Election 2004


Bill ClintonWell it sure seems to me that Monday night was the most interesting one for the DNC. John Edwards might as well have been a robot with the style in which his speech was delivered. Ted Kennedy, Sharpton, and the others were predictable, but none too exciting. There was much more play on Teresa Kerry’s telling the reporter to "shove it" rather than her speech, which was somewhere out in left field. I wonder if any of the delegates actually figured out what she was talking about? I still can’t figure out why Ron Reagan was there, other than to make hay with his last name… but it didn’t seem to fit in any other particular theme.

But Monday night (Loser’s Night) seemed to have the most excitement. Al Gore’s head didn’t explode as I thought, but he has riden the ‘every vote must be counted in every state’ horse just about as far as he can. Jimmy Carter was dusted off, someone the Democrats previously wouldn’t let anywhere near a convention because of the dramatic way he lost. His speech, as well as his hob-nobbing with Michael Moore, show that for some reason, he has gone around the bend sometime in the last couple years. At least he didn’t endorse Howard Dean in the primaries, however.

Tuesday was the Clinton & Clinton show. Bill showed once again just how loved he is within the Democratic Party. His speech was mostly factually abscent, but skillfully delivered. (I wonder if all of the references to Gore did actually make Al’s head explode?!?). But I thought one of the most interesting parts was his interpretation of the Bush tax cuts (see Fox News : Transcript: Clinton Praises Kerry:

For the first time when America was in a war footing in our whole history, they gave two huge tax cuts, nearly half of which went to the top 1 percent of us. Now, I’m in that group for the first time in my life. And you might remember that when I was in office, on occasion, the Republicans were kind of mean to me. But as soon as I got out and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them. It was amazing. I never thought I’d be so well cared for by the president and the Republicans in Congress. I almost sent them a thank you note for my tax cuts until I realized that the rest of you were paying the bill for it. And then I thought better of it.

What a charming idea. Boy, I am a millionare now from my sweetheart speaking and book deals, and because I am now quite wealthy the Republicans want to make sure I get a tax break I don’t really need. What a man of the people!

I first heard this kind of talk when Jerry Springer (he of the broken chair over the head of my baby’s daddy fame) was considering whether or not to make a run for the Senate from Ohio. He made the rounds of the talk shows saying that it was ridiculous for him to get a tax break because he had more money than he needed and he could buy anything he wanted, so giving him more money was a waste. This all probably sounds so good to those who have had the embers of class warfare fanned by various people.

So Clinton’s remarks are interesting:

  • The Bush tax cuts were first passed in May 2001. As I recall, this was before America was on a ‘war footing’, as Clinton suggested. He is correct that there have been subsequent actions, but that’s because none of the tax relief was made permanent, and must be renewed.
  • The ‘internet bubble’ had already started to burst at the end of Clinton’s term, and the stock market was on it’s slide back to reality from the comically lofty heights of the late 90’s, when new-tech companies valuations were way out of whack with their ability to produce profits for their investors.
  • "But as soon as I got out and made money, I became part of the most important group in the world to them." What in the world is he talking about? He was not impeached for his tax bracket (which by the way was just as high before entering the office of President), it was for lying under oath. I know that point is lost on every Clinton supporter, but it’s strange. What the Republicans did for Clinton was the same thing that they did for all people who actually paid taxes - give them tax relief.
  • I know that it sounds good to say that we should tax the most wealthy the most because they can most afford it… but the Democrats forget to tell you that the reason that the top brackets receive the most relief is… they already pay the most taxes You can not give tax relief to someone who doesn’t pay taxes! If you gave them more money back than they put in, it’s an entitlement - not a refund. We already have these, and all the Republicans did was not add more. Not sure how "rest of (us) were paying the bill for it" exactly, but why let facts get in the way of a good story. See also, Michael Moore.
  • It’s interesting for Clinton to claim that he got a tax break that he didn’t deserve. Remember, he’s the one famous for claiming an itemized deduction of $2 for each pair of used underwear he supposedly donated to charity (see USA Today : Don’t be more charitable than the IRS likes). I guess he didn’t believe he was paying too little in taxes then! (Or maybe that was his accountant’s doing, an evil closet Republican)
  • I wonder just what he did with his ill-gotten money? Did he invest it or use it to purchase something? If so, he stimulated the economy, which was the whole point of the tax breaks (oh - trapped by those evil Republicans and their capitalist ways). Did he cut a check to the Treasury Department and say "just throw this back into the mix, I want to make sure some of those after-school programs get funded."? Did he donate it to charity? Mr. Clinton - what did you do?

I for one am glad that Bill Clinton is just like the rest of us.

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The love-fest that is the Democratic Convention is begun in Boston. I suspect that the DNC wonders why there is limited television coverage of the conventions, but they seem to have really outlived their usefulness. What a captivating sight it was to see Ford and Reagan slugging it out for delegates for the 1976 Republican nomination. But we haven’t come to a convention for either party without a certain outcome since then. It’s almost like watching Ken take on opponents lately on Jeopardy - you know there is there is at least a technical formality of playing out the game, but the end outcome is already determined.

For a few years we made due with the speculation over who the Vice-Presidential candidates would be. We don’t even get that compelling reason to watch this time around. The announcement came early and everyone has had their photo-ops, interviews, and magazine profiles over and done already. In the days leading up to this party in Boston we’ve heard every news organization talk about the ‘bounce’ in the ratings that Kerry could expect because of the convention. But why should there be much this time? The convention is reduced to part pep-rally and part political commercial. (Also, don’t hold your breath waiting for a discussion on Bush ‘bounce’ when the Republican convention takes place!) That’s all fine, but I don’t think it would help influence any undecided voter, possibly motivate those already on board.

Anyway, the ‘big news’, at least oft-repeated press release, was that the Democrats were going to be pro-Kerry during their convention speeches, rather than focusing on solely an anti-Bush message (see NY Times: Speakers of All Stripes Make Effort to Follow Kerry’s Rule on Positive Speeches). I think that Kerry has a real problem. He won the primarys on this elusive idea that he was the most ‘electable’ candidate. (That means, not as insane as Howard Dean, and able to adopt almost daily position-changes and exaggerations, unlike Lieberman). Everything has been focused on an anti-Bush message.

