Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
February 26, 2004 8:16PM (UTC)

Selective with the facts
Former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay says President Bush may have been selective about the facts he used in making the case for war, and supports an investigation into whether the administration mischaracterized Iraq intelligence, the AP reports from Texas, where Kay spoke on Wednesday.

"Politicians don't go around picking their weakest arguments," Kay said. "The real charge that deserves careful scrutiny is not whether you picked the best argument out, but whether you actually manipulated and were dishonest about the data." Kay said that while he's seen no evidence that the Bush administration lied about intelligence, "it is such a serious charge that it deserves investigation."

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"We gave a lot of answers on the basis of very, very little fact," Kay said. While there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Kay said, there is a bustling international weapons bazaar that must be dealt with. "Essentially we're getting a Sam's Club (warehouse store) combined with Amazon.com for weapons technology," he said. "You want biological weapons? You want chemical weapons? You want nuclear? There are people who will shop their skills around."

Setting Kerry's record straight
A popular Republican attack line against John Kerry right now is that he voted against various weapons systems and intelligence programs during his 19 years in the Senate. The implication is that he's "soft" on defense and undermined national security. But Slate's Fred Kaplan examines the record and finds the Republican charges dishonest and misleading. Not only did the first President George Bush and his defense secretary Dick Cheney boast slashing various weapons programs in 1992 -- and attack congressional Democrats for not slashing more -- if you check the footnotes of Kerry's votes on these weapons systems, Kaplan says, the story isn't near what the GOP says it is.

One example: RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie's claim, at a news conference on Wednesday that in 1995, Kerry voted to cut $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget. "John Pike, who runs the invaluable globalsecurity.org Web site, told me what that cut was about: The Air Force's National Reconnaissance Office had appropriated that much money to operate a spy satellite that, as things turned out, it never launched. So the Senate passed an amendment rescinding the money -- not to cancel a program, but to get a refund on a program that the NRO had canceled. Kerry voted for the amendment, as did a majority of his colleagues."

Clearly, Republicans are desperate to tear down Kerry's war hero image and record on defense and national security at a time when President Bush is under fire for his conduct in the leadup to and aftermath of the war in Iraq. Today, The Hill newspaper reports, Republicans plan to stage a lengthy Senate debate on Iraq to respond to intensifying Democratic attacks on President Bush. "The leadership initiative provides further evidence of close tactical coordination with the White House at a time when Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has surged ahead of Bush in the presidential popularity polls. Senior officials from the Bush-Cheney campaign are planning to meet tomorrow with Senate GOP press secretaries and speechwriters at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters. One apparent aim of the discussion is to put pressure on Kerry, the Democratic front-runner, who has been characterized by the GOP as flip-flopping on the war."

Farewell, dark prince
Richard Perle has resigned from the Defense Policy Board, the neo-con stocked panel that counsels the Pentagon, the Washington Post reports. "We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated," the hawkish Perle wrote in his resignation letter to Donald Rumsfeld. "I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the President at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign."

Last March, Perle stepped down as chairman of the advisory board. ABC News says: "The move followed published news reports questioning whether his work with a company seeking favor with the Pentagon was a conflict of interest for such a senior adviser. Perle has consistently insisted he did nothing wrong. And his attorney, Samuel Abeday, told ABCNEWS Perle is quitting the board altogether so he can sue the news organizations that "falsely accused him of conflicts of interest."

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Kerry, Edwards on gay marriage
In two pieces, the Boston Globe looks at how the two leading Democratic candidates are handling the gay marriage issue. In his most explicit statement to date on the subject, John Kerry tells the Globe that he supports amending the Massachusetts Constitution to ban gay marriage so long as it ensures same-sex couples have access to all legal rights that married couples receive.

"If the Massachusetts Legislature crafts an appropriate amendment that provides for partnership and civil unions, then I would support it, and it would advance the goal of equal protection," the senator said yesterday, stressing that he was referring only to the state, and not the federal, Constitution. He has said he would oppose any amendment that did not include a provision for civil unions. "I think that you need to have civil union. That's my position," he said Tuesday.

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Kerry's remarks angered supporters of gay marriage in Massachusetts, but could help stalled efforts by state legislative leaders to win support for their amendment, the Globe says.

As for John Edwards, the same-sex marriage issue tripped up his normally tight-scripted performance on the stump. He's accustomed to giving his "Two Americas" speech, focusing on trade, jobs and poverty, but he ended up unhappily ensnared in the gay marriage debate, the Globe says. "Speaking to reporters yesterday afternoon, Edwards explained that he personally opposes gay marriage but supports civil unions, and believes each state should set its own marriage policy. When asked why civil unions could not simply be called marriages, Edwards said, 'My answer is the same.' Asked why states, not the federal government, should decide policy, he replied, 'Because it's something I think should be decided by the states.' And when asked to explain his personal opposition to gay marriage, he snapped, 'I'm done with that question.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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