It is safe to say that Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie never met a truth he did not seek to distort. So it should come as no surprise that the lobbyist-turned-party leader has been busy this week peddling his own twisted take on the work of the activist group MoveOn.org.
What is surprising is that Gillespie, who is supposedly trying to reelect President Bush, has been working overtime to publicize comparisons of of the Republican chief executive to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Gillespie got all excited when he discovered that MoveOn.org, the highly successful internet activist group, was running a "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest that asked critics of the president to submit television advertisements designed to "engage and enlighten viewers and help them understand the truth about George Bush." MoveOn.org promised to buy airtime for the winning ad during the week of the 2004 President's State Of The Union Address.
Among the hundreds of creative commercials submitted by people from across the US were two that compared Bush to the Nazi dictator. MoveOn.org did not choose those advertisements for airing on television; indeed, the group went so far as to strike the videos of the offending commercials from its website.
But the controversial commercials still went into wide circulation nationally. Why? Because Gillespie and his minions chose to highlight them on the Republican National Committee website. For a time this week, the only place to view the comparisons of Bush with Hitler was on the RNC site. Adding insult to injury, Gillespie made the rounds of cable television talk shows in order to draw more attention to the Hitler-Bush ads. Thus, the commercials got their airing on national television not because MoveOn.org paid to put them up but because the cable networks used them to illustrate Gillespie's rants.
The RNC chief's folly eventually became so evident that the video was scrubbed from the Republican site. But you can still read the texts of the commercials on the RNC site at http://www.rnc.org/moveonvideo.htm. That text is accompanied by a rant from Gillespie, calling for MoveOn.org to apologize for initially allowing the ads to appear on its website, and demanding that the nine Democrat presidential candidates repudiate the ad comparing Bush to Hitler.
In as much as the overwhelming majority of Americans did not know about the Bush-Hitler comparison until Gillespie publicized it, it would seem that the RNC chair is the one who should be apologizing. As for public repudiation, that's not really necessary. The president should just take Gillespie aside and quietly ask the party chair to stop going on national television to highlight comparisons between Bush and a certain dictator.
Dennis Kucinich still faces an uphill climb in his campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination. But his anti-Iraq war candidacy has already inspired better music than those of contenders who are garnering far more attention and campaign money. The New Year's weekend benefit for Kucinich at the Austin Music Hall was one of the finest campaign concerts in recent memory, and the sentiments of the stellar cast of performers was well summed up by singer Bonnie Raitt, who introduced a bluesy version of the Buffalo Springfield hit "For What It's Worth," be declaring, "Here's to free speech. Here's to fair elections. Here's to the possibility that Dennis Kucinich could win."
The Texas concert, which drew a crowd of 4,000 and was expected to raise more than $80,000 for the Kucinich campaign, showcased the success the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair has had in appealing to some of the country's most inspired and independent-minded musicians. The candidate who has been endorsed by artists ranging from Pete Seeger to Ani DiFranco brought some of his best-known backers together for a sold-out concert in Austin. Along with Raitt, a pair of younger artists with Texas roots and national reputations, Michelle Shocked and Tish Hinojosa turned in musically and politically charged performances. Tim Reynolds, guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band, played. So too did Pat Simmons and Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers, who performed some of that group's greatest hits before being joined by Raitt for a raucous rendition of "Taking It To The Streets." The highlight of the Saturday night show came when Kucinich's most high-profile musician backer, Willie Nelson, took the stage.
Nelson, who has been talking up Kucinich's candidacy since last summer, says he was attracted to Kucinich first because of the Ohio congressman's passionate defense of family farmers -- a cause close to the heart of the country singer, who has been a core backer of the Farm Aid concerts. But, as he campaigned for Kucinich over the weekend, Nelson picked up on the anti-war message that has been central to Kucinich's run for the White House.
Nelson used appearances with Kucinich to talk about a new song he wrote on Christmas Day, "Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?"
