Saturday, September 18, 2004

Physical admission

Of course, Bush apologistas are flaunting his questioning of the CBS documents today, though it's noteworthy exactly what he said:
"There are a lot of questions about the documents and they need to be answered," Bush told the Union Leader newspaper of Manchester, New Hampshire, after a week in which some experts questioned whether the documents had been fabricated by those seeking to damage Bush in his re-election race.

"I think what needs to happen is people need to take a look at the documents, how they were created, and let the truth come out," Bush added.

Notably, Bush did not denounce them as frauds. Which is fairly telling in itself.

Indeed, it's worth understanding that the White House has in fact conceded that the contents of the Jerry Killian documents unearthed by CBS are largely accurate.

How so? Recall what White House spokesman Scott McClellan said when asked about the documents at a press gaggle on Sept. 15, he repeatedly said this:
We had every reason to believe that they were authentic at that time.

Now, think about that. Two of the most damning of the documents -- Killian's direct order to young Lt. Bush to obtain a flight physical, and his suspension of Bush for failure to do so -- are documents that Bush himself would have known about and seen. If their contents were bogus -- that is to say, if Bush hadn't refused a direct order, and if he hadn't been suspended for it -- Bush himself would have known immediately.

One would think he'd have said: "Hey, wait a minute. I never refused a direct order." Instead, the White House "found no reason to doubt their authenticity."

I've also pointed out previously that these documents almost certainly did exist in real life, since the facts of his failure to take the physical and the subsequent suspension from flight status have never been contested. They are, in fact, part of the well-established record. The Killian documents only confirm that Killian in fact took steps he should have taken.

Of course, this has all been glossed over by right-wingers eager to smear CBS, even though none of them have evinced any proof that the documents are forgeries. By raising questions about their authenticity, they gleefully get to ignore their content.

In the meantime, Paul Lukasiak -- whose work I've discussed previously, and who deserves real credit for his serious work substantiating the extent of Bush's miscreancy in the TANG, continues to do a bang-up job. Here's his most recent work:
The Truth Trap

Paul points out that the Killian memos in fact vindicate at least one aspect of his service record. It also does a nice job of summing up the problems with the Bush camp's claims about his failure to get the physical:
The first explanation given by the Bush campaign back in 2000 was that he didn't get the physical because he was in Alabama and his family physician was in Texas. When it was pointed out that only Air Force flight surgeons could administer a flight physical, the Bush campaign came up with a new excuse -- Bush didn't take the physical because there were no planes for him to fly in Alabama.

This, of course, is pure balderdash, because maintaining one's flight status was a requirement of Bush's Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC), which is Air Force jargon for "his job." Even if Bush couldn't do his job temporarily for some reason, he was still required to maintain his flight status. Bush had only two choices, either accomplish the physical, or ask for a new job that did not require flight status.

Of course, there is no record whatsoever that Bush ever did either.

Taking the bait

You know, call me crazy, but I think doing stuff like this with a 3-year-old ...

... is much better than stuff like this:

When I first read the news account of Phil Parlock's adventures at a Kerry rally, the question that immediately popped into my head was: What in the hell was he thinking?

I'm as politically active as anyone, and really like to expose my daughter to the workings of democracy. She went with me to our local caucuses, tags along when I vote, and has ridden on my shoulders at an occasional peaceful rally. But there's no way I would expose her to the obvious hostility she would encounter if I were to haul her to a Bush/Cheney rally -- and especially if I did as Parlock did, which was to elbow his way to the front and stand in front of a bunch of my opponents' supporters.

Because then, you know, I would consider that I was being intentionally provocative anyway. I can handle all kinds of ugly behavior -- after all, I've witnessed all kinds of violence in the process of covering events as a journalist. But I have no intention of exposing my 3-year-old to it -- let alone use her as a shield. (Perhaps I have a special repugnance for people who use their children as shields because of Randy Weaver.)

Then it turns out that, as Rising Hegemon (via Atrios) reported, Parlock has a history of getting into confrontations like this. Seems he has something of a predilection for provoking opposing protesters -- or for staging confrontations as a way of smearing the liberal opposition as violent.

The fact that Parlock has been "attacked" by unidentified "liberals" in each of the previous two presidential elections raises real suspicions about the nature of these "attacks." But even more significant, it raises real questions about why he would perch his 3-year-old daughter on his shoulders while participating in the same activity that brought about these previous "attacks." If he really is innocent, just what the hell was he thinking? Is he really so unconcerned about his little girl's well-being that he'd intentionally expose her to that?

