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The daily view from the oasis

July 23, 2004 PERMALINK
Great Moments In Convention Acceptance Speeches
(posted July 23 1 AM ET)

Gearing up for next week's convention, LiberalOasis has been checking out past candidate acceptance speeches.

Below are some notable highlights from the last few decades to chew on until Monday, when LO begins blogging on a 24-7 schedule throughout the convention.

Faith, Meet Sleeve

Ronald Reagan, 1980:

I have thought of something that's not a part of my speech and worried over whether I should do it.

Can we doubt that only a Divine Providence placed this land, this island of freedom, here as a refuge for all those people in the world who yearn to breathe free?

Jews and Christians enduring persecution behind the Iron Curtain; the boat people of Southeast Asia, Cuba, and of Haiti; the victims of drought and famine in Africa, the freedom fighters of Afghanistan [sic], and our own countrymen held in savage captivity.

I'll confess that I've been a little afraid to suggest what I'm going to suggest. I'm more afraid not to.

Can we begin our crusade joined together in a moment of silent prayer?

God bless America.

This appears to be the first time an acceptance speech ended in "God Bless America," although references to God and faith appeared in some prior GOP and Dem addresses.

Democrats did not begin to follow suit until Bill Clinton in 1992 (Clinton ended with a "God bless you" in 1996).

In any event, while LiberalOasis appreciates Ron Reagan Jr.'s sentiment about political exploitation of religion, the notion that his father, "never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage," doesn't quite hold up.

Nobody Paid Enough Attention To Terrorism, Right?

Bill Clinton, 1996

We are fighting terrorism on all fronts with a three-pronged strategy.

First, we are working to rally a world coalition with zero tolerance for terrorism.

Just this month I signed a law imposing harsh sanctions on foreign companies that invest in key sectors of the Iranian and Libyan economies.

As long as Iran trains, supports and protects terrorists, as long as Libya refuses to give up the people who blew up Pan Am 103, they will pay a price from the United States.

Second, we must give law enforcement the tools they need to take the fight to terrorists.

We need new laws to crack down on money laundering and to prosecute and punish those who commit violent acts against American citizens abroad; to add chemical markers or taggents to gunpowder used in bombs so we can crack the bomb makers; to extend the same power police now have against organized crime to save lives by tapping all the phones that terrorists use.

Terrorists are as big a threat to our future, perhaps bigger, than organized crime. Why should we have two different standards for a common threat to the safety of America and our children?

We need, in short, the laws that Congress refused to pass.

And I ask them again, please, as an American, not a partisan matter, pass these laws now.

Third, we will improve airport and air travel security. I have asked the Vice President to establish a commission and report back to me on ways to do this.

But now we will install the most sophisticated bomb-detection equipment in all our major airports. We will search every airplane flying to or from America from another nation -- every flight, every cargo hold, every cabin, every time.

Al Gore, 2000:

We must confront the new challenges of terrorism, new kinds of weapons of mass destruction, global environmental problems, and new diseases that know no national boundaries and can threaten national security.

Number of times George W. Bush mentioned terrorism in his 2000 acceptance speech: 0

Though he did say, "my administration will deploy missile defenses to guard against attack and blackmail." Thank goodness.

But the Alabama National Guard Is Another Story...

George H.W. Bush in 1992, mocking Clinton's position on the first Iraq war:

What about the leader of the Arkansas National Guard, the man who hopes to be Commander in Chief? Well, I bit the bullet, and he bit his nails.

Before Kerry, Before Dean, Before Trippi, Before the Internet...

There was George McGovern:

Let the opposition collect their $10 million in secret money from the privileged few.

And let us find one million ordinary Americans who will contribute $25 each to this campaign, a Million Member Club with members who will not expect special favors for themselves but a better land for us all.

You Can't Say "Optimism" Enough

The "optimism" buzzword is not unique to this political season. Bob Dole tried on the optimism mantle in 1996:

Optimism is in our blood. I know this as few others can.

There once was a time when I doubted the future. But I have learned as many of you have learned that obstacles can be overcome.

And I have unlimited confidence in the wisdom of our people and the future of our country.

Tonight, I stand before you tested by adversity, made sensitive by hardship, a fighter by principle, and the most optimistic man in America.

As you can see, buzzwords only go so far.

You Can Say "Jobs" Too Much

George H.W. Bush set the bar a wee too high for himself in 1988:

On jobs, my mission is: 30 in 8. Thirty million jobs in the next eight years.

His son learned the lesson.

Number of times George W. Bush mentioned jobs in his 2000 acceptance speech: 0

Class Warfare Never Works, Right?

