Thursday's must-reads

Published July 22, 2004 1:39PM (EDT)

9/11 report a "broad indictment"
There's plenty of criticism to go around in the 9/11 commission's final report, out today. The 600-page ream of post-9/11 research contains jabs at Congress, the intelligence community and, you guessed it, the Bush administration -- though the commissioners were careful not to assign blame for the terrorist attacks. The Washington Post reports: "Today's report by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will roam far beyond the hijacking plot and the government's failure to detect it, touching on issues including weapons-proliferation policies and the United States' treatment of detainees captured in the war on terrorism."

"An excerpt of the report obtained by The Washington Post, for example, indicates that the panel will address the Bush administration's controversial decision not to grant prisoner-of-war protections to captured al Qaeda suspects, calling for the development of 'a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists.'

"The report also urges more aggressive efforts to prevent terrorist groups from obtaining weapons of mass destruction and reveals that in 1998 U.S. officials worriedly discussed reports that al Qaeda 'was intent on carrying out a "Hiroshima,"' according to the excerpt.

"The nearly 600-page report is a broad indictment of the government's efforts to combat al Qaeda before the Sept. 11 attacks. The document, to be released at a news conference here this morning, identifies as many as 10 opportunities to potentially unravel the plot and recommends a dramatic overhaul of counterterrorism efforts, including creation of a Cabinet-level intelligence chief, according to officials who have read the document, which has been the subject of a strict embargo.

White House knew about Berger probe
On Tuesday, as Washington was atwitter about whether Sandy Berger shoved classified documents into his pants and socks, and Democrats wondered who leaked the months-long investigation and why then -- two days before the 9/11 report was to be released -- White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the White House was learning about the story from the media, suggesting no prior knowledge. Today, the New York Times reports that the White House counsel's office has known about the Berger probe for months.

"The White House declined to say who beyond the counsel's office knew about the investigation, but some administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believed that several top aides to Mr. Bush were informed of the investigation. President Bush himself declined to answer a question Wednesday about whether he had been told, saying: 'I'm not going to comment on this matter. This is a serious matter, and it will be fully investigated by the Justice Department.'"

"The disclosure of the investigation forced Mr. Berger to step down as an informal, unpaid adviser to Senator John Kerry's campaign on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the campaign accused the White House of deliberately leaking news of the investigation and said that Vice President Dick Cheney was involved in strategies to divert attention from the Sept. 11 report to be issued Thursday."

Nader raids Boston
The Wall Street Journal (free link) reports on the chilly relations between John Kerry and Ralph Nader and the independent candidate's plans to look for votes in Boston before the Democratic convention begins next week.

"The antagonism between Mr. Nader and the Democrats has become so intense during recent weeks that far from shying away from the Democrats' four-day fete, the independent presidential candidate is taking the fight to Boston and trying to cozy up to veterans -- a group that gives Mr. Kerry not only welcome support but also credibility as a tough warrior."

" ... Without a convention of his own, Mr. Nader views the Democratic and Republican gatherings as ways to attract much-needed attention to his campaign. During the Democratic Convention, he expects to place an opinion piece in the Boston Globe on withdrawing from Iraq and other issues that Democrats won't discuss at the convention. He will also appear on a major talk show, says Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese. 'We're still hoping for 'Good Morning America,' Mr. Nader says."

"While Mr. Nader says he is unlikely to drop by the Democratic Convention, he is considering a visit to the Republican meeting in New York in late August. 'I'm trying to get Republican votes,' he says, suggesting he could win votes among moderate Republicans and Arab-Americans."

Kucinich to endorse Kerry
Dennis Kucinich will formally endorse John Kerry today, the AP reports.

"The Ohio congressman, who has waged a long-shot bid for right to challenge President Bush in November, will announce the endorsement during a joint appearance with Kerry in Detroit, according to spokesmen for both candidates."

"Kerry returns to the campaign trail Thursday to address a conference of the National Urban League after four days in Nantucket, Mass., where he spent time preparing for next week's Democratic National Convention in Boston. Doug Gordon, a spokesman for Kucinich, said the congressman looked forward to the endorsement. 'The congressman looks forward to appearing with John Kerry tomorrow and unifying the Democratic Party in support of Senator Kerry's winning bid for the White House,' Gordon said Wednesday night."

GOP rift on tax cuts blocks bill
White House insistence that Bush's "middle-class tax cuts" be extended for at least five years without finding a way to pay for them stymied a bill Republicans wanted to pass going into the Democratic convention, the New York Times reports. Moderate Senate Republicans tried to offset the tax cuts with spending cuts or other tax increases -- and struck a deal with House Republicans that tax cuts get extended for two years instead of five. Not good enough for the White House, who didn't want a bill Democrats might vote for, thus diluting a GOP campaign theme.

"The impasse was the latest sign of deep rifts among Republicans about budget issues. House and Senate Republicans had badly wanted to pass a popular tax-cutting bill before the Democratic convention next week ... The Republicans' inability to agree among themselves cost them the chance to highlight their link to tax cuts as the election season moves into high gear."

Kerry leads among Hispanics
A new Washington Post poll shows John Kerry with a strong lead among Hispanic voters, "with a majority rejecting the president's handling of the economy and the war in Iraq ..."

"At a time when Bush and Kerry are running about even among all registered voters, Kerry enjoys a 2 to 1 advantage over Bush among Latino registered voters. Hispanics give Bush lower approval ratings than the overall population does, and the poll shows that the bulk of the Latino community continues to identify with the Democratic Party."

"The findings suggest that, at this point in the campaign, Bush is falling short of his goal of notably improving on the 35 percent share of the Hispanic vote he received four years ago, although his advisers said they believe he is still on track to do so. Kerry advisers, in contrast, said they are determined to keep Bush from winning as much of the Hispanic vote as he did in 2000."

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at

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By Stephen W. Stromberg

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

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