Not sure if they think they have succeeded on staying ‘positive’. I won’t pick on Gore, I really feel sorry for him. Clearly Gore hasn’t forgotten about the last election, but you just have to keep hoping that he will find some peace for himself sometime in his life over this. It is so sad to see. And so frightening to see just what he’s become - this man who came so close to being President. Yes, Al, you did get more cumulative popular votes in the election. No, someone didn’t just make up the Electoral College thing just for the 2000 election. I know you find comfort in imagining that somehow there much have been some mystery voters who were denied access to the polls in Florida (although none have ever been found), or some hanging chads that might have altered the results (although every attempted recount even after the election by the newspapers showed Bush winning Florida), or perhaps the aged seniors in Florida were so confused by punch cards that they meant to vote for you but couldn’t figure out how (although they were all just fine in the decades of punch-card use before this election), or by some Bush-inspired Supreme Court trick (although they could only determine that it was you who wanted to count some votes differently to try to change the outcome). It must be devastating to know you came so close, only to be put out to pasture by the same Democratic Party who said they loved you before. I know that George W. Bush would have likewise been hurt had the election been decided in the other way. But I can’t imagine him behaving as Gore does today. I do hope he gets help.

But in the interest of being positive, it seems the speeches just refer to Bush as a failure, but don’t actually mention him by name. Not exactly sure how this shows off Kerry’s positive points, but maybe that’s saying something… Anyway, Georgia’s own Jimmy Carter delivered his speech, with the following excerpt (see Fox News: Transcript: Carter Boosts Kerry):

Today, our dominant international challenge is to restore the greatness of America — based on telling the truth, a commitment to peace, and respect for civil liberties at home and basic human rights around the world. Truth is the foundation of our global leadership, but our credibility has been shattered and we are left increasingly isolated and vulnerable in a hostile world. Without truth — without trust — America cannot flourish. Trust is at the very heart of our democracy, the sacred covenant between the president and the people.

When that trust is violated, the bonds that hold our republic together begin to weaken. After 9/11, America stood proud, wounded but determined and united. A cowardly attack on innocent civilians brought us an unprecedented level of cooperation and understanding around the world. But in just 34 months, we have watched with deep concern as all this goodwill has been squandered by a virtually unbroken series of mistakes and miscalculations. Unilateral acts and demands have isolated the United States from the very nations we need to join us in combating terrorism.

Let us not forget that the Soviets lost the Cold War because the American people combined the exercise of power with adherence to basic principles, based on sustained bipartisan support. We understood the positive link between the defense of our own freedom and the promotion of human rights. Recent policies have cost our nation its reputation as the world’s most admired champion of freedom and justice. What a difference these few months of extremism have made!

The United States has alienated its allies, dismayed its friends, and inadvertently gratified its enemies by proclaiming a confused and disturbing strategy of "preemptive" war. With our allies disunited, the world resenting us, and the Middle East ablaze, we need John Kerry to restore life to the global war against terrorism.

Carter starts out using the same "Bush lied!" crap, but said in a much more pleasant way. But what in heaven’s name is Carter saying about the defeat of the Soviet Union during the Cold War? Was it not Carter himself who believed that it was impossible to defeat the Soviets??? Remember, SALT? Unilateral disarmament? Kerry supported it. Carter couldn’t do more than threaten, and then back down. It was Ronald Reagan and strength that showed the way to victory in the Cold War. Bipartisanship?

But in the end, the collapse of the Soviet Union has been without some difficulties. Democracies have not flourished in every corner instantly. While Carter is correct that on balance, the collapse of the Soviet Union has brought a net positive change in human rights in the region, why can’t the same case be made for Iraq? It just boggles the mind that these people would rather have Saddam in power right now, than to be rid of him. For some of the people demonstrating out in the streets, the anti-war feelings might actually be about the 900 servicemen who have died making this happen. But for all of the talks of lies, and WMD, and international coalitions, I don’t see exactly what their plan was going to be. Other than proposing to finance the Iraq operations by taxing only the highest-income earners, what has Kerry proposed? So lets say Saddam is in power and continuing to opress his people. Terrorists are still using Iraq as a safe haven.

What would he do? Just tell us. Send more of the troops to Afganistan? (That doesn’t sound so good to the peace-niks, but so be it). Invade Iran? Send angry memos over to the UN and demand that Camaroon and Columbia to do something about it? Maybe he would have sent more aid to Iraq in order to secure Saddam’s ‘assurances’ that he wouldn’t help the terrorists (that has worked so well for Clinton with the bribes to North Korea to abandon their nuclear program. Besides, Saddam only got billons by stealing from the UN’s own Oil-for-Food program… maybe he would be greedy for even more). I don’t know what John Kerry would do, because he hasn’t said.

All I know is that he has served in Vietnam. I know we will be reminded of that thousands of times before the convention is complete. I know that service seemed to scar him so much that he sought any means possible to end that conflict. That included using ‘exagerated language’ (i.e. lies) during Senate testimony upon his return from action. I know that it so marks him that his relucance to use military force is so great, that it might be nearly impossible to meet his own internal criteria. There might never be a threat that his deemed important enought to be met by force. What does John Kerry say to this? Nothing. He just has to be absolutely sure… something that is impossible. Jimmy Carter knows a thing or two about that as well, but we won’t go there on that topic tonight.

The voting records for both Kerry and Edwards are #1 and #4 most liberal in the entire Senate. But neither wants to wear the ‘liberal’ badge. Instead we hear other words like ‘mainstream’, ‘centrist’, and even an absurd ‘conservative’ attached during these festivities. If being liberal is what he believes, why isn’t he wearing it as a badge of honor? Why isn’t he giving a compelling argument why this position is the correct one to have?

Will the real John Kerry please stand up? Come out from behind the curtain and show us your way. At least then I can respect you as a man, even if we disagree.

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While reading the story about Linda Ronstadt getting booed off the stage in Vegas, I noticed that there was a John Kerry for President ad. Perhaps it was not the ad placement they had hoped for… although with Reuters, one would normally assume that it would be an anti-war and anti-Bush story.

