Some congressional leaders were surprised to learn that Bush had put a "shadow government" in place without informing, much less consulting, them. But when Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle mildly questioned the progress of the war, Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., was outraged: "How dare Sen. Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting our war on terrorism, especially when we have troops in the field?" Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who is leading the Republican congressional campaign this fall, accused Daschle of giving "aid and comfort" to our enemies.
When President Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and a pharmacy in Sudan believed to have ties with Osama bin Laden in August 1998, many Republicans accused him of orchestrating the attack to divert attention from the Lewinsky scandal, although GOP congressional leadership tended to back him. That support evaporated when he ordered the bombing of Iraq in December 1998, on the eve of his impeachment. "While I have been assured by administration officials that there is no connection with the impeachment process in the House of Representatives, I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time," said Lott, who was then majority leader. "Both the timing and the policy are subject to question."
When Clinton ordered the bombing of Serbia to force Yugoslavia to quit its ethnic cleansing program in Kosovo in May 1999, William Saletan of Slate.com noted that Lott, Don Nickles of Oklahoma, who was then majority whip and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas openly and persistently criticized of the intervention. Saletan concluded, on May 7, 1999, "Some Democrats call Republicans who make these arguments unpatriotic. Republicans reply that they're serving their country by debunking and thwarting a bad policy administered by a bad president. You can be sure of only two things: Each party is arguing exactly the opposite of what it argued the last time a Republican president led the nation into war, and exactly the opposite of what it will argue next time."
KERRY BLASTS DRAFT DODGING R'S. Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., apparently got his bellyful of Republicans who had not served in the military but felt Democrats should not criticize the president. The Boston Globe noted that Kerry, who received three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star in two Navy combat tours, told an audience of New Hampshire Democrats March 2 that he had fought to preserve the freedom of speech and the oversight of government actions. He contrasted his military service with that of Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas and Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi. Neither served in the military; both got student deferments during the Vietnam war. But both lashed out at Daschle (a military veteran) and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., Appropriations Committee chairman, for their mild questions about the exit strategy and means for measuring success in Afghanistan.
''Let me be clear tonight to Senator Lott and to Tom DeLay: One of the lessons that I learned in Vietnam, a war they did not have to endure, and one of the basic vows of commitment that I made to myself, was that if I ever reached a position of responsibility, I would never stop asking questions that make a democracy strong,'' Kerry said at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's annual 100 Club dinner in Concord. He got a standing ovation. "Those who try to stifle the vibrancy of our democracy and shield policies from scrutiny behind a false cloak of patriotism miss the real value of what our troops defend and how we best defend our troops. We will ask questions and we will defend our democracy." A leading GOP official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Globe: ''Senator Kerry is a war hero, and we honor him for that service, but no one has the right to criticize the patriotism of his fellow Americans, particularly when it's done for political purposes and with an eye on 2004.'' Among other high-ranking Republican draft dodgers (also known as "chickenhawks") are Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Dick Armey, Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General John Ashcroft.
BUSH CLAIMS WAR RECORD. George W. Bush embellished his military record in a Jan. 27 quip with Democratic speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates Bob Kiss, who has infant twins. Bush told Kiss, "I've been to war. I've raised twins. If I had a choice, I'd rather go to war." As a matter of fact, since his father was then a congressman, Bush had a choice: the Air National Guard. As a pilot he never left the US during his 1970s stint, but he was missing from duty for at least a year during 1972-73, when there was a war going on in Southeast Asia [See "George W Bush's Missing Year," by Marty Heldt, 11/1/00 TPP]. In "The Smoking Jet" at www.democrats.com Robert A. Rogers, an Air National Guard veteran pilot, explores why Bush was mysteriously suspended and grounded with two years left in his six-year obligation to the Texas Air National Guard &emdash; and Bush never again reported for duty.
PUBLIC WANTS CORPORATION LIMITS. Republicans are playing down the Enron political scandal, but the Washington Post noted that Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg found 84% of respondents found a fair or great amount of truth in the statement that in light of Enron, "we need leaders who will attack the abuses of corporations that have too much influence over what happens in Washington." Greenberg said Democrats have the opportunity to call into question the motives and influences behind the administration's policy. He added, "I don't think the Democrats have seized the opportunity." Another survey by Chicago PR firm Golin/Harris International found 69% don't trust corporate America.
