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Thread: The Presidential Election

  1. #46
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    The Chicago Tribune is endorsing Bush.

  2. #47

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    * 2004 Compact Voter's Guide *
    Bush / Cheney:
    pro-life, pro-gun, pro-war, pro-death penalty.
    Nader / Comejo: see above.
    Kerry / Edwards: just in case the rapture will not be televised.

  3. #48

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    October 24, 2004

    Bush and Kerry Focus Campaigns on 11 Key States

    By ADAM NAGOURNEY
    and KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

    FORT MYERS, Fla., Oct. 23 - President Bush and Senator John Kerry move into the last days of the presidential contest in agreement that the race has come down to just 11 states, and have laid out plans for a barrage of visits and television advertisements across this final battleground between now and Nov. 2.

    Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry will spend virtually all their time - and most of their remaining advertising budgets - in those states, aides said, starting here in Florida, and extending as far west as Colorado and as far north as New Hampshire. [Page 24.]

    Both sides have reassigned staff out of states that once appeared competitive, like Missouri for the Democrats and Washington State for the Republicans, and scattered them across the 11 states.

    Fittingly enough for this year, with polls showing the race deadlocked, five of the states were won by President Bush in 2000 and six by Al Gore, the Democratic candidate. And at least 7 of the 11 states are now considered tied in nightly polls being conducted by the campaigns, aides said.

    "Where we are is where we ended in 2000: with a limited number of states that are very, very close," said Matthew Dowd, a senior adviser to Mr. Bush. "And the good news for us is more of those states are Gore states than Bush states."

    Tad Devine, a senior Kerry adviser, disputed that assessment, arguing that Mr. Bush was struggling in two states that were the bedrock of his victory in 2000, Ohio and Florida. "We're in enough states to win a clear and convincing victory in the Electoral College," Mr. Devine said.

    This geographical repositioning comes as Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry have sharpened rather than blurred their differences as the race comes to a close, staking out vastly different positions on tax cuts, health care, Social Security, abortion rights and America's role in the world. In the process, the two candidates have offered one of the sharpest choices between two presidential campaigns in a generation.

    Of the 11 states on this final battleground, representing 135 of the 538 electoral votes, Mr. Bush won Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio in 2000. Of those, analysts and aides to both campaigns say Mr. Kerry has the best chance of winning New Hampshire, Ohio and Florida, while Nevada appears least likely to turn Democratic.

    The Gore states in play are Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Of those, analysts and aides said Mr. Bush had the best chance of winning Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico.

    A sudden surge by Mr. Bush in Michigan, a state that Mr. Kerry thought he had put away, caught both sides by surprise, and both men scheduled last-minute trips there for next week.

    Ed Sarpolus, a pollster in Lansing, said that Mr. Kerry was paying a price for having campaigned in other parts of the country. "He hasn't been here," he said.

    More than anything, Mr. Bush's aides say, his central focus over the final 10 days will be what they have always seen as his strongest suit: the fight against terrorism. Mr. Bush's advisers will attempt to command the agenda in the remaining days with an intense and grisly procession of television advertisements and attacks by Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on the issue.

    Mr. Bush returned to the theme of terrorism during a campaign stop here in Fort Myers on Saturday, roaring into a rally in a procession of machine-gun-toting helicopters escorting Marine One as it settled, in a swirl of wind, in the middle of a field. It was a display of the power of incumbency and a reminder of a dominant theme of Mr. Bush's campaign. On television stations here this week, it was all terrorism all the time: images of the smoldering World Trade Center and Republican claims that Mr. Kerry would be weak in the face of terrorist threats.

    "We will basically be talking about who will win the war on terror, who will make America safer and who will lead the effort to reform our government," said Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's senior adviser.

    The emphasis on terrorism is part of a calculated appeal to some female voters, who tend to be among the late deciders in a campaign, and among whom Mr. Kerry has had difficulty building the kind of support Democrats typically have.

    The president plans to conclude his campaign with an advertisement in which Mr. Bush, recounting the trauma of the nation these past three years, makes a personal appeal to be returned to office.

    Bob Shrum, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry, said Mr. Bush had been "reduced to a one-note-Johnny" campaign. He said Mr. Kerry would respond by challenging Mr. Bush's management of the war in Iraq, but also promising what Mr. Kerry has called a "fresh start" for the country, with am emphasis on job creation and health care.

    "John Kerry has a fundamental argument that we need a president who can defend the country and fight for the middle class," Mr. Shrum said. "Bush can only talk to one half of that equation."

    In a reflection of the rapidly changing landscape, Mr. Kerry's campaign has reassigned campaign workers once stationed in Missouri and Arizona - two states that have slipped off the Democratic wish list - to Iowa, New Mexico and Nevada. Mr. Bush has moved his staff out of Washington State.

    Of the 11 states, all but Nevada and Colorado were described by both sides as being effectively tied. Mr. Kerry's aides said they had a statistically significant lead in Ohio and New Hampshire as well, but Mr. Bush's advisers disputed that.

    The dynamics of the endgame are varying state by state, though the fact that 39 states are now considered firmly behind Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush has made the challenge faced by both campaigns at least somewhat less daunting.

    In Ohio, for example, aides to both men said the outcome was likely to be driven by concerns about the economy and jobs. In Wisconsin, Mr. Kerry's campaign is attacking Mr. Bush on milk prices, while in Pennsylvania, Mr. Bush has emphasized his opposition to abortion and gay marriage in an attempt to undercut Mr. Kerry and appeal to the state's sizable Roman Catholic vote.

    But in places like Florida - arguably the most competitive of the 11 - minds seem so made up that the outcome is almost surely going to be a function of turnout and voter registration. And for all the talk of speeches, issues and conflicting perceptions of these two men, the power of get-out-the-vote operations that both sides have spent two years putting together may well prove to be the most important factor.

    "Pennsylvania remains a tight race with Kerry having a slight edge, but it's just down to turnout now," said Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College.

    Eric Rademacher, a political scientist at the University of Cincinnati, said, "Our most recent polls show a dead heat," and he added that for all of the advertising money, campaign appearances and attention poured into Ohio this year, "it will still come down to ground-force execution."

    "I don't think there is anything the candidates can do at this point to try to change minds," Mr. Rademacher said. Even the arrival of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California in Ohio next week on behalf of Mr. Bush may have little effect, he said, because "we've passed the level of saturation."

