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Leading With The Left
The daily view from the oasis

June 27, 2002
Everyone Loves Bush, Right?
(Wrong. Look at the Polls.)

The latest Washington Post poll, taken June 16-17, has Bush with 74% approval (42 strong approve, 32 somewhat approve), and 22% disapproval.

This is one of many recent polls that has Dubya in the low 70s. So is the country immersed in a sustained wave of BushMania? Not exactly.

Look at this Battleground poll (scroll down), taken June 9-11, that asked would you vote for Bush in 2004.

-- 43% said they'd definitely vote Bush
-- 29% said they'd consider someone else
-- 23% said they'd definitely vote for someone else

Here's a little crude analysis.

1. The 43% who'd definitely vote Bush generally encompass the vast majority of those that voted for Bush in 2000.

2. The 52% that would "consider someone else" or "definitely vote for someone else" are essentially those that voted for Gore, with a few Nader and Bush voters added in.

3. Bush gets his high approval rating largely by combining those that would definitely vote for him again, and those that didn't vote for him the first time but would consider him in 2004.

4. But those that say that they "approve" of Bush, but would "consider someone else" in 2004, are not really Bush supporters. They are probably Dems and Independents who have reservations about Bush, but don't want to be unpatriotic to a stranger calling them at home, so they say that they "somewhat approve" of Bush.

One must concede that the overall numbers are still good for Dubya. But they also indicate that the ideological split that manifested in 2000 still exists. And clearly, it's wrong to think that 3 out of every 4 Americans adore the dullard upstairs.

June 26, 2002
Be Vewy Vewy Quiet. I’m Huntin’ Atheists.

When a federal appeals court ruled today that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it includes “under God,” LiberalOasis conferred with a comrade inside the ACLU, and it was agreed: the backlash wouldn’t be pretty.

But the speed and degree of the hysterics still shocks us cybercynics.

Tom Daschle calls the ruling “nuts” and jams through the Senate, in a 99-0 vote, a resolution condemning the ruling. Who’s the one proud liberal Senator that refused to go on the record? Paul Wellstone? Russ Feingold? Jon Corzine? Nope. Jesse Helms.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) gleefully gloats on CNN that the judge who wrote the opinion is a Republican while the Democratic Senate came out against it.

Connie Chung interviews the plaintiff Michael A. Newdow with the following questions:

-- “Are you proud to be an American?“

-- “There are probably a lot of people out there, our viewers in particular, who think that what you're doing is blatantly anti-American.”

-- “[Atheist] Madalyn Murray O'Hair...she was called the most hated woman in America. Are you prepared for that kind of identity, that tag, the most hated man in America?”

-- “Tell me, Mr. Newdow, is it your intention to go after ‘In God We Trust’ and ‘God Bless America?’”

Not pretty indeed.

But how angry should we get? After all, the LiberalOasis manifesto clearly states that it believes in winning. Wouldn’t it be political suicide -- with a one vote Dem margin in the Senate and a six vote GOP margin in the House -- to make a big deal about this?

But that’s the point. Why make it a big deal? Why whip up America into a McCarthyesque frenzy with hyperbolic language and the trashing of judges? Can’t Democrats who want sound patriotic just say they believe in the American judicial system and are confident that the ruling will be overturned?

Of course, it would be insane to come out against mandatory recitals of the Pledge altogether and say something like:

“I believe patriotism comes from the heart. Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice."

Who said that? Gov. Jesse Ventura, who vetoed a bill last month requiring public school students to say the Pledge once a week. Did you catch that Senator Wellstone?

June 25, 2002
That Crack Foreign Policy Team (Vol. 2)

Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post recently penned a column speculating on Colin Powell’s strategy for persuading Dubya on foreign policy, claiming that while Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney play for Bush’s heart, Powell goes for Bush’s head.

Colin, you picked the wrong side.

While the early word last week was that Bush’s speech was going to establish a provisional Palestinian state (what Powell was gunning for), he instead said a provisional state would come in three years if Arafat was out of power. Rumsfeld/Cheney -- 29. Bush’s head -- zero.

Going back to what LiberalOasis said on Saturday, making public demands on others is the worst way to get what you want. If Bush really wanted to remove Arafat from power, he’d have a better chance pulling strings behind the scenes, quietly cultivating moderate leaders without compromising their credibility among the Palestinian people.

Instead, by calling for Arafat’s ouster in a major speech, Dubya bolsters Arafat’s standing among his people, and he weakens any emerging Palestinian leader that the U.S. deems appropriate.

