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  xFriday, September 24, 2004

zinger of the day

Josh Marshall makes a funny:
Don Rumsfeld said yesterday that elections in "three-quarters or four-fifths of" Iraq might be good enough.

In other words, run the place on Florida rules.



e.j. dionne explains it all

WaPo columnist E.J. Dionne doesn't quite call Bush a liar this morning; he merely -- the scoundrel! -- compares Bush's claims about Kerry to Kerry's actual statements. He concludes thus:
A very intelligent political reporter I know said the other night that Republicans simply run better campaigns than Democrats. If I were given a free pass to stretch the truth to the breaking point, I could run a pretty good campaign, too.

Although it's always distressing to see the Bush Administration's distortions relayed unchallenged by the SCLM, I am also, paradoxically, somewhat encouraged. It's a tacit admission that Bush can't win a debate with Kerry on the merits.


jeff danziger explains it all

the gop platform


(via Talking Points Memo and Eschaton)


paul krugman explains it all

Paul Krugman has a (typically shrill, of course) column in this morning's New York Times in which he points out, again, the difference between Bush's rhetoric on Iraq and reality.
Mr. Bush claims that Mr. Kerry's plan to secure and rebuild Iraq is "exactly what we're currently doing." No, it isn't. It's only what Mr. Bush is currently saying. And we have 18 months of his administration's deeds to contrast with his words.


  xThursday, September 23, 2004

dear swanky

Planet Swank's advice for the lovelorn is this: never, ever, ever break up with your significant other via PowerPoint.

Or email, for that matter. Sheesh.

(via Byzantium's Shores via John Scalzi)


japanese culture post of the day

butterfly origami

Two words: insect origami.

(via BoingBoing; cross-posted at Destroy All Monsters)


unusual focus group of the day

Three words: Klingons for Kerry.
"On the home world, if there had been a contested election between Gore and Bush, the honorable thing would be for Gore to kill Bush," explained Khraanik (Earth name: Jason Lewis), a 38-year-old from Southeast Portland.

(via FARK)


sclm watch

The so-called "liberal media" takes note of the Bush campaign's success at painting John Kerry as a "flip-flopper," despite the fact that the label applies equally well -- if not better -- to Bush himself.

The Washington Post: Despite Bush Flip-Flops, Kerry Gets Label
The flip-flopper, Democrats say, is President Bush. Over the past four years, he abandoned positions on issues such as how to regulate air pollution or whether states should be allowed to sanction same-sex marriage. He changed his mind about the merits of creating the Homeland Security Department, and made a major exception to his stance on free trade by agreeing to tariffs on steel. After resisting, the president yielded to pressure in supporting an independent commission to study policy failures preceding the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Bush did the same with questions about whether he would allow his national security adviser to testify, or whether he would answer commissioners' questions for only an hour, or for as long they needed.

Democrats working for John F. Kerry cite these twists and turns with glee -- but even more frustration. Polls have shown overwhelmingly that Kerry -- with his long trail of confusing and sometimes contradictory statements, especially on Iraq -- is this year's flip-flopper in the public mind, a criticism that continued to echo across the campaign trail yesterday.

Once such a popular perception becomes fixed, public opinion experts and strategists say, virtually every episode in the campaign is viewed through that prism, while facts that do not fit with existing assumptions -- such as Bush's history of policy shifts -- do not have much impact in the political debate.

Why these impressions became so firmly fixed in the first place is a source of debate. Bush strategists say the popular perception is true. The president's principles on such issues as low taxes and confronting overseas threats are not in doubt, no matter some occasional tactical shifts, they say, while Kerry's maneuvering on Iraq and other issues raises questions about whether he can stand steady for core beliefs.

Kerry defenders say the flip-flop charge has resonated through purposeful repetition by the Bush campaign, which began striking the theme in ads in the spring and has never let go. In the latest Bush campaign spot, released yesterday, Kerry is shown windsurfing as the ad, scored with Johann Strauss Jr.'s "Blue Danube" waltz, says the Democrat shifts positions on Iraq, health care and education "whichever way the wind blows."

As Democrats see it, the flip-flopper allegation is this year's equivalent of how the GOP four years ago portrayed Al Gore as a chronic truth-stretcher, and now, as then, blame the news media for accepting and promoting a caricature.

For more on that, see The Daily Howler.

