"The fact is that what the GOP has been doing for going on forty years is training various segments of society to hate & mistrust us. Not developing any kind of useful governing policies, or concerning themselves with the ultimate welfare of the country & its citizens, just pure demagoguery & marketing analysis. And it's worked, for the most part."
Saturday, June 04, 2005
"The fact is that what the GOP has been doing for going on forty years is training various segments of society to hate & mistrust us. Not developing any kind of useful governing policies, or concerning themselves with the ultimate welfare of the country & its citizens, just pure demagoguery & marketing analysis. And it's worked, for the most part."
by Armando (www.dailykos.com)
Fri Jun 3rd, 2005 at 21:51:12 PDT
Matt Miller, who is subbing for Maureen Dowd, writes an interesting column on political discourse and the ability to persuade with an argument. Unfortunately, Matt fails to address the central reason why political discourse has floundered, the complete lack of respect for the truth exhibited by the referees - the Media. Matt writes:
Ninety percent of political conversation amounts to dueling "talking points." Best-selling books reinforce what folks thought when they bought them. Talk radio and opinion journals preach to the converted. Let's face it: the purpose of most political speech is not to persuade but to win, be it power, ratings, celebrity or even cash.
By contrast, marshaling a case to persuade those who start from a different position is a lost art. Honoring what's right in the other side's argument seems a superfluous thing that can only cause trouble, like an appendix. Politicos huddle with like-minded souls in opinion cocoons that seem impervious to facts.
With due respect to Miller, a smart guy, politicians and partisans have never respected facts UNLESS they are required to do so. That is what a free press is supposed to do and simply does not anymore. Miller considers it a problem of a Media focused more on heat than light. I believe the problem goes much deeper than that. The utter disrespect for the truth exhibited by all media is the heart of the problem. Liars are not called liars. Falsehoods are not called falsehoods. What passes for reporting these days is "Republicans say _. Democrats say ___." When someone spews falsehoods, there is not a Media outlet in the country that will say 'that is false.' Not the New York Times, not the Washington Post, not any of them.
For crissakes, the former hack who had the title of Ombudsman for the Times claimed to stand up for truth by issuing slanderous falsehoods. Who is outraged? The Lefty blogs. Anybody else? Jay Rosen? Anyone?
I got bad news for Miller. The "beardstrokers," with few exceptions (Herbert, Krugman) have not demanded the truth. Miller has written on social security and instead of demanding truth from the Bush Administration he chose to chastise Democrats for not being open to discussion. And you believe you can be persuasive with such an attitude? Not a mention of the pack of lies that Bush has peddled?
It is pretty simple, there will be no meaningful political discourse as long as lies are tolerated and ignored. To lament the loss of political persuasion while ignoring the elephant (pun intended) in the room is to insult the intelligence of your audience. And that is never persuasive. "
Friday, June 03, 2005
Fri Jun 3, 2005 7:45 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American jailers at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects splashed a Koran with urine, kicked and stepped on the Islamic holy book and soaked it with water, the U.S. military said on Friday.
U.S. Southern Command, responsible for the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, described for the first time five cases of 'mishandling' of a Koran by U.S. personnel confirmed by a newly completed military inquiry, officials said in a statement.
In the incident involving urine, which took place this past March, Southern Command said a guard left his post and urinated near an air vent and 'the wind blew his urine through the vent' and into a cell block.
It said a detainee told guards the urine 'splashed on him and his Koran.' The statement said the detainee was given a new prison uniform and Koran, and that the guard was reprimanded and given duty in which he had no contact with prisoners.
Southern Command said a civilian contractor interrogator, who was later fired, apologized in July 2003 to a detainee for stepping on his Koran. In August 2003, prisoners' Korans became wet when night-shift guards had thrown water balloons in a cell block, the statement said. In February 2002, guards kicked a prisoner's Koran, it added.
In the fifth 'confirmed incident' of mishandling a Koran, Southern Command said a prisoner in August 2003 complained that 'a two-word obscenity' had been written in English in his Koran. Southern Command said it was 'possible' a guard had written the words but 'equally possible' the prisoner himself had done it.
Southern Command released its findings on a Friday night."
by Joe Gandelman
Peggy Noonan's latest Wall Street Journal column reads as if it's a satire piece— but, no, folks it is 100 percent for real. It's truly hard to believe it is.
Before we even discuss it we MUST say a few things:
* This is the last column of her's we'll read. We already subscribe to Mad Magazine and although her writing is a bit funnier, we get more variety in Mad. And we suspect if the column below was submitted as a satire, Mad would reject it for being too off-the-wall. The Onion? Her column isn't quite cutting edge enough.
* In all seriousness, her newest column echoes the bitter, angry, attack-mode words of former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein and overall near-hysteria on the part of far right conservatives, Watergate-era officials and talk show hosts who are using the revelation of key source Deep Throat as a chance to rebattle Nixon's impeachment, argue it was all liberal plot, a media plot and suggest that the REAL villains weren't the people in the administration abusing the American people's trust by misusing the government and lying (the word is ACCURATE here because the tapes proved it) but those who dared to bring Nixon down. These GOPers convieniently forget the Republican PATRIOTS such as Barry Goldwater who let Nixon know it was time to go.
As usual, Noonan writes in a lyrical style. But for this post we'll simply quote her and be as unlyrical and blunt ourselves for our readers (who we find are independent thinkers, no matter what parties they belong to). Here are a few excerpts for the latest attack on the 91-year-old former second in command at the FBI who we now know was Deep Throat:
Was Mr. Felt a hero? No one wants to be hard on an ailing 91-year-old man.
We're SURE, Ms. Noonan was shedding tears as she began to start her part of the parade of GOPers seeking the equivilent of revenge on Felt for his role in the Watergate stories. MORE:
Mr. Felt no doubt operated in some perceived jeopardy and judged himself brave.
No, Ms. Noonan: MILLIONS of Americans even today consider him brave. That includes many in the Republican party who, to judging by our emails, are aghast at the spectacle of fellow GOPers going after Felt and defending Nixon's Watergate behavior.
It's GOP hacks — those who put loyaly to their party and to one man before the country's sacred democracy — who are out there using every argument possible to go after Felt and try to polish up the buried corpse of Nixon — a President who, by the way, was quite good in many other ways. MORE:
He had every right to disapprove of and wish to stop what he saw as new moves to politicize the FBI. But a hero would have come forward, resigned his position, declared his reasons, and exposed himself to public scrutiny. He would have taken the blows and the kudos. (Knowing both Nixon and the media, there would have been plenty of both.) Heroes pay the price. Mr. Felt simply leaked information gained from his position in government to damage those who were doing what he didn't want done. Then he retired with a government pension. This does not appear to have been heroism, and he appears to have known it. Thus, perhaps, the great silence.
A hero who was President would also have admitted an error, cut his losses and moved on. OR he would have admitted he erred and awaited judgement by Congress. OR he would have admitted error and quit. He wouldn't have put the country through the agony that Nixon put the US through — until patriotic Democrats and REPUBLICANS had to march into his office to his office to tell him there was no hope due to the "smoking gun" tapes that had just come out.
Then she goes into his motives — and gets down to blaming him for genoicide.
Ben Stein is angry but not incorrect: What Mr. Felt helped produce was a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time. Nixon's ruin led to a cascade of catastrophic events--the crude and humiliating abandonment of Vietnam and the Vietnamese, the rise of a monster named Pol Pot, and millions--millions--killed in his genocide. America lost confidence; the Soviet Union gained brazenness. What a terrible time. Is it terrible when an American president lies and surrounds himself by dirty tricksters? Yes, it is. How about the butchering of children in the South China Sea. Is that worse? Yes. Infinitely, unforgettably and forever.
Doesn't she and Stein realize what they're saying?
1. Republican Gerald Ford REPLACED Nixon. So she and Stein are suggesting Ford was incompetent.
2. Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State under Ford. She she's suggesting Kissinger was an incompetent.
The fallacy of this argument is so stupifying it defies description...but let's try:
The GOP has many thoughtful people, who cooly make their party's arguments with logic. Noonan, Stein and Buchanan, in particular, now deserve a room on Mars with Dennis Kucinich and Alan Keyes. They are entertaining but truly not to be taken seriously as thinkers or analyists anymore. They have become self-parodies.
But HERE is where Noonan has made yours truly decide pass on reading anything she writes in the future (of course, she may threaten to stop reading The Moderate Voice, but we will press on with life somehow):
Were there heroes of Watergate? Surely many unknown ones, those who did their best to be constructive and not destructive, those who didn't think it was all about their beautiful careers. I'll give you a candidate for great man of the era: Chuck Colson. Colson functioned in the Nixon White House as a genuinely bad man, went to prison and emerged a genuinely good man. He told the truth about himself in "Born Again," a book not fully appreciated as the great Washington classic it is, and has devoted his life to helping prisoners and their families. He paid the price, told the truth, blamed no one but himself, and turned his shame into something helpful. Children aren't dead because of him. There are children who are alive because of him.
So COLSON is the hero.
Note that Colson went to prison FIRST and was born again, wrote a book, etc.
Colson didn't do anything in the White House to come forward with what he knew. Nor did he do anything to halt the unfolding scandal. Nor did he march into Nixon's office and tell him the proper thing was to resign.
Colson (who reportedly has done many laudable things with his ministry, by the way) found God, is a Republican, worked for Nixon and isn't a liberal. He is on Noonan's "team" while Felt was working against her "team."
Do THINKING conservatives realize how badly this makes people in their camp look?
