Saturday, September 11, 2004

Moyers connects the dots

Last night Mike and I watched Bill Moyers's "Now" on PBS -- an in-depth examination of the 9/11 Commission Report. From the Now Web site:

The Commissioners avoided blaming any government officials, past or present, for the failure to prevent the attacks. They maintain that their job was not to assign individual blame, but provide the most complete and frank account of the decisive events surrounding the attack. To that end, they succeeded. But to stop there is to stop short. Read the final report of the Commission carefully — connect the dots — and a fuller pattern emerges: Key government officials failed the system, and they failed the American people.

Last night Moyers connected the dots:

* On the morning of 9/11 -- while air traffic controllers and pilots of scrambled F-16s desperately tried to figure out what was going on and what to do about it -- Donald Rumsfeld stayed out of the loop until the afternoon. He didn't even go to the Situation Room in the Pentagon. This is the Secretary of Defense we're talking about, people.

* Attorney General John Ashcroft told Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard that he "didn't want to hear about terrorism" and denied funding for expanded counterterrorism activities.

* With the intelligence system "blinking red" in the summer of 2001, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice ignored the situation. She didn't call a meeting of the principals until Sept. 4 -- one week before the attacks. And even when she finally got around to scheduling that meeting, she didn't invite Richard Clarke -- the administration's point man on counterterrorism.

* During that same time frame, the FBI and the CIA were in possession of information about some of the hijackers that if shared, might have led to the unraveling of the al Qaeda plot. Neither agency knew what the other had. As for counterterrorism official Steve Simon pointed out, when faced with a similar threat, the Clinton administration -- under the leadership of the president -- got the principals together and forced the "squeezing" of sources and the sharing of information. As a result, al Qaeda's Millennium plot was foiled.

* Contrast Clinton's behavior with that of Bush -- who received a CIA briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack in U.S." and saw no reason to interrupt his month-long vacation in Texas. (Last night's video of an oblivious Bush cutting brush on his estate in August 2001 was just devastating. Not only did the man not understand what was going on, he didn't give a rat's ascot.)

* Last night's documentary also included video of a 9/11 Commission hearing that made it abundantly clear the information in the August PDB was current -- not "historical," as Rice has always claimed.

This is what happens when the presidency of the United States is entrusted to a spoiled frat boy who is completely unqualified to hold the office. Bush's entire life has been a saga of pulled strings and soft landings engineered by his family's wealthy and influential friends. He has never done any real work; he has never accomplished anything on his own. He's made one mess after another, and blithely walked away from all of them -- in many cases, leaving shareholders holding the bag while his family's influential friends bailed him out. It's no wonder he assumes no responsibility for anything that has happened on his watch -- he's never been held responsible for anything in his life. (So much for "The Buck Stops Here" -- Harry Truman must be spinning in his grave.)

And thanks to his father's friends on the Supreme Court, Bush now wreaks havoc as president of the United States. I'm sure Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are just fine with this state of affairs -- but I don't know how Sandra Day O'Connor sleeps at night.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

It's up to the voters

Richard Cohen takes Cheney to task for his scare tactics:

Cheney, of course, did not point out that the Sept. 11 attacks occurred on his and George Bush's watch. All of this is in the official record. Also in the record are the warnings of various government officials -- Richard Clarke, for instance -- that Osama bin Laden was almost certainly planning an attack against the United States. Similar warnings from outgoing Clinton administration officials such as Sandy Berger were ignored by an administration that smugly knew better.

I'm telling you, if people were paying attention to what's really going on -- as opposed to the Faux News/Limbaugh version -- the outcome of this election wouldn't even be in doubt. As some wag put it, we're all wearing the blue dress now. Clinton was impeached over a blow job. Bush is guilty of criminal negligence leading to the deaths of 3,000 people -- but with wild-eyed wingnuts in control of the House, there'll be no impeachment for him. Only the voters can hold him accountable.

They lie about everything

From the Washington Post's White House Briefing:

[Washington Post reporter Dana] Milbank counted the crowds at President Bush's three stops in Missouri, then compared the actual figure with the official Bush campaign figure.

His conclusion: "It seems that the Bush campaign is inflating its crowd counts by 45 to 75 percent."