    Mr. Dowd argued that support for Mr. Bush among Republicans would counter what he acknowledged was intense animosity toward Mr. Bush among Democrats, a remnant of the disputed 2000 election.

    "You should start seeing some movement next week because people are trying to make up their mind," Mr. Dowd said. "But a big part of this is who turns out. Are Democrats more motivated than Republicans on Election Day?"

    Mr. Kerry's senior aides said that Democrats in states like Florida were showing motivation and interest in levels they had never seen. A procession of polls that show the race as deadlocked has fed that sense.

    "People waking up in these battleground states and the media telling them that the race is neck-and-neck - that's the greatest motivator of all," said Michael Whouley, a longtime friend of Mr. Kerry and a seasoned operative who is working as a senior strategist at the Democratic National Committee.

    The candidates began the campaign this spring looking at a much wider universe of swing states, from 18 to 21. The narrowing of states is typical late in a campaign, though it does not always happen. It would not be surprising if Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry moved to other states in the last days should they see an opening.

    The starting assumption of both campaigns is that whoever wins two of the top three - Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio - will win the presidency.

    Mr. Bush's aides noted that Mr. Kerry was now in a situation where more Gore states were at risk than Bush states, suggesting that might allow them to endure even a loss of those three states. In addition, they said they were skeptical that Mr. Kerry would continue being competitive in Nevada and Colorado, and that Mr. Kerry would come to regret a decision to fly across the country Saturday to Colorado.

    That said, Mr. Bush is in a situation where he is still fighting in states that were critical to his victory in 2000, Ohio and Florida, and that have been critical to his re-election strategy. He returned to Ohio on Friday after a 19-day absence, during which Mr. Kerry appears to have made clear gains there.

    Beyond that, even though Mr. Bush has visited Pennsylvania 41 times since he took office, some state polls still show Mr. Kerry with a slight lead there. And a brief flirtation with New Jersey, one of the more solidly Democratic states, has now been abandoned by the White House, Republicans said.

    The campaigns' advertising dollars reflect this shrinking list. Both Mr. Kerry's and Mr. Bush's biggest advertising buys have been in Florida, where they have both saturated several markets.

    In many ways, the contest has become a battle between character traits and issues, as Mr. Kerry tries to turn the campaign into a referendum on Mr. Bush's record and proposals for the future, while Mr. Bush relentlessly seeks to paint his opponent as intellectually inconsistent and too weak to protect Americans in a time of terrorism.

    And so aides to both sides say the critical question is which candidate can determine what the debate in the final days is about - terrorism or the economy.

    "The most important thing to watch is the struggle for control of the agenda," said Charles Black, a Republican consultant who advises the White House. "The president wants people to have their top priority to be terrorism and security. Kerry should want their priorities to be jobs and health care."


    Adam Nagourney reported from Fort Myers for this article, and Katharine Q. Seelye from Washington. Richard W. Stevenson contributed reporting from St. Petersburg, Fla.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  4. #49

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    Kerry, Bush Even in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Polls Show

    Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senator John Kerry pulled even with President George W. Bush in election polls in Florida, partly helped by a surge in newly registered voters, according to a survey done for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

    The two candidates also are in statistical ties in surveys taken in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Both campaigns say the three states, which together have 68 of the 270 Electoral College votes need to win the presidency, are among the key battlegrounds for the Nov. 2 election.

    Bush was in Ohio on Friday and is attending a rally today in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Kerry is speaking in the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton. Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio are the states most frequently visited by Bush and Kerry over the past six months, according to travel summaries released by the campaigns.

    The Oct. 18-21 Florida poll shows Kerry supported by 48 percent of registered voters and Bush supported by 47 percent. The survey of 600 adults who have a history of voting in statewide elections has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The survey was conducted by Rockville, Maryland-based Research 2000.

    Kerry is backed by 53 percent of voters age 18 to 34, compared with 44 percent for Bush. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida- based Sun-Sentinel reported that Kerry has strong support among the record number of newly registered voters in the state.

    Other Polls

    Polls by Quinnipiac University and Mason-Dixon Polling and Research released last week showed Bush with an edge of 2 to 3 percentage points in Florida.

    Florida decided the 2000 election after the U.S. Supreme Court halted a recount of ballots in the state, leaving Bush with a 537-vote winning margin out of about 6 million ballots cast. That gave Bush 271 electoral votes to Democrat Al Gore's 267. The electoral votes, apportioned among the states based on congressional representation, decides the election rather than the national popular vote tally.

    In Ohio, which Bush won in the last election, Kerry was backed by 50 percent of likely voters and Bush was supported by 46 percent in a poll conducted by Ohio University's Scripps Survey Research Center for the Cincinnati Post. The result is within the poll's 5.3 percentage point margin of error.

    The survey of 358 adults identified as likely to vote was conducted Oct. 17-21.

    No Republican has won the presidency without also winning Ohio.

    Kerry and Bush also are waging a close battle in Pennsylvania, a state that went for Gore in 2000.

    Kerry led Bush 48 percent to 46 percent in a poll conducted by the Morning Call newspaper and Muhlenberg College, both in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The results are within the poll's 3.5 percentage point margin of error. The poll of 787 registered voters was taken Oct. 17 through Oct. 21.

    A poll in May by the Morning Call and Muhlenberg gave Kerry a 48 percent to 43 percent advantage over the president, the paper said.

    Bush and Kerry plan campaign stops in Pennsylvania this week.

  5. #50
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    Well, it is goingto be a slugfest between the Democrat's "Get out The Vote" plan and the Republican's "Suppress the Vote" plan. Can anyone tell me which of these plans is a direct threat to democracy in America?

  6. #51

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    NEW YORKER
    http://www.newyorker.com/talk/conten...a_talk_editors
    THE CHOICE
    by The Editors
    Issue of 2004-11-01
    Posted 2004-10-25

    This Presidential campaign has been as ugly and as bitter as any in American memory. The ugliness has flowed mostly in one direction, reaching its apotheosis in the effort, undertaken by a supposedly independent group financed by friends of the incumbent, to portray the challenger—who in his mid-twenties was an exemplary combatant in both the Vietnam War and the movement to end that war—as a coward and a traitor. The bitterness has been felt mostly by the challenger’s adherents; yet there has been more than enough to go around. This is one campaign in which no one thinks of having the band strike up “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

    The heightened emotions of the race that (with any luck) will end on November 2, 2004, are rooted in the events of three previous Tuesdays. On Tuesday, November 7, 2000, more than a hundred and five million Americans went to the polls and, by a small but indisputable plurality, voted to make Al Gore President of the United States. Because of the way the votes were distributed, however, the outcome in the electoral college turned on the outcome in Florida. In that state, George W. Bush held a lead of some five hundred votes, one one-thousandth of Gore’s national margin; irregularities, and there were many, all had the effect of taking votes away from Gore; and the state’s electoral machinery was in the hands of Bush’s brother, who was the governor, and one of Bush’s state campaign co-chairs, who was the Florida secretary of state.