A CBS News poll released Feb. 28 found three quarters of the public think the Bush administration is either hiding something or lying when it comes to its dealings with Enron executives, up from 67% in January. The number of people who say the administration is lying has more than doubled, to 20%. Only 13% think members of the Bush administration are telling the entire truth. The poll found 55% said there is too much corporate influence on the Bush White House but 66% said there is too much corporate influence on Congress.
SENATE RELAXES SSN PRIVACY. The Senate version of the election reform bill, S 565, would allow states to use Social Security numbers to identify voters, including petition signers, Ballot Access News reported March 1. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., sponsored the amendment Feb. 14, BAN said, and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., was the only senator who tried to stop it but it passed on a voice vote. Currently Hawaii is the only state that requires petition signers to include their Social Security number, since it was the only state with that requirement when the federal Privacy Act was passed in 1974. The House version of election reform, HR 3295, has no Social Security number provision, so it might fail to survive the conference committee.
DRUG WAR ENRICHES TERRORISTS. Reacting to the Office of National Drug Control Policy's ad campaign accusing drug users with supporting terrorists, the Libertarian Party noted that the War on Drugs turns ordinary, cheap plants like marijuana and poppies into fantastically lucrative black market products, funneling vast profits into the hands of drug cartels and their terrorist allies, the Libertarian Party noted. Even the Office of National Drug Control Policy acknowledges this. An October 2001 report notes, "A kilogram of pure cocaine costs about $25,000 at the wholesale level. This is a high price for a product that is basically agricultural, requires inexpensive chemical processing, and has minimal shipping costs ... Consequently, [law enforcement] programs almost certainly explain high wholesale prices ... Illicit drug prices are many magnitudes higher than would otherwise be the case were there no effective source zone, interdiction, and domestic law enforcement programs."
The Libertarians conclude: "Without the War on Drugs, marijuana would be no more valuable than lettuce. Heroin-producing poppies would be no more profitable than tulips. And cocaine-producing coca plants would be worth no more than brussels sprouts. Without the War on Drugs, the terrorists who depend on illegal drug profits to finance their bloody attacks would be almost penniless." Libertarians would treat drug abuse as a medical problem, not a law enforcement problem. "It's time to redeploy our police and soldiers to defend Americans against the threat of terrorism. And it's time to take away the inflated profits that terrorists use to finance violence, destruction, and death."
VOTERS REJECT BIG BOX STORES. Voters in three California cities rejected "big box" retail developments on March 5.
In Agoura Hills, a town of 20,000 north of Los Angeles, voters banned retail stores larger than 60,000 square feet. Supporters of the size cap noted that the city's tax base grew 24% over the last five years in the absence of big box retail. The Home Depot would threaten several of the community's largest sources of sales tax revenue &emdash; a hardware store, lumber dealer, equipment renter, fence business, door supplier, and building materials company &emdash; all of which are locally owned.
In Mountain View, a community of 76,000 north of San Jose, voters defeated a ballot measure to rezone land for a Home Depot store by a 2-to-1 margin. After Home Depot repeatedly failed to win support from the city council, which placed a 50,000 square foot size limit on the site in 1999, the company gathered signatures to put the matter to voters. Opponents' lawn signs depicted Home Depot as a menacing gorilla, and brochures focused on the development's impact on traffic, local businesses, existing retail jobs, and community character.
In Reedley, a town of 21,000 near Fresno, voters narrowly rejected two ballot initiatives that would have enabled construction of a Wal-Mart store. Measures C and D authorizing the annexation and rezoning of agricultural land to allow for commercial development were defeated by small margins: 1,585 to 1,564 and 1,598 to 1,536.
Voters in Calexico, a town of 27,000 along the Mexican border, defeated a ballot initiative that would have barred the construction of a Wal-Mart supercenter. A ballot measure to re-zone 10.5 acres in East Palo Alto to allow for an Ikea furniture store won by just 75 votes. The 300,000 square foot store, the equivalent of more than seven football fields, is slated to open in 2003.
The Board of Commissioners in Hood River County, Ore., voted unanimously in late January to bar new retail stores over 50,000 square feet. The new ordinance also establishes a design review process for new retail buildings between 25,000 and 50,000 square feet. An identical retail size limit was enacted by the town of Hood River a few months ago.
For more information see the New Rules Project at ww.newrules.org.
