Tuesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
April 27, 2004 4:42PM (UTC)

He's no Churchill
The president of Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., said in a campus-wide email he was "surprised and disappointed" after a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney, a marquee event that should have been a moment of pride for the school, which in 1946 was the site of Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech. The AP reports that Westminster had been told the vice president would give a "major foreign policy address" in the school gym. Instead, Cheney went into partisan attack dog mode, embarrassing the college president.

"Westminster College's president said Monday he was so 'surprised and disappointed' by Vice President Dick Cheney's attacks on John Kerry during a speech that he is inviting the Democrat to visit for a reply. Fletcher Lamkin told The Associated Press that Cheney's staff approached him last week about using Westminster as the backdrop "for a major foreign policy address. Nothing was said about a stump speech." In a campus-wide e-mail after the speech, Lamkin said: 'I must admit that I was surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing for a large portion of his speech.'"

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The phony medals controversy
The Boston Globe wraps-up the Kerry medals flap, and shows how the presumptive Democratic nominee spent Monday swinging back against the latest GOP assault on his Vietnam record.

"The presumptive Democratic nominee, in a carefully crafted counterassault, defended himself yesterday on major television networks by saying he meant ribbons were discarded, not the medals. He argued that few veterans distinguished between the two kinds of war decorations at the time -- a point of some dispute among veterans groups yesterday."

"Then Kerry turned the issue against the president, saying for the first time that Bush was far more vulnerable on matters of Vietnam-era choices because of questions about whether he completed his service in the Texas Air National Guard. 'He owes America an explanation about whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. Prove it,' Kerry told NBC."

"The medals controversy distracted from the Kerry campaign's message of the day, the start of his 'Jobs First Express' charter bus tour across four swing states such as West Virginia, where Kerry championed the interests of coal miners and steelworkers, and Pennsylvania, where he spoke about free trade and job creation to union workers. Even his endorsement by the United Mine Workers of America, outside a coal mine near Wheeling, W.Va., was overshadowed by his appearance on ABC after 'Good Morning America' aired the 1971 footage. Kerry appeared on the program from the mine site, scrapping tensely with interviewer Charlie Gibson, who at one point intimated that the medals controversy might derail Kerry's presidential bid. When the segment was over, Kerry turned to two aides and complained, 'God, they're doing the bidding of the Republican National Committee.'"

I watched Kerry toss decorations
The Boston Globe columnist Thomas Oliphant covered the 1971 rally in question.

"From what I could observe firsthand about Friday, April 23, 1971, Kerry did not make even the slightest effort to pretend that he was throwing all of his military decorations over that fence. He did what he did in plain view, and in my case in the view of someone close enough to kick him in the shins. It was clear to me that Kerry had arrived here with only the ribbons he wore on his shirt -- which, by the way, were referred to as 'medals' by the late Stuart Symington of Missouri, one of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members present for his famous antiwar statement ... It was clear from our conversations back then and ever since that Kerry made no distinction among his various decorations, though others have ..."

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"I have always found the political junk served up by Kerry's detractors to be undignified as well as largely inaccurate. I write now because the political junk is much higher profile now, though no less misleading -- and not, by the way, because in her fourth job in the public arena, my daughter just joined Kerry's staff. I just happened to be there that long-ago day. I saw what happened and heard what Kerry said and know what he meant. The truth happens to be with him."

Have you no decency?
The Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne revisits a line asked of Joe McCarthy in the 1950s: "Have you no decency, sir?" and says the same might be asked of George W. Bush and his partisan attack dogs.

"Unfortunately, the question needs to be asked again. It needs to be posed to shamelessly partisan Republicans who can't stand the fact that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are facing off against a Democrat who fought and was wounded in Vietnam. Cheney said in 1989 that he didn't go to Vietnam because 'I had other priorities in the '60s than military service.' While Kerry risked his life, Bush got himself into the National Guard."

"Funny, isn't it? When Bill Clinton was running against Republican war veterans in 1992 and 1996, the most important thing to GOP propagandists and politicians was that Clinton didn't fight in Vietnam. Now that Republican candidates who didn't fight in Vietnam face a Democrat who did -- and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts while he was there -- the Republican machine wants to change the subject."

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Asleep at the wheel
The Los Angeles Times reports on John Kerry's message about the economy and jobs that was obscured on Monday by the manufactured debate on his war medals and the GOP attacks on his Vietnam service and fitness for office.

"Sen. John F. Kerry said Monday he would more aggressively enforce trade agreements than the Bush administration, without reversing the nation's commitment to promoting free international commerce ... Kerry said his stance would give voters a clear choice in comparison with President Bush, whom he accused of being 'asleep at the wheel' in protecting U.S. jobs from migrating. At a stop later in the day in Pennsylvania, he said: 'I am going to stand up for the American worker and fight to have the American worker have an even playing field to compete on.'"

An elected dictatorship
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman writes on the "deep mystery" surrounding Dick Cheney's energy task force.

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"The real mystery is why the Bush administration has engaged in a three-year fight which reaches the Supreme Court today to hide the details of a story whose broad outline we already know. One possibility is that there is some kind of incriminating evidence in the task force's records. Another is that the administration fears that full disclosure will highlight its chummy relationship with the energy industry. But there's a third possibility: that the administration is really taking a stand on principle. And that's what scares me ..."

"What Mr. Cheney is defending, in other words, is a doctrine that makes the United States a sort of elected dictatorship: a system in which the president, once in office, can do whatever he likes, and isn't obliged to consult or inform either Congress or the public. Not long ago I would have thought it inconceivable that the Supreme Court would endorse that doctrine. But I would also have thought it inconceivable that a president would propound such a vision in the first place."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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