Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
April 26, 2004 5:38PM (UTC)

March of historic proportions
It looks like the March for Women's Lives was the largest abortion rights rally in history. The last time the Washington mall was packed with pro-choice demonstrators like this: Seven months before President Clinton was elected and the last President Bush became a one-termer. But as the hundreds of thousands who marched yesterday know all too well, much has changed since this President Bush took office. The Washington Post reports:

"In 2001, shortly after taking office, Bush barred the government from funding international organizations that use money from other sources to provide abortions or information about terminating a pregnancy. On April 1, he signed a bill that made it a federal crime to harm or kill a fetus during the commission of another federal crime. That law defined an 'unborn child' as 'a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb,' alarming abortion rights advocates, who challenged the bill in three federal courts even before Bush signed it. The Bush administration also has not made it possible to obtain the so-called morning after pill, also known as emergency contraception, without a prescription."

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If that doesn't make the president's approach to reproductive rights clear enough, just listen to presidential adviser Karen Hughes, who this weekend likened supporting abortion rights to terrorism. (They learned nothing from the Rod Paige teachers' union melee, apparently.) Hughes said: "I think that after September 11, the American people are valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life. President Bush has worked to say, let's be reasonable, let's work to value life, let's reduce the number of abortions, let's increase adoptions. And I think those are the kinds of policies the American people can support, particularly at a time when we're facing an enemy and, really, the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."

Also on the reproductive rights and health front, the administration has withdrawn support from a conference on global health because groups like Planned Parenthood and MoveOn.org are involved.

Picking on Dick
The Washington Post reports that Democrats will fall back on a failsafe method of drumming up their base: Reminding them that Dick Cheney is our vice president. It is probably no coincidence that Cheney, often the president's campaign trail attack dog, will open fire on John Kerry today in Missouri, charging that Kerry isn't suitable to be commander-in-chief.

"Cheney is less popular than Bush in polls, and Democratic strategists said they need to further inhibit the vice president's effectiveness as Bush's attack messenger. ... Kerry's campaign said he will focus first on Cheney's record as defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush, charging that Cheney proposed cuts to weapons critical to recent military operations. Bush's campaign replied that Cheney took his stands during the peace-dividend rollback of the military after the Soviet Union collapsed. On Wednesday, Kerry is to turn to White House efforts to prevent disclosure of records of an energy-policy task force led by Cheney. On Friday, Kerry plans to highlight Cheney's connections to the Halliburton Co., a major U.S. contractor in Iraq."

Do as he says, not as he does
The Associated Press reports that even as the president pronounces his commitment to conservation, his administration is approving development proposals to endanger sensitive wetlands, including Florida's Rookery Bay, where he traveled to defend his environmental record last week.

"Environmental groups oppose the proposed Winding Cypress development, saying its 2,300 homes and golf course would destroy wetlands because the project is at the headwaters of the bay. The developer is one of the area's most prominent business families, the Colliers. The county that encompasses Naples bears the family name. 'If they build this project, the Bush administration will be responsible for destroying critical wetlands and creating more urban runoff pollution into Rookery Bay,' said Frank Jackalone, the Sierra Club's Florida staff director."

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Did he or didn't he?
Look for this story about whether John Kerry did or did not throw away his Vietnam medals to haunt him for a few days or more and distract him from more substantive matters. Kerry says he kept his medals, but ABC News obtained a videotape of a 1971 interview he gave saying he threw away as many as nine to protest the war.

"'I gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine medals,' Kerry said in an interview on a Washington, D.C., news program on WRC-TV called Viewpoints on Nov. 6, 1971, according to a tape obtained by ABCNEWS. Throughout his presidential campaign, Kerry has denied that he threw away any of his medals during an anti-war protest in April 1971. Calling it a 'phony controversy' instigated by the Republican party, Kerry said on Good Morning America today that he and the military didn't make a distinction between medals and ribbons. 'We threw away the symbols of what our country gave us for what we had gone through,' he said. And in an interview with ABCNEWS' Peter Jennings last December, he said it was a 'myth.' But Kerry told a much different story on Viewpoints. Asked about the anti-war veterans who threw their medals away, Kerry said 'they decided to give them back to their country.'"

Patriot Act more popular than expected
Remember way back when during the Democratic primary campaign when railing against the civil rights intrusions of the Patriot Act or just "Ashcroft" was a star applause line for candidates? Well, the Los Angeles Times reports that the craftily-titled law is surprisingly popular among Americans and is turning out to be a cornerstone of the president's re-election campaign. These days, John Kerry and many other Democrats aren't as vocal in criticizing the Patriot Act. What gives?

"Both Democratic and Republican strategists now believe that public debate over the Patriot Act and other aspects of the nation's response to terrorism only enhance Bush's national security credentials, while threatening to paint Kerry as soft on terrorism. The result is that the Democrats have lost what once seemed like a useful tool for rallying opposition to the president. 'There's a dangerous trap here for Democrats,' said Jim Mulhall, a Democratic strategist working with independent groups targeting Bush. 'It's a terribly unfair characterization, but if Democrats are not careful, they will sound more like they're worried about technical concerns than they are about locking up terrorists.'

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" Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has recently been couching his positions on the law as 'fixes,' whereas in December the Massachusetts senator called for 'replacing the Patriot Act with a new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time.' Kerry has even argued that his ideas would make the law, bashed repeatedly last year by nearly all the Democratic presidential contenders, tougher than it is currently."

Karl Rove's Amway strategy
Ohio in 2004 may just be, as the New York Times' Matt Bai reported on Sunday, Florida in 2000 "without the oranges." The Midwest's most fierce battleground state may just be where the November election is decided. Bai' story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine shows how Karl Rove et al are getting out the votes -- in a carefully orchestrated, grassroots, door-to-door campaign involving pyramids of volunteers who recruit other volunteers.

" For 2004, Rove's team has devised the most ambitious grass-roots model in the party's history. Up close, what Bush is assembling on the local level looks less like a political campaign than what is known in business as a multilevel marketing scheme. ... The notion of translating the MLM concept into politics is visionary -- and also a little disquieting. Pyramid-based companies have proved amazingly successful at raising up armies of enterprising Americans; Amway, the world's most successful MLM, has more than 3.6 million distributors. But some MLM's thrive by imposing their own strange and insular cultures on their recruits, and while they offer the illusion of self-employment, those at the top of the pyramid often demand a rigid kind of uniformity and loyalty. Amway has often been compared to a cult -- so often, in fact, that on its own Web site the company feels the need to answer such frequently asked questions as 'I've heard rumors that Amway is a cult; is this true?' and 'Why do Amway meetings appear to some people like a cult?' When I met with Ken Mehlman, Bush's campaign manager, in suburban Washington, and suggested that the Bush campaign could fairly be compared to Amway in its approach, he agreed without hesitation. 'Amway, no question,' he said."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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