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Leading With The Left
The daily view from the oasis

Busy day, four items for your pleasure...

September 13, 20002
Is Scott Ritter Helping?

(posted September 13 1:30 AM ET)

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has been speaking out a lot lately against war with Iraq. But this past weekend he took his biggest risk yet, when he did so on Iraqi soil.

Some supporters and critics scratched their heads, but Thursday it was clear why he did it.

Ritter has been making the claim for some time that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed as of 1998.

But by giving his stock speech in front of the Iraqi Assembly, and timing it just before Dubya gave his speech to UN, Ritter built himself a huge media platform to get his message out.

Now that he’s back, Ritter was interviewed by Katie Couric, Bill O’Reilly, David Asman (FOX News) and Ashleigh Banfield, if not others. That’s a successful media strategy.

But of course, there’s a flip side. By daring to go to Iraq, Ritter is now easily labeled as a traitor, an Iraqi sympathizer, a “Hanoi Jane.”

Ritter does have factual ammo to defend his patriotism.

He’s a Marine and a Gulf War veteran. He speaks of his hatred for Saddam, and how he would fight him again if the cause was just. He was known as a tenacious inspector that often upset the Iraqi government.

However, the symbolism of going to Iraq is so powerful, that the traitor charge can never be fully shaken.

Was it worth it? Can Ritter still make a difference?

On balance, yes.

Consider that practically no Democrats are showing the courage to call the Administration on the major holes in its case for war.

(Some exceptions, Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep Nick Rahall (D-WV), none of whom technically hail from “blue” states.

Graham noted that Iraq is less of a threat than Iran and Syria in the New York Times. Backbencher Kucinich has raised his profile enough to talk about Iraq on CNN’s Crossfire yesterday. Rahall’s taking his own trip to Iraq.)

With such a void in the opposition, Ritter is serving a key function by filling it.

Is Ritter a flawless spokesperson? No.

Beyond the “traitor” perception, his open disdain for his former UNSCOM boss Richard Butler, and his sometimes angry demeanor, lends the appearance of an axe to grind, undercutting his message.

Plus, by taking money from an American with ties to the Iraqi government to fund his documentary In Shifting Sands, Ritter further opened himself up to charges of working for Saddam.

Ritter has taken questions on all of this, and he answers them pretty well. And the fact that he looks more like a Texas A&M nose tackle than a Berkeley Green Party member helps. Yet perception is a sticky mistress.

LiberalOasis has attempted to make the point before that perception matters, that liberals can’t be satisfied with only getting on TV, that voicing one’s views in a way that appeals to the larger public is just as crucial for success.

In Ritter’s case, he doesn’t score on all counts.

But considering how the debate to date has largely been Republican vs. Republican, and considering that there’s practically no chance to stop this war anyway, it’s potentially helpful in the long-run for someone with some credibility to put in the public discourse evidence that Bush Inc. is not leveling with the American people.

For that, Ritter deserves our thanks.

Now, About that Speech
(posted September 13 1:30 AM ET)

The New Republic and Slate are peddling the notion that Dubya’s UN speech is somewhat of a loser for the chickenhawks.

Yet LiberalOasis thinks its assessment from Sept. 10 (scroll down) is holding up pretty nicely.

The speech’s vagueness regarding next steps may seem on the surface to be a move away from Cheney’s tough talk.

But factor in that one of the coordinated messages from Administration officials on the Sunday talk shows was that Bush wants a congressional resolution supporting military action before adjournment in early October.

That message hasn’t changed as a result of the UN speech, and that speaks to a hurried timetable that makes it almost impossible for the UN to take enforcement actions that would avoid war.

Or if UN shows signs of life, with plans of quickly sending in inspectors, then the US can easily find ways to thwart such peaceful action.

(One way -- insisting on certain American inspectors that Iraq will accuse of being spies).

One aspect of the speech that LiberalOasis did not exactly predict on Sept. 10: the patronizing tone towards the UN itself.

It is doubtful that the UN delegates appreciated this line: “Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding or will it be irrelevant?”

Not what you say if you want to make friends. Which means, they don’t.

Speaking of Iraq
(posted September 13 1:30 AM ET)
(edited September 13 11 AM ET)

A particularly brilliant Mark Fiore animation this week.

