Sunday, February 29, 2004

60 Minutes With the issue of the 9/11 Commission's extension out of the way, attention this week will shift to the executive branch--specifically the ground rules set by the Bush camp for the President's testimony. Thus far, the White House has insisted that only the commission's two senior members meet with Bush, and that the session last no longer than an hour.

Why would a president who has made defending the United States from terrorists the central, defining mission of his presidency want to cooperate only grudgingly with a commission created, in no small part, to shore up our national security?

It's a question members of the White House press corps are beginning to ask.

And the answers from the White House, when they've been coherent, have been less than satisfying.

One argument we've yet to hear, however, is that the President is simply too busy to spend more than an hour with the commissioners.

Then again, it's not hard to see why the Bushies are steering clear of that claim.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Housekeeping Links to four excellent, politically-minded blogs have been added at right. Expect more links in the coming days.

Hastert Relents! Score one for truth, justice and the American way. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has decided to support a 60-day extension for the 9/11 Commission.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Hastert Roundup The Times follows up [registration required] on Speaker Hastert's decision to block the 9/11 Commission's extension, Atrios draws our attention to a promising effort to force Hastert's hand, and Joshua Marshall gives us a sense of the kind of grilling the White House is in for if it sticks with a strategy that couples sanctimony with stonewalling.

Trial Balloon Kevin Drum links to this anonymously-sourced piece from The Hill about Republican convention plans. Here's the key passage:
The source, a veteran official of past GOP conventions, said the 50,000 delegates, dignitaries and guests would watch off-site events on giant TV screens."Now, we'll go to the deck of the USS Intrepid as the U.S. Marine Corps Band plays the National Anthem," he said, pretending that he was playing the part of the convention chairman.

"Or, and this is a real possibility, we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero," he added. "It's clearly a venue they're considering."

There is zero chance of Bush's acceptance speech actually taking place at Ground Zero. But it's kind of frightening that even one person in the President's camp thinks this is an idea worth floating.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Political Security It wasn't the first time I'd seen a pack of machine gun-toting New York City police officers pile out of a van. It wasn't even the first time in the recent months.

But watching, late this afternoon, as those officers ducked out of their unmarked vehicle and took up positions around a midtown building, bomb-sniffing dogs in tow, I found myself livid all over again about House Speaker Dennis Hastert's refusal to allow the independent, bipartisan 9/11 Commission the time it says it needs to finish its work.

The commission may not be perfect, but it's our last, best chance to get answers to important questions about the events of 9/11.

And walking through midtown on a day like today, it's clear that those questions remain a matter of life and death.

But homeland security be damned, right? Politics is politics.

And yet, one wonders if the calculus would be any different if the lives and deaths at stake were more likely to be those of Hastert's rural western-Illinois constituents...

The Real Indecency All right, so Howard Stern made a few too many penis jokes. Still, it's Clear Channel that has killed radio.

Last Rites The baseball famously deflected by Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman during last fall's MLB playoffs --and subsequently auctioned for $113,824--is slated for destruction later today.

San Francisco in 2008? Does anyone else think it might've been a good idea for the Bushies to figure out their plans on the gay marriage issue before they decided to bring their convention to New York?

Republican delegates would be wise to steel themselves for a rather rude welcome this summer...Maybe the GOP should've stuck to Tom Delay's cruise liner plan (See "You've Got to Be Kidding") after all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Palace Intrigue Joshua Marshall, not surprisingly, has the best deconstruction of the "Bush volunteered" line currently being floated by Republicans. (See "Self-Inflicted Wound" and "Lie Shy" below.)

Balancing the Budget It's come to this.

The Dean camp is now embarking on a $400,000 fundraising campaign to, "ensure that Dean for America has the funds to shutdown its operation in a professional manner."

And at a webpage titled www.DeanforAmerica.com/debtreduction no less. Ouch.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

States' Rights Atrios produces a Larry King transcript suggesting that the President's position on federalism, as it applies to gay marriage, has...well, evolved.

Hindsight is 20/60 All right, so Bush campaign chair Marc Racicot stretched the truth a bit when he claimed that the President "volunteered to go to Vietnam."

