Wednesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
April 28, 2004 5:25PM (UTC)

"Cynical, ugly and mean-spirited"
Activists and congressmen and women are among those demanding an apology from Bush aide Karen Hughes for comparing abortion rights supporters to terrorists who "don't value any life, not even the innocent and not even their own." The Washington Post reports that Hughes' response was to say her remarks were grossly distorted -- then repeat the sentiment of her initial offensive comment.

"Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, condemned the comments as 'cynical, ugly and mean-spirited' and urged Hughes to clarify or take back what she said. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) issued a statement expressing shock that Hughes 'compared the 9/11 terrorists to Americans who marched on the Mall' on Sunday. 'It's outrageous to use the tragic events of 9/11 to demonize the pro-choice movement,' he said.

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"Asked for her response yesterday, Hughes sent an e-mail saying, 'That is a gross distortion and I would never make such a comparison. Surely even the most strident of partisans, and reasonable people on both sides of the abortion issue, can agree that we have been reminded of the precious nature of human life and that we ought to work to reduce the number of abortions in America.'"

Suspenseful veep watch
One of these days, John Kerry will name a running mate, and the choice will set the political world atwitter. The suspense is already killing some people in Washington. The Los Angeles Times does a roundup of the flying V.P. rumors.

"Speculation abounds, vice presidential chatter being to Washington what Oscar rumors are to Hollywood. The Hotline, an online compendium of political news read religiously by campaign junkies, lists more than 60 names that have been bandied about, some more seriously than others. Among the more far-fetched: NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, Christie Whitman -- President Bush's former environmental czar -- and little-known Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas, hardly a state Kerry is likely to target. Kerry's deliberations have drawn even more than the usual attention because of a debate among Democrats on whether he should break with tradition and pick a running mate sooner -- in May or June -- or wait until closer to the Democratic National Convention in late July. Kerry has been steadfastly closemouthed."

The GOP's Trojan Horse
The GOP convention in New York City is expected to bring more than a million protesters who will execute all manner of creative demonstration tactics. The New York Times reports that their methods will include infiltrating the convention by signing up as volunteers.

"It is hard to know exactly how much traction the idea of protesters posing as volunteers will have. Still, there is evidence that the idea of volunteering, then not showing up, or showing up and using anti-Republican language has interested many people ... Boston appears largely immune to the tactic since the host committee there had signed up 12,000 volunteers by the end of March, the host committee said. But New York, which has a long way to go to reach its target, has so far registered only about 1,400 potential volunteers. Marilyn Shaw, director of volunteer services for the host committee, said all volunteers would be vetted by law enforcement before they are signed up. She also said volunteers would be expected to attend many meetings before getting their volunteer shirts. 'I'll be honest with you,' she said. 'We meet and greet them so many times they become our best friends.' Some people are thinking more Trojan horse than friend."

GOP attacks bravery
Gen. Wesley Clark steps up to defend his former rival for the Democratic nomination in a New York Times op-ed piece.

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"When John Kerry released his military records to the public last week, Americans learned a lot about Mr. Kerry's exceptional service in Vietnam. They also learned a lot about the Republican attack machine ... In the heat of a political campaign, attacks come from all directions. That's why John Kerry's military records are so compelling; they measure the man before his critics or his supporters saw him through a political lens. These military records show that John Kerry served his country with valor, and that those who served with him and above him held him in high regard. That's honor enough for any veteran. Yet the Republican attack machine follows a pattern we've seen before, whether the target is Senator John McCain in South Carolina in 2000 or Senator Max Cleland in Georgia in 2002. The latest manifestation of these tactics is the controversy over Mr. Kerry's medals."

"Republicans have tried to use this event to question his patriotism and his truthfulness, claiming he has been inconsistent in saying whether he threw away his medals or ribbons. This is no more than a political smear. After risking his life in Vietnam to save others, John Kerry earned the right to speak out against a war he believed was wrong. Make no mistake: it is that bravery these Republicans are now attacking."

"Although President Bush has not engaged personally in such accusations, he has done nothing to stop others from making them. I believe those who didn't serve, or didn't show up for service, should have the decency to respect those who did serve often under the most dangerous conditions, with bravery and, yes, with undeniable patriotism."

Man of the week
From the energy task force secrecy case before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, to his sneak attack speech at a Missouri campus, Dick Cheney is everywhere this week. On Thursday, he'll be behind closed doors next to the president answering the questions of the 9/11 commission. The Christian Science Monitor looks at Cheney's big week and what it tells us about the White House No. 2 man -- and No. 1 man, for that matter.

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"Political observers agree he is, hands down, the most powerful vice president in history, with crucial input in the central issues of the day, including the war on terror and in Iraq. Democrats have seized on the White House's requirement that the two men talk to the 9/11 commission jointly (rather than separately) as evidence that Cheney is Bush's ventriloquist, and that after three-plus years on the job, Bush is still not up to the task. The issue of Cheney's role -- shadow president or just a helpmate with unprecedented influence? -- has reached almost metaphysical levels of speculation."

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney says Cheney relishes his role as "the heavy."

Specter survives
Despite the endorsement of President Bush and the power of incumbency, GOP Sen. Arlen Specter barely survived a primary challenge from a right-wing Congressman in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

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"Specter, who is seeking a fifth term, survived his toughest Republican primary challenge by leaning heavily on President Bush and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum to bolster his standing among conservative voters ... Voter turnout in the state appeared light -- despite the close attention the race received from political observers around the country who considered it a guide on the direction of the Republican Party. At issue was whether the GOP still had room for centrists such as Specter, or only consistent conservatives such as Toomey. President Bush actively backed Specter, believing he would be the best one to deliver Pennsylvania in the presidential election and hold the GOP's slight edge in the Senate. Toomey was boosted by millions of dollars from conservative donors unhappy with Specter's tendency to vote with Republicans one day, Democrats the next."

Black caucus to Nader: Drop out
The Baltimore Sun reports on the Congressional Black Caucus' efforts to get Ralph Nader to abandon his independent run for the White House.

"'We are very much concerned about Ralph Nader,' said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat. 'The fact is that we are worried that he will take votes away from our Democratic' candidate, Sen. John Kerry. Cummings said that New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel, one of the 39 Democrats who make up the caucus, had asked him to set up a meeting with Nader. Kevin Zeese, a Nader spokesman, said the campaign had not received the request. Nader has maintained that he will not withdraw his candidacy, saying that would disappoint those voters he is asking for support. But he has yet to qualify for any state ballot."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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