Saturday, November 08, 2003

Professional-Grade Hatin' 

Boy am I glad that Clark has not chimed in (at least as of today) in the chorus of

Reaction to Howard Dean's Announcement

that he will forgo public financing and the accompanying spending limits in the 2004.

I mean, I know it's campaign dogma to go after your opponent whenever such a high-profile opportunity presents itself. But c'mon...Edwards, Lieberman, Kerry and Gephardt sound like such whining hypocrites--like they wouldn't do the same if they had as big a war chest as Dean?

Just shut up and fundraise, guys. I gave $25 to Clark last night, and as of this afternoon I feel that investment has already appreciated.

You Simply Have Got To Be Fucking Kidding 

Frist Freezes Senate Probe of Prewar Iraq Data

By Walter Pincus and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 8, 2003; Page A18

Angry about a leaked Democratic memo, the Republican leadership of the Senate yesterday took the unusual step of canceling all business of the committee investigating prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called on the author of the memo -- which laid out a possible Democratic strategy to extend the investigation to include the White House and executive branch -- to "identify himself or herself . . . disavow this partisan attack in its entirety" and deliver "a personal apology" to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Only if those steps are taken, Frist said, "will it be possible for the committee to resume its work in an effective and bipartisan manner -- a manner deserving of the confidence of other members of the Senate and the executive branch."

Roberts followed Frist on the floor and said that unless the Democratic members "properly" address the issue, "I am afraid that it will be impossible to return to 'business as usual' in the committee."

After discussions with Roberts, the majority leader said that "the committee's review is nearly complete" and "we have jointly determined the committee can and will complete its review this year."

"They can't do that," Rockefeller said, noting that hundreds of pages of requested documents have recently been promised by the State Department and Pentagon and more interviews have been scheduled.

In addition, he noted that the final report from David Kay, who heads the CIA's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has not been completed. "What can we say about prewar intelligence without Kay's report?" Rockefeller asked.

Can anything possibly be said about this?

"Boring, empty rhetoric."  

I'm having a bit of trouble sensing the gist of this story...
Arabs Critical of Bush Speech
Call for Mideast democracy called hypocrisy, campaign posturing
So, what are they saying exactly?
The Iranian government told President Bush to mind his own business Friday
Got that, check...
"No individual, or group, has ever commissioned Mr. Bush to safeguard their rights..."
O.K., fair 'nuff...
In its Friday edition, a signed editorial in the leading Lebanese daily An Nahar described the speech as "very attractive words" but said that "before they become tangible policies that deal with the real problems, they will continue to be boring, empty rhetoric."
But a Yemeni political analyst, Mansour Hael, said Bush's words weren't even aimed at the Middle East but at an American public growing doubtful of his administration's policies. "The whole speech . . . is a campaigning thing more than a reading of the Arab reality," he said.
Abdel-Monem Said, director of Egypt's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said questions about the Bush administration's honesty in justifying the Iraq war also tarnished its credibility. "Democracy is all about legalities, rule of law and legitimacy," he said. "There is an issue of double standards."
You know, I think I'm getting the sense that Bush's speech didn't go over so well. (But that's just my opinion.)

I'll Be Damned If You Can't Trust This Man 

The following are excerpts from General Clark's speech (on Thursday) at South Carolina State University. It is (as far as I know) the most comprehensive assessment of Iraq--the how we got there, the what now, and the where we go from here--that any candidate has offered to date. Clark also offered some very bold and inspiring language in explaining his vision for U.S. national security and engagement with the rest of the world. His final paragraphs were quite powerful. (I've actually included more excerpts of the latter--the inspiring rhetoric--than the nitty-gritty of Clark's Iraq plan.) If you haven't heard much from Clark yet, or you aren't familiar with his positions (and manner of articulating them) I encourage you to read all of this:
When running for President, Mr. Bush assured voters he would have strong advisors in national security. But he didn't say what would happen if his advisors disagreed. Now we know. The advisors feud; the policy fractures, and our security suffers. In a Clark Administration, there won't be any question about whether the State Department drives policy, or the Pentagon drives policy, or the national security advisor drives policy. In a Clark Administration, the President will drive the policy.


President Bush keeps telling us we should stay the course. But what we really must do is change course.

Second, we must be honest with the American people. That's something that President Bush hasn't done. There is no silver bullet - no magic solution in Iraq. There is no easy way out.


The Coalition Provisional Authority, by which America controls Iraq today, should be replaced. But it is simply unrealistic to have the United Nations take over this daunting task - it's not able and it's not willing. Instead we must create a new international structure - the Iraqi Reconstruction and Democracy Council -- similar to the one we created in Bosnia with representatives from Europe, the United States, Iraq's neighbors, and other countries that will support our effort.

