The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, October 09, 2004

The Scary Little Man - William Rivers Pitt

The Scary Little Man By William Rivers Pitt t r u t h o u t Perspective
Friday 08 October 2004

http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/101004Z.shtml

"He had a feeling that the answer was quite different and that he ought to know it, but he could not think of it. He began to get frightened, and that is bad for thinking."
- J.R.R. Tolkien

George W. Bush, still smarting from his embarrassing performance in the Florida debate, decided on Friday night in St. Louis that volume was a good substitute for strength, that yelling would be mistaken for gravitas. The result was an ugly, disturbing, genuinely frightening show.

In my report on the first debate, I described Bush as, "Shrill. Defensive. Muddled. Angry, very angry. Repetitive. Uninformed. Outmatched. Unprepared. Hesitant." As bad as that display was, it honestly paled in comparison to the frenzied hectoring Bush sprayed at 140 Missouri citizens who had the ill fortune of watching the man come unglued before their eyes.

John Kerry, by comparison, was every inch the controlled prosecutor pressing his case to the jury. It was, perhaps, that calm delineation of Bush's myriad errors which caused the Republican candidate to blow his stack. Exactly 30 minutes into the debate, Bush became so agitated by Kerry's description of the "back-door draft," which is literally bleeding the life out of our National Guard and Reserve forces, that he lunged out of his chair and shrieked over moderator Charles Gibson, who was trying to maintain some semblance of decorum.

"You tell Tony Blair we're going alone," Bush roared. "Tell Tony Blair we're going alone!" The disturbed murmur from the crowd was audible. Bush, simply, frightened them.

More unsettling than Bush's demonstrable agitation was his almost uncanny disconnect from reality.

The voluminous report released by Charles Duelfer and the Iraq Survey Group, compiled by 1,625 U.N. and U.S. weapons inspectors after two years of searching some 1,700 sites in Iraq at a cost of more than $1 billion, stated flatly that no weapons of mass destruction exist in that nation, that no weapons of mass destruction have existed in that nation for years, and that any capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction within that nation has been crumbling for the same amount of years.

"My opponent said that America must pass a global test before we used force to protect ourselves," said Bush during the Iraq phase of the debate. "That's the kind of mindset that says sanctions were working. That's the kind of mindset that said, 'Let's keep it at the United Nations and hope things go well.' Saddam Hussein was a threat because he could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorist enemies. Sanctions were not working."

What? First of all, the Duelfer Report proves beyond any question that sanctions had worked incredibly well. The stuff wasn't there, because Scott Ritter and the UNSCOM inspectors destroyed it all during the 1990s, along with any and all equipment and facilities to make it. The stuff wasn't there because the sanctions put into place against Hussein prevented him from getting any material to develop weapons. The stuff wasn't there because Hussein stopped making it years ago, because the sanctions were breaking his back. The sanctions worked.

When Bush made the statement about Hussein giving weapons of mass destruction to "terrorist enemies," the needle edged over from 'Dumb' to 'Deranged.' How many different ways must one say "The stuff wasn't there" before George picks up the clue phone? How does someone give away something he doesn't have?

Bush continued in this appalling vein when he said, "He keeps talking about, 'Let the inspectors do their job.' It's naive and dangerous to say that. That's what the Duelfer report showed." Welcome to Bush World, where everything is upside down and two plus two equals a bag of hammers. It is naive and dangerous to point out that the inspectors got the job done in the 1990s, that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever? No, George. It is simply the truth.

The mental disconnect reared its shouting head repeatedly throughout the evening. Bush somehow lost track of where he was at one point and called his opponent, "Senator Kennedy." He told one questioner that he would control the deficit by stopping Congress from spending, only a few minutes after defending the fact that he had never, not once, vetoed a spending bill from Congress.

He made an accountant crack about "Battling green eyeshades," a statement that immediately became a first-ballot nominee for the Gibberish Hall of Fame. When asked what kind of Supreme Court Justice he would nominate if given an opportunity, he wandered off along a free-association rant about Dred Scott. Clearly, this President will make sure to nominate people to the bench who are opposed to chattel slavery.

Perhaps the most telling moment came when questioner Linda Grabel asked Bush, "Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it."

As with his April prime time press conference, in which he was asked a very similar question, Bush absolutely refused to admit to any errors in judgment, beyond a cryptic quip about mistakes in personnel appointments which he would not elaborate upon. He opened himself up to the judgment of history, a sad straddle given the simple fact that no President can avoid such a judgment. That was all he was willing to offer. Ms. Grabel did not hear about three mistakes. She did not even hear about one.

Bush was every inch the angry man on Friday night, which is dangerous enough. But to witness anger combined with belligerent ignorance, with a willful denial of basic facts, to witness a man utterly incapable of admitting to any mistakes while his clear errors in judgment are costing his country in blood, to see that combination roiling within the man who is in charge of the most awesome military arsenal in the history of the planet, is more than dangerous.
It is flatly terrifying.

-------
© Copyright 2004 by TruthOut.org

William Kumbier Globe Letter 10/09/04

Dear Editor,

At the close of last night’s St. Louis debate, President Bush was asked to name three mistakes he had made during his administration. As one who feels strongly, along with John Kerry and many Americans, that there is no shortage of mistakes the president could have mentioned—an increasingly horrific, unnecessary war, self-serving tax cuts for the wealthy, and failure seriously to confront America’s health care crisis, for starters—I was surprised to hear the president hesitate and fumble to name any mistakes at all. Personally, I rarely get through an hour, let alone four years, without making mistakes I can all too readily identify. The fact that President Bush could not do that and instead looped back into his customary self-righteousness is, for me, added confirmation that he is both too arrogant and too unreflective to continue as president.

Sincerely,

William Kumbier

Friday, October 08, 2004

Bush's Bogeymen - Matt Taibbi

From a long and interesting article on the Bush Campaign by Matt Taibbi.
It appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine and can be found online here:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/6539082?pageid=rs.Home&pageregion=single7&rnd=1097263179312&has-player=true&version=6.0.12.857

One of the great cliches of liberal criticism of the Christian right is the idea that these people are wrongheaded because they profess to know the will of God. H.L. Mencken put that one best, and perhaps first: "It is only the savage, whether of the African bush or the American gospel tent, who pretends to know the will and intent of God exactly and completely."

These criticisms sound like they make sense. But I think they are a little off-base. The problem not only with fundamentalist Christians but with Republicans in general is not that they act on blind faith, without thinking. The problem is that they are incorrigible doubters with an insatiable appetite for Evidence. What they get off on is not Believing, but in having their beliefs tested. That's why their conversations and their media are so completely dominated by implacable bogeymen: marrying gays, liberals, the ACLU, Sean Penn, Europeans and so on. Their faith both in God and in their political convictions is too weak to survive without an unceasing string of real and imaginary confrontations with those people -- and for those confrontations, they are constantly assembling evidence and facts to make their case.