Also, Al Gore will be speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus tomorrow night. Back on Aug. 28, LiberalOasis said it was likely that Gore would be speaking out on Iraq soon. Perhaps this is the night.

Will the Anne Sumers Saga Ever End?
(posted September 13 1:30 AM ET)

LiberalOasis’ entanglement in the New Jersey Fifth Congressional District race continues. (see 9/4 and 9/6 columns for the story so far).

Wally Edge, columnist for PoliticsNJ wrote the following on Tuesday:

There doesn't seem to be many dull moments in the race for Marge Roukema's House seat in the 5th district, where Republican Assemblyman Scott Garrett and Democrat Anne Sumers are battling it out...

There's also some controversy over an unwanted endorsement from a website, liberaloasis.com. The backing of this internet group prompted Garrett's campaign to issue a press release affirming what they called Sumers' liberal status.

As a result, the Sumers campaign apparently contacted the website and asked them to take their candidate's name off their site. (This was seemingly troublesome for Sumers, who is running as a fiscal conservative and hoping to steal away Republican votes in Bergen County.)

But the request backfired when the website's editors sharply criticized Sumers for running away from the liberal label.

This portion of Edge’s column was also reprinted in “The Bulletin's Frontrunner,” a pricey Beltway newsletter for politicos.

For the record, LiberalOasis takes serious issue with the last line of the piece. LiberalOasis clearly stated it had no problem with Sumers being a moderate and running as a moderate.

Furthermore, the column only tells half the story. LiberalOasis was much harsher in its criticism of the right-wing Garrett (on this site as well as in a release sent to PoliticsNJ), whose original news release was based on lies and distortions.

If Sumers’ action “backfired,” why isn’t the same said of Garrett?

LiberalOasis has contacted PoliticsNJ and The Bulletin’s Frontrunner and requested corrections.

September 12, 2002
Deconstructing Dubya

(posted September 12 12 AM ET)

QUOTES OF THE DAY

We value every life; our enemies value none — not even the innocent, not even their own.
-- George W. Bush, at Ellis Island, 9/11/02

Well, you know, I am sad that [Afghan] civilians lost their life. But I understand war. We did everything we can to — everything we could to protect people. When civilians did die, it was because of a mistake. Certainly not because of intention...No, — I don’t second guess things. It’s — things never go perfect in a time of war.
-- George W. Bush, on 60 Minutes II, 9/11/02

***********

Below are excerpts from yesterday’s New York Times op-ed, “written” by George W. Bush, with annotated text in bold:

We preserve this peace by building good relations among the world's great powers...

Here’s my four easy steps to good relations among the world’s great powers:

-- imposing hypocritical steel tariffs on our allies
-- dismissing our responsibilities to fight global warming
-- violating my own free trade principles with farm subsidies
-- refusing to subject my country to the International Criminal Court

...and we extend this peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.

Like in Pakistan, where you’re free to vote “Yes for Musharraf,” or in Venezuela, where you’re free to organize your own US-backed coup.

...we have the best opportunity in generations to build a world where great powers cooperate in peace instead of continually prepare for war.

Never mind what I said last June:

“The war on terror is going to take a while...It's important for our country to send a very clear signal that we're in this for the long run, and that's what the budget does.

“It says there's no time, there's not a calendar on my desk that I flip and say, okay, it's over, you know, it's time to quit. No, it's time to quit when the homeland is secure.”

Free trade and free markets have proved their ability to lift whole societies out of poverty.

If it weren’t for those pesky environmental regulations screwing up our free markets, then America wouldn’t have 31,054,000 people in poverty.

America will also take the side of brave men and women who advocate human rights and democratic values.

Though you won’t see me standing next to the leaders of Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch anytime soon.

Many governments are being forced to reexamine their own tolerance for fanaticism and their sponsorship of hateful propaganda.

Why even I am taking a good hard look at John Ashcroft

We believe that the deliberate murder of innocent civilians...

unless they are members of Afghan wedding parties

...and the oppression of women are everywhere and always wrong.

But don’t think I am going to ratify the UN Women’s Treaty and hold my country’s policies towards women up to international scrutiny.

QUICK HIT

Following this week's primaries in Arizona, Maryland and North Carolina, LiberalOasis has added new names to its "Take Back the House" and "Keep The Senate" links sections, which allow you to contribute directly to the campaigns of Democrats running in competitive races this November.