A high representative would be named to direct this mission, who would then bring in more resources and personnel from the rest of the world. It would have been easier to do this six months ago or four months ago, or two months ago. But even today, it is the only hope for gaining broader international support. Nations are more likely to share burdens if they are also sharing decisions. We would still have a leading role - but you can't be a leader if no one comes along - you're not a leader if you're all alone.


One mistake in Vietnam was trying to use conventional forces to fight an unconventional war. The more conventional forces we have in Iraq, the more logistics we need. The more unarmored humvees and trucks we have, the greater our vulnerability to roadside bombs. Most of our losses are being taken in routine patrolling and transit - not in active counter-insurgency efforts. The right mix of forces -- more special forces and other lighter units -- will reduce our "footprint," logistics tail and vulnerability, while increasing our ability to strike hard.

We need to take the linguists and intelligence specialists now involved in the search for weapons of mass destruction and assign them to our military counter-insurgency efforts -- and we need to augment that with new technologies and more linguists drawn from loyal Arab Americans. We can ask international inspectors to take over the search for weapons They are ready, willing and able to perform this mission. That will make it possible to find the people who are killing our soldiers.


There has been a false debate between the French, who recommended turning all government functions over to Iraqis now - and the Bush Administration, which insists on waiting until a constitution is written and elections are held.

The French are wrong: we cannot transfer full authority to Iraqis before they are ready. But the administration is also wrong: we can give the Iraqis a much bigger sense of ownership over their country and move more quickly towards a government that answers to its people. Until Iraqis believe that they can control their future, they will huddle in fear and watch others attack - rather than stand with pride, expose the guerrillas and stop the violence.


If I am elected President, I pledge to you that my highest priority will be this: not only to protect America from the threat of Al Qaeda, but to transform the strategy that is failing in Iraq to one that will succeed.

I would draw on my 34-year military career, my experience as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, the lessons of diplomacy I learned in that job, the personal relationships with foreign leaders I developed, my role in bringing peace to Bosnia, my understanding of guerrilla war, and my efforts commanding the victorious war and winning the peace in Kosovo. Drawing on this experience, I will work to promote a stable democracy in Iraq, to recruit other countries to share the burden, to protect our troops, draw them down, and eventually to bring them home - to leave Iraq, but not abandon it.


If I am elected President, I pledge to you that America will never, under my leadership, choose to isolate itself without allies, in a "long, hard slog" that drains our money, strains our military, and squanders our moral authority. We will act with others if we possibly can and alone only if we absolutely must.


We have choices. We can ignore the threats. We can confront them alone. Or we can get people who share our interests to share our challenges. That is how America led the world for the last half century. And when we led, others followed -- not because we compelled them, but because we convinced them.

General Eisenhower once said leadership is "persuading the other fellow to want to do what you want him to do." America needs a President who can lead.


I will propose a new Atlantic Charter to reinvigorate our security partnership with Europe - a Charter that will define the threats we face in common, create the basis for concerted action from our allies to meet them, and offer the promise to act together as a first choice - not a last. The United States will always reserve the right to act alone in our own defense if we must. No nation will ever have veto power over our security. But we have seen that it is foolish to act alone as a first resort, to determine alone the threat, to decide alone on a response, and then to say to the world, "you're with us or against us." Our first choice should be to act with the power and authority of many nations. This model could be applied to our friends and allies in Asia as well.


It serves our interests to make sure that Afghanistan is never again a haven for Al Qaeda; to make sure the fallen states of Africa don't become breeding grounds for terrorists; to make sure the scourge of AIDS doesn't reverse political and economic gains in the developing world. America should be the best in the world in addressing and reversing the causes of human misery, and we should be known and admired for it.

For much of our history, America has been the most admired nation in the world. People around the globe admired America's strength - because they saw it was on their side. That reputation took decades to build - but only a few years for George Bush to bring down. We must recover what's been lost.

As my record makes clear, I am not opposed to confronting a dictator, setting an ultimatum, and acting with force if the ultimatum's not met. We did it twice. We fought with Milosevic and persuaded our allies to join us. And I wrestled with some of the pentagon brass along the way to get it done. If we have to confront danger again, we will. And we will win.

But we must be a country that listens, and leads again. A country that is respected, not resented. Not for its military might or material wealth, but for its values and vision; for the greatness of its goals, and for the generosity of its spirit. Respected more than feared, by nations rich and poor, Christian, Jews, and Muslim. A country governed by people with ideals, not radical ideologies. A nation where citizens speak their minds, demand more of their leaders, and serve their country. It's what I call a New American Patriotism.


