Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
February 2, 2004 7:20PM (UTC)

Dean attacks "Republican" Kerry, DNC chair goes after AWOL Bush
The Washington Post rounds up tough talk that characterized campaigning over the weekend. Treating John Kerry to a bit of the sniping he took as Democratic front-runner, Howard Dean attacked the Massachusetts senator for being not only a "Republican," but also the ultimate tool of special interests who has a "complete lack of principles." Dean says he'll stay in the race even if he wins nothing on Tuesday, when seven states will hold primaries. Dean has all but ceded the Feb. 3 states to his rivals, and is focusing on later contests (Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington) to revive his candidacy.

While Dean went after Kerry, the Post writes, "the day's harshest rhetoric came from Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence McAuliffe, who raised anew an old controversy about President Bush's Vietnam-era service. The questions concern whether Bush had been absent from duty during an eight-month period in 1972 when he was supposed to be on assignment in Alabama for the Texas Air National Guard. If the current front-runner continues his roll toward the nomination, McAuliffe said on ABC's 'This Week' that he is looking 'forward to that debate when John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard.'"

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Someone Kerry would rather forget
While Howard Dean railed against John Kerry this weekend for being the U.S. senator most beholden to special interest money in the last fifteen years, Newsweek added to the discussion over Kerry's campaign finance history with a piece reviving the story of Johnny Chung, a fundraiser who got five years of probation after pleading guilty to illegally funneling money from the Chinese government to Kerry's 1996 reelection campaign coffers.

Newsweek writes: "There was never any suggestion that Kerry knew about the dubious origins of Chung's largesse. Still, the appearance that the senator had played a cynical cash-for-favors game forced him to play damage control. In January 1998 he told the Boston Herald that the timing of the SEC meeting and the subsequent fund-raiser was 'totally coincidental' and 'entirely staff driven.' He said the Beverly Hills event had been set up by a professional fund-raiser, and that he had never even met Chung until the night of the event. But congressional documents obtained by NEWSWEEK seem to tell a different story. 'Dear Johnny, It was a great pleasure to have met you last week,' Kerry told Chung in a handwritten note dated July 31, 1996. 'Barbara [a Kerry fund-raiser] told me of your willingness to help me with my campaign... It means a lot to have someone like you on my team as I face the toughest race of my career.' That same day the Kerry fund-raiser faxed a memo to Chung that read, in part: 'The following are two ways in which you can be helpful to John.' No. 1 was 'Host an event in L.A. on Saturday, Sept. 9th.' (A Kerry spokesman acknowledged that the senator may have met with Chung prior to the fund-raiser, but not in his Senate office.)"

Dean takes the low road, others give Kerry high road
Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times wonders why all the major Democratic candidates except for Howard Dean are treating new front-runner John Kerry with kid gloves, allowing him to surge in the polls in key states without the burden of fending off rival attacks as Dean was forced to do early on. John Edwards and Wesley Clark are choosing to avoid questions about Kerry's possible nomination or distinguish themselves from him on issues, Brownstein writes. And Dean's case against Kerry is so hyperbolic -- Is the former lieutenant governor to Michael Dukakis really likely to be confused with a Republican? -- as to undermine Dean's own credibility. So why the meek behavior of Clark and Edwards? "One theory is that both men, but especially Edwards, may still hope to snare the vice presidential nod if they lose out on the big job. If that's the case, they have every incentive not to antagonize the man now most likely to pick the second spot on the ticket. But Clark and Edwards insist that they don't want the understudy's role. Many believe Edwards has boxed himself in by arguing that he's the 'positive' alternative in a field full of bickering Democrats. To the extent Clark has echoed that argument, he's constrained too."

Michigan: It's all about jobs, and Dean has one ahead of him
After tomorrow's seven primaries, the next major contest of the presidential race will be on Saturday in Michigan. The caucuses there will comprise the first contest in a large, industralized Midwestern state, and the race in Michigan will highlight issues we'll hear more of in places like Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In a primer on the mindset of the Michigan voter, the Boston Globe writes "dissatisfaction with President Bush's economic policies runs high, anger over trade policies is palpable, and the prospect of a recovery in manufacturing remains uncertain." Michigan voters want to know how Democrats "will restore good jobs in a state reeling with a 7.2 percent unemployment rate and stop the hemorrhaging in the manufacturing workforce." Michigan has lost 170,000 manufacturing jobs since President Bush took office. "That's 170,000 human stories in Michigan, and that is unacceptable," says Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Howard Dean has focused on Michigan as he leapfrogged past the states holding primaries tomorrow. But the latest poll of likely Michigan voters, showed John Kerry way ahead at 37 percent, followed by Dean and John Edwards at 14 percent, and Wesley Clark at 10 percent.

U.S. officials knew last May there were no WMD
The London Observer reports that senior U.S. officials knew within three weeks of the fall of Baghdad that there were no weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq. Citing intelligence sources, policy makers and weapons inspectors familiar with the details of the weapons hunt, the Observer says the nonexistence of a weapons program was widely known despite assertions by Bush administration officials and the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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The revelation has special meaning in Britain, where a judge last week assailed the BBC and vindicated the government after an inquiry into reports Blair "sexed up" prewar intelligence.

"According to the time-line provided by the US sources, it would mean that Number 10 [Downing Street] would have been aware of the US doubts that weapons would be found before the outbreak of the feud between Number 10 and [BBC reporter] Andrew Gilligan, and before the exposure of Dr David Kelly as Gilligan's source for his claims that the September dossier had been 'sexed up' to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

It would suggest too that some officials who defended the 24 September dossier in evidence before the Hutton inquiry did so in the knowledge that the pre-war intelligence was probably wrong. Indeed, comments from a senior Washington official first casting serious doubt on the existence of WMD were put to Downing Street by The Observer -- and rejected -- as early as 3 May."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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