"(It's) only the second protest song I've ever written," Nelson said, "but it just came pouring out." Nelson, who performed his earlier protest song, the anti-war ballad "Jimmy's Road," prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said he was inspired to write the new song by Christmas morning news reports of the ongoing violence in Iraq. "There was nothing but bad news and here it was Christmas Day," Nelson recalled. "I said, 'There sure are a lot of babies dying and mothers crying,' and (Nelson's wife) Annie said, 'That sounds like a song.'"
When Nelson sat down to write the song's words, he pulled no punches. "How much oil is one human life worth?" the lyrics ask. "How much is a liar's word worth?"
Nelson joins his critique of the war and the president who launched it with a poke at the media, singing, "Now, you probably won't hear this on your radio/Probably not on your local TV/But if there's a time, and you're so inclined/You can always hear it from me."
Is Nelson, who achieved international fame as a self-described country music "outlaw," trying to stir things up?
"I hope there is some controversy," said Nelson, when a reporter asked whether he feared the song's biting commentary on George W. Bush's war might stir anger among country music fans who have been cheering for songs like Toby Keith's angry, war-cry, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue." Added Nelson, "If you write something like this and nobody says anything, then you probably haven't struck a nerve."
The singer hopes to strike that nerve for Kucinich, whose criticism of the rush to war and its pursuit echo the bluntness of the lyrics to "Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?"
Nelson, who put his arm around Kucinich during several Austin appearances Saturday, says, "I just like him because he tells the truth. Whether he's electable or not, who knows? But when you've got a guy you can trust, you've got a good candidate." And Kucinich, whose campaign is using pictures of Nelson wearing a "Kucinich for President" t-shirt on posters, has a good supporter in the country star.
On Saturday night, just around midnight, Nelson gave Kucinich a rousing endorsement and debuted "Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth," singing:
There's so many things going on in the world/Babies dying/Mothers crying/How much oil is one human life worth?/And what ever happened to peace on earth?
We believe everything that they tell us/They're gonna' kill us/So we gotta' kill them first/But I remember a commandment/Thou shall not kill/How much is that soldier's life worth?/And whatever happened to peace on earth?
(Bridge)And the bewildered herd is still believing/Everything we've been told from our birth/Hell they won't lie to me/Not on my own damn TV/But how much is a liar's word worth?/And whatever happened to peace on earth?
So I guess it's just/Do unto others before they do it to you/Let's just kill em' all and let God sort em' out/Is this what God wants us to do?
(Repeat Bridge)And the bewildered herd is still believing/Everything we've been told from our birth/Hell they won't lie to me/Not on my own damn TV/But how much is a liar's word worth?/And whatever happened to peace on earth?
Now you probably won't hear this on your radio/Probably not on your local TV/But if there's a time, and if you're ever so inclined/You can always hear it from me/How much is one picker's word worth?/And whatever happened to peace on earth?
But don't confuse caring for weakness/You can't put that label on me/The truth is my weapon of mass protection/And I believe truth sets you free
(Bridge)And the bewildered herd is still believing/Everything we've been told from our birth/Hell they won't lie to me/Not on my own damn TV/But how much is a liar's word worth?
Though the world of activism never sleeps with literally scores of brave grassroots organizing being done 24/7 across America today ActNow will be off until January 12. Please take the time to read the archives. Many of the campaigns I've written about, especially the National Conference on Organized Resistance, the fight to save reproductive rights and the Restore FOIA efforts, are still very much in progress and can use all the help they can get.
There are also a number of websites I'd recommend to keep in touch with various activist currents and issue-oriented campaigns. An incomplete, unrepresentative list would include:
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch tries to inject democratic interests into the debate on globalization by arguing that the current corporate-led globalization model is neither a random inevitability nor is it "free trade." The site offers a host of matchlessly researched material written in unusually readable language, so there's no need to feel intimidated. There are also a host of ways for you to get involved at whatever level.
Nation columnist Naomi Klein's website, NoLogo.Org, also features updated writings, by Naomi and others, on both new models of globalization and popular struggles against the manifestations of these new forms.
