Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cheney-Rove Dupe Kos At It Again

Kos is at it again. He's attacked Kerry in the past for taking on the Republican Congressional leadership and for criticizing Bush on the war. Today's he's attacking Kerry again following his rebuttal to Bush's statement today.

It is beyond me why he is so compelled to attack Kerry for promoting positions he otherwise claims to hold, typically with fabrications and misquotes every bit as dishonest as what we typically see from the Bush White House.

The Republican one-party government already is hard to fight with the support they get from the Republican Noise Machine. We sure don't need people like Kos doing their work for them.

Kerry and Reed Respond to Bush’s Speech on Iraq

Senators John Kerry and Jack Reed held a press conference this morning after Bush's speech on Iraq. During the press conference, Kerry and Reed both "said they were disappointed by Bush's plan, which they said fell short on specifics and ignored basic realities in Iraq."

For anyone who missed the Kerry/Reed press conference, a complete audio is available here (mp3) and the complete transcript is available here.

From the WaPo -
Democrats Attack Iraq Strategy - Sen. Kerry, Sen. Reed Say Bush Plan Ignores Basic Realities:

"The president," Reed said, "failed to answer the question that all Americans are asking: how do we know progress is being made there?"

"This debate is not about an artificial date for withdrawal," Kerry said. He said a Nov. 15 Senate resolution, which called on the administration to hasten an eventual U.S. pullout by turning over more control to Iraqis, did not advocate "an artificial date for withdrawal" but sought to "set an estimated timetable for success which will permit the withdrawal of our troops." The resolution, which passed 79 to 19, said 2006 should be "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty," creating conditions for "the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq."

"No one has ever suggested or believes that we should run in the face of car bombers or assassins," Kerry said, referring to a passage in Bush's speech. "No one is talking about running in the face of a challenge. We're talking about how to win, how to succeed, how do you best achieve our goals? That's the choice here. And what the president did not do today again is acknowledge the fundamental reality of the insurgency."
It should be noted that in a line of total "presstitution" to Bush's speech, Daniela Deane of the WaPo stated:

"In a 45-minute speech before a receptive audience at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Bush again rejected a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, saying conditions on the ground rather than "artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington" would dictate when American forces could return home."
As noted in a post here yesterday, I think Dan Froomkin was on the money yesterday, when he stated in the WaPo that Bush's speeches are held before "captive audiences." As John Kerry noted this morning in the press conference, Bush once again using a military audience as a “backdrop” for his speech, "reminds you of an aircraft carrier" and a "Mission [NOT] Accomplished." John Kerry does not need a backdrop to speak the truth to power.

Gary Hart: John Kerry's October Speech on Iraq, Was a Turning Point

In an email this morning from, sent after Bush's speech on Iraq, Gary Hart spoke out about John Kerry's plan for Iraq and asked supporters to continue to speak out. Here's the text:

"The public trust must be earned, and speaking clearly, candidly and forcefully now about the mess in Iraq is the place to begin."

I wrote those words in August in The Washington Post to call on Democratic Party leaders to step forward on Iraq. My years in the Senate and as co-chair of the Bipartisan Commission on National Security had convinced me that, unless Democrats provided real leadership, Americans would never receive the honest and open debate about Iraq that our country deserves.

When I first read John Kerry's October speech on Iraq, I knew it was a turning point. He spoke with the same unwavering voice - truth speaking to power - as he did when I first heard him speak out about the war in Vietnam in 1971. John Kerry got it right last month when he said, "Asking tough questions isn't pessimism; it's patriotism" and then answered those questions by offering a detailed plan to get the troops home.
Read more »

Rewriting History

The Orwellian attempts of the Bush Administration to promote their policies by distortion of the truth has been frequently discussed. NPR’s All Things Considered reports on the most recent example of this in a report on the Pentagon planting pro-U.S. stories in the Iraqi press.

We’ve also seen how promotion of an alternate reality is assisted by the right wing noise machine, such as with Fox News replicating the practices of Pravda as they quickly flipped from an anti-administration stance to becoming a White House propaganda organ when George Bush became President. While not as significant, this promotion of an alternate reality also remains common in the right wing blogosphere. In the fantasy world created by right wing bloggers, WMD has been found in Iraq and Osama Bin Laden’s phone number is right there on Saddam’s speed dial. Most likely we’ll soon find “evidence” that the two were instant messaging each other during the 9/11 attacks (while their hero was reading My Pet Goat.)

Right wing blogs are packed with claims which are counter to reality. Many still have count downs waiting for the day when John Kerry will release his military records, oblivious to the fact that this was done long ago, and ignoring the failure of George Bush to do the same. One recent attempt to change reality occured on Wikipedia, which strives to present objective information on many topics, including swiftboating.

As those who read the comments on the Unofficial Kerry Blog might be aware, yesterday a new definition of swiftboating was added, redefining it with a right wing fantasy view starting with, “Swiftboating is American political jargon for truthful and accurate debunking of John Kerry’s exaggerated military experience in Vietnam.”

The powers that be at Wikipedia removed this bogus definition. Their entry seems to change by the hour. Earlier they included one line which sums up the controversy: “All available military records support Senator Kerry’s accounts of his own service.”

While we condemn the actions on the right to rewrite history, it is unfortunate that the same continues from some bloggers on the left. Arguments frequently posted that Kerry supported the war, or conceded before all the votes were counted, are as irrational and uninformed as the right wing claims that Saddam was behind 9/11 or that we benefit from fighting terrorists in Iraq as this prevents us from needing to do so here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

John Kerry, Jack Reed to Hold Press Conference on Iraq Tomorrow

George W. Bush is scheduled to give another speech on Iraq tomorrow (at 9:45 a.m., est), before a captive audience. As I noted below, Bush has already made it clear today, that "We're not going to cut and run." So, it appears we can expect another staged photo-op of Bush posturing with the troops in attempts to try to shore up the flailing support for the war in Iraq.

Senators John Kerry and Jack Reed will also be holding a press conference on Iraq tomorrow - Wednesday, November 30.

Earlier this month, Kerry introduced his Strategy for Success in Iraq Act (S. 1993) - a comprehensive new strategy to complete the mission in Iraq and redeploy the vast majority of American combat troops as specific benchmarks to transfer responsibility to Iraqis are met, beginning with the draw down of 20,000 U.S. troops after successful Iraqi elections in December.

The goal of Kerry’s plan is to undermine the insurgency by simultaneously pursing a political settlement and the military draw down of American forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. If followed, the process will be completed in 12-15 months.

Tomorrow's Kerry/Reed press conference will be held in the Mansfield Room at the U.S. Capitol, S-207, between 11:00 - 11:30 a.m. est. C-Span schedule notes that they will be broadcasting the press conference live, after Bush's speech. This should be very interesting...

Former Powell Aide Calls Cheney Moron, Idiot, or Bastard

More criticism of Bush and Cheney from Lawrence Wilkerson:

WASHINGTON — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff says President Bush was “too aloof, too distant from the details” of post-war planning, allowing underlings to exploit Bush’s detachment and make bad decisions.

In an Associated Press interview Monday, former Powell chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson also said that wrongheaded ideas for the handling of foreign detainees after Sept. 11 arose from a coterie of White House and Pentagon aides who argued that “the president of the United States is all-powerful,” and that the Geneva Conventions were irrelevant.

Wilkerson blamed Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded aides. Wilkerson said that Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because “otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard.”

Teresa Heinz Kerry Defends John Murtha

Teresa Heinz Kerry
Assault on Murtha should alarm us all
The Tribune-Democrat

“Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.”

– U.S. Rep. John Murtha, Nov. 17, “War In Iraq.”

U.S. Rep. John Murtha completely changed the public debate in our country by calling for an immediate redeployment of our troops in Iraq. Whether you agree or disagree with his specific proposal is not the point – but his critics’ words demand a response.

Murtha speaks with special authority.

His national security credentials are impeccable. His patriotism is unwavering. His influence on national defense is unsurpassed. None in Congress spends as much time as Murtha with the wounded from the Iraq war. His voice on matters of national defense deserves – indeed, commands – great respect.

This is why his political opponents think him so dangerous. The orchestrated assault on Murtha should alarm us all. Just when you thought the debate could sink no lower, the politicians committed to staying the course in Iraq turned the fire hoses of smear and intimidation on this icon of national security. Listen to what they said:

They said he had given aid and comfort to the enemy. They accused him of abandoning the troops. And one rookie representative, the most junior member in the House, so lost any decency or sense of decorum that she called Murtha a coward.

