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The Nation

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.

Rove Rides the Swift Boat Once More

John Kerry's not even on the ballot. So how come everyone is talking about the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee's failed attempt to make a joke at the expense of George W. Bush's education -- or lack thereof?

Because media coverage of this campaign, at least in its final days, is going according to Karl Rove's script -- thanks in no small measure to the inability of most political reporters to chart their own course on the eve of an election.

Rove needs the focus to be on Kerry.

The White House political czar is fully conscious that the Republican base -- social conservatives, people who don't want to pay their taxes and angry white men with an exceptionally narrow view of what it means to be a patriot -- has been trained to despise and fear the Massachusetts senator in a way that there just is not enough time to gin up hatred for Nancy Pelosi or any other Democratic "infidel" of the moment.

With Rove shifting the entire Republican pre-election push toward a base-energizing initiative that relies almost entirely on stoking disdain for Democrats, he's got to get people focused on Kerry.

Rove has seen the polls. He knows that the base is shaky. Republican House candidates are stuck in close races not just in the classic swing districts of suburban Philadelphia and south Florida -- where folks who actually voted for Al Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004 are represented by vulnerable Republicans -- but also in contests in Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Nevada and other states that voted overwhelmingly for Bush in both of his presidential runs.

To avoid the election of a House -- and perhaps a Senate -- that might have substantial enough majorities to hold the Bush administration to account for its actions, Rove has shifted the Republican focus toward a number of competitive Senate and House contests in the interior west, where large numbers of Republican base voters have grown disenchanted enough with the party to consider Democrats.

Republican money is being pulled out of high-profile Senate races in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- where it costs a fortune to maintain a media campaign in multiple markets -- to the smaller states of the west where it is possible to get more bang for the buck. And the biggest bang comes from scaring base voters back into the Republican camp.

Hence the Kerry message.

That's why, well after the story had run its course, Bush and Dick Cheney were still talking about it on the campaign trail.The president and vice president are incorporating lengthy riffs on Kerry's comments in their stump speeches. And they are being steered into states that don't usually experience White House visits on the eve of an election.

The Republicans focusing particularly hard on Montana, where populist Democrat Jon Tester has led scandal-plagued Republican Senator Conrad Burns for most of the fall. Tester's been helped by the broader Democratic trend in the west, and particularly in Montana, as well as the incumbent's verbal stumbles and extensive links to convicted influence-peddler Jack Abramoff.

But Rove and the other Republican strategists have decided to make a stand in the Big Sky state. Bush and Cheney are being dispatched to the state, as well as to other western states where the GOP is betting that a final push against Kerry and "elite" Democrats will save enough seats to hold the Senate and perhaps the House. Cheney was in Montana Wednesday, talking at great length about Kerry -- ``Of course, now Senator Kerry says he was just making a joke, and he botched it up,'' the vice president announced in Kalispell. ``I guess we didn't get the nuance. He was for the joke before he was against it."

Bush will pick up the line of attack today, when he too visits the state.

Why Montana?

The fight for control of the Senate really is close. Count on Democrats to hold every seat that is now in their column and to pick up Republican seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. There are decent chances for Democrats to pick up another Republican seat or two in the highly-competitive and much-talked-about races of Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee -- although it now appears that Democrats are wavering on whether to remain in the Tennessee fight after their candidate, Harold Ford, slipped in several polls.What this all adds up to is the prospect that Democrats could expand their Senate caucus to 49 seats on Tuesday. But to get to 50, where they can demand the equal position on committees that is key to organizing hearings and investigations, or even to 51, where they can control the chamber, they need Montana.

Montana Democrats have figured out how to win as western populists and outsiders, such as Governor Brian Schweitzer. They don't run to the right -- Tester's for bringing the troops home from Iraq and against the Patriot Act -- but they do run against Washington insiders. And they don't want to be linked to Kerry and other Democrats who are portrayed as east-coast elitists. The same goes for surging Democratic House candidates in Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska and other states -- whose victories would give Nancy Pelosi not just a bare majority but room to move as the Speaker of a Democratic House.

Tester, one of the most well-grounded and genuinely impressive of the new crop of outside-the-beltway Democrats, is in Rove sites. He's fighting back with everything he's got. And he's still a good bet to win. But, bet on this, Rove, Bush, Cheney and the entire Republican spin machine will be doing everything in their considerable power to hang John Kerry around Jon Tester's neck. It's not fair to Kerry, whose comments are being taken out of context. It's not fair to the political process, which ought not be focused on such silliness at so critical a point.

But no should expect Karl Rove to play fair. And, unfortunately, no one should expect most political reporters to recognize that, by again helping to swiftboat John Kerry, they are working from Rove's political playbook.

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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

The Soldiers Speak Out

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for US troops to come home."

This statement – the Appeal for Redress – has been signed by over 600 active-duty soldiers who have had enough of seeing their brothers and sisters sacrificed to the disastrous war in Iraq. In this month alone, 101 American soldiers have been killed, more than in any month since January, 2005 and the fourth highest monthly total since the war began in March, 2003.

Seaman Jonathon Hutto and Marine Sergeant Liam Madden spearheaded the Appeal which is co-sponsored by Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. It is the latest effort stemming from the antiwar energy that has emerged among military families, veterans, and active military, including generals and other high-ranking officers. It's also the first antiwar movement organized by active military personnel since the Vietnam War.

Hutto, who served off the Iraq coast from September 2005 until March, told the Washington Post, "I hear discussions every day among my shipmates about the war in Iraq and how it doesn't make any sense at this point. There is no victory in sight."

Madden served in Anbar province from September 2004 until February 2005. "I don't think any more Iraqis or Americans should die because of the US occupation," he told ABC News. "If people want to support the troops, then they should support us coming home." Madden cited his disillusionment with a war based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction and phantom links between al Qaeda and Iraq.

One soldier, speaking under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said, "I don't think that the American public realizes just how many soldiers and service members in general really do have reservations about what is going on over there….It's very hard. These soldiers seeing all this tribal fighting, ethnic fighting going on around them.…There is not really anything you can do to stop this."

Another soldier said he believed the Appeal would have "a snowball effect" and more and more people would sign on. "Once they start seeing momentum going forward and more and more service members coming out, they will be much more inclined to come out as well."

The names and comments of those signing onto the initiative are not made public. The Military Whistleblower Protection Act allows for "a protected communication" with Congress – but only while off-duty and out of uniform. The Appeal will be delivered to Congress on Martin Luther King Day, 2007.

These brave men and women, who put their lives on the line for our nation every day, must be heard.

New Voter ID Requirement: Platinum AmEx Card

What are the new voter ID requirements set by Republicans? "You can vote if you present a Platinum Visa or American Express card; a signed golf scorecard; a yacht license, a $10,000 bill, or a large public building named after you." That was Samantha Bee's report on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Tuesday night.

The new voter ID requirements were established in Ohio by Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is African- American. Stewart asked how minority voters were responding to these new requirements. "Minority voters are excited – and proud," correspondent Aasif Mandvi explained. "It's a milestone. For the first time in our history, a black man will have the chance to disenfranchise everyone else."

Blackwell himself is also running for governor. Stewart asked, "doesn't that give the appearance of conflict of interest?"

"No, John," Mandvi responded. "It's the definition of conflict of interest."

If young people are indeed getting their news from Jon Stewart, as many have reported, our future seems to be in good hands.