How long until this is called ‘censorship’ or part of some other conspiracy? Perhaps some of these entertainers don’t quite get it yet… they are welcome to have any opinion they like. But when they feel the need to start talking politics, people don’t have to like and agree with what they say. It’s not someone out to get them in a conspiracy.

Actually, James Taranto has a nice disection of a similar comment from Elton John:

“Elton John has said stars are scared to speak out against war in Iraq because of ‘bullying tactics’ used by the US government to hinder free speech,” reports the BBC, picking up an interview from Interview, an eponymous New York-based magazine. In reality, of course, the stars won’t shut up about their opposition to the war. If this is “censorship,” imagine what “free speech” would be like. The rest of us wouldn’t be able to get a word in edgewise.

Of course, it turns out there’s no substance to John’s complaint:

“There was a moment about a year ago when you couldn’t say a word about anything in this country for fear of your career being shot down by people saying you are un-American,” he told the magazine.

So John is crying “censorship” (the BBC headline appropriately puts the word in scare quotes) because for “a moment about a year ago,” there was the possibility that criticism of Iraq’s liberation would be met with . . . criticism!

John also pines for the good old days of the 1960s:

“People like Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, The Beatles and Pete Seeger were constantly writing and talking about what was going on.”

“That’s not happening now. As of this spring, there have been virtually no anti-war concerts–or anti-war songs that catch on, for that matter,” he said.

To judge by this list of “Vietnam War era music,” though, Elton John was AWOL from that antiwar movement. The list includes two John hits, “Honky Cat” and “Saturday Night’s Alright [sic] for Fighting.” Here’s a sample of the “Honky Cat” lyrics:

They said stay at home boy, you gotta tend the farm
Living in the city boy, is going to break your heart
But how can you stay, when your heart says no
How can you stop when your feet say go

And this is from “Saturday Night’s Alright”:

Don’t give us none of your aggravation
We had it with your discipline
Saturday night’s alright for fighting
Get a little action in

Not exactly Speaking Truth to Power, is it? John did record a tune called “Act of War”–in 1985, a decade after Saigon fell to the communists. Oh well, better late than never, right? But it turns out the song is strictly about domestic affairs:

This ain’t no battle honey, this ain’t no fight
How come you take it so hard when I stay out all night
If I take a drink, is that against the law
And if I have a good time, do you call that an act of war

Apparently “staying out all night” is Elton John’s idea of being socially conscious. The man is what we might call a chicken-dove.

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From
David Limbaugh : What a typical Kerry supporter might believe : 7/20/2004:

The following is a non-exhaustive list of what a John Kerry supporter might believe.

Human life begins at conception, but so what?

John Kerry supports mainstream American values. John Kerry is liberal. John Kerry is not liberal — he’s conservative because he advocates reducing the budget deficit — presumably through his nearly $1 trillion health care plan.

Marriage is between a man and a woman, but I’ll be darned if public officials should do anything in their lawful exercise of power to preserve the institution of heterosexual marriage.

The definition of unilateral military action by the United States is the U.S. leading a coalition: 1) including Britain and almost 50 other nations; or 2) of every nation in the world, excluding the nation being attacked, Germany and France; or 3) any number of nations, but failing to secure the blessing of the United Nations.

Preemptive military action — a first strike against a nation that is believed to constitute a threat to the U.S. — is presumptuous, arrogant, reckless and irresponsible, even if the resulting military action also liberates the people of the target nation from tyranny and brutality. But unprovoked military action against a sovereign nation, such as Serbia, that couldn’t possibly constitute a threat to the United States or its strategic interests is honorable and desirable.

The following were sufficient cause for Congress to authorize President Bush to lead a U.S. military action against Iraq when it was politically expedient to support such action, but the very same factors were insufficient cause to authorize such action when it became politically expedient later to oppose such action: Seventeen violated United Nations resolutions by Iraq; repeated breaches of its post-Gulf-War treaties; the delivery of a deceitful 12,000-page report concerning its required disposal of WMD it admittedly possessed and had previously used against its own people; its repeated defiance of weapons inspectors, the unanimous belief among the world’s best intelligence agencies, French, British, Russian and American, that Saddam had or was rapidly developing stockpiles of WMD, that Iraq was supportive of terrorism and friendly with Al Qaeda, though the two hadn’t signed and published a formal friendship pact.

Our invasion of Iraq was precipitated by neoconservative imperialists to project American power for its own sake and simultaneously by Dick Cheney to line his Halliburtonized pockets.

George Bush has exaggerated the terrorist threat. George Bush hasn’t taken the terrorist threat seriously enough.

Dubious decorated military service in Vietnam coupled with admissions of personal misconduct and commission of war atrocities against civilians better qualifies one for commander in chief than three years of on-the-job training in the position.

Enron is a political (rather than merely financial) scandal tainting the Bush administration because Republicans love big, evil corporations.

The most effective purveyors of conservatism, by virtue of espousing conservative doctrine, are intrinsically guilty of hate speech, but the anti-Bush rantings of the Maureen Dowds and Michael Moores are born of loving kindness.

The prisoner abuses of Abu Ghraib are more outrageous than terrorist beheadings of coalition soldiers and civilians.

Republicans, in concert with the U.S. Supreme Court, stole the 2000 presidential election even though independent studies concluded the president would have won anyway had the vote count proceeded. And, holding on to this irrational belief justifies an unquenchable grudge against President Bush because there’s nothing wrong with hate when it’s directed against hateful Republicans — just like there’s nothing wrong with intolerance when directed against intolerant conservatives and Christians.

The anti-American United Nations should supervise American elections.

The determining factor in racism is not how one feels and behaves in his personal life, but whether he passes certain litmus tests on public policy, such as supporting affirmative action and opposing school choice, though those policies may harm minorities and diminish their dignity more than helping them.

The definition of compassion is a willingness to support government confiscation and redistribution of other people’s money rather than personal generosity and graciousness.

One’s character is determined more by the public policies he conspicuously advocates, which often involve no personal sacrifice or inconvenience, than how he conducts himself when no one is looking.

Congressional Democrats should not be held accountable for emasculating the CIA during the eighties and beyond when lambasting President Bush for presiding over today’s intelligence failures, which he — like they — reasonably relied on.

