More News — March 1-8, 2004

"Creating a Genuine 'Opportunity Society'" -- Senator Edward Kennedy on jobs and income inequality in the United States (speech at CUNY Graduate Center, 3/1/04).

Amy Goodman's interview with Maxine Waters at democracynow.org, 3/1/04:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman. Congressmember Waters, can you tell us about the conversation you just had with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide?

MAXINE WATERS: I most certainly can and he's anxious for me to get the message out so people will understand. He is in the Central Republic of Africa at a place called the Palace of the Renaissance, and he's not sure if that's a house or a hotel or what it is and he is surrounded by military. It's like in jail, he said. He said that he was kidnapped; he said that he was forced to leave Haiti. He said that the American embassy sent the diplomats; he referred to them as, to his home where they was lead by Mr. Moreno. And I believe that Mr. Moreno is a deputy chief of staff at the embassy in Haiti and other diplomats, and they ordered him to leave. They said you must go NOW. He said that they said that Guy Phillipe and U.S. Marines were coming to Port Au Prince; he will be killed, many Haitians will be killed, that they would not stop until they did what they wanted to do. He was there with his wife Mildred and his brother-in-law and two of his security people, and somebody from the Steel Foundation, and they're all, there's five of them that are there. They took them where -- they did stop in Antigua then they stopped at a military base, then they were in the air for hours and then they arrived at this place and they were met by five ministers of government. It's a Francophone country, they speak French. And they were then taken to this place called the Palace of the Renaissance where they are being held and they are surrounded by military people. They are not free to do whatever they want to do. Then the phone clicked off after we had talked for about five -- we talked maybe fifteen minutes and then the phone clicked off. But he, some of it was muffled in the beginning, at times it was clear. But one thing that was very clear and he said it over and over again, that he was kidnapped, that the coup was completed by the Americans that they forced him out. They had also disabled his American security force that he had around him for months now; they did not allow them to extend their numbers. To begin with they wanted them to bring in more people to provide security they prevented them from doing that and then they finally forced them out of the country. So that's where his is and I said to him that I would do everything I could to get the word out. . . . that I heard it directly from him I heard it directly from his wife that they were kidnapped, they were forced to leave, they did not want to leave, their lives were threatened and the lives of many Haitians were threatened. And I said that we would be in touch with the State Department, with the President today and if at all possible we would try to get to him. We don't know whether or not he is going to be moved. We will try and find that information out today.

AMY GOODMAN: Did President Aristide say whether or not he resigned?

MAXINE WATERS: He did not resign. He said he was forced out, that the coup was completed.

Amy Goodman's interview with Randall Robinson at democracynow.org, 3/1/04:

RANDALL ROBINSON: The president called me on a cell phone that was slipped to him by someone -- he has no land line out to the world and no number at which he can be reached. He is being held in a room with his wife and his sister's husband, who happened to be at the house at the time that the abduction occurred. The soldiers came in to the house and ordered them to use no phones and to come immediately. They were taken at gunpoint to the airport and put on a plane. His own security detachment was taken as well and put in a separate compartment of the plane. The president was kept with his wife with the soldiers with the shades of the plane down and when he asked where he was being taken, the soldiers told him they were under orders not to tell him that. He was flown first to Antigua, which he recognized, but then he was told to put the shades down again. They were on the ground there for two hours before they took off again and landed six hours later at another location again told to keep the shades down. At no time before they left the house and on the plane were they allowed to use a phone. Only when they landed the last time were they told that they were in the Central African Republic. Then taken to a room with a balcony. They do not know what the room is a part of, maybe a hotel, maybe some other kind of building, but it has a balcony and outside they can see that they are surrounded by soldiers. So that they have no freedom. The president asked me to tell the world that it is a coup, that they have been kidnapped. That they have been abducted. I have put in calls to members of congress asking that they demand that the president be given an opportunity to speak, that he be given a press conference opportunity and that people be given an opportunity to reach him by phone so that they can hear directly from him how he is being treated. But the essential point is clear. He did not resign. He was taken by force from his residence in the middle of the night, forced on to a plane, and taken away without being told where he was going. He was kidnapped. There's no question about it.

AMY GOODMAN: How does he actually know, Randall Robinson, how does president Aristide know that he is in the Central African Republic?

RANDALL ROBINSON: He was told that when he arrived. As a matter of fact there was some official reception of officials of that government at the airport when he arrived. But, you see, he still had and continues to have surrounding him American military.

AMY GOODMAN: You spoke with him and Mildred Aristide up to 10 times a day in the last days before they were removed from Haiti. How did president Aristide sound when you spoke with him today?

RANDALL ROBINSON: They sounded tired and very concerned that the departure has been mistold to the world. They wanted to make certain that I did all that I could to disabuse any misled public that he had not resigned, that he had been abducted. That was very, very important to him and Mrs. Aristide explained to me the strange response to my calls on Saturday night. I had talked to her on Saturday morning and him on Friday. But when I called the house on Saturday night, the phone was answered by an unfamiliar voice who told me that the president was busy, a response that was strange, and then when I asked for Mrs. Aristide, I was told that she was busy, too. As she told me then, that even that early on, before they were taken away and before the soldiers came, they had been instructed they were not allowed to talk to anyone. And so, she said that was the reason she explained this today, a few minutes ago - why she was not able to talk to me and he was not able to talk to me when I called the house on Saturday evening.

AMY GOODMAN: Who did they say was the person that you had actually spoken to?

RANDALL ROBINSON: No, but it was not someone who worked at the house because they know my voice when they hear it and they respond to it because I call so many times. This was something new, a new person, a new voice, with a new kind of tone. That is when we began to be concerned that something was amiss.

AMY GOODMAN: I will ask you the same question I asked Congressmember Waters who also spoke with president Aristide. The issue of whether president Aristide resigned. Did he say he did or he didn't?

RANDALL ROBINSON: Emphatically not.

AMY GOODMAN: He said he did not resign?

RANDALL ROBINSON: He did not resign. He did not resign. He was kidnapped and all of the circumstances seem to support his assertion. Had he resigned, we wouldn't need blacked out windows and blocked communications and military taking him away at gunpoint. Had he resigned, he would have been happy to leave the country. He was not. He resisted. Emphatically not. He did not resign. He was abducted by the United States, a democratic, a democratically elected president, abducted by the United States in the commission of an American-induced coup. This is a frightening thing to contemplate.

"Aristide: US Forced Me to Leave" -- BBC, 3/2/04:

The exiled former President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has said that he was forced to leave his country.

In interviews with US television and news agencies, he said he had been the victim of a "coup d'etat".

He said he had signed documents relinquishing power because of fears that violence would erupt if he did not comply with the demands of US agents.

But he repeatedly refused to answer direct questions about whether he had been kidnapped.

Earlier, friends of Mr Aristide in the US had alleged that the former president was abducted by American agents - allegations described by US Secretary of State Colin Powell as "absolutely baseless, absurd". . . .

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says Mr Aristide's supporters in America, including the Democratic party activist the Reverend Jesse Jackson, are outraged.

They are calling for an inquiry into whether the US Central Intelligence Agency had a role in the rebellion which led to the downfall of Mr Aristide and his democratically elected government.

"U.S. Denies Aristide's Charges He Was Kidnapped from Haiti" AP story at usatoday.com, 3/2/04:

The Bush administration on Tuesday sought to put aside the controversy over Jean-Bertrand Aristide's departure from Haiti, expressing little interest in his claims that he was forced to go into exile by the American military.

"I think the story's been addressed," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, referring to emphatic administration denials. "The decision to leave was Mr. Aristide's to make and it was a decision that was in the best interest of the Haitian people."

Aristide's resignation letter said he was leaving "in order to avoid a bloodbath," according to a U.S. translation from Creole. "I accept to leave, with the hope that there will be life and not death." A copy of the letter was provided by the Bush administration.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, said he thought there ought to be some investigation of the claim that Aristide was forced out and escorted by U.S. troops.

"I have a very close friend in Massachusetts who talked directly to people who have made that allegation," Kerry said on Today on NBC. "I don't know the truth of it. I really don't. But I think it needs to be explored and we need to know the truth of what happened." . . .

Aristide told The Associated Press that his resignation was coerced. He said U.S. agents who came to his home "were telling me that if I don't leave they would start shooting and be killing in a matter of time." It was unclear whether Aristide meant that the rebels or U.S. agents would begin shooting.

"I was forced to leave," Aristide said in a telephone interview from Africa.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Rumsfeld denied that, but U.S. officials acknowledged privately that Aristide was told that if he remained in Haiti, U.S. forces would not protect him from rebels who wanted him put on trial on allegations of murder and corruption.

Powell relayed that news over the weekend in a telephone call to Ronald Dellums, a former California congressman who is now a Washington lobbyist for Aristide. As for Aristide's claims of abduction, Powell said: "He was not kidnapped. We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly, and that's the truth."

A small delegation from the Congressional Black Caucus took their misgivings over the end of Aristide's rule in Haiti to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. One member, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said she would raise Aristide's plight Wednesday before the House International Relations Committee.

The lawmakers, as well as Jesse Jackson and international advocacy group TransAfrica Forum, demanded a congressional investigation. They argued that the Bush administration engineered Aristide's ouster by cutting off badly needed aid and supporting his political rivals.

In a telephone interview Monday night with CNN, Aristide said the United States withdrew on Saturday the 19 Americans who had been assigned to his security detail.

A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said Aristide asked the Americans whether some of the 50 Marines that President Bush had sent a week ago to protect the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince might shift to the presidential palace if the rebels drew close.

The answer was no.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said the pressure put on Aristide to resign seemed to indicate that the Bush administration had sided with "the opposition and the coup people." He worried that further violence could erupt if Haitians believe the United States was behind Aristide's ouster.

"Why They Had to Crush Aristide" -- Peter Hallward in The Guardian, 3/2/04:

Jean-Bertrand Aristide was re-elected president of Haiti in November 2000 with more than 90% of the vote. He was elected by people who approved his courageous dissolution, in 1995, of the armed forces that had long terrorised Haiti and had overthrown his first administration. He was elected by people who supported his tentative efforts, made with virtually no resources or revenue, to invest in education and health. He was elected by people who shared his determination, in the face of crippling US opposition, to improve the conditions of the most poorly paid workers in the western hemisphere.

Aristide was forced from office on Sunday by people who have little in common except their opposition to his progressive policies and their refusal of the democratic process. With the enthusiastic backing of Haiti's former colonial master, a leader elected with overwhelming popular support has been driven from office by a loose association of convicted human rights abusers, seditious former army officers and pro-American business leaders.

It's obvious that Aristide's expulsion offered Jacques Chirac a long-awaited chance to restore relations with an American administration he dared to oppose over the attack on Iraq. It's even more obvious that the characterisation of Aristide as yet another crazed idealist corrupted by absolute power sits perfectly with the political vision championed by George Bush, and that the Haitian leader's downfall should open the door to a yet more ruthless exploitation of Latin American labour.

If you've been reading the mainstream press over the past few weeks, you'll know that this peculiar version of events has been carefully prepared by repeated accusations that Aristide rigged fraudulent elections in 2000; unleashed violent militias against his political opponents; and brought Haiti's economy to the point of collapse and its people to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.

But look a little harder at those elections. An exhaustive and convincing report by the International Coalition of Independent Observers concluded that "fair and peaceful elections were held" in 2000, and by the standard of the presidential elections held in the US that same year they were positively exemplary.

Why then were they characterised as "flawed" by the Organisation of American States (OAS)? It was because, after Aristide's Lavalas party had won 16 out of 17 senate seats, the OAS contested the methodology used to calculate the voting percentages. Curiously, neither the US nor the OAS judged this methodology problematic in the run-up to the elections.

However, in the wake of the Lavalas victories, it was suddenly important enough to justify driving the country towards economic collapse. Bill Clinton invoked the OAS accusation to justify the crippling economic embargo against Haiti that persists to this day, and which effectively blocks the payment of about $500m in international aid.

But what about the gangs of Aristide supporters running riot in Port-au-Prince? No doubt Aristide bears some responsibility for the dozen reported deaths over the last 48 hours. But given that his supporters have no army to protect them, and given that the police force serving the entire country is just a tenth of the force that patrols New York city, it's worth remembering that this figure is a small fraction of the number killed by the rebels in recent weeks.

One of the reasons why Aristide has been consistently vilified in the press is that the Reuters and AP wire services, on which most coverage depends, rely on local media, which are all owned by Aristide's opponents. Another, more important, reason for the vilification is that Aristide never learned to pander unreservedly to foreign commercial interests. He reluctantly accepted a series of severe IMF structural adjustment plans, to the dismay of the working poor, but he refused to acquiesce in the indiscriminate privatisation of state resources, and stuck to his guns over wages, education and health.

What happened in Haiti is not that a leader who was once reasonable went mad with power; the truth is that a broadly consistent Aristide was never quite prepared to abandon all his principles.

"Aristide's Departure: The U.S. Account" -- Peter Slevin and Scott Wilson in The Washington Post, 3/3/04:

In a sequence described by administration officials, Aristide's security team members met with embassy security personnel on Saturday as violence spread. They were told that if Aristide wanted American help in leaving, he had to decide quickly.

That day -- two days after [Secretary of State Colin] Powell signaled that the Bush administration would no longer back a power-sharing arrangement -- an Aristide emissary contacted U.S. Ambassador James Foley to say the Haitian leader was considering stepping down.

U.S. officials said Aristide wanted to know what Foley thought would be best for Haiti. The ambassador discussed the situation with Powell and told Aristide that his position was politically unsustainable and personally perilous. If Aristide waited until the rebels reached Port-au-Prince, Foley told him, the Bush administration could not guarantee his safe departure.

Aristide consulted with his wife and agreed to leave.

U.S. officials said they knew Aristide had already begun getting ready when he told Foley that he could not send him an e-mail message because his computer was packed.

It was after midnight when Foley called [US diplomat Luis] Moreno and asked him to drive to Tabarre to accompany Aristide and his American wife Mildred to the airport, where a jetliner chartered by the U.S. government would pick them up.

When Aristide greeted him at the house, Moreno said he asked the president for a resignation letter. He said Aristide did not give him the letter right away, but promised to give one to him before he was airborne.

"You have my word and you know my word is good," Aristide said, according to Moreno.

Moreno said they then drove to the airport in separate vehicles. Aristide's young children, who are U.S. citizens, had already been sent to the United States.

The caravan arrived at the airport and waited in the dark for the U.S. plane. When Moreno received word that the plane was about 20 minutes from landing, he said he walked over and tapped on the window of Aristide's car.

"I need the letter," he recalled telling the Haitian president. Aristide reached into his wife's purse and handed him a letter written in Creole. Moreno said he passed it to a Creole-speaking embassy political officer, who confirmed that the document was indeed a letter of resignation.

"From His First Day in Office, Bush Was Ousting Aristide" -- Jeffrey D. Sachs in The Los Angeles Times, 3/4/04:

The United States has repeatedly sponsored coups and uprisings in Haiti and in neighboring Caribbean countries.

Ominously, before this week, the most recent such episode in Haiti came in 1991, during the first Bush administration, when thugs on the CIA payroll were among the leaders of paramilitary groups that toppled Aristide after his 1990 election.

Some of the players in this round are familiar from the previous Bush administration, including of course Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney. Also key is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega -- a longtime aide to Jesse Helms and a notorious Aristide-hater -- widely thought to have been central to the departure of Aristide. He is going to find it much harder to engineer the departure of gun-toting rebels who entered Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

Rarely has an episode so brilliantly exposed Santayana's famous aphorism that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

In 1991, when Congressional Black Caucus members demanded an investigation into the U.S. role in Aristide's overthrow, the first Bush administration laughed them off, just as this administration is doing today in facing new queries from Congressional Black Caucus members.

Indeed, those who are questioning the administration about Haiti are being smeared as naive and unpatriotic. Aristide himself is being smeared with ludicrous propaganda and, most cynically of all, is being accused of dereliction in the failure to lift his country out of poverty.

In point of fact, this U.S. administration froze all multilateral development assistance to Haiti from the day that George W. Bush came into office, squeezing Haiti's economy dry and causing untold suffering for its citizens. U.S. officials surely knew that the aid embargo would mean a balance-of-payments crisis, a rise in inflation and a collapse of living standards, all of which fed the rebellion.

Another tragedy in this episode is the silence of the media when it comes to asking all the questions that need answers. Just as in the war on Iraq's phony WMD, wherein the mainstream media initially failed to ask questions about the administration's claims, major news organizations have refused to go to the mat over the administration's accounts on Haiti. The media haven't had the gumption to find Aristide and, in failing to do so, to point out that he is being held away from such contact.

"Admit WMD Mistake, Survey Chief Tells Bush" -- Julian Borger in The Guardian, 3/3/04:

David Kay, the man who led the CIA's postwar effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has called on the Bush administration to "come clean with the American people" and admit it was wrong about the existence of the weapons.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Kay said the administration's reluctance to make that admission was delaying essential reforms of US intelligence agencies, and further undermining its credibility at home and abroad.

He welcomed the creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate prewar intelligence on Iraq, and said the wide-ranging US investigation was much more likely to get to the truth than the Butler inquiry in Britain. That, he noted, had "so many limitations it's going to be almost impossible" to come to meaningful conclusions.

Mr Kay, 63, a former nuclear weapons inspector, provoked uproar at the end of January when he told the Senate that "we were almost all wrong" about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

He also resigned from the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which he was appointed by the CIA to lead in the hunt for weapons stockpiles, saying its resources had been diverted in the fight against Iraqi insurgents.

"I was more worried that we were still sending teams out to search for things that we were increasingly convinced were not there," Mr Kay said.

His call for a frank admission is an embarrassment for the White House at the start of an election year. The defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has dismissed Mr Kay's assertion that there were no WMD at the start of the Iraq war as a "theory" that was "possible, but not likely".

In his state of the union speech in January, George Bush did not refer to his prewar claims that Iraq was an "immediate threat" but instead said the ISG had found "weapons of mass destruction-related programme activities".

Mr Kay, who was formerly a UN weapons inspector, called for the president to go further. "It's about confronting and coming clean with the American people. He should say we were mistaken and I am determined to find out why," he said.

A White House official said it was too early to draw conclusions: "The ISG is still working, and the commission on this has not even started."

However, Mr Kay said that continued evasion would create public cynicism about the administration's motives, which he believes reflected a genuine fear of WMD falling into the hands of terrorists. He also said that if the administration did not confront the Iraq intelligence fiasco head-on it would undermine its credibility with its allies in future crises "for a generation".

"At Least 143 Die in Attacks at Two Sacred Sites in Iraq" -- John F. Burns in the New York Times, 3/3/04:

Baghdad, 2003 Suicide bombers and other attackers detonated mortars, grenades and roadside bombs on Tuesday among crowds of Shiite Muslims gathered for one of the holiest occasions in the Shiite calendar.

Within a few hours, the death toll was at 143; counts made in the evening put it as high as 170. Some of the dead were reportedly pilgrims from Iran.

It was the deadliest day in the 11 months since American troops toppled Saddam Hussein's Sunni Muslim-dominated government. Both attacks began around 10 a.m., at mosques in Baghdad and Karbala, a Shiite holy city some 70 miles southwest of the capital.

Scenes of horror at the sites caused waves of anger and hysteria, much of it focused on the American occupation. In Baghdad, streaks of blood and bits of flesh were strewn across the walls of golden tile and stone floors at the shrine to Imam Musa al-Khadam, considered the city's most sacred Shiite site. In Karbala, groups of wailing survivors outside two revered mosques loaded the dead and wounded onto wooden carts, leaving trails of blood as they rushed in search of help.

The highest previous toll during the American occupation was the 105 people killed in two bombings of Kurdish political gatherings in the north, at Erbil, on Feb. 1. . . .

There was also a devastating attack on Tuesday on Shiites celebrating the same holy day, Ashura, in Pakistan. There, three assailants threw grenades and sprayed gunfire at a procession in Quetta, in the southwest. At least 40 people were killed and 150 wounded, officials said. . . .

After the Baghdad bombing, Iraqi officers summoned help from the Americans at a joint operations center set up with Iraqi agreement half a mile away. A convoy of United States military vehicles approached the shrine, including an armored ambulance and several Humvees, only to be barred from approaching by an angry crowd throwing stones and shouting curses against America.

Later, American officers said, a crowd marched on the operations center, pelting soldiers and tanks with stones, and was met with warning shots.

"Suicide Attacks Add to U.S. Frustration" -- Walter Pincus and Thomas E. Ricks in The Washington Post, 3/3/04:

U.S. forces in Iraq have been largely stymied in their efforts to thwart or even identify those behind the wave of suicide bombings that preceded yesterday's devastating attacks, said military and intelligence officials, who predicted that the sectarian violence will escalate as the United States approaches a June 30 deadline for ending its occupation.

There is no "definitive" evidence of who was behind the bombings in Karbala and Baghdad, but the pattern "fits the modus operandi, the pattern and the writings of [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi," a senior intelligence official yesterday.

Zarqawi, a radical Jordanian-born Sunni, is seeking to lead his own terrorist network throughout the Middle East, U.S. officials say. In a 17-page letter to al Qaeda leaders, seized by U.S. intelligence in January, Zarqawi wrote that he would reignite the traditional rivalry between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq "through martyrdom operations and car bombs."

But Zarqawi is far from the only source of the terrorist attacks that have been taking place throughout Iraq. Military and intelligence officials have repeatedly said Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish radical Islamic terrorist organization driven from its former base in northern Iraq, is active in the Sunni Triangle. An offshoot Islamic fundamentalist group, calling itself Army of the Helpers of the Sunnah (AHS), recently claimed to have carried out dozens of attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces, including the November killing of seven Spanish intelligence officers.

"Signs have been growing" that there will be more violence as different religious, ethnic and political forces seek power as the time for transferring sovereignty grows nearer, one senior analyst said. . . .

U.S. intelligence against Baathist fighters in the Sunni Triangle, who are linked to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, improved enormously in recent months but came up short against the suicide bombers, a senior Central Command official said in a January interview.

"A car bomb is a very secretive thing," this official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. There are few foreign fighters attacking U.S. forces or Iraqis in Iraq, he said, but those that are in the country seem to be concentrating on car bombs and other forms of suicide attack.

The U.S. intelligence apparatus knows very little about the operations of those networks, he noted, and it has been reduced to studying the ankles and other intact body parts of bombers in an effort to determine their nationality and ethnicity. The basic conclusion, he said, is that most suicide bombers are male adolescents of Arab origin. Beyond that, little is known about them. Yesterday's attacks may prove to be a break in that pattern, however. Officials in Iraq said seven suspected attackers have been captured and will be questioned, including a man whose explosive vest did not detonate.

U.S. forces in Iraq are not configured to counter bomb attacks, especially against Iraqi civilians. "There is no way for U.S. troops to be able to counter the suicide attackers, especially when they hit at targets not near U.S. bases or troops," said As'ad AbuKhalil, an expert on terrorism at California State University at Stanislaus.

He and others warned that this situation bodes ill for U.S. plans for Iraq.

"For Bush, an Election-Year Powder Keg" -- Dana Milbank and Robin Wright in The Washington Post, 3/3/04:

The terrorists probably did not plan yesterday's attacks on Iraqi Shiites to coincide with the American electoral festival of Super Tuesday. But the timing is an apt reminder that this year's presidential election is likely to be shaped by events the Bush administration cannot control.

Vice President Cheney, in a trio of interviews with cable news outlets yesterday, brushed off the attacks as a sign of "desperation" among U.S. foes -- a response the administration has used for other bloody setbacks in Iraq. But administration officials also acknowledge that there is little that can be done to stop the attacks and that such violence is likely to worsen as power is transferred to Iraqis on June 30.

That raises the danger for President Bush that the public will come to see the attacks not as an inevitable side effect of democratic progress in Iraq but as the unraveling of the nearly year-old U.S. occupation there -- the main foreign enterprise of the Bush presidency. With the presidential election looming, Bush needs to show by this fall that democracy is waxing in Iraq and violence is waning.

The administration's critics say more violence like yesterday's would discredit Bush's promise to stabilize Iraq. "Iraq goes directly to Bush's main vulnerability -- credibility," said Henri J. Barkey, a former State Department official during the Clinton administration who now teaches at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He added: "Each bombing adds to the disenchantment of the American public and forces people to question whether this was worth it."

Bush administration officials counter that yesterday's attacks are a byproduct of U.S. progress. "What it is more than anything else is major desperation on their part, as we get closer and closer to standing up a new government in Iraq," Cheney told MSNBC yesterday. He also pointed to a "fairly significant decline in American casualties in the last couple of months." . . .

For now, at least, the American public continues to share Bush's belief that the United States is winning in Iraq. "There is still remarkable optimism among the public," said Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who has studied public opinion about Iraq. But he said that optimism has been created in part by the administration's own expressions of confidence. To keep that going, "they have to present a credible measure of success," Feaver said.

The problem is, almost every expert expects the violence to continue, if not intensify. "This is the beginning of an intensive effort that could go on for a very long time," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former national security official in the Clinton and Bush administrations now with the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Juan R.I. Cole, an expert on Iraq and Shiism at the University of Michigan, agrees that attacks "are likely to become more frequent and more spectacular."

Bush aides said their task is to prepare the public for more violence as an inevitable part of Iraq's growing pains. "It's important to have realistic expectations, because as the terrorists grow more desperate over Iraq's success they're certainly going to grow more desperate in their tactics," said Jim Wilkinson, a deputy national security adviser.

"State to Church: I Want a Divorce" -- Alisa Solomon in The Village Voice, March 3-9, 2004:

Marriage itself violates the establishment clause by defining matrimony according to particular religious beliefs.

Take the sacral out of the state, and what reason can it give for preferring hetero to homo couplings? Not a one. It can only cite, as the president did, "cultural, religious, and natural" traditions. But not all religions forbid same-sex nuptials. (I, for one, was hitched under a chuppah to another woman in 1992.) As Rabbi Arthur Waskow puts it, "God forbid?and I do mean God forbid!?that as a country we dig ourselves into a pit where Orthodox Jews and Southern Baptists are affirmed by the Constitution while Reform Jews and Episcopalians are ghettoized." Besides, various religions restrict rites in other ways?my rabbi won't perform interfaith marriages, for example. But should endogamy be the law of the land? Evangelical activists see gay marriage as a wedge issue for driving their theology into the Bill of Rights. The spirit of sharia law has been written into the new Afghan constitution, and apparently is making its way into the Iraqi one as well; Bush and his flock see no reason not to have their own version inscribed in ours.

The prospect of a "defense of marriage" amendment proves how urgently the state needs to sue the church for divorce. And there is one clear way to do it: Grant civil unions to all?including straights. If government must insist on offering special privileges to pledged pairs as a means of social engineering and sexual containment, let it provide them through a properly secular arrangement. Leave holy matrimony to the church, mosque, and synagogue. Folks can register at City Hall for legal recognition of their bond (and the tax benefits, inheritance rights, and all the rest that go with it). If they want their union blessed?or simply celebrated among family and friends in a secular bash?they have to go elsewhere.

That's largely the system we've got now, of course: Practically speaking, the license and the benediction are issued from different offices. And when it comes to benefits, only the former counts. (That's why I pay income tax on the health insurance my partner gets from the Voice.)

Nonetheless, even atheists, anti-clericals, the party-averse, and those in a Vegas-style hurry can't just sign a paper. For the knot to be tied, they need to undergo what philosophers call a performative act?a deed that is committed through words. What actually makes them married is that someone in whom the state has vested authority pronounces them husband and wife. For the vast majority of Americans, that ritual affirmation occurs in a religious setting with a clergy member uttering the magic words. This melding of ecclesiastic and bureaucratic functions lies at the core of today's marriage debate. The evangelical right seeks to blur the boundaries between church and state even more. Their arguments find easy assent from so many Americans because (apart from plain old homophobia) the realms of church and state have been merged in the marriage ceremony for so long, the fusion has come to seem organic.

But if queer studies has taught us anything, it is to show how what may look natural is indeed constructed?and to what ends. The institution of marriage has been in constant flux since its establishment as a form for promoting patriarchal control over property?understood to include women and children. Upon saying "I do," women lost the rights to sign a contract or own property. Until 1967, the U.S. permitted states to ban interracial marriage. When Bush warned of the danger of "redefining" marriage, he sounded just like those who railed against restoring women's individual rights in the late 19th century, or who rioted to oppose giving state sanction to lovers who crossed the color line. But because resistance to same-sex marriage is argued solely on the basis of scripture, our relationships will never be accorded equal protection under the law until those acting in the name of the Bible or Koran or Torah are not part of proclaiming them into legal being. The queer-marriage movement needs a divestment campaign: The only way we will win is if the state's authority to pronounce is stripped from ministers, rabbis, imams, and priests. They of course would be able to declare "according to the laws of Moses" or "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," but not on behalf of the state.

"Educated, Experienced, and Out of Work" -- Economic Policy Institute Issue Brief #198, 3/4/04:

Long-term unemployment -- when unemployed workers have been seeking work for six months or more -- is the most severe form of joblessness. The consequences of extended periods of joblessness are significant: the long-term unemployed often face financial, personal, and health care hardships as well as the loss of their unemployment insurance benefits. An analysis of long-term unemployment from 2000 to 2003 (a period spanning the recession that occurred between March and November 2001) shows that the number of people without work for six months or more has risen at the extraordinarily high rate of 198.2% over this period. Job seekers with college degrees and those age 45 and older have had an especially difficult time finding work, with long-term unemployment for those groups rising by 299.4% and 217.6%, respectively. . . .

In 2002 and 2003, college graduates, workers age 45 and older, and workers in the information and manufacturing sectors entered the ranks of the long-term unemployed at alarming rates; however, no industry or demographic group has escaped the effects of the jobless recovery. Large numbers of workers will likely not return to their previous jobs. Many companies have either reorganized production to make do with a smaller workforce or made arrangements with foreign contractors to accomplish the tasks previously done by workers in the United States. The prevalence of long-term unemployment among skilled and educated workers indicates that no group is immune from the devastating impact of this shift in business practices as the labor market responds to the lack of job growth.

"Next Opponent Is Bush's $100 Million" -- David Westphal in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2/24/04 (updated 3/3/04):

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a striking display of party unity and confidence, Democratic voters anointed Sen. John Kerry Tuesday, setting up a classic fall showdown against President Bush.

Giving the Massachusetts senator huge victory margins in nearly every part of the country, voters firmly rejected Sen. John Edwards and his bid to subject Kerry to further one-on-one primary tests.

John Kerry and Ted Kennedy

Instead, with Bush about to launch millions of dollars worth of TV ads, Democrats coaxed Edwards out of the race, called a halt to the presidential selection process and deputized Kerry to battle against Bush.

Kerry's victory party in Washington Tuesday night capped a remarkable six-week run that looked like a Hollywood version of every candidate's dream campaign.

Practically given up for dead last fall, Kerry shook up his staff, pulled off a near-miracle victory in Iowa and then rode that momentum to a six-week romp in which he swept nearly all of the next 29 contests. . . .

Kerry enters the fray against a sitting president in historically strong shape within his own party.

Famous for producing nominees wounded by fierce infighting, the Democratic primaries morphed this year into a kind of protective cocoon in which the candidates aimed their nastiest rhetoric at the president, not each other.

Week after week, Kerry presented himself as a winning politician who just might have the stuff to give Democrats their fervently hoped-for victory over Bush in the fall.

The upshot is that Kerry reached the winner's circle in the best shape of any Democratic challenger in decades -- owner of a double-digit lead over Bush in a Gallup Poll match-up against Bush.

"If Bush goes on to win, he will become the only president out of the last eight incumbents to win after trailing a challenger in polling conducted after January of the election year," said Gallup editor Frank Newport.

But this morning the protective cocoon of the 2004 Democratic primary will be gone, and Kerry face will face a much starker world.

The victory party confetti will barely be swept up when Bush begins spending some of his $100 million in campaign reserves on TV ads that will shore up his soft approval ratings and then take on Kerry.

With little money of his own, Kerry will find the tables suddenly turned. So much for that heady string of Tuesday night victory bashes.

Republican strategist Scott Reed says Kerry is soon to discover that he remains largely a political unknown, and that Bush has the money to fill the vacuum with an unflattering portrait. Bush campaign officials say they expect to portray Kerry as a liberal Massachusetts senator who has a history of waffling on critical issues.

The time from now to the Democrats' national convention in late July, says Reed, will be "the longest five months of John Kerry's life."

Democrats hope to fill the void through intervention of the national party and independent groups. But it remains to be seen whether they can stop Bush from duplicating the feat of former President Clinton in 1996, when he buried former Sen. Bob Dole with an avalanche of negative ads.

Democratic officials say they'll counter with a strikingly united party that is determined to limit Bush to a single term. But Republicans say their side will be no less committed. "I think our supporters are pretty intense, too," said Bush-Cheney campaign chief Ken Mehlman.

"GOP Aides Implicated in Memo Downloads" -- Helen Dewar in The Washington Post, 3/5/04:

A three-month investigation by the Senate's top law enforcement officer found a systematic downloading of thousands of Democratic computer files by Republican staffers over the past few years as well as serious flaws in the chamber's computer security system.

The report released yesterday by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William H. Pickle noted that two former Senate GOP staff members -- including the Republicans' top aide on judicial nomination strategy -- were primarily responsible for accessing and leaking computer memos on Democratic plans for blocking some of President Bush's judicial nominations.

Pickle made no recommendations about whether to pursue criminal prosecutions in the case, but he cited several federal laws that might be considered, including statutes involving false statements and receipt of stolen property.

Pickle and his investigators said forensics analyses indicated that 4,670 files had been downloaded between November 2001 and spring 2003 by one of the aides -- "the majority of which appeared to be from folders belonging to Democratic staff" on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said at least 100 of his computer files were also accessed by the GOP aides.

The report identified the two former staffers as Jason Lundell, a nominations clerk who originally accessed the files, and Manuel Miranda, a more senior staff member and later the top aide to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on judicial nominations. Miranda, the report said, advised Lundell and was said by other aides to have been implicated in leaking the documents to friendly journalists or other parties outside the Senate. Miranda had previously denied leaking the materials.

Both men left their Senate jobs during the investigation. . . .

In remarks before the release of the report, both at a committee meeting and a news conference, Hatch and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the panel's ranking Democrat, praised the report and condemned the two aides' actions.

"Regardless of whether any criminal law was broken, the improper access was wrong and unjustifiable," Hatch said. "It will go down as a sad chapter in the Senate."

"It was wrongdoing by calculation and stealth, not by inadvertence or mistake, and we know it was intentional, repeated, longstanding and . . . systematic and malicious," Leahy said. "It was carried out surreptitiously, because those who did it knew it was wrong."

According to Pickle's report, Lundell learned how to access the files by watching a systems administrator work on his computer. Miranda guided Lundell in his accessing endeavors, the report said. In addition, the probe found "a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence implicating him," the report said.

In a statement e-mailed to reporters, Miranda said the report "fails to find any criminal hacking or credible suggestion of criminal acts," and called on Hatch to investigate the substance of the Democratic memos. He accused Pickle of having "acted improperly toward me from the first day I met with the investigators."

The probe was prompted late last year after 14 memos written by staffers working for Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) turned up in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and a conservative Web site.

The memos discussed the Democrats' nominations strategy, often in bluntly political terms, including a suggestion that action on a Michigan nominee be held up because of a pending affirmative action case.

Hatch, expressing outrage at the GOP staffers' infiltration of Democratic files, conducted an inquiry of his own and then triggered the sergeant-at-arms probe, for which Pickle used Secret Service agents and General Dynamics Corp. computer experts to trace the Democratic documents. Pickle conducted about 160 interviews and seized the hard drives and backup tapes of several Senate computers, officials said.

"Air Force One Phone Records Subpoenaed" -- Tom Brune in Newsday, 3/5/04:

The federal grand jury probing the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer's name was published in a column in July, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

And the subpoenas asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman's press briefing in Nigeria, a list of those attending a birthday reception for a former president, and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news media outlets.

The three subpoenas were issued to the White House on Jan. 22, three weeks after Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed special counsel in the probe and during the first wave of appearances by White House staffers before the grand jury. . . .

[One of the subpoenas] sought all documents from July 6 to July 30 of the White House Iraq Group. In August, the Washington Post published the only account of the group's existence.

It met weekly in the Situation Room, the Post said, and its regular participants included senior political adviser Karl Rove; communication strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; policy advisers led by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen J. Hadley; and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Wilson alleged in September that Rove was involved in the leak but a day later pulled back from that, asserting that Rove had "condoned" it.

Hughes left the White House in the summer of 2002. Matalin, who left at the end of 2002, did not return a call for comment. Matalin appeared before the grand jury Jan. 23, the day after the subpoenas were issued.

"Experts Say U.S. Never Spoke to Source of Tip on Bioweapons" -- Walter Pincus in The Washington Post, 3/5/04:

The Bush administration's prewar assertion that Saddam Hussein had a fleet of mobile labs that could produce bioweapons rested largely on information from an Iraqi defector working with another government who was never interviewed by U.S. intelligence officers, according to current and former senior intelligence officials and congressional experts who have studied classified documents.

In his presentation before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said "firsthand descriptions" of the mobile bioweapons fleet had come from an Iraqi chemical engineer who had defected and is "currently hiding in another country with the certain knowledge that Saddam Hussein will kill him if he finds him."

The claims about the mobile facilities remain unverified, however, and now U.S. officials are trying to get access to the Iraqi engineer to verify his story, the sources said, particularly because intelligence officials have discovered that he is related to a senior official in Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, a group of Iraqi exiles who actively encouraged the United States to invade Iraq.

Powell also cited another defector in his speech, an Iraqi major who was made available to U.S. officials by the INC, as supporting the engineer's story. The major, however, had already been "red-flagged" by the Defense Intelligence Agency as having provided questionable information about Iraq's mobile biological program. But DIA analysts did not pass along that cautionary note, and the major was cited in an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq and was mentioned in Powell's speech, officials said.

"Miles to Go: The Road Ahead May Be Even Tougher" -- John F. Burns in The New York Times, 3/7/04:

It was a week that bared just how far Iraq remains from the ideals proclaimed by President Bush as he prepared to go to war last March. It began and ended with painful evidence for the Americans that even the Iraqis it identified as its most reliable allies, the 25 people who sit on the advisory body known as the Iraqi Governing Council, could not agree on the basics of a temporary constitution, the first big step by Iraqis toward a lasting redefinition of their country.

As well, there were the suicide bombings on Tuesday that killed at least 180 Iraqi Shiite worshipers, the deadliest day since the overthrow of Mr. Hussein. If the bombers sought to sow civil war between the Shiite majority and Sunni minority, as American officials suggested, they failed - but in ways that raised more doubts about the ability to establish anything of lasting value here that would be worth the American sacrifice.

In Baghdad and Karbala, angry survivors of the bombings shouted their curses not against Sunni militants who have stamped the past year with violence, but against America and Israel. Incoherent as that seemed to an outsider, the fury suggested that on the Iraqi street, the old enmities, not the new possibilities, still dictate.

On Washington's timetable, the Governing Council was to have adopted an interim constitution by Feb. 28 to guide the country until an elected government, under a permanent, popularly endorsed constitution, takes power at the end of 2005. After weeks of wrangling, the council approved a draft a day late, but it slipped away again on Friday, when Shiite council members raised new demands just as the signing ceremony was convening.

As the exhausted Americans sat down to new negotiations, Iraqis who had barely bothered to turn on their television sets for the signing shrugged, as if to say that the success or failure of the push for democracy was, to them, largely a matter of indifference.

For most Iraqis, it seemed what mattered were the suicide bombings, which sent ripples of new anti-American feelings across the country, just at the moment when the United States most needs Iraqis to support the American project for their future. . . .

No Iraqi politician will say publicly that it would have been better to wait for democratic habits to root - what one Governing Council member, Muwaffak al-Rubaie, referred to last week as "learning a technique that is new to us, the one called compromise."

But Iraqi moderates acknowledge quietly that the greater wisdom might have been to take more time. In effect, these critics say, the Americans and the Iraqis they chose as partners have been asked to push heavy political freight, fast, across what amounts to a rickety bridge.

Last week's turmoil in the Governing Council was a token of how tricky an exercise that may be.

Members were picked from groups considered to be pro-American, or at least pragmatic, and for their professed commitment to democracy.

But even among the relative moderates who make up the council, many of them returned exiles with long experience of living in the West, crucial differences proved unbridgeable.

Faced with missing the initial deadline for the interim constitution, Mr. Bremer and his British deputy, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, agreed to allow the Iraqis to punt on issues that will now be left to the more contentious forum of electoral politics - if not to the guns of the rival parties' militias.

The document that was tentatively agreed on, then at least temporarily derailed on Friday, included provisions for a separation of powers, elections and a bill of rights.

But it said nothing about how an interim government is to be constructed after June 30, when the United States turns over sovereignty to the Iraqis; the document set no rules for elections, and it was dangerously vague on Islam's relation to the state.

Likewise, it was evasive on how and when ethnic and religious militias, which could wreck a future Iraqi state, are to be integrated into a national guard.

It endorsed minority demands for federalism, but was silent on issues crucial to the Kurds.

It provided for an awkward executive authority, a president with two deputies, and left amorphous the question of where ultimate executive power would lie.

Behind these fudges lay a central quandary: How an Iraq ruled by the Sunni Muslim minority since 1921 could be reconstructed so as to transfer power to the Shiite majority without provoking a Sunni-Shiite civil war.

"In Sweeping Critique, Kerry Condemns Bush for Failing to Back Aristide" -- David E. Sanger and David M. Halbfinger in The New York Times, 3/7/04:

HOUSTON, March 6 ? Had he been sitting in the Oval Office last weekend as rebel forces were threatening to enter Port-au-Prince, Senator John Kerry says, he would have sent an international force to protect Haiti's widely disliked elected leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

"I would have been prepared to send troops immediately, period," Mr. Kerry said on Friday, expressing astonishment that President Bush, who talks of supporting democratically elected leaders, withheld any aid and then helped spirit Mr. Aristide into exile after saying the United States could not protect him.

"Look, Aristide was no picnic, and did a lot of things wrong," Mr. Kerry said. But Washington "had understandings in the region about the right of a democratic regime to ask for help. And we contravened all of that. I think it's a terrible message to the region, democracies, and it's shortsighted."

Mr. Kerry's critique on Haiti, which Bush campaign aides dismissed as political, was emblematic of how he is already using foreign policy and national security issues in his contest with the president.

In his first in-depth interview on foreign affairs since effectively winning the Democratic nomination, Mr. Kerry hop-scotched around the world in the course of an hour. He took issue with Mr. Bush's judgment beyond their well-aired differences on Iraq, questioning his handling of North Korea, the Mideast peace process and the spread of nuclear weapons and arguing that he would rewrite the Bush strategy that makes pre-emption a declared, central tenet of American policy.

Mr. Kerry is trying a bit of election-season pre-emption of his own, attempting to short-circuit the White House argument that he is too much of a straddler, too indecisive and too captivated by the nuances of foreign policy to defend American interests.

"People will know I'm tough and I'm prepared to do what is necessary to defend the United States of America, and that includes the unilateral deployment of troops if necessary," said Mr. Kerry, who has rarely used the word "unilateral" in the campaign except to describe how Mr. Bush has alienated allies. "But my standard is very different from George Bush's." . . .

[T]he core of Mr. Kerry's argument in the interview was that divisions within Mr. Bush's foreign policy team have frozen the art of preventative diplomacy and kept Secretary of State Colin L. Powell from doing his job.

"I think simply Powell, who I know, like and admire, has been never permitted to be fully a secretary of state in the way that I envision the secretary of state," he said, describing how he believes that Mr. Powell has been regularly undercut by the administration's more hawkish members, led by Vice President Dick Cheney. "I think Powell ? I'm not sure they didn't lock the keys to the airplane up sometimes."

Mr. Kerry warms to these topics in a way he never quite seems to do when talking about his multistep plans to reform health care or roll back parts of Mr. Bush's tax cuts. . . .

In his conversations on foreign policy, sooner or later Mr. Kerry returns to the touchstone of his early adult life, Vietnam. He compared the Bush administration's participation in the exile of Mr. Aristide last weekend to the coup four decades ago that ousted another unpopular authoritarian leader: President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. Mr. Bush's more hawkish aides, he argued, have failed to learn how the efforts to change a region's dynamics by changing its government almost always backfire.

In Haiti's case, he contended that if he had been in Mr. Bush's shoes, "I would not have allowed it to arrive at where it was," with mobs roaming the streets of Haiti's cities.

Mr. Bush's aides, led by Mr. Powell, said last week that such critiques distort of the administration's efforts. The crisis grew from Mr. Aristide's own actions and his sponsorship of the marauding gangs, Mr. Powell said last week, and the United States decided not to prop him up after he had lost his legitimacy.

Mr. Kerry charges that a similar lack of constant attention led the administration to avoid dealing with the North Korean crisis for the first 18 months of Mr. Bush's presidency and that even now, Mr. Bush is unwilling to engage in serious negotiations. It was an example, he said, of the president's dealing first with the less threatening problem, Iraq, because it was the easier to solve.

"There's a reason the Bush administration walked that backwards and chose Iraq," he said. "And the reason is in the first eight hours of a conflict with North Korea, you'd have over a million casualties, and they knew that in Iraq you wouldn't."

"Before Fall of Aristide, Haiti Hit by Aid Cutoff" -- Farah Stockman and Susan Milligan in The Boston Globe, 3/7/04:

WASHINGTON -- For three years, the US government, the European Union, and international banks have blocked $500 million in aid to Haiti's government, ravaging the economy of a nation already twice as poor as any in the Western Hemisphere.