Nation contributing editor Doug Henwood's Left Business Observer is another unique and invaluable website, offering informed economic and political reporting that's difficult, if not impossible, to find elsewhere. (Doug also has a new book, After the Economy.)
CommonDreams has carved out a niche for itself and looks like it's here to stay as a useful filter for the mainstream and alternative press. A daily updated collection of links to articles of progressive interest with a thrice-daily updated news-wire, it offers smartly chosen pieces and a well-organized format.
Happy New Year!
Have you heard about the attempt to replace Franklin Roosevelt with Ronald Reagan on our dime? Some 89 conservative co-sponsors of the "Ronald Reagan Dime Act" say that anger over CBS's docudrama about the Reagans pushed them to introduce the bill. Liberal congressman Jim McGovern (D, MA) is countering with a bill to keep FDR on the coin. (Fortunately, he has gathered 106 co-sponsors so far.)
McGovern argues that changing the dime is the wrong way to honor Reagan (who already has National Airport named after him, a major federal building in Washington and schools, roads and bridges around the country). He also points out that FDR's face is on the dime because of a specific and special connection to the coin. Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes, which funded the research that resulted in the polio vaccine which ended the scourge of the 20th century. (The disability community, it's worth noting, is outraged by this conservative gambit and plans to fight hard if the Republicans schedule the bill for the floor.)
The fact that the high priest of anti-tax activism, Grover Norquist, is involved in this fight--as chairman of the Reagan Legacy Project--imbues the coin toss with a distinct ideological flavor. After all, Norquist once said that he wanted "to shrink government in half to the point where we can drown it in the bathtub." Roosevelt, on the other hand, believed government could be a force for good. McGovern argues that Norquist and his fellow traveling conservatives are using this fight as part of their battle plan to diminish, dismantle, and eventually drown Roosevelt's New Deal legacy in its entirety. (Co-sponsors of the Reagan dime bill include the top pitbulls of the GOP, including Speaker Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom Delay, House Whip Roy Blunt and Rules Committee Chair David Dreier.)
But Norquist, Delay and their ilk may have met their match in a surprising adversary: Nancy Reagan. Her recent statement opposing the renaming effort may hopefully squash the bill's momentum. She is right to speak out--after all, unlike some of these rabid conservatives she retains a historical memory of her husband's four votes for FDR--Reagan often cited as the inspiration of his public life and the greatest president of the 20th century. She may also remember that it was Reagan who made possible the FDR Memorial in Washington.
But, as of now, Mrs. Reagan's statement hasn't discouraged the true believers who continue to push for the Reagan dime. According to one close observer of the fight, they are now arguing that Mrs. Reagan's comments show just how classy she is--that is, it would be untoward for her to publicly support replacing FDR on the dime, so it's up to others to take the lead in the fight. Even more preposterously, some of the bill's co-sponsors argue that when President Reagan was shot, the bullet was "flattened to the size of a dime," which is why it's appropriate to change the dime, rather than, say, the penny or the nickel.
Reagan's death is likely to let loose an enormous effort to rename everything, perhaps including the country, but, for now, let's keep Roosevelt's image on the dime and fight the dismantling of what's left of the New Deal.
To Take Action:
2) Send letters to the editor of your local paper and make calls to your local talk-radio program showing support for keeping FDR on the dime. Click here for contact info for media in your area.
In his year-end news conference, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan lamented that so much of the year had been devoted to Iraq at the expense of other global problems like poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy. "Let's get our priorities right in 2004," Annan said before opening the floor to questions. The New York Times reported that twenty four questions were asked--all but three were about Iraq.
As the New Year approaches, I've started making my list of resolutions. Work for democratic regime change at home. Build a more peaceful and just world. Make it to all of my daughter's basketball games. For the sake of my sanity, I vow to break my e-mail addiction and build some boundaries between my work and personal life. And to stave off memory loss, I vow to stop multitasking.
