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September 30, 2004

THEN:

We need to have a new look about how we conduct ourselves in office. There's a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and say, I don't want you to let me down again. And we can do better than the past administration has done. It's time for a fresh start. It's time for a new look. It's time for a fresh start after a season of cynicism. -- George W. Bush, in the first presidential debate of 2000

NOW:

The Bush administration, battling negative perceptions of the Iraq war, is sending Iraqi Americans to deliver what the Pentagon calls "good news" about Iraq to U.S. military bases, and has curtailed distribution of reports showing increasing violence in that country.

The unusual public-relations effort by the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development comes as details have emerged showing the U.S. government and a representative of President Bush's reelection campaign had been heavily involved in drafting the speech given to Congress last week by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Combined, they indicate that the federal government is working assiduously to improve Americans' opinions about the Iraq conflict -- a key element of Bush's reelection message.

USAID said this week that it will restrict distribution of reports by contractor Kroll Security International showing that the number of daily attacks by insurgents in Iraq has increased. On Monday, a day after The Washington Post published a front-page story saying that "the Kroll reports suggest a broad and intensifying campaign of insurgent violence," a USAID official sent an e-mail to congressional aides stating: "This is the last Kroll report to come in. After the WPost story, they shut it down in order to regroup. I'll let you know when it restarts."

Asked about the Kroll reports yesterday, USAID spokesman Jeffrey Grieco said, "The agency has restricted its circulation to those contractors and grantees who continue to work in Iraq." He said that the reports were given to congressional officials who sought them, but that the information will now be "restricted to those who need it for security planning in Iraq." An agency official said the decision was unrelated to the Post story and was based on a fear that the reports "would fall into insurgents' hands."

A season of cynicism, indeed.

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Really, really dumb, in fact:

GOP Drops Work on Balanced Budget The timing seemed a bit discordant last week, when the House Judiciary Committee began considering a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, just as Congress moved to pass its fourth tax cut in as many years.

A week later, the committee has not finished its work on the legislation, and the GOP House leadership has decided to drop the issue indefinitely, fearing that any spotlight on the burgeoning deficit would backfire politically.

.... Last Wednesday's drafting session turned into a fiasco, members from both parties said. Democrats ridiculed the GOP majority, which has controlled Congress and the White House for most of the past four years while record budget surpluses turned to record deficits. Even some Republicans conceded that their hearts were not in it. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said he had not taken it "as a very serious discussion."

"We can limit [deficits] on our own," said Flake, a Judiciary Committee member. "We in Congress ought to be embarrassed by what has happened. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves."

.... Deficit hawks were amazed that the GOP even tried, after Congress had squandered a $236 billion surplus recorded in 2000. Since 2001, overall government spending has risen 23 percent. Defense spending at Congress's discretion has increased 48 percent, while non-defense spending has jumped 27 percent. Meantime, taxes have been cut four times, at a price tag of $1.9 trillion over 10 years. House and Senate negotiators began work yesterday on a major corporate tax cut that could be wrapped up by the end of next week.

Tax cuts account for 29 percent of the swing from surpluses to deficits over the past three years, according to White House budget documents.

"The idea that the balanced budget amendment could even be taken up by the Judiciary Committee almost defies description," steamed Stanley E. Collender, a federal budget analyst at Financial Dynamics Business Communications. "The cynicism in the whole effort is just astounding."

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September 29, 2004

There's more evidence this morning (if we really needed any) that the path to hell is paved with well-intentioned legislation like McCain-Feingold:

The Federal Election Commission said yesterday that it will appeal a federal judge's decision to strike down more than a dozen of the government's current rules on political fundraising.

In a statement, however, the commission said it had not decided whether to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals to review all or some of the rules sent back to the agency by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

....Besides requesting new rules governing coordination between candidates and outside parties, she also ordered the FEC to say how far the law goes in banning corporate, union and unlimited "soft money" donations. The judge also ordered the commission to take a step it had resisted: regulating at least some political activity conducted over the Internet. [Emph. added.]

Like many others, I've argued ad nauseum over the years that M-F-style campaign finance reform is a real threat to the Democratic party for two basic reasons: (a) it seeks to shut down our primary source of income while actually increasing the GOP's; and (b) it's always -- always -- the guys with names like Moulitsas and Black, not Scaife and Murdoch, who wind up getting burned when we start playing with matches around the First Amendment.

Besides, it's not as though there aren't smarter, better ways of addressing the nation's campaign finance problem....

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September 28, 2004

So now we know. "Flowers and chocolates" wasn't an analytical failure that filtered up from the nation's intelligence community, or even a (perhaps) forgivable miscalculation by sincere, if tragically deluded, senior administration officials.

