Monday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 1, 2004 2:33PM (EST)

Kerry-Edwards would win
When President Bush's political advisors said over the weekend that they expected to lag behind the leading Democratic candidate in the opinion polls until at least mid-summer, they were playing a pretty obvious expectations game. In setting the bar low, they hope no one will bat an eyelash -- or call them losers -- when the president sinks further in the polls. Still, BC '04 must be a bit rattled by this CBS News poll showing how Bush-Cheney fares against Kerry-Edwards. One on one against Bush, Kerry and Edwards run about even with the president. But together, they defeat Bush-Cheney 50 percent to 42 percent.

"Whether that difference is due more to the appeal of Kerry and Edwards together or suggests weak voter support for Vice President Cheney cant be determined in this poll," CBS says. "The combination of the two Democrats (Kerry for President and Edwards for Vice President) gives the Democrats an edge among a number of voting groups that either candidate might otherwise lose on his own. While both Edwards and Kerry would separately lose to Bush among Independents, the combined ticket gives them a small 3 percentage point edge over Bush-Cheney."

No more Mr. Nice Guys
The morning-after assessment of the Democratic candidates' debate in New York is that John Edwards and John Kerry aren't playing nice anymore. The Los Angeles Times has an analysis of the unusually sharp exchanges between the men who would, together, beat Bush-Cheney. "A combative John Edwards sharpened long-standing attacks on John F. Kerry's approach to trade and federal spending in a contentious -- and sometimes chaotic -- debate here Sunday, the final candidate forum before votes in 10 states that could effectively settle the Democratic presidential race  'This is the same old Washington talk that people have been listening to for decades,' Edwards said after one Kerry answer. But Kerry held his ground, belittling Edwards' arguments and escalating his own criticism of his rival by noting that the North Carolina senator had failed to vote in the 1994 election that gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. At another point, Kerry rebuffed an Edwards charge by acridly insisting that his rival 'should do his homework.'"

But Kerry vs. Edwards wasn't the only tussle at the Sunday debate. At times, candidates sparred with the media moderators almost as much as with each other. The Times story describes one "testy exchange" between New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller and Al Sharpton, who complained that the questioners were ignoring him and the other long-shot at the table, Dennis Kucinich. "If we're going to have a discussion just between two [Kerry and Edwards] -- in your arrogance, you can try that, but ... I think that your attempt to do this is blatant, and I'm going to call you out on it, because I'm not going to sit here and be window dressing," Sharpton said.

"Well, I'm not going to be addressed like this," Bumiller responded. "Well, then, let all of us speak," Sharpton said.

Sharpton wasn't the only person miffed at Bumiller. The blogosphere lit up with critiques, which branded her as self-important, combative and unproductive. Wonkette says Bumiller delivered "the worst debate performance since Nixon sweated through his makeup."

And the debate transcript is here.

Blix: U.S. spied on me, too
Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix told the Guardian newspaper over the weekend that he suspects his U.N. office and New York home were both bugged by the U.S. government in the run-up to the Iraq war. "In an exclusive interview, Mr. Blix said he expected to be bugged by the Iraqis, but to be spied upon by the US was a different matter. He described such behaviour as 'disgusting,' adding: 'It feels like an intrusion into your integrity in a situation when you are actually on the same side.' He said he went to extraordinary lengths to protect his office and home, having a UN counter-surveillance team sweep both for bugs. 'If you had something sensitive to talk about you would go out into the restaurant or out into the streets,' he said. Mr. Blix's darkest fears were reinforced when he was shown a set of photographs by a senior member of the Bush administration which he insists could only have been obtained through underhand means."

Blix's remarks come after claims that U.S.-British intelligence agencies also bugged the office of the U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan.

Looking for WMDs in Florida
The Miami Herald looks at efforts to register black voters in Florida and to identify the WMDs -- "weapons of mass disenfranchisement" -- that prevented so many from voting for Al Gore in the last election, so the same problem does not recur. "Fueled by lingering anger about the controversial 2000 presidential election and eager to show that the large turnout of black voters was no fluke, activists are forming new and broad partnerships. Their goals: register two million new black voters, get them to the polls and make sure all their votes are counted."

"The ambitious campaign is motivated, in part, by the bitter and still-fresh memories of what happened four years ago when scores of black voters went to polls in Florida and other states only to be prevented from voting or having their votes tossed out. Many blacks believe that had the Florida voting debacle not occurred, Al Gore would be in the White House, not George W. Bush."

"I think we have the experience to find the weapons of mass disenfranchisement," said Edward Hailes, an attorney at the Advancement Project, a legal advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "We know what hurt our people in 2000."

From miscegenation to gay marriage
The New York Times columnist Bob Herbert looks at the similarities between arguments once made against interracial marriages and those being made today against same-sex marriage. It's time to get a grip, he says.

"One of the particularly absurd arguments against allowing gays to marry is that such a lapse would send us skidding down that dreadful slope to legalization of incest, polygamy, bestiality and so forth."

"That line of thinking reminded me of a passage in Randall Kennedy's book, 'Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption.' In a 19th-century miscegenation case, a black man in Tennessee was charged with criminal fornication. The man's defense was that the woman, who was white, was his wife. They had been married lawfully in another state. 'That argument,' wrote Mr. Kennedy, 'was rejected by the Tennessee Supreme Court, which maintained that its acceptance would necessarily lead to condoning `the father living with his daughter ... in lawful wedlock,'" and "the Turk being allowed to 'establish his harem at the doors of the capitol.'"

"We have a tendency to prohibit things simply because we don't like them. Because they don't appeal to us. They don't feel quite right. Or we've never done it that way before. And when things don't feel quite right, when they make us uncomfortable, we often leap, with no basis in fact, to the conclusion that they are unnatural, immoral, degenerate, against the will of God. And then the persecution begins."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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