The cutoff, intended to pressure the government to adopt political reforms, left Haiti struggling to meet even basic needs and weakened the authority of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who went into exile one week ago.

Today, Haiti's government, which serves 8 million people, has an annual budget of about $300 million -- less than that of Cambridge, a city of just over 100,000. And as Haitians attempt to form a new government, many say its success will largely depend on how much and how soon aid will flow to the country.

Some banking officials said loans could resume in a matter of weeks, but others familiar with the process say it could take years.

"It is important to understand that we need help because we are the poorest country in the hemisphere," said Claude Roumain, a key opposition leader who has called for a special international fund to rebuild Haiti and an audit of the central government. "The main concern is where we stand now. To know exactly and to tell the truth to the people."

Many of Aristide's supporters, in Haiti and abroad, angrily contend that the international community, particularly the United States, abandoned the fledgling democracy when it needed aid the most. Many believe that Aristide himself was the target of the de facto economic sanctions, just as Haiti was beginning to put its finances back in order. "This is a case where the United States turned off the tap," said Jeffrey Sachs, an economist at Columbia University. "I believe they did that deliberately to bring down Aristide." . . .

The cutoff began as a few lines on a foreign operations bill in November 2000, six years after US Marines restored Aristide to power following a military coup. Passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Clinton, the clause said no money would be given to Haiti's government until it remedied the flawed parliamentary elections that had taken place that spring.

Aristide was still a lightning rod of partisan debate in the United States. Republicans, most of whom opposed the 1994 US intervention, accused him of political violence, corruption, and an inability to work with the opposition. Democrats, some of whom had become friends with Aristide in their fight to restore the democratically elected leader, had hoped to protect Haiti's fragile progress toward democracy.

Aristide's Lavalas Party and his foes had hit a stalemate in 1997, which virtually shut down the government. Between 1997 and 2000, the deadlock cost the country about half of $2.8 billion in promised international aid because donors felt the government did not meet conditions calling for audits and other oversight.

The 2000 parliamentary elections were the last straw: eight Senate seats were awarded to pro-Aristide candidates in a process widely criticized as rigged, and an outraged opposition boycotted further elections. The opposition insisted that Aristide step down and the leader's backers insisted that he serve out his term. Despite Aristide's efforts to convince the international community that he had remedied the election, US aid to his government never resumed.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund also closed up shop in Haiti, citing poor governance. The Inter-American Development Bank held up a $145 million loan for years, partly because Haiti had not been paying interest on past debts but also because of the political crisis.

The IDB loan was earmarked for drinking water, health, and road-building initiatives, and its delay incited the bitterness of American Democratic congressmen and Haiti activists.

The American lobby for Haiti, strongly supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, put much of the blame for the impasse on the Haitian political opposition. They accused it of slowly suffocating Aristide's government to bring him down -- and enable the well-to-do Haitian elite to supplant the former slum priest.

The sanctions imposed after the 2000 elections aggravated the economic troubles, and made Aristide's job harder, and worsened conditions for ordinary Haitians, local people say. Inflation jumped after 2000.

Sachs, a prominent architect of Third World development initiatives for the United Nations and other agencies, said he met with Aristide in Haiti in January 2001 -- around the time that both President Bush took office and Aristide was elected a second time. During that meeting, Aristide persuaded Sachs to ask the World Bank and the IMF to restore funding.

Sachs tried to do so. But he recalls now: "I was shocked when I came back and spoke to senior officials in Washington. . . . They basically told me the essence of it, which is that the United States is freezing aid right now."

Sachs said the move to block Haiti was unfair because US funds had flowed in recent years to far more problematic governments: Chad, Egypt, Pakistan -- even the Taliban regime before Sept. 11. . . .

The halt in funding took its toll. According to the CIA, Haiti's economy shrunk about 1.2 percent in 2001 and 0.9 percent in 2002.

In 2003, Haiti made a drastic attempt to restart the aid, draining its central bank reserves to pay about $32 million in back payments to reactivate the loans from the Inter-American Development Bank. It received an initial $47 million.

The World Bank, too, was set to lend again, partly due to US efforts, Harbert said, adding that Roger F. Noriega, US assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, asked the Organization of American States to encourage international institutions to restart the funding.

But just as it appeared money was about to start again -- and just as Aristide agreed to a power-sharing plan designed to break the impasse -- rebel fighters attacked. The international community did not intervene because the democratic opposition rejected the power-sharing plan, which did not stipulate that Aristide resign.

More News — February 14-29, 2004

"President Bush's Military Records" -- USA Today, 2/14/04 (links to released documents).

"Bush Acts against Critics on Guard Records and 9/11" -- Elisabeth Bumiller and Philip Shenon in The New York Times, 2/14/04:

In dual announcements capping a week of intense political pressure on Mr. Bush, the White House said it had decided to release all documents from the president's National Guard files and, within hours, disclosed that Mr. Bush would appear before a commission investigating the terrorist attacks.

But the hundreds of pages of National Guard files contain no new evidence and are unlikely to change the basic standoff between Mr. Bush and the Democrats, which is where, when and how often the president showed up for duty from May 1972 to May 1973.

The White House maintains that Guard payroll records, a dental exam that Mr. Bush had in Alabama and the undisputed fact that he was living there during the time in question definitively prove that he turned up for duty. Mr. Bush's critics say the documents prove only that he had his teeth checked in Alabama on Jan. 6, 1973.

The White House has been consumed for days with responding to attacks on the president's truthfulness, especially about his military service 30 years ago.

The only document in the two-inch-thick stack that puts Mr. Bush in Alabama in that period is a document that the White House released on Wednesday, a copy of a dental exam performed at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Montgomery on Jan. 6, 1973. . . .

The White House released the documents with little advance notice at 6:30 p.m., after much of the staff had left for a long holiday weekend. It seemed to be as much an effort at public relations as an attempt to quiet Mr. Bush's critics, at least temporarily, by demonstrating the president's willingness to be open about his military service.

The announcement that Mr. Bush would appear before the 9/11 commission came less than a half-hour later, shortly before 7 p.m., in a short statement e-mailed to reporters by the White House. In it, the White House said Mr. Bush had agreed to a request for a private meeting with the commission, which is led by Thomas H. Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey. . . .

"The president has agreed to the request," the statement said. "While the chair and vice chair have suggested the possibility of a public session at a later time, we believe the president can provide all the requested information in the private meeting, and there is no need for any additional testimony."

It was unclear how much of Mr. Bush's testimony would eventually be made public in a commission report. But commission officials said that much of the testimony might have to remain secret because it would almost certainly deal with highly classified intelligence matters.

Commission officials said that a letter requesting testimony from Mr. Bush had been delivered to the White House only late on Friday afternoon. On Thursday, the commission announced that it intended to seek testimony from Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, as well as several senior White House officials and cabinet officers in the Bush administration.

Commission officials said that they had a tentative commitment from Mr. Cheney, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore to submit to questioning as well.

"Many Gaps in Bush's Guard Records" -- Dana Milbank and Mike Allen in The Washington Post, 2/14/04:

Files released by the White House last night from President Bush's Vietnam War-era service in the National Guard show that the future president was an exemplary pilot whose military record contains numerous gaps in the last two years of his six-year commitment.

The White House, seeking to quell a revived controversy over Bush's Guard service, released hundreds of pages of records that were previously withheld. The documents include what the White House describes as all the non-medical elements of Bush's military personnel file, including performance evaluations, documentation of his honorable discharge, and a thick bureaucratic paper trail of applications, promotions and transfers.

The records show Bush was an eager fighter pilot who said he wanted to spend a lifetime in aviation. But they provide no evidence that he did any military service in Alabama, to which he had requested a transfer in May 1972 to work on a Senate campaign that ended in November 1972.

And the records show officials from Bush's home base in Texas declining to provide details of his activities between May 1972 to April 1973, even though such documentation was requested by National Guard headquarters.

The records, while offering nothing further to prove Bush's participation with the Guard in Alabama, provide a number of extraneous personal details about Bush. His tonsils were taken out at age 5 and he had appendicitis at 10. A fatty cyst was removed from his chest in 1960, and he had a hemorrhoid while in the Guard.

Bush had a $212-a-month stint as a sporting-goods salesman at Sears in 1966, and was a messenger for the white-shoe law firm of Baker Botts. He listed the "Houston Club" as a credit and character reference on one form. The "personal history" he filled out in 1968, when he was 21, listed his only foreign travel as Scotland, in August and September 1959, for "pleasure -- vacation." . . .

One of the most prominent mysteries about Bush's military record has been why he did not take another flight physical, resulting in the suspension from flying status. [White House communications director Dan] Bartlett said, as he has in the past, Bush made that choice "because he was no longer flying," since he was reporting to the Alabama Air National Guard, which did not have the plane he was trained to fly, an F-102 fighter.

"It was a practical thing," Bartlett said. "There was no reason to take a flight exam when he wasn't flying and wasn't going to fly."

"'Bad News Doesn't Get Better with Age" -- Eric Boehlert at salon.com, 2/14/04:

Fending off allegations that President Bush failed to honor his Texas Air National Guard service by taking unexplained months off at a time from serving, the White House also has to deal with the accusation from a retired lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard who claims aides to Bush went through his military file in 1997 and removed any embarrassing information, and tossed documents in the trash. They were allegedly the types of documents that might help answer many of the unanswered questions surrounding Bush's Guard service today.

The retired officer, Bill Burkett, went public with his charges in 1998. But with renewed interest in Bush's Guard service, and specifically the contents of his personal military file, Burkett's story about tampering has taken on greater urgency and attracted national notice. "I don't like the attention," he said from his home near Abilene, Texas, during an interview with Salon. "If you think 15 minutes of fame is worth it, that's damn sure no motivation for this kind of crap," referring to the constant press inquiries. (Burkett's story is also detailed in the upcoming book by James Moore, "Bush's War for Re-election.") . . .

Burkett says when the incident occurred in 1997 he discussed it several times with his friend and fellow officer George Conn. In 2002, Conn confirmed to USA Today that Burkett talked to him about the conversation he overheard regarding Bush's file, and did so within days of its happening. This week Conn told the New York Times via e-mail, "I know LTC Bill Burkett and served with him several years ago in the Texas Army National Guard. I believe him to be honest and forthright. He calls things like he sees them.'" But in Friday's Boston Globe, Conn, now a civilian government employee working with the U.S. Army in Germany, denied Burkett ever told him about the conversation Burkett overheard concerning Bush's military file.

Burkett dismisses Conn's new version of the story. "The truth hasn't changed," said Burkett. "The only thing that has changed is George Conn's statement." . . .

[Boehlert's interview with Burkett follows.]

General James, Karen Hughes, Joe Allbaugh, Dan Bartlett, General Scribner, they've all adamantly denied your account. If someone's coming to this fresh and doesn't have strong feeling either way, why should they believe your account if those four or five people all say it's an outrageous claim?

One way I think you should look at this is, look at motive on my part. Why would I do this? Why would I manufacture such a story? Why would I then endanger or otherwise destroy a very strong career? Why would I then subject myself to the retaliation that was at hand? Once the retaliation was at hand and the story was false, why would I continue to insist it was true?

George Conn told the Boston Globe this week you never mentioned the overheard conversation to him, and that he did not know Bush's file was being reviewed.

It's interesting that just two days ago Mr. Conn forwarded an e-mail response to a reporter, which was read to me, and it said, quote, "Lt. Col. Burkett is an honorable man and does not lie," end quote.

So, you did speak to Mr. Conn that night or within a couple days in 1997 expressing your concern and also told him about the conversation you overheard.

The truth has not changed in this one day.

Was he aware that that was George Bush's file being examined when you two visited the museum?

I just said that the truth has not changed in this one day.

I know but...

You're not going to take me into the details and pound this thing, no. The truth has not changed in one day. And I stand on those statements and the truth.

Are you surprised by Conn's comments?

No.

Even though he's corroborated you for all those years?

You don't understand the level of pressure he's under. He has a contract position with the Department of Defense.

Have you talked to him recently?

I had an e-mail sent to him. I told him, George, I know you're underground, I know you're being beat up. You do what you have to do. I'll still respect you. And I respect him. This guy's an honorable man. I love the man. But you can't ask a man to give up his life. . . .

Are you surprised they were able to uncover records that they hadn't been previously able to find?

I think it's strange when Mr. Dan Bartlett in 2000, right before the election says, "No, Denver [the Air Reserve Personnel Center] didn't have any of those files, and those files didn't exist." And now he comes back and says, "Hey, we've got them and they were right where they were supposed to be in Denver." Now, that's strange to me. That doesn't pass the smell test. And that's the only reason this story has legs.

"Bush's National Guard Service 1972-73" -- Washington Post, 2/15/04:

Photo of Bill Calhoun Only one person has come forward with recollections of serving with Bush in Alabama. John B. "Bill" Calhoun, 69, said he saw Bush at Dannelly Air National Guard Base eight to 10 times from May to October 1972. But Calhoun also said he recalls Bush at Dannelly at times in mid-1972 when the White House acknowledges Bush was not even based in Alabama. The following is an account of the documents and events during this time period.

May 24, 1972: Bush seeks a transfer from his Houston Guard unit to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron in Montgomery, Ala., for an unpaid assignment while he works as political director on the Senate campaign of Winton M. Blount, a friend of his father. The transfer is approved by the unit's commander. There is no record Bush reported for duty.

July 6: Bush's medical qualification to fly expires.

July 31: The Air Force Reserve Personnel Center overrules the May transfer request and returns Bush's application as "ineligible for assignment in the Air Reserve Squadron."

Sept. 5: A memo is written announcing the revocation of Bush's flight status as of Aug. 1 because of a "failure to accomplish annual medical examination."

Sept. 6: Bush's request for a transfer to perform "equivalent duty" for the 187th TAC Recon Group based in Montgomery, Ala., is approved.

Sept. 15: The Alabama Guard accepts Bush and directs him to report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed. Turnipseed said he never met Bush.

Late October 1972 to May 1973: Records show sporadic Guard activity at unspecified locations, until Bush appears to resume active participation in Houston.

January 1973: Bush goes in for a dental examination, which results in the only documentation that shows Bush at a Guard facility in Alabama.

May 2: Bush's evaluation form states: "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report. A civilian occupation made it necessary for him to move to Montgomery, Alabama."

June: The evaluation is returned to the Texas National Guard with request for form 77a so "this officer can be rated in the position he held."

Sept. 5: Bush files an "application for discharge" effective Oct. 1, seven months before his six years were up. The discharge was granted.

Nov. 12: Form 77a is sent by the Texas Guard's personnel office and says simply: "Not rated for the period 1 May 1972 through 30 Apr 73. Report for this period not available for administrative reasons."

"Guard, Reserves Have History of Spotty Record-Keeping" -- Bradley Graham in The Washington Post, 2/15/04:

The controversy over President Bush's time in the Air National Guard has exposed one not-so-secret aspect of the Guard's record-keeping: It has been full of gaps and inaccuracies for years.

Contrary to the military's general image of orderliness and discipline, the process of documenting the service of Guard members and reservists has long suffered from disorder and incompleteness, according to people both inside and outside the Pentagon familiar with the records system.

"In the 1960s, '70s and '80s, we had a horrendous problem keeping National Guard and reserve records," said Van Hipp, who served as a deputy assistant secretary for reserve forces in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. "And that's why you have hundreds of Guard and reserve members each year who go to their congressmen for help compiling their records for retirement purposes."

Records for the Air National Guard are maintained at the Air Reserve Personnel Center, a giant three-story facility in Denver. But they are compiled first by personnel officers at Guard units in individual states -- which is where problems usually arise, military officials say.

"It's like anything else; you're dealing with human beings, so mistakes are going to be made," said Lt. Col. Gus Schalkham, the center's spokesman. "Sometimes things don't get put in there by the military personnel system."

Another official who works at the Denver center estimated that 90 percent of the personnel files arrive missing one or more elements. . . .

Further, the accuracy of some of the submitted information has come into question because of commanders' efforts over the years to exaggerate membership figures. In these cases, Guard members who have stopped going to monthly drills have nonetheless remained on unit rosters to ensure no reduction in federal funding for the units.

An investigation in 2001 by USA Today found that the percentage of such "ghost soldiers" ran as high as 20 percent in some units. A subsequent report by the congressional General Accounting Office confirmed that Guard officers had inflated troop levels in some instances and filed false reports, which then became the basis for funding requests to Congress.

"Record-keeping in the Guard has always been spotty," said a senior congressional staff member familiar with the issue. "Low participation, or non-participation, has been chronic.

"My understanding is that the rule of thumb for many years was that a member could miss as many as nine drills before being dropped," he added. "That meant that, with two drills being held a month, someone could go four months without attending before anything might happen to him."

In the late 1960s and early 1970s when Bush served, the Air National Guard was struggling to overcome problems of undermanning, poor training and outdated equipment that had plagued it during the Korean War, according to the Guard's chief historian, Joe Gross. With about 90,000 members, the Guard was about 11 percent the size of the active force, which numbered 791,000 in 1970.

"Adventures in Forensic Journalism" -- Kevin Drum at calpundit.com, 2/15/04:

Former Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett says that members of George Bush's staff, along with senior officers at Texas National Guard Headquarters, purged Bush's National Guard files of potentially embarrassing material back in 1997. Is his story true? . . .

The short answer is that I think Burkett is probably telling the truth. The long answer is � well, long.

"Why Bush Stopped Flying Remains a Mystery" -- Dave Moniz and Jim Drinkard at usatoday.com, 2/16/04:

Officers who flew fighter-jet patrols in the early 1970s with George W. Bush describe him as a gung-ho warrior and a gifted pilot who was popular in his Texas Air National Guard unit.

"He was a hell of a good pilot," one of Bush's former commanding officers, Walter B. "Buck" Staudt, recalled in December 2000, shortly after Bush was elected president. In 1971, he rated among the top 10% of fellow pilots. . . .

The positive descriptions of Bush's military service make his sudden decision to quit flying in the spring of 1972 � two years before his pilot commitment was up � all the more puzzling.

Why 1st Lt. Bush stopped flying F-102 fighters remains murky despite the release on Friday of more than 400 pages of records detailing his Guard service from the time he enlisted until he was discharged.

An examination by USA TODAY of all the Bush records released to the public and interviews with pilots, Bush's Guard comrades and military personnel experts suggests Bush was treated differently from most pilots:

  • Bush was accepted into pilot school even though he scored in the 25th percentile on a standardized test. The test was given to all prospective pilots and there was no specific score that disqualified a candidate. In addition, Bush had two arrests for college pranks and four traffic offenses before applying for pilot training. Former and current military pilots say it was uncommon for an applicant to be approved for training with such a record.
  • There is no record of a formal procedure called a "flying evaluation board," which normally would have been convened once Bush stopped flying in April 1972.
  • Bush's records do not show he was given another job in the Air Guard once he quit flying. Pilots and Bush comrades say his records should reflect some type of new duties he was assigned. . . .

Bush, whose father was in Congress at the time, was selected for Air Force pilot training, a highly competitive process, despite the speeding tickets and automobile accidents. He had also been arrested for two incidents considered college pranks: stealing a wreath in New Haven, Conn., and rowdiness at a college football game.

The combination of arrests and traffic violations and the score in the bottom quarter of those who took the pilot exam usually would have cast doubt on most applicants who were applying for pilot training, four former and current National Guard fighter pilots and one former Air Force pilot said. All served in the 1970s.

After Bush stopped flying fighter jets in April 1972 and did not take an annual physical examination required of all pilots, the Air Force should have required a hearing known as a flying evaluation board to determine his fitness to fly. Because the federal government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to train each pilot, it typically did not allow them to stop flying without a formal proceeding. Bush's records do not mention a flying evaluation board.

The president's advisers and friends have explained that Bush stopped flying because his unit was phasing out the F-102 in 1972. They also say he was not able to get a required flight physical in Alabama, where his records show he was granted permission to train in the fall of 1972. Bartlett said there was no need for a physical exam because Bush stopped flying.

Guard records, however, show pilots in Bush's unit in Texas were still flying the F-102 in 1974, a year after Bush left the Guard.

And Bush would likely have been able to get a flight doctor in Alabama to give him a physical. The White House released records last week showing that Bush had received a dental exam at Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Montgomery, Ala., in January 1973.

Pilots who stop flying are given other Guard duties. In Air Force jargon, it's called DNIF, or Duties Not to Include Flying, which is a written order. There is no indication in Bush's records that his supervisors assigned him another job. Aides say Bush has told them that once he stopped flying, he performed "odds and ends" for commanders whose names he can't recall. . . .

John Richardson, a former Air Guard, Air Force and Air Reserve fighter pilot who served from 1978 to 2001, said regulations for Air Guard pilots during the early 1970s were much more relaxed than they are today. But even by the standards of the time, Richardson said, Bush's selection for pilot training and the circumstances under which he stopped flying are "highly unusual." . . .

Richardson, the former Air Guard pilot, said it is not unheard of for Guard pilots to stop flying for months at a time. Some are airline pilots and need to adjust their schedules; others get called away by their employers. But it is rare for a pilot to fail to take a required physical, even one who knew he would be taking a short hiatus from flying, Richardson said.

"On Guard -- or AWOL?" -- Jackson Baker in The Memphis Flyer, 2/16/04:

Two members of the Air National Guard unit that President George W. Bush allegedly served with as a young Guard flyer in 1972 had been told to expect him late in that year and were on the lookout for him. He never showed, however; of that both Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop are certain. . . .

BOTH MEN KNEW JOHN �BILL� CALHOUN, the Atlanta businessman who was flight safety officer for the 187th in 1972 and who subsequently retired as a lieutenant colonel. Calhoun created something of a sensation late last week when he came forward at the apparent prompting of the administration to claim that he did in fact remember Lt. Bush, that the young officer has met with him during drill weekends, largely spending his time reading safety manuals in the 187th�s safety office.

Even in media venues sympathetic to the president, doubt was cast almost immediately on aspects of Calhoun�s statement � particularly his claim that Lt. Bush was at the 187th during spring and early summer of 1972, periods when the White House itself does not claim the young lieutenant had yet arrived at Dannelly.

Mintz and Bishop are both skeptical, as well.

�I�m not saying it wasn�t possible, but I can�t imagine Bill not introducing him around,� Mintz said. �Unless he [Bush] was an introvert back then, which I don�t think he was, he�d have spent some time out in the mainstream, in the dining hall or wherever. He�d have spent some time with us. Unless he was trying to avoid publicity. But he wasn�t well known at all then. It all seems a bit unusual.�

Bishop was even more explicit. �I�m glad he [Calhoun] remembered being with Lt. Bush and Lt. Bush�s eating sandwiches and looking at manuals. It seems a little strange that one man saw an individual, and all the rest of them did not. Because it was such a small organization. Usually, we all had lunch together.

�Maybe we�re all getting old and senile,� Bishop said with obvious sarcasm. �I don�t want to second-guess Mr. Calhoun�s memory and I would hate to impugn the integrity of a fellow officer, but I know the rest of us didn�t see Lt. Bush.� As Bishop (corroborated by Mintz) described the physical environment, the safety office where the meetings between Major Calhoun and Lt. Bush allegedly took place was on the second floor of the unit�s hangar, a relatively small structure itself... It was a very close-quarters situation � It would have been �virtually impossible,� said Bishop, for an officer to go in and out of the safety office for eight hours a month several months in a row and be unseen by anybody except then Major Calhoun.

As Bishop noted, �Fighter pilots, and that�s what we were, have situational awareness. They know everything about their environment � whether it�s an enemy plane creeping up or a stranger in their hangar.�

In any case, said Bishop, �If what he [Calhoun] says is true, there would be documentation of the fact in point summaries and pay documents.�

AND THAT�S ANOTHER MYSTERY.

Yet another veteran of the 187th is Wayne Rambo of Montgomery, who as a lieutenant served as the unit�s chief administrative until April of 1972. That was a few months prior to Bush�s alleged service, which Rambo, who continued to drill with the 187th, also cannot remember.

Rambo was, however, able to shed some light on the Guard practice, then and now, of assigning annual service �points� to members, based on their record of attendance and participation. The bare minimum number is 50, and reservists meeting standard are said to have had �a good year,� Rambo said. Less than that amount to an �unsatisfactory� year � one calling for penalties assessed against the reservist� retirement fund and, more immediately, for disciplinary or other corrective action. Such deficits can be written off only on the basis of a �commander�s call,� Rambo said � and only then because of certifiable illness or some other clearly plausible reason.

�The 50-point minimum has always been taken very seriously, especially for pilots,� says Rambo. �The reason is that it takes a lot of taxpayer money to train a pilot, and you don�t want to see it wasted.�

For whatever reason, the elusive Lt. George W. Bush was awarded 41 actual points for his service in both Texas and Alabama during 1972 � though he apparently was given 15 �gratuitous� points -- presumably by his original Texas command -- enough to bring him up from substandard. That would have been a decided violation of the norm, according to Rambo, who stresses that the awarding of gratuitous points was clearly meant only as a reward to reservists for meeting their bottom line

�You had to get to 50 to get the gratuitous points, which applied toward your retirement benefits,� the former chief administrative officer recalls. �If you were 49, you stayed at 49; if you were 50, you got up to 65.�

"New Bush Records, Same Old Questions" -- Eric Boehlert at salon.com, 2/17/04:

The mystery surrounding Bush's physical is one the White House continues to grapple with. Over the weekend Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, told the New York Times Bush didn't take the physical because when he transferred to Alabama for the Senate campaign, his temporary Alabama National Guard unit did not fly the same fighter jet as Bush trained on in Texas. Therefore, because Bush could not fly planes in Alabama, he did not bother to report for the medical exam. Bartlett's explanation makes it seem as though Bush failed to take the physical only because of the discrepancy in the type of fighter planes being flown in Alabama. The truth is Bush originally asked to be transferred to an Alabama Guard unit that flew no planes. It was a postal unit and his choice was eventually overruled by the National Guard headquarters, which did not see the merit in Bush, a full-trained pilot, serving at a paper-pushing unit. (Bush was eventually assigned to a unit that flew planes.) So despite Bartlett's spin, it's clear that by the spring of 1972 Bush had already decided, apparently unilaterally, that his flying days were over and that he was not going to submit himself to a physical. His unit assignment in Alabama appears to have had nothing to do with that decision.

Bush's failure to take the physical in 1972, and his subsequent loss of his flying status, should have triggered a disciplinary review, copies of which would be contained in Bush's military file. But none exists. If no disciplinary actions were ever taken, it would likely confirm the suspicion that Bush's commanders looked the other way while the son of a congressman was able to bend military rules to his advantage.

The records released by the White House do include early evaluations that described Bush with high praise. "Lieutenant Bush is an outstanding young pilot and officer and is a credit to this unit," Lt. Col. Bobby Hodges wrote on May 27, 1971. "This officer is rated in the upper 10 percent of his contemporaries." But against the backdrop of Bush's sudden disappearance from the Texas Guard, and his apparent failure to fly again, the praise only serves to highlight the strangeness of the president's Guard trajectory.

Meanwhile, the White House appeared to gain some momentum late last week in finally locating people who could vouch for Bush's mysterious Alabama service. But upon closer examination, their stories did little if anything to support Bush's claim he served honorably while in Alabama. For instance, Jean Sullivan, an Alabama GOP leader, stepped forward last week and told reporters Bush worked hard on the Blount campaign. But she also conceded that even back in 1972 there were rumors Bush wasn't fulfilling his Guard duty. She dismissed the talk as the work of "some idiots" within the Alabama National Guard who were jealous of Bush. Still, thanks to Sullivan, we now know real-time doubts were being raised about Bush's service in Alabama.

Link to Doonesbury bounty strip

Republicans last week also provided reporters with the phone number of John "Bill" Calhoun, a former Alabama National Guard officer. He told journalists he was upset during the 2000 campaign when he read references to Bush's lapsed service and tried to contact Bush's campaign, but never heard back. Apparently Calhoun, who now lives in Georgia, did not see the press reports at the time about a group of Alabama veterans who offered a $3,500 reward for anyone who would come forward in 2000 and corroborate Bush's claim about serving in Alabama.

Last week Calhoun told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Bush asked for weekend drills. But according to the documents released by the White House one week ago, only five of the 12 days Bush was credited for serving in Alabama were for weekend days.

Specifically, Calhoun told reporters Bush was assigned to his command at the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, and he saw Bush serve between eight to 10 times for about eight hours each from May to October 1972. But those May-to-October dates do not correspond with the payroll records the White House released last Tuesday. They indicated Bush was credited for doing Guard duty in Alabama during the months of October, November and, presumably, January.

Secondly, when Bush moved to Alabama to work on the Blount campaign, he first asked to be transferred to the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron (the postal unit). There's no evidence Bush ever showed up at the 9921st. Instead, Bush in September 1972 asked to serve with a different Alabama unit, Calhoun's 187th Tactical Recon Group, for the months of September, October and November. So why would Calhoun have seen Bush signing in at the Montgomery base during May, June, July, August and September, if Bush didn't even ask to be transferred there until Sept. 5? And according to the recently released White House documents, Bush didn't actually show up at the Montgomery base until October 28-29.

"Bypassing Senate for Second Time, Bush Seats Judge" -- Neil A. Lewis in The New York Times, 2/21/04:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 � President Bush on Friday used a weeklong Congressional recess to install William H. Pryor Jr., the Alabama attorney general, in a federal appeals court seat to get around a Democratic filibuster that had blocked the nomination.

It was the second time in the last five weeks that Mr. Bush used a president's power to make appointments when Congress is not in session to name judges directly to the bench and thus skirt the Senate confirmation process. In January, Mr. Bush named Charles W. Pickering Sr., whose nomination had also been blocked by Senate Democrats, to another appeals court seat. . . .

Under the Constitution, Mr. Pryor will be able to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, until the end of the next session of Congress � meaning sometime in the fall of 2005. Judge Pickering, who was given a recess appointment before the current session of Congress, must give up his seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, in the fall of this year.

"Manufacturing McDonald's?" -- James Toedtman in Newsday, 2/21/04:

Washington -- White House economists wonder whether hamburger flippers at fast-food restaurants should be considered manufacturers. . . .

President George W. Bush raised the issue in his annual economic report.

In the report last week, Bush's chief economic adviser N. Gregory Mankiw called the definition "somewhat blurry" and asked whether it should be changed. "When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a 'service' or is it combining inputs to 'manufacture' a product?"

For an administration that has seen 2.6 million manufacturing jobs vanish since January 2001, raising the possibility of changing how manufacturing jobs are classified has provoked a sharp response, especially in an election year.

When Mankiw's remarks came out this week, Democrats had a field day.

"If fast food is classified as manufacturing, perhaps the neighborhood lemonade stand should be considered part of the military-industrial complex," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

In Ohio, presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said: "If this president is going to tell middle-class factory workers that even though their job has disappeared, they can still have a good manufacturing job at $5.15 an hour at McDonald's, let him come to Ohio."

"Governor Fears Unrest unless Same-Sex Marriages Are Halted" -- Edward Epstein in The San Francisco Chronicle, 2/23/04:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger turned up the rhetoric against San Francisco's move to allow same-sex marriages, saying on national TV Sunday that he fears outbreaks of serious civil unrest if the ceremonies continue at City Hall.

Schwarzenegger said on NBC's "Meet the Press'' that he fears worsening protests about the divisive issue and worries the situation could get out of hand if courts don't quickly stop the marriages, which are being performed in defiance of existing state law.

"All of a sudden, we see riots, we see protests, we see people clashing. The next thing we know, there is injured or there is dead people. We don't want it to get to that extent,'' the Republican said in his first appearance as governor on a Sunday talk show.

A number of protesters were escorted out of San Francisco City Hall on Friday when they tried to disrupt the weddings, but no one was arrested.

That same day, the governor ordered state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to go to court to try to stop the marriages as soon as possible. Lockyer -- a Democrat and an independently elected state official -- said he resented the order and said Schwarzenegger had no authority to order him to do anything.

However, Lockyer's office has decided to expedite its reply to a lawsuit San Francisco filed last week challenging the laws that forbid same-sex marriage, Hallye Jordan, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said Sunday. She said the reply would probably be filed early this week.

"We want a quick resolution of this issue," Jordan said. "We've got 30 days to file, but we're not going to wait. We have every intention of moving quickly because we think it's important for the people of California and for those same-sex couples who have obtained marriage licenses.''

She said she was taken aback by Schwarzenegger's comments that there are "riots," "protests" and "people clashing" in San Francisco. She said the attorney general's office knew only of the clashes Friday in which some 25 people blocked the door of the county clerk's office.

"We are not aware of any riots or any threat to public safety in San Francisco," Jordan said. "As we have said, if there is violence, we would step in. At this point we see peaceful acts of civil disobedience on both sides. We are unclear as to what the governor is referencing in terms of riots. We urge a toning down of the political rhetoric. This is a complex issue, and we will be dealing with it in the courts."

An aide to Mayor Gavin Newsom also denied Sunday there has been any violence surrounding the marriages, which have garnered international publicity. "It's been largely peaceful, and we don't see that changing,'' said spokesman Peter Ragone. . . .

"Bush Pushes for Ban on Same-Sex Marriage" -- Elizabeth Auster in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/25/04:

President Bush called Tuesday for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, ending months of speculation about his stance on the controversy and guaranteeing it will become an issue in his re-election campaign.

Bush, noting that authorities in Massachusetts and San Francisco have moved to legalize same-sex marriage, said an amendment is necessary to protect "the most fundamental institution of civilization" from being redefined by "activist judges and local officials."

"If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment," he said.

"Decisive and democratic action is needed, because attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country."

Bush left open the possibility of allowing states to offer some benefits to same-sex couples, saying that legislatures should be "free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage."

Bush's remarks at the White House, coming only one day after he delivered a feisty speech that many viewed as the unofficial kickoff of his re-election campaign, were quickly assailed by the leading Democratic presidential candidates.

"I believe President Bush is wrong," Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said.

"All Americans should be concerned when a president who is in political trouble tries to tamper with the Constitution of the United States at the start of his re-election campaign," Kerry said, adding that he would vote against a constitutional amendment even though he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman."

Both Kerry and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said the issue should be left to the states.

"Washington has no business playing politics with this issue," Edwards said in a statement, adding that he opposes both gay marriage and attempts to amend the Constitution to ban it. . . .

Kerry, Edwards and other Democratic opponents of a constitutional amendment accused Bush of trying to distract the public from issues such as jobs and health care.

"Our founding fathers would be appalled by the president's efforts to use our Constitution as a weapon to divide our nation," said Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a gay Democrat from Wisconsin.

Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans - a gay-rights group that endorsed Bush in 2000 - called Bush's announcement a "declaration of war" against gays and said his group would "do some soul searching" in the coming days about whether to endorse Bush again.

"As conservative Republicans, we are outraged," he said. "This is a purely political proposal to appease the radical right."

"A Move to Satisfy Conservative Base" -- Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, 2/25/04:

With President Bush's embrace yesterday of a marriage amendment, the compassionate conservative of 2000 has shown he is willing, if necessary, to rekindle the culture wars in 2004.

Bush's plan was to run for a second term on the basis of his performance as a war leader and as a tax cutter, eschewing divisive social issues as he did in 2000 while campaigning as "a uniter, not a divider." But in the end, Republican strategists said, Bush had no choice but to change course and add a highly charged cultural issue to the center of the campaign.

Bush's conservative base of support, despite three years of cultivation, had grown restless over the budget deficit, government spending and his plan to liberalize immigration. At the same time, he was on the defensive over the economy and the Iraq war, and facing an uncharacteristically unified Democratic Party. . . .

"This is an attempt, probably successful, to make sure their base remains with them," Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg said. He said the strategy will still be a "net positive" for Bush but will not work as well as it did in 1988.

"The cultural war gets you to even, but it doesn't get you to a Bush-Dukakis election, because the country is more diverse and more tolerant," Greenberg said.

Democrats were already squirming yesterday after Bush's announcement. Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic front-runner to be Bush's opponent in November, coupled his announcement that he would oppose the amendment with many qualifiers.

He said he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman," but supports "civil unions" and believes states should make decisions about gay marriage. Kerry also complained Bush is "trying to drive a wedge."

But if the move made Democrats uneasy, a Senate Republican with ties to the religious conservative movement said "the last place Bush wanted to be" at this time in the electoral cycle was wooing his base of support. "He should be coasting on being the war president and deliverer of tax cuts; instead, he has to take a divisive role on a contentious social issue that could undercut him as a compassionate conservative," this official said.

Concern was evident in some of the public caution voiced by Bush allies on Capitol Hill yesterday. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), while applauding Bush's "moral leadership" on the issue, said, "We're not going to take a knee-jerk reaction to this. We are going to look at our options, and we are going to be deliberative about what solutions we may suggest."

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) said he is "not supportive" of an amendment and suggested the matter first go through the court system.

This reluctance is not surprising, said Andrew Kohut, whose nonpartisan Pew Research Center has polled extensively about gay marriage. Recent polls, including a new Washington Post-ABC News survey, show majorities oppose gay marriage, but the public is divided on the need for a constitutional amendment.

It ranked 23rd out of 24 policy priorities in a January Pew poll. At the same time, Kohut said, "There are a fair number of swing voters who take a libertarian point of view, and if Republicans are seen as taking rights away, it's not a good thing."

Indeed, at a fundraiser Monday night, Bush vowed to "extend the frontiers of liberty." But 15 hours later, he threw his support behind an amendment that would be only the second in U.S. history other than Prohibition to curtail public freedoms. In the 2000 campaign, Bush himself opposed federal intervention on the subject, saying in a Feb. 15 interview with CNN's Larry King that states "can do what they want to do" on gay marriage. Vice President Cheney, similarly, said in 2000, "I don't think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area."

"The Trade Tightrope" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 2/27/04:

You can't blame the Democrats for making the most of the Bush administration's message malfunction on trade and jobs. When the president's top economist suggests, even hypothetically, considering hamburger-flipping a form of manufacturing, it's a golden opportunity to accuse the White House of being out of touch with the concerns of working Americans. ("Will special sauce now be counted as a durable good?" Representative John Dingell asks.) And the accusation sticks, because it's true.

But the Democratic presidential candidates have to walk a tightrope. To exploit the administration's vulnerability, they must offer relief to threatened workers. But they also have to avoid falling into destructive protectionism.

Let me spare you the usual economist's sermon on the virtues of free trade, except to say this: although old fallacies about international trade have been making a comeback lately (yes, Senator Charles Schumer, that means you), it is as true as ever that the U.S. economy would be poorer and less productive if we turned our back on world markets. Furthermore, if the United States were to turn protectionist, other countries would follow. The result would be a less hopeful, more dangerous world.

Yet it's bad economics to pretend that free trade is good for everyone, all the time. "Trade often produces losers as well as winners," declares the best-selling textbook in international economics (by Maurice Obstfeld and yours truly). The accelerated pace of globalization means more losers as well as more winners; workers' fears that they will lose their jobs to Chinese factories and Indian call centers aren't irrational.

Addressing those fears isn't protectionist. On the contrary, it's an essential part of any realistic political strategy in support of world trade. That's why the Nelson Report, a strongly free-trade newsletter on international affairs, recently had kind words for John Kerry. It suggested that he is basically a free trader who understands that "without some kind of political safety valve, Congress may yet be stampeded into protectionism, which benefits no one."

"Creative Class War" -- Richard Florida in Washington Monthly, January/February 2004:

Cities from Sydney to Brussels to Dublin to Vancouver are fast becoming creative-class centers to rival Boston, Seattle, and Austin. They're doing it through a variety of means--from government-subsidized labs to partnerships between top local universities and industry. Most of all, they're luring foreign creative talent, including our own. The result is that the sort of high-end, high-margin creative industries that used to be the United States' province and a crucial source of our prosperity have begun to move overseas. The most advanced cell phones are being made in Salo, Finland, not Chicago. The world's leading airplanes are being designed and built in Toulouse and Hamburg, not Seattle.

As other nations become more attractive to mobile immigrant talent, America is becoming less so. A recent study by the National Science Board found that the U.S. government issued 74,000 visas for immigrants to work in science and technology in 2002, down from 166,000 in 2001--an astonishing drop of 55 percent. This is matched by similar, though smaller-scale, declines in other categories of talented immigrants, from finance experts to entertainers. Part of this contraction is derived from what we hope are short-term security concerns--as federal agencies have restricted visas from certain countries after September 11. More disturbingly, we find indications that fewer educated foreigners are choosing to come to the United States. For instance, most of the decline in science and technology immigrants in the National Science Board study was due to a drop in applications.

Why would talented foreigners avoid us? In part, because other countries are simply doing a better, more aggressive job of recruiting them. The technology bust also plays a role. There are fewer jobs for computer engineers, and even top foreign scientists who might still have their pick of great cutting-edge research positions are less likely than they were a few years ago to make millions through tech-industry partnerships.

But having talked to hundreds of talented professionals in a half dozen countries over the past year, I'm convinced that the biggest reason has to do with the changed political and policy landscape in Washington. In the 1990s, the federal government focused on expanding America's human capital and interconnectedness to the world--crafting international trade agreements, investing in cutting edge R&D, subsidizing higher education and public access to the Internet, and encouraging immigration. But in the last three years, the government's attention and resources have shifted to older sectors of the economy, with tariff protection and subsidies to extractive industries. Meanwhile, Washington has stunned scientists across the world with its disregard for consensus scientific views when those views conflict with the interests of favored sectors (as has been the case with the issue of global climate change). Most of all, in the wake of 9/11, Washington has inspired the fury of the world, especially of its educated classes, with its my-way-or-the-highway foreign policy. In effect, for the first time in our history, we're saying to highly mobile and very finicky global talent, "You don't belong here."

Obviously, this shift has come about with the changing of the political guard in Washington, from the internationalist Bill Clinton to the aggressively unilateralist George W. Bush. But its roots go much deeper, to a tectonic change in the country's political-economic demographics. As many have noted, America is becoming more geographically polarized, with the culturally more traditionalist, rural, small-town, and exurban "red" parts of the country increasingly voting Republican, and the culturally more progressive urban and suburban "blue" areas going ever more Democratic. Less noted is the degree to which these lines demarcate a growing economic divide, with "blue" patches representing the talent-laden, immigrant-rich creative centers that have largely propelled economic growth, and the "red" parts representing the economically lagging hinterlands. The migrations that feed creative-center economies are also exacerbating the contrasts. As talented individuals, eager for better career opportunities and more adventurous, diverse lifestyles, move to the innovative cities, the hinterlands become even more culturally conservative. Now, the demographic dynamic which propelled America's creative economy has produced a political dynamic that could choke that economy off. Though none of the candidates for president has quite framed it that way, it's what's really at stake in the 2004 elections. . . .

[T]he bigger problem isn't that Americans are going elsewhere. It's that for the first time in modern memory, top scientists and intellectuals from elsewhere are choosing not to come here. We are so used to thinking that the world's leading creative minds, like the world's best basketball and baseball players, always want to come to the States, while our people go overseas only if they are second-rate or washed up, that it's hard to imagine it could ever be otherwise. And it's still true that because of our country's size, its dynamism, its many great universities, and large government research budgets, we're the Yankees of science. But like the Yankees, we've been losing some of our best players. And even great teams can go into slumps.

The altered flow of talent is already beginning to show signs of crimping the scientific process. "We can't hold scientific meetings here [in the United States] anymore because foreign scientists can't get visas," a top oceanographer at the University of California at San Diego recently told me. The same is true of graduate students, the people who do the legwork of scientific research and are the source of many powerful ideas. The graduate students I have taught at several major universities -- Ohio State, Harvard, MIT, Carnegie Mellon -- have always been among the first to point out the benefits of studying and doing research in the United States. But their impressions have changed dramatically over the past year. They now complain of being hounded by the immigration agencies as potential threats to security, and that America is abandoning its standing as an open society. Many are thinking of leaving for foreign schools, and they tell me that their friends and colleagues back home are no longer interested in coming to the United States for their education but are actively seeking out universities in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere.

It would be comforting to think that keeping out the foreigners would mean more places for home-grown talent in our top graduate programs and research faculties. Alas, it doesn't work that way: We have many brilliant young people, but not nearly enough to fill all the crucial slots. Last year, for instance, a vast, critical artificial intelligence project at MIT had to be jettisoned because the university couldn't find enough graduate students who weren't foreigners and who could thus clear new security regulations.

Nor is this phenomenon limited to science; other sectors are beginning to suffer. The pop-music magazine Tracks, for instance, recently reported that a growing number of leading world musicians, from South African singer and guitarist Vusi Mahlasela to the Bogota-based electronica collective Sidestepper, have had to cancel their American tours because they were refused visas, while Youssou N'Dour, perhaps the globe's most famous music artist, cancelled his largest-ever U.S. tour last spring to protest the invasion of Iraq. . . .

For several years now, my colleagues and I have been measuring the underlying factors common to those American cities and regions with the highest level of creative economic growth. The chief factors we've found are: large numbers of talented individuals, a high degree of technological innovation, and a tolerance of diverse lifestyles. Recently my colleague Irene Tinagli of Carnegie Mellon and I have applied the same analysis to northern Europe, and the findings are startling. The playing field is much more level than you might think. Sweden tops the United States on this measure, with Finland, the Netherlands, and Denmark close behind. The United Kingdom and Belgium are also doing well. And most of these countries, especially Ireland, are becoming more creatively competitive at a faster rate than the United States.