Now, regular readers know I've been tracking the drumbeat of eliminationist rhetoric by America's right against mainstream liberals over the past year, as well as the increasing number of instances of actual violence that is almost the inevitable result.

Unsurprisingly, the ugly environment created by the right and its increasingly thuggish tactics has come full circle; liberals, increasingly, are now much less prone to sitting back politely and trying to reason with their opponents, and are becoming far more likely to strike out both verbally and, perhaps, physically. If a Kerry supporter really did tear up the little girl's sign, it's inexcusable, but considering the provocation involved, hardly surprising.

I was frankly much more disturbed by the account in a letter to the editor of the case of anti-Bush misbehavior in Telluride, Colo., experienced by a Bush supporter who had the misfortune visit the town with a bumper sticker attached to his SUV:
The morning after our arrival I went to retrieve something from our vehicle. I was horrified to discover that our car had been vandalized overnight in the parking garage. Cheese (yes, cheese) had been jammed into the rearview mirrors and under the windshield wipers. The vandals also took a black permanent marker to the back of my vehicle and defaced the stickers (no big deal really, they will be replaced). The last thing noticed was the message "Fuck Bush & fuck you" with a black swastika written on the side of my vehicle in permanent black magic marker. Imagine my horror at this unprovoked act. Although my heritage is German I am neither an anti-Semite nor am I a racist. Furthermore, imagine driving your family around your town with a swastika on the back of your car.

The victim also had to endure snotty service from the Waiter From Hell, who actually chastised the man for supporting Bush. I'm afraid I'd have walked out the door the minute some server made a similar remark to me.

All of this pales, however, in contrast with the creeping tide of right-wing violence in the current campaign, which Matt Stoller has recently discussed as well. Really, how is it possible to even compare those incidents with cases like this, this, this, or this?

Of course, there's almost no chance that the so-called liberal media will even pick up on this trend. In fact, it's far more likely that they will trumpet and play up any kind of violent behavior on the part of liberals, while ignoring similar or worse from the right. That has, after all, been their standard MO throughout the past three years.

And don't think the right doesn't recognize it. Indeed, one of the central themes of this year's re-election campaign is the charge that the left has been consumed by "hatred" of President Bush, and that they're all wild-eyed and out of control. That's why the right has been sending out provocateurs like the Protest Warriors and the Freepers to anti-Bush demonstrations -- in the hopes that they'll finally respond in kind, and the resulting incident can then be played and replayed on cable news networks as an example of the Awful Left.

Notably, liberals have been smart about not rising to the bait. I was especially impressed by the restraint showed by demonstrators at the Republican National Convention in New York, who despite numerous provocations held back and refused to respond in kind.

That being the case, it seems now that right-wingers -- frustrated in their hopes of obtaining useful propaganda against the left -- are now resorting to staging the violence themselves.

And using little 3-year-old girls as props and shields for doing so.

Exactly what kind of "family values" izzat?

UPDATE: Drew at Daily Kos has been keeping a Diary update of the Parlock matter, including another case of victimhood: Parlock was an eyewitness to a shot fired at Republican headquarters in Cabell County, W. Va. (though the script at the link has since been removed).

Also: Yes, that's an "I am Atrios" hat I'm wearing.

The voice of history

Weighing in on the Michelle Malkin debate is one of the true voices of history: Fred Korematsu, subject of the infamous Korematsu v. United States wartime ruling that upheld the legality of the Japanese American internment, which, as most legal experts and historians concede, has been "overruled by the court of history."

Korematsu recently wrote this piece for the San Francisco Chronicle:
Do we really need to relearn the lessons of Japanese American internment?

Most striking were the concluding paragraphs:
It is painful to see reopened for serious debate the question of whether the government was justified in imprisoning Japanese Americans during World War II. It was my hope that my case and the cases of other Japanese American internees would be remembered for the dangers of racial and ethnic scapegoating.

Fears and prejudices directed against minority communities are too easy to evoke and exaggerate, often to serve the political agendas of those who promote those fears. I know what it is like to be at the other end of such scapegoating and how difficult it is to clear one's name after unjustified suspicions are endorsed as fact by the government. If someone is a spy or terrorist they should be prosecuted for their actions. But no one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy.

Longtime readers will recall that I've written about Korematsu previously at the American Street. Some background:
In the spring of 1942, Fred Korematsu was just a guy in love. As it happened, he was a Japanese-American guy in love with an Italian-American girl. And that was a problem.

Korematsu lived in what government officials had declared a “military exclusion” zone -- which, as it happened, comprised the entire Pacific Coast and all points about 100 miles inland. The 23-year-old welder was planning to get married the following year, and was desperate to remain in Oakland to be near his fiance. Fate, and Lt. Gen. John DeWitt, intervened. ...