After treatment in Saigon and Japan, I got home and they put me in Valley Forge Hospital. A week into my stay -- after I was up and out of my wheelchair -- my wife Gert brought me home from the hospital to meet a four-month old boy named Wes. It was the first time I ever held him. It stings me still that I wasn't there when he was born. But I think of the young men my age in Vietnam, who had babies born at home, and they never made it back to see them. Their names are engraved in black granite on our national mall.

When I think of service to country - I know that nothing I've ever done compares with that. All our principles as a country and people come down to this: I'll never commit American forces to combat without a clear and complete plan to win, and the forces necessary to carry it out - and I'll never ask an American soldier or family to take that risk and pay that price except as an absolute last resort. If you elect me President, I pledge to you today that I will return America to that sacred moral standard. This pledge alone will do as much as any other Presidential action to secure the country and keep the peace.

Thank you.

Hooked yet? Want more Clark? Read the full text of the speech here.

Click here for the Clark website if you want more info or want to make a donation. They really need the money.

Here it comes, folks... 

9/11 Panel Issues Subpoena to Pentagon

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 — The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks stepped up pressure on the Bush administration to cooperate by issuing a subpoena on Friday to the Pentagon.

Members said they were still weighing a subpoena to the administration for Oval Office documents President Bush received in the days before Sept. 11, 2001, although the panel chose not to issue one today.

The 10-member panel said in a statement that it had encountered "serious delays" in obtaining information from the Defense Department. It voted to subpoena the Pentagon for documents, tapes and transcripts involving the actions of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or Norad, on the morning of Sept. 11, as the suicide hijackings were being carried out. The Defense Command is responsible for protecting American airspace.

"In several cases we were assured that all requested records had been produced but we then discovered, through investigation, that these assurances were mistaken," the panel said. "We are especially dismayed by problems in the production of the records of activities of Norad and certain Air Force commands on Sept. 11."

Members of the panel, which is known formally as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, say they also want access to information about communications between Norad and Air Force One, on which President Bush was traveling on Sept. 11.

Full story.

[UPDATE: Due to the discovery of a memo written by a congressional staffer indicating that the Democrats would like to investigate pre-9/11 intelligence in the White House itself, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has been disbanded. "We know enough, I guess," said Kean. "That'll just be the end of it, then."]

Friday, November 07, 2003

Daily Quiz: What Do the Words That Came Out From the Hole Under Marine Corps General Peter Pace's Nose Mean? 

Take a minute to reflect on this. When did militaryspeak get so hermeneutical and charged with genuinely eloquent paradox?
Pace also told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee that the Bush administration had put off much of the planning for the aftermath of the Iraq war -- launched on March 20 -- out of concern such planning would bring on the conflict.

"We did not want to have planning for the post war make the war inevitable. We did not want to do anything that would prejudge or somehow preordain that there was definitely going to be a war," he said.

Full Story.

Post quiz entries in Comment window. Winners will be tried for "cowardice" and summarily executed.

Clark holds, rubs hands; soothes; projects kind strength 

I know it's cheese, but it's delicious...
From the A.P.:
Clark is relying on his four-star military record to sway voters who want a tough-on-terrorism alternative to Bush. He also has exhibited handshake-to-handshake campaign skills mastered by a fellow Arkansan, former President Clinton.

When Lillye Ramos-Spooner approached Clark in a hotel hallway to ask about the safety of her son, a sniper stationed in Iraq, Clark cradled her right hand between both of his. Rubbing her hands, he said softly, ``You don't have anything to worry about. But I'd say my prayers if I were you, and I'll pray, too.''

She walked away shaking her head ``Just like Clinton, he made me think I was the only person in the room,'' Ramos-Spooner said.
Let me just say this: Lillye Ramos-Spooner, you were the only person in the room.

Democrats to Don Sheets, Enforce White Supremacy in Senate 

I don't get it...Bush's judicial nominee is an African-American woman, and yet the Democrats hate her! Why is it that Democrats are so against black people? I guess it must be racism...
Judicial Nominee Approved 10-9
Democrats Expected to Filibuster Calif. Justice Brown

Democrats cited a series of Brown speeches, including one that described a 1937 Supreme Court decision upholding New Deal powers as marking "the triumph of our own socialist revolution," as well as at least one legal opinion that contained similar thoughts.

Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, was incensed by a dissenting opinion by Brown asserting that private property is "entirely extinct" in the city.
Yep, that Janice Brown is a nutty, nutty woman. So let's all of us NYers give Hill and Chuck a buzz today and remind them that we're watching. I almost always get through to a Clinton staffer, though Schumer's is often busy. If you'd prefer not to call, go to their websites and email them using the online form.

Phone: (202) 224-6542

Phone: (202) 224-4451

[Be sure to mention that, as a Democrat, you object to the confirmation of Justice Brown because she is African-American.]

