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)

Friday, October 15, 2004

Jonathan Chait - George Bush, Tax Hiker

George Bush, Tax Hiker

Kerry raised taxes 98 times over 20 years? That's nothing. Bush is about to do the same 63 times in a single day.

October 15, 2004

"He voted 98 times to raise taxes. I mean, these aren't make-up figures."
— George W. Bush

If there's a single piece of data President Bush wants to bring to your attention, it's that John Kerry, during his 20 years in the Senate, voted to raise taxes 98 times. Bush repeats this often, usually in a tone of incredulity. But Kerry is a piker. When Bush signs the big corporate tax bill passed this week by the Republican Congress, he will be approving 63 different tax increases with a single stroke of the pen.

Revenue provision B 8, for example — "Disallowance of certain partnership loss transfers with partner loss limits for transfer of interest in electing investment partnerships" — might not be great fodder for a Kerry campaign commercial, but a tax increase it most definitely is.

You may be thinking, "Wait. I thought that bill was a huge giveaway of tax cuts to special interests." And you're right — it is. The point is that any tax bill, even a big giveaway, is going to be a rococo combination of tax increases and decreases. That's one reason Bush's "98 tax increases" jab at Kerry is so dishonest.

Just last spring, Bush was claiming Kerry had voted for higher taxes 350 times. That number has now been scaled back to 98. In fact, depending on how you define it, you can come up with almost any number you want.

The 350 included different tax increases in the same bill. Today's 98 figure avoids that trick, but still counts each of the many procedural votes on any bill as a separate hike.

What precisely is the import of Kerry's 98 tax increases supposed to be?

Scanning through newspaper articles and television transcripts, I have yet to find a member of the Bush campaign explain the meaning of this number they keep repeating. The closest thing I could find was a line from Bush himself. I will reprint here his argument in toto, with all relevant context included: "He's voted in the United States Senate to increase taxes 98 times. That's a lot." So there you have it.

The Bush campaign gleefully sends out an annotated list of all 98 votes. You know, just in case you forgot his "1993 Vote To Raise Taxes By $790 Million By Taxing Diesel Fuel Used By Barges." Or his "1987 Vote To Increase Taxes by $300 Million on Poultry Industry and Cattle Feeding Companies." Or the fact that "In 1985, Kerry Voted To Limit Amount of Farm Losses That Could Be Deducted From Non-Farm Income." I doubt diesel barge owners, the poultry industry or extremely unprofitable part-time farmers need reminding.

One of the tricks of the methodology is that it not only counts even tiny or undeniably beneficent tax hikes, it counts any vote that could conceivably lead to higher taxes. That includes the procedural votes — cloture votes, motions to proceed and other arcane hurdles — often required to pass a single tax hike.

Kerry's support for Bill Clinton's 1993 tax hike alone accounted for 16 of the 98 votes. Another 43 were merely Kerry approving a broad goal to reduce the deficit to a given level. Three more of Kerry's votes came from his opposition to imposing a requirement that tax hikes receive a three-fifths supermajority.

If Republicans really believe in the strategy of saddling their opponents with huge numbers of anti-tax-cut votes, they could start holding votes on tax cuts, or tax cut-related procedural motions, multiple times a day, every day. (George P. Bush, in 2044: "My opponent voted to increase your taxes 3 million times! That's a lot.")

But let us take the 98 votes at face value. Does this prove Bush's contention that Kerry sits far outside the mainstream? You can't answer that without some basis of comparison. In 1992, George H.W. Bush painted Bill Clinton as a hopeless liberal, the primary evidence for this claim being the fact that Clinton allegedly raised taxes 128 times as governor of Arkansas. So that would make Kerry, with his 98 tax hikes, some … let's see, 23% less liberal than Clinton, who is viewed (outside conservative circles) as a moderate.

Meanwhile, Kerry's campaign has a detailed list of 642 Kerry votes to reduce taxes. (Maybe Bush should be painting Kerry as a crazed tax-cutting zealot totally unconcerned about fiscal responsibility.)

Meanwhile, Dick Cheney as a member of Congress from Wyoming voted to raise taxes 144 times. If 98 tax-hike votes make Kerry a far-out liberal, than Cheney would have to be placed somewhere in the ideological vicinity of Che Guevara.

If Bush had merely said that Kerry was more likely to raise your taxes, at least the accusation would be meaningful and plausible. After all, Kerry did vote for the last two major tax increases, in 1990 and 1993, and he openly plans to restore the top tax bracket to where it stood under Clinton.

But the Bush philosophy seems to be: Why level an honest accusation when a dishonest one is nearer to hand?

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times


Jeff Martinek Letter - 10/15/04

Dear Editor:

George Bush proclaimed in the second presidential debate that when it comes to a politician’s record, “you can run, but you can't hide.”

How true. Elections involving an incumbent come down eventually to a referendum on his or her performance. If it’s perceived as a success, the incumbent runs on it; if not, the incumbent hides from it.

George Bush is running away from his record and trying to hide. His handlers are all-too-aware that his inability to break the 50% support level translates into a losing hand.

That is why the Bush machine used all of its money and influence to take the focus off the Bush record and put it onto John Kerry’s character. They created a caricature of a lily-livered, verbose flip-flopper which was based on little more than dirty tricks, name-calling, and grotesque distortions of Kerry’s words and positions. This Orwellian strategy of character assassination reached its peak when Republicans referred to Kerry’s decorated Vietnam service as “a four month vacation” and Dick Cheney implied that Kerry would hand over the American military to Paris.

Bush could run but he couldn’t hide from the truth, which came in the form of the debates----a chance to see both men on stage together, without the advisors, speech-writers, and hand-picked crowds of supporters that had been protecting Bush. Under these conditions, Bush showed himself to be out of touch, uninformed and emotionally unstable.

How fitting that his strategy of hiding was most in evidence in the last debate, when Bush repeatedly ducked questions on the economy by changing the subject to education and when he weakly claimed that he could not get the Republican-controlled Congress to listen to him on the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban.

He tried to run, but he couldn’t hide.

Jeff Martinek

Richard Cohen - The President Vanishes

From The President Vanishes

By Richard Cohen

Friday, October 15, 2004; Page A23

For months now I've dropped bets on the presidential election like Hansel (of "Hansel and Gretel") dropped pebbles. For honor and money, I've wagered on George Bush, not because I wanted him to win but rather because I thought he would. Now I'm changing my mind. It's not the tightening polls that have done it -- I knew that would happen -- but rather something I could not have predicted. The president is missing.

The president I have in mind is the funny, good-natured regular guy I once saw on the campaign trail -- a man of surprisingly quick wit and just plain likeability. I contrasted this man to John Kerry, who is as light and as funny as a mud wall, and I thought, "There goes the election."

Where it has mattered most -- the three debates -- Bush has been wooden, ill at ease and downright spooky. He makes bad jokes, cackles at them in the manner of a cinematic serial killer and has lacked the warmth that he not only once had but that I thought would compensate for a disastrous presidency and give him a second -- God help us -- term. In short, he could take over the Bates Motel in an instant.

Just what has happened to Bush I shall get to in an instant. Right now I want to quote that newest font of all political wisdom, Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show," who said at a New Yorker-sponsored breakfast yesterday morning that he had seen at least two Bushes in recent days: the "angry Bush from the second debate" and a thickly muddled one.

