Thursday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
July 1, 2004 5:47PM (UTC)

Bush "down, but not out"
The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll (free link) has lots of warnings signs for President Bush -- such as a near-majority of Americans who say the country is going in the wrong direction and that Bush deliberately misled the public into war -- but also shows John Kerry has not yet fully taken advantage of Bush's weaknesses.

"Midway through a dismal election year, President Bush finds the underpinnings of his political support badly eroded. But they haven't collapsed. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll documents the toll that months of setbacks have taken on the president's standing. A majority of Americans say that the Iraq war has increased terrorist threats, not reduced them, and that the U.S. economy is headed for long-term trouble. More voters want Mr. Bush defeated than want him re-elected."

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"Yet he remains deadlocked with Democratic challenger John Kerry, and can even nurse hopes of a rebound before the Nov. 2 election. Recent job gains have left Americans slightly less gloomy about Mr. Bush's economic stewardship. Voters applaud this week's handover of power in Iraq and look forward to the departure of U.S. troops, notwithstanding doubts that a post-Hussein Iraq is ready to rule itself."

"He goes into the summer period down, but not out," says Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the Journal/NBC survey along with the organization of his late Republican counterpart, Robert Teeter. Even after a wave of political adversity, Mr. Hart adds, "There's a whole lot of election out ahead of us."

Kerry V.P. announcement near
We know John Kerry's has to unveil his running mate choice soon because the convention is less than a month away -- but the Boston Globe reports today that the event could take place right after the holiday weekend in Pittsburgh, Pa.

"Kerry's public campaign schedule has been disclosed only through Monday, the day after he wraps up a Fourth of July bus tour through the Midwest and then flies back to Pittsburgh. His staff has assembled the telephone numbers and schedules next week for potential running mates, said a top adviser to one of the candidates. Kerry has asked a select few of his closest supporters to reserve Tuesday and Wednesday to travel with the campaign, which would allow for a barnstorming tour by the Democratic duo in advance of a gala fund-raiser next Thursday in New York City."

'''We're hearing it's going to be Tuesday,' said the adviser, who spoke on the condition that neither he nor his boss be identified. Speculation has focused on three candidates -- Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, US Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina -- but Kerry has limited all concrete information about his search to a tight circle that includes his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and James A. Johnson, the Washington banker heading his search committee. In recent days, Vilsack has been the focus of a media boomlet, but Kerry aides say other candidates including US Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and former senator Sam Nunn of Georgia remain possible choices."

Kerry raises $175 million
It isn't the $210 million in the Bush-Cheney warchest, but the Boston Globe reports that John Kerry has exceeded expectations in the fundraising category, showing a flair for raking in the dough. But what may attract Democratic fundraisers more than Kerry himself, the Globe says, is the appeal of beating Bush.

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"It seemed so ambitious at the time: John F. Kerry's campaign announced a $20-million, 20-city fund-raising tour in early March to prove he could unite Democrats after a competitive primary season and to show up skeptics who thought the Massachusetts Democrat lacked Bill Clinton's magic touch with donors."

"In short order, Kerry proved his doubters wrong -- combining a yen for fund-raising that surprised some Democrats who had heard that their nominee was aloof, with a drumbeat in his stump speeches that each check, each online contribution, each fund-raiser ticket brought the party 'one step closer to the end of the Bush presidency.'"

"The campaign shattered record after record during the spring: raising $26 million online in March alone, drawing in some 900,000 'small-donation supporters' giving $100 or so apiece this spring, and holding cocktail receptions and concerts from New York to New Orleans to Los Angeles where Kerry has whipped up the crowds by announcing that they had set a record for fund-raising events. Today, the Kerry campaign will announce that it has raised at least $175 million for the run-up to the general election in this presidential cycle, breaking the record that George W. Bush set in 2000 of more than $130 million."

Nader's "odd alliances" include the not so liberal
A New York Times piece on Ralph Nader today looks at his odd-couple associations with anyone and everyone who can help him get on the ballot this time around, including those who don't represent his political views.

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"In his search for access to the ballot, Ralph Nader can sometimes seem as if he has never met a third party he did not like. After all, Mr. Nader, the left-leaning consumer advocate, and Patrick J. Buchanan, the right-leaning commentator, hardly seem like political soul mates. But four years after Mr. Buchanan won the endorsement of the Reform Party, Mr. Nader has succeeded him as the party's standard-bearer."

"His alignment with the Reform Party is but one example of how Mr. Nader is facing such daunting forces to get his name on statewide ballots this year that he is seeking support from groups that do not necessarily share his long-held liberal beliefs ... He is also getting helping from other unexpected quarters. Democrats have sued to keep Mr. Nader off the ballot in Arizona and Illinois and may be planning a similar challenge in Texas, but Republicans and some conservative groups in Oregon, Arizona and Wisconsin are feverishly, if not cynically, mobilizing to get him on ballots in those states in a drive to siphon votes from the likely Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry."

"Mr. Nader said in an interview on Wednesday that 'there's no quid pro quo' with the Reform Party or any other that would require him to alter his views. But political analysts say that by turning to parties that may not be consistent with his ideology and reaping benefits from Republican operatives, Mr. Nader risks tarnishing his longtime reputation as a champion for consumer causes."

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"'He's grasping at straws,' Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, said of Mr. Nader's alliance with the Reform Party, which drew most of its votes in the last three presidential elections from disaffected Republicans. 'It suggests that this is somebody acting with a degree of desperation. He has a drive to run that propels him, irrespective of the consequences. He risks appearing to be a figure of ridicule.'"

The Boston Globe has a story today on a billionaire GOP fundraiser and donor who, along with his relatives, is also bankrolling Nader.

The Halliburton "gravy train"
"'We can be as dumb and stupid as we want in the first year of a war, nobodys going to care,' Halliburton subsidiary KBR responded to a company auditor alerting her superiors to waste and fraud. NBC News ran a story last night on what it said were new allegations of Halliburton's disregard for the taxpayers' money, including $50,000 monthly charges for soda and $1 million a month to clean clothes.

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"The Pentagon has already awarded Halliburton Co., the controversial military contractor, deals worth up to $18 billion for its work in Iraq. But now former Halliburton insiders have come forward with new allegations of massive waste of taxpayer money."

"Marie deYoung, a former Army chaplain who worked for Halliburton, was so upset by attacks on the company she e-mailed the CEO in December with a strategy on how to fight the 'political slurs.' But today, after five months inside Halliburton's operation in Kuwait, deYoung has radically changed her opinion. 'It's just a gravy train,' she said."

Bush-Cheney enlists churchgoers
"The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives," the Washington Post reports.

" ... The instruction sheet circulated by the Bush-Cheney campaign to religious volunteers lists 22 'duties' to be performed by specific dates. By July 31, for example, volunteers are to 'send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep' and 'Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive.' By Aug. 15, they are to 'talk to your Church's seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney '04' and 'recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush Cheney campaign.'"

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"By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to 'finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church,' 'finish distributing Voter Guides in your church' and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs 'about all Christian citizens needing to vote.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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