But it was probably an inadvertent slip. Or an uninformed quip. Racicot felt boxed into a corner and momentarily wandered off of his talking points.


Before you reach that charitable conclusion, consider these two recent bits of historical analysis.

From Jed Babbin at The National Review:

But the inexperience didn't prevent Bush—along with Bradley—from going to their squadron leaders to see if they could get into a program called Palace Alert. "There were four of us lieutenants at the time, and we were all fairly close. Two of them had more flight time than the president and me," said Bradley. All four volunteered for Vietnam. (Emphasis added.)

And this from an opinion piece in the Mobile Register:
Not only that, but another officer now has reported that Mr. Bush once volunteered for duty in Vietnam, but was turned down because no more pilots were needed at the time. " (Emphasis added.)

Three data points, of course, do not a conspiracy make. But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Republicans are beginning a campaign to muddy the waters on this issue.

So one last time, let's look in on Bush's recent appearance on Meet the Press. We join the program already in progress:

RUSSERT: But you didn't volunteer or enlist to go.

BUSH: No, I didn't. You're right.

Repeat a lie as many times as you want, that doesn't make it true.

Especially when you forget to let the Big Man in on the new strategy...

Now You Know Here's ardent 2000 Bush supporter Andrew Sullivan's take (in a post titled "War is Declared") on the President's decision to back a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage:
The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land. Rather than allow the contentious and difficult issue of equal marriage rights to be fought over in the states, rather than let politics and the law take their course, rather than keep the Constitution out of the culture wars, this president wants to drag the very founding document into his re-election campaign.

He is proposing to remove civil rights from one group of American citizens - and do so in the Constitution itself. The message could not be plainer: these citizens do not fully belong in America. Their relationships must be stigmatized in the very Constitution itself. The document that should be uniting the country will now be used to divide it, to single out a group of people for discrimination itself, and to do so for narrow electoral purposes.

Not since the horrifying legacy of Constitutional racial discrimination in this country has such a goal been even thought of, let alone pursued. Those of us who supported this president in 2000, who have backed him whole-heartedly during the war, who have endured scorn from our peers as a result, who trusted that this president was indeed a uniter rather than a divider, now know the truth.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Lie Shy The usually-reliable Mike Allen drops the ball in a dispatch running on the front page of tomorrow's Washington Post. He writes:
In a statement that Democrats called an exaggeration, Racicot said on National Public Radio yesterday that Bush "signed up for dangerous duty -- he volunteered to go to Vietnam." Racicot added that Bush "wasn't selected to go." (Emphasis added.)
Let's be clear: Democrats didn't call today's Racicot statement an exaggeration. They called it a lie. And that's because it is a lie.

Remember the President's recent appearance on Meet the Press? Here's a recap:

RUSSERT: Were you favor of the war in Vietnam?

BUSH: I supported my government. I did. And would have gone had my unit been called up, by the way.

RUSSERT: But you didn't volunteer or enlist to go.

BUSH: No, I didn't. You're right.

(Transcript courtesy of Joshua Marshall.)

It may not have been Allen's job to debunk the "volunteered to go" claim (although it wouldn't have been a terrible idea.) But if he was intent on including a sense of the Democratic response to Racicot's statement, he owed readers a faithful representation of that response.

For reasons I'll never understand, reporters at elite papers seem to be constitutionally unable to use the word "lie" in political stories. In this case, "misrepresentation" or "mischaracterization" would have also done the trick.

Either way, what's gained by dancing around the truth?

Self-Inflicted Wound This morning, Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot seems to have told NPR that Bush "volunteered to go to Vietnam."

Just when the issue seemed to be fading away, the Bushies find a way to keep it alive. Gotta love 'em.

What are the chances that Karen Hughes is starting to get pressure to return to the fold?

Billionaires for Bush Here's a link to the website of the group responsible for the street theater (see "Theater of the Absurd" below) outside Karl Rove's fundraiser last week in Manhattan.