Like Claude Rains in "Casablanca," I'm shocked...shocked!

Remember, 9/11 happened on THEIR watch...

MoDo slaps Dick(head) Cheney around:

Mr. Cheney implies that John Kerry couldn't protect us from an attack like 9/11, blithely ignoring the fact that he and President Bush didn't protect us from the real 9/11. Think of what brass-knuckled Republicans could have made of a 9/11 tape of an uncertain Democratic president giving a shaky statement that looked like a hostage tape and flying randomly from air base to air base, as the veep ordered that planes be shot down.

Mr. Cheney warns against falling back "into the pre-9/11 mind-set,'' when, in fact, the Bush team's pre-9/11 mind-set was all about being stuck in the cold war and reviving "Star Wars" - which doesn't work and is useless against terrorist tactics. The Bush crowd played down terrorism because Bill Clinton and Sandy Berger had told their successors that Osama was a priority, and the Bushies scorned all things Clinton. The president shrugged off intelligence briefings with such headlines as "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States'' because there was brush to be cleared and unaffordable tax-cutting to be done.

Night and day

Kevin Drum watched "60 Minutes" last night and makes some salient points:

This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.

In fact, these four memos are pretty close to a smoking gun, since it's now clear that (a) Bush was directly ordered to take a physical in 1972 and refused, and (b) he plainly failed to perform up to National Guard standards, but that (c) he was nonetheless saved from a failing evaluation thanks to high-level pressure.

So why did Bush refuse to take a physical that year? And why did he blow off drills for at least the next five months and possibly for a lot longer than that?

And finally, why did he get an honorable discharge anyway?

According to Josh Marshall, some answers may be forthcoming:

There are now two news organizations actively at work (and at least one of them is pretty far along) on a story about just why Bush was having those problems in the Guard in 1973.

Anybody want to bet it's got something to do with peeing in a bottle? Or more accurately, avoiding same?

Just think what we might have been spared if the news media had DONE THEIR JOBS back in 2000.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

W stands for weasel (or wuss, if you prefer)

So W (Weasel) may skip the debate that would involve taking questions from voters in a "town hall meeting" format. Atrios knows what THAT means:

So, Bush is scared to face questions by regular folks because some of them may come from "partisan" people. What does this tell us?

First, it reaffirms what we know - that his audiences and their questions are pre-screened.
Second, it reaffirms that Chicken George is indeed a chicken, frightened of the people he's supposed to govern.

And, finally, it tells us that Chicken George is scared the people will ask him tougher questions than the press corps will.

He's probably right about that.

'Franklin Roosevelt didn't run for re-election claiming Pearl Harbor was his finest hour'

Via Atrios, some uncommon sense from Bill Maher:

New Rule: You can't run on a mistake. Franklin Roosevelt didn't run for re-election claiming Pearl Harbor was his finest hour. Abe Lincoln was a great president, but the high point of his second term wasn't theater security. 9/11 wasn't a triumph of the human spirit. It was a fuck-up by a guy on vacation.

Now, don't get me wrong, Mr. President. I'm not blaming you for 9/11. We have blue-ribbon commissions to do that.
And I'm not saying there was anything improper about your immediate response to the attacks. Someone had to stay in that classroom and protect those kids from Chechen rebels.

But by the looks of your convention, you'd think that the worst thing that ever happened to us was the best thing that ever happened to you. You just can't keep celebrating the deadliest attack ever as if it's your personal rendezvous with greatness. You don't see old men who were shot down during World War II jumping out of a plane every year. I mean, other than your dad.

But even your dad didn't run for re-election based on a recession and his propensity to barf on the Japanese....There's a name for people who exploit their participation in historical events for political gain. They're called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

So I say, if you absolutely must win an election on the backs of dead people, do it like they do in Chicago, and have them actually vote for you.

Bush can't spin his way out of this mess

In some respects, the BushCo approach to this campaign can be summed up as "Who ya gonna believe -- us, or your lying eyes?" Thomas Oliphant catches Bush in full spin mode:

One of the many facts that makes Bush vulnerable this year is that his narrative of the economy since 2000 makes no sense to the people who experienced it.

Consider: He "inherited" a brief recession that began in March 2001, and then 9/11 and a raft of business scandals ensued, but we're back and his policies, above all the tax cuts, are working.