There was a time when conservatives had a legitimate point about extremist rhetoric and lack of logic on the far left. People who were not conservatives would look at conservatives pointing to the far left and say, "Gee, they're right. How can I be on the same SIDE with these people. All they do is hate and namecall. They don't have an agenda, they're just bitter and angry."
Now, increasingly, with a series of policies and over-the-top pronouncements, some in the conservative movement are becoming to the conservative movement what the far left has been to the liberal movement: people who only seem happy lashing out at enemies and trying to discredit and/or completely destroy them. They have one mantra: partisanship.
Hero? Maybe Felt wasn't perfect. But, no, Peggy and Ben, don't blame Felt for genocide, since Ford and Kissinger WERE THE ONES running foreign policy when Nixon resigned. (And it isn't fair to blame them, either.)
No matter what charges you throw at this 91-year-old man, he proved more of a patriot in the Watergate era than the people who were abusing government power, lying to Congress and in front of television cameras and who eventually had to go to jail because they were CONVICTED of crimes — or who didn't go to jail because they were pardoned.
PS: Felt's family now wanting money for his story is a separate issue. It does NOT alter what he did 30 years ago. Unless someone is a candidate for a straight jacket they won't argue that he talked to the Post reporters, planning to wait 31 years, and then cash in on the story. But we are SURE we will hear this theory on talk radio very soon...So we're looking on Ebay for some straight jackets.
We'll make sure they have a logo of Mars on them.
BUT THAT'S JUST OUR VIEW. THERE ARE OTHER VOICES ON THIS ISSUE. A cross section:
--Rich Trott has an extensive post. Here's a small taste:
Peggy Noonan's idiotic approach to history results in her suggesting that Mark Felt is to blame for the murder of millions in Southeast Asia because Felt helped bring down the Nixon presidency....But judging from Noonan's piece, it's not Nixon & co.'s fault that they committed crimes that forced Nixon from office. Nixon & co. are the vicitims. The genocide of Pol Pot is, in Noonan's view, Mark Felt's fault. This is lunacy...
She nominates Charles Colson as a "great man."
So, in Peggy Noonan's view, if you report wrongdoing, you're responsible for the fallout. But if you commit the wrongdoing that was being reported, you're a hero as long as you serve some prison time, become born-again, and tow the conservative political line. The consequences of your actions conveniently become the fault of someone else.Is Peggy Noonan's column always this stupid?
--Powerline's Paul Mirengoff:
But this doesn't mean that Watergate was a psuedo-scandal, as many conservatives suggest. The dirty tricks and improper tactics used by President Nixon's operatives against his political opponents were a serious matter, and no less so just because President Johnson and to a lesser extent other presidents had employed some similar measures. When Nixon participated in, and indeed tried to orchestrate, a cover-up, he committed offenses that arguably warranted his removal from office. Many of those who pushed for Nixon's removal were unsavory characters themselves, or have become so in subsequent years. But that's not relevant to the merits of the case against Nixon. Indeed, Nixon himself seemed partially to recognize this fact in the remarks he made upon resigning.
I'm also a little puzzled by those who, like Ben Stein, blame the proceedings against Nixon for the fall of South Vietnam and the genocide in Cambodia. Many of the individuals in question can be blamed for these events because they flowed from policies they advocated. But holding them accountable merely because they tried to remove Nixon strikes me as a bit like blaming those who tried to remove President Clinton for the rise of al Qaeda.
--Angry Bear:"Peggy must be confused as to the chain of events that brought about the demise of Prince Sihanouk."
--Tom at Corrente says Noona's logic then should be applied to the Clinton administration as well:
How about the impeachment of a president over a blowjob? Anyone remember what was going on at that time? You know, um, that little "obsession" as W and the boys called it at the time that Clinton's administration had with that little insignificant Islamic terrorism thing?
If one's going to make this sort of argument about the impeachment of Richard Nixon one could easily make a similar argument about the impeachment of Bill Clinton. One could contend that the impeachment of Bill Clinton produced, to use Peggy's words, "a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time."
If we're going to seriously accept an argument that Nixon was capable of stopping Pol Pot then it's not too crazy to contend that Clinton could've stopped al-Qaeda if he hadn't been critically weakened by "Lewinsky-blowjob-gate." Clinton would've been in a position to seriously go after al-Qaeda if he wasn't distracted by the impeachment saga of 1998 and 1999.
In short, if Peggy can get away with this argument then I'm going to contend that Clinton's impeachment helped lead to the deaths of thousands of Americans on 9/11. Furthermore, since W and the boys used the bogus terrorism link argument to justify the IraqWar Part II disaster, one could contend that Clinton's impeachment may have also led to the deaths of 1,600 U.S. soldiers and 100,000 Iraqis over the past two years.
--Sam Rosenfeld:"That these characters have carte blanche on the cable chat shows to serve as credible Felt naysayers is just one more illustration of the wonderful cloak of immunity enjoyed by all right-wingers in the clubby, insular D.C. punditry world. Lying, stealing, prison time — literally nothing can discredit a conservative gabber enough to cancel their membership card to the commentariat. And today we have Peggy Noonan to thank for granting some establishment pundit legitimacy to Ben Stein’s thoughtful Deep Throat-as-genocidaire thesis. Can’t wait to hear Liddy’s thoughts on it tonight on Hardball."
--Josh Marshall:"The stuff truly takes your breath away. I guess, though, we owe Peggy et al. thanks for stipulating for the record that they don't think anything of any consequence was done wrong in Watergate because that provides a helpful context for understanding why they keep carrying the water of this administration, knowing as they do that many of the same things are happening."
--Obsidian Wings notes Noonan's lack of consistency:"Hmmmm... What was happening in the world when DeLay et al. decided a lie about a b***j** was worth bringing down a president over? Nothing serious, apparently, because I don't recall Noonan objecting then. In fact, back then, Ms. Noonan had a rather different take on the process...Back then she continued to praise the impeachment of Clinton in the most moralizing tones, never once stopping to suggest this was bad for the nation. With this latest piece, Ms. Noonan officially attains the rank of 'hack supreme.'"
"He Put America First."
Ken Duberstein is a mensch.
Who's he and why say that?
Duberstein, for those who don't know, is currently a Washington lobbyist, CEO of the eponymously named Duberstein Group. But, more significantly, he was Ronald Reagan's chief of staff after Nancy sacked Don Regan. And, it is because of that position that he has a unique perspective on the Mark Felt/"Deep Throat" saga.
Some quick background: Frankly, I tired rather quickly of the retrospective Watergate media orgy of the last few days. Aside from Woodward and Bernstein, we've heard from Nora Ephron (legitimate, at least), plus All The President's Men. actors such as Robert Redford and Hal Holbrook (what, no Harry Reems? Is any discussion of "Deep Throat" complete without Harry Reems?). I jadedly passed this off as just another navel-gazing press exercise, with distinctive generational implications, i.e. the regular Baby Boomer self-congratulatory dance that pops up every few months or so.
Okay, well that's it then. Unfortunately, otherwise smart Republicans can't just let it go at that. Instead, in lashing out at the liberal/media lionization once more of Woodward and Bernstein's greatest moment, they feel the need to character assassinate Mark Felt and portray a Richard Nixon that never existed.
Both Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein and Reagan scribe Peggy Noonan essentially say that Felt's participation in the overthrow of Stein's "peacemaker" and "weakened" Noonan's "serious president at a serious time" thus helping pave a direct pathway for Cambodian and Vietnamese genocide. For each of them, presidential lying is no big thing. For Noonan, what's wrong with a few "dirty tricksters" in the White House when compared to the monstrous despots that were allowed to flourish?
The answer to that sentiment and that question can be found in the words of Ken Duberstein. In the course of reading many newspapers and web-sites this morning, something that Duberstein said caught my eye. Yet, as often happens in our media-mad world, I couldn't remember where I read it. It was something along the lines that Felt saw his duty and followed it.
After finally giving up on finding it, I called Duberstein's office. He graciously took my call and said, that his statement was that "Felt is a hero." In not-exactly-easy circumstances, "He put America first." (I eventually found the original quote; it's right here.)
Duberstein said that, in reading all the media reports of the last few days, he put himself back in his shoes as White House chief of staff. He thought, with the information Felt had in front of him, "What options did he have?" "He couldn't go to the White House Chief of Staff (Haldeman or Ehrlichman); he couldn't go to the Justice Department (John Mitchell); he couldn't go to the White House Counsel (John Dean). He did something responsible. The congressional committees hadn't been formed yet. What do you do? Felt put America first."
Duberstein's words are unintentionally ironic, given that "America first" is the slogan and philosophical principle that governs Nixon partisan Patrick Buchanan's contemporary political outlook. Buchanan, departing from the neoconservative view of foreign policy, says that America should act in its own clearly defined national interests rather than pursuing what he would see as Wilsonian adventures. Buchanan considers Felt's behavior "treacherous."
What Watergate should still tell us -- but Stein, Noonan and Buchanan appear to willfully ignore -- is that a corrupt administration is dangerous. Men in the Nixon administration went to jail, not just for "dirty tricks," but for multiple break-ins (which, it is true, Felt also did in the FBI's pursuit of violent radical groups), misusing the CIA for political ends, payoffs, cover-ups, etc. These actions, committed domestically, had reverberations around the globe.
This was a high-level criminal conspiracy, whose members were willing to destroy personally and professionally any and all who crossed them.
How much did the president know? We may never know. But the fact is that a criminal enterprise was run out of the West Wing of the White House. If Richard Nixon was ousted because of this, then it was those who committed the crimes that bear responsibility for everything that came afterwards. It wasn't Mark Felt's fault that Nixon was no longer around to prevent the fall of Vietnam or genocide in Cambodia.
