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

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

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Cheney the survivor without challengers

Cheney the survivor without challengers

By Andrew Ward and Edward Luce

Published: September 1 2007 03:00 | Last updated: September 1 2007 03:00

Dick Cheney once jokingly referred to himself as Darth Vader - such was his dark reputation with the mainstream US media. With the departure of Karl Rove on Friday, George W. Bush's electoral mastermind, the US vice-president is seen as "the last man standing" in the administration.

Yet far from being the increasingly isolated figure that he is often portrayed, Mr Cheney wields influence that has arguably never been greater. Among the close circle of trusted advisors that Mr Bush has relied on since coming to the White House, only Mr Cheney remains.

The others - the so-called "Texas mafia" that included Harriet Miers, the former counsel, Dan Barlett, director of communications, Karen Hughes, a senior advisor, Alberto Gonzales, the outgoing attorney-general and Mr Rove - have all left.

It was this informal coterie that would retreat with Mr Bush to his private quarters after formal White House meetings and take the hard decisions. "These were the people Bush trusted and where he could say anything," said a former Cheney aide. "Cheney will now be unchallenged."

Of the inner circle, Mr Rove was probably the only one with equal weight to the vice-president - although they did not always see eye to eye. Mr Rove's principal agenda has been to expand the Republican party'selectoral base to create a "permanent majority". Mr Cheney's has been to expand the executive powers that he believes were illegitimately taken from the White House after Watergate in the 1970s.

Often they were chasing two different rabbits. It is Mr Cheney who looks farlikelier to accomplish his agenda. "There is no one left who can now out-argue the vice-president," says Jule-anna Glover, another former Cheney aide.

The fact that the White House has no candidaterunning in 2008 further increases Mr Cheney's room for manoeuvre, particularly given Mr Rove's departure. "Rove was first and foremost a political animal," says Stephen Hayes, Mr Cheney's biographer. "He looked at how policies could benefit the Republicans. Cheney's attitude is: 'Politics be damned. This is the right thing to do. Now someone else go sell it to the American public and our allies'."

Nor, as some have suggested, does Mr Gonzales' departure necessarily weaken the vice-president's hand. "In terms of the formulation of arguments, Gonzales was never much of a player," said John Bolton, a former ally of Mr Cheney in the Bush administration and a former UN ambassador, now at the American Enterprise Institute in Washingon. "David Addington [a senior Cheney aide] was the main theoretician of executive privilege and he is still there."

The first significant test of Mr Cheney's influence in the post-Rove era will come within the next few weeks, when Mr Bush picks a nominee to replace Mr Gonzales as attorney-general. People close to the White House say Mr Cheney wants a conservative nominee who will defend the expansion ofpresidential power he has championed over the past six years.

But Mr Bush is under pressure from others in the administration to choose an independent figure who would stand up to the White House. Bruce Fein, a former senior law officer in the Reagan administration, says the identity of Mr Gonzales' replacement will determine "whether the Cheneyexecutive privilege agenda will continue to prevail".

Mr Cheney, who has declined several requests for interviews, has focused his vice-presidency on reversing the constraints placed on executive power following Watergate and the Vietnam war. It was this philosophy that led to the launchof a controversial domestic eavesdropping programme after the September 11 2001terrorist attacks, the opening of the GuantánamoBay detention centre and the blurring of US policy towards torture. Perhaps the clearest evidence of Mr Cheney's overriding influence is the deadlock over the future of Guantánamo.

The vice-president is the only high-profile administration official still arguing for the detention centre to be kept open. Yet his views have so far trumped the growing consensus elsewhere in the administration about the need to work towards closing the facility.

"Cheney's most important goal is to establish beyond this presidency the White House's pre-eminent and in some respects exclusive role to make war, determine what war is and who is a combatant," says Mr Fein. "That will be his legacy."

While Mr Cheney has lost some ground to foreign policy moderates, those who know him well insist he will continue to push for tougher action to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. "He should not be underestimated on this point," says a former senior administration official.

"Cheney has argued for military action against Iran before and he will likely do so again. If the current round of UN resolutions fail to get Iran to change course, then Cheney's argument will gather strength through 2008."

Mr Bolton says on foreign policy the Bush administration will retain its strongest freedom of action. "People tend to forget that we do not have a parliamentary system - the powers of the executive do not depend on whocontrols the legislature or on the state of public opinion," he says. "We have aseparation of powers. This is especially true of foreignpolicy."

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/0b44ff52-5823-11dc-8c65-0000779fd2ac.html

The GOP's crowded closet

The GOP's crowded closet

The party's culture of concealment has led to embarrassment and personal destruction. Isn't it about time for the right to cure its homophobia?

By Joe Conason

Aug. 31, 2007 | "Is everybody gay?"

That was the cry of the lovelorn schoolteacher in the classic 1997 film "In and Out," after her diffident fiancé reveals his true orientation (and dumps her for Tom Selleck). Ten years later, more than a few discombobulated Republicans must be muttering the same question, despite the fervent denial of Sen. Larry "Wide Stance" Craig that he is, indeed, gay. As one embarrassing episode follows another, with almost predictable regularity, perhaps it is time for Republicans and conservatives to ask themselves an obvious question: What makes the Republican Party -- and the conservative movement more generally -- so attractive to closeted homosexual men?

Somewhere in the textbooks of psychosexual pathology there may be a straightforward answer, so to speak. Does the party draw closeted men because they can hide behind Republican homophobia? Or does the party promote homophobia as a political ruse while closeted men run the show? Whatever the answer, the result is routine humiliation and personal destruction. Even worse, the party's culture of concealment encourages right-wing gay-bashing, such as Tucker Carlson's grotesque boast that he and another adolescent thug beat up a gay man who "bothered" him in a bathroom years ago.

Telling such manly tales may relieve the insecurities of Republicans who must contemplate the ever-mounting archive of homosexual history in their party's ample closet. But only Republicans who are truly in denial can ignore the long parade now led by the reluctant Craig -- a conga line of right-leaning queens that dates all the way back to the late Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy's infamous henchman and an intimate friend of the Reagans'. Perhaps, like Cohn, today's closeted Republicans believe that they aren't really gay at all, except for a few minutes in bed (or in the men's room).

No matter how Cohn deluded himself about his sexuality, however, he was among the founders of modern conservatism, along with late fundraiser and activist Marvin Liebman, who finally came out and denounced the homophobia of the right several years before his death. Both of them lived to witness the conservative resurgence of the Reagan era, led by the likes of Terry Dolan, who operated the National Conservative Political Action Committee from deep within his lifelong closet, attacking "the growing homosexual movement" until not long before he died of AIDS, and Arthur Finkelstein, the renowned Republican political consultant who worked for the NCPAC and dozens of Republican senators, often emphasizing their opposition to gay rights and in particular to gay marriage -- at least until three years ago, when Finkelstein married his male partner in their home state of Massachusetts.

Hypocritical as Finkelstein may be in his mercenary way, at least he is no longer living a lie, having been outed more than a decade ago in the pages of Boston Magazine. Over the past few years, the frequency of outing on the Republican side of the aisle has intensified.

On the first day of the party's New York convention in 2004, the closet doors were flung open again when Rep. Ed Schrock, a Republican from Pat Robertson's home district in Virginia, was forced to drop his bid for reelection. The outing Web site BlogActive.com exposed the secret homosexual life of the 63-year-old retired career Navy officer, Vietnam veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Hiding in the next Republican closet to be aired out was Jim West, then mayor of Spokane, Wash., an important politician in the Northwest with a strong reputation for opposing gay rights and advocating the removal of gay teachers from schools and daycare centers. In 2005, the Spokane Spokesman-Review revealed that West had been leading a double life, trolling for male sexual partners on the Internet and allegedly abusing two teenage boys who came under his care as a Boy Scout leader. These gamy stories led to West's ouster as mayor by the end of the year. (He died of cancer several months later.)

Then in 2006 came the stunning Mark Foley scandal, which featured the curious "Don't ask, don't tell" behavior of the Republican congressional leadership when confronted with evidence that the Florida representative was pursuing teenage male pages. The Republicans seemed to hope that they could conceal Foley's creepy behavior toward the boys in their care until after the midterm elections. Thanks to Lane Hudson, the gay rights activist who disclosed Foley's misconduct to the media, that scheme backfired badly. The reverberations amplified perceptions of the Republican Congress as decadent and self-serving, leading to the midterm debacle that returned control of Capitol Hill to the Democrats.

The November 2006 election results had scarcely been confirmed when a former male prostitute named Mike Jones convincingly accused right-wing evangelical preacher Ted Haggard of joining him in narcotics-fueled sex romps. Following the familiar cycle of denial and confession, Haggard stepped down as the head of his Colorado Springs, Colo., church and as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a position he had not hesitated to use on behalf of Republican candidates, notably including George W. Bush. Until his downfall, Haggard had participated in a weekly telephone conference with Bush and other evangelical leaders. The White House and his former comrades on the religious right sought to downplay Haggard's influence after his confession to "sexual immorality."

