The US media had nary a harsh word to say about the President’s Thanksgiving flight to Iraq. The foreign press was less obeisant. Some prizewinning comments: Best Headline: “The Turkey Has Landed”–Independent (London). Runners Up: “Electoral Raid on Baghdad”–Libération (Paris); “I came, I saw nothing, but I will conquer”–An-Nahar (Beirut). Best Capsule Descriptions: “one of the most audacious publicity coups in White House history”–The Times (London); “a publicity stunt which will not solve the problem of Iraq”–El Mundo (Madrid); “opens the presidential election season”–Al-Mustaqbal (Beirut); “a Hollywood-style stunt”–La Repubblica (Rome).


Kevin McCarthy writes: Matt Gonzalez, San Francisco’s Green candidate for mayor, is shaking things up in a city long run by Democrats. Gonzalez, president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and a former Democrat, has invigorated a progressive coalition of artists and community activists in a grassroots effort to defeat the well-connected, well-funded and wealthy Democrat, Gavin Newsom. Gonzalez, an advocate for tenants’ rights and the sponsor of the recently passed initiative to raise San Francisco’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, has called the race an “ideological battle” against an opponent who “always favors the money interests.” Though outspent more than 13-to-1 by Newsom, Gonzalez’s campaign has gained steam through small-scale neighborhood “house parties” and cultural events to raise money and mobilize volunteers. Recent polls show Gonzalez with a slight edge. Such high-profile Dems as Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who finished fourth in the general election, former Mayor Art Agnos and actor Martin Sheen have endorsed Gonzalez, defying pressure from the party establishment. Gonzalez may be buoyed further by Green Party activists who, reportedly, will be arriving by the busload to volunteer in the final week of the campaign. But with Newsom’s high-powered connections and fundraising prowess, Gonzalez and the Greens face an uphill battle (for more, see www.thenation.com).


John Nichols writes: In the summer of 1951, John Patrick Hunter, a reporter for the Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin, was stuck for a Fourth of July feature story. Then he typed the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, six amendments from the Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the Fifteenth Amendment giving ex-slaves the right to vote into the form of a petition and headed to a park where families were celebrating the Fourth. Of the 112 people he asked to sign, twenty accused him of being a Communist. Many more agreed with the sentiments expressed but were afraid that signing the document might get them in trouble with Senator Joe McCarthy, who said signers of petitions for civil rights, civil liberties or economic justice were either active Communists or fellow travelers. Only one man recognized the historic words and signed the petition. Hunter’s petition drive became a national sensation. Time, the Washington Post and, of course, The Nation cited it as evidence of the damage done by McCarthyism to the democratic discourse. Until his death on November 26, at age 87, Hunter maintained that it was the job of journalists to defend democracy and the liberties that underpin it. He despised the Patriot Act, the internment of immigrants and other assaults on liberty by John Ashcroft and his ilk in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack (for more see www.thenation.com).