The radioactive president

In his best column in months, Thomas Friedman sums up just how isolated and alone America has become under bush, who is “radioactive” to nearly all of the world’s leaders — even to be seen next to him can be the kiss of death.

Europe, for its part, has gone so crazy over the Bush administration that the normally thoughtful Guardian newspaper completely lost its mind last week and published a column that openly hoped for the assassination of President Bush, saying: “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. – where are you now that we need you?” (The writer apologized later.) Meanwhile, French and German leaders seem to be competing over who can say more categorically that they will never send troops to help out in Iraq – even though the help needed now is to organize the first U.N.-supervised democratic election in that country.

How do we begin to repair this jagged hole? There is no cure-all, but three big things would help. One is a different U.S. approach to the world. The Bush-Cheney team bears a big responsibility for this hole because it nakedly exploited 9/11 to push a far-right Republican agenda, domestically and globally, for which it had no mandate. When U.S. policy makes such a profound lurch to the right, when we start exporting fear instead of hope, the whole center of gravity of the world is affected. Countries reposition themselves in relation to us.

Had the administration been more competent in pursuing its policies in Iraq – which can still turn out decently – the hole in the heart of the world might not have gotten so large and jagged.

I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn’t mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions – it’s also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.

As much as bush despises the notion of a “global test” (a concept he can’t begin to understand), we are a member of the planet, we are a part of the world, we are one of many. But we wanted to do things alone, with a with-us-or-against-us mindset, and we wanted to exact vengeance on those who refused to follow bush off the cliff. We succeeded, making us weaker and more vulnerable than at anytime in our history. We have to join the world again. We have to get down from our high horse. We have to win back the respect of a world that sees a second bush term as an unsustainable blow to hope and world peace.

We have to. And we will.


Roger Simon’s excellent prediction

Threatening to hold his breath until he turns blue, Roger Simon throws an unusually revealing (albeit pathetic) temper tantrum over the looming probability of a Kerry win:

“As I said on Hugh Hewitt’s show the other day, “I’m no Nostradamus. Nostradamus was no Nostradamus.” But I do have this prediction:

If Kerry does win, the mainstream media will have gotten him elected with their biased coverage and they will pay for it more than they could imagine. And it will be the blogosphere and you, our own supporters, who will make them pay. Our strength will grow incrementally with a Kerry victory in terms of influence and even economic power. And both will be at the expense of the mainstream media. Yes, we too have ‘plans.'”

Oh, my. This is one angry dude. Usually the man in the funny hat has a little more grace, a little more charm, a little more je ne sais quoi. I mean, it sounds like he is vowing vengeance. He has “plans.” Quiver. Sounds like he’s ready to become a terrorist.


This post will go down in blog history, as it tells us so much about this ostensibly “moderate” blogger who, in revulsion to a wicked liberal media, was forced into the Little Green Footballs camp. Bull shit. Simon is a reactionary, a conscious and persistent falsifier of fact, a deceiver of his readers and, one suspects, of himself. His rants against the “MSM” are so tiresome and so far-fetched they just make me groan. He still insists we are winning the war in Iraq and that things are going well, but the mean liberal media keep distorting things and making it look bad. Boo-hoo.

I want to scream at Simon, “Look, there are all sorts of reporters in Iraq, some with the Wall Street Journal and NY Post and Fox News, and some with the NY Times and WaPo. Despite their differences in tone, they are all telling us essentially the same story from Iraq. The deaths of civilians, the beheadings, the bombings, the 1,040+ US soldiers killed — those are no product of media bias.

Via Pandagon.

Update: And another funny take on Simon’s losing his marbles can be found here. There will be many more to come — Simon just made himself the butt of blogger jokes for years to come.

Oh, and James Wolcott, likening Simon to Captain Queeg, remarks, “For some reason, I’m reminded of George Costanza’s great soliloquy that begins, “The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”


Eminem’s October surprise?

Apparently the rap king’s new video of his anti-bush song “Mosh” is like a five-minute version of Fahrenheit 911, only more powerful and disturbing.