No, it was just another one of Mr. Cheney's terminological inexactitudes:

Prewar Assessment on Iraq Saw Chance of Strong Divisions The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.

The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

One of the reports also warned of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare, the officials said. The assessments also said a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, at least in the short run, the officials said.

POSTSCRIPT: You know, I've had to visit this URL so often in the past few years, I'm thinking of making it my homepage.

UPDATE/RELATED: At this point, I should probably note that a number of admirably plainspoken types have simply abandoned the euphemistic approach, opting instead for what our friends on the right like to call "moral clarity" in response to the linguistic challenge so frequently presented by Messrs. Bush and Cheney.

In other words, they've decided to just start calling a spade a bloody shovel.

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September 27, 2004

So I was just sitting down to get started on a comprehensive, link-rich post about all the articles we've seen recently on blogs and blogging when I stopped by Joe Gandelman's place and found, well, a comprehensive, link-rich post about all the articles we've seen recently on blogs and blogging. And since I'm a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel (particularly when my version would almost certainly be inferior), I think I'll just suggest that you swing over and give Mr. Gandelman's roundup a well-deserved gander.

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"Never allow the enemy to block you. Get around them, run over the top of them, destroy them - whatever you need to do so that God's word is the word that is being practiced in Congress, town halls and state legislatures."

--Christian Coalition national field coordinator Bill Thomson, using "military imagery to fire up the Christian Coalition activists to get out the vote"

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September 26, 2004

Why, a new book out, of course. And here's Frank Rich in today's NYT explaining why that should matter to anyone who cares about about American politics in the Age of Terror.

NOTE: I wish I could take credit for the pun at the top of this post, but I can't; it's from an old, half-remembered Dick Cavett interview with one of Roth's fellow literary heavyweights -- Saul Bellow, I think.

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September 25, 2004

On Thursday, President Bush told the American people that "the Iraqi government now commands almost 100,000 trained and combat-ready Iraqis, including police, National Guard and army."

Which, apparently, would be the God's honest truth -- if there were only about 95,000 more....

MORE: Via Oliver Willis, here's the president fantasizing about John Kerry.

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September 24, 2004

Late last year, President Bush famously informed the nation that he doesn't read newspapers because "the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what’s happening in the world."

Which would probably sound at least a little less fatuous this morning if Kevin Drum weren't so clearly correct in his assessment of Mr. Bush's bizarre, welcome-to-Fantasy-Island performance in the Rose Garden yesterday:

Thursday's press conference was just scary. It's no longer clear if George Bush is merely a cynical, calculating politician — which would be bad enough — or if he actually believes all the happy talk about Iraq that his speechwriters produce for him. Increasingly, though, it seems like the latter: he genuinely doesn't have a clue about what's going on. What's more, his staff is keeping him in a sort of Nixonian bubble, afraid to tell him the truth and afraid to take any positive action for fear that it might affect the election.

Like Kevin, I honestly don't know whether President Bush is an unusually good prevaricator, or so far removed from reality that he winds up saying things that just don't compute. Either way, though, the results are the same: the American people get lied to, and our fighting men and women get the shaft. And that's every bit as unacceptable today as it was the last time we found ourselves in that situation.

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"Republicans always say they want to have a values debate but lying and spreading hate were not the values I learned growing up in a small town in North Carolina where the Bible was the most important book in my home. George Bush and Dick Cheney should be appalled by these despicable mailings. They should condemn this practice immediately and tell everyone associated with their campaign to never use tactics like this again. The American people deserve better."

--Sen. John Edwards, on now-confirmed reports that the Republican National Committee recently sent "mass mailings to residents of two states warning that 'liberals' seek to ban the Bible"

UPDATE/RELATED: In today's WaPo, Dana Milbank notes that making reckless accusations appears to be standard operating procedure for the Republican party these days:

Tying Kerry to Terror Tests Rhetorical Limits President Bush and leading Republicans are increasingly charging that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry and others in his party are giving comfort to terrorists and undermining the war in Iraq -- a line of attack that tests the conventional bounds of political rhetoric.

Appearing in the Rose Garden yesterday with Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, Bush said Kerry's statements about Iraq "can embolden an enemy." After Kerry criticized Allawi's speech to Congress, Vice President Cheney tore into the Democratic nominee, calling him "destructive" to the effort in Iraq and the struggle against terrorism.

It was the latest instance in which prominent Republicans have said that Democrats are helping the enemy or that al Qaeda, Iraqi insurgents and other enemies of the United States are backing Kerry and the Democrats. Such accusations are not new to American politics, but the GOP's line of attack this year has been pervasive and high-level.

ANOTHER UPDATE: With regard to the Milbank piece quoted above, Mathew Gross asks, "Why aren't there any Democrats on the talk shows saying the obvious counterpoint, that George W. Bush is the biggest friend to al Qaeda's recruitment efforts, second only to Osama bin Laden himself?"

