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 23, 2004

Bill Kumbier Letter - 10/23/04

Dear Editor:

I have just heard that yesterday (10/22/04) Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps to plant recruits at polling places on Election Day, mainly to challenge voters’ qualifications to vote. The officials contend that this strategy is necessary to “guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats” to register thousands of new voters. The recruits—perhaps “hirelings” or “vigilantes” would be the more appropriate term—must take 13 hours of training and will each receive $100 for their efforts.

Of course, Ohio state law allows the Republicans to do this, as does the law in Florida and Missouri—other key swing states—provided the poll “watchers” are registered before Election Day. (In many other states, party observers can register as late as Election Day itself.) Yet it is difficult to see the Republicans’ tactics as anything other than an unscrupulous, last-minute attempt to disrupt the election, intimidate election officials and volunteer poll workers, and, crucially, create delays that are bound to discourage some qualified voters from participating, especially those who will be voting in a presidential election for the first time.

It’s abundantly clear from this latest move, if it wasn’t already obvious, that what the Republicans fear most in this presidential contest is the people’s free and legitimate exercise of a right that, thankfully, many at long last are eager to exercise. They justifiably suspect that what promises to be a huge voter turnout could well turn President Bush out of office. Though I deplore the Republicans’ tactics, I hope their fears are well-founded. Let’s encourage all qualified citizens to resist this cynical, last-ditch dirty trick and VOTE November 2!

Bill Kumbier

Friday, October 22, 2004

Jeff Martinek Letter - 10/22/04

Dear Editor:

C. Keith Sigler claims that George W. Bush “restored dignity and decency to the highest office in the land” and offers as proof the fact that “his first term has not been beset . . . with scandals that required resignations.” This is a bit like crediting Bush for getting into Yale----it’s not nearly as impressive when you know the whole story.

When the Republican Congress swept into power in 1994, with its brand of ultra-partisan, smash-mouth politics, it virtually guaranteed that Democratic presidents would endure non-stop harassment over trivial and even fictitious matters while Republicans would be protected from virtually any scrutiny or accountability.

Case in point: The Whitewater investigation, which was a six-year, $50 Million dollar hunting expedition designed to bring down Bill Clinton which petered out into nothing.

Now the Republican-dominated House of Representatives is run by Tom Delay, perhaps the most corrupt politician in the history of the Congress---a man so brazen that he’s been cited for three ethics violations over the past month and faces a variety of charges, including money-laundering, congressional district gerrymandering, racketeering, and influence-peddling.

It is this Delay-dominated Congress that protects the President and his administration from answering questions about such matters as: 1) Dick Cheney’s secret energy policy meetings with officials of Enron and other corporate crooks; 2) unforgivable intelligence failures which led to our unpreparedness for 9-11, 3) the special treatment given to members of the bin Laden family following the World Trade Center attacks; 4) the misinformation and outright lies offered by the administration as pretexts for the Iraq invasion; 5) the treasonous outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame as retribution for her husband’s criticism of the administration’s Iraq policy; and 6) the high-level administration involvement in the use of torture in prisons like Abu Gharib.

Jeff Martinek

From The Nation: 100 Facts and 1 Opinion
100 Facts and 1 Opinion


from the November 8, 2004 issue

1. The Bush Administration has spent more than $140 billion on a war of choice in Iraq.
Source: American Progress

2. The Bush Administration sent troops into battle without adequate body armor or armored Humvees.
Sources: Fox News, The Boston Globe

3. The Bush Administration ignored estimates from Gen. Eric Shinseki that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq.
Source: PBS

4. Vice President Cheney said Americans "will, in fact, be greeted as liberators" in Iraq.
Source: The Washington Post

5. During the Bush Administration's war in Iraq, more than 1,000 US troops have lost their lives and more than 7,000 have been injured.

6. In May 2003, President Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit, stood under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," and triumphantly announced that major combat operations were over in Iraq. Asked if he had any regrets about the stunt, Bush said he would do it all over again.
Source: Yahoo News

7. Vice President Cheney said that Iraq was "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11." The bipartisan 9/11 Commission found that Iraq had no involvement in the 9/11 attacks and no collaborative operational relationship with Al Qaeda.
Source: MSNBC , 9-11 Commission

8. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said that high-strength aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," warning "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." The government's top nuclear scientists had told the Administration the tubes were "too narrow, too heavy, too long" to be of use in developing nuclear weapons and could be used for other purposes.
Source: New York Times

9. The Bush Administration has spent just $1.1 billion of the $18.4 billion Congress approved for Iraqi reconstruction.
Source: USA Today

10. According to the Administration's handpicked weapon's inspector, Charles Duelfer, there is "no evidence that Hussein had passed illicit weapons material to al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations, or had any intent to do so." After the release of the report, Bush continued to insist, "There was a risk--a real risk--that Saddam Hussein would pass weapons, or materials, or information to terrorist networks."
Sources: New York Times, White House news release

11. According to Duelfer, the UN inspections regime put an "economic strangle hold" on Hussein that prevented him from developing a WMD program for more than twelve years.
Source: Los Angeles Times

12. After receiving a memo from the CIA in August 2001 titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack America," President Bush continued his monthlong vacation.

13. The Bush Administration failed to commit enough troops to capture Osama bin Laden when US forces had him cornered in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in November 2001. Instead, they relied on local warlords.

14. The Bush Administration secured less nuclear material from sites around the world vulnerable to terrorists in the two years after 9/11 than were secured in the two years before 9/11.

15. The Bush Administration underfunded Nunn-Lugar--the program intended to keep the former Soviet Union's nuclear legacy out of the hands of terrorists and rogue states--by $45.5 million.

16. The Bush Administration has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track Osama bin Laden's and Saddam Hussein's money.

17. According to Congressional Research Service data, the Bush Administration has underfunded security at the nation's ports by more than $1 billion for fiscal year 2005.
Source: American Progress

18. The Bush Administration did not devote the resources necessary to prevent a resurgence in the production of poppies, the raw material used to create heroin, in Afghanistan--creating a potent new source of financing for terrorists.
Source: Pakistan Tribune

19. Vice President Cheney told voters that unless they elect George Bush in November, "we'll get hit again" by terrorists.
Source: Washington Post

20. Even though an Al Qaeda training manual suggests terrorists come to the United States and buy assault weapons, the Bush Administration did nothing to prevent the expiration of the ban.

21. Despite repeated calls for reinforcements, there are fewer experienced CIA agents assigned to the unit dealing with Osama bin Laden now than there were before 9/11.
Source: New York Times

22. Before 9/11, John Ashcroft proposed slashing counterterrorism funding by 23 percent.

23. Between January 20, 2001, and September 10, 2001, the Bush Administration publicly mentioned Al Qaeda one time.

24. The Bush Administration granted the 9/11 Commission $3 million to investigate the September 11 attacks and $50 million to the commission that investigated the Columbia space shuttle crash.

25. More than three years after 9/11, just 5 percent of all cargo--including cargo transported on passenger planes--is screened.

26. During the Bush Administration, North Korea quadrupled its suspected nuclear arsenal from two to eight weapons.
Source: New York Times

27. The Bush Administration has openly opposed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, undermining nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

28. The Bush Administration has spent $7 billion this year--and plans to spend $10 billion next year--for a missile defense system that has never worked in a test that wasn't rigged.
Sources:, Los Angeles Times

29. The Bush Administration underfunded the needs of the nation's first responders by $98 billion, according to a Council on Foreign Relations study.

30. The Bush Administration awarded a multibillion-dollar no-bid contract to Halliburton--a company that still pays Vice President Cheney hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred compensation each year (Cheney also has Halliburton stock options). The company then repeatedly overcharged the military for services, accepted kickbacks from subcontractors and served troops dirty food.
Sources: The Washington Post, The Tapei Times, BBC News

31. The Bush Administration told Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan about plans to go to war with Iraq before telling Secretary of State Colin Powell.

32. The Bush Administration relentlessly pushed an energy bill containing $23.5 billion in corporate tax breaks, much of which would have benefited major campaign contributors., Washington Post

33. The Bush Administration paid Iraqi-exile and neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi $400,000 a month for intelligence, including fabricated claims about Iraqi WMD. It continued to pay him for months after discovering that he was providing inaccurate information.
Source: MSNBC

34. The Bush Administration installed as top officials more than 100 former lobbyists, attorneys or spokespeople for the industries they oversee.
Source: Source:

35. The Bush Administration let disgraced Enron CEO Ken Lay--a close friend of President Bush--help write its energy policy.
Source: MSNBC

36. Top Bush Administration officials accepted $127,600 in jewelry and other presents from the Saudi royal family in 2003, including diamond-and-sapphire jewelry valued at $95,500 for First Lady Laura Bush.
Source: Seattle Times

37. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge awarded lucrative contracts to several companies in which he is an investor, including Microsoft, GE, Sprint, Pfizer and Oracle.

38. President Bush used images of firefighters carrying flag-draped coffins through the rubble of the World Trade Center to score political points in a campaign advertisement.
Source: The Washington Post

39. President Bush's top economic adviser, Greg Mankiw, said the outsourcing of American jobs abroad was "a plus for the economy in the long run."
Source: CBS News

40. The Bush Administration turned a $236 billion surplus into a $422 billion deficit.
Sources: Fortune,

41. The Bush Administration implemented regulations that made millions of workers ineligible for overtime pay.

42. The Bush Administration has crippled state budgets by underfunding federal mandates by $175 billion.

43. President Bush is the first President since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss of jobs--around 800,000--over a four-year term.
Source: The Guardian

44. The Bush Administration gave Accenture a multibillion-dollar border control contract even though the company moved its operations to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes.
Sources: The New York Times,

45. In 2000, candidate George W. Bush said "the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum." He passed the tax cuts, but the top 20 percent of earners received 68 percent of the benefits.

46. In 2000, candidate George W. Bush promised to pay down the national debt to a historically low level. As of September 30, the national debt stood at $7,379,052,696,330.32, a record high.
Sources: , Bureau of the Public Debt

47. As major corporate scandals rocked the nation's economy, the Bush Administration reduced the enforcement of corporate tax law--conducting fewer audits, imposing fewer penalties, pursuing fewer prosecutions and making virtually no effort to prosecute corporate tax crimes.

48. The Bush Administration increased tax audits for the working poor.

49. In 2000, candidate George W. Bush promised to protect the Social Security surplus. As President, he spent all of it.
Sources:, Congressional Budget Office

50. The Bush Administration proposed slashing funding for the largest federal public housing program, putting 2 million families in danger of losing their housing.
Source: San Francisco Examiner

51. The Bush Administration did nothing to prevent the minimum wage from falling to an inflation-adjusted fifty-year low.
Source: Los Angeles Times

52. The Bush Administration underfunded the No Child Left Behind Act by $9.4 billion.

53. In 2000, candidate George W. Bush promised to increase the maximum federal scholarship, or Pell Grant, by 50 percent. Instead, each year he has been in office he has frozen or cut the maximum scholarship amount.
Source: Source:

54. The Bush Administration's Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, called the National Education Association--a union of teachers--a "terrorist organization."

