Sunday, October 29, 2006
On the brink of what could be a power-shifting election, it is kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing everything. While negative campaigning is a tradition in American politics, this year's version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled with allegations of moral bankruptcy and sexual perversion.
At the same time, the growth of 'independent expenditures' by national parties and other groups has allowed candidates to distance themselves from distasteful attacks on their opponents, while blogs and YouTube have provided free distribution networks for eye-catching hatchet jobs.
'When the news is bad, the ads tend to be negative,' said Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford professor who studies political advertising. 'And the more negative the ad, the more likely it is to get free media coverage. So there's a big incentive to go to the extremes.'
But this is no bipartisan effort. All of the examples of dirty politics the article cites are Republican attacks on Democrats. As the Post reports,
The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially on the GOP side, where operatives are trying to counter what polls show is a hostile political environment by casting opponents as fatally flawed characters. The National Republican Campaign Committee is spending more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on negative ads, according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the party seems to be following suit.
And some of the examples are pretty ugly. Check out the article to see.
Now, let's think back to the days of the 2000 campaign. A presidential candidate vowed that he would change the tone in Washington. That man was George W. Bush. He obviously didn't mean it. As the titular head of the GOP, Bush could say something about the current Republican assault. But he doesn't seem to care if his party veers further into the gutter. No doubt, it will get worse in the days ahead.
Aging McGovern still campaigns for peace
By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer
Back in the stacks — bracketed by shelves filled with copies of "Where The Wild Things Are" and "My Friend Rabbit" and beneath an oversized cutout of Babar, the elephant king — the elder statesman has again found an audience.
Or maybe it's the audience that has again found him.
The air outside the book emporium tonight is cut by the first October chill. Inside, George McGovern must compete with the din unleashed by a gaggle of preschoolers ignoring the grandfatherly figure for the store's wooden train set. But as customers fill the metal folding chairs set before a microphone, the man one longtime friend calls "Should've-been-President McGovern" sticks with his quietly fervent sermon, drawing knowing laughter and grim nods of approval.
And now, a generation after he was ridiculed and rejected for a similarly resolute call to abandon another unpopular war, McGovern is one unshakable stride ahead of naysayers — certain that time and a nation's reflection have proven he was right before.
"We were told that even though it had been a mistake to go to war in this little tiny jungle strip 10,000 miles away, it would be a mistake to leave," the long-ago senator and Democratic presidential nominee tells all who will listen. His voice, more professorial than pastoral, quavers slightly as he recalls the morality trap set by Vietnam. "Now I see the same thing happening in Iraq."
It is a most unlikely setting to deliver a message about the evils of war. And at 84, nearly half a lifetime after his Quixotic quest to replace Richard Nixon in the White House was buried under what one documentary labels "the mother of all presidential landslides," McGovern might seem an unlikely man to still be delivering it.
At least that might be the conclusion of someone who doesn't know McGovern, friends and observers say. In fact, he has never been a man to slink away or to fester. It's just that, for much of the time he's been speaking his mind, not enough people have been listening, they say.
Now, as a new generation of politicians wrestle with the painful choices forced by the war in Iraq, McGovern is again interjecting his view, projecting himself as one who knows better.
But the politician who years ago railed against "old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in," is an old man himself now. And, he is arguably a left-wing relic. Does a society that uses the word "liberal" as an insult and reveres youth above all, have any place for such an elder statesman?
McGovern — who can appreciate better than most the hazards of being defined by others — isn't waiting for someone else to answer.
The McGovernites have come home.
Many were just kids during that 1972 campaign. But they're still here for the prairie orator, scattered through the crowd of a few thousand who have flocked to the main quad at Dakota Wesleyan University in McGovern's hometown of Mitchell, to pay tribute under an azure sky.
They include a pair of middle-aged women sporting matching "I Voted for George" T-shirts. And people like Mark Evans, long ago the chairman of Buffalo State Students for McGovern, who has flown out from upstate Avon, N.Y., to see his icon and peddle buttons touting "McGovern for President 2008."
"I just think he's been vindicated by time," says Evans, a 54-year-old retired librarian.
"We were all there and we still are," a formerly obscure Texas campaign worker, one William Jefferson Clinton, tells the crowd gathered on the newly seeded lawn bordering McGovern Avenue. "I believe no other presidential candidate ever had such an enduring impact in defeat. Senator, the fires you lit still burn."
McGovern smiles broadly, shaking every hand offered, autographing innumerable copies of his many books and posing for picture after picture. These are his people.