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September 23, 2004

After repeatedly displaying their collective impotence over the past several years in the face of vexing issues like healthcare, unemployment, and Iraq, congressional Republicans have now apparently discovered a pressing national concern that brings out their steely legislative resolve in all its tumescent glory: America's ever-worsening lucky duckies crisis.

Bid to Save Tax Refunds For the Poor Is Blocked Congressional negotiators beat back efforts yesterday to expand and preserve tax refunds for poor families, even as they added $13 billion in corporate tax breaks to a package of middle-class tax cuts that could come to a vote in the Senate today.

....The dust-up centers on an obscure provision in the 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut that Congress passed in 2001. That tax cut expanded the $500-per-child tax credit to $1,000, but it also made another child credit available as a tax refund to some poor families who pay little or no federal income taxes.

Such families were allowed to claim a child credit worth as much as 10 percent of their earnings over $10,000. But the 2001 law stipulated that the $10,000 threshold would rise with inflation, effectively slicing into or eliminating refunds for families whose income does not keep up with inflation. The threshold now stands at $10,750.

Because incomes at the bottom end of the workforce have largely stagnated, the rising threshold has had a significant impact, said Leonard E. Burman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. Of the 11 million families claiming the child tax refund, more than 4 million -- with 9.2 million children -- will see their credit shrink or disappear in 2005, Burman estimated.

Compassionate conservatism, indeed, as one of my blogging betters would say. And the rest is here.

UPDATE: In case you missed it yesterday (as I somehow did), Jesse Taylor has discovered yet another fine example of compassionate conservatism at work.

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Relying on a source she will only identify as "Debate Throat," Madeleine Begun Kane shares the most explosive leaked document we've seen to date in Campaign 2004.

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September 22, 2004

President Bush is fond of saying that, despite the terrible (and mounting) price in blood, treasure, and national prestige, the war in Iraq has made America safer because Saddam Hussein is now in prison instead of in power -- which sounds like a pretty reasonable argument to most people, I think. But what if those same people were to learn that our nation's most deadly enemy, Osama bin Laden, is still walking around loose today precisely because the president ordered our armed forces to focus on Iraq instead of al-Qaeda in late 2001? Just how reasonable would Mr. Bush's argument sound to them then?

Over at at TOPDOG04.COM, the blogger known simply as "Mike" (who, like many others, wants to know "why this catastrophic failure has not been a campaign issue") carefully lays out the relevant facts in a well-documented Tora Bora-Iraq timeline, and, in the process, raises perhaps the most critical question of Election 2004: Why, just months after al-Qaeda's brutal attacks on New York and Washington, did President Bush decide to trade the most dangerous terrorist in the world for a quagmire?

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September 21, 2004

Mrs. O'Toole and I are going to be out of town for the next couple of days, so expect posting to be light until Monday night or Tuesday morning. In the meantime, please visit all the excellent blogs on your right.

NOTE: Comments are currently disabled. Look for them to return when we do.

UPDATE (Sept. 21 - 11:09 AM): We're back, and so are comments. Normal blogging should resume shortly.

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September 18, 2004

The anonymous "blogger" who first questioned the authenticity of the 60 Minutes memos (just hours after the program aired) has now been outed -- and he just happens to be a Republican political operative with connections to the Paula Jones matter.

MORE: Digby argues in favor of the Rovian dirty trick hypothesis.

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According to the AP, "Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November."

Oliver Willis has the details.

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Fred Clark asks all the right questions as he unflinchingly rounds up the latest news from Iraq.

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September 17, 2004

Over at TNR, Ryan Lizza nicely captures the pervasive sense of unreality that seems to surround (and, increasingly, to define) the Bush reelection effort:

[S]pending time on the trail with Bush is like being transported to a parallel universe. The only music is Christian rock and country tunes about plain-talking everymen. The only people who ask the president questions are his most feverish supporters, never the press. In this alternate universe, Iraq and Afghanistan are marching effortlessly toward democracy. The economy is, in the words of former Broncos quarterback John Elway, who introduces Bush in Greenwood Village, "the best in the world." John Kerry, whose platform is to the right of Clinton's in 1992, is calling for a massive expansion of government. Meanwhile, Bush's two most radical ideas, the ones that House Republicans privately insist will top the agenda in Washington next year if Bush wins--a shift toward privatizing Social Security that will cost at least a trillion dollars and a move toward a flat tax--are mentioned only in passing, buried in a laundry list of minor proposals.

