Wednesday's must-reads

Published July 21, 2004 1:36PM (EDT)

Bush's busy August
The New York Times looks at what George W. Bush will be doing in August instead of spending the entire month at the ranch in Crawford: Campaigning as if his life depended on it.

"Even as Mr. Kerry is being nominated in Boston next week, Vice President Dick Cheney will campaign on the West Coast, signaling the urgency of the White House's drive to stop Mr. Kerry from breaking the deadlock in the race. Republicans are also assembling a squad of elected officials in Boston to offer a running, critical commentary of the Democratic convention as it unfolds."

"And on July 30, the morning after Mr. Kerry accepts the nomination, Mr. Bush is scheduled to head to the Midwest for the start of what aides said would be a month of intensive campaigning. They also said that after months in which Mr. Bush has repeatedly attacked Mr. Kerry, the president would pivot and begin offering ideas for what a second Bush term would look like."

"Mr. Bush hinted at that shift in emphasis at an Iowa campaign rally on Tuesday. The president, who is to speak again in Washington on Wednesday night and campaign in Illinois and Michigan later this week, suggested that he might not even wait until the Democratic convention to introduce a new approach. 'Oh, I know, you're probably here thinking I'm going to spend most of the time attacking my opponent,' Mr. Bush said in Cedar Rapids. 'I've got too much good to talk about.'"

GOP loses fundraising advantage
The Washington Post looks at one of the campaign year's more surprising phenomena: Democrats outraising Republicans.

"For the first time since 1992, the Democratic candidate and the national and congressional fundraising committees combined to outraise their GOP counterparts over a six-month span of an election year, FEC data compiled by The Washington Post found. From Jan. 1 through June 30, Kerry and Democrats raised $292 million, compared with $272 million for President Bush and Republicans."

"While Republicans maintain a sizable overall financial edge for this election cycle, the Democrats' across-the-board fundraising surge is providing an unexpected boost to Kerry and Democratic Senate and House candidates just as the election season intensifies."

"...Kerry, who is set to accept the Democratic presidential nomination next week in Boston, accounted for the bulk of the financial turnaround by raising $160 million in the first six months of this year, compared with Bush's $95 million. The president dramatically curtailed fundraising in early April after hitting his goal of more than $200 million for the campaign. Still, Kerry raised more in each of the past four months than Bush ever did in a single month when his fundraising machine was cranked into high gear."

"What's more, the Senate Democrats' campaign committee raised more than the GOP's in the past six months, $26 million to $24 million. While House Democrats were outraised by Republicans, they bested the majority party in June for the first time this election cycle."

War support weakens among military families
The Washington Post went to Fort Stewart, Ga., where soldiers are preparing for deployment on a second tour to Iraq. This time, attitudes toward the war -- and the president -- are quite different.

"In the weeks leading up to deployment, soldiers are psyching themselves up by listing all that they fight for: family, buddies, their home town, democracy and God. Last time around the sentiment extended naturally to the president. Now that connection for some soldiers is what pollsters call soft."

"Paul Rieckhoff fought with the division and has since left the Army. This week, he is launching Operation Truth, a nonpartisan group dedicated to telling the public about the war in Iraq from the perspective of those who fought there. 'People can deal with it if it's honest and up-front,' he says about the deployments. 'But they've broken their word so many times it gets frustrating. Everyone says they love George W. Bush, but when you get over there and see your buddies blown up and then think: 'What the hell are we doing over there?' You start to think: 'Who do I hold responsible?'"

"'My overall encapsulation is that the public will be overwhelmingly surprised at how many people coming back from Iraq will not vote for George W. Bush.'"

Clinton defends Sandy Berger
The Denver Post interviewed Bill Clinton at a book tour appearance, and the former president defended his embattled national security advisor as a man who was always "buried beneath papers."

"'We were all laughing about it on the way over here,' the former president said of the investigation into Samuel 'Sandy' Berger on classified terrorism documents missing from the National Archives ..."

"In an interview with The Denver Post, Clinton questioned the timing of the Berger flap less than a week before the Democratic National Convention and two days before a presidential commission is slated to release its final report on the Bush administration's handling of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

"Clinton said he has known about the federal probe of Berger's actions for several months, calling this week's news a 'nonstory.'"

"'I wish I knew who leaked it. It's interesting timing,' he added."

"On behalf of the former Clinton administration, Berger worked at the National Archives last year to respond to inquiries by the 9/11 commission. He said he mistakenly removed drafts of a memo on efforts to thwart al-Qaeda around the time of the millennium celebrations. The drafts reportedly had been written by counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, who has bitterly criticized the Bush administration's handling of the al-Qaeda threat."

"FBI agents searched Berger's office and home safe in January, and Berger has said he thinks he accidentally discarded one or more missing versions of a 15-page memo. The probe continues."

Touch screen problems were known
"Florida elections officials knew before they bought the first touch screen voting machine that the devices had a history of problems," the St. Petersburg Times reports.

"The machines recorded cases in which no vote was cast, known as undervotes, at a higher rate than some other machines. But election officials bought them anyway, partly because they didn't think undervotes would become a major problem. Now, undervotes are at the center of the latest controversy surrounding Florida's troubled elections process."

"Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Monday called for an independent audit of touch screen machines because of the high rate of undervotes in the March presidential primary. A task force appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to recommend changes in Florida elections reported in March 2001 that touch screen machines had a higher rate of undervotes than optical scan machines."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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