The Slacktivist has a pair of posts lamenting the GOP's practice of post-modernist prevarication and the journalistic practices that enable it.

From "Reality Matters, Part 1":
That was the day when I first recognized the appalling nonsense of "he said/she said" journalism. Others have described and lamented this phenomenon at great length, and with more clarity and insight than I can muster here. But since your first time is always special, let me tell you about my terrible epiphany of October 13, 1992.

I was watching the vice-presidential debate, which featured the incumbent, Dan Quayle, and the two challengers, Sen. Al Gore and retired Vice Admiral James Stockdale.

A key exchange in the debate involved Quayle's misrepresentation of a passage from Gore's book, Earth in the Balance. In the chapter in question, Gore argued for a new "Marshall Plan" to promote sustainable development in the Third World. Quayle offered a garbled interpretation of this idea and Gore corrected him.

The point here is that the debate got very specific -- with Quayle citing a specific page number, page 304, of Gore's book.

After the debate, I clicked between the networks and watched the talking heads discuss their feelings about which of the candidates was more "convincing" in this dispute. Nobody bothered to pick up a copy of the damned book, turn to page 304, and compare what the candidates said with the rather specific and easily checked facts of the matter.

The book was a best-seller. It shouldn't have been hard to find a copy. Once Quayle cited a specific page number, I got up, walked across the living room, grabbed a copy of the book and looked up the passage. My apartment was apparently better equipped than the research departments of ABC, NBC and CBS news.

Yet none of the "journalists" apparently considered this their job. It did not even occur to them to look up the disputed passage.

And in "Reality Matters, Part 2," the Slacktivist looks at a recent New York Times article that described the two markedly contrasting views of Iraq presented by the two campaigns (the lede: "To hear President Bush and John Kerry argue bitterly in the past two days about the American mission in Iraq is to wonder if they are talking about the same war, or even the same country."). The Slacktivist comments:
Sanger does a good job of showing the contrast between what Bush says and what Kerry says, but he seems less interested in the far more important question: Which description of the situation in Iraq is more accurate? He offers hints, but never explicitly attempts to evaluate either Bush's or Kerry's statements in terms of how well they correlate to the actual situation. Even in an "analysis" piece, he doesn't seem comfortable drawing conclusions based on facts.

Of course not; the facts are biased against Bush. Matthew Yglesias weighs in on the same article, noting that Kerry's assessment is shared by many.
On the side of pessimism, you have John Kerry, of course, but also Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Dick Lugar, and Lindsey Graham, the Bush administration's own CIA, a bevy of conservative writers, the top analysts from leading American and British national security think tanks, and "assessments of diplomats and world leaders." [some links omitted] On the other side you have George W. Bush and some people directly employed by Bush. On one side you've got plenty of chastened hawks, whether or not they now regret their decision to support the war in the first place, while if there are any chastened doves out there I haven't heard about it.

Update 9/28: The Washington Post reports that Goebbels was right: Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes accepted as the truth.
Bush's relentless attacks on Kerry have badly damaged the Democratic nominee, the survey and interviews showed. Voters routinely describe Kerry as wishy-washy, as a flip-flopper and as a candidate they are not sure they can trust, almost as if they are reading from Bush campaign ad scripts.

'Nuff said.

And TAPPED notes the SCLM bending over backwards to provide "balance" yet again:
Sure, many newspapers have recently grown willing to call George W. Bush's campaign more deceptive than John Kerry's. But not the AP! Or, at least, not for more than eight hours at a time:
  • Saturday, September 25, 4:36 a.m.: "Bush Twists Kerry's Words on Iraq"
  • Saturday, September 25, 12:53 p.m.: "Bush, Kerry Twisting Each Other's Words"
Same story, very different headlines.

Needless to say, the story contains no instances of Kerry falsely putting words into Bush's mouth as egregiously as Bush and his minions do Kerry's.


bush mendacity watch

Oliver Willis relays this QuickTime clip of George Bush telling a fib.

The only suprising thing is that the so-called "liberal media" actually checked the accuracy of Bush's paraphrase of Kerry to what Kerry actually said. If they make it a habit -- and lying wholesale about Kerry's positions becomes less of a viable strategy for Bush -- it could mark an entirely new dynamic in the race.

  xWednesday, September 22, 2004

russ meyer r.i.p.

Exploitation film fans worldwide fondly recall the career of Russ Meyer, who died Saturday at 82.