COPS RAID MOORE BOOK SIGNING. HarperCollins last fall planned to pulp copies of Stupid White Men by Michael Moore rather than release a book critical of President George W. Bush in the post 9/11 ballyhoo. When an uproar by librarians helped Moore convince the publisher to release the book last month, it shot to #3 on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list despite minimal publicity. When the company refused to pay for a trip to California, Moore got himself booked on ABC's Politically Incorrect, whose host Bill Maher also is in trouble with network execs over his mouth. With ABC paying for the plane trip, Moore scheduled his own book tour.
"In the past six days, I have spoken to 15 separate mobs of people," Moore wrote March 8. "I don't know what other word to use because, quite simply, wherever I go, there is this unbelievable pandemonium. Every day, every night, hundreds &emdash; or thousands &emdash; jam themselves into halls, arenas, churches, auditoriums to listen to me talk about my book and whatever else is struggling to make its way through my brain. Forget about standing room only &emdash; these venues look more like breathing room only. ...
"I have visited the most out-of-the-way places in California and, no matter where I go or how right-wing the congressman is that represents their district, all sorts of people are desperate to get inside to be with the thousands of others who want to be part of 'United We Stand Against the Thief-in-Chief.' Grass Valley, Hayward, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Ukiah, Arcata, Berkeley, Westwood, East L.A., Koreatown (L.A.) &emdash; I wish all of you could see what I have seen. In every town, at every stop, huge throngs of Americans who are sick and tired of the silence that has been demanded of them, lest they be thought of as 'unpatriotic' should they dare to question the actions of George W. Bush and company. That's what this tour is all about. It's time to come out and start acting like Americans again."
Then there was San Diego, where over a thousand people were packed inside the 800-seat middle-school auditorium for a booksigning. Police threatened to arrest Moore and others after the crowd overstayed the 11 p.m. curfew.
"I walked outside and about 40 people ask me if I would still sign their books in the dark of the parking lot. A girl gets out her pocket flashlight. A guy runs over and turns on his headlights. I remark that it feels like we're in some sort of banana republic or East Berlin, secretly meeting so we can have our little book gathering. 'Sign quick, Mike, here come the police!' See www.michaelmoore.com for more.
CROSSFIRE HIRES LIBERALS. James Carville and Paul Begala will suit up for the left wing on CNN's Crossfire April 1 as the former Clinton political operatives face off agai nst right wingers Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
''I've fought the Bushes. I've fought the Starrs. I've fought the Thornburghs. Now Corporal Cue Ball is ready to go after the Prince of Darkness (Novak) and Bow Tie Boy (Carlson),'' Carville said in a press release.
Said Begala: ''The right wing has Bush, Cheney, Novak and Carlson. It also has the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court and every foam-at-the-mouth blowhard who can find his way to a microphone. I've got James Carville. I like my odds.''
Carville told Salon.com's Joan Walsh the Democrats need to step up their criticism of the Bush administration, particularly on domestic issues. "Look, I think it's time for Democrats to be for something, to put their own proposals on the table, and they certainly should contrast themselves with Bush. I think people expect us to support the war &emdash; after all, they knocked our buildings down. But many of the issues people were concerned about Sept. 10 they're concerned about today."
Asked if he has a candidate in 2004, Carville said, "You know what? I'm for the person who can stand up and articulate where this party ought to go, who can do it in a tough way, who's not saying something one day and apologizing the next."
BRITS BALK AT BUSH WAR PITCH. It seems like you need to read the British and other foreign press on the Internet to find out about the Bush administration's plans to topple Iraq's dictator, Saddam Hussein. The conservative Daily Mirror March 11, in an article headlined "Bush's Nuclear 'Lunacy', reported unrest among Labor members of parliament over Bush's request for 25,000 British troops to help the US take out Hussein, particularly after a leaked Pentagon report revealed contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Libya. "The lunatics have taken over the White House," Labor MP Alice Mahon said, and International Development Secretary Clare Short, a minister of Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet, hinted she might resign if a strike went ahead.
BUSH SECRECY ASSAILED. The St. Petersburg, Fla., Times, in a March 8 editorial headlined "Trust the people," said, "Unnecessary White House secrecy does a disservice to the millions of citizens whose informed vigilance could be a crucial asset in the war against terrorism."
Republican officials in New York complained that neither they, nor local or state police were not told of intelligence reports last October &emdash; later determined to be unfounded &emdash; that terrorists were planning to smuggle a nuclear weapon into New York City.
Tom Ridge, named director of homeland security after 9/11, refused a bipartisan request to testify before a Senate committee considering the administration's request for $38-billion in additional spending for domestic security programs. Ridge said he was an advisor to the president and was not obligated to answer Congress' questions.