(She later said she should have rephrased her sharp comments.)

I think they smeared the wrong representative.

Murtha’s history is one of heroism and leadership. He served in the Marine Corps from 1952 to 1955. He served as a Marine Corps drill instructor and a reservist. He re-upped so he could serve in Vietnam. He was wounded twice while serving as a Marine intelligence officer, and then went back into the reserves from 1967 to 1990. He was the first Vietnam veteran elected to the Congress, where he has served with honor and distinction as a bipartisan advocate of national defense ever since.

How bipartisan? When President Reagan wanted to build the MX missile, Murtha broke with his party to fight for what Reagan called the “peacekeeper.” Reagan sent him to El Salvador and the Philippines as an election observer and, as an official representative of the United States, to Pakistan to attend President Zia’s funeral. When President George H.W. Bush said of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, “this will not stand,” Murtha stood with him and voted to use military force to drive Iraq out.

His credentials on national defense are unimpeachable.

He has been named Minuteman of the Year by the Reserve Officers Association of the United States. He has been honored by the Blinded American Veterans Foundation. He is a winner of the Henry M. Jackson Distinguished Service Award, and an honoree of the Association of the United States Army.

When Murtha received the distinguished public service award from the American Legion, he was praised by the national commander as a veteran, supporter of a strong national defense and holder of an outstanding track record on veterans’ issues.

That is Jack Murtha’s history, and the summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots who attack him cannot rewrite it.

That’s why they resort instead to the most reprehensible type of personal attacks.

We’ve seen this before. I know and love another Vietnam veteran who served our country with distinction and honor – who suffered the slings and arrows of distortions, half–truths and falsehoods.

Scoundrels who would stifle debate and smear dissenters weaken our democracy and diminish our nation’s ability to make decisions and change course when circumstances demand.

This war is hard – hard to win, hard to support, and for most, hard to figure out. We all want the best for our troops, our country, the Iraqi people and what is best for the Middle East. Much is at stake.

But if we want the best outcome, the best minds we have must be free to express their strongest beliefs and best advice.

Murtha has earned our respect. His right to speak out is an intrinsic component of our democracy. It should be honored – we should hold that right sacred – even if his words deviate from the party line, the president’s talking points, or public opinion.

I think Murtha did our country an enormous public service for speaking out as he did, and I support for him for exercising his right.

A courageous person is always to be admired.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rove Investigation Continues

The New York Times provides evidence that Fitzgerald is still investigating Rove’s connection to the Plame case:

A second reporter for Time magazine has been asked to testify under oath in the C.I.A. leak case, about conversations she had in 2004 with a lawyer for Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, the magazine reported on Sunday.

The reporter, Viveca Novak, who has written about the leak investigation, has been asked to testify by the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, about her conversations with Robert D. Luskin, a lawyer for Mr. Rove, the magazine said.

The request for Ms. Novak’s testimony is the first tangible sign in weeks that Mr. Fitzgerald has not completed his inquiry into Mr. Rove’s actions and may still be considering charges against him. Mr. Rove has long been under scrutiny in the case but has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The New Way Out - or A Revision of the Kerry Way Out?

Yesterday, I posted a piece about the Bush administration beginning to lay the groundwork for withdrawal in Iraq. Today, Newsweek is featuring a story, about the proposed plans of the Pentagon to begin a phased plan for withdrawal from Iraq.

If the Pentagon's plans sound familiar in some regards, it could be because they are quite similar to the plans first outlined by John Kerry a month ago in his speech at Georgetown, then subsequently submitted to the Senate when he introduced the “Strategy for Success in Iraq Act (S. 1993)” to the Senate on November 10th.

A few of the key similarities between the Pentagon Plan and the Kerry Plan are outlined below:

The Pentagon Plan:

** U.S. numbers are to be reduced back to about 138,000 by the new year (troop totals are now edging up to 160,000 leading into the December election).

The Kerry Plan:

·· The U.S. to begin a phased draw down of American troops as a series of military and political benchmarks is met, starting with a reduction of 20,000 troops over the holidays as the first benchmark -the successful completion of the December elections - is met.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bush Administration Laying Groundwork for Significant Troop Pullout From Iraq

The pressure has been on for the Bush administration to begin drawing down the troops from Iraq. From John Kerry's speech at Georgetown late last month, to the fracas the ensued from Murtha's plan in the House, to Biden's OP/ED in today's WaPO, it's becoming increasing difficult for the Bush administration to ignore the calls.

The L.A. Times reports that "President Bush will give a major speech Wednesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., in which aides say he is expected to herald the improved readiness of Iraqi troops, which he has identified as the key condition for pulling out U.S. forces."

The administration's pivot on the issue comes as the White House is seeking to relieve enormous pressure by war opponents. The camp includes liberals, moderates and old-line conservatives who are uneasy with the costly and uncertain nation-building effort.

It also follows agreement this week among Iraqi politicians that the U.S. troop presence ought to decrease. Meeting in Cairo, representatives of the three major ethnic and religious groups called for a U.S. withdrawal and recognized Iraqis' "legitimate right of resistance" to foreign occupation. In private conversations, Iraqi officials discussed a possible two-year withdrawal period, analysts said.

The developments seemed to lay the groundwork for potentially large withdrawals in 2006 and 2007, consistent with scenarios outlined by Pentagon planners. The approach also tracks the thinking of some centrist Democrats, such as Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the senior representative of his party on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Some analysts say the emerging consensus might have less to do with conditions in Iraq than the deployment's long-term strain on the U.S. military.


Friday, November 25, 2005

John Kerry: Hoping to bring Home the Troops

From the StonyBrook Independent:

John Kerry: Hoping to bring Home the Troops

Submitted by lpositano on Fri, 11/25/2005 - 18:24.

John Kerry may not have won the presidency, but he still, as a senator, keeps caring about the soldiers. A frequent topic on his campaign trail was the quagmire in Iraq and how there needs to be an exit strategy to eventually get the soldiers home. Kerry understood how the situation in Iraq was so complicated because of the real potential for a power vacuum, a political abyss, so he knew such a strategy had to be nuanced. Now, a year after his shocking defeat in a close presidential election between the incumbent “war president” and the actual war veteran, the soldiers are still in Iraq.

Over 2,000 soldiers have been killed, and this statistic has angered even Republicans who once were, in the name of party loyalty, outspokenly supportive of Bush’s Iraq war. President Bush has a popularity rating in the thirties, a steep unpopularity that has drawn comparisons to Lyndon Johnson during the dismal Vietnam era. John Kerry, who once was parodied by Bush’s supporters as an intellectual who was oblivious to what needed to be done in Iraq, has been low on the political radar, but has now begun a campaign to get troops home. Through e-mails to supporters, Kerry has been mobilizing thousands of signers to his online petition to get the more than 20,000 American troops home before Thanksgiving.

In a speech displayed on the website, which he delivered at Georgetown University, Mr. Kerry expressed angst and frustration, even anger, about the war and its incessant casualties. He discussed how senators , who were mislead into giving Bush the go-ahead for the war, had some responsibility for the casualties, albeit indirectly. He also expressed dismay at why coffins of American casualties were not allowed to be shown by the American media, for the public to see.
Here are some excerpts of his speech, in which he expresses both his angst and his solutions to withdraw the country’s troops.

“A few weeks ago I departed Iraq from Mosul. Three Senators and staff were gathered in the forward part of a C-130. In the middle of the cavernous cargo hold was a simple, aluminum coffin with a small American flag draped over it. We were bringing another American soldier, just killed, home to his family and final resting place.
The starkness of his coffin in the center of the hold, the silence except for the din of the engines, was a real time cold reminder of the consequences of decisions for which we Senators share responsibility….

I wondered why all of America would not be allowed to see him arrive at Dover Air Force Base instead of hiding him from a nation that deserves to mourn together in truth and in the light of day. His lonely journey compels all of us to come to grips with our choices in Iraq….. Now more than 2,000 brave Americans have given their lives, and several hundred thousand more have done everything in their power to wade through the ongoing internal civil strife in Iraq. An Iraq which increasingly is what it was not before the war — a breeding ground for homegrown terrorists and a magnet for foreign terrorists….

