Quantcast

The Nation

Bad News for Bush: He's Headed for Nebraska

Two years ago, George Bush beat John Kerry in Nebraska by a 66-33 margin. The Republican president carried all but one of the state's counties, as Republican candidates swept to easy victories in the state's three congressional districts.

So why has George Bush rushed to Nebraska to campaign on the eve of this year's mid-term congressional elections? Because, amazingly, in one of the reddest of the red states, a Democrat could pick up a GOP House seat. If Nebraska falls it will almost certainly be in the face of a Democratic wave that will sweep in a Congress capable of holding to account a president who has not previously experienced the joys of being checked and balanced.

That Democrats are likely to take control of the House Tuesday is no longer news. That they might take it with a substantial enough majority to get serious about presidential accountability is what the Bush White House now fears.

The fight in Nebraska offers evidence of just how real the threat has become.

The Republicans are in trouble in the rural 3rd district of the state, which gave Bush 75 percent of the vote in 2004, At the same time reelected Republican Congressman Tom Osborne with 87 percent of the vote.

As the 2006 election approaches, however, a Democrat is actually leading in some polls of the race to replace the retiring Osborne.

No Democrat has won this Nebraska seat since 1958, in the final mid-term election of Dwight Eisenhower's presidency. So how could this seat, representing a sprawling region of farms and smalltowns be so in play that the president must be called on to save the day for the Republicans?

It has something to do with issues: Even Nebraska Republicans are wary about the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. Nebraska U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel has frequently compared the conflict to the Vietnam imbroglio, and the popular Republican's not alone in his concerns. Also, Republican ethics problems in general, and the controversy over Florida Congressman Mark Foley's emails to congressional pages in particular, have played especially badly for the GOP in a state that prides itself on following the rules.

But the GOP's problem in Nebraska has a lot to do with the candidate who is challenging their party's long-time dominance of the 3rd district. Democrat Scott Kleeb has run a remarkable grassroots campaign that has focused both on the ethics crisis created by Republican dominance of Washington and on the failure of DC politicians to protect farmers and rural economies. After years of failing to reach out to rural voters, national Democrats have recognized the strength of Kleeb's appeal, providing the Yale-educated rancher with last-minute infusions of campaign cash for the first-time candidate's final push in the race with Republican state Sen. Adrian Smith.

The combination's Kleeb's aggressive campaigning on rural issues and Republican disenchantment with Smith, who narrowly won a divisive primary, appears to be tipping the race toward the Democrat. An October 30 survey by the Democratic polling group Penn, Schoen, and Berland Associates had Kleeb leading Smith by a 46 percent to 40 percent margin among likely voters.

And Kleeb has begun picking up newspaper endorsements from key papers in the state, including the Omaha World Herald.

So President Bush has been pulled out of other states where the GOP is in trouble to campaign in, of all places, Nebraska. The president will be the state Sunday, begging wandering Republican voters in the 3rd district to return to the party fold.

Bush may succeed in saving a Nebraska seat for the GOP -- althopugh that is far from a certainty. But if the president and his Grand Old Party are fighting for Nebraska on the weekend before critical mid-term elections, the Republicans are in very serious trouble. Indeed, the president's decision to schedule a trip to the state confirms just how tough this election year has become for a man and a party that used to be able to take states this red for granted.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com

Soldiers Get Political

Vote Vets, a coalition of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, have produced three of the best and most powerful tv ads of this political season.

These ads show how profoundly anti-military the Republican Party has become, by cutting veterans' health care in a time of war, by sending our troops into battle without the body armor they needed and by hyping a non-existent threat in Iraq that has made America less secure and needlessly put our loved ones at risk.

A related group, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), recently released a report card grading how Congress voted on issues important to recent war vets. Eighty six members of Congress received a "D" or an "F." All of the twelve flunkees were Republicans. In contract, virtually the entire "A Team" is compromised of Democrats.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or even an A student, to figure out which party really supports the troops. That's why so many vets, from Patrick Murphy, Joe Sestak and Chris Carney in Pennsylvania, to Tammy Duckworth in Illinois to Charlie Brown in California are in good shape 24 hours before the polls close.