Though the data are not as perfect at the metropolitan level, other cities are also beating us for fresh new talent, diversity, and brainpower. Vancouver and Toronto are set to take off: Both city-regions have a higher concentration of immigrants than New York, Miami, or Los Angeles. So too are Sydney and Melbourne. As creative centers, they would rank alongside Washington, D.C. and New York City. Many of these places also offer such further inducements as spectacular waterfronts, beautiful countryside, and great outdoor life. They're safe. They're rarely at war. These cities are becoming the global equivalents of Boston or San Francisco, transforming themselves from small, obscure places to creative hotbeds that draw talent from all over--including your city and mine. . . .

The last 20 years has seen the rise of the "culture wars"--between those who value traditional virtues, and others drawn to new lifestyles and diversity of opinion. In truth, this clash mostly played out among intellectuals of the left and right; as sociologist Alan Wolfe has shown, most Americans manage a subtle balance between the two tendencies. Still, the cleavages exist, roughly paralleling the ideologies of the two political parties. And increasingly in the 1990s, they expressed themselves geographically, as more and more Americans chose to live in places that suited their culture and lifestyle preferences.

This movement of people is what the journalist Bill Bishop and I have referred to as the Big Sort, a sifting with enormous political and cultural implications, which has helped to give rise to what political demographer James Gimpel of the University of Maryland calls a "patchwork nation." City by city, neighborhood to neighborhood, Gimpel and others have found, our politics are becoming more concentrated and polarized. We may live in a 50-50 country, but the actual places we live (inner-ring v. outer-ring suburbs, San Francisco v. Fresno) are much more likely to distribute their loyalties 60-40, and getting more lopsided rather than less. These divisions arise not from some master plan but from millions upon millions of individual choices. Individuals are sorting themselves into communities of like-minded people which validate their choices and identities. Gay sales reps buy ramshackle old houses in the city and renovate them; straight, married sales reps purchase newly-built houses with yards on the suburban fringe. Conservative tech geeks move to Dallas, while liberal ones are more likely to go to San Francisco. Young African Americans who can write code find their way to Atlanta or Washington, D.C., while whites with the same education and skills are more likely to migrate to Seattle or Austin. Working-class Southern Californian whites priced out of the real estate market and perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the influx of Mexicans move to suburban Phoenix. More than ever before, those who possess the means move to the city and neighborhood that reinforces their social and cultural view of the world.

And while there are no hard and fast rules--some liberals prefer suburbs of modest metro areas with lots of churches and shopping malls, some conservatives like urban neighborhoods with coffee shops--in general, these cultural and lifestyle preferences overlap with political ones (which the political parties have accentuated with computer-assisted redistricting). In 1980, according to Robert Cushing's detailed analysis of the election results, there wasn't a significant difference between how high-tech and low-tech regions voted for president; the difference between the parties still depended upon other factors. By 2000, however, the 21 regions with the largest concentrations of the creative class and the highest-tech economies voted Democratic at rates 17 percent above the national average. Regions with lower levels of creative people and low-tech economies, along with rural America, went Republican. In California, the most Democratic of states, George Bush won the state's 14 low-tech regions and rural areas by 210,000 votes. Al Gore took the 12 high-tech regions and their suburbs by over 1.5 million.

"Scientists Counter Bush View" -- Charles Burress in The San Francisco Chronicle, 2/27/04:

The primary organization representing American anthropologists criticized President Bush's proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage Thursday and gave a failing grade to the president's understanding of human cultures.

"The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution," said the executive board of the 11,000-member American Anthropological Association.

Bush has cast the union between male and female as the only proper form of marriage, or what he called in his State of the Union address "one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization."

American anthropologists say he's wrong.

"Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies," the association's statement said, adding that the executive board "strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples."

The statement was proposed by Dan Segal, a professor of anthropology and history from Pitzer College in Claremont (Los Angeles County), who called Bush's conception of the history of marriage "patently false."

"If he were to take even the first semester of anthropology, he would know that's not true," said Segal, a member of the anthropological association's Executive Committee.

Ghita Levine, communications director for the association, said the issue struck a nerve in the profession.

"They feel strongly about it because they are the people who study the culture through time and across the world," she said. "They are the people who know what cultures consist of."

Segal pointed to "sanctified same-sex unions in the fourth century in Christianity" and to the Greeks and Romans applying the concept of marriage to same-sex couples, not to mention the Native American berdache tradition in which males married males.

"Treasury Department Is Warning Publishers of the Perils of Criminal Editing of the Enemy" -- Adam Liptak in The New York Times, 2/28/04:

Writers often grumble about the criminal things editors do to their prose. The federal government has recently weighed in on the same issue � literally.

It has warned publishers they may face grave legal consequences for editing manuscripts from Iran and other disfavored nations, on the ground that such tinkering amounts to trading with the enemy.

Anyone who publishes material from a country under a trade embargo is forbidden to reorder paragraphs or sentences, correct syntax or grammar, or replace "inappropriate words," according to several advisory letters from the Treasury Department in recent months.

Adding illustrations is prohibited, too. To the baffled dismay of publishers, editors and translators who have been briefed about the policy, only publication of "camera-ready copies of manuscripts" is allowed.

The Treasury letters concerned Iran. But the logic, experts said, would seem to extend to Cuba, Libya, North Korea and other nations with which most trade is banned without a government license.

Laws and regulations prohibiting trade with various nations have been enforced for decades, generally applied to items like oil, wheat, nuclear reactors and, sometimes, tourism. Applying them to grammar, spelling and punctuation is an infuriating interpretation, several people in the publishing industry said.

"It is against the principles of scholarship and freedom of expression, as well as the interests of science, to require publishers to get U.S. government permission to publish the works of scholars and researchers who happen to live in countries with oppressive regimes," said Eric A. Swanson, a senior vice president at John Wiley & Sons, which publishes scientific, technical and medical books and journals.

Nahid Mozaffari, a scholar and editor specializing in literature from Iran, called the implications staggering. "A story, a poem, an article on history, archaeology, linguistics, engineering, physics, mathematics, or any other area of knowledge cannot be translated, and even if submitted in English, cannot be edited in the U.S.," she said.

"This means that the publication of the PEN Anthology of Contemporary Persian Literature that I have been editing for the last three years," she said, "would constitute aiding and abetting the enemy."

Allan Adler, a lawyer with the Association of American Publishers, said the trade group was unaware of any prosecutions for criminal editing. But he said the mere fact of the rules had scared some publishers into rejecting works from Iran.

Lee Tien, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, questioned the logic of making editors a target of broad regulations that require a government license.

"There is no obvious reason why a license is required to edit where no license is required to publish," he said. "They can print anything as is. But they can't correct typos?"

In theory � almost certainly only in theory � correcting typographical errors and performing other routine editing could subject publishers to fines of $500,000 and 10 years in jail.

"Such activity," according to a September letter from the department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, "would constitute the provision of prohibited services to Iran."

Tara Bradshaw, a Treasury Department spokeswoman, confirmed the restrictions on manuscripts from Iran in a statement. Banned activities include, she wrote, "collaboration on and editing of the manuscripts, the selection of reviewers, and facilitation of a review resulting in substantive enhancements or alterations to the manuscripts."

She did not respond to a request seeking an explanation of the department's reasoning.

More News — February 9-13, 2004

Big article on Cheney at Halliburton. "Contract Sport" -- Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, 2/16 and 2/23/04 (posted 2/9/04):

Vice-President Dick Cheney is well known for his discretion, but his official White House biography, as posted on his Web site, may exceed even his own stringent standards. It traces the sixty-three years from his birth, in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1941, through college and graduate school, and describes his increasingly powerful jobs in Washington. Yet one chapter of Cheney?s life is missing. The record notes that he has been a ?businessman? but fails to mention the five extraordinarily lucrative years that he spent, immediately before becoming Vice-President, as chief executive of Halliburton, the world?s largest oil-and-gas-services company. The conglomerate, which is based in Houston, is now the biggest private contractor for American forces in Iraq; it has received contracts worth some eleven billion dollars for its work there.

Cheney earned forty-four million dollars during his tenure at Halliburton. Although he has said that he ?severed all my ties with the company,? he continues to collect deferred compensation worth approximately a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year, and he retains stock options worth more than eighteen million dollars. He has announced that he will donate proceeds from the stock options to charity.

"Bush Was Surprised at Lack of Iraqi Arms" -- Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, 2/9/04:

Bush's promise to release all of his military files, including pay stubs and tax records, has the potential to resolve the long debate over Bush's service from May 1972 to May 1973. No records have been found showing he performed his duties during that period, but he received an honorable discharge, indicating that he had served properly.

Experts in such matters have said payroll records and Bush's annual retirement "point summary" from the time -- neither of which has been uncovered -- should demonstrate definitively how often Bush participated in drills. Such records, unless they have been purged, should exist on microfiche in St. Louis or Denver.

Bush said it was unlikely those records still exist. Asked whether he would allow their release, he replied: "Yeah, if we still have them. But, you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records." Bush also said his campaign had authorized the release of such information in the 2000 campaign, but no such information has been released. A spokeswoman, Claire Buchan, said yesterday that all existing records, including pay stubs and retirement points, had already been made available.

"Bush's Records: Still AWOL" -- Eric Boehlert at salon.com, 2/10/04:

President Bush's insistence on Sunday that he released all his military documents during the 2000 campaign has only added to the controversy that surrounds his service in the Texas Air National Guard. In fact, there is no indication Bush has ever authorized that all his military records, including those considered personal under provisions of the Privacy Act, be made public. . . .

In 2000, [Martin] Heldt wrote to the National Guard Bureau, as well as the Air Force, seeking a detailed accounting of Bush's military records. The chief of the National Guard Bureau's support services division informed Heldt that some of his requests were off limits: "Social security numbers, medical records and personnel and administrative information of Mr. Bush and others have been withheld, as release of this information would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of the personnel affected."

Bush's medical military records, for instance, have never been released to the general public. Nor have any disciplinary reviews, pay stubs, tax records, or personal letters, which would help determine his exact whereabouts in 1972-73. According to the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act, those documents remain under seal unless the military personnel in question (or the next of kin) authorize their release. But NARA offers veterans a sample form to approve that release:

"I authorize the National Personnel Records Center, or other custodian of my military service record, to release to (your name or that of your company and/or organization) the following information and/or copies of documents from my military service record."

Other presidential candidates have been far more open in releasing their military records. On Jan. 16, for example, Democratic contender Wesley Clark released 34 years' worth of military records. Voters were invited to examine the papers at a room at the Manchester Hotel in New Hampshire -- dubbed the "Clark reading room" -- where the documents were laid out for public view.

If Bush had given his permission in 2000 for private information from his military files to be released, his signed authorization would be on file. But there is no evidence yet produced that he did. And a call to the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver to determine if that authorization has ever been made was not returned by deadline.

More important, Bush's 2000 authorization, if he made one, would specify whom he allowed to see his personal military records. Having agreed to the release of sensitive documents to one person would not mean those documents would go into packets to meet future FOIA requests. The documents would be limited to the person mentioned in Bush's authorization. It's possible Bush authorized the documents to be released in 2000 but only authorized a campaign aide to see them.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush's spokesman Dan Bartlett, now the White House communications director, told the Associated Press in June of that year that he traveled to the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver to review Bush's military file. "I have read it, and there is nothing earth-shattering," Bartlett said at the time. But he never told reporters the campaign was releasing all the documents or that Bush had authorized the press to review whatever it wanted. Instead, reporters researching the story of Bush's military service and searching for documents relied on FOIA requests and whatever other papers the Bush campaign chose to share with them.

The White House has yet to announce whether Bush will sign an authorization notice or when the documents will be made available to the press. When asked about the president's offer to release "everything," White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters during Monday's daily press briefing, "We made everything we had available during the 2000 campaign."

"From Guardsman . . ." -- Richard Cohen in The Washington Post, 2/10/04:

During the Vietnam War, I was what filmmaker Michael Moore would call a "deserter." Along with President Bush and countless other young men, I joined the National Guard, did my six months of active duty (basic training, etc.) and then returned to my home unit, where I eventually dropped from sight. In the end, just like President Bush, I got an honorable discharge. But unlike President Bush, I have just told the truth about my service. He hasn't.

At least I don't think so. Nothing about Bush during that period -- not his drinking, not his partying -- suggests that he was a consistently conscientious member of the Texas or Alabama Air National Guard. As it happens, there are no records to show that Bush reported for duty during the summer and fall of 1972. Nonetheless, Bush insists he was where he was supposed to be -- "Otherwise I wouldn't have been honorably discharged," Bush told Tim Russert. Please, sir, don't make me laugh.

It is sort of amazing that every four or eight years, Vietnam -- that long-ago war -- rears up from seemingly nowhere and comes to figure in the national political debate. In 1988 Dan Quayle had to answer for his National Guard service. In 1992 Bill Clinton had to grapple with the question of how he avoided the Vietnam-era draft. Now George Bush, who faced this question the last time out, has to face it again. The reason is that this time he is likely to compete against a genuine war hero. John Kerry did not duck the war. . . .

I was . . . lucky enough to get into a National Guard unit in the nick of time, about a day before I was drafted. I did my basic and advanced training (combat engineer) and returned to my unit. I was supposed to attend weekly drills and summer camp, but I found them inconvenient. I "moved" to California and then "moved" back to New York, establishing a confusing paper trail that led, really, nowhere. For two years or so, I played a perfectly legal form of hooky. To show you what a mess the Guard was at the time, I even got paid for all the meetings I missed.

In the end, I wound up in the Army Reserve. I was assigned to units for which I had no training -- tank repairman, for instance. In some units, we sat around with nothing to do and in one we took turns delivering antiwar lectures. The National Guard and the Reserves were something of a joke. Everyone knew it. Books have been written about it. Maybe things changed dramatically by 1972, two years after I got my discharge, but I kind of doubt it.

I have no shame about my service, but I know it for what it was -- hardly the Charge of the Light Brigade. When Bush attempts to drape the flag of today's Guard over the one he was in so long ago, when he warns his critics to remember that "there are a lot of really fine people who have served in the National Guard and who are serving in the National Guard today in Iraq," then he is doing now what he was doing then: hiding behind the ones who were really doing the fighting. It's about time he grew up.

". . . To 'War President'" -- E. J. Dionne in The Washington Post, 2/10/04:

The strange thing is that while Bush is determined not to repeat the mistakes his father made 12 years ago, he is in the process of repeating, almost precisely, the first Bush administration's fatal mistake.

The president and Karl Rove, his top political adviser, see Bush 41's problem as his estrangement from the Republicans' conservative political base. The first Bush raised taxes, so this Bush will cut them once, twice, many times. The social conservatives didn't trust the elder Bush. So this Bush will make sure that they keep faith with him as a man who keeps the faith.

Here's what's missing from this analysis: The first Bush didn't lose because of defections from the right. He lost because mainstream, middle-class Americans decided, fairly or not, that their president just didn't understand much of anything about their lives. They were worried about their jobs, their health care, their pensions, their housing and sending their kids to college. Voters freely conceded that the first President Bush was first-rate when it came to foreign policy. That just didn't happen to be what they voted on in November 1992.

The current President Bush is putting himself in exactly the same place. If Americans want a war president, he's their man. But in light of the failure to find those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, many voters now wonder whether that was a war that needed to be fought.

Sure, everybody is happy that Saddam Hussein is gone. But a great many Americans share a concern that Russert raised with Bush: "There are lots of madmen in the world. Fidel Castro; in Iran, in North Korea, in Burma, and yet we don't go in and take down those governments."

Bush's answer that "every situation requires a different response" did not dispose of the question.

In the meantime, Bush is so focused on being our "war president" that he seems to lack passion when he talks about health care or any other domestic issue except tax cuts.

Do not for an instant underestimate the capacity of Bush and Rove to find ingenious ways of focusing our minds on terrorism by the last three weeks of the campaign. They played Democrats for chumps on security issues in 2002. They're certain they can do it again.

But in the past month, Bush reached a tipping point. His credibility -- a huge asset since the days after Sept. 11 -- is in jeopardy. Three years of job losses and wage stagnation are taking a toll on middle-class confidence. I think Bush really does see himself as a war president.

If that's what he's betting the election on, he risks repeating the very experience he has devoted his administration to avoiding -- his father's.

"10 Questions beyond AWOL" -- Peter Keating at jusiper.blogspot.com, 2/10/04:

In September and October 2000, when I was the senior writer for politics at George Magazine, we investigated George W. Bush's military record. . . .

Our original story, which Karthik Thyagarajan and I co-authored and which was published on October 13, 2000, reported that "Bush may have received favorable treatment to get into the Guard, served irregularly after the spring of 1972 and got an expedited discharge, but he did accumulate the days of service required of him for his ultimate honorable discharge." I stand by that conclusion. And I believed that once we presented the evidence that Bush had met the technical requirements for an honorable discharge, the focus of media and political inquiry would shift to what he did during the time he served in the National Guard. The piece was called "The Real Military Record of George W. Bush: Not Heroic, but Not AWOL, Either"; I thought the next round of stories would be about what "not heroic" actually meant.

Instead, the anti-Bush left kept arguing about whether or not Bush actually had gone AWOL, and the Bush campaign ran out the clock. Al Gore made nothing of Bush's military record, major newspapers didn't pick up the thread until just days before the election and TV news ignored the story.

Bush's political advisers erred in thinking they buried this issue forever. But in order for this go-around to be more productive than the last time � either politically for Democrats or just in terms of getting the truth out � the right questions have to be put to the administration. . . .

Did he or his father ever give an okay for a family member or friend to help him get into the Guard? Did either of them ever know about such help? . . .

When he packed up and left Texas for Alabama even though he still owed the Guard service in 1972, what was he thinking? Did he care that his transfer request had been rejected? Did he assume he could get another? . . .

When and how did President Bush decide to permanently stop flying for the Guard? . . .

How was he able to communicate this decision to his superiors in a way that they never asked him to re-train, or to keep flying F-102s until he fulfilled all his service obligations? . . .

Was there a Flight Inquiry Board after George W. Bush's suspension, and if so, what did it find? Was Bush disciplined for missing flights or his physical, and if so, how? . . .

Can Bush provide any details at all about the time he spent in Alabama � where he lived, who he hung out with, what he did? How about just one person whom he served with in the Alabama Guard? . . .

On which exact dates and in what way did Bush make up days in Alabama, and which in Texas? . . .

After so many months of attendance so desultory that his superiors don't remember him showing up, why did Bush develop such a sudden interest in the Guard in the spring of 1973? . . .

Exactly how did Bush "work out" that early discharge? Were the terms of Bush's discharge related to his attachment to Air Reserves headquarters in Denver until late 1974? . . .

One last quote from Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: But you authorize release of everything to settle this?

PRES. BUSH: Yeah. Absolutely. I did so in 2000, by the way.

Actually, he didn't. So Question #10 is: Can we see it all now, please?

"Press Briefing by Scott McClellan" -- whitehouse.gov, 2/10/04, 12:53 P.M. EST

"Facing Questions, White House Releases Bush Military Data" -- David Stout in The New York Times, 2/10/04:

Hoping to quell a controversy before it mushrooms into a full-blown election-year issue, the White House released documents today that it said proved that President Bush honorably completed National Guard service during the Vietnam War era.

"These documents clearly show that the President fulfilled his duties," Mr. Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, said as the White House distributed copies of military payroll records attesting that he was paid for service between the spring of 1972 and the spring of 1973.

But Mr. McClellan was peppered with questions about things that the records did not show. He was asked, for instance, why the White House had not brought forth "comrades in arms" of Mr. Bush to offer reminiscences of their service together in the Air National Guard.

Mr. McClellan said, as he did repeatedly, that the documents speak for themselves and prove that Mr. Bush fulfilled his duties.

"I wasn't talking about documents," a questioner said. "I was talking about people." . . .

Mr. Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard in 1968, just before graduating from Yale. The period from May 1972 to May 1973 has come under scrutiny, because during that time he moved to Alabama to work on a senatorial campaign.

No records yet produced have satisfied Mr. Bush's critics on how many meetings he attended, either with the Alabama unit to which he was temporarily transferred or with the Houston unit to which he returned.

The predicament for Mr. Bush and his advisers was underlined today when a questioner noted that a National Guard officer in Houston wrote some years ago that Mr. Bush "has not been observed" at the unit.

That officer has since died. As for the absence of people to attest to serving with Mr. Bush, Mr. McClellan said, "We're talking some 30 years ago."

The records released today ? some of them smudged and hard to read ? showed that Mr. Bush was not paid for National Guard service from December 1972 to February or March 1973, a time in which Mr. Bush lost his active-flight status.

"Where was he in December of '72, February and March of '73?" a questioner persisted. "Why didn't he fulfill the medical requirement to remain on active flight duty status in 1972?"

"The president recalls serving both when he was in Texas and when he was in Alabama," Mr. McClellan said. "And that is what I can tell you. And we have provided you these documents that show clearly that the president of the United States fulfilled his duties, and that is the reason that he was honorably discharged from the National Guard. The president was proud of his service."

The White House seemed to find itself in a situation that is the reverse of what often occurs during Washington controversies: It was offering a legalistic, document-oriented defense when it was being asked to present an anecdotal, people-oriented one.

Mr. Bush offered a strong defense of his military service in an interview last weekend with Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press," asserting that he had had a satisfactory meeting-attendance record "or I wouldn't have been honorably discharged."

Schedules varied in National Guard and Reserve units in that era. A typical schedule called for two evening meetings of four hours each, plus one all-day meeting, often on a Sunday, each month. In addition, a unit attended a two-week summer camp at an active military post. A unit member who missed more than a few meetings in a year faced the prospect of being called to active duty.

"Top Bush Aide Is Questioned in C.I.A. Leak" -- David Johnston in The New York Times, 2/10/04:

President Bush's press secretary and a former White House press aide testified on Friday to a federal grand jury investigating who improperly disclosed the identity of a C.I.A. officer, the press secretary and a lawyer for the aide said on Monday.

The appearances of the press secretary, Scott McClellan, and the press aide, Adam Levine, reflected what lawyers in the case said was the quickening pace of a criminal inquiry in which a special prosecutor is examining conversations between journalists and the White House.

When he was asked by reporters on Monday whether he had been questioned in the case, Mr. McClellan said he had been filmed by news organizations as he emerged from the federal courthouse. "I think that confirms it for you," he said.

On Monday, a lawyer for Mr. Levine said the White House aide had also appeared on Friday.

Mr. Levine left the Bush administration in December after working as the principal liaison between the White House and television networks. Mr. Levine's lawyer, Daniel J. French, said, "In keeping with the president's request, Mr. Levine is cooperating with the Justice Department's investigation and in doing so appeared before the grand jury on Friday."

In addition to the grand jury appearances, which are believed to include other Bush administration officials, prosecutors have conducted meetings with presidential aides that lawyers in the case described as tense and sometimes combative.

Armed with handwritten White House notes, detailed cellphone logs and copies of e-mail messages between White House aides and reporters, prosecutors have demanded explanations of conversations between aides and reporters for some of the country's largest news organizations that under ordinary circumstances would never be publicly discussed. So far, no reporter has been questioned or subpoenaed.

One set of documents that prosecutors repeatedly referred to in their meetings with White House aides are extensive notes compiled by I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser. Prosecutors have described the notes as "copious," the lawyers said. In addition, the prosecutors have asked about cellphone calls made last July to and from Catherine J. Martin, a press secretary for Mr. Cheney.

In their discussions with White House aides, prosecutors have been careful to avoid signaling their overall theory of the case. Nor have they given hints about who they suspect leaked the information to Robert Novak, who wrote in a Washington Post column last July 14 that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, a critic of the administration's Iraq policy, was Valerie Plame, a C.I.A. undercover officer.

"Bush Aides Testify in Leak Probe" -- Mike Allen and Susan Schmidt in The Washington Post, 2/10/04:

A federal grand jury has questioned one current and two former aides to President Bush, and investigators have interviewed several others, in an effort to discover who revealed the name of an undercover CIA officer to a newspaper columnist, sources involved in the case said yesterday.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said yesterday that he talked to the grand jury on Friday. Mary Matalin, former counselor to Vice President Cheney, testified Jan. 23, the sources said. Adam Levine, a former White House press official, also testified Friday, the sources said.

None is suspected by prosecutors of having exposed undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, but they were questioned about White House public relations strategy, the sources said.

FBI agents have interviewed those and at least five other current and former Bush aides and have questioned them about thousands of e-mails that the White House surrendered in October, along with stacks of call logs and calendars, the sources said.

The logs indicate that several White House officials talked to columnist Robert D. Novak shortly before July 14, when he published a column quoting "two senior administration officials" saying that Plame, "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction," had suggested her husband for a mission to Niger to investigate whether Iraq tried to acquire uranium there as part of an effort to develop nuclear weapons.

White House witnesses have been asked about cell phone calls and have been shown handwritten, diary-style notes from colleagues, as well as e-mails from reporters to administration officials. In at least a few cases, the FBI questioning was portrayed as very aggressive, with agents homing in on specific conversations with journalists. "Even witnesses that they describe as being potentially helpful are being treated as adversaries," a source close to the investigation said.

"Kerry's Army Invades Bush Territory" -- Josh Benson at salon.com, 2/10/04:

To understand John Kerry's Southern strategy, you just had to check out Table 17 at the Virginia Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner here over the weekend: There was Norm White, B-17 navigator and World War II hero from the 8th Air Force in Europe; Rick O'Dell, a Vietnam Army vet with the 11th armored cavalry; and Del Sandusky, a gunner from one of Kerry's swift boats in Vietnam.

This impressive veterans' brigade, like those appearing on Kerry's flank on the trail, personifies how the front-runner hopes to avoid the same doom as every Democratic presidential contender in Virginia since 1964, should he become the party's nominee. By playing up his own history as a decorated veteran, Kerry is building a case that he is the true military man in this race. Kerry hopes his war hero status will inoculate him against a Republican talking point, one that could play well in the conservative South -- that Kerry's just a liberal senator from Massachusetts who can't be trusted to protect a vulnerable nation from harm. . . .

The other Democratic veteran in the running is, of course, Wesley Clark. At Virginia Wesleyan College in the military town of Norfolk, where a Clark campaign organized a rally over the weekend, the Clark event was staffed largely by soldiers -- ones who served under the general in Europe and Panama and at least one active-duty officer just home from Iraq. . . .

Kerry's campaign is certainly taking advantage of his military experience, appealing to voters here by making a campaign premised on his personal war stories even more muscular. In addition to his now-standard lines about "knowing something about aircraft carriers for real" and invitations to Bush to "bring -- it -- on," Kerry has now issued a more direct challenge than ever around the idea that he, and not the "extremist" president, represents mainstream American values.

Kerry uses his military experience, too, to rebut GOP attacks that he's too liberal. "I have news for George Bush, Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and the rest of their gang," he said at a rally in Richmond on Saturday. "I have fought for my country my whole life, and I'm not going to back down now. This is one Democrat who's going to fight back."

At the least, Kerry may be having success already in insulating himself from the stereotype that he's a wimpy Northern elitist. Conservative pundit and morality maven Bill Bennett told Fox News over the weekend that simply trying to stick him with a Boston liberal label won't work. "You can't do to Kerry what you did to Dukakis," he said. . . .

What Democrats likely hope to achieve instead of an unrealistic Southern sweep is a steady and incremental erosion of conservative bases of support, not only in the South, but in other areas of the country with conservative-minded swing voters. "This is all about marginal politics," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "It's exactly how Karl Rove looks at the electorate from Bush's perspective. He's not actually trying to grab a majority of African-Americans or Hispanics -- he's trying to tack two or three or five percentage points onto Bush's showing in those communities. So with Kerry, the military side of the population votes about 70-30 Republican right now, and he might be able to reduce that by a few percentage points. That's what this is about." . . .

Attendance at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner on Saturday night dwarfed anything the Virginia Democrats had seen before, attracting 2,000 people -- several times more guests than in the past. "We've just never seen interest like this before, and I think it's really going to make a huge difference in November," she said. "We're going to see a lot of new people voting in the Democratic primary, and we're here to make sure they come back in the general."

"'The Best Things in Life Are Free'" -- Eric Alterman at msnbc.com, 2/10/04:

The next time you read from someone . . . about what a captive of "special interests" John Kerry is, remember this: Bush has so far raised 28 times the amount of PAC money that Kerry has. Of course, next thing you will hear is that it does not matter who has raised more -- or even 28 times as much -- because this fundraising stuff itself is not important . . .

I say, "Oh cut the crap, please, will you?? (No link on the "twenty-eight times" figure because it appears in a forthcoming story that Mike Tomasky and I co-authored for The American Prospect.)

"Rumsfeld Draws Blank on Blair's '45 Minute' Claim" -- AFP article at abc.net.au, 2/11/04:

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he does not recall British Prime Minister Tony Blair's pre-war claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ready to be deployed in 45 minutes. "I don't remember the statement being made, to be perfectly honest," Mr Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did not remember the statement either. The claim made headlines around the world after Mr Blair levelled it in a 55-page "white paper" presented to the House of Commons in September 2002. The dossier said Iraq had military plans to use chemical and biological weapons and "some of these weapons could be deployed within 45 minutes of an order to use them." It later became the centre of a huge scandal in Britain following an allegation in a BBC report that Downing Street had "sexed up" up the Iraqi dossier by inserting the 45-minute claim, knowing it was wrong.

"At Least 47 Die in Baghdad Blast; 2nd Attack in 24 Hours" -- Jeffrey Gettleman and Edward Wong in The New York Times, 2/11/04:

In the second deadly strike in Iraq in two days, a suicide bomber careened a car packed with explosives into a crowd of Iraqi Army recruits in central Baghdad, killing at least 47 and wounding at least 50 others, police officials said. The attack today provoked a new wave of fears that the security situation is spinning out of control.

Several Iraqi politicians said the strike, nearly identical to the bombing of an Iraqi police station in the nearby town of Iskandariya on Tuesday, was timed to intimidate a delegation of United Nations election experts who recently arrived to determine if early elections can be held in Iraq.

"These terrorists want to inflame the area to get the United Nations to give up on the idea of elections," said Wael Abdullatif, a judge from the southern city of Basra who sits on the Iraqi Governing Council. "A week ago, things were quiet. But as soon as the delegation arrived, the violence exploded."

The car bomb in Iskandariya killed at least 54 people and wounded at least 60 others, most of them Iraqi men who were applying for jobs at the police station, a doctor said. . . .

Both attacks appeared to be aimed at Iraqi civilians ready to aid occupation forces in securing the country against groups of criminals, terrorists and insurgents. In Iskandariya, the bomb exploded as a line of job applicants, mostly men, snaked out the door of the police station. . . .

Military officials have said they expect spectacular attacks in the months leading up to the scheduled transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government on June 30. Both bombings certainly met that description.

Only two other bombings in Iraq have killed more people. On Feb. 1, two suicide bombers walked into separate offices in Erbil of the main Kurdish political parties and detonated their explosives, killing 109 people. In late August, a car bomb exploded in the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq, killing at least 80 people, including a respected Shiite cleric.

Colin Powell, My American Journey (1996):

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

"Bush Met Military Obligation, Aide Says" -- Mary Orndorff and Brett J. Blackledge in The Birmingham News, 2/11/04:

A White House spokesman said Tuesday that President Bush worked enough days as a member of the Texas Air National Guard in 1972 and 1973 to fulfill his annual training requirements, but new payroll records he released also show a five-month gap while Bush was assigned to a small reserve unit in Montgomery.

Bush did not receive military pay from May to September of 1972, according to the documents, and the former commander of the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron said Tuesday that Bush didn't show up during those months.

"He never did come to my squad," said retired Lt. Col. Reese Bricken, who lives in Montgomery. "He was never at my unit."

Bricken reviewed documents Tuesday showing Bush's transfer request to his squadron and his response to the request. He said he remembered sending approval back for him to serve in the small unit, made up of reserve members who met weekly.

"He was looking for a place to hang his hat, but he never came by," Bricken said. . . .

Bush's assignment to the 9921st was withdrawn months later because his superiors pointed out it was not part of a combat-ready Guard unit and did not perform work equivalent to what Bush's training regimen as a pilot required. So in September, Bush applied to the 187th Tactical Recon Group, also in Montgomery, according to a Sept. 5, 1972, letter. The three-month transfer was approved. . . .

Joe LeFevers, a member of the 187th in 1972, said he remembers seeing Bush in unit offices and being told that Bush was in Montgomery to work on Blount's campaign.

"I was going in the orderly room over there one day, and they said, `This is Lt. Bush,'" LeFevers said Tuesday. "They pointed him out to me ... the reason I remember it is because I associate him with Red Blount."

Red Blount's son, Winton Blount III, said Bush was the campaign's deputy manager and spent a lot of time in Birmingham and north Alabama.

"He was a very active part of that campaign," said Blount. "And as my aunt said, she hoped people would act as nice in other people's homes as he did."

"Aides Say Records Show Bush Served" -- Wayne Slater and Michelle Mittelstadt in the Dallas Morning News, 2/11/04:

The White House released records Tuesday to buttress the president's assertion that he fulfilled his military duty during the Vietnam War, but it faced new questions about whether George W. Bush's file was altered before his 2000 presidential race.

Retired National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett said Tuesday that in 1997, then-Gov. Bush's chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, told the National Guard chief to get the Bush file and make certain "there's not anything there that will embarrass the governor."

Col. Burkett said that a few days later at Camp Mabry in Austin, he saw Mr. Bush's file and documents from it discarded in a trash can. He said he recognized the documents as retirement point summaries and pay forms.

Bush aides denied any destruction of records in Mr. Bush's personnel file. "The charges are just flat-out not true," said Dan Bartlett, White House communications director.

He said the president has been forthright in producing all documents relevant to his stint in the Texas Air National Guard, from 1968 to 1973. He dismissed Col. Burkett as a disgruntled former officer of the Texas Guard.

Mr. Allbaugh, now a Washington lobbyist, called Col. Burkett's assertions "hogwash."

A spokesman for the Texas Air National Guard, Lt. Col. John Stanford, dismissed Col. Burkett's account of the conversation as "far-fetched." Of the accusation that the files were altered, he said, "I have no knowledge that such an event ever occurred." . . .

Mr. Bartlett called the Burkett allegations "outlandishly false" and accused him of being part of a group of disgruntled former Guardsmen critical of Maj. Gen. Daniel James III, head of the Texas National Guard before Mr. Bush promoted him to head the National Guard in Washington.

Gen. James' office referred all calls to Col. Stanford.

Col. Burkett acknowledged that he and other Guardsmen questioned the discipline standards and other issues under Gen. James. But Col. Burkett said from his home near Abilene that he remains loyal to the Guard.

Col. Burkett, who has voted in both GOP and Democratic primaries in the past, said he was disturbed over how the Bush file was handled. He initially made his assertions on a Web site two years ago, and they are reported in detail in a forthcoming book, Bush's War for Re-Election, by James Moore.

"I would like it that everybody sees the honest and fair picture here," he said.

According to Col. Burkett, he was at headquarters in the summer 1997 when he heard the conversation between Gen. James and Mr. Allbaugh. He said the Guard commander had the conversation about eliminating "embarrassments" on a speakerphone.

About 10 days later, he said, he saw Texas Gen. John Scribner going through the Bush file.

"I looked down and saw files on the table and of that sort of stuff, and in the wastecan there is a retirement points document that has the name Bush, George W. lLt on it," he said. "There were both originals and Xerox copies in the stack."

Gen. Scribner, now retired, denied the episode. "I sure don't know anything about what he's talking about," he said.

"The President's Guard Service" -- editorial, New York Times, 2/11/04:

If President Bush thought that his release of selected payroll and service records would quell the growing controversy over whether he ducked some of his required service in the Air National Guard three decades ago, he is clearly mistaken. The payroll records released yesterday document that he performed no guard duties at all for more than half a year in 1972 and raise questions about how he could be credited with at least 14 days of duty during subsequent periods when his superior officers in two units said they had not seen him.

Investigative reporting by The Boston Globe, our sibling newspaper, revealed in 2000 that Mr. Bush had reported for duty and flown regularly in his first four Texas Guard years but dropped off the Guard's radar screen when he went to Alabama to work on a senatorial campaign. The payroll records show that he was paid for many days of duty in the first four months of 1972, when he was in Texas, but then went more than six months without being paid, virtually the entire time he was working on the Senate campaign in Alabama. That presumably means he never reported for duty during that period.

Mr. Bush was credited with 14 days of service at unspecified locations between Oct. 28, 1972, and the end of April 1973. The commanding officer of the Alabama unit to which Mr. Bush was supposed to report long ago said that he had never seen him appear for duty, and Mr. Bush's superiors at the Texas unit to which he returned wrote in May 1973 that they could not write an annual evaluation of him because he had not been seen there during that year. Those statements are so jarringly at odds with the payroll data that they demand further elaboration. A Guard memo prepared for the White House by a former Guard official says Mr. Bush earned enough points to fulfill his duty but leaves it unclear whether he got special treatment.

"Ex-Officer: Bush's File's Details Caused Concern" -- Dave Moniz and Jim Drinkard in USA Today, 2/11/04:

As Texas Gov. George W. Bush prepared to run for president in the late 1990s, top-ranking Texas National Guard officers and Bush advisers discussed ways to limit the release of potentially embarrassing details from Bush's military records, a former senior officer of the Texas Guard said Wednesday.

A second former Texas Guard official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, was told by a participant that commanders and Bush advisers were particularly worried about mentions in the records of arrests of Bush before he joined the National Guard in 1968, the second official said.

Bill Burkett, then a top adviser to the state Guard commander, said he overheard conversations in which superiors discussed "cleansing" the file of damaging information.

The White House dismissed Burkett's charge Wednesday. It is an "outrageously false statement," said White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who handled the records in the late 1990s as an aide to Gov. Bush. Administration officials dismiss Burkett as a disgruntled former Guardsman who had a falling-out with his superiors.

Two forms in Bush's publicly released military files � his enlistment application and a background check � contain blacked-out entries in response to questions about arrests or convictions. Bush acknowledged in biographies published in 1999 that he was arrested twice before he enlisted in the Air National Guard: once for stealing a wreath and another time for rowdiness at a Yale-Princeton football game.

The nature of what was blacked out in Bush's records is important because certain legal problems, such as drug or alcohol violations, could have been a basis for denying an applicant entry into the Guard or pilot training. Admission to the Guard and to pilot school was highly competitive at that time, the height of the Vietnam War.

The National Guard cited privacy as the reason for blacking out answers. The full, unmarked records have never been released. Bartlett did not respond Wednesday to a request to release the records with nothing blacked out, which Bush could do as the subject of the records.

Burkett says that the state Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Daniel James III, discussed "cleansing" Bush's military files of embarrassing or incriminating documents in the summer of 1997. At the time, Burkett was a lieutenant colonel and a chief adviser to James. He says he was just outside James' open office door when his boss discussed the records on a speakerphone with Joe Allbaugh, who was then Gov. Bush's chief of staff.

In Burkett's account, Allbaugh told James that Bush's press secretary, Karen Hughes, was preparing a biography and needed information on Bush's military service.

In an interview, Burkett said he recalled Allbaugh's words: "We certainly don't want anything that is embarrassing in there." Burkett said he immediately told two other officers about the conversation and noted it in a daily journal he kept. The two officers, George Conn and Dennis Adams, confirmed to USA TODAY in 2002 that Burkett told them of the conversation within days.

Soon afterward, there was a series of meetings of top commanders at Texas Guard headquarters at Camp Mabry. Bush's records were carried between the base archives and the headquarters building, according to Burkett and the second Guard official, who was there.

The meetings were confirmed in a 2002 interview by USA TODAY with William Leon, who was the state Guard's freedom-of-information officer in the 1990s. He was involved in discussions about what to release. Leon declined to comment on the substance of the meetings except to say, "We were making sure we released it properly and made sure we did it in a timely manner."

Contacted at home Wednesday night, he refused to talk to a reporter. He said: "Don't ever call me again at home. I'll call your publisher and sue you."

Burkett first made his allegation just before the 2000 election, when it was carried on some Internet sites but went largely unreported by mainstream news media. The issue resurfaced Wednesday in the Dallas Morning News as Bush's military record took center stage in the presidential campaign.

Allbaugh, James and the White House denied Burkett's story. As president, Bush has since elevated James to be director of the Air National Guard for the entire country.

In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, Bush said he fulfilled his Guard commitment and offered to make his records public. Host Tim Russert asked, "Would you authorize the release of everything to settle this?" Bush replied, "Yes, absolutely."

Since then, White House officials have released only documents concerning whether Bush fulfilled his service obligations. White House statements have not addressed the release of any papers that could show disciplinary actions, medical exams, legal scrapes and the like.

On Tuesday, the White House released pay records from a military archive in Denver that it said showed Bush was paid for at least the minimum training time he was obligated for in 1972 and 1973.

But the records showed only what days he was paid for, not where he was or what duty he performed. Neither did they address outstanding questions about why Bush missed a required physical in 1972, forcing him to stop flying, or what happened during a five-month gap in 1972 when Bush didn't show up for training.

"Move to Screen Bush File in 90's Is Reported" -- Ralph Blumenthal in The New York Times, 2/12/04:

A retired lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard complained to a member of the Texas Senate in 1998 that aides to Gov. George W. Bush improperly screened Mr. Bush's National Guard files in a search for information that could embarrass the governor in future elections.

The retired officer, Bill Burkett, said in the letter to Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, a Democrat from Austin, that Dan Bartlett, then a senior aide to Governor Bush and now White House communications director, and Gen. Daniel James, then the head of the Texas National Guard, reviewed the file to "make sure nothing will embarrass the governor during his re-election campaign."

A copy of the letter was provided to The New York Times by a lawyer for Mr. Burkett to support statements he makes in a book to be published this month, which Mr. Burkett repeated in interviews this week, that Mr. Bush's aides ordered Guard officials to remove damaging information from Mr. Bush's military personnel files.

Mr. Bartlett denied on Wednesday that any records were altered. General James, since named head of the Air National Guard by President Bush, also denied Mr. Burkett's account. But Mr. Bartlett and another former official in Mr. Bush's administration in Texas, Joe Allbaugh, acknowledged speaking to National Guard officials about the files as Mr. Bush was preparing to seek re-election as governor.

Kevin Drum's interview with Bill Burkett on the "scouring" of George W. Bush's National Guard record (posted 2/12/04).

"Doubts Raised on Bush Accuser" -- Michael Rezendes in The Boston Globe, 2/13/04:

For at least six years, a retired Texas National Guard officer has maintained that President Bush's record as a member of the Guard was purged of potentially embarrassing material at the behest of high-ranking Bush aides laying the groundwork for Bush's 2000 run for the presidency.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett, who has been pressing his charges in the national news media this week, says he even heard one high-ranking officer issue a 1997 order to sanitize the Bush file, and later saw another officer poring over the records and discovered that some had been discarded.

But a key witness to some of the events described by Burkett has told the Globe that the central elements of his story are false.

George O. Conn, a former chief warrant officer with the Guard and a friend of Burkett's, is the person whom Burkett says led him to the room where the Bush records were being vetted. But Conn says he never saw anyone combing through the Bush file or discarding records.

"I have no recall of that," Conn said. "I have no recall of that whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada."

Conn's recollection also undercuts another of Burkett's central allegations: that he overheard Bush's onetime chief of staff, Joe M. Allbaugh, telling a Texas Guard general to make sure there were no embarrassments in the Bush record.

Burkett says he told Conn, over dinner that same night, what he had overheard. But Conn says that, although Burkett told him he worried that the Bush record would be sanitized, he never mentioned overhearing the conversation between Allbaugh and General Daniel James III.

Burkett's allegations about the Bush records come as the White House is attempting to answer mounting questions about whether Bush fulfilled his obligations as a member of the Texas Air Guard during the early 1970s. Burkett's allegations also will be a major focus of a book on Bush to be published next month.

But the book's author, James Moore, a former Houston TV news correspondent, concedes he never interviewed some of the key players who could have verified Burkett's charges, including Conn and retired National Guard Colonel John Scribner -- the officer Burkett says he saw removing items from the Bush file.

Moore, told yesterday that Conn contradicts Burkett's story, said he believes Burkett's allegations are true. "I think we're into a classic he-said, she-said," Moore said.

"The Cleansing of the President" -- Kevin Drum at calpundit.com, 2/13/04:

The main witness to Bill Burkett's story about the "cleansing" of George Bush's National Guard files is a fellow former guardsman named George Conn. Burkett claims that he mentioned his concerns to Conn in mid-1997 and a few days later Conn took him on a stroll over to the the base museum building where Burkett caught a glimpse of Bush's files being tossed away in a trashcan. (My interview with Burkett about this stuff is here.)

On Wednesday Conn declined to comment on Burkett's charges to the New York Times but did say this via email: "I know LTC Bill Burkett and served with him several years ago in the Texas Army National Guard. I believe him to be honest and forthright. He 'calls things like he sees them.'"

Yesterday, though, Conn decided to comment further:

Conn says he never saw anyone combing through the Bush file or discarding records. "I have no recall of that," Conn said. "I have no recall of that whatsoever. None. Zip. Nada."

Conn's recollection also undercuts another of Burkett's central allegations: that he overheard Bush's onetime chief of staff, Joe M. Allbaugh, telling a Texas Guard general to make sure there were no embarrassments in the Bush record.

Burkett says he told Conn, over dinner that same night, what he had overheard. But Conn says that, although Burkett told him he worried that the Bush record would be sanitized, he never mentioned overhearing the conversation between Allbaugh and General Daniel James III.