Dean on Nader In a statement on the Nader candidacy released this afternoon, Howard Dean tells supporters that, "a vote for Ralph Nader is, plain and simple, a vote to re-elect George W. Bush."

Republican Hack As details of the Senate Judiciary memo-pilfering story began to trickle out late last year, I assumed that, if cyberoffenses had been committed, they were almost certain to have been the work of a young, inexperienced staff member. News reports indicating that a Senate "aide" was at the focus of the inquiry only reinforced those preconceptions.

So by the time Republican staffer Manuel Miranda resigned on February 9, I had cobbled together a picture of the alleged hacker: Young and lanky with short hair, he was--in my mental image--one of those puzzled-looking twenty-somethings who spend their C-SPAN cameos whispering into the ears of hearing-impaired senators.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when on Saturday afternoon I was confronted with Fox News footage of the realManuel Miranda--a man who, far from being the fresh-faced youth I'd imagined, looks more like that kid's fifty-five year-old uncle.

The story takes on a different hue, I think you'll agree, when you realize that the focus of the inquiry is not some rogue college intern, but rather a senior member of the senate staff. Because Miranda is no patsy, his resignation makes clear that this controversy--wherever it goes from here--is about something more interesting and complicated than the poor judgment of a Washington newcomer.

Which begs the question: Who is this Miranda fellow?

A jaunt around the information superhighway revealed the following about the man currently at the center of the Judiciary Committee controversy:

An international corporate lawyer and 1982 graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Miranda is the former president of the board of directions of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that fights secularization (while promoting, "the search and transmission of all truth, including the fundamental truths revealed by Christ through His Church") at Catholic universities.

(Click here to see a press release in his name applauding, among other things, the banning of Planned Parenthood at Gonzaga University.)

A former aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch's and a staffer for the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, Miranda was working on judicial nominations for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist at the time of his resignation.

Perhaps more interesting than his biography, however, is the wisdom he shared with CNSNews.com in the wake of his resignation late last week. Telling the right-wing news site that, "the profit motive" rather than ideological conviction, is what motivates "abortion lobbyists" and others to oppose President Bush's judicial nominees, he continued:

"It isn't just about 'abortion rights,' the battle is about abortion profits," Miranda explained. "The axis of profits that undergirds the fight in the Judiciary Committee is the axis between trial lawyers - who want particular types of judges who rule in particular ways on their cases - and, not the 'abortion rights' lobby, but the abortion clinics ' lobby.

"The 'abortion rights' lobby is just a front for something much worse," Miranda continued, "which is the abortion clinics' lobby, represented by the National Abortion Federation."

Miranda claimed abortion clinics make, on average, $1,000 profit for every abortion they perform.
"That's where the money is," Miranda insisted. "That's what is really happening here."

A revealing bit of analysis from a man who just two weeks ago was under the employ of the Senate's first Doctor/Majority Leader.

It also happens to be one of the nuttiest allegations I've ever heard.

This much is clear: If these are the kind of sagacious insights that Miranda spent his working hours delivering to Sen. Frist, his departure isn't any great loss.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Loving the '80s If you're a child of the late 1970s or early 1980s and this website doesn't conjure fond memories...Well, you missed out.

Fuzzy Math In an article [registration required] about disenchanted Bush supporters in today's New York Times, reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal quotes man-on-the-street interviewee George Meagher thus:
When I think about 500 people killed and what we've done to Iraq. And what we've done to our country. I mean, we're already $2 trillion in debt again.

Rosenthal is fully aware, one would hope, that the national debt is, in reality, just a shade over seven trillion dollars. But if she's familiar with this fact, you wouldn't know it from reading her reporting--she passes the $2 trillion figure along to readers without comment or clarification.

Now, granted, what I'm talking about here is a single statistic buried deep in a piece analyzing voter angst and anger (rather than, say, fiscal policy).

But ask yourself this: If Meagher had gotten the debt figure correct but instead referred to the "1750 people killed" in Iraq, would Rosenthal and her editors have been comfortable printing his figure in The Times without also inserting some sort of parenthetical correction/clarification?

