The Four Corners

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Dean has gone too far HoHo, the scrappy ex-Governor of Vermont, has decided to latch onto the "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" even if he has no record to truly support it.

The DLC made some cheap shots at Dean by linking him to activist elitists and losers like Mondale and McGovern. Dean's supporters, including VT's U.S. Senators, in turned launched an avalanche of attack against the DLC, which helped keep both their names afloat in the news tide.

But even if you think the DLC is too conservative and ruining the Democratic party, or too liberal, or just right, anyone should take offense at HoDean's latest quote:

"A couple days ago, I was in Iowa," Dean said, "The DLC put out a statement that all my supporters are elitists and I'm catering to elitist special interest groups. Last time I looked, 15 AFSCME [a union of state and federal employees] died at the World Trade Center, I didn't see any of the staff of the DLC at the World Trade Center."

Excuse me?? Does that mean he hoped more people would die in 9/11, especially DLCers? Or that if you died on 9/11 you weren't an elitist or a member of a special interest group? Or maybe that since the staff didn't suffer they have no room to criticize? That sounds Bushian if I have ever heard it. Some one needs to slap some sense into the former governor. Please don't cheapen the loss of life that day just to score some points with a union crowd in Iowa.

Want to hear what the DLC actually said that prompted the latest obscene statement by Dean?

"Democratic pollster Celinda Lake hooked up 30 union members to dial meters to measure the intensity of their favorable reaction to the seven candidates who appeared. (Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry were present only by video, and were not "dialed.")

"The results speak for themselves, and show why we've never been big fans of focus groups, which encourage politicians to tell audiences exactly what they want to hear: According to the Des Moines Registar Kucinich was first with a score of 78 on a scale of 1 to 100. Sharpton was second with 76. Gephardt was third with 75. Dean was fourth with 73. Edwards was fifth with 69. Graham and Mosley-Braun trailed with 66 each.

"Call it a psychic flash, but we somehow doubt this will be the order of finish at the Democratic Convention in Boston in July of 2004." Ouch! Wait, it gets better:

"... Every time Gov. Dean suggests that unlike his opponents, he represents the 'Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,' he's being divisive. Every time he denounces his opponents as 'Bush Lite' and suggests that only a Republican would support education reform or stand up for America's interests in the world, he's being divisive. And ironically, he's doing this in a transparent effort to appeal to the same fringe activists who used to do the same holier-than-thou number on him in Vermont.

"We hope other candidates will have the courage to tell the American people what they need to hear, not simply promise activists what they want to hear. We don't need a focus group to know they call it the beaten path for a reason."

Word to Dean: attacking the DLC is not going to keep you on the radar screen indefinitely. Most people have never heard of the place, nor do they care. If you want to win the nomination and the presidency Dr. Dean, run on your record, run as your record. Back in Vermont, Dean wasn't considered liberal (although the state did have a socialist member of congress).

Please, if you "want the Democratic Party back" then you are going to have to have it back in the White House. And that takes a straight talking moderate with a consistent, honest message. And that, I'm afraid, isn't you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

And another one bites the dust Dear readers, as I am the only blogger who posts regularly 5 days a week, I thought I would comment on today's news du jour: EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman's resignation.

Now it is true that the former governor of New Jersey, like Ari yesterday, left now in part because if don't leave this summer, you are signed on for another four years with Bush (assuming he is re-elected) and can't A) work on the campaign and make lots of money that way (like Mr. Fliescher might do) or B) work in the private sector where you make even more money that way.

But Whitman presents a unique case: a moderate Republican in a conservative Republican administration. And the results weren't pretty. Not only was she ignored-- I think Democrat and Bush II Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has much more power-- she was embarrassingly contradicted by the White House on a semi-routine basis.

For example, she tried to privately suggest that the White House not make a big noise about dropping the Kyoto global warming treaty before at least offering a reasonable alternative. Pretty good advice, actually. Instead, they dissed Kyoto and said they would some day come up with an alternative. Well, we are still waiting, Mr. President.