Go to the bottom-right part of the homepage so you can fork over some cash in the name of reclaiming Congress.

September 11, 2002
Remembering

Today we pause to remember the terrorist attacks of one year ago, for which there was no provocation, justification or rationalization, that brought upon us such horrific death and destruction.

We mourn the innocent lives, from America and 90 other countries, that were cruelly taken from us, and grieve with their loved ones.

And as the memory of that day lingers, we can’t avoid asking ourselves: can justice be attained, can security be claimed, can freedom be won, through the loss of more innocent life elsewhere on the globe?

September 10, 2002
Why Don't You Go Run Off And Inspect Something?

(posted September 9 11:45 PM ET)
(edited September 10 8:15 AM ET)

There will be high drama when Dubya speaks to the good people at the United Nations this week.

After exploiting the nationwide remembrance to further press for war with Iraq on Wednesday, he turns to court world opinion with his UN speech on Thursday.

There is absolutely no way he will call for a new resolution from the UN Security Council to bless military action to overthrow Saddam. Russia and/or China will surely veto it, and Bush Inc. won’t play a game it can’t win.

Plus, the Administration made it clear on Sunday that they want Congress to pass a resolution supporting military action before it adjourns in October.

But Colin Powell has convinced Condi & The Boyz that they at least have to appear to be consulting with the international community.

So what can Dubya possibly say?

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Bush, “plans to tell world leaders at the United Nations..that unless they take quick, unequivocally strong action to disarm Iraq, the US will act on its own...The President's speech this Thursday will open the door to a possible new round of UN inspections of Iraq's weapons.”

That’s partly right.

Bet on Bush to call on the UN to enforce its own resolution and conduct anywhere-anytime inspections, but with a nebulous, yet severe, time restriction.

The subtext will be: You’ve had 10 years to do this. You don't need a new UN resolution to do this. If you can’t definitively prove that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction in two to four months, we’re going in.

And since there is no way an inspections team can move that fast, Bush wins the game for which he’s drawn up the rules.

Following the speech, watch closely what Tony Blair says in response. (As LiberalOasis has said before, a refusal by Blair to commit troops is the only way war could be stopped at this point.)

While Blair has been giving the impression that he is in lockstep with Bush, every public statement he has made in the past few days has had pro-UN caveats.

Most recently, at last Saturday’s Camp David photo op, Blair said, “...the UN has got to be the way of dealing with this issue, not the way of avoiding dealing with it.”

This appears to mean he believes the UN should take the lead, but he’s also prepared to scold the UN if it doesn’t.

Blair, who is still in good standing with the international community, will likely try to press the UN into quick action on the heels of the Bush address.

And when he fails, he can say he did what he could, and then dutifully go to war by Dubya’s side.

September 9, 2002
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown

A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted September 9 12 AM ET)

Bush Inc. dispatched Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and Rice to different talk shows yesterday, which satisfied two objectives.

One, it gave the impression of a unified Administration, and will damp down stories of a Cheney-Powell rift.

Two, it will pacify the networks, who have been complaining that the White House usually offers up one official for all the major morning shows, making it next to impossible for any show to get a scoop.

Of all the shows, the main event was Dick Cheney vs. Tim Russert on Meet The Press.

And Russert choked.

Russert repeatedly allowed Cheney -- the second least popular member of the Administration -- to make controversial, if not untrue, assertions without challenge.

Let’s break it down...

CHENEY: We’ve been on the offensive with respect to the Al Qaeda organization...we’ve totally disrupted their operations in Afghanistan...

Tim, might that have been a good time to mention last week’s little car bomb/assassination attempt combo?

CHENEY: What we found out after the Gulf War...was that he had been much farther along than we anticipated, and that he, in fact, might have been within six months to a year of actually building a nuclear weapon.

Maybe Tim, you could have brought up that the White House admitted that Saturday's attempt by Dubya and Tony Blair to claim that Saddam was six months away was based on misstatements.

CHENEY: "...If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow. The stakes," he says, "could not be higher. Some day, some way, I guarantee you he’ll use the arsenal."

[That was] Bill Clinton, 1998, on Saddam Hussein. Now, this was for him, supposedly, a top priority four years ago...Of course, what happened is nothing happened.

Hey Tim, you wouldn’t want to remind Dick about that massive air assault against Iraq that Clinton launched in December 1998? And that it was an application of the containment policy established by Daddy Bush?