And isn't the failure of The Times--and other powerful media organizations--to deal seriously and frankly with budget arithmetic at least a small part of why the White House is currently occupied by an administration that has made the "borrow-and-spend" approach a central tenet of its economic strategy?

UPDATE: Check here to read about another potential problem with Rosenthal's reporting.

Friday, February 20, 2004

GOP Pickle Joshua Marshall takes a look at the under-reported Senate Judiciary memo-pilfering investigation and explains why, ultimately, this story is bound for the front page.

About Time Earlier this week the Transportation Security Administration announced that airline passengers carrying contraband items through airport security will be eligible for fines ranging from $250 (for a knife) to $10,000 (for explosives).

Padilla Watch The Supreme Court has decided to hear the case of Jose Padilla this spring. A verdict in Rumsfeld v. Padilla is expected by the end of the Court's term.

Housekeeping CONTRAPOSITIVE is happy to announce that starting today, the site will be supporting a Comments feature on all posts. (Brought to you by the good folks at Haloscan.)

So go nuts.

Giant Sucking Sound Fox News is reporting that Ralph Nader has decided to enter the presidential sweepstakes.

For a number of reasons, I don't think the former Green Party nominee is likely to have the kind of impact in 2004 he had last time around. Still, I'm not exactly giddy about the prospect of another Nader run...

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Minority Whipped Daily Kos has a pretty comprehensive rundown of where the fall's senate contests stand, and it doesn't look pretty. For Democrats in 2004, just about everything will be riding on the presidential election.

Theater of the Absurd Only Nixon could go to China, but last night Karl Rove was in, of all places, Chelsea. Sorry CONTRAPOSITIVE didn't get advanced word to NYC-based readers about what seems to have been an eventful [registration required] Rove appearance on West 24th Street.

Spinning Class Here's a direct link, courtesy of Joshua Marshall, to the talking points on Iraqi WMD put out by the Propaganda Ministry, um, I mean the Department of Defense.

Week In Review If you haven't been following every twist and turn in the National Guard story, Kevin Drum has a quick, cogent recap that's worth reading.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

What Went Wrong Although it's easy to understand the slow-motion implosion that followed Dean's Iowa loss, I don't think anyone has given a satisfying explanation for why he fell so swiftly from a strong first to a distant third in the Hawkeye State.

Still, I think the beginnings of an answer can be found in the first sentence of today's exit message:

Today my candidacy may come to an end—but our campaign for change is not over.

What kind of change, exactly, is he talking about here? Healthcare? Balanced budgets? Gay rights?

In Iowa, and in the rest of the primaries, for that matter, there was only one position--opposition to the war in Iraq--that Dean was clearly and closely identified with in the minds of voters.

We knew he wanted "change" and we knew that he was from the "Democratic wing" of the party. But that aside, we didn't know much.

For a Governor with an exemplary record and literally months of free (if intense) media exposure, the fact that people still know as little about Dean's positions as they do today speaks volumes about his campaign's failure to stick to a clear message and get that message heard.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Powell on Privilege Daniel Schorr cited an interesting passage in Colin Powell's 1995 memoir "My American Journey" this weekend on NPR, and it's worth putting the key sentences in print. We join the action on page 144 of the paperback edition:
The policies [during the Vietnam war]--determining who would be drafted and who would be deferred, who would serve and who would escape, who would die and who would live--were an anti-democratic disgrace...

I am angry that so many sons of the powerful and well placed and so many professional athletes...managed to wangle slots in reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to our country.

Love to see where Scott McClellan would go with a question framed around that little tidbit.

Monday, February 16, 2004

At First Base, Jesus Christ What's next for the Yankees? A Ty Cobb clone in center field? A cryogenically refurbished Ted Williams?

Friend of a Foe Okay, so CONTRAPOSITIVE's wishful thinking notwithstanding, John Kerry doesn't have much chance of winning a well-timed, Bush-crippling endorsement from John McCain.

Still, McCain has already made [registration required] it clear he isn't ready to be the kind of team player for the Bushies he was during last cycle.