This is obviously a major blow to Burkett's credibility. What's odd, though, is that it doesn't actually directly contradict what Burkett told me on Wednesday:

  • After overhearing the "cleansing" conversation in General James' office, Burkett says he "brought it up" with Conn and later mentioned it "in passing." Then: "I don't know in what detail we talked about it, but I know we talked."
  • Conn agrees that he took a walk with Burkett over to the museum but says he never saw any records being tossed out. But in Burkett's account to me he was actually pretty clear that Conn never actually said or did anything specific. He just led him in the direction of the trashcan and Burkett looked in and saw some of Bush's files.
  • I asked Burkett if Conn had brought him to the museum deliberately and he said, "I believe so. And that's the reason I traced the path, I don't think there's any doubt about it."

In other words, Conn never said anything directly about it. Burkett inferred Conn's intent from what he saw there.

Now, this is all very strange. Three people � Conn, Dennis Adams, and Harvey Gough � are on record as agreeing that Burkett spoke to them in 1997 about his concerns that the Bush record was being sanitized. What's more, Conn agrees that he and Burkett visited the museum together one day. But he denies that Burkett ever mentioned specifically to him what he saw in the trashcan.

"1973 Document Puts Bush on Guard Base" -- Mike Allen and Lois Romano in The Washington Post, 2/12/04:

The White House last night released a document showing that President Bush was at a military base in Alabama during the last year of his National Guard service, but aides backed away from his weekend pledge to release all his military records.

Bush's staff provided copies of a one-page record of a dental exam, complete with drawings of Bush's teeth, that showed he was at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Montgomery, Ala., on Jan. 6, 1973.

"Scalia Rejects Pleas for Recusal in Cheney Case" -- David Von Drehle in The Washington Post, 2/12/04:

Despite pressure from congressional Democrats, newspaper editorials and professors of legal ethics, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said again that he will not recuse himself from a case involving his duck-hunting partner on a recent vacation: Vice President Cheney.

Scalia budged not one inch during the question-and-answer period after a speech Tuesday at Amherst College in Massachusetts. According to the Associated Press, the justice told an audience of about 600 that Cheney is being sued in his official role and so their personal friendship is not relevant.

"It did not involve a lawsuit against Dick Cheney as a private individual," Scalia said. "This was a government issue. It's acceptable practice to socialize with executive branch officials when there are not personal claims against them. That's all I'm going to say for now. Quack, quack."

Scalia traveled in January with Cheney on a government Gulfstream jet to a duck-hunting retreat in Louisiana. Along with seven others, they hunted for several days as guests of Wallace Carline, owner of Diamond Services Corp., an oil services firm.

Three weeks before the trip, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case titled in re: Richard Cheney, in which two groups have sued the vice president to force the release of records relating to his task force on energy policy. The Sierra Club and Judicial Watch suspect that Cheney, former chief executive of the oil services giant Halliburton Corp., was unduly influenced by his former friends and colleagues in the energy business -- including Kenneth Lay, then head of the scandal-wracked Enron Corp.

A lower court ordered Cheney to turn over the records. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson has challenged that order on Cheney's behalf.

Since the trip was made public, first by AP and then in detail by the Los Angeles Times, there have been widespread calls for Scalia to recuse himself from the Cheney case. Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives have written to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist asking him to intervene. Rehnquist pointedly declined.

"Lesbian Couple Wedded at SF City Hall" -- Rachel Gordon in The San Francisco Chronicle, 2/12/04:

History was made at 11:06 a.m. today at San Francisco City Hall when Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon took their wedding vows, becoming the first same-sex couple to be officially married in the United States.

(By mid-afternoon, at least 15 same-sex weddings were performed and officials issued about a dozen more marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, the Associated Press reported.) . . .

The wedding came just two days after Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that he wanted San Francisco to take the lead in bestowing the same marriage rights to gays and lesbians as are awarded to straight couples, saying he is duty-bound to fight discrimination.

The landmark wedding, the first of many expected to be held at City Hall today, is sure to set off a legal challenge. City officials, in fact, rushed to issue the first marriage licenses to same-sex couples as quickly as possible for fear that opponents would seek a court injunction to stop them. Officials alerted only a handful of people that they were ready to act, wanting to keep it secret until the papers were signed and the "I do's'' were spoken.

The decision was made late Wednesday night, and the clerk's office spent this morning amending the marriage license documents to reflect the change.

In place of "bride'' and "groom'' on the application were the words "1st applicant'' and "2nd applicant.''

After Martin, 83, and the 79-year-old Lyon were declared spouses for life, three other couples were lined up, awaiting their turn to take marriage vows.

Lyon, who will celebrate her 51st anniversary with Martin on Saturday, Valentine's Day, got a call Wednesday from Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, asking her if she'd be willing to take the plunge.

"I asked Del and she said OK," Lyon said. The San Francisco couple isn't new to being firsts. They have been at the forefront of the lesbian rights movement for decades.

"We didn't really think about this before, because we didn't think it was possible," Lyon said. "Now, so much has changed ... and everyone's working so hard to get gay marriage. It didn't seem right to say 'no.' "

"Gay Marriage Opponents File to Block San Francisco as Gays Rush to City for Licenses" -- Lisa Leff (AP) in The San Francisco Chronicle, 2/13/04:

Opponents of gay marriage filed suit Friday to stop an extraordinary act of ongoing civil disobedience in San Francisco, where under the direction of newly elected Mayor Gavin Newsom, the city has begun issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in defiance of state law.

Weddings appeared likely to continue through the long holiday weekend despite efforts by the Campaign for California Families and the Alliance Defense Fund to obtain a temporary restraining order that would prevent the city from granting more licenses.

A Superior Court hearing was scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday on the injunction request filed by the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund. The organization represents state Sen. William Knight, author of a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2000 that defined marriage in California as a union between a man and a woman.

Around the country, gays and lesbians emboldened by San Francisco's move and by the constitutional debate over gay marriage in Massachusetts went to courthouses Thursday and Friday demanding their own marriage licenses -- and getting summarily rejected, since every state in the nation bans gay marriage. The "National Freedom to Marry Day" protests have been held every Feb. 12 since 1998.

But in San Francisco, with the mayor's blessing, the county clerk has issued more than 150 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and counting. Many of the weddings have taken place in quick civil ceremonies inside the ornate City Hall, with their marriages recorded immediately thereafter in the city assessor's office. City Hall planned to remain open for more marriages Saturday in observance of Valentine's Day.

"I'm not interested as a mayor in moving forward with a separate but unequal process for people to engage in marriages," Newsom said in an interview Friday on ABC News' "Good Morning America." "I think the people of this city and certainly around the state are feeling that separate but unequal doesn't make sense."

Hundreds of same-sex couples began lining up at 4 a.m. Friday, many of them rushing into town from other cities to get married before the courts shut them down.

Mikko Alanne, 31, and his partner Ari Solomon, 27, drove in overnight from West Hollywood, a six-hour trip. "This is the first step towards the state recognizing gay marriage," Allane said. Even though "we won't be recongized outside San Francisco, we are very excited."

San Francisco appears to be the first city in the nation to officially support same-sex marriage licenses; other cities have mistakenly issed licenses to gay and lesbian couples in the past that were later revoked or declared void in court actions.

They city's bold move has caused an outcry from other elected officials and groups opposed to marriage rights for same-sex couples.

"These unlawful certificates aren't worth the paper they are written on," Randy Thomasson, director of the Campaign for California Families, said at a news conference in Los Angeles. "He is a renegade mayor who is acting like he is not a Californian or an American. No one made the mayor of San Francisco king; he can't play God. He cannot trash the vote of the people."

The opposition groups want a Superior Court judge to order the county clerk not to issue any more licenses to same-sex couples, to void any licenses that have been granted, and to require city officials to abide by the rules that govern changes in law. . . .

"I don't think there is anyone in good conscience who can tell me that denying the same rights my wife Kimberly and I have to same-sex couples is anything but discrimination," said Newsom, who maintains the equal protection clause of the California Constitution obliges the city to grant marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. . . .

San Francisco officials acknowledged a long court fight ahead of them. While insisting the licenses are legally binding, officials also issued disclaimers on the newly revised applications encouraging "same-gender couples" to "seek legal advice regarding the effect of entering into marriage."

"Marriage of lesbian and gay couples may not be recognized as valid by any jurisdiction other than San Francisco, and may not be recognized as valid by any employer," the disclaimer said.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, formally introduced legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage throughout California on Thursday, then personally officiated at some of the marriages.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state officials have avoided comment, but Attorney General Bill Lockyer's spokeswoman did note that California's constitution provides broader equal protection rights than other states.

"Same-Sex Marriage Raises Legal Questions" -- Lea Brilmayer in The Washington Post, 2/15/04 (accessed 2/13/04):

These questions are new and largely unresolved, and yet their answers will depend on the application of a legal principle, known as "conflict of laws," that is as old as American law itself. Conflict of laws deals with the overlapping and sometimes conflicting rights and obligations created by the 50 states and by the federal government. It comes into play when a court decision or legislation announced in one state (or in a foreign country) must be recognized in other jurisdictions.

The central guiding principle in resolving such questions derives from Article IV of the Constitution, which says that each state must give "full faith and credit" to the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings" of the others. With the full faith and credit clause, the drafters of the constitution tried to reconcile the desire for diversity (different states should be allowed to choose different laws) with mutual respect for differences of opinion (sister states should respect each other's choices).

But there is no clear definition of how much deference the "full faith and credit" clause requires. The states are not required to obey everything the others do. Supreme Court decisions suggest that states have some latitude to exercise their own judgment and to consider their own laws and mores in deciding whether a sister state's decisions have to be enforced, but the extent to which they can do this is unclear. The Constitution gives Congress power to legislate on the subject. But mostly it has been left for the state and federal courts, not Congress, to figure out.

Almost since the beginning, the Supreme Court's interpretations of the clause have been peppered with exceptions to the generalized requirement of mutual respect. For example, the clause has never much applied to legislation. It has been applied almost exclusively to judicial decisions: As a general matter, judgments announced in one state are strictly enforceable in all the others; state legislation is not.

People tend to assume that a marriage is like a court judgment; if it's valid in the place where it is celebrated, it has to be honored everywhere. This doesn't necessarily follow. From the rather unromantic position of a conflict of laws specialist, celebrating a marriage is something halfway between signing a contract to buy an car and applying for a driver's license. If you enter into a contract or are granted a driver's license in one state, then other states will probably respect it. But they needn't, constitutionally, and sometimes they don't. Such disregard for sister state decisions wreaks havoc with the principle of respect for decisions made by other states, not to mention the practical needs of the people involved who want their legal rights to be steady and predictable.

"W Left Guard Unit Too Soon" -- Larry Cohler-Esses and Bob Port in The New York Daily News, 2/12/04:

George W. Bush left his Texas Air National Guard assignment and moved to Alabama in 1972 even though the Air Force denied his request for a transfer, according to his military records.

In fact, Bush, did not even ask for an official transfer until nine days after he moved to Alabama in May 1972.

The Air Force quickly rejected Bush's request, saying the fighter pilot was "ineligible" to move to the Alabama unit Bush wanted - a squadron of postal handlers.

Nevertheless, Bush stayed in Alabama until his Texas commanders finally gave him written authorization five months later to train there.

"Bush's Loss of Flying Status Should Have Spurred Probe" -- Walter V. Robinson and Francie Latour in The Boston Globe, 2/12/04:

President Bush's August 1972 suspension from flight status in the Texas Air National Guard -- triggered by his failure to take a required annual flight physical -- should have prompted an investigation by his commander, a written acknowledgement by Bush, and perhaps a written report to senior Air Force officials, according to Air Force regulations in effect at the time.

Bush, who was a fighter-interceptor pilot assigned to the Texas Air National Guard, last flew in April 1972 -- just before the missed physical and 30 months before his flight commitment ended. He also did not attend National Guard training for several months that year and was permitted to cut short his military commitment a year later in 1973.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, for the second day in a row, refused yesterday to answer questions about Bush's failure to take the physical and appeared to retreat from Bush's promise Sunday to make public all of his military records. Asked at a midday press briefing if all of Bush's records would be released, McClellan said, "We'd have to see if there is any new information in that."

Late yesterday, assistant White House press secretary Erin Healy said the White House does not have records about the flight physical. "At this point, we've shared everything we have," Healy said. A spokesman for the National Guard Bureau said if there are records about any inquiry into Bush's flight status, they would most likely be in Bush's personnel file, stored in a military records facility in Colorado. . . .

Two retired National Guard generals, in interviews yesterday, said they were surprised that Bush -- or any military pilot -- would forgo a required annual flight physical and take no apparent steps to rectify the problem and return to flying. "There is no excuse for that. Aviators just don't miss their flight physicals," said Major General Paul A. Weaver Jr., who retired in 2002 as the Pentagon's director of the Air National Guard, in an interview.

Brigadier General David L. McGinnis, a former top aide to the assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, said in an interview that Bush's failure to remain on flying status amounts to a violation of the signed pledge by Bush that he would fly for at least five years after he completed flight school in November 1969.

"Failure to take your flight physical is like a failure to show up for duty. It is an obligation you can't blow off," McGinnis said. . . .

A Sept. 29, 1972, order sent to Bush by the National Guard Bureau, the defense department agency which oversees the Guard, noted that Bush had been verbally suspended from flying on Aug. 1. The written order made it official: "Reason for suspension: Failure to accomplish annual medical examination."

The order required Bush to acknowledge the suspension in writing and also said: "The local commander who has authority to convene a Flying Evaluation Board will direct an investigation as to why the individual failed to accomplish the medical examination." After that, the commander had two options -- to convene the Evaluation Board to review Bush's suspension or forward a detailed report on his case up the chain of command.

Either way, officials said yesterday, there should have been a record of the investigation.

The issue of Bush's suspension has been clouded in mystery since it first arose during the 2000 campaign. Dan Bartlett, a Bush campaign aide who is now White House communications director, said then that Bush didn't take the physical because his family physician was in Houston and he was in Alabama. But the examination is supposed to be done by a flight surgeon, and could have been done at the base in Montgomery.

It is unclear whether Bush's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry B. Killian, ordered any inquiry, as required.

"Bush's Guard Record Defended" -- Peter Bacque in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/13/04:

A former senior Virginia Air National Guard commander, who served with George W. Bush in the Texas Air Guard, says Bush looked into volunteering for Vietnam combat service but was told he did not have the required flight experience.

William J. Campenni, a retired Air Guard colonel, also said absences such as Bush's from his unit were common in the Air Guard during the period of Bush's service and still are.

He and Bush were young lieutenants and pilots in the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Texas Air Guard from 1970 to 1971, Campenni said, serving under the same flight and squadron commanders, both of whom are now dead.

Campenni, 63, lives in Herndon and has participated in Republican Party politics in Northern Virginia. He retired as an Air Force pilot in 1998, last flying with the 192nd Fighter Wing based at Richmond International Airport.

According to Campenni, Bush inquired about participating in a volunteer program called Palace Alert that used Air National Guard pilots flying in the F-102 Delta Dagger interceptor jet in Vietnam.

The Air Guard advised Bush he did not have the desired 500 hours of flight time as a pilot to qualify for Palace Alert duty, and, in any event, the program was winding down and not accepting more volunteers. . . .

During the Vietnam War era, many men saw joining the National Guard as a means of avoiding combat duty. American political leaders avoided mobilizing the hometown units for duty in the Southeast Asian war.

"There was one big exception to this abusive use of the Guard to avoid the draft," Campenni said, "and that was for those who wanted to fly, as pilots or crew members."

Air Guard pilot duty required up to 2� years of active-duty service for training, he said. Draftees served for two years, overwhelmingly in the Army.

Air National Guard units began flying supply missions in Vietnam in 1965, and the Air Guard was mobilized twice during the Vietnam War. Guard aviators in five squadrons flying the F-100 Super Sabre fighter-bomber were called up for duty in Vietnam in 1968.

"Avoiding service?" Campenni said. "Yeah, tell that to those guys."

Simply flying tactical military aircraft is dangerous, he said.

"Six of those with whom I served in those years never made their 30th birthdays because they died in crashes flying air-defense missions" in the United States, Campenni said.

"Our Texas [Air National Guard] unit lost several planes right there in Houston during Lt. Bush's tenure, with fatalities," he said.

"Just strapping on one of those obsolescing F-102s was risking one's life."

"A Mouthful in the Name of Full Disclosure" -- Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, 2/13/04:

Talk about making a mountain out of a molar.

Wednesday night, President Bush's aides sent an urgent electronic page to White House reporters: "PLEASE CHECK YOUR EMAIL FOR RELEASE OF INFORMATION FROM THE WHITE HOUSE." Was it a terrorist attack? Osama bin Laden captured?

No. "DENTAL EXAMINATION" was the jaw-dropping headline. Attached to the e-mail was a summary of George W. Bush's 1973 exam in Alabama -- a "full mouth periapical," no less. "This dental examination documents the president serving at Dannelly [Air National Guard] Base, Alabama, on January 6, 1973," White House press secretary Scott McClellan announced in an accompanying statement.

Thus did the president's aides try to end the curiously reborn controversy over whether Bush did his Vietnam War-era duties in Alabama in 1972-73. Yet, yesterday morning, a mere 12 hours after Bush exposed his bicuspids, McClellan was providing new details about Bush's driving record: two teenage car accidents and two speeding tickets, undisclosed until now.

The spokesman volunteered these embarrassing tidbits because, he said, the release of part of Bush's National Guard records with the "arrest record" redacted -- that is, blacked out -- could fuel conspiracy theories.

It's all part of a painful lesson Bush has learned in recent days about the slippery slope of disclosure. It began when the president, in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" broadcast Sunday, agreed to release all records regarding his National Guard service. The White House insisted the records had already been released, but the vow to disclose all information opened the floodgates for old records the White House had said did not exist.

First came the National Guard payroll records, on Tuesday, which the White House said proved Bush did his duty in 1972 and 1973. But those records did not prove where Bush served or whether he did any drills.

Thus yesterday's release of Bush's dental exam. The diagrams indicate the future president was missing four wisdom teeth (numbers 1, 16, 17, 32) and one molar (no. 3) and had seven fillings (pre-molars 4, 5, 20 and 21 and molars 15, 30 and 31). An accompanying statement from the White House doctor, Richard J. Tubb, attested: "I have reviewed the medical and dental records of President George W. Bush covering the period from 1968-73," and Bush "was fit for continued flying duties."

But the dental disclosure only raised more questions that the conspiracy-minded could sink their teeth into: If the White House doctor reviewed Bush's medical records from his Guard period, that means such records exist -- so why wasn't the White House releasing them? The document proves that Bush submitted to the dentist's drill in Alabama, but what about military drills? Bush had said he returned to Texas before January 1973 -- so what was his mouth still doing in Alabama?

Flying to Harrisburg, Pa., aboard Air Force One yesterday, McClellan mused: "I suppose some might now try to suggest that, well, this is only his teeth, this doesn't show that he was there." . . .

Will that be the end of the disclosures? Don't count on it. McClellan tried Wednesday to retreat from Bush's televised agreement to release his entire military file. The president, therefore, finds himself in an election-year disclosure dilemma over old records. If he reneges on his promise to release them, he may appear to be hiding something. If he releases them, he risks more flaps over missing molars.

"Drip, Drip, Drip" -- Kevin Drum at calpundit.com, 2/13/04:

You may recall the full text of George Bush's answer to Tim Russert on Sunday regarding his National Guard files:

Russert: But you authorize the release of everything to settle this?

President Bush: Yes, absolutely. We did so in 2000, by the way.

"We did so in 2000, by the way."

Really? And yet after I posted a copy of Bush's 1972-73 ARF Retirement Credit Summary on Sunday, the White House followed up by releasing the same document on Tuesday, along with a previously unreleased set of payroll records. On Wednesday they released a copy of his dental records. Finally, on Thursday, they showed reporters an unredacted copy of the part of Bush's 1968 National Guard application that asks if he's ever been arrested . . .

So what's there? Reporters didn't get copies of the document, but the LA Times reports that it was nothing serious:

According to McClellan's unaltered copy, Bush responded: "Misdemeanor, New Haven, Connecticut, December 1966, charge dismissed.

"Two speeding tickets, July '64 and August '64, $10 fine, Houston traffic court.

"Two collisions, July '62 and August '62, $25 fine, Houston traffic court."

I continue to be stupefied by this performance. First, why did Bush say on Sunday that everything had been released in 2000 only to have own staff then release a bunch of previously unreleased documents on Tuesday?

And why-oh-why are they playing "document of the day"? It's as if they're pursuing some bizarre strategy deliberately designed to prove to the world that they have plenty of documents in their possession and they are carefully releasing only the helpful ones after long and careful examination. It's just mind-bogglingly stupid.

There are only two things to do in a situation like this: either stonewall completely or else open up the entire file and take their lumps for what's in it. (Adding a tearful Clintonesque apology would probably work pretty well in the latter case, although I suspect Bush's personality may be a little too Nixonian to pull something like that off.) Instead they seem bound and determined to keep this stuff dripping out in the most transparently self-serving way possible. It's unbelievable.

"President's On-Guard and Off the Mark" -- Thomas M. DeFrank in The New York Daily News, 2/13/04:

President Bush's crisis management corps is so contemptuous of Washington's political culture that they have foolishly ignored the cardinal rule of damage control: If there's nothing to hide, don't behave as if there were.

As a result, a downbeat political week for the President was made worse by bumbling White House attempts to explain former Lt. Bush's service in the Air National Guard.

Granted, Democrats are furiously stoking the story for partisan advantage. Party chairman Terry McAuliffe, who probably couldn't tell an M-1 rifle from an M-1 tank, is way over the line alleging Bush was AWOL from the Guard in the 1970s.

Presidential hopeful John Kerry has not helped his war-hero image much, either, by studying his combat boots and letting McAuliffe's slander stand.

Yet the President's reputation for plain-talking has been breached, a largely self-inflicted wound. Bush's vow on "Meet the Press" to release all his service records has been followed by grudging, piecemeal disclosure by his handlers.

"They're still in their trademark Texas mode of telling reporters only what they want them to print," a highly placed Bush loyalist said yesterday. "They've always resisted the art of getting bad news out on their terms."

Instead of quickly lancing the boil with a full "document dump," the White House acts as if there's some dark secret lurking in Bush's musty Guard files.

"Bush's Driving Records Disclosed" -- Dave Moniz and Jim Drinkard in USA Today, 2/13/04:

The White House disclosed information in documents Thursday showing that President Bush had been arrested once for a college prank and was cited for two automobile accidents and two speeding tickets before he enlisted in the National Guard.

The accidents and tickets were disclosed for the first time in response to questions about a portion of Bush's military record that had been blacked out when the file was made public during the 2000 presidential campaign.

The traffic violations are significant in the context of Bush's military career. At the time Bush enlisted in the Texas National Guard, the Air Force typically would have had to issue a waiver for an applicant who had multiple arrests or driving violations.

An officer who served at the same time as the president, former Texas Air National Guard pilot Dean Roome, was required by the Air Force to get a waiver for a $25 speeding ticket when he enlisted in the Air National Guard in 1967.

There is no record of an enlistment waiver in Bush's military file.

Critics have charged that Bush received favorable treatment to get into the National Guard and avoid serving overseas at the height of the Vietnam War. His father was in Congress at the time.

Bush joined the Guard in 1968 and was honorably discharged in 1973. He received a competitive spot in a fighter jet unit at a time when there was a long waiting list for National Guard openings. He was allowed to leave a little less than a year before his commitment was up to attend graduate school at Harvard.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan showed a small group of reporters a copy of Bush's application to be an officer, with nothing blacked out, after USA TODAY published a picture of the blacked-out document Thursday. The accompanying report said that Guard officials in Texas had been concerned about embarrassing information in Bush's military records before the files were released to the public beginning in 1999, according to two former Guard officials. . . .

The White House described the four traffic incidents as two ''negligent collisions'' in July and August 1962 and two speeding tickets in July and August 1964. Bush was a teenager at the time.

McClellan did not indicate any cause of the accidents. He said Bush paid a $10 fine for the speeding tickets and a $25 fine for the collisions. It was not immediately clear whether the amounts were for each incident or combined.

Bush's military file contained a second document that also asked for information on any arrests. Portions of that page, his enlistment application, are also blacked out.

"Bush a No-Show at Alabama Base, Says Memphian" -- Jackson Baker in The Memphis Flyer, 2/13/04:

Two members of the Air National Guard unit that President George W. Bush allegedly served with as a young Guard flyer in 1972 had been told to expect him and were on the lookout for him. He never showed, however; of that both Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop are certain.

The question of Bush�s presence in 1972 at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Montgomery, Alabama � or the lack of it � has become an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Recalls Memphian Mintz, now 63: �I remember that I heard someone was coming to drill with us from Texas. And it was implied that it was somebody with political influence. I was a young bachelor then. I was looking for somebody to prowl around with.� But, says Mintz, that �somebody� -- better known to the world now as the president of the United States -- never showed up at Dannelly in 1972. Nor in 1973, nor at any time that Mintz, a FedEx pilot now and an Eastern Airlines pilot then, when he was a reserve first lieutenant at Dannelly, can remember.

�And I was looking for him,� repeated Mintz, who said that he assumed that Bush �changed his mind and went somewhere else� to do his substitute drill. It was not �somewhere else,� however, but the 187th Air National Guard Tactical squadron at Dannelly to which the young Texas flyer had requested transfer from his regular Texas unit � the reason being Bush�s wish to work in Alabama on the ultimately unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of family friend Winton "Red" Blount.

It is the 187th, Mintz�s unit, which was cited, during the 2000 presidential campaign, as the place where Bush completed his military obligation. And it is the 187th that the White House continues to contend that Bush belonged to � as recently as this week, when presidential spokesman Scott McClellan released payroll records and, later, evidence suggesting that Bush�s dental records might be on file at Dannelly.

�There�s no way we wouldn�t have noticed a strange rooster in the henhouse, especially since we were looking for him,� insists Mintz, who has pored over documents relating to the matter now making their way around the Internet. One of these is a piece of correspondence addressed to the 187th�s commanding officer, then Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, concerning Bush�s redeployment.

Mintz remembers a good deal of base scuttlebutt at the time about the letter, which clearly identifies Bush as the transferring party. �It couldn�t be anybody else. No one ever did that again, as far as I know.� In any case, he is certain that nobody else in that time frame, 1972-73, requested such a transfer into Dannelly.

Mintz, who at one time was a registered Republican and in recent years has cast votes in presidential elections for independent Ross Perot and Democrat Al Gore, confesses to �a negative reaction� to what he sees as out-and-out dissembling on President Bush�s part. �You don�t do that as an officer, you don�t do that as a pilot, you don�t do it as an important person, and you don�t do it as a citizen. This guy�s got a lot of nerve.�

Though some accounts reckon the total personnel component of the 187th as consisting of several hundred, the actual flying squadron � that to which Bush was reassigned � numbered only �25 to 30 pilots,� Mintz said. �There�s no doubt. I would have heard of him, seen him, whatever.� Even if Bush, who was trained on a slightly different aircraft than the F4 Phantom jets flown by the squadron, opted not to fly with the unit, he would have had to encounter the rest of the flying personnel at some point, in non-flying formations or drills. �And if he did any flying at all, on whatever kind of craft, that would have involved a great number of supportive personnel. It takes a lot of people to get a plane into the air. But nobody I can think of remembers him.

�I talked to one of my buddies the other day and asked if he could remember Bush at drill at any time, and he said, �Naw, ol� George wasn�t there. And he wasn�t at the Pit, either.��

The �Pit� was The Snake Pit, a nearby bistro where the squadron�s pilots would gather for frequent after-hours revelry. And the buddy was Bishop, then a lieutenant at Dannelly and now a pilot for Kalitta, a charter airline that in recent months has been flying war materiel into the Iraq Theater of Operations.

�I never saw hide nor hair of Mr. Bush,� confirms Bishop, who now lives in Goldsboro, N.C., is a veteran of Gulf War I and, as a Kalitta pilot, has himself flown frequent supply missions into Iraq and to military facilities at Kuwait. He voted for Bush in 2000 and believes that the Iraq war has served some useful purposes � citing, as the White House does, disarmament actions since pursued by Libyan president Moammar Khadaffi � but he is disgruntled both about aspects of the war and about what he sees as Bush�s lack of truthfulness about his military record. . . .

�It bothered me that he wouldn�t �fess up and say, Okay, guys, I cut out when the rest of you did your time. He shouldn�t have tried to dance around the subject. I take great exception to that. I spent 39 years defending my country.�

"Seeking Memories of Bush at an Alabama Air Base" -- David Barstow in The New York Times, 2/13/04:

MONTGOMERY, Ala., Feb. 12 � Inside the Alabama Air National Guard an informal search is on for someone, anyone, who recalls encountering First Lt. George W. Bush in 1972.

At Fort George C. Wallace, the Montgomery headquarters of the Alabama National Guard, officials have responded to growing scrutiny of President Bush's military record by searching through records for proof of his service in the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group. Former comrades from the 187th have been calling and e-mailing one another, always with the same basic question: Did you see him?

So far, it appears that their efforts have come to naught. Indeed, in interviews this week with The New York Times, 16 retired officers, pilots and senior enlisted men who served among hundreds with the 187th in 1972 all said that they simply could not recall seeing Mr. Bush at Dannelly Air Base, the sprawling compound adjacent to Montgomery's airport that is home to the 187th.

Those interviewed either held key supervisory positions at the base or were members of the fraternity of pilots and navigators who often congregated in a lounge on the second floor of Dannelly's main hangar. They worked in different units of the 187th, including the maintenance squadron, the supply squadron, the headquarters staff, flight safety and the flight operations center.

Yet try as they might � nearly all voiced strong support for Mr. Bush � none remembered crossing paths with him. Nor had any heard of anyone else in the 187th who recalled seeing him. . . .

For his part, Mr. Bush has never offered any detailed descriptions of what jobs he did at the 187th. "I can't remember what I did, but I wasn't flying because they didn't have the same airplanes," he told reporters in 2000.

His aides have said he did "desk work." . . .

[T]he interviews this week deepen a mystery that first surfaced during the 2000 presidential campaign when The Boston Globe reported that there was no record that Mr. Bush showed up for Guard drills between May 1972, when he moved to Alabama from Texas to work on a United States Senate race, and May 1973. Mr. Bush had been ordered in September 1972 to report for "equivalent training" to William R. Turnipseed, the 187th's deputy commander of operations, but The Globe quoted Mr. Turnipseed in 2000 as saying that Mr. Bush never reported to him.

In response to The Globe's article, Mr. Bush's election campaign appealed for members of the Alabama Air National Guard to come forward and vouch for his service, and a group of Vietnam veterans in Alabama offered a $1,000 reward for anyone with proof that Mr. Bush served. No one has come forward.

Sensing an opening in a new election year, leading Democrats have recently seized on the issue anew by hammering one simple question: If Mr. Bush served in Alabama, how come no one remembers him?

This week the White House released additional military records in an effort to prove that Mr. Bush performed duty here. The latest records, released Wednesday night, show that he visited a dentist at Dannelly on Jan. 6, 1973.

Mr. Bush's spokesmen have previously said that Mr. Bush lived in Alabama from May to November 1972, and then moved to Houston when the election was over. But Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said on Thursday that Mr. Bush recalled returning to Alabama for some of his Guard service even after he had moved to Houston.

Asked about the 16 members of the 187th who do not remember Mr. Bush serving in Alabama, Mr. McClellan responded that Mr. Bush's dental examination "demonstrates that he was serving in Alabama." Mr. McClellan also said that at least two people recalled Mr. Bush serving in Alabama, among them Joe Holcombe, who worked on the Senate campaign with Mr. Bush, and Emily Marks Curtis, who has said she briefly dated Mr. Bush in Alabama.

Mr. McClellan pointed to an article in The Times Daily, an Alabama newspaper, in which Ms. Curtis was quoted as saying that "the thing I know about George is that after the election was over in November, George left and he said he came back to Montgomery to do his Guard duty."

But Ms. Curtis and Mr. Holcombe have also told reporters that they never actually saw Mr. Bush at Dannelly. . . .

The closest any officer came to recalling Mr. Bush's presence at the 187th was Robert L. Ficquette, another captain and supervisor in the communications unit. "I remember the name passing in front of me some way," he said, although he said he could not be sure when or how or why. But he, too, said he did not recall seeing Mr. Bush. . . .

Several retired members of the 187th suggested that the most logical place for Mr. Bush was the operations center, where his pilot training could be put to good use processing flight plans and schedules. Indeed, this was the unit he was directed to report to in September 1972.

Mr. Garrett said that those who worked in the "ops center" were "like a family." Would he remember if Mr. Bush had been assigned to work in his command post?

"I think I would have recalled somebody being set in there like that," he said. "If I ever saw him, he never made an impression on me."

"Ala. Guardsmen Don't Remember Bush at Base" -- AP story in Newsday, 2/13/04:

The dental records released by the White House were intended to support President George W. Bush's account of his Air National Guard service in Alabama, but several members of the Guard unit said in interviews they don't remember ever seeing Bush at their Montgomery base. Nor does the dentist recall treating Bush. But all of them told The Associated Press that doesn't mean he wasn't there.

A Republican official who worked with Bush in an Alabama campaign in 1972 said she recalled him talking about his National Guard duty and seeing him in uniform before the election that year. The official, Jean Sullivan, said she remembered hearing rumblings even then about whether he was fulfilling his Guard obligations, but attributed them to "some idiots" who resented that he was from Texas and that he was on duty the minimum required time.

"Ex-Guardsman Recalls Bush Service in 1972" -- AP story in Newsday, 2/13/04:

A retired Alabama Air National Guard officer said Friday that he remembers George W. Bush showing up for duty in Alabama in 1972, reading safety magazines and flight manuals in an office as he performed his weekend obligations.

"I saw him each drill period," retired Lt. Col. John "Bill" Calhoun said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Daytona Beach, Fla., where he is preparing to watch this weekend's big NASCAR race.

"He was very aggressive about doing his duty there. He never complained about it. ... He was very dedicated to what he was doing in the Guard. He showed up on time and he left at the end of the day."

Calhoun, whose name was supplied to the AP by a Republican close to Bush, is the first member of the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group to recall Bush distinctly at the Alabama base in the period of 1972-1973. He was the unit's flight safety officer.

The 69-year-old president of an Atlanta insulation company said Bush showed up for work at Dannelly Air National Guard Base for drills on at least six occasions. Bush and Calhoun had both been trained as fighter pilots, and Calhoun said the two would swap "war stories" and even eat lunch together on base.

Calhoun is named in 187th unit rosters obtained by the AP as serving under the deputy commander of operations plans. Bush was in Alabama on non-flying status.

"He sat in my office most of the time -- he would read," Calhoun said. "He had your training manuals from your aircraft he was flying. He'd study those some. He'd read safety magazines, which is a common thing for pilots." . . .

"I knew he was working in the senatorial campaign, and I asked him if he was going to be a politician," said Calhoun, who is a staunch Republican. "And he said, 'I don't know. Probably."'

"Bush in Alabama" -- Kevin Drum at calpundit.com:

A witness has come forward who remembers George Bush showing up for National Guard drills in Alabama:

A retired Alabama Air National Guard officer said Friday that he remembers George W. Bush showing up for duty in Alabama in 1972, reading safety magazines and flight manuals in an office as he performed his weekend obligations.

"I saw him each drill period," retired Lt. Col. John "Bill" Calhoun said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Daytona Beach, Fla., where he is preparing to watch this weekend's big NASCAR race.

....The 69-year-old president of an Atlanta insulation company said Bush showed up for work at Dannelly Air National Guard Base for drills on at least six occasions.

This just gets more and more bizarre. "At least" six occasions?

But Bush's own retirement records and pay records show only four drill periods between May 1972 and January 1973, and nobody suggests he was in Alabama anytime outside those dates.

In addition, the dates on both the pay and retirement records don't match up to the known drill periods for the unit Bush and Calhoun were assigned to. If Calhoun saw Bush "each drill period," why wasn't Bush paid for those dates?

"W's AWOL Spin Update! -- David Corn at thenation.com, 2/13/04:

It seems the Bush White House cannot mount its defense of George W. Bush's Air National Guard service without raising more questions.

On February 12, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said that the White House had received about 30 pages of medical records from Bush's Guard file. He said they contain "nothing unusual." Then why won't the administration release them--especially after Bush promised on Meet the Press to make his entire file available? Bartlett also acknowledged that the administration has obtained Bush's complete military record from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver. That, too, is not being made public (at least, not yet).

Retired National Guard officials say that these records should include material detailing what Bush did in Alabama. These documents could be the final word--if they indicate that Bush did appear at Alabama and perform the duty he was obligated to do and if they document that he reported back to his Houston base once he returned from Alabama after the November 1972 election (remember, Bush's file includes an annual performance review dated May 2, 1973, that says he had not been seen at the Houston base for a year) and if they explain why Bush, who had trained as a fighter pilot, failed to take a flight physical exam and was removed from flight status.

Then there's the this-just-in account from John "Bill" Calhoun, a Republican businessman in Atlanta. The Washington Post reported that "a Republican close to Bush" supplied the newspaper the phone number of Calhoun, who was an officer with the Alabama Air National Guard in 1972. Calhoun told the Post that he saw Bush sign in eight to ten times for duty at the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group at Dannelly Field in Montgomery from May to October 1972. Calhoun said, "He'd sit on my couch and read training manuals and accident reports and stuff like that."

Four years ago, when the where-was-W story broke (thanks to a piece by The Boston Globe's Walter Robinson), the Bush campaign promised it would release names of individuals who had served with Bush in Alabama. It never did. The campaign did provide the name of a former girlfriend, but she only said that Bush had told her that he had to report for duty in Alabama; she could not attest that he actually did. Finally, Bush has one witness--out of the 600 to 700 people who served at the Alabama base in 1972.

But Calhoun's account is contradicted by other information--including the few pages of records that the White House released earlier this week. Calhoun says that Bush showed up for duty several times from May to October 1972. But the payment and retirement records the White House handed out three days earlier show that Bush received no pay or attendance credits from April until the end of October 1972. Why, then, is Calhoun's account not in sync with the documents that, according to the White House, settles the matter?

Moreover, the paper trail to date indicates that Bush was not supposed to report to this Montgomery base until October 1972. This is the chronology.

  • In May of 1972, Bush moved to Alabama to work on the Senate campaign of a family friend. He asked the Guard to do "equivalent training" at a unit there, and he won approval to join a unit temporarily at Maxwell Air Force Base. But that unit had no airplane or pilots, and the Air Reserve Personnel Center ultimately disallowed this transfer, as an investigation published by TomPaine.com first noted in 2000.
  • In September 1972, Bush asked to do duty at Dannelly Field in Montgomery and permission was granted.

The commander of that base and his deputy have said they do not recall Bush reporting for duty. The White House has produced pay sheet summaries that show Bush was paid for duty performed on October 28 and 29 and November 11 through 14 in 1972. These records do not state what duty was performed or where. But if they are indeed accurate (as the White House claims), they indicate Bush performed no other duty from May to December 1972. The question is, how could Calhoun have seen Bush eight to ten times from May to October at Dannelly Field if the available record states that Bush was not told to report to Dannelly Field until September and that Bush did not receive any payment or attendance credits in that May-to-October period other than for two days at the end of October?

Three decades is a long time, and perhaps Calhoun's memory is off on the dates. But Bush's inability to produce a witness prior until now and his unwillingness to provide any recollections of what he did when he served in Alabama (or what he did regarding the Guard when he returned to Houston) are reasons to be wary of late-in-the-game eyewitness testimony that is facilitated by an unnamed "Republican close to Bush." Would GOPers--or a single GOPer--concoct a fake alibi for Bush? Perhaps. As noted below, one former National Guard official charges that a Bush aide cleaned out portions of Bush's military records in 1997--an allegation denied by the White House.

There may be a legitimate explanation for the contradictions between Calhoun's recollections and the documents. Could Bush have been showing up "unofficially" at Dannelly Field? Was there a record-keeping screw-up regarding his request to do his time at that base? But given the dishonest spin the White House has resorted to in trying to defuse the AWOL controversy--and given Bush's broken promise--there is reason to be suspicious of any information that is selective, unconfirmed or contradicted. That is why that at this point Bush has only one honorable option: release the records.

"Credibility Gulch" -- Dan Froomkin in The Washington Post, 2/13/04:

In an entirely unscientific vein, I asked you readers in yesterday's column where you think this military service story is going.

The response was overwhelming, in number and in intensity. I repeat: This is not a scientific sample -- it obviously skews heavily, though not entirely, toward the Bush-haters. And I heard from a lot of veterans. But credibility did seem like a consistent theme.

The voices are real, the emotions are raw, and, well, my readers rock.

I've reproduced more than 100 of the responses here.

"Press Briefing by Scott McClellan" -- whitehouse.gov, 2/13/04:

Q Can I ask you a question, Scott? I just want to be absolutely clear on something here. The records that you released earlier this week on the President's Guard service state that he did not perform any Guard service in the third quarter of 1972. That's correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you have the records in front of you, and they state the dates on which he was paid. And you are paid for the days on which you serve.

Q So they state that between April 16th of 1972 and October 28th of 1972 he did no Guard duty.

MR. McCLELLAN: We've been through these issues, John, and we've provided you with the documents that show his service.

Q And do you believe that's correct, that he did no duty between April 16th and October 28th?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I don't know why we need to go through this again. This issue we've been through earlier this week.

Q Well, the reason I bring up the question is that John Calhoun, who claims he was the person in charge of making sure that President Bush reported for duty at the 187th Tactical Recon Group, says that he saw the President several times on the base between May and October of 1972, yet there is no record of him being there, in terms of what you released earlier this week.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't speak for him. You would have to talk to Mr. Calhoun. I do not know him.

Q We did talk to Mr. Calhoun, and Mr. Calhoun said that he saw the President several times between May and October of 1972.

MR. McCLELLAN: And like I've said --

Q So I was just wondering, can you explain that discrepancy?

MR. McCLELLAN: And like I've said, the President doesn't recall the specific dates on which he performed his duties. He does remember serving both in Alabama and in Texas. During that entire period, he was a member of the Texas Air National Guard.

Q But the records that you released do recall quite specifically the days that the President served on. There's no record of his being there --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, these are National Guard records that document the President did serve during that time period. And that was an issue that was raised earlier this week.

Q Right. But the records clearly recall that he did no Guard duty between April 16th and October 28th. Yet, Mr. Calhoun says he saw him on the base at the 187th between May and October of '72. So there's a discrepancy here. I'm wondering if you can explain it?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, again, we've provided you with the records and the facts are in the records that we have.

Q A good point. Could the records be incomplete?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Could the records be incomplete?

MR. McCLELLAN: Direct that question to the National Guard. These are the personnel records that we've received.

Q Scott, have you been through the entire personnel file now? And have you released everything you're going to release?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, that if there is additional information that comes to our attention that is relevant to the issue, we will certainly provide you with that information. That's a commitment that we've made.

Q But have you seen the entire file? That sounds like a reasonable question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Have I seen the entire file? I don't know the answer to that question at this point, because there is a possibility -- we have expected to receive additional documents from the National Guard. I think we just very recently received some additional documents, but I'm not sure if any of those documents are new. We're going to take a look at those. We'll take a look at those, and if there's new information relevant to the issue, then we will certainly provide you with that information. . . .

Q The President, in his interview on Sunday, was asked the first question about possible release of records, the first question about possible release. He was asked, when there were questions about Senator John McCain's record, Wesley Clark's record, they authorized the release of their entire file. The President was asked, would he do that? And he replied, "Yeah." So why is the President reneging on that pledge?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, do you want to continue on and go through the rest of that questioning?

Q Because that was the first question to which he answered in the affirmative -- don't try to parse it out.

MR. McCLELLAN: John, here's the question, quote from Tim Russert. "But you will allow pay stubs, tax records" --

Q Let's go with the first question. You're parsing.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you are, because the issue that Tim Russert raised was whether or not he had served while he was in Alabama.

Q Read the first question, Scott.

MR. McCLELLAN: "But you will allow pay stubs, tax records, anything to show that you were serving during that period." "Yes. If we still have them." We have provided you with that information, and we will continue to.

Q Read the first question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I just -- you read the first question. I read this question. It was the --

Q Right. It was the very first question --

MR. McCLELLAN: The context of this discussion --

Q The very first question, when he said, "entire record," the President said, "Yeah."

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, John, let's look at the context of the discussion. The context of the discussion was clear about whether or not he had served while he was in Alabama. It was very clear.

Q The first question was about entire --

MR. McCLELLAN: We can agree to disagree on this issue, but I think it was very --

Q We're going to end up on the Daily Show again with this one.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- very clear about the context of the question.

More News — February 1-8, 2004

More News -- February 1-8, 2004

"US Officials Knew in May Iraq Possessed No WMD" -- Peter Beaumont, Gaby Hinsliff and Paul Harris in The Observer, 2/1/04:

Senior American officials concluded at the beginning of last May that there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, The Observer has learnt.

Intelligence sources, policy makers and weapons inspectors familiar with the details of the hunt for WMD told The Observer it was widely known that Iraq had no WMD within three weeks of Baghdad falling, despite the assertions of senior Bush administration figures and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The new revelation came as White House sources indicated that President George Bush was considering establishing an investigation into the intelligence, despite rejecting an inquiry the previous day.

The disclosure that US military survey teams sent to visit suspected sites of WMD, and intelligence interviews with Iraqi scientists and officials, had concluded so quickly that no major weapons or facilities would be found is certain to produce serious new embarrassment on both sides of the Atlantic.