55. The Bush Administration, in violation of the law, refused to allow Medicare actuary Richard Foster to tell members of Congress the actual cost of their Medicare bill. Instead, they repeated a figure they knew was $100 billion too low.
Source: Washington Post,

56. The nonpartisan GAO concluded the Bush Administration created illegal, covert propaganda--in the form of fake news reports--to promote its industry-backed Medicare bill.
Source: General Accounting Office

57. The Bush Administration stunted research that could lead to new treatments for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, spinal injuries, heart disease and muscular dystrophy by placing severe restrictions on the use of federal dollars for embryonic stem-cell research.
Source: CBS News

58. The Bush Administration reinstated the "global gag rule," which requires foreign NGOs to withhold information about legal abortion services or lose US funds for family planning.

59. The Bush Administration authorized twenty companies that have been charged with fraud at the federal or state level to offer Medicare prescription drug cards to seniors.
Source: American Progress

60. The Bush Administration created a prescription drug card for Medicare that locks seniors into one card for up to a year but allows the corporations offering the cards to change their prices once a week.
Source: Washington Post

61. The Bush Administration blocked efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate cheaper prescription drug prices for seniors.
Source: American Progress

62. At the behest of the french fry industry, the Bush Administration USDA changed their definition of fresh vegetables to include frozen french fries.

63. In a case before the Supreme Court, the Bush Administrations sided with HMOs--arguing that patients shouldn't be allowed to sue HMOs when they are improperly denied treatment. With the Administration's help, the HMOs won.
Source: ABC News

64. The Bush Administration went to court to block lawsuits by patients who were injured by defective prescription drugs and medical devices.
Source: Washington Post

65. President Bush signed a Medicare law that allows companies that reduce healthcare benefits for retirees to receive substantial subsidies from the government.
Source: Bloomberg News

66. Since President Bush took office, more than 5 million people have lost their health insurance.

67. The Bush Administration blocked a proposal to ban the use of arsenic-treated lumber in playground equipment, even though it conceded it posed a danger to children.
Source: Miami Herald

68. One day after President Bush bragged about his efforts to help seniors afford healthcare, the Administration announced the largest dollar increase of Medicare premiums in history.

69. The Bush Administration--at the behest of the tobacco industry--tried to water down a global treaty that aimed to help curb smoking.

70. The Bush Administration has spent $270 million on abstinence-only education programs even though there is no scientific evidence demonstrating that they are effective in dissuading teenagers from having sex or reducing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

71. The Bush Administration slashed funding for programs that suggested ways, other than abstinence, to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
Source: LA Weekly

72. The Bush Administration gutted clean-air standards for aging power plants, resulting in at least 20,000 premature deaths each year.

73. The Bush Administration eliminated protections on more than 200 million acres of public lands.

74. President Bush broke his promise to place limits on carbon dioxide emissions, an essential step in combating global warming.
Source: Washington Post

75. Days after 9/11, the Bush Administration told people living near Ground Zero that the air was safe--even though they knew it wasn't--subjecting hundreds of people to unnecessary, debilitating ailments.
Sierra Club , EPA

76. The Bush Administration created a massive tax loophole for SUVs--allowing, for example, the write-off of the entire cost of a new Hummer.
Source: Washington Post

77. The Bush Administration put former coal-industry big shots in the government and let them roll back safety regulations, putting miners at greater risk of black lung disease.
Source: New York Times

78. The Bush Administration said that even though the weed killer atrazine was seeping into water supplies--creating, among other bizarre creatures, hermaphroditic frogs--there was no reason to regulate it.
Source: Washington Post

79. The Bush Administration has proposed cutting the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by $600 million next year.

80. President Bush broke his campaign promise to end the maintenance backlog at national parks. He has provided just 7 percent of the funds needed, according to National Park Service estimates.

81. Since 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft has detained 5,000 foreign nationals in antiterrorism sweeps; none have been convicted of a terrorist crime.

82. The Bush Administration ignored pleas from the International Committee of the Red Cross to stop the abuse of prisoners in US custody.
Source: Wall Street Journal

83. In violation of international law, the Bush Administration hid prisoners from the Red Cross so the organization couldn't monitor their treatment.

84. The Bush Administration, without ever charging him with a crime, arrested US citizen José Padilla at an airport in Chicago, held him on a naval brig in South Carolina for two years, denied him access to a lawyer and prohibited any contact with his friends and family.

85. President Bush's top legal adviser wrote a memo to the President advising him that he can legally authorize torture.

86. At the direction of Bush Administration officials, the FBI went door to door questioning people planning on protesting at the 2004 political conventions.
Source: New York Times

87. The Bush Administration refuses to support the creation of an independent commission to investigate the abuse of foreign prisoners in American custody. Instead, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld selected the members of a commission to review the conduct of his own department.

88. President Bush opposed the creation of the 9/11 Commission before he supported it, delaying an essential inquiry into one of the greatest intelligence failure in American history.

89. President Bush said gay marriage was a state issue before he supported a constitutional amendment banning it.
Sources:, White House

90. President Bush said he was committed to capturing Osama bin Laden "dead or alive" before he said, "I truly am not that concerned about him."

91. President Bush said we had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, before he admitted we hadn't found them.
Sources: White House,

92. President Bush said, "You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," before he admitted Saddam had no role in 9/11.
Sources: White House, Washington Post

93. George Bush didn't come close to meeting his commitments to the National Guard. Records show he performed no service in a six-month period in 1972 and a three-month period in 1973.

94. In June 1990 George Bush violated federal securities law when he failed to inform the SEC that he had sold 200,000 shares of his company, Harken Energy. Two months later the company reported significant losses and by the end of that year the stock had dropped from $3 to $1.
Source: The Guardian

95. When asked at an April 2004 press conference to name a mistake he made during his presidency, Bush couldn't think of one.
Source: White House

96. The Bush Administration refuses to release twenty-seven pages of a Congressional report that reportedly detail the Saudi Arabian government's connections to the 9/11 hijackers.

97. Last year the Bush Administration spent $6.5 billion creating 14 million new classified documents and securing old secrets--the highest level of spending in ten years.

98. The Bush Administration spent $120 classifying documents for every $1 it spent declassifying documents.

99. The Bush Administration has spent millions of dollars and defied numerous court orders to conceal from the public who participated in Vice President Cheney's 2001 energy task force.
Source: Washington Post

100. The Bush Administration--reversing years of bipartisan tradition--refuses to answer requests from Democratic members of Congress about how the White House is spending taxpayer money.
Source: Washington Post

If the past informs the future, four more years of the Bush Administration will be a tragic period in the history of the United States and the world.

Joy Dworkin Letter - 10/22/04

Dear editor:

Im sorry the media didnt cover the Christians for Kerry event that took place a couple weeks ago at the Community Center on Main Street in Joplin. I couldn't attend the event, and I would have enjoyed reading about it in The Globe.

I heard it was a successful gathering---with a full crowd, including people of all ages, and a great feeling of fellowship. Hazel Allen, who was at the event, told me the minister who gave the main speech spoke compellingly about his long friendship with the Kerry family. Others I spoke with said the personal perspective on John Kerry was informative and convincing.

The event was organized to counter the impression that if you're a Democrat, you can't be a Christian! It saddens me that some religious people feel compelled to support Bush in this election. My own position is colored by my Jewishness; an elderly friend told me the residents at the Detroit-area Jewish care facility where she lives support Kerry about 9:1. But the most essential spiritual values transcend specific religions.

Isn't Christ's embodiment of love-embracing the poor, the weak, the leprous-really the heart of Christianity? Wouldnt Christians therefore vote against a president under whom the gap between rich and poor has widened shockingly? Doesn't an ethic of life include matters of war and peace? What of the Popes fervent opposition to Bushs war in Iraq, expressed most recently in the first-ever address by the Vatican to a UN General Assembly (everyone can see that [the war] did not lead to a safer world)? I hope religious voters consider a range of spiritual issues before marking their ballots on November 2nd.

Joy Dworkin

Elliott Denniston Letter - 10/22/04

Saturated With Politics?

"I’m sick of hearing about this election," people say. And I have heard many others claim, "Neither candidate is any good; I’m not voting." I can understand their frustration: for lots of Americans the process is not about choosing the better man but about avoiding the worse man.

But now consider what’s at stake. The difference between the candidates is huge, and the direction of this country will be forever altered by the winner.
If you really think it doesn’t matter who wins, look back over the last four years. Would President Gore have initiated such huge tax cuts overwhelmingly favoring the very wealthy? Would President Gore have taken us into a war in Iraq as President Bush has done? When will we pay off this gigantic deficit that Mr. Bush is largely responsible for (so says the bi-partisan Congressional Budget Office), and how will we do it while giving huge, new tax breaks to the very rich and conducting an impossible and unending war in Iraq?

We know at least that John Kerry will provide a fresh start; we know that he will work to make taxes more fair, to lower the deficit, to reduce the burden of health care, and to restore our educational system. He will repair our relations with our traditional allies and restore America’s good name in the world, and he will struggle mightily to bring this war to an end—with honor for us, with security for Iraq, and with reassurance for the rest of the world.

Our nation has reached a crisis of immense importance; all of us will be affected by the outcome. If you want to have the right to criticize whoever is president during the coming years, don’t fail to take a stand on November 2.

Elliott Denniston

The New Republic - John Kerry For President

From the New Republic

Post date 10.21.04 Issue date 11.01.04

John Kerry for President
by the Editors

There was a time, in the aftermath of September 11, when this magazine liked what it heard from George W. Bush. He said America was at war--not merely with an organization, but with a totalitarian ideology. And he pledged to defeat Islamist totalitarianism the same way we defeated European totalitarianism, by spreading democracy. For a publication that has long believed in the marriage of liberalism and American power, this was the right analysis. And its correctness mattered more than the limitations of the man from which it came.
Three years later, it has become tragically clear that the two cannot be separated. The president's war on terrorism, which initially offered a striking contrast to his special interest-driven domestic agenda, has come to resemble it. The common thread is ideological certainty untroubled by empirical evidence, intellectual curiosity, or open debate. The ideology that guides this president's war on terrorism is more appealing than the corporate cronyism that guides his domestic policy. But it has been pursued with the same sectarian, thuggish, and ultimately self-defeating spirit. You cannot lead the world without listening to it. You cannot make the Middle East more democratic while making it more anti-American. You cannot make the United States more secure while using security as a partisan weapon. And you cannot demand accountable government abroad while undermining it at home.

And so a president who promised to make America safer by making the Muslim world more free has failed on both counts. This magazine has had its differences with John Kerry during his career and during this campaign. But he would be a far better president than George W. Bush.