If Democrats can win the support of a couple hundred thousand McCain-enamored Republicans and independents who pulled the lever for Bush in 2000, come next January, there'll be a lot of unemployed right-wingers out there with plenty of time to get in touch with their inner-Nascar Dads.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Procrastination Tools Click here once and you'll be back for more. Guaranteed. (Courtesy of--who else--Jonah Goldberg at The National Review.)

C. J. Cregg He Ain't Check out this exchange from today's White House press conference.

He Recalls A credible-sounding former member of the Alabama National Guard tells the AP he remembers serving with Bush. Meanwhile, Kevin Drum explains why he thinks we're all through the looking glass on this story.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Plame Watch The American Prospect runs with a Plame story that begins:
Two government officials have told the FBI that conservative columnist Robert Novak was asked specifically not to publish the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in his now-famous July 14 newspaper column. The two officials told investigators they warned Novak that by naming Plame he might potentially jeopardize her ability to engage in covert work, stymie ongoing intelligence operations, and jeopardize sensitive overseas sources.

For those keeping score at home, this essentially contradicts Novak's account of what he was told.

I Do Not Recall Some first-person perspective from two of Bush's fellow Alabama guardsmen. (Courtesy of Kevin Drum).

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Padilla Watch In a calculated PR gambit, the Pentagon will now allow Padilla to see a lawyer.

Campaign Manager? Kevin Drum raises an interesting question about an unexplored wrinkle in the Bush/AWOL story. (Courtesy of Josh Marshall).

God Bless Excel Click here for your very own copy of the Bush payroll records. (It's a large file.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Hot Tip Those who somehow managed to miss the C-SPAN interview with New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller didn't miss much.

But there was one interesting tidbit. Keller, when asked about the Bush/AWOL story, said something like (I'm paraphrasing), "I'm not in the habit of giving out previews to our competitors on live TV, but you can expect to hear more on this story soon."

Shrub's Stubs It's hard to know, from early media reports, precisely what information is and is not contained in the National Guard records the White House released today.

One thing that becomes clear with today's document drop, though, is that the Bushies have a strategy mapped out to deal with the controversy. If Bush was indeed AWOL, you can bet that his people already know this, and that they've already figured out how they want to deal with it.

Kaus Gets It Mickey Kaus builds on an idea voiced in this space several days ago: That efforts by some establishment lefties to fan the flames of the Bush/AWOL story contribute more to John Kerry's primary campaign than they do to the Democratic general election strategy.

Monday, February 09, 2004


Russert Redux Wondering what GWB had to say for himself the last time he was on Meet the Press? A couple choice excerpts from the Feb. 13, 2000 taping:
MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about...the surplus.

GOV. BUSH: Good.

MR. RUSSERT: And the way it works is this, there's $ 4 trillion in surplus.

GOV. BUSH: Correct.

MR. RUSSERT: But there are actually two surpluses. The Social Security trust fund, which is your payroll tax--

GOV. BUSH: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: --generates a $ 2 trillion surplus.

GOV. BUSH: Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: You can't touch that money.

GOV. BUSH: I agree.

MR. RUSSERT: That's in the Social Security trust fund.

GOV. BUSH: I agree.

And later on:
MR. RUSSERT: Now, let me show you a picture of Governor George W. Bush and the gentleman there to your right. On the left of the screen is Bob Jones III. Let me show you what he said about your dad, which I think is rather chilling. And I'll put it on the screen for you and our viewers, "I believe that Mr. Reagan came to office with good intentions, but he broke his promise to us when he took on Mr. George Bush, a devil, for his vice president. Mr. Reagan has become a traitor to God's people."
How could you sit with a man who called your dad a devil?

GOV. BUSH: Well, you know, each of us change in life, and now he doesn't believe George Bush is a devil.

MR. RUSSERT: Did he tell you that?

GOV. BUSH: No, he would have told me that, I presume. I presume he was an honest enough man if he invited a son who is--completely loves his dad like I do.

Ah, the glorious days when he was still known as "Gov. Bush"...