Around that same time, Michael Rogers of BlogActive.com -- the gay blogger who outed Schrock in 2004 -- posted the first allegations concerning Larry Craig's misbehavior in men's rooms around the country. Having learned about Craig many months earlier from men who reported their encounters with him, Rogers had been warning as early as January 2006 that he was planning to out a senator. His initial reports on Craig attracted the attention of the Idaho media, which nevertheless held back the story until the senator's arrest in a Minnesota men's room and misdemeanor plea became public.

The Craig scandal overshadowed still another embarrassing saga from the closets of the red states. During the first week of August, Glenn Murphy, a Republican county chairman from Indiana, mysteriously stepped down as president of the Young Republican National Federation. In a letter to the nation's Young Republican leaders, he claimed that he was obliged to resign because of a pending major business opportunity. That explanation seemed unlikely in light of news concerning an investigation of Murphy for sexually molesting another man after a party. That young gentleman, a guest in a house where Murphy was staying, awoke the next morning to find the chairman's mouth on his genitalia.

Murphy's star may no longer rise, but his tale is a portent for the future. So long as Republicans promote homophobia, the party's closets will be crowded.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2007/08/31/gay_republicans/print.html

McCain's selective defense of "traditional marriage"

McCain's selective defense of "traditional marriage"
Glenn Greenwald

Here is John McCain's "straight talk", in defense of traditional marriage yesterday, regarding the Iowa state court's decision declaring unconstitutional that state's opposite-sex-only marriage law:

John McCain also entered the fray last night, calling the decision "a loss for the traditional family," and noting that he supports "the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman."


By stark contrast, this is John McCain's "straight action":

McCain was still married and living with his wife in 1979 while, according to The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, "aggressively courting a 25-year-old woman who was as beautiful as she was rich." McCain divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, then launched his political career with his new wife's family money.


How can John McCain claim to believe that the law should recognize only "traditional marriages" while simultaneously demanding that the law recognize his own so-called "second marriage" -- also known as "an adulterous relationship" under the precepts of "traditional marriage" (Mark 10:11 -- "And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her").

The issue is not that McCain sinned in the past. It is that he argues now that the law ought to recognize only "the traditional definition of marriage" while simultaneously demanding that the law recognize and treat as equal his own "marriage," which is as much a deviation from the "traditional definition" as the same-sex marriages he opposes. How can someone with this "family" stand up in public and claim to support the "traditional definition of marriage"?

McCain married Carol Shepp, his first wife, in 1965. He adopted her two children from a previous marriage, and they have a daughter, born in 1966. The couple divorced in 1980. He and his second wife, Cindy, have four children.

Whatever else that family is, "traditional" is not it. But the only reason this glaring contradiction can be maintained is because most of the media and huge numbers of voters even outside of the "Value Voters" sphere have convinced themselves -- driven by obvious self-interest and oozing self-centeredness -- that the only rule of "traditional marriage" is that you need a man and a woman and provided that rule is complied with, all other types of marriages and divorces qualify as "traditional."

Undoubtedly we'll be hearing from the "pro-traditional-marriage" Fred Thompson soon, too, about the importance of ensuring that the law only recognize "traditional marriages." As he speaks solemnly of the vital need to preserve this institution in its traditional form, his lovely "second wife" and his even older daughter from his first marriage can look on adoringly.

One last point. The conventional wisdom has already arisen that this "activist" judicial ruling in Iowa is going to catapult same-sex marriages to the top of the political agenda, galvanizing the potent Values Voters base. Last October -- weeks before the midterm election -- a New Jersey state court issued a similar ruling about marriage laws (albeit mandating civil unions), and we were told by the standard cliche-spewers that this posed a real election danger for Democrats because of the backlash it would produce.

Two weeks later, New Jersey elected a new Democratic Senator by a wide margin in what was predicted to be a close race and easily re-elected every Democratic House incumbent; no incumbent Democratic Senator, Representative or Governor was defeated anywhere in the entire nation, and Democrats took over control of both houses of Congress, multiple state houses and several governorships. How wrong does a political cliche have to become before our pundit class stops repeating it?

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/09/01/mccain/index.html

Iraq: A 75% Drop In Killing If You Don't Count The Bodies

Iraq: A 75% Drop In Killing If You Don't Count The Bodies
by BarbinMD
Sat Sep 01, 2007 at 07:06:24 AM CDT

With the long-awaited Patraeus White House report on progress in Iraq due in two weeks, Gen. David Patraeus gave new meaning to the expression, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics," when he:

...told the Australian that there had been a 75 percent reduction in religious and ethnic killing since last year


You read something like that and ask yourself, how can that be? You remember the more than 50 Iraqis killed at a religious festival the other day, the 500 Yazidis killed two weeks ago, the tortured victims of death squads found throughout Iraq every day and you ask yourself, how can there be a 75% reduction in killings in Iraq? Well, it's easy. You just don't count the bodies.

Of course the Bush administration has never made any meaningful effort to track civilian fatalities in Iraq, but as hard as they try to ignore it, the killings continue and the bodies pile up. So where did Gen. Petraeus come up with his number? In all of 2006, there were 16,564 reported (emphasis on reported) civilian deaths, and in the first eight months of 2007, there has been 14,732 deaths. So, civilian deaths are down about 11%...but there are four months left in the year. Or was Gen. Petraeus comparing the same time periods from last year and this year? If that's the case, in the first 8 months of 2006, there were 8,490 civilian deaths versus the 14,732 in the first 8 months of 2007, which is an increase of nearly 75%. Is Gen. Petraeus using Karl Rove's math? When the White House was asked about this, Tony Snow said:

MR. SNOW: ...The other thing is, how one measures overall violence, it would be interesting to see what that metric is. General Petraeus clearly has a different view of that. I would defer to him on that.


You see, proving that Bush's surge is working is easy. Announce that those once vital benchmarks are no longer operative, pretend that the training of Iraqi security forces is right on track, disregard the 723 U.S. troops who have died since the surge began. And of course, ignore the thousands and thousands of Iraqis who have died. Why change course now?

And in two weeks, Gen. Petraeus will appear before Congress and swear that the surge is working and the administration will ask for another $200 billion to, "finish what we started." The only question left is, will the Democratic leadership continue to support the administration or will they choose to finally support the troops? Instead of listening to George Bush's man on the ground, perhaps they should listen to Spc. Yvenson Tertulien:

I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed. I don't want to be here anymore.


He sounds a whole lot more honest, doesn't he?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Cancer Society Focuses Its Ads on the Uninsured

Cancer Society Focuses Its Ads on the Uninsured
By KEVIN SACK

ATLANTA, Aug. 30 — In a stark departure from past practice, the American Cancer Society plans to devote its entire $15 million advertising budget this year not to smoking cessation or colorectal screening but to the consequences of inadequate health coverage.

The campaign was born of the group’s frustration that cancer rates are not dropping as rapidly as hoped, and of recent research linking a lack of insurance to delays in detecting malignancies.

Though the advertisements are nonpartisan and pointedly avoid specific prescriptions, they are intended to intensify the political focus on an issue that is already receiving considerable attention from presidential candidates in both parties.

The society’s advertisements are unique, say experts in both philanthropy and advertising, in that disease-fighting charities traditionally limit their public appeals to narrower aspects of prevention or education.

But the leaders of several such organizations, including the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the Alzheimers Association, said they applauded the campaign’s message that progress against chronic disease would be halting until the country fixed its health care system.

As in the past, the heart association is using its advertising dollars these days to promote more rigorous exercise and healthier diets. The most recent cancer society campaign encouraged screening for colon cancer, including a memorable commercial in which a diner plucked — and then ate — a lima bean polyp from the intestinal tract he had carved in his mashed potatoes.

But John R. Seffrin, the chief executive of the cancer society, which is based here, said his organization had concluded that advances in prevention and research would have little lasting impact if Americans could not afford cancer screening and treatment.

“I believe, if we don’t fix the health care system, that lack of access will be a bigger cancer killer than tobacco,” Mr. Seffrin said in an interview. “The ultimate control of cancer is as much a public policy issue as it is a medical and scientific issue.”

The two 60-second television commercials that form the spine of the campaign make that point.

One features images of uninsured cancer patients, appearing hollow and fearful. “This is what a health care crisis looks like to the American Cancer Society,” the narrator begins. “We’re making progress, but it’s not enough if people don’t have access to the care that could save their lives.”

The other commercial depicts a young mother whose family has gone into debt because her insurance did not fully cover her cancer treatment. “Is the choice between caring for yourself and caring for your family really a choice?” the narrator asks.

Census figures released this week show that the number and percentage of people in the United States without health insurance rose last year, to 47 million and 15.8 percent. A 2003 study estimated that one of every 10 cancer patients was uninsured.

Other surveys have found that one of every four families afflicted by cancer, which is projected to kill 560,000 Americans this year, is effectively impoverished by the fight, including one of every five with insurance.

The cancer society plans to buy time on network and cable channels from Sept. 17 to Thanksgiving, said Greg Donaldson, the group’s vice president for corporate communications. There will also be advertisements in magazines and on Web sites.

With nearly $1 billion in revenues, the cancer society is the wealthiest of its peers and has spent about $15 million annually on advertising since 1999. By comparison, Geico, the automobile insurer with the “Caveman” advertisements, spent about $14 million on network advertising in the first quarter of 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a tracking firm.