Bill Clinton, 1992:

He has raised taxes on the people driving pickup trucks and lowered taxes on the people riding in limousines. We can do better.

One More Lie To Throw On the Pile

George W. Bush in 2000:

I will not attack a part of this country, because I want to lead the whole of it.

Bush in March 2003:

Obviously some people in Northern California do not see there's a true risk to the United States posed by Saddam Hussein.

Bush this month:

Senator Kerry is rated as the most liberal member of the Senate, and he chose a fellow lawyer who is the fourth most liberal member of the Senate.

Back in Massachusetts, that's what they call balancing the ticket.

And again this month:

My opponent said that a bunch of entertainers from Hollywood conveyed the heart and soul of America. I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places like Duluth, Minnesota.

July 22, 2004 PERMALINK
"July Surprise" Watch
(posted July 22 1:30 AM ET)

Two weeks ago, The New Republic reported:

...an official who works under [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence] director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed TNR that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must."

[HVTs are "high value targets," like Osama, his #2 Zawahiri, and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.]

What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement:

"The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington."...

...according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Well, here we are, in the last ten days of July. How's Pakistan doing?

The AP reports 10 militants killed on Tuesday, according to an anonymous official.

Whereas a Reuters report is more vague, saying an "unspecified" number of "Al Qaeda-linked" militants were either killed or "pushed out" on Tuesday according to a Pakistani army spokesman.

In any case, no reports of HVTs.

We also have a report of tribal leaders handing over 40 people, suspected of helping foreign militants, to Pakistan authorities.

And another report (of the same handover?) has tribal leaders giving up the relatives of two wanted militants, in exchange for a relaxation of economic sanctions imposed on the tribes.

Once again, no HVTs involved.

And the NY Times yesterday reported that Afghan refugee camps are being bulldozed on short notice by Pakistanis, displacing up to 25,000 people -- the stated reason being to deny militants safe harbor.

So we're definitely seeing another round of stepped up military activity, around the time the Bushies apparently asked for.

But no evidence yet that Pakistan is truly hot on the trail of the big game the Bushies want.

As LiberalOasis noted before, just because the Bushies may want HVTs bagged before or during the convention, doesn't mean the fix is in.

That's because Bush doesn't have much control of the outcome.

Since the Pakistanis have been given the primary responsibility here (though we are backing them up with intel), Bush can only pressure.

He can't dictate, can't guarantee.

Furthermore, the Pakistani record has been inconsistent.

And so, since the GOP can't bank on an Osama perp walk next week, they were reduced to whacking an unpaid Kerry advisor instead.

That's the kind of thing they have control over. The penny-ante kind.

If they had any real control over the terror war, Bush's approval wouldn't be mired the 40s.

But of course, the month isn't over. The Pakistanis have nine more days.

Most likely, Dubya is crossing his fingers.

July 21, 2004 PERMALINK
The Republican Conspiracy Theorists
(posted July 21 1 AM ET)

On one hand, the GOP assault on Sandy Berger has an aura of desperation to it.

The $80M attack on John Kerry didn't knock him on his heels. The attempt to tar the John Edwards pick fell flat.

They were probably dying to score a political point, if for nothing else, to get a little confidence back.

Derailing the career of an "informal Kerry adviser" won't amount to very much in the end.

But it sure must make them feel like they still got it.

On the other hand, the ruthlessness involved in taking Berger out was awe-inspiring (if its equivalent shamelessness was also disgusting).

When PlameGate broke, and GOPers were temporarily stunned and unsure what to do, Dems had no interest in the jugular.

That kept the story on the back pages and reduced the political pressure.

(Though the investigative pressure was enough for Bush to hire a private attorney.)

Now with Berger, there is no discernible motive for wrongdoing, and the 9/11 Commission has shown no concern.

Nevertheless, the GOP wasted no time -- wildly and breathlessly speculating, in coordinated fashion, to raise the pressure level as high as possible.

The most ridiculous and utterly baseless conspiracy theory?

Kerry was using illegally obtained classified info to (*gasp*) develop proposals to protect the homeland.

Here's Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN):

I think it's pretty interesting that the press is now reporting that these documents had to do with airport security and seaport security.

And that those are two areas where the Kerry campaign has seemed to focus on relative to alleged deficiencies in homeland security.

And Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA):

I don't know what happened to these documents after they were put in Mr. Berger's pants.

But it's been reported in the press that these documents related to homeland security and our airports and seaports and it's very interesting to note that those are two areas where Senator Kerry has been critical of the Homeland Security Department.