But here's the twist. They are not looking for facts with which to defeat opponents. They are looking for facts that ensure them an ever-expanding roster of opponents. They can be correct facts, incorrect facts, irrelevant facts, it doesn't matter. The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom. In a way, it actually helps if the fact is dubious or untrue (like the Swift-boat business), because that guarantees an argument. You're arguing the particulars, where you're right, while they're arguing the underlying generalities, where they are.

Once you grasp this fact, you're a long way to understanding what the Hannitys and Limbaughs figured out long ago: These people will swallow anything you feed them, so long as it leaves them with a demon to wrestle with in their dreams.

Bill Kumbier Letter 10/08/04

Dear Editor,

For many of us who are caught up in the heat of the presidential candidates’debates and verbal sparring, the political climate before the war in Iraq began may be hard to remember. For some of us, that time was one of great anxiety over whether President Bush would work in good faith with the United Nations, whether he would exhaust all diplomatic solutions before engaging in a costly, pre-emptive war, and whether his administration could assure us that Iraq possessed WMDs and was primed to use them. A vocal minority of us opposed going to war because we felt President Bush had not done these things and, because he had not, I was dismayed when so many in Congress—and not only John Kerry and John Edwards!—authorized him, prematurely, to use force.

Therefore, it is decisive for me that Kerry and Edwards have taken a strong, clear stand against Bush’s handling of the war. If one wants to call that "flip-flopping" or "inconsistent," fine: as far as I’m concerned, though, it shows thoughtful willingness to be open to new information and new findings, such as those revealed this week that Iraq, in fact, had no WMDs and that UN sanctions, indeed, were working to contain Saddam Hussein. I would rather have a president who faces the truth than the current administration, which seems hell-bent on denying realities that grow more and more horrific with each new bomb blast, each new beheading and each new American or Iraqi death.

Sincerely,
William Kumbier

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

William Saletan - Edwards keeps the Democrats' rally going.

From Slate http://www.slate.com/id/2107808/
Runners Advance: Edwards keeps the Democrats' rally going.

By William Saletan

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2004, at 9:50 AM PT

Now are you sorry you didn't nominate this guy for president?
That's what I wanted to ask Democrats as I watched John Edwards knock Dick Cheney around the ring tonight. If the Iowa caucuses had been held two days later, Edwards might have beaten John Kerry there and won the nomination. Democrats might have been spared months of caveat-riddled circumlocutions that helped sour swing voters on their presidential nominee. We might have heard a clear Democratic message.

Well, at least we heard it tonight.

Cheney and Edwards apparently went into this debate with different theories of what it was for. When moderator Gwen Ifill asked them to discuss their differences, Cheney said "the most important consideration in picking a vice president" was having "somebody who could take over." Edwards answered the same question by outlining Kerry's platform, virtues, and accomplishments. Cheney seemed to think most viewers were tuning in to judge the vice presidential nominees. Edwards seemed to think they were tuning in to hear about the presidential nominees.

If Cheney guessed right on that question, he probably won. But if he guessed wrong—and I suspect he did—Edwards kicked his expletive. If you watched this debate as an uninformed voter, you heard an avalanche of reasons to vote for Kerry. You heard 23 times that Kerry has a "plan" for some big problem or that Bush doesn't. You heard 10 references to Halliburton, with multiple allegations of bribes, no-bid contracts, and overcharges. You heard 13 associations of Bush with drug or insurance companies. You heard four attacks on him for outsourcing. You heard again and again that he opposed the 9/11 commission and the Department of Homeland Security, that he "diverted" resources from the fight against al-Qaida to the invasion of Iraq, and that while our troops "were on the ground fighting, [the administration] lobbied the Congress to cut their combat pay." You heard that Kerry served in Vietnam and would "double the special forces." You heard that Bush is coddling the Saudis, that Cheney "cut over 80 weapons systems," and that the administration has no air-cargo screening or unified terrorist watch list.

As the debate turned to domestic policy, you heard that we've lost 1.6 million net jobs and 2.7 million net manufacturing jobs under Bush. You heard that he's the first president in 70 years to lose jobs. You heard that 4 million more people live in poverty, and 5 million have lost their health insurance. You heard that the average annual premium has risen by $3,500. You heard that we've gone from a $5 trillion surplus to a $3 trillion debt. You heard that a multimillionaire sitting by his swimming pool pays a lower tax rate than a soldier in Iraq. You heard that Bush has underfunded No Child Left Behind by $27 billion. You heard that Kerry, unlike Bush, would let the government negotiate "to get discounts for seniors" and would let "prescription drugs into this country from Canada." You heard that at home and abroad, Bush offers "four more years of the same."

Most Democrats, including Kerry, duck and cover when Republicans bring up values. Not Edwards. He knows the language and loves to turn it against the GOP. The word "moral" was used twice in this debate. The word "value" was used three times. All five references came from Edwards. He denounced the "moral" crime of piling debt on our grandchildren. He called the African AIDS epidemic and the Sudan genocide "huge moral issues." When Ifill asked him about gay marriage, he changed the subject to taxes. "We don't just value wealth, which they do," said Edwards. "We value work in this country. And it is a fundamental value difference between them and us."
Edwards applied the same jujitsu elsewhere. He framed his vote against the $87 billion Iraq appropriation as a vote against a $7.5 billion "no-bid contract for Halliburton." When Cheney faulted Kerry's inconsistency, Edwards argued that Kerry, unlike Bush, had been "consistent from the beginning that we must stay focused on the people who attacked us." When Cheney accused Kerry of weakening America by subjecting its foreign policy decisions to the approval of allies, Edwards replied that Bush, by refusing to persuade allies, was leaving Americans to bear the war's costs and casualties.

My favorite moment came when Cheney impugned Edwards' voting record. Edwards replied that Cheney had voted against Head Start, Meals on Wheels, the Department of Education, and the Martin Luther King holiday. It was such a devastating flurry of kidney punches, so blandly and shamelessly delivered, that my wife and I burst into sobs of weeping laughter. At the skill or the gall, I'm not sure which.

The charge that did the most damage was the one Edwards leveled at the outset: that Bush and Cheney aren't telling the truth about prewar and postwar Iraq. Edwards listed the evidence contradicting Cheney's assurances about the current situation: the monthly escalation of American casualties, criticism of the administration's incompetence by Republican senators, and a critique issued Monday by Bush's former Iraq administrator. Then he listed the evidence contradicting Cheney's associations of the Iraq war with 9/11: testimony from Secretary of State Powell and reports from the 9/11 commission and the CIA.