In spite of the open cooperation of the Nikkei in implementing this evacuation, there were, unsurprisingly, a few Nisei who tried to evade their fate. One of these was Fred Korematsu.

Even before the word came down in the Japanese community that everyone -- citizen Nisei and alien Issei alike -- was to be evacuated, Korematsu had already tasted the searing prejudice of the times. He had lost his job as a welder in December, when the Boilers Union expelled all of its Japanese American members after Pearl Harbor. He was living with his parents until they were evacuated that spring.

Given the racial tenor of the times -- he was acutely aware that the War in the Pacific was being widely touted as a "race war," and that many of the advocates of evacuation had a history of calling for a "white man's" Pacific Coast -- he knew that his relationship with an Italian-American named Ida Boitano could bring them both to grief. As he later described it to the court, Korematsu "feared violence should anyone discover that he, a Japanese, was married to an American girl." So he underwent plastic surgery on his nose and eyes, hoping to pass himself off as either another Asian national or a Pacific Islander.

When the internment orders appeared, Korematsu hoped that his new identity might give him the cover he needed to avoid the concentration camps and remain with his fiancee. When his parents and three brothers shipped off to the Tanforan racetrack "assembly center" on May 9, he did not join them.

His ruse, however, failed utterly. He was arrested three weeks later in San Leandro and charged with violating DeWitt's "exclusion order." He presented phony identification papers and tried to pass himself off as Spanish-Hawaiian. His story shortly fell apart. To make matters worse, Ida Boitano decided she wanted out of the relationship and told the FBI she had regretted the affair.

Throughout the ordeal, though, Korematsu was firmly convinced that he was being wronged, and he decided to fight the charges. When an ACLU lawyer appeared at the San Francisco County Jail and offered to make his a test case for the internment, he readily agreed.

"I figured I'd lived here all my life, and I was going to stay here," he later said.

"I know Fred felt strongly that his rights had been violated," says Dale Minami, a Bay Area lawyer who many years later helped Korematsu gain vindication in the courts. "His case didn't start out as an intentional protest, but by the time he was charged, he was ready to make it one."

I also went on to describe the legal battle in which Korematsu was swept up:
Fred Korematsu’s conviction, after wending its way down to the appeals court and back up to the Supreme Court, was likewise upheld the following year by the Supreme Court, on Dec. 18, 1944. Once again, the court declined to rule on the constitutionality of the evacuation, but limited itself to his violation of the evacuation order. And it specifically deferred to the wisdom of DeWitt's findings, ruling that Korematsu "was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily ..."

The ruling concludes by repeating legends that had already been established as false by Justice Department attorneys, though this fact was suppressed at the time: "There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot -- by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight -- now say that at that time these actions were unjustified."

As many of you know, the Korematsu ruling is now largely considered one of the three great mistakes of the Supreme Court, ranking alongside Dred Scot and Plessy v. Ferguson. As I went on to explain:
The lingering shadow that was cast on American law by the Japanese-American internment camps was foreseen in Justice Jackson’s Korematsu dissent, in passages that would have an especially prescient ring after Sept. 11:

Much is said of the danger to liberty from the Army program for deporting and detaining these citizens of Japanese extraction. But a judicial construction of the due process clause that will sustain this order is a far more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself. A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency. Even during that period a succeeding commander may revoke it all. But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.

What the Japanese-American internment revealed for the first time was a hole in the traditional checks and balances of constitutional powers. In wartime, the total deference to the executive branch would lend it nearly comprehensive powers. The post-Sept. 11 response has opened another dimension to this: If wartime -- as in the "War on Terror" -- becomes itself a never-ending enterprise, then the executive branch's power becomes potentially illimitable.

Up to the edge of that hole in the Constitution, the Bush administration has driven a large bus called "enemy combatant status" and parked it. It now sits, idling.

Notably, the Bush administration has chosen not to refer to Korematsu in its arguments before the court upholding its use of "enemy combatant" status; instead, it has referred to subsequent and related rulings from World War II. And for good reason; only William Rehnquist has previously indicated a predisposition toward acceding Korematsu, while the remainder -- even Antonin Scalia -- have made clear their view that this was an invalid ruling. However, in spite of subsequent legislative efforts to short-circuit any future internment camps, it has never been officially overturned.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Domestic terrorism

Apparently, even self-evident -- and officially identified -- cases of domestic terrorism do not warrant serious coverage in the press.