    Bush sued to stop any recounting of the votes, and, on Tuesday, December 12th, the United States Supreme Court gave him what he wanted. Bush v. Gore was so shoddily reasoned and transparently partisan that the five justices who endorsed the decision declined to put their names on it, while the four dissenters did not bother to conceal their disgust. There are rules for settling electoral disputes of this kind, in federal and state law and in the Constitution itself. By ignoring them—by cutting off the process and installing Bush by fiat—the Court made a mockery not only of popular democracy but also of constitutional republicanism.

    A result so inimical to both majority rule and individual civic equality was bound to inflict damage on the fabric of comity. But the damage would have been far less severe if the new President had made some effort to take account of the special circumstances of his election—in the composition of his Cabinet, in the way that he pursued his policy goals, perhaps even in the goals themselves. He made no such effort. According to Bob Woodward in “Plan of Attack,” Vice-President Dick Cheney put it this way: “From the very day we walked in the building, a notion of sort of a restrained presidency because it was such a close election, that lasted maybe thirty seconds. It was not contemplated for any length of time. We had an agenda, we ran on that agenda, we won the election—full speed ahead.”

    The new President’s main order of business was to push through Congress a program of tax reductions overwhelmingly skewed to favor the very rich. The policies he pursued through executive action, such as weakening environmental protection and cutting off funds for international family-planning efforts, were mostly unpopular outside what became known (in English, not Arabic) as “the base,” which is to say the conservative movement and, especially, its evangelical component. The President’s enthusiastic embrace of that movement was such that, four months into the Administration, the defection of a moderate senator from Vermont, Jim Jeffords, cost his party control of the Senate. And, four months after that, the President’s political fortunes appeared to be coasting into a gentle but inexorable decline. Then came the blackest Tuesday of all.

    September 11, 2001, brought with it one positive gift: a surge of solidarity, global and national—solidarity with and solidarity within the United States. This extraordinary outpouring provided Bush with a second opportunity to create something like a government of national unity. Again, he brushed the opportunity aside, choosing to use the political capital handed to him by Osama bin Laden to push through more elements of his unmandated domestic program. A year after 9/11, in the midterm elections, he increased his majority in the House and recaptured control of the Senate by portraying selected Democrats as friends of terrorism. Is it any wonder that the anger felt by many Democrats is even greater than can be explained by the profound differences in outlook between the two candidates and their parties?

    The Bush Administration has had success in carrying out its policies and implementing its intentions, aided by majorities—political and, apparently, ideological—in both Houses of Congress. Substantively, however, its record has been one of failure, arrogance, and—strikingly for a team that prided itself on crisp professionalism—incompetence.

    In January, 2001, just after Bush’s inauguration, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published its budget outlook for the coming decade. It showed a cumulative surplus of more than five trillion dollars. At the time, there was a lot of talk about what to do with the anticipated bounty, a discussion that now seems antique. Last year’s federal deficit was three hundred and seventy-five billion dollars; this year’s will top four hundred billion. According to the C.B.O., which came out with its latest projection in September, the period from 2005 to 2014 will see a cumulative shortfall of $2.3 trillion.

    Even this seven-trillion-dollar turnaround underestimates the looming fiscal disaster. In doing its calculations, the C.B.O. assumed that most of the Bush tax cuts would expire in 2011, as specified in the legislation that enacted them. However, nobody in Washington expects them to go away on schedule; they were designated as temporary only to make their ultimate results look less scary. If Congress extends the expiration deadlines—a near-certainty if Bush wins and the Republicans retain control of Congress—then, according to the C.B.O., the cumulative deficit between 2005 and 2014 will nearly double, to $4.5 trillion.

    What has the country received in return for mortgaging its future? The President says that his tax cuts lifted the economy before and after 9/11, thereby moderating the downturn that began with the Nasdaq’s collapse in April, 2000. It’s true that even badly designed tax cuts can give the economy a momentary jolt. But this doesn’t make them wise policy. “Most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans,” Bush said during his final debate with Senator John Kerry. This is false—a lie, actually—though at least it suggests some dim awareness that the reverse Robin Hood approach to tax cuts is politically and morally repugnant. But for tax cuts to stimulate economic activity quickly and efficiently they should go to people who will spend the extra money. Largely at the insistence of Democrats and moderate Republicans, the Bush cuts gave middle-class families some relief in the form of refunds, bigger child credits, and a smaller marriage penalty. Still, the rich do better, to put it mildly. Citizens for Tax Justice, a Washington research group whose findings have proved highly dependable, notes that, this year, a typical person in the lowest fifth of the income distribution will get a tax cut of ninety-one dollars, a typical person in the middle fifth will pocket eight hundred and sixty-three dollars, and a typical person in the top one per cent will collect a windfall of fifty-nine thousand two hundred and ninety-two dollars.

    These disparities help explain the familiar charge that Bush will likely be the first chief executive since Hoover to preside over a net loss of American jobs. This Administration’s most unshakable commitment has been to shifting the burden of taxation away from the sort of income that rewards wealth and onto the sort that rewards work. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, another Washington research group, estimates that the average federal tax rate on income generated from corporate dividends and capital gains is now about ten per cent. On wages and salaries it’s about twenty-three per cent. The President promises, in a second term, to expand tax-free savings accounts, cut taxes further on dividends and capital gains, and permanently abolish the estate tax—all of which will widen the widening gap between the richest and the rest.

