Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
March 4, 2004 7:27PM (UTC)

Fact-free and offensive
The Annenberg FactCheck Center released its analysis of the Bush-Cheney '04 TV ads, and concludes that there are virtually no facts to check in the batch -- the ads, which FactCheck said were "positive," didn't name John Kerry or the Democrats and "spoke in high-sounding general terms." Of the few facts in the ads, one was clearly wrong, FactCheck says. As Bush and those who speak for him often claim, one ad says Bush inherited a recession. Not true.

"Its true that the long economic boom of the Clinton years had run out of steam before Bush took office and that the nation's economic output was flat. It grew at a weak 2.1 percent in the last three months of 2000 and then fell two-tenths of one percent in the three-month period of January, February and March 2001, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. But the economy didn't actually enter recession until March of that year, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, an association of academic economists whose Business Cycle Dating Committee is the generally accepted arbiter of when business booms and busts begin and end. So to be perfectly accurate the Bush ad should have said, 'An economy nearing recession.'"

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Not everyone agrees the Bush ads are "positive," most especially those ads that exploit the 9/11 tragedy. The International Association of Fire Fighters called the ads "disgraceful." IAFF president Harold Schaitberger said: "I'm disappointed but not surprised that the President would try to trade on the heroism of those fire fighters in the September 11 attacks. The use of 9/11 images are hypocrisy at its worst. Here's a President that initially opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and now uses its first anniversary as cause to promote his re-election. Here is a President that proposed two budgets with no funding for FIRE Act grants and still plays on the image of America's bravest." The widow of a 9/11 victim was similarly appalled.

The war president beats the drums
This notion that President Bush is being "positive" and "above the fray" is, and likely will be, a popular refrain for Republicans. But as the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the president was anything but positive at fundraisers Wednesday night in California -- where, it's worth pointing out, he raised $4.3 million, essentially replacing the cash he plopped down for the massive ad campaign we're seeing today. "Bush ridiculed Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the almost-certain Democratic nominee, as an unprincipled Washington insider who wavered on key issues and was weak on defense. 'Sen. Kerry's been in Washington long enough to have taken both sides on just about every issue,' Bush quipped to an audience of supporters at the Shrine Auditorium who had paid up to $2,000 each to hear him," the Chronicle says.

At an earlier event, "Bush offered a speech that would have been at home in an old-fashioned tent revival show. With his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, in attendance, the president was relaxed and filled with confidence as he invoked God and faith over and over as a source of strength and values that the federal government ought to support."

"In the evening, however, he offered political red meat to his audience, not the salve of faith. 'I'm ready for this campaign,' declared the president He sarcastically suggested that, if Kerry had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Iraq threatening America. 'Maybe he was hoping Saddam would lose the election in Iraq,' Bush said, to uproarious applause from the partisan audience."

GOP Senators rushing gay marriage ban
Some prominent Republicans, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have expressed reluctance to shove a marriage amendment (which most Americans don't support) through Congress and state legislatures during the election year, but the Houston Chronicle says GOP senators, "alarmed by the growing number of communities issuing marriage licenses to gays" are hastily drafting a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriages.

"Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who heads a subcommittee looking at a possible gay-marriage ban, said several versions of the ban will be considered this month. A final proposal could be ready for the Senate to debate before the November elections. 'The horse is already out of the barn,' Cornyn said. 'This issue has been thrust to us and we need to act.'" On the House side of the Capitol, hearings have been set tentatively for late this month. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, has said members should not 'act in haste.'"

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"'We want to do it so that the American people know why we are doing it and what we are doing so the debate will follow regular order in the House,' said DeLay, who opposes same-sex marriage. Some lawmakers said Congress should not waste time on the matter. 'Congress has better things to do than write bigotry and prejudice into the Constitution,' said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass."

Risking another Florida
Allan Lichtman, who conducted a study on the disenfranchisement of black voters in 2000 in Florida for the United States Commission on Civil Rights, warns in an essay on the History News Network Web site that we could easily have another Florida debacle this year.

"Al Gore lost Florida's presidential vote because electoral officials tossed into the trashcan as invalid more than one out of every ten ballots cast by African-Americans throughout the state. In some counties, nearly 25 percent of ballots cast by blacks were set aside as invalid. In contrast, officials rejected less than one out of every fifty ballots cast by whites statewide. If black ballots had been rejected at the same minimal rate as white ballots, more than 50,000 additional black votes would have been counted in Florida's presidential election. Given that more than 90 percent of blacks favored Gore over Bush, Gore would have won Florida by at least 40,000 votes," he writes.

Dissenters on the civil rights commission relied on a study conducted by analyst John Lott to make thin arguments that blacks' votes were not actually stolen. Now, even Lott has abandoned the dissenters' argument, although he has his own new "bizarre" claim that the burden of ballot rejection fell upon African-American Republicans, who were just 5 percent of black voters.

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"Lott's work indicates just how desperately the dissenters and their political allies have sought to obscure what actually happened in Florida. But slumbering liberals are no less to blame than conservatives for the lack of national attention to an extraordinary injustice to minorities that determined the outcome of a presidential election. Why no mobilization of protest from the NAACP? The Urban League. The ACLU. The Democratic Party."

"Absent public outrage, the United States Department of Justice has never conducted the necessary investigation of Florida's presidential election to discover the reasons behind racial disparities in ballot rejection rates. So we must wish away what really happened in Florida and never find out why African-Americans disproportionately lost their right to vote or how to make sure this doesnt happen again anywhere in America. Unfortunately, despite a federal election reform bill, another Florida remains a tragic risk for 2004."

Choices, choices
The Dallas Morning News provides a list of qualities John Kerry might be looking for in a VP candidate, and which Democrat fits the profile. Looking for a good image? Go for John Edwards. Want passion? There's always Howard Dean. Just crunching the numbers? Try a swing-stater like Ed Rendell, Dick Gephardt or Bob Graham. And then, for sheer excitement, there's always Hillary.

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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