Wednesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
March 10, 2004 7:26PM (UTC)

Neocon intel unit bypassed CIA
The Los Angeles Times reports on new information that emerged from a contentious Tuesday Senate hearing on pre-war intelligence. It turns out that a special intel unit established by neocon undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith briefed senior officials at the White House on alleged ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda (those ties that have yet to be established) without the knowledge of CIA Director George J. Tenet.

From the Times: "The disclosure suggests that the controversial Pentagon office played a greater role than previously understood in shaping the administration's views on Iraq's alleged ties to the terrorist network behind the Sept. 11 attacks, and bypassed usual channels to make a case that conflicted with the conclusions of CIA analysts."

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"Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Tenet said he was unaware until recently that the Pentagon unit had presented its findings to the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice. It is not clear whether Cheney or Rice were present for the briefing."

Democratic army helps Kerry
The Washington Post looks at one of the most important political stories today, the ramping up of an unprecedented political operation led by veterans of Democratic presidential and congressional campaigns armed with millions of dollars to help John Kerry defeat President Bush.

"The newest visible sign of the coalition's activities will be seen beginning today, when a $5 million advertising campaign begins in 17 battleground states. But behind the scenes, Democratic operatives are moving to set up coordinated national and state-by-state operations that amount to the equivalent of a full presidential campaign, minus the candidate ... The Democrats have taken the expertise they developed in past campaigns and applied it to the new, separate operation. By law, coalition members cannot coordinate with the campaign of Kerry, the presumptive Democratic candidate."

"Our sense was we needed to have a message up on the air that tells the truth about the Bush record and defends the Democratic position on the issues," Ellen Malcolm, president of Emily's List and a driving force behind the coordinated effort, told the Post. "There is no question that Bush has $100 million and Kerry is down to zero. It's very important that there are alternative voices out there talking about the Bush record."

A new ad to be launched today by one of the coalition groups was tested in focus groups in Tampa and Pittsburgh and states that "George Bush's priorities are eroding the American Dream."

On another political ad front, the Post also reports that a prominent gay Republican group that supported Bush in 2000 "is launching a $1 million advertising campaign today attacking the administration for trying to ban same-sex marriage ... The group's move, which shatters the fragile alliance between the president and his strongest backers in the gay community, could undermine efforts to renew the "compassionate conservative" appeal he used four years ago."

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Rush flip-flops on Stern
In an op-ed published in several newspapers, Rush Limbaugh is now criticizing Howard Stern and his supporters for complaining about Clear Channel dropping Stern from a half-dozen stations. Not long ago, Rush defended Stern. What made Rush change his tune? The "buzz" that Clear Channel dropped Stern because he has turned rabidly anti-Bush. Rush isn't going to stand for such "loony conspiracy theories" (unless, we assume, they come from the right-wing fringe.)

From his op-ed: "So are we now going to popularize loony conspiracy theories from the left-wing fringe to defend Howard Stern? All that's missing here is that Stern discovered that Bush had an ancient relative who used to live on Mars and worked for Halliburton there before it destroyed that planet and arrived here on Earth to destroy Iraq by procuring oil for Dick Cheney's portfolio ... First, Stern was not censored by Clear Channel. He was fired. It happens all the time in radio for whatever reason evil management desires ... Secondly, the First Amendment does not guarantee anyone the right to be heard. You can shout all you want but no one has to listen to you. And a third point: If Clear Channel is firing people for criticizing the administration, then I am next. In fact, I should have been fired two years ago. I have been so critical of the administration's domestic agenda that some of my own listeners have been threatening to abandon me if I don't stop. And I haven't."

Bush's distortions
Two weeks ago when the Republican National Committee issued a misleading list of John Kerry's Senate votes on defense and national security, Slate's Fred Kaplan deconstructed it, showing how the GOP attack line on Kerry was based on distortions and hypocrisy. Now that the president himself attacked Kerry this week for a specific proposal on intelligence funding from the 1990s, Kaplan does another debunking, showing how Bush's comments on Kerry from this week are just plain false.

"There he goes again ... Two weeks ago, the Republican National Committee put out a 'Research Brief' that flagrantly distorted Kerry's votes on weapons systems. (Click here for the real facts.) Bush's remarks yesterday are more dishonest still. First, would such a reduction have 'gutted' the intelligence services? Intelligence budgets are classified, but private budget sleuths have estimated that the 1995 budget totaled about $28 billion. Thus, taking out $300 million would have meant a reduction of about 1 percent. This is not a gutting. Second, and more to the point, Kerry's proposal would have not have cut a single intelligence program."

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The buck stops here
Remember how dismayed Republicans were when Bill Clinton's friends slept in the Lincoln Bedroom when he lived in the White House? Remember when George W. Bush in 2000 had that swell line in the debate with Al Gore that under Clinton the sign "the buck stops here" had been moved from the Oval Office to the Lincoln Bedroom? Well, you'll be shocked -- shocked! -- to discover that President Bush's friends sleep there, too, and they're also (surprise!) Bush donors. Here's the list from the AP.

How the press failed on WMD
Editor & Publisher looks at a new study by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland and the University of Maryland that shows how national newspapers enabled the Bush administration's misleading case for war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. "The authors of the study state that, 'Poor coverage of WMD resulted less from political bias on the part of journalists, editors, and producers than from tired journalistic conventions.' They also declare that the British media 'reported more critically on public policy than did their American colleagues.'"

"In a foreword to the study, John Steinbruner, director of the center, writes: 'The American political system is in the early stages of contending with an unwelcome but ultimately unavoidable problem. The United States initiated war against Iraq on the basis of an inaccurate representation of the scope and immediacy of the threat posed, and it did so without international authority. That has prejudiced the legitimacy of the occupation, thereby undermining the single most important ingredient of successful reconstruction.' He adds that 'the American media did not play the role of checking and balancing the exercise of power that the standard theory of democracy requires.'"

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The study is here.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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