Wednesday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 19, 2004 1:44PM (EDT)

The brink of failure
With six weeks to go before the U.S. is supposed to hand over Iraq to the Iraqis, there are mounting qualms in Washington, Iraq, and even in the Bush administration about the U.S. occupation and whether it's "verging on failure," the Washington Post reports.

Even Paul Wolfowitz was forced yesterday to concede the administration had made serious mistakes over the past year. "Under tough questioning from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a leading administration advocate of the Iraq intervention, acknowledged miscalculating that Iraqis would tolerate a long occupation. A central flaw in planning, he added, was the premise that U.S. forces would be creating a peace, not fighting a war, after the ouster of Saddam Hussein."

" ... The testy hearing reflected growing anxieties with only six weeks left before political power is to be handed over to Iraqis. The United States is now so deeply immersed in damage control -- combating security problems and recriminations from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and making a third attempt at crafting an interim government in Baghdad -- that lawmakers and others say Iraq faces greater uncertainty about the future than it did when the occupation began with great expectations a year ago."

Kerry, Dean join forces
The Boston Globe looks at the newfound alliance between former rivals John Kerry and Howard Dean, who spoke to reporters on a cross-country plane ride.

"In a mostly agreeable, occasionally revealing 55-minute review of the political season so far, the two men spoke with reporters at length for the first time together, with Kerry acknowledging that Dean 'took over the conversation' during the fight for the 2004 Democratic nomination, and Dean saying he came to admire Kerry for beating him in the Iowa caucuses. The presumed Democratic nominee said the once-bitter rivals had held fairly similar political positions during the primary battle and were often 'struggling to convince [reporters] there were' differences so one would appeal to voters more than the other."

'''I think we were saying a lot of similar things, the fact is, but I think Howard, as we all know, was the one who broke through [with voters] first in the way that took over the conversation,' Kerry said. Dean had led Kerry for months in the polls. Asked by a reporter whether Dean had made him a better candidate, Kerry said, 'I think he did, but I think the whole process does.' Dean said he enjoyed campaigning on behalf of Kerry, and he was unusually circumspect in declining to dissect Kerry's abilities as a candidate."

'''I think there really is kind of a fraternity-sorority to doing all this. It wasn't hard for me at all to put aside' the primary season tensions, said the former Vermont governor. 'I admire John Kerry for some of the stuff he did. I certainly admire him' for the convincing Iowa victory. At that point, Kerry raised his hand, and he and Dean shared a high-five."

Jews for Bush?
The Los Angeles Times went to the annual AIPAC conference and found Jewish voters who supported Al Gore in 2000 but will vote Bush in 2004.

"Stuart Weil, a ponytailed tropical fish farmer from Fresno, is a longtime Democrat who regularly attends synagogue. Four years ago, he voted for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. This year, not only does he plan to vote for President Bush, he's urging his Jewish friends to do the same. 'He is the first president to understand the world in terms of terrorism,' said Weil, 51, one of more than 4,000 delegates this week at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation's preeminent pro-Israel lobby. 'He understands that the terrorism Israel has had is now the terrorism the U.S. has.'"

"On Tuesday, Weil and thousands of other AIPAC members welcomed Bush to their annual meeting with 21 standing ovations -- a thunderous display of affection from an audience that, while always hawkish on Israel, had long been a home to more Democrats than Republicans. The Republican president's reelection strategists have long hoped that White House policies that focus on fighting terror and spreading democracy through the Mideast would make longtime Jewish Democrats like Weil into Republican voters."

Bush touts programs he tried to cut
This takes some nerve: The Bush White House is going around the country taking credit for government programs it tried to eliminate or cut sharply, the New York Times reports.

"For example, Justice Department officials recently announced that they were awarding $47 million to scores of local law enforcement agencies for the hiring of police officers. Mr. Bush had just proposed cutting the budget for the program, known as Community Oriented Policing Services, by 87 percent, to $97 million next year, from $756 million. The administration has been particularly energetic in publicizing health programs, even ones that had been scheduled for cuts or elimination."

"Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, announced recently that the administration was awarding $11.7 million in grants to help 30 states plan and provide coverage for people without health insurance. Mr. Bush had proposed ending the program in each of the last three years."

"The administration also announced recently that it was providing $11.6 million to the states so they could buy defibrillators to save the lives of heart attack victims. But Mr. Bush had proposed cutting the budget for such devices by 82 percent, to $2 million from $10.9 million."

Kerry fights to be heard
John Kerry is having quite a time vying for national media coverage, the Washington Post reports.

"Sen. John F. Kerry was the big story here Monday. His dinnertime rally downtown with former Vermont governor Howard Dean drew thousands of supporters and dominated the local television news that night. 'Portland crowd rallies around Kerry,' a front-page headline in Tuesday's Portland Oregonian said. But the presumptive Democratic nominee barely caused a blip on the national media radar, even though he was paired against President Bush in ceremonies in Topeka, Kan., commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Kerry got a one-sentence summary on the "CBS Evening News" and a two-sentence summary on "NBC Nightly News." ABC's "World News Tonight" aired a two-sentence sound bite -- to Bush's three."

"Earlier this year, the senator from Massachusetts had little trouble attracting national attention as he racked up a series of primary election victories. Since then he has been far less visible, struggling almost daily to compete for attention with the news out of Iraq and the bully pulpit of the White House. All this has left Kerry with a smaller megaphone at a time when challengers often struggle to be heard. But Kerry advisers argue that, with Bush on the defensive and his poll numbers dropping, their candidate has hardly suffered from the lack of national media visibility."

" ... From April 1 through last week, the three network newscasts did not run a single story on Kerry's proposals on jobs, education, health care, the environment or other issues he has been hitting on the stump, mentioning them fleetingly just five times. But they carried stories that tended to portray Kerry on the defensive: the controversy over his throwing away his Vietnam medals or ribbons, an attempt by some Catholic leaders to deny him communion, and Vice President Cheney's attacks on his defense record. CBS ran a piece on Democrats worried about his candidacy, while NBC did one on how Kerry's message is being drowned out."

" ... Mark Halperin, ABC's political director, said television is faced with 'big world events in which Bush is a central player and Kerry is only a player if he chooses to be. He is not saying anything bold, different or particularly relevant to that day's story. It's not our obligation to hold our breath and turn purple and insist he inject himself into these international stories.'"

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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