Tuesday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 18, 2004 1:27PM (EDT)

M.I.'s gave orders
There's more evidence that intelligence officers ordered guards at Abu Ghraib prison to abuse and humiliate prisoners. The New York Times reports that "the American officer who was in charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison has told a senior Army investigator that intelligence officers sometimes instructed the military police to force Iraqi detainees to strip naked and to shackle them before questioning them."

" ... The officer, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, also told the investigator, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, that his unit had 'no formal system in place' to monitor instructions they had given to military guards, who worked closely with interrogators to prepare detainees for interviews. Colonel Pappas said he 'should have asked more questions, admittedly' about abuses committed or encouraged by his subordinates. The statements by Colonel Pappas, contained in the transcript of a Feb. 11 interview that is part of General Taguba's 6,000-page classified report, offer the highest-level confirmation so far that military intelligence soldiers directed military guards in preparing for interrogations. They also provide the first insights by the senior intelligence officer at the prison into the relationship between his troops and the military police."

Bush pours $45 mil into nasty ads
If the presidential contest hinged on the candidates' nasty ads, Bush-Cheney '04 would win hands-down. USA Today reports that "the Bush-Cheney campaign has produced more negative TV ads than the campaign of Sen. John Kerry and is devoting more of its budget to airing them than Kerry is committing to his negative ads, a USA TODAY analysis shows. But spending by independent, anti-Bush organizations has made up the difference. The $30 million those groups devoted to negative, anti-Bush ads has meant the amount of money spent on attacks aimed at each candidate is about the same."

"Looking at ads produced by the two presidential campaigns and at information collected by an independent, ad-monitoring service and released by the campaigns, USA TODAY found that at least $45 million, nearly two-thirds of the $70.5 million spent so far by the Bush-Cheney campaign, has been to air its seven negative ads."

"Kerry's spending on his five negative ads can't be traced as thoroughly because three have aired almost solely on cable channels, where spending isn't tracked. But it is known that Kerry has spent $25 million, 56% of the $44.5 million he has spent so far, to air two positive, biographical ads about himself. So as a percentage of ad spending, the amount he has devoted to negative ads is smaller than the Bush campaign's."

How will gay marriage play?
George W. Bush made a point yesterday, while traveling in the Midwest, of reminding America that he supports amending the Constitution to deny gay Americans the right to marry. The Washington Times assesses the impact gay marriage will have on the presidential campaign.

"The start of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts yesterday -- just six months before the presidential elections -- all but guarantees that President Bush and Sen. John Kerry will have to face the issue in coming months. But although Republicans say it has the potential to be a winner for Mr. Bush, both parties agree that it is not clear whether he will capitalize on it and whether Mr. Kerry can turn the issue in his favor."

"Republican pollster Q. Whitfield Ayres said the issue cuts for Mr. Bush in key swing states and that Massachusetts 'will elevate the visibility of gay marriage as an issue, and that will ultimately help President Bush and hurt Sen. Kerry in the critical swing states.'"

"In a poll conducted May 3 to 6 and released last week, Mr. Ayres compared states that voted solidly for Mr. Bush in 2000, states that voted solidly for Al Gore, and "swing" states that were closely split. He found that swing states tend to favor Mr. Bush's position on the issue slightly."

GOP gets crafty with Hill votes
Last week, Republicans made a big deal about John Kerry missing a vote to extend unemployment benefits -- a proposal that lost by one vote. Kerry was the only absentee. Coincidence? Well, no. The Hill newspaper reports that Republicans orchestrated the one-vote loss to make Kerry look bad.

"At least one Republican senator, Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), was prepared to switch to a 'no' vote to make sure the measure was defeated even if Kerry returned to cast his vote, a Democrat charged. Even if Dole had stood firm, observers on both sides believe the GOP leadership would have been able to turn other Republicans to ensure defeat. But by calculating the vote to a nicety, the GOP managed to make Kerry appear to be responsible for the defeat because he was a no-show."

"The Democrats say they suspect the Republicans engineered the one-vote margin, and the incident underlines how both parties are expected to use the legislature to tarnish their opponents. 'They timed it just perfectly,' said one Senate Democratic aide. 'We walked right into it -- yes.'"

Where's Arnie? Nowhere near Bush
The Los Angeles Times reports that the popular California GOP governor isn't campaigning for the president, and it's being noticed.

"As President Bush spends more time on the campaign trail, there is one prominent and popular Republican virtually silent in his support for the president: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The presidential campaign season typically finds governors rushing to the side of their party's president, cozying up to the glamour of motorcades, wealthy donors and rapt supporters. But with his own movie-star allure and significant political disputes with Bush, Schwarzenegger has kept the president notably at arm's length."

"Aides expect the California governor will campaign for Bush, but they say he is focusing now on the state budget and other government business. Their relationship nevertheless is colored by key differences on public policy -- from gay rights to abortion, offshore oil leases to military base closures -- and by Schwarzenegger's own popularity on the world stage. 'Schwarzenegger is a global figure and, globally, who is seen more positively right now? Definitively, it's Schwarzenegger,' said K.B. Forbes, a Republican political consultant, comparing the two men."

Business for Bush, professors for Kerry
The Boston Globe has two articles illuminating the differences between Bush and Kerry supporters.

One piece says: "Voting with their checkbooks, college professors are breaking overwhelmingly for Senator John F. Kerry over President Bush, with the Democratic challenger raising nearly three times as much in campaign contributions from college campuses ... Through the end of March, Kerry had received $1.32 million from employees of four-year colleges, compared with Bush's $512,000, according to data compiled for The Boston Globe by Dwight L. Morris & Associates, a Virginia-based consulting firm." One reason professors are supporting Kerry, the piece says, is strong antiwar sentiment on campuses this year. In 2000, Bush had an edge over Al Gore among academic contributors.

And what kind of folks are drawn to raise money for Bush? "Almost three-quarters of President Bush's top campaign fund-raisers are corporate executives or business owners, and about 1 in 5 work for a financial services company, according to a study by a public interest group. Texans for Public Justice, a group that tracks campaign finance, said that 358 of Bush's top 511 fund-raisers are corporate executives or business owners and that 99 work in the financial industry. The report says that 91 top fund-raisers are lawyers or lobbyists. 'The White House's agenda is business' agenda, and vice-versa,' said Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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