But they were not enough then and they are not enough now. McGovern still yearns to reach the many others — the ones who voted against him, their sons and daughters, the ones he is often blamed for driving from the Democratic Party fold. Now, though, it's a campaign of one.
The Monday morning after dedicating the library Dakota Wesleyan has built in his and wife Eleanor's name, the crowd's adoration is a memory.
McGovern pulls the door of his modest gray-brown ranch house behind him and crosses the street alone. He fishes for his office key in his suit jacket pocket and lets himself in. When the dentist's office calls to confirm an appointment, he's the one who answers. Asked to parse the past, there are no aides or handlers to deflect the question, just a thoughtful man alone with rumination.
"Don't believe McGovern or you'll lose 49 states," he says, summing up the prevailing thinking of his party for the past three decades. "The Democrats have been running away from it ever since. But even Jesus Christ had some of his disciples run away from him."
Much about the past still troubles McGovern.
Each time he walks past the polished black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., he finds a place to weep among nearby trees, he says, in part because he failed to persuade the nation to leave the war sooner. It irritates him that he was marginalized, and still is, by those who misunderstood or mischaracterized his views.
Even now, McGovern's name is invoked — as it has been in a closely watched Senate battle in Connecticut — as a symbol of Democratic extremism.
But McGovern, admired as a gentle soul in a profession that often seems to find civility irrelevant, has never been an angry man, and he is far from bitter now.
"I've been assailed for as long as I've been in politics," he says. "But you have to find a way to steel yourself."
His solution has been to craft a different kind of political life, finding common ground with unlikely allies. In the 1980s, he met for quiet talks with Nixon, attended his funeral. He tours college campuses with former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who led the Republican National Committee during the 1972 campaign, and counts him as one of his closest friends. Recently, he invited a one-time foe, Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, to join a council of elders he is forming.
"I just don't want to see these older heads consigned to the scrap heap," he says. Not least, his own.
He is on the road a few days every week, delivering talks. Just finished with one book — he plans to learn how to use a computer soon, but for now does all his writing on a yellow legal pad — he has already signed up to write another.
"Now I don't have to worry about pacing myself," he says. He straightens his body from the sofa it has been draped across, undoing the top button of his shirt and pulling back the collar to display the bulge of a pacemaker implanted in his chest. "Because that does it for me."
As he takes on the war in Iraq, he is certain plenty of others agree with him — even if they don't acknowledge it. For McGovern, used to being considered on the fringe, the notion that those who agree with him might not want to do so openly, is hardly troubling. What bothers him, he says, is that they seem reluctant to speak for themselves.
"For people who have never been near a battlefield ... to accuse critics of being soft on national security and soft on Communism and soft on terrorism, I think is preposterous," he says, recalling a favorite speech by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warning the nation of letting militarism go unchecked.
"Now a five-star general can say that without being accused of being soft...but I suppose a liberal Democrat — which I am — is not allowed to say that."
It's clear that McGovern didn't believe that 34 years ago, clearer still he can't abide it now.
Joe and Frances McGovern taught their children many things. But politics was never one of them.
Their son, George, was born in tiny Avon, S.D., population 600, in a home defined by prayer. Joe was a Methodist minister who built the churches where he preached. He and his much younger wife, stern, thrifty and conservative folk, raised their children to follow suit. It wasn't until George was 12 or 13 that he learned his father had once played baseball for a St. Louis Cardinals farm team — an experience recounted as a parable for vices and temptations to be avoided.
The McGoverns moved to Mitchell when he was 5 and he later attended Dakota Wesleyan, the Methodist school not far from home. He met and married Eleanor — they are still together 63 years later, but he despairs that she is ailing — shortly before shipping off to Italy as the pilot of a B-24 bomber in the final year of World War II. McGovern guided the Dakota Queen through 35 combat missions over Europe, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He returned home, briefly trying seminary school and life as a minister before becoming a history professor at his alma mater. He ran for Congress in 1956 and won, climbing to the Senate six years later.
McGovern's early politics were mostly about supporting farmers, and his grass roots style was well-suited to a state where voters still expect to look each of their would-be representatives in the eye.
"If he saw you once and saw you three weeks later, he'd remember you," says David Kranz, longtime political columnist for Sioux Falls' Argus-Leader. "That's magic for a politician."
McGovern saw his popular support at home plummet when he became an early opponent of the war in Vietnam, and he was passed over for his party's presidential nomination in 1968. But he surprised most observers by claiming the nomination in 1972, pledging to pull the U.S. out of a war in which it had lost its moral compass.