To this indictment, Edwards added two others. In Afghanistan, he blamed Bush for letting Osama Bin Laden escape Tora Bora to strike again. In Iran, he accused Cheney of opposing sanctions against "sworn enemies of the United States"—and an emerging nuclear threat—because Halliburton had business there. Together, the charges painted a picture of an administration that spent its ammunition on the wrong target, allowing more serious threats to flourish.

Edwards' assault took Cheney completely off his game. Cheney spent the first 15 minutes defending the administration, unable to deliver his prepared attacks on Kerry. He lost his cool and started to snap at Edwards, saying, "You probably weren't there to vote for that," and "You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate." Though Edwards was delivering the harsher blows, Cheney looked meaner. But the most important effect of Edwards' onslaught was to provoke three gaffes from the vice president.

One was minor but conspicuous. "I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer," Cheney told the younger man, scolding him for poor attendance. "I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight." It took the Kerry campaign less than two hours to send reporters a picture of Cheney standing next to Edwards three years ago. In 2000, the Bush-Cheney campaign and the press roasted Al Gore for claiming in a debate that he had been with another public official (James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency) when in fact he hadn't. Now Cheney has committed the same offense in reverse.

The other gaffes were more serious. "I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11," Cheney said in response to Edwards' initial salvo. Later, Cheney tried to deflect a CIA report, which, according to the New York Times, "says it is now not clear whether Mr. Hussein's government harbored members of a group led by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Cheney insisted, "A CIA spokesman was quoted in that story as saying they had not yet reached the bottom line, and there is still debate." On the first question, Cheney pitted himself against a long, videotaped record of him suggesting connections between Iraq and 9/11. On the second, he pitted himself against a clear trend of intelligence, of which further details are likely to be leaked or extracted as the public feud grows between Cheney and skeptics in intelligence agencies.

With the Republican Convention extending into September, never has a trailing ticket had so little time to fight its way back into the race. Democrats desperately needed to regain and maintain control of the election agenda. Kerry had to knock Bush back on his heels in the first debate so he could broaden the discussion to domestic policy. Edwards had to do the same to Cheney, ideally generating new story lines about the administration's difficulty with reality. It's like a ninth-inning rally. Kerry got the lead-off hit. Edwards singled him to third. How will it end? Pass the popcorn.

William Saletan is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.
Article URL: http://slate.msn.com/id/2107808/

Jeff Martinek Letter 10/06/04

Tuesday’s vice presidential debate pointed out the “stature gap” between a seasoned political insider and a boyish neophyte.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, it was George W. Bush who was shown up, not John Edwards. The “stature gap” touted by the cable news pundits was between Cheney and Bush: and it amounted to the difference between a confident, shameless liar and desperate, befuddled one.

Dick Cheney cast himself as a professor talking to a pupil. And I hope George Bush learned the lesson: “when you lie, my boy, lie boldly and often; no matter how outrageous and obvious the lie, never flinch or show a tinge of conscience.”

Cheney began with the mind-boggling assertion, delivered with his patented matter-of-factness, that he had “not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11.” Cheney has been saying exactly this for over 3 years.

Cheney claimed again that Kerry and Edwards had voted “for the war” and “to commit troops,” when in fact the Iraq resolution they voted for called for intensified diplomacy before going to war.

Cheney tried to paint Kerry as anti-military by citing a vote for miltary cuts that he himself had asked for and supported as Bush Sr.’s Secretary of Defense.

Cheney called Edwards’ charges about Halliburton a “smokescreen” and then claimed a fact-checking website would support him. He got the name of the website wrong, but the site he meant to cite supports Edwards’ main allegations!

Finally, Cheney claimed that Edwards was such a truant from his Senate duties that he never met him before the night of the debate. Within hours, the Democrats produced a video showing Cheney and Edwards shaking hands four years ago. At least three meetings have been confirmed so far.

Yes, George Bush has a lot to learn about lying with conviction.

Dick Cheney's head by Calvin Trillin

Dick Cheney's head

by Calvin Trillin

One mystery I've tried to disentangle:
Why Cheney's head is always at angle.
He tries to come on straight, and yet I can't
Help notice that his head is at a slant.
When Cheney's questioned on the Sunday shows,
The Voice of Reason is his favorite pose.
He drones in monotones. He never smiles---
Explaining why some suspects don't need trials,
Or why right now it simply stands to reason
That criticizing Bush amounts to treason,
Or which important precept it would spoil
To know who wrote our policy on oil,
Or why as CEO he wouldn't know
What Halliburton's books were meant to show.
And as he speaks I've kept a careful check
On when his head's held crooked on his neck.
The code is broken, after years of trying:
He only cocks his head when he is lying.

Elliott Denniston Letter 10/06/04

Dear Editor,

In the vice-presidential debate Tuesday night, John Edwards came out swinging; his weapon was the record of the Bush administration. He argued clearly and passionately that Mr. Cheney has been proven wrong by many sources, including those of his own administration, when he tries to make the case that there is a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9-11. He argued that the administration has seriously bungled the Iraq war in many ways--for example, by not providing body armor for our soldiers and by attempting to cut their combat pay! Mr. Cheney squirmed, laughed nervously, and came back at Mr. Edwards vehemently, but not with quite the assurance we used to see from him.

Like Mr. Bush in the first debate, Mr. Cheney appears not to know how to deal with someone who is not a "yes" man. After four years of near absolute power in which they have not wanted to hear a view that differs from their own, the President and Vice-President cannot handle someone who confronts them with their faults.

Sincerely,

Elliott Denniston
Webb City, MO

Joy Dworkin Letter 10/06/04

Dear Editor,

As I write this, the administration is expected to announce deployment of a new national missile defense system. The announcement may make Americans feel safer, but investigation reveals that deployment is a classic instance of "shoot, ready, aim." Kerry supported testing and development of the system, but the administration went ahead with full funding (30 billion dollars have been spent, and another 50 billion allocated). Experts within the military community have strongly argued for further tests. Philip Coyle, the top Pentagon weapons evaluator throughout the 1990’s, labels the system’s effectiveness "nil" (his word); others say the system has at most a one in five chance of intercepting a missile.

Deployment at this stage appears to be yet another example of this administration’s lack of forthrightness and forethought on issues of national security--e.g., lack of proper planning for winning the peace, misleading us about WMD’s, and inadvertently fermenting new terrorists. (In contrast, a Kerry bill introduced before 9/11 wisely attacks the money-laundering that enables terrorists; it has been praised and implemented by the administration.) The Bush/Cheney campaign consistently plays to American fears. But to be truly tough on terror, we also need smart and effective strategies.