    Bush signalled his approach toward the environment a few weeks into his term, when he reneged on a campaign pledge to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions, the primary cause of global warming. His record since then has been dictated, sometimes literally, by the industries affected. In 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed rescinding a key provision of the Clean Air Act known as “new source review,” which requires power-plant operators to install modern pollution controls when upgrading older facilities. The change, it turned out, had been recommended by some of the nation’s largest polluters, in e-mails to the Energy Task Force, which was chaired by Vice-President Cheney. More recently, the Administration proposed new rules that would significantly weaken controls on mercury emissions from power plants. The E.P.A.’s regulation drafters had copied, in some instances verbatim, memos sent to it by a law firm representing the utility industry.

    “I guess you’d say I’m a good steward of the land,” Bush mused dreamily during debate No. 2. Or maybe you’d say nothing of the kind. The President has so far been unable to persuade the Senate to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but vast stretches of accessible wilderness have been opened up to development. By stripping away restrictions on the use of federal lands, often through little-advertised rule changes, the Administration has potentially opened up sixty million acres, an area larger than Indiana and Iowa combined, to logging, mining, and oil exploration.

    During the fevered period immediately after September 11th, the Administration rushed what it was pleased to call the U.S.A. Patriot Act through a compliant Congress. Some of the reaction to that law has been excessive. Many of its provisions, such as allowing broader information-sharing among investigative agencies, are sensible. About others there are legitimate concerns. Section 215 of the law, for example, permits government investigators to obtain—without a subpoena or a search warrant based on probable cause—a court order entitling them to records from libraries, bookstores, doctors, universities, and Internet service providers, among other public and private entities. Officials of the Department of Justice say that they have used Section 215 with restraint, and that they have not, so far, sought information from libraries or bookstores. Their avowals of good faith would be more reassuring if their record were not otherwise so troubling.

    Secrecy and arrogance have been the touchstones of the Justice Department under Bush and his attorney general, John Ashcroft. Seven weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the Administration announced that its investigation had resulted in nearly twelve hundred arrests. The arrests have continued, but eventually the Administration simply stopped saying how many people were and are being held. In any event, not one of the detainees has been convicted of anything resembling a terrorist act. At least as reprehensible is the way that foreign nationals living in the United States have been treated. Since September 11th, some five thousand have been rounded up and more than five hundred have been deported, all for immigration infractions, after hearings that, in line with a novel doctrine asserted by Ashcroft, were held in secret. Since it is official policy not to deport terrorism suspects, it is unclear what legitimate anti-terror purpose these secret hearings serve.

    President Bush often complains about Democratic obstructionism, but the truth is that he has made considerable progress, if that’s the right word, toward the goal of stocking the federal courts with conservative ideologues. The Senate has confirmed two hundred and one of his judicial nominees, more than the per-term averages for Presidents Clinton, Reagan, and Bush senior. Senate Republicans blocked more than sixty of Clinton’s nominees; Senate Democrats have blocked only ten of Bush’s. (Those ten, by the way, got exactly what they deserved. Some of them—such as Carolyn Kuhl, who devoted years of her career to trying to preserve tax breaks for colleges that practice racial discrimination, and Brett Kavanaugh, a thirty-eight-year-old with no judicial or courtroom experience who co-wrote the Starr Report—rank among the worst judicial appointments ever attempted.)

    Even so, to the extent that Bush and Ashcroft have been thwarted it has been due largely to our still vigorous federal judiciary, especially the Supreme Court. Like some of the Court’s worst decisions of the past four years (Bush v. Gore again comes to mind), most of its best—salvaging affirmative action, upholding civil liberties for terrorist suspects, striking down Texas’s anti-sodomy law, banning executions of the mentally retarded—were reached by one- or two-vote majorities. (Roe v. Wade is two justices removed from reversal.) All but one of the sitting justices are senior citizens, ranging in age from sixty-five to eighty-four, and the gap since the last appointment—ten years—is the longest since 1821. Bush has said more than once that Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are his favorite justices. In a second Bush term, the Court could be remade in their images.

    The record is similarly dismal in other areas of domestic policy. An executive order giving former Presidents the power to keep their papers indefinitely sealed is one example among many of a mania for secrecy that long antedates 9/11. The President’s hostility to science, exemplified by his decision to place crippling limits on federal support of stem-cell research and by a systematic willingness to distort or suppress scientific findings discomfiting to “the base,” is such that scores of eminent scientists who are normally indifferent to politics have called for his defeat. The Administration’s energy policies, especially its resistance to increasing fuel-efficiency requirements, are of a piece with its environmental irresponsibility. Even the highly touted No Child Left Behind education program, enacted with the support of the liberal lion Edward Kennedy, is being allowed to fail, on account of grossly inadequate funding. Some of the money that has been pumped into it has been leached from other education programs, dozens of which are slated for cuts next year.

    Ordinarily, such a record would be what lawyers call dispositive. But this election is anything but ordinary. Jobs, health care, education, and the rest may not count for much when weighed against the prospect of large-scale terrorist attack. The most important Presidential responsibility of the next four years, as of the past three, is the “war on terror”—more precisely, the struggle against a brand of Islamist fundamentalist totalitarianism that uses particularly ruthless forms of terrorism as its main weapon.

    Bush’s immediate reaction to the events of September 11, 2001, was an almost palpable bewilderment and anxiety. Within a few days, to the universal relief of his fellow-citizens, he seemed to find his focus. His decision to use American military power to topple the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, who had turned their country into the principal base of operations for the perpetrators of the attacks, earned the near-unanimous support of the American people and of America’s allies. Troops from Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Norway, and Spain are serving alongside Americans in Afghanistan to this day.

    The determination of ordinary Afghans to vote in last month’s Presidential election, for which the votes are still being counted, is clearly a positive sign. Yet the job in Afghanistan has been left undone, despite fervent promises at the outset that the chaos that was allowed to develop after the defeat of the Soviet occupation in the nineteen-eighties would not be repeated. The Taliban has regrouped in eastern and southern regions. Bin Laden’s organization continues to enjoy sanctuary and support from Afghans as well as Pakistanis on both sides of their common border. Warlords control much of Afghanistan outside the capital of Kabul, which is the extent of the territorial writ of the decent but beleaguered President Hamid Karzai. Opium production has increased fortyfold.

    The White House’s real priorities were elsewhere from the start. According to the former counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke, in a Situation Room crisis meeting on September 12, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld suggested launching retaliatory strikes against Iraq. When Clarke and others pointed out to him that Al Qaeda—the presumed culprit—was based in Afghanistan, not Iraq, Rumsfeld is said to have remarked that there were better targets in Iraq. The bottom line, as Bush’s former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has said, was that the Bush-Cheney team had been planning to carry out regime change in Baghdad well before September 11th—one way or another, come what may.