Neither too was it the fault of Woodward, Bernstein, Sam Ervin, John Sirica, Archibald Cox, Eliot Richardson or any of the other figures who either worked to find out what went on or tried to prosecute those responsible.
The fault lies with Nixon. The fault lies with all the president's men.
Are Felt's motives suspect because he was upset that he was passed over to succeed J. Edgar Hoover? Perhaps, but it wasn't just that Felt wanted the top job. It was also that he believed that someone coming from the White House would be more likely beholden to the White House than to the Bureau -- which is exactly what happened with Nixon's pick L. Patrick Gray, who ended up resigning for destroying evidence.
Ken Duberstein has very strong Republican Party ties. He is a self-described "Nixon loyalist." Yet, he can still recognize what was at stake in 1972 and why Mark Felt did what he did.
And that's why Ken Duberstein is a mensch. Stepping above party, he, too, can put America first.
Larry C. Johnson
President Bush and Vice President Cheney need to get a grip on reality. The happy talk about the "fading" insurgency in Iraq ignores some harsh realities that bode ill for the future of U.S. interests in the Middle East. The truth is simple--we are fighting an insurgency in the midst of a civil war. The civil war in Iraq is largely sectarian and pits Sunni against Shia. The advantage in this case lies with the Shia, who not only comprise the majority of the population in Iraq but are being directly assisted by their Shia brethren in Iran. The Iraqi Shia, while not a monolithic community, are cooperating with Iranian intelligence officers. The Iranian agents are providing money, intelligence, training, and hit teams. Iran's specialty during the past 25 years was organizing assassination teams that targeted opposition leaders. They are now bringing this skill to the streets of Baghdad. In recent weeks there has been a surge in violence against Sunnis who have not been cooperating with the current Iraqi Government. Clerics are being murdered.
In many cases the Iraqi security forces are comprised of Shia personnel who in turn are being used to conduct counter insurgency operations in Sunni neighborhoods. This would be akin to sending Irish Protestant soldiers into an Irish Catholic neighborhood in Dublin. It fuels sectarian strife.
Until about a month ago the Shias appeared content to bide their time and wait until the US forces had departed the country to fully assert their power. That calculation appears to have changed. Muqtadah al Sadr, the firebrand Shia cleric, has reemerged in public as a political force and his militia is once again operating.
The Sunnis, meanwhile, are not sitting quietly and absorbing these blows. The celebrity terrorist Zarqawi believes it more important to kill Shias than "crusaders". But Zarqawi is not the heart of the Sunnit insurgency. There are former Bathists as well as genuine Iraqi nationalists who loathe outside interference. Accordingly these Sunnis are fighting aggressively against Iraqis allied with the United States and US forces.
The situation is gradually slipping from our control because the US is politically and militarily unable to commit more troops to fight the counter insurgency. Without more forces the United States cannot ensure the following:
Regular public trials of insurgents responsible for terrorist violence against Iraqi civilians.
Free and safe movement throughout Baghdad to enjoy restaurants without fear of being kidnapped or murdered.
Safe movement from downtown to the international airport with minimal risk of an ambush.
Safe landings by international air carriers at the international airport without facing attacks from surface to air missiles.
Security for the Iraqi people who choose to align themselves with the US-backed coalition.
Control of the borders to minimize the infiltration of insurgents and supplies to insurgent forces.
Control of the lines of communication and critical infrastructure.
These are goals the United States can accomplish. But meeting these objectives requires more manpower, in other words, boots on the ground, in order to achieve them. Sadly no one is willing to put more forces into the mix. As a result the insurgency will remain vibrant and the civil war will expand. The odds favor a Shia victory and the eventual emergence of the second Shia state in the Middle East. That issue, however, is grist for another post.
Mr. Johnson, who worked previously with the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism, is a recognized expert in the fields of terrorism, aviation security, crisis and risk management.
Mr. Johnson has analyzed terrorist incidents for a variety of media including the Jim Lehrer News Hour, National Public Radio, ABC's Nightline, NBC's Today Show, the New York Times, CNN and the BBC. He was even employed as a Fox News Contributor during 2002. Mr. Johnson has authored several articles for publications, including Security Management Magazine, the New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. He has lectured on terrorism and aviation security around the world, including the Center for Research and Strategic Studies at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, France. He represented the U.S. Government at the July 1996 OSCE Terrorism Conference in Vienna, Austria.
June 3, 2005
Growing Problem for Military Recruiters: Parents
By DAMIEN CAVE
Rachel Rogers, a single mother of four in upstate New York, did not worry about the presence of National Guard recruiters at her son's high school until she learned that they taught students how to throw hand grenades, using baseballs as stand-ins. For the last month she has been insisting that administrators limit recruiters' access to children.
Orlando Terrazas, a former truck driver in Southern California, said he was struck when his son told him that recruiters were promising students jobs as musicians. Mr. Terrazas has been trying since September to hang posters at his son's public school to counter the military's message.
Meanwhile, Amy Hagopian, co-chairwoman of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association at Garfield High School in Seattle, has been fighting against a four-year-old federal law that requires public schools to give military recruiters the same access to students as college recruiters get, or lose federal funding. She also recently took a few hours off work to stand beside recruiters at Garfield High and display pictures of injured American soldiers from Iraq.
"We want to show the military that they are not welcome by the P.T.S.A. in this building," she said. "We hope other P.T.S.A.'s will follow."
Two years into the war in Iraq, as the Army and Marines struggle to refill their ranks, parents have become boulders of opposition that recruiters cannot move.
Mothers and fathers around the country said they were terrified that their children would have to be killed - or kill - in a war that many see as unnecessary and without end.
Around the dinner table, many parents said, they are discouraging their children from serving.
At schools, they are insisting that recruiters be kept away, incensed at the access that they have to adolescents easily dazzled by incentive packages and flashy equipment.
A Department of Defense survey last November, the latest, shows that only 25 percent of parents would recommend military service to their children, down from 42 percent in August 2003.
"Parents," said one recruiter in Ohio who insisted on anonymity because the Army ordered all recruiters not to talk to reporters, "are the biggest hurdle we face."
Legally, there is little a parent can do to prevent a child over 18 from enlisting. But in interviews, recruiters said that it was very hard to sign up a young man or woman over the strong objections of a parent.
The Pentagon - faced with using only volunteers during a sustained conflict, an effort rarely tried in American history - is especially vexed by a generation of more activist parents who have no qualms about projecting their own views onto their children.
Lawrence S. Wittner, a military historian at the State University of New York, Albany, said today's parents also had more power.
"With the draft, there were limited opportunities for avoiding the military, and parents were trapped, reduced to draft counseling or taking their children to Canada," he said. "But with the volunteer armed force, what one gets is more vigorous recruitment and more opportunities to resist."
Some of that opportunity was provoked by the very law that was supposed to make it easier for recruiters to reach students more directly. No Child Left Behind, which was passed by Congress in 2001, requires schools to turn over students' home phone numbers and addresses unless parents opt out. That is often the spark that ignites parental resistance.
Recruiters, in interviews over the past six months, said that opposition can be fierce. Three years ago, perhaps 1 or 2 of 10 parents would hang up immediately on a cold call to a potential recruit's home, said a recruiter in New York who, like most others interviewed, insisted on anonymity to protect his career. "Now," he said, "in the past year or two, people hang up all the time. "
Several recruiters said they had even been threatened with violence.
"I had one father say if he saw me on his doorstep I better have some protection on me," said a recruiter in Ohio. "We see a lot of hostility."
Military officials are clearly concerned. In an interview last month, Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, commander of Army recruiting, said parental resistance could put the all-volunteer force in jeopardy. When parents and other influential adults dissuade young people from enlisting, he said, "it begs the question of what our national staying power might be for what certainly appears to be a long fight."
In response, the Army has rolled out a campaign aimed at parents, with television ads and a Web site that includes videos of parents talking about why they supported their children's decision to enlist. General Rochelle said that it was still too early to tell if it is making a difference.
But Col. David Slotwinski, a former chief of staff for Army recruiting, said that the Army faced an uphill battle because many baby boomer parents are inclined to view military service negatively, especially during a controversial war.
"They don't realize that they have a role in helping make the all-volunteer force successful," said Colonel Slotwinski, who retired in 2004. "If you don't, you're faced with the alternative, and the alternative is what they were opposed to the most, mandatory service."
Many of the mothers and fathers most adamant about recruitment do have a history of opposition to Vietnam. Amy Hagopian, 49, a professor of public health at the University of Washington, and her husband, Stephen Ludwig, 57, a carpenter, said that they and many parents who contest recruiting at Garfield High in Seattle have a history of antiwar sentiment and see their efforts as an extension of their pacifism.
But, he added, parents are also reacting to what they see as the military's increased intrusion into the lives of their children.
"The recruiters are in your face, in the library, in the lunchroom," he said. "They're contacting the most vulnerable students and recruiting them to go to war."
The access is legally protected. As recently as 2000, said one former recruiter in California, it was necessary to dig through the trash at high schools and colleges to find students' names and phone numbers. But No Child Left Behind mandates that school districts can receive federal funds only if they grant military recruiters "the same access to secondary school students" as is provided to colleges and employers.
So although the Garfield P.T.S.A. voted last month to ban military recruiters from the school and its 1,600 students, the Seattle school district could not sign on to the idea without losing at least $15 million in federal education funds.