In domestic policy, Bush has been Newt Gingrich without the candor. Like Gingrich, he envisions stripping away many of the welfare-state protections that shield economically vulnerable Americans from the vagaries of the free market (while insulating corporations ever more from those same forces). But, rather than explicitly opposing popular government programs, as Gingrich did, Bush has pursued a more duplicitous strategy: He is eviscerating the government's ability to pay for them. His tax cuts, while sold as short-term measures to revive the economy, actually represent long-term assaults on the progressive tax code. If allowed to fully take effect, they will substantially shift the tax burden from unearned wealth to income, dramatically increasing inequality. And they will produce what Bush's former Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, has privately called a "fiscal crisis"--a collapse in government revenue just as the baby-boom retirement sends Medicare and Social Security costs skyrocketing. This crisis will sap America's ability to wage the war on terrorism--since government will lack the funds to adequately safeguard homeland security or expand the military. It will create enormous pressure to eviscerate the government protections that guarantee poor and middle-class Americans even the meager economic security they enjoy today. And it will be entirely by design.

The tax cuts are typical of a president who cloaks a relentlessly ideological domestic agenda in moderate, problem-solving language--and gets away with it by distorting the facts. In 2001, Bush presented his policy on stem cells as a pragmatic compromise--in which research on preexisting stem-cell lines would be funded but research on new ones would not. But the supposed compromise was based on a falsehood. Bush vastly exaggerated the number of viable preexisting stem-cell lines, thus pretending he was facilitating the medical research most Americans support while actually crippling it in obeisance to his conservative Christian base.

On prescription drugs, the story is similar. With elderly Americans demanding that the government cover their prescription-drug costs, Bush endorsed a bill that administered such coverage not through Medicare but through the private sector in which his administration harbors a near-theological faith. Since private insurers had to be lured into the market with large subsidies, Bush's plan offered less coverage, at greater cost, than it would have under Medicare. But, when Medicare's chief actuary tried to estimate the bill's true cost, his superiors threatened to fire him. Only after the legislation passed did the Bush administration admit that it would cost $134 billion more than it had previously acknowledged.

By contrast, John Kerry has a record of fiscal honesty and responsibility that continues the tradition of Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin. Unlike most Democrats, he supported the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction plan. Unlike most Republicans, he supported Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction package. And, unlike President Bush, he supports the "pay as you go" rules that, in the 1990s, helped produce a budget surplus.

It is true that, in this campaign, Kerry has proposed more spending than his partial repeal of the Bush tax cut will fund. But he has also said that, if the repeal does not bring in enough revenue, he will scale back his proposals. In fact, one of the virtues of Kerry's health plan is that, unlike Clinton's, it can easily be broken down into modest reforms. Even if Kerry merely makes good on his pledge to dramatically expand Medicaid and schip, programs that offer health coverage to poor children and adults, he will have done more to help struggling Americans than Bush has in his four years.

In foreign policy, Kerry's record is less impressive. His vote against the 1991 Gulf war suggested a tendency to see all American military action through the distorting prism of Vietnam. And his behavior in the current Iraq debate has not been exemplary. To be fair, his position has been more consistent than his detractors give him credit for. Republicans mock him for "voting for the war" before opposing it. But Bush himself urged congressional authorization for war as a way to force U.N. inspectors back into Iraq and to disarm Saddam Hussein peacefully. It was reasonable to believe that only a credible U.S. threat of force would produce an intrusive new inspections regime (which it did). And Kerry is right that, if Bush had allowed those inspections to continue, they would have eventually revealed that Saddam lacked weapons of mass destruction and eviscerated the rationale for war.

Kerry's greater failure was his vote against the $87 billion supplemental to equip American troops and rebuild Iraq. He was right to support funding the supplemental by repealing part of the tax cut (particularly since Bush officials like Paul Wolfowitz had shamelessly suggested that the war would cost America virtually nothing). But, once that effort failed, he should have supported the legislation anyway, as Senator Joseph Biden did. Building "firehouses in Baghdad"--a notion Kerry has repeatedly mocked--is not only something we owe the Iraqi people, it stems from the fundamentally liberal premise that social development can help defeat fanaticism. Abandoning that principle under pressure from Howard Dean is the most disturbing thing Kerry has done in this campaign.

But Kerry's critics are wrong to cite his opposition to the Gulf war--and his criticism of the current Iraq war--as evidence of his supposed reluctance to forcefully wage the war on terrorism. It is conceivable that, in the coming years, the United States might need to launch military action against another Muslim regime (though, given how greatly Bush has overextended the military, it is hard to see how we would do so). But the war on terrorism is far more likely to require military action within states, to secure lawless areas that terrorists have exploited.

The Bush administration's misguided tendency to see Al Qaeda as the instrument of rogue governments made it more willing to use force against Iraq but less willing to use force in Afghanistan after the Taliban fell. Kerry, by contrast, seems inclined to use American power where it could genuinely damage Al Qaeda. Even during the Democratic primaries, he attacked the Bush administration for not sending U.S. troops into Tora Bora to destroy Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants in the waning days of the Afghan war. He has proposed doubling U.S. Special Forces for operations just like that. And he has proposed strengthening America's capacity to act--including even militarily--to prevent nuclear proliferation, an issue on which the Bush administration has proved astonishingly passive.

Kerry's apparent willingness to act within states is particularly important because the U.N.'s obsession with sovereignty renders it impotent in such circumstances. His support for the Kosovo war, waged without U.N. approval, is encouraging in this regard, as is his openness to using U.S. troops--presumably without the Security Council's blessing--in Darfur, Sudan. These encouraging signs counterbalance his worrying tendency to describe multilateralism--and U.N. support--as an end in itself rather than instrument of American power. If elected, this tension will likely be a theme of his presidency, as it was of Clinton's.

Critics also call Kerry a narrow realist uninterested in battling Al Qaeda in the realm of ideas. But he has suggested an ambitious effort to support democratic civil society in the Muslim world. And, while we don't know whether Kerry would actually carry out such a campaign, we know that Bush--for all his grand rhetoric--has not. The administration's Greater Middle East Initiative, supposedly its signature effort to promote democracy in the Muslim world, was gutted after protests from the very autocracies President Bush pledged to reform. And, while the Iraq war was supposed to inspire liberals throughout the region, it may be doing the opposite. Anti-Americanism has reached such toxic levels that dissidents in Muslim countries seem increasingly fearful of any association with the United States. This is the bitter fruit of an occupation conducted with such shocking arrogance and carelessness that it calls into question whether the Bush administration's pledge to turn Iraq into a model democracy was ever really sincere.

But the war against Islamist totalitarianism is not merely a struggle for Muslim minds; it is a struggle for American ones as well. In the weeks after September 11, Bush presided over a country more united--with more faith in its government--than at any other time in recent memory. He has squandered that unity and trust for the cheapest of reasons. His administration has used the war on terrorism as a bludgeon against congressional Democrats and has implied that its critics are aiding the enemy. And it has repeatedly misled the public--touting supposed evidence of Iraq's nuclear program that American intelligence analysts knew was highly dubious, rebuking General Eric Shinseki for telling the truth about how many troops it would take to occupy Iraq successfully, and firing Lawrence Lindsey for saying how much it would cost.

The result is a country bitterly divided, distrustful of its government, and weaker as a result. The next time an American president tries to use force in the war on terrorism, he will not merely lack the world's trust, he will lack much of the American people's as well. That may be Bush's most damning legacy of all. He has failed the challenge of these momentous times. John Kerry deserves a chance to do better.

Bill Kumbier Letter - 10/22/04

Dear Editor:

C. Keith Sigler's recent letter in the Globe (10/22/04) proclaims that President Bush "swept the stench of immorality from the Oval Office and restored dignity and decency to the highest office in the land." That assertion can stand only if one defines "morality" in the narrowest, personal way. True, the president may have avoided "scandals" such as those that beset Bill Clinton, and he may impress many with his fervent displays of born-again Christianity and his belief--or, as he would put it, his "instincts"--that his "faith-based presidency" is just what this country needs. Yet this is a president who hardly hesitated to commit the lives of American soldiers and billions of American dollars to an unnecessary, unprovoked war, which so far has cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives. This is a president who refuses, except in the most limited way, to fund scientific endeavors, including stem cell research, that could save countless lives. This is a president who, until he is forced by his opponent to talk about it, really doesn't seem to care that more and more Americans have been forced to go without health care, while the millionaires in his support "base," as he calls them, make off with billions in tax breaks.

Morality is always a mix of personal belief--or faith, if you will--and works. President Bush's expressions of his personal faith may give many a warm, fuzzy feeling, but his works show the highest disregard for deeper moral concerns that affect so many human lives. If one is going to speak of the "stench of immorality" in connection with the Oval Office, I'd say that the smell right now is strong enough that it's long past time to take out the garbage.

Bill Kumbier

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Maureen Dowd - Casualties of Faith

Casualties of Faith

New York Times October 21, 2004


When I was little, I was very good at leaps of faith.

A nun would tape up a picture of a snow-covered mountain peak on the blackboard and say that the first child to discern the face of Christ in the melting snow was the holiest. I was soon smugly showing the rest of the class the "miraculous" outline of that soulful, bearded face.

But I never thought I'd see the day when leaps of faith would be national policy, when the fortunes of America hung on the possibility of a miracle.

What does it tell you about a president that his grounds for war are so weak that the only way he can justify it is by believing God wants it? Or that his only Iraq policy now - as our troops fight a vicious insurgency and the dream of a stable democracy falls apart - is a belief in miracles?

Miracles make the incurious even more incurious. People who live by religious certainties don't have to waste time with recalcitrant facts or moral doubts. They do not need to torture themselves, for example, about dispatching American kids into a sand trap with ghostly enemies and without the proper backup, armor, expectations or cultural training.

Any president relying more on facts than faith could have seen that his troops would be sitting ducks: Donald Rumsfeld's experiment - sending in a light, agile force (more a Vin Diesel vehicle than a smart plan for Iraq) - was in direct conflict with the overwhelming force needed to attempt the neocons' grandiose scheme to turn Iraq into a model democracy.

J.F.K. had to fight the anti-papist expectation that his Oval Office would take orders from heaven. For W., it's a selling point. Some right-wing Catholics want John Kerry excommunicated, while evangelicals call the president a messenger of God. "God's blessing is on him," the TV evangelist Pat Robertson says, adding, "It's the blessing of heaven on the emperor."

Mr. Bush has shown all the evangelical voters who didn't like his daddy that he gets, as Mr. Robertson puts it, "his direction from the Lord."

When Paula Zahn asked the televangelist Tuesday whether Mr. Bush, as a Christian, should admit his mistakes, Mr. Robertson said he'd warned a self-satisfied Bush about Iraq: "The Lord told me it was going to be (a) a disaster, and (b) messy."

Mr. Robertson said, "He was the most self-assured man I ever met." Paraphrasing Mark Twain, he said Mr. Bush was "like a contented Christian with four aces. He was just sitting there, like, I'm on top of the world, and I warned him about this war. ... And I was trying to say, Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties. 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.' "

W., it seems, really believes he's the one. President Neo. (And his advisers are disciples. That's why Condi Rice so willingly puts aside her national security duties to spread the Bush gospel in swing states, and why Karen Hughes raced to impugn Mr. Robertson's veracity after he described his chilling encounter with W.)