According to the time-line provided by the US sources, it would mean that Number 10 would have been aware of the US doubts that weapons would be found before the outbreak of the feud between Number 10 and Andrew Gilligan, and before the exposure of Dr David Kelly as Gilligan's source for his claims that the September dossier had been 'sexed up' to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

It would suggest too that some officials who defended the 24 September dossier in evidence before the Hutton inquiry did so in the knowledge that the pre-war intelligence was probably wrong. Indeed, comments from a senior Washington official first casting serious doubt on the existence of WMD were put to Downing Street by The Observer - and rejected - as early as 3 May.

Among those interviewed by The Observer was a very senior US intelligence official serving during the war against Iraq with an intimate knowledge of the search for Iraq's WMD.

'We had enough evidence at the beginning of May to start asking, "where did we go wrong?",' he said last week. 'We had already made the judgment that something very wrong had happened [in May] and our confidence was shaken to its foundations.'

The source, a career intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity, was also scathing about the massive scale of the failure of intelligence over Iraq both in the US and among its foreign allies - alleging that the intelligence community had effectively suppressed dissenting views and intelligence.

The claim is confirmed by other sources, as well as figures like David Albright, a former UN nuclear inspector with close contacts in both the world of weapons inspection and intelligence.

'It was known in May,' Albright said last week, 'that no one was going to find large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. The only people who did not know that fact was the public.'

"Powell's Case, a Year Later: Gaps in Picture of Iraq Arms" -- Douglas Jehl and David E. Sanger in the New York Times, 2/1/04:

[I]n the days since Dr. [David] Kay definitively declared that Iraq had no significant stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons when the invasion began in March, Washington has been seized by the question of how and why such an intelligence gap happened.

Even some Republican lawmakers are talking about a failure of egregious proportions � akin, some think, to the failure to grasp the forces pulling apart the Soviet Union in the late 1980's. President Bush is considering whether to order an investigation into the intelligence failure, an action he has so far resisted.

Some answers can be found in a dissection of the case that Mr. Powell presented, and an examination of some of the underlying intelligence information that formed its basis. Interviews with current and former senior intelligence officials, a handful of Iraqi engineers, Congressional officials involved in investigations of the C.I.A. and current and former administration officials, suggest that Mr. Powell's case was largely based on limited, fragmentary and mostly circumstantial evidence, with conclusions drawn on the basis of the little challenged assumption that Saddam Hussein would never dismantle old illicit weapons and would pursue new ones to the fullest extent possible. . . .

According to the interviews conducted by The New York Times, the administration's argument that Iraq was producing biological weapons was based almost entirely on human intelligence of unknown reliability. When mobile trailers were found by American troops, the White House and C.I.A. rushed out a white paper reporting that the vehicles were used to make biological agents. But later, an overwhelming majority of intelligence analysts concluded the vehicles were used to manufacture hydrogen for weather balloons or possibly to produce rocket fuel � a view now shared by Dr. Kay. The original paper was still posted on the C.I.A.'s Web site on Saturday.

Nor did they find evidence of anything but the most rudimentary nuclear program: United Nations sanctions had choked off the project, and the few parts saved from efforts to enrich uranium in the 1980's remained buried under a rose garden. While Mr. Hussein put money into reviving the program, scientists found themselves struggling to reproduce basic experiments they had conducted two decades before.

The administration's evidence, according to the interviews, was much more accurate in the arena of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles: very active programs were under way for both. The missiles clearly violated range limits set by the United Nations, and Mr. Hussein was trying to buy better technology from North Korea. But the deal fell through, and he was left with missiles that his own scientists say were wildly inaccurate � though they were too scared to deliver that news to the dictator. The aerial vehicles appear to have been designed mainly for surveillance, not the spread of anthrax or other biological agents. . . .

Already, the overestimation of Iraq's abilities has raised a fundamental question in Congress and among America's allies: how can a nation threaten to act pre-emptively against another government if the evidence of what kind of a threat it poses � and how imminent the threat may be � is so far off the mark? That question has been the subtext of Dr. Kay's comments, and the explicit issue that Mr. Bush's Democratic challengers have raised.

"Bush to Establish Panel to Examine U.S. Intelligence" -- David E. Sanger in The New York Times, 2/2/04:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 � President Bush will establish a bipartisan commission in the next few days to examine American intelligence operations, including a study of possible misjudgments about Iraq's unconventional weapons, senior administration officials said Sunday. They said the panel would also investigate failures to penetrate secretive governments and stateless groups that could attempt new attacks on the United States.

The president's decision came after a week of rising pressure on the White House from both Democrats and many ranking Republicans to deal with what the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee has called "egregious" errors that overstated Iraq's stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and made the country appear far closer to developing nuclear weapons than it actually was.

Mr. Bush's agreement to set up a commission to study the Iraq intelligence failures was first reported Sunday by The Washington Post. The officials described the commission Mr. Bush will create as a broader examination of American intelligence shortcomings � from Iran to North Korea to Libya � of which the Iraqi experience was only a part.

The pressure to establish such a panel became irresistible after David A. Kay, the former chief weapons inspector, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that "it turns out we were all wrong, probably," about the perceived Iraqi threat, which was the administration's basic justification for the war.

The commission will not report back until after the November elections. Some former officials who have been approached about taking part say they believe it may take 18 months or more to reach its conclusions.

"It became clear to the president that he couldn't sit there and seem uninterested in the fact that the Iraq intel went off the rails," said one senior official involved in the discussions. "He had to do something, and he chose to enlarge the problem, beyond the Iraq experience." . . .

While other studies of American intelligence lapses have been ordered by past administrations, none has taken place at the level of a presidential commission. Nor have they operated in the midst of a heated political debate over whether the president was the victim of bad intelligence, as Republicans argue, or whether he sought to cherry-pick the evidence that would justify the decision to go to war, as many of the Democratic candidates for president have contended.

"G.I.'s to Pull Back in Baghdad, Leaving Its Policing to Iraqis" -- Thom Shanker in The New York Times, 2/2/04:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 1 � American commanders have ordered a sharp reduction in the presence of occupation troops in Baghdad, senior officers announced Sunday. The most visible role of policing the capital is being turned over to local forces while American troops pull back to a ring of bases at the edge of the city.

Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the First Armored Division, which has responsibility for security in Baghdad, made the announcement during a visit by Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary. Mr. Wolfowitz returned here on an inspection tour three months after the hotel he stayed in then was hit by rockets fired by insurgents in an attack that killed one Army officer and wounded more than a dozen people.

American officers said that after reaching a peak of almost 60 operating locations in Baghdad, the American military had already cut its posts in the capital to 26, and that the number would drop to 8 by mid-April. Six of those bases will be in the Baghdad outskirts, and two will be in the high-security "green zone" that is home to the American-led occupation authority inside the city.

General Dempsey said the new Iraqi police force and civil defense corps "are capable of handling the threat" inside the city. . . .

A senior Pentagon official said one reason for removing significant numbers of American forces from the city center was to withdraw as much as possible from buildings, posts and offices associated with the fallen government of Saddam Hussein. But a number of palaces used by his government at the edge of the city will still be used by the occupying military, and the occupation political authority continues to use a Hussein-era palace in the city center as its headquarters.

A senior military officer said about 8,000 Iraqi police officers now patrolled Baghdad, a city of about 5.5 million, although security analysts say the city needs 19,000. About 1,000 new policemen are being trained each month, the officer said. . . .

The American military and Iraqi security forces are battling a spate of kidnappings by insurgents, who hope to compel the victims' families to carry out attacks against American troops and Iraqi police officers or who are trying to extort money to pay for attacks, a senior military officer said.

"Analysts: Bush's Plan Does Little to Reduce Deficit" -- William Douglas in The Miami Herald, 2/2/04:

President Bush's new budget proposes another deficit next year, but he said cutting this year's record deficit of $521 billion in half in five years is a top priority.

All he needs to do now is come up with a realistic plan to do it.

The deficit-reduction path that Bush outlined in his 402-page budget contains questionable assumptions and large omissions that independent analysts say could greatly increase rather than shrink the out-of-control federal deficit, which is already frightening world markets, provoking cost-conscious Republicans into rebellion and feeding Democrats political ammunition in an election year.

"The good thing about this budget is it highlights the deficit and makes deficit control a goal," said Robert Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group devoted to fiscal discipline. "The bad thing is the (deficit) goals are too modest and the plan for achieving them is not credible."

Bush believes that higher tax revenues from a rebounding economy coupled with reduced federal spending will help slash the deficit. To meet his five-year goals, the White House said it intends to slice and dice: Eliminate 65 major programs and cut spending in 63 others to save $4.9 billion in 2005 alone and much more over time.

However, analysts and Democrats say the plan is flawed because Congress isn't likely to approve of killing and cutting popular programs in an election year. For example, Bush targets deep cuts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community police patrols, prisons, foreign assistance and air-traffic control modernization as ways to save big money. . . .

"No one should expect significant deficit reduction as a result of austere nondefense discretionary spending limits," said Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which manages the federal purse strings. "The numbers simply do not add up."

In addition, Bush's budget excludes the long-term costs of several big-ticket items, starting with the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan beyond September.

White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten said the administration probably would ask for $50 billion more for those two military operations sometime after the November elections. Congress approved $87 billion for them last fall, on top of $78 billion in initial funding last spring.

To gauge the true nature of the deficit, the administration needs to give a long-term projection on the cost of the Afghanistan-Iraq operations instead of treating them as "onetime expenses," Bixby said.

Bush also is pressing Congress to make permanent the tax cuts passed earlier, which are set to expire by the end of 2010. He said making them permanent would help sustain the nation's economic recovery.

But making those tax reductions permanent would cost $936 billion in tax revenues over 10 years, according to figures from the Office of Management and Budget, the White House's budget office.

"Now we're right on the brink of the baby boom retirement, we have a new threat of homeland security, and these guys come back every single year with a new, unpaid-for tax cut that will have very negative long-term impact," said Gene Sperling, President Clinton's economic adviser.

The administration's revised estimate of how much Medicare will cost also could inflate the deficit. Members of Congress were enraged last week after administration officials changed their 10-year estimate of a recently enacted prescription-drug benefit program to $534 billion, up from the $400 billion price tag that lawmakers were given when they voted for the measure.

"There's a sense that this administration can't be trusted to tell all of the facts in a timely fashion," said John Podesta, Clinton's former chief of staff. "They have a credibility problem."

"Another Bogus Budget" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 2/3/04:

The budget released yesterday, which projects a $521 billion deficit for fiscal 2004, is no more credible than its predecessors. When the administration promises much lower deficits in future years, remember this: two years ago it projected a fiscal 2004 deficit of only $14 billion. . . .

The prime cause of giant budget deficits is a plunge in the federal government's tax take, which fell from 20.9 percent of G.D.P. in fiscal 2000 to a projected 15.7 percent this year, the lowest share since 1950. About 45 percent of this plunge can be attributed to the Bush tax cuts. The rest reflects the end of the stock market bubble, the still-depressed economy and � probably � growing tax sheltering and evasion.

It's true that increased spending also contributes to the deficit, and that there has been a substantial increase in discretionary spending � spending that, unlike such items as Social Security payments, isn't automatically determined by formulas. But the bulk of this increase has been related to national security.

Traditional budget measures distinguish between defense and nondefense discretionary spending. Even by these measures, defense accounts for most of the increase in recent years. But a better measure would group homeland security and other costs associated with 9/11 with defense, not domestic programs. The Center for American Progress � confirming related work by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities � estimates that from 2000 to 2004 security-related discretionary spending rose to 4.7 percent of G.D.P. from 3.4 percent, while nonsecurity spending rose to only 3.4 percent from 3.1 percent.

In other words, the role of nonsecurity spending in the plunge into deficit is trivial, compared with tax cuts and security spending. (Credit where credit is due: the administration's budget numbers show the same thing.) And even severe austerity on nonsecurity spending won't make a significant dent in the deficit.

So what will it take to get the budget deficit under control? Unless Social Security and Medicare are drastically cut � which is, of course, what the right wants � any solution has to include a major increase in revenue.

Many Democrats have called for a partial rollback of the Bush tax cuts, preserving the "middle class" cuts � those that convey at least some benefit to the 77 percent of taxpayers in the 15 percent tax bracket or below. Such a partial rollback would have reduced this year's budget deficit by about $180 billion; that would help, but one hopes politicians realize that it's not enough.

Another major source of revenue could be a crackdown on tax loopholes and tax evasion, which has reached epidemic proportions. In particular, what's going on with the tax on corporate profits? That source of revenue is down, as a percent of G.D.P., to 1930's levels. No, that's not a misprint. And receipts are not growing nearly as fast as one would expect, given an economic recovery that has bypassed workers but given big gains to their employers. An administration that actually tried to make corporations pay their taxes might be able to find $100 billion or more each year.

"Endgame for the President?" -- Robert Kuttner in The Boston Globe, 2/4/04:

AFTER AN excruciating delay, chickens are finally coming home to roost for George W. Bush. For over a year, critics have been pointing to the president's systematic misrepresentations of everything from Iraq to education to budget numbers. But the charge hasn't really stuck, until very lately. .

This past week, however, Bush seems to have hit a tipping point. Chief arms inspector David Kay testified before Congress that the intelligence reports were entirely wrong about Saddam's supposed weapons and that the much maligned UN inspectors were right.

Kay loyally blamed the failure on intelligence professionals, not Bush. But that argument didn't fool those who watched last year as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld strong-armed the CIA, sifted through raw, unconfirmed reports, and massaged the data until he got the story he wanted.

Bush initially resisted the pressure for a full-scale investigation, but soon agreed to appoint a major bipartisan inquiry into the "intelligence failure." The real story here is the political manipulation of intelligence, and it isn't going away. A second investigation -- about the outing of CIA official Valerie Plame -- will also shed embarrassing light about the true White House concern for intelligence professionals. Yet another investigation -- into the lapses that occurred on Bush's watch in the events leading up to 9/11 -- could also unearth awkward facts.

All of the administration's mendacity comes together in the latest Bush budget. According to the White House, the deficit, now $521 billion, will be cut roughly in half over the next five years. But the administration achieves this feat by excluding future costs of occupying and rebuilding Iraq, by claiming large savings from waste and fraud as yet to be identified, and by proposing general program cuts so unpopular that Congress is sure to reject them.

Even as Bush proposes making his 10-year tax cuts permanent, the budget projects only over the next five years. Deficits, of course, dramatically increase after year five. Even in the fifth year (FY 2009), the budget leaves out about $160 billion in costs that the administration favors and is expected to propose in future budgets, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Bush's Medicare cost estimate was off by hundreds of billions. . . .

Some conservatives have tried to blame the rising deficits on increases on social spending. But federal program spending, outside of the Iraq buildup and the increased outlays for homeland security, has grown at less than the rate of inflation. We had no choice but to increase outlays on homeland security, But the war in Iraq, as we now know, was entirely optional (and needless). Without the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq war, the deficits would be well under 2 percent of GDP, and entirely manageable.

And despite the usual rosy characterizations, the latest economic growth numbers were not what the White House hoped. Four percent growth in the last quarter is not enough to generate very many good jobs. The Federal Reserve added insult to injury at its latest meeting by hinting at interest-rate increases later in this election year -- caused by rising deficits.

Even Bush's appalling Vietnam record -- pulling strings to get into a National Guard unit and then neglecting to show up much of the time -- is now fair game. What started as a gotcha game against General Wesley Clark's refusal to disavow Michael Moore's choice of rhetoric (Moore called Bush a "deserter") has refocused press attention onto the legitmate issue of just what Bush did.

Before the New Hampshire primary, Bush's reelection seemed assured. It's funny how the conventional wisdom sometimes turns abruptly, even though the basic facts were hidden in plain view all along. I'd bet we are about a week away from Time and Newsweek covers pronouncing "Bush in Trouble?" or some equivalent. It's about time.

"Bush's Military Record Defended" -- Mike Allen in The Washington Post, 2/4/04:

The White House, the Republican Party and the Bush-Cheney campaign mounted a choreographed defense yesterday of President Bush's attendance record in the National Guard and denounced Democrats for raising questions about his service.

The messages marked the first time that all the parts of Bush's 2004 political machine have collaborated on a simultaneous line of attack, and reflected his advisers' mounting concern about an issue that they hoped had been put to rest after his election in 2000.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said during his televised afternoon briefing that it is "a shame that this issue was brought up four years ago during the campaign, and it is a shame that it is being brought up again."

"The president fulfilled his duties. The president was honorably discharged," McClellan said. "I think it is sad to see some stoop to this level, especially so early in an election year."

Bush's aides did not release new information to clear up questions about a one-year gap in the public record of Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. Bush and his aides have said he reported to an Alabama unit during the period, from May 1972 to May 1973. . . .

After McClellan's briefing, Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot issued a statement saying Kerry is "supporting a slanderous attack" by not repudiating the McAuliffe comments. "By embracing this line of attack, Senator Kerry has made clear that he will accept and promote character assassination, innuendo and falsehood even when he doesn't have all the facts," Racicot said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie later told CNN that McAuliffe "has become the John Wilkes Booth of presidential character assassination."

"Let's Not Split Hairs -- Bush Lied about WMDs" -- O. Ricardo Pimentel in The Arizona Republic, 2/5/04:

Say you have this colleague and he swears X is true, cites "facts" to buttress his argument and tells you that he will stick unswervingly to the path dictated by the solid-gold intelligence provided him.

You, on the other hand, are certain that Y is true and you cite facts that should cause a reasonable person to have reasonable doubts or at least conclude that caution is warranted.

While you're making your argument, however, your colleague is holding his hands over his ears and chanting, "Lalalalalalalalalalalalala. I can't hear you."

Every time you make the effort to convince others that your colleague is wrong or acting precipitously, he and his supporters accuse you of being a girly-man, not a team player or, worse, French.

Afterward, it turns out that your colleague's facts were pretty much bogus.

OK, is he a liar? . . .

[L]et's give President Bush the benefit of the doubt. Let's say he was gripped by the principle that toppling Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do for a host of reasons over and above WMDs. Take your pick from oil to humanitarianism to Mideast peace in our time.

So, then, emphasizing WMDs anyway and drowning out contradictory facts and the naysayers with "lalalalalalalalala" and aspersions is warranted for this higher cause?

Sorry, it doesn't wash. It's still reckless disregard, a sad commentary on his trust in us and sloppy leadership in any case.

It now appears that the president will do what [David] Kay suggested: form an independent body to investigate.

No one should be surprised, however, if the findings aren't released until after the election, though such information may actually be useful to voters.

Whatever the findings, however, they will not alter the fact that the primary reason we went to war was false. Yes, a lie.

There are really no hairs to split here. Our leadership messed up big time.

It's important to find out if the intelligence was manipulated. But it's equally important to find out how and why Americans were manipulated.

There is nothing contradictory in being thankful for Saddam's ouster and upset about how we got there.

That's because the evidence is compelling that we were led down a path strewn with dishonesty, evasion, reckless disregard for truth and a cynical view of us as simpletons to be duped.

Tenet: Analysts Never Claimed Imminent Threat Before War -- William Branigin in The Washington Post, 2/5/04:

CIA Director George J. Tenet delivered a vigorous defense today of his agency's intelligence assessments on Iraq before last year's U.S.-led invasion, saying the country had illegal missiles, as well as the ability and intent to quickly produce biological and chemical weapons.

But he said the agency never described Iraq as "an imminent threat" in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion, and he acknowledged shortcomings in the CIA's performance, especially in penetrating the regime of former president Saddam Hussein with the agency's own spies.

In a rare public speech at Georgetown University, his alma mater, Tenet emphatically rebutted recent criticism of the CIA, answering several points raised by David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq. Kay told a Senate committee last week that intelligence analysts, including himself, were "almost all wrong" about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, a failure that he blamed in part on a lack of "human intelligence" capability in an agency that emphasized technological means of spying.

Tenet insisted that contrary to a statement by Kay, whom he did not mention by name, "we are nowhere near 85 percent finished" in searching for banned weapons and programs in Iraq.

He said he welcomed President Bush's expected announcement this week of an "independent, bipartisan commission" to review the U.S. intelligence community's performance in assessing Iraq and other hot spots worldwide. But he stressed that the jury is still out about the CIA's prewar intelligence on Iraq.

"Bush's Missing Year" -- Eric Boehlert at salon.com, 2/5/04:

In 1972, George W. Bush simply walked away from his pilot duties in the Texas Air National Guard. He skipped required weekend drill sessions for many months, probably for more than a year, and did not take a mandatory annual physical exam, which resulted in his being grounded. Nonetheless, Bush, the son of a well-connected Texas congressman, received an honorable discharge.

If an Air National guardsman today vanished for a year, military attorneys say that guardsman would be transferred to active duty or, more likely, kicked out of the service, probably with a less-than-honorable discharge. They suggest the penalty would be especially swift if the absent-without-leave guardsman were a fully trained pilot, as Bush was.

Bush's National Guard record, long ignored by the media, has surfaced with a vengeance. If the topic continues to rage, and if the media presses him, Bush may finally be forced to release his full military records, which could reveal the truth. By refusing to make all those records public, Bush has until now broken with a long-standing tradition of U.S. presidential candidates.

Democrats have seized on the story of Bush's "missing year," which was first raised in a 2000 Boston Globe article. This week Democratic front-runner Sen. John Kerry called on Bush to give a fuller explanation of his service record. That brought an outraged response from Bush-Cheney '04 chairman Marc Racicot, who denounced Kerry's request as a "slanderous attack" and "character assassination." White House spokesman Scott McClellan also tried to slam the door on the subject, declaiming that Democratic questions about Bush's military service "have no place in politics and everyone should condemn them." . . .

The story emerged in 2000 when the Boston Globe's Walter Robinson, after combing through 160 pages of military documents and interviewing Bush's former commanders, reported that Bush's flying career came to an abrupt and unexplained end in the spring of 1972 when he asked for, and was inexplicably granted, a transfer to a paper-pushing Guard unit in Alabama. During this time Bush worked on the Senate campaign of a friend of his father's. With his six-year Guard commitment, Bush was obligated to serve through 1973. But according to his own discharge papers, there is no record that he did any training after May 1972. Indeed, there is no record that Bush performed any Guard service in Alabama at all. In 2000, a group of veterans offered a $3,500 reward for anyone who could confirm Bush's Alabama Guard service. Of the estimated 600 to 700 Guardsmen who were in Bush's unit, not a single person came forward.

In 1973 Bush returned to his Houston Guard unit, but in May of that year his commanders could not complete his annual officer effectiveness rating report because, they wrote, "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of the report." Based on those records, as well as interviews with Texas Air National guardsmen, the Globe raised serious questions as to whether Bush ever reported for duty at all during 1973.

Torn document alleged to describe Bush's National Guard duty in late 1972 and early 1973

Throughout the 2000 campaign Bush aides never forcefully questioned the Globe's account. Instead, they searched for military documents that would support Bush's claim that he did indeed attend drill duties during the year in question. His aides eventually uncovered one piece of paper that seemed to bolster their case that he had attended a drill in late 1972, but the document was torn and did not have Bush's full name on it. . . .

Today, the White House says that although Bush did miss some weekend drills, he eventually made them up, and more importantly he received an honorable discharge. Bush supporters routinely cite the president's honorable discharge as the ultimate proof that there was nothing unbecoming about his military service.

But experts say that citation does not wipe away the questions. "An honorable discharge does not indicate a flawless record," says Grant Lattin, a military law attorney in Washington and a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as a judge advocate, or JAG officer. "Somebody could have missed a year's worth of Guard drills and still end up with an honorable discharge." That's because of the extraordinary leeway local commanders within the Guard are given over these types of issues. Lattin notes that the Guard "is obviously very political, even more so than other military institutions, and is subject to political influence." . . .

Meanwhile, recent questions have surfaced not only about Bush's military service, but his official records. "I think some documents were taken out" of his military file, the Boston Globe's Robinson tells Salon. "And there's at least one document that appears to have been inserted into his record in early 2000." That document -- the aforementioned torn page that did not have Bush's full name on it -- plays a central role in the story.

"His records have clearly been cleaned up," says author James Moore, whose upcoming book, "Bush's War for Re-election," will examine the issue of Bush's military service in great detail. Moore says as far back as 1994, when Bush first ran for governor of Texas, his political aides "began contacting commanders and roommates and people who would spin and cover up his Guard record. And when my book comes out, people will be on the record testifying to that fact: witnesses who helped clean up Bush's military file."

Torn document reconstruction demonstration

If Bush wanted to resolve the questions about his National Guard service, he could do so very easily. If he simply agreed to release the contents of his military personnel records jacket, the Guard could make public all his discharge papers, including pay records and total retirement points, which experts say would shed the best light on where Bush was, or was not, during the time in question between 1972 and 1973. (Many of Bush's documents are available through Freedom of Information requests, but certain items deemed personal or private cannot be released without Bush's permission.) . . .

The spark that reignited this issue came when ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, co-moderating a Democratic debate on Jan. 22, asked retired Gen. Wesley Clark why he did not repudiate comments made by his supporter, filmmaker Michael Moore, who publicly labeled Bush a "deserter." Jennings editorialized, "Now that's a reckless charge not supported by the facts." . . .

While co-moderating the Democratic debate, ABC News' Jennings was sure he knew the facts about Bush's military record. But as the Daily Howler noted, a search of the LexisNexis electronic database indicates that ABC's "World News Tonight," hosted by Jennings, never once during the 2000 campaign ran a report about the questions surrounding Bush's military record. Asked if ignoring the story was a mistake, and whether ABC News planned to pursue it in 2004, a network spokeswoman told Salon, "We continue to examine the records of all the candidates running for president, including President Bush. If and when we have a story about one of the candidates, we'll report it to our audience."

ABC was not alone in turning away from the story in 2000. CBS News did the same thing, and so did NBC News. But it was the New York Times, and the way the paper of record avoided the issue of Bush's no-show military service, that stands out as the most unusual. To this day, the Times has never reported that in 1972 the Texas Air National Guard grounded Bush for failing to take a required physical exam. Nor has the paper ever reported that neither Bush nor his aides can point to a single person who saw Bush, the hard-to-miss son of a congressman and U.S. ambassador, perform any active duty requirements during the final 18 months of his service. Instead, the Times served up stories that failed to delve deep into the issue. . . .

Asked in 2000 why Bush failed to take his physical in July 1972, the campaign gave two different explanations. The first was that Bush was (supposedly) serving in Alabama and his personal physician was in Texas, so he couldn't get a physical. That's false. By military regulations, Bush could not have received a military physical from his personal physician, only from an Air Force flight surgeon, and there were several assigned to nearby Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. The other explanation was that because Bush was no longer flying, he didn't need to take a physical. But that simply highlights the extraordinary nature of Bush's service and the peculiar notion that he took it upon himself to decide that a) he was no longer a pilot and b) he didn't have to take a physical. . . .

"Bush's Guard Service: What the Record Shows" -- Walter V. Robinson in The Boston Globe, 2/5/04:

A detailed Globe examination of the records in 2000 unearthed official reports by Bush's Guard commanders that they had not seen him for a year. There was also no evidence that Bush had done part of his Guard service in Alabama, as he has claimed. Bush's Guard appointment, made possible by family connections, was cut short when Bush was allowed to leave his Houston Guard unit eight months early to attend Harvard Business School.

Bush received an honorable discharge in 1973. The records contain no indication that Bush's commanding officers, one of them a friend, ever accused him of shirking his duty.

In an interview yesterday, Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, asserted that Bush "fulfilled his military requirements." Bartlett acknowledged that Bush's "irregular civilian work schedule could have put strains on when he served, when he performed his duty."

Before the Globe report in May 2000, Bush's official biography reported erroneously that he flew fighter-interceptor jets for the Houston Guard unit from 1968 to 1973. In a 1999 interview with a military publication, Bush said that among the values he learned as a pilot included "the responsibility to show up and do your job."

Most Democrats consider Moore's accusation of desertion unsupportable.

Still, according to the records and interviews in 2000, Bush's attendance record in the Guard was highly unusual:

  • Although he was trained as a fighter pilot, Bush ceased flying in April 1972, little more than two years after he finished flight school and two years before his six-year enlistment was to end, when he was allowed to transfer to an Alabama Air Guard unit. The records contain no evidence that Bush performed any military duty in Alabama. His Alabama unit commander, in an interview, said Bush never appeared for duty.
  • In August 1972, Bush was suspended from flight status for failing to take his annual flight physical.
  • In May 1973, Bush's two superior officers in Houston wrote that they could not perform his annual evaluation, because he had "not been observed at this unit" during the preceding 12 months. The two officers, one of them a friend of Bush and both now dead, wrote that they believed Bush had been fulfilling his commitment at the Alabama unit.
    Two other officers, in interviews, offered a similar account of Bush's absence, saying they had assumed Bush completed his service in Alabama.

Bush's official record of service, which is supposed to contain an account of his duty attendance for each year of service, shows no such attendance after May 1972. In unit records, however, there are documents showing that Bush was ordered to a flurry of drills -- over 36 days -- in the late spring and summer of 1973. He was discharged Oct. 1, 1973, eight months before his six-year commitment ended.

Through Bartlett, Bush insisted in 2000 that he had indeed attended military drills while he was in Alabama during 1972 and in 1973 after returning to his Houston base. At the time, Bartlett said Bush did not recall what duties he performed during that period.

Albert Lloyd Jr., a retired colonel who was the personnel officer for the Texas Air National Guard at the time, said in an interview four years ago that the records suggested to him that Bush "had a bad year. He might have lost interest, since he knew he was getting out."

Lloyd said he believed that after Bush's long attendance drought, the drills that were crammed into the months before Bush's early release gave him enough "points" to satisfy the minimal requirements to earn his discharge. At the time, Lloyd speculated that after the evaluation of Bush could not be done, his superiors told him, `George, you're in a pickle. Get your ass down here and perform some duty.' And he did."

Kevin Drum on the torn document. Phil Carter (former National Guard) on the paper trail that can be investigated regarding Bush's Guard service in 1972. News links and documents at awolbush.com.

"Was George Bush AWOL?" -- Bill Press at worldnetdaily.com, 2/6/04:

The White House, of course, bristles at allegations that Bush shirked his National Guard duties, which Republican Chair Marc Racicot calls a "new low" in politics. But there's one way to put the issue to rest once and for all. Let President Bush name one guardsman he met during the seven months he served in Alabama. Just one. If he can, the issue's dead. If he can't, it's a good sign he's lying.

Don't hold your breath. In 2000, a group of former Alabama guardsmen offered a $3,500 reward to anyone who could remember serving with Lt. George Bush. Nobody came forward.

One final point. Is it, as Racicot charges, dirty pool for Cleland to raise this issue? Not at all. I remind you that Max Cleland is a decorated Vietnam hero who left both legs and one arm behind on the battlefield. He lost his Senate seat when President Bush went to Georgia and accused him of being unpatriotic because, while he sponsored his own homeland security bill, he dared oppose Bush's version of the same legislation.

Fair is fair. If it was OK for George Bush to question triple-amputee Max Cleland's patriotism, it's OK for Max Cleland to question George Bush's military service.

"Did Bush drop out of the National Guard to avoid drug testing?" -- Eric Boehlert at salon.com, 2/6/04:

One of the persistent riddles surrounding President Bush's disappearance from the Texas Air National Guard during 1972 and 1973 is the question of why he walked away. Bush was a fully trained pilot who had undergone a rigorous two-year flight training program that cost the Pentagon nearly $1 million. And he has told reporters how important it was to follow in his father's footsteps and to become a fighter pilot. Yet in April 1972, George W. Bush climbed out of a military cockpit for the last time. He still had two more years to serve, but Bush's own discharge papers suggest he may have walked away from the Guard for good.

It is, of course, possible that Bush had simply had enough of the Guard and, with the war in Vietnam beginning to wind down, decided that he would rather do other things. In 1972 he asked to be transferred to an Alabama unit so he could work on a Senate campaign for a friend of his father's. But some skeptics have speculated that Bush might have dropped out to avoid being tested for drugs. Which is where Air Force Regulation 160-23, also known as the Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program, comes in. The new drug-testing effort was officially launched by the Air Force on April 21, 1972, following a Jan. 11, 1972, directive issued by the Department of Defense. That initiative, in response to increased drug use among soldiers in Vietnam, instructed the military branches to "establish the requirement for a systematic drug abuse testing program of all military personnel on active duty, effective 1 July 1972."

It's true that in 1972 Bush was not on "active" duty: His Texas Guard unit was never mobilized. But according to Maj. Jeff Washburn, the chief of the National Guard's substance abuse program, a random drug-testing program was born out of that regulation and administered to guardsmen such as Bush. The random tests were unrelated to the scheduled annual physical exams, such as the one that Bush failed to take in 1972, a failure that resulted in his grounding.

The 1972 drug-testing program took months, and in some cases years, to implement at Guard units across the country. And the percentage of guardsmen tested then was much lower than today's 40 percent rate. But as of April 1972, Air National guardsmen knew random drug testing was going to be implemented. . . .

During the early stages of his 2000 campaign for president, Bush was dogged by questions of whether he ever used cocaine or any other illegal substance when he was younger. Bush refused to fully answer the question, but in 1999 he did issue a blanket denial insisting he had not used any illegal drugs during the previous 25 years, or since 1974. Bush refused to specify what "mistakes" he had made before 1974.

"Bush's Service Record" -- editorial, The Boston Globe, 2/6/04:

On the basis of the available evidence, much of it dug up in 2000 by Globe reporter Walter V. Robinson, it seems clear that Bush, like many thousands of other young Americans, worked the system to his best advantage. Because his family had more clout than most, he was exceptionally successful.

In brief, Bush gained one of the highly competitive National Guard slots -- making it unlikely he would be sent to Vietnam -- through family connections; was made an officer after a relatively short training period; got permission to move to Alabama to work on a political campaign but was not recorded as keeping up his Guard duty there; and was given an honorable discharge eight months before his six-year commitment was up as he was starting Harvard Business School.

It also appears that he was allowed to make up for some missed duty by attending a flurry of drills in 1973.

This record does not support the charge of "deserter" leveled shamefully by film maker Michael Moore. But Bush's camp is out of line in suggesting that any questioning of this record is outrageous. Bush has chosen to let these factual gaps persist for four years. He should fill them in as best he can now.

"Get Me Rewrite!" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 2/6/04:

A tip from Joshua Marshall, of www.talkingpointsmemo.com, led me to a stark reminder of how different the story line used to be. Last year Laurie Mylroie published a book titled "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the C.I.A. and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror." Ms. Mylroie's book came with an encomium from Richard Perle; she's known to be close to Paul Wolfowitz and to Dick Cheney's chief of staff. According to the jacket copy, "Mylroie describes how the C.I.A. and the State Department have systematically discredited critical intelligence about Saddam's regime, including indisputable evidence of its possession of weapons of mass destruction."

Currently serving intelligence officials may deny that they faced any pressure � after what happened to Valerie Plame, what would you do in their place? � but former officials tell a different story. The latest revelation is from Britain. Brian Jones, who was the Ministry of Defense's top W.M.D. analyst when Tony Blair assembled his case for war, says that the crucial dossier used to make that case didn't reflect the views of the professionals: "The expert intelligence experts of the D.I.S. [Defense Intelligence Staff] were overruled." All the experts agreed that the dossier's claims should have been "carefully caveated"; they weren't.

And don't forget the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, created specifically to offer a more alarming picture of the Iraq threat than the intelligence professionals were willing to provide.

Can all these awkward facts be whited out of the historical record? Probably. Almost surely, President Bush's handpicked "independent" commission won't investigate the Office of Special Plans. Like Lord Hutton in Britain � who chose to disregard Mr. Jones's testimony � it will brush aside evidence that intelligence professionals were pressured. It will focus only on intelligence mistakes, not on the fact that the experts, while wrong, weren't nearly wrong enough to satisfy their political masters. (Among those mentioned as possible members of the commission is James Woolsey, who wrote one of the blurbs for Ms. Mylroie's book.)

And if top political figures have their way, there will be further rewriting to come. You may remember that Saddam gave in to U.N. demands that he allow inspectors to roam Iraq, looking for banned weapons. But your memories may soon be invalid. Recently Mr. Bush said that war had been justified because Saddam "did not let us in." And this claim was repeated by Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee: "Why on earth didn't [Saddam] let the inspectors in and avoid the war?"

Now let's turn to the administration's other big embarrassment, the budget deficit.

The fiscal 2005 budget report admits that this year's expected $521 billion deficit belies the rosy forecasts of 2001. But the report offers an explanation: stuff happens. "Today's budget deficits are the unavoidable result of the revenue erosion from the stock market collapse that began in early 2000, an economy recovering from recession and a nation confronting serious security threats." Sure, the administration was wrong � but so was everyone.

The trouble is that accepting that excuse requires forgetting a lot of recent history. By February 2002, when the administration released its fiscal 2003 budget, all of the bad news � the bursting of the bubble, the recession, and, yes, 9/11 � had already happened. Yet that budget projected only a $14 billion deficit this year, and a return to surpluses next year. Why did that forecast turn out so wrong? Because administration officials fudged the facts, as usual.

"Two Americas, One Deficit" -- E. J. Dionne in The Washington Post, 2/6/04:

The president's new budget, with its $521 billion deficit, is an astonishing example of how, for these guys, everything is political. It is a budget designed to mislead, deny, deflect and hide.

It misleadingly claims that the government is on a path to cut the deficit in half in five years. It denies that the president's tax program is a big part of the fiscal mess we're in. It deflects election-year criticism by shoving the most difficult budget cuts until after Nov. 2. It hides the lengths to which the administration will go to protect its tax cuts for the wealthy.

The bland language of the budget conceals the flimflam. The president's answer to the medical crisis is a health care tax credit to help the uninsured buy insurance. It's a dubious solution. But if Bush thought this was a serious idea, wouldn't he account for its effect on the deficit?

On Page 43 of the budget comes the claim that the president's plan "includes contingent offsets that would cover the estimated increases in mandatory spending that would result from this proposal."

From those words, you would think that Bush has specific cuts in mind to pay for the new benefit. But no, the budget simply promises that "the administration will work with the Congress to offset this additional spending." No specifics. No nothing.

Now turn to Page 374. You discover this health care proposal would cost $65 billion between 2005 and 2014. Three lines down, there is a minus $65 billion for a "contingent offset for refundable portion of the health care tax credit." Whoosh! Throw in that minus sign and the cost disappears, without a single hard choice having been made. Either Bush wants to cut stuff he doesn't want to own up to, or he doesn't care about his promise to cut the deficit, or he doesn't care about this proposal.

Bush is eager to tell people how much they'd save if his tax program were made permanent. But there is the little problem of the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Designed to prevent rich people from using loopholes to pay no taxes, its provisions will increasingly have the effect of raising taxes on significant numbers in the middle class.

If the AMT stays as it is, more than 30 million people will have at least part of their Bush tax cut canceled by 2009. The administration says it wants to fix the AMT, but its budget figures assume it won't. So the administration's claims about falling deficits assume revenue it promises to eliminate later. And these guys pride themselves on honesty?

Another amazing little proposal: The administration says it wants to restore pay-as-you-go rules to bring down the deficit. The old rules said that if Congress increased spending on an entitlement program such as Medicare, it had to cut another entitlement or raise taxes by the same amount. Similarly, new tax cuts had to be offset by entitlement cuts or tax increases elsewhere.

Bush's rule would exempt tax cuts from the pay-as-you-go principle, meaning no limits on more tax cuts for the rich or loopholes for big companies. But if Congress wanted to increase a benefit for Medicare recipients or disabled veterans, it would have to pay for it with cuts in other entitlements. It couldn't cover the cost by eliminating some egregious tax shelter. "This is class warfare enshrined in law," says Robert Greenstein, the executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"Budget Envisions Long-Term Cuts" -- Dan Morgan in The Washington Post, 2/6/04:

The Bush administration's plan to cut the deficit in half within five years envisions an unprecedented long-term spending clampdown that would continue well beyond 2005 for hundreds of popular domestic programs, according to an unpublished White House budget document.

A 999-page Office of Management and Budget computer printout suggests that low-income education programs, medical research at the National Institutes of Health, grants to local law enforcement agencies, job training and other popular programs could be subject to freezes or cuts at least through 2009.

Whether the computer-generated estimates represent the administration's policy intentions -- or are simply a device enabling the president to claim that he has a plan to rein in the deficit -- was a matter of debate yesterday on Capitol Hill.

"This is one more piece of the puzzle showing this is not a serious, credible budget," said Thomas S. Kahn, Democratic staff director on the House Budget Committee.

A long-term shift in spending priorities such as that outlined, he suggested, would be sure to meet with powerful congressional opposition in both parties, and much of it might have to be discarded.

But Kahn added, "This is worrisome, because it shows that cuts in services the American public depends on are going to be much greater than expected."

Were Congress to impose the spending constraints, it would mark an unprecedented shift in federal priorities. While there were short-lived clampdowns during the first several years of the Reagan administration, and when Republicans took control of Congress in 1995, there has not been a sustained rollback in federal spending since the 1930s.

White House officials cautioned yesterday that, beyond 2005, no decisions have been made about the level of most domestic programs. The figures in the printout, said OMB spokesman J.T. Young, were generated by a computer after administration policymakers had first set a growth limit of 3 percent for all programs, including defense, and made multiyear decisions for a handful of major initiatives, such as space.

But under the scenario, money for domestic programs would decline from $390.5 billion in fiscal 2005 to $385.6 billion in fiscal 2009, according to the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That is $50 billion below what would be needed to keep pace with inflation, the center said.

The center, an advocacy group that works on issues affecting low- and moderate-income individuals and families, obtained the OMB printout this week and released it yesterday.

In past years, the tables have been published along with other budget documents. This year, said Richard Kogan, a senior fellow at the center, "they took extra pains to hide them."

"Bush Names Panel to Examine Intelligence on Iraq Weapons" -- David Stout in The New York Times, 2/6/04:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 � President Bush named former Senator and Governor Charles Robb of Virginia and senior federal Judge Laurence H. Silberman today to be co-chairmen of a bipartisan commission to examine American intelligence-gathering.

Mr. Robb, 64, is a Democrat, a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam and the son-in-law of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson. Judge Silberman, 68, was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He also served in the Justice Department in the Nixon and Ford Administrations. . . .

The other members he named today were Senator John S. McCain, Republican of Arizona; Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to President Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; Richard C. Levin, the president of Yale University; Adm. William O. Studeman, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Judge Patricia M. Wald, a former chief judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals who also served as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Only one of the members, Admiral Studeman, brings broad experience in intelligence matters.

"Members of the commission will issue their report by March 31, 2005," Mr. Bush said. "I've ordered all departments and agencies, including our intelligence agencies, to assist the commission's work. The commission will have full access to the findings of the Iraq Survey Group." The Iraq Survey Group is hunting for deadly weapons in Iraq but has found none so far. . . .

While other studies of American intelligence lapses have been ordered by past administrations, none has taken place at the level of a presidential commission like the one Mr. Bush announced today. Nor have they operated in the midst of a heated political debate over whether the president was steered wrong by imperfect intelligence, or whether the Administration manipulated the intelligence to find the evidence that would justify the decision to go to war, as some Democrats have charged.

Until recently, Mr. Bush said he would await the findings of the Iraq Survey Group, which was asked to find Iraq's unconventional weapons and which Dr. Kay led until last month. But it quickly became clear, White House officials said well in advance of today's announcement, that that position was untenable.

Several other inquiries into American intelligence are underway. The Senate Intelligence Committee has been conducting an inquiry into American intelligence-gathering in connection with the Iraq military campaign, but the purview of the commission announced by Mr. Bush today will apparently go far beyond those of the other inquiries.

"The Wars of the Texas Succession" -- Paul Krugman reviews Kevin Phillips and Ron Suskind in The New York Review of Books, 2/26/04 (accessed 2/7/04).

"Now They Tell Us" -- Michael Massing on the pressures journalists faced to forego investigation before the war of Bush administration claims that Iraq was an immediate security threat (New York Review of Books, 2/26/04 -- accessed 2/8/04).

"Bush, Aides Ignored CIA Caveats on Iraq" -- Walter Pincus and Dana Priest in The Washington Post, 2/7/04:

In its fall 2002 campaign to win congressional support for a war against Iraq, President Bush and his top advisers ignored many of the caveats and qualifiers included in the classified report on Saddam Hussein's weapons that CIA Director George J. Tenet defended Thursday.

In fact, they made some of their most unequivocal assertions about unconventional weapons before the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was completed.

Iraq "is a grave and gathering danger," Bush told the United Nations on Sept. 12, 2002. At the White House two weeks later -- after referring to a British government report that Iraq could launch "a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order" is given -- he went on to say, "Each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX -- nerve gas -- or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally."

Three weeks later, on the day the NIE was delivered to Congress, Bush told lawmakers in the White House Rose Garden that Iraq's current course was "a threat of unique urgency."

On Thursday, summarizing the NIE's conclusions, Tenet said: "They never said Iraq was an imminent threat."

The administration's prewar comments -- and the more cautious, qualified phrasings of intelligence analysts -- are at the heart of the debate over whether the faulty prewar claims resulted from bad intelligence or exaggeration by top White House officials -- or both.

Former chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay told senators last week that caveats often fall by the wayside "the higher you go up" the bureaucratic chain. At the top, he said, "you read the headlines, you read the summary, you're busy, you've got other things to do."

Administration supporters say Bush, Vice President Cheney and others were simply extrapolating from the comprehensive intelligence provided by Tenet's intelligence community. Critics say Bush and his Cabinet had already decided to go to war, regardless of what the intelligence efforts found. . . .