The beautifully animated video, which is directed by Ian Inaba, opens with a classroom. At the front is a man in a blue suit, his face buried in an upside down children’s book that says “My Pet,” with a picture of a bush. Just as the man is revealed to be Eminem, the scene changes, and we see the singer taping up newspaper stories to a wall — “Sick Wounded Troops Held in Squalor,” says one. “Civil Liberties at Stake,” says another. “Bush Knew,” says a third.

In five minutes, Eminem manages a furious indictment of the administration that will likely resonate among many troops in Iraq as well as disaffected kids here at home. In one scene, a smiling soldier returns home from Baghdad, only to be handed a notice announcing that he has to go back. As Eminem sings, “fuck Bush,” the soldier mouths the words.

Then we see a woman walking home in the rain, carrying groceries and an envelope. Inside is an eviction notice. As she reads it, we hear Eminem saying, “Maybe this is God just saying we’re responsible for this monster, this coward that we have empowered.” The woman looks at her TV, where Bush is speaking over a banner that says “Tax Cuts.” She looks at her terrified children, then back at the screen, which says, “Breaking News…Terror Alert.”

It all ends amazingly earnestly, with Eminem leading a black-clad army to the voting booth. Once again, Bush proves he really does have wonder working powers — by behaving even more callously and irresponsibly than the most outrageous rapper, he’s turned music’s foremost enfant terrible into a role model of civic engagement.

Now we just have to see if MTV has the guts to air it.

The current angst over this election is without comparison in US politics, at least within my lifetime. The idea of moviemakers and singers and artists and disc jockeys all feeling obligated to incorporate their feelings about bush into their work, into everything they do as though their life depended on it — it’s simply unheard of. But it didn’t happen in a vacuum and it’s not that hard to comprehend: We are drained after 4 years of a blame-free, accountability-free president who has turned the world into such a catastrophic mess we can scarcely even imagine a return to normalcy. I am increasingly convinced that once this never-ending race is over, Kerry will have won by a landslide. We simply cannot take any more.

Update: You can see the Mosh video here.

Update 2: One magazine thinks Mosh will have more of an impact on voters than Fahrenheit 911.


A new level of depravity

Be sure to click through each window of this ad — it keeps going after you think it’s over, and you have to see the whole thing. Granted, there are a couple of crudely funny moments, but that doesn’t stop it from taking its place as the most loathesome example of GOP anti-gay bigotry to date.

There were a couple moments that made me think of the hilarious bush-Blair “Endless Love” video, which was truly funny and was not at all cruel. This ad, however, goes way too far, and its message is one of pure hatred and fear.

Update: Andrew Sullivan posts this email he just received in regard to the link above:

“I forwarded the anti-Kerry anti-gay ad posted on your site to my few gay Republican friends. No caption. No commentary. Today a friend who is a Bush supporter called me. Direct quote: “I’m voting for Kerry.” When I asked why she said: ‘Bush doesn’t scare me but the people who support and defend him do.”


How’s that war on terror of yours going?

If you still believe, deep inside, that we are actually “winning” our War on Terror and/or that the invasion of Iraq actually moved us closer to that goal, please read this much-blogged-about article that’s surely going to become a classic for great reporting and myth smashing.

Bush has shaped his presidency, and his reelection campaign, around the threat that announced itself in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Five days after the attacks, he made it clear that he conceived a broader war. Impromptu remarks on the White House South Lawn were the first in which he named “this war on terrorism,” and he cast it as a struggle with “a new kind of evil.” Under that banner he toppled two governments, eased traditional restraints on intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and reshaped the landscape of the federal government.

As the war on terrorism enters its fourth year, its results are sufficiently diffuse — and obscured in secrecy — to resist easy measure. Interpretations of the public record are also polarized by the claims and counterclaims of the presidential campaign. Bush has staked his reelection on an argument that defense of the U.S. homeland requires unyielding resolve to take the fight to the terrorists. His opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), portrays the Bush strategy as based on false assumptions and poor choices, particularly when it came to Iraq.

The contention that the Iraq invasion was an unwise diversion in confronting terrorism has been central to Kerry’s critique of Bush’s performance. But this account — drawn largely from interviews with those who have helped manage Bush’s offensive — shows how the debate over that question has echoed within the ranks of the administration as well, even among those who support much of the president’s agenda.

Interviewing senior bush advisers, the reporter then goes on to pulverize the president’s specious claims of victory and success and freedom on the march. It’s devastating. You will simply not believe the mess we are now in as a result of our dirty little invasion of Iraq.