W.'s willful blindness comes from mistakenly assuming that his desires are God's, as if he knows where God stands on everything from democracy in Iraq to capital-gains tax cuts.

As Lincoln noted in his Second Inaugural Address about the Civil War, one can't speak for God: "The Almighty has His own purposes."

Mr. Bush didn't just ignore Mr. Robertson's warning - he ignored his own intelligence experts, who warned before the war that an invasion of Iraq would spur more support for political Islam and trigger violent conflict, including an insurgency that would drive Baathists and terrorists together in a toxic combination.

As Michael Gordon wrote in his Times series this week on blind spots in the strategy to secure Iraq, the Bush crew engaged in an astonishing series of delusions: assuming they could begin a withdrawal of troops 60 days after taking Baghdad; enabling the insurgency to flourish; abolishing the Iraqi military and putting American lives at risk; misreading the obvious reaction to an American occupation of a Muslim country.

C.I.A. officials were so clueless they wanted to sneak hundreds of small American flags into Iraq before the war started so grateful Iraqis could wave them at their liberators. The agency planned to film that and triumphantly beam it to the Arab world.

The president has this strange notion that his belief in God means detailed and perfect knowledge of everything that God wants. He may wish to keep his head stuck in the Iraqi sand, but he may discover that the Almighty has His own purposes.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Elliott Denniston Letter 10/20/04

A Military Draft?

President Bush says he will not reinstate the draft, and I take him at his word. In realistic terms, his statement means that he "has no intention" of reinstating it. (A draft, by the way, means selecting from 18 to 26 year old men and women and giving them very little chance for deferments.) I also feel certain that when he started the war he had "no intention" of requiring our volunteer soldiers to extend their terms of duty. But intentions were only intentions: when the war became unexpectedly long, he felt compelled, in fact, to extend our volunteer soldiers’ terms of duty. And, in fact, the word "volunteer" has already lost much of its meaning when thousands of reservists and National Guard members have been forcibly kept in the military long past their agreed upon length of service.

For anyone to suggest that the President might call for a draft invites a strong Republican protest that such arguments are just fear mongering. But before deciding whether this is "just politics," examine the facts. A study commissioned by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld concluded, as other studies have, that the U.S. has "inadequate total numbers" of troops to sustain operations at the current pace. Ambassador Bremer, who ran the Iraq operation for Mr. Bush until last June, admitted very recently, "We have never had enough troops on the ground." The administration’s failure to plan for security after the war, continued Mr. Bremer, "established an atmosphere of lawlessness" that made it nearly impossible to secure the nation. We also know that senior officers on the ground have repeatedly called for more troops.

The President had no intention or desire to extend the length of service of our all-volunteer military—but he did. Mr. Bush also has no desire to institute a draft, but we know that his top advisors believe that our main weakness in Iraq now is a shortage of troops. And we know that he is determined to stick it out until Iraq has a working democracy. A universal draft seems to be almost inevitable.

Elliott Denniston

Joy Dworkin Letter 10/20/04

Dear Editor:

When Bush was asked by Bob Schieffer what he would say to Americans who have lost their jobs to outsourcing, the president kept an eerie smile in place throughout an evasive, condescending answer. "Here‘s some help for you to go to a community college," he said. The reality of the situation didn’t seem to compute for Bush.

In another memorable moment from the third presidential debate, Kerry answered Schieffer’s question about the minimum wage, which hasn’t changed in about 7 years. I was teary-eyed as Kerry forcefully--yes, passionately--addressed the need to increase the minimum wage; about how it’s the lowest it’s been, in real terms, for 50 years; about how 15 million Americans would be positively affected by such a raise; about how 9.2 million women trying to support their children would be able to earn an additional $3,800 a year.

Yes, Kerry is a rich man. I’ve spoken to people who believe that, because both candidates are wealthy and come from privileged backgrounds, they’re "the same." But wealth is not a disqualification of either heart or vision. Kerry has a practical plan to alter tax codes in order to reduce outsourcing. He has a specific plan to lower the health insurance costs that hurt not only individuals but also business and our economy generally. And Kerry has the will and capacity to face facts--qualities we sorely need in our leadership. It’s no wonder Kerry has won endorsements from U.S. newspapers by a 3:1 ratio, and from a host of labor groups: United Farm Workers, American Nurses Association, International Brotherhood of Police Officers, International Association of Fire Fighters, to name a few. (See for more.)

Bush will have more empathy with the unemployed come November 3rd.

Joy Dworkin

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Gwen Murdock Letter - 10/19/04

Dear Editor:

Our community's strong support for the Republican Party means that Republicans can take us for granted and Democrats can automatically dismiss us. We will never get any return on the taxes we send to Jefferson City or to Washington D.C. Instead, our tax money will be sent to communities where people can change their mind and vote for the politicians who give them the best constituent service. If you haven't decided how to vote, vote for Democrats. At least then, both Republicans and Democrats will bring in tax dollars to support and develop our community.

Gwen Murdock

Conservative Tampa Tribune - "We Cannot Endorse President Bush"

Why We Cannot Endorse President Bush For Re-Election

The Tampa Tribune

Sunday 17 October 2004

We find ourselves in a position unimaginable four years ago when we strongly endorsed for president a fiscal conservative and "moderate man of mainstream convictions" who promised to wield military muscle only as a last resort and to resist the lure of "nation building."

We find ourselves deeply conflicted today about the presidential race, skeptical of the promises and positions of Sen. John Kerry and disappointed by the performance of President George W. Bush.

As stewards of the Tribune's editorial voice, we find it unimaginable to not be lending our voice to the chorus of conservative-leaning newspapers endorsing the president's re- election. We had fully expected to stand with Bush, whom we endorsed in 2000 because his politics generally reflected ours: a strong military, fiscal conservatism, personal responsibility and small government. We knew him to be a popular governor of Texas who fought for lower taxes, less government and a pro-business constitution.

But we are unable to endorse President Bush for re- election because of his mishandling of the war in Iraq, his record deficit spending, his assault on open government and his failed promise to be a "uniter not a divider" within the United States and the world.

Neither can we endorse Sen. Kerry, whose undistinguished Senate record stands at odds with our conservative principles and whose positions on the Iraq war - the central issue in this campaign - have been difficult to distinguish or differentiate.

It is an achingly difficult decision to not endorse a candidate in the presidential contest, and we do not reach this decision lightly.

The Tribune has endorsed a Republican for president ever since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952, with one exception. We did not endorse in the 1964 presidential race because, as we said at the time, "it is our feeling that unless a newspaper can recommend a candidate with complete conviction that he be the better choice for the office, it should make no endorsement."

Like the country, this editorial board finds itself deeply divided about the president's prosecution of the war and his indifference to federal spending.

Bush Overstated the Evidence

Although Bush came to office having lost the popular vote, the nation rallied behind him after the terrorist strikes of 9/11. He transcended the political divide and became everyone's president the moment he picked up that bullhorn on the ashes of ground zero and promised the terrorists that they would hear from us. Aside from a few dancing extremists, the world stood with us.

Bush told us to wait, and we confidently stood with him. With surety and resolve, he struck Afghanistan and the hillside holes of al-Qaida extremists. For taking out the Taliban and bringing about national elections in Afghanistan this month, the president deserves much credit. While we still haven't caught Osama bin Laden, the ace of spades, our troops have successfully caught and imprisoned many other al-Qaida leaders.

But before securing Afghanistan, Bush grew convinced that Iraq posed an imminent threat to America and so directed soldiers and supplies there.

His administration terrified us into believing that we had to quickly wage war with Baghdad to ensure our safety. Vice President Dick Cheney said he had "irrefutable evidence" that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear program. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice wrongly asserted that aluminum tubes found in Iraq could be used only for nuclear weapons. And the president himself said he couldn't wait for a smoking gun in the form of a "mushroom cloud."

Again, this editorial board stood solidly with the president in his resolve to take the fight to the terrorists where they live, forever changing American foreign policy with our first-ever "pre-emptive" war.

Once we got to Baghdad, however, we found out that the president was wrong and that the reasons for launching the war were either exaggerated or inaccurate. There were no stockpiles of WMD and no link between Saddam and the terrorists that struck on 9/11.

As it turns out, the neoconservatives in the Bush administration were bamboozled by dubious sources named Curveball and Chalabi, whose integrity and access to real- time information was repeatedly questioned by our own intelligence services.

No Dissension Allowed

But groupthink took hold among the neocons, while those with contrary points of view, like Secretary of State Colin Powell, were sidelined until after key decisions were made. It was almost as though someone who asked tough questions was seen as siding with the terrorists.

When Gen. Eric Shinseki, then Army chief of staff, said that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure a postwar Iraq, his argument was dismissed and the general summarily pushed aside.

But after Baghdad fell, we saw how insufficient troop numbers led to the looting of hospitals, businesses and schools - everything but the Oil Ministry, which our forces secured.

At the time, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said with great hubris that the uprising was "untidy" but not unexpected. And the president himself challenged the enemy to "bring it on."

Now we learn from Ambassador Paul Bremer, former presidential envoy to Iraq, that "we never had enough troops on the ground" to stop the insurgency. Baath party loyalists went underground only to launch a guerrilla campaign that makes Iraq less safe today than immediately after Baghdad fell.

The insurgents have taken back cities like Fallujah, which we mistakenly ceded to them last April. And they continue to undo the reconstruction of schools, roads, clinics and the electrical grid built by our troops and an array of mostly American contractors. Most problematic, they keep blowing up rebuilt oil pipelines whose revenues were supposed to pay for the reconstruction.

In one of his too-rare press conferences, the president stood strong in promising that Iraq would be sovereign by June 30, even though no one could identify who would get the keys to the country. Bush's resolve in meeting the deadline for the creation of an interim government was commendable.

Still, despite deliberate steps to rebuild Iraq, we find ourselves today in an open-ended war that has taken the lives of 1,081 American servicemen and women, and wounded or maimed 7,862 more. Financially, the war has cost us $126 billion - money that could have been better spent securing the homeland - and is a major reason for the largest federal deficit in history.

More Fear Ahead

What bothers us is that the president says that even knowing what he knows now, he still would have invaded Iraq because Saddam had the "intent" to make nuclear weapons and was a ruthless dictator who killed his own people. If this nation-building succeeds, the president says, we will have built a friend in the Middle East.

Because of the invasion, one other renegade country - Libya - decided to disarm its nuclear program, a real success for the president.

Still, we are troubled by Bush's talk about a broad "forward strategy of freedom" to "transform" the Middle East. We believe it unwise to use our military to impose democracy on Arab countries, which would rather determine their own future. We fear this model of forced democracy will only fuel recruiting campaigns for terrorism.

And how about Iran and North Korea, who have considerably more advanced nuclear capabilities than Iraq ever had? Are we going to brashly send our overstretched military to war there too?