"The parents have chosen to take a stand, but we still have to comply with No Child Left Behind," said Peter Daniels, communications director for the district. In Whittier, a city of 85,000 10 miles southeast of East Los Angeles, about a dozen families last September accused the district of failing to properly advise parents that they had the right to deny recruiters access to their children's personal information.
Mr. Terrazas, 51, the father of a Whittier High School junior, said the notification was buried among other documents in a preregistration packet sent out last summer.
"It didn't say that the military has access to students' information," he said. "It just said to write a letter if you didn't want your kid listed in a public directory."
A few years ago, after Sept. 11, the issue might not have gotten Mr. Terrazas's attention. His father served in World War II, his brother in Vietnam, and he said that he had always supported having a strong military able to defend the country.
But after the war in Iraq yielded no weapons of mass destruction, and as the death toll has mounted, he cannot reconcile the pride he feels at seeing marines deliver aid after the tsunami in Asia with his concern over the effort in Baghdad, he said.
"Because of the situation we're in now, I would not want my son to serve," he said. "It's the policy that I'm against, not the military."
After Mr. Terrazas and several other parents expressed their concern about the school's role in recruitment, the district drafted a new policy. On May 23, it introduced a proposed opt-out form for the district's 14,000 students.
The form, said Ron Carruth, Whittier's assistant superintendent, includes an explanation of the law, and boxes that parents can check to indicate they do not want information on their child released to either the military, colleges, vocational schools or other sources of recruitment. Mr. Carruth said that next year the district would also prohibit all recruiters from appearing in classrooms, and keep the military ones from bringing equipment like Humvees onto school grounds, a commonly used recruitment tool.
He said that some of the information from the 11-by-17-inch poster that Mr. Terrazas sought to post, including how to verify recruiters' claims about financial benefits, will be part of a pamphlet created by the school for students.
And at least a dozen other districts in the area, Mr. Carruth added, up from three in November, are considering similar plans.
Unlike Mr. Terrazas, Ms. Rogers, 37, of High Falls in the upper Hudson Valley, had not thought much about the war before she began speaking out in her school district. She had been "politically apathetic," she said. She did not know about No Child Left Behind's reporting requirements, nor did she opt out.
When her son, Jonah, said he was thinking of sitting out a gym class that was to be led by National Guard recruiters, Ms. Rogers, who works part time as a clerk at the local motor vehicles office and receives public assistance, said she told him not to be "a rebel without a cause."
"In this world," she recalled telling him, "we need a strong military."
But then she heard from her son that the class was mandatory, and that recruiters were handing out free T-shirts and key chains - "Like, 'Hey, let's join the military. It's fun,' " she said.
First she called the Rondout Valley High School to complain about the "false advertising," she said, then her congressman.
On May 24, at the first school board meeting since the gym class, she read aloud from a recruiting handbook that advised recruiters on ways to gain maximum access to schools, including offering doughnuts. A high school senior, Katie Coalla, 18, stood up at one point and tearfully defended the recruiters, receiving applause from the crowd of about 70, but Ms. Rogers persisted.
"Pulling in this need for heartstrings patriotic support is clouding the issue," she said. "The point is not whether I support the troops. It's about whether a well-organized propaganda machine should be targeted at children and enforced by the schools."
Laura Cummins, in Accord, N.Y., contributed reporting for this article.
The Other Bomb Drops
Wed Jun 1, 6:29 PM ET
It was a huge air assault: Approximately 100 US and British planes flew from Kuwait into Iraqi airspace. At least seven types of aircraft were part of this massive operation, including US F-15 Strike Eagles and Royal Air Force Tornado ground-attack planes. They dropped precision-guided munitions on Saddam Hussein's major western air-defense facility, clearing the path for Special Forces helicopters that lay in wait in Jordan. Earlier attacks had been carried out against Iraqi command and control centers, radar detection systems, Revolutionary Guard units, communication centers and mobile air-defense systems. The Pentagon's goal was clear: Destroy Iraq's ability to resist. This was war.
But there was a catch: The war hadn't started yet, at least not officially. This was September 2002--a month before Congress had voted to give President Bush the authority he used to invade Iraq, two months before the United Nations brought the matter to a vote and more than six months before "shock and awe" officially began.
At the time, the Bush Administration publicly played down the extent of the air strikes, claiming the United States was just defending the so-called no-fly zones. But new information that has come out in response to the Downing Street memo reveals that, by this time, the war was already a foregone conclusion and attacks were no less than the undeclared beginning of the invasion of Iraq.
The Sunday Times of London recently reported on new evidence showing that "The RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war." The paper cites newly released statistics from the British Defense Ministry showing that "the Allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001" and that "a full air offensive" was under way months before the invasion had officially begun.
The implications of this information for US lawmakers are profound. It was already well known in Washington and international diplomatic circles that the real aim of the US attacks in the no-fly zones was not to protect Shiites and Kurds. But the new disclosures prove that while Congress debated whether to grant Bush the authority to go to war, while Hans Blix had his UN weapons-inspection teams scrutinizing Iraq and while international diplomats scurried to broker an eleventh-hour peace deal, the Bush Administration was already in full combat mode--not just building the dossier of manipulated intelligence, as the Downing Street memo demonstrated, but acting on it by beginning the war itself. And according to the Sunday Times article, the Administration even hoped the attacks would push Saddam into a response that could be used to justify a war the Administration was struggling to sell.
On the eve of the official invasion, on March 8, 2003, Bush said in his national radio address: "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force." Bush said this after nearly a year of systematic, aggressive bombings of Iraq, during which Iraq was already being disarmed by force, in preparation for the invasion to come. By the Pentagon's own admission, it carried out seventy-eight individual, offensive airstrikes against Iraq in 2002 alone.
"It reminded me of a boxing match in which one of the boxers is told not to move while the other is allowed to punch and only stop when he is convinced that he has weakened his opponent to the point where he is defeated before the fight begins," says former UN Assistant Secretary General Hans Von Sponeck, a thirty-year career diplomat who was the top UN official in Iraq from 1998 to 2000. During both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Washington has consistently and falsely claimed these attacks were mandated by UN Resolution 688, passed after the Gulf War, which called for an end to the Iraqi government's repression in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south. Von Sponeck dismissed this justification as a "total misnomer." In an interview with The Nation, Von Sponeck said that the new information "belatedly confirms" what he has long argued: "The no-fly zones had little to do with protecting ethnic and religious groups from Saddam Hussein's brutality" but were in fact an "illegal establishment...for bilateral interests of the US and the UK."
These attacks were barely covered in the press and Von Sponeck says that as far back as 1999, the United States and Britain pressured the UN not to call attention to them. During his time in Iraq, Von Sponeck began documenting each of the airstrikes, showing "regular attacks on civilian installations including food warehouses, residences, mosques, roads and people." These reports, he said, were "welcomed" by Secretary General Kofi Annan, but "the US and UK governments strongly objected to this reporting." Von Sponeck says that he was pressured to end the practice, with a senior British diplomat telling him, "All you are doing is putting a UN stamp of approval on Iraqi propaganda." But Von Sponeck continued documenting the damage and visited many attack sites. In 1999 alone, he confirmed the death of 144 civilians and more than 400 wounded by the US/UK bombings.
After September 11, there was a major change in attitude within the Bush Administration toward the attacks. Gone was any pretext that they were about protecting Shiites and Kurds--this was a plan to systematically degrade Iraq's ability to defend itself from a foreign attack: bombing Iraq's air defenses, striking command facilities, destroying communication and radar infrastructure. As an Associated Press report noted in November 2002, "Those costly, hard-to-repair facilities are essential to Iraq's air defense."
Rear Admiral David Gove, former deputy director of global operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on November 20, 2002, that US and British pilots were "essentially flying combat missions." On October 3, 2002, the New York Times reported that US pilots were using southern Iraq for "practice runs, mock strikes and real attacks" against a variety of targets. But the full significance of this dramatic change in policy toward Iraq only became clear last month, with the release of the Downing Street memo. In it, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon is reported to have said in 2002, after meeting with US officials, that "the US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime," a reference to the stepped-up airstrikes. Now the Sunday Times of London has revealed that these spikes "had become a full air offensive"--in other words, a war.
Michigan Democratic Representative John Conyers (news, bio, voting record) has called the latest revelations about these attacks "the smoking bullet in the smoking gun," irrefutable proof that President Bush misled Congress before the vote on Iraq. When Bush asked Congress to authorize the use of force in Iraq, he also said he would use it only as a last resort, after all other avenues had been exhausted. But the Downing Street memo reveals that the Administration had already decided to topple Saddam by force and was manipulating intelligence to justify the decision. That information puts the increase in unprovoked air attacks in the year prior to the war in an entirely new light: The Bush Administration was not only determined to wage war on Iraq, regardless of the evidence; it had already started that war months before it was put to a vote in Congress.
It only takes one member of Congress to begin an impeachment process, and Conyers is said to be considering the option. The process would certainly be revealing. Congress could subpoena Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Gen. Richard Myers, Gen.Tommy Franks and all of the military commanders and pilots involved with the no-fly zone bombings going back into the late 1990s. What were their orders, both given and received? In those answers might lie a case for impeachment.
But another question looms, particularly for Democrats who voted for the war and now say they were misled: Why weren't these unprovoked and unauthorized attacks investigated when they were happening, when it might have had a real impact on the Administration's drive to war? Perhaps that's why the growing grassroots campaign to use the Downing Street memo to impeach Bush can't get a hearing on Capitol Hill. A real probing of this "smoking gun" would not be uncomfortable only for Republicans. The truth is that Bush, like President Bill Clinton before him, oversaw the longest sustained bombing campaign since Vietnam against a sovereign country with no international or US mandate. That gun is probably too hot for either party to touch.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
"Deep Throat Irony Watch: Linda Tripp Edition
As I wrote yesterday in "Gagging on Deep Throat", the mouthpieces of the conservative ascendancy have had two predictable responses to the revelation that former FBI #2 man Mark Felt was Watergate's "Deep Throat."