Otherwise, how can you explain the dearth of interest -- outside of the New York Times -- in the booby-trapped letters that have been sent to 14 of the nation's governors so far?

The letters are rigged to burst into flames when opened:
The mailings, under investigation by the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security, bear a return address that names two inmates at a maximum-security prison in Nevada. But a Nevada corrections official said it was unclear whether they were the actual senders.

Aides to several governors, including Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, said they had been told by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the case was being treated as one of domestic terrorism, and Jennifer Meith, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Fire Marshal's Office, said that was her understanding as well.

But spokesmen for the bureau declined to comment on a current investigation, although one of them, Joe Parris, said in Washington, "Cases of this nature are generally handled by the local domestic terrorism squads'' -- that is, the joint terrorism task forces set up by the F.B.I. in cities across the country.

Some of the more recent victims have included Utah Gov. Olene Walker, while Washington's Gary Locke was among the first.

Why, exactly, isn't CNN running specials on this instead of the CBS memos? Why doesn't Bill O'Reilly hold talk sessions on it?

Because, you know, if these attacks happened to originate with what some bloggers refer to as "Arab terrorists", we can only imagine where they'd be getting played.

Speaking of which, anyone remember the anthrax terrorist, and how that case dropped out of sight? (This story from August 6 has the most recent turn of events.)

In any event, the return addresses are almost certainly bogus, but the inclusion of prison culture in this case suggests a possible association with the notorious prison gang the Aryan Brotherhood, which has other links to domestic terrorism.

Speaking of which, there was this cryptic message left recently on the Aryan Nations Web site [WARNING: Racist site], which may be apropos of nothing:
ATTN. 76

"Tac Tran" refers to a "tactical transmission." The remaining lines remain open to multiple interpretation (though "Contact 88" is almost certainly a Hitler reference).

It's probably unrelated, and it more than likely represents pure fantasizing on their parts. But it probably should be duly noted, too.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Blood meridian

Some of you may recall my posts about Casey Nethercott and Ranch Rescue, a so-called "border militia" operating in Arizona, one that has been growing increasingly radical and threatening.

Now real violence has erupted, indeed among the white supremacists who have recently been revealed as operating within their ranks:
Border militia backer arrested in Douglas; associate shot by FBI

Convicted felon and would-be militia organizer Casey Nethercott was arrested in Douglas Wednesday night by FBI agents who shot and seriously injured a member of Nethercott's fledgling Arizona Guard.

Douglas police were called to the Safeway parking lot at about 11 p.m. following the arrest and shooting, but their only role in the case is to assist the Federal Bureau Of Investigation, said Douglas Police Department spokesman Sgt. Mark Wilkinson.

He declined to release the name of the man shot, but other sources have identified him as Kalen Riddle, a member of the Arizona Guard, headquartered at Nethercott's Ranch about three miles west of Douglas.

Deatils are still quite sketchy, since the FBI -- whose agents did the shooting -- has not issued a statement. However, as the story indicates, Riddle was fingered by the Arizona office of the ADL as a serious neo-Nazi, one whose presence revealed the truly extremist nature of the Ranch Rescue operation and Nethercott's would-be spin-off. The ADL's press release of Sept. 10 reads in part:
The recruiting effort is being led by Kalen Riddle, a self proclaimed Nazi and white supremacist. On his website, Riddle, pictured toting a rifle and dressed in a Nazi uniform complete with swastika armbands, claims that two of his favorite things are "ethnic cleansing and weapon making." Riddle's occupation is listed as "National Socialist." In addition Riddle requests that "any WN [White Nationalist] volunteer is asked to keep WP [White Power] or Third Reich imagry (sic) to a minimum and not to talk to any press."

Just what we need: Another neo-Nazi martyr. Especially on the border, where the situation is becoming increasingly volatile.

Blind hate

Currently in the courts, there's an interesting case out of St. Louis in which a young neo-Nazi stomped another young man to death because he mistakenly believed he was Jewish:
A man gave a Nazi salute, shouted out "White Power," and called a stranger "Jew-boy" just moments before knocking him down outside a St. Louis diner and stomping on his head with work boots, jurors were told Wednesday.

The man on trial, Kevin A. Johnson, "spewed out these racial slurs" in a burst of hatred toward the victim, Michael Schnelle, Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Craddick said in opening statements of Johnson's murder trial.

The injuries were inflicted about 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2002, and Schnelle died of his injuries the next day, Craddick said.

Defense attorney Frederick Hawk told the jury that Schnelle was intoxicated and "belligerent" and had caused the conflict with Johnson.

"Mr. Johnson did nothing but defend himself," Hawk told the jurors in St. Louis Circuit Court. Hawk told them he was confident they would find there was no stomping.