An American president should take the country to war only as a last resort, only after exhausting every diplomatic channel and only after asking demanding questions and weighing concrete evidence. On the Iraq war, President Bush failed on all counts.

The Iraq war came about because of a profound failure of intelligence that went unchecked and unquestioned by the president, who shows no sign of having second doubts. He admits to making no mistakes except for a few presidential appointments - presumably disloyal people who dared to speak up.

Bush's re-election campaign continues to stoke fear. "You better have a president who faces these terrorists down before they hurt us again," he said in the first debate.

Cheney, who continues to maintain that Iraq was in league with al-Qaida despite evidence to the contrary, went so far as to say that electing Kerry would invite another terrorist strike.

We don't like Kerry's talk about a "global test," but neither should we summarily dismiss the court of world opinion, which, you will remember, was with us less than three short years ago.

And finally, Bush has done little to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, a conflict that continues to ferment hatred in the Arab world.

Bush's Spending Ways

While his prosecution of the war is the principal reason we cannot endorse the president's re-election, we are also deeply disappointed by his failure to control federal spending.

It must be said that Bush has been a friend to business, and his promise to simplify the tax code is alluring. He also has dramatically reduced government regulations that slow commerce and cost money. As one example, he rightfully ended the requirement that businesses report any employee complaint of carpal tunnel syndrome.

It should also be noted that his tax cuts spurred a sputtering economy and benefited not only the rich, but the middle class too. He doubled the child credit to $1,000, reduced the marriage penalty and favored elimination of the death tax, all positions we supported.

However, although the numbers from recent months are more promising, the tax cuts did not spur the expected job growth. The nation has lost jobs during the Bush presidency, the first administration since Herbert Hoover's to oversee a net loss of jobs.

But while the recession, 9/11 and profligate spending by Congress have grown the deficit, two-thirds can be traced back to the president's tax cuts, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Bush's mistake was failing to couple tax cuts with reduced spending. Instead of asking some sacrifice from the public, he allowed Congress to keep spending, including a giveaway program of farm subsidies.

Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill. Even Franklin Roosevelt scaled back New Deal programs after Pearl Harbor.

The result: Bush has turned the $150 billion surplus he inherited into a $450 billion deficit.

At one point, Congress tried to impose some fiscal discipline. Lawmakers said they would not pass the Medicare prescription drug benefit if the cost exceeded $400 billion over 10 years.

So what did the administration do? It fudged the numbers.

Thomas Scully, former head of the Medicare agency, threatened to fire chief actuary Richard Foster if he dared to tell lawmakers that the true cost stood between $500 billion and $600 billion.

To make matters worse, the president's law prohibits Medicare from negotiating the best prices from pharmaceutical companies.

Against this backdrop of spending, Bush announced a mission to Mars and support for a missile shield defense system, a Cold War throwback that would be nice to have but wouldn't stop the car bombs and speedboats that are today's terrorists' weapons of choice.

At the same time, Bush has done nothing to shrink the size of the federal government. He has not cut one agency's budget. In fact, at the Department of Education, he has actually increased spending by 68 percent.

We support a strong and accountable education system, but we do not support the added layer of federal regulation that Bush has imposed on Florida schools through his No Child Left Behind act.

The president modeled his plan after Florida's A-Plus Plan, which was doing well enough by itself. Now we have two government programs that send conflicting messages to Florida parents, teachers and students.

Yet, while throwing money at programs of questionable urgency, Bush has failed to adequately fund the Department of Homeland Security. Penny-pinching there means firefighters and police still lack radios that can talk to one another, cargo shipments at airports and seaports are not screened, and hospitals and biohazard labs feel under-funded and under-equipped.

Government Behind Closed Doors

At the birth of the 9/11 millennium, President Bush rallied us around a new world order that required some loss of freedoms so that the government could do a better job of protecting us.

He passed the Patriot Act, which, while not perfect, gives law enforcement agencies the much-needed ability to talk with one another.

While we supported the Patriot Act, we are concerned by the president's relentless attack on open government.

According to the libertarian Reason Foundation, Bush has nearly doubled the number of classified documents, urged agencies to refuse Freedom of Information Act requests and invoked executive privilege wherever possible.

His administration doesn't want citizens to know when hazardous chemicals are routed through their towns, how the repair of tenuous electric grids is going or who was at the table to form the nation's energy policy.

Typical of this administration, only industry lobbyists and like-minded people were allowed at the table to craft the energy plan. People who might dissent - consumer groups and conservationists - were not invited.

Within a year of Cheney's energy task force, the administration had given billions in subsidies to energy firms and begun weakening pollution laws while opening up wilderness areas to exploitation. The administration misled people by calling a plan to weaken pollution controls the Clear Skies initiative. As one example, the new law allows coal- burning power plants to avoid installing pollution-control equipment during renovations.

The Failed Compassionate Conservative

President Bush told us that he was "uniter, not a divider," but shortly after taking office, his administration took a sharp right turn that has divided this country.

We were glad to see him sign the ban on late-term abortions. While we don't favor the criminalization of abortion, we want to see the number of abortions reduced. It is not uncommon to place limits on freedoms, such as freedom of speech or freedom of assembly. Limits on abortion can be justified too.

We also agree that religion and tradition define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. However, we believe marriage laws should rightfully be left to the states. We don't support the president's decision to engage this country in a fight for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Probably most disappointing, however, is his leadership in Washington.

Besides the White House, Republicans control the House and the Senate and all committee chairs. But rather than reach across the aisle, this president has deepened the divide in Congress, where Republican leaders have uninvited Democrats from conference committees where differences are reconciled. We would not condone such behavior from Democrats and shouldn't accept it from Republicans.

We had expected something different, given Bush's tenure in Texas.

People view Bush as a man with strong convictions. And while he's clearly convinced of the rightness of his ways, that doesn't mean he's always right.

This president doesn't try to hear from people who disagree, choosing instead to keep the counsel of staunch supporters. He disdains news conferences and brags that he doesn't read the newspapers. He counts on his core group of insiders to tell him what he needs to know.

When asked if he consulted his father, the only other president to have waged war against Iraq, Bush unabashedly said that he spoke to a "higher father." Presidential decisions about sending men and women to war should be based on fact, not prayer.

Still, the president seems like a nice guy. He is plain-spoken and says what he means. People who've met him come away impressed. If he were a drinking man, they say, they would enjoy having a beer with him. But we're not electing Mr. Congeniality. We're electing the leader of the free world and should set a higher standard than likability.

On a large scale, Bush has failed to deliver on his promise to be a compassionate conservative.

Kerry Concerns Us Too

We have written today mostly about Bush because he was our choice the last time around and we believed his conservative principles were most closely aligned with ours.

But neither do we see the senator from Massachusetts as someone we can endorse.

We're not sure what Kerry thinks. He supported the war in Iraq, then opposed adequately funding the troops. His plan to secure the peace in Iraq is to cozy up to European countries that don't have our interests at heart.

This is the same man who as a senator for 20 years has no significant legislation to his name and voted against all of the major weapons systems that have made America the most powerful country in the world.

Kerry would repeal Bush's tax cut for Americans who earn more than $200,000, but he doesn't say how he would create his promised 10 million jobs. And he promises to lower health insurance premiums, though the math looks fuzzy.

He made veracity an issue by putting his noble service in Vietnam front and center in his campaign. He wants to be treated as a hero, but 30 years ago he claimed Americans committed atrocities. He seems shocked that people doubt him and don't consider him a hero.

Early Voting Starts Tomorrow

When early voting opens in Florida on Monday, you can begin going to the polls to pick the leader you think will best protect us and move our country forward.

The president's backers argue that his resolve and strength prove him to be the best leader for the next four years. Kerry's people argue that it's time for a change.

You've heard from the candidates and you've heard our analysis.

Now it's time for you to vote.

Voting is a matter of faith, since no one can predict what either candidate will do. Voting is a personal choice, one of the most personal things we do. We encourage you to look deep within yourself and choose the candidate you think most clearly represents your views.

Of one thing we are certain: America is the greatest country on earth and will survive, no matter the outcome on Nov. 2.

Jeff Martinek Letter 10/19/04

Dear Editor:

In his recent letter to the Globe Rod McCullough asks rhetorically which of our allies John Kerry wants to reach out to “. . . North Vietnam, Cuba or North Korea?”

Let’s put aside the fact that “North Vietnam” no longer exists. The implication is clear and I wish Mr. McCullough had been honest enough to make it directly: John Kerry is a Democrat; all Democrats are Communists, therefore John Kerry is a Communist.

Perhaps Mr. McCullough needs to be reminded that it was a Democrat, Harry Truman, who dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, largly as a warning against Communist Russia and China. It was that same Democrat who stood up to the North Koreans and Chinese at the 38th parallel in Korea. It was a Democrat, John Kennedy, who faced down the Soviet missle crisis in Cuba and signed off on the Bay of Pigs invasion. And it was a Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, who dramatically escalated the struggle against Communism in Vietnam.

But even more to the point: while George Bush was hiding from frontline service in the “Champagne Division” of the Texas Air Guard, John Kerry was risking his life, earning three purple hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star, while killing Communists in Vietnam.

And which candidate in the current presidential election was just enthusiastically endorsed by the former director of the KGB---a man who is busily engaged in returning Russia to a Soviet-style police state? That’s right, George Bush, best buddy of Vladimir “Pootie” Putin.

Jeff Martinek

Al Gore Speaks on Iraq

Al Gore Speaks on Iraq

Monday, October 18 , 2004 at 12:30pm

Gaston Hall, Georgetown University Washington, D.C.

Text of the speech, as prepared:

I have made a series of speeches about the policies of the Bush-Cheney administration – with regard to Iraq, the war on terror, civil liberties, the environment and other issues – beginning more than two years ago with a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco prior to the administration’s decision to invade Iraq. During this series of speeches, I have tried to understand what it is that gives so many Americans the uneasy feeling that something very basic has gone wrong with our democracy.

There are many people in both parties who have the uneasy feeling that there is something deeply troubling about President Bush’s relationship to reason, his disdain for facts, an incuriosity about new information that might produce a deeper understanding of the problems and policies that he wrestles with on behalf of the country. One group maligns the President as not being intelligent, or at least, not being smart enough to have a normal curiosity about separating fact from myth. A second group is convinced that his religious conversion experience was so profound that he relies on religious faith in place of logical analysis. But I disagree with both of those groups. I think he is plenty smart. And while I have no doubt that his religious belief is genuine, and that it is an important motivation for many things that he does in life, as it is for me and for many of you, most of the President’s frequent departures from fact-based analysis have much more to do with right-wing political and economic ideology than with the Bible. But it is crucially important to be precise in describing what it is he believes in so strongly and insulates from any logical challenge or even debate. It is ideology – and not his religious faith – that is the source of his inflexibility. Most of the problems he has caused for this country stem not from his belief in God, but from his belief in the infallibility of the right-wing Republican ideology that exalts the interests of the wealthy and of large corporations over the interests of the American people. Love of power for its own sake is the original sin of this presidency.

