Friday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
September 3, 2004 6:46PM (UTC)

In President Bush's acceptance speech last night, he made lots of new promises -- but no assurances that he'd fulfill them, any more than he fulfilled the promises made in his last presidential campaign. A Washington Post analysis of his speech says:

"Bush is a politician who prefers the bold stroke over the workaday plan, and his speech wrapping up the Republican National Convention was a model of inspiring rhetoric and big themes, from planting the seeds of democracy in one of the most troubled regions of the world to remaking some of the largest areas of domestic government to meet the realities of family life in 21st century America."

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"If Bush ran for the presidency in 2000 with a tightly focused agenda, what he offered Thursday domestically was a laundry list of ideas, big and small, that would have made former president Bill Clinton envious for its length. Many of the proposals, however, have been offered before, from Social Security reform to a plan for energy independence. The president provided little assurance that he will be more focused or dedicated in seeing his agenda enacted into law, or more successful dealing with a narrowly divided Congress, than he has been his first four years."

The AP fact-checked Bush's speech and found that he "glossed over some complicating realities."

"On Iraq, Bush talked of a 30-member alliance standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States, masking the fact that U.S. troops are pulling by far most of the weight. On Afghanistan and its neighbors, he gave an accounting of captured or killed terrorists, but did not address the replenishment of their ranks or the still-missing Osama bin Laden."

" ... He took some license in telling Americans that Democratic opponent John Kerry "is running on a platform of increasing taxes." Kerry would, in fact, raise taxes on the richest Americans but as part of a plan to keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone else and even cut some of them more. That's not a tax-increase platform any more than Bush's plan for private retirement accounts is a platform to reduce Social Security benefits."

" ... On Iraq, Bush derided Kerry for devaluing the alliance that drove out Saddam Hussein and is trying to rebuild the country. "Our allies also know the historic importance of our work," Bush said. "About 40 nations stand beside us in Afghanistan, and some 30 in Iraq." But the United States has more than five times the number of troops in Iraq than all the other countries put together. And, with 976 killed, Americans have suffered nearly eight times more deaths than the other allies combined."

The new job numbers out today show payrolls still lagging behind economists' expectations. The AP reports:

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"America's payrolls picked up in August, with the economy adding 144,000 jobs, slightly less than economists were forecasting and highlighting the slow and uneven recovery in the labor market that jobseekers have braved."

"The unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent last month from 5.5 percent in July. But the drop in the jobless rate in August came as people left the work force for any number of reasons, the Labor Department reported Friday. Economists were predicting the jobless rate to hold steady in August."

"The gain in payrolls was short of the 150,000 net jobs that economists were calling for. However, it represented the biggest jobs gain since May and marked the 12th month in a row that payrolls grew."

Zell Miller was bounced from the president's box for special guests last night in Madison Square Garden -- and Republicans are still debating what effect Zell's harsh keynote address on Wednesday will have on the campaign. The Los Angeles Times reports that John McCain think Zell will hurt Bush more than Kerry.

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"McCain (R-Ariz.) said the keynote address by Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) could prove as controversial as a speech by Pat Buchanan at the 1992 GOP convention in Houston. "I think it backfires," McCain said of Miller's rhetorical assault on Kerry. He added that it "makes Buchanan's speech ... look milquetoast." McCain made his comments to reporters at a party he held after the convention's Wednesday session."

"Buchanan's speech -- in which he declared a "cultural war" was underway in America -- was thought by many Republicans to have hurt the reelection bid of Bush's father, then-President George H.W. Bush. The elder Bush lost the November vote to Democrat Bill Clinton. Miller's keynote address was laced with harsh criticism of Kerry's legislative record on military issues. Marshall Wittmann, McCain's spokesman, said the senator favored a less divisive approach to political debate."

We heard a lot this week about President Bush's leadership in the "war on terror" and the capture of many al-Qaida leaders. But NBC News reports that terrorist attacks are on the rise worldwide -- dramatically.

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"Of the roughly 2,929 terrorism-related deaths around the world since the attacks on New York and Washington, the NBC News analysis shows 58 percent of them -- 1,709 -- have occurred this year. In the past 10 days, in fact, the number of dead has risen by 142 people in places as diverse as Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel. On Tuesday, the number of civilians killed by terrorists totaled 38 -- 10 at a subway entrance bombing in Moscow, 16 in a bus bombing in Israel and 12 Nepalese executed in Iraq."

"Moreover, the level of sophistication is increasing. Terrorism experts point in particular to the attacks apparently carried out by Chechen rebels during that 10-day period. The rebels, whose top military commanders have been Arabs, are operating at a whole different level."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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