Now that extended efforts to find weapons of mass destruction have proved futile, some are asking why Bush, Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld used unequivocal rhetoric to describe the threat from Iraq when the intelligence on the subject was much more nuanced and subjective.

For example . . .

"Short Order Cooked" -- "Billmon" at the Whiskey Bar weblog, 2/8/04:

I would like to know, though, when the media lickspittles are going to drop all this horse shit about an "independent" commission. I mean, here's how Shrub's executive order describes it:

There is established, within the Executive Office of the President for administrative purposes, a Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction...

Heh. "Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States" -- CICUS for short. Pronounced "kick us."

Somebody should pin that on their backs.

"President Revises Rationale For War" -- Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, 2/8/04:

President Bush and Vice President Cheney said yesterday that the war in Iraq was justified because Saddam Hussein could have made weapons of mass destruction.

The new rationale offered by the president and vice president, significantly more modest than earlier statements about the deposed Iraqi president's capabilities, comes after government experts have said it is unlikely banned weapons will be found in Iraq and after Bush's naming Friday of a commission to examine faulty prewar intelligence. . . .

photo of Tim Russert and George W. Bush on Face the Nation, 2/8/04

Before the invasion of Iraq 11 months ago, Bush and Cheney both argued that Iraq was an urgent threat to the United States, stating with certainty that Iraq had chemical and biological arms and had rebuilt a nuclear weapons program. "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised," Bush said in March 2003.

Bush said he would "visit" with the commission he named last week to investigate the Iraq intelligence but suggested that he would not testify before it. Asked about why the commission will not report until next March -- after the presidential election -- while a similar commission in Britain will operate much more quickly, Bush said: "We didn't want it to be hurried. This is a strategic look, kind of a big-picture look about the intelligence-gathering capacities of the United States of America." . . .

Bush's appearance on the Sunday talk show, the first of his presidency, comes as new polls show declining public support for his leadership. A Newsweek poll released yesterday found that 48 percent of Americans approve of his performance in office, the lowest in three years. By 50 percent to 45 percent, respondents said they did not want to see him reelected.

Transcript of Tim Russert interview with George W. Bush on Meet the Press, 2/8/04.

"Overtime Overhaul" -- H. J. Cummins in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 2/8/04:

Some of the world's hardest-working people are afraid they're about to lose their overtime pay.

The first comprehensive rewrite of U.S. overtime rules since the Great Depression is due next month, and it's set to redraw how the rules will apply to a workforce that puts in more hours than any other in the industrialized world.

The proposed changes will modify the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act that guarantees most Americans overtime pay -- at time and a half -- if they work more than 40 hours a week. The law always has exempted professionals -- doctors, lawyers and company owners and managers. Now the U.S. Department of Labor says it's time to move more jobs into those ranks -- to recognize the mounting skills of average workers and the change from the days of "straw bosses" and "legmen" to "Webmaster."

As the announcement approaches, debate grows hotter over whether this will bring more Americans a secure professional salary or make them work long hours without overtime pay.

"You can expect the amount of people qualified for overtime to drop dramatically," said Don Nichols, a Minneapolis employment attorney. "I know that's not what the secretary of labor is saying. But virtually the entire plaintiffs' bar [lawyers who typically represent employees] and all labor unions have come to this conclusion."

Nichols added, "Does business suddenly want to pay more overtime? I doubt it."

Union members say they could be just one contract negotiation away from the loss of overtime protection. Union leaders say they expect employers to offer continued health benefits in exchange for reclassifying some union members so they wouldn't be eligible for overtime.

"Health care is a huge issue," said Bob Adams, bakery manager at the Rainbow Foods store on Larpenteur Avenue in Roseville and a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. "When you bargain, you have to give up something to get something. And there isn't the slightest doubt the company will come at us, trying to redefine department heads as managers."

Adams said his supermarket has at least 10 department heads who could be affected -- the deli manager, meat manager and head cashier among them. He figures he averaged eight hours of overtime a week in the past few months; as a salaried manager he wouldn't get paid for that time.

"Also," he said, "In supermarkets about 75 percent of employees are part-timers and they're dependent on every hour they can get. The company could save money by having me cover some of that." . . .

The Labor Department announced its proposed overtime changes last March, after which almost 80,000 public comments poured in. The department has said it will announce the final version before March 31 this year. Unless Congress steps in, the regulations will take effect.

According to the proposed regulations:

  • Americans earning $22,100 or less per year automatically qualify for overtime pay. That cap is up from the current $8,060, and the Labor Department said this would bring overtime protection to 1.3 million more workers.
  • For workers earning more than that, new lists of job "duties" help redefine who is eligible for overtime. For example, there are changes in the definition of "administrators" -- who don't qualify for overtime pay. Now, one defining duty is "discretion and independent judgment." The new, broader definition would be "position of responsibility." The department estimates 644,000 Americans will lose overtime pay as a result of these changes.
  • Americans earning $65,000 or more per year are most likely to lose overtime pay.

The department calculates that more Americans will win overtime pay than lose it under its proposal. It also expects the changes to stop the proliferation of wage-and-hour lawsuits that cost businesses $2 billion a year in class actions and sometimes keep workers waiting years for a resolution. . . .

"There's a lot of disagreement about what this all means, and we don't really have the answers yet," said James O'Connell, vice president of government relations at Bloomington-based Ceridian, which provides payroll and benefits services to companies.

But most business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, support the proposed changes.

Among the most vocal opponents is the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. It calculates that fewer than 700,000 low-wage workers will gain overtime protections. More dramatically, it calculates that 8 million U.S. workers stand to lose overtime.

Veterans groups are upset about one change: They could lose overtime pay in later civilian jobs because "training in the armed forces" would become a credential that bumps them into one of the "overtime exempt" categories.

Among the worries of Ross Eisenbrey, vice president at the institute, are the many reports that Americans are working long hours because their employers -- skeptical about a lasting economic recovery -- want to avoid hiring more people. Under the proposed regulations, millions will end up working those extra hours without pay, he said.

"ARF!" -- Kevin Drum at calpundit.com, 2/8/04:

No, this is not the sound that Barney makes when the White House staff is late with dinner. Rather, it's the beginning of yet another intriguing mystery regarding George Bush's service in the Air National Guard. Read on for more.

To begin, you need to recall the original mystery of the "torn document" that purports to show Bush's guard activity in 1972 and 1973 (details here and here if your memory is fuzzy). Question: is the document genuine? Or some kind of clever forgery?

Answer: it's real. Here's the untorn version, as delivered to Bob Fertik in response to a FOIA request in late 2000:

"ARF Statement of Points Earned" -- another version of the "torn document" purporting to document George W. Bush's National Guard duty in 1972-73.

As it turns out, though, we have traded one mystery for another. It's now clear that the document is genuine, but what exactly does it tell us? In particular:

  • The first listed date is October 29, not November 29 as we had theorized before. But George Bush was still in Alabama in October. What exactly was he getting attendance credit for?
  • This is neither a Texas Air National Guard document nor an Alabama document. What is it?

The answer, as you can see from the top line, is that it is an ARF document, as is this record from 1973-74. So what is ARF? I asked Bob Rogers, a retired Air National Guard pilot who's been following this for some time, and what follows is his interpretation of what happened.

ARF is the reserves, and among other things it's where members of the guard are sent for disciplinary reasons. As we all know, Bush failed to show up for his annual physical in July 1972, he was suspended in August, and the suspension was recorded on September 29. He was apparently transferred to ARF at that time and began accumulating ARF points in October.

ARF is a "paper unit" based in Denver that requires no drills and no attendance. For active guard members it is disciplinary because ARF members can theoretically be called up for active duty in the regular military, although this obviously never happened to George Bush.

To make a long story short, Bush apparently blew off drills beginning in May 1972, failed to show up for his physical, and was then grounded and transferred to ARF as a disciplinary measure. He didn't return to his original Texas Guard unit and cram in 36 days of active duty in 1973 -- as Time magazine and others continue to assert based on a mistaken interpretation of Bush's 1973-74 ARF record -- but rather accumulated only ARF points during that period. . . .

Bush's record shows three years of service, followed by a fourth year in which he accumulated only a dismal 22 days of active service, followed by no service at all in his fifth and sixth years. This is because ARF duty isn't counted as official duty by the Texas guard.

So Bush may indeed have "fulfilled his obligation," as he says, but only because he had essentially been relieved of any further obligation after his transfer to ARF. It's pretty clear that no one in the Texas Air National Guard had much interest in pursuing anything more serious in the way of disciplinary action.

Can we confirm all this? Only if Bush is genuinely willing to release his entire service record, including the disciplinary action that presumably led to his transfer to ARF.

More News — January 2004

"Bush Grabs New Power for FBI" -- Kim Zetter at wired.com, 1/6/04:

While the nation was distracted last month by images of Saddam Hussein's spider hole and dental exam, President George W. Bush quietly signed into law a new bill that gives the FBI increased surveillance powers and dramatically expands the reach of the USA Patriot Act.

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge.

Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause.

Previously, under the Patriot Act, the FBI had to submit subpoena requests to a federal judge. Intelligence agencies and the Treasury Department, however, could obtain some financial data from banks, credit unions and other financial institutions without a court order or grand jury subpoena if they had the approval of a senior government official.

The new law (see Section 374 of the act), however, lets the FBI acquire these records through an administrative procedure whereby an FBI field agent simply drafts a so-called national security letter stating the information is relevant to a national security investigation.

And the law broadens the definition of "financial institution" to include such businesses as insurance companies, travel agencies, real estate agents, stockbrokers, the U.S. Postal Service and even jewelry stores, casinos and car dealerships.

The law also prohibits subpoenaed businesses from revealing to anyone, including customers who may be under investigation, that the government has requested records of their transactions. . . .

Charlie Mitchell, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said many legislators failed to recognize the significance of the legislation until it was too late. But he said the fact that 15 Republicans and over 100 Democrats voted against the Conference Report of the bill indicated that, had there been more time, there probably would have been sufficient opposition to remove the provision.

"To have that many people vote against it, based on just that one provision without discussion beforehand, signifies there is strong opposition to new Patriot Act II powers," Mitchell said.

He said legislators are now on the lookout for other Patriot Act II provisions being tucked into new legislation.

"All things considered, this was a loss for civil liberties," he said. But on a brighter note, "this was the only provision of Patriot II that made it through this year. Members are hearing from their constituents. I really think we have the ability to stop much of this Patriot Act II legislation in the future."

"Resist the New Rome" -- Osama bin Laden in The Guardian, 1/6/04:

My message is to urge jihad to repulse the grand plots hatched against our nation, such as the occupation of Baghdad, under the guise of the search for weapons of mass destruction, and the fierce attempt to destroy the jihad in beloved Palestine by employing the trick of the road map and the Geneva peace initiative.

The Americans' intentions have also become clear in statements about the need to change the beliefs and morals of Muslims to become more tolerant, as they put it.

In truth, this is a religious-economic war. The occupation of Iraq is a link in the Zionist-crusader chain of evil. Then comes the full occupation of the rest of the Gulf states to set the stage for controlling and dominating the whole world.

For the big powers believe that the Gulf and the Gulf states are the key to global control due to the presence of the largest oil reserves there. The situation is serious and the misfortune momentous.

The west's occupation of our countries is old, but takes new forms. The struggle between us and them began centuries ago, and will continue. There can be no dialogue with occupiers except through arms. Throughout the past century, Islamic countries have not been liberated from occupation except through jihad. But, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, the west today is doing its utmost to besmirch this jihad, supported by hypocrites.

Jihad is the path, so seek it. If we seek to deter them with any means other than Islam, we would be like our forefathers, the Ghassanids [Arab tribes living under the Byzantine empire]. Their leaders' concern was to be appointed kings and officers for the Romans in order to safeguard the interests of the Romans by killing their brothers, the peninsula's Arabs.

Such is the case of the new Ghassanids, the Arab rulers. Muslims, if you do not punish them for their sins in Jerusalem and Iraq, they will defeat you. They will also rob you of the land of the two holy places [Saudi Arabia].

Today they have robbed you of Baghdad and tomorrow they will rob you of Riyadh unless God deems otherwise. What is the means to stop this tremendous onslaught? Some reformers maintain that all popular and government forces should unite to ward off this crusader-Zionist onslaught.

But the question strongly raised is: are the governments in the Islamic world capable of pursuing their duty to defend the faith and nation and renouncing all allegiance to the United States?

The calls by some reformers are strange. They say that the path to defending the homeland and people passes though the doors of those western rulers. I tell those reformers: if you have an excuse for not pursuing jihad, it does not give you the right to depend on the unjust. God does not need your flattery of dictators.

The Gulf states proved their total inability to resist the Iraqi forces [in 1990-1]. They sought help from the crusaders, led by the United States. These states then came to America's help and backed it in its attack against an Arab state [Iraq in 2003].

These regimes submitted to US pressure and opened their air, land and sea bases to contribute towards the US campaign, despite the immense repercussions of this move. They feared that the door would be open for bringing down dictatorial regimes by armed forces from abroad, especially after they had seen the arrest of their former comrade in treason and agentry to the United States [Saddam Hussein] when it ordered him to ignite the first Gulf war against Iran, which rebelled against it.

The war plunged the area into a maze from which they have not emerged to this day. They are aware that their turn will come. They do not have the will to make the decision to confront the aggression. In short, the ruler who believes in the above-mentioned deeds cannot defend the country. Those who support the infidels over Muslims, and leave the blood, honour and property of their brothers to their enemy in order to remain safe, can be expected to take the same course against one another in the Gulf states.

Indeed, this principle is liable to be embraced within the state itself. And in fact the rulers have started to sell out the sons of the land by pursuing, imprisoning and killing them. This campaign has been part of a drive to carry out US orders.

Honest people concerned about this situation should meet away from the shadow of these oppressive regimes and declare a general mobilisation to prepare for repulsing the raids of the Romans, which started in Iraq and no one knows where they will end.

-- This is an edited extract of a recording believed to have been made by the al-Qaida leader, transmitted by al-Jazeera and translated by the BBC Monitoring Service

"Iraq's Arsenal Was Only on Paper" -- Barton Gellman in The Washington Post, 1/7/04:

Investigators have found no support for the two main fears expressed in London and Washington before the war: that Iraq had a hidden arsenal of old weapons and built advanced programs for new ones. In public statements and unauthorized interviews, investigators said they have discovered no work on former germ-warfare agents such as anthrax bacteria, and no work on a new designer pathogen -- combining pox virus and snake venom -- that led U.S. scientists on a highly classified hunt for several months. The investigators assess that Iraq did not, as charged in London and Washington, resume production of its most lethal nerve agent, VX, or learn to make it last longer in storage. And they have found the former nuclear weapons program, described as a "grave and gathering danger" by President Bush and a "mortal threat" by Vice President Cheney, in much the same shattered state left by U.N. inspectors in the 1990s.

A review of available evidence, including some not known to coalition investigators and some they have not made public, portrays a nonconventional arms establishment that was far less capable than U.S. analysts judged before the war. Leading figures in Iraqi science and industry, supported by observations on the ground, described factories and institutes that were thoroughly beaten down by 12 years of conflict, arms embargo and strangling economic sanctions. The remnants of Iraq's biological, chemical and missile infrastructures were riven by internal strife, bled by schemes for personal gain and handicapped by deceit up and down lines of command. The broad picture emerging from the investigation to date suggests that, whatever its desire, Iraq did not possess the wherewithal to build a forbidden armory on anything like the scale it had before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

David Kay, who directs the weapons hunt on behalf of the Bush administration, reported no discoveries last year of finished weapons, bulk agents or ready-to-start production lines. Members of his Iraq Survey Group, in unauthorized interviews, said the group holds out little prospect now of such a find. Kay and his spokesman, who report to Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet, declined to be interviewed. . . .

Late last month, fresh evidence emerged on a very old question about Iraq's illegal arms: Did the Baghdad government, as it said, rid itself of all the biological arms it produced before 1991? The answer matters, because the Bush administration's most concrete prewar assertions about Iraqi germ weapons referred to stocks allegedly hidden from that old arsenal.

The new evidence appears to be a contemporary record, from inside the Iraqi government, of a pivotal moment in Baghdad's long struggle to shield arms programs from outside scrutiny. The document, written just after the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law on Aug. 8, 1995, anticipates the collapse of cover stories for weapons that had yet to be disclosed. Read alongside subsequent discoveries made by U.N. inspectors, the document supports Iraq's claim that it destroyed all production stocks of lethal pathogens before inspectors knew they existed.

The defection of Hussein Kamel was a turning point in the U.N.-imposed disarmament of Iraq in the 1990s. Kamel, who had married one of Saddam Hussein's daughters, Raghad, and controlled Baghdad's Military Industrial Commission, told his Western debriefers about major programs in biological and nuclear weaponry that had gone undetected or unconfirmed. Iraq was forced to acknowledge what he exposed, but neither inspectors nor U.S. officials were sure Kamel had told all there was to tell.

A handwritten Iraqi damage report, composed five days after the defection, now suggests that Kamel left little or nothing out.

"U.S. Withdraws a Team of Weapons Hunters from Iraq" -- Douglas Jehl in The New York Times, 1/8/04:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7: The Bush administration has quietly withdrawn from Iraq a 400-member military team whose job was to scour the country for military equipment, according to senior government officials.

The step was described by some military officials as a sign that the administration might have lowered its sights and no longer expected to uncover the caches of chemical and biological weapons that the White House cited as a principal reason for going to war last March.

A separate military team that specializes in disposing of chemical and biological weapons remains part of the 1,400-member Iraq Survey Group, which has been searching Iraq for more that seven months at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. But that team is "still waiting for something to dispose of," said a survey group member.

Some of the government officials said the most important evidence from the weapons hunt might be contained in a vast collection of seized Iraqi documents being stored in a secret military warehouse in Qatar. Only a small fraction have been translated.

A report published Wednesday in The Washington Post cited a previously undisclosed document that suggested that Iraq might have destroyed its biological weapons as early as 1991. The report said investigators had otherwise found no evidence to support American beliefs that Iraq had maintained illicit weapons dating from the Persian Gulf war of 1991 or that it had advanced programs to build new ones.

The report also documented a pattern of deceit that was found in every field of special weaponry. It said that according to Iraqi designers and foreign investigators, program managers exaggerated the results they could achieve, or even promised results they knew they could not accomplish ? all in an effort to appease Saddam Hussein. In some cases, though, they simply did it to advance their careers, the report said, or preserve jobs or even conduct intrigues against their rivals.

"Powell Admits No Hard Proof in Linking Iraq to Al Qaeda" -- Christopher Marquis in The New York Times, 1/9/04:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 ? Secretary of State Colin L. Powell conceded Thursday that despite his assertions to the United Nations last year, he had no "smoking gun" proof of a link between the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and terrorists of Al Qaeda.

"I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection," Mr. Powell said, in response to a question at a news conference. "But I think the possibility of such connections did exist, and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did."

Mr. Powell's remarks on Thursday were a stark admission that there is no definitive evidence to back up administration statements and insinuations that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al Qaeda, the acknowledged authors of the Sept. 11 attacks. Although President Bush finally acknowledged in September that there was no known connection between Mr. Hussein and the attacks, the impression of a link in the public mind has become widely accepted ? and something administration officials have done little to discourage.

"Global Fears as the US Goes into the Red" -- Matt Wade in The Sidney Morning Herald, 1/9/04:

The huge black hole in the US budget and the country's ballooning trade deficit are threatening to push up interest rates across the globe and destabilise the international economy, one of the world's most powerful financial institutions has warned.

The budget deficit - which has swung from a healthy surplus in 2000 to a forecast blowout of more than $US400 billion ($521.2 billion) this year - was a "significant risk" for the rest of the world, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday.

"Sustained fiscal deficits lower national savings in the United States and will eventually raise real interest rates both in the United States and abroad," said Charles Collyns, deputy director of its western hemisphere department. . . .

The fund said the US would soon have a foreign debt totalling 40 per cent of its gross domestic product - an "unprecedented level debt for a large industrialised country".

This could trigger a "disorderly" plunge in the US dollar - and a corresponding jump in other currencies, including the Australian dollar - rocking the global financial system.

"The possible global risks of a disorderly exchange rate adjustment . . . cannot be ignored," the fund said.

While the fund's report said the US deficits were a medium-term problem for the world economy, this could have a more immediate impact because financial markets tend to respond quickly to future threats. . . .

The IMF said the US Government must develop a credible five- to 10-year plan to balance its budget and warned this would mean spending cuts and tax rises. While US Government spending had provided valuable support to the weak global economy in recent years, the "large US fiscal deficits also pose significant risks for the rest of the world", it said.

"Call It the Family Risk Factor" -- Jacob S. Hacker in The New York Times, 1/11/04:

NEW HAVEN, Conn.--On the heels of Friday's glum Labor Department report, Americans have a right to be confused. Soaring growth, stocks and consumer confidence have heartened investors. And yet, the country remains mired in a jobless recovery. The reality is that the economy has become more uncertain and anxiety-producing for most of us ? not just over the past three years, but over the past 30. But by fixating on the day-to-day ups and downs, analysts have largely missed the more telling trend: an increasing shift of economic risk from government and corporations onto workers and their families.

Signs of this transformation are everywhere: in the laid-off programmer whose stock options are suddenly worthless, in the former welfare mom who can get a job but not health care or day care, in the family forced into bankruptcy by the sickness of a child. But these episodes, while viewed with sympathy, are usually seen in isolation, rather than as parts of a larger problem. This blinkered view stands in the way of both diagnoses of the causes of the new economic insecurity and prescriptions for its cure.

Consider the accompanying chart. The line traces the year-to-year instability of family income from 1972 to 1998, based on the University of Michigan Panel Study of Income Dynamics. It measures the extent to which a family's income from both government and the private sector fluctuates from year to year, controlling for the size of the family and the general rise of income among all Americans (so as not to confuse upward mobility with instability).

The formula captures both changes in the income of families and changes in families themselves, like divorce and separation, that alter their standard of living. What it shows is that family finances have grown much more insecure. Although insecurity dropped in the booms of the late 1980's and late 1990's, the long-term trend is sharply upward. In fact, the instability of family incomes was roughly five times greater at its peak in the 1990's than in 1972.

"Iraqi Kurds Scorn US Autonomy Offer" -- Patrick Cockburn in The Independent, 1/11/04:

Kurds in Iraq have rejected a US-backed plan for very limited autonomy in the north of the country, which has enjoyed a status close to independence for more than a decade. "It gave us even less than Saddam Hussein offered us in the past," a Kurdish leader said yesterday.

The Kurds, who have fought against control by Baghdad for most of the last 80 years, restated their determination to keep substantial control of their own affairs to Iraqi Arab political leaders during two days of talks last week in the Kurdish mountain headquarters at Salahudin in northern Iraq.

The US and senior Arab members of the interim Iraqi Governing Council have been pressing the Kurds to accept integration into a post-Saddam Iraq, with only local powers for the Kurdish authorities. Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, the top Kurdish leaders, told seven or eight council members, all former members of the Iraqi opposition, that this was wholly unrealistic.

The Kurds have said they are willing to turn over control of foreign policy, defence, fiscal policy and natural resources to a central government. But in practice they will retain most of the powers they won a dozen years ago when Saddam Hussein withdrew his armies from Kurdistan.

The Kurdish leaders are conscious that they are in a very strong position. They lead the third-largest Iraqi community, smaller in numbers than the Shia and the Sunni Arabs but well organised and armed. They are also the only Iraqi community which supports a long-term American occupation, and Iraqi Kurdistan is the only part of the country where US forces can move in relative safety.

"Former Bush Aide: US Plotted Iraq Invasion Long Before 9/11" -- Neil Mackay in The Sunday Herald, 1/11/03:

GEORGE Bush's former treasury secretary Paul O?Neill has revealed that the President took office in January 2001 fully intending to invade Iraq and desperate to find an excuse for pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein.

O'Neill's claims tally with long-running investigations by the Sunday Herald which have shown how the Bush cabinet planned a pre-meditated attack on Iraq in order to "regime change" Saddam long before the neoconservative Republicans took power.

The Sunday Herald previously uncovered how a think-tank -- run by vice-president Dick Cheney; defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld's deputy; Bush's younger brother Jeb, the governor of Florida; and Lewis Libby, Cheney's deputy -- wrote a blueprint for regime change as early as September 2000.

The think-tank, the Project for the New American Century, said, in the document Rebuilding America's Defences: Strategies, Forces And Resources For A New Century, that: "The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein".

The document -- referred to as a blueprint for US global domination -- laid plans for a Bush government "maintaining US global pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great-power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests". It also said fighting and winning multiple wars was a "core mission".

O'Neill was fired in December 2002 as a result of disagreements over tax cuts. He is the first major Bush administration insider to attack the President. He likened Bush at cabinet meetings to "a blind man in a room full of deaf people", according to excerpts from a CBS interview to be shown today.

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," O'Neill said. "For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the US has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap."

"Running on Instinct" -- Mark Singer's profile of Howard Dean in The New Yorker, 1/12/04

"The Media vs. Howard Dean" -- Eric Boehlert at salon.com, 1/13/04

"The Wrong War/Why Iraq Was a Mistake" -- editorial, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 1/13/04:

Imagine that President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell had made a case for the invasion of Iraq along the following lines: "Saddam Hussein is an evil dictator who has long oppressed the Iraqi people and threatened Iraq's neighbors. It is U.S. policy to seek regime change in Iraq, and we propose to do that now, by military force. Saddam does not pose a risk to the United States now, and any threat he eventually may pose is years or decades away. His programs for developing weapons of mass destruction have been dormant since the end of the Gulf War. We have no evidence of links between Saddam and the terrorists of Al-Qaida or other groups capable of attacking the United States. Any invasion of Iraq is not related to the war on terrorism.

"Nevertheless, removing Saddam and creating a free, democratic Iraq is a worthy goal, though it will not come cheap. It will cost tens upon tens of billions of dollars raised from American taxpayers. International assistance will be minimal. Hundreds of fine young Americans will be killed in the process, and thousands will suffer debilitating wounds that will alter their lives forever. We call upon the American people to willingly shoulder those costs in the name of a free Iraq."

That, of course, isn't the case Bush and Powell made. The American people would have rejected it, and properly so.

Instead, the administration's case was based on two central pillars: Saddam possessed chemical and biological weapons in large quantities and was hot in pursuit of nuclear weapons; he also is closely tied in with Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, to which he could at any time provide weapons of mass destruction for use against the United States or its friends.

Neither of those assertions was true, and the administration had reason to know they weren't true. Indeed, according to a new book, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill says that as early as January 2001 the Bush administration was talking about removing Saddam from power.

Saddam had no WMD, and he had no links to Al-Qaida. The invasion of Iraq was an invasion of choice, not necessity, and it diverted U.S. attention and resources away from the real war against terrorism.

Over the past few months, we have been insistent on keeping that reality in front of our readers. Frequently, that has brought accusations that we're making these points only because of "liberal" or "Democratic" bias. Despite our thick skins, these accusations are worrying, for they go to the question of our credibility with readers. The accusations also are false; consider those who share our view on the war:

The Cato Institute, a conservative Washington think tank best known for pushing the privatization of Social Security, says the war in Iraq was "the wrong war" because "the enemy at the gates was, and continues to be, Al-Qaida. Not only was Iraq not a direct military threat to the United States (even if it possessed WMD, which was a fair assumption), but there is no good evidence to support the claim that Saddam Hussein was in league with Al-Qaida and would have given the group WMD to be used against the United States."

From the U.S. Army War College comes a new study warning that the U.S. war on terrorism is unfocused and may have set the nation "on a course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and non-state entities that pose no serious threat to the United States." The war in Iraq, the report says, was "an unnecessary preventative war" which "diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable Al-Qaida."

The most detailed critique comes from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Carnegie's scholars think deeply and well about the reasonable application of power to preserve peace. The war in Iraq was not one of those reasonable applications, they conclude. Findings from the study include:

  • "There was and is no solid evidence of a cooperative relationship between Saddam's government and Al-Qaida."
  • "There was no evidence to support the claim that Iraq would have transferred WMD to Al-Qaida and much evidence to counter it."
  • In 2002, a dramatic shift occurred in U.S. intelligence estimates of Iraq's WMD capabilities, suggesting "that the intelligence community began to be unduly influenced by policymakers' views sometime in 2002."
  • "Administration officials systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq's WMD and ballistic missile programs . . . ."
  • "Considering all the costs and benefits, there were at least two options clearly preferable to a war undertaken without international support: allowing the [U.N.] inspections to continue until obstructed or completed, or imposing a tougher program of 'coercive inspections' backed by a specially designed international force."

"WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications" -- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report summary, January 2004 (full report text here):

SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS

Iraq WMD Was Not An Immediate Threat

  • Iraq's nuclear program had been suspended for many years; Iraq focused on preserving a latent, dual-use chemical and probably biological weapons capability, not weapons production.
  • Iraqi nerve agents had lost most of their lethality as early as 1991.
  • Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, and UN inspections and sanctions effectively destroyed Iraq's large-scale chemical weapon production capabilities.

Inspections Were Working

  • Post-war searches suggest the UN inspections were on track to find what was there.
  • International constraints, sanctions, procurement, investigations, and the export/import control mechanism appear to have been considerably more effective than was thought.

Intelligence Failed and Was Misrepresented

  • Intelligence community overestimated the chemical and biological weapons in Iraq.
  • Intelligence community appears to have been unduly influenced by policymakers' views.
  • Officials misrepresented threat from Iraq's WMD and ballistic missiles programs over and above intelligence findings.

Terrorist Connection Missing

  • No solid evidence of cooperative relationship between Saddam's government and Al Qaeda.
  • No evidence that Iraq would have transferred WMD to terrorists-and much evidence to counter it.
  • No evidence to suggest that deterrence was no longer operable.

Post-War WMD Search Ignored Key Resources

  • Past relationships with Iraqi scientists and officials, and credibility of UNMOVIC experts represent a vital resource that has been ignored when it should be being fully exploited.
  • Data from the seven years of UNSCOM/IAEA inspections are absolutely essential. Direct involvement of those who compiled the more-than-30-million- page record is needed.

War Was Not the Best -- Or Only -- Option

  • There were at least two options preferable to a war undertaken without international support: allowing the UNMOVIC/IAEA inspections to continue until obstructed or completed, or imposing a tougher program of "coercive inspections."

"This Week in The New Yorker," publicizing Ken Auletta's "Fortress Bush" in The New Yorker, 1/19/04:

After [Ken] Auletta observed an Oval Office interview Bush gave to a British tabloid, he spoke with the President about a mutual friend, Tom Bernstein, a former co-owner, with Bush, of the Texas Rangers. Bernstein, a proponent of human rights, has often been criticized by liberal friends, for supporting the President. "Bernie is great," Bush said, and then added, "No President has ever done more for human rights than I have."

"The Guardian Profile: Paul O'Neill" -- Julian Borger in The Guardian, 1/16/04:

In retrospect, the unceremonious firing of Paul O'Neill in December 2002 made perfect sense. It is rather his hiring two years earlier that remains one of the great mysteries of the Bush administration.

No one, least of all Mr O'Neill himself, seems to understand why an old-fashioned moderate Republican pragmatist with a reputation for disarming bluntness and unpredictable views was given one of the top jobs in a ideological and radical cabinet obsessed with secrecy, discipline and loyalty.

It is clear now that the president's recruiting of the elderly businessman is going to damage Mr Bush's image. A new book, The Price of Loyalty, is based on Mr O'Neill's recollections of the Bush cabinet - along with 19,000 pages of documents he took with him when he was sacked.

The book was written by a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Ron Suskind. Mr O'Neill's version of events, particularly his assertion that the administration was determined to invade Iraq from its first day in office, is now being hotly challenged by others in the administration. . . .

The public will be in a better position to judge for itself over the next two weeks, when many of Mr O'Neill's documents are due to be made public on the internet. The archive promises to provide one of the most devastating insiders' accounts of US governmental dysfunction since the Nixon administration (in which Mr O'Neill also served, and which emerges from the book as a paragon of level-headedness compared to the current White House). . . .

In the alarming portrait Mr O'Neill paints, the new president is petulant and detached because he is out of his depth. In their discussions about the economy in the two years that followed, the president listens in blank silence to his treasury secretary's concerns and recommendations.

"Who Gets It?" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 1/16/04:

Earlier this week, Wesley Clark had some strong words about the state of the nation. "I think we're at risk with our democracy," he said. "I think we're dealing with the most closed, imperialistic, nastiest administration in living memory. They even put Richard Nixon to shame."

In other words, the general gets it: he understands that America is facing what Kevin Phillips, in his remarkable new book, "American Dynasty," calls a "Machiavellian moment." Among other things, this tells us that General Clark and Howard Dean, whatever they may say in the heat of the nomination fight, are on the same side of the great Democratic divide. . . .

The real division in the race for the Democratic nomination is between those who are willing to question not just the policies but also the honesty and the motives of the people running our country, and those who aren't.

What makes Mr. Dean seem radical aren't his policy positions but his willingness ? shared, we now know, by General Clark ? to take a hard line against the Bush administration. This horrifies some veterans of the Clinton years, who have nostalgic memories of elections that were won by emphasizing the positive. Indeed, George Bush's handlers have already made it clear that they intend to make his "optimism" ? as opposed to the negativism of his angry opponents ? a campaign theme. . . .

But even Bill Clinton couldn't run a successful Clinton-style campaign this year, for several reasons.

One is that the Democratic candidate, no matter how business-friendly, will not be able to get lots of corporate contributions, as Clinton did. In the Clinton era, a Democrat could still raise a lot of money from business, partly because there really are liberal businessmen, partly because donors wanted to hedge their bets. But these days the Republicans control all three branches of government and exercise that control ruthlessly. Even corporate types who have grave misgivings about the Bush administration ? a much larger group than you might think ? are afraid to give money to Democrats.

Another is that the Bush people really are Nixonian. The bogus security investigation over Ron Suskind's "The Price of Loyalty," like the outing of Valerie Plame, shows the lengths they're willing to go to in intimidating their critics. (In the case of Paul O'Neill, alas, the intimidation seems to be working.) A mild-mannered, upbeat candidate would get eaten alive.

Finally, any Democrat has to expect not just severely slanted coverage from the fair and balanced Republican media, but asymmetric treatment even from the mainstream media. For example, some have said that the intense scrutiny of Mr. Dean's Vermont record is what every governor who runs for president faces. No, it isn't. I've looked at press coverage of questions surrounding Mr. Bush's tenure in Austin, like the investment of state university funds with Republican donors; he got a free pass during the 2000 campaign. . . .

[W]hat the party needs is a candidate who inspires the base enough to get out the message that he isn't a radical ? and that Mr. Bush is.

"Gore Environmental Speech Becomes an Assault on Bush" -- Michael Slackman in The New York Times, 1/16/04:

Former Vice President Al Gore said yesterday that the Bush administration was "wholly owned by the coal, oil, utility and mining industries" and that President Bush was a "moral coward" for not standing up to his campaign contributors when their interests conflicted with those of the public.

Mr. Gore's speech in New York, billed as an attack on Mr. Bush's environmental record, proved to be a far broader critique.

The former vice president used environmental issues to highlight what he called moral failures and deceptions by the Bush administration.

"While President Bush likes to project an image of strength and courage, the real truth is that in the presence of his large financial contributors he is a moral coward, so weak that he seldom if ever says `no' to anything, no matter what the public interest might mandate," Mr. Gore said to a standing ovation.

The speech, co-sponsored by the group MoveOn.org, was his fourth in a series that takes the administration to task while helping keep Mr. Gore in the nation's political dialogue. He is not a candidate for office, but he looked and sounded like one with a speech that blended humor with outrage.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ed Gillespie, called Mr. Gore's remarks "political hate speech" and said in a statement: "Instead of repudiating these tactics, Al Gore chose to embrace the vile tactics that are becoming the hallmark of the Democrat Party at its highest levels.

"Like the Democrat presidential candidates, Al Gore has once again chosen to use his time at the podium to attack the president rather than put forward a positive agenda of his own."

"Iraqi Protesters Demand Election as Ayatollah Threatens Fatwa" -- Rory McCarthy in The Guardian, 1/16/04:

Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Basra yesterday to demand a general election, as an aide to Iraq's most senior Shia cleric warned that he may issue a fatwa against the proposed new government.

The demonstration in the southern Iraqi city was a rare show of strength in support of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's call for direct elections to choose a new government, and comes as a blow to Washington's plans for a smooth handover of power.

Last night one of the cleric's aides warned that if the US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, does not accept his demand, Ayatollah Sistani may issue a ruling telling Iraq's Shia majority not to accept the new government, which is due to take power by July.

"If Bremer rejects Ayatollah Sistani's opinion, he would issue a fatwa depriving the US-appointed council of its legitimacy," Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Mohri told Abu Dhabi television. "After this, the Iraqi people will not obey this council. This US plan is not in line with Sistani's views." . . .

Ayatollah Sistani, a moderate and usually apolitical cleric, has issued a series of statements in the past week criticising an American plan, agreed last November by the Iraqi governing council, to hold indirect elections to select a new government by July. US officials say that since security is still a problem in many areas, and there is no accurate electoral roll, organising a general election is too difficult at this stage.

Last June he criticised an earlier American political programme as "fundamentally unacceptable", and the administration in Baghdad was forced to rethink its approach. Mr Bremer flew to Washington yesterday for further talks with the Bush administration.

Last November's agreement envisages a complex system of provisional caucuses. A committee of 15 Iraqis appointed in each province will select a local caucus which will in turn elect representatives to a new parliament by May. A nationwide general election will not be held until the end of 2005.

"Saddam, Osama/Bush Chose Wrong Enemy" -- editorial, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 1/19/04:

[The Bush administration] focused on Saddam Hussein, while it should have been working to destroy Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida. This was not, as administration officials now claim, a continuation of President Bill Clinton's approach; it was a sudden, radical change.

The Bush administration was only a week old, [Paul] O'Neill says, and already Iraq and Saddam had become a focus. After one meeting, [Ron] Suskind writes, O'Neill wondered what was going on: "Was a multipronged assault on Saddam Hussein really a priority in early 2001? The dialogue today had been mostly about hows -- how to weaken or end Saddam's regime. With the administration at the start of its second week, O'Neill wondered, when, exactly, the whys -- why Saddam, why now, and why this was central to U.S. interests -- were to be discussed." Osama bin Laden wasn't even on the agenda.

He should have been. When Bush took office, the White House was told that a Predator drone had spotted Bin Laden several times recently in Afghanistan, and Richard Clarke wanted the suspended drone flights resumed to track the terrorist down and kill him.

Clarke was a holdover from the Clinton administration, chief of the Counter-Terrorism Security Group. He had special concerns about Bin Laden; after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000, Clarke had put together a comprehensive plan for attacking Al-Qaida with military force, with efforts to stop its international financing network, with police attacks on known cells in foreign countries and with counterterrorism aid to countries like the Philippines and Uzbekistan.

Clarke wanted to take the fight aggressively to Al-Qaida, but his plan was completed only in December 2000, as Clinton was leaving office, so Clarke and his plan were forwarded for consideration by the new Bush team.

Consideration was not forthcoming; the Predators weren't put back in the air, and the administration sat on Clarke's attack plan. Meanwhile, Bush was contemplating his "multipronged assault on Saddam Hussein."

It gets worse: In the summer of 2001, officials in Washington were frantic; Time magazine reported that, "Intelligence services were picking up enough chatter about a terrorist attack to scare the pants off top officials." Al-Qaida was planning "something spectacular" and soon, they knew. But they didn't know where or when.

Incredibly, Clarke still couldn't work his way onto the agenda, even though he had in hand a completed plan for moving offensively against Al-Qaida. Despite all the worry about what Bin Laden was up to, Clarke's approach wasn't even cleared for forwarding to Bush until Sept. 4, a week before the attack.

Why was that, and what role did Bush's preoccupation with Saddam play? For those answers, Americans must await the report of the independent commission investigating the attack. The head of the commission, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, has said the attack could have been prevented. O'Neill may have put his finger on one reason why it wasn't.

"America as a One-Party State" -- Robert Kuttner in The American Prospect, 2/1/04:

America has had periods of single-party dominance before. It happened under FDR's New Deal, in the Republican 1920s and in the early 19th-century "Era of Good Feeling." But if President Bush is re-elected, we will be close to a tipping point of fundamental change in the political system itself. The United States could become a nation in which the dominant party rules for a prolonged period, marginalizes a token opposition and is extremely difficult to dislodge because democracy itself is rigged. This would be unprecedented in U.S. history.

In past single-party eras, the majority party earned its preeminence with broad popular support. Today the electorate remains closely divided, and actually prefers more Democratic policy positions than Republican ones. Yet the drift toward an engineered one-party Republican state has aroused little press scrutiny or widespread popular protest.

We are at risk of becoming an autocracy in three key respects. First, Republican parliamentary gimmickry has emasculated legislative opposition in the House of Representatives (the Senate has other problems). House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas has both intimidated moderate Republicans and reduced the minority party to window dressing, rather like the token opposition parties in Mexico during the six-decade dominance of the PRI.

Second, electoral rules have been rigged to make it increasingly difficult for the incumbent party to be ejected by the voters, absent a Depression-scale disaster, Watergate-class scandal or Teddy Roosevelt-style ruling party split. After two decades of bipartisan collusion in the creation of safe House seats, there are now perhaps just 25 truly contestable House seats in any given election year (and that's before the recent Republican super gerrymandering). What once was a slender and precarious majority -- 229 Republicans to 205 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who votes with Democrats) -- now looks like a Republican lock. In the Senate, the dynamics are different but equally daunting for Democrats. As the Florida debacle of 2000 showed, the Republicans are also able to hold down the number of opposition votes, with complicity from Republican courts. Reform legislation, the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), may actually facilitate Republican intimidation of minority voters and reduce Democratic turnout. And the latest money-and-politics regime, nominally a reform, may give the right more of a financial advantage than ever.

Third, the federal courts, which have slowed some executive-branch efforts to destroy liberties, will be a complete rubber stamp if the right wins one more presidential election. . . .

Is this one-party scenario inevitable? For a variety of structural reasons noted above, Democrats are unlikely to take back Congress this decade, absent a national crisis or massive scandal that overwhelms the governing party. But, contrary to the views of some of my colleagues, I think a Democrat could well win the White House in 2004. The Democratic base is aroused in a fashion that it has not been in decades, and swing voters may yet have second thoughts about George W. Bush. It's not at all clear what the economy and the foreign-policy scene will look like next fall, or what scandals will ripen.

Democrats have also begun fighting back against legislative dictatorship, and this may yet become a public issue. When the Republican Senate leadership unveiled rules changes to make it effectively impossible for Democrats to block extremist judicial nominees with a filibuster, the Democratic leadership threatened to use parliamentary tactics to shut the place down. House Democrats are now almost as unified as their Republican counterparts, and, if anything, even angrier. Tom DeLay may be sowing a whirlwind. And if a variation of the 2000 Florida theft is attempted in 2004, it is inconceivable that Democratic leaders and activists would show the same docility that Al Gore displayed.

We've seen divided government before, with a Democratic president and a fiercely partisan Republican Congress. It is not pretty. But it is much more attractive than a one-party state.

"Arms Issue Seen as Hurting U.S. Credibility Abroad" -- Glenn Kessler in The Washington Post, 1/19/04:

The Bush administration's inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- after public statements declaring an imminent threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein -- has begun to harm the credibility abroad of the United States and of American intelligence, according to foreign policy experts in both parties. . . .

"The foreign policy blow-back is pretty serious," said Kenneth Adelman, a member of the Pentagon's Defense Advisory Board and a supporter of the war. He said the gaps between the administration's rhetoric and the postwar findings threaten Bush's doctrine of "preemption," which envisions attacking a nation because it is an imminent threat.

The doctrine "rests not just on solid intelligence," Adelman said, but "also on the credibility that the intelligence is solid."

Already, in the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, China has rejected U.S. intelligence that North Korea has a secret program to enrich uranium for use in weapons. China is a key player in resolving the North Korean standoff, but its refusal to embrace the U.S. intelligence has disappointed U.S. officials and could complicate negotiations to eliminate North Korea's weapons programs.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the same problem could occur if the United States presses for action against alleged weapons programs in Iran and Syria. The solution, he said, is to let international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency take the lead in making the case, as has happened thus far in Iran, and also to be willing to share more of the intelligence with other countries.

The inability to find suspected weapons "has to make it more difficult on some future occasion if the United States argues the intelligence warrants something controversial, like a preventive attack," said Haass, a Republican who was head of policy planning for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell when the war started. "The result is we've made the bar higher for ourselves and we have to expect greater skepticism in the future."

James Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration who believed there were legitimate concerns about Iraq's weapons programs, said the failure of the prewar claims to match the postwar reality "add to the general sense of criticism about the U.S., that we will do anything, say anything" to prevail.

"An Absence of Legitimacy" -- Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post, 1/20/04:

There really should be no contest.

On one side is history's most awesome superpower, victorious in war, ruling Iraq with nearly 150,000 troops and funding its reconstruction to the tune of $20 billion this year. On the other side is an aging cleric with no formal authority, no troops and little money, who is unwilling to even speak in public. Yet last June, when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani made it known that he didn't like the U.S. proposal to transfer power to Iraqis, the plan collapsed. And last week, when Sistani announced that he is still unhappy with the new U.S. proposal, L. Paul Bremer rushed to Washington for consultations. What does this man have that the United States doesn't?

Legitimacy. Sistani is regarded by Iraqi Shiites as the most learned cleric in the country. He is also seen as having been uncorrupted by Saddam Hussein's reign. "During the Iran-Iraq war, Sistani managed to demonstrate that he could be controlled neither by Saddam nor by his fellow ayatollahs in Iran, which has given him enormous credibility," says Yitzhak Nakash, the leading authority on Iraqi Shiites. . . .

