Wednesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
April 7, 2004 5:40PM (UTC)

Kerry: Iraq deadline "fiction"
In his strongest words to date criticizing President Bush's plan for Iraqi sovereignty, John Kerry called the June 30 deadline to relinquish control a "fiction" devised by the White House for political purposes, given the volatile situation on the ground in Iraq. The Los Angeles Times reports that Kerry said: "I think that they want us to get the troops out and get the transfer out of the way as fast as possible without regard to the stability of Iraq."

"But when Kerry, the likely Democratic nominee, was pressed about what he would do differently than President Bush to resolve the worsening situation in Iraq, he fell back on his long-standing and not very specific response: Bring in other nations to help. 'There are so many things you could do differently in Iraq that it's hard to know where to begin in terms of that list,' Kerry said 'Most important is to get the international community involved, because you have to change the entire dynamic of an uprising and the entire dynamic of an American occupation.' The Massachusetts' senator's comments on the campaign trail came against a backdrop of growing violence in Iraq."

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Nader calls for impeachment
At a rally in Chicago on Tuesday, Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader called for President Bush to be impeached for "deceiving the American people night after night after night" about U.S. involvement in Iraq, the AP reports.

"'When you plunge our country into war on a platform of fabrications and deceptions, and you bring back thousands of American soldiers who are sick, injured or dead, and that war is unconstitutionally authorized to begin with, Mr. Bush's behavior qualifies for the high crimes and misdemeanor impeachment clause of the Constitution,' the 2000 Green Party presidential nominee said to applause from about 200 students at Columbia College Chicago. Nader said President Clinton was impeached for 'far less of an offense.' 'Lying under oath is not a trivial offense, but it cannot compare with deceiving the American people night after night after night on national television, staging untruths and rejecting the advice of his advisers,' he said."

Pollsters see Vietnam comparisons
One of the worst things that can happen for President Bush's re-election hopes is for Americans to begin seeing the war in Iraq -- supported in the past by a majority of the country -- as a Vietnam-like quagmire, Reuters reports. But that's exactly what some pollsters and analysts are beginning to say.

"As U.S. casualties and general chaos mount, public support for President Bush's Iraq policy appears to be dropping sharply and some critics and analysts are starting to make comparisons with the Vietnam conflict. 'You're starting to hear that 'Q' word -- quagmire,' said pollster John Zogby, using a term synonymous to Americans with the war that tore the country apart politically and socially in the 1960s and early 70s and drove President Lyndon B. Johnson from office. 'The public seems confused,' Zogby said. 'How do we get out? Do we send more troops? How do we cut casualties? It's all becoming a big problem for Bush.' Supporters of the Republican president and his Iraq policy have always scoffed at Vietnam comparisons, and few things could be more damaging to his re-election effort against Democrat John Kerry than if Vietnam imagery took hold in the public mind. In any case, polls show a sharp decline in support for the U.S. occupation."

" 'The public's patience is wearing thin and a majority of people is now beginning to believe that most Iraqis don't want us there,' said Pew pollster Andrew Kohut. A year ago, Vice President Dick Cheney had assured Americans that U.S. troops would be 'greeted as liberators' in Iraq. 'A majority of 57 percent still hangs on to the idea that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, but that number is falling and if it drops below 50 percent, Bush would have real trouble,' Kohut said."

White House played down mercury's effects
The New York Times reports that "while working with Environmental Protection Agency officials to write regulations for coal-fired power plants over several recent months, White House staff members played down the toxic effects of mercury, hundreds of pages of documents and e-mail messages show."

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"The staff members deleted or modified information on mercury that employees of the environmental agency say was drawn largely from a 2000 report by the National Academy of Sciences that Congress had commissioned to settle the scientific debate about the risks of mercury But scientists on the academy panel and others outside it as well as environmentalists and politicians expressed concern in recent interviews that a host of subtle changes by White House staff members resulted in proposed rules that played down the health risks associated with mercury from coal-fired power plants. The proposal largely tracks suggestions from the energy industry."

"While the panel members said the changes did not introduce outright errors, they said they were concerned because the White House almost uniformly minimized the health risks in instances where there could be disagreement Last Thursday attorneys general from 10 states and 45 senators asked the E.P.A. to scrap the proposed rules, saying they were not strict enough In some cases, White House staff members suggested phrasing that minimized the links between power plants and elevated levels of mercury in fish, the primary source from which Americans accumulate mercury in their bodies, in a form known as methylmercury. The academy has found that exposure to elevated levels of mercury can damage the brains of children and fetuses."

Shocker: Wealthy winning class war
Just in time for tax season, the Seattle Times runs a news analysis showing that middle- and lower-income Americans are carrying the tax burden for the super-rich.

"When Democrats charge that President Bush's tax policies favor the wealthy, Republicans cry class warfare. But many experts say middle- and lower-income Americans are indeed getting nicked by both parties. More of government's costs have been shifted down the income ladder, critics say. 'If class warfare is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning,' Warren Buffett, the billionaire investment specialist and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, told his shareholders recently. It has happened through a series of changes. To be sure, at Bush's urging, income taxes were cut for everyone. But so were taxes primarily paid by the wealthy on dividends, investment gains and inheritances. In the meantime, aspects of the tax system that favor the wealthy went without significant reform."

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" Progressivity the principle that the percentage of a citizen's income paid in taxes should increase as income does is eroding. Factoring in state and local taxes, including sales taxes, exacerbates the trend. When Bush took office, the very wealthiest taxpayers -- the top 1 percent, earning more than $966,000 a year -- paid 37 percent of their income in taxes to federal, state and local government. In 2004, that group will pay 33 percent, said economist Robert McIntyre, who heads the labor-backed nonprofit research group, Citizens for Tax Justice."

" Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, an influential GOP activist with close White House ties, makes no secret of his low regard for progressive taxation: 'It's an obscenity.'"

9/11 widows wait for Condi
The writer Gail Sheehy's latest piece on 9/11 widows runs in the New York Observer today. "Four moms" from New Jersey have been instrumental in pushing the White House to make Condoleezza Rice available for testimony before the 9/11 commission, Sheehy writes, and they are eagerly awaiting her appearance tomorrow.

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"In the weeks after Sept. 11, the four moms came together, slowly and organically, as each found herself looking for answers that nobody seemed willing to provide. Was investigating and defeating Al Qaeda's network of terrorists a priority for George W. Bush's administration? Googling Ms. Rice's record early on, the 9/11 widows noted that she made no mention of terrorism, much less Al Qaeda, in June 2001, when she addressed the Council on Foreign Relations on the foreign-policy priorities of the Bush administration."

"Since then, the moms read with indignation the 900-page final report of the Joint Congressional Inquiry on 9/11, which preceded the current 9/11 commission. In that final report, amidst the great stretches of blank pages from which the White House had redacted material deemed privileged or security-sensitive, the moms found that the following 'all-source' intelligence review had been given to top officials on June 28, 2001 -- the same month that Ms. Rice listed the administration's priorities:

"'Based on reporting over the last five months, we believe that UBL [Osama bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties . Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning. They are waiting us out, looking for a vulnerability.' For them, the question for Condoleezza Rice is not a new one formed in the waning tenure of the commission amid the explosive testimony of former White House counterterrorism ace Richard Clarke. They were questions formed in the fog of grief, and they have only become clearer."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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