The Patriot Act was necessary when it was expedient to support it, but is terrible at the enforcement hands of the focus of modern evil, John Ashcroft.

We should have more U.S. Supreme Court justices who believe we ought to rely more heavily on international law.

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From John Podhoretz : Kerry vs. The War : 7/13/2004

John Kerry has finally spoken the words that make the November election an unambiguous choice. On "60 Minutes" on Sunday night, according to the official transcript released by CBS News, Kerry said: "I am against the — the war." He tried to qualify them, to fudge them a bit, but no matter. The words are now out there and can’t be taken back.

The possible future president of the United States opposes the war in Iraq now being fought by 130,000 American troops.

This is not a tenable position for Kerry. He first came to prominence as a Vietnam war veteran against the war who famously asked (in what is perhaps the only genuinely memorable sentence he has ever spoken): "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

He and John Edwards were reduced to advancing a headshaking argument on "60 Minutes" to explain why they were right to vote to authorize the Iraq war and why they are right to criticize George W. Bush’s supposed "failure" to build international support for that war.

If President Bush had had greater success in building international support for the war in Iraq, they said in unison on Sunday night, "we would have found out" that Saddam Hussein did not have stockpiles of banned weapons.

Try to follow the twisted logic here. Kerry and Edwards say, if we’d done better building a coalition to go to war with us, we would have somehow magically discerned that Saddam didn’t have WMD and therefore we wouldn’t have had to go to war at all.

This is quite a novel argument, so you have to give the boys credit for adding an odd twist to the current campaign season. The problem is that the argument is ludicrous in the extreme.

After all, the world’s most implacable foe of the Iraq war, French President Jacques Chirac, actually did believe Saddam possessed WMD. If he had evidence that Saddam was disarmed, wouldn’t he have used that evidence to stop us from going to war?

Of course he would have. So would German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. So would Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Putin, who opposed the war, actually thought that Saddam was preparing to stage terrorist attacks on the United States. As he said last month: "After the events of 9/11, and up to the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services and Russian intelligence several times received . . . information that official organs of Saddam’s regime were preparing terrorist acts on the territory of the United States and beyond its borders, at U.S. military and civilian locations."

So those who sought to prevent us from going to war with Saddam thought that a) he possessed WMD and b) he was actively pursuing terrorism against the United States.

And yet, according to Kerry and Edwards, if those folks had decided to join us rather than try to stop us, they would have led us to the supposed truth about how little at risk we were from Saddam.

Wow.

What I want to know is this: How, after Sunday night, could a President Kerry ask a single man or woman in the U.S. armed forces to risk his or her life in Iraq when he is "against the — the war"? Don’t simple honesty and decency demand that Kerry immediately announce his plans for a complete withdrawal from Iraq?

Kerry has made no such announcement. In fact, he continues to proclaim his support for a huge American presence in Iraq on the grounds that "the world has a stake in … a stable Iraq."

He never speaks about the Iraq war in terms of protecting America from terrorism, or advancing democracy in the Muslim Middle East, or liberating a suffering people from more than 30 years of tyranny and chaos.

He offers no cause higher or nobler than "stability."

That cannot stand. Kerry cannot lead this country to a successful resolution of the hostilities in Iraq if the only positive value he sees in victory is "stability." The country won’t stand for it.

Kerry may share JFK’s initials, but right now, the president he most resembles is Richard Milhous Nixon — the very man he condemned in 1971 for not wanting to be "the first president to lose a war."

Nixon did become the first president to lose a war.

If John Kerry becomes president, he’ll be the second.

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After a weekend of hearing that Fahrenheit 9/11 is the “hottest movie ticket ever”, it is enough to make one sick. I know the argument is that it’s supposed to be entertainment, not a news report - but you know, call it a documentary and present it as the truth, and there are plenty of people who do not take the time and effort to look further for the truth. Couple that with the stated overt desire not to tell a story, but to present something that will push Bush out of office. It’s interesting this year, it’s not Bush vs. Kerry, but rather Bush vs. Not Bush. This is much more than a referendum on an incumbent in play. Anyway, I hope that the people who do see the movie take the time and effort to study the facts. I know that you will probably be met outside by a Kerry supporter eager to register you to vote… but now that you are registered, and given some time and distance after watching this filmstrip, make an informed choice when you vote. In the interest of advancing some knowledge, here is a well written piece from some folks at Newsweek… hardly a right-wing smear rag. Read it and think about that movie you just saw.
More from Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball: More Distortions From Michael Moore : 6/30/2004

In his new movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” film-maker Michael Moore makes the eye-popping claim that Saudi Arabian interests “have given” $1.4 billion to firms connected to the family and friends of President George W. Bush. This, Moore suggests, helps explain one of the principal themes of the film: that the Bush White House has shown remarkable solicitude to the Saudi royals, even to the point of compromising the war on terror. When you and your associates get money like that, Moore says at one point in the movie, “who you gonna like? Who’s your Daddy?”

But a cursory examination of the claim reveals some flaws in Moore’s arithmetic—not to mention his logic. Moore derives the $1.4 billion figure from journalist Craig Unger’s book, “House of Bush, House of Saud.” Nearly 90 percent of that amount, $1.18 billion, comes from just one source: contracts in the early to mid-1990’s that the Saudi Arabian government awarded to a U.S. defense contractor, BDM, for training the country’s military and National Guard. What’s the significance of BDM? The firm at the time was owned by the Carlyle Group, the powerhouse private-equity firm whose Asian-affiliate advisory board has included the president’s father, George H.W. Bush.

Leave aside the tenuous six-degrees-of-separation nature of this “connection.” The main problem with this figure, according to Carlyle spokesman Chris Ullman, is that former president Bush didn’t join the Carlyle advisory board until April, 1998—five months after Carlyle had already sold BDM to another defense firm. True enough, the former president was paid for one speech to Carlyle and then made an overseas trip on the firm’s behalf the previous fall, right around the time BDM was sold. But Ullman insists any link between the former president’s relations with Carlyle and the Saudi contracts to BDM that were awarded years earlier is entirely bogus. “The figure is inaccurate and misleading,” said Ullman. “The movie clearly implies that the Saudis gave $1.4 billion to the Bushes and their friends. But most of it went to a Carlyle Group company before Bush even joined the firm. Bush had nothing to do with BDM.”