Most amazing in bush’s utter refusal to understand that Al Qaeda is a hydra-like creature, sprouting dozens of new heads for every one we manage to sever. He sees it as an organization with a set number of officers, and if he can just kill those officers….

It’s a depressing but important read. I truly expect a lot of Republican officials to step into the voting booth on November 2nd and pull the lever for Kerry. When you read this, you ralize that a lot of them have to know just how bad, just how dangerous our little princeling is, for us and for the world.


More voter fraud

The scariest aspect of all the voter fraud being carried out by diligent Republican minions is its brazen shamelessness.

Last week we brought you the news that Larry Russell, head of the South Dakota GOP’s get-out-the-vote operation (Republican Victory Program) had resigned along with several of his staffers amidst a burgeoning vote fraud scandal.

The Bush campaign promptly brought Russell and several of his newly-resigned staffers to Ohio to run the get-out-the-vote effort there.

Now South Dakota officials have handed down indictments against six of Russell’s South Dakota staffers, including at least three he brought with him to take care of business in Ohio.

Perhaps they can push extradition back past election day.

Leave no fraudster behind (LNFB)!

It was only a few years ago that “voter fraud” was a term we rarely if ever heard in America. Bill Clinton may have brought “oral sex” into the public parlance; shrub’s contribution will be “voter fraud” (and “casual lies with lethal consequences”). It’s become part of our reality as we take for granted that Republicans will resort to blatant lawlessness to take away their citizens rights to vote. It’s quite beyond belief.


The O’Reilly Factor for Lesbians”

That’s the title of Frank Rich’s latest masterpiece on the hysteria over John Kerry referencing Mary Cheney’s well-known lesbianism during the third debate. This was a topic I wasn’t going to write about since it’s already been overplayed, but this article is too good to pass up.

Though the president pays “compassionate conservative” lip service to “tolerance” of homosexuality to appease suburban swing voters, his campaign has pushed a gratuitous constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, one opposed by Mary Cheney’s own father, to stir up as much fear and ugly rage as it can.

When Mrs. Cheney hyperbolically implies that even using the word lesbian in 2004 is a slur out of the McCarthy era – “a cheap and tawdry political trick,” she said – she is playing a similar game. She is positioning lesbian as a term comparable to child molester. But as Dave Cullen writes in Salon: “It is not an insult to call a proudly public lesbian a lesbian. It’s an insult to gasp when someone calls her a lesbian.” Mrs. Cheney and her surrogates are in effect doing exactly what Elizabeth Edwards had the guts to say they were doing: they are sending the message to Mr. Rove’s four million that they are ashamed of Mary Cheney. They are disowning her under the guise of “defending” her. They are exploiting her for the sake of political expediency even as they level that charge at Democrats.

The deployment of homosexuality as a nasty campaign weapon has long been second nature to Mr. Rove. In the must-read article “Karl Rove in a Corner” in the November issue of The Atlantic, the journalist Joshua Green exhaustively researches the tightest campaigns of Mr. Rove’s career and exhumes the pattern. As Mr. Green reminds us, George W. Bush’s 1994 gubernatorial race against Ann Richards “featured a rumor” that Governor Richards was a lesbian. Gay whispers have also swirled around Rove adversaries like a rival Republican campaign consultant in the 1980’s and a 1994 Alabama judicial candidate who was branded a “homosexual pedophile.”

None of these rumors were, in fact, true, but Mary Cheney is unambiguously and unapologetically gay. For a campaign that wants to pander to the fringe, that makes her presence in the Bush-Cheney family a problem – just how big a problem can be seen by its disingenuously hysterical reaction to Mr. Kerry’s use of the L word. But Mary Cheney isn’t the only problem for Mr. Rove as he plays this game. The Republican establishment is rife with gay people – just ask anyone in proximity to its convention in New York – and the campaign doesn’t want the four million to know about them, either.

(It’s true, about the gay Republicans. I’ve known several, though I never understood how they could join the camp of the enemy.)

This has been a campaign rife with irony. Here is John Kerry, always a friend to the gay community, being savaged for gay baiting by the far-right — which has redefined the very concept of gay baiting to the point of trying to write it into the Constitution. Then we have a much decorated and proven war hero derided as a coward who can’t face the enemy — by accusers who dodged the draft and never once faced real danger.

