Thursday's must-reads


Stephen W. StrombergGeraldine Sealey
July 8, 2004 5:54PM (UTC)

July surprise?
What better way to douse the excitement at the Democratic National Convention at the end of this month than for a Bush administration ally -- namely Pervez Musharraf -- to cough up Osama bin Laden? The New Republic, working with a Pakistani journalist, reports that this is exactly what the Bush administration is gunning for as they pressure Pakistan to produce OBL and other "high-value targets" before the election.

"According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, 'The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections.' (These sources insisted on remaining anonymous. Under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years.)

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"A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis 'have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of [high-value targets] before [the] election is [an] absolute must.' What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: 'The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington.' Says McCormack: 'I'm aware of no such comment.' But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that 'it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July'--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston."

"Kenny Boy's" perp walk
Kenneth Lay, good friend and leading career patron of the president, surrendered today to the FBI and was led into Houston's federal court in handcuffs. The former head of Enron was indicted on Wednesday by a federal grand jury, and according to the New York Times, is reportedly being charged with 11 crimes, including securities fraud and misleading investigators.

"Enron's downfall in late 2001 deprived thousands of employees of their jobs and pensions, destroyed tens of billions of dollars in market value and pulled back the curtain on a dizzyingly complex fraud scheme," the Los Angeles Times reports in a piece that also touches on the case's potential impact on the presidential election.

"Lay was close to former President George H.W. Bush and his son, President Bush, who dubbed the executive 'Kenny Boy.' Lay lent Enron's corporate jet to the younger Bush eight times during the 2000 campaign, was co-chair of a gala tribute to him and was one of his top campaign contributors. Enron was also a major patron of Bush and the Republican Party."

"Immediately after the first TV reports of Lay's indictment, the Democratic National Committee fired off a news release outlining these and other ties between the executive and the president. It was only the first shot in what is likely to be an extended effort. The indictment plays right into the Democrats' populist theme that there are 'two Americas' that middle-class Americans are being left out of the riches of the last four years because of the greed of the people at top,' said Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley."

"Reporters asked Bush about the indictment at a campaign appearance in Waterford, Mich., but he walked away without answering, Reuters reported."

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The Center for Public Integrity's Buying of the President details Enron's history of padding the coffers of George W. Bush's political campaigns. Only recently was the fallen energy giant surpassed as Bush's most generous lifetime giver, by MBNA. Seven other indicted Enron employees also have personally donated to Bush, including former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling. But, CPI reports, Kenny Boy stands by far as the most loyal and giving: He and his family have given the president $139,500 over the years, which accounts for almost a quarter of Enron's contributions to Bush, according to CPI.

Kerry-Edwards' first day on the trail
The Washington Post's report on John Kerry and John Edwards' first outing together as a ticket looks at the Democrats' focus on the economy, President Bush's unexpected swipe at Edwards' abilities -- and Kerry's sharp comeback.

"The Democratic nominee and his running mate, accompanied by their wives and children on the hustings for a four-day swing, vowed to shrink the gulf between the wealthy and the middle class by making college and health care more affordable and jobs better-paying and more abundant. They would accomplish all this in part by repealing the tax cuts benefiting Americans making more than $200,000 annually and by spending the revenue on domestic programs."

"But Bush, who considers national security the dominant campaign issue, traveled to Edwards's home state of North Carolina to give voters a stern warning. The freshman senator is not qualified for the presidency, he said. The unexpected broadside by Bush prompted Kerry to change an early-afternoon speech in Dayton, Ohio, to defend his vice presidential pick and take a personal swipe at Bush."

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"Edwards has 'more experience than George Bush and better judgment than he when he became president,' Kerry said. Bush 'was right that Dick Cheney was ready to take over on day one, and he did and has been ever since, folks, and that's what we have got to change.'"

Intel report to sidestep White House role
The New York Times reports today that the highly-anticipated Senate Intelligence Committee report, due out Friday, that supposedly savages the CIA handling of prewar intel will skirt the question of how the White House made its case for war -- a consequence of a deal struck between Republicans and Democrats earlier this year.

"But Democrats are maneuvering to raise the issue in separate statements. Under a deal reached this year between Republicans and Democrats, the Bush administration's role will not be addressed until the Senate Intelligence Committee completes a further stage of its inquiry, but probably not until after the November election. As a result, said the officials, both Democratic and Republican, the committee's initial, unanimous report will focus solely on misjudgments by intelligence agencies, not the White House, in the assessments about Iraq, illicit weapons and Al Qaeda that the administration used as a rationale for the war.

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"The effect may be to provide an opening for President Bush and his allies to deflect responsibility for what now appear to be exaggerated prewar assessments about the threat posed by Iraq, by portraying them as the fault of the Central Intelligence Agency and its departing chief, George J. Tenet, rather than Mr. Bush and his top aides.

Still, Democrats will try to focus attention on the issue by releasing as many as a half-dozen 'additional views' to supplement the bipartisan report."

Worry about election attacks, but no plan
The Washington Post reports that government officials are expressing concern that terrorists will strike the U.S. to coincide with -- and disrupt -- the presidential election, but they haven't yet done anything to prepare for this scenario.

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"'Nothing has been done' said DeForest B. Soaries, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, which Congress created to help localities improve their voting systems. 'It's embarrassing that the federal government hasn't taken this more seriously. . . . I won't be silent.'

"Election officials around the country say they are eager for advice on how to address security worries but say they are baffled at the idea of securing the nation's 193,000 polling places.

"Election administrators also express worry that posting police officers near or in polling sites might discourage some people, especially immigrants and members of minority groups, from voting."

Dem House chances brighter
The Progressive takes a look at Democratic chances in Congress in 2004 and concludes that the prospects for the Dems this time around aren't looking as bleak as they were before. "The Senate is closely divided, with the Republicans in control by two seats. In the House, the Republicans have a majority of twenty-two seats. With a rash of retirements in the Senate this year, and redistricting all over the country favoring the incumbent majority in the House, things had been looking bleak for the D's. But what a difference Iraq makes.

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"'Generic ballot' polls that gauge whether voters want an unnamed Republican or an unnamed Democrat for Congress show the Democrats doing better than they have since 1998. A Time/CNN poll taken on May 12 and 13 asked likely voters, 'If the election for Congress were being held today, do you think you would vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress in your district, or the Republican candidate?' Fifty-three percent of respondents said 'Democrat,' and 40 percent said 'Republican.' A slew of other polls show similar results--a big shift in the Democrats' favor over the last few months.

"On the House side, those generic poll numbers are getting Democratic leaders all excited. So far, the Democrats have done well in special elections in Kentucky and South Dakota, but face overwhelming odds in Texas, where redistricting has carved the state into a series of odd-shaped Republican fiefdoms.

"'Whatever pick-ups they get [in the House] will be wiped out in Texas--unless there's a national tide for the D's,' says Jacobson. But, he adds, 'The likelihood of that tide is greater now than I would have expected.'"


Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

MORE FROM Stephen W. Stromberg

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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