We are entering a make or break six month period, and I want to talk about the steps we must take if we hope to bring our troops home within a reasonable timeframe from an Iraq that’s not permanently torn by irrepressible conflict….To undermine the insurgency, we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of the December elections, we can start the process of reducing our forces by withdrawing 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays…”

Truth, Lies, and Flawed Intelligence

Today, Boston Globe columnist Scott Lehigh backs up points made by John Kerry Monday in his response to Cheney's speech that day, while outlining the reasoning in not using the word "lie." Lehigh points to a prewar intelligence report done by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a nonpartisan think tank. He says "Its painstaking study, from January 2004, compared what the various intelligence agencies were estimating about Iraq in the runup to the war to what administration officials were saying." In a nutshell, the Carnegie Endowment report says that Kerry was right. Cheney and Bush, et al, can spin all they like, but they can't escape the truth that they "systematically misled the Congress and the American public about the nature and the immediacy of the threat."

At a press availability later that day, US Senator John Kerry shied away from the term lie. ''I've never used that word," Kerry said. ''I've said they misled America. . . . They are still misleading America."

Certainly much that wouldn't necessarily fit the definition of a lie would undoubtedly fall into the category of a misleading, irresponsible, or reckless use of intelligence in pursuit of a predetermined conclusion. And of that, this administration is surely guilty.

The Massachusetts senator underscored this important point: The vice president was wrong in suggesting that Congress had access to the same intelligence as the administration.

''That is just plain flat not true," said Kerry, stepping through five instances where Congress hadn't been informed of intelligence agency doubts on key administration claims about Iraq.

Bush's now discredited assertion in his January 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Niger -- an assertion a dubious CIA had previously warned the White House not to make -- is well known.

To revisit two others: Cheney himself claimed several times that lead Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service that spring in Prague. Cheney repeated that claim in a Sept. 8, 2002, appearance on ''Meet the Press," insisting it was credible, and again in January of 2004. We now know that the CIA raised doubts about such a meeting in both June of 2002 and January of 2003.

Several times in September of 2002, Bush, citing information from the British government, said Iraq could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes.

''They made that statement, and it was influential to us, without clearing it with the CIA, which mistrusted the source so much that they refused to include it in the [October 2002] national intelligence estimate," Kerry noted. ''Congress was not told that."

Certainly if Republicans believed the record would vindicate the administration, the Senate Intelligence Committee wouldn't have dragged its feet for so long on examining how administration figures used prewar intelligence. Only because of shrewd parliamentary maneuvering by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has the committee's dilatory Republican chairman finally been forced to make that a priority.

To date, some of the best work on the use of prewar intelligence has been done by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a nonpartisan think tank. Its painstaking study, from January 2004, compared what the various intelligence agencies were estimating about Iraq in the runup to the war to what administration officials were saying.

The authors arrived at this conclusion: ''Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapon programs and ballistic missile programs."

In his Monday speech, Cheney labeled ''dishonest and reprehensible" the suggestion ''that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence."

But in a finding that speaks to that very point, the Carnegie Endowment report offered a detailed examination of the way the administration officials distorted intelligence by ''the wholesale dropping of caveats, probabilities, and expressions of uncertainty present in intelligence assessments" from their public statements.

In an interview this week, Joseph Cirincione, the endowment's director for nonproliferation and the lead author of that important study, made the same essential point that Kerry did on Monday.

''We don't use the word 'lie' because it is hard to prove intent or the knowledge of the individual at the time, but it is clear that senior administration officials systematically misled the Congress and the American public about the nature and the immediacy of the threat," he said.

No matter how many speeches Cheney and Bush give, no matter how hard they deflect or whom they try to blame or hide behind, that's a truth they can't escape.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving and American Principles

Thanksgiving brings to mind the founding of this country, and the principles upon which it was established. Recalling these principles may be helpful in framing future political arguments and presenting Democratic views to a divided nation.

In 2004 polls found that Americans supported Democrats on virtually every issue, even if they voted Republicans. Where Republicans win is in the perception that they have a philosophy which voters agree with even if they disagree on specific issues. Democrats often fail in not realizing that a laundry list of issues is not enough to move many voters.

In order to get people to not only oppose the Republicans, as a growing number now do, but to actively support them, Democrats must provide a vision and philosophy of government which the voters find attractive.

Republicans win with a combination of rhetoric supporting freedom, capitalism, moral values, and national security. We’ve written often on how Republican policies have actually undermined our national security and strengthened al Qaeda, so today I’ll look at these other ideas.

Republican sell themselves as the party of freedom while actually pursuing policies which make the government more intrusive in individual’s lives. Democrats must stress the idea of freedom. An overall support for freedom will make other positions more understandable and acceptable. Rather than being the party which supports criticism of the war dissenting against current policies, Democrats must stress the freedom to dissent. Rather than being the party which supports gay rights or abortion rights, Democrats must be show they are the party which supports freedom of choice for all. Once freedom becomes the guiding principle, even those who are not personally prone to support freedom of choice for gays who wish to marry might be willing to accept this choice for others.

On economic issues Republicans benefit from the residual belief that the left supports socialism or communism. While true in the past, and to a limited degree with the fringes today, whenever I see liberal groups describe their positions socialistic economic views are rarely represented. History has well proven the benefits of the free market and the disastrous consequences of socialism, and any political party in any way tainted with such views is doomed to failure.

Modern liberals see both the benefits and limitations of the free market system, and are less likely to openly embrace the free market out of concern for the abuses they see. The average person, regardless of economic position, sees the benefits of the free market and, whether or not this is realistic, sees the free market as providing at least the possibility of greater wealth.

Democrats must embrace the capitalistic system while showing that the crony capitalism of the Republicans (or robber baron capitalists as John Kerry put it), is as great a distortion from true capitalism as socialism is. Democrats must stress how actions needs to be taken to make the free market fair, and to provide everyone with the opportunity for advancement. Elliot Spitzer has often done a fine job of this. John Kerry understood this when he has fought abuses in the mutual fund industry which harm the small investor. Unfortunately Kerry’s long time support for small business was virtually ignored in the 2004 campaign.

The Republican support based upon moral values is a perversion of traditional American beliefs. Historically religious groups, stemming from those coming to America to escape religious persecution, were strong supporters of separation of church and state. Only when the state and religion are kept separate can every individual be assured that they can practice their religious beliefs. Republicans campaign with bogus claims that Democrats will take away their bibles. Democrats must counter with the argument that they can be safe in the knowledge that their bible will not be replaced by that of another religious group only when religion and government are kept separate. Separation of church and state is not inherently a belief in opposition to religion. It is a belief which is necessary to guarantee that everyone will remain free to practice their religion, or to not practice religion, based upon their personal beliefs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thomas Friedman on Bush's Third Term

Thomas Friedman on Bush’s Third Term

If only Thomas Friedman would face reality with regards to 9/11 Iraq today’s column would be excellent. Hopefully some day he will realize that 9/11 was a case of gross incompetence in governing followed by disgusting political moves to take advantage of an attack which a competent President would have taken steps to prevent, and that Iraq was a folly from the start. Ignoring these portions of the column, he has some thoughts on George Bush worth repeating. He considers Bush to now be in a third term, with conditions so different from how the actual second term began:

President George W. Bush has just entered his third term. That’s right. He’s a three-term president. His first term was from 2001 to 2004, and it was dominated by 9/11, which Mr. Bush skillfully used to take a hard-right Republican agenda on taxes and war with Iraq, which was going nowhere on 9/10, and drive it into a 9/12 world.

His second term was very brief. It lasted from his re-election in November 2004 until Election Day 2005. This was an utterly wasted term. It was dominated by an attempt to privatize Social Security, which the country rejected, political scandals involving I. Lewis Libby Jr., Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, a ham-fisted response to Katrina and a mishandling of the Iraq war to such a degree that many Democrats and Republicans have begun to vote “no confidence” in the Bush-Cheney war performance. If ours were a parliamentary system, Mr. Bush would have had to resign by now.

So now begins Mr. Bush’s third term. What will he do with it? The last time Mr. Bush hit rock bottom - then from too much drinking - he found God and turned his life around. Now that he has hit rock bottom again - this time from drinking in too much Karl Rove - the question is whether he can find America and turn his presidency around.

When I watch Mr. Bush these days, though, he looks to me like a man who wishes that we had a 28th amendment to the Constitution - called “Can I Go Now?” He looks like someone who would prefer to pack up and go back to his Texas ranch. It’s not just that he doesn’t seem to be having any fun. It’s that he seems to be totally out of ideas relevant to the nation’s future.

Since there is no such clause, Mr. Bush has two choices. One is to continue governing as though he’s still running against John McCain in South Carolina. That means pushing a hard-right strategy based on dividing the country to get the 50.1 percent he needs to push through more tax cuts, while ignoring our real problems: the deficit, health care, energy, climate change and Iraq. More slash-and-burn politics like that will be a disaster.