Meyer's films were considered pornographic in their time but are less shocking by today's standards, with their focus on violence and large-busted women but little graphic sex.

Altogether he produced, directed, financed, wrote, edited and shot at least 23 films, including his debut, "The Immoral Mr. Teas," in 1959 and the 1968 film "Vixen," whose success earned him notice from major studios.

...Meyer's work made him rich and earned him critical acclaim. He was honored at international film festivals, his movies were discussed in college courses, and his work was shown at top museums.

His 1966 classic, "Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!" about three hip go-go-girl club dancers who go on a vengeful murder spree against the men who did them wrong still makes the art house rounds.

(via BoingBoing)

Update: Here's a fine appreciation by film critic Roger Ebert, who wrote the screenplay for Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.


question of the day

Dr. Meyers presents a poser:
I do have one question at this point. You know all those right-wingers who are howling for the head of Dan Rather on a plate, because, after all, he tainted the body politic with documents that were inadequately vetted and that should have been checked by bloggers who are willing to make stuff up? Those guys who think that responsibility for presentations on broadcast TV belongs firmly in the hands of the people who stand up and tell us the story?

What’s their position on the responsibilities and obligations of a commander-in-chief who freely peddles bogus tales of mobile biowarfare facilities, nuclear weapons programs, imported radioactive materials from Africa, flying drones filled with nerve gas, and horrific stories of widespread Weapons of Mass Destruction that are going to be used to Blow America Up?

I ask because I get the impression that telling lies that get tens of thousands of people killed, sucks hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy, and flushes American credibility down the crapper gets a free pass from these guys. I’m perfectly willing to trade Dan Rather’s head for GW Bush’s immediate impeachment and eviction from office, if that would make them happy (sorry, Dan. Nothing personal.)

Emphasis in the original.

Unfortunately, Dr. Meyers missed the obvious answer: It's Okay If You're A Republican.


swank album of the day

polynesian paradise

If you, like me, groove on swank retro exotica tunes, run, do not walk, over to Basic Hip Digital Oddio and snag Phil Moore's LP Polynesian Paradise. I'm listening to it now, and it's a wonderful collection of smooth sounds that conjure the magic of the islands. Sw33t!

The links will change on the host at the beginning of next week, so act now!


bush awol update

Yet another source looks at Bush's National Guard service record and finds it wanting.
From most accounts, Bush appears to have received preferential treatment to get into the Air National Guard and avoid the draft after he graduated from Yale University in 1968. He was initially regarded as a good pilot, but his performance faded over his final two years in the Guard and he was suspended from flight status. He did not fly for the remaining 18 months he served in the Guard, though he was obligated to do so.

And for significant chunks of time, Bush did not report for duty at all. His superiors took no action, and he was honorably discharged in 1973, six months before he should have been.

...On Sept. 5, Bush formally asked Killian for a discharge from the Texas unit so he could attend Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass. Two weeks later, Hodges approved the request and honorably discharged Bush, administratively transferring him to Headquarters, Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver.

Two months earlier, on June 30, Bush signed a statement promising that if he left his Texas Ready Reserve unit, “it is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve Forces unit or mobilization augmentation position. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months.”

There is no record of Bush ever having signed on with a Massachusetts Reserve unit. In 1999, Dan Bartlett, working for the Bush campaign, told The Washington Post that Bush had completed his six-year commitment with a Boston unit. That didn’t happen, Bartlett recently told The Boston Globe. “I must have misspoke,” he said.

What commie pinko lefy rabid Bush hater scribbled such a screed? Why, the Air Force Times.

The article also, once again, debunks conservative columnist Byron York's attempt to claim that Bush met his obligations based on points, denying some Bush apologists a straw they've been desperately clinging to as the story has unfolded.

And no, the CBS memos were not a factor in the story. As far as I know, the only new element the memos would have added would have been confirmation of a notion I'd only heard unsourced earlier, that Bush disobeyed a direct order to take his physical. (Given that Bush's commander's secretary has confirmed the substance of the memos if not their authenticity, I'd no more discount that possibility than presume that Bush's apologists wouldn't just give him a pass on that as well.)

In typical fashion, Bush engineered a weekend document dump and then counted -- not unreasonably -- on the media to be too stupid and lazy to actually examine his records against his claims. Unfortunately, some did give the records scrutiny, and the picture that emerges isn't flattering to Bush. Nor is the fact that Bush continues to misrepresent his record. But, after all, at least his doing so is consistent with his behavior as President.