With that in mind, two things are possible. Either Bush Inc. is stocked with foreign policy amateurs, or the speech wasn’t intended to create a path to peace, but was given to appease the right wing and peel off Jewish support from the Democrats.

LiberalOasis fears the answer is both.

June 24, 2002
Can Liberals Fight Terrorism? Yes. (Did You Answer Right Away?)

Let it not be said that conservatives aren’t honest.

The headline of the main editorial in the July 1 National Review is “Airport Security: The Case for Discrimination.” That accompanies the mag’s cover: “Get Real: Why War Is Too Important To Be Left to the ACLU.”

Don’t kid yourself, this is what we’re up against. We can talk on and on about the racial profiling, indefinite detentions, denying the right to counsel. We can plead that the war is lost if we give up our freedoms. We can quote Ben Franklin and say that those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither.

And it will get us nowhere.

MSNBC recently asked viewers to respond to a “Question of the Day,” which asked if alleged "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla is having his rights violated. The general consensus was, “Probably, and I don’t care.”

The National Review editorial goes a step further: “Racial profiling of passengers at check-in is not, of course, a panacea. John Walker Lindh could have a ticket; a weapon could be planted on an unwitting 73-year old nun. But profiling is a way of allocating sufficiently the resources devoted to security. A security system has to, yes, discriminate -- among levels of threat.”

So what to do?

We don’t need to give up our beliefs, but they need to be couched in practicality more than idealism.

Take Padilla. Most people are quite happy he is indefinitely detained as an enemy combatant because he’s a dangerous person off the street and that’s all that matters.

But take into consideration two key facts.

1. The FBI knew before he was detained that they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with a crime.

2. We learned about Padilla from Abu Zubaydah, the highest ranking Al Qaeda official that we have in custody.

By linking those facts you can deduce:

A. Zubaydah is not trying to be helpful, and by all accounts is playing mind games with the feds.

B. It makes no sense that he would drop the name of someone important to the organization.

C. It’s far more likely that he gave the feds the name of someone peripheral as part of the mind game.

D. If Padilla is peripheral, and there was not enough evidence to charge him with a crime (which means he wasn’t far enough along to even possess any dangerous materials), then he should have been followed and bugged, in order to capture bigger game.

Bottom line, it’s a wasted opportunity. Now that he’s detained, he likely won’t give us any worthwhile information, either because he doesn’t want to, or, since he’s so small-time, because he doesn’t have much.

By flouting his constitutional rights, we did more than trample on what America stands for. We didn’t make ourselves safer. If anything, we’ve given ourselves a false sense of security, the same false sense of security many get when they see a dark-skinned man being frisked at the airport.

June 23, 2002
The Sunday Talk Show Breakdown

A weekly feature of LiberalOasis

QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I called someone in the Administration to say what’s going on with this Bush [Middle East] speech. It seems kind of insane to me. He said, look, the big story is not the Bush speech. They feel they have to do this, particularly to make the Saudis happy...

...Maybe this is the price he’s paying for Saudi acquiescence in the famous attack on Iraq, much heralded, never seems to be happening...

I expressed some skepticism. When exactly is this Iraq thing actually going to be happening? And [my friend in the Administration said] one of meetings that wasn’t reported this week was a briefing by Gen. [Tommy] Franks in the Oval Office of the President on Wednesday in which they talked concretely about war plans for Iraq.” -- Bill Kristol, FOX News Sunday

MEET THE PRESS
NBC

Tim Russert went one-on-one with presidential aspirant John Kerry (D-MA). Kerry did a good job of sounding like a very important person, with his patrician voice and long-winded answers, but he weenied out on a number of questions where he could have taken a strong stance and made some news.

Like many Dems, he wouldn’t come out and say we should rollback the Bush tax scheme for the wealthy to pay for a prescription drug benefit and protect Social Security, taking wishy-washy to new levels by saying we should rollback the cuts “if we need to do that.”

And he called Dubya’s early Middle East strategy a “catastrophe” but wouldn’t directly answer Russert’s question of what he would say to Sharon right now.

(Russert continued his annoying habit of not asking follow up questions, despite his rep of being a tough interviewer, and did not press Kerry on the question)

He wasn’t especially loyal to his old boss Mike Dukakis when asked how he would respond to attacks about his service as his Lt. Governor. Kerry said he would remind everyone that he was a tough prosecutor who really hates crime, but did not defend Dukakis or criticize Daddy Bush’s sleaze tactics.

On other matters, he rightly called the U.S. military initiative a partial success and stated that defeating the Taliban is not defeating Al Qaeda. He criticized the U.S. strategy of delegating the capture of Bin Laden to Afghani forces.