Kerry WIns Praise From Fellow Jurors

The Boston Globe reports that John Kerry was called for jury duty, and “As foreman, Kerry wins praise from fellow jurors.” Here are some selections from the article. There sure were a lot of Bush voters at this trial in a blue state, but at least they came out of this with a favorable opinion of Kerry.

Cynthia Lovell, a registered Republican, voted for President Bush a year ago, but during 90 minutes behind closed doors with his rival, Senator John F. Kerry, yesterday, she had to admit he was a smart, down-to-earth guy.

Joe Wesolaski, who works for a brokerage firm, declined to say how he voted but emerged from the same closed-door session praising Kerry as a natural leader who was eager to hear everyone’s point of view.

‘’I just found him to be a knowledgeable, normal person,” said Lovell, a Charlestown nurse. ‘’He kept us focused. He wanted us all to have our own say.”

Lovell said she sensed that Kerry wanted to keep a low profile during deliberations, but one of the jurors promptly suggested he be elected foreman because of his experience in the limelight and skills as a public speaker. Kerry agreed to do it and began discussing the evidence.

Lovell was so impressed by the senator that she said she regrets voting for Bush.

Glenn Fortier represented the plaintiffs, John Duarte and Taneiko Smith, who said they suffered strains and bruises in the accident with a car driven by the headmaster of Boston’s Health Careers Academy. Two city lawyers attorneys defended Albert Holland, who allegedly passed their van on the right and collided with it.

Fortier said he was stunned to see Kerry sitting in the pool of perspective jurors Monday, but had no qualms about him serving. ‘’I think he’s a very intelligent man, and I’ve had respect for everything he’s accomplished,” said Fortier, who voted for Bush.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Medicare Prescription Drug Program Carries High Costs

The Washington Post looks at one of the problems of the Medicare prescription drug program: “The new Medicare drug benefit fails to deliver drug prices as low as those found at the Department of Veterans Affairs, in Canada and at high-volume U.S. pharmacies, a congressional report said yesterday.”

“The prices offered by the Medicare drug plans are higher than all four benchmarks, in some cases significantly so,” the report concluded. “This increases costs to seniors and federal taxpayers and makes it doubtful that the complicated design of Medicare Part D provides any tangible benefit to anyone but drug manufacturers and insurers.”

While I agree that the plan was written as a form of corporate welfare for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, this opinion that it does not provide any benefits to anyone goes too far. While Medicare beneficiaries could have been offered a much better plan more economically, for many this is still an improvement over no coverage.

Unless someone on Medicare both has private coverage and received documentation that the plan qualifies as a credible plan under the current law, most Medicare beneficiaries would benefit from signing up. Just keep in mind when doing so that the Republicans may be giving a program with some benefits, but you could have received so much more if not for the manner in which the program was devised to help the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Happy Birthday John Kerry DU Group

The John Kerry Group at Democratic Underground is celebrating its one year birthday. In one year it is by far the largest group dedicated to a 2004 or potential 2008 candidate.

Currently there are 54546 messages in the Kerry group. The Wesley Clark group is a distant second at 7807. Democracy for American (Dean) is third at 2328 followed by Dennis Kucinich (842 messages) and John Edwards (402 messages). There are currently 63 messages in the Hillary Clinton group.

John Kerry on the Ed Schultz Show

John Kerry was just on the Ed Schultz Show earlier today. Hat tip to europegirl4jfk on DU for grabbing the clip.

It was an excellent interview about Iraq, Murtha and more... an absolute must listen...

Listen here.

"There's mud being thrown, but I've got news for you, it's one directional mud." -- on the Bush administration's accusations

"These guys are living in an unbelievable land of illusion." -- on Iraq

University of Kansas Takes on Intelligent Design

There are still some intelligent people in Kansas:

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Creationism and intelligent design are going to be studied at the University of Kansas, but not in the way advocated by opponents of the theory of evolution.

A course being offered next semester by the university religious studies department is titled “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies.'’

“The KU faculty has had enough,'’ said Paul Mirecki, department chairman.

“Creationism is mythology,'’ Mirecki said. “Intelligent design is mythology. It’s not science. They try to make it sound like science. It clearly is not.'’

British Media Reports Bush Plan to Bomb Al-Jazeera

This one seems a bit far fetched even for Bush. The Mirror reports that an unreleased Downing Street memo shows Bush was talked about of bombing al-Jazeera by Tony Blair:

PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a “Top Secret” No 10 memo reveals.

But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

A source said: “There’s no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn’t want him to do it.” Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.

BBC reports that “A White House official said: ‘We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response.’” Maybethey see no point in denials considering their low credibility. This comes shortly after they denied than admitted to the use of chemical weapons in Iraq and while Bush and Cheney continue to deny that they misled the country about WMD in Iraq.

The White House Attack Dogs are At It Again: Kerry Responds to Mehlman

Ron just posted an article from Glen Johnson of AP News, that was a run down of the rebuttal by Kerry (see full rebuttal to Cheney here) to a speech delivered by Cheney (see Cheney's speech here) earlier today.

John Kerry also responded to the latest Republican personal attacks issued by White House Attack Dog of the Day - RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman:

“This continues to be the say one thing, then do another Administration. If the President is sincere about wanting an honest and open debate on Iraq, he would call off his attack dogs and engage in that debate. Instead, they continue to hide their mistakes behind smokescreens of fear and smear. One minute the White House acknowledges they were out of line attacking Jack Murtha, then they impugn the character of other Democrats.

“Our troops, our country, and the Congress are still waiting to hear the President’s plan for Iraq, but instead we just end up with more misleading and more political attacks. America needs better, and our troops need leadership from a Commander in Chief - not division from a Campaigner in Chief.”

It certainly does appear there is a lot of barking coming from the Republican camp of late, as support for the war in Iraq has dwindled considerably and more and more calls to get out of Iraq are bing issued.

Anyone got any doggie bones for the White House Attack Dogs to grind their teeth on?

Monday, November 21, 2005

ACLU Sues Bush Staffers Over Excluding People With Opposing Views

ACLU sues over Bush event
By Karen E. Crummy
Denver Post Staff Writer

The White House has violated the First Amendment by repeatedly excluding Americans from public, presidential “town halls” when their views differ from those held by President Bush, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Colorado today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Denver residents Leslie Weise, 40, and Alex Young, 26, allege that they were unlawfully removed by White House event staffers at a March 21 town hall discussion with the president because of a “no more blood for oil” bumper sticker on their car.

Although the two had tickets to the event discussing Social Security and had no intention of disrupting it, they were removed because the White House has “set a policy of prohibiting anyone from attending this public event if they held a viewpoint other than that held by the president,” according to the suit.

Similar incidents are alleged to have occurred in North Dakota, Arizona and New Hampshire.

“We want to know how high up this goes,” Young said. “We want to know if (White House political director) Karl Rove is involved in this.”

The defendants, White House staffers Michael Casper and Jay Bob Klinkerman, are accused of detaining Weise and Young and ejecting them from the event at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. Five other unidentified White House staffers are also named as defendants. ACLU lawyers said they hope to find their identity during the discovery process.

Kerry Accuses Bush and Cheney of Misleading

I’m sure regular readers here could point out a few errors in the author’s comments, but I still thought you’d be interested in seeing this report:

Kerry accuses Bush, Cheney of `misleading’ in Iraqi war run-up

AP Political Writer

Sen. John Kerry said Monday Vice President Dick Cheney is “misleading” the American people when he asserts Congress saw the same prewar intelligence as he and President Bush did before approving the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“That is just plain, flat, not true,” said the Massachusetts Democrat, who was his party’s 2004 presidential nominee.

And in a pointed rebuttal to a speech delivered by Cheney only hours earlier, Kerry accused Bush and Cheney of concealing critical dissenting information before Congress voted in October 2002 to support military action in Iraq. Kerry was among those who voted yes.

The senator said:

-Bush said Iraq had a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons, but the U.S. Air Force disagreed “and the Air Force’s dissent was kept secret, even as the president publicly made the opposite case before the vote.

“Congress wasn’t told that,” Kerry told reporters at his Boston office, a line he would repeat after outlining each charge.

-Bush and Cheney told Congress asserted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could launch a chemical or biological attack in under one hour, but they did not clear it with the CIA, “which mistrusted the source so much they refused to include it in the National Intelligence Estimate.”

-The administration said Saddam was attempting to acquire nuclear fuel for weapons, even though the CIA told it three times in writing and verbally that was not true.