White House Continues to "Cooperate Fully" With 9/11 Intelligence Investigation 

9/11 Panel May Reject Offer of Limited Access to Briefings

I have a compromise solution: Alberto Gonzales could draw up a little PowerPoint chart summarizing all of the salient points contained in the classified documents. Then the 9/11 Panel can simply review the chart, and learn everything they need to know!

Krugman Unchastened 

Krugman's column is a useful addition to AmCop's conversation about the Dean/Confederate flag flap. This is almost exactly the point I was trying to make in yesterday's post. [Also note the little credibility-bomb P.K. drops in the last paragraph: his wife is African American.]
Flags Versus Dollars

Howard Dean's remarks about the need to appeal to white Southerners could certainly have been better phrased. But his rivals for the Democratic nomination should be ashamed of their reaction. They know what he was trying to say-- and it wasn't that his party should go soft on racism. By playing gotcha, by seizing on the chance to take the front-runner down a peg, they damaged the cause they claim to serve--and missed a chance to confront the real issue he raised.
Consider, for example, the effects of estate tax repeal, a central feature of the 2001 tax cut. Almost nobody in Mississippi pays the estate tax. In 2001 only 249 estates in Mississippi paid any tax at all; raising the exemption to $5 million, which some Democrats suggested as an alternative to full repeal, would have reduced that to a couple of dozen. By contrast, New Jersey, with three times Mississippi's population, had almost 10 times as many taxable estates.

Or consider the 2003 tax cut. It was also heavily tilted toward the affluent, and therefore toward rich states. According to Citizens for Tax Justice estimates, the typical New Jersey family got a $409 tax cut. In Mississippi, the number was only $165.

So did Mississippi voters support the Republicans, even though they get very little direct benefit from Bush-style tax cuts, because they--unlike New Jersey's voters--understand the magic of supply-side economics? If you believe that, I've got an overpass on the Garden State Parkway you may be interested in buying.

Now maybe New Jersey voted Democratic because of irrational Bush hatred. But I think it's a lot more likely that white Mississippi voters, unlike their counterparts up north, are still responding to Republican flag-waving--and it's not just the American flag that's being waved.

Mr. Dean wasn't suggesting that his party adopt the G.O.P. strategy of coded racial signals, and by and large African-Americans--my wife included--understand that. What he meant by his flag remark was that Democrats must make the case to working Americans of all colors that the right's elitist agenda isn't in their interest. And he's right.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Sex, Saddam & Rock n' Roll 

School allows Jesus, Saddam parade floats

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- Young Republicans can topple Saddam Hussein and Christian athletes can let Jesus rock their night away at the homecoming parade after high school officials agreed Wednesday to let their floats roll.

After officials at Dr. Phillips High School raised concerns earlier this week that the floats might offend some people, the students involved contacted the Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based conservative civil liberties legal group.

"Schools cannot censor the message just because they disagree with the message," said Mathew Stover, president and general counsel of the Liberty Counsel.
[Newsflash, Mr. Stover: Yes, they can. Unless something has changed radically since I was in high school, they can and do.]
Students dropped their plans to sue on First Amendment grounds after school officials agreed to allow the floats in Thursday night's parade.

"Students will be able to express the essence of their clubs and maintain proper decorum for our high school event," Principal Gene Trochinski said in a statement.

The Young Republicans Club plans to have students in black T-shirts with the word "Evil" bowing before a statue of Saddam. Other students in club T-shirts plan to chase the "Evil" students away with silly string, then topple the statue.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes plans a float urging students to "Let Jesus Rock Your Night Away," in which students will tear up signs with the words "sex," "suicide," "depression" and "drugs."

Unreconstructed America 

Zorro, Father of Blicero (who criticizes the amount of time his son spends writing this blog, yet contradictorily increases that time spent by contributing to and thus perpetuating the debate) writes:
While reading the paper today about the latest Dean blunder regarding Confederate flags, I was reminded of a conversation with my brother, uncle of Blicero, shortly after General Clark declared himself in the presidential race. My brother was supporting Clark and made the point that the southern politicians are more skillful at rallying the black vote, that they have a better understanding of the dynamics that affect the relationship between black culture and white.

Now to quote Mr. Dean. First, he said that he wanted "to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in [sic] their pickup trucks." Naturally, the Reverend Mr. Sharpton made like Vesuvius and demanded an apology. Dean first replied, "I'm no bigot." Does "I am not a crook" ring in anyone's ear? He then added to his explanation with "I make no apologies for reaching out to poor whites," adding that he was trying to reach out to white voters in the South.