Yes, multitasking. According to a growing body of scientific research, juggling three or four tasks at once as I do too often can actually scramble your brain and lead to short-term memory loss. And chronic, intense multitasking has been shown to induce a stress response--an adrenaline rush that when prolonged can damage cells that form new memory. Other warning signs for inveterate multitaskers--and ones I've experienced--include changes in the ability to concentrate and gaps in attentiveness.
So, in this new year without multitasking, I resolve to take up mental aerobics--or active memory training. It seems that scientists have discovered that training and stimulation may tone and firm the brain just as the nautilus equipment at the gym does the abs. The concept is catching on. UCLA offers a five-week memory training course; the Memory Training Institute in Connecticut teaches mnemonic devices and other recall tricks. And at Florida Atlantic University, there's a class that includes "brain games," checkers, bridge, computational puzzles and even flash cards for adults.
Premised on a "use it or lose it" theory, mental aerobics build on research that suggests stimulating your mind actually causes the rewiring of the brain, even the sprouting new synapses. Of course there are simpler ways to help halt memory decline--getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, reducing stress and eating a diet rich in antioxidants such as berries and vitamins A and E. But if I think I'm going to get more sleep or cut back on stress, while editing a political weekly in 2004, then I'm really losing my mind!
If you haven't been following the take-no-prisoners approach of the Congressional Republican leadership--ramming through Medicare legislation by threatening reluctant GOP colleagues, barring Democrats from conference committees, keeping roll call open for almost three hours (breaking with the usual fifteen minutes)--Senator Chuck Hagel's (R, Neb) recent remarks convey some sense of the damage being done to our parliamentary system by the rightwing thugs currently running Congress.
"It's almost anything goes," said Senator Hagel, far from a liberal voice, in criticizing his own party's leadership. "I think we're on the edge of something dangerous if we don't turn it around...It's like the Middle East. You just keep ratcheting up the intensity of the conflict."
Representative Nick Smith (R, Mich), who is retiring next year and hopes his son will succeed him, is one of those feeling the heat. Smith--a feisty, independent six-term conservative Congressman--says that the arm-twisting during the Medicare vote was the strongest he has experienced in his twenty-seven years in politics.
The day after the bill squeaked through the House by a vote of 220 to 215, Smith wrote a column for a Michigan newspaper (the Lenawee Connection) detailing the Republican House Leadership's use of what he called "bribes and special deals" to eke out the margin of victory. In a subsequent interview with a Michigan radio station, Smith spoke about being pressured by the "leadership" and said "they" had offered "$100,000 plus" for his son's upcoming campaign before threatening that "some of us are going to work to make sure your son doesn't get to Congress" unless Smith relented and supported the Medicare bill. (Smith voted against the legislation.)
In the last weeks, Smith has declined to specify who allegedly offered the bribes and made the threats, though Representative Gil Gutknecht (R. Minn) recalls Smith saying it was "people from the leadership" who had offered the money. Gutknecht assumed it was someone who controlled a "large leadership PAC, who can raise a few hundred thousand dollars by hosting a few fundraisers."
What is not in dispute--even eight members of the Republican Study Committee (a group of fiscally conservative House lawmakers) agree--is that Smith was pressured in unprecedented ways by a House leadership willing to do whatever was needed to pass the bill.
The Democratic National Committee (and two independent groups that work on ethics issues) have requested a Justice Department investigation into whether the pressure on Smith was not just run-of-the-mill Capitol Hill horse-trading but a violation of federal anti-bribery law. Surprise, surprise--so far, the Justice Department says no decision has been made as to whether to investigate.
If our system worked, and there was some measure of accountability, we'd have a rigorous inquiry into who did what when and key members of the House Republican leadership would resign if Smith's allegations were proven true. The real danger is that if we don't change the way our Congress is being run, it may well be, as Rep. Barney Frank (D, Mass) said after the roll call for the Medicare vote was manipulated by the Republican leadership, "the end of parliamentary democracy as we have known it."