-Bush said Iraq had trained al Qaeda members in bombmaking and the use of poison and deadly gases, but the Defense Intelligence Agency had previously concluded that the source was a fabricator.

“The fact is that they’re now trying to rewrite the rationale for the administration going into Iraq,” Kerry said. “Instead they really ought to be trying to fix the problems that they’ve created with their incompetence over the last few years.”

Speaking in Washington, Cheney toned down criticism last week of Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a former Marine, Vietnam veteran and Iraqi war supporter who nonetheless called for the U.S. to begin an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Cheney called Murtha “a patriot,” but he trained his criticism on “a few politicians suggesting these brave Americans were sent into battle for a deliberate falsehood.”

The vice president asserted: “This is revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety. It has no place anywhere in American politics, much less in the United States Senate.”

Kerry has laid out a plan for the withdrawal of American troops, tied to the achievement of benchmarks by the Iraqi government. His vice presidential running mate, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, declared last week “I was wrong” to vote in favor of the war, but Kerry has resisted making a similar statement.

Despite his remarks, Kerry also refused to say Bush and Cheney lied to the American people.

“Never used that word; don’t like the word,” he said. “It’s a question of intent and other kinds of things. They’ve misled America and they’re still misleading Americans. You can fight about the words.”

Donkey Rising In Defense of John Kerry

Donkey Rising defends John Kerrry from the typical blog attacks on his campaign. They find that only one Democrat might have done better, except he was unable to run–Bill Clinton.

In Defense of John Kerry

By David Gopoian

As George W Bush’s approval ratings sink deeply in late 2005, Democrats can conveniently dismiss what we never fully accepted in 2004 – that Bush was as popular an incumbent among Republican followers in the last campaign as Ronald Reagan was at his zenith in 1984.

One consequence of this oversight is the now fashionable assumption among Democratic elites, bloggers and web-deprived alike, that any Democrat other than John Kerry could have defeated Bush handily in 2004. I am taking this occasion to dissent from that perspective.

There are any number of simple empirical arguments that may be made in defense of the presidential candidacy of John Kerry. Among them are these:

• He took a Party totally demoralized by 9-11 and Bush’s foreign policy dominance and came within one state of dethroning the incumbent war-time president.

• In that state of Ohio – with a Democratic Party organization in name only - he ran the best Democratic campaign in four election cycles, since Clinton carried the state in 1996. No Democratic candidate since 1996 got as much as the 48.7% Kerry gathered. The last statewide Ohio Democrat who carried the state was John Glenn in 1992.

• Unlike Gore in 2000, Kerry left no doubt by any objective, and most subjective, criteria about who won the 3 debates with Bush.

• According to candidate trait data from the 2004 American national Election Study data, Kerry matched Clinton’s 1992 performance on each attribute measured among Democratic identifiers (cares about people like me, provides strong leadership, knowledgeable). In short, Kerry appealed effectively to the Democratic base.

• Contrary to the conventional wisdom, my multivariate analysis of the 2004 election indicates that a sizeable chunk of Kerry voters voted for him precisely because they admired Kerry’s personal traits, not despite them. Controlling for all other voter predispositions, Kerry’s persona, no matter what the pundits suggest, was a plus – not a minus.

Having made those simple points, I wish to address one more complex argument in this space – the notion that any number of other Democrats would have defeated Bush handily in 2004. In the 2004 ANES study, the only direct candidate preference measure available is the item asking how respondents voted for president.

However, political scientists have long recognized “thermometer scores” as accurate proxies of vote intent. Fortunately, the study includes thermometer scores collected from respondents for numerous political figures. These scores ranged from 0 degrees to 100 degrees, where 100 represented extremely warm feelings toward the political figure and 0 represented extremely cold feelings. A mid-point score of 50 represented neutral feelings.

In general, stated candidate preferences correlate very strongly with differences observed between candidates’ thermometer scores. Voters typically vote for the candidate with
the higher relative thermometer score. For example, if Candidate A gets a thermometer score of 70 from a voter and candidate B gets a score of 50, there is an extremely strong likelihood that Candidate A will receive that voter’s vote.

This point may be illustrated using data for Kerry and Bush in 2004. Among voters who gave a higher thermometer score to Kerry than to Bush, Kerry received 96% of their votes; likewise, Bush received the votes of 94% of the respondents who gave him a higher thermometer score than Kerry.

Use of thermometers is required to make my points because the survey did not directly ask respondents how they would have voted if some candidate other than Kerry were the Democratic nominee. By applying thermometer score differences as a proxy for candidate choice, comparisons between Kerry and other Democrats may be made.

In 2004, for the weighted sample of 787 respondents who did vote for president, 49% gave Bush higher thermometer scores, 46% gave Kerry higher thermometer scores, and 5% gave identical thermometer scores to each candidate. [Note: that 5% split their actual votes 57%-43% in favor of Bush.] These findings illustrate that thermometer score comparisons do provide an accurate prediction of vote intentions. Overall, thermometer scores provided correct vote predictions for 93% of all respondents in 2004, including the 5% with no Kerry-Bush thermometer score differences.

Thermometer Score Comparison # 1

Bush Rated Higher Than Kerry: 49%
Both Rated the Same: 5%
Kerry Rated Higher Than Bush: 46%

To make the case that some other Democrat could have easily defeated George Bush, the data would have to show an advantage in thermometer score comparisons versus Bush for that Democrat. In other words, the 49%-46% advantage that Bush enjoyed in thermometer score comparisons to Kerry would have to shift at least a few points to demonstrate a Democratic advantage that eluded Kerry.

No eligible Democrat emerges from the 2004 data base with that kind of magic. The two we may compare are Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Hillary stands as the odds-on favorite for the 2008 nomination and Edwards remains a viable contender. Let’s examine their numbers circa 2004.

A comparison of Bush’s thermometer scores with Hillary’s shows very little movement and virtually no change in Bush’s advantage. There is a shift of roughly one-half percentage point away from Bush in the aggregate. Overall, Bush gets higher scores from 48%, Hillary Clinton from 46%, and 5% rate both identically. The overall rounded percentage point difference nets a one percentage point gain for Hillary relative to Kerry.

Thermometer Score Comparison # 2:

Bush Rated Higher Than Hillary: 48%
Both Rated the Same: 5%
Hillary Rated Higher Than Bush: 46%

Details show that 43% preferred both Democrats over Bush and 44% preferred Bush over both Democrats. An additional 1% remained tied in both scenarios.

In short, about 12% of voters’ preferences would have shifted if Hillary, rather than Kerry, were the Democratic nominee. But as Comparison #2 demonstrates, the net effects of such movements would have been minimal. Here are the reasons why.

Among those neutral in a Kerry-Bush match-up (5% of all voters), 80% would have taken sides in a Bush-Hillary contest. But they would have divided evenly – 2% from neutrality to a preference for Hillary and 2% switching from neutrality to a preference for Bush.

Among those with a Kerry preference in a Kerry-Bush comparison, 7% would have shifted to a Bush preference in a Hillary-Bush match-up. And 10% of those with a Bush preference in a Kerry-Bush match-up would have shifted to a pro-Hillary position in a Hillary-Bush contest. The ultimate effects of all these shifts in sentiment would have generated a net gain of one percentage point for Hillary Clinton versus Bush compared to Kerry’s status versus Bush.

Edwards would have fared worse than Kerry. Only 42% rated Edwards higher than Bush, 53% rated Bush higher than Edwards, and 5% rated each candidate identically. Again, 88% would not have been affected at all, but the shifts that would have occurred demonstrate that Kerry held a stronger position than Edwards against Bush.

Thermometer Score Comparison # 3:

Bush Rated Higher Than Edwards: 53%
Both Rated the Same: 5%
Edwards Rated Higher Than Bush: 42%

There was only one Democrat who would have given his party the upper hand against Bush and that was the one live Democrat constitutionally prohibited from entering that fray. Bill Clinton could have flipped the table. He received higher scores than Bush from 49% while Bush got higher ratings from 46%.

Thermometer Score Comparison # 4:

Bush Rated Higher Than Bill Clinton: 46%
Both Rated the Same: 5%
Bill Clinton Rated Higher Than Bush: 49%

Again, most voters (87%) would not have been moved across party columns whether Kerry or Bill Clinton were the Democratic nominee. For the remaining 13%, mobility would have been active in both directions in a Bill Clinton-Bush contest compared to a Kerry-Bush contest. But President Clinton would have had most of it flowing in his direction, resulting in a net gain of about 6 percentage points relative to a Kerry-Bush match-up.