I'm not sure which is more worrisome, really -- the fact that Ken Kesey appears to be driving the Bush campaign bus, or the unmistakable sense one sometimes gets that the president and his merry prankster cabinet have been tossing back the Kool Aid. Either way, though, one thing is clear: If you like the results that this unwillingness or inability to face reality has produced on Iraq and terrorism and jobs and education and healthcare and the environment and more, you need to cast your vote for the guy sitting up there at the front of the bus with a glass in his hand.

Otherwise, these two gentlemen would sincerely appreciate a moment of your time to discuss a few matters of national importance.

NOTE: Obviously, the "glass in his hand" above is simply a bloggerly attempt to close the circle on the Acid Test reference, and not a cheap shot about the president's reported problems in another life. I haven't gotten into that kind of stuff in the past, and have no intention of doing so now or in the future. Which isn't to say that the issue is or should be off limits for any other blogger, commentator, or voter; as with Bill Clinton's somewhat tangled personal history, it's a question that each person has to weigh for him or herself.

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September 16, 2004

BusinessWeek asks the question that seems to be on just about every pundit's lips -- Does Kerry Still Have A Chance? -- and the answer sounds really, really bad.

After a long swoon marked by snoozy stumping, staff feuds, and the inevitable campaign shakeup, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is trying to claw his way back into the...presidential race.

....Kerry has to do something he has failed at thus far: provide a compelling rationale for his candidacy. Indeed, he has trouble coming across as a passionate pol who fights for Middle America. With his attenuated frame, sparkling starched shirts, and aristocratic mien, he looks every inch the Beacon Hill Brahmin. The "real deal"? That's the nickname of former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield, who was a great fighter in his almost 20-year career but never managed to electrify the crowd.

God, talk about a nightmare. Of course, I have to tell you, I'd probably be even more concerned if the article didn't also include this:

With the Jan. 27 New Hampshire primary looming and Dean holding a commanding lead in the state, the pressure on Kerry to break out is immense. But even on his home turf, there are troubles. In a Nov. 19-21 poll by RKM Research & Communications, he trailed Dean by 9 points in Massachusetts. What's the problem? Kerry's detached sang-froid seems to pale in the face of Dean's fiery populist orations. "Dean is having a virtual coronation in New Hampshire," says a Democratic strategist. "If you're second, you have to take the guy down. Kerry isn't making Dean play defense."

'Nuff said?

POSTSCRIPT: Please, folks, can we just relax already? Digby's right. And so's Teixeira. This race is a long, long way from being over, and anybody who tells you otherwise is either panicking without reason or spinning for the president. Or trying to make their bones at a place like BusinessWeek.

UPDATE: Almost forgot. Digby link via Atrios.

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"If con is the opposite of pro," the folks behind The Daily Show ask in their new book, America, "then isn't Congress the opposite of progress?" Which sounds like a spot-on observation this morning, as Iraq burns and our Republican Congress cynically fiddles:

You don't have to turn on the TV to see campaign ads these days. You can watch Congress.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate have begun taking up bills, not with any expectation they will become law, but with the intention of stoking the presidential campaign and energizing the party's political base.

...."If you can't make a law, you make a point," said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont-McKenna College.

Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky added: "There's no doubt that Congress is trying to use votes on hot-button topics for political gain before the November election. There is perceived political gain in just having a vote."

Your Congress at work. Really makes you proud, doesn't it?

POSTSCRIPT: Had enough of this garbage? Then help put a stop to it -- here and here.

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"Our committee heard blindly optimistic people from the administration prior to the war and people outside the administration - what I call the 'dancing in the street crowd' - that we just simply will be greeted with open arms. The nonsense of all of that is apparent. The lack of planning is apparent."

-- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN), on Iraq

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September 14, 2004

Via Tom Maguire, here's the WaPo putting the Killian memos out with the trash.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias (correctly) notes that "nothing of importance, not even anything of importance about Bush's Guard service, hinges on the authenticity of the memos."

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No, that isn't the subject line of yet another spam e-mail hawking low-interest home mortgage loans; rather, it's an admirably succinct description of a saner, better kind of politics in Washington, DC, and Charles Kuffner has all the details on how you can help make it happen.

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TWO QUESTIONS: (1) How big would the screaming headline over at Matt Drudge's place be right about now if this story involved a certain senator from Massachusetts? And (2) how long would it take the folks at Fox News to find a way to put it on the air?

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Independent budget analysts have been busy for the past couple of weeks costing out the myriad proposals and promises that Team Bush cynically stuffed into the president's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, and the results of their efforts are eye-popping, to say the least.

The expansive agenda President Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillion over a decade.

A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in long-term spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan.

....The White House has declined to provide a full and detailed accounting of the cost of the new agenda. The administration last week provided a partial listing of the previously unannounced proposals, including "opportunity zones," that totaled $74 billion in spending over the next 10 years. But there was no mention of the cost of additional tax cuts and the creation of Social Security private accounts. Discussing his agenda during an "Ask the President" campaign forum in Portsmouth, Ohio, Bush said Friday that he has "explained how we're going to pay for it, and my opponent can't explain it because he doesn't want to tell you he's going to have to tax you."

