CBS News was embarrassed to acknowledge (9/20/04) that it could not prove the origin of documents that purportedly expressed the frustrations of George W. Bush's late National Guard squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian. Republican partisans demanded Dan Rather's ouster, but Killian's retired secretary said the documents, if bogus, did reflect Killian's thinking at the time and White House officials apparently had no reason to raise suspicions about the documents when they were contacted by CBS before the report.
The New York Post reported (9/21/04) that Roger Stone, a GOP consultant notorious for doing "dirty tricks" since the Nixon era, may have been involved in planting the documents. Stone reportedly wouldn't talk to the Post.
However, flaky papers don't change the known facts about Bush's checkered past with the National Guard. Eric Boehlert wrote for Salon.com that Bush, with the apparent cooperation of his Texas Air National Guard superiors, flouted regulation after regulation (more than 30 by Salon's count), indifferent to his signed obligation to serve. Boehlert wrote, "it was as if Air Force and Guard regulations simply did not apply to Lt. Bush. He seemed to become a ghostlike figure, doing -- or not doing -- whatever he pleased, unsupervised and unrated by his commanders. One serious question is whether some of Bush's superiors may have played an active role in hiding Bush's shoddy record -- pressured perhaps by powerful politicians -- by crediting him with crucial makeup training days that appear dubious in nature."
Boehlert noted that retired Col. Walter Staudt, brigadier general of Bush's unit in Texas, adamantly denied that Bush received any special treatment when he skipped over a waiting list of applicants and was accepted into the Guard in 1968. "He was highly qualified. He passed all the scrutiny and tests he was given," according to Staudt. "Highly qualified?" Boehlert asked. "Bush had no ROTC background, which was preferred, and on his pilot application where it asked for 'background qualifications,' Bush wrote 'none.' Staudt also told ABC, 'I'd say [Bush] was in the upper 10% or 5% or whatever we ever talked to about going to pilot training.' Truth is, Bush scored in the 25th percentile on his pilot aptitude test; the lowest possible passing grade for a would-be pilot."
Despite the laundry list of Guard discrepancies, Bush, when asked about his service, told the Manchester, N.H., Union Leader (9/18/04), "I did everything [my superiors] asked me to do." In September, the Guard let him go, and the Air Force officially dismissed Bush in November 1974.
Meanwhile, the Navy's chief investigator concluded 9/17/04 that procedures were followed properly in the approval of Sen. John Kerry's Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, according to an internal Navy memo, the Associated Press reported. Vice Adm. R.A. Route, the Navy inspector general, conducted the review of Kerry's Vietnam-era military service awards at the request of Judicial Watch, a public interest group.
POLAR OPPOSITES. Democrats were depressed when a Gallup poll showed Bush up by 13 points after the Republican convention, even as other respected polls showed the race effectively tied, but a closer look showed the race was still tight. Salon.com noted that the schizophrenic nature of the polls probably has more to do with polling techniques than an electorate veering sharply from one candidate to the next. The Wall Street Journal (9/20/04) noted that a Pew Research Center survey showed strikingly different research during two consecutive polling periods. In the portion of the survey conducted Sept. 8-10, Bush led Kerry 52%-40% among registered voters. In a separate portion conducted Sept. 11-14, Kerry and Bush were tied at 46%. "But there was one other key difference, too: Among voters sampled in the first portion, self-described Republicans outnumbered Democrats by two percentage points; in the second, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by four percentage points." Ruy Teixeira of EmergingDemocraticMajority.com noted that a CBS-New York Times survey that showed Bush leading Kerry by 9 points, when adjusted to reflect comparable numbers of Democratic and Republicans, actually showed the race was close to even. Pollsters from both parties forecast a roughly equal number of Democrats and Republicans to show up on Nov. 2. Predicting turnout is the big question that nags pollsters. Democratic pollster Peter Hart, a veteran of presidential politics who helps conduct the Wall Street Journal/NBC survey, told the Journal, "This is art. This isn't science. Nobody knows." Salon.com noted that polls showing the race to be in a dead heat as of 9/17/04 include Harris (48% Kerry, 47% Bush); Pew (47% Bush, 46% Kerry), Investor's Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor (even, at 46%). "Even Newsweek -- which had Bush leading Kerry by 11 points just last week, now only shows a six-point lead for the president (49% Bush, 43% Kerry), and an ICR poll also shows the president with a modest four-point lead (48% Bush, 44% Kerry)," Salon's Mark Follman wrote.
SOUTH RISING AGAINST W? Concerns about the economy and the Iraq debacle may be helping John Kerry close the gap even in South Carolina, MyDD.com noted. A Rasmussen poll reported 9/17/04 showed Bush leading Kerry 50%-44%, compared with 53%-36% in July. Republicans are saddled with Senate nominee Jim DeMint, a congressman who advocates replacing the income tax with a 24% federal sales tax. Also, the Washington Post reported (9/19/04) that discipline problems and excessive AWOLs caused the National Guard to lock down 635 members of the 178th Field Artillery Regiment of the South Carolina National Guard, in training at Fort Dix, N.J., for the last two weeks before they were sent to Iraq. The Bush administration's reluctance to sharply increase the size of the US Army has put the burden on National Guard and Reserves, which provide 40% of the 140,000 US troops in Iraq. The South Carolina Guards will escort supply convoys into Iraq, some of the toughest duty on this mission, with every trip through the hot desert bringing the possibility of being hit by roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and sniper fire. "Our morale isn't high enough for us to be away for 18 months," said Pfc. Joshua Garman, 20, who, in civilian life, works in a National Guard recruiting office. "I think a lot of guys will break down in Iraq."