Rather than demonstrating that Kerry’s candidacy was a dud, these findings illustrate the limited potential personal impact of any Democratic nominee in 2004. Even the best Democratic campaigner of our time, Bill Clinton, would have moved the electorate only minutely from the division of the vote observed in 2004.

The unmentioned element in each of these assessments was the unwavering loyalty to George W Bush from the Republican base circa 2004. Bush’s average thermometer score among Republican identifiers was the highest recorded from a partisan following– besting Ronald Reagan’s status among Republican voters at the height of his popularity in 1984.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Case Against the Press is Solid

It's no small secret the MSM has been in bed with the Bush administration. I've written here in the recent past that things could have been different, had the MSM done it's job. But here we sit under the administration of Worse Than Watergate and one of the great hero's of Watergate has fallen from his pedestal. The truth revealed early last week, that Bob Woodward "learned two years ago from a government official that Wilson was a CIA agent," is a huge "black mark for media."

Joan Vennochi writes in the Boston Globe today that, "The case against Scooter Libby is up in the air, but the case against the press is solid."

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicted I. Lewis ''Scooter" Libby Jr. on criminal charges, including obstruction of justice, making a false statement and perjury in the CIA leak investigation. The press indicted itself on grounds of coziness, self-interest, and dishonesty.

While Judith 'Miller is ''Miss Run Amok,"' Bob Woodward says Vennochi is "a media bigfoot." "They both let their newspapers down, and readers, too."

In Plamegate, people see the sausage-making: journalists are part of the establishment they cover. Their ''sources" are government officials who use them to put out negative information about a political adversary. That is very different from protecting a whistleblower who is revealing secrets the public should know. And it is dramatically different from Woodward's and Carl Bernstein's role in uncovering the Watergate scandal. Then, the two dogged Post reporters worked to reveal the crimes of the Nixon administration.

In Plamegate, administration sources tried to use the press to spread the word about Valerie Plame Wilson and discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, an administration critic. Is her identity a scoop? Or is spreading it a dirty trick?

The symbiotic relationship between press and political establishment is a fact of life. Pick up any newspaper, and it is not hard to figure out who is entangled with whom. Sometimes these relationships lead to important news. Sometimes they lead to disclosures whose sole purpose is to undercut an opponent. Readers know the difference, which could explain why fewer of them buy newspapers or trust them.

Where does Plamegate end? In a document filed in court on Friday, Fitzgerald said ''the investigation is continuing" and that it ''will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment." That isn't good news for the Bush administration, which dodged disaster when Karl Rove was not indicted along with Libby.

The media love a scandal. A Rove indictment would be entertaining and Cheney in the hot seat would burn up the blogs. But this time all those Watergate-era phrases -- from ''tip of the iceberg" and ''smoking gun" to ''what did he know and when did he know it?" -- are coming back at the press, not just the president's men.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Remake Planned of The Prisoner

This is London reports that Sky One in Great Britian plans to remake the 1967 television show The Prisoner. The Prisoner, which defended “the right of the individual to be individual” was a show considered ahead of its time. It provides a message which we need in this time in which the Republicans have become outright authoritarian and hostile to individual liberties while striving to form a permanent majority one party government. While Americans are increasingly rejecting the Republicans, shows such as this may help increase opposition to the increased government intrusion in individual’s lives which they promote.

Frank Rich on How Bush Has Made Us Less Safe

Frank Rich discusses how Bush’s disasterous foreign policy mistakes have strengthened al Qaeda and made us less safe:

One hideous consequence of the White House’s Big Lie - fusing the war of choice in Iraq with the war of necessity that began on 9/11 - is that the public, having rejected one, automatically rejects the other. That’s already happening. The percentage of Americans who now regard fighting terrorism as a top national priority is either in the single or low double digits in every poll. Thus the tragic bottom line of the Bush catastrophe: the administration has at once increased the ranks of jihadists by turning Iraq into a new training ground and recruitment magnet while at the same time exhausting America’s will and resources to confront that expanded threat.

We have arrived at “the worst of all possible worlds,” in the words of Daniel Benjamin, Richard Clarke’s former counterterrorism colleague, with whom I talked last week. No one speaks more eloquently to this point than Mr. Benjamin and Steven Simon, his fellow National Security Council alum. They saw the Qaeda threat coming before most others did in the 1990’s, and their riveting new book, “The Next Attack,” is the best argued and most thoroughly reported account of why, in their opening words, “we are losing” the war against the bin Laden progeny now.

“The Next Attack” is prescient to a scary degree. “If bin Laden is the Robin Hood of jihad,” the authors write, then Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “has been its Horatio Alger, and Iraq his field of dreams.” The proof arrived spectacularly this month with the Zarqawi-engineered suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman. That attack, Mr. Benjamin wrote in Slate, “could soon be remembered as the day that the spillover of violence from Iraq became a major affliction for the Middle East.” But not remembered in America. Thanks to the confusion sown by the Bush administration, the implications for us in this attack, like those in London and Madrid, are quickly forgotten, if they were noticed in the first place. What happened in Amman is just another numbing bit of bad news that we mentally delete along with all the other disasters we now label “Iraq.”

Only since his speech about “Islamo-fascism” in early October has Mr. Bush started trying to make distinctions between the “evildoers” of Saddam’s regime and the Islamic radicals who did and do directly threaten us. But even if anyone was still listening to this president, it would be too little and too late. The only hope for getting Americans to focus on the war we can’t escape is to clear the decks by telling the truth about the war of choice in Iraq: that it is making us less safe, not more, and that we have to learn from its mistakes and calculate the damage it has caused as we reboot and move on.

Mr. Bush is incapable of such candor. In the speech Mr. Santorum skipped on Veterans Day, the president lashed out at his critics for trying “to rewrite the history” of how the war began. Then he rewrote the history of the war, both then and now. He boasted of America’s “broad and coordinated homeland defense” even as the members of the bipartisan 9/11 commission were preparing to chastise the administration’s inadequate efforts to prevent actual nuclear W.M.D.’s, as opposed to Saddam’s fictional ones, from finding their way to terrorists. Mr. Bush preened about how “we’re standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes” even as we were hearing new reports of how we outsource detainees to such regimes to be tortured.

More Politics Than Usual Under Bush

The New York Times has this in Week in Review, but it is acutally a review of the last five years of Bush Administration corruption and dishonesty. It’s even getting to be too much for Republicans:

For years now, critics have complained that the Bush administration is equally cocksure, pursuing its political and ideological goals even when they are in conflict with data collected by agencies, analysis provided by professionals and procedures set by law.

Last week, this issue seemed to gain intensity as reports of the politicization of the government made the news almost every day. The pileup underscored what seems to be a consensus in political and academic circles - not only among Democrats but also among Republicans who want Mr. Bush to take a strong hand in shaping policy - that this administration seems more willing than its recent predecessors to bypass the bureaucracy to put its mark on government.

“The Bush administration is certainly not the first administration to do this kind of thing,” said Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma who is now a lecturer at Princeton, “but they seem much more heavy-handed about it.”

Later they provide some examples:

In August, the Justice Department demoted a statistician who had worked there for 23 years because, the statistician claimed, he refused to withhold data about racial profiling by police officers.

Last year, referring to matters like climate change and embryonic stem cells, more than 60 prominent scientists signed a statement saying the administration had “misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies.”

Perhaps the most striking example of the administration’s bypassing the bureaucracy to accomplish a political goal occurred in late 2003 when the Medicare actuary, Richard S. Foster, was told by his politically appointed boss that he would be fired if he gave Congress his best estimate of the cost of the administration’s prescription-drug plan. If he had told the truth - that his projections showed the bill would cost $500 billion to $600 billion over 10 years, not $400 billion, as the administration was saying publicly - the bill surely would not have passed in the House, Republicans and Democrats agree.

Three former high administration officials - Richard A. Clarke, the White House counterterrorism chief; Paul H. O’Neill, Mr. Bush’s first treasury secretary; and John J. DiIulio Jr., who headed the president’s office of faith-based initiatives - complained publicly after they left the government that the administration had repeatedly let politics trump sound policy analysis.

Bush Flip Flopped In Claiming IWR Was a Vote For War

Bush Flip Flopped In Claiming IWR Was a Vote For War

Many of the attacks on Kerry stem from misinterpreting his comments at the Grand Canyon in August 2004. I discussed this here recently. Liberal Oasis also offered an explanation backing Kerry at the time:

A Reminder: Bush Did Not Consider It A War Vote

The purpose of Kerry’s Iraq speech was to get on the offensive, attacking Bush’s record, and not have to spend time on the defensive explaining how Bush has distorted Kerry’s position.