You know, I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I've been so thoroughly worn down by this administration's persistent and systematic dissembling over the last four years that I just can't seem to rouse myself enough to add the outrage-fueled close that this post so obviously cries out for. So I guess I'll just give you the link and move on.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan notes that three trillion dollars "doesn't even sound any better when Dr. Evil says it."

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In today's WaPo, there's further evidence that the men and women who can shoot straight are getting awfully tired of having to clean up after The Gang Who Couldn't:

The outgoing U.S. Marine Corps general in charge of western Iraq said Sunday he opposed a Marine assault on militants in the volatile city of Fallujah in April and the subsequent decision to withdraw from the city and turn over control to a security force of former Iraqi soldiers.

That security force, known as the Fallujah Brigade, was formally disbanded last week. Not only did the brigade fail to combat militants, it actively aided them, surrendering weapons, vehicles and radios to the insurgents, according to senior Marine officers. Some brigade members even participated in attacks on Marines ringing the city, the officers said.

The comments by Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, made shortly after he relinquished command of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force on Sunday, amounted to a stinging broadside against top U.S. military and civilian leaders who ordered the Fallujah invasion and withdrawal.

....With no security forces in Fallujah now -- U.S. troops do not patrol inside the city limits -- the area has become a haven for insurgents, Marine officers said. Among the foreign-born fighters believed to be holed up in Fallujah is Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who is alleged to have organized car bombings, kidnappings and other attacks targeting Americans and Iraqis.

What a mess. And yet, somehow, we appear to be holding an election in which the central truth of our national life today -- the fact that we may actually be losing the war in Iraq -- is just off the table.

It's remarkable. Insane, really. But, you know, as long as it's other people's kids who are being asked to give the last full measure of their devotion to this dubious adventure, I guess it's okay for the rest of us to continue to pretend that Election 2004 is really about Botox and swift boats and typewriter fonts and panic!

After all, we glib, plugged-in types are paying for this campaign extravaganza. And we expect a little goddamned entertainment -- even as we quietly look down our noses at all the regular Americans who can't seem to make sense of a brie-and-circuses political process that blithely refuses to address the very real possibility that, once again, one of them is going be the last man asked to die for a mistake.

UPDATE: Sen. Joe Biden points out that our problems in Iraq have actually gotten worse since the transfer of power in June.

MORE: Bloody Sunday.

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September 13, 2004

MICHAEL TOMASKY: "Republicans understand the world, and Democrats do not. Republicans know that voters will respond emotionally to character questions, and they know that the media will lap them up like a thirsty dog. Democrats keep thinking that voters will do something as improbably nutritional as study a health care plan (as, surely, a scattered few do), and that the media will show themselves eager to write articles and broadcast discussion segments about health care plans. Both assumptions are folly."

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September 12, 2004

Several prominent conservatives have argued that the term "neocon" should be forever banished from the public policy lexicon due to what they insist are its unmistakably anti-Semitic overtones. So, in the interests of comity, let me be among the first to say that I welcome, and fully support, Secretary of State Colin Powell's reported efforts to introduce a more appropriate designation for our friends on the far right.

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In time, perhaps, we will mark the memory of September 11 in stone and metal, something we can show children as yet unborn to help them understand what happened on this minute and on this day. But for those of us who lived through these events, the only marker we’ll ever need is the tick of a clock at the 46th minute of the eighth hour of the 11th day.

--President George W. Bush, December 11, 2001

President Bush's Radio Address

Sen. Kerry's Radio Address

Senator John Edwards, on a "day of remembrance and mourning"

President Marks 9/11 With Quiet Observances

Families Mark Third Anniversary of 9/11

NYT Archive: Remembering 9/11

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If this quietly damning piece in today's NYT is any indication of the way the wind is blowing in DC these days, Condoleezza Rice is facing a very long day in front of the 9-11 Commission this Thursday....

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Okay, I said I was going to have the redesign up by today, and I guess I meant it. Well, sort of, anyway.

Truth be told, only a fraction of the new site is ready, and I've done my best to wall you off from all the unfinished parts. (If I've failed at that task -- a real possibility, I'm afraid -- and you suddenly find yourself wondering around in an obvious construction area, just click on the fellow in the upper left hand corner to get back to the main blog site.) Look for the new sections and features to start coming online in the next week or so.