Joy Dworkin

Mark Adams Letter 10/06/04

Dear Editor,

During and after the Vice Presidential debates the blatant lying and distortion of the truth struck me.

Cheney said during the debate he has never made the connection between Osama and Saddam. All I have ever heard Cheney say prior to the debate was
that there was a connection between Osama and Saddam.

The No Child Left Behind Act promoted by Cheney has been consistently underfunded by Bush for a total of $26 Billion to date and a failed implementation as stated by many education leaders.

Former Iraq administrator Bremer recently stated there were not enough troops in Iraq early on which led to looting and lawlessness that continues to escalate today. Dick Cheney said during the debate that he would do the exact same thing again.

On national security the consistent underfunding and lack of action on domestic security on the part of Cheney and Bush is not a comforting
thought.

On foreign policy the moderator forgot to mention the fact that foreign leaders would not help either president "if the current conditions continue". It was clearly obvious that Kerry/Edwards have a plan to change conditions in Iraq.

The Cheney voting record against military weapons systems, education, children and senior programs is a fact in the Congressional Record. Dick Cheney claimed to never have met John Edwards before the debate. The truth is that there are pictures of Cheney and Edwards standing shoulder to shoulder at a 2001 national prayer breakfast in addition to multiple previous meetings. After the debate Mrs. Edwards asked Dick Cheney about their previous meeting and Cheney said "oh yea" he did remember.

After all was said and done I would have to give the VP debate to Edwards with a large margin of honesty and sincerity.

Mark Adams
Neosho, MO

Dick Thompson Letter 10/06/04

Cable TV Shills

Having miserably lost the first presidential debate, President Bush hurriedly scrapped a planned address on medical liability reform to a Wilkes-Barre, PA, Republican gathering the following Wednesday, and announced a major address on foreign policy and the economy.

Falling for the bait, the major cable TV news networks carried Bush's speech live, in its entirety. Far from being a presidential address on serious matters, the presentation was a standard Bush stump speech, replete with innumerable half-truths, distortions and outright lies.

Each network, recognizing that it was airing a Bush commercial instead of a serious and substantive address on matters of state, could have returned to normal programming, as each has done in the past in similar circumstances.
In continuing to air this litany of lies, the cable TV networks showed themselves not to be providers of news, but apparatchiks in Bush's attempt to re-do the debate he so disastrously lost to Senator Kerry.

It is extraordinarily unfortunate that in the closing weeks of the presidential election debate, cable TV networks choose uncritical partisan airings of entire candidate stump speeches, instead of substantive reporting and analysis of actual occurrences, differences in candidate positions, and accuracy of candidate claims.

I await the outraged right-wing cries about "liberal media bias" over this cable TV promotion of Bush propaganda over campaign substance.

Dick Thompson

Bill Kumbier Letter 10/06/04

Dear Editor,

In the 1972 presidential election, the first I voted in, my candidate, George McGovern, was resoundingly defeated by Richard Nixon. The day after the election, the Michigan State News, our campus newspaper, printed an editorial page that was entirely black except for a small window in the center, in which appeared the words: “FOUR MORE YEARS.” That page hung as a sign of mourning for weeks on our dorm door.

Now, decades later, I’m more concerned than ever about the outcome of November’s election. During the vice-presidential debate, even Dick Cheney admitted that it is increasingly harder for Republicans and Democrats to work together in Washington. That is because, since Vietnam, from coast to coast our country—not just the Washington that Cheney knows so well—has never been so deeply divided. Americans who cherish a global vision have been stigmatized as sell-outs, willing to sacrifice American security. Thoughtful Americans who question Bush and Cheney’s hasty, sweeping “security” measures are instantly branded weak and unpatriotic. Those who oppose the unprovoked, unnecessary, wasteful war in Iraq, even though they value the sacrifices of our soldiers, are seen as inconsistent or just naive. Personally, I feel more threatened than ever, not just by terrorists but by other Americans whose stubborn, inflexible intolerance makes no room for alternative viewpoints. I am distressed by the inhumane abysses that have opened up between wealthy and poor, insured and uninsured, employed and jobless. Bush and Cheney frame the choices Americans face as “our way or the highway: vote for us or the terrorists have already won.” Let’s not forget that there are other options, that there are better ways, because, as John Edwards forcefully concluded, I don’t think we can take four more years of the same.

Sincerely,
William Kumbier

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Jeff Martinek Letter 10/05/04

Dear Editor:

George Bush tried to justify his disastrous decision to take his focus off hunting Al Qaeda and engage in an unnecessary invasion of Iraq by claiming that he and everyone else (including Senator Kerry) had been fooled by faulty intelligence.

But a long and scrupulously documented report in the 10/03 New York Times shows that the Bush administration not only ignored, but went out of its way to suppress, evidence that contradicted its dubious claims. The administration deliberately misled the Congress, our allies, and the American people.

The centerpiece of Bush’s case was the 60,000 aluminum tubes that Iraq tried to buy in 2001. The theory that these tubes were intended to be used to make nuclear bomb fuel was, as The Times says, “the creation of a low-level CIA analyst who got his facts, even the size of the tubes, wrong. Furthermore, The Times reports: “It was refuted within 24 hours by the Energy Department, which issued three papers debunking the idea over a four-month period in 2001, and by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

It was the responsibility of national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, to advise the President that the story was bunk. Instead of doing her job, Rice only helped to amplify the phony case by talking of a potential “mushroom cloud” attack emanating from Iraq. She claims that she had no idea that the “nuke tubes” theory had been shot down immediately. Her spokesman claimed this week that it was not her job to “referee disputes in the intelligence community.” But that’s EXACTLY what the national security advisor is supposed to do.

How many times does the Bush administration have to be caught lying and evading responsibility for its incompetence before the American public wises up and demands a regime change of its own?

Jeff Martinek
Joplin

Marie Cocco - John Kerry has read the book

John Kerry has read the book

Marie Cocco

Published in the Joplin Globe 10/5/04

WASHINGTON - It sure would be nice to have that sort of president again. The type who knows the things presidents are supposed to know, before they become president. A president with the ability to say, for example, that there are "some 600-plus tons of unsecured material" from the nuclear stockpiles of the former Soviet Union - and who thinks, by the way, that getting them under lock and key sooner rather than later is wise.

A president who remembers, and who can recount in detail, the terms that used to be in place for monitoring North Korea's emerging nuclear program - down to the cameras that were spying on it.

Can you remember a time when we had a president who answered a question about the Korean situation with an answer like this? "I want bilateral talks on all of the issues, from the Armistice of 1952 - the economic issues, the human-rights issues, the artillery-disposal issues, the DMZ issues, and the nuclear issues on the table."

We have come to expect our presidential candidates to talk to us in political CliffsNotes. Just the broad themes. Just enough to pass the most rudimentary test.