In light of the extraordinary box office success of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and its potential political impact, a rigorous analysis of the film’s assertions seems more than warranted. Indeed, Moore himself has invited the scrutiny. He has set up a Web site and “war-room” to defend the claims in the movie—and attack his critics. (The war-room’s overseers are two veteran spin-doctors from the Clinton White House: Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani.) Moore also this week contended that the media was pounding away at him “pretty hard” because “they’re embarrassed. They’ve been outed as people who did not do their job.” Among the media critiques prominently criticized was an article in Newsweek.

In response to inquiries from NEWSWEEK about the Carlyle issue, Lehane shot back this week with a volley of points: There were multiple Bush “connections” to the Carlyle Group throughout the period of the Saudi contracts to BDM, Lehane noted in an e-mail, including the fact that the firm’s principals included James Baker (Secretary of State during the first Bush administration) and Richard Darman (the first Bush’s OMB chief). Moreover, George W. Bush himself had his own Carlyle Group link: between 1990 and 1994, he served on the board of another Carlyle-owned firm, Caterair, a now defunct airline catering firm.

But unmentioned in “Fahrenheit/911,” or in the Lehane responses, is a considerable body of evidence that cuts the other way. The idea that the Carlyle Group is a wholly owned subsidiary of some loosely defined “Bush Inc.” concern seems hard to defend. Like many similar entities, Carlyle boasts a roster of bipartisan Washington power figures. Its founding and still managing partner is David Rubenstein, a former top domestic policy advisor to Jimmy Carter. Among the firm’s senior advisors is Thomas “Mack” McLarty, Bill Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, and Arthur Levitt, Clinton’s former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of its other managing partners is William Kennard, Clinton’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Spokesman Ullman was the Clinton-era spokesman for the SEC.

As for the president’s own Carlyle link, his service on the Caterair board ended when he quit to run for Texas governor—a few months before the first of the Saudi contracts to the unrelated BDM firm was awarded. Moreover, says Ullman, Bush “didn’t invest in the [Caterair] deal and he didn’t profit from it.” (The firm was a big money loser and was even cited by the campaign of Ann Richards, Bush’s 1994 gubernatorial opponent, as evidence of what a lousy businessman he was.)

Most importantly, the movie fails to show any evidence that Bush White House actually has intervened in any way to promote the interests of the Carlyle Group. In fact, the one major Bush administration decision that most directly affected the company’s interest was the cancellation of a $11 billion program for the Crusader rocket artillery system that had been developed for the U.S. Army (during the Clinton administration)—a move that had been foreshadowed by Bush’s own statements during the 2000 campaign saying he wanted a lighter and more mobile military. The Crusader was manufactured by United Defense, which had been wholly owned by Carlyle until it spun the company off in a public offering in October, 2001 (and profited to the tune of $237 million). Carlyle still owned 47 percent of the shares in the defense company at the time that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—in the face of stiff congressional resistance—canceled the Crusader program the following year. These developments, like much else relevant to Carlyle, goes unmentioned in Moore’s movie.

None of this is to suggest that there aren’t legitimate questions that deserve to be asked about the influence that secretive firms like Carlyle have in Washington—not to mention the Saudis themselves (an issue that has been taken up repeatedly in our weekly Terror Watch columns.) Nor are we trying to say that “Fahrenheit 9/11″ isn’t a powerful and effective movie that raises a host of legitimate issues about President Bush’s response to the September 11 attacks, the climate of fear engendered by the war on terror and, most importantly, about the wisdom and horrific human toll of the war in Iraq.

But for all the reasonable points he makes, on more than a few occasions in the movie Moore twists and bends the available facts and makes glaring omissions in ways that end up clouding the serious political debate he wants to provoke.

Consider Moore’s handling of another conspiratorial claim: the idea that oil-company interest in building a pipeline through Afghanistan influenced early Bush administration policy regarding the Taliban. Moore raises the issue by stringing together two unrelated events. The first is that a delegation of Taliban leaders flew to Houston, Texas, in 1997 (”while George W. Bush was governor of Texas,” the movie helpfully points out) to meet with executives of Unocal, an oil company that was indeed interested in building a pipeline to carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan.

The second is that another Taliban emissary visited Washington in March, 2001 and got an audience at the State Department, leaving Moore to speculate that the Bush administration had gone soft on the protectors of Osama bin Laden because it was interested in promoting a pipeline deal. “Why on earth would the Bush administration allow a Taliban leader to visit the United States knowing that the Taliban were harboring the man who bombed the USS Cole and our African embassies?” Moore asks at one point.

This, as conspiracy theories go, is more than a stretch. Unocal’s interest in building the Afghan pipeline is well documented. Indeed, according to “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to Sept. 10., 2001,” the critically acclaimed book by Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll, Unocal executives met repeatedly with Clinton administration officials throughout the late 1990s in an effort to promote the project—in part by getting the U.S. government to take a more conciliatory approach to the Taliban. “It was an easy time for an American oil executive to find an audience in the Clinton White House,” Coll writes on page 307 of his book. “At the White House, [Unocal lobbyist Marty Miller] met regularly with Sheila Heslin, the director of energy issues at the National Security Council, whose suite next to the West Wing coursed with visitors from American oil firms. Miller found Heslin…very supportive of Unocal’s agenda in Afghanistan.”

Coll never suggests that the Clintonites’ interest in the Unocal project was because of the corrupting influence of big oil. Clinton National Security Council advisor “Berger, Heslin and their White House colleagues saw themselves engaged in a hardheaded synthesis of American commercial interests and national security goals,” he writes. “They wanted to use the profit-making motives of American oil companies to thwart one of the country’s most determined enemies, Iran, and to contain the longer-term ambitions of a restless Russia.”