The truth as people experienced it: A decline in business investment triggered a recession lasting at most a few months, 9/11 barely put a dent in the consumer who kept going into debt to keep spending, but it's been three years and not only has the economy not recovered yet, it is flirting with stagnation again. Ordinary people never got much tax relief, no more is in store, and with wage income flat as a pancake, and health, energy and education costs soaring, the squeeze couldn't be tighter.

Actually, I'm afraid that as bad as the situation is now, the squeeze can still get a LOT tighter -- which is why it's absolutely imperative to elect John Kerry. (And some more Democratic senators and congressmen to help him fix this mess.)

Bush caught in yet another lie

From the Boston Globe:

In February, when the White House made public hundreds of pages of President Bush's military records, White House officials repeatedly insisted that the records prove that Bush fulfilled his military commitment in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.

But Bush fell well short of meeting his military obligation, a Globe reexamination of the records shows: Twice during his Guard service -- first when he joined in May 1968, and again before he transferred out of his unit in mid-1973 to attend Harvard Business School -- Bush signed documents pledging to meet training commitments or face a punitive call-up to active duty.

He didn't meet the commitments, or face the punishment, the records show.

More tonight on CBS's "60 Minutes."

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Kerry widens lead in battleground states

Don't get complacent -- but here's some good news from Gallup via Ruy Teixeira:

Prior to the Republican convention, Kerry had a one point lead among RVs (47-46) in the battleground states. After the Republican convention, now that battleground voters have had a chance to take a closer look at what Bush and his party really stand for, Kerry leads by 5 in these same states (50-45)! Note that Kerry gained three points among battleground voters, while Bush actually got a negative one point bounce.

There you have it: the voters got a good look at BushCo, and they did NOT like what they saw. Let's keep telling 'em what this election is really about: It's a stark choice between John Kerry's genuine focus on homeland security and George Bush's lip service to the subject...between economic policies designed to alleviate the middle-class squeeze and still MORE tax cuts for Bush's wealthy backers....between a real solution to the healthcare problem and yet another tax shelter for the wealthy, disguised as a "health savings account"...between new, non-polluting energy sources and continued dependence on the Saudis.

Under the radar?

Mike (significant other) made an interesting observation over the weekend.

He thinks current polls probably skew unrealistically Republican -- because pollsters can't contact younger people like his daughter Rachel, who just has a cellphone; she doesn't bother with a landline.

If he's correct, there may be quite a few Rachels out there -- unavailable to pollsters, registered to vote, certain to do so, and solidly in the Kerry camp.

Works for me!

Reality check

Ruy Teixeira of Emerging Democratic Majority has a reality check on the polls. Gallup shows Bush with only a two-point bounce, so we can all stop hyperventilating. And Teixeira delves into the Gallup details -- and finds good news:

Bush's acceptance speech, which the media fawned over so ostentatiously, was not rated any better by the public than was Kerry's--in fact, it received slightly worse ratings. Kerry's acceptance speech was rated excellent by 25 percent and good by 27 percent; Bush's was rated excellent by 22 percent and good by 27 percent.

In terms of whether the Republican convention made voters more or less likely to vote for Bush--the real point of the convention after all--there were almost as many saying the convention made them less likely to vote for Bush (38 percent) as said it made them more likely (41 percent).

This is actually quite a poor performance.
The Democratic convention this year had a substantially better 44 percent more likely/30 percent less likely split. In fact, looking back to 1984, which is as far back as Gallup supplies data, no candidate has ever had a more likely to vote for/less likely to vote for split even close to as bad as Bush's this year.

So chill -- but don't relax. Go volunteer for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. (I'll be working the phones for them tonight.)

More Republican lies

I'm a little late in linking to Fred Kaplan's useful debunking of GOP whoppers in Slate, but here you go:

Half-truths and embellishments are one thing; they're common at political conventions, vital flourishes for a theatrical air. Lies are another thing, and last night's Republican convention was soaked in them....

The main the claim that John Kerry, during his 20 years in the Senate, voted to kill the M-1 tank, the Apache helicopter; the F-14, F-16, and F-18 jet fighters; and just about every other weapon system that has kept our nation free and strong....

