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Trick Or…

It's fitting that the last seven days of a presidential campaign fall during Halloween week. Scare tactics are the order for each day. The difference this year is the Republicans only have innuendo, while the Democrats can simply point to facts on the ground.

Bush's recent attack ad tried to cry wolf, but those dogs won't hunt. The real fear factor is Mesopotamia, where M is for Massacre, Mutiny, and Missing Explosives. In Iraq, everyday is the Day of the Dead. The tragedy is that this tragedy was not inevitable.

It is clear the Administration's handling of the occupation of Iraq goes beyond incompetence into the realm of negligence. As the situation went south in the Sunni Triangle, Bush punted, refusing to either increase the number of troops in Iraq or withdraw them. He did neither, preferring to dither on with a failed policy. Bush is not a war president; he's a war criminal president.

Even worse, Bush blames the "commanders-in-the-field," claiming that they say they have enough troops. Of course, they can't disagree publicly. When General Shinseki, the then Army Chief-of-Staff, told Congress we needed more troops to secure Iraq, the Bush Administration retired him early, shooting the messenger. When Paul Bremer, the second Bush appointed civil administrator of Iraq, privately asked for more troops, he was ignored.

Bush has spent his adult life in costume, pretending to be a Texas good ole boy. What he actually is, however, is the anti-Midas. From Arbusto to the Texas Rangers to the US surplus, everything golden he touches turns to lead. We can't afford to bail him out for four more years.

Springsteen's Political Poetry

The art of political speechmaking is now so lost to the dark machinations of the spin doctors, pollsters and pundits that most Americans have never heard a live campaign speech of any particular consequence. Perhaps that is why the crowd of 80,000 people who rallied for John Kerry on Thursday in Madison, Wisconsin, fell so completely silent a few minutes into what turned out to be the most poignant and powerful election address of 2004.

The speaker was not a candidate. Rather, the words that cut through the rhetorical fog were those of a guitar player from New Jersey.

"As a songwriter, I've written about America for 30 years," explained Bruce Springsteen, after he finished playing the appropriately chosen song, "Promised Land."

"I've tried to write about who we are, what we stand for, what we fight for," he continued. "I believe that these essential ideals of American identity are what's at stake on November 2."

Springsteen's voice did not rise with the false drama of electioneering.

His words mingled so smoothly with the soft strumming of his guitar that it was easy to imagine that the singer might let those few spoken words be his message.

But there was a lot more to it.

With a nod to Tom Paine and a kiss for Walt Whitman, Springsteen reviewed the crisis and then called voters to be guided not by their fears but by the better angels of our nature. Lincoln spoke this way, Bobby Kennedy did, and so did Paul Wellstone. But, as this campaign closes, that rare mixture of politics and poetry is coming not from politicians but from a man who until Thursday had never appeared on the stage of a presidential campaign rally.

The response in Madison, and a few hours later in Columbus, Ohio, where the Kerry-Springsteen tour stopped next, was more than merely campaign-stop enthusiastic.

When the shouting stopped, the tens upon tens of thousands of people who filled the streets in front of him began to listen. Really listen.

Springsteen detailed the subjects that mattered to him: "the human principles of economic justice, healing the sick, health care, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, a living wage so folks don't have to go out and break their backs and still not be able to make ends meet" and "the protection of the environment, a sane and responsible foreign policy, civil rights and the protection and safeguarding of our precious democracy here at home."

Now, the crowd that stretched for block after block up a hill to the state Capitol began to settle. Something was being said here, and these people -- who just moments before had been rocking along with Springsteen -- were suddenly listening as the singer ran through his litany of progressive passions.

"I believe that John Kerry honors these ideals. He has lived their history over the past 50 years and formed an adult view of America and its people," Springsteen told the voters of Wisconsin, a battleground state that could well tip the electoral-college balance of this year's presidential contest. "He's had the life experience; I think he understands that we as humans are not infallible and that, as Senator (John) Edwards said during the Democratic National Convention, that struggle and heartbreak will always be with us. That's why 'united we stand,' 'one nation, indivisible,' aren't just slogans. They need to remain guiding principles of our public lives."