John Kerry has read the whole book. And he isn't afraid to say so. There is a reason the instant analysis of the first presidential debate between President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger has scored the match for Kerry. The TV talkers are saying Kerry looked at ease, that Bush at times stammered and seemed to shrink at the podium. That the president looked peeved. All true.

But isn't it also true that Kerry reminded us what presidents used to be like?
Schooled in history. Conversant with the facts. Capable of understanding that time did not begin on Sept. 11, 2001, but that the day is an enormous marker that should neither obliterate all that came before nor blind us to all other realities.

We used to have presidents who wrote thoughtful books on serious subjects before they wrote presidential memoirs. Kerry, treading carefully where Al Gore would have stumbled, pointed out that he had done so, that it concerned the dangers of loose nukes and that even a few years ago when he wrote it, the stuff was selling on the black market for $250 million a suitcase.
This is the type of thing that smart senators know. And so it might be said that Kerry's years in the cloakroom, a millstone in the campaign so far, finally became an asset. In the debate, he managed to summon the facts and promote his views without acquiring the air of intellectual condescension that undid Gore four years ago.

Kerry does not have a sure way of getting the nation's erstwhile allies to expose their own flesh and blood to the carnage of Iraq. But he does have a sure way of conveying a sense that he knows what he's talking about - even if, by his own admission, he doesn't always talk so well. He showed that glibness is not the only qualification for the Oval Office.

The Bush campaign - probably still ahead, but at least a bit off balance after the president's less-than-champion performance - is likely now to slash harder and deeper at Kerry's character. It will be interesting to see if it works as well from now on.

It is one thing to depict your opponent as an incoherent babbler before many Americans have seen and heard him. It is quite another now that Kerry has shown himself to be capable of making a straightforward argument and sticking to his rhetorical guns.

Americans may, in the end, reject Kerry's argument that Bush has botched the nation's foreign policy not only in Iraq, but around the world. We have, after all, been told for more than two years that Iraq is somehow related to 9/11, though it is not. We have been told it is a "central front in the war on terror" - a claim the president still repeats - though all evidence is that our own botched occupation is what opened this front.

We have been given so many CliffsNotes that distort and misrepresent the whole book that many of us would indeed be shocked to read the real thing. Kerry has, at last, demonstrated that knowledge is good. Especially in presidents.

Address correspondence to Marie Cocco, Washington Post Writers Group, Box 500, Washington, D.C. 20071.

Monday, October 04, 2004

George Soros - Why We Must Not Re-elect President Bush

Why We Must Not Re-elect President Bush
by George Soros


Prepared text of speech delivered September 28, 2004National Press ClubWashington, DC,

This is the most important election of my lifetime. I have never been heavily involved in partisan politics but these are not normal times. President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests and undermining American values. That is why I am sending you this message. I have been demonized by the Bush campaign but I hope you will give me a hearing.

President Bush ran on the platform of a "humble" foreign policy in 2000. If we re-elect him now, we endorse the Bush doctrine of preemptive action and the invasion of Iraq, and we will have to live with the consequences. As I shall try to show, we are facing a vicious circle of escalating violence with no end in sight. But if we repudiate the Bush policies at the polls, we shall have a better chance to regain the respect and support of the world and to break the vicious circle.

I grew up in Hungary, lived through fascism and the Holocaust, and then had a foretaste of communism. I learned at an early age how important it is what kind of government prevails. I chose America as my home because I value freedom and democracy, civil liberties and an open society.

When I had made more money than I needed for myself and my family, I set up a foundation to promote the values and principles of a free and open society. I started in South Africa in 1979 and established a foundation in my native country, Hungary, in 1984 when it was still under communist rule. China, Poland and the Soviet Union followed in 1987. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I established foundations in practically all the countries of the former Soviet empire and later in other parts of the world and in the United States. These foundations today spend about 450 million dollars a year to promote democracy and open society around the world.

When George W. Bush was elected president, and particularly after September 11, I saw that the values and principles of open society needed to be defended at home. September 11 led to a suspension of the critical process so essential to a democracy - a full and fair discussion of the issues. President Bush silenced all criticism by calling it unpatriotic. When he said that "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," I heard alarm bells ringing. I am afraid that he is leading us in a very dangerous direction. We are losing the values that have made America great.

The destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center was such a horrendous event that it required a strong response. But the President committed a fundamental error in thinking: the fact that the terrorists are manifestly evil does not make whatever counter-actions we take automatically good. What we do to combat terrorism may also be wrong. Recognizing that we may be wrong is the foundation of an open society. President Bush admits no doubt and does not base his decisions on a careful weighing of reality. For 18 months after 9/11 he managed to suppress all dissent. That is how he could lead the nation so far in the wrong direction.

President Bush inadvertently played right into the hands of bin Laden. The invasion of Afghanistan was justified: that was where bin Laden lived and al Qaeda had its training camps. The invasion of Iraq was not similarly justified. It was President Bush's unintended gift to bin Laden.

War and occupation create innocent victims. We count the body bags of American soldiers; there have been more than 1000 in Iraq. The rest of the world also looks at the Iraqis who get killed daily. There have been 20 times more. Some were trying to kill our soldiers; far too many were totally innocent, including many women and children. Every innocent death helps the terrorists' cause by stirring anger against America and bringing them potential recruits.
Immediately after 9/11 there was a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy for us worldwide. It has given way to an equally widespread resentment. There are many more people willing to risk their lives to kill Americans than there were on September 11 and our security, far from improving as President Bush claims, is deteriorating. I am afraid that we have entered a vicious circle of escalating violence where our fears and their rage feed on each other. It is not a process that is likely to end any time soon. If we re-elect President Bush we are telling the world that we approve his policies - and we shall be at war for a long time to come.

I realize that what I am saying is bound to be unpopular. We are in the grip of a collective misconception induced by the trauma of 9/11, and fostered by the Bush administration. No politician could say it and hope to get elected. That is why I feel obliged to speak out. There is a widespread belief that President Bush is making us safe. The opposite is true. President Bush failed to finish off bin Laden when he was cornered in Afghanistan because he was gearing up to attack Iraq. And the invasion of Iraq bred more people willing to risk their lives against Americans than we are able to kill - generating the vicious circle I am talking about.

President Bush likes to insist that the terrorists hate us for what we are - a freedom loving people - not what we do. Well, he is wrong on that. He also claims that the torture scenes at Abu Graib prison were the work of a few bad apples. He is wrong on that too. They were part of a system of dealing with detainees put in place by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and our troops in Iraq are paying the price.