It will be an election year to remember. Will life even go on after the election? Somehow I can’t imagine it.


gwb: not the brightest bulb on the tree

John Cleese tells a good joke:

How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

None. There’s nothing wrong with that light bulb. There is no need to change anything. We made the right decision and nothing has happened to change our minds. People who criticize this light bulb now, just because it doesn’t work anymore, supported us when we first screwed it in, and when these flip-floppers insist on saying that it is burned out, they are merely giving aid and encouragement to the Forces of Darkness.

This is from one of the smartest and best-written blogs I’ve ever come across. Be sure to check it out, and thanks to Mark Kleiman for letting us know about it.


A Republican judge and senator tells why he’s endorsing Kerry

His name is Marlow W. Cook and I am reproducing his entire article below, because it’s so wonderful. Thanks to the commenter who alerted me.

‘Frightened to death’ of Bush

By Marlow W. Cook

I shall cast my vote for John Kerry come Nov 2.

I have been, and will continue to be, a Republican. But when we as a party send the wrong person to the White House, then it is our responsibility to send him home if our nation suffers as a result of his actions. I fall in the category of good conservative thinkers, like George F. Will, for instance, who wrote: “This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and having thought, to have second thoughts.”

I say, well done George Will, or, even better, from the mouth of the numero uno of conservatives, William F. Buckley Jr.: “If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

First, let’s talk about George Bush’s moral standards.

In 2000, to defeat Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — a man who was shot down in Vietnam and imprisoned for over five years — they used Carl Rove’s “East Texas special.” They started the rumor that he was gay, saying he had spent too much time in the Hanoi Hilton. They said he was crazy. They said his wife was on drugs. Then, to top it off, they spread pictures of his adopted daughter, who was born in Bangladesh and thus dark skinned, to the sons and daughters of the Confederacy in rural South Carolina.

To show he was not just picking on Republicans, he went after Sen. Max Cleland from Georgia, a Democrat seeking re-election. Bush henchmen said he wasn’t patriotic because Cleland did not agree 100 percent on how to handle homeland security. They published his picture along with Cuba’s Castro, questioning Cleland’s patriotism and commitment to America’s security. Never mind that his Republican challenger was a Vietnam deferment case and Cleland, who had served in Vietnam, came home in a wheel chair having lost three limbs fighting for his country. Anyone who wants to win an election and control of the legislative body that badly has no moral character at all.

We know his father got him in the Texas Air National Guard so he would not have to go to Vietnam. The religious right can have him with those moral standards. We also have Vice President Dick Cheney, who deferred his way out of Vietnam because, as he says, he “had more important things to do.”

I have just turned 78. During my lifetime, we have sent 31,377,741 Americans to war, not including whatever will be the final figures for the Iraq fiasco. Of those, 502,722 died and 928,980 came home without legs, arms or what have you.

Those wars were to defend freedom throughout the free world from communism, dictators and tyrants. Now Americans are the aggressors — we start the wars, we blow up all the infrastructure in those countries, and then turn around and spend tax dollars denying our nation an excellent education system, medical and drug programs, and the list goes on. …

I hope you all have noticed the Bush administration’s style in the campaign so far. All negative, trashing Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards and Democrats in general. Not once have they said what they have done right, what they have done wrong or what they have not done at all.

Lyndon Johnson said America could have guns and butter at the same time. This administration says you can have guns, butter and no taxes at the same time. God help us if we are not smart enough to know that is wrong, and we live by it to our peril. We in this nation have a serious problem. Its almost worse than terrorism: We are broke. Our government is borrowing a billion dollars a day. They are now borrowing from the government pension program, for apparently they have gotten as much out of the Social Security Trust as it can take. Our House and Senate announce weekly grants for every kind of favorite local programs to save legislative seats, and it’s all borrowed money.