Stewart was kidding, but all jokes must be based on truth or else they are not funny. The truth in this case was that Bush has been inconsistent -- definitely not the reliably unswerving man we prefer as our country's steward.

A bit later, Stewart made a serious remark that goes to the heart of what has been Bush's problem. He referred to the president's nonexistent "learning curve," which is indeed troubling. This is a man who is a latter-day Bourbon. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand said of them that "they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing." I'm not too sure of the forgetting, but when it comes to learning, Bush has shown little growth. In fact, he has ridiculously maintained otherwise.

Historians may someday say that the beginning of the end for Bush came last April when Time magazine's John Dickerson asked the president at a televised news conference, "What would your biggest mistake be . . . and what lessons have you learned from it?" Bush, who said the question took him by surprise, said he could not come up with one.

Essentially the same question was asked by Linda Grabel, an ordinary voter, at the St. Louis debate. This time, it could not have been a surprise. But this time, too, Bush could offer not a single substantive example. Aside from making "some mistakes in appointing people," everything had gone swimmingly.

This was a preposterous, dishonest answer. It was either the response of someone who is vastly deluded or sticking to a political strategy conceived by people who do not value truth. Either way, it harkens back to that "learning curve" Stewart mentioned and it demolishes Bush's pose as a regular guy, someone approachable -- someone you could like. It is not possible to like someone who cannot admit a mistake. Iraq is the crazy aunt in the attic that Bush will not acknowledge. When she throws the furniture, Bush says you're just hearing things. Yeah, sure.

Had Bush admitted that things went wrong with Iraq, he could have been himself. But he was out there three times telling us what we know is not true. This was Kerry's problem when he was defending his vote in favor of a war that he never, in his gut, thought was a good idea. When he finally was able to say how he really felt, his campaign took off. The man settled into his own skin. He had the better argument. The camera picked it up.

Bush, though, has been hobbled by artifice. The natural has been turned into just another synthetic pol. His only good moments came when he talked about his faith and his family, tapping into a wellspring of emotional truth. Other than that, he was only rarely the politician he used to be -- crushed, not empowered by incumbency. If I could, I'd wager differently. The man I bet on no longer exists.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Detroit Free Press - John Kerry Would Offer More Effective Leadership

Endorsement: On Iraq, national security, the economy and more, John Kerry would offer more effective leadership

Detroit Free Press

Four years ago, George W. Bush promised America he was "a uniter, not a divider." Today, the nation is more divided in more ways than it has been since the turbulent 1960s. The president has failed, or refused, to pursue consensus on America's problems and instigated solutions that have produced results ranging from mixed to disastrous.

As president, Bush has plunged America into a costly war under false premises, alienated nations with whom America should be mapping a global strategy against terrorism, managed the most secretive administration in modern times, run up huge budget deficits, deceived Congress on the cost of a Medicare drug plan, and effectively denied women around the world access to information about reproductive health.

Since courageously uniting and rallying the nation following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Bush has become a polarizing figure at home and abroad. He, at least, is sufficiently resolute in his course and convictions that he doesn't appeared troubled by that. But he ought to be. Nobody is right about everything all the time.

The American people will always be grateful to George W. Bush for his leadership after 9/11. But it is not the best leadership for America at this point in history.

A new direction
The Free Press believes the nation will be better served by electing DEMOCRAT JOHN KERRY as the next president of these United States, and we emphasize united.

America needs a new direction, and that can begin only with new leadership. Kerry is not a perfect candidate, but he is a promising alternative to things as they are. The Massachusetts senator is certainly more thoughtful than Bush, more open to new ideas and more sensitive to the issues confronting the middle and working classes. He is as resolute as the incumbent about fighting terrorism but more willing to change strategies that are not effective.

Kerry would refocus American military and diplomatic efforts on fighting terrorism, a bigger threat to freedom here and around the world than Saddam Hussein ever was. He also offers a timetable to get American forces out of Iraq, as opposed to the Bush administration's open-ended commitment. Under the Kerry plan, the people of Iraq would know that they cannot depend indefinitely on a U.S. military presence and must begin taking more control over their own situation.

No nation in the world should want Iraq to become what Kerry calls "a failed state that inevitably would become a haven for terrorists and a destabilizing force" in the Middle East. Bush's declaration to the contrary, that is the path Iraq is now on. Yet few other nations are willing to help the United States and its small coalition purge Iraq of its violent radicals. Why? They are wary of America's current leadership and its with-us-or-against-us attitude.

That must change. Iraq is but one among an array of problems that cry out for international solutions and U.S. leadership. Many of them, such as AIDS, are or will become national security issues for America if they are not addressed on a multilateral basis.

Ideas for growth
On the home front, the Bush administration has not offered an effective strategy to address the loss of manufacturing jobs, which has been felt so hard in places such as Michigan. While the national economy has been sputtering back to life in recent months, hundreds of thousands of good-paying factory jobs with benefits are gone forever, lost to technology, efficiency and low-cost overseas labor. Bush is correct that the ultimate answer to this problem lies in a better-educated work force. But he has offered nothing for the transition, including support for extended unemployment benefits.
Kerry has a plan to reward businesses for job creation with tax credits. He also would repeal Bush tax cuts that so heavily benefited the wealthiest Americans in favor of tax cuts for the middle class -- the people whose income and spending actually drive the economy. Kerry's health care plan would make coverage available to 95 percent of America's 46 million uninsured, an approach far more comprehensive than Bush plans that rely heavily on market forces.

Bush deserves credit for bringing accountability front and center in education. But new federal requirements under the landmark No Child Left Behind law have not come with adequate federal resources to implement them. Nor has Bush addressed the issue of skyrocketing college costs, which are putting America's great equalizer, higher education, out of reach for too many lower- and middle-income families. Kerry proposes a National Education Trust Fund for K-12 schools and tax credits of up to $4,000 a year for college tuition.

On environmental issues that are so important to states such as Michigan, where clean water and air are economic essentials, Bush administration policies have taken America backward. Kerry's environmental record is simply far superior.

Kerry also broke ranks with his party back in 1985 to support a federal balanced budget amendment and hews to a pay-as-you-go principle for government. Bush may claim to be a fiscal conservative, but between tax cuts and war spending, he has erased a federal surplus and this year rung up a record deficit.

As president, George W. Bush has had his shining moments, but too few and far between. At home and abroad, America cannot afford the course he would surely stick to for the next four years. John Kerry offers new approaches that are worth trying. But it is Bush who has really made the case for change.

The Free Press endorses JOHN KERRY for president.

Arianna Huffington - Appealing To Our Lizard Brains: Why Bush Is Still Standing

Appealing To Our Lizard Brains: Why Bush Is Still Standing

By Arianna Huffington

October 13, 2004

Since the president's meltdown in the first debate — followed in quick succession by Paul Bremer's confession, the CIA's no-al-Qaida/Saddam link report, the Duelfer no-WMD-since-'91 report, and the woeful September job numbers — I have been racking my brain trying to figure out why George W. Bush is still standing.

The answer arrived via my friend Ed Solomon, the brilliant writer and filmmaker, who explained that the conundrum could be solved by looking at the very organ I'd been racking.