Family members of the dead man, who declined to be identified, said Schnelle is not Jewish.

What's noteworthy about this case is that it is certainly a hate crime, since it's undeniably bias-motivated, even though the victim in fact was not Jewish.

This is reminiscent of the relatively high incidence of anti-gay hate crimes in which the victim turns out not to be gay at all. This underscores something I discussed in Death on the Fourth of July: Hate crime statutes do not create "protected categories" of persons against whom any crime becomes a "hate crime" -- common misconceptions notwithstanding. The laws, in fact, focus solely on the actions of the perpetrator -- and whether or not the crime was motivated by a religious, racial, ethnic or (in many states, though not all) sexual-preference bias. Of course, these categories cut across all parts of the population -- everyone has a race, a religion (or lack thereof), an ethnicity and a sexual preference. They actually protect everyone equally, or at least are designed to.

This case demonstrates, too, the value of the laws. Even though the victim was not actually Jewish, the perp's action was clearly an act intended to victimize the larger Jewish community in St. Louis. This was not an ordinary assault; this was a "message crime" whose purpose was to terrorize and intimidate Jews. It caused significantly greater damage, and deserves harsher punishment.

However, he's not being charged with a hate crime:
Missouri has a hate crime law, but Johnson is not charged under it. Johnson, 36, is charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action. If convicted, he would face a sentence of life without parole.

Missouri has what's known as a "coattailing" bias-crime statute, the kind of law that creates a separate crime of ethnic intimidation by embedding within existing criminal codes; it designates any act already recognized as illegal as a hate crime if it's committed "by reason of" the victim's race, religion, or ethnicity. characteristics.

It may well be that, like Washington state's "standalone" malicious harassment statute, it's essentially useless in serious crimes like this. Washington's law makes malicious harassment a Class C felony, which means that it is meaningless in serious crimes, ranging from Class B assaults to murder.

In this regard, the case illustrates another facet of hate crimes: Even though most of the nation's attention to hate crimes comes in notorious murder cases like the killings of James Byrd and Matthew Shepard, hate crime laws themselves have relatively little impact on such cases. They are sentence-enhancement laws, and there isn't much enhancement you can get at the upper end (though prosecutors are known to use the laws to leverage stiffer sentences both in plea bargaining and in regular courtroom convictions). But that's relatively irrelevant to the value of the laws themselves; annually, only 2-3 percent of all bias crimes reported to the FBI are murder.

[Perhaps someone familiar with the case can write in to explain why the hate-crime statute is not being applied in this case and otherwise fill in the blanks.]

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Obstructing national security

Who can honestly say, after hearing the testimony of the 9/11 widows led by Kristen Breitweiser and Gabrielle, that George W. Bush is serious about dealing effectively with terrorism?
Gathering at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday, the widows announced their endorsement of the Massachusetts Democrat for president, a move made "in good conscience and from our hearts," as former Bush supporter Kristen Breitweiser told the news cameras. "In the three years since 9/11, I could never have imagined I would be here today, disappointed in the person I voted for, for president," she said. Added fellow Jersey Girl Patty Casazza: "It was President Bush who thwarted our attempts at every turn."

Really, if the Kerry campaign is serious about persuading the American public that Bush is a serious liability when it comes to securing the nation from the terrorist threat, this should be Exhibit A: Bush fought the formation of the 9/11 commission for a year, and continued to fight its work throughout.

As now know, the commission was a serious and thorough panel that, when the smoke cleared, presented a wholly nonpartisan and eminently insightful examination of the events and causes surrounding 9/11, as well as its aftermath.

The testimony of other widows, all of whom were deeply involved in the commission's work, drives home the fact that Bush has abused the national trust in the "war on terror" by invading Iraq:
"Unfortunately, before the work in Afghanistan was complete ... this administration moved our most precious resources, America's sons and daughters, into Iraq, without the support of our allies. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and that is what we learned from the 9/11 commission's final report," said Lorie Van Auken of East Brunswick, N.J. "Sept. 11 was an enormous intelligence failure, and yet nothing was done to fix our intelligence after 9/11, and that same intelligence apparatus took us into Iraq. So it's doubly frustrating to learn that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11."

It's worth remembering, of course, that not only are these widows nonpartisan (Breitweiser, for instance, is a Republican who voted for Bush in 2000), but they themselves had a historic role in pushing the administration to finally -- once it realized it had a potential public-relations disaster on its hands -- approve the official inquiry into 9/11:
On Sept. 18, 2002, when much of the public was still sympathetic to the Bush administration position that the attacks could not have been foreseen or prevented, Breitweiser gave a statement before the joint House-Senate investigation into intelligence lapses; it may have changed the course of history.

