September 4, 2004
10:22 PM CST
Another lengthy gap in the blog I'm afraid, for which I'm very sorry. I've been working on more of the April NI&F shows and lots of family stuff has come up, so I've missed quite a lot. Which is a shame, because I'm still cracking up at the whole Zell Miller fiasco. My god, someone get this guy a rubber room!
Anyway, the RNC is over, the radical right has had their fun, and the march is on to November. But you never know what kind of things might crop up in the next two months. For instance, an interesting piece over at the Washington Post has more details into the investigation of the Chalabi leaks. Looks like this could prove to be quite a mess before it's all said and done. Some interesting sidebars are already surfacing, such as this, from the same article:
The questioning of Franklin is a recent part of an investigation that dates back more than two years and includes diverse threads, U.S. officials and people close to the case said. One aspect of the probe concerns AIPAC and another looks at whether intelligence on Iran ended up in the hands of Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, a longtime Pentagon favorite once considered a possible replacement for Saddam Hussein.
Iran has been a particularly controversial issue within the Bush administration, which still does not have a formal policy more than 3 1/2 years after taking office. A small group of Pentagon neoconservatives opposed a draft directive because it did not support a change of governments in Tehran, which they advocated, current and former U.S. officials said.
The officials whose names came up during questioning have strong ties to Israel. They also share a long-standing position on Iran and other radical regimes. Wurmser, Feith and Perle were co-authors of a 1996 policy paper for then-Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." It called for removing Hussein from power in Iraq as part of a broad strategy to transform the region and remove radical regimes.
Of course, this isn't really news, but it's interesting to see it brought up again so soon on the heels of all that "unfit to lead" Kerry bashing. Especially when you consider that we now know Iran is way more dangerous on the WMD front than Iraq was. The irony is that we're now stretched too thin to do anything about it even if we had "a formal policy" that led in that direction. However, given four more years, anything's possible...
Meanwhile, a few days ago a federal judge dismissed terrorism charges against two Detroit men who were convicted last year with much fanfare. While we'll never forget that warm glow we got knowing that the Bush administration was stickin' it to the terrorists on our own soil, it turns out John Ashcroft and Co. admitted widespread prosecutorial misconduct and decided all they had was a petty document fraud case. I guess this is the sort of thing the RNC was trumpeting for four days as evidence that America is safer.
I don't know about you, but I get nervous whenever my government reminds me of a Fawlty Towers episode...
And about that convention and in particular some of Zell Miller's insane claims (not to mention Dick "GFY" Cheney's assertions), a little context might help (courtesy The Washington Post):
Kerry did not cast a series of votes against individual weapons systems, as Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) suggested...but instead voted against a Pentagon spending package in 1990 as part of deliberations over restructuring and downsizing the military in the post-Cold War era.
Both Vice President Cheney and Miller have said that Kerry would like to see U.S. troops deployed only at the direction of the United Nations, with Cheney noting that the remark had been made at the start of Kerry's political career. This refers to a statement made nearly 35 years ago, when Kerry gave an interview to the Harvard Crimson, 10 months after he had returned from the Vietnam War angry and disillusioned by his experiences there. (President Bush at the time was in the Air National Guard, about to earn his wings.)
President Bush, Cheney and Miller faulted Kerry for voting against body armor for troops in Iraq. But much of the funding for body armor was added to the bill by House Democrats, not the administration, and Kerry's vote against the entire bill was rooted in a dispute with the administration over how to pay for $20 billion earmarked for reconstruction of Iraq.
Hmmmm...but still, Kerry voted to slash all those weapons systems, right? Again, context:
Cheney, at the time defense secretary, had scolded Congress for keeping alive such programs as the F-14 and F-16 jet fighters that he wanted to eliminate. Miller said in his speech that Kerry had foolishly opposed both the weapons systems and would have left the military armed with "spitballs." During that same debate, President George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, proposed shutting down production of the B-2 bomber -- another weapons system cited by Miller -- and pledged to cut defense spending by 30 percent in eight years.
Wow, that's pretty amazing. I'm certain the White House and their minions issued corrections when this was brought to their attention, right?
Asked why the campaign was attacking Kerry for having similar positions as Cheney, White House communications director Dan Bartlett responded: "I don't have the specifics of [when] then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney was in charge of the Pentagon, but I think we'd be more than willing to have a debate on whether Dick Cheney or John Kerry was stronger on defense."