Ed introduced me to the work of Dr. Daniel Siegel, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and author of the forthcoming book "Mindsight," which explores the physiological workings of the brain.

Turns out, when it comes to Campaign 2004, it's the neuroscience, stupid!
Or, as Dr. Siegel told me: "Voters are shrouded in a 'fog of fear' that is impacting the way our brains respond to the two candidates."

Thanks to the Bush campaign's unremitting fear-mongering, millions of voters are reacting not with their linear and logical left brain but with their lizard brain and their more emotional right brain.

What's more, people in a fog of fear are more likely to respond to someone whose primary means of communication is in the nonverbal realm, neither logical nor language-based. (Sound like any presidential candidate you know?)

And that's why Bush is still standing. It's not about left wing vs. right wing; it's about left brain vs. right brain.

Deep in the brain lies the amygdala, an almond-sized region that generates fear. When this fear state is activated, the amygdala springs into action. Before you are even consciously aware that you are afraid, your lizard brain responds by clicking into survival mode. No time to assess the situation, no time to look at the facts, just: fight, flight or freeze.

And, boy, have the Bushies been giving our collective amygdala a workout. Especially Dick Cheney, who has proven himself an unmatched master of the dark art of fear-mongering. For an object lesson in how to get those lizard brains leaping, look no further than the vice-presidential debate.

"The biggest threat we face today," said Cheney in his very first answer "is the possibility of terrorists smuggling a nuclear weapon or a biological agent into one of our own cities and threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans."

Just in case we didn't get the point, he repeated the ominous assertion, practically word for word, two more times — throwing in the fact that he was "absolutely convinced" that the threat "is very real." It was "be afraid, be very afraid" to the third power.

And when we are afraid, we are biologically programmed to pay less attention to left-brain signals — indeed, our logical mind actually shuts itself down. Fear paralyzes our reasoning and literally makes it impossible to think straight. Instead, we search for emotional, nonverbal cues from others that will make us feel safe and secure.

When our right brain is at Threat Level Red, we don't want to hear about a four-point plan to win the peace, or a list of damning statistics, or even a compelling, well-reasoned argument that the policies of Bush and Cheney are actually making us less safe. We want to get the feeling that everything is going to be all right.

In this state, our brains care more about tone of voice than what the voice is saying. This is why Bush can verbally stumble and sputter and make little or no sense and still leave voters feeling that he is the candidate best able to protect them. Our brains are primed to receive the kinds of communication he has to offer and discard the kinds John Kerry has to offer, even if Kerry makes more "logical sense." Which, of course, he does.

The strutting, winking, pointing and near-shouting that marked Bush's town hall debate performance all sent the same subconscious message to our fear-fogged brains: "I'm your daddy . . . I've got your back. So just go to sleep and stop thinking. About anything."

"At the deepest level," Dr. Siegel told me, "we react to fear as adults in much the same way we did as infants. It's primal. Human babies have the most dependent infancy of any species. Our survival depends on the caregiver. We instinctively look to authority figures to comfort us and keep us safe."

As needy infants, this natural drive to be soothed and reassured is what we looked for in our parents; as anxious adults in these exceptionally unsettling times, it's what we are looking for in our leaders.

Over the remaining three weeks of the campaign, as the anxiety level reaches a fevered pitch — and you can be certain the Bush campaign will do everything in its power to make sure that happens — the test facing voters is no longer, "Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?" It's "Which candidate would you rather give you your blankie and a bottle and keep the boogeyman away?"

I know it sounds ludicrous that the most important election of our lifetime is coming down to who can best pacify the electorate's inner baby, but I can think of no better explanation as to why Bush is not currently hovering at around 5 percent in the polls — a voting block made up of those hardcore fanatics who are as utterly blind to reality as he is.

As long as we're operating from our lizard brains — and reason takes a back seat to more primal needs — George Bush will continue to survive the logic-based attacks on his ever-escalating failures.

The only question that remains is: Can Bush, Cheney and Rove keep us shrouded in the fog of fear long enough to brain John Kerry and win in November?

© 2004 Christabella, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Joy Dworkin Letter 10/13/04


Dear Editor:

I hope all "Show-Me State" voters consider what Bush has shown us:
Benefits to the wealthiest Americans at everyone else’s expense: 87% of American families have received no benefit from Bush’s tax cuts, while 40% of the wealth in the country is now held by just 1% of the population. 10% more Americans are living in poverty today than four years ago; meanwhile, the wealthiest 1% of Americans received an extra $89 billion last year, and Enron got a $254 million refund. In the second debate Bush once again repeated his misleading claim that "everybody got tax relief." He’s been called on this many times, but he continues to distort the facts.

Record deficit: Under the Bush administration a surplus of 5.6 trillion dollars has become a 2.6 trillion dollar deficit. Not a single spending bill has been vetoed in the last four years. Republican Senator McCain called one piece of legislation the "no lobbyist left behind" bill!

Jobs lost: Bush is the first president in 72 years to preside over a net loss of jobs.

Missouri worse off under Bush: In Missouri, health care premiums have gone up 64%, and 122,000 people have lost their health insurance. Over 100,000 children in Missouri have no health coverage. The state has lost 39,000 manufacturing jobs and is 184,000 jobs short of Bush’s prediction for new job growth. 46% more Missouri families filed for bankruptcy than in 2000. Child care and college tuition costs have gone up by several thousand dollars a year, adding to the financial burdens on Missouri’s middle-class families.
This is what G.W. has shown. We can do better.


Joy Dworkin

Jeff Martinek Letter 10/13/04

Dear Editor:

The second town-hall style presidential debate in St. Louis was supposed to showcase the President’s “common touch.” Instead, here in the Show-Me state, what the American public was shown was the transformation of “Incurious George” into “Furious George”---a belligerent and frustrated man who appeared uncomfortable and irritated with questions about his record.

Though he joked about the coaching he had received from his handlers---“ That answer almost made me want to scowl”---Bush was unable to keep his emotions under wraps, especially when the talk turned to our woefully overextended military. Jumping out of his seat and startling the moderator, Charles Gibson, Bush launched into his usual tactic of aggressive repetition, this time shouting: “You tell Tony Blair we're going alone! Tell Tony Blair we're going alone!”

Senator Kerry, in marked contrast, remained cool and collected, responding: “Mr. President, countries are leaving the coalition, not joining.”

This exchange was emblematic of how Kerry used this second debate to put to rest forever the ridiculous caricature created by the Bush smear campaign of a craven, verbose flip-flopper. Kerry was crisp; Kerry was concise; Kerry was truthful.

But most of all, Kerry was presidential.

Jeff Martinek

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Markos Moulitsas - The Madness of George

From the Guardian (UK),3858,5037236-114515,00.html

The madness of GeorgeThe Bush campaign was once happy to use 'angry' as a term of abuse - but that was before the US public met Furious George, writes US political blogger Markos Moulitsas

Markos MoulitsasTuesday October 12, 2004

The Guardian

The evolution of George Bush's persona over the past few weeks is startling for even the most casual observers. Only a short while ago, Bush was a strong, decisive leader and Kerry was a weak, flip-flopping Massachusetts liberal. The Bush campaign expected those images to carry them through the November elections: it had cost them more than $200m (£112m) to build those caricatures and they had every reason to expect a solid return on their investment.But those images were built on a carefully crafted stage. Despite all the flaws in the US electoral process we still force the candidates to exit that bubble a handful of times during the election, and it is some credit to the system that those three 90-minute debates can still determine the fate of an election. This year, they have helped introduce the nation to Furious George.