First, they rushed to Nixon's defense, seeking to rewrite history by calling his crimes no different in kind or degree than those supposedly committed by Kennedy, Johnson or Clinton, and his downfall the result of the perfidy of liberal media. (More on this topic in a subsequent post.)
The second tactic, of course, was to savage Felt himself. Far from calling him a hero, Watergate-era felons like Liddy and Colson, Nixon contemporaries like Kissinger, Stein and Buchanan, and Bush apologists like Coulter and Crowley used terms like "traitor", "criminal" and "troubled" to describe the man who helped the Washington Post make Nixon's crimes public.
Surely, then, the pundits of the Right must have spit the same venom at Linda Tripp, the woman who taped her conversations with her friend Monica Lewinsky back in 1998 and 1999. As Jon Stewart might say, um, not so much:
* Ann Coulter. The bombastic bulemic of the Beltway, who later called Bill Clinton "a very good rapist", had only praise for Tripp. "I do think she’s a great American hero. We never would have found out about the corruption and illegality at the very top of the government but for Linda Tripp. If you imagine what the world would be like if Linda Tripp hadn’t kept those tapes – a very different world."
* Pat Buchanan. On July 21, 1998, Nixon speechwriter and White House Goebbels-lite rushed to Tripp's defense, "What did Joe McCarthy ever do to Owen Lattimore to compare with what these thugs are doing to Ken Starr and Linda Tripp?"
* Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg, a fixture at the National Review owes much of his good fortune to his mother and Linda Tripp handler, Lucianne. Of Tripp, Goldberg gushed "Linda is waiting for her medal. Actually Linda is waiting for a single even-handed article in a major paper."
* Matt Drudge. Internet gossip monger Drudge dedicated a book to Tripp, stating, "She is somebody who took on the establishment. She is one lady in suburbia who said to the president of the United States, 'I'm going to get you, and I'm going to prove that you're a crook -- and I'm going to do it any way that I can.' We have a great American tradition of taking on people who abuse power and Tripp, whether you like her or don't like her, did just that. I'm sure most of your audience sees through a lot of the propaganda the mainstream press put out there -- where the first lady is a hero and Linda Tripp is the villain."
For the conservative movement, Linda Tripp for her role in Clinton's undoing is a martyr, a patron saint. An entire cottage industry supporting Tripp has emerged, including speaking opportunities in front of grateful, frothing-at-the-mouth conservative audiences.
Bill Clinton's infidelities and dissembling to the nation were grotesque and inexcusable, no doubt. In contrast, Nixon's crimes, including the Watergate cover-up, obstruction of justice, illegal invasion of Cambodia, and the constitutional crisis he spawned are qualitatively different, having posed a real threat to the Republic.
For conservatives apparently, Linda Tripp, the woman who made public her surreptitious tapes of her conversations with her friend, is a hero. (Not surprisingly, Bush friend and recorder Doug Weade is not.) And for the same people, Watergate source Mark Felt, the man whose risks may have saved the United States by stopping Nixon, is a scoundrel."
Downing Street Memo Mostly Ignored in U.S.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
WASHINGTON — A British government memo that critics say proves the Bush administration manipulated evidence about weapons of mass destruction in order to carry out a plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein (search) has received little attention in the mainstream media, frustrating opponents of the Iraq war.
The "Downing Street Memo" — first published by The Sunday Times of London on May 1 — summarizes a high-level meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) and his senior national security team on July 23, 2002, months before the March 2003 coalition invasion of Iraq.
The memo suggests that British intelligence analysts were concerned that the Bush administration was marching to war on wobbly evidence that Saddam posed a serious threat to the world.
Click here to read the memo.
In the memo, written by top Blair aide Matthew Rycroft (search), Foreign Secretary Jack Straw indicated in the meeting that it "seemed clear" Bush had already decided to take military action.
"But the case was thin," reads the memo on Straw's impressions. "Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran."
The memo also paraphrased former head of the British Secret Intelligence Services, Richard Dearlove, fresh from meetings in the United States. The memo said Dearlove believed "military action was now seen as inevitable."
"Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," the memo reads. "But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy," according to Dearlove's impressions.
"The NSC (National Security Council) had no patience with the U.N. route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
The memo, which received sporadic reporting in major newspapers in the United States throughout May, has sparked an outcry from more than 88 Democratic members of Congress who have signed two letters to President Bush demanding a response.
Led by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the signatories are mostly representatives who opposed the war in Iraq and make up the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Conyers says the mainstream media have ignored the story and let President Bush off the hook. He noted that liberal blogs and alternative media have been keeping the story alive. "But these voices are too few and too diffuse to overcome the blatant biases of our cable channels and the negligence and neglect of our major newspapers," Conyers said in a recent statement.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan has said there is "no need" to respond to the memos, the authenticity of which has not been denied.
Dante Zappala does not agree. For Zappala, the Downing Street Memo strikes a critical and personal chord. His brother, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, 30, a soldier in the Pennsylvania National Guard, was killed in Baghdad 13 months ago on what Zappala said was a mission to find weapons there.
"My family knows the consequences of the decision they made to go to war," said Zappala, 29, of Philadelphia. He is a member of Military Families Speak Out, a group that opposes the war and, according to Zappala, now has more than 2,000 members.
"I can't speak for what the TV news decides to focus their attention on," Zappala said. "They seem to have a willful deference to all relevant information. I think they've really just dropped the ball on this."
But not everyone believes the Downing Street Memo represents a "smoking gun" and deserves more attention.
"As a smoking gun it leaves a lot to be desired," said Kevin Aylward, a northern Virginia-based technology consultant who runs the conservative-leaning blog, Wizbangblog.com. "It's interesting, but it's probably fourth- or fifth-hand information."
Aylward added: "I suspect the more interesting story at this point, seeing it three weeks later, is who is behind the letter-writing campaign to push it in the media."
Several popular left-leaning blogs have taken up the cause to keep the story alive, encouraging readers to contact media outlets. A Web site, DowningStreetMemo.com, tells readers to contact the White House directly with complaints.
"This is a test of the left-wing blogosphere," said Jim Pinkerton, syndicated columnist and regular contributor to FOX News Watch, who pointed out that The Sunday Times article came out just before the British election and apparently had little effect on voters' decisions.
"In many ways that memo might prove all of the arguments the critics of the war have made," he added. "But the bulk of Americans don't agree, or don't seem that alarmed, so it is a power test to see if they can drive it back on the agenda."
Ellis Henican, a columnist for New York Newsday and a FOX News contributor, said the allegations of evidence-fixing had been made before the 2004 election by former senior administration officials Richard Clarke (search) and Paul O'Neill (search), and while many people believe they were right, it had little impact on the re-election of Bush in November.
"It's a little late," he said of the memo story, adding that people are resigned to the fact that the United States is in Iraq for the long term, regardless of what events led to the war. "We're kind of stuck."
That's no excuse, said Zappala, who argues someone has to be made accountable for the lives lost on false pretenses. "The goal was always to invade Iraq whatever obstacles, legal and moral, were in our way," he said. "I feel that we deserve an amount of accountability by our officials for the decisions they make."
© Texas Democracy Foundation
The Pimping of the President
Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist Billing Clients for Face Time with G.W. Bush
BY LOU DUBOSE
Four months after he took the oath of office in 2001, President George W. Bush was the attraction, and the White House the venue, for a fundraiser organized by the alleged perpetrator of the largest billing fraud in the history of corporate lobbying. In May 2001, Jack Abramoff’s lobbying client book was worth $4.1 million in annual billing for the Greenberg Traurig law firm. He was a friend of Bush advisor Karl Rove. He was a Bush “Pioneer,” delivering at least $100,000 in bundled contributions to the 2000 campaign. He had just concluded his work on the Bush Transition Team as an advisor to the Department of the Interior. He had sent his personal assistant Susan Ralston to the White House to work as Rove’s personal assistant. He was a close friend, advisor, and high-dollar fundraiser for the most powerful man in Congress, Tom DeLay. Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President. From the same two clients he took to the White House in May 2001, Abramoff also obtained $2.5 million in contributions for a non-profit foundation he and his wife operated.
Abramoff’s White House guests were the chiefs of two of the six casino-rich Indian tribes he and his partner Mike Scanlon ultimately billed $82 million for services tribal leaders now claim were never performed or were improperly performed. Together the six tribes would make $10 million in political contributions, at Abramoff’s direction, almost all of it to Republican campaigns of his choosing. On May 9, 2001, when he ushered the two tribal chiefs into the White House to meet the President, The Washington Post story that would end his lobbying career and begin two Senate Committee investigations was three years away. (When the Post story broke in February 2004, however, Abramoff and Scanlon, a former Tom DeLay press aide, were already targets of a U.S. Attorney’s investigation in Washington.)
Abramoff brought the Coushatta and Choctaw chiefs to Washington at the request of Grover Norquist. Norquist is founder and director of Americans for Tax Reform, the advocacy group committed to slashing taxes until the federal government is so small you “can drown it in the bathtub.” Norquist started ATR in 1985. His power increased exponentially in 1994, when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and he collaborated with then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay to launch the “K Street Project”—a coordinated campaign to compel lobbyists to contribute only to Republican candidates and ultimately to hire only Republicans. Like Abramoff and Rove, Norquist considered George Bush’s victory over Al Gore the culmination of a project the three Washington insiders started 30 years ago as national leaders of the College Republicans.