Advertising about the health insurance crisis is not uncommon among more broadly based medical organizations and other interest groups.

Last week, the American Medical Association kicked off a three-year campaign called “Voice for the Uninsured” that will begin with $5 million in advertising in early primary states. AARP, in conjunction with the Business Roundtable and the Service Employees International Union, recently began a similar effort called “Divided We Fail.”

This year, the cancer society formed a collaborative with the heart, diabetes and Alzheimers associations, as well as AARP, to promote awareness of the health access problem. The group adopted as common principles that all Americans deserve quality, affordable health care with transparent costs.

But the cancer society is the only disease-focused group ever to have dedicated advertising resources to the topic, said officials with other charities and with trade groups.“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Bill Novelli, chief executive of AARP and, in a previous career, a co-founder of the Porter Novelli public relations firm. “It’s taking a different tack for them.”

That a charity like the cancer society felt compelled to join the access debate reflects both the urgency and the resonance of the issue. Nonetheless, Mr. Donaldson said it was “risky business” for the tax-exempt group.

It steered away, he said, from promoting solutions that could be viewed as partisan, like mandatory insurance or single-payer government coverage. Rather, he said, the commercials are intended to urge action by the next administration, and to drive viewers to a Web site linked to the group’s advocacy and lobbying arm.

“We very much see a moral imperative to raising the discussion,” Mr. Donaldson said, “but we understand there’s a need to be appropriate.”

Cancer society executives said they had heard little dissent from volunteers and donors, and several regional officials said they supported the new approach.

But others called the campaign misguided. Valerie C. Robinson, a longtime board member of the Jacksonville, Fla., chapter, said expanded access to insurance coverage was “not our fight.”

“To me, it’s throwing away money that we could have put into providing free mammograms or free PSA tests or free colonoscopies,” she said.

Mr. Seffrin initiated the advertising campaign after being pushed by the society’s board to make faster progress toward its goals of reducing cancer death rates by 50 percent and incidence rates by 25 percent from 1990 to 2015. If trends continue, the actual reductions are projected to fall well short, perhaps by as much as half.

While the decline in death rates is accelerating, studies have shown that if cancer was diagnosed more in its early stages, the rates would fall faster. And new research is confirming that insurance status often determines whether a person’s cancer is diagnosed early or late.

One study published this year found that uninsured breast cancer patients were more than twice as likely to have their cancer diagnosed in late stages as those with private insurance. Other studies have found similar results with cancers of the larynx and mouth.

“The truth is we know what’s going to happen with cancer if we don’t intervene,” Mr. Seffrin said. “It will become the leading cause of death in the world, needlessly.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/31/us/31cancer.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&ref=health&pagewanted=print

Lawmakers Describe 'Being Slimed in the Green Zone'

Lawmakers Describe 'Being Slimed in the Green Zone'

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 31, 2007; A13

The sheets of paper seemed to be everywhere the lawmakers went in the Green Zone, distributed to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank. So when Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) asked a soldier last weekend just what he was holding, the congressman was taken aback to find out.

In the soldier's hand was a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen's meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war. "Moran on Iraq policy," read one section, going on to cite some the congressman's most incendiary statements, such as, "This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history."

The bio of Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.) -- "TAU (rhymes with 'now')-sher," the bio helpfully relates -- was no less pointed, even if she once supported the war and has taken heat from liberal Bay Area constituents who remain wary of her position. "Our forces are caught in the middle of an escalating sectarian conflict in Iraq, with no end in sight," the bio quotes.

"This is beyond parsing. This is being slimed in the Green Zone," Tauscher said of her bio.

More than two dozen House members and senators have used the August recess to travel to Iraq in the hope of getting a firsthand view of the war ahead of commanding Gen. David H. Petraeus's progress report in two weeks on Capitol Hill. But it appears that the trips have been as much about Iraqi and U.S. officials sizing up Congress as the members of Congress sizing up the war.

Brief, choreographed and carefully controlled, the codels (short for congressional delegations) often have showed only what the Pentagon and the Bush administration have wanted the lawmakers to see. At one point, as Moran, Tauscher and Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) were heading to lunch in the fortified Green Zone, an American urgently tried to get their attention, apparently to voice concerns about the war effort, the participants said. Security whisked the man away before he could make his point.

Tauscher called it "the Green Zone fog."

"Spin City," Moran grumbled. "The Iraqis and the Americans were all singing from the same song sheet, and it was deliberately manipulated."

But even such tight control could not always filter out the bizarre world inside the barricades. At one point, the three were trying to discuss the state of Iraqi security forces with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, but the large, flat-panel television set facing the official proved to be a distraction. Rubaie was watching children's cartoons.

When Moran asked him to turn it off, Rubaie protested with a laugh and said, "But this is my favorite television show," Moran recalled.

Porter confirmed the incident, although he tried to paint the scene in the best light, noting that at least they had electricity.

"I don't disagree it was an odd moment, but I did take a deep breath and say, 'Wait a minute, at least they are using the latest technology, and they are monitoring the world,' " Porter said. "But, yes, it was pretty annoying."

It was the bio sheets that seemed to annoy the members of Congress the most. Just who assembled them is not clear. E-mails to U.S. Central Command's public affairs office in Baghdad this week went unanswered.

"I had never seen that in the past. That's new," said Porter, who was on his fourth trip to Iraq. "Now I want to see what they're saying about me," he added, when he learned of the contents of his travel companions' rap sheets.

For one, the quotations appeared to be selected to divide the visitors into those who are with the war effort and those who are against. For another, they were not exactly accurate. Under "latest Iraq vote," Tauscher's bio noted that she had voted in favor of legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days of the bill's enactment.

She did vote that way -- in May. On Aug. 2, Tauscher voted in favor of her own bill, which mandates that troops be granted a leave from combat at least as long as their last combat deployment before being shipped back to Iraq. That vote might have been a little too popular with the soldiers she was meeting, Tauscher said.

Still, Porter was quick to add, for all the drawbacks, the trip was worth it.

"No doubt you will have people speak the company talking points," Porter said. "But I spent time with people who were not officers, four of them from Nevada, two who were very blunt" about their support for the war and their anger over partisan fighting in Washington.

"I tend to lean with the rank-and-file members of military who have nothing to gain," he added. "They want to go home as soon as possible."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/30/AR2007083001848_pf.html

Katrina All the Time

Katrina All the Time

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Two years ago today, Americans watched in horror as a great city drowned, and wondered what had happened to their country. Where was FEMA? Where was the National Guard? Why wasn’t the government of the world’s richest, most powerful nation coming to the aid of its own citizens?

What we mostly saw on TV was the nightmarish scene at the Superdome, but things were even worse at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded without food or water. The levees were breached Monday morning — but as late as Thursday evening, The Washington Post reported, the convention center “still had no visible government presence,” while “corpses lay out in the open among wailing babies and other refugees.”

Meanwhile, federal officials were oblivious. “We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy,” declared Michael Chertoff, the secretary for Homeland Security, on Wednesday. When asked the next day about the situation at the convention center, he dismissed the reports as “a rumor” or “someone’s anecdotal version.”

Today, much of the Gulf Coast remains in ruins. Less than half the federal money set aside for rebuilding, as opposed to emergency relief, has actually been spent, in part because the Bush administration refused to waive the requirement that local governments put up matching funds for recovery projects — an impossible burden for communities whose tax bases have literally been washed away.

On the other hand, generous investment tax breaks, supposedly designed to spur recovery in the disaster area, have been used to build luxury condominiums near the University of Alabama’s football stadium in Tuscaloosa, 200 miles inland.

But why should we be surprised by any of this? The Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina — the mixture of neglect of those in need, obliviousness to their plight, and self-congratulation in the face of abject failure — has become standard operating procedure. These days, it’s Katrina all the time.

Consider the White House reaction to new Census data on income, poverty and health insurance. By any normal standard, this week’s report was a devastating indictment of the administration’s policies. After all, last year the administration insisted that the economy was booming — and whined that it wasn’t getting enough credit. What the data show, however, is that 2006, while a good year for the wealthy, brought only a slight decline in the poverty rate and a modest rise in median income, with most Americans still considerably worse off than they were before President Bush took office.

Most disturbing of all, the number of Americans without health insurance jumped. At this point, there are 47 million uninsured people in this country, 8.5 million more than there were in 2000. Mr. Bush may think that being uninsured is no big deal — “you just go to an emergency room” — but the reality is that if you’re uninsured every illness is a catastrophe, your own private Katrina.

Yet the White House press release on the report declared that President Bush was “pleased” with the new numbers. Heckuva job, economy!

Mr. Bush’s only concession that something might be amiss was to say that “challenges remain in reducing the number of uninsured Americans” — a statement reminiscent of Emperor Hirohito’s famous admission, in his surrender broadcast, that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.” And Mr. Bush’s solution — more tax cuts, of course — has about as much relevance to the real needs of the uninsured as subsidies for luxury condos in Tuscaloosa have to the needs of New Orleans’s Ninth Ward.

The question is whether any of this will change when Mr. Bush leaves office.

