Friday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
January 30, 2004 7:45PM (UTC)

Committees: Prewar intelligence was bad
The Washington Post reports that House and Senate intelligence committees were doing their own investigations of prewar intel for the last seven months and their findings seem to bolster what David Kay told Congress this week: that CIA analysts used bad intelligence to assess the state of Saddam's weapons programs. "The committees ... have determined that the CIA relied too heavily on circumstantial, outdated intelligence and became overly dependent on satellite and spy-plane imagery and communications intercepts."

But the White House is still not fully acknowledging there were problems with intelligence. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice said: "What we have is evidence that there are differences between what we knew going in and what we found on the ground ... that's not surprising in a country that was as closed and secretive as Iraq, a country that was doing everything that it could to deceive the United Nations, to deceive the world." Asked whether the intelligence was wrong, Rice said: "I don't think . . . that we know the full story of what became of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction."

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GOP revolt against free-spending leadership
The budgetary mishaps of the Bush administration and GOP congressional leadership will be a hot topic at an annual retreat of House Republicans in Philadelphia today, the Wall Street Journal says. Fiscal conservatives like Rep. Chris Cox will reportedly press Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay to rein in spending. "Elected as the party of limited government 10 years ago, the Republican imperium is starting to show signs of ideological dry rot. Creative gerrymandering, especially in Texas, has made it likely the GOP will keep control of the House for the rest of this decade. But the paradox of this political ascendancy is that it has encouraged too many Members to trade in the principles that propelled them to power for pork-barrel spending and poll-driven incumbent protection," the Journal writes. Examples: The $400 Medicare prescription drug bill that suddenly yesterday became $540 billion, a $190 billion farm bill, and an $820 billion "omnibus" spending bill that "ladles out lard to every district in the nation." "Republicans took a rare whack at spending in 1995, but ever since they have been hard to distinguish from Democrats," the Journal says.

The dossier on Kerry
Now that John Kerry is the clear front-runner in the Democratic race, his record is getting more scrutiny from the media, his opponents, and the likes of RNC chairman Ed Gillespie. Morton Kondracke of Roll Call looks at Kerry's history in Washington and points to some of the weaknesses in Kerry's record.

"Although in speeches he claims to have 'fought for' various causes in Congress, it's hard to name a major piece of legislation that bears his name. Chief Democratic rival Howard Dean has pointedly observed, for instance, that Kerry voted not to fight the 1991 Persian Gulf War after Iraq had invaded Kuwait, but then voted to give President Bush power to fight the 2003 war, which a huge majority of Democrats oppose. The dossier on Kerry also includes a 1995 proposal to cut intelligence funding by $300 million for the next five years and a 1994 proposal to cut $1 billion from the program that coordinates counterterrorism activities.

"The Boston Globe observed last year that in 1984, Kerry said he would cancel the B-1 bomber and the B-2 stealth bomber; the Apache helicopter; the Patriot missile; F-15, F-14 and Harrier jets; and the Aegis air-defense cruiser. The Globe also reported that he advocated cuts in other systems, including the Abrams tank, Bradley fighting vehicle and Tomahawk missile, all critical to U.S. military success in Afghanistan and Iraq. And while Kerry legitimately surrounds himself with fellow Vietnam War veterans and protests GOP cuts in veterans' programs, opponents point out that he never sought an appointment to the Veterans' Affairs Committee, where he could have had an impact on policy."

Will work for less money
We've heard a lot about all the jobs lost during George Bush's years in the White House -- to refresh, 2.3 million jobs have disappeared since 2001. Less discussed is the quality of the few jobs that have been created. The Detroit Free Press looks at a new national study that shows how new jobs pay about 21 percent less than the jobs they replace. In Michigan, the Freep says, growing industries like health care pay 26 percent less than those like the auto industry that are losing jobs. "... Combine the loss of jobs with the often reduced quality of new jobs, and it's likely this trend will become an issue between now and the November election. It also will be an issue in the run up to Michigan's Democratic caucuses Feb. 7."

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NAACP gives GOP failing grades
If Republicans want to get 25 percent of the black vote in November, the party's goal, they'd better hope African-Americans pay no attention to the NAACP's mid-term "Federal Legislative Report Card" for the 108th Congress, writes The Wilmington Journal. In the report card, made public this week, "228 Republicans in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives and all 52 in the Senate earned Fs. Only one Republican, Rep. [Jim] Leach of Iowa, got as high as a D, voting in support of Black causes 65 percent of the time. By contrast, no Democrat received a grade as low as an F on the Civil Rights Report Card." Of the presidential candidates: Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) earned the highest grade of an A with 100 percent; both Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) earned As by supporting NAACP positions 95 percent of the time. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), earned an A with a 91 percent voting record. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) got the lowest grade received by any senator, an F, voting with the NAACP only 4 percent or just once. Instead of grading presidential candidates, the NAACP issued a "Civil Rights Questionnaire." The only two candidates who didn't respond were Lyndon Larouche and George Bush.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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