I would hope, No. 1, that the Kerry administration would disavow any connections with Berger, that they would come forward with any documents ... and that we can bring this matter to a close very quickly.

And Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) (from ABC World News Tonight):

Right after the documents were taken, John Kerry held a photo op and attacked the President on port security.

The documents that were taken may have been utilized for that press conference.

And they say Michael Moore mendaciously connects the dots!

But the conspiracy theorizing did its job, as Berger was forced to "step down" from his "informal" position (*yawn*).

If this is supposed to detract from the Dem convention, remember that Dick Morris' call-girl scandal erupted during the 1996 convention, and it did not lead to President Dole.

And if this is supposed to deflect attention away from Bush's homeland security failings when the 9/11 Commission Report comes out, one would think the timing was off by a few days.

(Or the GOP didn't expect Berger would fall on the sword so fast.)

And if this is supposed make all Dems look like they're incapable of handling classified info, well, there's a stack of classified info the Bushies have misused for political gain that they can choke on.

So even though this won't amount to much, there are lessons here for the Dems to learn.

Problem is, Dems, being an admirable sort, look at the GOP shamelessness and say: we don't want to sink that low.

In turn, no lessons are learned.

But it's the ruthlessness that needs to be emulated.

That can be done (and should have been done with PlameGate) without the shamelessness.

QUICK HIT

About the Socks and Pants...

The GOP attack squad quickly treated the report that Berger stuffed documents in his socks and pants as gospel.

Even though the report was anonymously attributed to "law enforcement sources" (read: GOP Justice Dept. officials) or "three government officials".

Furthermore, the "law enforcement sources" cited other anonymous folks, "archive staff members" who "told FBI agents."

"Archive staff members" sure sounds like nonpartisan, straight-shooting, civil servants.

But as Functional Ambivalent notes, the National Archives has become a pretty politicized place, thanks to Dubya.

So let's get someone who is willing to go on the record with that charge before anyone takes it seriously.

July 20, 2004 PERMALINK
Strongman? What Strongman?
(posted July 19 11 PM ET)

From this week's issue of Newsweek:

"[Iraq Prime Minister Ayad Allawi] was so clear to us about his commitment to democracy," says a former U.S. Coalition official. "I don't think anybody thought he was going to be a strongman."

Oh, right. Nooobody had aaaany idea Allawi wanted to be a strongman.

Except for, y'know, everybody.

Tony Karon, Time columnist, 7/7/04:

[Allawi] appears to have solid credentials for the role of strongman. [He] had long been the favored post-Saddam Iraqi ruler of the CIA and State Department -- as opposed to the now-disgraced Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi.

The reasons lie not so much in any kind of faith in Allawi's credentials as a democrat as they do in the belief that he's best-placed to play the familiar role of pro-U.S. strongman.

US News and World Report, 7/12/04 issue:

Allawi was chosen as prime minister largely because he was considered tough enough to deal with the insurgency.

A former Baathist, he headed the security committee of the Governing Council, and he has strong political connections through his old anti-Saddam exile party.

"It is my sense that an inner cabinet will be in charge of things," says one member of the Baghdad diplomatic corps. "It doesn't look very much like a western democracy, but if you want a strongman to deal with security, you have to be satisfied with that."

Time, 6/28/04:

Despite the considerable risks attached to the transition process he's leading -- including direct threats on his life -- Allawi remains unruffled.

That may be because he is widely viewed both in Iraq and abroad as a pragmatic "strongman" type ruler, rather than a Jeffersonian democrat.

LA Times, 6/21/04:

What turn the interim government will take remains a matter of speculation.

One prevalent guess is the emergence of Allawi as a kind of secular strongman who would deal harshly with enemies but reach out in an effort to co-opt insurgent forces and Saddam loyalists.

NY Newsday, editorial, 6/27/04:

Allawi, with a reputation as a tough strongman - a political plus for Iraqis - is hastening to recruit former Baath Party loyalists and members of Saddam Hussein's army and security forces, who have provided the backbone for the insurgency.

David Ignatius, W. Post columnist, 6/25/04:

Allawi's appeal, and also his liability, is that he will govern Iraq as a strongman.

So please. Spare us the fake surprise.

And give up the phony "Freedom is the Almighty's gift" rhetoric.

Because surely, God did not wrap up Allawi with a nice little bow.

QUICK HIT

To Arnold, Dems Have Always Been "Girlie Men"

If they don't have the guts to come up here in front of you and say:

"I don't want to represent you. I want to represent those special interests, the unions, the trial lawyers. And I want them to make the millions of dollars."