How could President Bush convince people that he is good for our security, better than John Kerry? By building on the fears generated by the collapse of the twin towers and fostering a sense of danger. At a time of peril, people rally around the flag and President Bush has exploited this. His campaign is based on the assumption that people do not really care about the truth and they will believe practically anything if it is repeated often enough, particularly by a President at a time of war. There must be something wrong with us if we fall for it. For instance, some 40% of the people still believe that Saddam Hussein was connected with 9/11 - although it is now definitely established by the 9/11 Commission, set up by the President and chaired by a Republican, that there was no connection. I want to shout from the roof tops: "Wake up America. Don't you realize that we are being misled?"

President Bush has used 9/11 to further his own agenda which has very little to do with fighting terrorism. There was an influential group within the Bush administration led by Vice President Dick Cheney that was itching to invade Iraq long before 9/11. The terrorist attack gave them their chance. If you need a tangible proof why President Bush does not deserve to be re-elected, consider Iraq.

The war in Iraq was misconceived from start to finish -- if it has a finish. It is a war of choice, not necessity, in spite of what President Bush says. The arms inspections and sanctions were working. In response to American pressure, the United Nations had finally agreed on a strong stand. As long as the inspectors were on the ground, Saddam Hussein could not possibly pose a threat to our security. We could have declared victory but President Bush insisted on going to war.

We went to war on false pretences. The real reasons for going into Iraq have not been revealed to this day. The weapons of mass destruction could not be found, and the connection with al Qaeda could not be established. President Bush then claimed that we went to war to liberate the people of Iraq. All my experience in fostering democracy and open society has taught me that democracy cannot be imposed by military means. And, Iraq would be the last place I would chose for an experiment in introducing democracy - as the current chaos demonstrates.
Of course, Saddam was a tyrant, and of course Iraqis - and the rest of the world - can rejoice to be rid of him. But Iraqis now hate the American occupation. We stood idly by while Baghdad was ransacked. As the occupying power, we had an obligation to maintain law and order, but we failed to live up to it. If we had cared about the people of Iraq we should have had more troops available for the occupation than we needed for the invasion. We should have provided protection not only for the oil ministry but also the other ministries, museums and hospitals. Baghdad and the country's other cities were destroyed after we occupied them. When we encountered resistance, we employed methods that alienated and humiliated the population. The way we invaded homes, and the way we treated prisoners generated resentment and rage. Public opinion condemns us worldwide.

The number of flipflops and missteps committed by the Bush administration in Iraq far exceeds anything John Kerry can be accused of. First we dissolved the Iraqi army, then we tried to reconstitute it. First we tried to eliminate the Baathists, then we turned to them for help. First we installed General Jay Garner to run the country, then we gave it to Paul Bremer and when the insurgency became intractable, we installed an Iraqi government. The man we chose was a protégé of the CIA with the reputation of a strong man - a far cry from democracy. First we attacked Falluja over the objections of the Marine commander on the ground, then pulled them out when the assault was half-way through, again over his objections. "Once you commit, you got to stay committed," he said publicly. More recently, we started bombing Falluja again.
The Bush campaign is trying to put a favorable spin on it, but the situation in Iraq is dire. Much of the Western part of the country has been ceded to the insurgents. Even the so-called Green Zone (a small enclave in the center of Baghdad where Americans live and work) is subject to mortar attacks. The prospects of holding free and fair elections in January are fast receding and civil war looms. President Bush received a somber intelligence evaluation in July but he has kept it under wraps and failed to level with the electorate.
Bush's war in Iraq has done untold damage to the United States. It has impaired our military power and undermined the morale of our armed forces. Before the invasion of Iraq, we could project overwhelming power in any part of the world. We cannot do so any more because we are bogged down in Iraq. Afghanistan is slipping from our control. North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and other countries are pursuing nuclear programs with renewed vigor and many other problems remain unattended.

By invading Iraq without a second UN resolution, we violated international law. By mistreating and even torturing prisoners, we violated the Geneva conventions. President Bush has boasted that we do not need a permission slip from the international community, but our actions have endangered our security - particularly the security of our troops.

Our troops were trained to project overwhelming power. They were not trained for occupation duties. Having to fight an insurgency saps their morale. Many of our troops return from Iraq with severe trauma and other psychological disorders. Sadly, many are also physically injured. After Iraq, it will be difficult to recruit people for the armed forces and we may have to resort to conscription.

There are many other policies for which the Bush administration can be criticized but none are as important as Iraq. Iraq has cost us nearly 200 billion dollars -- an enormous sum. It could have been used much better elsewhere. The costs are going to mount because it was much easier to get into Iraq than it will be to get out of there. President Bush has been taunting John Kerry to explain how he would do things differently in Iraq. John Kerry has responded that he would have done everything differently and he would be in a better position to extricate us than the man who got us in there. But it won't be easy for him either, because we are caught in a quagmire.

It is a quagmire that many predicted. I predicted it in my book, The Bubble of American Supremacy. I was not alone: top military and diplomatic experts desperately warned the President not to invade Iraq. But he ignored their experienced advice. He suppressed the critical process. The discussion about Iraq remains stilted even during this presidential campaign because of the notion that any criticism of our Commander-in-Chief puts our troops at risk. But this is Bush's war, and he ought to be held responsible for it. It's the wrong war, fought the wrong way. Step back for a moment from the cacophony of the election campaign and reflect: who got us into this mess? In spite of his Texas swagger, George W. Bush does not qualify to serve as our Commander-in-Chief.
There is a lot more to be said on the subject and I have said it in my book, The Bubble of American Supremacy, now available in paperback. I hope you will read it. You can download the chapter on the Iraqi quagmire free from www.georgesoros.com

If you find my arguments worth considering, please share this message with your friends.

I would welcome your comments at georgesoros.com . I am eager to engage in a critical discussion because the stakes are so high.

Two Faces. One Public, One Private; One Phony, One Real

From a Blogger called Digby
http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2004_10_03_digbysblog_archive.html#109686081397041799

Two Faces. One Public, One Private. One Phony, One Real.

Over the last week or so we have seen an edgy, enigmatic black and white image of George W. Bush appear on web-sites and blogs. At first people thought that sites had been hacked, as Eschaton and Kos and Democratic Underground spontaneously erupted with the black and white figure only to have it disappear and randomly return. Within days it linked to a mysterious DNC web-site with cryptic material that only slowly came into focus.

Clearly something was up. This image is disconcerting and it evokes strong reactions because it symbolizes the cognitive dissonance so many of us have been living with for the last four years as we’ve watched the man who lost the election but won the office drive us to distraction with the contradictions of his character. And nothing has been more frustrating than the fact that so many in the media and in the public at large seemed to see something entirely different than we did.