With autumn leaves drifting slowly from the trees that lined the street, Springsteen described the Democratic nominee for president in terms that made Kerry's resume read a good deal more lyrically than it has during this ugly campaign of Swift Boat vet charges and FOX-TV sneer fests. "He's shown us, starting as a young man, that by facing America's hard truths, both the good and the bad, that's where we find a deeper patriotism. That's where we find a complete view of who we are. That's where we find a more authentic experience as citizens, and that's where we find the power that is embedded only in truth to make our world a better and safer place."

Springsteen paused and then invoked the name of Wellstone, the late Minnesota senator who is an iconic figure among progressives in the neighboring state of Wisconsin.

"Paul Wellstone," the singer repeated, as the tension broke and the crowd began cheering. "He said the future is for the passionate and those who are willing to fight and work hard for it. Well, the future is now. And it's time to let your passions loose." Now, the applause was swelling. "Let's roll up our sleeves," Springsteen shouted above the roar of approval. "That's why I'm here today -- to stand alongside Senator Kerry and to tell you that the country we carry in our hearts is waiting, and together we can move America towards her deepest ideals."

Springsteen pulled his black guitar up and, referencing the musical instruments preferred by former President Bill Clinton and Kerry, said, "Besides, we had a sax player in the house. We need a guitar player in the White House." As the crowd roared its approval once more, the singer quietly continued, "Alright, this for John. This is for you, John." Then he launched into "No Surrender," a song that has been adopted as the Kerry campaign's anthem. Stripped down and slowed down, the song's words resonated even more clearly with crowd, especially the line, "I want to sleep beneath peaceful skies."

When Springsteen finished, he introduced Kerry, who bounded to the stage and announced, "I may be running for president of the United States, but we all know who the boss is."

Energized by the crowd and the company on stage, Kerry delivered a muscular, well-received address. And, surely, the throngs belonged as much or more to him as they did to Springsteen. Yet, when the day was done, it was the singer, not the candidate, who had delivered the most meaningful political address.

There are often debates about the extent to which serious attention should be granted to the political musings of singers, actors and other celebrities. The quality and character of Springsteen's addresses in Madison and Columbus on Thursday, and the responses to them, suggests that this issue may finally be settled. In a year when so many meaningless words have been spilled along the campaign trail, Bruce Springsteen is saying something that matters.

Vote for Kerry on the WFP Line

If you live in the non-swing state of New York, I urge you to vote for John Kerry on the Working Families Party line (Row E). This is the most powerful way for New Yorkers to cast a progressive vote in this national election.

For those unfamiliar with New York's voting rules, here's a brief reminder: Kerry is on the ballot twice, as the nominee of both the Democratic and Working Families Parties. A vote on the WFP line for Kerry counts just as much as a vote on the Democratic line, but it sends a message about what you believe in. It's a vote for equality and democracy, and for living wage jobs, affordable housing, universal healthcare and an end to preemptive wars.

The Nation was an early supporter of the WFP when it was established in 1998. It's fair to say our early hopes have been redeemed, and we have faith that the WFP can become even more potent and effective (including expanding to some new states) if it continues to prosper. Help it do so by casting your vote for Kerry under the banner of the Working Families Party, Row E. (Click here for more info on the WFP.)

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And In Our State, Support Barbaro and Soares on the WFP Line

Frank Barbaro, who's running for Congress from Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island, deserves your support. As I wrote in this space last July, Barbaro is a genuine working class folk hero and a lifelong fighter for social and economic justice.

In normal times, the 13th district is a safe Republican seat but the demographics are shifting and the four-term Republican incumbent Vito Fossella has amassed a shameful record while ignoring his constituents. As a result, even papers like Crain's New York Business report that Fossella is "facing the most serious challenge since he was elected in 1997."

Barbaro has wrapped up endorsements from all the unions (except for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association), and just the other day Sarah Brady held a press conference on Staten Island to hail Barbaro as a "leader for common sense laws that prevent gun violence and make our communities safer."