There’s a powerful political faction in this country that’s determined to draw exactly the wrong lesson from the Katrina debacle — namely, that the government always fails when it attempts to help people in need, so it shouldn’t even try. “I don’t want the people who ran the Katrina cleanup to manage our health care system,” says Mitt Romney, as if the Bush administration’s practice of appointing incompetent cronies to key positions and refusing to hold them accountable no matter how badly they perform — did I mention that Mr. Chertoff still has his job? — were the way government always works.

And I’m not sure that faction is losing the argument. The thing about conservative governance is that it can succeed by failing: when conservative politicians mess up, they foster a cynicism about government that may actually help their cause.

Future historians will, without doubt, see Katrina as a turning point. The question is whether it will be seen as the moment when America remembered the importance of good government, or the moment when neglect and obliviousness to the needs of others became the new American way.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

History Will Not Absolve Us

History Will Not Absolve Us
Leaked Red Cross report sets up Bush team for international war-crimes trial
by Nat Hentoff
August 28th, 2007 6:30 PM

If and when there's the equivalent of an international Nuremberg trial for the American perpetrators of crimes against humanity in Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the CIA's secret prisons, there will be mounds of evidence available from documented international reports by human-rights organizations, including an arm of the European parliament—as well as such deeply footnoted books as Stephen Grey's Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program (St. Martin's Press) and Charlie Savage's just-published Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy (Little, Brown).

While the Democratic Congress has yet to begin a serious investigation into what many European legislators already know about American war crimes, a particularly telling report by the International Committee of the Red Cross has been leaked that would surely figure prominently in such a potential Nuremberg trial. The Red Cross itself is bound to public silence concerning the results of its human-rights probes of prisons around the world—or else governments wouldn't let them in.

But The New Yorker's Jane Mayer has sources who have seen accounts of the Red Cross interviews with inmates formerly held in CIA secret prisons. In "The Black Sites" (August 13, The New Yorker), Mayer also reveals the effect on our torturers of what they do—on the orders of the president—to "protect American values."

She quotes a former CIA officer: "When you cross over that line of darkness, it's hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but . . . you can't go back to that dark a place without it changing you."

Few average Americans have been changed, however, by what the CIA does in our name. Blame that on the tight official secrecy that continues over how the CIA extracts information. On July 20, the Bush administration issued a new executive order authorizing the CIA to continue using these techniques—without disclosing anything about them.

If we, the people, are ultimately condemned by a world court for our complicity and silence in these war crimes, we can always try to echo those Germans who claimed not to know what Hitler and his enforcers were doing. But in Nazi Germany, people had no way of insisting on finding out what happened to their disappeared neighbors.

We, however, have the right and the power to insist that Congress discover and reveal the details of the torture and other brutalities that the CIA has been inflicting in our name on terrorism suspects.

Only one congressman, Oregon's Democratic senator Ron Wyden, has insisted on probing the legality of the CIA's techniques—so much so that Wyden has blocked the appointment of Bush's nominee, John Rizzo, from becoming the CIA's top lawyer. Rizzo, a CIA official since 2002, has said publicly that he didn't object to the Justice Department's 2002 "torture" memos, which allowed the infliction of pain unless it caused such injuries as "organ failure . . . or even death." (Any infliction of pain up to that point was deemed not un-American.) Mr. Rizzo would make a key witness in any future Nuremberg trial.

As Jane Mayer told National Public Radio on August 6, what she found in the leaked Red Cross report, and through her own extensive research on our interrogators (who are cheered on by the commander in chief), is "a top-down-controlled, mechanistic, regimented program of abuse that was signed off on—at the White House, really—and then implemented at the CIA from the top levels all the way down. . . . They would put people naked for up to 40 days in cells where they were deprived of any kind of light. They would cut them off from any sense of what time it was or . . . anything that would give them a sense of where they were."

She also told of the CIA interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, who was not only waterboarded (a technique in which he was made to feel that he was about to be drowned) but also "kept in . . . a small cage, about one meter [39.7 inches] by one meter, in which he couldn't stand up for a long period of time. [The CIA] called it the dog box."

Whether or not there is another Nuremberg trial—and Congress continues to stay asleep—future historians of the Bush administration will surely also refer to Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality, the July report by Human Rights First and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The report emphasizes that the president's July executive order on CIA interrogations—which, though it is classified, was widely hailed as banning "torture and cruel and inhuman treatment"—"fails explicitly to rule out the use of the 'enhanced' techniques that the CIA authorized in March, 2002, "with the president's approval (emphasis added).

In 2002, then–Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced the "torture" memos and other interrogation techniques in internal reports that reached the White House. It's a pity he didn't also tell us. But Powell's objections should keep him out of the defendants' dock in any future international trial.

From the Leave No Marks report, here are some of the American statutes that the CIA, the Defense Department, and the Justice Department have utterly violated:

In the 1994 Torture Convention Implementation Act, we put into U.S. law what we had signed in Article 5 of the UN Convention Against Torture, which is defined as "an act 'committed by an [officially authorized] person' . . . specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control."

The 1997 U.S. War Crimes Act "criminalizes . . . specifically enumerated war crimes that the legislation refers to as 'grave breaches' of Common Article 3 [of the Geneva Conventions], including the war crimes of torture and 'cruel or inhuman treatment.'"

The Leave No Marks report very valuably brings the Supreme Court— before Chief Justice John Roberts took over—into the war-crimes record of this administration. I strongly suggest that Human Rights First and Physicians for Social Responsibility send their report—with the following section underlined—to every current member of the Supreme Court and Congress:

"The Supreme Court has long considered prisoner treatment to violate substantive due process if the treatment 'shocks the conscience,' is bound to offend even hardened sensibilities, or offends 'a principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.'"

Among those fundamental rights cited by past Supreme Courts, the report continues, are "the rights to bodily integrity [and] the right to have [one's] basic needs met; and the right to basic human dignity" (emphasis added).

If the conscience of a majority on the Roberts Court isn't shocked by what we've done to our prisoners, then it will be up to the next president and the next Congress—and, therefore, up to us—to alter, in some respects, how history will judge us. But do you see any considerable signs, among average Americans, of the conscience being shocked? How about the presidential candidates of both parties?

http://www.villagevoice.com/generic/show_print.php?id=77643&page=&issue=0735&printcde=MzU2NTAzMzA1MA==&refpage=L2FkbWluL2VkaXQvZWRpdC5waHA/aWQ9Nzc2NDMmaXNzdWU9MDczNSZzZWN0aW9uPW5ld3M=

Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals

Report Finds Little Progress On Iraq Goals
GAO Draft at Odds With White House

By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 30, 2007; A01

Iraq has failed to meet all but three of 18 congressionally mandated benchmarks for political and military progress, according to a draft of a Government Accountability Office report. The document questions whether some aspects of a more positive assessment by the White House last month adequately reflected the range of views the GAO found within the administration.

The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. They are expected to describe significant security improvements and offer at least some promise for political reconciliation in Iraq.

The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. "While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."

"Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments "would be more useful" if they backed up their judgments with more details and "provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies."

A GAO spokesman declined to comment on the report before it is released. The 69-page draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is still undergoing review at the Defense Department, which may ask that parts of it be classified or request changes in its conclusions. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, normally submits its draft reports to relevant agencies for comment but makes its own final judgments. The office has published more than 100 assessments of various aspects of the U.S. effort in Iraq since May 2003.

The person who provided the draft report to The Post said it was being conveyed from a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version -- as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Congress requested the GAO report, along with an assessment of the Iraqi security forces by an independent commission headed by retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, to provide a basis for comparison with the administration's scorecard. The Jones report is also scheduled for delivery next week.

Asked to comment on the GAO draft, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker are there on the ground every day in Iraq, and it's important to wait to hear what they have to say." He disputed any suggestion that the July White House assessment did not consider all internal views, noting that it resulted from "a lengthy and far-reaching process throughout the State and Defense departments and other agencies."

Johndroe emphasized that "while we've all seen progress in some areas, especially on the security front, it's not surprising the GAO would make this assessment, given the difficult congressionally mandated measurement they had to follow."

President Bush signed legislation in May that requires him to submit by Sept. 15 an assessment of whether the government of Iraq is "achieving progress" toward the benchmarks. The interim July report determined that satisfactory progress was being made toward eight of the 18 benchmarks, most of them on the security front. It found unsatisfactory progress toward eight others and presented a mixed picture on the remaining two.

The May legislation imposed a stricter standard on the GAO, requiring an up-or-down judgment on whether each benchmark has been met. On that basis, the GAO draft says that three of the benchmarks have been met while 13 have not. Despite its strict mandate, the GAO draft concludes that two benchmarks -- the formation of governmental regions and the allocation and expenditure of $10 billion for reconstruction -- have been "partially met." Little of the allocated money, it says, has been spent.

One of eight political benchmarks -- the protection of the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature -- has been achieved, according to the draft. On the others, including legislation on constitutional reform, new oil laws and de-Baathification, it assesses failure.

"Prospects for additional progress in enacting legislative benchmarks have been complicated by the withdrawal of 15 of 37 members of the Iraqi cabinet," it says. An internal administration assessment this month, the GAO says, concluded that "this boycott ends any claim by the Shi'ite-dominated coalition to be a government of national unity." An administration official involved in Iraq policy said that he did not know what specific interagency document the GAO was citing but noted that it is an accurate reflection of the views of many officials.