I agreed to go on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show recently to discuss progressive responses to Bush. I'm always ambivalent about participating in Fox talk shows. As one Nation reader said in a letter lamenting my appearance on the program: "It seems both demeaning to your stature as an actual reporter of fact-based news as well as lending undeserved credibility to the show."
But I also feel compelled to take opportunities to speak to an "unconverted" audience. Click here for the transcript of the program, but also read below for what I was hoping would be possible when I said yes to the booker.
December 1, 2003 (Parallel O'Reilly Factor)**
O'REILLY: All right, Ms. Vanden Heuvel, is this strategy on the left going to succeed?
VANDEN HEUVEL: I hope it does, because if it does, America will be a safer, healthier, better educated, more secure society. Progressives are uniting, thanks to Bush.
O'REILLY: Well, I agree with your last point. Your magazine's up fifty percent, right?
VANDEN HEUVEL: The Nation's circulation is up fifty percent...
O'REILLY: Then why are only twenty percent of Americans liberals?
VANDEN HEUVEL: That's a meaningless statistic. Twenty percent of Americans identify with a label in some poll. The vast majority of people share core liberal values. Reproductive choice. Public education. Healthcare and Social Security without the profit motive. An internationalist foreign policy. Fair wages and fair taxation.
O'REILLY: The polls show that President Bush's approval rating is well over fifty percent.
VANDEN HEUVEL: So what? An approval rating isn't a blanket endorsement of his policies. Those numbers crash and burn when people learn about specifics.
O'REILLY: So you're saying the American people are stupid.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Just the opposite. They're misinformed, and in some cases deceived. I think there should be a marketplace of ideas in this country that reflects a much fuller range of political opinion that we currently see.
VANDEN HEUVEL: I disagree. Something like the New York Times is basically liberal on social issues. But where's the serious discussion of a living wage in this country? Of universal health insurance? Of the fact that the Iraq war violated international law? These are the nuts-and-bolts progressive issues, but you won't hear them in the so-called elite liberal media. Much of the media is elitist because it usually serves corporate interests or follows the official line. And whatever you think of NPR and PBS, they're no match for it, not only because they too depend increasingly on corporate money to survive.
O'REILLY: But you have the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, bashing Bush, saying if we elect a Democrat, all the problems are going to be solved, just like they were under eight years of Mr. Clinton. All the problems were solved, yes.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You're equating the left with the Democratic Party. The Nation was very critical of both Clinton and Gore. We need to reassert the core progressive values that most Americans see as perfectly reasonable, may of which were not ones upheld by Clinton. This is what the Democrats need to do if they want to start winning elections again. But progressives also need to build independent political capacity, inject some passion and principle into our politics. Hell, one out of two eligible voters don't even vote.**The above conversation never happened--and it's unlikely to on Fox TV.
Never apologize. Never explain. Never concede. Many politicians--and many Homo sapiens--live and die by these words. But the Bush clan has emblazoned them onto the family crescent. Bush has had a good run of late: US forces nabbed Saddam Hussein, Libyan ruler Moammar Qadaffi declared he would voluntarily abandon his WMD programs, the US economy grew at a high rate this past quarter. All of this has contributed to a Bush bubble, and political commentators are once again diminishing the chances of the Democratic presidential nominee, whomever it will be.
But at the moment Bush's political fortunes are on the rise, more evidence has emerged showing that he deserves less respect than ever. Take the case of those missing weapons of mass destruction. Before the war, Bush said there was "no doubt" Hussein had them. In the months following the fall of Baghdad--as no such weapons were discovered--Bush and his crew continued to insist that Bush had been right to say Hussein was neck-deep in actual WMDs. Then in the fall, chief weapons hunter David Kay reported that his team had found evidence of possible weapons programs in Iraq. (Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has argued that the evidence is not conclusive that the labs cited by Kay were used for WMD research.) Bush and his aides pointed to Kay's report as proof they had been right all along, even though there is an obvious distinction between weapons and weapons programs. And when asked if the administration was backing away from its previous assertions about the presence of weapons (not programs) in Iraq, Bush officials said no. They suggested that Kay needed more time to find the proof. (The Bush crowd has been far more patient with him than they were with the UN inspectors.)