In a concise, straightforward manner, she laid out the facts far more effectively than had any senator or representative on the panel. She asked how, for example, the CIA could fail to locate hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, who had entered the United States despite being on a terrorist watch list, when one was listed in the San Diego phone book and both roomed with an undercover FBI informant. The day after her presentation, the White House -- once firmly against an independent commission -- reversed itself and endorsed the idea. And it was the 9/11 commission that would later find no operational ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, one of the key reasons Bush gave for invading Iraq.

Moreover, as Elizabeth Drew recently reminded us in her New York Review of Books review of the commission's final report, the White House continued to throw obstacle after obstacle at the panel:
The administration fought the commission at nearly every turn -- at first denying it sufficient funds, then opposing an extension of time, refusing it documents, trying to prevent Condoleezza Rice from testifying in public. The White House, in a preemptive move, told the commission that Bush would not testify under oath, and insisted that he appear along with Vice President Cheney. The main partisan division within the commission, I was told, was over how hard to press the White House for information that it was holding back. In its effort to achieve a unanimous, bipartisan report, the commission decided not to assign "individual blame" and avoided overt criticism of the President himself. Still, the report is a powerful indictment of the Bush administration for its behavior before and after the attacks of September 11.

As Drew goes on to observe, "the commission gives a devastating picture of the chaos within the Bush administration on the morning of the attacks," and moreover makes clear that, as I recently re-emphasized, the Bush administration was asleep at the wheel on Sept. 11:
As presented by the commission, the evidence of signals missed by the Bush administration is more startling than we had known. To take one example,a memorandum written in July 2001 to headquarters by an FBI agent in Phoenix, Arizona, specifically warned of the "'possibility of a coordinated effort by Usama bin Laden' to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation schools."

Though Bush administration officials said after the fact that no one could have imagined that terrorists would use planes to fly into buildings, the report shows that there had been warnings of attacks very much along those lines before September 11—including information from an informant in East Asia of the possibility of al-Qaeda's hijacking planes, filling them with explosives, and using them to crash into US cities. Richard Clarke had worried about this very possibility in connection with the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. In the commission's words, the "possibility" of this sort of terrorist attack "was imaginable, and imagined."

Of course, it was in this area that the White House fought the commission hardest:
The most arresting document is the Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001, which, until it was finally made public, had been described by the White House as "historical in nature." A single question by Ben-Veniste to Condoleezza Rice, asking her to state the title of the PDB, exposed that fiction. The title was "bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." That the commission was able to see the President's daily briefings by the CIA during the Clinton and Bush administrations at all was unprecedented. They could only do so, however, under strict rules set by the administration: only two commissioners were allowed to read the PDBs, and -- for reasons that later became clear -- they were forbidden to copy down their titles.

Someone needs to ask the White House how it can justify what clearly was a campaign of obstruction regarding the work of the Sept. 11 commission, whose purpose clearly was to prevent another such attack from happening.

And the Kerry campaign needs to broadcast these widows' testimony into every living room in America.

I'm all for ads questioning Bush's National Guard record and his evasiveness about them. But this is far, far more significant.

Monday, September 13, 2004

A state of evasion

CBS continues to stand behind the documents it aired on 60 Minutes last week showing almost definitively that George W. Bush evaded fulfilling his commitment to the Texas Air National Guard, partly by ignoring a direct order from his commanding officer.

Their report on CBS Evening News went even further:
CBS News asked the White House today to give direct answers to a number of questions:

Did a friend of the Bush family use his influence with the then-Texas House Speaker to get George W. Bush into the National Guard?

Did Lt. Bush refuse an order to take a required physical?

Was he suspended for "failing to perform up to standards"?

And did he complete his commitment to the Guard?

In reply, a White House spokesman told CBS News today, "As you know, we have repeatedly addressed these issues." These direct questions have not been fully, completely answered. The White House and the Bush/Cheney campaign always point out that President Bush received an honorable discharge.

What's in the 60 Minutes report, CBS News believes to be true, and believes the documents are authentic.

It's important, again, to stress that the White House has been consistently evasive about Bush's Guard service records -- insisting that all "relevant records" had been released in 2000, then releasing a fresh batch that answered none of the questions about the periods under scrutiny, then trickling other documents out here and there as needed.