Let me see. How many people has he offended? First, all those people--including myself--with pickups without Confederate flags, by attaching some stereotype to pickup drivers in general; second, almost any black person, since that flag has become so symbolic in both white and black culture; third, anyone who grammatically links up non-bigotry with non-crookedness; fourth, those people with Confederate flags in their pickups, by equating this group with poor whites in the South. He has clearly not seen my 2002-one ton-4 door-dually-diesel-long bed-4 wheel drive-Ford pickup nor any of its jillions of clones throughout the southern clime. Poor people do not drive this vehicle.

People with Confederate flags flying from their trucks are, taken as a group, mainly a group of bigots. It is a kind of in-your-face, "Shove it and your African American mother too." Possibly, there is 1 in 100 who flies the stars and bars purely out of love for the South, but the other 99 are closer to the white supremacy side of the balance beam.

I ask the non-rhetorical question, "To whom were these statements, taken as a group, appealing?" My answer is absolutely no one.

These comments connect with General Clark only in that he was one of 8 people who did not make such stupid statements. Perhaps, the others are equally skilled in this sensitive area. I am only saying that there is a Darwinian gene in General Clark that does not even recognize such statements as speech and therefore would never come from his lips.

--Zorro, Father of Blicero

Well, Blicero for the most part agrees with his Zorroastrian father, but not necessarily for the same reasons. Point one: Dean should know better than to say stuff like this publicly, and the fact that he doesn't--rather than the content of what he said--strikes me as a serious problem. Point two (regarding the content): Dean is right about the South. But he's right in the way that I, like other academic types, am right: in the belief that many white Southerners have sold out their hope and their livelihood for the scraps of pathetic hate-based false pride that Republicans throw them. Everyone knows this--even (I suspect) those sold-out Southerners. Among communities of despair, the feeling of angry moral indignation and self-righteousness is simply perceived as more valuable than the bitter pill of bonding together with blacks and liberals in the common-cause struggle for economic and social justice.

Everyone knows this is the biggest swindle and mass-deception in American politics, and in this regard little has changed since the revolutionary precedents set during the Goldwater campaign of 1964. The rage and bitterness over the civil rights movement (and its aftermath) are still the controlling force behind the American geopolitical makeup of today--though it's scarcely apparent as such, buried as it is beneath various strata of evolving culture-war code and symbolism, decades in the making. Just look at the current fetishism of the signifier--i.e. the role of the Confederate flag icon in the South Carolina and Georgia elections of 2002--and how it (the Confederate symbol) has come all but detached from the underlying reality: poor blacks and poor whites living side by side in a world in which they are increasingly alienated, marginalized, impoverished, and silenced.

And so, in this environment, a poor white Southerner can come to believe that he has more in common with a spoiled-brat New England corporate oligarch who says his "heart has been changed" by Jesus Christ than with the poor God-fearing black down the street or the well-off liberal elitist who always thinks he knows what's best (and does, but that's not the point).

Which brings us back to Dean: what he meant was right-on, but what he said was an embarrassing, arrogant, stereotyping, socially-inept disaster that no politician with judgment should have made. There was an amazing moment in Tuesday night's debate when someone--I think it may have been Lieberman, though I could be hallucinating--actually brought up the fact (without using pejorative images) that the source of Republican success is in the South is precisely white anger and long-lingering bitterness over the civil rights movement. Sharpton suggests as much (though why he doesn't speak out on it more directly, I don't know--probably because he knows he has no chance of connecting with white Southerners) when he says that if people understood and acknowledged the actual life-affecting choices they made when they voted Republican rather than Democratic, in plain and simple terms, they might well choose differently. That's all well and good. But the situation remains the same: you just can't come right out and say that an entire segment of the populace has been voting based on the insidious appeal of destructive fantasies of personal superiority and had better just get over it.

I don't know what the way out of this conundrum could be--maybe there is no way out. The only workable model to date is Clinton, who appealed to white Southerners because of the way he communicated his sympathy and humanity. But the fact that that sympathy also extended to blacks (and feminists, and gays, etc. etc.) ended up hurting him. He came to be seen as a cultural traitor, made all the worse because he was "one of us" (i.e. a good ole boy, who cozied up to not-so-good-ole boys and girls).

So that's all we have right now: the Democrat who smoothes-over his true standing on the cultural divide by virtue of his affecting personality and manner. And until some Democratic Ubermensch comes along who can raise hearts and minds to a level where the old culture-and-race divisions start to seem less important in view of higher civic purposes, that's what we've got to work with.

(On the other hand, Dean may have missed the point entirely: the relevant symbol by far is not the Confederate flag, but that fish-thing on the back of the car or the "W.W.J.D." bumper-sticker. While I think many Southern Christian fundamentalists are probably unreconstructed racists, that probably misses the point, since the masters of the American theocracy movement are genuinely all-too-happy to accept anyone into the fold, blacks and whites alike. Especially blacks, in fact. Maybe that's what we should be more concerned about: the Christianist movement in the U.S. is seeking to transcend race divisions entirely--but not exactly in the way I would hope for, to say the least.)