Now Bush--attempting to shift the terms of the debate in his favor--says it did not matter whether or not Iraq possessed weapons before the invasion. In a recent interview, ABC News' Diane Sawyer asked Bush, "Fifty percent of the American people have said that they think the administration exaggerated the evidence going into the war with Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, connection to terrorism. Are the American people wrong, misguided?" Bush replied, "No, the intelligence I operated on was good, sound intelligence." That was a non-responsive but untruthful reply, for the House and Senate intelligence committees (both led by Republicans) and Kay himself have each definitively stated that the prewar intelligence on Iraq's WMDs was loaded with uncertainties. Sawyer continued to press Bush about his prewar statements on WMDs, and he refused to directly address the question, repeatedly asserting that Saddam Hussein had been a "threat." And then he referred to Kay's discovery of a supposed "weapons program" to defend himself. But when Sawyer noted that Bush and other administration officials had "stated as a hard fact that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that [Hussein] could move to acquire those weapons," Bush countered, "What's the difference?...The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger."
Hold on. Before the war, Bush asserted Hussein was an immediate threat because he already had such weapons. He never went before the public and said, Hussein may have weapons of mass destruction; then again, he may only have weapons programs; but there's no difference. This is disingenuousness after the fact, backpedalling without acknowledgment. Moreover, after the Sawyer interview, the news broke that Kay had decided to quit his post, supposedly for personal reasons. Reports of his departure were widely interpreted (and probably rightfully so) as a signal that he had uncovered little in the way of evidence of WMDs. And Representative Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, noted that the administration had removed "critical people"--including analysts and linguists--from Kay's weapons hunting unit. This was another sign that Kay and his crew were not close to finding WMDs, and it showed that the Bush administration was not taking the WMD search all that seriously.
Which leads to the question: will Bush and his aides ever admit they oversold the WMD threat? Their case gets weaker by the day. If there had been real WMDs in Iraq, wouldn't at least one Iraqi have turned over information on them to the CIA, which presumably is ready to pay millions of dollars for information leading to real WMDs? Even conservative columnist George Will weeks ago urged the Bush White House to come clean on WMDs. The administration ignored his advice. Rather, Bush officials kept saying, wait for Kay's report. But even Kay is not sticking around for it.
Bush's excuses are falling apart on another front. After 9/11, he and his senior advisers maintained over and over that no one could have imagined such an attack against the United States. That was not so. For years, the intelligence community had collected warnings reporting that al Qaeda and other terrorists were interested in launching a 9/11-sort of attack--using hijacked aircraft as weapons--against American targets. (The final report produced by the joint inquiry on 9/11 conducted by the Senate and House intelligence committees includes a list of such warnings.) And there is strong evidence that Bush was told of a July 2001 intelligence report that noted that al Qaeda was planning a "spectacular" attack involving "mass casualties" against an American target. But by insisting falsely that 9/11 was so far out of the box that no one could have done anything about it, Bush absolved his administration and the Clinton administration of any blame for failing to thwart the assault.
Now former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean, the Republican chairman of the independent 9/11 commission, says that 9/11 could have been prevented. In a recent interview with CBS News, Kean noted that he would, if he could, fire the government officials who had failed the public. For over a year, evidence has been public proving that two administrations screwed up. But Bush and his aides have refused to acknowledge that. Kean's remarks--which drew much public attention--cast new light on a damn serious allegation that Bush had so far dodged rather well. Kean's commission is due to release its final report in the spring, but the commission--which has encountered bureaucratic resistance--may have trouble finishing its complex inquiry by then.