The surprising dominance of American politics by right-wing politicians whose core beliefs are often wildly at odds with the opinions of the majority of Americans has resulted from the careful building of a coalition of interests that have little in common with each other besides a desire for power devoted to the achievement of a narrow agenda. The two most important blocks of this coalition are the economic royalists, those corporate leaders and high net worth families with vast fortunes at their disposal who are primarily interested in an economic agenda that eliminates as much of their own taxation as possible, and an agenda that removes regulatory obstacles and competition in the marketplace. They provide the bulk of the resources that have financed the now extensive network of foundations, think tanks, political action committees, media companies and front groups capable of simulating grassroots activism. The second of the two pillars of this coalition are social conservatives who want to roll back most of the progressive social changes of the 20 th century, including women’s rights, social integration, the social safety net, the government social programs of the progressive era, the New Deal, the Great Society and others. Their coalition includes a number of powerful special interest groups such as the National Rifle Association, the anti-abortion coalition, and other groups that have agreed to support each other’s agendas in order to obtain their own. You could call it the three hundred musketeers – one for all and all for one. Those who raise more than one hundred thousand dollars are called not musketeers but pioneers.

His seeming immunity to doubt is often interpreted by people who see and hear him on television as evidence of the strength of his conviction – when in fact it is this very inflexibility, based on a willful refusal to even consider alternative opinions or conflicting evidence, that poses the most serious danger to the country. And by the same token, the simplicity of his pronouncements, which are often misinterpreted as evidence that he has penetrated to the core of a complex issue, are in fact exactly the opposite -- they mark his refusal to even consider complexity. That is a particularly difficult problem in a world where the challenges we face are often quite complex and require rigorous analysis.
The essential cruelty of Bush’s game is that he takes an astonishingly selfish and greedy collection of economic and political proposals then cloaks it with a phony moral authority, thus misleading many Americans who have a deep and genuine desire to do good in the world. And in the process he convinces them to lend unquestioning support for proposals that actually hurt their families and their communities. Bush has stolen the symbolism and body language of religion and used it to disguise the most radical effort in American history to take what rightfully belongs to the citizenry of America and give as much as possible to the already wealthy and privileged, who look at his agenda and say, as Dick Cheney said to Paul O’Neill, “this is our due.”

The central elements of Bush’s political – as opposed to religious -- belief system are plain to see: The “public interest” is a dangerous myth according to Bush’s ideology – a fiction created by the hated “liberals” who use the notion of “public interest” as an excuse to take away from the wealthy and powerful what they believe is their due. Therefore, government of by and for the people, is bad – except when government can help members of his coalition. Laws and regulations are therefore bad – again, except when they can be used to help members of his coalition. Therefore, whenever laws must be enforced and regulations administered, it is important to assign those responsibilities to individuals who can be depended upon not to fall prey to this dangerous illusion that there is a public interest, and will instead reliably serve the narrow and specific interests of industries or interest groups. This is the reason, for example, that President Bush put the chairman of Enron, Ken Lay, in charge of vetting any appointees to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Enron had already helped the Bush team with such favors as ferrying their rent-a-mob to Florida in 2000 to permanently halt the counting of legally cast ballots. And then Enron went on to bilk the electric rate-payers of California, without the inconvenience of federal regulators protecting citizens against their criminal behavior. Or to take another example, this is why all of the important EPA positions have been filled by lawyers and lobbyists representing the worst polluters in their respective industries in order to make sure that they’re not inconvenienced by the actual enforcement of the laws against excessive pollution. In Bush’s ideology, there is an interweaving of the agendas of large corporations that support him and his own ostensibly public agenda for the government he leads. Their preferences become his policies, and his politics become their business.

Any new taxes are of course bad – especially if they add anything to the already unbearable burden placed on the wealthy and powerful. There are exceptions to this rule, however, for new taxes that are paid by lower income Americans, which have the redeeming virtue of simultaneously lifting the burden of paying for government from the wealthy and potentially recruiting those presently considered too poor to pay taxes into the anti-tax bandwagon.

In the international arena, treaties and international agreements are bad, because they can interfere with the exercise of power, just as domestic laws can. The Geneva Convention, for example, and the U.S. law prohibiting torture were both described by Bush’s White House Counsel as “quaint.” And even though new information has confirmed that Donald Rumsfeld was personally involved in reviewing the specific extreme measures authorized to be used by military interrogators, he has still not been held accountable for the most shameful and humiliating violation of American principles in recent memory.

Most dangerous of all, this ideology promotes the making of policy in secret, based on information that is not available to the public and insulated from any meaningful participation by Congress. And when Congress’s approval is required under our current constitution, it is given without meaningful debate. As Bush said to one Republican Senator in a meeting described in Time magazine, “Look, I want your vote. I’m not going to debate it with you.” At the urging of the Bush White House, Republican leaders in Congress have taken the unprecedented step of routinely barring Democrats from serving on important conference committees and allowing lobbyists for special interests to actually draft new legislative language for conference committees that has not been considered or voted upon in either the House or Senate.

It appears to be an important element in Bush’s ideology to never admit a mistake or even a doubt. It also has become common for Bush to rely on special interests for information about the policies important to them and he trusts what they tell him over any contrary view that emerges from public debate. He has, in effect, outsourced the truth. Most disturbing of all, his contempt for the rule of reason and his early successes in persuading the nation that his ideologically based views accurately described the world have tempted him to the hubristic and genuinely dangerous illusion that reality is itself a commodity that can be created with clever public relations and propaganda skills, and where specific controversies are concerned, simply purchased as a turnkey operation from the industries most affected.

George Orwell said, “The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

And in one of the speeches a year ago last August, I proposed that one reason why the normal processes of our democracy have seemed dysfunctional is that the nation had a large number of false impressions about the choices before us, including that Saddam Hussein was the person primarily responsible for attacking us on September 11 th 2001 (according to Time magazine, 70 percent thought that in November of 2002); an impression that there was a tight linkage and close partnership and cooperation between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, between the terrorist group al Qaeda, which attacked us, and Iraq, which did not; the impression that Saddam had a massive supply of weapons of mass destruction; that he was on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons, and that he was about to give nuclear weapons to the al Qaeda terrorist group, which would then use them against American cities; that the people of Iraq would welcome our invading army with garlands of flowers; that even though the rest of the world opposed the war, they would quickly fall in line after we won and contribute money and soldiers so that there wasn’t a risk to our taxpayers of footing the whole bill, that there would be more than enough money from the Iraqi oil supplies, which would flow in abundance after the invasion and that we would use that money to offset expenses and we wouldn’t have to pay anything at all; that the size of the force required for this would be relatively small and wouldn’t put a strain on our military or jeopardize other commitment around the world. Of course, every single one of these impressions was wrong. And, unfortunately, the consequences have been catastrophic for our country…

And the plague of false impressions seemed to settle on other policy debates as well. For example in considering President Bush’s gigantic tax cut, the country somehow got the impression that, one, the majority of it wouldn’t go disproportionally to the wealthy but to the middle class; two, that it would not lead to large deficits because it would stimulate the economy so much that it would pay for itself; not only there would be no job losses but we would have big increases in employment. But here too, every one of these impressions was wrong.

I did not accuse the president of intentionally deceiving the American people, but rather, noted the remarkable coincidence that all of his arguments turned out to be based on falsehoods. But since that time, we have learned that, in virtually every case, the president chose to ignore and indeed often to suppress, studies, reports and facts that were contrary to the false impressions he was giving to the American people. In most every case he chose to reject information that was prepared by objective analysts and rely instead on information that was prepared by sources of questionable reliability who had a private interest in the policy choice he was recommending that conflicted with the public interest.

For example, when the President and his team were asserting that Saddam Hussein had aluminum tubes that had been acquired in order to enrich Uranium for atomic bombs, numerous experts at the Department of Energy and elsewhere in the intelligence community were certain that the information being presented by the President was completely wrong. The true experts on Uranium enrichment are at Oak Ridge, in my home state of Tennessee. And they told me early on that in their opinion there was virtually zero possibility whatsoever that the tubes in question were for the purpose of enrichment – and yet they received a directive forbidding them from making any public statement that disagreed with the President’s assertions.

In another example, we now know that two months before the war began, Bush received two detailed and comprehensive secret reports warning him that the likely result of an American-led invasion of Iraq would be increased support for Islamic fundamentalism, deep division of Iraqi society with high levels of violent internal conflict and guerilla warfare aimed against U.S. forces. Yes, in spite of these analyses, Bush chose to suppress the warnings and instead convey to the American people the absurdly Polyanna-ish view of highly questionable and obviously biased sources like Ahmad Chalabi, the convicted felon and known swindler, who the Bush administration put on its payroll and gave a seat adjacent to Laura Bush at the State of the Union address. They flew him into Baghdad on a military jet with a private security force, but then decided the following year he was actually a spy for Iran, who had been hoodwinking President Bush all along with phony facts and false predictions.

There is a growing tension between President Bush’s portrait of the situation in which we find ourselves and the real facts on the ground. In fact, his entire agenda is collapsing around his ankles: Iraq is in flames, with a growing U.S. casualty rate and a growing prospect of a civil war with the attendant chaos and risk of an Islamic fundamentalist state. America’s moral authority in the world has been severely damaged, and our ability to persuade others to follow our lead has virtually disappeared. Our troops are stretched thin, are undersupplied and are placed in intolerable situations without adequate training or equipment. In the latest U.S.-sponsored public opinion survey of Iraqis only 2% say they view our troops as liberators; more than 90% of Arab Iraqis have a hostile view of what they see as an “occupation.” Our friends in the Middle East – including, most prominently, Israel – have been placed in greater danger because of the policy blunders and the sheer incompetence with which the civilian Pentagon officials have conducted the war. The war in Iraq has become a recruiting bonanza for terrorists who use it as their damning indictment of U.S. policy. The massive casualties suffered by civilians in Iraq and the horrible TV footage of women and children being pulled dead or injured from the rubble of their homes has been a propaganda victory for Osama bin Laden beyond his wildest dreams. America’s honor and reputation has been severely damaged by the President’s decision to authorize policies and legal hair splitting that resulted in widespread torture by U.S. soldiers and contractors of Iraqi citizens and others in facilities stretching from Guantanamo to Afghanistan to Iraq to secret locations in other countries. Astonishingly, and shamefully, investigators also found that more than 90 percent of those tortured and abused were innocent of any crime or wrongdoing whatsoever. The prestigious Jaffe think tank in Israel released a devastating indictment just last week of how the misadventure in Iraq has been a deadly distraction from the crucial war on terror.

We now know from Paul Bremer, the person chosen to be in charge of U.S. policy in Iraq immediately following the invasion, that he repeatedly told the White House there were insufficient troops on the ground to make the policy a success. Yet at that time, President Bush was repeatedly asserting to the American people that he was relying on those Americans in Iraq for his confident opinion that we had more than enough troops and no more were needed.

