Tuesday's must-reads

Geraldine Sealey
June 29, 2004 5:16PM (UTC)

Race tight, Bush rating drops lower
The New York Times/CBS poll shows President Bush's approval rating had dropped to the lowest of his presidency as Americans grow more opposed to the Iraq war, are worried the war has heightened the chance of terrorist attacks at home, and grow skeptical that the White House has told the truth about the war and the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. In other bad news for Bush, 45 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him personally, and 57 percent say the country is going in the wrong direction. But there is little evidence John Kerry has taken advantage of Bush's weak position in the polls, and the race for president remains tight.

"The survey, which showed Mr. Bush's approval rating at 42 percent, also found that nearly 40 percent of Americans say they do not have an opinion about Senator John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, despite what have been both parties' earliest and most expensive television advertising campaigns. Among those who do have an opinion, Mr. Kerry is disliked more than he is liked. More than 50 percent of respondents said that Mr. Kerry says what he thinks voters want to hear, suggesting that Mr. Bush has had success in portraying his opponent as a flip-flopper."


"...The poll was scattered with warning flags for Mr. Bush, and there was compelling evidence that his decision to take the nation to war against Iraq has left him in a precarious political position ... Over the past 25 years, according to pollsters, presidents with job approval ratings below 50 percent in the spring of election years have generally gone on to lose. Mr. Bush's father had a 34 percent job approval rating at this time in 1992."

"Nationwide, Mr. Kerry has the support of 45 percent of registered voters, with Mr. Bush supported by 44 percent. When Ralph Nader, who is running as an independent, is included, he draws 5 percent, leaving 42 percent for Mr. Kerry and 43 percent for Mr. Bush."

Kerry: I'll respect the troops
In an interview with Army Times, John Kerry explained how he'd handle military issues differently than George W. Bush. "'Troops come first, period ... I am very sensitive to strain on the military.' Over the course of 45 minutes, Kerry ticked off what he called the 'failures' and 'arrogance' of the Bush administration, and confidently spelled out how he would deal with key defense issues such as transformation, troop levels and stop-loss, the 'don't ask, don't tell' rule for gays in uniform, relations with foreign allies, leadership and accountability and his suitability to be commander in chief."


"'Look at this administration,' he said. 'Four years ago they said, 'Help is on the way,' and they criticized the Clinton administration. They didn't do anything to change what was really the deployable capacity of the military at the moment they began this war. This is the Clinton military.' After promising help, Kerry said, the Bush administration cut support for public schools near military bases, tried to cut danger pay and family separation pay for deployed troops and failed to provide enough money for the Department of Veterans Affairs."

"'I think there has been a general disrespect my own opinion is, personal disrespect toward the realities of what this war is costing us in human terms for the rank and file. I remember from my own service, that is where it matters, not in offices in the Pentagon.'"

"Involuntary mobilization" of troops to commence
The Los Angeles Times reports that "the Army plans to announce this week an involuntary mobilization of thousands of troops from the Individual Ready Reserve, the latest signal that the service is struggling to bolster ranks stretched thin by the global war on terrorism. The move, which Army officials say is likely to involve notifying roughly 6,500 soldiers about a possible deployment, is meant to fill holes in active and reserve units preparing to go to Iraq and Afghanistan this fall and early next year."


"In most cases, the Pentagon created the holes when it took soldiers with critical skills in short supply such as civil affairs, intelligence, vehicle maintenance and truck driving out of their units and shifted them to military units needed for more urgent deployments since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Now the bill for this system of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul,' as one defense official put it, has come due. 'After a while, the units you've been borrowing from have got to be filled out,' said an Army official who had been briefed on the plans and would speak only on condition of anonymity."

"The Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR, is a pool of roughly 118,000 former soldiers who are not members of a specific reserve unit, yet who have unexpired obligations to complete their military service. In some cases, they are soldiers who received honorable discharges before their commitment was scheduled to end and are legally bound to fulfill their contract if the Pentagon requires their services. Several thousand of these soldiers are already serving in Iraq, the majority of whom are volunteers."


Chirac puts Bush in place
The Guardian says "Jacques Chirac bluntly told George Bush to mind his own business yesterday when the US president urged European leaders to give Turkey a firm date for starting EU membership talks later this year."

"Ignoring the determined effort to celebrate improved transatlantic relations after the Iraq crisis, the French president publicly rebuked Mr Bush at Nato's Istanbul summit for calling for special treatment for the Turks. Mr Bush, he complained, 'not only went too far but went on to territory which is not his own.' He added: 'It's as if I was advising the US on how they should manage their relations with Mexico.'"

Wall Street for Kerry?
The Wall Street Journal reports that not every Wall Streeter wants President Bush to win re-election. "Though George W. Bush has been a decidedly pro-business president, a few cracks are surfacing in what had been a solid wall of business support."


"Those small cracks, some stemming from dismay with record budget deficits, others from fears that his foreign policies are clouding the global business climate, have grown wide enough for Sen. John Kerry to launch a behind-the-scenes effort to woo business executives. While the Democratic candidate has no chance of matching the incumbent Republican's business support, even a few notable defectors could help blunt Mr. Bush's advantage, raise doubts with swing voters and draw more money into the Kerry coffers."

"The upshot is a mostly quiet but significant struggle over business's allegiance. For Mr. Kerry, last week's endorsement by onetime corporate icon Lee Iacocca, the former Chrysler Corp. chairman, was only the first of what his campaign promises will be more such staged appearances with business leaders. Mr. Kerry already had won backing from Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett and Apple Computer's Steve Jobs."

" ... Among Kerry supporters is Eric Best, a managing director at Morgan Stanley, who says Mr. Bush's tax cuts go too far at the expense of mounting deficits. "I was raised as a fiscal conservative, and I think his fiscal policy is scary," he says. Mr. Best, who remembers Mr. Bush as an upper-class dormitory proctor at Phillips Academy Andover boarding school, says that what really motivates him to stump for Mr. Kerry is the hostility the global strategist finds as he travels."


"'I can testify to the extraordinary destruction of 'American Brand Value' accomplished by this administration, from Europe to Hong Kong to Shanghai to Tokyo, and beyond,' he wrote in a recent e-mail that he widely distributed. 'If any CEO of a global multinational had accomplished this for his enterprise as quickly and radically as George Bush Jr. has done for the U.S., he would be replaced by the board in no time.'"

Kerry urged to reach out to black voters
The Washington Post reports that some African-Americans are concerned that John Kerry isn't doing enough to mobilize an important part of his base: black voters.

"Although the Massachusetts senator has many black supporters, civil rights leaders and academics are grumbling about his absence from black communities and a lack of top black officials in his campaign."

"'You pick up the paper . . . and you see a picture where he's surrounded by all whites,' Ronald Walters, a University of Maryland political scientist who helped run two presidential campaigns, said of Kerry. 'That's sensitive to black Democrats. It raises questions about the lack of blacks and Hispanics in his inner circle.'"


"Nine out of 10 black Americans voted for former vice president Al Gore in 2000, following a decades-long trend of crucial support for Democrats. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that Kerry has similar support among black Americans, but Walters and others said he must do more to make sure they vote."

"'What [Democrats] usually do is wait until the last minute and try to stir up interest in the black community, which would be a serious mistake,' said the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta and current chairman of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda. 'They tend to take us for granted.'"

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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