Thursday's must-reads

By Geraldine Sealey

Published May 20, 2004 1:52PM (EDT)

Hastert-McCain spar over loyalty, sacrifice
The Washington Post reports on the public dispute between House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Sen. John McCain yesterday, which included Hastert questioning McCain's GOP credentials and the former Vietnam POW's understanding of the sacrifice made by U.S. servicepeople.

"House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.) lectured McCain (Ariz.) -- an outspoken opponent of Bush's tax cuts -- over war sacrifices, drawing a blistering retort from McCain, who nearly died of war wounds in a North Vietnamese prison camp. On Tuesday, McCain gave a speech excoriating both political parties for refusing to sacrifice their tax cutting and spending agendas in wartime. At the Capitol yesterday, Hastert shot back: 'If you want to see sacrifice, John McCain ought to visit our young men and women at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] and Bethesda [Naval Hospital]. There's the sacrifice in this country.'"

"Amid such rancor, Bush will travel to Capitol Hill this morning to try to rally Republicans on both sides of the Capitol behind his flagging agenda and reassure them that his campaign is on course despite his drop in the polls. The hurriedly scheduled trip was designed to assuage the trepidation of lawmakers as they head back to their states and districts for the Memorial Day break."

Kerry reaches out to Nader
John Kerry campaigned with former rival Howard Dean earlier this week. Yesterday, he met with Ralph Nader. The Los Angeles Times reports on Kerry's attempts to find common ground with the man many Democrats fear could be a spoiler in the 2004 race.

"Kerry did not ask Nader to end his run, according to accounts of the session provided by both sides. Nor did the two candidates discuss any conditions that might persuade Nader to bow out. But the meeting demonstrated that the Massachusetts senator was reaching out to Nader in a bid to minimize the consumer advocate's impact on November's vote. Democrat Al Gore made no such effort in 2000, and Nader won enough votes in Florida and New Hampshire to help tip the election to George W. Bush. Kerry's efforts this year, however, could complicate his recent drive to position himself in the political center."

"In one exchange, recounted by a Kerry aide who requested anonymity, Nader complained that the Democratic Party had become too cozy with corporate interests. Kerry replied: 'Don't judge me by the people who preceded me. You may have had a disagreement with [President] Bill Clinton, or [former Vice President] Al Gore, or the Democratic leadership in Congress. but that's not me. I have fought with you, I have been with you on a range of issues, and you should judge me by my record in the Senate.' Nader, in a telephone interview after Wednesday's meeting, said Kerry's answer was 'a form of music' to his ears."

"This system is broken"
The two top commanders of American forces in Iraq didn't see the Red Cross reports detailing prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison for months after the complaints were submitted, they told senators yesterday. The New York Times reports that "Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the ground commander in Iraq, said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that it was two months before he learned of a report the International Committee of the Red Cross submitted to his command on Nov. 6. That report was the earliest formal evidence of extreme abuses at Abu Ghraib known to have been presented to the military before January, when the military started a broad inquiry."

"'This system is broken,' said Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top commander in the Middle East, of the way Red Cross reports were handled by the military. He told the committee that he had not learned of a broader report the Red Cross submitted in February, which included complaints of conditions at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, until earlier this month."

The Red Cross reports aside, NPR reports that prisoner abuse was being punished in Iraq a year ago. NPR says three Marines were punished for prisoner abuse last May and another Marine reservist and a camp commander face courts-martial in the June 2003 death of a Baath Party official. Also, new photos are surfacing of abuse at Abu Ghraib, including an image of a U.S. troops posing with thumbs-up over the corpse of a detainee. ABC News aired new photos last night.

Bush Medicare videos illegal
The General Accounting Office "concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services illegally spent federal money on what amounted to covert propaganda by producing videos about the Medicare changes that were made to look like news reports," the Washington Post reports. "Portions of the videos, which have been aired by 40 television stations around the country, do not make it clear that the announcers were paid by HHS and were not real reporters. The finding adds fuel to partisan criticism of the new law, which creates drug coverage and a larger role for private health companies in Medicare, in the biggest expansion yet of the program that provides health insurance to 40 million elderly and disabled people."

"Politicizing the Eucharist"
Four dozen Democratic and Roman Catholic members of Congress sent a letter to the cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., "saying the threats by some bishops to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights were 'deeply hurtful,' counterproductive and 'miring the Church in partisan politics,'" the New York Times reports. "The letter is the first organized counter-punch by Democratic legislators since a handful of Catholic bishops set off an uproar in the church by declaring that they would withhold communion from politicians who favor abortion rights. The letter's signers, including about a dozen who are considered anti-abortion Democrats, said the bishops are 'allowing the church to be used for partisan purposes.' They also question why these bishops made abortion a litmus test while ignoring politicians who voted counter to the church by endorsing the death penalty and the war in Iraq."

"'They're helping destroy the church by dividing it on issues, and they're politicizing the Eucharist,' said Representative Bart Stupak of Michigan, one of the anti-abortion Democrats who signed the letter. 'The bishops came out against the war, and I don't see them saying to all the people who voted for it, you can't receive communion because you voted for an unjust war.'"

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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