Wednesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
April 21, 2004 5:32PM (UTC)

Pentagon deletes Rumsfeld comment
The Washington Post reports that a transcript posted on the Pentagon's Web site of an interview between Donald Rumsfeld and Bob Woodward was incomplete -- the Pentagon deleted a statement showing the Bush administration told Saudi Arabia about the invasion of Iraq two months ahead of time.

"At issue was a passage in Woodward's 'Plan of Attack,' an account published this week of Bush's decision making about the war, quoting Rumsfeld as telling Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, in January 2003 that he could 'take that to the bank' that the invasion would happen."

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"The comment came in a key moment in the run-up to the war, when Rumsfeld and other officials were briefing Bandar on a military plan to attack and invade Iraq, and pointing to a top-secret map that showed how the war plan would unfold. The book reports that the meeting with Bandar was held on Jan. 11, 2003, in Vice President Cheney's West Wing office. Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also attended."

"Pentagon officials omitted the discussion of the meeting from a transcript of the Woodward interview that they posted on the Defense Department's Web site Monday. Rumsfeld told reporters at a briefing yesterday that he may have used the phrase 'take that to the bank' but that no final decision had been made to go to war."

"'To my knowledge, a decision had not been taken by the president to go to war at that meeting,' Rumsfeld said. 'There was certainly nothing I said that should have suggested that, and any suggestion to the contrary would not be accurate.'"

"Woodward supplied his own transcript showing that Rumsfeld told him on Oct. 23, 2003: 'I remember meeting with the vice president and I think Dick Myers and I met with a foreign dignitary at one point and looked him in the eye and said you can count on this. In other words, at some point we had had enough of a signal from the president that we were able to look a foreign dignitary in the eye and say you can take that to the bank this is going to happen.'"

"The transcript made it clear that the foreign dignitary Woodward was discussing was Bandar, although Rumsfeld would not say that."

Alienated allies cite "unprecedented hatred"
The Guardian (U.K.) reports that "a growing rift between America and the Arab world was exposed yesterday when two Middle Eastern allies delivered damaging rebuffs to President George Bush's policies in the region."

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"King Abdullah of Jordan flew home from the U.S. after abruptly cancelling a meeting planned for today with the president in Washington. The king's move came as the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, said there was more hatred of Americans in the Arab world today than ever before. King Abdullah and Mr. Mubarak are two of the most moderate leaders in the Middle East and the two normally closest to the U.S. "

"King Abdullah's cancellation was in retaliation for Mr. Bush's support last week for a plan by the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, in which he offered to pull out of Gaza in return for U. S. recognition of illegal settlements on the West Bank and an end of the right of 3.6 million Palestinians to return to Israel. "

"Mr. Mubarak cited as reasons for the increased hatred Israel and the US occupation of Iraq. In an interview with Le Monde published yesterday, he said : 'After what has happened in Iraq, there is an unprecedented hatred. What's more -- they [Arabs] see Sharon act as he wants, without the Americans saying anything."

Powell: Good soldier or good loser?
The Baltimore Sun assesses how Bob Woodward's new book portrays Colin Powell, and concludes, "Revelations in [the] book flesh out what, for an old battlefield commander and bureaucratic infighter, is a less flattering image: that of a good loser, a man who lent considerable prestige to President Bush to sell a war on which Powell failed to press his own, often conflicting, views. Powell is also portrayed as a man whose influence, in the run-up to the war, was vastly outweighed by that of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld."

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"Most pointed, perhaps, is Woodward's assertion that Bush did not even seek the advice of his top diplomat, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before deciding to invade Iraq. Since the book was released, the secretary of state has strenuously rejected Woodward's account that he was kept in the dark about Bush's decision to go to war and that he learned of it only after the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was informed."