Since the Post’s Susan Schmidt broke the Jack Abramoff story, the media has focused on the stunning $82 million Abramoff and Scanlon billed six tribes for lobbying and public relations work. Far less attention has been paid to the political contributions, by Abramoff’s account $10 million, made by the six tribes. That piece of the story involves the K Street Project, which moves the money of corporate lobbyists and their clients into the accounts of Republican candidates, PACs, and issue advocacy groups.
Republican Campaign Accounts
Abramoff advised tribal leaders that the contributions were the cost of doing business in Washington, where he could protect them from other tribes trying to open casinos to compete with those that already had them. He sent orders for the checks to be cut, designating each recipient. On March 6, 2002, for example, Coushatta Tribal Council Chair Lovelin Poncho followed Abramoff’s orders and disbursed $336,300 in tribal funds, according to tribal accounting ledgers obtained by the Observer.
The Coushattas, a southwest Louisiana tribe of 837 members, operate a casino that does an estimated $300 million in annual business. The $32 million they paid Abramoff and Scanlon makes the tribe the largest victim of the fraud their lawyers now allege in a lawsuit filed by Texas plaintiff’s firm Provost Umphrey. The tribe also contributed what tribal council member David Sickey said was probably “many millions” of dollars to political causes and charities designated by Abramoff.
Since we first reported the White House ATR fundraiser and the $1 million contribution to the Capital Athletic Foundation (see “K Street Croupiers,” November 19, 2004), the Coushattas, speaking through Austin attorneys at Hance, Scarborough, Wright, Ginsburg & Brusilow, and through Louisiana political consultant Roy Fletcher, have vociferously denied that tribal Chairman Poncho visited the White House after contributing $25,000 to ATR. They also denied the $1 million contribution to Abramoff’s foundation. Recently the story has changed. Or at least the version told by the majority that controls the council has begun to change. Two minority members of the five-seat council have pointed to the pay-to-play meeting with President Bush and the $1 million contribution to Abramoff as examples of the council’s financial mismanagement. One of the two members of the minority faction, David Sickey, has regularly made himself available to the press. Normally, press inquiries to the council majority are answered by Hance Scarborough, by Roy Fletcher, or occasionally by sources close to the council majority.
According to a source close to the tribal majority, Chairman Poncho recently “revisited that issue” of his visit to the White House. He had previously denied it because he thought he was responding to press inquiries that implied he had a one-on-one meeting with Bush. He now recalls that he in fact did go to the White House on May 9, 2001. Tribal attorney Kathryn Fowler Van Hoof went with him, although she did not get into the meeting with the President. That meeting lasted for about 15 minutes and was not a one-on-one meeting. At the meeting, Bush made some general comments about Indian policy but did not discuss Indian gaming. Abramoff was at the meeting—for which he charged the Coushatta Tribe $25,000. The change in Poncho’s position is odd in light of the fact that he and his spokespersons have maintained for more than a year that he did not meet with President Bush in May 2001.
Norquist has not responded to inquiries about using the White House as a fundraiser. It is, however, a regular ATR practice to invite state legislators and tribal leaders who have supported ATR anti-tax initiatives to the White House for a personal thank-you from the President. A source at ATR said no money is ever accepted from participants in these events. The $25,000 check from the Coushattas suggests that, at least in this instance, Norquist’s organization made an exception. The $75,000 collected from the Mississippi Choctaws and two corporate sponsors mentioned in Abramoff’s e-mail suggests there were other exceptions. Norquist recently wrote to the tribes who paid to attend White House meetings. His story regarding that event is also evolving. The contributions, he told tribal leaders in letters that went out in May, were in no way related to any White House event. That doesn’t square with the paper trail Abramoff and Norquist left behind, which makes it evident that they were selling access to the President.
The Coushatta Tribal Council majority has also revised its response to questions about the $1 million contribution, which critics in the tribe have insisted was made to Abramoff’s Capital Athletic Foundation in 2001. The foundation funded Abramoff’s Jewish prep school in Bethesda, MD, which closed soon after his lobbying scheme unraveled. When the Observer inquired in November 2004 about the $1 million contribution, we had obtained a copy of the Capital Athletic Foundation’s tax filing, but the contributor’s name was redacted. Following the lead of Lake Charles, Louisiana, American Press reporter Shawn Martin, the Observer last week obtained an un-redacted copy. The $1 million contribution, roughly 95 percent of what the foundation raised in 2001, was attributed to the Coushatta Tribe. A source working with the Coushatta Tribal Council majority said it now appears that the contribution was made in response to a bill sent by Mike Scanlon. Accountants working under the direction of Hance Scarborough found a $1-million Greenberg Traurig invoice that Scanlon sent the tribe. Scanlon routinely sent un-itemized bills for larger sums, which the tribe routinely paid. But as he was not a Greenberg Traurig employee, he billed on his own Capitol Campaign Strategies invoices. On the $1 million Greenberg Traurig invoice Scanlon sent the tribe in 2001, the company name was misspelled.
There will need to be more accounting, probably by different accountants. And perhaps by different legal representation, or at least under a different understanding between the tribe and its lawyers. In the May 28 tribal election on the Elton, LA reservation, a reform slate won a majority on the five-member council. Sickey, who five days before the election maintained that the $1 million contribution was made and that tribal chair Poncho indeed went to the White House in 2001, predicted the new majority will hire forensic accountants to determine where all the money went. (A week before the election he was looking for a tribal newsletter in which, he said, Poncho described his 2001 White House visit.) The shift on the council does not bode well for its Austin law firm. Hance Scarborough had gone to tribal court and successfully blocked a recall election that would have forced the council majority to stand for election a year ago, and David Sickey was a proponent of the recall. “Kent Hance doesn’t represent me or [the other minority dissident] Harold John,” said Sickey. “He represents Lovelin Poncho.”
The White House press office has not responded to our questions about other visits Jack Abramoff might have made to the White House or about Norquist using the official residence of the President to raise funds for Americans for Tax Reform. None of the political contributions Abramoff insisted the tribes make as yet have been returned.
Lou Dubose is a former Observer editor and co-author of The Hammer: Tom DeLay, God, Money and the Rise of the Republican Congress. This story was written with support from the Fund for Constitutional Government.
The new opiate of the masses
By John Steinberg | RAW STORY COLUMNIST
The religious right has been waging war on Hollywood for decades. 25 years ago it was the amorality of “Dallas.” 15 years go it was the titillation of “Baywatch;” today they pillory the godless decadence of shows like “Desperate Housewives,” and the “Mandingo Moment” when one of its white female stars flirted with a black football player in a Superbowl promo.
These guardians of the pure are certain that Hollywood has coarsened out society. I am inclined to agree with them about the overall quality of network television, though their preferred responses scare me silly. But I am worried about a completely different danger oozing from today’s prime time programming, an evil far more perverse than Janet Jackson’s nipple or Bono’s profanity. I worry because we hear virtually nothing about it, and because the change is so felicitous to our moral and economic masters.
America is utterly enthralled with what is perhaps the most ironically misnamed product ever unleashed on the opiated American public: “reality” TV. Millions of people watch nightly as ordinary schmoes (many of whom are actors, but never mind) are plucked from their lives of quiet mediocrity and given a shot at fame and fortune. America’s Next Top Model and American Idol pluck the talented (assuming, as TV-land does, that physical beauty is a form of talent) from obscurity and launch careers. (The circular absurdity of being famous for being famous, and how that turns into a career, are hereby reserved for another time.) Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, The Bachelor and their ilk reward the shallow and shameless with money and their requisite 15 minutes. (Few today recall that the original definition of “geek” was a talentless carnival performer so defeated by life that he would bite the heads from live chickens for money. Think of that next time you watch “Survivor.”)
We know why Hollywood foists such drivel on its target audience. The shows are cheap to produce. And said audience watches. But why? Why do millions of Americans chose to medicate with such staged, hokey, meaningless excrescence?
I believe the primary reason Joe Sixpack watches is that he thereby vicariously lives his own fantasies of emerging as a butterfly from the chrysalis of his own glamourless life. Where past generations understood that such transformation required hard work (or, as in the case of slackers like our President, considerable skill in the choosing of one’s parents), today’s Americans are bombarded with evidence that the media deux ex machina can obviate the need for such inconvenience.
This new, passive myth has filled the vacuum left by the death of the old: the Horatio Alger story. Americans have always believed, in a way Europeans have not, in class mobility. The world’s tired, poor, huddled masses head for Lady Liberty, work hard, and rise into the middle class or even higher. As a result, America has thought itself to be a less class-based society, and its social policies have done less to favor the poor than those of most European nations. In the American mythos, poverty was largely a consequence of personal failure.
If that myth was ever based in fact, the reality is now clearly otherwise. Indeed, the myth of actual class mobility was interred by no less than the Wall Street Journal, arguably one of the holiest books of the capitalist religion, in a page one story on May 13th.
"Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe (or in Canada) has had a better chance at prosperity," the Journal noted. The WSJ also noted that a recent study (by a Federal Reserve economist, no less) showed that, "Only 14% of men born to fathers on the bottom 10% of the wage ladder made it to the top 30%. Only 17% of the men born to fathers on the top 10% fell to the bottom 30%."
If science has debunked such a bedrock myth, one of two things would seem to follow: either the disadvantaged in our society will wake up, and act (and vote) based on a more realistic view of the world, or a new sustaining myth will be propagated in order to keep hoi polloi sedated.