It’s the right tack, and it seems to be working so far.

But Kerry threw in a little aside to remind people how consistent his own position is, and how inconsistent Bush’s is.

Speaking from the same Cincinnati podium as Bush did back in Oct. ‘02, Kerry said:

Here in Cincinnati, [Bush] said that if Congress approved the resolution giving him the authority to use force, it did not mean that military action would be “unavoidable”.

The full quote from Bush that Kerry referred to is:

Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.

The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean something.

A few days later, on the floor of the Senate, Kerry took note of Bush’s words as he explained his fundamental position:

As the President made clear earlier this week, “Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.” It means “America speaks with one voice.”…

…In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days–

To work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.

If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out.

Is there anything Kerry has said on Iraq that has contradicted that? No.

That’s why Kerry said what he said last month:

Yes, I would have voted for that authority, but I would have used that authority to do things very differently.

Because that is completely in line with his basic position from the beginning.

It is Bush that has flip-flopped, now deeming that the force authorization vote was a war vote, when before he said it was nothing of the sort.

The full text of Bush's speech referred to above is in the extended entry of this post at The Democratic Daily.

Kerry and Dean Held Similar Views on Iraq

Kerry and Dean Held Similar Views on Iraq

In recent posts, including two earlier today, I pointed discussed John Kerry’s position on the war as stated prior to the war. Kerry advised against going to war and believed that Bush misused the authority granted to him.

Critics of Kerry in the anti-war movement, in actions which undermine the anti-war position by providing credibility to the attacks of Bush and Cheney, take Kerry’s warnings about the danger of WMD under Saddam out of context to claim he supported the war. Many people have believed, partially due to misuse of intelligence by the Bush Administration, that Saddam had WMD, but this did not mean they would have gone to war when Saddam could have been contained.

There is a strange double standard in the attacks on Kerry considering how Howard Dean gave the same opinion. In Salon on February 20, 2003 Jack Tapper wrote:

He gets a deluge of phone calls from reporters asking him to clarify his position. Which is — “as I’ve said about eight times today,” he says, annoyed — that Saddam must be disarmed, but with a multilateral force under the auspices of the United Nations. If the U.N. in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the U.S. should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn’t, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice.

Adam Nagourney described Dean in New York Times on Feburary 10, 2003 noting, “An Antiwar Democrat Leaves Room To Wiggle.”

“Action with the U.N. is where we should be aiming at right now,'’ Dr. Dean said. ‘’We should be going back and set a timeline with the U.N. for absolute disarmament. I’ve chosen 60 days. And then there would be military action.'’

And Dr. Dean said that he supported the central goal of many of the supporters of action against Iraq. ‘’Look, Saddam has to be disarmed,'’ he said in the interview. ‘’Everybody has to understand that.'’

In the same article, Nagourney noted that Kerry had “urged the president not to rush into war.”

In the debate in Des Moines, Iowa on January 4, 2004 Dean showed Iowa voters that he was not 100% opposed to removing Saddam:

QUESTION: What about something that Senator Lieberman also said, and that was that, if we had followed your ideas toward Saddam Hussein, he’d still be in power?

DEAN: I actually don’t believe that, because I think, given the time that’s elapsed, we could have done the proper thing, which George Bush’s father did, and put together a coalition to go after somebody who was a regional threat but not a threat to the United States.

Ultimately John Kerry won the Iowa primary with most opponents of the war supporting him. This was largely because the attacks on Kerry claiming he was the pro-war candidate were disputed by the media in Iowa and in the debate. The Des Moines Register looked at their positions on March 2, 2003:

Anti-war Democrats have cheered presidential candidate Howard Dean, but some campaign observers say the former Vermont governor’s position on Iraq isn’t that different from the rivals he criticizes. The Vermont governor, for example, would support unilateral action against Iraq under certain conditions.

Kerry's Position Prior to the War

Kerry’s Position Prior to the War

Despite multiple recent interviews with John Kerry clarifying is position on Iraq, critics continue to try to distort his position, or to claim he is late to the anti-war cause. Reviewing Kerry’s statements going back to the IWR vote shows Kerry has been consistent in his belief that the purpose of granting the President the authority to go to war was to give the President the leverage to force the weapons inspectors back in and to to to war only as a last resort if we were proven to be threatened by WMD.

Prior to the war, Kerry wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times laying out the case for a diplomatic solution:

For the sake of our country, the legitimacy of our cause and our ultimate success in Iraq, the administration must seek advice and approval from Congress, laying out the evidence and making the case. Then, in concert with our allies, it must seek full enforcement of the existing cease-fire agreement from the United Nations Security Council. We should at the same time offer a clear ultimatum to Iraq before the world: Accept rigorous inspections without negotiation or compromise. Some in the administration actually seem to fear that such an ultimatum might frighten Saddam Hussein into cooperating. If Saddam Hussein is unwilling to bend to the international community’s already existing order, then he will have invited enforcement, even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act. But until we have properly laid the groundwork and proved to our fellow citizens and our allies that we really have no other choice, we are not yet at the moment of unilateral decision-making in going to war against Iraq.

While Kerry did believe, as most did at the time due to the manipulation of intelligence data, that Saddam had WMD, he did not urge going to war except as a last resort. In his Senate floor statement at the time of the vote he said:

Mr. President, I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force - if necessary - to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region. And I will vote “yes” because on the question of how best to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, the Administration, including the President, recognizes that war must be our last option to address this threat, not the first, and that we should be acting in concert with allies around the globe to make the world’s case against Saddam Hussein. As the President made clear earlier this week, “Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable.” It means that “America speaks with one voice.”

Let me be clear: I am voting to give this authority to the President for one reason and one reason only: to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction if we cannot accomplish that objective through new tough weapons inspections. In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days - to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out “tough, immediate” inspections requirements and to “act with our allies at our side” if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.

If he fails to do so, I will be the first to speak out. If we do go to war with Iraq, it is imperative that we do so in concert with others in the international community. The Administration has come to recognize this as has our closet ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair in Britain. The Administration may not be in the habit of building coalitions, but that is what they need to do - and it is what can be done. If we go it alone without reason, we risk inflaming an entire region and breeding a new generation of terrorists, a new cadre of anti-American zealots - and we will be less secure, not more secure, at the end of the day, even with Saddam Hussein disarmed. Let there be no doubt or confusion as to where I stand: I will support a multilateral effort to disarm Iraq by force, if we have exhausted all other options. But I cannot - and will not - support a unilateral, US war against Iraq unless the threat is imminent and no multilateral effort is possible.

And in voting to grant the President the authority to use force, I am not giving him carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses - or may pose - a potential threat to the United States. . .

Mr. President, Congressional action on this resolution is not the end of our national debate on how best to disarm Iraq. Nor does it mean that we have exhausted all our peaceful options to achieve this goal. There is much more to be done.

Following the onset of the war Kerry protested by saying, ‘’What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States.” .On March 18, 2003 Kerry released a statement concluding with:

My strong personal preference would have been for the Administration - like the Administration of George Bush, Sr. — to have given diplomacy more time, more commitment, a real chance of success. In my estimation, giving the world thirty additional days for additional real multilateral coalition building - a real summit, not a five hour flyby with most of the world’s powers excluded — would have been prudent and no impediment to our military situation, an assessment with which our top military brass apparently agree. Unfortunately, that is an option that has been disregarded by President Bush. In the colloquial, we are where we are. It will take years to repair the needless damage done by this Administration, damage to our international standing and moral leadership, to traditional and time-tested alliances, to our relations with the Arab world, ultimately to ourselves.

John Kerry on Hardball: October 2003

John Kerry on Hardball: October 2003

With all the coverage of recent Kerry interviews, in is interesting to look back at what Kerry said when asked about the war during the campaign. John Kerry was interviewed by Chris Matthews on October 20, 2003. For those who don’t have the patience to wade through all of Matthews’ questions, one key point is that when Matthews asks “Were we right to have gone to war?” Kerry’s answer is no.

MATTHEWS: My second question concerns Howard Dean. Let’s to go my first question. It is so abrupt. Were we right to go to Iraq?

KERRY: Not the way the president did it. Clearly, no, because he didn’t plan for how to win the peace. He didn’t build the kind of coalition he said he would. He didn’t keep his promises to the American people.