If you listened to the President confirming the value of our war with Iraq, you heard him say, “If no weapons of mass destruction were found, at least we know we have stopped his future distribution of same to terrorists.” If that is his justification, then, if he is re-elected our next war will be against Iran and at the same time North Korea, for indeed they have weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, which they have readily admitted. Those wars will require a draft of men and women. …

I am not enamored with John Kerry, but I am frightened to death of George Bush. I fear a secret government. I abhor a government that refuses to supply the Congress with requested information. I am against a government that refuses to tell the country with whom the leaders of our country sat down and determined our energy policy, and to prove how much they want to keep that secret, they took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Those of you who are fiscal conservatives and abhor our staggering debt, tell your conservative friends, “Vote for Kerry,” because without Bush to control the Congress, the first thing lawmakers will demand Kerry do is balance the budget.

The wonderful thing about this country is its gift of citizenship, then it’s freedom to register as one sees fit. For me, as a Republican, I feel that when my party gives me a dangerous leader who flouts the truth, takes the country into an undeclared war and then adds a war on terrorism to it without debate by the Congress, we have a duty to rid ourselves of those who are taking our country on a perilous ride in the wrong direction.

If we are indeed the party of Lincoln (I paraphrase his words), a president who deems to have the right to declare war at will without the consent of the Congress is a president who far exceeds his power under our Constitution.

I will take John Kerry for four years to put our country on the right path.

The writer, a Republican formerly of Louisville, was Jefferson County judge from 1962-1968 and U.S. senator from Kentucky from 1968-1975.


The End of Democracy

That’s the title of a breathtaking article by Rick Perlstein that is overflowing with examples of how tday’s media and the Democratic Party let bush off the hook for transgressions that would have been fought tooth and nail at any other period in American history.

Democratic insiders use politics to explain their inaction away. They’ve seen the focus groups: Accusations of a president draining the lifeblood from democracy just won’t play in Peoria. “It’s what the folks in this business, we call an ‘elite argument,’ ” says Jeff Shesol, who was a speechwriter for President Clinton and whose firm, West Wing Writers, develops messages for some of the most prominent Democratic campaigns. “It pitches too high to reach the mass electorate.”

Julian Epstein, another Democratic consultant and frequent talking head, puts it more simply. “People will think you’re whining,” he says.

Peter Fenn, a Washington advertising guru who frequently represents the Democratic side on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, says reaching voters on this point is hopeless: “Their eyes glaze over when you deal with process kind of issues.”

Yet the “process,” by many accounts, is not just broken but shattered, intentionally ground into dust by Karl Rove and his Republican campaign machine. “What these guys do every day, as a matter of course, without thinking twice about it, would be dramatic transgressions even under Nixon,” Jeff Shesol admits from his Dupont Circle office, crowded with paraphernalia from Democratic triumphs past. He’s just amazingly quick to dismiss the notion that there’s anything a Democratic presidential campaign can do about it. “It is very hard for most people to look at Bush and see him as an extremist,” he says. “It is very hard to make that charge stick to a guy who seems so down-home, so commonsense, such a decent man.”

Perlstein gives example after example of blatant character assassination and unbelievable lies, and notes the apathetic, wearied, self-defeated attitude among those who would normally be up in arms. It’s a terribly depressing read and I felt pretty sick when I finished it. I wanted to blockquote the whole thing, every word. Instead, I ask you that you take a minute to read it all. It’s hair-raising.

Update: Case in point. Do these women look obscene?

obscene jpg.jpg
Three Medford school teachers were threatened with arrest and thrown out of the President Bush rally at the Jackson County Fairgrounds Thursday night, after they showed up wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Protect our civil liberties.

All three women said they were carrying valid tickets for the event that they had received from Republican Party headquarters in Medford, which had been distributing event tickets to Bush supporters.

Teacher Janet Voorhies said she simply wanted to bring a message to President Bush, but did not intend to protest.

“I wanted to see if I would be able to make a statement that I feel is important, but not offensive, in a rally for my president,” said Voorhies, 48.

The women said they were angered by reports of peaceful protesters being thrown out of previous Bush-Cheney events. They said they chose the phrase, “Protect Our Civil Liberties,” because it was unconfrontational.

“We chose this phrase specifically because we didn’t think it would be offensive or degrading or obscene,” said Tania Tong, 34, a special education teacher.

The women got past the first and second checkpoints and were allowed into the Jackson County fairgrounds, but were asked to leave and then escorted out of the event by campaign officials who allegedly told them their T-shirts were “obscene.”

We are not the great democracy we were just four short years ago. From the great Digby.