Bush's political operators have worked overtime to make "angry" a pejorative term this political cycle. They wielded the "too angry" attack against Howard Dean in the primaries, when it seemed Dean would be the Democratic nominee, and it helped destroy Dean's candidacy. Republicans again shouted "too angry" to discredit Al Gore's series of impassioned anti-Bush speeches earlier this year.

The "too angry" claims successfully marginalised the content of those speeches - blistering indictments of an incompetent administration. But what happens when your best attack line is a double-edged sword?

Bush's operation has taken stage management to extremes. His handlers have figured - correctly - that the press conference format suits their man poorly and is to be avoided at all costs. His last primetime press conference was in April 2004, and he has had only two with the White House press corps since late August - both of them with the Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, at his side. (The Bush campaign actually wrote Allawi's speech in order to squeeze out precious political points.)

Bush's campaign appearances are not much better. While Kerry's events are open to the public, Bush's affairs require the signing of a "loyalty oath". Quietly wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt or badge is grounds for expulsion.

Bush faces only adoring audiences vetted by the campaign's enforcers. At his town hall events, questions are planted for maximum political effect. At one, a veteran merely got up and requested permission to salute his commander in chief. Compelling visuals? Perhaps. But it does little to acquaint Bush with reality.

Campaign commercials do their best to paint an alternative reality in which Bush is an effective leader and Kerry is anything but. Entire media networks, such as Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, prop up Bush in a way that would make their fellow propagandists in North Korea and Cuba proud. Sinclair, in fact, will pre-empt local programming on its 62 stations to air an anti-Kerry movie days before the election.

Given the force of Republican efforts to deify Bush, his debate performances came as a big shock to many Americans. They showed a Bush quick to anger, indecisiveness, pettiness and petulance. The sheltered Bush was clearly unprepared for the debate and unprepared to face criticism. In fact, it seemed to take him by surprise. No one seemed to have told him he had critics.

After his first debate performance, Bush was in a quandary. He had to stem his erosion in the polls, but to do so would require attacking Kerry and furthering the perception that he was too angry to be president.

So how did he respond? By getting even more angry. He not only viciously attacked Kerry but also took out the moderator and several questioners in the process. Someone, somewhere, labelled Bush Furious George - a clever turn on HA Rey's Curious George children's books and an appellation that took firm hold in the online and, increasingly, offline worlds.

Bush acted like the proverbial ugly American trying to be understood in a foreign land, cranking up the volume and shrillness to make his points while Kerry sat by serenely. The contrast was impossible to miss as Bush became increasingly unhinged. Even on the road, Bush's desperation is palpable as the rhetoric soars to angrier heights.

Bush is now hemmed in. With poll after poll showing small Kerry leads, he needs to do something to regain the momentum. His campaign's attack ads have kept him in the game but he is not pulling away. Furthermore, he is well below the 50% mark in most key battleground state polls - a mark of political vulnerability.

If he cannot convince people to vote for him, he will have to convince people to vote against Kerry, and to do that he has to attack, attack, attack. And since it takes more skill than Bush possesses to attack without appearing angry, well, he's in a real bind.

Bush's political operation has conditioned the electorate to distrust "anger". It has made the charge a cornerstone of its smear effort against Democrats such as Dean and Gore. For a campaign that lives by the smear, it is poetic justice to see the tables turned. Furious George is here to stay.

· Markos Moulitsas runs the US political blog, and Our Congress, a blog tracking the hottest congressional races

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

The Portland Oregonian - Kerry for President

The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) Kerry for president

The Democrat could help rebuild the United States' standing in the world while restoring balance at home

When George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001, he and his team moved quickly to push government hard to the right.

This effort came even though Bush campaigned as a moderate and his narrow, contested election was anything but a mandate for sweeping change.

But if Bush partisans could turn aside disagreement with a brusque "elections have consequences" in 2001, it turns out today that governing has consequences, too.

One of them should be that Americans elect John Kerry president in November.
Bush's term in office has been marked by two major failures. One is his conduct of the war in Iraq. The other is his stewardship of the nation's fiscal health. Bush ran for president as a "compassionate conservative." But true conservatives don't choose to go to war without proper planning or pursue fiscal policies leading to the deepest federal deficits in our nation's history.

Certainly the president has done many things right. He handled the murderous terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, about as well as we can imagine any national leader could. His decision to attack and destroy the Taliban regime and al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan was vigorous and correct.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act, which the president proposed and signed, isn't perfect. But it's a huge, necessary step for better accountability in education, especially for low-income and minority students.

We supported going to war in Iraq, and we'll discuss the war and the campaign further in this space soon. For now, though, let us say our concerns center on how President Bush has carried out the war and isolated the United States.

We believe the White House's policy-makers approached the war with preconceived notions about success based on what the president later called "just guessing." They brushed aside warnings and contrary opinions. They chose ideology over expertise. This arrogance led to a series of military, political and diplomatic blunders and, we believe, resulted in the unnecessary deaths of many brave Americans.

On fiscal policy, the White House and leaders in Congress have failed to fully acknowledge the threat posed by the giant deficits that the current recipe of tax cuts and profligate federal spending has brewed. Addressing this will not be as simple as paying for tax cuts through spending cuts. The anemic performance of the economy suggests also that the administration's hope that the country can grow its way out of trouble is overly optimistic, at best.

In almost every area, deliberate gaps between the administration's rhetoric and reality have become routine. Last year's misinformation about the cost of Medicare drug coverage is just one example.

Elections, of course, are not just about the incumbents. In John Kerry, the Democratic Party has not offered the perfect challenger.

The Bush campaign has succeeded in presenting Kerry as inconsistent on some important issues because Kerry has, indeed, been inconsistent. Kerry deserves criticism, for example, for voting for the authorization to go to war but voting against the appropriation of money for it.

Even so, on the international front, Kerry understands something that Bush does not: Our nation's experience shows that strong international alliances are vital to erecting a bulwark against aggression, tyranny and terrorism.

The president's destructive rhetoric during the campaign reflects the administration's recklessness in this area. This nation's role as the world's only military superpower does not grant it the unquestioned right to lead. Other nations will follow a United States they respect and admire. They will resist a United States they fear.

Foreign leaders may well understand that their long-term interests lie in sticking with the United States. But Bush has made it politically impossible for them to do so. Kerry has some chance of rebuilding the international alliances that Bush and his people have shattered.

Kerry also has demonstrated, through his personal heroism in Vietnam and his positions in this campaign, that he is strong, aggressive and thoughtful enough to perform well as commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces.

A long record of public service shows that he possesses a deep, nuanced understanding of the central domestic issues of our time.

Kerry is likely to select strong Cabinet secretaries, and he may even listen to them when they disagree with his inner circle. During the Bush administration, there has been little evidence that solid Cabinet choices like Secretary of State Colin Powell are able to get their views heard on critical issues at critical times.
We believe the top choices in a Kerry administration also would be more vigorous in pursuing both the letter and spirit of the nation's environmental protection laws. A Kerry attorney general might have a more coherent and defensible view of citizens' civil liberties and constitutional rights than John Ashcroft, Bush's attorney general.