Barbaro is running not just on the Democratic ticket but also on the Working Families Party Line, which sees in him an exemplary messenger for its core mission "to inject the concerns of working class, middle class and poor people into the public debate."

As Dan Cantor at WFP explains Barbaro's appeal: "If Paul Wellstone was a 78-year old Italian from Brooklyn, his name would be Frank Barbaro." To win on November 2nd, Barbaro needs support from smart and strategic progressives. Click here for more info on his campaign.

Meanwhile, in Albany, young activist attorney David Soares rocked the county in mid-September with his stunning landslide victory in the Democratic Primary for District Attorney.

A WFP nominee, Soares' race served as a referendum on the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws and his victory was a terrific accomplishment for the urban-suburban, black-white, gay-straight, grassroots community-labor campaign led by the WFP's Albany chair. The defeated Democratic Party incumbent, Paul Clyne, landed a spot on the Independence Party line and since then has been waging an ugly and negative campaign (along with the Republican in the race) to smear Soares for his activist past.

But, so far, not only is Soares leading in a three-way fight (according to the latest figures from an independent Albany Times Union/News Channel 13 poll) but reform of the Rockefeller drug laws--a key campaign issue for Soares--appears to be popular. A whopping sixty-six percent of respondents said Soares' reform stance was a plus. (This crosses party lines, with some 22 percent of Republicans polled saying they will vote for him because of his upport for drug law reform).

In the next few days, here's what you can do to assist Soares and the fight to repeal the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws:

1/ Support Soares by clicking here.

2/ Support the Working Families Party by clicking here.

3/ Vote for Soares if you live in Albany County and/or tell friends who live there to vote for him.

Vote-Pair in 2004

Steve Cobble, political consultant; progressive strategist father to two young women; former political director of the Rainbow Coalition; former McGovern county coordinator in New Mexico and elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention as a twenty-year-old in '72; national delegate coordinator for Jackson in '88, strategist for Nader in '00, strategist for Kucinich in '04 and occasional Nation contributor writes:

"Maybe you're young, and against the war. Or you're blue-collar, and think both major parties are just fronts for the big corporations. Or you think Bush is a liar, but Kerry's too cautious to win your heart.

"So you're still thinking about voting for Ralph Nader, or David Cobb. But you also live in a swing state, and you know it's close. You know it could go either way in Wisconsin, or New Mexico, or yes, Florida.

"And it does make you mad that George W. Bush thinks he can start an unnecessary war and lie to the American people about it. You are disgusted that Enron was Bush's #1 career backer, but when Ken Lay got in trouble, the media let Bush get away with pretending they barely knew each other. And you're really angry about Halliburton, outsourcing and repeated tax cuts for the already rich.

"So you'd like to help Bush lose, too. He just doesn't deserve another term. What do you do? Well, most of the Citizens Committee that endorsed Ralph Nader in 2000 has signed a public statement encouraging people who admire Nader and Cobb in swing states to cast their vote for Kerry. The group includes progressives Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Susan Sarandon, Bonnie Raitt, Barbara Ehrenreich and many more. So you could take their advice. (Click here to see the complete list.)

"Or if not casting your vote for Nader or Cobb is still too much, then why not "vote-pair"? Vote-pairing is legal and constitutional lawyers like Jamin Raskin designed the site using freedom of speech and freedom of association law. It's technically sweet and is staffed by smart and enthusiastic volunteer activists who believe both that third parties often serve a useful purpose and that George W. Bush needs to be defeated this year. (Vote-pairing also 'jiu-jitsus' the stupidity and racism inherent in the outdated electoral college system, in a way that reduces the so-called 'spoiler' problem.)

"Here's how it works: If you're a swing state voter who likes Ralph Nader or David Cobb, you can pair-up with a Kerry supporter from a safe red Bush state (like Utah or Oklahoma or Texas) and essentially swap votes. This way candidates like Nader and Cobb will receive the same number of votes nationally they would have received otherwise and so will John Kerry. But with vote-pairing, Kerry's vote will be in the swing state, the one that counts in the electoral college--a huge difference. Click here for more info and to sign up for vote-paring before it's too late.