The Peace Race (Continued)

Last November, when the falsehoods and deceptions that led our nation into the Iraq War were already clear, as were the staggering human and economic costs, The Nation made this pledge in its lead editorial: "We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign."

We felt strongly – and still do – that antiwar candidates, with the other requisite credentials, can win these midterm elections as well as the 2008 national election. Peace Action – in the same spirit as our editorial – created its inspired Peace Voter Pledge, and has identified peace candidates who are locked in tough races as we enter the home stretch before Election Day. In the continuing effort to identify leaders who will fight to end this disastrous war and further the cause of peace, we are providing that partial list of peace candidates here.

"In general, ‘peace candidate' means wanting to bring our troops home from Iraq," says Peace Action's Organizing and Policy Director, Paul Kawika Martin. "Although some also believe in cutting military spending, diplomacy for Iran, nuclear disarmament and other important peace issues."

Here, then, are some peace candidates in tight races who are worthy of your support:

Charlie Brown (D-CA) for Congress
Charlie Brown is running for Congress in California's 4th District against Republican incumbent John Doolittle, who is losing ground due to links to Jack Abramoff. Brown is a retired Lt. Colonel in the US Air Force who voiced opposition to the war in Iraq before it began. Despite a district redrawn for Doolittle's benefit, recent polls show Brown in a statistical dead heat with the incumbent.

Jerry McNerney (D-CA) for Congress
Jerry McNerney is a progressive Democrat who has a good chance of beating the reactionary Richard Pombo (R-CA) in California's 11th District. He supports Rep. Murtha's plan for a speedy withdrawal of the troops, and The Cook Political Report now calls this once safe Republican seat a toss-up.

Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) for Congress
In the highly competitive race for the open seat in Colorado's 7th District, Ed Perlmutter has made his support for troop withdrawal well-known. He has said that one of his first acts in Congress will be to add his name to Rep. Murtha's list of co-sponsors for legislation calling for a speedy withdrawal. Perlmutter is also a strong advocate for alternative energy research and is effective at making the connection between US foreign policy and the need for a new energy policy at home.

Diane Farrell (D-CT) for Congress
Running against Republican Chris Shays in Connecticut's 4th District, Diane Farrell has taken a strong stance against nuclear proliferation. Farrell recognizes that the US needs to lead by example when it comes to nonproliferation and understands that investment in new nuclear weapons detracts resources from critical parts of the federal budget. She also knows that it's time to bring the troops home in a way that respects their safety and our obligations to the Iraqi people. Polling shows the candidates even in this race.

Ned Lamont (D-CT) for Senate
Running against war hawk Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont says: "Those who got us into this mess should be held accountable…the $250 million a day we are spending in Iraq is better spent on pre-school and healthcare, public transit and veterans benefits." Lamont praises the leadership of Rep. John Murtha and calls for a speedy withdrawal of troops.

Paul Hodes (D-NH) for Congress
Paul Hodes faces Republican Rep. Charles Bass in New Hampshire's 2nd District. Hodes believes that the US should lead global nuclear disarmament by example – ceasing new nuclear weapon development, maintaining the moratorium on nuclear tests, and reducing our current nuclear stockpile. Hodes also supports a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and pledges to work against permanent US military bases in Iraq.

Bob Menendez (D-NJ) for Senate
Sen. Bob Menendez opposed the Iraq War from the start, back when most of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate failed to take a strong stand. Although Menendez angered many in the peace movement with his vote for the Military Commissions Act, he supports beginning troop withdrawal this year. He faces a tough opponent in Tom Kean, Jr., and is locked in a tight race.

John Hall (D-NY) for Congress
Running in New York's 19th District, John Hall is a truly progressive candidate with pro-peace positions on important issues such as nuclear weapons and the occupation of Iraq. Hall calls for immediately beginning troop withdrawal. He also recognizes the urgent need to rebuild relationships with the international community, particularly by joining treaties to ban landmines, the International Criminal Court, and reducing global warming emissions. The redistribution of federal funds from nuclear weapons to funding human needs is another key issue for Hall.