President Bush has had no chance to name anyone to the Supreme Court but he has made it clear, through his words and his nominations to the federal bench, what sort of court he wants.

One or more seats on the high court may open in the next four years, and it would be a shame if they were filled with jurists with political and social agendas who seek to turn back the clock. We believe Kerry would nominate more moderate candidates to the court.

When George W. Bush took office in a deeply divided nation, he promised to reach out to unite the country. If anything, he has helped make the rifts deeper. That may be his real failure as president.

John Kerry can do better.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - Kerry a Better Fit

In the real world, Kerry a better fit
Bush has shown he lacks flexibility, competence, while challenger looks for policies that will work

Published on: 10/09/04

There's an unusual urgency to the electoral process this year, reflected in higher attendance at campaign rallies, record viewership of presidential debates and soaring voter registration, not to mention an increase in heated debates over the dinner table. Americans across the political spectrum recognize that the next four years will be a difficult time in our nation's history, and that the leadership we choose will set our course for many years to come.

And as always when a president is running for re-election, the main issue will be the record of the incumbent, President George W. Bush, and what it suggests about his leadership in a potential second term. Unfortunately, that record is grounds for grave concern.

That concern goes beyond mere differences about policy to questions about basic competence. Too often, Bush has seemed to disdain rational analysis of a situation in favor of a rigid, unbending ideology that recognizes no shading of gray. The world that Bush describes, and the world as it exists, are often two different places.

For example, if we lived in a world in which Saddam Hussein really did possess weapons of mass destruction and really did have strong ties to al-Qaida, and if the Iraqi people really would welcome American intervention, then invading Iraq would have been the wise thing to do. But that world is not this world, and pretending otherwise has proved a tragic mistake.

Likewise, in an economy in which business was starved for investment capital to create new jobs, large tax cuts designed to enrich the investing class would have been exactly the right medicine. But that was far from the economy that confronted Bush upon taking office. Then as now, the system was drowning in investment money; what the economy needed was tax cuts aimed at the middle class, to boost consumer spending.

In Friday's debate, Bush claimed to have enacted that type of tax cut, but he did not, and the poor job-creation numbers issued Friday — 50,000 short of what was needed just to stay even with population growth — is a continuing legacy of that mistake. That basic lack of competence bodes poorly for a future in which we will have to confront growing foreign competition for jobs, a widening gap between what we import and export, a crippling dependence on foreign oil and a soaring deficit right before the baby boom generation begins to retire.

The source of the administration's disconnect seems to be two-fold. First, a president is just one person; his success or failure depends to a large degree on the quality of people he chooses to staff his administration. The Bush administration has built a sorry record of ridding itself of competent officials who dare to question its preferred version of reality, while protecting proven incompetents who are willing to toe the party line.

Second, even with a top-notch staff, a successful president must be able to independently assess the information and recommendations that he is given. Bush has shown no evidence that he is capable of making such judgments, and in fact seems to operate as a passive recipient of information collected and analyzed by others.

Bush's opponent, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, is less of a known quantity than the president, for obvious reasons. As we've seen, there's nothing like four years in the Oval Office to harshly illuminate a person's flaws and attributes. But in the two debates so far, Kerry has been able to dispel the cartoon image of him created by Republican operatives.

During his time in public life, Kerry has proved himself to be an intelligent, diligent student of world and national affairs with the courage to take the lead at times when others would shirk the burden. Furthermore, Kerry has surrounded himself with competent people who are more interested in policies that actually work than in policies that meet some test of ideological purity. He understands that in a rapidly changing world, flexibility is a far more useful trait than rigidity. In contrast to the incumbent, Kerry has shown the ability to look at a complex problem honestly, listen closely to the input of experts and then take the course that sounds most reasonable. Nor does he treat internal disagreement as a sign of disloyalty.

While that is hardly an approach of breathtaking originality, it would represent a significant break from the close-minded leadership style that has dominated the White House for the past four years. We've seen what that style produces, and it isn't good.

It's time to give competence a chance.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer - John Kerry for President


Voters' choice is clear: John Kerry for president
Sunday, October 10, 2004

John Kerry should be the next president of the United States. This endorsement is based not only on President Bush's failings -- which are manifest -- but also on the conclusion that Kerry can succeed where Bush has failed.

It's a conclusion built on a series of editorials offering an "election framework" in which to judge Bush's record and Kerry's potential for success.

Security: Three years after the horrors of 9/11, our domestic defenses against terrorist attack remain unconscionably weak, our international standing demeaned by an unnecessary war. With the definitive report debunking the weapons of mass destruction allegations, the Iraq invasion is utterly exposed as the "colossal error of judgment" Kerry described. It is Bush's most profound failing, causing unnecessary bloodshed and suffering, distracting our passion and resources from the pursuit of those who attacked us.

There is no walking away from the war, but any hope for success in Iraq lies in convincing the nations of the world to share the burden of resolving our blunder. Kerry can succeed at what Bush has refused to attempt.

The economy: The administration has managed the federal treasury on a course that cannot be sustained. Some federal spending was unplanned and unpredictable, such as security costs after 9/11 or the war in Afghanistan. But other spending was a matter of political choice. Then there's the politics of tax cuts. Friday's tepid job growth report underscored the modest hiring pace that dogs Bush's claims of sound economic recovery.

Team Bush has been in place for nearly four years, with a clear focus on more tax cuts. Team Kerry probably would include the return of the welcome fiscal style of the Clinton era and its economic team, Robert Rubin, Roger Altman or Laura Tyson.

The environment: Bush came into office promising respect for the environment, controls on global warming gases and serious attention to science. In practice, he has proved more divider than uniter. Energy proposals, conceived in extraordinary secrecy with industry lobbyists, have led to a stalled bill whose blatant sops to the oil, gas and nuclear industries many Republicans can't support.

Kerry promises new environmental efforts for national forests, clean water and clean air, including aggressive action on acid rain, mercury emissions and global warming. In the Pacific Northwest, the overall effect likely would be more attention to ocean policy, salmon and forest protection.

The nuclear peril: The 9/11 commission reported that Osama bin Laden has been trying to make or acquire a nuclear weapon, with the intent of creating a new Hiroshima as a "religious obligation." A Harvard study says the Bush administration effort to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists "is more in line with the 0.5 percent growth rate the administration wants for discretionary funding not related to defense and homeland security."

Kerry shows a more legitimate grasp of the frightening dimension of the rogue nuclear threat and offers a more effective diplomatic portfolio for generating international cooperation.

Civil liberties: The Bush administration is tipping the balance away from civil liberties. Three Supreme Court justices may retire in the next four years. Bush names Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as his judicial models.
The next generation of jurisprudence will be better served by Kerry's intent to nominate justices "with a record of respect" for constitutional rights, including a woman's right to choose.

George W. Bush has failed America on the economy, civil liberties, the environment, nuclear proliferation and, most unforgivable, on national security by leading us into a demonstrably unnecessary war in Iraq that has distracted our attention from and diminished our capability to fight a comprehensive global war on terror.

Kerry is intellectually and ideologically equipped to succeed where Bush has failed. The obvious prospects for that success lie in his military, congressional and international experience, his superior intellectual curiosity and willingness to consider dissenting opinions, his commitment to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans and his potential to surround himself with a broad coalition of competent Cabinet members, staff and advisers.