Next Time, Send Cheney Peggy Noonan's analysis of GWB's Saturday afternoon face-off with Tim Russert:
The president seemed tired, unsure and often bumbling. His answers were repetitive, and when he tried to clarify them he tended to make them worse. He did not seem prepared. He seemed in some way disconnected from the event. When he was thrown the semisoftball question on his National Guard experience--he's been thrown this question for 10 years now--he spoke in a way that seemed detached. "It's politics." Well yes, we know that. Tell us more.


Saturday, February 07, 2004

At This Hour For those keeping score at home, today is that the day that Condoleeza Rice talks to the 9/11 Commission. Leakers start your engines...

Going Down Fighting Give the Deanies credit--they haven't given up. And say what you want about the front-runner, you're not likely to find anything this funny at JohnKerry.com.

McCain on Bush Speaking of McCain, why aren't people talking about this [requires Real Player] interview?

The fact that it was on late at night doesn't change the fact that it's scorching stuff. Probably the harshest treatment Bush has received from any elected Republican during his entire term.

Meme of the Week Piggybacking on my last post, here's an idea worth exploring: Are there conditions under which Sen. John McCain would consider endorsing the Democratic nominee?

It's unlikely, granted. But the man clearly thinks the country is going down the tubes. And, as of late, his statements in support of the President have been lukewarm [requires Real Player] at best.

Kerry and Clark are probably the only two Democrats he could plausibly do business with. But if the endorsement was appropriately-timed, it seems clear that it could tip the election to the Democrats.

Is CONTRAPOSITIVE nuts? On to something?

If you think the latter, go ahead and tell the Senator what you think.

Friday, February 06, 2004

The Annotated List The members of the newly-established, President-sponsored Intelligence panel. From a Bushie perspective:

Laurence Silberman (R): Former Judge. One of our people. He'd take a bullet for us.

Chuck Robb (D): None too bright conservative Democrat (more or less discredited in R.J. Cutler's 1996 documentary A Perfect Candidate). Fact that he's a former governor and senator gives us some cover.

Sen. John McCain (R): Gives us street cred, and keeps McCain busy till after the election. He's less likely to make unhelpful comments to the press if he's buried under 20,000 pages of CIA memos.

Lloyd Cutler (D): Former counsel to Carter and Clinton. A hard core Democrat, sure. But the guy's like a zillion years-old. Probably won't even stay awake.

Pat Wald (D): Former Judge. Also no spring chicken. Her impressive resumé makes us look good. Less apparent, on first glance, is the fact she has no discernible expertise on Intelligence issues.

Rick Levin: President of Yale. Another one with no Intelligence background. He'll think twice before signing on to anything too nasty. Does he want the GWB presidential library in New Haven or not?

Bill Studeman: Former deputy director of the CIA. Token well-informed participant. Let's just hope his voice gets drowned out.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Plame Watch Joshua Marshall has a UPI story (I can't find the article itself anywhere) quoting a "federal law enforcement official" to the effect that Cheney staffers John Hannah and Lewis "Scooter" Libby (Cheney's chief of staff) are under scrutiny in the Plame matter, and may be facing indictments.

Play Worth Seeing Melissa James Gibson's SUITCASE is one of the sharper, smarter works of the theater season. Tickets to the play, running at the SoHo Rep. in, um, Tribeca (hmm...) are $15 till 2/16, and then go up to $35 for the last couple weeks of the run. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Sleaze in the Ointment Terry McAuliffe's Pre-Feb. 3 comments about the Bush/AWOL issue have been widely discussed.

But what's received less attention is his obvious dual motive in bringing up Bush's national guard record.

Yes, McAuliffe was drawing attention to an issue on which he believes the President is vulnerable. But he was also framing the general election debate in a way clearly designed to benefit John Kerry at the expense of John Edwards and Howard Dean.

Should the Chairman of the Democratic Party be taking sides--all but explicitly--during the primaries? Should he take sides at a time when only about five percent of votes have been cast?

Reasonable people, I suppose, could disagree.

But no reasonable person could believe--as McAuliffe professes to--that carrying water for John Kerry is consistent with maintaining neutrality among the prospective nominees.