    At all three debates, President Bush defended the Iraq war by saying that without it Saddam Hussein would still be in power. This is probably true, and Saddam’s record of colossal cruelty--of murder, oppression, and regional aggression--was such that even those who doubted the war’s wisdom acknowledged his fall as an occasion for satisfaction. But the removal of Saddam has not been the war’s only consequence; and, as we now know, his power, however fearsome to the millions directly under its sway, was far less of a threat to the United States and the rest of the world than it pretended—and, more important, was made out—to be.

    As a variety of memoirs and journalistic accounts have made plain, Bush seldom entertains contrary opinion. He boasts that he listens to no outside advisers, and inside advisers who dare to express unwelcome views are met with anger or disdain. He lives and works within a self-created bubble of faith-based affirmation. Nowhere has his solipsism been more damaging than in the case of Iraq. The arguments and warnings of analysts in the State Department, in the Central Intelligence Agency, in the uniformed military services, and in the chanceries of sympathetic foreign governments had no more effect than the chants of millions of marchers.

    The decision to invade and occupy Iraq was made on the basis of four assumptions: first, that Saddam’s regime was on the verge of acquiring nuclear explosives and had already amassed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; second, that the regime had meaningful links with Al Qaeda and (as was repeatedly suggested by the Vice-President and others) might have had something to do with 9/11; third, that within Iraq the regime’s fall would be followed by prolonged celebration and rapid and peaceful democratization; and, fourth, that a similar democratic transformation would be precipitated elsewhere in the region, accompanied by a new eagerness among Arab governments and publics to make peace between Israel and a presumptive Palestinian state. The first two of these assumptions have been shown to be entirely baseless. As for the second two, if the wishes behind them do someday come true, it may not be clear that the invasion of Iraq was a help rather than a hindrance.

    In Bush’s rhetoric, the Iraq war began on March 20, 2003, with precision bombings of government buildings in Baghdad, and ended exactly three weeks later, with the iconic statue pulldown. That military operation was indeed a success. But the cakewalk led over a cliff, to a succession of heedless and disastrous mistakes that leave one wondering, at the very least, how the Pentagon’s civilian leadership remains intact and the President’s sense of infallibility undisturbed. The failure, against the advice of such leaders as General Eric Shinseki, then the Army chief of staff, to deploy an adequate protective force led to unchallenged looting of government buildings, hospitals, museums, and—most inexcusable of all—arms depots. (“Stuff happens,” Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld explained, though no stuff happened to the oil ministry.) The Pentagon all but ignored the State Department’s postwar plans, compiled by its Future of Iraq project, which warned not only of looting but also of the potential for insurgencies and the folly of relying on exiles such as Ahmad Chalabi; the project’s head, Thomas Warrick, was sidelined. The White House counsel’s disparagement of the Geneva Conventions and of prohibitions on torture as “quaint” opened the way to systematic and spectacular abuses at Abu Ghraib and other American-run prisons--a moral and political catastrophe for which, in a pattern characteristic of the Administration’s management style, no one in a policymaking position has been held accountable. And, no matter how Bush may cleave to his arguments about a grand coalition (“What’s he say to Tony Blair?” “He forgot Poland!”), the coalition he assembled was anything but grand, and it has been steadily melting away in Iraq’s cauldron of violence.

    By the end of the current fiscal year, the financial cost of this war will be two hundred billion dollars (the figure projected by Lawrence Lindsey, who headed the President’s Council of Economic Advisers until, like numerous other bearers of unpalatable news, he was cashiered) and rising. And there are other, more serious costs that were unforeseen by the dominant factions in the Administration (although there were plenty of people who did foresee them). The United States has become mired in a low-intensity guerrilla war that has taken more lives since the mission was declared to be accomplished than before. American military deaths have mounted to more than a thousand, a number that underplays the real level of suffering: among the eight thousand wounded are many who have been left seriously maimed. The toll of Iraqi dead and wounded is of an order of magnitude greater than the American. Al Qaeda, previously an insignificant presence in Iraq, is an important one now. Before this war, we had persuaded ourselves and the world that our military might was effectively infinite. Now it is overstretched, a reality obvious to all. And, if the exposure of American weakness encourages our enemies, surely the blame lies with those who created the reality, not with those who, like Senator Kerry, acknowledge it as a necessary step toward changing it.

    When the Administration’s geopolitical, national-interest, and anti-terrorism justifications for the Iraq war collapsed, it groped for an argument from altruism: postwar chaos, violence, unemployment, and brownouts notwithstanding, the war has purchased freedoms for the people of Iraq which they could not have had without Saddam’s fall. That is true. But a sad and ironic consequence of this war is that its fumbling prosecution has undermined its only even arguably meritorious rationale—and, as a further consequence, the salience of idealism in American foreign policy has been likewise undermined. Foreign-policy idealism has taken many forms—Wilson’s aborted world federalism, Carter’s human-rights jawboning, and Reagan’s flirtation with total nuclear disarmament, among others. The failed armed intervention in Somalia and the successful ones in the Balkans are other examples. The neoconservative version ascendant in the Bush Administration, post-9/11, draws partly on these strains. There is surely idealistic purpose in envisioning a Middle East finally relieved of its autocracies and dictatorships. Yet this Administration’s adventure in Iraq is so gravely flawed and its credibility so badly damaged that in the future, faced with yet another moral dilemma abroad, it can be expected to retreat, a victim of its own Iraq Syndrome.

    The damage visited upon America, and upon America’s standing in the world, by the Bush Administration’s reckless mishandling of the public trust will not easily be undone. And for many voters the desire to see the damage arrested is reason enough to vote for John Kerry. But the challenger has more to offer than the fact that he is not George W. Bush. In every crucial area of concern to Americans (the economy, health care, the environment, Social Security, the judiciary, national security, foreign policy, the war in Iraq, the fight against terrorism), Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush’s curious blend of smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery. Pollsters like to ask voters which candidate they’d most like to have a beer with, and on that metric Bush always wins. We prefer to ask which candidate is better suited to the governance of our nation.