On the Web:
© 1998-2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Paul Krugman - Checking the Facts, in Advance

Checking the Facts, in Advance


It's not hard to predict what President Bush, who sounds increasingly desperate, will say tomorrow. Here are eight lies or distortions you'll hear, and the truth about each:

Mr. Bush will talk about the 1.7 million jobs created since the summer of 2003, and will say that the economy is "strong and getting stronger." That's like boasting about getting a D on your final exam, when you flunked the midterm and needed at least a C to pass the course.

Mr. Bush is the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a decline in payroll employment. That's worse than it sounds because the economy needs around 1.6 million new jobs each year just to keep up with population growth. The past year's job gains, while better news than earlier job losses, barely met this requirement, and they did little to close the huge gap between the number of jobs the country needs and the number actually available.

Mr. Bush will boast about the decline in the unemployment rate from its June 2003 peak. But the employed fraction of the population didn't rise at all; unemployment declined only because some of those without jobs stopped actively looking for work, and therefore dropped out of the unemployment statistics. The labor force participation rate - the fraction of the population either working or actively looking for work - has fallen sharply under Mr. Bush; if it had stayed at its January 2001 level, the official unemployment rate would be 7.4 percent.

The deficit
Mr. Bush will claim that the recession and 9/11 caused record budget deficits. Congressional Budget Office estimates show that tax cuts caused about two-thirds of the 2004 deficit.

The tax cuts
Mr. Bush will claim that Senator John Kerry opposed "middle class" tax cuts. But budget office numbers show that most of Mr. Bush's tax cuts went to the best-off 10 percent of families, and more than a third went to the top 1 percent, whose average income is more than $1 million.

The Kerry tax plan
Mr. Bush will claim, once again, that Mr. Kerry plans to raise taxes on many small businesses. In fact, only a tiny percentage would be affected. Moreover, as Mr. Kerry correctly pointed out last week, the administration's definition of a small-business owner is so broad that in 2001 it included Mr. Bush, who does indeed have a stake in a timber company - a business he's so little involved with that he apparently forgot about it.

Fiscal responsibility
Mr. Bush will claim that Mr. Kerry proposes $2 trillion in new spending. That's a partisan number and is much higher than independent estimates. Meanwhile, as The Washington Post pointed out after the Republican convention, the administration's own numbers show that the cost of the agenda Mr. Bush laid out "is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion" and "far eclipses that of the Kerry plan."

On Friday, Mr. Bush claimed that he had increased nondefense discretionary spending by only 1 percent per year. The actual number is 8 percent, even after adjusting for inflation. Mr. Bush seems to have confused his budget promises - which he keeps on breaking - with reality.

Health care
Mr. Bush will claim that Mr. Kerry wants to take medical decisions away from individuals. The Kerry plan would expand Medicaid (which works like Medicare), ensuring that children, in particular, have health insurance. It would protect everyone against catastrophic medical expenses, a particular help to the chronically ill. It would do nothing to restrict patients' choices.
By singling out Mr. Bush's lies and misrepresentations, am I saying that Mr. Kerry isn't equally at fault? Yes.

Mr. Kerry sometimes uses verbal shorthand that offers nitpickers things to complain about. He talks of 1.6 million lost jobs; that's the private-sector loss, partly offset by increased government employment. But the job record is indeed awful. He talks of the $200 billion cost of the Iraq war; actual spending is only $120 billion so far. But nobody doubts that the war will cost at least another $80 billion. The point is that Mr. Kerry can, at most, be accused of using loose language; the thrust of his statements is correct.

Mr. Bush's statements, on the other hand, are fundamentally dishonest. He is insisting that black is white, and that failure is success. Journalists who play it safe by spending equal time exposing his lies and parsing Mr. Kerry's choice of words are betraying their readers.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Bill Kumbier Letter 10/11/04

Dear Editor,

Once again in his second debate with John Kerry, President Bush defended his decision to authorize only very restricted stem cell research. The president, essentially, doesn’t want to make new embryonic stem cell “lines” or colonies available for publicly funded research on the grounds that he has to “balance science and ethics” and that he doesn’t want to “destroy more life,” since obtaining embryonic stem cells destroys the embryo from which the cells are taken. The president vaunts his “respect for life” as well in his unequivocal condemnation of abortion, partial birth or otherwise. Excuse me?! The president has shown no such scruples about allowing the destruction of life in the case of thousands, Iraqis, Americans, Afghanis and others who have fallen victim to the wasteful, misguided war he began. He shows little care for American lives that are damaged, if not destroyed, because of poverty or lack of adequate health care while he insists on diverting our tax dollars from real human needs to fund that increasingly costly war. Let’s face an awful truth: many decisions we make involve threatening and risking life. We need to decide not if we will interrupt life but when, where and why we will do so. Both John Kerry and the late Christopher Reeve argued that the lives we might save from expanding stem cell research as we reach for cures for AIDS, diabetes or Alzheimer’s are worth the cost. The honesty and deeper respect for life that position shows outweigh the lip service to the sanctity of life President Bush is always so quick to pay.

William Kumbier

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Kerry For President

DECISION 2004: Kerry for president Sunday, Oct. 10 2004

BASED ON HIS RECORD, President George W. Bush has not earned re-election. He has mishandled the war on terrorism, shut his eyes to disagreeable facts, left the next generation in hock and presided over a sharp loss in jobs, health insurance and prosperity for millions of Americans.

Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., understands that Mr. Bush took a wrong turn by transforming the war on terrorism into an invasion of Iraq. He understands the importance of working with our traditional allies and the world community to fight terrorism. And he wants to step up efforts to address real nuclear threats by disposing of nuclear materials in Russia and dealing directly with North Korea and Iran.

Mr. Kerry would reverse the tax cuts for the very wealthy and use the money to improve health care and help middle-class families pay for college. His strong environmental record offers the prospect of a president whose environmentalism extends beyond cynical slogans such as "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests."

In the troubled election of 2000, Mr. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative who wanted to create a "lockbox" for Social Security and unite the nation, while conducting a humble foreign policy that eschewed nation-building. He pried open the lockbox, conducted an arrogant foreign policy, tried to grow a democracy in burning sand and left the nation more divided than at any time since Vietnam.

The case against Mr. Bush

After Sept. 11, 2001, a stunned, angry nation and much of the world stood with Mr. Bush to depose the Taliban who had harbored al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Victory was swift, but Mr. Bush made a critical strategic blunder by failing to send U.S. troops to try to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora. Instead, Mr. Bush redirected forces toward Iraq.

In the surge of patriotism, there were a few voices of restraint. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there was a lack of planning for postwar Iraq. United Nations weapons inspectors said they had not found weapons of mass destruction. Traditional allies asked Mr. Bush to give inspections more time.

But Mr. Bush would not hear of it. The prediction that our troops would be welcomed with flowers, and that a democracy would flourish in Iraq and spread throughout the Middle East turned out to be wishful thinking. Those idealistic dreams look absurd today after the deaths of 1,000 Americans, the growth of an Iraqi insurgency, the alienation of Muslims, the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and the estrangement of the United States from traditional allies.

