Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
August 2, 2004 5:18PM (UTC)

The New York Times looks at the political ramifications of the new terror alert on the presidential campaign. "Campaign aides said they could not recall a contest fought against such an uncertain and unsettling backdrop since 1968, when Richard M. Nixon and Hubert H. Humphrey battled as an increasingly bloody war was being waged in Vietnam, polarizing Americans at home."

" ... News of the terror threat on Sunday also stirred renewed suggestions from some Democrats that the White House was manipulating terror alerts for Mr. Bush's political gain. They said the alert had been issued just as Mr. Kerry emerged from a convention that was described by Republicans and Democrats as a success."

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"...I am concerned that every time something happens that's not good for President Bush, he plays this trump card, which is terrorism,' Howard Dean, a former rival of Mr. Kerry for the Democratic nomination, told Wolf Blitzer on CNN on Sunday. 'His whole campaign is based on the notion that 'I can keep you safe, therefore at times of difficulty for America stick with me,' and then out comes Tom Ridge,' Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor, added, referring to the homeland security secretary. 'It's just impossible to know how much of this is real and how much of this is politics, and I suspect there's some of both in it.'"

"White House officials denied that suggestion, and other Democrats and Mr. Kerry's advisers would not embrace it. 'I certainly hope not,' Steve Elmendorf, Mr. Kerry's deputy campaign manager, said. 'You have to take them at their word.' But aides on both sides say they are thinking about how the elevated alert level affects the election and about the possibility of an actual terrorist attack as they try to discuss the political repercussions of terrorism without being accused of doing anything as crass as discussing the political repercussions of terrorism."

In another Times new analysis on the terror threat, Joe Lieberman is quoted saying the White House wouldn't do what Dean suggested. "Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, doubtless spoke for much of official Washington and the public when he said on 'Late Edition' on CNN that he doubted President Bush or Mr. Ridge 'would raise an alert level and scare people for political reasons.'"

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And Tom Ridge credited "the president's leadership in the war against terror" for obtaining the intelligence that led to the raised terror alert in financial centers in N.Y. and N.J.

The Associated Press reports that President Bush "will issue orders as early as today to implement some reforms suggested by the Sept. 11 commission, but White House officials are still wrangling over the best way to create a new national intelligence czar."

"Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, who has endorsed all of the panel's recommendations, said he backs putting the post of intelligence chief inside the Executive Office of the President. 'I believe it belongs there,' Kerry said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. 'If you're going to really lead a war on terror, I think it's critical to have the kind of direct accountability to the president, and I think the American people want that.'"

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The Washington Post reports that John Kerry would "substantially reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq by the end of his first term in office but declined to offer any details of what he said is his plan to attract significantly more allied military and financial support there." " ... Reminded that he sounded like Richard M. Nixon, who campaigned in 1968 by saying he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam, Kerry responded: 'I don't care what it sounds like. The fact is that I'm not going to negotiate in public today without the presidency, without the power.'"

Ralph Nader's more emboldened than before the Democratic convention to continue his independent bid for president, the New York Times reports. "To Ralph Nader, the Democratic convention in Boston was a hollow charade that made Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, seem more like President Bush than ever. He said it gave him no reason to drop out of the race, even if he costs Mr. Kerry the election in November, as many believe he cost Al Gore in 2000."

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Newsweek reports that "Secretary of State Colin Powell recently testified before a federal grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of CIA covert officer Valerie Plame, NEWSWEEK has learned. Powell's appearance on July 16 is the latest sign the probe being conducted by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is highly active and broader than has been publicly known. Sources close to the case say prosecutors were interested in discussions Powell had while with President George W. Bush on a trip to Africa in July 2003, just before Plame's identity was leaked to columnist Robert Novak."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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