Dan Maffei (D-NY) for Congress
Dan Maffei challenges 18-year incumbent Rep. Jim Walsh in New York's 25th District. Maffei is a strong advocate for an immediate and safe withdrawal of our troops. He also supports an independent investigation into the Bush administration officials' involved in leading us into a war under false pretexts.

Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for Senate
Progressive Rep. Sherrod Brown is in an extremely close race to oust the conservative Senator Mike DeWine (R). Although Brown angered many in the peace movement with his vote for the Military Commissions Act, over the past four years in the House he has averaged more than 94 percent on Peace Action's voting record.

Joseph Sestak, Jr. (D-PA) for Congress
Running against incumbent Rep. Curt Weldon in Pennsylvania's 7th District, retired three-star Admiral Joe Sestak calls for the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2007 and favors nuclear disarmament. Sestak would act far better on peace issues than ten-term incumbent Weldon who in the last six years averaged an appalling 11 percent on the Peace Action voting record.

Bernard Sanders (I-VT) for Senate
This isn't actually a "close race." Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is heavily favored to win Vermont's open Senate seat. But his wealthy opponent has spent more than $2,000,000 of his own money. If Sanders is indeed elected, he will be the most progressive member of that body and will continue to champion peace issues.

As these tight races go down to the wire, your contribution, GOTV efforts, and vote can make the difference between the continued occupation of Iraq, or contribute to electing those who could be instrumental in helping move a newly elected Democratic Congress to push for speedy withdrawal and the pursuit of peace.

Another GOP Sex Scandal

It's becoming to difficult to keep track of all the Republican sex scandals these days. The latest "moral values" offender is Reverend Ted Haggard, head of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Haggard resigned yesterday as president of the National Association of Evangelicals amid allegations that he paid for gay sex during a three-year tryst with a male escort and used drugs such as methamphetamines. According to the acting pastor of New Life, Haggard admitted that "some of the accusations against him are true." Today, Haggard told reporters that he bought meth, though never used it, and received a massage from the accuser.

This is not just any religious leader we are talking about. "No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted," Jeff Sharlet of Harper's reported in a profile of Haggard last year. He talks to President Bush or his advisors every Monday.

Haggard, like his fellow Christian soldier James Dobson, also happens to be a leading opponent of gay marriage and an ardent critic of an amendment on the Colorado ballot November 7 that would give same-sex couples equal rights under the law and a supporter of another amendment that would prohibit gay marriage in the state. He's called gay marriage a "sin" and "devastating for the children of our nation."

It's a routine that's won Haggard praise since as far back as 1993. "During services at the New Life church," the New York Times reported back then, "Pastor Ted Haggard warns against the evils of homosexuality and adultery. His followers respond with exuberant clapping and shouts of 'Amen!' and 'That's right!'"

In 2004, he led the push with Dobson and other religious right leaders for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Haggard's accuser, male escort Mike Jones, decided to finally speak up because "I felt like I had to take a stand, and I cannot sit back anymore and hear [what] to me is an anti-gay message."

Conservatives are worried that the allegations may further depress "values voters" already angry about the Mark Foley revelations. "If the story is true, Ted's a hypocrite of the worst kind," Sharlet writes on his blog. "Then again, he's also another victim of the very closet over which he publicly stands guard."

Women's Voices

Most Nation readers don't need to be told that they should vote. But an astounding number of eligible Americans regularly forgo their electoral rights.

Not many more than half of all eligible voters chose to pull the lever (or these days, push the button) in 2004's presidential race--often cited as the "most important election" of our collective lifetimes. The numbers of eligible voters coming out to midterm elections is even lower still--close to 35 percent in 2002.

Women's Voices, a non-profit group, is focusing its efforts on getting America's fastest-growing demographic out to the polls next Tuesday--Unmarried women. In 2004, the group held programs and ran ads in sixteen hotly-contested states. The result: unmarried female turnout increased by 8.25 percent over 2000. Now, the group is rolling out a new series of TV spots designed to motivate women to vote next week.

Click here to check out one of the most powerful ads of the group--a spot by New Orleans-based singer Renee Wilson on Hurricane Katrina and why it's important to vote, and volunteer to help Women's Voices get people out to the polls on Tuesday.