Still Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney cling blindly to their story line. When the Iraqi Survey Group concluded last week that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, Mr. Bush insisted the report had justified the war. He even came up with a new, ludicrous rationale: Saddam's corruption of the U.N.'s oil-for-food program justified the pre-emptive invasion.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush turned his back on the Geneva Conventions and Attorney General John D. Ashcroft conducted an inept and heavy-handed crackdown that violated civil liberties. Prosecution after prosecution failed, and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Mr. Bush's violations of the Constitution.

Mr. Bush's apparent inability to accept facts that are at odds with his ideology is perhaps his greatest vulnerability as a leader. Just as he refuses to recognize reality in Iraq, he has advanced domestic policies that are at war with science. The administration has pooh-poohed global warming, downplayed the value of embryonic stem-cell research, claimed a link between abortion and breast cancer and removed scientific papers from government Web sites.

The failure of Mr. Bush's economic policy is evident in the numbers:

A decline by 821,000 in the number of Americans with jobs since he took office, the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover. A decline in median household income, when adjusted for inflation. This means the average family is doing a little worse now than four years ago.

The $236 billion annual budget surplus he inherited has turned into a $422 billion annual deficit. We will pass this massive debt on to our children.

Mr. Bush entered office facing a mild recession. His remedy was sharp tax cuts. But in giving those cuts primarily to the rich, he limited the economic lift, while draining progressivity from the tax code. Working families pay higher rates than rich families living off their investments.

Even Mr. Bush's "compassionate" agenda - the No Child Left Behind education law, the Medicare prescription drug benefit and the anti-AIDS effort in Africa - have fallen short. Mr. Bush underfunded the school program and the AIDS initiative, and he refused to give the government leverage with drug companies to get lower prices for seniors.

The case for Mr. Kerry

Mr. Kerry has a distinguished record in foreign affairs and a program that addresses the nation's three most serious problems: the health care crisis, the sputtering economy and the war.

Under his health plan, the government would cover catastrophic health costs, triggering lower health insurance rates. In addition, Mr. Kerry would expand health coverage for children, a federal program that he helped start. The number of uninsured people, which rose to 45 million from 40 million during the Bush years, would be halved.

Mr. Kerry would steer a more moderate economic course, restoring fairness to the tax system and fiscal responsibility. He would raise the minimum wage and restore overtime pay for low-level white-collar workers.

In the Senate, Mr. Kerry was active in investigations of Iran-contra, the CIA connection to Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and the corruption of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. Long before Sept. 11, 2001, he called for regulating electronic money transfers and using the CIA against international criminal organizations.

Mr. Kerry was a leader on global warming, the ban on oil drilling in the Arctic and the effort to raise automobile fuel-efficiency standards - a sharp contrast to Mr. Bush's dismantling of environmental safeguards.

Mr. Kerry has had trouble explaining the consistency of his position on Iraq. But his views reflect those of many Americans. Like most people, he favored giving the president strong authority to eliminate weapons in Iraq, but wanted the president to act through the United Nations and as a last resort. Like most people, he was shocked that Mr. Bush had not planned well for the occupation and refused to recognize the realities of the insurgency.

Mr. Kerry's plan to "win" the war in Iraq may be no more realistic than Mr. Bush's. But Mr. Kerry's Vietnam record as a warrior and a protester has taught him about the limits of American power and the importance of a president playing it straight.

America needs a leader who sees the world as it is, who knows how to rebuild international alliances, who focuses on threats to homeland security, who runs the government for the benefit of all Americans. By virtue of his knowledge of world affairs, his life story of national service and his moderate values, John Kerry is that leader.

Eric Alterman - "C-Plus Augustus"

From Eric Alterman's Blog "Altercation"

There's nothing worse than C-Plus Augustus with a new catchphrase. He takes it out back and chews on it and plays with it and tosses it up in the air, and he'll run and go fetch it from dawn until dusk, or at least until Karen Hughes' brawny arm gets tired. Which is why we are all going to grow quite sick of the word "nuisance" between now and election day. Of course, what Kerry meant was that fighting terrorism needn't necessarily involve ramping up unreasoning fear every time your poll numbers begin to tank. But "nuisance" will get tossed around like "global" was. I don't believe any campaign ever has depended as much as the Avignon Presidency does on every voter being either a) as fundamentally duplicitous as Enron Ed Gillespie, or b) as willfully uninformed as the candidate himself.

Last Note From The Old Confederacy: Much as I hate the "I talked to my cabdriver" school of political analysis, I note that I had a long conversation with a cop in South Carolina who said he didn't like Kerry at all, but that watching the alternative left him "embarrassed to be an American." Remember, this week's debate may well be the last time we ever see C-Plus Augustus in any forum where spontaneity is in danger of erupting. By Year Two of Term Two, the man might well appear before his handpicked audiences only as a hologram.

The Philadelphia Inquirer -- Kerry For President

From the Philadelphia Inquirer

Editorial Kerry for President

The choice is vivid. The stakes are vast.

Our nation is threatened by jihad warriors who scoff at boundaries. It stumbles toward a fiscal ruin that will punish our children. The rules that protect our air, water and health are weaker than we know. When 45 million of our neighbors fall ill, they have no insurance card to hand to the doctor.

We boast of exporting liberty and rule of law, yet watch them erode at home. A hooded prisoner on a box has replaced a soaring lady with a lamp as the global icon of America's intentions. Our national discourse has grown peevish, choking on distortion and bile.

On Nov. 2, we can return to office the man who, since 2001, has spawned some of those ills and shown a shaky touch at healing the others.

Or we can go a new way, one alert to fresh global challenges yet rooted in the approaches that made the 1990s so productive. We can elect Democratic nominee John F. Kerry.

Dear fellow citizen, this is as important an election as any in which you've had a chance to vote.

The Inquirer's urgent, deeply felt recommendation: Cast that ballot on Nov. 2 for JOHN F. KERRY.

The case for Kerry has two parts. The first is the record of George W. Bush. The evidence is compelling, though tallied in sorrow: His was a presidency of high promise that lapsed into multiple disasters.

On his watch, useful surpluses have become a sea of red ink. The economic rebound he bought with tax cuts is mild, barely more than would have occurred in the natural cycle. Those slanted tax changes have left society more unequal, its safety net frayed. His team's habits of ignoring science and punishing dissent hamper the search for solutions.

His plan for a second term is not to repair those mistakes, but to expand and entrench them.

Most worrisome, his response to the stunning blows of 9/11 has gone fatefully awry. He has left Americans less safe than they could be and America less admired than it should be.

Those are strong words. You deserve to see them documented thoroughly.
That is why, beginning today, we present a 21-day editorial series. It will review the facts of the Bush record on an array of issues, from homeland security to Head Start, contrasting it with Kerry's ideas. The first appears below. Most days, on the facing page, a prominent supporter of President Bush will provide a contrasting view.

You deserve a fair and frank debate.

You also deserve a fair picture of the second half of the case for change: the record and views of John Kerry.

This, very few of you have gotten during a petty, dispiriting campaign. Some blame rests with the Democrat. He has not framed the debate with the force and clarity he must master to be an outstanding president.

More blame, though, rests with Bush. Awash in millions from the corporate donors to whom his White House caters so avidly, the President has spent more time ridiculing Kerry through distortions than presenting his own plans.

Bush backers cling to a tired, tiresome slogan of elections past: Kerry is a clueless liberal, out of touch with the American mainstream.