"You can have your electoral cake, and eat it, too. On election night. With champagne. When we celebrate regime change at home, together."

Republicans for Kerry

One of the many strange hallmarks of Election 2004 is the numerous Republican groups which have formed to organize support for Democrat John Kerry's campaign. There are also, of course, "Bush Democrats" around, but they're far less organized, and if my colleague Patrick Mulvaney's crawl around the internet is any indication, far fewer in number than their counterparts.

President Bush's extremist agenda, his Administration's skyrocketing budget deficits and his dishonesty in the run-up to war are the main reasons cited by longtime Republican voters for abandoning their party's nominee. The choice is simple to voters like Mitch Dworkin, who explains in an article on the Republicans for Kerry 2004 site that, "Bush and most of his Administration represent an extreme faction of the Republican Party and are out of touch with the American people."

There are numerous groups and organizations to check out to get a sense of the unusual number of Republican and conservative groups opposing President Bush in the upcoming election:

Republicans for Kerry

Another Republican for Kerry

Republicans Against Bush

Republican Switchers

Republicans 4 Kerry

Conservatives for Kerry

There are also several less formal, web-based groups comprised of Republicans opposing the Bush re-election effort, including the "Republicans Against Bush" Meetup and an AOL journal called "Republicans for the ouster of King George II." And even the Log Cabin Republicans, which notes on its website that "every victory for a fair-minded Republican is a victory for the future of [the Republican] Party," have pointedly chosen not to endorse Bush's re-election bid.

It's unclear what effect these typically GOP voters will have on the race's electoral math but it's clear that Bush is the most unpopular Republican nominee in memory among members of his own party.

The November Surprise?

With eight days to go before election day, it's the "November Surprise" that we need to worry about. Every day brings reports of voter intimidation and suppression in the key battleground states.

A front-page story in Saturday's New York Times reported that the Republican Party has registered thousands of people to serve as partisan "vote challengers" at Ohio polling places, in what they say is an effort to prevent "voter fraud." Meanwhile, the Columbus Dispatch reported that based on a mailing to newly registered voters, the GOP plans to challenge 35,000 voters in an effort to keep them from the polls.

This disturbing news from Ohio points to the potential for massive voter disenfranchisement in November--and additional confusion and chaos at the polls in this key swing state and others, like Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona--that have seen huge increases in voter registration.

"Based on the lessons of history," says Ralph Neas, President of People for the American Way (PFAW), "this isn't an effort to prevent voter fraud. It's an effort to prevent voting. It's an effort to keep people away from the polls by creating confusion, congestion and chaos. That's un-American."

What is so threatening about tens of thousands of new voters coming to the polls? Doesn't democracy work best when more people vote, not fewer? Obviously, voter fraud must not and should not be tolerated. But there is no evidence of massive voter fraud in this country. Instead, there is evidence of massive voter disenfranchisement.

Last August, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, who closely monitors voter-suppression efforts, reported a conversation with a member of Florida's GOP establishment, who admitted the open secret: "A Democrat can't win a statewide election in Florida without a high turnout....of African-Americans. It's no secret that the name of the game for Republicans is to restrain that turnout as much as possible."

With the election just a week from tomorrow, polls show Bush and Kerry still neck and neck. Will the country wake up on November 3rd with a national nervous electoral breakdown? In a smart piece in The Independent, Andrew Gumbel wonders whether Election 2004 "could just as easily produce a concatenation of knockdown, drag-out fights in several states at once, making the debacle in Florida four years ago look, in retrospect, like the constitutional equivalent of a vicarage tea party."

And it seems appropriate that John Dean, the Watergate-era counsel who knows a few things about electoral dirty tricks, has issued the starkest warning about what the country may face: "Only a miracle, it strikes me, " Dean wrote in a http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/102404V.shtml ">piece that zoomed around the internet on Sunday, "can prevent the election from descending into post-election chaos."