And this latest White House response is nothing if not the picture of evasiveness. That includes this morning's press gaggle:
Q Tomorrow will the President, when he talks to the National Guard, bring up the accusations leveled at him by Democrats on his service?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, first and foremost, this is an opportunity to go to the -- speak to the National Guard Association and thank all those men and women who serve in our National Guard. They are serving and sacrificing in the war on terrorism, and we're grateful for their sacrifice and we're grateful for what their families are doing.

In terms of a further preview on the speech, I'm not ready to get into that at this point. Maybe we can discuss it later in the day, though.

Q Does the President think that the attacks on him are attacks on the Guard?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, I think he's talked about that we should not denigrate those who serve in the National Guard, we should not denigrate their service. He's made that clear. In terms of this whole National Guard issue, we're not doing our own investigation to determine whether or not those documents were fabricated or authentic. I think experts and journalists have continued to look into the issue and have raised a number of questions. And these are serious questions that are being investigated by many news organizations and we look forward to seeing what those results are.

But in terms of going back to this issue, the timing of these old, recycled attacks is not in question. I mean, Democrats and the Kerry campaign are orchestrating these recycled attacks because he is falling behind in the polls. And that's clear. And that's been documented, too.

Q But, Scott, the Democrats found not responding quickly in August to the swift boat ads hurt them. Are you afraid the same thing, if you don't respond quickly to the National Guard ads --

MR. McCLELLAN: They're talking about continuing to flail away and engage in baseless attacks. The President is focused on the future and what his agenda is for leading this country forward for the next four years, and he's talking about the highest priorities of winning the war on terrorism and how you lead in the war on terrorism. And they're resorting to old, recycled attacks because they can't talk about their out-of-the-mainstream views.

Q -- so what you're saying, when these attacks are leveled, are those attacks on the people -- the National Guard? Are you making that tie?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. I think, Ron, you have to -- it depends on what specific attacks you're talking about. But certainly we should not denigrate the service of those in our National Guard. They are serving and sacrificing for an important cause in the war on terrorism.

Q But in questioning the President's service, is that criticism of people who serve in the Guard?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's orchestrated attacks -- recycled attacks by the Democrats, that's what that is.

Of course, there is not a scintilla of evidence that Democrats are behind these press reports, including the Boston Globe's latest as well as a crushing piece in U.S. News and World Report.

When the gas from "forgerygate" smokescreen dissipates, one would think Bush and his minions are going to have to stop evading and start answering these substantive questions, which arise not just from the documents but an entire panoply of evidence already published and substantiated.

But don't hold your breath. Evasion, secrecy and obfuscation are first nature to this bunch. Like the scorpion on the fox, they'll continue to evade, evade, and evade some more, even in the face of public pressure, because they cannot help it. It's in their nature.

So much for Mr. Straight Shooter.

[Be sure to check out Glenn Smith's excellent piece at BOP News outlining the contextual substantiation for the CBS memos.]

Coercing the workforce

Being a Democrat can be dangerous to your employment, at least in Decatur, Alabama:
Moulton woman says she lost job for sporting Kerry sticker on car

Seems the employer not only fired a woman for publicly supporting Kerry, he'd been including partisan pro-Bush material in their paychecks:
Gobbell gave this account:

"We were going back to work from break, and my manager told me that Phil said to remove the sticker off my car or I was fired," she said. "I told him that Phil couldn't tell me who to vote for. He said, 'Go tell him.' "

She went to Gaddis' office, knocked on the door and entered on his orders.

"Phil and another man who works there were there," she said. "I asked him if he said to remove the sticker and he said, 'Yes, I did.' I told him he couldn't tell me who to vote for. When I told him that, he told me, 'I own this place.' I told him he still couldn't tell me who to vote for."

Gobbell said Gaddis told her to "get out of here."

"I asked him if I was fired and he told me he was thinking about it," she said. "I said, 'Well, am I fired?' He hollered and said, 'Get out of here and shut the door.' "

She said her manager was standing in another room and she asked him if that meant for her to go back to work or go home. The manager told her to go back to work, but he came back a few minutes later and said, " 'I reckon you're fired. You could either work for him or John Kerry,' " Gobbell said.

"I took off my gloves and threw them in the garbage and left," Gobbell said.

Though she is unemployed and uncertain if she will get her job back, Gobbell said, she doesn't regret her decision to keep the sticker on her windshield.

"I would like to find another job, but I would take that job back because I need to work," she said. "It upset me and made me mad that he could put a letter in my check expressing his (political) opinion, but I can't put something on my car expressing mine."

She was referring to a flier that she said Gaddis placed in employee envelopes to remind them of the positive impact that President Bush's policies have had on them. An employee at the plant who would not identify himself confirmed the contents of the letter.

