Tuesday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey
Published March 2, 2004 2:34PM (EST)

The strategy of division
The Washington Post reports on the latest GOP strategy to wear down support for the leading Democratic candidates -- make them and their allies debate and vote on divisive issues in Congress. "Republicans plan to use Congress to pull Sen. John F. Kerry and vulnerable Democrats into the cultural wars over gay rights, abortion and guns, envisioning a series of debates and votes that will highlight the candidates' positions on divisive issues, according to congressional aides and GOP officials."

The strategy is in full force today, as John Kerry and John Edwards have to interrupt their Super Tuesday campaigning to return to Washington for votes on gun legislation. From the Post: "A top Edwards aide said the senator is "not thrilled" to be voting on gun control one week before southern states such as Texas hold their primaries. Kerry, who has missed every Senate vote this year -- plus several key votes last year -- canceled a Florida campaign event tonight to be on hand for the gun votes, several of which are expected to be close."

"Republicans openly welcome the discomfort that votes on issues such as gun control might cause Kerry, Edwards and other Democrats, now and later this year. 'The Senate floor is full of bear traps,' said Eric Ueland, deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)."

Democratic odd couple
The tension between John Kerry and John Edwards was on display at the debate in New York on Sunday, especially as Edwards gets more aggressive with his chances of getting the party's nomination dwindling. The New York Times questions whether the pair, which so many Democrats have pegged as a dream-ticket in 2004, are compatible enough to team up for the general election. They barely hang out, even though they live a block away from each other in Georgetown.

"Now, as the presidential campaign has narrowed to a race between the two senators on the eve of the coast-to-coast Super Tuesday primaries, strains between them are growing evident. Their relationship has become a source of speculation among Democrats, not only because they are rivals in the primaries but also because party leaders are increasingly entertaining the notion of a Kerry-Edwards ticket."

And here's a stinger for Kerry: "Mr. Edwards, who views his own sunny disposition as a campaign asset, has confided to close associates that Mr. Kerry lacks the kind of personal appeal necessary to win against President Bush."

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald reports that the stock of Bob Graham of Florida is rising higher as a possible Kerry VP choice.

Arnold "fine" with same-sex marriage
GOP California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger angered the gay community recently when he called on San Francisco to halt gay marriages and then went on Meet the Press and wrongly claimed there were "riots" taking place over the issue. Then on Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Schwarzenegger said he would be "fine" with same-sex marriage if California voters approved it, and said he opposes a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It was perfect timing. "Schwarzenegger made the comments Monday on the 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno,' two days before President Bush is scheduled to arrive in California, putting the Republican governor in direct opposition to the Republican president on a divisive issue in an election year."

"Throughout his public life, Schwarzenegger's views on gays and lesbians usually have been more libertarian than conservative. He once told an interviewer, "When it comes to sex, I don't care what your (thing) is" and compared discrimination against gays to discrimination against bodybuilders. But his comments Monday also mirrored another Schwarzenegger mantra: Let the people decide. The governor said he opposes San Francisco issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples because 'we have a law on the books here ... I think they should abide by the law.' Leno then asked Schwarzenegger if he would mind if the courts ruled gay marriage legal, and the governor said: 'No, I don't have a problem.'"

No WMDs since 1994
The USA Today says a report being released today from U.N. weapons inspectors says they now believe there were no weapons of mass destruction of any significance in Iraq after 1994. "The historical review of inspections in Iraq is the first outside study to confirm the recent conclusion by David Kay, the former U.S. chief inspector, that Iraq had no banned weapons before last year's U.S-led invasion. It also goes further than prewar U.N. reports, which said no weapons had been found but noted that Iraq had not fully accounted for weapons it was known to have had at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. The report, to be outlined to the U.N. Security Council as early as Friday, is based on information gathered over more than seven years of U.N. inspections in Iraq before the 2003 war, plus postwar findings discussed publicly by Kay."

The economy: Whatever you want it to be
Democratic voters consistently say the economy is the top issue on the their minds. The Los Angeles Times points out that if you listen to Bush and the Democratic candidates, they seem to be living in different economic worlds.

"And that, in itself, says something important about the U.S. economy these days. The economy is in such an unfamiliar place  with businesses bustling and yet reluctant to hire new workers  that economists are struggling for an explanation. And the mixed signals have allowed the president and his rivals to paint vastly different  yet plausible  pictures of the U.S. workforce and its prospects."

"The economy now is very much like a Faulkner novel," said Rob Koepp, a research fellow at the Milken Institute, an economic think tank in Santa Monica. "You have competing and schizophrenic versions of reality. But it's one reality."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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