief supporters have resorted to the odd tactic of claiming that the bad news is good.

The double talk reached a fever pitch last week after the release of two devastating reports - the comprehensive report by Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector, which destroyed any remaining doubts that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; and the Labor Department's dismal employment report for September, which heightened concerns about the strength of the economic recovery and left Mr. Bush with the dubious distinction of being the first president since Herbert Hoover to stand for re-election with fewer people working than at the beginning of his term.

Mr. Bush turned the findings of the Duelfer report upside down and inside out, telling crowds at campaign rallies that it proved Saddam Hussein had been "a gathering threat." It didn't matter that the report, ordered by the president himself, showed just the opposite. The truth would not have been helpful to the president. So with a brazenness and sleight of hand usually associated with three-card-monte players, he pulled a fast one on his cheering listeners.

Vice President Cheney had an equally peculiar response to the report, which said Iraq had destroyed its illicit weapons stockpiles in the early 1990's. Referring to the president's decision to launch the war, Mr. Cheney said, "To delay, defer, wait wasn't an option."

The September jobs report, released on the same day as Mr. Bush's second debate with Senator John Kerry, was deeply disappointing to the White House. Just 96,000 jobs were created, not even enough to keep up with the monthly expansion of the working-age population.

The somber findings forced the president's spin machine into overdrive. Reality, once again, was shoved aside. The administration's upbeat public response to the Labor Department report was described in The Times as follows: "The White House hailed it as evidence of continued employment expansion, saying that it validated Mr. Bush's strategy of pursuing tax cuts to support a recovery from the 2001 economic downturn."

In the president's parallel universe, things are always fine.

Mr. Bush sold his tax cuts as a mighty force for job creation. They weren't. The Times article that reported the sunny White House response to the disappointing job creation figures also said: "In September, an estimated 62.3 percent of the working-age population was employed, two full percentage points below the level at the beginning of the recession in March 2001. That difference represents over 4.5 million people without work."

Hyperbole is part of every politician's portfolio. But on the most serious matters facing the country, Mr. Bush's administration has often gone beyond hyperbole to deliberate misrepresentations that undermine the very idea of an informed electorate. If unpleasant realities are not acknowledged by the officials occupying the highest offices in the land, there is no chance that the full resources of the government and the people will be marshaled to meet those challenges.

The president continues to behave as if he's in denial about the war. Iraq remains a tragic mess and the electorate needs to know that.

In yesterday's Week in Review section, The Times's Dexter Filkins wrote movingly from Baghdad about the reporters trying to cover the war. There's been a relentless expansion, he said, of areas that reporters dare not venture into because they are too dangerous. Most European reporters have left the country, and there are far fewer Americans than just a few months ago.

Forty-six reporters have been killed and Mr. Filkins himself has been attacked by a mob, shot at and detained by the Mahdi Army.

If Mr. Bush has a plan to clean up the mess in Iraq, he should say so. If he has a strategy - besides more tax cuts - to bolster employment in the U.S., he should tell us. If he's in touch with the real world in which these and other very serious problems exist, he might consider letting us know.

Spinning gets old after a while. A president who spends too much time spinning webs of illusion can find himself trapped in them. <<