His campaign, though, quickly lost its way. And in November, McGovern won only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, a 520-to-17 electoral vote thrashing that prompted many in his own party to reject him.
McGovern became "a symbol of a kind of Democratic failure ... crystallizing the Democratic Party's alliance with, or tolerance of, a leftism that most Americans couldn't abide," says David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers University who has written about the Nixon presidency.
McGovern embraces the reality but disdains the description.
"How the hell do you get elected in South Dakota for 20 years if you're a wild-eyed radical?" he asks.
After losing to Nixon, McGovern returned to the Senate and ran again for president in 1984, falling in the early primaries.
In the years afterward, he stepped away from politics to teach, try running an inn in Connecticut and a bookstore in Montana. The loss of daughter Terry — an alcoholic who froze to death on a Wisconsin street after a night of drinking — haunted McGovern, who found release by writing about her battle with addiction.
He returned to public life in 1998 when Clinton named him ambassador to the United Nations food program and later was named the U.N.'s global ambassador on hunger.
And McGovern has continued writing. The Bush administration's conduct in Iraq unleashes a frustration in McGovern — outlined in articles and a new book co-authored with Middle East expert William R. Polk calling for the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops by the end of this year — that is bound to draw detractors. They'll say McGovern wants to cut and run again, he acknowledges.
He's probably right. But what critics may miss is that, rather than being stuck in a time warp, McGovern's observations are crisp with vitality, built on an urgency that needs an outlet.
Hanging on the wall just outside his office in the new library is a carefully framed and beautifully scripted copy of a familiar prayer. As he enters, he pauses to extol the artwork, then rejects the sentiment.
"God," the prayer begins, "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..."
"No," says McGovern, when asked if the prayer represents a personal credo. "I keep trying to change them."
He is a man at peace, McGovern says. But that does not mean he has to make peace with all he sees around him.
Conversation with McGovern is served in measured portions, gravelly reflections rather than barbed soundbites. But there are moments when he bristles, nearly always at politics in the present tense: That the Bush administration conspired to hide the truth from Americans in its determination to invade Iraq, that demagogues have been allowed to depict God as a neoconservative ideologue...
"What I resent, you know, is that the Bible warns us against false prophets," he says, "I don't believe in the manipulation of religious faith for these narrow, extremist, partisan positions."
The difference, according to this man who says he tries, with mixed results, to live up to the words of the Sermon on the Mount, is that he does not pretend to be speaking for anyone but George McGovern. But there are those who see it differently.
Inside the bookstore, they line up in front of the wooden table where McGovern is seated, bringing him copies of books to sign, to seek hugs and handshakes, to tell him how their stories have intertwined with his own.
"You're the first person I ever voted for," Victoria Watson of Sioux Falls confides. "My son is in Iraq now. Thank you for continuing to speak out."
McGovern smiles gently and takes Watson's hand, an offer of comfort and of thanks.
The elder statesman is glad to be of service.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Via Media Matters
Last week, the Republican National Committee unveiled an advertisement that invoked the specter of terrorism in an effort to win votes in the upcoming midterm elections. As Media Matters for America noted, the ad was given extensive media coverage, particularly by cable news networks, which replayed the ad again and again.
Today, the Democratic National Committee released an ad titled "Stay the Course," which details the failures of the Bush administration's Iraq policies, the administration's relentless insistence on "staying the course" over the last three years and its recent denials that it has ever supported such a policy.
Will news organizations that obligingly aired the RNC ad free of charge treat the Democrats' ad the same way?
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Kevin Tillman, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with his older brother, Pat Tillman, has remained silent since his brother's death in 2004. But this week, he wrote a scathing indictment of the war in Iraq, the Bush administration and American apathy.
'Somehow, the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes,' Kevin wrote on Truthdig.com, which purchased his work.
The brothers, both Arizona State University graduates, joined the Army in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. They served together as Rangers with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Pat Tillman, who played defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed by friendly fire near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in April 2004. The Defense Department is investigating allegations of a cover-up, including failure by the U.S. Army to tell Tillman's family for several weeks that he had been killed by gunfire from his fellow Army Rangers, not by enemy fire as they initially were told.
Kevin Tillman has not spoken publicly about the war or his brother's death since his discharge from the Army. But in Truthdig.com, Kevin wrote openly about the war and America's response to it.