To sum up: there's a big problem in the South (yeah, newsflash!) and I'm aware that smart Southerners know a lot more about it than I do, and would probably consider my analysis superficial and misguided. So sue me: I live in Brooklyn.

But Clark--to come back to one of Zorro's points--clearly has that crucial ability to connect and communicate that Dean doesn't. Don't get me wrong, he's no Clinton. And with that black form-fitting mock-turtleneck and black pants and large, mesmerizing eyes, and hands frozen in karate-chop-type movements, he looked (I'm talking about Tuesday night) awfully like a kind of space alien or futuristic Star-Trek-type dweller. But the fact remains, he knows what he's doing out there. And best yet, when some "journalist" suggests that his position on some issue has been complicated or cloudy, the first thing he says is "No, I've been perfectly clear. My position is perfectly clear." This tells me the man understands "message" better than the others. Don't play the game, don't fall into the traps: just say the thing that you want to be communicated. And with conviction. Next.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Fun With Numbers 

I know I'm supposed to be roaming the PA hills-that-are-so-far-west-they're-
almost-more-like-being-in-the-midwest-than-being-in-PA, and not posting...
but I owe myself at least a little fun with...The Latest Numbers!!

Naturally, by the time you're reading this, our U.S. News Media will have
already explained how Bush's numbers have skyrocketed back up, and now that
the economy is irrevocably locked into a permanent growth explosion of 7%+
that will ensure Bush will be polling securely in the 90s by next month, we
can all breathe easy again...but wait: let's take a closer look.

Washington Post-ABC News Poll
Sunday, November 2, 2003

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling
his job as president? Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?

56 Approve
42 Disapprove

OK--that's it folks, Bush Wins Election! But wait...

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling (ITEM)?

10/29/03 - Summary Table*

a. The economy
45 Approve
53 Disapprove

89% of voters identify the economy as "important" in deciding their vote in
next year's presidential election.

b. The situation in Iraq
47 Approve
51 Disapprove

69% of voters identify the situation in Iraq as "important" in deciding
their vote in next year's presidential election.

compare with:
75 Approve
22 Disapprove

c. Education
55 Approve
38 Disapprove

Well, score on the "Leave No Child Behind," I guess--except that the 55%
approval number is the lowest of Bush's presidency so far; the 38%
disapproval is the highest of his presidency (except for 39% on 9/13/03).

73% of voters identify education as "important" in deciding their vote in
next year's presidential election.

d. Social Security
40 Approve
46 Disapprove

This 40% approval is the lowest of his presidency.

66% of voters identify Social Security as "important" in deciding their
vote in next year's presidential election.

e. Prescription drug benefits for the elderly
36 Approve
46 Disapprove

62% of voters identify prescription drugs for the elderly as "important" in
deciding their vote in next year's presidential election.

f. Foreign affairs
49 Approve
47 Disapprove

62% of voters identify "foreign affairs" as "important" in deciding their
vote in next year's presidential election.

g. The cost, availability and coverage of health insurance
28 Approve
63 Disapprove

Approval lowest, disapproval highest of presidency.

68% of voters identify health insurance as "important" in deciding their
vote in next year's presidential election.

h. Taxes
41 Approve
53 Disapprove

Now this is an interesting one...I thought tax cuts were good? Well, Bush
has passed some pretty damn big ones--but these numbers are the lowest
and highest disapproval of Bush's presidency.

63% of voters identify taxes as "important" in deciding their vote in next
year's presidential election.

i. The federal budget deficit
32 Approve
61 Disapprove

59% of voters identify the budget deficit as "important" in deciding their
vote in next year's presidential election.

j. The US campaign against terrorism
63 Approve
35 Disapprove

Now this is one where Bush is still obviously solid, and I really wouldn't
have expected otherwise. Even with the downward trend, the Pavlovian reflex
of "I Support the War on Terror" is so ingrained at this point that
nothing (save another attack, which God willing will not happen) is gonna
change it. But still, the numbers have changed. Compare with a year ago:

78 Approve
20 Disapprove

Interesting, no? I guess at least a few people have finally admitted to
themselves that Iraq didn't actually do 9/11.

68% of voters identify "the U.S. campaign against terrorism" as "important"
in deciding their vote in next year's presidential election.

k. International affairs
50 Approve
43 Disapprove

So, what exactly accounts for the difference in the pollees' minds between
"Foreign affairs" and "International affairs" is pretty much beyond me.
Maybe they know something I don't.

Still, even though Americans seem to like "International" better than
"Foreign," these numbers are still--again--the lowest approval and highest
disapproval of Bush's presidency

53% of voters identify "international affairs" as "important" in deciding
their vote in next year's presidential election. (That's 9% less than
"foreign affairs"--sorry, Internationalism!)