Overall, the draft report, titled "Securing, Stabilizing and Rebuilding Iraq," says that the Iraqi government has met only two security benchmarks. It contradicts the Bush administration's conclusion in July that sectarian violence was decreasing as a result of the U.S. military's stepped-up operations in Baghdad this year. "The average number of daily attacks against civilians remained about the same over the last six months; 25 in February versus 26 in July," the GAO draft states.

Iraqi security forces are also assessed more severely in the GAO study than in the administration's July report. Although the White House found satisfactory progress toward the goal of deploying three Iraqi army brigades in Baghdad, the GAO disagrees, citing "performance problems" in some units. "Some army units sent to Baghdad have mixed loyalties, and some have had ties to Shiia militias making it difficult to target Shiia extremist networks," it says.

The GAO draft also says that the number of Iraqi army units capable of operating independently declined from 10 in March to six last month. The July White House report mentioned a "slight" decline in capable Iraqi units, without providing any numbers. The GAO also says, as did the White House in July, that the Iraqi government has intervened in military activities for political reasons, "resulting in some operations being based on sectarian interests." But its discussion of Iraqi security forces is often veiled, as when it states that the determination that the security forces benchmark was not met "was based largely on classified information."

The description of the Iraqi military's shortcomings contrasts with comments from many senior U.S. commanders who say that they are pleased with its progress. "Although we still have a ways to go, Iraqi security forces are making significant, tangible improvements," Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said earlier this month.

But Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who in June became the commander of the U.S. troops training and advising Iraqi army and police units, struck a more somber note yesterday in a news conference in Baghdad. "The problems that the military commanders and the minister of defense have here in generating the Iraqi army are very significant, and they shouldn't be taken lightly," he said.

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/29/AR2007082902434_pf.html

Pentagon won't make surge recommendation to Bush

Pentagon won't make surge recommendation to Bush

McClatchy Washington Bureau
Print This Article Print This Article

Posted on Wed, Aug. 29, 2007

Nancy A. Youssef | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: August 29, 2007 08:15:08 PM

WASHINGTON — In a sign that top commanders are divided over what course to pursue in Iraq, the Pentagon said Wednesday that it won't make a single, unified recommendation to President Bush during next month's strategy assessment, but instead will allow top commanders to make individual presentations.

"Consensus is not the goal of the process," Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters. "If there are differences, the president will hear them."

Military analysts called the move unusual for an institution that ordinarily does not air its differences in public, especially while its troops are deployed in combat.

"The professional military guys are going to the non-professional military guys and saying 'Resolve this,'" said Jeffrey White, a military analyst for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "That's what it sounds like."

White said it suggests that the military commanders want to be able to distance themselves from Iraq strategy by making it clear that whatever course is followed is the president's decision, not what commanders agreed on.

Bush has said on several occasions that he will follow the recommendation of Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, but the Pentagon plan makes certain that other points of view are heard.

Morrell said the commanders will make their presentations to Bush at around the same time that Petraeus appears before Congress to assess progress in Iraq in mid September.

Morrell said that those making presentations to the president would include Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William Fallon, the commander of U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for U.S. military actions in the Middle East, Army Gen. George Casey, the chief of staff of the Army, and Petraeus. In addition, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will share his opinion with the president.

Pentagon commanders are known to be divided over how to proceed in Iraq.

Pentagon officials have told McClatchy Newspapers that Casey, who was the top commander in Iraq, wants the U.S. to draw down forces and focus on training the Iraqi forces, as it did during his tenure in Iraq, and worries about the strain the war is having on the Army.

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times reported that Pace would recommend reducing the number of troops in Baghdad because the deployments are straining the military.

Petraeus, however, is expected to argue that the number of U.S. troops should be kept at their current levels, saying that the increase in U.S. forces this year is beginning to reduce sectarian violence.

Gates' position is not known, but he was a member of the Iraq Study Group, which advocated a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The surge, which sent an additional 28,000 troops to Iraq between February and June, was crafted as the secretary took over the department in December, and it is not considered his plan.

The surge, which called for about 28,000 additional troops into Baghdad, has pushed the number of troops serving in Iraq to its highest level since Saddam Hussein's regime fell in April 2003.

The increase was intended to reduce violence so that Iraq's politicians would have time to broker deals on some of the country's most divisive issues. Instead, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's government is floundering and Iraq's various political and ethnic factions are battling for control of the country.

An assessment by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies last week foresaw little progress during the next 12 months in efforts to reconcile Iraq's warring ethnic groups. It also reported that civilian deaths and violence remained at high levels.

Morrell said that making individual presentations about Iraq policy rather than trying to reach a consensus before talking to the president will lead to a more honest discussion.

Gates is "looking for a way to sort of make sure that the normal bureaucratic massaging that sometimes eliminates the rough edges or the sharp differences between individuals does not victimize this process so that the president can get distinct — if that's the way it turns out to be — points of view on where we are and where we need to go," Morrell said.

At the same time, Morrell made it clear that the decision rests with the president, not the military.

"I think once [the president] receives the advice from Gen. Petraeus — and as I have outlined — and others, my understanding is that he has a decision to make," Morrell said.

McClatchy Newspapers 2007


http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/v-print/story/19356.html

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Holding Kids Hostage

Holding Kids Hostage

By BOB HERBERT

The governors of New York and New Jersey were upset and not trying to hide it.

“We had zero forewarning,” said New Jersey’s Jon Corzine. “It was sprung at 7:30 on a Friday night in the middle of August, the time when it would draw the least fire.”

He was talking about the Bush administration’s latest effort to thwart the expansion of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program. Governors in several states are trying to include more youngsters from the lower rungs of the middle class and have vowed to fight the president on this issue.

Acting during a Congressional recess, and making a distinct effort to stay beneath the radar of the news media, the administration enacted insidious new rules that make it much harder for states to bring additional children under the umbrella of the program, known colloquially as CHIP.

The program is popular because it works. It’s cost effective and there is wide bipartisan support for its expansion. But President Bush, locked in an ideological straitjacket, is adamant in his opposition.

In addition to the new rules drastically curtailing the ability of governors to expand local coverage by obtaining waivers from the federal government, the president has threatened a veto of Congressional efforts to fund a more robust version of the overall program.

“It’s stunning,” said New York’s Gov. Eliot Spitzer. “He says he’s going to veto health care for kids because it’s too expensive at the same time that these continuing resolutions for the war, where we don’t even know what the cost is, are going through unabated. This is insanity.

“Everybody agrees this is the right thing to do except the Bush administration.”

Health coverage for poor children is provided by Medicaid. CHIP was originally designed to cover the children of the working poor. That has worked well, but there are still huge numbers of families who need help.

“The reality,” said Governor Spitzer, “is that there is an enormous proportion of American society above the poverty level but in the lower middle class that simply can’t afford health coverage.”

Wherever there are large numbers of families without coverage, you will find children who are suffering needlessly and, in extreme cases, dying. They don’t get the preventive care or the attention to chronic illness that they should.

“That has not only an immediate effect on their development,” said Mr. Spitzer, “but a long-term cost to society that is incalculable.”

Several states, including New York and New Jersey, have used federal waivers to raise the family income ceiling for eligibility to participate in CHIP. New Jersey, for example, offers coverage to the children of families with incomes as high as 350 percent of the official poverty rate for a family of four, which is $20,650 a year. New York has an upper limit of 250 percent of the poverty rate and is trying to raise it to 400 percent.

State officials said the onerous new rules would make it all but impossible to offer coverage beyond 250 percent of the poverty level.

Administration officials have argued that the CHIP program should adhere closely to its original intent of limiting coverage to families only slightly above the official poverty line. They said there is a danger that families with higher incomes would begin substituting CHIP for private insurance coverage.

The reality is that under the administration’s approach enormous numbers of children in families without a lot of money will be left with no coverage at all, private or otherwise. The expansion of CHIP is the most efficient, cost-effective way of reaching those youngsters.

Denying CHIP to such families forces them to seek out hospital emergency rooms when medical treatment can no longer be postponed. “I see it every day,” said Governor Corzine. “If you’re uninsured, particularly with children, if you don’t have a place to go, that’s where people show up.”

What’s happening is cruel. Children who should be eligible for CHIP are being held hostage to policies driven by a desire to protect the big insurance companies and an ideology that views CHIP, correctly, as yet another important step on the road to universal health care.

Ronald Reagan, one of the tribunes in the fight against Medicare and Medicaid back in the ’60s, pumped up the warnings against “socialized medicine” by saying that if Medicare becomes a reality “you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

I wonder what crazy things the ideologues think would happen if CHIP is expanded to cover the children who have no health insurance today.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Scandal-Scarred G.O.P. Asks, ‘What Next?’

A Scandal-Scarred G.O.P. Asks, ‘What Next?’
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 — Scott Reed, a Republican strategist, was at a dinner in Philadelphia on Monday night when his cellphone and Internet pager began beeping like crazy. Only later did he learn why. His party was buzzing with news of a sex scandal involving a Republican United States senator — again.