The Christian Science Monitor reports 9/21/04 that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is a hot ticket inside dusty, barricaded camps around Iraq. "Everyone's watching it," says a Marine corporal at an outpost in Ramadi that is mortared by insurgents daily. "It's shaping a lot of people's image of Bush." Conventional wisdom holds that the troops are staunchly pro-Bush, but bitterness over long, dangerous deployments is producing, at a minimum, pockets of support for John Kerry, in part because he's seen as likely to withdraw American forces from Iraq more quickly. "[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush -- they'd vote for them," said a US soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush."
ARMY TO GI'S: RE-UP OR GO TO IRAQ. Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., say they have been issued an ultimatum -- re-enlist for three more years or be transferred to other units bound for Iraq and get "stop-lossed." Hundreds of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team were presented with that message and a re-enlistment form in a series of assemblies Sept. 9, two soldiers told the Denver Rocky Mountain News (9/16/04). "They said if you refuse to re-enlist with the 3rd Brigade, we'll send you down to the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which is going to Iraq for a year, and you can stay with them, or we'll send you to Korea, or to Fort Riley (in Kansas) where they're going to Iraq," said one of the soldiers, a sergeant. Under current Army practice, members of Iraq-bound units are "stop-lossed," meaning they could be retained in the unit for an entire year in Iraq, even if their active-duty enlistment expires. Extending a soldier's active duty is within Army authority, since the enlistment contract carries an eight-year obligation, even if a soldier signs for only three or four years of active duty.
NOVEMBER SURPRISE FOR DRAFT-AGE YOUTH? When John Kerry (9/20/04) accused George W. Bush of hiding a plan to call up more Guard units and reservists after the election, the Bush camp said Kerry was spreading a "conspiracy theory." But Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., ranking minority member of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said he had learned the same thing from conversations with Pentagon officials, "that at the beginning of November 2004, the Bush administration plans to call up large numbers of the military guard and reserves, to include plans that they previously put off to call up the Individual Ready Reserve." Critics note that it would be hard to follow through on the Bush administration's bellicose rhetoric without a draft.
VOTE PROBES RAISE QUESTIONS. The Justice Department reportedly was investigating voter registration efforts in Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, West Virginia and other states where Democrats hope to increase turnout. The Washington Post reported 9/20/04 that the Justice Department asked US attorneys across the country to meet with local election officials and launch publicity campaigns aimed at getting people to report irregularities. Civil rights advocates complain that the feds are putting too much emphasis on investigating new voter registrations in poor and minority communities -- which tend to favor Democrats -- and not enough on ensuring that those voters do not face discrimination at the polls. The Las Vegas Sun reported 9/15/04 that the White House called in feds to probe voter registration in Las Vegas, which tends to vote Democratic.
GOP DUCKS AL QAEDA BACKING. First Vice President Dick Cheney said (9/8/04) that if voters make the wrong choice on election day (that is, vote for Kerry), the US risks another terrorist attack. Then House Speaker Dennis Hastert said (9/19/04) al Qaeda "would like to influence this election" and added that he thought the terrorists could operate with a little more comfort with Kerry as president. But al Qaeda terrorists are on the record hoping for Bush's re-election. According to the Associated Press (3/18/04), "The Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri (Al Qaeda)" in a statement that claimed responsibility for the March 11 attacks that killed more than 200 people and wounded more than 1,600 in Spain, also told American voters that it supports the re-election campaign of President Bush: "We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections" because Bush's "idiocy and religious fanaticism" would "wake up" the Islamic world, the terrorist group said in a letter to a London-based Arabic newspaper.
GOP STUMBLES IN RURAL OHIO. We don't know if the Lima, Ohio, *News* was disappointed to find that George Bush was under 50% in heavily Republican Allen County (he led Kerry 48.6% to 38.1%) but the 9/19/04 headline was "St. Rita's support solid; Democrats creeping in, poll shows." The first 14 paragraphs reported that voters are showing solid support for closing two Lima streets near St. Rita's Medical Center. Then it got around to reporting Bush's support was down markedly from 2000, when he got 67%. Ben Konop, Democrat for Congress, was within striking distance of US Rep. Mike Oxley, a 23-year incumbent, who was ahead by only 45.3% to 39.4%. The last Democrat to carry Allen County was Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.