ANOTHER SHADOW GOVERNMENT? John David Rose of the Carolina Morning News wrote March 8 that a terrorist bombing in Washington, D.C., wouldn't make much difference, since "Our government is pretty much controlled by corporate executives scattered around the country." When Bush moved into the White House, Rose said, "The National Rifle Association became the shadow Justice Department, Enron took over the Energy Department, Exxon and Shell pull the strings of the Department of Interior, International Paper became the director of the Forest Service, Lockheed Northrop took control of Defense Department procurement, and Microsoft became head of Anti-Trust." He concluded, "Big shots of American industry love G.W. Bush ... they bought and paid for him. But can the rest of the United States afford him?"
DRAGNET BLANKS ON AL-QAEDA. While thousands of FBI agents have rounded up more than 1,300 suspects across America since Sept. 11, the London Times noted they have failed to find a single al-Qaeda cell operating in the United States. The Times also noted that only two of the top 20 most-wanted al-Qaeda suspects are known to have been caught or killed: Mohammed Atef, third-in-command to Osama bin Laden, died in a rocket attack on Kabul; and Anas al-Liby, a computer expert who lived in Manchester, England, and is said to have helped to compile al-Qaeda's terrorist training manual, has been arrested. No one in the American military or intelligence services reportedly knows where bin Laden is, although the Christian Science Monitor March 4 reported that the terrorist leader and dozens of his top henchmen escaped from the Tora Bora cave network and walked across the border into Pakistan while American aircraft were bombing the caves. Feuding Afghani warlords were supposed to be securing the perimeter but their troops reportedly helped al-Qaeda fighters escape.
INQUISITOR TURNS SENATE HOPEFUL. Robert Ray finally wrapped up the inquisition into the Clinton family with the cheap shot assertion that he could have convicted former President Bill Clinton on a perjury charge stemming from his denial of an affair. But the Capitol newspaper Roll Call noted that while Ray was finishing the inquiry, he was laying the groundwork to become the Republican nominee to challenge Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J. Ray attended a GOP dinner on Jan. 10; he met with the state's Republican chairman, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, and other top operatives and fundraisers; and he reached out to other conservative candidates already in the race in an apparent effort to run as the consensus conservative in a crowded primary. His political maneuverings caused Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, to accuse Ray of violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law governing his appointment. [The Quinnipiac poll released March 6 showed Torricelli holding a 53-28% lead over Ray.]
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun March 9 noted that for the $70 million that was spent first investigating a $203,000 land deal that went sour and then entraping the president into lying about an affair, the Feds could have, among other things:
Hired 1,400 teachers for a year.
Sent 120,000 tons of food to Afghanistan.
Compensated American farmers for the livestock they lose every year to coyotes.
Provided early intervention for 24,000 young disabled children.
Sent 2,300 students to Ivy League colleges for a year.
Tripled CBS' offer to David Letterman, thus saving Nightline.
Given every American a 25-cent tax rebate.
The Newark Star-Ledger March 9 editorialized: "If Ray wants to run for Senate on the platform that he was tough on Clinton, he must expect some skepticism. The relationship between the Starr-Ray combine and Clinton was much the same as the relationship between Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. These big-spending prosecutors never came close to getting that cwazy wabbit."
STAR WARS SPENDS BILLIONS. The US has spent more than $70 billion on missile defense ever since Ronald Reagan came up with "Star Wars" 19 years ago, and Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe noted that the Pentagon still hasn't produced a workable device. Star wars is batting .333 in hitting test attack vehicles &emdash; eight of 24 &emdash; in the latest tally by the Union of Concerned Scientists and most of the eight "hits" were under tweaked conditions that "all but direct attack vehicles into the nose cone of interceptors" and would never occur in a real attack. The Congressional Budget Office reported in January that the cost of missile defense could go much higher, perhaps doubling or tripling the current costs.
McCAIN STRATEGIST GOES 'D'. Cain Strategist Goes D. John Weaver, strategist for Sen. John McCain's 2000 run against George W. Bush, has become a Democrat and "2004 presidential aspirants have been in touch," according to the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire (as noted in politicalwire.com). Weaver says the GOP now "is the party of 'the corporate skybox elite,' recast in the century-old image of 'Mark Hanna and his money-men.'" Hanna was a Cleveland industrialist and Republican party boss whose copious fundraising helped William McKinley defeat populist Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1896.