"... But Woodward's Plan of Attack buttresses what had become a widespread view: that Powell's views on the war and its aftermath 'had little influence on the direction of the administration,' said Lee Feinstein, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "

Kerry dismisses Bush gains, hits on environment
The Boston Globe reports that John Kerry sought to change the debate on Tuesday from "new polls indicating that President Bush is winning support on Iraq, terrorism, and the economy .. and instead decried the White House's environmental record. He accused Bush of 'playing dirty' with air and water and aiding energy companies at the expense of children's health. Kerry also took a rare shot at Bush's school smarts, something he had diligently avoided during the campaign because many Democratic politicians are aware that Al Gore turned off some voters in 2000 by appearing dismissive about Bush's intelligence. He made the comment at a Tampa fund-raiser, where Kerry noted that both he and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, sitting nearby, had attended Yale University, as had Bush."

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'''Bill and I share the same institution of higher education -- at least for some of us,' Kerry told the $1,000-a-plate audience of about 500, some of whom chuckled at first, then laughed louder and applauded. Kerry, looking a bit sheepish, said in a low voice, 'No, uh, be nice.'"

"That remark -- and another quip about Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and his alleged influence on the president -- were notable unscripted moments in an otherwise highly stage-managed morning, when Kerry brought up environmental issues after several days of breaking news out of Iraq and the Sept. 11 Commission dominating political debate."

Kerry's Vietnam record through different lenses
The Dallas Morning News examines the very different ways John Kerry's critics and supporters view his Vietnam War service.

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"The video begins with grainy film from a distant land and a disputed war. 'In 1969,' intones a narrator, 'you didn't find too many Yale University graduates fighting in the jungles of Vietnam.' Later, a disillusioned John Kerry, clad in fatigues, condemns the war before a Senate committee: 'How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?'"

"Played for various Democratic audiences, these are the images the Kerry campaign seeks to promote: A heroic young man who risked his life for his country, then passionately dissented when he saw it headed down the wrong path. "

"Others, mostly Republicans, see a different John Kerry, and a different Vietnam. Many point to his Senate testimony, 33 years ago Thursday and his allegations of war crimes as slandering all Vietnam veterans. "

"'The veterans are calling him Hanoi John,' said Republican congressman Sam Johnson of Plano, a Vietnam prisoner of war. 'He's a controversial veteran and has been for the last 30 years.' Aides to President Bush's campaign say they are challenging Mr. Kerry's Senate record, not his military service. But both sides are battling to define Mr. Kerry's image in the public mind, a clash that revolves around the defining experience not only for Mr. Kerry, but for the rest of his baby boomer generation."

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"During an interview, Mr. Kerry said Vietnam gave him 'practical experience' that helps 'make real some of the questions that need to be asked about deployment, about what can be achieved and not achieved.' The senator, former prosecutor and former Massachusetts lieutenant governor said Vietnam is not his sole qualification for office. 'That's just one part of my life,' Mr. Kerry said. 'That's all.'"

"Still, Mr. Kerry, the owner of three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star, often alludes to his military service on the stump. When a supporter identifies himself as a veteran, Mr. Kerry refers to him as 'brother.'"

Bush plan to deny overtime pay partly foiled
The New York Times reports that the Bush administration was forced to scale back its plans to deny overtime coverage to hundreds of thousands of American workers because of a "deluge of criticism in an election year."

"With many police officers, firefighters and higher-paid blue-collar workers fearing that the administration's draft regulations would make them exempt from overtime pay, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced revised regulations that she said would ensure those workers still qualified. The administration also said workers earning more than $100,000 a year would almost automatically be disqualified for overtime pay, increasing that threshold from the $65,000 it proposed a year ago. There currently is no ceiling."

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" ... But many Democratic officials and labor leaders said the new rules favored corporate America and denied overtime pay to many middle-class workers just when they were feeling an economic squeeze. When the Bush administration proposed new overtime rules a year ago, Labor Department officials estimated that an additional 644,000 workers would be ineligible for overtime pay. But the liberal Economic Policy Institute said the administration had deliberately underestimated the number, predicting that eight million workers would lose eligibility."

"Ms. Chao said yesterday that the new rules, which take effect in 120 days, would deny eligibility to only 107,000 workers. But the administration's critics asserted that she was again underestimating the number. 'This is an administration that had no reservations about repealing overtime for eight million workers,' said Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader. 'So it's hard for us to believe that they now have some transformation in that position and have been converted to an advocacy of overtime for these people.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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