(via Daily Kos)


anime post of the day

I'd intended to post this yesterday, but I already had an "anime post of the day." Instead, I posted it over at Destroy All Monsters.

The local paper carried a feature article yesterday on the increasing popularity of shoujo manga among American women who have never been into comics before.
"Girls would read 'Archie' comics until they turned 10 or 11, then read youth novels or teen novels," says Matt Thorn, a visiting scholar at Harvard's Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, who has devoted 15 years to studying female readers of Japanese comics.

...The Japanese comics are now so hot in the United States that, a trade-news Web site that focuses heavily on the genre, called it the fastest-growing sector of pop culture last year. Sales reached $100 million in 2003, growing by about 75 to 100 percent over the previous year, according to ICv2's "Retailers Guide to Anime/Manga."

Who's driving the sales? Young women.

"Manga is something especially teenagers can call their own," says Julie Taylor, senior editor of shojo manga at TOKYOPOP Inc., a popular manga publisher. "And they're really into it."

Unfortunately, the local paper didn't see fit to add some local color to the wire service article by interviewing any Indianapolis fans (hello!) or store owners. At least it was accompanied by a sidebar listing anime and manga clubs in the Indianapolis area, including the Indiana Animation Club, which Musashi and I have visited.

Yesterday's article was well-timed, as I visited my daughter's school to deliver a short presentation on manga to an art class. It was fun, and definitely something to see that nearly all the kids were well aware of anime, and fully half had heard of manga (a couple of them even had manga with them). When I was 10 or so, my awareness extended to Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets.


no more hostess twinkies?!

Here's a sad bit of news...Interstate Bakeries, makers of Hostess Twinkies, cupcakes and pies, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Interstate Bakeries Corp. filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday after struggling with more than $1.3 billion in debt and weak demand for bread products amid the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets.

The largest U.S. wholesale bakery, maker of Wonder bread and Hostess Twinkies, also accepted the resignation of James Elsesser as chairman and chief executive, according to the Chapter 11 filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City.

The company named Leo Benatar as nonexecutive chairman and Antonio Alvarez as chief executive, according to court papers. Alvarez is managing director of the turnaround firm Alvarez & Marsal, which was hired to assist Interstate in restructuring.

Interstate said it would seek court approval for a debtor-in-possession financing facility not to exceed $200 million and that it has received a $200 million financing commitment from JPMorgan Chase Bank.

I've never been that big a fan of Twinkies -- but their unite time-defying formul makes them one of the more welcome snacks to discover forgotten at the back of an office drawer -- and I never eat Wonder bread (we're a whole wheat household), but I do enjoy their pies on occasion.

The more I think about it, the more it becomes obvious that this whole "low carb" craze has simply gone too far. Fortunately, some kind soul brought donuts to the office this morning, so I'm mounting my own high-carb protest action.

As a tribute, here once again is seanbaby's excellent compilation of Hostess ads from various comic books, featuring comic book heroes. I hope a hero comes to the bakery's rescue. Of courtse, I'm sure that after reorganizing, Hostess will continue to produce its unique contributions to American culture.

  xTuesday, September 21, 2004

anime post of the day

sweat drop

Here's a fun list of anime and manga conventions and clichés, from sweat drops to the dreaded Triple Repeat Attack.


15-minutes-are-over post of the day


Russian pseudo-lesbian pop duo TaTu's fifteen minute of fame are evidently over, as the pair has evidently announced that they're dropping the pseudo-lesbian act, to a chorus of yawns.
The Russian duo of Lena Katina and Julia Volkova of Tatu fame are dumping their 'leabian' image for a hungry heterosexual one, in a bid to try to recapture the music charts.

"The truth is the girls were never lesbians in the first place.They feel like they were exploited. They were only aged 14 and 15 when they started singing in concert halls and doing sexy routines," an insider was quoted by The Sun, as saying.

"Julia and Lena are getting rid of their skimpy school uniforms in favour of a sassier, sexier look," the insider added.

Skimpy school uniforms aren't sexy? Did I miss something?