    Throughout his long career in public service, John Kerry has demonstrated steadiness and sturdiness of character. The physical courage he showed in combat in Vietnam was matched by moral courage when he raised his voice against the war, a choice that has carried political costs from his first run for Congress, lost in 1972 to a campaign of character assassination from a local newspaper that could not forgive his antiwar stand, right through this year’s Swift Boat ads. As a senator, Kerry helped expose the mischief of the Bank of Commerce and Credit International, a money-laundering operation that favored terrorists and criminal cartels; when his investigation forced him to confront corruption among fellow-Democrats, he rejected the cronyism of colleagues and brought down power brokers of his own party with the same dedication that he showed in going after Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal. His leadership, with John McCain, of the bipartisan effort to put to rest the toxic debate over Vietnam-era P.O.W.s and M.I.A.s and to lay the diplomatic groundwork for Washington’s normalization of relations with Hanoi, in the mid-nineties, was the signal accomplishment of his twenty years on Capitol Hill, and it is emblematic of his fairness of mind and independence of spirit. Kerry has made mistakes (most notably, in hindsight at least, his initial opposition to the Gulf War in 1990), but—in contrast to the President, who touts his imperviousness to changing realities as a virtue—he has learned from them.

    Kerry’s performance on the stump has been uneven, and his public groping for a firm explanation of his position on Iraq was discouraging to behold. He can be cautious to a fault, overeager to acknowledge every angle of an issue; and his reluctance to expose the Administration’s appalling record bluntly and relentlessly until very late in the race was a missed opportunity. But when his foes sought to destroy him rather than to debate him they found no scandals and no evidence of bad faith in his past. In the face of infuriating and scurrilous calumnies, he kept the sort of cool that the thin-skinned and painfully insecure incumbent cannot even feign during the unprogrammed give-and-take of an electoral debate. Kerry’s mettle has been tested under fire—the fire of real bullets and the political fire that will surely not abate but, rather, intensify if he is elected—and he has shown himself to be tough, resilient, and possessed of a properly Presidential dose of dignified authority. While Bush has pandered relentlessly to the narrowest urges of his base, Kerry has sought to appeal broadly to the American center. In a time of primitive partisanship, he has exhibited a fundamentally undogmatic temperament. In campaigning for America’s mainstream restoration, Kerry has insisted that this election ought to be decided on the urgent issues of our moment, the issues that will define American life for the coming half century. That insistence is a measure of his character. He is plainly the better choice. As observers, reporters, and commentators we will hold him to the highest standards of honesty and performance. For now, as citizens, we hope for his victory.

  7. #52
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    New Florida vote scandal feared

    By Greg Palast
    Reporting for BBC's Newsnight


    A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals.

    Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list".
    It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

    An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day."

    Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot.

    Mass challenges

    They may then only vote "provisionally" after signing an affidavit attesting to their legal voting status.

    Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter "in the 16 years I've been supervisor of elections."

    "Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting."

    Sancho calls it "intimidation." And it may be illegal.


    In Washington, well-known civil rights attorney, Ralph Neas, noted that US federal law prohibits targeting challenges to voters, even if there is a basis for the challenge, if race is a factor in targeting the voters.
    The list of Jacksonville voters covers an area with a majority of black residents.

    When asked by Newsnight for an explanation of the list, Republican spokespersons claim the list merely records returned mail from either fundraising solicitations or returned letters sent to newly registered voters to verify their addresses for purposes of mailing campaign literature.

    Republican state campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker Fletcher stated the list was not put together "in order to create" a challenge list, but refused to say it would not be used in that manner.

    Rather, she did acknowledge that the party's poll workers will be instructed to challenge voters, "Where it's stated in the law."

    There was no explanation as to why such clerical matters would be sent to top officials of the Bush campaign in Florida and Washington.

    Private detective


    In Jacksonville, to determine if Republicans were using the lists or other means of intimidating voters, we filmed a private detective filming every "early voter" - the majority of whom are black - from behind a vehicle with blacked-out windows.
    The private detective claimed not to know who was paying for his all-day services.

    On the scene, Democratic Congresswoman Corinne Brown said the surveillance operation was part of a campaign of intimidation tactics used by the Republican Party to intimate and scare off African American voters, almost all of whom are registered Democrats.

    Greg Palast's film will be broadcast by Newsnight on Tuesday, 26 October, 2004.

    Newsnight is broadcast on BBC Two at 2230 BST every weeknight in the UK.


    Story from BBC NEWS:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...ht/3956129.stm

    Published: 2004/10/26 17:06:30 GMT

    © BBC MMIV

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    If this is confirmed, get the news out. This should be shown to as many people as possible.

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    Email the article or the link:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programme...ht/3956129.stm

    To as many people as you can and ask them to keep forwarding it. Eeryone should be encouraged to bring multiple forms of identification and proof of address to the polls on election day.

  10. #55

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    After reading the lengthy New Yorker article, I thought about the death of Ronald Reagan. In a discussion with friends at the time, although we disagreed with most of his policies, we acknowledged that his getting so many missles pointed away from us was a singular achievement of his presidency that overshadowed everything else.

    Looking back at four years of G W Bush, I can't think of one thing he has done that was a positive. The worst president in my lifetime.

  11. #56
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    Easily. Can you believe this election is as close as it is?

    The president took us on a pre-emptive war based on false pretenses. Whether that was an honest error or not, it is a colossal enough mistake to deny a second term.

    If Al Gore was president, and 9/11 happened on his watch, and he had brought us to war with a country that had nothing to do with it based on WMD that weren't there, then had no peace plan resulting in thousands of casualties and a new haven for terrorists, not to mention he never caught the guy who destroyed the WTC, and all while the deficit spirals out of control on top of a net loss of jobs.....what do you think the Republicans would have done? Or even the Democrats for that matter!

    Next! You blew it Bush. We can't afford four more years of that kind of judgement and incompitence. You're absolutely right Zippy, there's not one thing I can think of that he's done right. Then again, I'm not a CEO of an oil company. I'm sure they love him.

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    Local 10 Uncovers Big Ballot Mystery
    Elections Office Says Situation Is 'Odd'

    POSTED: 4:10 pm EDT October 26, 2004
    UPDATED: 6:14 pm EDT October 26, 2004


    BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. -- Local 10 has received many phone calls from viewers in Broward County who say they have not received the absentee ballots –- and the news from the elections office doesn't sound good.