If they don't have the guts, I call them girlie men.
-- Arnold Schwarzenegger, 7/17/04

Of course, we don't have to talk about the Democratic candidates, right? No.

They all look like a bunch of girlie men. Yes, yes, yes.
-- Arnold Schwarzenegger, N. Hampshire rally for George H. W. Bush, 1992 (from the movie Feed)

Any minute now, Ed Gillespie, Tom DeLay, Mary Matalin and Tucker Carlson will race each other to the mic to see who will be the first to denounce this history of sickening "hate speech."

July 19, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted July 19 3 AM ET)

The Dem and GOP party chairs faced off yesterday on CBS' Face The Nation.

Dem chair Terry McAuliffe gave a confident and feisty performance: championing Kerry, nailing Bush, and speaking truth on Iraq and the economy.

Nevertheless, he inexcusably allowed his rival Ed Gillespie to lie on several occasions without challenge.

(As did, for that matter, moderator Bob Schieffer.)

1. The $87B Vote

Gillespie said the following about John Kerry's vote against the $87B "blank check" for Iraq and Afghanistan:

...Now he says he's proud of having voted against the funding for the troops.

And then later on this week he said it's too complicated for the American people to understand.

But Kerry never said he was "proud" to vote "against the funding for the troops."

He said he was "proud" of his vote because "the policy had to be changed."

And Kerry never said his vote was "too complicated for the American people to understand."

On Don Imus' radio show this Thursday, after Imus chided Kerry for giving a verbose explanation of his vote, Kerry responded:

Well, you know, that's a problem. Some of these things are a little complicated.

They like to simplify them and pretend to America. The pretending time is over.

Gillespie's lies are not small matters.

Both Bush and Cheney are using variations of his lines in their latest stump speeches, to paint Kerry as an egghead elitist who doesn't care about the troops.

Yet McAuliffe did not respond to this attack at all.

2. Joe Wilson

Attacking Amb. Joe Wilson's credibility is what's in vogue for conservatives.

Apparently, the thinking is that if Wilson is discredited, somehow WMD stockpiles will turn up in Iraq and outing CIA agents will become legal.

Gillespie became perhaps the highest-level GOPer to go after Wilson:

...the Senate Intelligence Committee report...found that Joe Wilson, who led the attack against the vice president and the president...has been entirely discredited.

In bipartisan fashion, by the way. Unanimously by the Democrats and the Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Bipartisan? Unanimous? GOP Sen. Pat Roberts might disagree with that.

In his personal addendum to the committee report, Roberts wrote:

Despite our hard and successful work to deliver a unanimous report, however, there were two issues [sic] on which the Republicans and Democrats could not agree:

1) whether the Committee should conclude that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's public statements were not based on knowledge he actually possessed, and

2) whether the Committee should conclude that it was the former ambassador's wife who recommended him for his trip to Niger

On the specifics of the charges, Wilson is doing a good enough job acquitting himself, including an interview yesterday on CNN's Late Edition, and his letters to the committee and the W. Post.

(Also see these pieces in The Nation, Salon and several posts from Talking Point Memo.)

As such, it made sense for McAuliffe to say, as he did, " I'll let Joe Wilson speak for himself."

But McAuliffe passed up the opportunity to stress that (as Political Animal noted) whatever Wilson said, it doesn't excuse the crime of outing an undercover CIA agent, nor does it change the fact that even the Bush Administration said the "16 words" shouldn't have been uttered.

3. "Gutting" The Intelligence Budget

Gillespie raised the long disproven canard that Kerry sought to "gut" the intelligence budget in the 1990s:

Senator Kerry says that he's in favor now of doubling the intelligence funding.

This is someone who, on the Senate floor, offered an amendment to gut our intelligence funds...

The Kerry campaign already knocked this down in comprehensive fashion back in March, as did Slate.

But Gillespie is an undeterred liar, which means you have to keep knocking it down and calling him on it.

McAuliffe, again, was strangely silent.

QUICK HIT

Over at NBC's Meet The Press, Tim Russert had homeland security expert Stephen Flynn and GOP Rep. Christopher Cox, chair of the Homeland Security Cmte.

Flynn nicely summed up the problem and solution:

We have spent a total since 9/11, in three years, on our commercial seaports, 361 of them--we've provided grants, a total of $500 million.

That probably sounds like a lot to the American people.

[But] that's what we spend every four days in Iraq. That's what we all spend buying four F-22 fighters...

...Part of the problem is because the private sector owns and operates so much of this material.

And the pervasive wisdom is that the market should take care of itself.