In all seriousness, I hope their agents managed to squirrel away some of the proceeds from their record sales for the pair. I've never particularly enjoyed their music, but the obviously artificial -- to say nothing of exploitative -- images their handlers created for them never quite sat right with me. While it'd be naive to suppose that a sexy image isn't a cruicial part of musical success in this MTV age, it's one thing when you're a legal adult, at least, but quite another for star-struck girls in their early teens. It's kind of sad to see these two kids facing the harsh realities of fickle public taste.

(via FARK)

Update 9/23: Ah, now it all becomes clear: TaTu is just making room for the next sensation from Russia, lesbian waffles (also via FARK).


goth post of the day

Three words: Goth girl makeover


bush's top 10 tax proposals

Appearing on the Letterman show last night, John Kerry provided the Top 10 list: "Top 10 Bush Tax Proposals."
10. No estate tax for families with at least two U.S. presidents.

9. W-2 Form is now Dubya-2 Form.

8. Under the simplified tax code, your refund check goes directly to Halliburton.

7. The reduced earned income tax credit is so unfair, it just makes me want to tear out my lustrous, finely groomed hair.

6. Attorney General Ashcroft gets to write off the entire U.S. Constitution.

5. Texas Rangers can take a business loss for trading Sammy Sosa.

4. Eliminate all income taxes; just ask Teresa to cover the whole damn thing.

3. Cheney can claim Bush as a dependent.

2. Hundred-dollar penalty if you pronounce it "nuclear" instead of "nucular."

1. George W. Bush gets a deduction for mortgaging our entire future.



brooks mendacity watch

Kerry's speech yesterday on Iraq must have posed a nasty problem for conservatives in terms of forming an honest rebuttal. Fortunately, their tradition makes no demands that they try. New York Times columnist David Brooks came up with the typical GOP solution: Misrepresent what Kerry said, and then attack that.

Joshua Marshall and Ezra Klein supply the corrections.

  xMonday, September 20, 2004

new movies

tokyo mafiabeautiful targetarrest the restless

Last week, I decided to blow a bit of overtime cash by taking advantage of a sale of some Japanese original video cinema at The DVDs arrived today!

Also arriving was a review copy of the anime prequel to wildman director Takashi Miike's Ichi The Killer.



'baghdad bush'

Even some principled conservatives -- yes, there seem to be a few left -- are now expressing reservations about our progress and prospects in Iraq. (It seems that it isn't just the so-called "liberal media" providing pessimistic reports.) But not Bush! As Kevin Drum and others have noted, the Bush Administration is starting to sound like "Baghdad Bob."

An awesome analogy!


kerry's speech

John Kerry gave an excellent speech today in which he blasted Bush's incompetence and mendacity -- both pre- and postwar -- in Iraq.
In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straightforward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies. But billions of people around the world yearning for a better life are open to America’s ideals. We must reach them.

National security is a central issue in this campaign. We owe it to the American people to have a real debate about the choices President Bush has made… and the choices I would make… to fight and win the war on terror.

That means we must have a great honest national debate on Iraq. The President claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.

This month, we passed a cruel milestone: more than 1,000 Americans lost in Iraq. Their sacrifice reminds us that Iraq remains, overwhelmingly, an American burden. Nearly 90 percent of the troops – and nearly 90 percent of the casualties – are American. Despite the President’s claims, this is not a grand coalition.

Our troops have served with extraordinary bravery, skill and resolve. Their service humbles all of us. When I speak to them… when I look into the eyes of their families, I know this: we owe them the truth about what we have asked them to do… and what is still to be done.

In June, the President declared, “The Iraqi people have their country back.” Just last week, he told us: “This country is headed toward democracy… Freedom is on the march.”

But the administration’s own official intelligence estimate, given to the President last July, tells a very different story.

...The President has said that he “miscalculated” in Iraq and that it was a “catastrophic success.” In fact, the President has made a series of catastrophic decisions … from the beginning … in Iraq. At every fork in the road, he has taken the wrong turn and led us in the wrong direction.

The first and most fundamental mistake was the President’s failure to tell the truth to the American people.

He failed to tell the truth about the rationale for going to war. And he failed to tell the truth about the burden this war would impose on our soldiers and our citizens.

By one count, the President offered 23 different rationales for this war. If his purpose was to confuse and mislead the American people, he succeeded.

His two main rationales – weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/September 11 connection – have been proved false… by the President’s own weapons inspectors… and by the 9/11 Commission. Just last week, Secretary of State Powell acknowledged the facts. Only Vice President Cheney still insists that the earth is flat.