    Local 10 has learned that many as many as 58,000 ballots that were supposed to mailed out on Oct. 7 and 8 could be missing.

    The Broward County Supervisor of Elections office is saying only that the situation is "unusual," and they are looking into it.

    Gisela Salas, Broward Deputy Elections Supervisor, said, "I hate to say 'missing' at this time because that has not yet be substantiated. Some ballots are starting to arrive. But there is an extraordinary delay."

    An elections office representative told Local 10 that the office has investigated with the U.S. Post Office what might have happened to the ballots, but so far, no one has been able to figure it out.

    "It is unusual. It's a puzzle on the part of our office and the postal service," Salas said. "Our office did make the delivery and the post office assures us they were processed. What happened is in question."

    The postal service told Local 10 late Tuesday that they don't have 58,000 ballots floating around. They did say that they have several employees assigned to deal only with ballots and they are being delivered in one to two days -- once they get them.

    How Will You Vote?

    As far as the voters go that haven't received their ballots, the elections office is now suggesting that they take the opportunity to vote early.

    Since many who request absentee ballots cannot physically vote in their county, there are likely to be some angry voters.

    If you are able to and would like to vote early in Broward County, click here to find a voting location.

    Watch Local 10 News for more coverage of this missing ballot controversy.

    Copyright 2004 by Local10.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    The GOP's Shameful Vote Strategy
    By Harold Meyerson
    The Washington Post

    Wednesday 27 October 2004


    With Election Day almost upon us, it's not clear whether President Bush is running a campaign or plotting a coup d'etat. By all accounts, Republicans are spending these last precious days devoting nearly as much energy to suppressing the Democratic vote as they are to mobilizing their own.

    Time was when Republicans were at least embarrassed by their efforts to keep African Americans from the polls. Republican consultant Ed Rollins was all but drummed out of the profession after his efforts to pay black ministers to keep their congregants from voting in a 1993 New Jersey election came to light.

    For George W. Bush, Karl Rove and their legion of genteel thugs, however, universal suffrage is just one more musty liberal ideal that threatens conservative rule. Today's Republicans have elevated vote suppression from a dirty secret to a public norm.

    In Ohio, Republicans have recruited 3,600 poll monitors and assigned them disproportionately to such heavily black areas as inner-city Cleveland, where Democratic "527" groups have registered many tens of thousands of new voters. "The organized left's efforts to, quote unquote, register voters -- I call them ringers -- have created these problems" of potential massive vote fraud, Cuyahoga County Republican Chairman James P. Trakas recently told the New York Times.

    Let's pass over the implication that a registration drive waged by a liberal group is inherently fraud-ridden, and look instead at that word "ringers."

    Registration in Ohio is nonpartisan, but independent analysts estimate that roughly 400,000 new Democrats have been added to the rolls this year. Who does Trakas think they are? Have tens of thousands of African Americans been sneaking over the state lines from Pittsburgh and Detroit to vote in Cleveland -- thus putting their own battleground states more at risk of a Republican victory? Is Shaker Heights suddenly filled with Parisians affecting American argot? Or are the Republicans simply terrified that a record number of minority voters will go to the polls next Tuesday? Have they decided to do anything to stop them -- up to and including threatening to criminalize Voting While Black in a Battleground State?

    This is civic life in the age of George W. Bush, in which politics has become a continuation of civil war by other means. In Bush's America, there's a war on -- against a foreign enemy so evil that we can ignore the Geneva Conventions, against domestic liberals so insidious that we can ignore democratic norms. Only bleeding hearts with a pre-Sept. 11 mind-set still believe in voting rights.

    For Bush and Rove, the domestic war predates the war on terrorism. From the first day of his presidency, Bush opted to govern from the right, to fan the flames of cultural resentment, to divide the American house against itself in the hope that cultural conservatism would create a stable Republican majority. The Sept. 11 attacks unified us, but Bush exploited those attacks to relentlessly partisan ends. As his foreign and domestic policies abjectly failed, Bush's reliance on identity politics only grew stronger. He anointed himself the standard-bearer for provincials and portrayed Kerry and his backers as arrogant cosmopolitans.

    And so here we are, improbably enmeshed in a latter-day version of the election of 1928, when the Catholicism of Democratic presidential nominee Al Smith bitterly divided the nation along Protestant-Catholic and nativist-immigrant lines. To his credit, Smith's opponent (and eventual victor), Herbert Hoover, did not exploit this rift himself. Bush, by contrast, has not merely exploited the modernist-traditionalist tensions in America but helped create new ones and summoned old ones we could be forgiven for thinking were permanently interred. (Kerry will ban the Bible?)


    Indeed, it's hard to think of another president more deliberately divisive than the current one. I can come up with only one other president who sought so assiduously to undermine the basic arrangements of American policy (as Bush has undermined the New Deal at home and the systems of post-World War II alliances abroad) with so little concern for the effect this would have on the comity and viability of the nation. And Jefferson Davis wasn't really a president of the United States.

    After four years in the White House, George W. Bush's most significant contribution to American life is this pervasive bitterness, this division of the house into raging, feuding halves. We are two nations now, each with a culture that attacks the other. And politics, as the Republicans are openly playing it, need no longer concern itself with the most fundamental democratic norm: the universal right to vote.

    As the campaign ends, Bush is playing to the right and Kerry to the center.

    That foretells the course of the administrations that each would head. The essential difference between them is simply that, as a matter of strategy and temperament, Bush seeks to exploit our rifts and Kerry to narrow them. That, finally, is the choice before us next Tuesday: between one candidate who wants to pry this nation apart to his own advantage, and another who seeks to make it whole.

  14. #59

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    The Wild Card in White House Race - Who Will Vote?

    Wed Oct 27, 1:23 PM ET

    By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Despite a torrent of polling and millions of dollars spent on get-out-the-vote drives, the deadlocked battle for the White House will likely turn on the race's last great unknown -- who shows up to vote.

    The political fates of Republican President Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry rest in which unpredictable combination of new voters, young voters, minority voters, evangelical voters or even what one pollster calls "disinterested" voters turn up at the polls Tuesday.

    A surge of new voter registrations across the country, and the intensity of partisans on both sides, has raised questions about whether an unexpectedly large turnout could shatter historical voting patterns and make liars of the polls.

    The uncertain climate also has cast doubt on a variety of U.S. political truisms, including the likelihood that most undecided voters in a presidential race break late for the challenger.