Which leaves us with only one more thing to discuss before I get back to regular blogging, and that's the tricky subject of site registration. For the record, I don't like it, and I presume you don't either. On the other hand, the comment spam has gotten completely out of hand in recent weeks, and something had to be done. So, for now, at least, I'm going to ask people to register if they wish to have their say. (If you'd rather just send an e-mail, that's fine, too; simply include the word "comment" in the subject line -- as in, "Comment: New website, same liberal horse#$%&!" -- and I'll assume it's for publication.)

Well, I guess that's about it for now. Welcome again to the new site. I hope you like it.

POSTSCRIPT: If you're looking for the old site archives, please read the announcement on your left.

UPDATE: I meant to mention the site's new publishing engine, Xaraya, in the post above. If you're looking for a CMS that's flexible, extensible, and just plain smart as hell, do yourself a favor and check out Xaraya today.

UPDATE 2: Here

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September 11, 2004

Since the president chose to spend his day yesterday hammering Sen. Kerry for his supposed flip flops on Iraq, I thought I should take a moment this morning to revisit the issue of Mr. Bush's own well-documented mutability.

So, here, in no particular order, are a handful of this blogger's favorite Bush flip flops, as compiled by the folks at The Center for American Progress:

North Korea


BUSH WILL NOT OFFER NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM... "We developed a bold approach under which, if the North addressed our long-standing concerns, the United States was prepared to take important steps that would have significantly improved the lives of the North Korean people. Now that North Korea's covert nuclear weapons program has come to light, we are unable to pursue this approach." [President's Statement, 11/15/02]

...BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFERS NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM "Well, we will work to take steps to ease their political and economic isolation. So there would be -- what you would see would be some provisional or temporary proposals that would only lead to lasting benefit after North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs. So there would be some provisional or temporary efforts of that nature." [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 6/23/04]


Weapons of Mass Destruction

BUSH SAYS WE FOUND THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION..."We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories...for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them." [President Bush, Interview in Poland, 5/29/03]

...BUSH SAYS WE HAVEN'T FOUND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION "David Kay has found the capacity to produce weapons.And when David Kay goes in and says we haven't found stockpiles yet, and there's theories as to where the weapons went. They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into Iraq. They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country, and we'll find out." [President Bush, Meet the Press, 2/7/04]

Department of Homeland Security

BUSH OPPOSES THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY... "So, creating a Cabinet office doesn't solve the problem. You still will have agencies within the federal government that have to be coordinated. So the answer is that creating a Cabinet post doesn't solve anything." [White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, 3/19/02]

...BUSH SUPPORTS THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY "So tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people." [President Bush, Address to the Nation, 6/6/02]

The Environment

BUSH SUPPORTS MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE... "[If elected], Governor Bush will work to...establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide." [Bush Environmental Plan, 9/29/00]

...BUSH OPPOSES MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE "I do not believe, however, that the government should impose on power plants mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide, which is not a 'pollutant' under the Clean Air Act." [President Bush, Letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), 3/13/03]

Winning The War On Terror

BUSH CLAIMS HE CAN WIN THE WAR ON TERROR: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can." [President Bush, 4/13/04]

…BUSH SAYS WAR ON TERROR IS UNWINNABLE: "I don't think you can win [the war on terror]." [President Bush, 8/30/04]

…BUSH SAYS HE WILL WIN THE WAR ON TERROR: "Make no mistake about it, we are winning and we will win [the war on terror]." [President Bush, 8/31/04]

POSTSCRIPT: Can't get enough of this president's peerless version of the Texas two-step? You'll find twenty-five(!) more Bush flip flops here.

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TalkLeft points out that two of the blogosphere's finest are celebrating birthdays on this solemn date: Mad Kane and DailyKos.

Happy birthday, folks, and best wishes.

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Though I'm not quite prepared to hop off the fence yet, this article in today's Boston Globe does seem to suggest that the Killian memos are, in all likelihood, genuine. Or perhaps better said, it effectively shifts the burden of proof back to those challenging the documents' authenticity, which should be all CBS needs to carry the day on this one.

I think.

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Here.

POSTSCRIPT: The Zell Yell revisited.

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"Does it rank up there with chopping someone's head off on television? It doesn't."

--Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on the prisoner-abuse scandal

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September 10, 2004

New York Times' columnist Paul Krugman notes that, among mainstream budget analysts trying to make sense of this administration's often nonsensical numbers, shrill is the new normal.

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Are the 60 Minutes memos real? I dunno. CBS certainly seems to be standing by them. But, as Kevin Drum notes over at Political Animal, serious news organizations are now raising questions about their authenticity, and that is not a matter to be taken lightly.

So, in an abundance of caution -- the kind of caution, I should add, that too many of our conservative friends didn't demonstrate as they were shamelessly pimping the phony-baloney Swift Boat allegations -- I'm going to pull yesterday's post on this subject from the site until things become a little clearer. If the memos eventually turn out to be genuine, I'll republish the post in its original space; otherwise, I'll replace it with a correction.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has more.