I believe that this happened because after 9/11, the media cast Bush in the role of strong, resolute leader, perhaps because the nation needed him to be that, at least for a little while. And the people gratefully laid that mantle on him and he took it because the office demanded no less. The narrative of the nation at war required a warrior leader and George W. Bush was all we had. Karl Rove and others understood that they could use this veil to soothe the American people and flatter the president to take actions that no prudent, thoughtful leader would have taken after our initial successes in Afghanistan. This “man with the bullhorn” image of Bush crystallized in the minds of many Americans and has not been revisited until now.

That phony image took us from a sense of national unity to a misguided war with Iraq; it excused his failure to effectively manage the economy and fomented partisan warfare by portraying dissent as unpatriotic; it allowed people to overlook his obvious failure to take the threat of al Qaeda seriously before 9/11 (and even after) and created a hagiography based on wishful thinking and emotional need rather than any realistic appraisal of his leadership.

His handlers wisely kept him under wraps, allowing him face time on television only in the company of world leaders or to give stirring speeches written by his gifted speechwriter, Mark Gerson. He rarely held press conferences and when he took questions, he was aggressively unresponsive, choosing instead to offer canned sound bites and slogans and daring the press corps to call him on it. Few did. The mask stayed in place and he remained a symbol instead of a president --- the symbol of American strength, resilience and fortitude. He was, in many people’s minds, the president they wished they had.

On Thursday night sixty-one million people watched George W. Bush for the first time since 9/11 not as that symbol, but as a man. And for those who had not reassessed their belief in his personal leadership since 9/11, it was quite a shock. Their strong leader was inarticulate, arrogant, confused and immature. They must be wondering who that man was.

The truth is that since George W. Bush entered politics he has always had two faces. In fact, virtually everything you know about his public persona is the opposite of the real person.

He claims to be a compassionate, caring man, often admonishing people to "love your neighbor like you loved to be loved yourself." Yet, going all the way back to Yale, he is quoted as saying he disapproved of his fellow students as "people who felt guilty about their lot in life because others were suffering." His business school professor remembers him saying that poor people are poor because they are lazy. This from a man who was born rich into one of America's leading families and relied on those connections for everything he ever achieved.

He lectures on responsibility, saying that he's going to end the era of "if it feels good do it" and yet he failed to live up to his responsibility as a young man in the crucible of his generation, the Vietnam war. In fact, if it felt good, he did it and did it with relish --- for forty years of his fifty eight year life. He has never fully owned up to what he did during those years spent in excess and hedonism, relying on a convenient claim of being “born again” to expiate him of his sins. Would that everyone had it so easy.

He ostentatiously calls himself a committed Christian and yet he rarely attends church unless it’s a campaign stop or a national occasion. The man who claims that Christ is his favorite political philosopher famously and cruelly mocked a condemned prisoner begging for her life. He portrays himself as a man of rectitude yet he pumped his fist and said "feels good!" in the moment before he announced that the Iraq war had begun. (One would have thought that if there was ever a time to utter a prayer it was then.) How many funerals of the fallen has he attended? How many widows has he personally comforted?

He portrays himself as a salt of the earth "hard working" rancher, clearing brush on his land in an artfully sweaty Calvin Klein-style t-shirt. Yet in the first 8 months of his presidency leading up to 9/11, he spent 42% of his time on vacation. His "ranching" didn't begin until he bought his million dollar property just before he ran for president in 1999. He has lived in suburbs and cities since a brief period in his childhood in the 50’s, when he lived in the medium sized boom town of Midland before going to Andover.

He actively promotes the notion that he is a man of action yet in the single most important moment of his life he froze in front of school kids, continuing on with a script prepared before the national psyche was blown to bits. He didn’t take charge. He didn’t react. He was paralyzed at the moment of the nation’s worst peril.

He claims to be a strong leader and yet he is skillfully manipulated by his staff, who learned early that the only thing they needed to do to convince him of the rightness of their recommended course was to flatter him by saying it was the "brave" or "bold" thing to do. His self-image as a resolute leader is actually a lack of self confidence that is ripe for exploitation by competing advisors who use it to convince this him to do their bidding. This explains why he seems to believe that he is acting with resolve when he has just affected an abrupt about-face. His advisors had persuaded him to change course simply by telling him he was being resolute.

George W. Bush is a man with two faces--- a public image of manly strength and a private reality of childish weakness. His verbal miscues and malapropisms are the natural consequence of a man struggling with internal contradictions and a lack of self-knowledge. He can’t keep track of what he is supposed to think and say in public.

There is no doubt that whether it's a cowboy hat or a crotch hugging flightsuit , George W. Bush enjoys wearing the mantle of American archetypal warriors. But when he goes behind the curtain and sheds the costume, a flinty, thin-skinned, immature man who has never taken responsibility for his mistakes emerges. The strong compassionate leader is revealed as a flimsy paper tiger.

On Thursday night, the president forgot himself. After years of being protected from anyone who doesn't flatter and cajole, he let his mask slip when confronted with someone who didn't fear his childish retribution or need anything from him. Many members of the public got a good sharp look at him for the first time in two years and they were stunned. Like that black and white image, the dichotomy of the real Bush vs. the phony Bush is profoundly discomfiting.

Luckily for America and the world, a fully synthesized, mature man stood on the other side of that stage ready to assume the mantle of leadership, not as a theatrical costume but as an adult responsibility for which he is prepared by a lifetime of service, study and dedication. I would imagine that many voters felt a strong sense of relief that he was there.

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Bush Errs in Ceding The Future

Bush errs in ceding the future

By Thomas Oliphant, Boston Globe Columnist October 3, 2004

CORAL GABLES, Fla. BEHIND THE theatrics, the style points, and the appearances lies the key to the first Bush-Kerry debate, and therefore the key to the others still to come: the future. Yes, the president was petulant. Yes, he even delivered an Al Gore-style sigh. Yes, he was tongue-tied and repeated himself all evening as he gradually ran out of mental and physical gas against a more forceful John Kerry.

The White House is already hard at work making sure those off-putting displays of presidential arrogance are not seen again. Those kinds of atmospheric mistakes are the easiest to fix.

What will be harder to fix is Bush's campaign preoccupation with Kerry and his difficulty projecting ahead. The result is that he is at risk of not only arguing that the present is satisfactory but of leaving the issue of the future blank.
The weakness showed in the debate on foreign policy, with Bush failing to capitalize on his strongest suit; it will be even more obvious as the debates turn to domestic policy subjects.

Consider, for example, homeland security, where inadequacy is the order of the day more than three years after the 9/11 attacks.