    The result? High drama, deep anxiety and shaky nerves for both camps in a race that has been stuck in a virtual tie for most of the last eight months.

    "Nervousness is the only appropriate response to an election this close," said Republican pollster Whit Ayres. "No one knows who will win it. It may not be knowable until people get in those voting booths and start voting."

    The biggest wild card is the explosion in new voter registrations amid heightened interest in the White House race.

    Some polls show new voters are younger, more pessimistic about the country's future and leaning toward Kerry by double-digit margins. But young voters and newly registered voters traditionally vote at lower rates than the electorate as a whole.

    "No one knows if they are really going to turn out, or despite their best intentions decide to stay home," said independent pollster Thomas Riehle of Ipsos Public Affairs, whose survey found new voters constituted about 12 percent of the likely electorate.

    Democrats argue new and young voters are not represented adequately in polls because many rely primarily on cell phones rather than the land-line telephones used by polling firms to contact voters.

    Analysts predict a turnout among 18- to 24-year old voters rivaling or passing the 40 percent who voted in 1992. Less than 33 percent cast ballots in 2000.

    BLACK TURNOUT

    Another critical element in swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida is the turnout among blacks, who gave more than 90 percent of their vote to Democrat Al Gore in 2000 but have been slow to warm to Kerry.

    A survey by Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio found Bush and Kerry tied in 12 battleground states, but when the data was weighted to reflect minority turnout based on 2000 exit polls Kerry moved ahead by 3.5 percentage points. If minority turnout was weighted to census levels, Kerry's lead expanded to 5.2 percentage points.

    "If one assumes minority turnout exceeds their 2000 election levels, then it appears a number of these states would tip to Senator Kerry," Fabrizio said in a polling memo.

    Bush's biggest question mark is evangelical voters, more than 80 percent of whom backed him in 2000. But White House political adviser Karl Rove believes 4 million evangelicals sat out the election and organized a mammoth get-out-the-vote drive through churches, Christian radio and conservative religious leaders.

    Riehle labeled another key bloc "disinterested" voters -- those who say they will vote but are not interested in election news. That group -- lower income, less educated and mostly women -- usually leans Democratic and does not vote. But this year, they favor Bush, he said.

    "Blindly using historically based models for turnout, I'd say throw them out, they aren't voting," Riehle said. "But if they show up they could move the election three points in Bush's direction."

    Another historical pattern that could be out the window this year is the late shift of undecideds toward a challenger. Incumbents in recent presidential elections attracted about the same or less of the vote on Election Day than the final polls predicted.

    With Bush stuck in the high 40s in most polls, that would be good news for Kerry. But in a campaign waged under the threat of terrorism and in a nation at war, it could be just another example of a pre-9/11 mind set.

    "The undecideds look a little more Democratic and more critical of Bush, but they also have a much stronger view of Bush on terrorism and in terms of leadership. Which of those things prevail?" asked Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.

    Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited.

  15. #60

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    October 28, 2004
    OP-ED COLUMNIST

    A Hole in the Heart

    By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

    When you read polls showing a significant number of Americans feel our country is on the wrong track, what do you think is bothering people? I think it's a deep worry that there is a hole in the heart of the world - the moderate center seems to be getting torn asunder. That has many people worried. And they are right to be worried.

    American politics is so polarized today that there is no center, only sides. Israeli politics has become divided nearly to the point of civil war. In the Arab-Muslim world, where the moderate center was always a fragile flower, the political moderates are on the defensive everywhere, and moderate Muslim spiritual leaders seem almost nonexistent.

    Europe, for its part, has gone so crazy over the Bush administration that the normally thoughtful Guardian newspaper completely lost its mind last week and published a column that openly hoped for the assassination of President Bush, saying: "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. - where are you now that we need you?" (The writer apologized later.) Meanwhile, French and German leaders seem to be competing over who can say more categorically that they will never send troops to help out in Iraq - even though the help needed now is to organize the first U.N.-supervised democratic election in that country.

    How do we begin to repair this jagged hole? There is no cure-all, but three big things would help. One is a different U.S. approach to the world. The Bush-Cheney team bears a big responsibility for this hole because it nakedly exploited 9/11 to push a far-right Republican agenda, domestically and globally, for which it had no mandate. When U.S. policy makes such a profound lurch to the right, when we start exporting fear instead of hope, the whole center of gravity of the world is affected. Countries reposition themselves in relation to us.

    Had the administration been more competent in pursuing its policies in Iraq - which can still turn out decently - the hole in the heart of the world might not have gotten so large and jagged.

    I have been struck by how many foreign dignitaries have begged me lately for news that Bush will lose. This Bush team has made itself so radioactive it glows in the dark. When the world liked Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, America had more power in the world. When much of the world detests George Bush, America has less power. People do not want to be seen standing next to us. It doesn't mean we should run our foreign policy as a popularity contest, but it does mean that leading is not just about making decisions - it's also the ability to communicate, follow through and persuade.

    If the Bush team wins re-election, unless it undergoes a policy lobotomy and changes course and tone, the breach between America and the rest of the world will only get larger. But all Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney have told us during this campaign is that they have made no mistakes and see no reason to change.

    The second thing that is necessary to heal the hole in the world is a decent Iraqi election. If such an election can be brought off, the Europeans, the Arabs and the American left will have to rethink their positions. I know what I am for in Iraq: a real election and a decent government. The Europeans, the Arabs and the American left know what they are against in Iraq: George Bush and his policies. But if there is an elected Iraqi government, it could be the magnet to begin pulling the moderate center of the world back together, because a duly elected Iraqi government is something everyone should want to help.

    The real question is, What if we get a new Iraqi government but the same old Bush team incompetence? That would be a problem. Even an elected Iraqi government will see its legitimacy wane if we cannot help it provide basic security and jobs.

    Last, we need to hope that Ariel Sharon's hugely important effort to withdraw Israel from Gaza will pave the way for a resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians. When there is no peace in the Holy Land, and when America has no diplomacy going on there, the world is always more polarized.

    I am no Sharon fan, but I am impressed. Mr. Sharon's willingness to look his own ideology and his own political base in the eye, conclude that pandering to both of them is no longer in his country's national interest, and then risk his life and political career to change course is an example of leadership you just don't see much of any more in democracies.

    I wonder what Karl Rove thinks of it?


    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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