The President also failed to level with the American people about what it would take to prevail in Iraq.

He didn’t tell us that well over 100,000 troops would be needed, for years, not months. He didn’t tell us that he wouldn’t take the time to assemble a broad and strong coalition of allies. He didn’t tell us that the cost would exceed $200 billion. He didn’t tell us that even after paying such a heavy price, success was far from assured.

And America will pay an even heavier price for the President’s lack of candor.

At home, the American people are less likely to trust this administration if it needs to summon their support to meet real and pressing threats to our security.

Abroad, other countries will be reluctant to follow America when we seek to rally them against a common menace -- as they are today. Our credibility in the world has plummeted.

In the dark days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Europe to build support. Acheson explained the situation to French President de Gaulle. Then he offered to show him highly classified satellite photos, as proof. De Gaulle waved the photos away, saying: “The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me.”

How many world leaders have that same trust in America’s president, today?

This President’s failure to tell the truth to us before the war has been exceeded by fundamental errors of judgment during and after the war.

The President now admits to “miscalculations” in Iraq.

That is one of the greatest understatements in recent American history. His were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment – and judgment is what we look for in a president.

This is all the more stunning because we’re not talking about 20/20 hindsight. Before the war, before he chose to go to war, bi-partisan Congressional hearings… major outside studies… and even some in the administration itself… predicted virtually every problem we now face in Iraq.

This President was in denial. He hitched his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military. The result is a long litany of misjudgments with terrible consequences.

The administration told us we’d be greeted as liberators. They were wrong.

They told us not to worry about looting or the sorry state of Iraq’s infrastructure. They were wrong.

They told us we had enough troops to provide security and stability, defeat the insurgents, guard the borders and secure the arms depots. They were wrong.

They told us we could rely on exiles like Ahmed Chalabi to build political legitimacy. They were wrong.

They told us we would quickly restore an Iraqi civil service to run the country and a police force and army to secure it. They were wrong.

In Iraq, this administration has consistently over-promised and under-performed. This policy has been plagued by a lack of planning, an absence of candor, arrogance and outright incompetence. And the President has held no one accountable, including himself.

In fact, the only officials who lost their jobs over Iraq were the ones who told the truth.

General Shinseki said it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. He was retired. Economic adviser Larry Lindsey said that Iraq would cost as much as $200 billion. He was fired. After the successful entry into Baghdad, George Bush was offered help from the UN -- and he rejected it. He even prohibited any nation from participating in reconstruction efforts that wasn’t part of the original coalition – pushing reluctant countries even farther away. As we continue to fight this war almost alone, it is hard to estimate how costly that arrogant decision was. Can anyone seriously say this President has handled Iraq in a way that makes us stronger in the war on terrorism?

By any measure, the answer is no. Nuclear dangers have mounted across the globe. The international terrorist club has expanded. Radicalism in the Middle East is on the rise. We have divided our friends and united our enemies. And our standing in the world is at an all time low.

Think about it for a minute. Consider where we were… and where we are. After the events of September 11, we had an opportunity to bring our country and the world together in the struggle against the terrorists. On September 12th, headlines in newspapers abroad declared “we are all Americans now.” But through his policy in Iraq, the President squandered that moment and rather than isolating the terrorists, left America isolated from the world.

(And it is for that, more than any other misdeed, that I cannot forgive Bush.)
We now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat to our security. It had not, as the Vice President claimed, “reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

...The President’s policy in Iraq precipitated the very problem he said he was trying to prevent. Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops. Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States.

...Let me put it plainly: The President’s policy in Iraq has not strengthened our national security. It has weakened it.

Two years ago, Congress was right to give the President the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This President… any President… would have needed the threat of force to act effectively. This President misused that authority.

The power entrusted to the President gave him a strong hand to play in the international community. The idea was simple. We would get the weapons inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And we would convince the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: disarm or be disarmed.

A month before the war, President Bush told the nation: “If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side and we will prevail.” He said that military action wasn’t “unavoidable.”

Instead, the President rushed to war without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work. He went without a broad and deep coalition of allies. He acted without making sure our troops had enough body armor. And he plunged ahead without understanding or preparing for the consequences of the post-war. None of which I would have done.

Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious? Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to Al Qaeda, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no – because a Commander-in-Chief’s first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.