To summarize: on 7 out of 11 of the issues of most concern to Americans, voters disapprove of Bush's performance.

This was probably to be expected:

3. What do you think is a bigger problem facing the nation right now:
(terrorism) or (the economy)?

35 Terrorism
62 Economy

5. Do you think the U.S. campaign against terrorism is going very well,
fairly well, not too well or not well at all?

62 Well (lowest since 9/11)
38 Not Well (highest since 9/11)

16. All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the
benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth
fighting, or not?

54 Worth fighting (lowest since war)
44 Not worth fighting (highest since war)

Here's an interesting side note. Compare those numbers with the analogous
numbers for Bush I's Gulf War
in February of 1992:

66 Worth fighting
32 Not worth fighting

The trend continues with these numbers:

17. Again thinking about the goals versus the costs of the war, so far
in your opinion has there been an acceptable or unacceptable number of
U.S. military casualties in Iraq?

35 Acceptable
62 Unacceptable

And these:

17a. Earlier this year, Congress approved spending 79 billion dollars
to help pay for the war in Iraq and the rebuilding effort there. Bush
has now called for spending 87 billion dollars more. Do you support or
oppose this additional spending for the war and rebuilding in Iraq?

34 Support
64 Oppose

And these:

18. How do you feel about the possibility that the United States will
get bogged down in a long and costly peacekeeping mission in Iraq -
would you say you're very concerned about that, somewhat concerned, not
too concerned or not concerned at all?

87 Concerned
13 Not concerned

And look at the trend on this one. Needless to say, this is potentially a
very big deal:

19. Do you think (the United States should keep its military forces in
Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued
U.S. military casualties); or do you think (the United States should
withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S.
military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored

58 Keep
38 Withdraw

65 Keep
32 Withdraw

69 Keep
27 Withdraw

72 Keep
26 Withdraw

That's a 26-point change since mid-July.

Now here's kind of a fun one:

15. Please tell me whether the following statement applies to Bush or

a. He understands the problems of people like you
40 Yes
58 No

Now compare that with:

54 Yes
39 No

Man, did people ever give this guy the benefit of the doubt!

b. He is a strong leader
62 Yes (lowest since 9/11, incidentally)
37 No

OK, right, we know, Bush is a "strong leader." But look: this just kills me:

77 Yes

18 No

So 62% now think the man who "led us after 9/11" is a "strong leader"...but
77% thought he was a "strong leader" a year before the 2000 election? What
the hell was going on back then? Wow!

c. He is honest and trustworthy
59 Yes
40 No

The 40% "No" numbers on honesty are Bush's highest ever; to get "Yes"
numbers as low as 59% you have to go back to 10/15/00.

For a father/son comparison:

24. Would you say most Americans are better off financially than they
were in 2001 when Bush became president, not as well off, or in about
the same shape as then financially?

9 Better off
49 Not as well off
41 The same

And the father, at the equivalent point in his presidency:

George H. W. Bush

Better off 7
Not as well off 48
The same 41

Here's an interesting one:

27. (ASKED OF HALF SAMPLE) I am going to mention four phrases and ask
you which one best describes how you feel about the way the federal
government works. Do you feel enthusiastic, satisfied but not
enthusiastic, dissatisfied but not angry, or angry?

Enthusiastic 2
Satisfied 41
Dissatisfied 42
Angry 15

Now I'm not saying this means anything at all, but to get comparable
"angry" numbers you have to go back to Lewinsky/Impeachment:

Enthusiastic 4
Satisfied 44
Dissatisfied 37
Angry 14

And on to Election 2004. This one is still a dead heat:

8. If the 2004 presidential election were being held today, would you
vote for (George W. Bush, the Republican) or for (the Democratic
nominee for president)?

48 Bush
47 Democratic nominee

Now the individual match-ups. The Clark numbers surprise me, and I find
them rather disappointing:

51 Bush
40 Clark

Let's just skip Lieberman, since nobody gives a shit.

Now this one is interesting:

50 Bush
44 Kerry

Kerry seems to be doing better and better; in this set of polls, Kerry
actually polls the highest against Bush out of all the candidates. For more
on my intuitions about the possibly resurgent status of the Kerry campaign,
see my post on the last Democratic debate.


51 Bush
42 Gephardt

I think Dick Gephardt is a very nice man. A good man. Moving on...

54 Bush
39 Dean

Considering that Bush's re-elect numbers are 48/47 against an anonymous
Dem, I don't take his 54/39 against Dean as an especially hopeful sign. For
more on my intuitions about this, see the aforementioned post-debate post.