MORE: Mark Kleiman observes that "it's quite possible that the documents were, in fact, forged, and that CBS was fooled," while noting that "possible isn't the same as certain." And Tom Maguire weighs in from the right with an interesting look at the checkerboard.

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Yesterday, James Wolcott likened Vice President Cheney to the broken-down Ed McMahon of Jerry Lewis telethons and Larry King appearances. Today, Richard Cohen offers this less amusing, though equally valid, comparison:

Let's play a political word-association game. You say "blue" and I say "red." You say "swift" and I say "boat." You say "Cheney" and I say "Welch" and you ask me what in the world do I mean. And I say that when Dick Cheney warned that the election of John Kerry would increase the risk of a terrorist attack, I immediately thought of Joseph Welch, the patrician Boston attorney who confronted Sen. Joseph McCarthy back in 1954 and asked, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" The answer in McCarthy's case was no. It is no different with Cheney.

Tough stuff, and more than richly deserved. The rest is here.

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September 09, 2004

A few months back, my local State House representative, who had already filed for reelection as a Democrat, decided to switch parties at the last possible moment and run as a Republican. Shortly thereafter, the courts stepped in and forced the GOPers who currently run the state to make room on the ballot for a member of the party of Jefferson and Jackson.

And in stroke of particularly good fortune for the Democrats, their new nominee turned out to be a bright, capable guy named Lachlan McIntosh, who now has both a campaign blog and an online contributions page. Please feel free to visit either or both as you wish.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Lachlan has been a friend for many years -- since January of 1992, in fact. So, yeah, I'd really appreciate any help you might be able to provide. Thanks.

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September 08, 2004

My God, it's even worse than we thought. (Via Unfogged.)

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Ruy Teixeira discusses a story "you're not likely to see in the mainstream media": John Kerry has widened his lead in the battleground states.

MORE: Mark Kleiman examines President Bush's "un-bounce."

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Promises made, promises not kept:

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: "In a shocking new book by Kitty Kelly, acquaintances of President Bush say that when he was in the National Guard, 'he liked to sneak out back for a joint or into the bathroom and do cocaine.' Isn't that unbelievable? They actually found some people who saw Bush in the National Guard!" -- Jay Leno, The Tonight Show

UPDATE: According to Max Sawicky, President Bush owes the US $2,427,262.47. And remember, folks, it's your money!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Note notes that, due to the newly discovered records and a rare White House "misstatement," this once-fallow story is now "in flux."

During his long professional association with George W. Bush, White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett has spent hundreds of hours patiently walking reporters through the facts of Gov. Bush's National Guard record.

Almost always hanging his hat on the peg of Mr. Bush's honorable discharge (and trying at all costs to avoid revisiting the president's Houston Chronicle quote about avoiding the war*), Bartlett's silky smooth handling of the matter has kept things on a slow simmer or completely off the stove through several elections.

But now — as missing documents reappear with the suddenness of Rose Law Firm billing records and Bartlett is forced to acknowledge to the Boston Globe a rare misstatement — things seem a bit in flux.

* "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." -- George W. Bush

FINAL UPDATE (I THINK): Kevin Drum has more.

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September 07, 2004

The veep tells a Minnesota crowd that President Reagan failed the tough-on-terror test. Big time.

UPDATE: And in Iowa, the Dark Prince tries out a new theme -- vote for us or you'll die:

Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday warned Americans about voting for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, saying that if the nation makes the wrong choice on Election Day it faces the threat of another terrorist attack.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign immediately rejected those comments as "scare tactics" that crossed the line.

"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

Classy.

MORE VEEP NEWS: "Polling last week found Cheney's popularity at an all-time low, with the portion of Americans who view him unfavorably more than doubling during the past four years." (Via The Note.)

FINAL UPDATE (PROBABLY): Oliver Willis speaks truth to power -- rather, uh, vigorously.

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Like father, like son?

At their national convention, Republicans were short on specifics on how to pay for an economic agenda in a second Bush administration. One reason is that President Bush could end up having to back a tax increase, just as his father did.

But nobody wanted to spoil the Madison Square Garden party by mentioning such unpleasantries. After all, Republicans are insisting that Democrat John Kerry is the candidate who will increase taxes.

"To those critics who are so pessimistic about our economy, I say: 'Don't be economic girlie men!'" said California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, reprising a phrase he used to scold state Democratic legislators.

That drew hearty laughter from the convention audience. Yet there is little humor to be had from a close look at budget realities.

"Taxes are going up next year no matter who wins the presidency in November," concluded conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, who advised both Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush.

"It's out of the hands of politicians," Bartlett said.

As a famous man once said, read my lips: the rest is here.