Whatever the motive, the Unocal pipeline project was entirely a Clinton-era proposal: By 1998, as the Taliban hardened its positions, the U.S. oil company pulled out of the deal. By the time George W. Bush took office, it was a dead issue—and no longer the subject of any lobbying in Washington. (Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force report in May, 2001, makes no reference to it.) There is no evidence that the Taliban envoy who visited Washington in March, 2001—and met with State Department and National Security Council officials—ever brought up the pipeline. Nor is there any evidence anybody in the Bush administration raised it with him. The envoy brought a letter to Bush offering negotiations to resolve the issue of what should be done with bin Laden. (A few weeks earlier, Taliban leader Mullah Omar had floated the idea of convening a tribunal of Islamic religious scholars to review the evidence against the Al Qaeda leader.) The Taliban offer was promptly shot down. “We have not seen from the Taliban a proposal that would meet the requirements of the U.N. resolution to hand over Osama bin Laden to a country where he can be brought to justice,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at the time.

The use of innuendo is rife through other critical passages of “Fahrenheit 9/11.” The movie makes much of the president’s relationship with James R. Bath, a former member of his Texas Air National Guard who, like Bush, was suspended from flying at one point for failure to take a physical. The movie suggests that the White House blacked out a reference to Bath’s missed physical from his National Guard records not because of legal concerns over the Privacy Act but because it was trying to conceal the Bath connection—a presumed embarrassment because the Houston businessman had once been the U.S. money manager for the bin Laden family. After being hired by the bin Ladens to manager their money in Texas, Bath “in turn,” the movie says, “invested in George W. Bush.”

The investment in question is real: In the late 1970’s, Bath put up $50,000 into Bush’s Arbusto Energy, (one of a string of failed oil ventures by the president), giving Bath a 5 percent interest in the company. The implication seems to be that, years later, because of this link, Bush was somehow not as zealous about his determination to get bin Laden.

Leaving aside the fact that the bin Laden family, which runs one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest construction firms, has never been linked to terrorism, the movie—which relied heavily on Unger’s book—fails to note the author’s conclusion about what to make of the supposed Bin Laden-Bath-Bush nexus: that it may not mean anything. The “Bush-Bin Laden ‘relationships’ were indirect—two degrees of separation, perhaps—and at times have been overstated,” Unger writes in his book. While critics have charged that bin Laden money found its way into Arbusto through Bath, Unger notes that “no hard evidence has ever been found to back up that charge” and Bath himself has adamantly denied it. “One hundred percent of those funds (in Arbusto) were mine,” says Bath in a footnote on page 101 of Unger’s book. “It was a purely personal investment.”

The innuendo is greatest, of course, in Moore’s dealings with the matter of the departing Saudis flown out of the United States in the days after the September 11 terror attacks. Much has already been written about these flights, especially the film’s implication that figures with possible knowledge of the terrorist attacks were allowed to leave the country without adequate FBI screening—a notion that has been essentially rejected by the 9/11 commission. The 9/11 commission found that the FBI screened the Saudi passengers, ran their names through federal databases, interviewed 30 of them and asked many of them “detailed questions.” “Nobody of interest to the FBI with regard to the 9/11 investigation was allowed to leave the country,” the commission stated. New information about a flight from Tampa, Florida late on Sept. 13 seems mostly a red herring: The flight didn’t take any Saudis out of the United States. It was a domestic flight to Lexington, Kentucky that took place after the Tampa airport had already reopened.

It is true that there are still some in the FBI who had questions about the flights-and wish more care had been taken to examine the passengers. But the film’s basic point—that the flights represented perhaps the supreme example of the Saudi government’s influence in the Bush White House-is almost impossible to defend. Why? Because while the film claims—correctly—that the “White House” approved the flights, it fails to note who exactly in the White House did so. It wasn’t the president, or the vice president or anybody else supposedly corrupted by Saudi oil money. It was Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism czar who was a holdover from the Clinton administration and who has since turned into a fierce Bush critic. Clarke has publicly testified that he gave the greenlight—conditioned on FBI clearance.

“I thought the flights were correct,” Clarke told ABC News last week. “The Saudis had reasonable fear that they might be the subject of vigilante attacks in the United States after 9/11. And there is no evidence even to this date that any of the people who left on those flights were people of interest to the FBI.” Like much else relevant to the issues Moore raises, Clarke’s reasons for approving the flights—and his thoughts on them today—won’t be found in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” nor in any of the ample material now being churned out by the film-maker’s “war room” to defend his provocative, if flawed, movie.

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From Brendan Miniter : Iraq, Then and Now : 5/27/2004

For more than a decade I believed that the first President Bush made a massive mistake in leaving Saddam Hussein in power in 1991. I almost voted against him for this wobbliness in 1992. But the longer the fight drags on in Iraq today, the more I thank God that the first Gulf War stopped with the liberation of Kuwait. This is no endorsement of Saddam’s final 12 years of rule, nor a repudiation of the invasion last year. But it’s time to face a hard truth: America cannot afford to be beaten in the sands of Iraq.

Let’s consider what would’ve happened had George H.W. Bush ordered the troops to go on to Baghdad in the first Gulf War. Whether in quiet desertion or mass protest, much of Europe and the Arab world would have turned against the American president in the face of a protracted insurgent war–and there is every reason to believe Saddam loyalists would have been much stronger then than they are today. Each ally’s departure would have emboldened domestic opponents, who were more numerous back then. (Only 10 of 56 Senate Democrats voted for the Gulf War, compared with 29 of 50 who backed Iraq’s liberation in 2002.) The impulse to withdraw with less than total victory would have been almost irresistible. And without seeing the war in moral terms, the first Bush administration would likely have buckled under the pressure.

Republicans didn’t control Congress at the time of the Gulf War, so the erosion of what little Democratic support there was would have doomed the war effort. Last week the House approved a defense bill north of $400 billion. Would a Democratic Congress have been willing to appropriate such a large sum to fight insurgents and rebuild Iraq in the run-up to the 1992 presidential election, at a time when the nation hadn’t been steeled by a terrorist attack on our own soil?

On the world stage, this would have been infinitely worse than Mogadishu. Osama bin Laden would have had the kind of victory he’d hoped for in Afghanistan in 2001–proof that a Muslim population could defeat the U.S. And domestic resolve would have been devastated.