Here, one more time, is the truth of the matter: Kerry did not vote to kill these weapons, in part because none of these weapons ever came up for a vote, either on the Senate floor or in any of Kerry's committees.

This myth took hold last February in a press release put out by the RNC. Those who bothered to look up the fine-print footnotes discovered that they referred to votes on two defense appropriations bills, one in 1990, the other in 1995. Kerry voted against both bills, as did 15 other senators, including five Republicans. The RNC took those bills, cherry-picked some of the weapons systems contained therein, and implied that Kerry voted against those weapons. By the same logic, they could have claimed that Kerry voted to disband the entire U.S. armed forces; but that would have raised suspicions and thus compelled more reporters to read the document more closely.

What makes this dishonesty not merely a lie, but a damned lie, is that back when Kerry cast these votes, Dick Cheney—who was the secretary of defense for George W. Bush's father—was truly slashing the military budget.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The Republicans lie like a rug.

Trailing Kerry has 'been there, won that'

From the LA Times:

"The key to understanding Kerry is that he fights best from an underdog status," said Lou DiNatale, a University of Massachusetts pollster who has followed Kerry's career for years. "You can't underestimate his ability to find the crease, the cutting issue, at the right moment and ride it all the way to election day."

Don't worry. Just work your tail off.

'A referendum on democracy'

More from Saletan:

[T]he GOP is trying to quash criticism of the president simply because it's criticism of the president. The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.

In a democracy, the commander in chief works for you. You hire him when you elect him. You watch him do the job. If he makes good decisions and serves your interests, you rehire him. If he doesn't, you fire him by voting for his opponent in the next election.

Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power—the very charges [Zell] Miller leveled against Bush's critics.

Are you prepared to become one of those countries?

Republican liars and hypocrites

William Saletan spots an empty flightsuit:

The ultimate testament to Bush's manhood, supposedly, is the two wars he launched. As McCain put it, "He ordered American forces to Afghanistan" and "made the difficult decision to liberate Iraq." But the salient word in each of those boasts is the verb. Bush gives orders and makes decisions. He doesn't take personal risks. He never has.

I don't mean to be unfair to Bush. Vietnam was a lousy war. He wanted a way out, and he found it. But isn't it odd to see Republicans belittle the physical risks Kerry took in battle while exalting Bush's armchair wars and post-9/11 photo ops? Isn't it embarrassing to see Bob Dole, the GOP's previous presidential nominee, praise Bush's heroism while suggesting that Kerry's three combat wounds weren't bad enough to justify sending him home from Vietnam?

Watching the attacks on Kerry and the glorification of Bush reminds me of something Dole said in his speech to the Republican convention eight years ago. It was "demeaning to the nation," Dole argued, to be governed by people "who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered and never learned."

You tell me which of this year's presidential candidates that statement best describes.

Saletan's right, of course -- but he's talking about people who lack any capacity for embarrassment. For today's GOP, the end justifies the means -- and the end is hanging onto power at all costs. If lies and hypocrisy are the means, so be it. Look how many of Clinton's persecutors in the House got caught with their pants down: Newt Gingrich, Henry Hyde, Bob Livingston. There were the last people on earth who should have been raising hell about extramarital sex -- but did that stop them? Hell, no.

Now you've got Dick ("Five Deferments") Cheney and George ("I Defended Galveston When it was Convenient to Show Up") Bush claiming that a bona fide war hero won't defend the nation. (Kerry kicked their asses on that subject Thursday night, and he needs to keep doing it.)

Republican hypocrisy knows no limits. As far as the GOP is concerned, there's one set of rules for Republicans, and another for the rest of us. They start the wars; the rest of us do the actual fighting (and sustain the casualties). They get the tax cuts; the rest of us get a larger share of the tax burden.

First, they opposed the 9/11 commission, but then they gave in and permitted it; first, they wouldn't testify before the commission, but then they caved under pressure and did so; first, they went to war over WMD, but when that turned out to be a lie, they shifted the rationale to "liberation"; first, Dubya wanted bin Laden "dead or alive," but now Osama bin Forgotten. And they insist that John Kerry's a "flip-flopper."

They're lying hypocrites, and we should call attention to that fact at every opportunity.