Wednesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
February 11, 2004 7:48PM (UTC)

Kerry's gay marriage "minefield"
The Boston Globe looks at the wide political ramifications of the Massachusetts' legislature's debate today on a proposed constitutional amendment on gay marriage. Legislators are working on a compromise that would define marriage as between a man and a woman but give gay couples the same rights and benefits through civil unions.

"As Senate leaders see it, voting for such an amendment would establish a public position less liberal than the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's ruling that gay marriage must be allowed under the state Constitution. That's important for several reasons. One is to give Senator John Kerry, a close ally of Senate President Robert Travaglini, some cover as he runs for president. Last year, Travaglini said he intended to do 'whatever I can for John Kerry.' As the Senate president threads his way through the minefield of the gay marriage issue, Kerry's presidential fortunes are said to weigh on his mind."

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Bush's Guard story not going away
If the White House thought the questions about Bush's National Guard duty would disappear after producing a few payroll records on Tuesday, they are mistaken, writes John Wildermuth in the San Francisco Chronicle. If anything, the story has truly arrived in the national consciousness, he says, now that late-night comedians are ribbing Bush, too.

"The growing clamor over what the president did and when he did it can't be wished away so easily, particularly in an election year. And especially when Bush's likely opponent in November is fellow Yale grad John Kerry, who was wounded three times and won a chestful of combat medals while serving on a Navy gunboat in the Mekong Delta Most politically damning of all, the late-night comedians have started to weigh in on the issue. 'The big fight right now between John Kerry and George W. Bush is over their military service,' NBC's Jay Leno said in his opening monologue last week. 'And Bush is on the attack -- he's accusing John Kerry of ducking time in the Texas Air National Guard once a month by hiding in the jungles of Vietnam.'"

Dick Cheney, political liability
The Guardian takes stock of Vice President Dick Cheney's political future, and finds it grim, especially now that a grand jury investigation is questioning administration officials about his office's role in leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame for political motives.

"Informed sources said last night that three of the five officials who are the real targets of the probe work or worked for Mr Cheney. Until recently, President Bush has insisted that Mr Cheney would be his vice-presidential candidate in the November elections, despite his history of heart trouble. But recent polls conducted by the White House have suggested that growing unpopularity of the taciturn ex-businessman and powerful administration hawk threatens to sink the president."

Among Cheney's other thorny problems, the Guardian writes: His personal role in shaping the case for war against Iraq and his former role as head of Halliburton, also under scrutiny now as the company is under investigation for bribery when Mr Cheney was in charge and, more recently for war-profiteering in Iraq. "But the grand jury investigation into the CIA leak is potentially the most explosive threat to his long-term political survival," the Guardian notes.

To Cheney, public, private interests same
The New Yorker also focuses on Cheney in its new issue, with Jane Mayer examining the vice president's former and current role in Halliburton and the legal and ethical questions surrounding the oil-and-gas giant, including how contracts were meted out in post-war Iraq. "The Vice-President has not been connected directly to any of Halliburton's current legal problems Yet, in a broader sense, Cheney does bear some responsibility. He has been both an architect and a beneficiary of the increasingly close relationship between the Department of Defense and an ilite group of private military contractors -- a relationship that has allowed companies such as Halliburton to profit enormously. As a government official and as Halliburton's C.E.O., he has long argued that the commercial marketplace can provide better and cheaper services than a government bureaucracy. He has also been an advocate of limiting government regulation of the private sector. His vision has been fully realized: in 2002, more than a hundred and fifty billion dollars of public money was transferred from the Pentagon to private contractors."

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"Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has taught at the National War College, told me that so many of the contracts in Iraq are going to companies with personal connections with the Bush Administration that the procurement process has essentially become a 'patronage system.' 'The system is sick,' he told me. Cheney, he added, can't see the problem. 'He doesnt see the difference between public and private interest,' he said."

There are two Americas
The Christian Science Monitor shows why so many Americans feel left out of the economic recovery, and highlights what could be a problem for President Bush this election year. "Most U.S. workers saw their earnings fall or stagnate last year, with those at the bottom of the income scale hit hardest. The trend, coming alongside a slack job market, explains why many Americans feel left out of the economic recovery -- and why President Bush faces a tough sell with his campaign-trail message that there is 'good strong growth.' Democratic rivals point to 'two Americas,' one for the rich, one for the poor. Whether concerns over widening wage inequality will damage Mr. Bush remains to be seen. But the gap between workers in the 90th earning percentile and the 10th has never been wider."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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