P.S. The best defense against voter suppression is to flood the polls. As Jim Hightower says, "There are only so many votes they can prevent or steal--a massive turnout will overwhelm their perfidy."

Bush's Big Lie(s)

On the campaign trail, George W. Bush repeatedly notes that his administration is achieving progress in the war in Iraq and in the so-called war on terrorism. "We're succeeding," Bush declares. And he says, "We're safer now." Both statements, though, have a shaky basis in fact. They comprise an isn't-it-pretty-to-think-so fairy tale that Bush is relying upon to retain control of the White House. And since truth, nuance, or a hardheaded recognition of reality might interfere with his reelection, Bush finds no need for them.

Against an enemy like al Qaeda--actually the enemy is now a global Islamic jidhadist movement difficult to track and target--there is no way to determine definitively if the United States is indeed "safer." The country certainly seemed safe in the years between the first World Trade Center bombing and September 11. Bush's "we're safer" declaration is based on assertion not proof. Saddam Hussein, a despicable tyrant (but one who did not pose an immediate threat to the United States), is out of power. Yet the invasion of Iraq has sparked an expansion of the fundamentalist forces that consider America the number-one target. And if the enemy is expanding, can one say that the threat facing the United States is diminishing? With US troops stuck in Iraq and the United States' standing in the world unquestionably tarnished, it is tough to define "safe," let alone claim an increase in safety. And Bush's parallel claim--"we're succeeding"--has been undermined by recent revelations and reports.

The news of the day--that the Bush administration failed to secure 380 tons of explosives at an Iraqi military site after being warned before the war about these explosives, which could be used to demolish buildings and detonate nuclear weapons--shows the peril of declaring success in Iraq. Hussein might be in jail, but these explosives are now in circulation...somewhere. For years, international nuclear inspectors had watched over the materials and kept some of the stockpile under lock and key. But after the invasion, the US military did nothing to safeguard this site--as it did little to secure nuclear materials elsewhere--and the explosives vanished. There is a technical term that covers such a foul-up: oh shit. If terrorist enemies of the United States have come into 760,000 pounds of such powerful explosives, how would Bush rate that on his success-o-meter?

The missing explosives disclosure is only the latest in a series of reports that continue to raise alarming questions about recent trends in Iraq. It's not just that the insurgency is mounting more attacks each week. Recently, American officials in Baghdad boosted their estimate of the strength of the insurgency. Earlier intelligence reports concluded the insurgents numbered between 2,000 and 7,000. Now military and intelligence officials believe there are 8,000 to 12,000 resistance fighters--and thousands more sympathizers and covert accomplices. On Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the current surge in violence "is not news" and "we predicted [the number of attacks] would go up...as we move towards the Iraqi elections." This is the standard Bush administration line: bad news is really a sign of good news. Elections are getting close, so violence is going up. But here's an alternative explanation: there are more attacks in Iraq because there are now more attackers. Have Bush or Rumsfeld considered that? If so, not in public. The insurgents do not seem on the run, and their brutal strikes against the nascent Iraqi security forces appear to be growing in size and intensity. The insurgents have thoroughly penetrated the Iraqi security forces, and US reporters in Iraq note that American troops routinely distrust the Iraqi forces.

Other recent bad news: a poll in Iraq (which was financed by the International Republican Institute) found that the leaders of the nation's religious parties are the most popular politicians and that the interim government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi (who was selected by the United States and a UN envoy) is losing ground. If the elections scheduled for January do take place and the winners are fundamentalist religious leaders, how might that score on the success-o-meter? And last week Pentagon officials conceded that at least ten detainees released from Guantanamo Bay prison--after it was determined they presented little threat--rejoined the fight against US or coalition forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Imagine how congressional Republicans and their amen corner in the land of talk radio and cable news would have responded if the Clinton administration had permitted ten "terrorist" fighters to go free. Yet this blunder sparked little outcry.