Well then, what about the notion that Kerry didn't support our troops by voting against that $87 billion, and the oft-cited quote that he voted for it before he voted against it?
Kerry's vote last year against the administration's $87 billion proposal to fund troops in Iraq and pay for Iraqi reconstruction has also been the focus of Republican attacks. "My opponent and his running mate voted against this money for bullets, and fuel, and vehicles, and body armor," Bush said last night.
Kerry actually supported all those things, but as part of a different version of the bill opposed by the administration. At the time, many Republicans were uncomfortable with the administration's plans and the White House had to threaten a veto against the congressional version to bring reluctant lawmakers in line.
In a floor statement explaining his vote, Kerry said he favored the $67 billion for the troops on the ground -- "I support our troops in Iraq and their mission" -- but faulted the administration's $20 billion request for reconstruction. He complained that administration "has only given us a set of goals and vague timetables, not a detailed plan."
As has been noted elsewhere in these pages, that $20 billion turned out to be more difficult to spend than just stealing Iraqi money enencumbered by congressional oversight. To date, only 5% of that crucial $20 billion has been spent in just under a year...
August 26, 2004
9:50 PM CST
Is anyone still convinced this whole Swift Boat thing is on the up-and-up? Benjamin Ginsberg got caught big-time between BC2004 and SBVT, and so the campaign has lost a top lawyer in a very public way. Now Bush is whining about 527 groups and how he's going to work with John McCain to see if they can't get rid of those pesky things. The funny thing is, Bush is the one who signed McCain-Feingold into law, right? Isn't he reading what he's signing, supposedly on our behalf? Stupid question, I know: of course he's not.
Now it seems The Swifties' boat is full of holes and there are signs there may even be a minor backlash. Still, it was nice while it lasted. For one thing, it got everything else off the radar, starting shortly after the Demo convention and lasting right up to Dubya's moment in the sun. It also burned up a bit of Kerry's cash, and he has to stretch it one month further than BushCo due to the timing of the conventions.
More importantly, it's sucked up the entire news stream for weeks. Little notice was paid to the carnage in Iraw, including 74 deaths in Najaf in just the past day. Nearly everything else is being ignored as well. For example, the fact that 1.3 million more Americans joined the poverty club in 2003 and 1.4 million joined the ranks of the Uninsured is getting buried. IN ONE YEAR! Interestingly, this bit of bad news is being released early, so as to put it in a slow news month AND to nestle it between the recent Swift Boat feeding frenzy and the convention.
You get the idea. Why do I think there may be a backlash? The latest poll I've seen (CNN/USA Today/Gallup) shows a statistical tie: Kerry leads Bush by 48% to 47% of registered voters, with 3.5% margin of error. As for likely voters, Bush holds the slight lead over Kerry. The poll numbers are largely unchaged from those of three weeks ago, meaning there wasn't much of a bounce from the SBVT ads. My guess is Bush has gotten about as much out of this as he's going to get, and now that the falsehoods (and ties to the campaign) are becoming common knowledge, numbers he may have gotten from this fiasco will evaporate--and then some.
Which might explain why Bush is suddenly trying to get himself out from under this. On the plus side for him, numbers should have continued to slowly erode the last few weeks due to the Demo convention, Iraq, the economy, etc. They haven't. So maybe that's Bush's Swift Boat bounce: the numbers haven't shrunk in three weeks.
We'll see if that holds. And we'll see if he can get an actual REAL bounce out of NYC next week, unlike Kerry's flat numbers coming out of his convention. If I had to bet, I'd expect a similar non-reaction when the Republican convention wraps it up. There probably aren't many "undecideds" by this point, but there may be some "soft supporters" that can be turned by either side between now and 11/2...
August 22, 2004
3:52 PM CST
It's interesting how this whole "Swift Boat" thing has taken on a life of its own. Part of the blame rest squarely with Kerry, for both not responding quickly and not having anticipated it. But part of the blame clearly rests with the Bush campaign, for not distancing itself from these ads by condemning them immediately. The fact of the matter is, there are some fairly close ties between the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" and the Bush campaign.