Today we are facing a similar situation. With a presidential election approaching, domestic opposition to the war is growing ever more vocal. With J. Paul Bremer and Colin Powell promising that the U.S. will withdraw troops if the Iraqi government asks for as much after the June 30 transfer of sovereignty–which has prompted Katie Couric to sound a similar drum–it’s possible to imagine American GIs leaving Iraq with less than total victory.

The consequences of that would be devastating. After Sept. 11 President Bush made clear that the U.S. would not flinch in tracking down and killing or capturing terrorists. The government would do more than hunting individual men that are plotting to kill Americans. The military would uncover and dismantle terrorist training camps and, when necessary, topple terror-sponsoring regimes. Mr. Bush said the U.S. would make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them. If America loses in Iraq now, the Bush Doctrine will be dead.

Vietnam is a cautionary example, though today’s defeatists look to America’s loss there as an inspiration. The Vietnam experience tells us most of what we need to know about John Kerry’s military vision and about those who will deliver us to evil, given the chance. A military struggle requires a sensible majority to insist on continuing the fight. Vietnam was the right thing to do, and in that case the majority gave in.

It’s not likely that this President Bush will buckle under the pressure. So the question is, will the American people?

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You know it’s going to be one of those days when Cynthia Tucker is due to write her latest opinion piece for the AJC. She usually enjoys taking the latest talking points position, updating the language, and throwing it out. There were no ’smiley faces’ at the end of her latest effort, so I can only assume that she actually means it: Cynthia Tucker : For Kerry, war dwarfs politics (5/3/2004):

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?
– John Kerry, veteran, 1971

John Kerry’s campaign has suffered from a curious redefinition of patriotism and heroism — a revisionism that glorifies armchair warriors while denigrating combat veterans. His combat medals haven’t quieted the Bush campaign machine, which sends its minions out to denounce Kerry as unpatriotic and anti-military.

It is an odd thing, but it did not start here. Two years ago, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) defeated Max Cleland — a Vietnam veteran whose service left him a triple amputee — partly by challenging his patriotism. Chambliss doesn’t want to own up to that now, but many remember his attack ads that featured photos of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and questioned Cleland’s "courage." (Chambliss, by the way, avoided service in Vietnam because of what he says was a bad knee.)

This was not a smear reserved for Democrats. In the 2000 GOP presidential primary, the Bush machine did not hesitate before turning John McCain’s record as a prisoner of war against him. Recognizing in McCain a military résumé with which they could not compete, Bush strategists started a whisper campaign, insisting that McCain’s years in the custody of the North Vietnamese had left him "mentally unstable" and unfit for the presidency.

So it comes as no great surprise that the latest Bush tactic is to denounce Kerry for his activism against the Vietnam War. In a display of gall that can only be described as astounding, campaign strategist Karen Hughes, interviewed recently on CNN, insisted that reporters ought to prod more deeply into Kerry’s activities during the Vietnam War.

Indeed, they should (as they should further explore the activities of President Bush during that same war). What they will find in Kerry’s past is a young man who had the courage to say what so many were thinking and some, such as former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, only belatedly admitted — the war in Vietnam was folly, unwinnable, a quagmire.

Kerry was, as he now acknowledges, angry about the official lies, the ludicrous military strategies, the lives lost. His rhetoric, as he concedes, was over the top. But his crusade to end the war — based on his observations as a naval officer who had come under fire after volunteering for hazardous duty — was the very definition of patriotism.

That honorable definition may be returning to vogue as the war in Iraq grows increasingly unpopular. According to a New York Times/CBS poll, nearly half the country now questions the wisdom of the war. And nearly half — 46 percent — believe U.S. troops should come home as soon as possible.

Kerry doesn’t agree. Like Bush, he believes the United States must stay the course. Both men have suggested more troops may be sent to Iraq to quell the insurrection and create the stability needed to allow the Iraqis to elect a government. They may be right in their refusal to leave.

But, in public at least, Bush seems almost obscenely serene about his decision to send young Americans to die by the hundreds in Iraq. Never mind that he avoided combat in the relative safety of a National Guard “champagne unit” that sheltered other sons of the wealthy and well-connected.

His vice-president, Dick Cheney, is similarly self-righteous, though he had “other priorities” during the Vietnam era. Perhaps it is mere coincidence that his wife, Lynne Cheney, gave birth to their first child exactly nine months and two days after the Selective Service lifted its ban against drafting childless married men.

Kerry, by contrast, has seen the waste of war up close. After the combat death of his close friend, Dick Pershing, in 1968, he wrote a letter to the girlfriend who would become his first wife, Judy: “If I do nothing else in my life I will never stop trying to bring to people the conviction of how wasteful and asinine is a human expenditure of this kind.”

He knows what it means to send other people’s children off to die.

You know, it’s very interesting that Republicans do so much attacking of people’s patriotism. In fact, it’s so amazing that they actually manage to do it without actually saying so… it’s lucky that we are alerted to the fact by the ‘victims’, such as Kerry himself. But nevertheless, let’s give the ’smear machine’ crowd their due here.