"We're doing everything we can at home," said Bush, taking the odd position of satisfaction in an area where dissatisfaction is the wise policy, but also revealing the complete absence of any plans to improve domestic preparedness.
Kerry offered a completely opposite approach -- dissatisfaction plus a plan. The government, he said, is cutting aid to state and local governments for the hiring of police officers and firefighters (the first responders of antiterrorism) at the same time it is sending a half-billion dollars to Iraq for the same purposes.
When Bush celebrated the reformation of the FBI into primarily a counter-terrorism agency, Kerry was ready to wonder why a lack of staff has produced a backlog of 100,000 hours of covert wiretaps of potential terrorists.

So much for the present, where Kerry put Bush on the defensive in an area where he is supposed to be dominant. For the future, Kerry could not have been more detailed -- a doubling of Special Forces personnel for covert operations abroad, an acceleration of the shoring up of bridges and tunnels, a doubling of the inspection rates of ship containers, tougher protections at chemical and nuclear power plants, and a tripling of the pace of securing "loose" weapons of the former Soviet Union.

Bush literally had nothing to say about the homeland security future, save a grumpy line about how much all of Kerry's ideas were going to cost, which only gave the senator a chance to note that the president had preferred a tax cut for wealthy individuals over funds for fighting terrorism.

The same thing happened on Iraq. Bush is transfixed by a conviction that Kerry's positions on the war cannot be arranged in a manner that makes sense. The shouting match over flip-flopping has entertained the media for months, but it was always vulnerable to a high-profile moment like the first debate. As Kerry put it, it is one thing to make mistakes articulating your views on the conflict, but quite another to make policy mistakes and then be too stubborn to face new realities.

That was a mere segue to the future, where Kerry was once again detailed and Bush was simply missing. Kerry was prepared with his agenda: summits to engage missing countries from Europe and Middle East, a new deal with a more active United Nations, isolation of extremists within the world of Islam, and a faster pace of security training for Iraqis.

By leaving the future to Kerry, Bush left himself stubbornly defending a status quo that any American with a television set can see is chaotic with no end in sight. Bush took refuge in his memorized refrains: It's hard work; and we're making progress; and Kerry is a threat because he sends mixed messages to friend and foe alike.

The danger in a Kerry fixation is that Kerry won't fit the Bush campaign portrait of him. The fact that Bush is silent about the future leaves him open to the senator's observation that Bush is only offering a four-word agenda -- more of the same.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with next month's election result. In the debate phase of a campaign, the first meeting is indeed pivotal, but its impact is either enhanced or dissipated by the ones that follow, including a John Edwards-Dick Cheney meeting on Tuesday whose profile just got raised considerably by what happened here.

We in the media love to do drama criticism, and we really get excited by attacks and counterattacks. However, voters often look for more, and Bush had better make sure that he does not talk about the economy and healthcare the way he just did about homeland security and Iraq.

Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is oliphant@globe.com.
© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Bill Kumbier Letter 10/04/04

Dear Editor,

For many voters in the four-state area, the main thing to decide in choosing a presidential candidate is whether the candidate’s moral character and stance match their own. I would encourage undecided Missouri voters who are concerned with the presidential candidates’ morality to think a little more broadly about what constitutes a “moral” action or policy.

Is it moral to stand by and watch millions more descend into poverty, as recent U. S. Census Bureau figures have shown, while awarding the wealthy with over $400 billion in tax cuts? Is it moral and just for the wealthiest 1% of Americans to get more than $96,000 in tax relief while the middle class saves almost nothing? Is it moral to burden future generations of Americans with a deficit that will take years to eliminate? Is it moral to continue to allow almost 20% of our population to try to survive without adequate health insurance and so indirectly contribute to the premature deaths of Americans who do not have access to capable, timely health care? Is it moral to initiate an unnecessary war that so far has cost the lives of over 1,000 Americans and an estimated 10,000 Iraqis, a war that has provoked yet more atrocities and shattered the lives of American and Iraqi families?

I appreciate the value that Missourians put on morality, but morality cannot be separated from social justice and a basic commitment to human rights. I believe Senator Kerry will come far closer than President Bush has to realizing those ideals. If Republicans claim that President Bush has done or will do that, then I respond, as we say in Missouri, “Show me!”

Sincerely,
William Kumbier

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Garrison Keillor - We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk?
By Garrison Keillor

August 26, 2004

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy—the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the “end of innocence,” or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion, now in its 25th year on the air. This adapted excerpted from Keillor’s new book, Homegrown Democrat (© 2004) is reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

E.L. Doctorow The Unfeeling President

The Unfeeling President

By E.L. Doctorow

I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the weapons of mass destruction he can't seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.

He does not mourn. He doesn't understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.

They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life . . . they come to his desk as a political liability, which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that, rather than controlling terrorism, his war in Iraq has licensed it. So he never mourns for the dead and crippled youngsters who have fought this war of his choice.

He wanted to go to war and he did. He had not the mind to perceive the costs of war, or to listen to those who knew those costs. He did not understand that you do not go to war when it is one of the options but when it is the only option; you go not because you want to but because you have to.

Yet this president knew it would be difficult for Americans not to cheer the overthrow of a foreign dictator. He knew that much. This president and his supporters would seem to have a mind for only one thing -- to take power, to remain in power, and to use that power for the sake of themselves and their friends.

A war will do that as well as anything. You become a wartime leader. The country gets behind you. Dissent becomes inappropriate. And so he does not drop to his knees, he is not contrite, he does not sit in the church with the grieving parents and wives and children. He is the president who does not feel. He does not feel for the families of the dead, he does not feel for the 35 million of us who live in poverty, he does not feel for the 40 percent who cannot afford health insurance, he does not feel for the miners whose lungs are turning black or for the working people he has deprived of the chance to work overtime at time-and-a-half to pay their bills - it is amazing for how many people in this country this president does not feel.

But he will dissemble feeling. He will say in all sincerity he is relieving the wealthiest 1 percent of the population of their tax burden for the sake of the rest of us, and that he is polluting the air we breathe for the sake of our economy, and that he is decreasing the quality of air in coal mines to save the coal miners' jobs, and that he is depriving workers of their time-and-a-half benefits for overtime because this is actually a way to honor them by raising them into the professional class.

And this litany of lies he will versify with reverences for God and the flag and democracy, when just what he and his party are doing to our democracy is choking the life out of it.

But there is one more terribly sad thing about all of this. I remember the millions of people here and around the world who marched against the war. It was extraordinary, that spontaneous aroused oversoul of alarm and protest that transcended national borders. Why did it happen? After all, this was not the only war anyone had ever seen coming. There are little wars all over he world most of the time.

But the cry of protest was the appalled understanding of millions of people that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future, using its extraordinary power and standing not to advance the ideal of a concordance of civilizations but to endorse the kind of tribal combat that originated with the Neanderthals, a people, now extinct, who could imagine ensuring their survival by no other means than pre-emptive war.

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

The novelist E.L. Doctorow has a house in Sag Harbor.