A more perfect role for television is difficult to imagine.
And so a populace trained by its religion to believe in miracles, magic and divine intervention has welcomed the morphing of the Horatio Alger story into something far more injurious to society: rather than look to their own efforts and resources to better their lives, the proles hope against passive hope that they will be chosen to play the television lottery that transforms ugly ducklings into swans, poor into rich, and obscure into famous. The result is arguably more effective in inoculating Joe Sixpack against economic class consciousness than a lifetime of hypocritical scoldings from Pat Robertson and James Dobson could ever be.
The hallmark of this new crop of gentry-in-waiting is an unprecedented dissociation of preferences from realistic self-interest. To an unprecedented degree, these tele-sheep tend to favor not the interests of the economic class to which they really belong (and which the odds are overwhelmingly that they will never leave), but the interests of the class living in the style to which they expect to become accustomed. The world thus no longer consists of rich and poor: there is a third category, which should perhaps be known as the “rich-any-day-now.” Robin Leach (was there ever a man so perfectly named?) will be leading a camera crew through their mansions next year, or the year after that at the latest. It should surprise no one that millions choose that fantasy rather than face the ugly reality – that George Bush will never have a beer with them; that they will never review their head shots with Tyra Banks, and that Donald Trump will never fire them – at least not on prime time.
This neutralization of class consciousness has been the religious right’s greatest achievement. Convincing ordinary folks that gay marriage, activist judges and the like are greater threats than their own economic distress is a virtually unprecedented feat. It has allowed the constellation of Christian churches to create a civil religion full of bombast and devoid of charity—a God-blessed dystopia where the meek inherit nothing but debt, and the actual rich reap the manna that flows from the rich-any-day-now’s myopia.
There was a popular saying a decade or so ago—“I’ve abandoned my search for truth and will settle for a good fantasy.” Hollywood, with the obvious blessing of the parallel elite in Washington, has made that self-defeating escapism into its central dogma.
Where is the harm in the champagne dreams of our Budweiser nation? It is the same harm that built the casinos on the Las Vegas strip, that monument to mankind’s folly. It is the same harm that puts future organ donors on motorcycles without helmets. It is these, but worse, because the collateral damage from your belief that this time you will be lucky at keno is minimal. The shrapnel from lower class America’s identification with the upper class is the angry renunciation of the social contract by those who need it most.
And so poor and middle class Americans support tax cuts for the wealthy, because deep down they just know, against all odds, that any day now they are going to be rich, too. Of course the real reality is that they are as statistically likely to become America’s Next Top Gigolo as I am to win the Tour de France, but they willingly choose to in effect play a lottery in which 99% of the winners are known before a ticket is bought.
in defiance of the largest deficit ever, but he also
intends to make them permanent. However, for any
program involving anybody who isn’t rich, oh yes, cuts
do exist. Severe cuts. Cuts o’plenty. Cuts to the
bone, unless those bones happen to be located in the
vicinity of the cholesterol-laden limb of a fat cat.
Apparently the plan is to balance the budget on the
nutritionally deprived uninsured backs of the
inadequately medicated poor.
• Tighter restrictions on Food Stamp eligibility so
rich people can have more money.
• Federal Drug Administration inspection teams sacked
so rich people can have more money.
• Highway and infrastructure improvement budgets
slashed so rich people can have more money.
• An 11 percent reduction in Homeland Security funds
available to state and local coordination efforts so
rich people can have more money.
• $250 million cut from programs to train doctors and
other health care professionals so rich people can
have more money.
• Small Business Administration cut from $611 million
to $593 million so rich people can have more money.
• Increase on charges for veterans’ health care so
rich people can have more money.
• Cutting federal foster care programs so rich people
can have more money.
• Ending community services block grants, a $637
million program founded more than thirty-five years
ago as part of the fight against poverty, so rich
people can have more money.
• Proposed cuts in aid to farmers, seniors, children,
students, cops, veterans, the homeless, the hungry,
the environment, Amtrak, and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention so rich people can have more
• Gutting the low-income home energy assistance
program, which is mostly used by the elderly. That’s
right, friends, he’s cutting winter heating subsidies
to the elderly so rich people can have more money.
Did I mention most of these cuts are necessary to
ensure that rich people have more money? Because I
meant to mention most of these cuts are necessary to
ensure that rich people can have more money. And the
-Will Durst The Progressive April 2005
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
My right-wing degree
How I learned to convert liberal campuses into conservative havens at Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute, alma mater of Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, Jeff Gannon and two Miss Americas.
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By Jeff Horwitz
May 24, 2005 | One recent Sunday, at Morton Blackwell's Leadership Institute, a dozen students meet for the second and final day of training in grass-roots youth politics. All are earnest, idealistic and as right wing as you can get. They take careful notes as instructor Paul Gourley teaches them how to rig a campus mock election.
It's nothing illegal -- no ballot stuffing necessary, even at the most liberal colleges. First you find a nonpartisan campus group to sponsor the election, so you can't be accused of cheating. Next, volunteer to organize the thing. College students are lazy, and they'll probably let you. Always keep in mind that a rigged mock election is all about location, location, location.
"Can anyone tell me," asks Gourley, a veteran mock electioneer, "why you don't want the polling place in the cafeteria?"
Stephen, a shy antiabortion activist sitting toward the rear of the class, raises his hand: "Because you want to suppress the vote?"
"Stephen has the right answer!" Gourley exclaims, tossing Stephen his prize, a copy of Robert Bork's "Slouching Toward Gomorrah."
The students, strait-laced kids from good colleges, seem unconvinced. The lesson -- that with sufficient organization, the act of voting becomes less a basic right than a tactical maneuver -- doesn't sit easy with some students at first. Gourley, a charismatic senior from South Dakota and the treasurer of the College Republican National Committee, assures them: "This is not anti-democracy. This is not shady. Just put [the polling place] somewhere where you might have to put a little bit of effort into voting." The rest, Gourley explains, is just a matter of turnout.
When the state or national candidate you're backing wins by a suitably large margin, as he or she surely will, have the nonpartisan group that sponsored the election sign off on your prewritten celebratory press release and send it statewide. Reporters will almost certainly ignore it, but after a dozen similar victories, they'll start dashing off articles about the youth phenomenon behind your candidate's campaign -- or better yet, just start plagiarizing your press releases.
There is no better place to master the art of mock-election rigging -- and there is no better master than Morton Blackwell, who invented the trick in 1964 and has been teaching it ever since. Blackwell's half-century career in conservative grass-roots politics coincides neatly with the fortunes of the conservative movement: He was there when Goldwater lost, when Southern voters abandoned the Democratic Party in droves, and when the Moral Majority began its harvest of evangelical Christian voters. In the 1970s, Blackwell worked with conservative direct-mail king Richard Viguerie; in 1980, he led Reagan's youth campaign. Recently, he's been fighting to save Tom DeLay's job.
Yet Blackwell's foundation, the Leadership Institute, is not a Republican organization. It's a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) charity, drawing the overwhelming majority of its $9.1 million annual budget from tax-deductible donations. Despite its legally required "neutrality," the institute is one of the best investments the conservative movement has ever made. Its walls are plastered with framed headshots of former students -- hundreds of state and local legislators sprinkled with smiling members of the U.S. Congress, and even the perky faces of two recently crowned Miss Americas. Thirty-five years ago, Blackwell dispatched a particularly promising 17-year-old pupil named Karl Rove to run a youth campaign in Illinois; Jeff Gannon, a far less impressive student, attended the Leadership Institute's Broadcast Journalism School.
The institute's classes aren't tickets into an exclusive and shadowy club, however: I am also an institute graduate. In March, I attended its Youth Leadership School, a one-weekend, 28-hour crash course in political organizing. Registration was open to the public and cost $60, which got me a sourcebook, six free meals, up to three nights in a dorm, and a six-hour lecture on political principles delivered by the 65-year-old Blackwell himself. The morning I arrived at the Leadership Institute, I identified myself as a reporter for Salon. "That's great," said communications director Michelle Miller. By the end of the weekend, Blackwell took me on a tour of the headquarters, chatted with me for nearly an hour, and gave me a copy of the institute's antisocialism in-house film, "The Roots of the Ultra Left." The institute is a very friendly place.
Over the last 25 years, more than 40,000 young conservatives have been trained at the institute's Arlington, Va., headquarters in everything from TV makeup for aspiring right-wing talking heads to prep courses for the State Department's Foreign Service exam. Classes are taught by volunteers recruited from the ranks of the conservative movement's most talented organizers, operatives and communicators.
The Leadership Institute has succeeded, in part, because it's had little to no competition from the left. College campuses may still be havens for liberal thought, but the right-wing students are the ones organized enough to win major battles. Perhaps expecting that American youth would organize themselves as they did in decades past, progressive organizations have been outstripped by their conservative counterparts in professionalizing the ragtag world of college activism. "When it comes to campus controversy, from affirmative action to free speech, the right wing pumps in money and expertise and shows [students] how to out-hustle their opponents," says David Halperin of the liberal Center for American Progress.
Still, Blackwell says conservatives are underdogs on college campuses. Conservative students may be better organized, but they're still outnumbered. The Leadership Institute contends that liberal higher education is robbing the conservative movement of new blood -- and thereby handicapping the institute's efforts. "You know, the most conservative students are the freshmen," Blackwell told me. "There is an acculturation there."