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Bush Lauds Strength of Economy POPLAR BLUFF, MO. (AP) - President Bush told Missouri voters Monday that new unemployment figures suggest "the economy is strong and getting stronger...."

Labor Pains
Middle-class wages are stagnant, the ranks of workers with employer-provided health coverage are shrinking, the job-creation machine is missing more than hitting and poverty is on the rise. To top it off, the Congressional Budget Office last month confirmed that the Bush administration's $400 billion in tax cuts favored those traveling in staterooms over those jammed into steerage....

The Census Bureau recently reported that median family income was virtually flat last year after two years of noticeable declines, and that an additional 1.3 million Americans slipped into poverty. On Tuesday, the Conference Board's monthly survey showed consumer confidence headed south. And although the 144,000 new jobs created in August were welcome news, job creation continues to lag behind what would be expected this deep into an economic recovery.

Meanwhile, a growing parade of Americans goes without employee healthcare benefits, priced out as monthly contributions and co-payments soar.

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September 06, 2004

Oh, well. Two out of three ain't bad, right?

POSTSCRIPT: Yep, this democracy promotion business is tough, complicated stuff. And if the Bushies hadn't spent the last two years relentlessly mocking any and everyone who tried to speak that self-evident truth, I'd probably sympathize with them today. But, hey, they did, and I don't.

Moral clarity's a tough taskmaster, isn't it?

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Should a legitimate news organization like CNN be in the transcript-scrubbing business? Atrios raises the question....

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Best wishes on a full and speedy recovery, Mr. President.

MORE: Via Josh Marshall, send President Clinton a get well note.

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The AP has an update on Mr. Bush's increasingly mysterious National Guard file.

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September 05, 2004

In perhaps the most outrageous display of liberal bias by a major news outlet since CBS's Harvest of Shame, today's LA Times tries to convince us that the VC were more impressed by the guys they were actually fighting than the ones who were courageously patrolling the skies over Texas.

The 50-foot Swift boats were easy targets as they plowed through the waterways of the Mekong Delta in packs of three or four, making big waves and thunderous noise when approaching.

Former Viet Cong soldier Duong Hoang Sinh remembers them well — the one time he tangled with three Swift boats, the Americans killed all the insurgents in his unit except two.

"It was very fierce fighting," said Sinh, 52, who lost his left eye during the war and still has shrapnel in his arm. "Each side tried to eliminate the other."

Sinh and John F. Kerry, the U.S. Democratic presidential nominee, were fighting along the Dong Cung canal about the same time 35 years ago in early 1969, experiencing the intensity of war along these muddy waters, but from opposite sides.

Although Sinh had never heard of Kerry, he had a strong opinion about the debate surrounding the candidate's Vietnam War record as a U.S. Navy Swift boat commander: Kerry must have had guts to troll the Mekong Delta's spider web of rivers and narrow canals knowing that Viet Cong like himself were waiting to pick him off.

Shameful stuff. Just shameful. Next thing you know, the moral pygmies at the Times will be trying to tell us that the Bush tax cuts mainly benefited the wealthiest people in the country, while the rest of us got the shaft. Or that the Iraq occupation has been handled with all the brainy sophistication that one would normally associate with an episode of Are You Hot. Or even that George Bush is about to become the first president since Herbert Hoover to actually lose jobs on his watch.

Really, now. Just how dumb does the liberal media think we are?

POSTSCRIPT/RELATED: All kidding aside, don't you just love the latest right-wing meme: How dare you continue to talk about our disgusting slander of a genuine American war hero when we've gotten all the political mileage we can out of the smear?

Well, sorry, folks. As people in my part of the country like to say: Forget, hell! You made this filthy bed, and now I guess you're just going to have to find a way to get comfortable in it.

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FAREED ZAKARIA: "This is the [Republican] party's dilemma -- it wishes to spread liberty to people whom it doesn't really like."

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If you've been following the latest Matthew Yglesias-Glenn Reynolds blog dustup, you may find this seemingly unrelated Instapost more than a little rich.

UPDATE (6:53am): Oops, almost forgot. The first two links above via Unfogged.

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September 04, 2004

In late April, I argued that the Kerry campaign could run into trouble if they didn't stop playing checkers to the Bush campaign's chess, particularly in terms of their communications strategy.

Kevin Drum examines a current (and, as he says, discouraging) example of the problem here.

UPDATE: Guy Andrew Hall has a different take.

UPDATE 2: In answer to several e-mailers: no, I'm not panicking. There's still time to fix this problem, and I fully expect the Kerry campaign, which has been repeatedly "misunderestimated" by friend and foe alike, to do just that.

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September 03, 2004

"Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why, despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot support his candidacy."

--Conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan, on President George W. Bush

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