Tuesday, June 22


An e-mail from a friend:

One sunny day in 2005 an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine looked at the man and said, "Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."

The old man said, "Okay," and walked away.

The following day the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine again told the man, "Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here." The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, "Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?"

The old man looked at the Marine and said, "Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it."

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, "See you tomorrow."


When the pResident loses the Dallas Morning News, that spells t-r-o-u-b-l-e for his campaign:

Iraq Trust Gap: You've got a credibility problem, Mr. President

11:41 AM CDT on Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A time comes in most administrations when supporters tell the president he has a problem. Bob Dole told Ronald Reagan he should worry about the deficit. Tip O'Neill told Jimmy Carter he better improve his icy relationship with Capitol Hill. And George W. Bush told his father that White House chief of staff John Sununu needed to go.

The supporters find themselves like skunks at the garden party. They back the president but see a problem. And they decide to speak out.

We find ourselves in that position with President Bush and the war in Iraq. We supported his presidential candidacy. We backed the war in Iraq. But we now wonder: What happened?

U.S. troops have found no Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. And the 9-11 panel says there was no working partnership between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. President Bush presented both WMD and the al-Qaeda/Hussein link as reasons for striking Iraq before it attacks us.

The president has a credibility gap here, and he needs to address it right away. Vice President Dick Cheney tried but failed miserably. He said, in effect, "we know more than you and you better trust us."

The country did just that when we went to war in Iraq, but things aren't working as promised. The administration needs to respond with specifics, not like members of a secret society with keys to the kingdom.

If the president or any member of his administration knows of concrete links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, we implore them to speedily present that information to the 9-11 commission. Commissioners say they'd welcome contradictions to their claim that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were not in cahoots.

A poll conducted by Republican Bill McInturff and Democrat Stanley Greenberg for National Public Radio shows 54 percent of Americans think the country's off track. Those are serious numbers, Mr. President. Arrogance will not change Americans' perceptions. Plain-speaking will. The country needs that, sir.


Beneath the partisan divide, America is discontented and desperate for change. According to a new poll by Mother Jones, nearly two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the wrong track:

The results indicate a startling consensus on the need for change. Asked if the country should "continue in the same direction as the one Bush is headed or a significantly different one," 57 percent of Americans at large, 57 percent of swing state voters, and 67 percent of independents said they want a different course. Although the vast majority of Republicans remain loyal to Bush -- nearly 90 percent say they would support the president over Kerry -- the poll found that 34 percent of moderate Republicans, as well as 24 percent of those who voted for Bush in 2000, now want a change of direction for the country.

A majority of registered voters from across the political spectrum, including many of the President's core voters, said they believe the poor, the middle class, and American workers have lost ground over the past three years, while the wealthy, big corporations, and CEO's have gained.

Perhaps most importantly, independent voters -- a group that regularly affects the outcome of presidential elections -- appear to be distancing themselves from President Bush's conservative Republican base on a wide range of issues. "Their underlying dispositions right now look like they seem to favor Kerry," says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.


The discontent divide is particularly acute on Iraq. Despite the removal of Saddam Hussein, only 39 percent of all respondents identified the Iraqi people as having gained ground over the last three years. The war is the leading concern for Democrats and independent voters alike (44 and 34 percent, respectively), while Republicans cite the state of America's moral values as the most pressing issue (32 percent). Similarly, when asked to choose between two statements on the Iraq war -- "The Iraq war is a good investment in our security" and "The Iraq war is making it harder to meet our needs at home" -- a large majority of Democrats and independents said the latter assessment best matched their own.

Even among Republicans, support for the war is less solid than it may first appear. While 60 percent of all Republicans have positive feelings about the war, only 45 percent of liberal and moderate Republicans say the same. Less than half of moderate Republicans said the war has been a wise investment in our national security. And only 51 percent of moderate Republicans see the Iraqi people as coming out of the last three years as "winners."

The Economy

On the economic front, a significant majority of all respondents said both they and the nation at large were worse off in regards to job security, the availability of good-paying jobs, the gap between wages and expenses, and access to health care.

Despite three massive tax cuts championed by the president, only 29 percent of all respondents said their tax burden was better. And while nearly 60 percent of conservative Republicans said their tax situation had improved, only 38 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans agreed, a number more in line with liberal Democrats (17 percent), conservative Democrats (14 percent), and independents (16 percent).

