Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
March 8, 2004 7:29PM (UTC)

Kerry: Bush 'stonewalling' 9/11 commission
President Bush, in defending his use of 9/11 footage in campaign ads, says the terror attacks and his response to them should be legitimate campaign issues. John Kerry apparently agrees, and, as the Associated Press reports, accuses Bush of stonewalling the 9/11 commission as well as a probe into the intelligence that suggested Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, endorsed complaints by some members of a federal commission investigating the attacks that Bush was resisting their efforts to get documents and question witnesses. 'Why is this administration stonewalling and resisting the investigation into what happened and why we had the greatest security failure in the history of our country?' Kerry said at a hastily arranged news conference. 'The American people deserve an answer now,' Kerry said. 'The immediate instinct of the Republicans and this administration was to shut it down.'"

Another interesting tidbit from the Kerry press conference is that he plans to meet with John Edwards and Howard Dean this week to talk about how to win the White House.

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"Average George" hits the rodeo
The USA Today runs an AP story examining the president's strategy to shore up his support with white men by trying to appear like just an average American guy. "Until last month, President Bush hadn't been to a NASCAR race since he was governor of Texas and running for president. On Monday, he goes to a rodeo and livestock exhibition in Houston -- again, for the first time since he was governor. Such appearances show him as a plain-talking boots-wearer with Middle America tastes -- an image Bush has cultivated for years to counter his background as an Ivy Leaguer from an old, wealthy, New England-based family. That comes in handy particularly this year, as the president will almost certainly face Democratic Sen. John Kerry, a wealthy Northeasterner the Bush campaign aims to paint as out of sync with much of the country. Allan Lichtman, a political scientist at American University in Washington, said the events call attention to Bush as 'both the macho guy and the regular guy.'"

Jobs, jobs, jobs
In the Los Angeles Times, Ron Brownstein suggests a strategy that will help John Kerry counteract the president's role-playing at all-American events like NASCAR races and rodeos: focus on the president's dismal record, particularly on jobs.

Brownstein writes: "By now, the Bush family must consider jobs a four-letter word. Anemic job growth helped to sink George H.W. Bush after one term in 1992. Under his son, President George W. Bush, the employment picture is even more dismal. So dismal, in fact, that it's the job market Democrats have most in mind when they gibe: Like father, like son, one term and he's done. The economy's continuing failure to produce meaningful numbers of jobs, reinforced by other bread-and-butter concerns such as rising healthcare costs, looms as the greatest vulnerability for Bush in the general election campaign that effectively began last week."

Scalia's impartiality
The Los Angeles Times continues its coverage calling into question the impartiality of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, this time for speaking at an anti-gay rights fundraiser just weeks after hearing oral arguments last year in the Texas case that challenged sodomy laws. The Times has also covered Scalia's penchant for hunting with people appearing before the high court, including Dick Cheney.

But this latest story on the anti-gay rights dinner calls into question not just Scalia's actions in a certain case but on an issue that will surely land again before the Supreme Court.

From the Times: "Scalia addressed the $150-a-plate dinner hosted by the Urban Family Council two months after hearing oral arguments in a challenge to a Texas law that made gay sex a crime. A month after the dinner, he sharply dissented from the high court's decision overturning the Texas law. Some experts on legal ethics said they saw no problem in Scalia's appearance before the group. But others say he should not have accepted the invitation because it calls into question his impartiality on an issue that looms increasingly large on the nation's legal agenda the Philadelphia dinner May 20 shows him appearing to support partisan advocates on a hotly disputed issue. The code of conduct for the federal courts broadly warns judges against conduct that 'would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired. It says a judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that 'do not reflect adversely upon the judge's impartiality.' Supreme Court justices are not bound by the judicial code, which applies to all other federal judges. The high court makes its own rules on outside judicial behavior, but cites the code as its main guideline."

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Heinz Kerry to get Hillary treatment
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that "an assemblage of right-wing groups is gearing up to target Teresa Heinz Kerry, depicting her as a temperamental political spouse and financier of radical groups. Some of the organizations, such as Citizens United and The Center for the Study of Popular Culture, previously took aim at former first lady and now Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Heinz Kerry, who inherited an estimated $700 million from her first husband, the late Sen. John Heinz, and who heads one Heinz family foundation and sits on the board of another, has faced increasing scrutiny from conservative groups."

"Some of the attacks are likely to come not from the campaign of President Bush, but groups on the fringes of the political campaign, where deeply personal attacks have become commonplace. "Floyd Brown, who now works for the Young America's Foundation, suggested conservative operatives also will pursue a personal line of attack on Heinz Kerry. He said he has spoken with several former Heinz Senate staff members about her. 'She's well known to be a difficult woman to deal with,' Brown said. 'I would encourage you to look up some old Heinz staffers. I think she'll undergo the same kind of scrutiny that Hillary did because she's been so active.'"

Jeb's Cuban strategy
The New Yorker looks at how Cuban-Americans will be critical to Jeb Bush's attempts to deliver Florida for his brother come November.

"The Cuban exiles are not, however, just another constituency for Jeb Bush. Their pathos, their myopia, and his surprisingly deep involvement in their affairs -- not to mention his own Presidential ambitions -- make for an unusually delicate, powerful alliance. Many exiles see him, rightly, as their best connection to the White House. And although Jeb Bush told me, in an e-mail exchange, that his brother had 'an aggressive policy toward the Stalinist regime in Cuba,' he also said that its implementation was a 'work in progress.' This year, to keep the Cubans voting for his brother, Jeb needs help from Washington."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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