He said there is “no moral equivalency” of Israeli incursions and Palestinian suicide bombings, and that he would not negotiate with Arafat -- wise things to say politically, but not all that helpful in creating the conditions for peace. (Though he did say that Israeli action on stopping settlements would be helpful, and that U.S. troops could be used to enforce a peace agreement).

He stayed true to his stance against the death penalty, stating that life without parole is far worse punishment

He refrained from criticizing Al Gore and said “I’m not going to run against anybody.” Save that quote.

THIS WEEK
ABC

Today’s show was clearly intended to lay a foundation for George Stephanopoulos for when he ascends to the single anchor chair by fall, and he succeeded in establishing his own interviewing style.

His questions were smart and substantive and he showed a willingness to persist when his original question wasn’t answered directly.

At the same time, he doesn’t shout like Chris Matthews or don a phony “voice of the people” persona like Tim Russert. He's calmer and more subtle. Not as flashy or compelling, but solid.

Conservatives will probably still accuse him of liberal bias, but LiberalOasis is sure that those whiny complaints will recede once he interviews a Democrat.

Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, a second-tier Cabinet official who is not in the Bush inner circle, appeared on the show as a test by the White House to gauge how Stephanopoulos would treat him. The Administration, with its Nixonesque paranoia, will likely remain wary of sending This Week the big guns (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice).

Stephanopoulos repeatedly insisted that O’Neill answer if the Administration would sign a bill creating a strong independent oversight body to ferret out accounting failures in the private sector.

Harvey Pitt, the head of Securities & Exchange Commission, is trying to preclude legislative action by forming its own committee, but that committee would have no subpoena power, making it worthless.

O’Neill weakly dodged questions about the bill (proposed by Sen. Paul Sarbanes), indicating that Bush may be too afraid of bad press to veto it.

Sounds like Bush may treat this like campaign finance reform -- pray that it dies in the House, but if it doesn’t, sign it into law quietly.

[LiberalOasis certainly prefers the Sarbanes bill to nothing, but as is often the case, the problems lies not in the process, but the people. Get rid of Pitt, who is too close to the accounting industry, and you don’t need to create more bureaucracy to get the job done.]

Asked how he could say the U.S. economy is fundamentally strong while the U.S. dollar is weakening in the currency markets, O’Neill said, “I don’t know.” Um, you are the, uh, Treasury Secretary, right?

LiberalOasis would never make fun of somebody because his voice or demeanor, but let’s just say this guy got beat up in grade school a lot.

And O’Neill, who did the interview from a Delaware beach community, had one serious tan. Don’t these people have jobs?

It’s always nice to see Fareed Zakaria paired with George Will to talk international affairs, because it makes it so obvious that wearing glasses and speaking in a pompous tone does not make one insightful.

FZ said that Arafat’s belated endorsement of the Clinton peace plan, and his (underreported) lashing out at Syria and Iran for funding suicide bombers, means Arafat has “lost control” and is desperately “seeking a lifeline.”

Also, FZ said that when Dubya first came to town, people wondered if his foreign policy would be more like Reagan or Bush I, but it’s actually like Carter, with lots of Administration infighting [LiberalOasis doesn’t appreciate the knock on Jimmy, but it's a good point].

Will’s points are too dull to repeat.

FZ loses a point for agreeing with Will later in the show that Title IX, and its impact on the growth women’s sports, is too harmful to men’s sports, making some nonsensical point about how everyone thought men and women were equal until they got married.

Will topped off the show with a simplistic, one-sided mocking of Gov. Jesse Ventura and his exit from politics. A better analysis is here.

[LiberalOasis notes that Jesse vetoed pro-life legislation, spoke out against the Bush welfare plan and boondoggle stadium deals, fought for better special ed and mass transit, and dropped his support for the death penalty after being elected. He’s not perfect, but there’s a lot worse out there]

FOX NEWS SUNDAY
FOX

Fox News may be an evil Republican plot, but the Sunday show is worth watching.

The four main panelists -- Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, Juan Williams and Mara Liasson -- cover the ideological spectrum. The Q&A of guests is done as a team by all four, giving other members the chance to follow-up on questions that are dodged. The liberals (Juan and Mara) hold their own better than that patsy Alan Colmes. And Bill Kristol, who comes on for the roundtable sometimes, can drop good dirt (hence, quote of the day above)

Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), chair of the Intelligence Cmte, connected the Al Qaeda attack in Tunisia by a propane truck with a new terror threat of tankers being blown up in Jewish neighborhood. Hume smartly asked if our color coded terror warning system should be kicked up a notch, and Graham dodged. (really a question for Ashcroft anyway since he makes that call).