'Somehow, the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country. Somehow, this is tolerated. Somehow, nobody is accountable for this.'
After playing for the ASU Sun Devils, Pat Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 1998. He played with the team for four years.
On Sept. 12, 2001, he gave an interview in which he talked about how 'stupid' football seemed relative to world events.
'At times like this, you stop and think about not only how good we have it but what kind of system we live under,' he said. 'My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor. And a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars. And I really haven't done a ... thing as far as laying myself on the line like that.'
Pat was on the verge of signing another contract with the Cardinals in the spring of 2002 when he decided to join the Army instead.
The Tillmans were initially sent to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2003, the brothers returned to the U.S. for training to become Army Rangers. After that, they were sent to Afghanistan.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed."
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
135 years to the day after the last American President (Ulysses S. Grant) suspended habeas corpus, President Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006. At its worst, the legislation allows President Bush or Donald Rumsfeld to declare anyone — US citizen or not — an enemy combatant, lock them up and throw away the key without a chance to prove their innocence in a court of law. In other words, every thing the Founding Fathers fought the British empire to free themselves of was reversed and nullified with the stroke of a pen, all under the guise of the War on Terror.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Responding to news of another pre-Sept. 11th warning ignored by senior Bush administration officials, four widows who lost their husbands during the terrorist attcks criticize the failure of White House officials to act upon warnings that Al Qaeda was planning a strike on the United States.
"Police disperse angry protesters in Downtown T-station
Saturday, October 07, 2006
By Ervin Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in town for a fund-raiser for Sen. Rick Santorum, had a close encounter with a large group of anti-Republican protesters as he was making his way to the Duquesne Club, Downtown.
It was about 4:15 yesterday when Mr. Bush met up with the protesters near the corner of Liberty and Sixth avenues. The protesters were marching to join other pickets already gathered in front of the exclusive club, a little more than a block away at 325 Sixth Ave.
Protesters said Gov. Bush blew them a kiss, acknowledging the crowd of about 30 chanting pickets that was made up of United Steelworkers and members of Uprise Counter Recruitment, a tour traveling through 22 cities to support anti-war efforts.
The protesters came closer.
'Jeb, go home,' they shouted.
Mr. Bush, accompanied by a security guard and a female aide, made a slow retreat toward the T-station at Wood Street.
'He was quickly getting out of the way and not wanting to engage us,' said Jon Vandenburgh, one of the protesters, who also is a researcher for the United Steelworkers.
Once in the subway station, Mr. Bush scurried to the escalators and descended to the mezzanine level, Mr. Vandenburgh said.
By now, Mr. Bush was cornered. He was surrounded by signs that said 'Pittsburgh is a Santorum Free Zone,' 'Honk if you're sick of Rick,' and a crowd growing increasingly louder, according to Mr. Vandenburgh.
'We don't want you here,' protesters chanted.
Port Authority spokesman Bob Grove said six or seven officers responded to the scene to control the crowds.
He said Mr. Bush had been walking in the area near the T-station and the incident happened spontaneously when about 50 pickets 'tailed him and stayed with him and went into the Wood Street station.'
About 75 protesters remained on the street, said Mr. Grove.
He said the crowd was asked repeatedly to disperse.
Mr. Grove said a Port Authority canine unit was called in to help with crowd control. Two officers used their tasers to stun two protesters who 'were asked to leave, but did not go,' Mr. Grove said.
The tasers he said were empty of the cartridges that supply a more powerful charge.
'It was a very tense situation. They were very close to the governor and shouting on top of him.'
As a precaution, the governor was ushered into a T-station supply closet and stayed there until the crowd left.
No arrests were made and no citations were issued, Mr. Grove said. Mr. Bush was not injured.
The two men who were tasered were shaken and left the protest, said David Meieran, with the Thomas Merton Center and one of the protesters with Uprise Counter Recruitment.
Mr. Meieran said the Port Authority officers were fairly aggressive and pushed them aside.
Pittsburgh police said they monitored the protest in front of the Duquesne Club, which they called peaceful, but did not respond to the incident in the T-station.
The entire incident lasted about 5 minutes. After calm was restored, the smaller group of protesters inside the T-station made their way back to the Duquesne Club where they staked out the front of the building and an alley entrance.
Mr. Vandenburgh and Mr. Meieran said they later saw Mr. Bush escorted to the Duquesne Club, which he entered through a back door at about 5 p.m.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bush said she was unaware of the incident last night and had no immediate comment.
(Ervin Dyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1410. )"