Furthermore, while 60 percent of conservative Republicans said the middle class has gained under Bush, only 41 percent of more moderate Republicans share that view. Finally, like Democrats and independents, three quarters of moderate Republicans said big corporations have emerged as winners thanks to Bush.

"This is the most dramatic evidence I have seen that the public perceives a Bush administration tilt towards the wealthy and away from middle and lower income Americans," said Benjamin Page, a political scientist at Northwestern University. "If that were true on election day, Bush would be in deep trouble."

The Bush Base

The only people who seem uniformly pleased with the direction of the country are conservative Republicans and devout evangelical Christians, for whom the war remains largely popular, and in whose eyes Iraqis have gained ground. There is significant crossover between the two groups, and evangelicals remain the most committed element of Bush's support: More than 75 percent have warm feelings toward him, versus 25 percent for Kerry.

Read the whole article here.


Author and attorney Scott Turow muses about the Jose Padilla case:

CHICAGO -- On June 1, Deputy Attorney General James Comey called a press conference to discuss the evidence the government says it has amassed against the alleged "dirty bomber," Jose Padilla. While Comey's revelations were widely reported, the impropriety of his actions seems to have passed largely unremarked. Acknowledging that he was playing to "the court of public opinion," Comey claimed to tell "the full story of Jose Padilla," disclosing informants' claims about the prisoner and several statements Padilla allegedly made while in custody. Comey suggested that the statements showed Padilla to be a dangerous al-Qaida associate intent on taking untold American lives.
At the same time, Comey acknowledged that the government did not expect to offer Padilla any forum in which to refute or question its alleged evidence, and dodged questions about the questionable timing of releasing such incendiary information while the Supreme Court is nearing decision on Padilla's case, which raises the legality of his detention by the president. To me, as a former federal prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer, Comey's performance constituted one more legally and ethically dubious maneuver by our government in a case that I already regarded as one of the most troubling in memory.
Padilla's case raises probably the starkest civil liberties questions that have come with the war on terrorism: Do the law and the Constitution permit the government to imprison a U.S. citizen indefinitely, without the benefit of a lawyer or a court hearing, merely on the president's word that this American is a potential terrorist?

This case has more than troubling implications for civil rights in post-9/11 America. Read the whole thing and be afraid...be very afraid.


Richard Cohen's take:

It's not surprising that an administration already bent on war would interpret every dot, every squiggly line, as evidence that Hussein and bin Laden were in cahoots. This made sense to Bush and Cheney since, as we have found out to our dismay, they cannot distinguish between one kind of evil and another. Every possible suggestion of cooperation somehow became proof. This was particularly the case with Cheney when it came to weapons of mass destruction. He seized on the murkiest of reports to proclaim that Iraq had "reconstituted" its nuclear weapons program, which, lo these many months later, has yet to be found. So deluded were our top guys that they invaded Iraq expecting that the major problem would be how to clean up after all the victory parades.

Was Cheney lying or was he merely so driven by ideological or intellectual conviction that to him the occasional tree became a forest? It's hard to say. As my colleague Al Kamen reports, the vice president did indeed say it was "pretty well confirmed" that one of the Sept. 11 terrorists, Mohamed Atta, had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence official. Actually, that meeting has never been confirmed, and Cheney, for obvious reasons, has recently unconfirmed his statement, insisting he was never so definitive. Kamen confirmed he was.

But just as Cheney and Bush missed the forest for the trees, so do those who defend them and insist that the Sept. 11 commission overstated the case by reporting (in a draft) that "no collaborative relationship" existed between Iraq and al Qaeda. The fact remains that Hussein's fingerprints are not on the attacks of Sept. 11 and that the United States went to war for stated reasons that have simply evaporated -- weapons of mass destruction and that vaporous link between two very bad men. This brings me not to a joke but to the wisdom of the late Don Quixote, who says something to remember when this or that intelligence report is trumpeted by Cheney or Bush in justification of an unjustified war.

"Facts are the enemy of truth."

The whole column is here.

Mistakes Loom Large as Handover Nears

You must read this. Now.

Monday, June 21


Via The Smirking Chimp:

"If the reports are true, President Bush consulted with fundamentalist Christians before deciding if the Israeli move to withdraw from Gaza would fit in with their 'End Times' view of the world. In everything from wild dreams of an American Empire to a callous disregard for the frail environment on which all life relies, Bush's short-term policies seem to indicate he is indeed ready for an imminent Second Coming. What seems to be coming, however, in a 'like father like son' replay, is End Times for the Bush regime.