The story on the long-gone tons of explosives dominated news at the start of the final week of the campaign, but an article that appeared in The Washington Post a few days earlier was far more devastating. If undecided voters in Ohio and Florida could be forced to read the piece, the election would be over. The 5,000-word article by Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer evaluated Bush's performance in the war on terrorism. "The results," they write, "are sufficiently diffuse--and obscured in secrecy--to resist easy measure." But they cite numerous past and present counterterrorism officials who hardly offer a ringing endorsement of Bush's record. They note:

[A]t least a dozen current and former officials who have held key positions in conducting the war now say they see diminishing returns in Bush's decapitation strategy [aimed at al Qaeda]. Current and former leaders of that effort, three of whom departed in frustration from the top White House terrorism post, said the manhunt is important but cannot defeat the threat of jihadist terrorism. Classified government tallies, moreover, suggest that Bush and Vice President Cheney have inflated the manhunt's success in their reelection bid.

Bush's focus on the instruments of force, the officials said, has been slow to adapt to a swiftly changing enemy. Al Qaeda, they said, no longer exerts centralized control over a network of operational cells. It has rather become the inspirational hub of a global movement, fomenting terrorism that it neither funds nor directs. Internal government assessments describe this change with a disquieting metaphor: They say jihadist terrorism is "metastasizing."

....Twenty months after the invasion of Iraq, the question of whether Americans are safer from terrorism because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power hinges on subjective judgment about might-have-beens. What is not in dispute, among scores of career national security officials and political appointees interviewed periodically since 2002, is that Bush's choice had opportunity costs--first in postwar Afghanistan, then elsewhere. Iraq, they said, became a voracious consumer of time, money, personnel and diplomatic capital--as well as the scarce tools of covert force on which Bush prefers to rely--that until then were engaged against al Qaeda and its sources of direct support.

They go on to note that Bush, in a way, is in a world of his own:

Bush emphasizes force of will--determination to prosecute the enemy, and equally to stand up to allies who disapprove. Bush and his aides most often deflect questions about recent global polls that have found sharply rising anti-US sentiment in Arab and Muslim countries and in Europe, but one of them addressed it in a recent interview. Speaking for the president by White House arrangement, but declining to be identified, a high-ranking national security official said of the hostility detected in surveys: "I don't think it matters. It's about keeping the country safe, and I don't think that matters."

That view is at odds with the view of many career military and intelligence officials, who spoke with increasing alarm about al Qaeda's success in winning recruits to its cause and defining its struggle with the United States.

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When you're done reading this article,visit David Corn's WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries on ignorant Bush voters, the latest kick-ass anti-Bush ads, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Bush's reliance on the fear factor, and Bush's belief he is on a (free-from-facts) mission from God.

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The Post reporters found that Bush has apparently overstated his administration's success in hunting down al Qaeda's leadership. In citing his accomplishments in the war on terrorism, Bush has repeatedly stated that 75 percent of known al Qaeda leaders have been killed or captured. But the Post identified 28 of the approximately 30 names on the unpublished list of "high-value target" list. Of these, fourteen--almost half--are known to be dead or in custody. The article also discloses that as Bush shifted the focus from al Qaeda to Iraq in 2002 and early 2003, elite special units that were searching for Osama bin Laden in border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan were called home to prepare for missions in Baghdad. Retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, Bush's counterterrorism czar after 9/11, told the newspaper, "I support the decision to go into Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein's regime. But in fact it was a gamble of sorts because Iraq did take focus and energy away from the Afghanistan campaign."

Remember, Bush has refused to acknowledge that the Iraq war drew attention from the fight against al Qaeda and bin Laden. "It's been extraordinarily painful, very frustrating," a member of one elite military unit told the Post, noting he believed he the main enemy--bin Laden and al Qaeda slipped away. And now, he said, the US forces chasing down al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan are "not getting as much attention from the home office as Iraq."

