Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
February 23, 2004 7:31PM (UTC)

Nader: I'd do it all over again
Ralph Nader, who, you might have heard, is running for president again, says he'll stay in the race even if it's a dead heat between the two major party candidates going into the November election. Rejecting the notion, widely believed among Democrats, that he's a spoiler who helped George W. Bush win the White House in 2000, Nader says he'll actually help Democrats by articulating criticisms of Bush that the Democrats can echo. The AP is covering Nader today as he defends his choice to enter the race as an Independent and articulates his policy proposals.

"I'd go after Bush even more vigorously as we are in the next few months in ways that the Democrats can't possibly do because they're too cautious and too unimaginative, but they can pick up the vulnerabilities and the failures of the Bush administration that we point out," Nader told ABC's "Good Morning America."

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The AP says: "Nader rejects the spoiler label as a 'contemptuous' term used by those who want to deny voters a choice. Declaring Washington a 'corporate-occupied territory,' he accuses both Democrats and Republicans of being dominated by corporate lobbyists who care little about the needs of ordinary Americans."

What they did after the war
Former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Vietnam veteran, weighs the Vietnam records of George W. Bush and John Kerry in today's Boston Globe and says voters should look at what the two men did after the war to find what distinguishes them. "It was President Bush, not his younger self, who took the advice of political advisers and decided not to attend the funeral of a single man or woman killed in Iraq. I, for one, thank God that Karl Rove wasn't advising Abraham Lincoln, or else President Lincoln might never have gone to Gettysburg," Kerrey writes.

"I would also pay more attention to Senator Kerry's work with the first President Bush, when in 1991 and 1992 they supported the use of diplomacy to end the war in Cambodia and to construct a roadmap towards normalization with Vietnam. Both of these men, along with Senator John McCain, were bitterly condemned for making peace. It was one of those rare and wonderful bipartisan acts that transcended politics. It is a story that could inspire us to believe that public service is worth it after all," he added.

Pentagon predicts global catastrophe
The Observer of London got its hands on what it calls a "secret report" suppressed by Pentagon officials that warns about the catastrophic effects of climate change on human life and international security. "The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents," the Observer writes. "'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.' The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority."

Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the Observer that the Pentagon's dire warnings could no longer be ignored by the president, who has in the past remained distant from and dismissive of global environmental concerns. "It's going be hard to blow off this sort of document. It's hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush's single highest priority is national defence. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon," he said.

Here's the list of Pentagon findings on climate change, which concludes that "future wars will be fought over the issue of survival rather than religion, ideology or national honour," the Observer writes.

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Millions still going to Chalabi
The United States is still paying millions to Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, the group that provided false intelligence President Bush used to make his case for war in Iraq, Knight-Ridder reports. The Pentagon has set aside between $3 million and $4 million this year for the INC's Information Collection Program.

"The continuing support for the INC comes amid seven separate investigations into pre-war intelligence that Iraq was hiding illicit weapons and had links to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. A probe by the Senate Intelligence Committee is now examining the INC's role. The decision not to shut off funding for the INC's information gathering effort could become another liability for Bush as the presidential campaign heats up and, furthermore suggests that some within the administration are intent on securing a key role for Chalabi in Iraq's political future."

Thorny politics of gay marriage
Who wins and who loses, politically, on the issue of gay marriage? Conservative journalists come to different conclusions today. The Washington Times writes that the issue could cost President Bush the November election because he appears to be hesitating to support a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage. This hesitancy could keep social conservatives home on Nov. 2. "Since San Francisco began granting licenses for same-sex couples to 'marry' two weeks ago, senior Bush officials quietly have told reporters that the president would weigh in shortly. They predicted his endorsement of the constitutional amendment that is before both chambers on Capitol Hill. But Mr. Bush has yet to do so. When given the chance to comment last week on San Francisco officials who are flouting the voter-approved California law defining marriage as a male-female union, the president said only that he is 'troubled' and 'watching very carefully.'"

The delay in supporting a constitutional ban -- which White House aides say is expected "sooner rather than later" -- is inexplicable, some conservatives say. "Politically, it's foolhardy," said Bay Buchanan, a former Reagan administration official and head of American Cause, the think tank started by her brother, one-time Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. "This hesitancy makes the true believers be concerned that he's not with us," she said.

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But in Opinion Journal, John Fund says Democrats will lose on the issue because they raised it first. "For many years, Republicans came up losers because media outlets portrayed them as intolerant, as indeed many of them were," he writes. But now that Democratic politicians like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom are charging ahead in recognizing gay marriage, Democrats are vulnerable to provoking a backlash on the issue, and Fund points out some efforts within the party to scale back on promoting same-sex nuptials. "Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the first openly gay member of Congress, says he warned Mayor Newsom that his stunt would fail legally and would also force more-mainstream politicians to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage."

"Jesse Jackson told a Harvard Law School audience last week that he supports 'equal protection under the law' for gays, but he did not endorse full marriage rights and questioned the analogy between gay rights and civil rights: 'Gays were never called three-fifths human in the Constitution and did not require the Voting Rights Act to have the right to vote.' He warned the issue was treacherous territory for Democrats in 2004 because it was part of a 'Republican tactical strategy to distract from such issues as foreign policy and education.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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