Nabil Shaath, an Arafat advisor, is probably the best spokesperson the Palestinians have, articulate, great command of English and seemingly straight-forward. (Hume undercut his performance by blithely calling his version of events following Camp David as “an extraordinary rewriting of history.”)

Shaath latched on to a proposal floating around the State Department for a three-prong strategy, creating timeframes and milestones for progress on the security, economic, and political fronts simultaneously.

Under stiff questioning from Hume, Shaath criticized Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades for suicide bombings (though he did a little jig, making a distinction between criticizing the act and criticizing the group).

Interesting stuff from the roundtable:

General consensus that Congress should not be blamed for leaking that the NSA did not translate Al Qaeda communications -- setting the 9/11 attacks in motion -- until 9/12, since all evidence shows that the info was likely leaked from a number of sources, including the Administration (despite the Administration’s complaints that Congress is a sieve).

Hume pointing out to Kristol that all American citizens deserve a right to counsel, and that the Administration is not denying that Jose Padilla and Yasser Hamdi are citizens. (Liasson also noting that John Walker Lindh is getting different treatment for no apparent reason).

June 22, 2002
That Crack Foreign Policy Team (Vol. 1)

You can’t be considered the most experienced foreign policy team ever if you don’t even have a plan for the Israel-Palestine conflict.

For the first 15 months of the Bush Administration, the message was “not our problem.” By then, the string of Palestinian suicide bombings and the Israeli incursions was too much to ignore. And Big Dick heard from every Arab leader that the U.S. would get zero help on Iraq without positive action on Israel-Palestine first.

So what did the experienced hands have Bush do back in April? Give a speech, make public demands, send Colin "Thank You Sir May I Have Another" Powell to the region.

Guess what? When you make public demands on people, it’s really easy to look lame and stupid when they publicly tell you to piss off. (It was a nice try to make Powell look lame and stupid instead of Dubya, but we all know who’s the President.)

Since that didn’t work, what’s being discussed now? Another grand speech.

The speech, reportedly to lay out a vague vision for a provisional Palestinian state, was going to happen this past week, but a new run of suicide bombings spooked the Bush squad.

NEWSFLASH TO WHITE HOUSE: EVERY TIME YOU TRY TO BREAK NEW GROUND, AND EVERY TIME YOU GET CLOSE TO PEACE, SOMEONE’S GOING TO BLOW THEMSELVES UP.

And when you shelve your peace plans when terrorists attack, you’re doing exactly what the terrorists want you to do. Worse, you’re giving the militants the power to stop any and all progress.

But what’s particularly pathetic is the recent bombings haven’t just prompted to Bush to postpone the speech, they have re-opened a full throttle debate within the Administration regarding the overall strategy.

That kind of thing doesn’t happen when you have a plan, that kind of thing doesn’t happen to experienced professionals.

The Sandbox
Humor by John Cougarstein

NEWS ALERT
Spelling Bee Sparks Home-School/Indian Rivalry

On May 30, 2002, the home-schooling movement was humiliated when Pratyush Buddiga, an Indian-American public school student, kicked a whole lot of home-school ass by spelling "prospicience" to win the National Spelling Bee.

Until Buddiga's victory, home-schooled children had a three-year winning streak in the bee, the result of a twisted PR strategy to convince the public that any two-bit parent can teach their kids better than trained professionals.

The recent spelling bee victories helped the home-schooling movement dodge the criticism of education experts that the ability to spell is a meaningless indication of intelligence and that home-schooling turns children into socially maladjusted, crystal meth addicts.

Trash-talking between Buddiga and last year's winner Sean Conley was fierce before and after the contest. "Buddiga cannot savor this victory like a dish of sopaipilla," said Conley. "I don't mean to objurgate, but to triumph on a 10th-grade level word does not make one spatiotemporal, the plebian towelhead."

"Conley can cry to his mommy during third period," said Buddiga. "I don't even like spelling. I just did this to put those Hooked on Phonics freaks in their place."

The outcome was a surprise to ABC commentator George Will, who on last Sunday's "This Week" lauded home-schooling based on the recent wins in the spelling bee and the National Geography Bee, and predicted another home-school triumph for this week's contest.

After the bee, Will echoed the comments of Conley, telling reporters, "It's not a very impressive word if it hasn't appeared in my column."

For more Cougarstein, check out The Cougarstein Ramble

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