  • First, his combat medals haven’t quieted anyone, because Kerry keeps bringing them up. Didn’t he throw them away in protest for the Viet Nam war? Or was it the ribbons? Or someone else’s medals. It’s all so silly. No matter what is said, he did serve in the Navy and did perform his duty for the four months he was in the conflict. Upon returning home, he was actively involved in campaigning against the war. That’s his right (the whole free speech thing does work!). It doesn’t mean that everyone has to like it. And now he admits that he was so filled with a desire to see the war end that he might have embellished a bit during his Congressional testimony about war attrocities. But service for the country, no matter how valiant, does not serve as an automatic pass forever. Does he support the military? He says he supports the military but opposes the war. He just showa his support differently than most, by regularly attempting to cut back and defund all things military while in the Senate.
  • I know in Cynthia’s clouded memory, there must have been a dirty trick that caused Max Cleland to lose to Saxby Chambliss. The advertisements did not try to cast doubt on Cleland’s courage under fire in Viet Nam, but rather his courage to stand up for what is right. With nothing short of national security at stake, Cleland stayed tight with the national Democratic agenda and helped to hold back the Homeland Defense legislation until it was assured that the airport screeners would be organized into a Federal Employee Union, in order to provide a new Democratic support base. Chambliss called Cleland to task for that, pointing out that partisan politics plays into the hands of our enemies, including OBL. Voters were fed up too, and sent him packing. Neatly, this is somehow only remembered as an assult on patriotism by Democrats today.
  • I don’t think anyone cares really what Kerry did with his medals or ribbons. But when he was presented with his obvious contradiction (don’t say ‘lies’) by Charlie Gibson on ABC, Kerry panicked and jumped back to the only obvious tact, blame someone else. So he jumped back to the ridiculous "Bush is AWOL" junk that supposedly he didn’t endorse. (Where is that Democratic smear machine again? … just checking). Acting as most four-year-olds would, he lashed out at Bush accusing him of everything, short short of having ’smelly feet’. I know that service was not supposed to be a litmus test ever since Bill (I’ll spend some time in England because it’s getting drafty over here) Clinton was running against war-hero Bob Dole. But Bush served in the National Guard. And I think that there are plenty of people who sacrifice with service in the National Guard units across the country who should be upset about how their service is being mocked with each comment.
  • This is not about attacking Kerry’s patriotism. Perhaps he keeps bringing it up because he is worried about it. But this sniping at everyone else (attacking their patriotism???) does nothing but make every accuser look ignorant.

I know that Cynthia wants to beat the anti-war drum loud enough to try to make it sound like music. But Bush is not sending boys to die like it’s some video game.

Kerry served in Viet Nam, and this has changed his life. Let us hope he would also have the conviction to do the right things if he were President and we were attacked like 9/11. Could he send the troops to Afganistan? Could he send them to Iraq? Or is he, as Cynthia suggests, so affected by the visions of Viet Nam that he would avoid armed conflict that would mean even a single American life? Isn’t this exactly the view of terrorists who hope to turn public opinion by killing innocent people, like in Spain? Is 200 dead too high a price to secure freedom? 500? 700?

We are at war. We were at war for a while, but we just didn’t know it fully as a nation until 9/11. We can choose to fight with our military. Or we can choose to surrender now. But the fight will not just disappear, because we don’t want to face it.

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Happened to check out the headlines this afternoon at news.google.com, and there were links to the story about British researchers who claim they can re-grow teeth. What really struck me was that the accompanying photo (from our friends at Al-Jazeera, no less), is of John Kerry. Is there something we ought to know?

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So let’s see, the major news of the day, at least according to Democratic sources, is a joke George Bush made about himself at a correspondants dinner last night. John Kerry even weighed in "If George Bush thinks his deceptive rationale for going to war is a laughing matter, then he’s even more out of touch than we thought." (Kerry: WMD `joke’ no laughing matter).

From a Yahoo! News story:[Author Unattributed] : Bush’s Joke About WMD Draws Criticism 3/26/2004:

President Bush’s humorous references to the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have drawn criticism from Democrats as inappropriate for wartime. The White House and Republicans contend the president was just poking fun at himself.

"This is a very serious issue," Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said Friday on Good Morning America on ABC. "We’ve lost hundreds of troops, as you know, over there. Let’s not be laughing about not being able to find weapons of mass destruction."

Bush provided amusing descriptions of photographs Wednesday night during the annual dinner of the Radio and Television News Correspondents Association. Some showed the president in awkward poses as he looked behind furniture in the Oval Office. For those photos, Bush told the audience, "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere … nope, no weapons over there … maybe under here?"

Laughter erupted from the crowd of journalists, politicians and their guests then and at other times during Bush’s remarks. For years the dinner has featured political and topical humor, most of it playful if barbed at times.

"The Democrats will go after anything," Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie told ABC. "The fact is that this is the custom in these things. Presidents have made jokes about very serious matters at these dinners.You can hear the laughter, the people in the room obviously saw the humor in it at that moment, and to play it back now in a different context is unfair."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday she has treated the subject with respect and doesn’t find it funny. "I had thought that that was a little casual about a serious subject, but now the president has made it open season," said Pelosi, who attended the dinner.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Thursday the president’s comments were meant to be light. "It’s traditional at events like this dinner for the president to poke fun at himself," Buchan said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was asked Thursday about the appropriateness of Bush’s comments and the audience’s reaction. He said he was "not in a position to be judgmental about that" because he had not been present at the event.

Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton called the joke "one of the most despicable acts of a sitting president" when he spoke Thursday night during a Democratic National Committee reception. "Well, that’s not a joke to us, Mr. Bush. Five hundred soldiers lost their lives, looking for weapons that weren’t there. Billions of taxpayer dollars were spent looking for weapons that weren’t there," Sharpton said. "But guess what? You gonna look out that window in January and see a moving van to send you back to Texas."

McAuliffe said legitimate questions have been raised about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a principal reason for going to war there. Nearly 600 U.S. soldiers have died since the war began in March 2003. "They’re not there. That is the issue. We should not take it to a new step to make fun of the situation," McAuliffe said

I would really like to be able to find a way to sympathize with the Democratic outrage. But somehow the fact that there’s ‘outrage’ at all about this shows how silly everything has gotten.

No one would suggest that the lives of US soldiers lost are a laughing matter. And Bush is President, not Letterman or Leno (who clearly have made much bigger jokes on the topic).

When the news was full of ‘outrage’ expressed over Bush’s campaign commercial that showed a glimpse of an image from 9/11, all we could do is wonder exactly why someone was trying to make an issue out of nothing. We could see that the three people constantly quoted in the ‘outrage’ and ‘criticism’ stories had either had ties to Kerry election campaign or to other anti-Bush organizations… but maybe that was just a coincidence.

This time it’s ‘criticism’ and ‘outrage’ again. But why exactly? Because they can call for criticism and get it published in the paper as news? If criticizing George Bush is news, then it’s no wonder why the DNC would get the headline every day… they seem to do nothing else.

It’s a wonder that anyone actually listens to McAuliffe anymore. I’m not even sure that even the Democrats do anymore. But if you want to Bush-bashing comment for your ‘news’ story, he is a reliable source.

And finally, a memo to Rev. Sharpton: if you want to discuss "despicable acts of a sitting president", let’s rewind the tape to the Clinton administration and really have a talk.

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