Meanwhile, the rest of the "first world" -- i.e. all the G8 countries save the U.S.-- scrambled to renegotiate the agreement that was a pet favorite of Al Gore's [still no difference, Naderites?] and ultimately succeeded. However, one could argue that the whole is pretty pointless without U.S. cooperation and leadership, since it is one of the worst polluting countries out there among "developed nations."

Meanwhile, Whitman had a more recent embarrassment with the press, but it was a touch more personal. In late April, the Washington Post reported that:

"Environmental Protection Agency criminal agents are being diverted from their normal investigative work to provide security and drivers for agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman -- and getting long lists of do's and don'ts to keep her happy."

What made her list, you ask? "Agents who chauffeur the EPA administrator [must] rent only a Lincoln Town Car, tune the radio to smooth jazz or classical music and set the volume low, and keep an eye out for a Starbucks coffee shop or Barnes & Noble bookstore ... [Whitman] prefers to be addressed as 'Governor,' rather than 'Ma'am' or 'Administrator.'"

"A second manager said an agent was told by the head of Whitman's personal security team to hold a reserved restaurant table until Whitman arrived for dinner. The agent is paid $100,000 a year to investigate environmental crimes, the manager said."

Sadly, the New Jersey Republican Party has hopes that Whitman will revive the GOP after its two disastrous statewide losses in the Senate race of 2002 and Governor's race of 2001.

"When she left state government," New York Newsday reports, "Republicans had dominated, controlling both the Senate and Assembly for almost a decade. Today, Democrats hold the majority in the Assembly and the Senate is evenly split between the two parties. This year all 120 seats in the Legislature are up and Democrats contend they can win both houses.

"Last month, the GOP state party told state regulators that its bank accounts hold slightly more than $92,000, compared to the $3.19 million in cash that the Democratic State Committee has reported.

Democrats boast they will raise up to $10 million for the elections, with McGreevey the top draw for fund raisers." Ouch...As bad as ex-Sen. Torricelli and new Gov. McGreevey are, I have to say, dream on guys.

Maybe some day Bush will see moderate Republicans as key to reclaiming the centrist policies he campaigned on in 2000, and not as vile, contemptuous potential traitors ala Senators Jeffords, Chaffee, Snowe, and Voinovich. But I am not holding my breath. In fact, as a partisan person who wants him out, I hope he doesn't.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Ari you going to at least say goodbye? Today's post is a salute to liars and the web of tails they weave, especially White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who is leaving his job (like yours truly) at the end of July.

Do they have a replacement yet? I guess Ari starting straying towards telling the truth, a big Washington faux pas.

In answering reporters questions on Ari first saying that the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln was too far ashore to use a helicopter ("hundreds of miles") when in fact it was only 30 miles away and the ship had to turn around so that TV viewers wouldn't see San Diego in the background, he said:

No, the original planning was exactly as I said and when I-- when I announced it, that was exactly how the plan had been anticipated. And then, the President wanted to land, exactly as I told you on the flight out there, which was the day of the trip when we knew the exact-- or when we knew how close the carrier was. The President wanted to land on it, on an aircraft that would allow him to see an aircraft landing the same way that the pilots saw an aircraft landing. He wanted to see it as realistically as possible. And that's why, once the initial decision was made to fly out on the Viking, even when a helicopter option became doable, the President decided instead he wanted to still take the Viking. But, no, that was all part of the original planning.

Woah! The President said, in effect, "I want to fly since I have flown since I went AWOL in Louisiana!"? Not good to make your boss look bad and tell the truth. Slate's Timothy Noah, for one, laments the days of yore when Ari would explain away Sen. Jeffords' (then R-VT) subbing of a WH invite to see the teacher of the year-- who happened to be from VT-- by saying the following:

"It's not always practical, possible, or desirable to invite members of Congress; they don't always want to be able to leave the Hill to come down to the myriad of events at the White House where citizens are honored. And that's the case in this event as well. ... And there are no slights when events like that happen. Members of Congress don't expect to spend all their time down at the White House."