Another excuse from Bush circles was recently proven phony. In the run-up to the Iraq war, media accounts revealed that in 1983 Donald Rumsfeld had been sent by President Ronald Reagan to meet with Saddam Hussein and broker a closer relationship between Baghdad and Washington. At the time, Hussein was using chemical weapons in his war against Iran. How odd that Hussein's use of WMDs in 1983 did not bother Rumsfeld back then, when in 2002 and 2003 it was cited by Bush officials as a reason the United States had no choice but to invade Iraq. In his defense, Rumsfeld claimed that in 1983 he had "cautioned" Hussein against using chemical weapons. But then The Washington Post reported that declassified State Department notes of the meeting with Hussein indicated Rumsfeld had not raised this subject with the Iraqi dictator.
Rumsfeld then claimed he had discussed the matter with Iraqi Foreign Minster Tariq Aziz, not Hussein. Official records, though, showed that Rumsfeld had only mentioned it in passing. More recently, the National Security Archive found records related to a 1984 meeting that occurred between Rumsfeld and Aziz. According to these documents, Rumsfeld had been instructed to tell Aziz privately that the Reagan administration's public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons was not intended to signal the United States was any less eager "to improve bilateral relations, at a pace of Iraq's choosing." That is, Rumsfeld was to tell Aziz not to fret over what the Reagan administration said in public about Iraq's use of chemical weapons; the Reaganites still wanted to cozy up with Hussein.
So the Bush gang has escaped accountability on WMDs, on 9/11, and on the policy sins of their political fathers. Their cover stories no longer hold, yet there are no indications Bush and his lieutenants will necessarily pay for that. The accepted wisdom among analysts of American politics is that voters tend to look forward, not backward. When voters evaluate politicians, they care less about history than they do about present-day results and ask, what are you going to do for me (or us) now? Will that pattern hold in 2004? No doubt, Bush is hoping so. With the Bush clan, politics is indeed never having to say you're sorry.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S NEW BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." For more information and a sample, check out the book's official website: www.bushlies.com.
More inside the Beltway spinning at work: Libya's coming clean on WMD is solely the product of Bush's war in Iraq. That's what the Bush Administration wants us to believe. And the Beltway paper of record seems awfully accepting of the Administration's spin. In Sunday's Post, Dana Milbank writes, "It has been a week of sweet vindication for those who promulgated what they call the Bush Doctrine."
Richard Perle scurried to tell Milbank, "It's always been at the heart of the Bush doctrine that a more robust policy would permit us to elicit greater cooperation from adversaries than we'd had in the past when we acquiesced. With the capture of Saddam, the sense that momentum may be with us is very important."
In the Beltway narrative, there's no room for how Libya's decision to permit UN weapons inspectors in confirms that the US can achieve its strategic international goals using tools other than military force--for example, diplomatic, political and economic pressure. Nor is there room for all the work and time numerous European nations have invested in engaging Libya over the last five years. Or of the hard work of the UN Security Council in negotiating a settlement of the Lockerbie case, a resolution which may have had more to do with Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi's desire to reenter the international mainstream than any other single factor.
Nor is there any discussion of why the Administration supports the role of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors in disarming Libya whereas it was so dismissive of the IAEA's work in Iraq. And, how many understand that--as Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Adminstration National Security Council staff member reveals--"Within months after September 11th, we had the Libyans, the Syrians and the Iranians all coming to us saying what can we do [to better relations]? We didn't really engage any of them because we decided to do Iraq. We really squandered two years of capital that will make it harder to apply this model to the hard cases like Iran and Syria."
Libya's agreement to disarm under the watch of international inspectors is a welcome development but it is not as dramatic a turnaround as Bush & Co want us to believe. According to Joseph Cirincone, an arms specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "It's part of a trend that has been underway for ten years--of reforms and trying to reintegrate with Europe, mainly for business reasons."
Let's not allow the Administration to neocon us into believing that Libya's decision is the sole result of Bush's war in Iraq. Instead, let's use Libya's example to call for inspections and reductions of WMD in all countries around the world, including here in the US.