We now know from the Central Intelligence Agency that a detailed, comprehensive and authoritative analysis of the likely consequences of an invasion accurately predicted the chaos, popular resentment, and growing likelihood of civil war that would follow a U.S. invasion and that this analysis was presented to the President even as he confidently assured the nation that the aftermath of our invasion would be the speedy establishment of representative democracy and market capitalism by grateful Iraqis.

Most Americans have tended to give the Bush-Cheney administration the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his failure to take any action in advance of 9/11 to prepare the nation for attack. After all, hindsight always casts a harsh light on mistakes that were not nearly as visible at the time they were made. And we all know that. But with the benefit of all the new studies that have been made public it is no longer clear that the administration deserves this act of political grace by the American people. For example, we now know, from the 9/11 Commission that the chief law enforcement office appointed by President Bush to be in charge of counter-terrorism, John Ashcroft, was repeatedly asked to pay attention to the many warning signs being picked up by the FBI. Former FBI acting director Thomas J. Pickard, the man in charge of presenting Ashcroft with the warnings, testified under oath that Aschroft angrily told him “he did not want to hear this information anymore.” That is an affirmative action by the administration that is very different than simple negligence. That is an extremely serious error in judgment that constitutes a reckless disregard for the safety of the American people. It is worth remembering that among the reports the FBI was receiving, that Ashcroft ordered them not to show him, was an expression of alarm in one field office that the nation should immediately check on the possibility that Osama bin Laden was having people trained in commercial flight schools around the U.S. And another, from a separate field office, that a potential terrorist was learning to fly commercial airliners and made it clear he had no interest in learning how to land. It was in this period of recklessly willful ignorance on the part of the Attorney General that the CIA was also picking up unprecedented warnings that an attack on the United States by al Qaeda was imminent. In his famous phrase, George Tenet wrote, the system was blinking red. It was in this context that the President himself was presented with a CIA report with the headline, more alarming and more pointed than any I saw in eight years I saw of daily CIA briefings: “bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.”

The only warnings of this nature that remotely resembled the one given to George Bush was about the so-called Millenium threats predicted for the end of the year 1999 and less-specific warnings about the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. In both cases these warnings in the President’s Daily Briefing were followed, immediately, the same day – by the beginning of urgent daily meetings in the White House of all of the agencies and offices involved in preparing our nation to prevent the threatened attack.

By contrast, when President Bush received his fateful and historic warning of 9/11, he did not convene the National Security Council, did not bring together the FBI and CIA and other agencies with responsibility to protect the nation, and apparently did not even ask followup questions about the warning. The bi-partisan 9/11 commission summarized what happened in its unanimous report: “We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 th between the President and his advisors about the possibility of a threat of al Qaeda attack in the United States.” The commissioners went on to report that in spite of all the warnings to different parts of the administration, the nation’s “domestic agencies never mobilized in response to the threat. They did not have direction and did not have a plan to institute. The borders were not hardened. Transportation systems were not fortified. Electronic surveillance was not targeted against a domestic threat. State and local law authorities were not marshaled to augment the FBI’s efforts. The public was not warned.”

We know from the 9/11 commission that within hours of the attack, Secretary Rumsfeld was attempting to find a way to link Saddam Hussein with 9/11. We know the sworn testimony of the President’s White House head of counter-terrorism Richard Clarke that on September 12 th – the day after the attack: "The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this…I said, 'Mr. President…There's no connection. He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection…We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts…They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.' …I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."

He did not ask about Osama bin Laden. He did not ask about al Qaeda. He did not ask about Saudi Arabia or any country other than Iraq. When Clarke responded to his question by saying that Iraq was not responsible for the attack and that al Qaeda was, the President persisted in focusing on Iraq, and again, asked Clarke to spend his time looking for information linking Saddam Hussein to the attack.

Again, this is not hindsight. This is how the President was thinking at the time he was planning America’s response to the attack. This was not an unfortunate misreading of the available evidence, causing a mistaken linkage between Iraq and al Qaeda, this was something else; a willful choice to make the linkage, whether evidence existed or not.

Earlier this month, Secretary Rumsfeld, who saw all of the intelligence available to President Bush on the alleged connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, finally admitted, under repeated questioning from reporters, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.”
This is not negligence, this is deception.

It is clear that President Bush has absolute faith in a rigid, right-wing ideology. He ignores the warnings of his experts. He forbids any dissent and never tests his assumptions against the best available evidence. He is arrogantly out of touch with reality. He refuses to ever admit mistakes. Which means that as long as he is our President, we are doomed to repeat them. It is beyond incompetence. It is recklessness that risks the safety and security of the American people.

We were told that our allies would join in a massive coalition so that we would not bear the burden alone. But as is by now well known, more than 90 percent of the non-Iraqi troops are American, and the second and third largest contingents in the non American group have announced just within this last week their decisions to begin withdrawing their troops soon after the U.S. election.

We were told by the President that war was his last choice. It is now clear from the newly available evidence that it was always his first preference. His former Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O’Neill, confirmed that Iraq was Topic A at the very first meeting of the Bush National Security Council, just ten days after the inauguration. “It was about finding a way to do it, that was the tone of the President, saying, ‘Go find me a way to do this.’”

We were told that he would give the international system every opportunity to function, but we now know that he allowed that system to operate only briefly, as a sop to his Secretary of State and for cosmetic reasons. Bush promised that if he took us to war it would be on the basis of the most carefully worked out plans. Instead, we now know he went to war without thought or preparation for the aftermath – an aftermath that has now claimed more than one thousand American lives and many multiples of that among the Iraqis. He now claims that we went to war for humanitarian reasons. But the record shows clearly that he used that argument only after his first public rationale – that Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction -- completely collapsed. He claimed that he was going to war to deal with an imminent threat to the United States. The evidence shows clearly that there was no such imminent threat and that Bush knew that at the time he stated otherwise. He claimed that gaining dominance of Iraqi oil fields for American producers was never part of his calculation. But we now know, from a document uncovered by the New Yorker and dated just two weeks to the day after Bush’s inauguration, that his National Security Counsel was ordered to “meld” its review of “operational policies toward rogue states” with the secretive Cheney Energy Task Force’s “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.”

We also know from documents obtained in discovery proceedings against that Cheney Task Force by the odd combination of Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club that one of the documents receiving scrutiny by the task force during the same time period was a detailed map of Iraq showing none of the cities or places where people live but showing in great detail the location of every single oil deposit known to exist in the country, with dotted lines demarking blocks for promising exploration – a map which, in the words of a Canadian newspaper, resembled a butcher’s drawing of a steer, with the prime cuts delineated. We know that Cheney himself, while heading Halliburton, did more business with Iraq than any other nation, even though it was under U.N. sanctions, and that Cheney stated in a public speech to the London Petroleum Institute in 1999 that, over the coming decade, the world will need 50 million extra barrels of oil per day. “Where is it going to come from?” Answering his own question, he said, “The middle east, with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost is still where the prize ultimately lies.”

In the spring of 2001, when Cheney issued the administration’s national energy plan – the one devised in secret by corporations and lobbyist that he still refuses to name – it included a declaration that “the [Persian] Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy.”

Less than two months later, in one of the more bizarre parts of Bush’s policy process, Richard Perle, before he was forced to resign on conflict of interest charges as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, invited a presentation to the Board by a RAND corporation analyst who recommended that the United States consider militarily seizing Saudi Arabia’s oil fields.

The cynical belief by some that oil played an outsized role in Bush’s policy toward Iraq was enhanced when it became clear that the Iraqi oil ministry was the only facility in the country that was secured by American troops following the invasion. The Iraqi national museum, with its priceless archeological treasures depicting the origins of civilization, the electric, water and sewage facilities so crucial to maintaining an acceptable standard of living for Iraqi citizens during the American occupation, schools, hospitals, and ministries of all kinds were left to the looters.

An extensive investigation published today in the Knight Ridder newspapers uncovers the astonishing truth that even as the invasion began, there was, quite literally, no plan at all for the post-war period. On the eve of war, when the formal presentation of America’s plan neared its conclusion, the viewgraph describing the Bush plan for the post-war phase was labeled, “to be provided.” It simply did not exist.

We also have learned in today’s Washington Post that at the same time Bush was falsely asserting to the American people that he was providing all the equipment and supplies their commanders needed, the top military commander in Iraq was pleading desperately for a response to his repeated request for more equipment, such as body armor, to protect his troops. And that the Army units under his command were “struggling just to maintain…relatively low readiness rates.”

Even as late as three months ago, when the growing chaos and violence in Iraq was obvious to anyone watching the television news, Bush went out of his way to demean the significance of a National Intelligence Estimate warning that his policy in Iraq was failing and events were spinning out of control. Bush described this rigorous and formal analysis as just guessing. If that’s all the respect he has for reports given to him by the CIA, then perhaps it explains why he completely ignored the warning he received on August 6 th, 2001, that bin Laden was determined to attack our country. From all appearances, he never gave a second thought on that report until he finished reading My Pet Goat on September 11 th.

Iraq is not the only policy where the President has made bold assertions about the need for a dramatic change in American policy, a change that he has said is mandated by controversial assertions that differ radically from accepted views of reality in that particular policy area. And as with Iraq, there are other cases where subsequently available information shows that the President actually had analyses that he was given from reputable sources that were directly contrary what he told the American people. And, in virtually every case, the President, it is now evident, rejected the information that later turned out to be accurate and instead chose to rely upon, and to forcefully present to the American people, information that subsequently turned out to be false. And in every case, the flawed analysis was provided to him from sources that had a direct interest, financial or otherwise, in the radically new policy that the President adopted. And, in those cases where the policy has been implemented, the consequences have been to detriment of the American people, often catastrophically so. In other cases, the consequences still lie in the future but are nonetheless perfectly predictably for anyone who is reasonable. In yet other cases the policies have not yet been implemented but have been clearly designated by the President as priorities for the second term he has asked for from the American people. At the top of this list is the privatization of social security.

Indeed, Bush made it clear during his third debate with Senator Kerry that he intends to make privatizing Social Security, a top priority in a second term should he have one. In a lengthy profile of Bush published yesterday, the President was quoted by several top Republican fundraisers as saying to them, in a large but private meeting, that he intends to “come out strong after my swearing in, with…privatizing Social Security.”

Bush asserts that – without any corroborating evidence – that the diversion of two trillion dollars worth of payroll taxes presently paid by American working people into the social security trust fund will not result in a need to make up that two trillion dollars from some other source and will not result in cutting Social Security benefits to current retirees. The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, run by a Republican appointee, is one of many respected organizations that have concluded that the President is completely wrong in making his assertion. The President has been given facts and figures clearly demonstrating to any reasonable person that the assertion is wrong. And yet he continues to make it. The proposal for diverting money out of the Social Security trust fund into private accounts would generate large fees for financial organizations that have advocated the radical new policy, have provided Bush with the ideologically based arguments in its favor, and have made massive campaign contributions to Bush and Cheney. One of the things willfully ignored by Bush is the certainty of catastrophic consequences for the tens of millions of retirees who depend on Social Security benefits and who might well lose up to 40 percent of their benefits under his proposal. Their expectation for a check each month that enables them to pay their bills is very real. The President’s proposal is reckless.