A power struggle has begun in Iraq, as could have been predicted -- and indeed was predicted. Sistani is becoming more vocal and political because he faces a challenge to his leadership from the more activist cleric Moqtada Sadr. "Al-Sadr does not have Sistani's reputation or training as a scholar and thus presents himself as a populist leader who will look after Shia political interests," Nakash says. It's turning into a contest to see who can stand up to the Americans more vociferously and appeal to Shiite fears. The Iraqi Shiites are deeply suspicious that the United States will betray them, as it did in 1992 after the Persian Gulf War, or that it will foist favored exiles such as Ahmad Chalabi upon them. Sistani recently told Iraq's tribal leaders that they should take power, not "those who came from abroad."

The tragedy is that while Sistani's fears are understandable, Washington's phased transition makes great sense. It allows for time to build institutions, form political parties and reform the agencies of government. An immediate transfer would ensure that the political contest will overwhelm all this institutional reform. But Washington lacks the basic tool it needs to negotiate with the locals: legitimacy. (This is something well understood by anyone who has studied the lessons of Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor.) Belatedly it recognizes that the United Nations can arbitrate political problems without being accused of being a colonizer.

U.S. policymakers made two grave mistakes after the war. The first was to occupy the country with too few troops, creating a security vacuum. This image of weakness was reinforced when Washington caved to Sistani's objections last June, junked its original transition plan and sped things up to coincide with the U.S. elections. The second mistake was to dismiss from the start the need for allies and international institutions. As it turns out, Washington now has the worst of both worlds. It has neither enough power nor enough legitimacy.

"Going for Broke" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 1/20/04:

According to advance reports, George Bush will use tonight's State of the Union speech to portray himself as a visionary leader who stands above the political fray. But that act is losing its effectiveness. Mr. Bush's relentless partisanship has depleted much of the immense good will he enjoyed after 9/11. He is still adored by his base, but he is deeply distrusted by much of the nation.

Mr. Bush may not understand this; indeed, he still seems to think that he's another Lincoln or F.D.R. "No president has done more for human rights than I have," he told Ken Auletta.

But his political handlers seem to have decided on a go-for-broke strategy: confuse the middle one last time, energize the base and grab enough power that the consequences don't matter.

What do I mean by confusing the middle? The striking thing about the "visionary" proposals floated in advance of the State of the Union is their transparent cynicism and lack of realism. Mr. Bush has, of course, literally promised us the Moon � and Mars, too. And the ever-deferential media have managed to keep a straight face.

But that's just the most dramatic example of an array of policy proposals that don't withstand even minimal scrutiny. Mr. Bush has already pushed through an expensive new Medicare benefit � without any visible source of financing. Reports say that tonight he'll propose additional, and even more expensive, new initiatives, like partial Social Security privatization � which all by itself would require at least $1 trillion in extra funds over the next decade. Where is all this money going to come from?

Judging from the latest CBS/New York Times Poll, these promises of something for nothing aren't likely to convince many people. It's not just that the bounce from Saddam's capture has already gone away. Unfavorable views of Mr. Bush as a person have reached record levels for his presidency. It seems fair to say that many Americans, like most of the rest of the world, simply don't trust him anymore.

But some Americans will respond to upbeat messages, no matter how unrealistic. And that may be enough for Mr. Bush, because while he poses as someone above the fray, he is continuing to solidify his base.

The most sinister example was the recess appointment of Charles Pickering Sr., with his segregationist past and questionable record on voting rights, to the federal appeals court � the day after Martin Luther King's actual birthday. Was this careless timing? Don't be silly: it was a deliberate, if subtle, gesture of sympathy with a part of the Republican coalition that never gets mentioned in public. . . .

The question we should ask is, Where is all this leading?

Some cynical pundits think that Mr. Bush's advisers plan to leave the hard work of dealing with the mess he's made to future presidents. But I don't think that's right. I can't see how the budget can continue along its current path through a second Bush term � financial markets won't stand for it.

And what about the growing military crisis? The mess in Iraq has placed our volunteer military, a magnificent but fragile institution, under immense strain. National Guard and Reserve members find themselves effectively drafted as full-time soldiers. More than 40,000 soldiers whose enlistment terms have expired have been kept from leaving under "stop loss" orders. This can't go on for four more years.

Karl Rove and other insiders must know all this. So they must figure that once they have won the election, they will have such a complete lock on power that they can break many of their promises with impunity.

What will they do with that lock on power? Their election strategy � confuse the middle, but feed the base � suggests the answer.

"UK Officials Say Iraq Elections by June Viable" -- Nicolas Pelham in The Financial Times, 1/19/04:

British officials in Basra no longer oppose early elections in Iraq, saying security and procedural obstacles to polls could be surmounted before the transfer to civilian control on June 30.

"We have a working hypothesis that you could manage an electoral process within the timeframe and the security available," said Dominic D'Angelo, British spokesman for the UK-led southern zone of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Basra.

The volte face comes after demonstrators packed Basra's streets on Thursday in response to a call from Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's senior Shia cleric, to back his demand for an elected assembly. British officials estimated there were between 100,000 and 300,000 protestors.

Coalition officials fear Ayatollah Sistani could issue a fatwa, or religious edict, to his followers to suspend co-operation with the coalition authorities if polls do not go ahead. . . .

The Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad has had an unofficial policy banning even local elections since the end of the war, according to US military officials interviewed at locations throughout Iraq. This is despite the assessment of the military that elections are feasible within very short periods of time.

At the end of May, for example, a US Marine unit in the city of Najaf had prepared to hold an election for a local assembly, which was cancelled by Mr Bremer days before it was to take place.

In a matter of a few weeks, US marines in Najaf had built ballot boxes, a US army civil affairs unit had arranged for voter registration and polling stations throughout the city, and candidates had campaigned.

A US army civil affairs officer interviewed at the time clearly felt that the election was feasible, but declined to comment on the CPA's decision.

"Shia Protesters Step Up Demand for Iraq Elections" -- Patrick Cockburn in The Independent, 1/20/04:

In their greatest show of political strength since the war tens of thousands of Iraqi Shia Muslims marched through Baghdad yesterday chanting slogans in favour of free elections for a new government.

About 100,000 protesters marched through Baghdad to al-Mustansiriyah University shouting "Yes to elections" and "No to occupation".

The Shia, believed to number some 15 to 16 million out of a total Iraqi population of 25 million, fear the US and its local allies will seek to rob them of power by appointing members of a new assembly and government to which the US has pledged to hand over power on 1 July.

The demonstration was clearly aimed at Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the UN, seeking to persuade him not to endorse US plans for indirect elections. Mr Annan met Paul Bremer, the chief US official in Iraq, and a delegation from the US-selected Iraq Governing Council in New York yesterday.

The UN is likely to be very wary of returning to Iraq after a suicide bomber killed 31 people and injured 120 - mostly Iraqi labourers - at the entrance to the US headquarters in Baghdad on Sunday.

Many of the demonstrators carried pictures of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shia cleric, who has resolutely rejected the US plan for provincial caucuses to choose an assembly under an agreement signed on 15 November. It was he who called for the demonstration. . . .

The demonstration marks another stage in the elevation of Ayatollah Sistani, the 73-year-old leader of the Hawza, or network of religious schools in Najaf, as perhaps the most important Iraqi leader. If he issues a fatwa denouncing the political process organised by the US and the Governing Council then it will have little legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis.

George W. Bush's State of the Union Speech, 1/20/04:

Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. (Applause.) The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. (Applause.) Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens. You need to renew the Patriot Act. (Applause.) . . .

Some in this chamber, and in our country, did not support the liberation of Iraq. Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. We're seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictatator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world. Iraq's torture chambers would still be filled with victims, terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq -- where hundreds of thousands of men and women and children vanished into the sands -- would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place. (Applause.)

"Behind the Address: A Reality Check on What Bush Said on Key Issues" -- usatoday.com, 1/21/04

"The Other America" -- editorial, The Guardian, 1/21/04:

Among Iowa's several voter messages, the most important was pragmatic. Democrats desire, above all, a winner. Given the utter awfulness of Mr Bush, as they see it, this is not a time for gallant losers or the ideologically pure in heart. They want a man (since a woman is not currently available) who has the credibility, character, experience and resourcefulness to stay the national course. That may be the main explanation for John Kerry's run from behind; and why Wesley Clark, who kept his powder dry for New Hampshire next week, may be the one who trips him up. . . .

The high levels of public engagement and the possibly record-breaking turnout in Iowa showed how important this election really is. The Kerry upset showed, encouragingly, how wrong the know-all media pundits (but not the last-minute polls) can get it. Yet Iowa also showed how very rocky the road ahead will be. This race is still wide open. There is no clear favourite now. Iowa, notoriously, is no safe predictor; in New Hampshire, on past form, the yellow jersey will change hands again. This race may recycle all the way to the "Super Tuesday" primaries on March 2 and beyond.

And all the time Mr Bush, who hits the trail today fresh from his State of the Union address, will be strutting his presidential, war-leading stuff while adding more millions to his war chest. He is not leaving anything to chance. In recent days, Mr Bush (or his administration) has bought $50m worth of surplus orange juice in Florida (as in 2000, a key swing state), promised yet more tax cuts, torn up immigration policy to win Latino votes and shamelessly milked the memory of Martin Luther King. There is probably very little Mr Bush would not do to get re-elected, including going to Mars. The Democrats need a Democrat with the same hunger. They are still looking.

"State of the Union at Home" -- editorial, New York Times, 1/21/04:

When the president delivers his State of the Union address, we like to listen respectfully and respond politely. It is always easy to find things worth applauding. Last night, for instance, President Bush mentioned job retraining, immigration law reform and programs to help newly released prisoners re-enter society. The impulse is always to split the difference � to decry the ideas we disagree with and then note the ones we like. This time, such evenhandedness seems impossible. The president's domestic policy comes down to one disastrous fact: his insistence on huge tax cuts for the wealthy has robbed the country of the money it needs to address its problems and has threatened its long-term economic security. Everything else is beside the point.

Mindful that American voters seem more concerned about their personal fortunes than Iraq's, Mr. Bush highlighted the domestic side of his agenda. His only look backward at the fiscal mess he created was to call on Congress to make his $1.7 trillion in tax cuts permanent. The cuts have been wedged into the budget temporarily to give the illusion that the books will come somewhere near balance over the long run. Chiseling them into stone will do nothing to spark the current economy, and if some future president feels the need to stimulate business, he or she will find precious few ways left to do it.

The idea that the cuts are a rough tool to shrink the federal government seems increasingly ludicrous, given the Republican Congress's determination to pork up every bill with new spending plans. There are only two reasons why Mr. Bush could be so determined to do the wrong thing: because his Congressional majorities mean that he probably can, and because the wealthy donors helping to underwrite his campaign expect that he will. . . .

It is actually a cruel hoax to pretend that Washington can afford to do anything new, even with the modest grab bag of small new initiatives and familiar retreads suggested by the president. In that context, his decision last night to re-endorse the Social Security overhaul plan from his last campaign was terrifying.

Mr. Bush has long advocated that younger workers be allowed to set aside part of their Social Security tax payments for private investments in stocks or bonds. He has never explained how he would pay for such a plan. The Social Security taxes that come in are used to pay for the benefits of those already retired. If part of the current workers' money is redirected without corresponding tax increases, the difference would have to be made up through budget cuts or � far more likely � a disastrous addition to the amount of debt the government continues to roll up every day.

"State of the Platform" -- editorial, The Washington Post, 1/21/04:

In the face of record deficits, a costly new prescription drug program, and mounting costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was as breathtaking as it was unsurprising that Mr. Bush repeated his call to make the tax cuts permanent. We would welcome a responsible national debate about putting Social Security on a sustainable financial path, but Mr. Bush's breezy revival of his 2000 campaign push for private accounts failed to confront the complexities and costs of such a change. He devoted twice as much time to rallying professional athletes to "get rid of steroids now" as he did to Social Security reform.

To his supporters, Mr. Bush proffered political bouquets -- doubled funding for teenage abstinence programs, a nod to the possible need for a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage. To his opponents, Mr. Bush signaled that he is not about to cede any campaign ground. Whatever the Democratic candidates for president have seen as potential fodder -- the anti-terrorism Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind legislation, even his controversial visit to an aircraft carrier -- Mr. Bush defended and embraced. Making the rounds of fundraisers in recent months, Mr. Bush has been fond of saying that the "political season is going to come in its own time." That time, it would seem, arrived last night.

"It's the Data, Stupid: How Bush Explains Away America's Employment Problems" -- Daniel Gross at slate.com, 1/21/04:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures employment in two ways. In the Establishment Survey, it gathers payroll data from 400,000 companies and then estimates how many Americans have jobs at companies. The payroll figures are derived from these numbers. The Household Survey is based on surveys of individuals in 60,000 households, and it produces the unemployment rate. Occasionally, the two surveys show divergent trends in job growth, and the payroll survey has been known to undercount jobs when an economy is coming out of recession. Last October, I dubbed the debate over the two surveys "antidisestablishmentarianism."

In the past two weeks, antidisestablishmentarianism has become the creed the White House and its sympathizers are busy broadcasting. After the December employment was released on Jan. 9, Brian Wesbury, chief economist at Griffin, Kubik, Stephens & Thomson, Inc. and a noted antidisestablishmentarian wrote in this report: "there is something terribly wrong with the non-farm payroll statistics and the Establishment survey that produces them. We find it very hard to believe that the December increase of just 1,000 jobs was anywhere near accurate."

In his brief reaction, Treasury Secretary John Snow engaged in another favorite antidisestablishmentarian tactic. He changed the subject from unfavorable payrolls to the more favorable unemployment rate. "Following five months of job growth, the unemployment rate fell in December to a 14-month low." . . .

The comparatively strong Household Survey figures were also one of the reasons cited by Republicans in Congress when they decided not to extend unemployment benefits last month.

Last night, Bush didn't mention many specifics about jobs figures other than to note that "Productivity is high, and jobs are on the rise." (Of course, high productivity is one reason that jobs may not be on the rise.) His grab bag of proposals called "Jobs for the 21st Century" -- more emphasis on reading and math in schools, encouraging science professionals to teach in high schools, more Pell Grants, and more cash for community colleges -- dodged the question of employment doldrums.

At this late date, changing the subject and casting doubt on the validity of payroll numbers seems like the best strategy for Bush appointees and supporters. It's looking ever more likely that Bush will indeed be the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a four-year term in which payroll jobs fell. Does that sound a wee bit demagogic? Absolutely. Under Hoover, the nation lost 24 percent of its payroll jobs. Under Bush, the United States has lost fewer than 2 percent. But it's effective rhetoric.

The divergence between the payroll and household figures does raise some interesting questions over which economists will surely puzzle. Has the slack corporate job market turned millions of Americans into self-employed entrepreneurs who don't get counted in the payroll survey? Have American companies simply become so ingenious at wringing productivity out of existing workers and technology that they don't need to hire? It's a debate that won't be settled for at least a year, when this year's figures get revised. It's possible the antidisestablishmentarians may indeed be right. But at this point, the official disdain for the payroll survey and the embrace of the Household Survey is more about belief than data.

"A Sick Joke" -- Jonathan Cohn for the New Republic at cbsnews.com, 1/21/04:

Suddenly sensitive to the fact that 44 million Americans have no health insurance while millions more fear losing it because of skyrocketing premiums, the White House has spent the last few days promising that this year's State of the Union address would include a new plan to make health insurance more affordable.

But there was nothing "new" about the "plan" President Bush unveiled last night. It was a hodgepodge of ideas he first touted as a presidential candidate in April 2000, and that he has deployed strategically whenever the polls show health insurance affordability is an issue. More important, it's unlikely these ideas will make health insurance "more affordable" � at least, not for the people who most need the help.

The ideas are so unserious they're barely worth considering, except insofar as they demonstrate just how far out of touch this White House really is.

Malpractice reform: Almost every serious study looking at the relationship between malpractice lawsuits and rising health care costs has shown the relationship to be essentially nonexistent. There's probably a case for reforming the system on other policy grounds: the court system is a lousy mechanism for regulating safety. But it's got almost nothing to do with the cost or availability of health insurance.

Tax credits: This is the most reasonable idea Bush is offering, since it's not hard to imagine how well-crafted tax credits could help a few million people struggling to afford health insurance. But the big problem for the uninsured isn't that they don't have the money to buy a reasonably priced insurance policy; it's that reasonably priced insurance policies aren't available to individual purchasers. Insurance only becomes affordable when you buy it as part of a group (which is why it helps to work for a big company that provides benefits). Without some kind of program to make good group health insurance available to individuals, tax credits would make only a modest dent in the number of uninsured Americans � lowering that number by a few million at best. Meanwhile, tax credits might encourage more employers to stop offering coverage altogether, enough so that at least some studies suggest the overall impact would be negligible.

Association Health Plans (AHPs): These sound like a great idea. Since, as I just explained, it's hard for small groups to buy health insurance, why not let small businesses band together to buy insurance together? Well, no reason at all. But small businesses can already do that in most states. The reason more don't exercise that option is that states regulate insurance pretty tightly � to make sure the benefits are decent, that there's no discrimination against the infirmed, and that the providers of insurance are solvent and legitimate businesses. What Bush and the conservatives aren't saying about their plan is that it would get rid of these regulations. No doubt, rates would get cheaper for many businesses as insurers started offering stripped-down plans perfectly adequate for healthy people � and altogether lousy for the sick. That's one reason that, a few years ago, the Congressional Budget Office looked at AHPs and decided that they, too, would not significantly increase the number of people with health insurance.

If you're a real wonk, you can read more about these policies. But the more important lesson to draw from Bush's speech is what it says about his overall priorities: Even if you accept the most optimistic � and, frankly, wildly unrealistic � estimates of what these proposals would do, they'd reduce the number of uninsured by less than ten million. Compare this to what the Democratic presidential candidates are proposing. The least generous plan out there right now is John Edwards's, which would reduce the number of uninsured by some 21 million � i.e., more than twice as much. The most ambitious plan, by Howard Dean, would reduce the number of uninsured by more than 30 million. John Kerry's would nearly match that, while simultaneously reducing the cost of insurance for those who already have it.

All of these things cost money, naturally � between $50 and $90 billion a year � which is why all of the Democratic candidates are proposing to repeal some or all of the Bush tax cuts to pay for them. But this deal is a no-brainer. Because health insurance is so prohibitively expensive when individuals buy it on their own, the extra cash they'd get from tax cuts isn't nearly as valuable as access to government-provided group coverage, which is essentially what the Democratic plans would provide. It's clear Bush sees the trade-off differently: He'd rather give the money away as tax cuts � most of them for the wealthy � than help people get insurance. What remains to be seen is whether the millions of voters who say health care is a top election concern will grasp this before November.

"US Set for Iraq Election Retreat" -- Patrick Wintour, Michael White and Ewen MacAskill in The Guardian, 1/21/04:

The US-led coalition in Iraq is on the verge of bowing to Shia Muslim pressure for direct elections before the handover of power on June 30, the Guardian has learned.

According to British officials, the Blair government has been swayed by Shia arguments and the US is also shifting ground.

They believe that Paul Bremer, the US head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) running Iraq, has been persuaded of the need for direct elections, provided it can be shown that they are practicable.

"Iraq could become a reasonably functioning democracy, or else it will eventually fall apart," said one senior British official. "Democracy loosens things up."

The official added: "Jack [Straw, the foreign secretary] has been telling Colin Powell [the US Secretary of State] that the process is a bit like riding a bike. You've got to keep it moving, even if it wobbles all over the place."

A shift in plans for elections follows a series of abrupt policy changes made by the coalition over the last few months, mainly forced by events on the ground, and will add to the sense of disarray in the CPA.

The CPA has come under sustained pressure in recent days from Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Shia cleric in Iraq. Tens of thousands of his supporters staged protests in Baghdad and across Iraq yesterday and on Monday demanding direct elections this summer.

Until now, the US has said there is insufficient time to organise such elections and they should be delayed until next year. But Mr Straw has been arguing that, though the arguments are finely balanced, the security situation would be significantly better if full elections could be staged, even if there is no formal electoral roll.

British officials insist that the argument has been accepted by Mr Bremer and the state department but they are less certain that the whole Republican administration has accepted the position.

The Foreign Office has been examining options for holding direct elections, such as using ration cards as means of identification - a hangover from Saddam Hussein's regime - or using dyes to stamp voters' hands.

A key factor in the timing of elections in Iraq has been George Bush's determination to have power transferred to Iraqis before the US presidential election in November.

"Infiltration of Files Seen as Extensive" -- Charlie Savage in The Boston Globe, 1/22/04:

WASHINGTON -- Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.

The office of Senate Sergeant-at-Arms William Pickle has already launched an investigation into how excerpts from 15 Democratic memos showed up in the pages of the conservative-leaning newspapers and were posted to a website last November.

With the help of forensic computer experts from General Dynamics and the US Secret Service, his office has interviewed about 120 people to date and seized more than half a dozen computers -- including four Judiciary servers, one server from the office of Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and several desktop hard drives.

But the scope of both the intrusions and the likely disclosures is now known to have been far more extensive than the November incident, staffers and others familiar with the investigation say. . . .

As the extent to which Democratic communications were monitored came into sharper focus, Republicans yesterday offered a new defense. They said that in the summer of 2002, their computer technician informed his Democratic counterpart of the glitch, but Democrats did nothing to fix the problem.

Other staffers, however, denied that the Democrats were told anything about it before November 2003.

"Grand Jury Hears Plame Case" -- John Dickerson and Viveca Novak at time.com, 1/22/04:

Sources with knowledge of the case tell TIME that behind closed doors at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse, nearby the Capitol, a grand jury began hearing testimony Wednesday in the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak and other journalists.

Prosecutors are believed to be starting with third-party witnesses, people who were not directly involved in the leak of Plame's identity. Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, claims that the leak was an act of retaliation against him for undercutting Bush's weapons-of-mass-destruction rationale for going to war in Iraq. Soon enough, witnesses with more direct knowledge will be called to testify, and a decision to subpoena journalists for their testimony will also be made. In December, the FBI asked some administration staffers to sign a waiver releasing reporters from confidentiality agreements in connection with any conversations they had about the Wilson affair. Novak's attorney, Jim Hamilton, had no comment about the latest developments.

Grand juries aren't always used in criminal probes, but they are the preferred way to go in cases with potential political fallout, if only to lend credibility to the result. One conclusion to be drawn from this latest step, said one lawyer familiar with the case, is that investigators clearly have a sense of how the case is shaping up. "They clearly have a sense of what's going on and can ask intelligent questions" to bring the grand jury up to speed. A grand jury is not a trial jury, but is used as an investigative tool and to decide whether to bring indictments in a case. . . .

It's also possible that prosecutors will learn who perpetrated the leak but won't have enough to bring charges. But true to form, the Bush administration continues to be extremely tight-lipped about the investigation -- even internally. "No one knows what the hell is going on," says someone who could be a witness, "because the administration people are all terrified and the lawyers aren't sharing anything with each other either."

Remarks by the President to the Press Pool, Nothin' Fancy Cafe, Roswell, New Mexico, 1/22/04 (whitehouse.gov):

THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.

Q Mr. President, how are you?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.

Q What would you like?

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.

Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.

THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?

Q Right behind you, whatever you order.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?

Q But Mr. President --

THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: are you going to buy some food?

Q Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like?

Q Ribs.

THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.

Q What do you think of the democratic field, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?

Q An answer.

Q Can we buy some questions?

"What's Bush Hiding from 9/11 Commission?" -- Joe Conason in The New York Observer, 1/26/04 (online 1/23/04):

The President is fortunate that until now, the bipartisan National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States has received far less attention than controversies over the design for a World Trade Center memorial. At every step, from his opposition to its creation, to his abortive appointment of Henry Kissinger as its chair, to his refusal to provide it with adequate funding and cooperation, Mr. Bush has treated the commission and its essential work with contempt.

In the latest development, the President�s aides refused additional time for the 9/11 commission to complete its report. Although the original deadline in the enabling legislation is May 27, the commissioners recently asked for a few more months to ensure that their product will be "thorough and credible."

Earlier this month, Thomas Kean�the former New Jersey governor who has chaired the commission since Mr. Kissinger recused himself�explained why the commission needs more time. As the genial Republican told The New York Times, he is only permitted to read the most important classified documents concerning 9/11 in a little closet known as a "sensitive compartmented information facility" (or SCIF). He cannot photocopy the documents, and if he takes notes about them, he must leave the notes in the SCIF when he leaves.

Other recent statements by Mr. Kean, which he subsequently modified, suggest that the White House has ample reason to worry about what the commission�s report will say. In December, he told CBS News that he believes the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented�and that incompetent officials were at fault for the failure to uncover and frustrate the plot.

Following the creation and staffing of the commission, many months passed before the administration agreed to let Mr. Kean look at any of those crucial documents. The commission still has hundreds of interviews to conduct, and millions of pages to examine, before its members begin to draft their conclusions.

But the President�s political advisers, concerned about the political impact of the commission�s report, are unsympathetic to its requests for additional time�and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who would have to approve an extension, is perfectly obedient to his masters in the White House. According to Newsweek, the administration offered Mr. Kean a choice: Either keep to the May deadline, or postpone release of the report until December, when its findings cannot affect the election.

Mr. Bush doesn�t want his re-election subject to any informed judgment about the disaster that reshaped the nation and his Presidency. But why should such crucial facts be withheld from the voters? What does the President fear?

Perhaps inadvertently, Mr. Kean provided a clue to the answers in his Times interview. Asked whether he thinks the disaster "did not have to happen," he replied, "Yes, there is a good chance that 9/11 could have been prevented by any number of people along the way. Everybody pretty well agrees our intelligence agencies were not set up to deal with domestic terrorism �. They were not ready for an internal attack." Then, asked whether "anyone in the Bush administration [had] any idea that an attack was being planned," he replied: "That is why we are looking at the internal papers. I can�t talk about what�s classified. [The] President�s daily briefings are classified. If I told you what was in them, I would go to jail."

But the commission�s final report may well indicate what the President was told in his daily briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, when he was sunning himself in Crawford, Tex.�as well as the many warnings he and his associates were given by the previous administration. That kind of information could send him back to Crawford for a permanent vacation.

"Iraq Illicit Arms Gone Before War, Departing Inspector States" -- Richard W. Stevenson in The New York Times, 1/24/04:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 � David Kay, who led the American effort to find banned weapons in Iraq, said Friday after stepping down from his post that he has concluded that Iraq had no stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons at the start of the war last year.

In an interview with Reuters, Dr. Kay said he now thought that Iraq had illicit weapons at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, but that the subsequent combination of United Nations inspections and Iraq's own decisions "got rid of them."

Asked directly if he was saying that Iraq did not have any large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the country, Dr. Kay replied, according to a transcript of the taped interview made public by Reuters, "That is correct." . . .

The assessment Dr. Kay provided to Reuters on Friday was far more conclusive about Iraq's weapons programs than the report he delivered to the White House and Congress in October. At that time, he said he and his team "have not yet found stocks of weapons, but we are not yet at the point where we can say definitively either that such weapon stocks do not exist or that they existed before the war and our only task is to find where they have gone."

But he also reported in October that his team had uncovered evidence of "dozens of W.M.D.-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002."

Although the White House stood by its statements last year that Mr. Hussein possessed stores of banned weapons, a position reiterated on Thursday by Vice President Dick Cheney, other administration officials said anonymously on Friday that the prospects that the search would turn up substantial caches of chemical or biological weapons were much diminished.

Dr. Kay told Reuters that one of the reasons he left was that the team he headed, the Iraq Survey Group, had been diverted to some degree for use in battling the insurgency in Iraq. That diversion, he said, left him short of the resources needed to complete the job by the end of June, when the United States plans to return sovereignty to the Iraqis.

He and his team were "not going to find much after June," he said. "I think we have found probably 85 percent of what we're going to find."

Democrats said Dr. Kay's statements raised serious questions about the administration's case for war and the quality of American intelligence. "It is increasingly clear that there has been a massive intelligence failure," Representative Jane Harman of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. "The potential threat posed by Iraq's stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and Iraq's nuclear weapons program was central to the case for war. In light of Dr. Kay's statement, the president owes the American public and the world an explanation."

A Propos AWOL (David Neiwert's weblog, 1/26/04):

Can anyone name any veteran who has been a major candidate for the presidency in the past half-century who has not released his military records?

This list, it must be remembered, includes John McCain, Robert Dole, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Barry Goldwater, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Not to mention John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, George McGovern, Lyndon Baines Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Harry Truman.

The answer, as near as I can determine: One. George W. Bush.

"US Must Quit Iraq before Vote, Say Sunnis" -- Rory McCarthy in The Guardian, 1/26/04:

An influential Sunni Muslim group in Iraq said yesterday it was opposed to partial elections scheduled for the summer and wanted a vote taken only when American forces had left the country.

The opposition of the newly organised Council for Sunnis in Iraq represents another dilemma for the US-led administration in Baghdad, which is already under pressure to rewrite its political programme in Iraq a second time.

Earlier this month, officials at the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) began to reconsider their idea of regional caucuses to select a new government because of criticism from a powerful Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who demanded democratic direct elections.

At the same time, the authority must balance the mounting frustration of the Sunni community, which although smaller than the Shia, has traditionally formed the ruling class and feels excluded from the political process.

Sabah al-Qaisi, one of the founders of the Sunni council, told the Guardian that his members would not accept any elections organised by the US-led authority. The council, formed last month, is one of the first political groups to have emerged to represent the Sunni community since the Ba'ath party was outlawed last year. It comprises around 160 Sunni clerics, from moderates to extreme Islamists, although it cannot claim to speak for the entire community.

"Trying to push the Sunnis away from their political rights will leave the country in a mess," said Mr Qaisi, a cleric who spent two years and three months in jail under Saddam Hussein for following the hardline Salafi school of Islam. . . .

"We want real, free and decent elections. Elections under occupation are not the correct way to do it. We want the Americans to leave and then we will hold elections."

One of the reasons that the CPA has said it is impractical to hold direct elections in Iraq this summer is the poor security situation. Military commanders say that insurgents are expected to launch attacks to disrupt the process. Polling stations in the Sunni heartland north and west of Baghdad, which has proved the most violent area of Iraq, are likely to be particularly vulnerable.

That might further discourage Sunnis from voting and produce a government even more heavily weighted in favour of the Shias.

"Because of the security situation, I am telling you the elections will not succeed," said Mr Qaisi. "There will not be elections and the Sunnis will not participate in any elections."

"President Bush Welcomes President Kwasniewski to White House" -- whitehouse.gov, 1/27/04 (see also this):

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think the Iraq Survey Group must do its work. Again, I appreciate David Kay's contribution. I said in the run-up to the war against Iraq that -- first of all, I hoped the international community would take care of him. I was hoping the United Nations would enforce its resolutions, one of many. And then we went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution -- 1441 -- unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.

"CBO Says '04 Deficit Will Rise to $477 Billion" -- Jonathan Weisman in The Washington Post, 1/27/04:

The federal deficit will reach $477 billion this year, up sharply from last year's $375 billion level, and the government is on track to accumulate nearly $2.4 trillion in additional debt over the next decade, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said yesterday.

The government's $4 trillion debt could more than double if President Bush succeeds in making permanent an array of tax cuts that are set to expire by 2011, the CBO's annual budget report added.

Measured against the size of the economy, this year's deficit -- a record in dollar terms -- will still be smaller than those in six deficit years under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. CBO officials acknowledged that the cumulative deficit would shrink dramatically from 2005 to 2014 -- from $1.9 trillion to $785 billion -- if all spending in Iraq and Afghanistan were to end this year. That is a scenario the White House and Congress do not envision.

Where the deficit goes from here, the CBO said, will depend in part on a major decision facing Congress: whether to follow Bush's admonitions and make permanent the $1.7 trillion in tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003, or to let them expire by 2011.

If they do expire, the 2004 peak deficit would gradually decline until the books balance in 2014. But if they are extended, the government would continue to run large deficits well into the next decade.

"If you look forward, sustained, large deficits in the face of a fully operating economy will have economic consequences," warned CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former economist in the Bush White House.

Regardless of those future decisions, the government's long-term finances have worsened considerably in the past six months, largely because of the war in Iraq and passage of the $400 billion law adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. In August, congressional forecasters predicted a 10-year deficit of $1.4 trillion through 2013. That figure has jumped nearly a trillion dollars since then.

"Red Ink Realities" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 1/27/04:

Even conservatives are starting to admit that George Bush isn't serious when he claims to be doing something about the exploding budget deficit. At best � to borrow the already classic language of the State of the Union address � his administration is engaged in deficit reduction-related program activities.

But these admissions have been accompanied by an urban legend about what went wrong. According to cleverly misleading reports from the Heritage Foundation and other like-minded sources, the deficit is growing because Mr. Bush isn't sufficiently conservative: he's allowing runaway growth in domestic spending. This myth is intended to divert attention from the real culprit: sharply reduced tax collections, mainly from corporations and the wealthy. . . .

A recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities does the math. While overall government spending has risen rapidly since 2001, the great bulk of that increase can be attributed either to outlays on defense and homeland security, or to types of government spending, like unemployment insurance, that automatically rise when the economy is depressed.

Why, then, do we face the prospect of huge deficits as far as the eye can see? Part of the answer is the surge in defense and homeland security spending. The main reason for deficits, however, is that revenues have plunged. Federal tax receipts as a share of national income are now at their lowest level since 1950.

Of course, most people don't feel that their taxes have fallen sharply. And they're right: taxes that fall mainly on middle-income Americans, like the payroll tax, are still near historic highs. The decline in revenue has come almost entirely from taxes that are mostly paid by the richest 5 percent of families: the personal income tax and the corporate profits tax. These taxes combined now take a smaller share of national income than in any year since World War II.

This decline in tax collections from the wealthy is partly the result of the Bush tax cuts, which account for more than half of this year's projected deficit. But it also probably reflects an epidemic of tax avoidance and evasion. Everyone who wants to understand what's happening to the tax system should read "Perfectly Legal," the new book by David Cay Johnston, The Times's tax reporter, who shows how ideologues have made America safe for wealthy people who don't feel like paying taxes.

I was particularly struck by Mr. Johnston's description of the carefully staged Senate Finance Committee hearings in 1997-1998. Senators Trent Lott and Frank Murkowski accused the I.R.S. of "Gestapo"-like tactics, and Congress passed new rules that severely restricted the I.R.S.'s ability to investigate suspected tax evaders. Only later, when the cameras were no longer rolling, did it become clear that the whole thing was a con. Most of the charges weren't true, and there was good reason to believe that the star witness, who dramatically described how I.R.S. agents had humiliated him, really was engaged in major-league tax evasion (he eventually paid $23 million, insisting he had done no wrong).

And this was part of a larger con. What's playing out in America right now is the bait-and-switch strategy known on the right as "starve the beast." The ultimate goal is to slash government programs that help the poor and the middle class, and use the savings to cut taxes for the rich. But the public would never vote for that.

"Bush Backs Away from His Claims about Iraq Arms" -- David E. Sanger in The New York Times, 1/28/04:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 � President Bush declined Tuesday to repeat his claims that evidence that Saddam Hussein had illicit weapons would eventually be found in Iraq, but he insisted that the war was nonetheless justified because Mr. Hussein posed "a grave and gathering threat to America and the world."

Asked by reporters if he would repeat earlier expressions of confidence that the weapons would be found in light of recent statements by the former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, David A. Kay, that Mr. Hussein had gotten rid of them well before the war, Mr. Bush did not answer directly.

"I think it's very important for us to let the Iraq Survey Group do its work, so we can find out the facts and compare the facts to what was thought," he said at an appearance with the visiting president of Poland.

Mr. Bush praised Dr. Kay's work and came to the defense of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose reporting on Iraq's weapons programs Dr. Kay sharply criticized in interviews over the weekend. "These are unbelievably hard-working, dedicated people who are doing a great job for America," Mr. Bush said of the intelligence community.

Yet at the White House and on Capitol Hill, many officials said it was obvious that the intelligence reports about Iraq had been deeply flawed. They said they doubted that Mr. Bush would have the luxury of waiting to confront the issue.

Democrats demanded that an independent panel examine how the National Intelligence Estimate � the 2002 document that Mr. Bush used as the basis of his comments that Iraq posed a direct threat to the United States and its allies � could have been so flawed. The White House expressed no interest in the formation of such a panel.

"I think it is critical that we follow up and find out what went wrong," the Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, said on Tuesday, before meeting with Mr. Bush with a group of other Congressional leaders from both parties. At the meeting, Mr. Daschle noted that Congressional leaders had depended on sound intelligence in voting on the war. Officials knowledgeable about the exchange said Mr. Bush interrupted Mr. Daschle and argued that the Iraq war was a "worthy" effort and that the administration had not manipulated the evidence. The president also said he had not given up the search for the weapons.

Dr. Kay resigned last week as head of the Iraq Survey Group. In an interview with Reuters last week, he said one reason he stepped down was that his team had been diverted to some degree to help battle the insurgency.

In private, some administration officials acknowledged Tuesday that Dr. Kay's conclusion that the intelligence was deeply flawed was becoming an unwelcome political problem that the White House would have to confront, either now or when the presidential campaign heats up.

Two administration officials reported that a debate has erupted within the administration over whether Mr. Bush should soon call for some kind of reform of the intelligence-gathering process. But the officials said Mr. Bush's aides were searching for a formula that would allow them to acknowledge intelligence-gathering problems without blaming the Central Intelligence Agency or the director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, who approved that National Intelligence Estimate.

"Kay Backs Outside Probe of Iraq Data" -- Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank in The Washington Post, 1/29/04:

The former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq said yesterday that there should be an independent investigation into the flawed intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons capability, fueling a partisan feud over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the former inspector, David Kay, said it is "important to acknowledge failure." Responding to questions from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), he said: "I must say, my personal view, and it's purely personal, is that in this case you will finally determine that it is going to take an outside inquiry, both to do it and to give yourself and the American people the confidence that you have done it."

The testimony, in which Kay repeated his previous assertions that stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction probably did not exist in Iraq, widened a rift between Democratic lawmakers and the White House and its GOP allies in Congress that promises to color this year's elections. The White House dismissed the notion of an outside investigation, saying that the U.S. inspectors in Iraq need more time and that the ouster of Hussein was justified regardless of the state of his weapons programs. Democrats suggested that the problem went beyond failed intelligence and involved an administration that exaggerated the threat Hussein posed. . . .

Some in the administration favor a frank public acknowledgment that the intelligence on Iraq was wrong, but that is not yet the prevailing view. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to appear today on news shows, in which she is expected to continue calling for more time to search.

Supporters and opponents of President Bush say this public strategy -- delaying a judgment on the weapons while justifying the war on other grounds -- is risky. By postponing a reckoning on the weapons, Bush is gambling that the news in Iraq will improve so that the American public will not be concerned about the weapons, that a weapons discovery will be made, or that the ISG will not finish its work until after the November elections. But Bush's strategy, they say, also allows the matter to linger as part of the presidential campaign and raises the possibility of the issue coming to a boil just before Election Day.

"Is Bush a 'Deserter'? It Doesn't Hurt to Ask" -- Eric Alterman in Newsday, 1/26/04:

Listen to Bigfoot journalists like Peter Jennings and Tim Russert, and you'd think that one of the most pressing presidential issues this year is whether Gen. Wesley Clark should have immediately denounced his supporter, the gadfly filmmaker Michael Moore, for calling George W. Bush a "deserter" while campaigning for the general in New Hampshire. It's almost enough to give "chutzpah" a bad name.

In the first place, what a weird question. When, in the 1992 or 1996 elections was either George H.W. Bush or Bob Dole asked to disassociate himself from any supporter who termed Bill Clinton a "draft dodger?" Clinton did not "dodge" the draft. He sought and was given a deferment. But the term became common currency among conservatives.

Moreover, why would Wes Clark be expected to be sufficiently familiar with the complicated history of Bush's record of military service in the early 1970s to pass judgment on whether the term "deserter" was so outrageous so as to demand repudiation? Almost no reporters seem to be.

In fact, the question whether George W. Bush pulled a fast one on the Texas Air National Guard-or had one pulled for him-to save him the ignominy of being termed a "deserter" is hardly the open and shut case that Jennings, Russert and virtually every journalist seems to assume it is. . . .

Dare we call the president of the United States a "deserter?" Well, technically, no, of course. If he eventually got the papers, he's retroactively innocent of that charge. But what would have happened if, say, during late 1972, some by-the-books Alabama MP had happened upon Bush in a bar and was unaware that this son of a congressman would eventually be able to work out a deal with the higher-ups. He would be in Alabama without permission while his unit was training in Texas. Might that have been enough to throw Bush into the brig?

It's hardly an outrageous question, but even raising it seems to place one beyond the pale. And I doubt Tim Russert or Peter Jennings could have answered it more articulately than Gen. Clark had either one been willing to examine the issue with the seriousness it so clearly deserves.

Michael Moore expands on his "deserter" comment at michaelmoore.com (as accessed 1/29/04):

Friends,

I would like to apologize for referring to George W. Bush as a "deserter." What I meant to say is that George W. Bush is a deserter, an election thief, a drunk driver, a WMD liar and a functional illiterate. And he poops his pants. In fact, he shot a man in Tucson "just to watch him die."

Actually, what I meant to say up in New Hampshire last week was that "We're going to have Bush for dessert come November!" I'm always mixing up "dessert" and "desert" -- I'm sure many of you have that problem.

Well, well, well. As George W. would say, "It's time to smoke �em out of their hole!" Thanks to my "humorous" introduction of Wesley Clark 10 days ago in New Hampshire -- and the lughead way the no-sense-of-humor media has covered it -- there were 15 million hits this weekend on my website. Everyone who visited the site got to read the truth about Bush not showing up for National Guard duty.

The weird thing about all this is that during my routine I never went into any details about Bush skipping out while in the Guard (it's not like it's the biggest issue on my mind or facing America these days!) I was just attempting my best impersonation of that announcer guy for the World Wrestling Federation, asking the cheering crowd if they would like to see a smackdown ("debate") which I called "The Generaaal Versus The Deserterrrr!!" (You can watch it here -- hardly anyone in the media has shown this clip because viewers would suddenly see the context of my comments.)

When the press heard me use that word "deserter," though, the bells and whistles went off, for this was one of those stories they knew they had ignored -- and now it was rearing its ugly, truthful head on a very public stage. Without a single other word from me other than the d-word, they immediately got so defensive that it looked to many viewers like they�the press�maybe had something to hide. After all, when I called Bush a deserter, how did they know I wasn't referring to how he has deserted the 43 million Americans who have no health coverage? Why didn't they assume I was talking about how Bush is a deserter because he has deserted the working people of this country (who have lost 3 million jobs since he's taken office)? Why wasn't it obvious to them that I was pointing out how Bush had deserted our constitution and Bill of Rights as he tries to limit freedom of speech and privacy rights for law-abiding citizens?

Instead, they have created the brouhaha over Bush's military record, often without telling their audience what the exact charges are. It seems all they want to do is to get Clark or me -- or you -- to shut up. "We have never investigated this and so we want you to apologize for bringing it up!" Ha ha ha.

Well, I'm glad they have gone nuts over it. Because here we have a Commander in Chief --who just took off while in uniform to go work for some Republican friend of his dad's -- now sending our kids over to Iraq to die while billions are promised to Halliburton and the oil companies. Twenty percent of them are National Guard and Reserves (and that number is expected to double during the year). They have been kept in Iraq much longer than promised, and they have not been given the proper protection. They are sitting ducks.

What if any of them chose to do what Bush did back in the early 70s -- just not show up? I've seen Republican defenders of Bush this week say, �Yeah, but he made up the time later.� So, can today's National Guardsmen do the same thing -- just say, when called up to go to Iraq, "Um, I'm not going to show up, I'll make up the time later!"? Can you imagine what would happen? Of course, none of them are the son of a Congressman, like young Lt. Bush was back in 1972.

Today, MoveOn.org has put together its response to this issue, and I would love to reprint it here. It lays out all the facts about Bush and the remaining unanswered questions about where he went for many, many months:

Here are what appear to be the known facts, laid out recently in considerable detail and documentation by retired pilot and Air National Guard First Lt. Robert A. Rogers, and in a 2003 book, �The Lies of George W. Bush,� by David Corn.

1. George W. Bush graduated from Yale in 1968 when the war in Vietnam was at its most deadly and the military draft was in effect. Like many of his social class and age, he sought to enter the National Guard, which made Vietnam service unlikely, and fulfill his military obligation. Competition for slots was intense; there was a long waiting list. Bush took the Air Force officer and pilot qualification tests on Jan. 17, 1968, and scored the lowest allowed passing grade on the pilot aptitude portion.

2. He, nevertheless, was sworn in on May 27, 1968, for a six-year commitment. After a few weeks of basic training, Bush received an appointment as a second lieutenant � a rank usually reserved for those completing four years of ROTC or 18 months active duty service. Bush then went to flight school and trained on the F-102 interceptor fighter jet. Fighter pilots were in great demand in Vietnam at the time, but Bush wound up serving as a �weekend warrior� in Houston, where his father�s congressional district was centered.

A Houston Chronicle story published in 1994, quoted in Corn�s book, has Bush saying: �I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes.�

3. Sometime after May 1971, young Lt. Bush stopped participating regularly in Guard activities. According to Texas Air National Guard records, he had fewer than the required flight duty days and was short of the minimum service owed the Guard. Records indicate that Bush never flew after May 1972, despite his expensive training and even though he still owed the National Guard two more years.