A responsibility, it muyst never be forgotten, that Bush failed at on September 11, 2001.

Kerry's new ad also points out how Bush's miscalculations and mendacity have made America weaker, not stronger.

More like these, please, for the next 45 or so days.


bush still awol

While it appears that CBS News screwed the pooch by getting duped with phony memos (I believe the right-wing talking point is "used forgeries to try to influence a presidential elections), the crowing among the right-wing bloggers is a bit puzzling.

They seem to believe -- or want people to believe -- that by raising questions about the memos, they've somehow proved Bush's repeated claims that he fulfilled his obligations to the Texas Air National Guard.

As I've said before, though, the case against Bush hardly rests on the memos and stands just fine without it, as even the decidedly non-liberal U.S. News has concluded after an in-depth analysis (it also lays to rest the excuse that Bush earned enough "points" to have fulfilled his obligations early). And today, writing in (accessible via day pass), Eric Boehlert recaps the case against Bush.
The details can get a bit obscure, but the basic timeline of Bush's service between 1972 and 1974 is easy to follow: In spring 1972 Bush attempted to permanently transfer to a non-flying Alabama Guard unit. During the second half of 1972 he missed many of his required weekend training drills. At the end of the year he returned to Houston. Bush then had to make up the absences he had stacked up while in Alabama through "substitute service" training in 1972 and 1973. In July 1973, Bush asked to be released by the Texas Air National Guard so he could attend Harvard Business School. In September, the Guard let him go, and the Air Force officially dismissed Bush in November 1974.

Yet looking at the already available public records, they raise as many questions as they answer about Bush and his surrogates' accounts of his service -- because from his Alabama transfer to his missed physical to his substitute service to his "inactive status" to his honorable discharge, it was as if Air Force and Guard regulations simply did not apply to Lt. Bush. He seemed to become a ghostlike figure, doing -- or not doing -- whatever he pleased, unsupervised and unrated by his commanders. One serious question is whether some of Bush's superiors may have played an active role in hiding Bush's shoddy record -- pressured perhaps by powerful politicians -- by crediting him with crucial makeup training days that appear dubious in nature.

Boehlert's article is a laundry list of questions that Bush has never satisfactorily answered, or for which that he has provided answers that seem to be at odds with the established record (and again, the record the the White House provided, with no questions about its authenticity).

While taking steps to avoid participating in a war one enthusiastically supports is hardly admirable (careful! You might have just insulted most of the warbloggers! --ed.) and shirking one's duty to one's nation hard to condone, it would likely not be an issue if Bush had acknowledged "youthful indiscretions" and moved on. Instead, he lied about his service in 2000 (claiming to have flown with his unit for "several" more years when the reality was less than two) and continues to lie about it to this day, making the issue more relevant indeed. It's also a very current indicator of how Bush simply refuses to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing.

Update: In Tuesday's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne wonders if Bush will answer the remaining uncomfortable questions:
[T]here is only one reason the story about Bush's choices during the Vietnam years persists. It's because the president won't give detailed answers to the direct questions posed by the Times story and other responsible media organizations, including the Boston Globe. Their questions never depended on the discredited CBS documents.

Bush could end this story now so we could get to the real issues of 2004. It would require only that the president take an hour or so with reporters to make clear what he did and did not do in the Guard. He may have had good reasons for ducking that physical exam. Surely he can explain the gaps in his service and tell us honestly whether any pull was used to get him into the Guard.

But a guy who is supposed to be so frank and direct turns remarkably Clintonian where the National Guard issue is concerned. "I met my requirements and was honorably discharged" is Bush's stock answer, which does old Bill proud. And am I the only person exasperated by a double standard that treated everything Bill Clinton ever did in his life ("I didn't inhale") as fair game but now insists that we shouldn't sully ourselves with any inconvenient questions about Bush's past?

I'm as weary as you are that our politics veer away from what matters -- Iraq, terrorism, health care, jobs -- and get sidetracked into personal issues manufactured by political consultants and ideological zealots. But the Bush campaign has made clear it wants this election to focus on character and leadership. If character is the issue, the president's life, past and present, matters just as much as John Kerry's.

Bush has long sought to portray his guard service as reflecting well on his character. I believe the Guard story reflects on his character, all right -- perhaps not in the way Bush would like it to, but in what I suspect is a more accurate, if not flattering, way.

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