In his campaign speeches, Bush routinely derides Richard Holbrooke, the former UN ambassador who advises John Kerry, for having once said that the war on terrorism is a metaphor. "Anyone who thinks we are fighting a metaphor does not understand the enemy we face," Bush has said, "and has no idea how to win the war and keep America secure." This is an absurd attack. More importantly, according to the Post, many experts do not share Bush's nuance-free view of the struggle against terrorism.

"This is not a war," [Downing] said. "What we're faced with is an Islamic insurgency that is spreading throughout the world, not just the Islamic world." Because it is "a political struggle," he said, "the military is not the key factor. The military has to be coordinated with the other elements of national power."

Many of Downing's peers--and strong majorities of several dozen officers and officials who were interviewed--agree. They cite a long list of proposals to address terrorism at its roots that have not been carried out. Among them was a plan by Wendy Chamberlin, then ambassador to Pakistan, to offer President Pervez Musharraf a substitute for Saudi funding of a radical network of Islamist schools known as madrasas. Downing backed Chamberlin in the interagency debate, describing education as "the root of many of the recruits for the Islamist movement." Bush promised such support to Musharraf in a meeting soon after Sept. 11, said an official who accompanied him, but the $300 million plan did not survive the White House budget request....

Most officials interviewed said Bush has not devised an answer to a problem then-CIA Director George J. Tenet identified publicly on Feb. 11, 2003--"the numbers of societies and peoples excluded from the benefits of an expanding global economy, where the daily lot is hunger, disease, and displacement--and that produce large populations of disaffected youth who are prime recruits for our extremist foes."

The president and his most influential advisers, many officials said, do not see those factors--or US policy overseas--as primary contributors to the terrorism threat. Bush's explanation, in private and public, is that terrorists hate America for its freedom.

[Former CIA official Marc] Sageman, who supports some of Bush's approach, said that analysis is "nonsense, complete nonsense. They obviously haven't looked at any surveys." The central findings of polling by the Pew Charitable Trust and others, he said, is that large majorities in much of the world "view us as a hypocritical huge beast throwing our weight around in the Middle East."

Bush's campaign speeches--in which he accuses Kerry of being weak and falsely claims Kerry is willing to grant other nations a veto over US national security decisions--avoids all the key points raised in the Post article. On the stump, he refers to none of the fundamental problems precipitated by his invasion of Iraq. He insists freedom is on the march, he insists America is safer. Maybe he is right. But there's absolutely no telling. He may as well be shouting from the platform, "Good will prevail over evil. Really, really, really. And I am good." Kerry has assailed Bush for living in a state of denial. It is unclear whether Bush ignores the discouraging news and troubling signs because it would be politically inconvenient to recognize them publicly or because he simply does not--or cannot--see them. We're safer! We're winning! It sure sounds good. And it would be hard for an incumbent candidate to hit the stump and say, I invaded Iraq and all we got for it was less safety and more mess. Since Bush may end up winning, the hope is that he realizes he is flimflamming the public for political ends when he peddles these reassuring but divorced-from-reality nostrums. The fear is, he does not.

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WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME BEFORE THE ELECTION, DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." 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." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there.

Political Laughs? Try Fox

Sorry, Jon Stewart, but Sean Hannity is the king of television comedy.

Yes, of course, "The Daily Show" is hilarious.

But the Emmy Award-winning Comedy Central program featuring Stewart's cutting comments on the foibles of campaigners for president and spot-on parodies of network election coverage by his crew of fake news reporters is just too intellectually advanced. If you want to see fall-down funny political humor on cable television, click over to the Fox News Channel and watch Hannity "interview" members of the Republican ticket.

No, Hannity does not fashion himself a comic. He doesn't even know he's funny.

It is that unintended quality that makes Hannity's "interviews" so remarkably ridiculous that it is impossible not to laugh. When the men who run the country come on his show -- as they have been for "energize-the-base" appearances in recent days -- Hannity greets them with a demeanor reminiscent of the "Wayne's World" guys falling to their knees before Alice Cooper and crying, "We are not worthy!"