4. On May 24, 1972, Bush asked to be transferred to an inactive reserve unit in Alabama, where he also would be working on a Republican senate candidate�s campaign. The request was denied. For months, Bush apparently put in no time at all in Guard service. In August 1972, Bush was grounded -- suspended from flying duties -- for failing to submit to an annual physical exam. (Why wouldn't he take this exam from a doctor?)

5. During his 2000 presidential campaign, Bush�s staff said he recalled doing duty in Alabama and then returning to Houston for still more duty. But the commander of the Montgomery, AL, unit where Bush said he served told the Boston Globe that he had no recollection of Bush � son of a congressman � ever reporting, nor are there records, as there should be, supporting Bush�s claim. Asked at a press conference in Alabama on June 23, 2000 what duties he had performed as a Guardsman in that state, Bush said he could not recall, �but I was there.�

6. In May, June and July, 1973, Bush suddenly started participating in Guard activities back in Houston again � pulling 36 days at Ellington Air Base in that short period. On Oct. 1, 1973, eight months short of his six-year service obligation and scheduled discharge, Bush apparently was discharged with honors from the Texas Air National Guard (eight months short of his six-year commitment). He then went to Harvard Business School.

Documents supporting these reports, released under Freedom of Information Act requests, appear along with Rogers� article on the web at http://democrats.com/display.cfm?id=154.

In the absence of full disclosure by the President or his supporters, only the President and perhaps a few family or other close associates know the whole truth. And they�re not talking.

Bush was apparently absent without official leave from his assigned military service for as little as seven months (New York Times) or as much as 17 months (Boston Globe) during a time when 500,000 American troops were fighting the Vietnam War. The Army defines a �deserter� -- also known as a DFR, for �dropped from rolls� � as one who is AWOL 31 days or more: www-ari.army.mil/pdf/s51.pdf.

Well, there you have it. Someone got some special treatment. And now that special someone believes he has the right to conduct a war -- using other not-so-special people's lives.

My friends, I always call it like I see it. I don't pussyfoot around. Sometimes the truth is hard to take. The media conglomerates are too afraid to take this on. I understand. But I'm not. That's my job. And I'll continue to do it.

And when I'm wrong, like the thing about Bush pooping his pants, I'll say so.

Yours,

Michael Moore
mmflint@aol.com
www.michaelmoore.com

"US Deaths Rise in Wake of Saddam Capture" -- Charles Clover in The Financial Times, 1/29/04:

US combat deaths in Iraq have risen sharply during January despite a drop in the number of attacks and the capture of former dictator Saddam Hussein over a month ago.

As of Thursday, 33 American soldiers and one civilian had been killed by hostile fire during the month. That compares with 24 US combat deaths in December, and a total of 32 coalition combat deaths.

The figures appear to show that the security situation in Iraq is not improving, contrary to earlier claims from the US military and politicians.

The US casualties are also mounting Afghanistan, where seven US soldiers were killed on Thursday in an explosion near an ammunition dump in the south of the country.

The US military on Thursday declined to confirm or deny the figures for combat deaths in Iraq this month, which were calculated from press releases from US Central Command in Florida. A US military spokesman in Baghdad said figures were only kept for two-month periods, and a computer malfunction made it impossible to calculate an official casualty count for separate months.

More News — December 2003

Howard Dean interviewed by Chris Matthews on MSNBC's "Hardball," 12/1/03:

Capitalism is the greatest system that people have ever invented, because it takes advantage of bad traits, as well as our good traits, and turns them into productivity.

But the essence of capitalism, which the right-wing never understands -- it always baffles me -- is, you got to have some rules. Imagine a hockey game with no rules.

Shifts in States May Give Bush Electoral Edge" -- Katherine Q. Seelye in The New York Times, 12/2/03:

If President Bush carries the same states in 2004 that he won in 2000, he will win seven more electoral votes.

That change, a result of a population shift to Republican-friendly states in the South and West in the last several years, means the Republicans have a slight margin of error in 2004 while the Democrats will have to scramble just to pull even. . . .

The Republican electoral cushion by no means guarantees Mr. Bush a victory. After all, Mr. Gore outpolled him by nearly 550,000 votes in 2000. More important, voting patterns may not repeat themselves. And notable demographic shifts are occurring within the states.

Because of those shifts, both sides predict that 15 states may be up for grabs: Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine and Florida. . . .

It is clear the electoral change has hurt the Democrats more than Republicans. The population losses came in states that Mr. Gore won and usually vote Democratic: New York and Pennsylvania each lost two electoral votes, while Michigan, Illinois, Connecticut and Wisconsin all lost one. The one bright spot for Democrats was California, which gained a vote.

"NEWSWEEK: Gingrich Speaks Out Against Administration's Policy in Iraq, Saying The U.S. Went 'Off a Cliff'" -- yahoo.com, 12/7/03:

NEW YORK, Dec. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- In an exclusive interview with Newsweek, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a quiet confidant of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, says the U.S. went "off a cliff in Iraq." In the December 15 issue (on newsstands Monday, Dec. 8), Gingrich talks about the shortcomings of the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, saying that "Americans can't win in Iraq. Only Iraqis can win in Iraq."

Gingrich, a member of the influential Defense Policy Board, argues that the administration has been putting far too much emphasis on a military solution and slighting the political element, report National Security Correspondent John Barry and Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas. While he says he's not speaking for the board, it is rare that one of its members voices a dissenting view in public. "The Army's reaction to Vietnam was not to think about it," he says. Rather than absorb the lessons of counterinsurgency, Gingrich says, the Army adopted "a deliberate strategy of amnesia because people don't want to ever do it again." The Army rebuilt a superb fighting force for waging a conventional war. "I am very proud of what [Operation Iraqi Freedom commander Gen.] Tommy Franks did-up to the moment of deciding how to transfer power to the Iraqis. Then we go off a cliff."

The real key in Iraq, he says, "is not how many enemy do I kill. The real key is how many allies do I grow," he says. "And that is a very important metric that they just don't get." He contends that the civilian-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is fairly isolated and powerless, hunkered down inside its bunker in Baghdad. The military has the money and the daily contact with the locals. But it's using the same tactics in a guerrilla struggle that led to defeat in Vietnam.

Gingrich faults the Americans for not quickly establishing a legitimate Iraqi government, however imperfect. "The idea that we are going to have a corruption-free, pristine, League of Women Voters government in Iraq on Tuesday is beyond naivete," he scoffs. "It is a self-destructive fantasy."

The former speaker indicates it would be a huge mistake for American troops to leave Iraq by next November's election, a rumor that has been circulating in the Pentagon. The only "exit strategy," says Gingrich, "is victory." But not by brute American force. "We are not the enforcers. We are the reinforcers," says Gingrich. "The distinction between these two words is central to the next year in Iraq."

"Donors: Funds for Iraq Are Far Short of Pledges, Figures Show" -- Steven R. Weisman in The New York Times, 12/7/03:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 � Six weeks after organizers of an international donors conference in Madrid said that more than $3 billion in grants had been pledged to help Iraq with immediate needs, a new World Bank tally verifies grants of only $685 million for 2004.

The vast gap seems to have occurred largely for two reasons: some countries, like Japan, changed the nature of their commitment after the conference from immediate aid to slower, long-term help; and some that had left their intentions unclear were incorrectly assumed to be giving immediate aid.

Many experts also say that donation pledges often do not materialize in the end, or come in the harder-to-tally form of credits for the purchase of commodities.

The grant money for immediate needs was part of a total $13 billion that organizers said was raised at the conference. . . .

The largest portion of the loans pledged in Iraq were from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But aid experts say the monetary fund loans, at least, will not be available until Iraq's debt restructuring is worked out.

On Friday, President Bush appointed former Secretary of State James A. Baker III to lead the effort to renegotiate Iraq's debt, estimated at $100 billion to $120 billion. Iraq also owes $100 billion in reparations. . . .

In the case of Japan, a promise of large upfront cash grants shifted to the possibility of spending the money over several years. "The Japanese were looking at $1.5 billion in Madrid, but now they've decided to leave it unspecified as to which year the money is coming," an administration official said.

Saudi Arabia pledged $1.5 billion in Madrid but left unclear what form it would take; it turned out that half was to be in credits to import goods from Saudi Arabia.

Some countries similarly changed plans because of growing concerns about the political stability and the security of Iraq; some say they will donate money once the trust fund is set up; some, intent on seeing a greater United Nations role in Iraq, are reluctant to make grants during the American-led occupation.

"The problem with cash is that you don't know where it's going to end up," said an official with a donor country. "Who gets to draw this money down? The only contracts awarded for Iraq so far have been awarded by the Pentagon."

"Gore to Endorse Howard Dean for '04 Presidential Nomination" -- Adam Nagourney in The New York Times, 11/8/03:

Al Gore, the former vice president who narrowly lost the presidency in 2000, has decided to endorse the presidential campaign of Howard Dean, a move that Democrats said would provide a huge boost to Dr. Dean's candidacy.

Mr. Gore is expected to announce his endorsement of Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont and one of nine Democrats running for president this year, at events in Harlem and Iowa on Tuesday, according to Democrats familiar with the decision.

"This is huge," said Donna Brazile, who was Mr. Gore's campaign manager in 2000. "It gives Dean what Dean has been missing most: Stature. Gore is a major league insider, somebody with enormous credibility that Democrats respect, who can rally the grass roots, and who's been speaking very strongly in the last few months about the direction he wants to take the country in." . . .

Mr. Gore's decision, while a boost to Dr. Dean, was a devastating blow to Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who was Mr. Gore's running mate in 2000. "It probably wipes Lieberman out of the race," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the Democratic candidates. "It's going to clear the deck."

"Gore to Endorse Dean" -- Dan Balz in The Washington Post, 12/8/03:

Former vice president Al Gore plans to endorse Howard Dean for president Tuesday, according to Democratic sources, giving the insurgent candidate the kind of establishment backing his campaign has been lacking.

Gore plans to announce his support for the former Vermont governor at a Tuesday morning rally in New York's Harlem, then fly to Iowa with Dean for what was billed in an e-mail sent to Iowa supporters Monday as an event that would "change the face of the Dean campaign." Dean will then fly to New Hampshire to participate in Tuesday night's debate with the other Democratic candidates.

Gore's decision to back a candidate who was once a dark horse in the race for the Democratic nomination represents a significant boost for Dean and a setback to all the other major candidates now trying to slow his momentum. It was an especially bitter blow to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), who was Gore's vice presidential running mate in 2000.

"This is huge," said Donna Brazile, Gore's 2000 campaign manager. "This gives Dean the credibility he's been lacking, from someone from the inside of the party. This will give Dean a tremendous boost in locking down the nomination."

Establishment Democrats have been slow to join Dean's campaign, with many privately worried that he could lead the party to a significant defeat against President Bush in 2004. Gore's willingness to embrace him give Dean a counter to that concern.

"It dispels all this talk among people inside Washington that he can't win, that he's another George McGovern, that will lose the House and lose the Senate," said Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which endorsed Dean last month.

Reaction to Gore endorsement at dailykos.com:

Re: Gore might endorse Dean (4.00 / 2)

Damn you Al Gore!

I have a 15 page paper to finish by 8 AM tomorrow! How dare you distract me with all of this happiness?! . . .

by Sauceman on Mon Dec 8th, 2003 at 22:45:48 UTC

Re: Gore might endorse Dean (none / 0)

hahaha! i feel your pain too! i have a paper due on Country of Origin Labelling of agriculture products and can't concentrate! (PS. Bush people hate these laws and want them gone)

by ihlin on Mon Dec 8th, 2003 at 22:47:44 UTC

Re: Gore might endorse Dean (none / 0)

Yeah, I've gotten so distracted my final exams are sure to suffer as well.

Must...disconnect...internet...

by kafkaesq on Mon Dec 8th, 2003 at 22:58:27 UTC

Re: Gore might endorse Dean (none / 0)

Just remember. 3 years ago at about this time, no one could study for much gloomier reasons. So at least you've got positive energy bringing you down.

by emptywheel on Mon Dec 8th, 2003 at 23:19:29 UTC

"Only Allies to Help with Rebuilding" -- Jackie Spinner in The Washington Post, 12/10/03:

The United States will not allow companies from countries that did not support the war in Iraq to bid on $18.6 billion in prime reconstruction contracts funded by U.S. taxpayers, effectively excluding firms from Russia, Germany, France and Canada from a large portion of the biggest nation-rebuilding effort since World War II.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said it was necessary "for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States" to limit the competition. His Dec. 5 policy memo was posted yesterday on the Web site of the Project Management Office, a new Pentagon-run group overseeing the award of U.S.-funded reconstruction contracts.

U.S. officials hinted last month that they wanted to limit the competitors to U.S. allies in the war against Iraq, but said they needed to review existing trade agreements and procurement policies to see if that was possible. Some agencies, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, already are prohibited from awarding contracts to non-U.S. firms.

Firms from the excluded countries will be allowed to compete for subcontracts on the U.S.-funded projects, though officials also are encouraging prime contractors to hire Iraqi firms as subcontractors and have said they will consider such involvement in selecting the winning bids. The policy would not apply to $13 billion in international pledges made at a donor conference in Madrid in October. Little of that money has been collected, however.

The memo lists 63 countries whose companies are eligible to compete for 26 prime reconstruction contracts that the Defense Department and other U.S. agencies plan to award by Feb. 3. That list includes Australia and Britain, major members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, as well as others such as Azerbaijan, Palau, Rwanda and Colombia. . . .

Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, asked about the decision during a candidates' debate last night, said, "I can't think of anything dumber or more insulting or more inviting to the disdain of countries and potential failure of our policy."

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the policy a "totally gratuitous slap" that "does nothing to protect our security interests and everything to alienate countries we need with us in Iraq."

Steven L. Schooner, co-director of the government procurement law program at the George Washington University law school, said the decision also sets a bad precedent. "It's an extraordinary step when you tell your trading partners that, because of their position on a difficult policy issue, you won't do business with their firms," he said. "From a public procurement standpoint, this is."

"Diplomacy: Bush Seeks Help of Allies Barred from Iraq Deals" -- David E. Sanger and Douglas Jehl in The New York Times, 12/11/03:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 � President Bush found himself in the awkward position on Wednesday of calling the leaders of France, Germany and Russia to ask them to forgive Iraq's debts, just a day after the Pentagon said it was excluding those countries and others from $18 billion in American-financed Iraqi reconstruction projects.

White House officials were fuming about the timing and the tone of the Pentagon's directive, even while conceding that they had approved the Pentagon policy of limiting contracts to 63 countries that have given the United States political or military aid in Iraq.

Many countries excluded from the list, including close allies like Canada, reacted angrily on Wednesday to the Pentagon action. They were incensed, in part, by the Pentagon's explanation in a memorandum that the restrictions were required "for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States."

The Russian defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, when asked about the Pentagon decision, responded by ruling out any debt write-off for Iraq.

The Canadian deputy prime minister, John Manley, suggested crisply that "it would be difficult" to add to the $190 million already given for reconstruction in Iraq.

White House officials said Mr. Bush and his aides had been surprised by both the timing and the blunt wording of the Pentagon's declaration. But they said the White House had signed off on the policy, after a committee of deputies from a number of departments and the National Security Council agreed that the most lucrative contracts must be reserved for political or military supporters.

Those officials apparently did not realize that the memorandum, signed by Paul D. Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, would appear on a Defense Department Web site hours before Mr. Bush was scheduled to ask world leaders to receive James A. Baker III, the former treasury secretary and secretary of state, who is heading up the effort to wipe out Iraq's debt. Mr. Baker met with the president on Wednesday.

Several of Mr. Bush's aides said they feared that the memorandum would undercut White House efforts to repair relations with allies who had opposed the invasion of Iraq. . . .

Several of Mr. Bush's aides wondered why the administration had not simply adopted a policy of giving preference to prime contracts to members of the coalition, without barring any countries outright.

"What we did was toss away our leverage," one senior American diplomat said. "We could have put together a policy that said, `The more you help, the more contracts you may be able to gain.' " Instead, the official said, "we found a new way to alienate them."

A senior official at the State Department was asked during an internal meeting on Wednesday how he expected the move to affect the responses of Russia, France and Germany to the American request. He responded, "Go ask Jim Baker," according another senior official, who said of Mr. Baker, "He's the one who's going to be carrying the water, and he's going to be the one who finds out."

"The Context: Court Ruling Affirms New Landscape of Campaign Finance" -- Glen Justice in The New York Times, 12/11/03:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 � The Supreme Court's decision to uphold most of last year's campaign finance law quashed any final hopes politicians and their parties had about returning to the days when unlimited contributions flowed freely into their hands.

The decision affirmed the core provisions of the largest overhaul of the campaign finance system in the last 30 years, locking in place rules that have been in effect since last November. It upheld the ban on the "soft money" that national political parties collected from corporations, labor unions and anyone wealthy enough to write a large check. And it restricted political advertising around election time.

What's left is a system in which regulated contributions known as "hard money" are the official coin of the realm for those who play in federal politics. Candidates can collect up to $2,000 per donor in each election and parties can raise $25,000 per donor each year.

Practically speaking, those who have skillfully found ways to raise such contributions in large amounts will hold the largest sword in next year's elections. At the top of the list is President Bush, who has established a vast network of business executives and other loyal Republicans and has amassed roughly $110 million so far this year. Among the Democratic candidates, Howard Dean has far surpassed his party's rivals by building an Internet-based network of contributors who have so far given more than $25 million.

The decision is toughest on the Democratic National Committee and its counterparts in the House and Senate, which have counted on soft money to make up as much as half their contributions and have had to rethink their fund-raising strategies since the law was passed.

Had the court overturned the ban, one Democratic party official said, the party had been poised to begin soliciting prospects immediately to collect soft money. Now, both parties will have to operate on a steady diet of hard money contributions, which Republicans have been far more adept at soliciting.

National Republican committees out-raised their Democratic counterparts 2 to 1 through the third quarter, campaign finance records show.

"New Iraq Army Hit by Resignations" -- BBC, 12/11/03:

US plans to create a new Iraqi army have suffered a setback after hundreds of recruits resigned.

The army's first 700-man battalion lost 300 troops who were within weeks of being deployed, Pentagon officials say.

The battalion is the only one trained so far for what is eventually hopted to be a 40,000-strong force.

The US-led coalition in Iraq has played down the incident, saying it was just a dispute over pay and many more men were ready to join up.

However the BBC's Nick Childs at the Pentagon says the resignations will make for red faces in Washington.

"A Deliberate Debacle" -- Paul Krugman in The New York Times, 12/12/03:

James Baker sets off to negotiate Iraqi debt forgiveness with our estranged allies. And at that very moment the deputy secretary of defense releases a "Determination and Findings" on reconstruction contracts that not only excludes those allies from bidding, but does so with highly offensive language. What's going on?

Maybe I'm giving Paul Wolfowitz too much credit, but I don't think this was mere incompetence. I think the administration's hard-liners are deliberately sabotaging reconciliation. . . .

Mr. Wolfowitz's official rationale for the contract policy is astonishingly cynical: "Limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts" � future efforts? � and "should encourage the continued cooperation of coalition members." Translation: we can bribe other nations to send troops.

But I doubt whether even Mr. Wolfowitz believes that. The last year, from the failure to get U.N. approval for the war to the retreat over the steel tariff, has been one long lesson in the limits of U.S. economic leverage. Mr. Wolfowitz knows as well as the rest of us that allies who could really provide useful help won't be swayed by a few lucrative contracts.

If the contracts don't provide useful leverage, however, why torpedo a potential reconciliation between America and its allies? Perhaps because Mr. Wolfowitz's faction doesn't want such a reconciliation.

These are tough times for the architects of the "Bush doctrine" of unilateralism and preventive war. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their fellow Project for a New American Century alumni viewed Iraq as a pilot project, one that would validate their views and clear the way for further regime changes. (Hence Mr. Wolfowitz's line about "future efforts.")

Instead, the venture has turned sour � and many insiders see Mr. Baker's mission as part of an effort by veterans of the first Bush administration to extricate George W. Bush from the hard-liners' clutches. If the mission collapses amid acrimony over contracts, that's a good thing from the hard-liners' point of view. . . .

In short, this week's diplomatic debacle probably reflects an internal power struggle, with hawks using the contracts issue as a way to prevent Republican grown-ups from regaining control of U.S. foreign policy. And initial indications are that the ploy is working � that the hawks have, once again, managed to tap into Mr. Bush's fondness for moralistic, good-versus-evil formulations. "It's very simple," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "Our people risk their lives. . . . Friendly coalition folks risk their lives. . . . The contracting is going to reflect that."

In the end the Bush doctrine � based on delusions of grandeur about America's ability to dominate the world through force � will collapse. What we've just learned is how hard and dirty the doctrine's proponents will fight against the inevitable.

"U.S. Sees Evidence of Overcharging in Iraq Contract" -- Douglas Jehl in The Washington Post, 12/12/03:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 � A Pentagon investigation has found evidence that a subsidiary of the politically connected Halliburton Company overcharged the government by as much as $61 million for fuel delivered to Iraq under huge no-bid reconstruction contracts, senior military officials said Thursday.

The subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, also submitted a proposal for cafeteria services that seemed to be inflated by $67 million, the officials said. The Pentagon rejected that proposal, they said.

The problems involving Halliburton, where Vice President Dick Cheney was chief executive, were described in a preliminary report by auditors, the officials said. The Pentagon contracts were awarded without competitive bidding and have a potential value of $15.6 billion; recent estimates by the Army have put the current value of the Halliburton contracts at about $5 billion.

Halliburton denied overcharging and called the inquiry a "routine audit." Dave Lesar, the company's chairman, president and chief executive, said in an e-mail statement, "We welcome a thorough review of any and all of our government contracts."

Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's budget chief, said, "Contractor improprieties and/or contract mischarging on department contracts will neither be condoned nor allowed to continue."

Halliburton, which had more than $12.5 billion in revenues in 2002, has emerged as a symbol for many people who opposed the war in Iraq and who claimed that the interests of such companies with close political ties were given too much consideration by the administration.

Criticism intensified when Halliburton received the no-bid contract to provide billions of dollars in services in Iraq. Administration officials counter that few companies have the resources and expertise to carry out the work needed.

Military officials said the Pentagon was negotiating with K.B.R. over how to resolve the fuel charges. But Michael Thibault, deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, said in a telephone interview that a draft report by the agency had recommended that the Army Corps of Engineers seek reimbursement.

The officials said Halliburton did not appear to have profited from overcharging for fuel, but had instead paid a subcontractor too much for the gasoline in the first place.

Halliburton has also said that one reason it needed to charge a high price for fuel was that it must be delivered in a combat zone. Several K.B.R. workers have been killed or wounded in attacks by Iraqis. . . .

The two Halliburton contracts are by far the largest awarded by the Pentagon in Iraq. Some Democrats have criticized the awarding of contracts to the Halliburton subsidiary, saying they might appear to be a political payoff to a company well connected with Republicans. . . .

The Army awarded the logistics contract to Halliburton in 2001, on a competitive basis, but its size has swelled since the Iraq war, with additional work awarded to Halliburton without competition. The second contract, for oil reconstruction projects, was formally awarded in March on a "sole source" basis, but the decision to give the project to Halliburton was made in late 2002 by senior administration officials who were part of a secret task force planning for postwar Iraq.

"Trapped behind Enemy Lines" -- Michael Kinsley in The Washington Post, 12/12/03:

The only presidential candidate with a truly coherent position on President Bush's Iraq policy is President Bush. He supported it before the war started, he supports it now and he thinks or pretends to think it's working well.

Among the Democrats, Howard Dean's position is almost coherent. He opposed the war before it started, and he believes it has not turned out well. There is a tiny question of why Dean bothers to have a "seven-point plan" for Iraq instead of just one point: Bring the troops home. After all, Iraq is less of a threat to international order and its own citizens than when Saddam Hussein was in power. If it wasn't worth American lives to improve the situation then, why is it worth more lives now?

It's downhill from Dean. Joe Lieberman probably comes next. He was a strong supporter of removing Hussein by force -- a position consistent with his general worldview -- and yet was prescient in warning, before the war started, about some of the problems everyone points to now. Then come Dick Gephardt, John Edwards and John Kerry. They all supported the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war -- a position with the whiff of strategy about it, given each man's record or lack of it on such issues -- and they all are highly critical of what that resolution has wrought. Trailing the parade is Wesley Clark. His claim to fame is that he supported the use of ground troops in the Balkans. He squandered the non-officeholder's luxury of voting in hindsight on the Iraq resolution by not having his story straight. Meanwhile, he is highly critical of the war as it played out.

The slow souring of the American adventure in Iraq is a promising and legitimate issue for the Democrats. And they will benefit from it no matter what they say. But what they say about Iraq is a problem for the contenders who supported Bush's decision to go to war. Do they now think that support was a mistake?

If they say yes, supporting the war was a mistake, they are declaring that in a test case of the most important decision a president must make -- when to go to war -- they got it wrong. And if they try to explain their way out of this by talking about how the Bush administration "deceived the American people," they sound like George Romney, who was laughed out of the 1968 presidential race for saying he had been "brainwashed" into supporting the war in Vietnam.

On the other hand, if they say, "No, I don't regret my support for this war," the question naturally arises: Well, if everything you're complaining about doesn't change your mind about the war itself, why are you making such an unholy fuss? Apparently, if you had been president, we'd be in the same mess.

Like mice frustrated in a maze, the candidates seek escape routes out of this logical trap. Sometimes they say that the current mess is not the result of the decision to go to war. It is the result of Bush's inept leadership during the war and/or the postwar occupation. He should have waited longer for diplomacy to work. He should have insisted on the participation of other big countries. He should have been better prepared for the challenges of rebuilding. He should not have been blindsided by continued opposition after the official fighting stopped.

But the resolution these gentlemen supported gave warmaking authority to George W. Bush, not to some idealized, all-wise president such as themselves. The resolution did not say, "This authorization to start a war is valid only when used in conjunction with at least two other countries large enough to spot on a medium-sized world map." Nor did it tell Bush to wait until . . . until . . . until when? The resolution gave George W. Bush the authority to decide when the waiting for friends to join in or the foe to back down had gone on long enough. If Bush bungled this authority, entrusting him with it was a big mistake.

Anyway, critics of the war resolution predicted a lot of what has gone wrong. Critics also predicted a lot that never happened -- a general Middle East cataclysm, nuclear bombs over Israel, poison gas in New York, quadruple-bladed disposable razors and so on. But no one can claim to have been totally surprised by what did happen. Or at least no one can claim this and believe that saying so rescues his or her reputation for straight talk, clear thinking, foreign-policy expertise or political savvy.

Another dead-end line of argument is that the war resolution never was intended to lead to war. Goodness, no. War was the last thing anyone had in mind when voting to authorize a war. The idea was to give Bush enough leverage to work out an acceptable deal and thus avert an actual war. And then Bush ruined everything by going and having a war after all. Who'd have thunk it?

Unfortunately, a democracy cannot bluff. You cannot have a public debate and vote on whether to pretend to be willing to go to war. When it comes to warmaking, the United States is not a democracy: Like all presidents, Bush assumes (and is generally -- though incorrectly -- conceded) the right to decide for war all by himself. But a senator who votes for war must pretend, at least, that this vote matters. You can't get out of a vote you regret by saying, look, it's all a joke anyway.

A year ago, everyone was saying: Let's get practical. Only a Democrat who supports the war against Iraq will have any hope of defeating Bush. The idea was: Get Iraq off the table and make room for domestic issues. Maybe this is still the right idea. But many Democrats now want Iraq as an issue. And the only Democratic candidate who can use it effectively is the one who decided not to be practical.

"U.S. Forces Detain Ex-Iraqi Leader without Firing a Shot" -- Edward Wong and Kirk Semple in The New York Times, 12/14/03:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 14 - Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader, was captured in a raid on a farm house near Tikrit on Saturday night, American military officials confirmed today.

The officials said they had used DNA tests to confirm his identity.

"We got him," American administrator L. Paul Bremer III said at a news conference here.

Coalition troops discovered Mr. Hussein hiding in a hole below the farm house, located in the town of Adwar, 10 miles from Tikrit.

Military officials said that Mr. Hussein had put up no resistance and that not one shot had been fired in the operation.

American officials hailed the discovery of Mr. Hussein as a major tactical victory in their fight to wipe out the vestiges of the old government. . . .

At a news conference today announcing Mr. Hussein's capture, American officials aired a video showing a bearded and scruffy-haired Mr. Hussein being examined by a doctor.

Mr. Hussein was in a six-to-eight-foot-deep "spider hole" that had been camouflaged with bricks and dirt, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said at the news conference. The video showed an air vent and fan installed in the hole to allow Mr. Hussein to remain hidden for an extended period.

"The captive has been talkative and is being cooperative," General Sanchez said. Coalition troops captured two other Iraqis in the raid and seized two AK-47 assault rifles, a pistol and $750,000 in $100 bills General Sanchez said.

"'Free-Speech Zone': The Administration Quarantines Dissent" -- James Bovard in The American Conservative, 12/15/03:

When Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up �free speech zones� or �protest zones� where people opposed to Bush policies (and sometimes sign-carrying supporters) are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event.

When Bush came to the Pittsburgh area on Labor Day 2002, 65-year-old retired steel worker Bill Neel was there to greet him with a sign proclaiming, �The Bush family must surely love the poor, they made so many of us.� The local police, at the Secret Service�s behest, set up a �designated free-speech zone� on a baseball field surrounded by a chain-link fence a third of a mile from the location of Bush�s speech. The police cleared the path of the motorcade of all critical signs, though folks with pro-Bush signs were permitted to line the president�s path. Neel refused to go to the designated area and was arrested for disorderly conduct; the police also confiscated his sign. Neel later commented, �As far as I�m concerned, the whole country is a free speech zone. If the Bush administration has its way, anyone who criticizes them will be out of sight and out of mind.�

At Neel�s trial, police detective John Ianachione testified that the Secret Service told local police to confine �people that were there making a statement pretty much against the president and his views� in a so-called free speech area. Paul Wolf, one of the top officials in the Allegheny County Police Department, told Salon that the Secret Service �come in and do a site survey, and say, �Here�s a place where the people can be, and we�d like to have any protesters put in a place that is able to be secured.�� Pennsylvania district judge Shirley Rowe Trkula threw out the disorderly conduct charge against Neel, declaring, �I believe this is America. Whatever happened to �I don�t agree with you, but I�ll defend to the death your right to say it�?� . . .

The Justice Department is now prosecuting Brett Bursey, who was arrested for holding a �No War for Oil� sign at a Bush visit to Columbia, S.C. Local police, acting under Secret Service orders, established a �free speech zone� half a mile from where Bush would speak. Bursey was standing amid hundreds of people carrying signs praising the president. Police told Bursey to remove himself to the �free speech zone.�

Bursey refused and was arrested. Bursey said that he asked the policeman if �it was the content of my sign, and he said, �Yes, sir, it�s the content of your sign that�s the problem.�� Bursey stated that he had already moved 200 yards from where Bush was supposed to speak. Bursey later complained, �The problem was, the restricted area kept moving. It was wherever I happened to be standing.�

Bursey was charged with trespassing. Five months later, the charge was dropped because South Carolina law prohibits arresting people for trespassing on public property. But the Justice Department�in the person of U.S. Attorney Strom Thurmond Jr.�quickly jumped in, charging Bursey with violating a rarely enforced federal law regarding �entering a restricted area around the President of the United States.� If convicted, Bursey faces a six-month trip up the river and a $5000 fine. Federal magistrate Bristow Marchant denied Bursey�s request for a jury trial because his violation is categorized as a �petty offense.� Some observers believe that the feds are seeking to set a precedent in a conservative state such as South Carolina that could then be used against protesters nationwide. . . .

The feds have offered some bizarre rationales for hog-tying protesters. Secret Service agent Brian Marr explained to National Public Radio, �These individuals may be so involved with trying to shout their support or non-support that inadvertently they may walk out into the motorcade route and be injured. And that is really the reason why we set these places up, so we can make sure that they have the right of free speech, but, two, we want to be sure that they are able to go home at the end of the evening and not be injured in any way.� Except for having their constitutional rights shredded.

Marr�s comments are a mockery of this country�s rich heritage of vigorous protests. Somehow, all of a sudden, after George W. Bush became president people became so stupid that federal agents had to cage them to prevent them from walking out in front of speeding vehicles.

The ACLU, along with several other organizations, is suing the Secret Service for what it charges is a pattern-and-practice of suppressing protesters at Bush events in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Texas, and elsewhere. The ACLU�s Witold Walczak said of the protesters, �The individuals we are talking about didn�t pose a security threat; they posed a political threat.�

The Secret Service is duty-bound to protect the president. But it is ludicrous to presume that would-be terrorists are lunkheaded enough to carry anti-Bush signs when carrying pro-Bush signs would give them much closer access. And even a policy of removing all people carrying signs�as has happened in some demonstrations�is pointless, since potential attackers would simply avoid carrying signs. Presuming that terrorists are as unimaginative and predictable as the average federal bureaucrat is not a recipe for presidential longevity. . . .

Attempts to suppress protesters become more disturbing in light of the Homeland Security Department�s recommendation that local police departments view critics of the war on terrorism as potential terrorists. In a May 2003 terrorist advisory, the Homeland Security Department warned local law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on anyone who �expressed dislike of attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government.� If police vigorously followed this advice, millions of Americans could be added to the official lists of �suspected terrorists.� . . .

One of the most violent government responses to an antiwar protest occurred when local police and the federally funded California Anti-Terrorism Task Force fired rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders at the port of Oakland, injuring a number of people. When the police attack sparked a geyser of media criticism, Mike van Winkle, the spokesman for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center told the Oakland Tribune, �You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that�s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest. You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act.� Van Winkle justified classifying protesters like terrorists: �I�ve heard terrorism described as anything that is violent or has an economic impact, and shutting down a port certainly would have some economic impact. Terrorism isn�t just bombs going off and killing people.� . . .

Is the administration seeking to stifle domestic criticism? Absolutely. Is it carrying out a war on dissent? Probably not�yet. But the trend lines in federal attacks on freedom of speech should raise grave concerns to anyone worried about the First Amendment or about how a future liberal Democratic president such as Hillary Clinton might exploit the precedents that Bush is setting.

George Witt's Christmas letter

Well, here I am! working off my 86th Year

I'm on overtime. I occasionally walk into the wall. All too often I don't know "where was I." I'm getting so thin that I have only one side. I gave up driving the car, I have and use a walking stick, My dog is old, more than somewhat, and I have pinned a name tag on the lady of this house. The same lady that sat me down in front of this machine from hell, and said "Now G.C, write all your friends a nice cheerful Christmas letter.

She should have known better. Well, let's give it a whirl.

We are a nation at war, this Christmas. And who are the soldiers? ------- 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23 year old kids who joined the army to get off the street and learn a trade or money to pay for an education ------ or 35 year olds trying to earn a few extra bucks to make the house payment and put shoes on the kids. No one else would think of volunteering to be shot at for God and Country and the Oil cartels for less than a living wage, which is what they earn, --- or even for twice a living wage.

There are two kinds of patriots in this country. Those who have loved ones in Iraq and those who are going no place but believe that we can not afford to lose this war. All that is required to solve this problem is to reinstitute the draft and double the size of the army. Ask those who have the most ot gain in victory to share the cost in deaths amputations and wounds. And you will redefine Patriotism ---- And a way to end this madness will be found immediately.

Not a nice Christmas letter --- I guess I've been around too long. How many children or grandchildren of the 535 members of congress are serving in this war??? --------- and the pig got up and slowly walked away.

Give my love to Mable

GC

"More for Halliburton: $222 Million of Iraq work" -- Seattle Times, 12/16/03:

WASHINGTON � The U.S. military announced yesterday that Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, was allocated $222 million more last week for work in Iraq, at the same time as a Pentagon audit found the firm may have overbilled it $61 million for gasoline used in Iraq.

Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root has now clocked up $2.26 billion under its March no-bid contract with the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild Iraq's oil sector.

Corps of Engineers spokesman Bob Faletti said a new task order was made for KBR last week for the "restoration of essential infrastructure." He said this work order would be paid for by money from the Development Fund for Iraq and not from $18.6 billion in new funds Congress appropriated to rebuild Iraq. The fund is supported by the sale of Iraqi crude oil and is designated only for rebuilding that country.

Faletti said Congress had specified that new funding for Iraq should not be used for contracts that were not competitively bid, such as the deal with KBR.

"9/11 Chair: Attack Was Preventable" -- cbsnews.com, 12/17/03:

For the first time, the chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.

"This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right," said Thomas Kean.

"As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done," he said. "This was not something that had to happen."

Appointed by the Bush administration, Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame.

"There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed," Kean said. . . .

Kean promises major revelations in public testimony beginning next month from top officials in the FBI, CIA, Defense Department, National Security Agency and, maybe, President Bush and former President Clinton.

"Hussein Enters Post-9/11 Web of U.S. Prisons" -- James Risen and Thom Shanker in The New York Times, 12/18/03:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 � Saddam Hussein is now prisoner No. 1 in what has developed into a global detention system run by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, according to government officials.

It is a secretive universe, they said, made up of large and small facilities scattered throughout the world that have sprouted up to handle the hundreds of suspected terrorists of Al Qaeda, Taliban warlords and former officials of the Iraqi government arrested by the United States and its allies since the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the war in Iraq.

Many of the prisoners are still being held in a network of detention centers ranging from Afghanistan to the United States Naval Base at Guant�namo Bay in Cuba. Officials described it as a prison system with its own unique hierarchy, one in which the most important captives are kept at the greatest distance from the prying eyes of the public and the media. It is a system in which the jailers have refined the arts of interrogation in order to drain the detainees of crucial information. . . .

The C.I.A. has quietly established its own detention system to handle especially important prisoners. The most important Qaeda leaders are held in small groups in undisclosed locations in friendly countries in the developing world, where they face long interrogations with no promise of ever gaining release. For example, at least two of the top Qaeda figures captured since the Sept. 11 attacks � Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi bin al-Shibh � were held for a time in a secure location in Thailand. They were later moved to another country, officials said.

C.I.A. officials refuse to say precisely how many Qaeda operatives the agency has in detention, but they say about 75 percent of the top two dozen Qaeda leaders in place at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks have been killed or captured. That suggests the agency's detention capacity is far smaller than the large system established by the Pentagon. . . .

American military officials said Wednesday that 38 of the 55 most wanted Iraqi leaders had either been killed or captured, and several hundred lower-level government officials and Baath Party operatives are also being held. While the most senior officials captured are being held at the Baghdad Airport, many of the lower-level Iraqis are now in Abu Gharib prison west of Baghdad, which was infamous as a torture den under Mr. Hussein's rule but has since been refurbished by American forces. Smaller, regional facilities have also been set up around Iraq temporarily to handle Iraqis caught up in street-level military operations intended to stem the insurgency.

In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the United States military is running a large detention center at Bagram Air Base, where Taliban, Qaeda and other foreign fighters caught in the country are held and questioned. Smaller, short-term detention centers have also been run in both Kandahar and Kabul.

Many of those caught in Afghanistan were eventually flown to Guant�namo, which has become the best-known prison in the global campaign against terror. Guant�namo now holds about 660 prisoners, although that number is expected to decline as some of them are turned over to their home countries.

Still, Guant�namo's inmates are among the least significant of any detainees captured since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to several American counterterrorism experts. The C.I.A. has not sent any of the highest-ranking Qaeda leaders it has captured to the base, officials said.

A final category of detainees are those Qaeda operatives who really are being held by Arab countries, like Egypt, which then provide debriefing reports to the United States.

"Senators were told Iraqi weapons could hit U.S." -- John McCarthy in Florida Today, 12/15/03:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.

Nelson, D-Tallahassee, said about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Nelson voted in favor of using military force.

Nelson said he couldn't reveal who in the administration gave the briefing.

The White House directed questions about the matter to the Department of Defense. Defense officials had no comment on Nelson's claim.

Nelson said the senators were told Iraq had both biological and chemical weapons, notably anthrax, and it could deliver them to cities along the Eastern seaboard via unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones.

"They have not found anything that resembles an UAV that has that capability," Nelson said.

Nelson delivered the news during a half-hour conference call with reporters Monday afternoon. The senator, who is on a seven-nation trade mission to South America, was calling from an airport in Santiago, Chile.

"That's news," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington, D.C.-area military and intelligence think tank. "I had not heard that that was the assessment of the intelligence community. I had not heard that the Congress had been briefed on this." . . .

Nelson wouldn't say what the original source of the intelligence was, but said it contradicted other intelligence reports senators had received. He said he wants to find out why there was so much disagreement about the weapons. "If that is an intelligence failure . . . we better find that out so we don't have an intelligence failure in the future."

"Remember 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'? For Bush, They Are a Nonissue" -- Richard W. Stevenson in The New York Times, 12/18/03:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 � In the debate over the necessity for the war in Iraq, few issues have been more contentious than whether Saddam Hussein possessed arsenals of banned weapons, as the Bush administration repeatedly said, or instead was pursuing weapons programs that might one day constitute a threat.

On Tuesday, with Mr. Hussein in American custody and polls showing support for the White House's Iraq policy rebounding, Mr. Bush suggested that he no longer saw much distinction between the possibilities.

"So what's the difference?" he responded at one point as he was pressed on the topic during an interview by Diane Sawyer of ABC News.

To critics of the war, there is a big difference. They say that the administration's statements that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons that it could use on the battlefield or turn over to terrorists added an urgency to the case for immediate military action that would have been lacking if Mr. Hussein were portrayed as just developing the banned weapons.

"This was a pre-emptive war, and the rationale was that there was an imminent threat," said Senator Bob Graham of Florida, a Democrat who has said that by elevating Iraq to the most dangerous menace facing the United States, the administration unwisely diverted resources from fighting Al Qaeda and other terrorists.

The overwhelming vote in Congress last year to authorize the use of force against Iraq would have been closer "but for the fact that the president had so explicitly said that there were weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to citizens of the United States," Mr. Graham said in an interview on Wednesday. . . .

This week, at a news conference on Monday and in the ABC interview on Tuesday, Mr. Bush's answers to questions on the subject continued a gradual shift in the way he has addressed the topic, from the immediacy of the threat to an assertion that no matter what, the world is better off without Mr. Hussein in power.

Where once Mr. Bush and his top officials asserted unambiguously that Mr. Hussein had the weapons at the ready, their statements now are often far more couched, reflecting the fact that no weapons have been found � "yet," as Mr. Bush was quick to interject during the interview.

In the interview, Mr. Bush said removing Mr. Hussein from power was justified even without the recovery of any banned weapons. As he has since his own weapons inspector, David Kay, issued an interim report in October saying he had uncovered extensive evidence of weapons programs in Iraq but no actual weapons, Mr. Bush said the existence of such programs, by violating United Nations Security Council resolutions, provided ample grounds for the war. . . .

When it came to describing the weapons program, Mr. Bush never hedged before the war. "If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today � and we do � does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?" Mr. Bush asked during a speech in Cincinnati in October 2002.

In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad in April, the White House was equally explicit. "One of the reasons we went to war was because of their possession of weapons of mass destruction," Ari Fleischer, then the White House spokesman, told reporters on May 7. "And nothing has changed on that front at all."

On Wednesday Mr. McClellan, when pressed, only restated the president's belief that weapons would eventually be found. Mr. Bush, despite being asked repeatedly about the issue in different ways by Ms. Sawyer, never did say it, except to note Mr. Hussein's past use of chemical weapons. He emphasized Mr. Hussein's capture instead.

"And if he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction?" Ms. Sawyer asked the president, according to a transcript provided by ABC.

"Diane, you can keep asking the question," Mr. Bush replied. "I'm telling you � I made the right decision for America because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait. But the fact that he is not there is, means America's a more secure country."

"Kay Plans to Leave Search for Iraqi Arms " -- Dana Priest and Walter Pincus in The Washington Post, 12/18/03:

David Kay, the head of the U.S. effort to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, has told administration officials he plans to leave before the Iraq Survey Group's work is completed and could depart before February, U.S. military and intelligence officials said.

The move comes as more of Kay's staff has been diverted from the weapons hunt to help search for Iraqi insurgents, and at a time when expectations remain low that any weaponry will be discovered. . . .

U.S. government officials said Kay's departure will have little practical impact on the day-to-day work of 1,400-member Iraq Survey Group. More worrisome for the administration is that his departure may foster an impression -- incorrect in their view -- that the search is effectively over. His departure leaves the administration looking for a replacement at a time when it is dogged by questions about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction.

In an interview Tuesday night with President Bush, ABC correspondent Diane Sawyer asked why the administration stated as a "hard fact" that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had such weapons when it appears now he only had the intent to acquire them.

"So what's the difference?" Bush responded. "The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."

In recent weeks the U.S. search for weapons has been hampered by the insurgency in Iraq. The threat of attack has impeded the ISG's ability to move around easily. "You can't go where you want to go when you want to go," one senior administration official said.

The insurgency has forced the Pentagon to divert personnel from Kay's team to help commanders identify and question insurgents.

"They took away a lot of his folks, some critical people, the linguists and analysts," Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said in an interview yesterday from Israel.

In mid-October, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld agreed to a request by Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, to make more ISG resources available to the hunt for insurgents, according to a defense official who has seen the order Rumsfeld signed. . . .

Harman said that Kay's departure would be "a big loss" because he has been "apolitical and thorough." But, she added, "I don't think it will set back the effort a lot; I'm not personally convinced there's anything there."