Just when Republicans thought things could not get any worse, Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho confirmed that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct after an undercover police officer accused him of soliciting sex in June in a Minneapolis airport restroom. On Tuesday, Mr. Craig, 62, held a news conference to defend himself, calling the guilty plea “a mistake” and declaring, “I am not gay” — even as the Senate Republican leadership asked for an Ethics Committee review.

It was a bizarre spectacle, and only the latest in a string of accusations of sexual foibles and financial misdeeds that have landed Republicans in the political equivalent of purgatory, the realm of late-night comic television.

Forget Mark Foley of Florida, who quit the House last year after exchanging sexually explicit e-mail messages with under-age male pages, or Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist whose dealings with the old Republican Congress landed him in prison. They are old news, replaced by a fresh crop of scandal-plagued Republicans, men like Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, whose phone number turned up on the list of the so-called D.C. Madam, or Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona, both caught up in F.B.I. corruption investigations.

It is enough to make a self-respecting Republican want to tear his hair out in frustration, especially as the party is trying to defend an unpopular war, contain the power of the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill and generate some enthusiasm among voters heading toward the presidential election in 2008.

“The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness,” said Mr. Reed, sounding exasperated in an interview on Tuesday morning. “You can’t make this stuff up. And the impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating. Republicans think the governing class in Washington are a bunch of buffoons who have total disregard for the principles of the party, the law of the land and the future of the country.”

Then again, Washington does not have a monopoly on the latest trend among Republicans. Just ask Thomas Ravenel, the state treasurer of South Carolina, who had to step down as state chairman of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential campaign after he was indicted on cocaine charges in June.

Or Bob Allen, a state representative in Florida who was jettisoned from the John McCain campaign last month after he was arrested on charges of soliciting sex in a public restroom.

Mr. Craig, for his part, has severed ties with the Mitt Romney campaign, despite his public declaration on Tuesday that “I did nothing wrong.”

In an interview Tuesday on “Kudlow and Company” on CNBC, Mr. Romney could not distance himself fast enough. “Once again, we’ve found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence,” Mr. Romney said. “Very disappointing. He’s no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine.”

Republicans, of course, do not have an exclusive hold on scandal. As Democrats accused Republicans of engaging in a “culture of corruption” during the 2006 midterm elections, Republicans eagerly put the spotlight on Representative William J. Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat who stashed $90,000 in his freezer — ill-gotten gains, the authorities said.

Still, there is a sort of “here we go again” sense among Republicans these days, especially since news of the Craig arrest broke on Monday afternoon. It is tough enough being in the minority, weighed down by the burden of the war in Iraq. Now Republicans have an even more pressing task: keeping their party from being portrayed not just as hypocritical and out of touch with the values of people they represent, but also as a laughingstock — amid headlines like “Senator’s Bathroom Bust,” which ran all Tuesday afternoon on CNN. The story also ran at the top of all the network evening newscasts on Tuesday.

“I’m hoping it’s a big mistake,” said one of Mr. Craig’s Republican colleagues, Senator Lamar Alexander, traveling Tuesday in Tennessee, his home state. “But it certainly does nothing to increase confidence in the United States Senate.”

With President Bush hobbled by his own political difficulties, the party can hardly look to him to lead them out of the morass. “If we had a coach,” said John Feehery, who was press secretary to Representative J. Dennis Hastert when Mr. Hastert was the House speaker, “the coach would take us in the locker room and scream at us.”

Some Republicans are indeed screaming, particularly the party’s social conservative wing, which places a high priority on ethics and family values. Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group in Washington, said the elections of November 2006, in which Republicans lost control of the House and the Senate, proved that voters want politicians in Washington to clean up their act.

“Exit polls show that was the No. 1 factor in depressing Republican enthusiasm,” Mr. Perkins said in an interview Tuesday. “There is an expectation that leaders who espouse family values will live by those values. And while the values voters don’t demand perfection, I do believe they want leaders with integrity.”

The perception that Mr. Craig is not living up to his own values is causing problems for him, and after his appearance on Tuesday, with his wife standing by his side, some Republicans confessed they did not know what to think.

“He sounded almost as convincing as, ‘I did not have sex with that woman,’ ” said Gary Bauer, a Christian conservative and onetime Republican presidential candidate, reprising President Bill Clinton’s remark initially denying involvement with Monica S. Lewinsky.

Mr. Craig is up for re-election next year and has promised to announce next month whether he is running again. Some, like Mr. Bauer, say he is unlikely to survive the current scandal; others, noting that Senator Vitter seems to have weathered his storm, say Mr. Craig might be able to tough it out. And at the rate things are going, says Mr. Reed, the Republican strategist, it might be only a matter of time before a new scandal pushes Mr. Craig’s woes off the front page.

“I’m a little afraid to say anything, because you don’t know what happens tomorrow,” Mr. Reed said. “That Vitter thing, that’s like ancient history now.”

Carl Hulse in Nashville contributed reporting.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/29/us/politics/29repubs.html?_r=1&hp=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

Is There a Republican Senator Who's NOT Having Bathroom Sex?

Is There a Republican Senator Who's NOT Having Bathroom Sex?

by Drwho

This has gone from novelty to nausea.

The names change, but the story's the same.

This time it's Senator Larry Craig of Idaho. In a Minneapolis Airport Bathroom Stall. With Colonel Mustard.

Fuck you, Larry.

Fuck you Bob, David, Tom, Harlan, Randall, Al, Duke, Jeff, Ted, Joseph, Mark, Edward, Jim, Matthew, and all the rest. I don't have time to list all your names and details, but other people do.

From now on, as far as I'm concerned, every single Republican legislator is a Reeking Freak Closet Case until proven innocent.

These men wouldn't know "safe, sane, and consensual" if you tied it to their weener with a red flag. I won't call them "gay" or "kinky" because that would be an insult to the healthy spectrum of human sexuality. Instead, they're the worst face of sexual repression, because they don't care who they hurt, or how many lies they tell. Their whole life is a SHAM.

The GOP Narcissists aren't the exception to the rule— they ARE the rule. They personify the very sexuality they campaign against. If they vote against gays, we know they're queer. If they're hopped up about "child porn," we can guess their internet habits. If they hold up monogamous marriage as a Christian ideal, we know they're adulterous, blasphemous fools.

Here's what they all have in common; They pretend it didn't happen. They try to buy people off to shut them up. They cry that they've been victimized. And then they continue to persecute everyone else by:

Voting YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.
Voting NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.
Voting NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation.
Voting YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage.
Voting NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation.

They generously fund the coffers of the vice squads and the surveillance creeps— the very people who later catch them in the act. And who wants to repeat all the disgusting insults and conceits they proselytize in public?

I can't take it anymore. I could spend seven days a week on this blog reporting what new dirt bag has shown his ass on the public square. But I'm fed up. Worse, I'm exhausted with the elected "liberals" and self-proclaimed "feminists" and Democrats who share offices with these pathological liars— and just bury their heads in the tearoom bowl.

There's not one prominent legislator in this country who's stood up against sex phobia, who's led a campaign to take victimless sex laws off the books, or to protect citizens' privacy. Not one. Are Hillary, Obama, or Edwards going to say one word about this hypocrisy? No.

How many repulsive liars does it take before the mainstream media, the voters, and what's left of political leadership say, "Mind Your Own Fucking Business?"

Apparently, Puritan America has infinite tolerance.

As long as they condemn their "inferiors," elitists can do whatever their budget affords. Democracy is just not as thrilling as witch-hunting.

The religious conservative voters, rather than doubt the wisdom of their biblical values, will continue to believe that they need to find one pure man to lead them. They'd rather believe in sin than sanity. Some of them even think this plague of gay GOP locusts is a "Democrat conspiracy."

I predict record highs of apathy in 2008. The common man thinks this game's a lousy racket, and he's right. There's no one to cheer, no one who brings integrity and sexual honesty to the table.

The mainstream media will treat each scandal as another unfortunate lapse in judgment, an individual crushed by forces one can barely understand.

Bite me.

No, this is the instant snapshot of American democracy. This is what we look like; this is our Kodak Moment.

UPDATE: In a GOP love triangle gone bad, three Miami men have died in a suicide/double murder. Two of the men, "longtime roommates," were MAJOR Republican political ops— one of them the former head of the Georgia Republican Party who delighted in demonizing gay men in campaigns all over the South.

Apparently they had a third "friend," who flipped out, killed them both, and then shot himself.

This is all over the gay political blogs tonight, and I missed the breaking headline because I was so busy writing about Senator Craig's toiletries. What on Satan's great earth am I missing as I'm writing THIS?

http://susiebright.blogs.com/susie_brights_journal_/2007/08/this-has-gone-1.html

The dismal legacy of Bush's top yes man

The dismal legacy of Bush's top yes man

Alberto Gonzales' successor will face a heckuva job rectifying the damage the attorney general did to American justice.

By David Cole

Aug. 28, 2007 | What will President Bush do without Alberto Gonzales around to tell the president he can do whatever he wants? Maybe he'll finally get some good legal advice. For someone who held the top two legal jobs in the country (and possibly the world) for almost seven years -- first as White House counsel and then as attorney general -- Gonzales' track record as a legal advisor is stunningly poor. Despite taking an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States, Gonzales seemed to see his job instead as pleasing his boss. That may be a good strategy for bureaucratic success, but shouldn't we demand more from the nation's top law enforcement officer? Gonzales' yes-man strategy has left the reputation of the Justice Department -- and the United States -- in tatters. If we are to have any chance or restoring the credibility of the Justice Department and our standing as a nation committed to the rule of law, Gonzales' replacement needs to have the independence and integrity that Gonzales sorely lacked.