Clark's low matchup numbers can probably be attributed to this next
question, which shows people still don't know much about him (and that will

43. (ASKED OF LEANED DEMOCRATS) Now for each candidate, please tell me
how much you feel you know about his positions on specific issues.

Wesley Clark
16 Great deal/good amount
83 Some/hardly any

Plus, Clark's numbers in the Democratic field go up significantly when the
question is who can beat Bush:

48. (Regardless of who you support), Which Democratic candidate do you
think has the best chance of defeating George W. Bush in November?

Lieb. 17*
Gep. 15
Kerry 8
Edw. 2
Dean 14
Clark 15

So Clark is right up there on the question that counts.

*(ASKED OF LEANED LIEBERMAN SUPPORTERS) Which of the following intoxicants
was most likely to have been affecting your judgment and/or faculty of
when you asserted that Lieberman had the best chance of defeating
George W. Bush in November?

Crack/"freebase" cocaine 23
LSD/LSD-25 ("Dark Star") 17
Petroleum-based fume 13
Rapture 11
Other type thrall/transportation 7
Spontaneous acute retardation 6
Don't understand the question 5
Alexia (forgot what language is) 1
Aphasic alexia (unable to recognize the fact that one has forgotten what
language is) 3
Miscellaneous error 1

I take great heart in this:

44. (ASKED OF LEANED DEMOCRATS) Which is more important to you in
choosing a candidate for president: (their personal qualities such as
experience and leadership ability)-- or (their positions on specific

40 Personal qualities
52 Positions on issues

Now compare that with the same question 2 months before the 2000 election:

45 Personal qualities
41 Positions on issues

Hooray for "positions on issues"! It's the new triumph of "substance"!

King of Kings 

From the Guardian/Observer:
Bush says God chose him to lead his nation
Book reveals how President's religious and political beliefs are entwined - and claims he did pray with Blair
[He better not have.]
President George W. Bush stood before a cheering crowd at a Dallas Christian youth centre last week, and told them about being 'born again' as a Christian.

Behind Bush were two banners. 'King of Kings', proclaimed one. 'Lord of Lords', said the other. The symbolism of how fervent Christianity has become deeply entwined with the most powerful man on the planet could not have been stronger.

Few US Presidents have been as openly religious as Bush.

Now this can't possibly be true. What about Jimmy Carter? I guess if by "openly religious" you mean "openly and aggressively brandishing the symbols and codes of the latest version of America's special brand of corporate/militaro-nationalistic/theocratic zealotry," then yes, Bush is the most "openly religious" president.
Now a new book has lifted the lid on how deep those Christian convictions run.

And the "deeper" the "convictions," the more "religious" the "Christian," right?
The book, which depicts a President who prays each day and believes he is on a direct mission from God,

Does Bush think he is in "The Blues Brothers"?
Bush has also been accused of a 'creeping Christianisation' of federal government programmes. In September, the government made more than $60 billion available for religious charitable groups. Critics say the groups will be able to use the cash to promote their religion. One group that benefited from previous grants was an Iowa prison project that entitled inmates to televisions, private bathrooms and computers - in return for Christian counselling.

Among Mansfield's revelations is his insistence that Bush and Tony Blair have prayed together at a private meeting at Camp David. Blair has previously denied this.

See, that's how smooth Bush is with his "religion"--Blair was praying and he didn't even know it!
Mansfield, however, says that, while there were no witnesses, aides were left in little doubt as to what had happened. He told The Observer: 'There is no question they have shared scripture and prayed together.'

Uh-oh...I certainly don't like the sound of that.
The book also shows that in the lead-up to announcing his candidacy for the presidency, Bush told a Texan evangelist that he had had a premonition of some form of national disaster happening.

Bush said to James Robinson: 'I feel like God wants me to run for President. I can't explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen... I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it.'

He was exactly right: the "national disaster" was his becoming president.
In another incident, Mansfield recounts how, on Palm Sunday last year, Bush was flying back from El Salvador aboard the presidential jet Air Force One and seemed to be destined to miss church.

However, knowing that Bush hated to miss a service, some officials suggested they worship in the air. Bush agreed, and soon 40 officials were crammed into the plane's conference room. The service was led by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, while the lesson was read by close Bush aide Karen Hughes.

Just imagining that is inutterably disturbing. Was Condi in like some kind of robe? Can you imagine Hughes reading "the lesson"? Whew.

·A woman rammed a car carrying her children, aged three, five and eight, into a building where Bush was campaigning in Mississippi yesterday. Betina Mixon, 29, was dragged away at gunpoint and charged with aggravated assault.

I don't get it...why didn't Bush kiss her on the forehead and tell her that he loved her? Well, at least Ms. Mixon will maybe get to have the TV if she accepts the "Christian counselling"!


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