While we are talking about disingenuous arguments, how about this one, "questioning Defense Department spending is unpatriotic!"

That's about the level of attack DoD bureaucrats go to when some one noticed that they can't account for one trillion dollars! That's right, we aren't talking Pesos or Lira, but good ol' greenbacks (until we start give them hues). A trillion pennies or so take up 200ft cubed worth of space.

For some reason, only the unabashedly liberal newspaper the San Francisco Chronicle reported " A GAO [the non-partisan General Accounting Office] report found Defense inventory systems so lax that the U.S. Army lost track of 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units."

As the article points out, Wal-Mart can tell you how many toothbrushes are in its stores in Northern Virginia, but the military had no idea that one part was selling chemical suits for pennies on the dollar while other parts were buying them up by the truckloads to defend the troops going to Iraq.

DoD's response to such critique? By requesting a dramatic decrease in oversight by Congress, which rarely does anything but rubber-stamp such spending bills.

The defenders of the request include none other than Speaker Hastert, whose spokesman, John Feehery, claims that critics "were arguing for more paperwork." Feehery said his boss would support the Bush reforms on the House floor. "The purpose is to streamline the Pentagon to become a less bureaucratic and more efficient organization . . . while also making it more accountable," Feehery said. More accountable by reducing accountability, now that I got to see.

Now I understand why ex-Enron manager White was fired by Rumsfeld, he was bring Enron accounting to the DoD. Wait that's not fair to Enron or WorldCom-- they knew exactly where their money was going-- in their pockets.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Al Qaeda hits home For those of you who were in a cave for the past week [first of all welcome back], the still-Osama Bin Laden led group has launched attacks in two Middle Eastern countries (and no, one of them wasn't Israel-- although lots of those happened too thanks to affiliate member Hamas).

First came the bombings in Riyadh last week, seemingly timed to Secretary Powell's visit, in which 25 people died due to several simultaneous suicide bombing attacks on a gated community for wealthy executive families. Seventy percent of the inhabitants were Saudis.

But for some reason, this event was a shock to the Saudis, who has been both in denial and coddling Wahabbism which is the breeding ground for such psycho branches of an otherwise peaceful religion (sorry Rev. Graham). The New York Times reports:

"This time it was different: it was an attack against your own people," said Khaled M. Batarfi, the managing editor of Al Madina, a daily newspaper. "It's huge; it's organized. It's like what happened on Sept. 11 in America but on a smaller scale — these things happen to others."

"We're moving," said Fahd al-Blehed, 27, Muhammad's [son of the deputy Governor, who also was killed in the attack] brother and his neighbor in the compound. "Those people can do anything."

That is about the most obvious understatement of the year, right up there with Howard Dean's "I suppose it's a good thing" that Saddam was removed from power. Go tell that to the thousands of Iraqis combing through the dozens of recently uncovered mass graves of horrors, with skeletons of infants next to their mothers.

"The creeping recognition," the Times continues, "that it is something homegrown has made Saudis more jittery, not least because the Web sites beloved of the radical fringe are predicting more to come.

"The thinking is: 'If I go to school tomorrow, will anything happen to me? If I drive by this compound will it explode? If I go someplace with a Western friend, will I be attacked?' " Mr. Batarfi said.

Then on Saturday, another complex, highly organized attack in Casablanca, this time killing 42 people (including suicide bombers). Again, the Times reports:

"Instead of detonating his explosives at a small, tiled public fountain near the entrance to the sprawling Jewish cemetery in one of the oldest quarters of the city, which many here consider the likely target, he set them off at a small, tiled public fountain blocks away.
"As a result, in addition to killing himself, he also took the lives of three young Muslim men from the neighborhood who just happened to be there on a Friday night. The cemetery itself remained intact." Oops.

Luckily, a handful of their co-conspirators were dumb enough to not be able to blow up their bombs and as a result, a few are in custody and might help track down some more Al Qaeda members. Now the French too, are scared, and raised their terror threat level. Seems coddling by a poodle doesn't work either.

Also, it looks like getting Osama is important after all, even though Bush still won't say his name.