Consider the profound consequences of just some of Gonzales' most important (and worst) advice. When Bush was considering whether to extend Geneva Convention protection to detainees at Guantánamo, Gonzales dismissed the Conventions as "obsolete" and "quaint," and said they need not apply. The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling in 2006 that the Geneva Conventions apply to all detainees, but not before Guantánamo had become a world-renowned symbol of U.S. arrogance, lawlessness and cruelty.

Gonzales' secretive maneuverings to allow the brutal treatment of prisoners only exacerbated the damage. When the CIA expressed concern that its employees might be held liable under a criminal law barring torture because of its practice of waterboarding -- interrogating immobilized suspects by pouring water over their faces until they believe they are drowning -- Gonzales commissioned a memorandum from Justice Department lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo assuring the CIA interrogators that torture was restricted to the level of physical pain associated with "organ failure and death" -- leaving interrogators free to simulate drowning to their hearts' content. When that closely held opinion was eventually leaked to the press, the administration was forced to retract the memorandum and replace it with a new one on the eve of Gonzales' confirmation hearings for the office of attorney general. But the damage was done: Coercive interrogation techniques had trickled down the chain of command and resulted in the Abu Ghraib scandal, another boon to al-Qaida recruitment and a direct hit on the United States' image worldwide.

When someone pointed out that the international treaty on torture, signed and ratified by the United States, also forbade all "cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment," Gonzales advised that this language simply did not cover foreigners held by the United States abroad. On this highly implausible ground, he argued that the international human rights treaty protected only U.S. citizens held abroad from abusive treatment. When Sen. John McCain learned of that interpretation, he persuaded huge majorities in both houses of Congress to reject it, over the strenuous objections of Gonzales and the White House. But long before the mistake was rectified, the world learned that the United States had adopted an official policy of subjecting other nations' citizens to cruel treatment that it could never use with respect to its own citizens.

When the president wanted to wiretap telephone calls of Americans without a warrant, in direct violation of a criminal statute requiring court orders for all such surveillance, Gonzales opined that the president could ignore the law because, as commander in chief, he could not be bound by the other branches in how he "engages the enemy." A federal court declared that reading unconstitutional. While the case was on appeal the administration retreated, announcing that it had submitted the program to judicial supervision under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the very law Gonzales had argued the president could violate with impunity.

In each instance, if you cut through the legalese, Gonzales' advice to Bush was "Do what you want." In each instance, the advice was terribly misguided, and the administration was forced to retreat -- but not before the United States developed an international reputation as a country that views the rule of law as a luxury to be discarded at its convenience, especially when it comes to the rights of foreign nationals.

Despite these huge and historic missteps, what ultimately brought Gonzales down was the politicized firing of several U.S. attorneys at the beginning of Bush's second term, and in particular Gonzales' failure to be candid during a subsequent congressional investigation. This was hardly Gonzales' biggest sin, but it was the only one where the administration could not play the "war on terror" card. In reality, Gonzales should have been forced to resign years ago. It's not just that his counsel was so poor; his biggest flaw was precisely what made him so congenial to President Bush -- his inability to say no.

Gonzales was not the prime mover behind the torture, disappearance, enemy combatant and warrantless wiretapping policies of the Bush administration -- by most accounts, Vice President Dick Cheney takes those honors. But he was a key player. In each instance, instead of invoking the law to curtail the proposed abuses, Gonzales facilitated them by reading the law to OK whatever the vice president and president wanted.

The rule of law is not self-executing. It requires individuals to enforce it, even when it goes against their (or their bosses') wishes. That's why we require federal officials to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Ultimately, the rule of law, which is always counterposed to the rule of men, requires men and women to stand up for the law against those who would abuse the power with which they are entrusted.

In March 2007, in the midst of the scandal about the firing of the U.S. attorneys, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey -- someone who knows about standing up for the law -- sent one of the terminated attorneys an e-mail message that concluded, "What's that quotation about all that's necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to remain silent." Gonzales not only remained silent, but affirmatively aided in the triumph of evil.

Rumor has it that Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff may be nominated to succeed Gonzales. Despite questions about his role in the poor federal response to Hurricane Katrina, Chertoff is highly qualified for the job. He's bright, engaging and thoughtful, and he has served as a prosecutor, judge and head of homeland security. He would likely be neither the facilitator that Gonzales was nor the fundamentalist that John Ashcroft was. Were this the beginning rather than the end of Bush's second term, Chertoff would be an excellent choice.

But given the pall that has been cast over the Justice Department and the country with respect to our relationship to the rule of law, it is essential that the next attorney general be someone who comes to the job with a much greater degree of independence from the administration. And if the Democrats are to use their majority for anything, they should use it to demand an attorney general with the integrity and independence to begin the hard job of restoring what Gonzales helped to tear asunder.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/08/28/gonzales_record/print.html

Monday, August 27, 2007

Facing a draft, Nugent bravely wet his pants

Facing a draft, Nugent bravely wet his pants

Rocker is all talk as he calls Obama, Hillary vile names

August 27, 2007
BY RICHARD ROEPER Sun-Times Columnist
So Ted Nugent roams a concert stage while toting automatic weapons, calls Barack Obama "a piece of -----" and says he told Obama to suck on one of his machine-guns. He also calls Hillary Clinton a "worthless bitch" and Dianne Feinstein a "worthless whore."

That Nugent, he's a man's man. He talks the talk and walks the walk, right?

Except when it was time to register for the draft during the Vietnam era. By his own admission, Nugent stopped all forms of personal hygiene for a month and showed up for his draft board physical in pants caked with his own urine and feces, winning a deferment. Creative!

Ah, but that was a long time ago. Nugent isn't just a washed-up rocker -- he's a right-wing madman who's not afraid to call out some of the leading Democrats in language so vile it makes the Dixie Chick Natalie Maines' comments about President Bush sound like a love poem.

You'd think even someone such as Sean Hannity would dismiss Nugent as a macho clown, desperate for attention.

Yeah, right.

In a discussion on his show last week, Hannity refused to condemn Nugent's remarks, saying, "I like Ted Nugent . . . he's a friend of mine," and even laughing loudly as Alan Colmes read the transcript of some of Nugent's remarks.

Funny. I don't remember Hannity being so cavalier about the Dixie Chicks went they criticized Bush.

Not that he's operating under a double standard or anything.


http://www.suntimes.com/news/roeper/529419,CST-NWS-roep27.article

Lessons from 'Talking Points Memo' and the U.S. attorney scandal

Lessons from 'Talking Points Memo' and the U.S. attorney scandal

Commentary: The latest scandal engulfing the White House might have escaped public notice if not for the work of one influential blog. Here's what your news organization can learn from it.
By Robert Niles

Posted: 2007-03-20

Three weeks ago, I challenged the accusation that blogs are a parasite on traditional news media, quoting sources who cited examples of blogs that have done significant original reporting. This past week, one of my favorite blogs, Joshua Marshall's Talking Points Memo, earned plaudits for its work in uncovering and illuminating the latest Bush administration scandal -- the partisan firing of several U.S. attorneys.

I fess up -- I'd planned a feature on TPM's pursuit of this story as well. But since CJR, Eric Alterman and the LA Times have beat me to that reporting, I will leave you those links, and proceed with the conclusions I've drawn from Marshall's example.

Other journalists are your allies, not your enemies

Marshall and his staff broke quite a few "scoops" in their months-long investigation into the firings, which was reported on TPM and its sister site TPMMuckraker.com. But they shed much light on the emerging scandal by stitching together reporting from local journalists as well.

TPM Media reporters gathered information by working phones, swapping e-mails and searching documents as well as following reporting from San Diego's Union-Tribune and North County Times, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and McClatchy's Washington bureau covering the firings of respected local U.S. Attorneys and their replacement with Bush administration loyalists.

Years of publishing as near-monopolies have left U.S. newsrooms isolated, looking within for resources to report stories. Work by others covering the same beat is viewed with suspicion, and rarely credited. Now, the Internet has enabled countless new competitors to move in on those beats. For many journalists, the gut reaction is to retreat farther, to decry "bloggers" and distrust anything they write.

But Marshall and those like him reveal the irony of online news competition. Success lies not in fighting competing voices, but in embracing them. With more voices reporting, journalists now can reveal a more complete and accurate truth for their readers.

Important stories need clear narratives

Bouncing a political story around the "A" section from day to day keeps all but the hardest political junkies from following it. Newspapers do a reasonable job of formatting stories into topical sections and anchoring a few recurring features to the same position in the paper on a regular basis. But ongoing daily stories often bounce from page to page within their section, presented under an ever-changing variety of heads and with few design elements to tie the stories together, helping sustain the narrative from day to day.

Reading Marshall's TPM reminds me not so much of reading the New York Times, but of listening to a frill-free network newscast. You've got your trusted voice (Marshall) leading you through a linear narrative of the day's most important work from his company's staff (plus other sources, see point above). With effective use of voice and hyperlinking, Marshall is able to draw new readers into the story, allowing them to catch up, while keeping the narrative moving for long-time followers.