But is this suddenly famous group REALLY interested in the truth? I mean, it seems to me the thing that might cause an organization to stress the notion of "Truth" in their very name might be a total lack thereof. Why are all of these folks holding the keys of "Truth" to Kerry's skeleton-laden closet only now speaking up when, in the past, many spoke well of him or, at worst, didn't speak at all? This graphic from the New York Times (free registration required) outlines both the Bush ties (is Karl Rove close enough for you?) and the untruths/changes of mind.
To read all about exactly who is behind this, how the group came into being, how they got all these bobble-head vets to do Bush's dirty work, and what's REALLY at the root of all of this (hint: Kerry = Hanoi Jane), check out the NY Times' "Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Anti-Kerry Ad" (free registration required). And be sure to read all five pages.
For further proof, Chicago Tribune editor William Rood reluctantly stepped forward with his take on the disputed events of 2/28/69. Rood is the only other surviving swift boat commander besides Kerry who was there that day. Here's the article he wrote (free registration required). According to Rood, who was there, they had ambushes that day, like every other day.
The difference was that Kerry, who had tactical command of that particular operation, had talked to Droz and me beforehand about not responding the way the boats usually did to an ambush.
We agreed that if we were not crippled by the initial volley and had a clear fix on the location of the ambush, we would turn directly into it, focusing the boats' twin .50-caliber machine guns on the attackers and beaching the boats. We told our crews about the plan.
The plan was a roaring success, and it caused the task force commander, Capt. Roy "Latch" Hoffmann, to send a message congratulating the three swift boats involved, saying their work was a "shining example of completely overwhelming the enemy" and that it "may be the most efficacious method of dealing with small numbers of ambushers." "Latch" is now retired Rear Adm. Roy Hoffmann, though, and as a member of SBVT, he now sees things differently.
So why would Mr. Rood speak up now? After all, it's the same question I asked of our SBVT friends, isn't it. Here's what Mr. Rood has to say in answer to that question:
I know that what some people are saying now is wrong. While they mean to hurt Kerry, what they're saying impugns others who are not in the public eye.
Men like Larry Lee, who was on our bow with an M-60 machine gun as we charged the riverbank, Kenneth Martin, who was in the .50-caliber gun tub atop our boat, and Benjamin Cueva, our engineman, who was at our aft gun mount suppressing the fire from the opposite bank.
Wayne Langhoffer and the other crewmen on Droz's boat went through even worse on April 12, 1969, when they saw Droz killed in a brutal ambush that left PCF-43 an abandoned pile of wreckage on the banks of the Duong Keo River. That was just a few months after the birth of his only child, Tracy.
The survivors of all these events are scattered across the country now.
...With the debate over that long-ago day in February, they're all living that war another time.
The sad fact of the matter is, we're arguing over events that happened 35 years ago. Truth? Whenever Karl Rove and his attack dogs are involved, that's just another word that means whatever they decide it means at any given moment.
Here's a truth: Iraq got shoved to the back burner, even though Najaf is a potentially pivotal battle and everything's completely up in the air. There seems to be no good way out of the situation, with Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr poised to become either a major player or a martyr inspiring countless future insurgents. And I notice we're still being "sensitive" to the holy mosque at the center of the fighting, likely much to Dick "G.F.Y." Cheney's chagrin. That'll probably change soon, though, proving to be yet another huge miscalculation on the administration's part...
August 19, 2004
10:52 PM CST
Finally, finally, finally, Kerry got off his duff and directly defended himself. Setting his sights on the "Swift Vote Beterans for Ruth" gang, he said this, while speaking to a group of firefighters in Boston:
Over the last week or so, a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been attacking me. Of course, this group isn’t interested in the truth – and they’re not telling the truth. They didn’t even exist until I won the nomination for president.
But here’s what you really need to know about them. They’re funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas. They’re a front for the Bush campaign. And the fact that the President won’t denounce what they’re up to tells you everything you need to know—he wants them to do his dirty work.
Thirty years ago, official Navy reports documented my service in Vietnam and awarded me the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. Thirty years ago, this was the plain truth. It still is. And I still carry the shrapnel in my leg from a wound in Vietnam.
As firefighters you risk your lives everyday. You know what it’s like to see the truth in the moment. You’re proud of what you’ve done—and so am I.
Of course, the President keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: “Bring it on.”