And how about this exchange:

RUSSERT: But if he ever did that [use biological weapons], would we not wipe him off the face of the Earth?

CHENEY: Who did the anthrax attack last fall, Tim? We don’t know.

RUSSERT: Could it have been Saddam?

CHENEY: I don’t know. I don’t know who did it. I’m not here today to speculate on or to suggest that he did. My point is that it’s the nature of terrorist attacks of these unconventional warfare methods, that it’s very hard sometimes to identify who’s responsible.

Wouldn’t it have made sense Tim, to note that the FBI strongly suspects that an American did the anthrax attack?

Or ask if it is irresponsible to baselessly inject Saddam’s name in the speculation, while claiming not to be speculating?

And perhaps this is in the wishful thinking department.

But Tim, instead asking a couple of perfunctory Halliburton accounting questions that could be flicked away like lint (“... you can go to the Halliburton Web site, and you’ll find there, laid out, answers to all those questions...”), why not bring up all the Iraqi business dealings Halliburton had on Cheney’s watch?

Once again, Cheney came off brilliantly evil. Russert came off like a sycophant at a cocktail party.

QUICK HITS

Has Condi Been Hanging Around Dubya Too Much?

“We're just making the case. In fact, the case has been around for some time.” -- Condi Rice, CNN’s Late Edition, Sept. 8

On the Moussaoui Trail

Reader Skip Fox is hot on the trail of how the feds bungled the Moussaoui case and possibly missed the change to stop 9/11 from happening. Check out his comprehensive file.

The Sandbox
Guest Humor Column by Alexander Pierre Luboknovich

LiberalOasis was fortunate enough to have the legendary Russian comedian Alexander Pierre Luboknovich on-hand for President Bush's historic address to the U.N. on Sept. 12.

While there Mr. Luboknovich, disguised as a Georgian auditor, took extensive notes. In this exclusive, Mr. Luboknovich has permitted LiberalOasis to reprint these excerpts from his transcript.

Many of the quotes that Mr. Luboknovich attributes to Mr. Bush (a man he refers to as "the most legitimate world leader since Musharraf") can not be found anywhere else.

************

NEW YORK, Sept. 12 — Hello, my name is Alexander Pierre Luboknovich, a professional water comedian. At times I am political columnist. Today is one of those days.

I receive special permission to see Bush at UN today. Someone owed me favor. Anyway, I take notes on what he has to say.

Some got in NY Times, some did not. Next time, maybe NY Times reports it how it REALLY happened! Some are funny some are terrifying. You decide.

Here are quotes:

A failure to act, Bush said, would be betting the lives of millions in a reckless gamble. “And this is a risk we must not take,” he declared.

“By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand,” the president said. “Delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well!”

“Who would have guessed the Patriots would win last year? Maybe the guy in the front row with the towel on his head?! This is football I mean. I'm talking about football now. Gambling on football, or, as the guy with the towel on his head calls it... soccer.”

“We created a United Nations Security Council so that -- unlike the League of Nations -- our actions would be more than talk.”

“Gambling is not legal here in the United States except for Native Indian Reservations and in... Los Angeles, the capitol of California. But to gamble recklessly is reckless. So why gamble with lives?”

“You must stop and think before you stop to act deliberately. You must stop completely before you gamble a life. You cannot put a decisive spread on a life. There is no home field advantage in war. Just like in baseball, although some would argue the fans are like the 10th man.”

“Well the gentleman with the towel, he could have guessed about the Patriots, but what do I know! I traded Sammy Sosa.”

ABOUT LUBOKNOVICH
Born in 1957 in Estonia, guest columnist Alexander Pierre Luboknovich is represented by the immense Ralph Sovo Entertainment conglomerate (RSE) and is an associate fellow at the Ruzzzikivixxxxen Importing Co., Brighton Beach, NY.

He is one of leading practictioners of the high Russian art of “water comedy.”

Winner of the 1983 High Esteem Award (Saint Petersburg Times) and 7 Rikyz (Soviet Oscars), he is married to 2002 Russian silver medalist Irina Slutskaya.

Major influences include Arkady Severniy, Dmitiri Parentnikoff, Dudakov the Deceiver, Yuri Stimenovich, and Elizabeth Arden.

Comments? Email Luboknovich

**************

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