But this is a very difficult thing for the market to do by itself.

It needs standards, and it needs to know they're uniformly enforced, so the good guys aren't at a competitive disadvantage for people who pay footloose and fancy free.

That requires a government capacity to set requirements with private sector and partnership and to have the means to provide oversight that we really don't have much capability in right now to deal with.

Meanwhile Cox, most likely covering for the chemical industry, spun Tim silly.

As Confined Space reports, Cox gave the impression GOPers and the chemical industry want strong regulations, when in fact they have been fighting them.

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Mark Spittle

Things To Do With Chalabi Now That The Pentagon Is Done With Him

Many Americans awoke a few days ago with the heartbreaking news that Iraqi exile and Iraqi National Congress founder Ahmed Chalabi is a "con man."

Those of us who read the occasional dissident press of the Europeans knew --- as far back as pre 9/11 days --- that Chalabi had been convicted of bank fraud in Jordan and sentenced in absentia for 22 years, and that his word was less than trustworthy.

Now, thanks to our state-run me... erm, I mean "aggressive free press," all Americans have finally been told about Chalabi's dark past.

That the release of this news to the American press coincides with the White House's reversal of position on Chalabi is, I suppose, just a really, really weird coincidence.

But pity poor Chalabi! Here was an Iraqi leader who had been supported by the Pentagon for decades and thought he was going to take the place of the last Iraqi leader who was supported by the Pentagon... but, alas, the twists of Fate are meandering, thorny brambles.

I did some poking around, though, and found a lot of people still have a warm place in their hearts for our little bean-headed buddy from Baghdad.

Assuming Chalabi escapes without a chemical glow stick inconveniencing his posture in any way, let's look at some future career possibilities for Iraq's prodigal son.

1) TELEVISION

CBS executives have already been trying to get communications over to Chalabi's office, asking him to host their new reality television series, "I'm A Former Dictator, Get Me Out of Here!"

The premise of the show is that various nefarious international leaders (Hussein, Pinochet, Kissinger) are abandoned on a desert island until only one remains. The winner will get to rule Burkina Faso.

CBS feels Chalabi "has the right stuff" for hosting the show, seeing as how he "has unprecedented experience in handling rulers of various nations across the world."

It's also thought that Chalabi may "add some excitement" to the program by enticing the dictators to do various ratings-enhancing stunts, like resorting to cannibalism or (worse yet!) denouncing conservatism in exchange for chocolate.

2) POLITICS

There may yet be a role for Ahmed Chalabi in the Bush administration!

Sure, his international street cred may be in tatters, but that takes nothing away from his ability to sway policy makers with only the most scant bits of evidence and huge gobs of deception.

Such traits would do him well on the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign team, where the American people will occasionally need to be convinced that destroying Iraq, alienating the UN, polluting the US Constitution with discriminatory amendments, ignoring the Geneva Convention and ruining the US economy are actually "compassionate" deeds, making the nation better than it was under that evil sicko Clinton.

If anyone can spin Bush's record to the general public, it's the guy who convinced Colin Powell that an abandoned Iraqi trailer park was an active nuclear weapons facility.

3) FINANCE

With his Bush family connections, Ahmed can probably turn his Jordanian conviction to his advantage.

After all, Dubya had problems with Harken, Arbusto and the Texas Rangers. Jeb caused the Florida S & L collapse. Neil had the Silverado Savings & Loan debacle. And Poppy Bush topped them all with the BCCI scandal.

If anything, Chalabi's work is downright quaint compared to his patrons.

Given that, perhaps Chalabi could put his white collar criminal past to good use and gain a position of power like the Bushes... perhaps replacing Dick Grasso at the NYSE?

4) CARTOONS

Ahmed Chalabi left Iraq at age 12, studied at Chicago University and MIT --- but he still has that funky, broken-English accent!

How's that, you ask? Unbeknownst to many, Chalabi is a skilled voice actor.

In fact, a Freedom of Information Act request discovered that Chalabi's vocal talents have been heard on The Simpsons (he's Dr. Nick), Batman (he's Alfred the butler) and Kim Possible (he's Kim.)

He's even overdubbed quite a few Asian films, including a new release of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (he was the ugly ronin) and Godzilla vs. Megaguiras (he was the old scientist.)

With this impressive resume already on his record, is there any question that he won't take advantage of what he once called "an amusing hobby" and turn it into a lucrative career?

The producers of Toy Story 3 are already sending offers, I'm told.

Mark Spittle is one half of the political satire duo Spittle & Ink. He is a former Washington lobbyist and congressional assistant.

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