Shut 'Em Up

Shut 'em up – that's the tried-and-true policy of the Bush gang when it comes to people whose views contradict their own.

Scientists want to speak out on global warming? Muzzle them. Military advisors offer opinions they don't want to hear? Fire them. A Medicare official has information they don't want to see the light of day? Threaten him.

And the latest? "Virtual censorship" of the State Department's speakers bureau – the U.S. Speaker and Specialist Program – according to the department's own Inspector General.

The program guidelines call for the State Department to provide speakers "who represent a broad range of responsible and informed opinion in the United States" and are "not limited to the expression of U.S. government policies."

But, according to a 22-page "sensitive but unclassified" report obtained by McClatchy Newspapers – political appointee program managers screened potential speakers for opinions differing from the Bush administration's policies, "regardless of whether the speaker candidates' personal opinions had a bearing on the topical issues for which they were being considered for recruitment."

One example, an expert on conflict resolution was informed at the last minute that he was no longer invited to participate in a videoconference in Jerusalem. He had authored a book that was critical of the Iraqi Reconstruction program.

The bureau also delayed potential speakers in order to find others who it felt created a so-called "balance." For example, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta requested an appearance by Sen. Barack Obama who lived in Indoneisa as a boy. He was delayed for 7 months while Bush political appointees pushed for a Republican Senator to be included as well.

What arrogance for this administration to claim that it is working to promote democracy abroad. Isn't it time Bush & Co. understood that we teach more by example than by lecturing, bullying-- or launching unprovoked wars.

Extraordinary Rendition, Deluxe

The evil nature of our enemies has, it turns out, certain advantages -- at least when secret imprisonment and torture are at stake. The Bush administration has proved adamantly unwilling to talk to, or deal with, the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, except when it came to parking terror suspects we wanted tortured on his lot. In fact, the Syrians proved so handy and so eager to be good allies in the shadow world of global incarceration that U.S. officials turned over at least 7 of their prisoners to Syrian ministrations, according to a recent piece in the British Guardian.

There was nothing unique about administration reliance on the Syrians for this. From Uzbekistan to Egypt, autocratic regimes willing to torture have been destinations for CIA secret prisoner "rendering" operations. Following kidnappings or captures elsewhere on Earth, the Agency has sent planes hopscotching -- sometimes thousands of miles -- across the globe to our jailors of choice. Though the aircraft used were posh indeed, such assignments proved so rigorous for CIA handlers that they evidently regularly repaired to five-star hotels in Italy, on the Spanish island of Majorca, and possibly elsewhere for a little of the recuperative good life. In places like the Marriott Son Antem, a golfing resort in the Majorcan city of Palma, they could "journey to deep inner peace" (as the hotel spa advertised) at American taxpayer expense, even while on "extraordinary rendition" trips.

In fact, when it comes to what Nick Turse calls the Bush administration's "prison planet," little bits of news about further horrors seep out almost daily. Just in the last week, for instance, thanks to the Israeli paper Haaretz, we learned for the first time that at least some CIA rendition flights stopped at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on their way to and from Cyprus, Jordan, Morocco, and other spots east and west, north and south -- and that the first case "of the United States handing Israel a world jihadi suspect" in a rendition operation has been confirmed.

At the same time, if you happened to be checking the South African press, you might have noticed a report that, a year ago, 10 unidentified men in several "luxury vehicles" -- luxury being a good sign that the CIA is probably involved -- pulled up in front of a home in the medium-sized town of Estcourt, ransacked it at gunpoint, shooed away the police, and then hooded and dragged off two Muslim men, one of whom was later released (thanks to the intercession of a South African lawyer). The other, Rashid Khalid, a Pakistani national, is suspected of being somewhere in the system of American secret global detention centers, but his fate remains a mystery twelve months later.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the International Red Cross, it was reported, had "its first opportunity in more than 20 months" to see hundreds of former Abu Ghraib prisoners now rehoused in a state-of-the-art multimillion dollar prison, Camp Cropper, that the Bush administration has built, almost without notice, near Baghdad International Airport.