GRIEVING MOM ARRESTED FOR DISRUPTING LAURA. A woman wearing a T-shirt with the words "President Bush You Killed My Son" and a picture of a soldier killed in Iraq was arrested 9/16/04 in Hamilton, N.J., after she interrupted a campaign speech by first lady Laura Bush. Police escorted Sue Niederer, of Hopewell, N.J., from a rally at a firehouse after she demanded to know why her son, Army 1st Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, was killed in Iraq. Dvorin died in February while trying to disarm a bomb. As shouts of "Four More Years" subsided, Niederer, standing in the middle of a crowd of some 700, continued to shout about the killing of her son. Local police escorted her from the event, handcuffed her and put her in the back of a police van. Niederer, who said she had a ticket for the event, was later charged with defiant trespass and released.
US MAJORITY FAVORS CANADIAN HEALTH PLAN. Two-thirds of Americans (67%) want a government health insurance program, a national survey conducted in September for the Civil Society Institute found. Even when prompted with the phrase "Canadian-style health care" (which most Americans equate with socialized medicine), 61% still said yes, the Toronto Star reported 9/17/04. One-third (33%) said they plan to buy prescription drugs in Canada, while 6% already do. Eighteen per cent said they were skipping medications or reducing dosages to save money. An overwhelming majority (78%) agreed that "The US should treat health care like other necessities of life, such as water and electricity that are regulated by government to ensure fair prices, accountability, access for everyone and quality services." See the poll report at resultsforamerica.org.
CAFTA UP FOR CONGRESS VOTE. Congress likely will return to Washington after the election for a "lame duck" session to vote on the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), among other things. Fair trade advocates are urging calls to members of Congress to get commitments to vote against CAFTA, which is similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement that Leslie Nicole Ramsey of the Texas Fair Trade Coalition said has devastated working people everywhere. "It does NOT include adequate enforcement for violations of internationally recognized labor and environmental standards; it allows foreign corporations to bring actions against governments that pass labor, public health or environmental laws that reduce corporate profits, as they are allowed to do under NAFTA Chapter 11; and it includes rules that promote privatization and deregulation of services including education, health care, postal service, construction, transportation and water supply," Ramsey wrote. "Finally, CAFTA is a crucial step toward the even more dangerous Free Trade Area of the Americas -- which the Bush administration hopes to finish negotiating this year." Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch provides a free way to fax members of Congress about CAFTA at www.citizen.org.
PROF REMEMBERS BUSH AS DUNCE. For 25 years, Yoshi Tsurumi, one of George W. Bush's professors at Harvard Business School, was content with his green-card status as a permanent legal resident of the US, Mary Jacoby wrote for Salon.com (9/16/04). But Bush's ascension to the presidency in 2001 prompted Tsurumi to secure US citizenship so he could speak out about why he believes Bush lacks the character and intellect to lead the nation. Tsurumi said he remembered Bush as of the 85 first-year MBA students in his macroeconomic policies and international business class in the fall of 1973 and spring of 1974 as a student with "pathological lying habits and was in denial when challenged on his prejudices and biases. He would even deny saying something he just said 30 seconds ago. He was famous for that." In 1973, as the oil and energy crisis raged, Tsurumi led a discussion on whether government should assist retirees and other people on fixed incomes with heating costs. Bush, he recalled, "said, 'The government doesn't have to help poor people -- because they are lazy.' I said, 'Well, could you explain that assumption?' Not only could he not explain it, he started backtracking on it, saying, 'No, I didn't say that.'" Bush once sneered at Tsurumi for showing the film *The Grapes of Wrath*, based on John Steinbeck's novel of the Depression. "We were in a discussion of the New Deal, and he called Franklin Roosevelt's policies 'socialism.' He denounced labor unions, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Medicare, Social Security, you name it. He denounced the civil rights movement as socialism. To him, socialism and communism were the same thing. And when challenged to explain his prejudice, he could not defend his argument, either ideologically, polemically or academically." Bush boasted to him about the family connections that got him into Harvard and scored in the lowest 10% of the class. Tsurumi, who is now a professor of international business at Baruch College in New York, concluded that Bush is not as dumb as his detractors allege. "He was just badly brought up, with no discipline, and no compassion," he said.
GOP SLIDES ON FLA. FILING. George W. Bush just missed the filing deadline for the Florida ballot, the St. Petersburg Times reported (9/11/04). State law sets a Sept. 1 deadline for the governor to certify a list of presidential electors for each party's candidates. But Sept. 1 was the day Bush and Dick Cheney were nominated at their party's convention in New York, so the paperwork didn't arrive at state elections headquarters until Sept. 2. However, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Glenda Hood said the deadline applies to the governor and the list of presidential electors, not to the candidates themselves. The list of Republican electors released by Hood's office does not show a time stamp indicating when the document was received by the state. Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox said he knew the president's certificate of nomination did not reach the state until Sept. 2, but he said he decided not to make an issue of it. "To keep an incumbent president off the ballot in a swing state the size of Florida because of a technicality, I just don't think would be right," Maddox said. (Ralph Nader's Reform Party candidacy in Florida is much different, Maddox said. "There is no Reform Party. It is a sham. And Ralph Nader was using a hoax party to gain access to the ballot," Maddox said.)