He promised he would respect the U.N. He promised he would, in fact, build an international coalition and he promised he would go to war as a last resort. And, Chris, one of the great lessons I learned in Vietnam is the meaning of the words “last resort.”

I think the test for a president as to whether or not you send young men or women anywhere to fight is whether you can look in the eyes of parents-if you lose one of them-and say to those parents, I tried to do everything in my power to avoid this happening to your child. But we had no choice for the security of our country. I believe the president of the United States fails that test in Iraq.

Later Matthews asked more about the positions of other Democrats:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you. Howard Dean is opposed to going to Iraq.

He’s simple. Absolutely, bottom line, against the war.

KERRY: Well, he’s not, actually….

MATTHEWS: Joe Lieberman is for the war. Dick Gephardt is for the war, John Edwards sat right there last week and he is still for the war despite the bad intelligence he got. He says, “I’m still for the war.” How are you different than Dean on this issue?

KERRY: Let me correct you. Howard Dean is not clear and he is not simple. He has, in fact, embraced several positions. One of which is the Biden-Lugar amendment which, in fact, gave authorization to the president but under a slightly different wrinkle than the one we passed. Howard Dean also said he believed there were weapons of mass destruction. He believed that Colin Powell was correct.

Now the question that has to be asked is, once you’ve come to that conclusion, what are you going to do about it?

What you should do about it is precisely what I and Tom Harkin and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and a whole bunch of us thought we should do. Which is, go to the United Nations. Properly go through the inspection process. Build a legitimate international coalition and, in fact, exhaust the remedies available to you. And if you need to go to war, you go to war because you have a sense that the country has come to the point where it has no other option.

I don’t believe the president did that.

MATTHEWS: Would you have gone to war if the French had said under no circumstances we would go to war with you?

KERRY: I would do whatever is necessary to protect the security of the United States.

MATTHEWS: We’re going in circles here.

KERRY: No, we’re not going in circles.


MATTHEWS: In retrospective, Dean says, I think it was wrong to go to war. In retrospect, Lieberman says we were right to go to war. Dick Gephardt says we were right to go to war. John Edwards says we’re right to go to war. General Clark says we’re not right to get to war-go to war. Where are you in that-with that kind of clarity?

KERRY: I just answered-I answered your question.

MATTHEWS: Were we right to have gone to war?

KERRY: I answered your question right up front. I said to you….

MATTHEWS: Well, yes or no?

KERRY: I said no. Not under the circumstances he went. I told you that, Chris.

MATTHEWS: So were we wrong to go to Iraq in war?

KERRY: The way the president did it, yes.

MATTHEWS: What was the right way to go to war?

KERRY: As a last resort, when you exhaust the remedies available to you and you have proven that you have to do it because there is no other alternative.

In other words, in Iraq, we had a legitimate threat, according to every intelligence indicator we were given. But we hadn’t built the coalition. We didn’t have a plan to win the peace. The president rushed to war. I said so at the time. I said I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy. I don’t know how you can be more clear than that.

MATTHEWS: Well, because, you know, when you came back from fighting in Vietnam, so nobly and courageously, and you had been honored for your service to your country, and you come back and-you said you were leading up Vietnam veterans against the war. You were clear cut then.

I don’t hear that clarity in your answer right now-the clarity of being for or against the damn war.

KERRY: Well, Chris, God bless you, but I have to tell you, man, sometimes in foreign policy, certain things are complicated. Life is complicated. And the fact is, that there was a legitimate rationale for the United States to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, but there was every reason in the world to hold him in the world to hold him accountable properly.

Now, you know, Joe Lieberman was prepared to go under any circumstance. I wasn’t. The president evidently was too. I wasn’t. I thought we had to build the consent and legitimacy of the American people and I remember that because of my fight in Vietnam. I remember it because we had a divided nation. I remember what happens when you lose the consent of your nation fighting a war.


KERRY: But it is perfectly legitimate too-in fact, in 1998, when Bill Clinton was president, and Saddam Hussein brought the wall down on the inspectors and Clinton brought them out so he could bomb, I said at that time, together with Chuck Hagel and John McCain, that the president should have taken the issue to the United Nations; that we should have been prepared to have a legitimate force in order to get him to live to his agreements.

So there was always legitimacy to living up to the agreements. And it was appropriate for a president, and that’s why I voted for him…

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this….

KERRY: hold him accountable.

MATTHEWS: To try sharpen your position so we all come out of this room knowing your position. Had you been president earlier this year when they went up against the blank-the stonewall at the U.N.. and the U.N., and the Security Council, the Russians and the French, did not go along with the war, what would you have done differently than the president did? At that point, would you have said another two months I’ll argue with you guys? I’ll try to hold a carrot or a stick out to you and the French and try to get them to board? Or would you have finally said, I’m tired of waiting for the French. We’re going alone in our national interest.

What would you have done?

KERRY: I would have done exactly what I said at the time, which is we should have pursued more diplomacy at the time to exhaust the remedies. And Chris…

MATTHEWS: It’s now October. How-would you still be exhausting the remedies now?

KERRY: Why not?

MATTHEWS: OK. That’s a position. I didn’t know you would go this long.

KERRY: Why not?

MATTHEWS: Would you have gone all these months?

KERRY: Why not? Absolutely. It’s cool in the fall as much as it is in the spring.

MATTHEWS: So you would have waited at least a year.

KERRY: I would have done-no, Chris, I would have done what was necessary to know that you had exhausted the available remedies with the French and the Russians.

MATTHEWS: The French said this week they will not send troop or spend a dollar in Iraq. It’s clear the French don’t go along with this war.

KERRY: And I understand why they won’t right now. And I’m not going to give them a veto, Chris. And I wouldn’t have given them a veto then.

But I talked to Kofi Annan on the Sunday before the president decided to go to war. And I knew at that moment in time that the Russians and the French were prepared to, in fact, make a further offer. And the administration, in fact, informed Kofi Annan, Sorry, the time for diplomacy is over.

Had I been president of the United States, I would have explored what those possibilities were.

MATTHEWS: Let’s take a look at your position. Because of all the candidates, you were the most foresightful, I thought, in seeing the troubles of occupation.

This is what you said a year ago when we sat around a group like this at the Citadel.


KERRY: I’m prepared to go. I think people understand that Saddam Hussein is a danger. But you want to go maximizing your capacity for victory, not beginning with deficits. That’s one of the lessons of Vietnam. The war will not just be the military operation to move the regime out and to take Baghdad. The war will be an ongoing process of how you then rebuild the country. How you build the democracy in a place that’s never had it, in a place where violence is the tradition. And that is the challenge for awful us. I want to think it through, Chris, so no one has to ask the question, was this a mistake?


MATTHEWS: You saw, sir, the violence coming.


MATTHEWS: You recognized that this would not an lickety spit war, blitz war. That even after the aircraft carrier and all the celebrations, there would be fighting at us, there’d be people shooting at us, and American soldiers being killed as they were just yesterday, two more guys.

Knowing all that, why do you have a complaint now in the way that the occupation is being handled? Since you perhaps more than the president saw the hell to come.

KERRY: Because the president is not putting in place a policy that most, exactly what I just said, maximizes our ability to be successful. Maximizes the protections of the American troop. Look I remember what it is like to be in a country with an M-16 where everybody around you is looking at you and you can’t tell whether they’re about to kill you or not. Whether there’s a kid going to walk out and throw a satchel of explosives in your boat or car or whatever it is. And I foresaw this. And I said to the president in January, Mr. President, don’t rush to war. Take the time to build a coalition. Take the time to have countries with you. Take the time to have our nation with you. Because if the going gets tough, that’s when it is most difficult. My judgment is that the president rushed this with all the wrong assumptions, with all the wrong conclusions, and didn’t lead in the way that a president is supposed to lead.

Now my position, I know what people say. My position could not be more clear. For 7-1/2 years, we found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. For 7-1/2 year, we destroyed them with Ambassador Butler. We found more chemical and biological weapons than we thought he had. We found he was further down the road to the creation of nuclear weapon than we thought he was. Then the wall come down and for four year, there are no inspections. We’re given information by our CIA, that says here’s what’s happening in this building, senator. Here are the photographs much this is what our intelligence is telling us. I thought the responsible thing to do for our country was to force Saddam Hussein to accept the inspectors and to have the threat of force. It was right vote but the president did it in the wrong way and he is still doing it in the wrong way.

MATTHEWS: More on Iraq when we come back and whether it might have been an historic mistake or not. And big question about North Korea and Iraq.