The really tough question on the collapse of the presidency of George W. Bush these days is where to start. "


Here's a more worthy challenge to leaders of African-American communities than stopping gay marriage--heading off the disenfranchisement of black voters:

"The U.S. Civil Rights Commission looked into the smelly pile of spoiled ballots and concluded that, of the 179,855 ballots invalidated by Florida officials, 53 percent were cast by black voters. In Florida, a black citizen was 10 times as likely to have a vote rejected as a white voter.

But let's not get smug about Florida's Jim Crow spoilage rate. Civil Rights Commissioner Christopher Edley, recently appointed dean of Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley, took the Florida study nationwide. His team discovered the uncomfortable fact that Florida is typical of the nation.

Philip Klinkner, the statistician working on the Edley investigations, concluded, 'It appears that about half of all ballots spoiled in the U.S.A. --

about 1 million votes -- were cast by nonwhite voters.'

This 'no count,' as the Civil Rights Commission calls it, is no accident. In Florida, for example, I discovered that technicians had warned Gov. Jeb Bush's office well in advance of November 2000 of the racial bend in the vote- count procedures.

Herein lies the problem. An apartheid vote-counting system is far from politically neutral. Given that more than 90 percent of the black electorate votes Democratic, had all the 'spoiled' votes been tallied, Gore would have taken Florida in a walk, not to mention fattening his popular vote total nationwide. It's not surprising that the First Brother's team, informed of impending rejection of black ballots, looked away and whistled.

The ballot-box blackout is not the monopoly of one party. Cook County, Ill., has one of the nation's worst spoilage rates. That's not surprising. Boss Daley's Democratic machine, now his son's, survives by systematic disenfranchisement of Chicago's black vote.

How can we fix it? First, let's shed the convenient excuses for vote spoilage, such as a lack of voter education. One television network stated as fact that Florida's black voters, newly registered and lacking education, had difficulty with their ballots. In other words, blacks are too dumb to vote.

This convenient racist excuse is dead wrong. After that disaster in Gadsden, Fla., public outcry forced the government to change that black county's procedures to match that of white counties. The result: near zero spoilage in the 2002 election. Ballot design, machines and procedure, says statistician Klinkner, control spoilage. "

So Torture Is Legal?

Anne Applebaum has it right:

"For in the end, it is public opinion that matters, and it is on public opinion that the fate of any further investigations now depends. Voters have some items of information available to them, as listed above. Voters -- ultimately the most important source of pressure on democratic politicians -- can petition their congressmen, their senators and their president for more. If they don't, the elections will be held, the subject will change. Without a real national debate, without congressional approval, without much discussion of what torture actually means and why it has so long been illegal at home and abroad, a few secret committees will have changed the character of this country.

Indeed, if the voters can't move the politicians, and the politicians aren't courageous enough to act alone, we may wake up one morning and discover that torture has always been legal after all. Edmund Burke, a conservative philosopher, wrote, 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.' It looks as if he was right.



These people don't vett their judicial appointments any better than they vett their intelligence:

"A lawyer who specializes in legal ethics said Griffith's two licensing lapses should disqualify him from a lifetime appointment to one of the nation's most important federal benches, second only to the Supreme Court.

'This moves it for me from the realm of negligence to the realm of willfulness,' said Mark Foster, a Zuckerman Spaeder attorney who represents lawyers in ethics matters. 'People who thumb their noses at the rules of the bar shouldn't be judges.' "


I was wondering who would be the first to pick up this theme after Bill Clinton's "I did it because I could" confession:

"I did something for the worst possible reason," he told Dan Rather about his march of folly with Monica. "Just because I could. I think that's just about the most morally indefensible reason anybody could have for doing anything."
In his memoirs, Mr. Clinton complains about Republican droit du seigneur, writing that impeachment was driven neither by "morality" nor "the rule of law" but, as Newt Gingrich said: "Because we can."

The Clinton alpha instinct on Monica, fueled by a heady cocktail of testosterone and opportunism, was the same one that led W. into his march of folly with Iraq. After 9/11, the president, vice president and secretary of defense wanted to go to the Middle East and knock the stuffing out of somebody bad — because it would feel good, because it would put our enemies on notice, and because it would make the president look strong.
As Republicans keep saying, with fingers crossed, W. has stayed even with John Kerry despite the litany on Iraq, terrorism and domestic affairs that has turned out quite differently than promised.

But one thing you can say for Bill Clinton: His "Who's gonna stop me?" Oval Office power surge produced a much lower body count.