ENERGY BILL INCLUDES NUKE BAILOUT. A growing number of Republicans are ready to ditch the Bush administration's plan to drill for oil in the Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to salvage the rest of the energy bill, the Associated Press reported March 8. A bipartisan agreement would triple the use of corn-based ethanol and phase out a gas additive, MTBE, which pollutes drinking water. Senators also were expected to approve new safety measures for natural gas pipelines. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reached agreement on an amendment that would requirement automakers to achieve a fleet average of 36 miles per gallon by 2015, although Kerry kept open the possibility of exempting pickup trucks and allowing automakers to meet lower mileage requirements if they buy "greenhouse" credits from other industries. The Senate bill also provides $16 billion in tax breaks over 10 years, much of it to develop renewable energy sources, and it imposes tougher efficiency requirements for air conditioners. But it also would reauthorize the Price-Anderson Act, which would bail out the nuclear industry in case of a major nuclear accident. "The bill was already severely flawed," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "The decision to extend government-sanctioned coddling of nuclear power makes it worse."
FBI BOSS WORKED FOR ENRON. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller did work for a Massachusetts subsidiary of Enron Corp. in 1993, the Boston Globe reported. Mueller, a former US attorney in Massachusetts, was hired by Enron to determine if the company should refer for official investigation the purchase of a vacant 6-acre site for 15 times its assessed value. Mueller's recommendation against a criminal inquiry so upset a private firm that had also investigated the real estate purchase that the firm stopped doing work for Enron, the Globe reported March 9. ''I respect Bob Mueller, but that purchase was too suspicious not to pursue, and the only way to get answers was through a grand jury,'' said Lee Blais, former president of a private investigative agency that had conducted a separate inquiry. When the Justice Department opened its criminal investigation into Enron's collapse late last year, Mueller decided after consulting with the FBI's general counsel that his prior legal work was not large or long enough to cause him to step down.
BUSH 'PIONEERS' GET PLUM POSTS. A little more than a year after 212 "Pioneers"narrowly helped put him in the White House, George W. Bush has rewarded at least 43 of these elite fundraisers with federal appointments. Highest-ranking Pioneers are Terrorism Czar Tom Ridge (a former Pennsylvania governor) and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao (an ex-Heritage Foundation Fellow and wife of US Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.). Other Pioneers include 19 US ambassadors; five members of the Energy Department Transition Team that first envisioned Bush's supply-side energy policy (including ex-Enron CEO Ken Lay); and two seats on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. "Political patronage is alive and well in the Bush White House," said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice (see www.tpj.org). "Rewarding big donors with ambassadorships is a sure-fire way to keep the campaign money rolling in. If Congress outlaws soft money, Pioneer bundling will become a blueprint for the future of special-interest politics in Washington."
For lower-scale fundraisers, Roll Call reported March 4 that the National Republican Congressional Committee is offering a closed-door briefing on national defense from the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence in exchange for a $1,000 contribution, according to a Feb. 13 fundraising letter from House GOP leaders.
SENATE CALLS RAD MEAT 'PASTEURIZED' A last-minute provision in the Senate farm bill would give irradiated hamburger a more appealing name: pasteurized beef. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, inserted the provision on the last day of Senate debate on the farm bill to help the growing irradiated-food industry, which has a large plant in western Iowa. Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the Department of Agriculture has agreed that meat treated by radiation, a process approved by the government two years ago to kill disease-causing germs, should qualify as pasteurized, the New York Times noted. "It would be terrible, just horrible, misleading the public about what industry is doing to its food," said Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen. Harkin also inserted a clause that would forbid the agriculture secretary to keep irradiated food out of the school lunch program or any other federal nutrition program. The legislation is now in a House-Senate conference, and it is uncertain whether the clauses will survive.
UNIONS DISAAPOINTED WITH STIMULUS. Congress approved and George W. Bush signed into law an "economic stimulus" bill to extend unemployment insurance and provide tax breaks for businesses. The AFL-CIO's president, John J. Sweeney, said it was "profoundly disappointed" that the bill "does nothing to help laid-off workers pay the crushing costs of health care." The nation's governors also are unhappy that the bill would drain their treasuries by allowing businesses, over the next three years, to depreciate 30 percent of the value of new investments made in the first year. Because most states base their corporate income taxes on federal rules, the proposed change could cost them $14.6 billion over the next three years, the Washington Post reported.