Newspapers do a lousy of job of sustaining narratives. Broadcast's always whipped print on that front, and now blogs such as TPM can combine the best of both worlds, providing print's depth with broadcast's voice and narrative.

Get people talking about your story, to keep it alive

TPM has long linked to other bloggers from its home page. It publishes RSS feeds. Marshall created a companion site, TPM Cafe, to provide a social gathering place for readers to share news and opinion with one another, building reader loyalty to the site. Marshall has worked hard over the years to develop respect, and incoming links, from other popular liberal and center-left bloggers. TPM even has a Facebook group for its fans.

All these actions helped make TPM part of a larger online community, which paid off with links to and discussions of its content, creating the echo chamber that helps sustain TPM's narratives. Other news organizations can do the same. Link to other writers whom you respect. Converse with them, through your pages. Create online social networking opportunities for your readers, so they'll stay longer on your site, and spread the word when they click elsewhere. Couple those efforts with the clearer narratives that the blog format enables, and you can keep your reporting in the front of readers' minds longer, giving it the chance to catch fire.

If you break a scandal, and nobody reads it, is your story really news? The local papers that TPM cited faced that problem. Without an echo chamber to repeat and amplify the story, even the toughest original reporting has a hard time getting widespread public attention. Decades of operating as near monopolies have atrophied many newspapers' ability to build buzz. Bloggers, with no brand names to rest upon, simply work harder at it.

Forget "balance." Go find the truth

Don't insult your readers by balancing factual reporting with "cover your rear" lies. If someone in the government is abusing his power, stand up for the public and call out the offender with your reporting. And don't let a bunch of smug, insider "know-it-alls" knock you down.

Time magazine’s Washington bureau chief, Jay Carney, mocked TPM's reporting as a partisan conspiracy theory. The L.A. Times editorial page, which these days reads more and more like a reprint of the right-leaning Reason magazine, also pooh-poohed the emerging scandal, in a Jan. 26 editorial. (To his credit, Carney's backtracked and recently lauded TPM's work.)

Marshall's crew is a throwback to an earlier age, when columnists on the Washington beat worked harder at reporting than at spin. Which makes ironic the main site's name, "Talking Points Memo" -- a D.C. insider term for papers circulated to help officials and lobbyists better spin the news their way. The sister site's name, TPM Muckraker, better reflects the work Marshall's team does.

It's bad in the White House

But that's the perfect time to go rake some muck. Why should Josh Marshall's crew be the only ones?

http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/070320niles/

Poll: Young voters disenchanted with Republican party

Poll: Young voters disenchanted with Republican party

Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer

Monday, August 27, 2007
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won over many young voters by ... Capturing the Youth Vote. Chronicle Graphic

Two larger-than-life politicians, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan, charged into the California governor's office with the help of young voters, many of whom were drawn to the Republican Party by a message of sunny optimism.

But what those two very different Republican politicians did to attract millions of young adults looks to be a feat the Grand Old Party may not repeat anytime soon - either in California or on the national level in the 2008 presidential election.

A Democracy Corps poll from the Washington firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner suggests voters ages 18 to 29 have undergone a striking political evolution in recent years.

Young Americans have become so profoundly alienated from Republican ideals on issues including the war in Iraq, global warming, same-sex marriage and illegal immigration that their defections suggest a political setback that could haunt Republicans "for many generations to come," the poll said.

The startling collapse of GOP support among young voters is reflected in the poll's findings that show two-thirds of young voters surveyed believe Democrats do a better job than Republicans of representing their views - even on issues Republicans once owned, such as terrorism and taxes.

And among GOP presidential candidates, only former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani registers with more positive views than negative with young voters, the poll shows.

The anti-GOP shift for this generation - which is expected to reach 50 million voters, or 17 percent of the electorate, in 2008 - represents a marked contrast from their predecessors, the Gen Xers born in the mid-'60s to mid-'70s whose demographic represented the strongest Republican voters in the nation, pollster Anna Greenberg said.

Today, "on every single issue, Democrats are doing better with young people - no matter what the issue is," said Greenberg.

Catherine Brinkman, 28, of Foster City, who heads the California Young Republicans, said she hears from many of her Republican friends who say, " 'Look at our (presidential) candidates compared to the Democrats: They have Hillary, everyone knows her ... and you have this phenomenal (senator) out of Chicago, who is African American and energized.' "

The perception is that "we're still selling the same old white guys," Brinkman said.

The problem for the Republicans with young voters may be especially potent in California, where political veterans say the widening gulf between Schwarzenegger and the increasingly conservative tilt of Republican elected officials threatens a party that already has found it difficult to win statewide for the past 15 years.

"I think you have to be concerned when you have some (Republican) people who are saying that global warming is a hoax and that status quo for health care is acceptable," said Adam Mendelsohn, the communications director for Schwarzenegger.

"These are all positions that don't reflect where Republicans are in this state - and this is especially true when you start looking at young Republicans."

Schwarzenegger, by supporting issues "once owned by the Democrats," such as the environment and education, has lured many young voters to support him and "closely identify themselves as Schwarzenegger Republicans," Mendelsohn said.

But Democratic strategist Garry South said Schwarzenegger's success at the polls won't translate to other Republican candidates.

South pointed toward the recent state budget battle, which pitted Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislators against conservative GOP senators who delayed the $145 billion budget for almost two months to pressure for more cuts and protections for businesses against environmental lawsuits.

The demands of the state senators, South said, were so far to the right of the average voter that "the Republican brand in California now is so tainted and toxic that the only way you're going to win is to buy yourself out of the brand."

That means wealthy GOP candidates such as Schwarzenegger or Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner must dip into their considerable bank accounts to "spend millions and tell voters why you're different. But if not - you will go down like lambs to the slaughter," South said.

In California, the GOP's relatively weak prospects in the presidential election and in future statewide elections can be traced to what has been an increasingly tone deaf approach to a new set of priorities among voters, particularly the young, said Cal State Sacramento political communications Professor Barbara O'Connor.

"The fact that the governor's rating is around 60 percent is indicative of the legacy solutions that he proposes are resonating with the voters," including health care, infrastructure issues and education, O'Connor said.

"When a bridge is collapsing, the levees are in danger of flooding, or they're sitting in gridlock ... people don't care about, 'I saved you this much money,' " O'Connor said of the traditional Republican effort to cut the budget. "They care when their life is better. Parties should try to fix things - or ignore them at their peril."

Greenberg said the poll showed the war in Iraq and President Bush are unpopular with younger voters, which contributed to the decline in support for the GOP.

Younger voters, who grew up in the Clinton years, are also increasingly at odds with the GOP and its leaders on social issues.

"This is a more diverse generation, racially and ethnically, and it's more progressive on social issues like gay marriage," Greenberg said. "They see the Republican Party as profoundly different on tolerance and identity."

The poll also suggests the GOP is not addressing young voters' deep concerns about their future economic security. "Young people's economic struggles, more than any other issue, defines their political agenda," she said.

The study released last month of 1,017 voters ages 18-29 was conducted May 29-June 19. Voters were reached by a random telephone survey, through the Internet and on cell phones. The poll did not disclose a margin of error.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is a polling firm generally affiliated with Democrats. Its founder, Stan Greenberg, was a pollster for Democratic President Bill Clinton.

The GOP's problems for the future that show up in the poll are evident among young conservatives such as Wes Hanson, 17, a Livermore High School senior who describes himself as church-going, strongly anti-abortion and deeply concerned with the impacts of illegal immigration. But Hanson, who will cast his first presidential ballot in the 2008 election, is not sure he will register Republican - and is just as likely to be a "decline-to-state" or independent voter.

"I feel that Republicans tend to look out more for the best interests of the majority," especially on fiscal issues and moral responsibility, Hanson says.

But, like many in his age group, he has a libertarian streak and believes party lawmakers are wrong to try to legislate issues such as same-sex marriage.

"I don't think it's any of the government's business," said Hanson, who says he is still not inspired by any of the GOP's 2008 presidential candidates.

Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, acknowledged the challenges that the Iraq war and other issues have created for the party, but said they are not insurmountable.

"Obviously, this is a tough political environment for our party, but we believe our brand of individual responsibility, lower taxes and national security is one that resonates with youth voters," he said

Brinkman, with the Young Republicans, said GOP leaders can start making repairs by going back to the Reagan playbook - and "back to our core values." That means talking about how lower taxes, less government and fiscal responsibility can deliver opportunity for students and young professionals - and hope.

With headlines about a mortgage crisis, outsourcing, health care costs and immigration, she said young voters want their political parties to stop fighting and offer solutions.

"When it comes to the American dream," Brinkman says, "we're thinking, where is it?"

Brinkman backs Giuliani for president and believes he may be the kind of leader who can inspire young people who may be deserting the Republican Party.

The former New York mayor has star power and an energized message - and the under-30 crowd knows him from his performance in New York after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

"He has something that people want to see; they want to be around him," she said.

E-mail Carla Marinucci at cmarinucci@sfchronicle.com.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/08/27/MNMIRNDUK.DTL&type=printable