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Geraldine Sealey
February 6, 2004 8:10PM (UTC)

Democrats downbeat no more
The Washington Post assesses the balance of power in Campaign 2004 and finds that Democrats, downbeat and disillusioned a year ago in the face of challenging a seemingly popular wartime president, are energized and strengthened by the oft-grueling primary process rather than weakened by it. On the GOP side, "President Bush is weaker than his strategists expected, spreading alarm in the White House and Republican circles, GOP sources said. The new balance in the race, even as Democratic front-runner Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) still faces spirited challenges, is a striking circumstance in historical terms. Usually, nominating battles weaken candidates, at least temporarily, as a party's ideological rifts and personal resentments take time to heal and sometimes prove fatal in the general election. This year, the Democratic contest is likely to produce a nominee who will be stronger coming out of the process than going in, according to strategists with both parties."

"Bush told me he supports marriage amendment"
President Bush hasn't publicly endorsed a constitutional amendment to define marriage, so Texas Sen. John Cornyn is taking care of that for him. Bush unequivocally supports a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, Cornyn says, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. After a weekend discussion with Bush, Cornyn decided to have the Senate subcommittee on the constitution he chairs begin considering such a proposal within weeks.

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"The day that many thought was off in the distant future is upon us," Cornyn said. He asked Bush in a closed-door meeting at a Republican retreat in Pennsylvania about a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex unions and the president supported it, Cornyn says. "He said he does. He's told me. He was crystal clear ...," Cornyn said.

In his State of the Union address and in other comments, President Bush has hinted that he might support changing the constitution, but has stopped short of endorsing it. "If activist judges insist on redefining marriage by court order, the only alternative will be the constitutional process," Bush has said. "We must do what is legally necessary to defend the sanctity of marriage."

Tale of two states
The Independent looks at the home states of John Kerry and George W. Bush and how they "perfectly illustrate the fault line that runs not only through American politics, but American society and American life as well." The contrast between Massachusetts and Texas was starkly drawn with two news events this week, the Independent writes. In Massachusetts, there was the state's high court ruling in favor of same-sex marriages. And in Texas, lawyers won a last-ditch stay of execution for Scott Louis Panetti, diagnosed as borderline insane, who had been due to be put to death for two murders committed 12 years ago.

"The two affairs illustrate perfectly the labels that each party is already trying to attach to the candidate of the other. Mr. Kerry, who is out to prove he is no soggy and ineffectual 'Massachusetts liberal,' must have winced as he learnt the court's decision, which confirmed every public stereotype of his state -- as a nest of 'arrogant liberals,' determined to subvert everything that made America great. Then there is the Texas model of America. This is frontier America, with anything-goes business (as in Enron), where bad guys (such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden) are to be hunted down like outlaws, and where -- as the Panetti case may show -- justice tends not to bother with facts that get in the way of simple views of right and wrong."

Does Kerry bite system that feeds him?
Associated Press reports today that "at least three times in his Senate career, Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry has recommended individuals for positions at federal home loan banks just before or after receiving political contributions from the nominees, records show Kerry's office, like the nominees, insists the timing of the donations and the nominations was a coincidence."

Kerry often razzes "special interests" and lobbyists in his stump speech, but a campaign watchdog says the kind of behavior the AP says Kerry engaged in is standard inside-the-beltway stuff. "This is just business as usual in Washington," said Larry Noble, the former chief lawyer for the Federal Election Commission who now heads the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. "Kerry is out there saying he is not being part of that game, yet he is the product of the same money system."

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Rummy's secret 'Office of Special Plans'
Mother Jones investigates a secret Pentagon unit charged with creating the case for war in Iraq. "Until now, the story of how the Bush administration produced its wildly exaggerated estimates of the threat posed by Iraq has never been revealed in full. But, for the first time, a detailed investigation by Mother Jones, based on dozens of interviews some on the record, some with officials who insisted on anonymity exposes the workings of a secret Pentagon intelligence unit and of the Defense Department's war-planning task force, the Office of Special Plans. It's the story of a close-knit team of ideologues who spent a decade or more hammering out plans for an attack on Iraq and who used the events of September 11, 2001, to set it into motion."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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