And that's where the institute is taking its fight. For most of its 25-year history, it has focused on grooming students to work in conservative politics; it's now increasingly devoting its efforts to making campuses more conservative places. Through its Campus Leadership Program, the institute is leading a growing effort to found and support a national network of conservative student groups and publications capable of permanently altering the intellectual and social environment of universities to conservatives' advantage. That goal alone is a stark rejection of the standard conservative complaint that post-Vietnam War higher education is not just grossly liberal, but irredeemably so. Already, the program has shown considerable success. Asked about his campus initiative, Blackwell simply says, "You're talking about the major project for the rest of my life."
In the wake of the 2004 election, some progressive groups have been working to reinforce their positions on campus. Last February, the Center for American Progress launched Campus Progress, a student activism support center, to combat what Halperin describes as "30 years of effective organizing" by conservative groups like the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Young Americans for Freedom, and of course, the Leadership Institute. But Blackwell is unfazed by the competition. "If they asked me, which they haven't, I could let them know that it's a lot harder than it appeared on the surface," he told me. "You've got to work years before you see any results."
And Blackwell has put in those years. A young Louisiana Republican in the days when Democrats owned every statewide office, he cut his political teeth on Barry Goldwater's doomed 1964 presidential bid. "Don't fully trust anyone until he has stuck with a good cause which he saw was losing," is an institute maxim rooted in Blackwell's own political education. "After Goldwater's defeat, the number of people who would admit to being movement conservatives could all have fit into an average phone booth," Blackwell said in an interview. "And among us, we didn't have a dime for a telephone call."
That was a long time ago. According to Blackwell, allied "movement conservatives" took the first steps toward outmaneuvering their party's moribund minority leadership in the '70s. More than a test of character, conservatism's formerly abject status provided the key to those gains. With a wealth of political talent but few resources or constituencies, conservatives had no choice but to look beyond the two- and four-year cycles that dictate traditional political strategy. Instead of fighting an intra-party struggle they were certain to lose, they built an infrastructure outside the Republican Party dedicated to promoting talent, not winning the next election.
The Leadership Institute is a perfect example of that strategy, according to Peter Murray, a progressive management trainer who studied the institute's model before launching his own nonprofit political training organization, the Center for Progressive Leadership, last year. "Being a 501(c)(3) not only means they can get tax deductions for their donors and build endowments, but they're forced to look long term," Murray says. "They're not allowed to endorse candidates and get sucked into electoral politics. Year in and year out, all they do is build leaders."
It's an approach, Murray believes, that has long since paid off. "Sure, [Blackwell] has trained Karl Rove and Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist and 223 other legislators and members of Congress," Murray notes, "but more importantly, he's trained 40,000 other local organizers." The institute's graduates, in other words, are part of a movement. "We spent $2 billion trying to win this last election," Murray says of progressives. "They already spent 25 years, and nearly $100 million, building the talent pool that won the election. And which will consistently win them elections for the next several decades."
The structure of Blackwell's Campus Leadership Program is simple. The Leadership Institute trains promising conservative college graduates over the summer and dispatches them to campuses in the fall with a mandate to start conservative student organizations. Need $500 and some ideas to start a combative right-wing campus publication? The institute would love to help you. Is the campus administration discriminating against your Second Amendment club? The institute will help you take your cause to the Internet. No one on campus at your Christian college has ever heard of the institute? Staffers will be glad to drive down, take you to a steakhouse, and talk it up. Last year, the CLP doubled in size, to 418 clubs and counting. By the end of 2006, Blackwell is confident he will have created 1,000 conservative campus organizations.
Unlike chapter-based political organizations, CLP clubs are unaffiliated with either the Leadership Institute or each other. According to Blackwell, this trait offers a serious advantage: "No purges." The clubs' independence also comes with the benefit of plausible deniability. "You can get away with stuff that you would take a lot of flak for doing in the College Republicans," says CLP director Dan Flynn. "Because we're independent, we can do activities that push the envelope," agrees University of Miami senior Sarah Canale, whose CLP-organized Advocates for Conservative Thought threw an affirmative action bake sale last year in which the price of a cupcake varied according to the race of its buyer. That it was controversial, she believes, was a victory in itself.
The Leadership Institute teaches the same principle. Controlled controversy -- making your point in a manner so bombastic that your opponents blow their cool -- is a Blackwell specialty. Before the 2004 Republican Convention, the conservative elder personally went to a drugstore and bought little pink heart stickers, bandages and purple nail polish. At home, he made the "Purple Heart Band-Aids" that he later distributed in Madison Square Garden to mock John Kerry's war wounds. From Blackwell's perspective, the Kerry camp's outrage at the gag was a tactical disaster. Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe, Blackwell says, kept the story alive for days by "running around like a chicken with its head cut off."
A stunt is one way to get press -- but a more effective and sustainable method is to start your own publication. The Leadership Institute trains around 250 students yearly in its student publication workshop, and CLP staff assisted in launching 22 campus publications last year alone.
The Rutgers Centurion is a conservative monthly that got off the ground this fall with institute help. Rutgers student James O'Keefe founded the magazine after coming across a conservative publication at Tufts. "I said, why don't we have this?" O'Keefe remembers. He taught himself a page-layout program and got in touch with the Leadership Institute, which dispatched a staffer to take him and his coeditors to dinner at an upscale local brewery. The institute gave O'Keefe books on starting a publication, awarded him a $500 "Balance in Media Grant," and suggested never-fail places on campus to ferret out liberal excess. "They were really excited," O'Keefe recalls.
The Rutgers Centurion has since analyzed faculty campaign contributions that favored John Kerry over George W. Bush 104 times over, and it accused one of Rutgers' most esteemed alumni, African-American author and actor Paul Robeson, of being a Stalinist. The magazine has published poetry about abortion from a fetus's point of view and run allegations of prejudice against Condoleezza Rice, "The Black Woman Liberals Love to Hate."
The Centurion's favorite subject, however, seems to be people who don't like the Centurion. Rutgers student Tabitha Rice earned the February "Liberal of the Month" title for allegedly defacing copies of the Centurion's previous issue, and in the spirit of Valentine's Day, the editors framed an excerpt from their hate mail -- "'F*** [The editors of The Centurion.] F*** Them till they're dead'" -- in a heart-shaped box.
The Centurion's assertion that campus liberals are intolerant lends its vitriolic criticism of leftists the veneer of the free speech movement. CLP coordinator Flynn, the author of "Why the Left Hates America," recalls that during a speech at Berkeley, he encountered "a Nazi-style book burning" of his work and an attempt to rip his microphone cord from the wall. That might not have quite the allure of Mario Savio's rallying a crowd from a squad car's roof during Berkeley's student protests, but it's a start.
CLP publications play a crucial role in publicizing such run-ins. Right-wing watchdog groups like Accuracy in Media have railed against liberal bias in the classroom for years, but as outsiders, they lack both standing and a direct connection to campus life. CLP publications have both, allowing them to monitor bias in every classroom. In December, the editor of the Louisville Patriot, a CLP-organized publication at the University of Louisville, reported that sociology lecturer John McTighe had made a very, very tasteless joke about how religious conservatives who had voted for Bush ought to be shot. With sufficient outrage, the story jumped from the Patriot to the local media and the Internet, resulting in McTighe's suspension and a thoroughly public debate of liberal bias in, of all places, Kentucky.
Sparking such scandals is "absolutely" a part of CLP's plan, Blackwell says. "In the last year or so, not taking into account the flap over Ward Churchill, you have no doubt noticed more news coverage about complacent leftists' abuses on campus," he says. "Academia is the last unbreached citadel of the left, and I believe we are today over the moat."
There's still plenty to do before then. Chris Stio, an institute staffer who directed the Bush-Cheney field operations in northeast Michigan, warns his students not to buy into second-term crowing about America's irrevocable slide into conservatism. "Enough people were yelling and screaming about the president that if they'd actually picked up the phone book and started calling, they might have won," he says. "They went to concerts, they bashed the president, but they didn't work. If enough people had, maybe we'd have a different president. The election was not inevitable. And too many think it was."
Some progressives have come to that conclusion as well. "This was certainly needed 25 years ago," says Peter Murray, of the Center for Progressive Leadership. "Investing beyond any individual election cycle is the way that we're going to develop the progressive movement into a more robust, coordinated, compact force that can win elections." But getting donors to think beyond 2008 is a tough sell. "Our budget this year will be just over a million. We'd love to be bigger than that," he says. "It's really going to be up to the progressive donor community as to whether they're going to look long term and invest in a superstructure. If they do, we can build it relatively quickly."
In the meantime, the Leadership Institute will continue its work. Blackwell has found plenty of humor in his recent vilification as the evil genius that smoothed fake reporter Jeff Gannon's path to White House press briefings. "If they want to believe that there's a vast conspiracy, and they want to waste their time trying to decide who gives all the orders to the conservative movement, well, let 'em spend their time on that," he says, laughing.
The Leadership Institute has better things to do, Blackwell says, than conspire to put a male escort up to lobbing softballs to White House spokesman Scott McClellan. For example, training the next generation of Karl Roves.
"Everyone knows that for certain breeds of dogs it is customary to cut their tails short when they are a few weeks old," begins Blackwell's lecture to us on the importance of releasing negative information on your opponent incrementally. "Every time you clip the puppy's tail it hurts. It hurts. You might traumatize the puppy for life."
"The moral is that if it's your tail that's being clipped, you want it clipped once," concludes Blackwell. "But if you get a chance to clip your opponent's tail, clip that puppy as often as you can."
It may be hardball, but it isn't cheating, and it would be far less effective if it were. "These are powerful techniques," Blackwell tells the class at the end of his marathon lecture. "So I don't want anyone going out of here and acting unethically. It's not necessary."