Sharpton's Monetary Policy Anyone who thinks Al Sharpton has turned some kind of ethical corner since the 1980s ought to read this Village Voice cover story.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The Lost Year A couple more fresh tidbits in the Washington Post's Bush/AWOL story that I missed the first time through:

1) The Post story is more direct than the 2000 Boston Globe story in asserting that Bush got his guard slot through special treatment:

"A review of Bush's military records shows that Bush enjoyed preferential treatment as the son of a then-congressman, when he walked into a Texas Guard unit in Houston two weeks before his 1968 graduation from Yale and was moved to the top of a long waiting list."

The Globe story had hedged a bit, noting:

Bush and his father have denied that he received any preferential treatment. But last year, Ben Barnes, who was speaker of the Texas House in 1968, said in a sworn deposition in a civil lawsuit that he called Guard officials seeking a Guard slot for Bush after a friend of Bush's father asked him to do so.

2) William Turnipseed, the Alabama guard officer Bush was ordered to report to in the spring of 1972, seems to have backed just a hair away from his claim in the 2000 Globe article that, "Had [Bush] reported in, I would have had some recall and I do not."

In today's Post:

"Turnipseed stood by his contention that Bush never reported to him. But Turnipseed added that he could not recall if he, himself, was on the base much at that time."

The plot thickens...

Jennings Started It As CONTRAPOSITIVE predicted ("Sneaky Pete?"), Peter Jennings' debate question on the Bush/AWOL issue has given the press license to start sniffing around the President's national guard record all over again.

The Washginton Post moves the ball forward a bit in today's editions:

Bush first requested and received permission in May 1972 to be transferred to the Alabama National Guard so he could work on a U.S. Senate campaign. After he was in Alabama, he received notice from the Guard personnel center that he was "ineligible" for the Air Reserve Squadron he requested.

In August 1972, Bush was suspended from flying because he failed to complete an annual medical exam. A month later, Bush requested to be assigned to a different unit in Alabama and was approved. Although he was required to attend periodic drills in Alabama, there is no official record in his file that he did.

The new information here seems to be that Bush did request an assignment in Alabama. But what he did in terms of his guard service between May and August--and for the next eight months--remains unclear:
Bush returned to Houston after the election, and again his service is vague in the records. His officers at Ellington Air Force Base wrote in May 1973 that Bush could not be given his annual evaluation, because he "has not been observed" in Houston between April 1972 and the following May. Ultimately, another officer states in a subsequent document that a report for that one-year period was unavailable for "administrative reasons."

Unavailable for administrative reasons...Hmm...

Good thing we have a whole election season to get to the bottom of this.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Still Waiting Here's yesterday's e-mail from the Kerry camp to supporters:
This week the chairman of the RNC and George Bush's own campaign manager questioned my commitment to the defense of our nation...I take a back seat to no one when it comes to defending America. As a veteran, I have fought for this nation and as a senator I have been a steadfast supporter of our armed forces. These attacks are particularly outrageous because this president has turned his back on America's veterans.

I understand something that George Bush doesn't. The commander in chief of this nation has a responsibility to defend and protect not only soldiers in the field, but also veterans and their families when they come home. George Bush has failed that test. So, if George Bush and his Republican attack machine want to attack my commitment to defending this nation, I have three words for them they will all understand: Bring it on.

Again Kerry's answer to criticism is, first and foremost, to tout his military service. He also tacks on criticism of Bush's record on veterans issues, but that is clearly secondary.

Now, maybe the Kerry camp's refusal to waver from the I Fought In A War spiel is a primary campaign tactic, designed to keep their candidate "on message." And you could argue that the military rhetoric is directed not so much at Bush as at Democratic primary voters--part of Kerry's "electability pitch."

All the same, isn't it time for Kerry's handlers to give us all at least a hint of their strategy for the general election--when the question of "electability" goes out the window? Shouldn't his people start throwing out substantive rebuttles to criticism now and then?

While We've Been Sleeping This disturbing story has continued to fester beneath the radar of most news organizations.

CONTRAPOSITIVE, rest assured, will be keeping an ear to the ground. (We link, you decide.)

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.