There will be those who suggest that it is unfair to pick on Hannity because, as a Fox host, he is not supposed to be concerned about his credibility as a television interviewer. But Hannity's "interviews" are not Fox bad, they are William Shatner singing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" bad.

Hannity's suck-up session with Vice President Dick Cheney last Thursday was so syrupy that it made those Julia Roberts celebrity interviews on "Entertainment Tonight" look like Prime Minister's Question Time in the English House of Commons.

Hannity, the wide-eyed conservative who is paired up with in-his-place "liberal" Alan Colmes on Fox's creepily amusing "Hannity & Colmes" show, did not so much fawn over the vice president as desperately beg the big guy for approval. Hannity wasn't merely tossing softball questions; he was playing up to Cheney like a half-wit intern trying to get on the good side of an annoyed boss.

"Well, here you are in the all-important swing state of Ohio," Hannity began.

"Right," Cheney replied.

"The president yesterday mentioned the shameless scare tactics that are being used by the Democrats and more particularly John Kerry, who is now on the stump regularly saying that there's a big January surprise," Hannity said, referring to talk of privatization of Social Security.

"Right," Cheney replied.

Seated on a hokey set where he was surrounded by bales of hay, the vice president did his best to answer Hannity's questions seriously. But it was simply impossible. As the questions got sillier and sillier, the vice president grumbled out the sort of several-word responses that are usually reserved for the final uncomfortable minutes of sit-down sessions with the editorial board of the Mason City Globe Gazette.

Holding up a booklet, Hannity breathlessly announced, "I brought another prop with me."

"You brought a lot," Cheney observed, with all the enthusiasm of an airline passenger being chatted up by a hyperactive seatmate.

What makes Hannity's performances all the more hilarious is the fact that the Fox host does not appear to have the faintest inkling of how of how much his "interviews" look like a local television station's "remote" broadcast from the grand opening of a new car wash.

When the session was finished, an excited Hannity greeted the Democratic guest on his "fair-and-balanced" program, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. After Hannity referred to what had just finished as "the interview I had with the vice president," Landrieu corrected him. "I wouldn't call what just happened with the vice president an interview. I think it was an infomercial for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign."

Hannity blew up, screaming, "Senator, senator, I think you're a lousy senator, okay?" Then he whined, "If you don't like it, I don't really care."

But, of course, he did care.

After the Fox host repeatedly interrupted Landrieu, the senator said, "Sean, let me finish please. You did not interrupt the vice president."

"Well, you're not the vice president," Hannity growled, "and I doubt you ever will be."

The man is serious.

That's the genius of his humor.

Other shows hire writers to come up with funny lines. Hannity is funny without even trying.

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John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, has just been released by The New Press. Former White House counsel John Dean, the author of Worse Than Watergate, says, "This page-turner closes the case: Cheney is our de facto president." Arianna Huffington, the author of Fanatics and Fools, calls Dick, "The first full portrait of The Most Powerful Number Two in History, a scary and appalling picture. Cheney is revealed as the poster child for crony capitalism (think Halliburton's no bid, cost-plus Iraq contracts) and crony democracy (think Scalia and duck-hunting)."

Dick: The Man Who Is President is available from independent bookstores nationwide and by clicking here.

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Do You Know Your Polling Place?

Thanks to Nation reader Keith Kritselis who wrote in to alert us to a new website he created that he's hoping will help clear up some of the confusion caused by what looks like a spate of conservative attempts to keep just enough potential voters from casting their ballot next Tuesday.

The website's goal is to help voters identify and find their polling place, which is especially important in the wake of news that local Republican poll watchers may try to bar people from voting in any form if they mistakenly show up at the wrong polling place.

As Kritselis writes, "our database of online poll locators has been slowly growing. We now can get 63 percent of the US population the exact location of their polling site in 4 clicks or less. For the other 37 percent we provide a local phone number which they cancall to receive the information they need...This is a small one man operation with no marketing dollars. Anything you can do to help get the word out would be greatly appreciated."

Click here to check the site and circulate word about it to anyone you know who might need the information next week.