And all of this as word is coming out that another "Big Swiftie"--this time it's Larry Thurlow, ladies and gents--is full of ship:
Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, has disputed that the Massachusetts Democratic senator was shot at during the March 1969 raid that resulted in Bronze Stars to both men.
But Thurlow's military records, partially obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Washington Post, contain references to "enemy small arms and automatic fire" directed at "all units" of the five-boat flotilla, the newspaper says.
All I have to add is what the hell took so long to respond and get to the truth about this gang?
Finally, in the spirit of the Olympics, I'm certain the Iraqi soccer team is proud to be part of the Bush campaign via one of his political ads (see ad here. WHAT? THEY'RE NOT??? The cads. After all that Dubya has done for them, and this is the thanks he gets?
At issue is an ad that shows flags of Iraq and Afghanistan, as the narrator says: "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations -- and two fewer terrorist regimes." True, there is no basic security, but dammit, they have Olympic teams!!!
Said Iraqi midfielder Salih Sadir:
"Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign. He can find another way to advertise himself."
Another quote from the Sports Illustrated piece:
"My problems are not with the American people," says Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad. "They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road?"
Team member Ahmed Manajid was a bit more pointed, questioning the very semantics of the war:
Manajid, 22, who nearly scored his own goal with a driven header on Wednesday, hails from the city of Fallujah. He says coalition forces killed Manajid's cousin, Omar Jabbar al-Aziz, who was fighting as an insurgent, and several of his friends. In fact, Manajid says, if he were not playing soccer he would "for sure" be fighting as part of the resistance.
"I want to defend my home. If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists?" Manajid says. "Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labeled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq."
Let's hope Team Bush keeps manufacturing ads. They seem to be working wonders, in the strangest of contexts...
August 18, 2004
10:14 PM CST
It must just be John Kerry (or maybe John Edwards) going over the top again with their tortured language. Damned flip-floppers. Except it's not from Kerry/Edwards.
"I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action."
Well, Al Franken then. Trying to be funny, do doubt. What? HE didn't say it? Must've been Bruce Springsteen. Wow, he must have horrible writer's block to pen something that crappy. Or maybe it was that Dixie Chicks chick. Or...
No, those are the words of retiring Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.), in a letter to his constituents.
To further quote:
"From the beginning of the conflict, it was doubtful that we for long would be seen as liberators, but instead increasingly as an occupying force," he said. "Now we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess, and there is no easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq without creating bigger future problems in the region and, in general, in the Muslim world."
And that's the big problem here. This whole thing was so improvised that it's only now dawning on these idiots that we're screwed. We can't pull out until there is stability, but it seems there can't be stability until we pull out. All the while, we've painted the nicest recruiting poster for Osama that could possible be imagined. Just brilliant.
On the oil front, prices hit a new record high today of over $47 a barrel--a 27% run-up in just six weeks. The economy looks suddenly unexpectedly weak again, or, put another way, it seems to have "turned ANOTHER corner". Job growth suddenly disappeared. Locally speaking, it was just announced we'd be losing 1,200 prime manufacturing jobs here in Central Illinois at the Mitsubishi plant. And over in Peoria, there's a potential strike lurking at Cat that could be hell for all involved.
Maybe this is why Dubya has abandoned the "turning the corner" cliche: it's a lie so big not even HE can pull it off.
Finally, why is the Bush camp so pissed off at the "527" groups running ads independent of any political campaign? Tom Curry points out it may have a lot to do with party structure. Quoting Republican campaign finance lawyer Cleta Mitchell:
“For some reason, particularly true with this White House team, no one will make a move without a blessing from Karl (Rove) or (Bush campaign manager) Ken (Mehlman) or someone — and there is a specific prohibition on doing these 527s at the suggestion or request or after 'material discussions' with an agent of a candidate or party,” Mitchell said.
“So it's a Catch-22. Republicans want to be asked by the very people for whom it is illegal to do the asking — and there is such an environment of top-down control on the Republican side that it freezes what should be Republican political entrepreneurs," she said.
There is, Mitchell said, "no reticence on the Democratic side. Ellen Malcolm and (her colleagues) Harold Ickes and Steve Rosenthal are seasoned political operatives who don't wait to be asked or need to be told what needs to be done.”
Ahhh...campaign finance reform. And nobody saw this kind of thing coming? This is turning out to be one weird election...