Here is what Kerry thinks, and what his record as a U.S. senator, lieutenant governor and prosecutor underscores:

John Kerry thinks government should pursue solutions to problems that haunt American lives, but must pay for each initiative as it goes - not stick the nation's children with the tab. Robert Rubin, the superb Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, praises Kerry as a senator who stood tall on the tough votes that tamed deficits.

He thinks work is better than welfare; he voted for welfare reform.

He thinks it's unacceptable that 45 million Americans lack health coverage; he has a smart plan to shrink that number dramatically.

He wants science to do all it can to speed cures for illnesses.

He knows that protection of America's air, land and water can't be left to the whims of corporations.

He doesn't just shrug when he sees American children slipping into poverty, or more paychecks losing buying power.

If those aren't mainstream American values, then God help America. But of course these are American values.

If you're an undecided voter, consider this: As president, Kerry will have to work with a Congress where at least one chamber is Republican. Checks and balances, a prescription for moderation. A vote for Bush risks one-party rule, with Congress under the control of aggressive conservatives and reelection concerns no longer checking Bush's impulses.

You've heard - eight gazillion times - that John Kerry is a flip-flopper. No doubt, he's a man who relishes nuance. His penchant for thinking out loud is ill-suited to a sound-bite culture. He'll have to curb that, seeking a more disciplined clarity. But the flip-flop label rests mainly on one sound bite. All together now: "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Muddy words, but a defensible vote. The Bush campaign's incessant mockery of it relies on voters' unfamiliarity with the workings of the Senate, where two or more versions of a bill often come up for votes. Kerry voted for a Democratic version of this Iraq appropriation, which would have rescinded tax cuts for the affluent to pay for body armor, etc., for the troops. The GOP version, which passed easily, added to the ever-growing load of debt we are leaving to our kids.
Let's deal with another pack of poisonous distortions: Vietnam.

Kerry served, showed courage, won medals, then raised an honorable, if hyperbolic, alarm about a misguided war. Case closed. Perhaps the Boston convention overdid the allusions to those facts, but that doesn't justify the baseless Swift-boat assaults of August.

Kerry doesn't talk much about his Senate record, a curious omission. That record isn't spectacular, but it is solid and qualifying. Names on bills are just one road to effectiveness. Kerry took the less glamorous path of investigation. He had major successes.

He was one of the first to spot and expose the scandal that came to be known as Iran-contra. He took the lead in unraveling the criminal deeds of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which financed drug cartels and terrorists. Finally, he worked well with John McCain and others to resolve the emotional issue of Vietnam MIAs.

Not flashy, not easy. Just important.

The BCCI probe showed Kerry spotting early on a key thread in the global web of terror.

Thwarting terrorism is a president's core job in these haunted times. Kerry's approach is more thorough than that of Bush, whose two main tools seem to be bombs and bombast. Bush's reckless missteps in Iraq have cost a painful toll in lives, credibility, alliances, Islamic anger and lost opportunities.

Kerry is right to press hard on: tracking down loose nuclear material in Russia and elsewhere; repairing alliances that can help spot terror cells and roll up financing networks; better securing our chemical and nuclear plants and ports.
It is absurd to claim that, had Kerry been president on that awful day in 2001, he would merely have shrugged and sent a strongly worded memo to the World Court. Any president would have done much of what Bush did in late 2001 - with less soaring eloquence perhaps. But few would have raced as he did into the deadly detour of Iraq.

John Kerry isn't perfect. He has things to learn. One thing Americans should have learned by now, though, is that the incumbent lacks the realism, judgment and ability to adjust to events that the United States needs in its commander in chief. In this perilous moment, the safer choice, the wiser choice, is John F. Kerry.

Pat Murphy Letter 10/11/04

Dear Editor,

The Bush administration continues to show its arrogance, recklessness, and horrible judgment over the Iraq war. I am disgusted at the administration’s refusal to admit any mistakes in invading Iraq. We now know, of course, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, nor was there a link between 9/11 and Iraq. Yet the Bush administration continues to rationalize its dangerous actions, expecting us to be gullible and ignorant. The truth seems to be irrelevant to this administration, as it continues to revise history in justifying its rash invasion. If the weapons inspectors had been allowed to do their job, we would not have gotten ourselves into this unnecessary mess.

Now our military is stretched to its limits and a “back-door draft” is in place as our reservists are being taken advantage of. The death toll is over 1,000 U.S. soldiers, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, the Bush administration seems to be doing nothing substantive about the real nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea.

If Bill Clinton had made any of the blunders that Bush has made with Iraq, think about how he would have been ripped apart by his critics. Yet Bush has made one error after another, and he keeps getting away with it. His administration still acts as if all is well in Iraq. We all know it isn’t. Yet Bush’s response in this campaign has been to ignore his own record and attack Kerry, as if we voters don’t see the smokescreen. Four more years of Bush can only mean four more years of incompetence and danger. We need a fresh start, with a new president, who can start returning America to high moral ground, the world’s respect, and effective leadership.

Pat Murphy

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Elliott Denniston Letter 10/10/04

Admitting Untruths

Often it takes time to get at the truth, especially in the complex and combative world of politics. It took quite a while, for example, for most of the public to recognize that Mr. Bush’s “middle class” tax cuts were in fact overwhelmingly for the very wealthy, with a paltry amount at most going to the middle class. It took some time for the Swift boat ads to be widely exposed as groundless, and then only late in the summer, when, under pressure from John McCain, even President Bush finally dismissed them. It has taken a surprisingly long time for Americans to understand that Iraq had no connection to 9-11; at last, most people have admitted that to themselves, now that President Bush has admitted it publicly.It has also taken a long time for the public to realize that the reason the administration gave for going to war with Iraq has now been proven wrong: the President’s own hand-picked investigator has just issued his report concluding definitively that there were no nuclear weapons and no WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam was not trying to make them.Everyone finds it painful to admit mistakes; Mr. Bush found that so in the final question of the second debate when he couldn’t name a single mistake he had made. But every voter who is serious about doing what is best for the country must take a deep breath and accept falsehoods as falsehoods before carrying out their solemn obligations in that voting booth.

Elliott Denniston
Webb City, MO

Seth Jackson Letter 10/10/04

SPORTSMEN'S RIGHTS:NRA ad distorts Kerry's position

On Sept. 22 the NRA ran an ad in the McDonald County newspapers stating thatJohn Kerry (a sportsman and avid hunter himself) opposes sportsmen's rights.They stated that, "It is no wonder John Kerry has been called a 'hero' bythe Humane Society of the United States, an extremist group that wants tooutlaw hunting in America."On their Web site the Humane Society of the U.S. states the followingregarding bear hunting: "Any responsible hunter, no matter the method ofhunting he chooses, should hold fire until he has a clean shot at a bear andcan kill the bear." Clearly the organization does not advocate a ban onhunting.The NRA ad continues that Kerry voted for an amendment "to outlaw mostammunition used by deer hunters."However, the amendment (SA 2619) only would have banned such ammunition (forcenterfire rifles) if it had been "designed or marketed as having armorpiercing capability." Now, does anyone know a deer that wears a bulletproofvest?It is possible to be concerned about sportsmen's rights and the truth concurrently.

Seth Jackson, Joplin