Similarly, the President’s vigorous and relentless advocacy of “medical savings accounts” as a radical change in the Medicare program would – according to all reputable financial analysts – have the same effect on Medicare that his privatization proposal would have on Social Security. It would deprive Medicare of a massive amount of money that it must have in order to continue paying medical bills for Medicare recipients. The President’s ideologically based proposal originated with another large campaign contributor – called Golden Rule -- that expects to make a huge amount of money from managing private medical savings accounts. The President has also mangled the Medicare program with another radical new policy, this one prepared for Bush by the major pharmaceutical companies (also huge campaign contributors, of course) which was presented to the country on the basis of information that, again, turns out to have been completely and totally false. Indeed the Bush appointee in charge of Medicare was secretly ordered – we now know – to withhold the truth about the proposal’s real cost from the Congress while they were considering it. Then, when a number of Congressmen balked at supporting the proposal, the President’s henchmen violated the rules of Congress by holding the 15 minute vote open for more than two hours while they brazenly attempted to bribe and intimidate members of Congress who had voted against the proposal to change their votes and support it. The House Ethics Committee, in an all too rare slap on the wrist, took formal action against Tom DeLay for his unethical behavior during this episode. But for the Bush team, it is all part of the same pattern. Lie, intimidate, bully, suppress the truth, present lobbyists memos as the gospel truth and collect money for the next campaign.

In the case of the global climate crisis, Bush has publicly demeaned the authors of official reports by scientists in his own administration that underscore the extreme danger confronting the United States and the world and instead prefers a crackpot analysis financed by the largest oil company on the planet, ExxonMobil. He even went so far as to censor elements of an EPA report dealing with global warming and substitute, in the official government report, language from the crackpot ExxonMobil report. The consequences of accepting ExxonMobil’s advice – to do nothing to counter global warming – are almost literally unthinkable. Just in the last few weeks, scientists have reached a new, much stronger consensus that global warming is increasing the destructive power of hurricanes by as much as half of one full category on the one-to-five scale typically used by forecasters. So that a hurricane hitting Florida in the future that would have been a category three and a half, will on average become a category four hurricane. Scientists around the world are also alarmed by what appears to be an increase in the rate of CO2 buildup in the atmosphere – a development which, if confirmed in subsequent years, might signal the beginning of an extremely dangerous “runaway greenhouse” effect. Yet a third scientific group has just reported that the melting of ice in Antarctica, where 95 percent of all the earth’s ice is located, has dramatically accelerated. Yet Bush continues to rely, for his scientific advice about global warming, on the one company that most stands to benefit by delaying a recognition of reality.
The same dangerous dynamic has led Bush to reject the recommendations of anti-terrorism experts to increase domestic security, which are opposed by large contributors in the chemical industry, the hazardous materials industry and the nuclear industry. Even though his own Coast Guard recommends increased port security, he has chosen instead to rely on information provided to him by the commercial interests managing the ports who do not want the expense and inconvenience of implementing new security measures.

The same pattern that produced America’s catastrophe in Iraq has also produced a catastrophe for our domestic economy. Bush’s distinctive approach and habit of mind is clearly recognizable. He asserted over and over again that his massive tax cut, which certainly appeared to be aimed at the wealthiest Americans, actually would not go disproportionally to the wealthy but instead would primarily benefit middle income Americans and “all tax payers.” He asserted that under no circumstances would it lead to massive budget deficits even though common sense led reasonable people to conclude that it would. Third, he asserted – confidently of course – that it would not lead to job losses but would rather create an unprecedented economic boom. The President relied on high net worth individuals who stood to gain the most from his lopsided tax proposal and chose their obviously biased analysis over that of respectable economists. And as was the case with Iraq policy, his administration actively stopped the publication of facts and figures from his own Treasury Department analysts that contained inconvenient conclusions.” As a result of this pattern, the Congress adopted the President’s tax plan and now the consequences are clear. We have completely dissipated the 5 trillion dollar surplus that had been projected over the next ten years (a surplus that was strategically invaluable to assist the nation in dealing with the impending retirement of the enormous baby boom generation) and instead has produced a projected deficit of three and one half over the same period. Year after year we now have the largest budget deficits ever experienced in America and they coincide with the largest annual trade deficits and current-account deficits ever experienced in America – creating the certainty of an extremely painful financial reckoning that is the financial equivalent for the American economy and the dollar of the military quagmire in Iraq.

Indeed, after four years of this policy, which was, after all, implemented with Bush in control of all three branches of government, we can already see the consequences of their economic policy: for the first time since the four-year presidency of Herbert Hoover 1928-1932, our nation has experienced a net loss of jobs. It is true that 9/11 occurred during this period. But it is equally true that reasonable economists quantify its negative economic impact as very small compared with the negative impact compared with Bush’s. Under other Presidents the nation has absorbed the impact of Pearl Harbor, World War II, Vietnam War, Korean war, major financial corrections like that in 1987 and have ended up with a net gain of jobs nonetheless. Only Bush ranks with Hoover. Confronted with this devastating indictment, his treasury secretary, John Snow, said last week in Ohio job loss was “a myth.” This is in keeping with the Bush team’s general contempt for reality as a basis for policy.

Unfortunately, the job loss is all too real for the more than two hundred thousand people who lost their jobs in the state where he called the job loss a myth.

In yesterday’s New York Times Magazine, Ron Suskind related a truly startling conversation that he had with a Bush White House official who was angry that Suskind had written an article in the summer of 2002 that the White House didn’t like. This senior advisor to Bush told Suskind that reporters like him lived “in what we call the reality-based community,” and denigrated such people for believing that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernable reality…that’s not the way the world really works anymore…when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality, judiciously as you will, we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

By failing to adjust their policies to unexpected realities, they have made it difficult to carry out any of their policies competently. Indeed, this is the answer to what some have regarded as a mystery: How could a team so skilled in politics be so bumbling and incompetent when it comes to policy?

The same insularity and zeal that makes them effective at smashmouth politics makes them terrible at governing. The Bush-Cheney administration is a rarity in American history. It is simultaneously dishonest and incompetent.

Not coincidentally, the first audits of the massive sums flowing through the Coalition Provisional Authority, including money appropriated by Congress and funds and revenue from oil, now show that billions of dollars have disappeared with absolutely no record of who they went to, or for what, or when, or why. And charges of massive corruption are now widespread. Just as the appointment of industry lobbyists to key positions in agencies that oversee their former employers has resulted in institutionalized corruption in the abandonment of the enforcement of laws and regulations at home, the outrageous decision to brazenly violate the law in granting sole-source, no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars to Vice President Cheney’s company, Halliburton, which still pays him money every year, has convinced many observers that incompetence, cronyism and corruption have played a significant role in undermining U.S. policy in Iraq. The former four star general in charge of central command, Tony Zinni, who was named by President Bush as his personal emissary to the middle east in 2001, offered this view of the situation in a recent book: “In the lead up to the Iraq war, and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst lying, incompetence and corruption. False rationales presented as a justification; a flawed strategy; lack of planning; the unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task; the unnecessary distraction from real threats; and the unbearable strain dumped on our over-stretched military. All of these caused me to speak out...I was called a traitor and a turncoat by Pentagon officials.”

Massive incompetence? Endemic corruption? Official justification for torture? Wholesale abuse of civil liberties? Arrogance masquerading as principle? These are new, unfamiliar and unpleasant realities for America. We hardly recognize our country when we look in the mirror of what Jefferson called, “the opinion of mankind.” How could we have come to this point?

America was founded on the principle that “all just power is derived from the consent of the governed.” And our founders assumed that in the process of giving their consent, the governed would be informed by free and open discussion of the relevant facts in a healthy and robust public forum.

But for the Bush-Cheney administration, the will to power has become its own justification. This explains Bush’s lack of reverence for democracy itself. The widespread efforts by Bush’s political allies to suppress voting have reached epidemic proportions. The scandals of Florida four years ago are being repeated in broad daylight even as we meet here today. Harper’s magazine reports in an article published today that tens of thousands of registered voters who were unjustly denied their right to vote four year ago have still not been allowed back on the rolls.

An increasing number of Republicans, including veterans of the Reagan White House and even the father of the conservative movement, are now openly expressing dismay over the epic failures of the Bush presidency. Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a veteran of both the Heritage Foundation and the Reagan White House, wrote recently in, “Serious conservatives must fear for the country if Bush is re-elected…based on the results of his presidency, a Bush presidency would be catastrophic.

Conservatives should choose principles over power.” Bandow seemed most concerned about Bush’s unhealthy habits of mind, saying, “He doesn’t appear to reflect on his actions and seems unable to concede even the slightest mistake. Nor is he willing to hold anyone else responsible for anything. It is a damning combination.” Bandow described Bush’s foreign policy as a “shambles, with Iraq aflame and America increasingly reviled by friend and foe alike.”
The conservative co-host of Crossfire, Tucker Carlson, said about Bush’s Iraq policy, “I think it’s a total nightmare and disaster, and I’m ashamed that I went against my own instincts in supporting it.”

William F. Buckley, Jr., widely acknowledged as the founder of the modern conservative movement in America, wrote of the Iraq war, “If I knew then, what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

A former Republican Governor of Minnesota, Elmer Andersen, announced in Minneapolis that for the first time in his life he was abandoning the Republican Party in this election because Bush and Cheney “believe their own spin. Both men spew outright untruths with evangelistic fervor.” Andersen attributed his switch to Bush’s “misguided and blatantly false misrepresentations of the threat of weapons of mass destruction. The terror seat was Afghanistan. Iraq had no connection to these acts of terror and was not a serious threat to the United States as this President claimed, and there was no relation, it is now obvious, to any serious weaponry.” Governor Andersen was also offended, he said, by “Bush’s phony posturing as cocksure leader of the free world.”

Andersen and many other Republicans are joining with Democrats and millions of Independents this year in proudly supporting the Kerry-Edwards ticket. In every way, John Kerry and John Edwards represent an approach to governing that is the opposite of the Bush-Cheney approach.

Where Bush remains out of touch, Kerry is a proud member of the “reality based” community. Where Bush will bend to his corporate backers, Kerry stands strong with the public interest.

There are now fifteen days left before our country makes this fateful choice – for us and the whole world. And it is particularly crucial for one more reason: T The final feature of Bush’s ideology involves ducking accountability for his mistakes.

He has neutralized the Congress by intimidating the Republican leadership and transforming them into a true rubber stamp, unlike any that has ever existed in American history.

He has appointed right-wing judges who have helped to insulate him from accountability in the courts. And if he wins again, he will likely get to appoint up to four Supreme Court justices.

He has ducked accountability by the press with his obsessive secrecy and refusal to conduct the public’s business openly. There is now only one center of power left in our constitution capable of at long last holding George W. Bush accountable, and it is the voters.

There are fifteen days left before our country makes this fateful choice – for us and the whole world. Join me on November 2 nd in taking our country back.