Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
June 28, 2004 4:55PM (UTC)

Iraq casualty: Bush doctrine
In a move designed to throw off insurgents who may have been planning attacks timed for the symbolic June 30 "handover" deadline, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq transferred limited sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in a private ceremony today --- then Coalition leader Paul Bremer almost immediately got out of town in a C-130 and headed home.

The hush-hush ceremony was marked by President Bush at the NATO summit in Istanbul, the AP reports, by a whispered comment and a handshake with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "Looking at his watch to make sure the transfer had occurred, Bush put his hand over his mouth to guard his remarks, leaned toward Mr. Blair and then reached out to shake hands, the A.P. reported."

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The Washington Post takes stock of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and concludes that it has "in some cases discredited the core tenets of President Bush's foreign policy, according to a wide range of Republican and Democratic analysts and U.S. officials.

"When the war began 15 months ago, the president's Iraq policy rested on four broad principles: The United States should act preemptively to prevent strikes on U.S. targets. Washington should be willing to act unilaterally, alone or with a select coalition, when the United Nations or allies balk. Iraq was the next cornerstone in the global war on terrorism. And Baghdad's transformation into a new democracy would spark regionwide change.

"But these central planks of Bush doctrine have been tainted by spiraling violence, limited reconstruction, failure to find weapons of mass destruction or prove Iraq's ties to al Qaeda, and mounting Arab disillusionment with U.S. leadership.

"As a result, Bush doctrine could become the biggest casualty of U.S. intervention in Iraq ..."

U.S. loses diplomatic edge
The New York Times looks at the diminished diplomatic strength of the Bush administration as the NATO summit begins in Turkey.

"As Mr. Bush tries to press NATO allies to play a greater role in Iraq, he faces resistance from critics of the administration's previously unilateral stances who worry that the Iraq mission may be on the brink of failure, those analysts said.

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"The resistance from normally friendly countries like Germany, France and Japan, and from international organizations long dominated by the United States, has forced the administration to rethink its plans for security in Iraq and for persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. 'What we are seeing is other nations joining to resist U.S. unilateralism and exacting a higher price,' said Cliff Kupchan, vice president of the Nixon Center, an institute in Washington created by former President Richard M. Nixon that specializes in foreign policy. 'We've seen pounds of flesh being exacted before. Now it's an aggregate pound of flesh.'

"Mr. Kupchan said international skepticism and domestic pressure from Americans seeking a more collaborative role with the world had prompted the administration to adjust its tone. But it may be too late, he said. 'I don't think you can turn around three years of U.S. foreign policy with some midnight initiatives,' he said. 'The image of this president in the public's and the world's eyes is pretty much established.'"

Fahrenheit burns up box office
Bloomberg has the box office results from the weekend. "Fahrenheit 9/11" brought in $21.8 million, the best documentary opening ever, and enough to put Michael Moore's film over the likes of "Dodgeball" and "White Chicks."

"Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who run Miramax Film Corp., bought the rights to Moore's movie in May after parent company Walt Disney Co. refused to distribute it. The film opened on 868 screens and averaged $25,115 per theater, more than triple the average take of "White Chicks." The controversy surrounding it helped generate sales, analysts said. 'It will no doubt be the highest-grossing and most-profitable documentary ever,' said David Davis, an independent analyst in Los Angeles."

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"'Fahrenheit 9/11,' distributed by Canadian-based film producer Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and IFC Entertainment, won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May. 'A month ago, we didn't know who was going to release this film, let alone that it would be the No. 1 film in the country,' said Exhibitor Relations president Paul Dergarabedian. This is the first documentary to finish atop the box office, he said.

"'Fahrenheit 9/11' will be released into hundreds more theaters during the next two weeks, said Tom Ortenberg, president of Lion's Gate Film Releasing. The movie's performance surprised even its backers, he said. 'We had high hopes for the weekend,' Ortenberg said in an interview. 'Needless to say, we were ecstatic.'"

Also on the Fahrenheit front, Editor & Publisher surveyed 63 dailies in red and blue states alike and found that nine out of 10 film critics gave it a thumbs up.

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Nader: Greens are weird
The Washington Post follows up on the Green Party's rejection of Ralph Nader over the weekend and says Nader, who didn't get the endorsement of the Greens at the party's convention, calls the party "strange," and the convention "a cabal."

"'The benefit was really for the Green Party,' Nader said yesterday of what an endorsement of him would have meant. 'I don't want to exaggerate it, so I'll just say massively more.' Endorsing him, Nader said, would have meant higher visibility and better fundraising opportunities for the party. Because of his vice presidential running mate, Peter Miguel Camejo, it also had the potential to attract Latino voters.

"Instead, by nominating Texas attorney David Cobb, Nader said, the party that made him its candidate in 1996 and 2000 will 'shrink in its dimension' and 'has jettisoned [itself] out of any influence on the Democratic Party.'"

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Kerry won't cross picket line
The Boston Globe reports on John Kerry's decision to cancel a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Boston because he doesn't want to cross picket lines of workers engaged in a contract dispute with the city.

"The announcement came as picketing firefighters and police officers dogged Mayor Thomas M. Menino at conference events for the third straight day yesterday. They had planned to picket the speech this morning at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. 'I don't cross picket lines,' Kerry said last night, shortly after attending Mass at St. Vincent's Waterfront Chapel. 'I never have.'

"The statement leaves open the question of what he will do if the contracts are not settled before next month's Democratic National Convention. Menino, in a brief news conference after emerging from a Symphony Hall performance last night, said, 'I'm very disappointed. They should open the picket lines and let John Kerry in so that he can make the speech.' In an interview afterward with the Globe, Menino said he had talked with Kerry about 10 p.m. and reiterated, 'I'm extremely disappointed in his decision.'

"He said he did not speak to Kerry about how he would handle picket lines at next month's convention."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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