Finally (but not exhaustively), back in our growing homeland security state, "in a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law." The "John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007," according to Frank Morales, "allows the President to declare a ‘public emergency' and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to ‘suppress public disorder.'"

And that's just a modest grab bag of recent Bush administration global-incarceration news, another humdrum week on what's increasingly coming to look like an American prison planet. These bits and pieces of information seeping out are merely suggestive of what we don't yet know about the Bush global detention system, constructed on the fly and on the cheap, that is already, as Turse puts it, "of near epic proportions."

Bullish Democrats

Senator Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), held a press conference with reporters this afternoon and was absolutely bullish about the Democrats chances of taking back the Senate.

As an example, he pointed to Arizona. Polls have shown Republican Senator Jon Kyl with a comfortable lead over Democratic challenger Jim Pederson. But according to early voting indicators, 30 percent of Arizonians have already voted, and, based on DSCC polling, Pederson leads Kyl among that group, 44 to 40 percent.

"If Virginia is the cinderella story of '06, Arizona is the sleeper," Schumer said. Among the overall electorate, Kyl leads Pederson by single-digits, according to Schumer, and the DSCC recently went on the air in Phoenix and Tucson with $1 million in television ads. "This could be a harbinger of a wave," Schumer predicted.

Democrats need to pick up six seats to take back the Senate. Polling indicates that they're ahead by significant margins in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, clinging to a small lead in Montana and tied, if not up slightly, in Missouri and Virginia. Tennessee, where Harold Ford has been hit with a barrage of nasty, racially-tinged TV ads, appears to be trending Republican.

In these tight races, the DSCC is spending $25 million on get-out-the-vote efforts, which Schumer believes made the difference for Republicans in '04. "The two states where we built the strongest field operations were Montana and Missouri," Schumer stated, though he admitted to not knowing the difference between an RV and a Winnebago.

Luckily, John Kerry's much-discussed comments came up only once. "Senator Kerry has apologized," Schumer said. "He's said he's not gonna say anything else."

Before concluding, Schumer had one last message for the press: "Don't forget to vote."

Dear John Kerry: Shut Up!

With all due respect to my Notion colleagues, John Kerry is a pathetic loser --indeed, an almost compulsive gaffe-maker -- and we shouldn't waste time and energy defending him. He is that all-too-common Democratic politician who makes you paranoid that you're living in a scary science fiction story, in which the supposed "opposition" candidates are actually androids controlled by the ruling party, programmed to weakly simulate campaigns, then quickly disintegrate into self-sabotage. Why else would Kerry have defended himself against the mendacious Swift Boat veterans two years too late? And why else would he and the rest of the Democrats be doing next-to-nothing to fight voting machine fraud, and curb racist vote suppression by the Republicans? And why must he invariably be such a dumbass?

Granted, Kerry didn't intend to make fun of the troops. But he's in no position to mock anyone else's academic record. The Yale transcripts of Bush and Kerry -- widely reported last year --showed that the two were equally sorry students. Kerry actually got four Ds his freshman year. Bush isn't the only one who owes his success more to his privilege than to hard work or talent. Let's hope this latest snafu puts the kibosh on presidential hopes that should have died long ago, and that Kerry shuts up before he helps elect more Republicans. (Apparently some in the Party establishment agree -- his campaign appearances have reportedly been cancelled.)

So, let's shrug our shoulders and let Kerry twist in the wind. There are many more important things at stake in Tuesday's election. It looks like the Republicans may lose their shirts, despite Android Kerry's best efforts to re-elect them. And despite the manifold forces working to convince them to do otherwise, some voters may actually consider real issues when they go to the polls. The citizens of Boulder, Colorado, for instance, will consider a "carbon tax" on businesses and homeowners, based on their electricity usage. The tax will fund efforts to reduce emissions that cause global warming (wind and solar power projects, initiatives to encourage people to drive less) and will also provide a much-needed incentive for businesses and homeowners to strive for greater energy efficiency. This ballot measure isn't pie-in-the-sky, either; it's been endorsed by the town's Chamber of Commerce, and has no organized opposition.