Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
February 5, 2004 7:16PM (UTC)

Wartime leadership no longer GOP strong suit
The Philadelphia Inquirer runs a Knight-Ridder story looking at President Bush's falling stature as commander-in-chief. Not too long ago, conventional wisdom was that Democrats would have a tough time challenging Bush on national security issues in the general election. But "a new Gallup poll shows that voters trust Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts -- the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination -- more than Bush to decide when U.S. troops should go to war. And, for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, fewer than half of Americans -- 49 percent -- say the war was worth it."

It's no wonder, really, that Americans are starting to question Bush's leadership on the war front. As the Knight-Ridder story points out, in just the past few days, "Bush had reversed course on the need for an investigation into prewar intelligence in Iraq, reluctantly agreed to extend an investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and fended off questions about his military service."

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Perhaps panic over this emerging weakness for Bush-Cheney '04 and a need for quick damage control is partly why Bush plans on making a rare appearance on Meet the Press this coming Sunday.

Is Scalia's role in Cheney case a sitting duck?
Chief Justice William Rehnquist was not moved by previously publicized reports of a duck-hunting trip Justice Antonin Scalia took with Dick Cheney just as the high court agreed to hear a case involving Cheney's energy task force. Despite pressure from Democratic lawmakers and some legal ethics experts, Rehnquist didn't seem to think the timing of the friendly outing, and the obvious chumminess of Scalia and Cheney, required Scalia to recuse himself from Cheney's case.

The Los Angeles Times adds new details of the duck-hunting trip and reports that Scalia actually traveled as an official guest of Vice President Dick Cheney on a small government jet that served as Air Force Two when the pair traveled to Louisiana. Some legal experts say these new revelations should surely add more pressure on Scalia to step away from Cheney's case. "In my view, this further ratchets it up. If the vice president is the source of generosity, it means Scalia is accepting a gift of some value from a litigant in a case before him," New York University law professor Stephen Gillers told the Times.

Dean's new ultimatum: It's Wisconsin or bust
For the first time, Howard Dean has identified a state as a must-must-win for his candidacy. If he doesn't win in Wisconsin on Feb. 17, he told supporters in a fundraising email today, he will be "out of the race." "All that you have worked for these past months is on the line on a single day in a single state. We have come so far to change our political process and restore our democracy. We can't stop now," the email reads. The Washington Post quickly put together a story today using the email as way to examine the do-or-die state of Dean's now hard-knocks candidacy. "Many Democrats, aides and supporters were already privately predicting the end to one of the wildest, most unpredictable and most innovative presidential campaigns of recent times 'It's looking pretty dismal, isn't it?' said Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), a Dean backer.'"

Kerry pressured (already) to go Edwards for veep
He is not the first person, surely, to think John Edwards would make a fine vice presidential nominee on a ticket headed by John Kerry. But U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, one of the most powerful politicians in South Carolina and a Kerry backer, became the first Democrat with any kind of clout to say it publicly. After watching his candidate lose South Carolina, even with his backing, Clyburn was obviously impressed with Edwards' ability to appeal to Southerners, blacks and working class voters worried about the economy.

The Boston Herald looks at Clyburn's dream ticket and why he thinks Kerry needs Edwards. "[Kerry] needs to appeal to the South and Midwest. That's his challenge," Clyburn said.

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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