Of course, Gobbell's firing served a couple of purposes: to rid the employer of someone who disagreed with him, and to serve as a warning to the rest of them.

I almost never would suggest someone is better off not working, but that's the case here.


Glenn Reynolds recently attacked me today as a way of taking a swipe at Eric Muller:
ERIC MULLER continues his unrelenting critique of Michelle Malkin. Frankly, I might find Muller more persuasive if he didn't rely so heavily on David Neiwert, whose tendency to hurl unsubstantiated charges of racism at anyone he doesn't like has cost him rather a lot of credibility in my eyes.

This is precious, really.

Longtime readers will recall that the last time I addressed Reynolds directly (though I have blogged about his other posts since) was when I called upon him to stop hurling unsubstantiated charges of racism:
If, as seems to be the case, Reynolds believes that MEChA comprises "fascist hatemongers" and is a racist organization, he especially needs to explain just why this is so.

I say this as someone who has over the years examined several hundred various organizations -- right, left, and anywhere else -- to try to ascertain whether or not they are genuinely racist in nature. The majority of these have been right-wing "Patriot" groups, many of whom lurk on the fringes of the racist right, and many others who wander fully into that territory. Sorting out just who is racist and who is not entails applying appropriate, considered and accurate criteria, and applying them with both care and discretion.

I know that Glenn Reynolds has partaken of this work as well. He was, I believe, one of the original subscribers to the Militia Watchdog listserv when Mark Pitcavage started it up (in 1996, I think) and has over the years been a valuable contributor to its work -- which is primarily in trying to track various forms of right-wing extremism. So this turn of events has been, I must say, personally quite baffling.

Let me emphasize again: Accusing anyone, particularly a national civil-rights organization that enjoys broad mainstream participation, of being racist is an extremely serious charge. Its ramifications are widespread and can be devastating for any group on whom the label is placed. Misusing it cheaply, especially for scoring easy political points, is beneath contempt.

If Reynolds is going to accuse MEChA of racism, and continue to demand that Cruz Bustamante "denounce" them, he needs to explain to his readers:

--What are his criteria for defining a racist organization?

--What are the behavioral traits of racist organizations -- historically and otherwise?

-- How does MEChA fit those criteria?

As I have explained at length, it is clear by the criteria used not only by myself but most other monitors of hate groups that MEChA is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a genuinely racist organization. Some of its early rhetoric is indeed annoyingly militant, and is at best shrill if not divisive by today's standards. Reynolds put it this way a few posts ago: "It's not 1964 anymore." Of course not -- but then, the rhetoric that seems to have their shorts in a bunch dates back to 1969.

I also, of course, had earlier chided Reynolds for participating in the smear against MEChA. He merely dismissed the criticism as "frantic." (If he's hearing my posts as being written in a frantic voice, well, let me just suggest that those are voices in his head.) I can't say I'm surprised that I've "lost credibility" with Reynolds: It's easier, on both a personal and public level, to simply dismiss your critics, after all, than to admit their charges have substance.

Let me be clear: One of the things I frequently charge liberals with is hurling terms like "racist" and "fascist" willy nilly, which not only undermines their case, it seriously dilutes the ability of those of us who deal with genuine racists and fascists to do so effectively. The terms have lost their weight because of their absurd overuse, and liberals, as I've said often, are among the worst offenders.

I have always, in fact, tried to be extremely scrupulous about using terms like "racist," "fascist," "white supremacist" and "right-wing extremist" with great care; I simply do not apply them without substantial cause, and I don't believe I've ever used them here without in fact substantiating it.

So let me issue a challenge to Glenn: Find a post anywhere on this blog -- and archives date back to January 2003 -- in which I have "hurled unsubstantiated charges of racism". Please. If you can, I'll apologize in public.

If not, you owe me an apology.

UPDATE: Reynolds has responded:
Neiwert takes exception to this post and says that if I can find an unsubstantiated accusation of racism on his blog he'll apologize. Well, there's this one: "the root of all evil in Reynoldsland are the twin threads of dark-skinned Muslims and left-wing antiwar liberals."

Leaving aside the subject-verb disagreement, Neiwert's use of "dark-skinned" seems like an imputation of racism to me. He's smart enough to know that Muslims aren't all dark-skinned, and that I don't exactly obsess over skin color, or say negative things about Islam, beyond the wacky terror-inspiring varieties (see, for example, this post). Nor does he offer any substantiation in terms of links, or examples that might buttress his case. It's a cheap shot, and he repeats it in this interview. That's why I don't find him especially credible when he's charging people with racism.

But I await the promised apology.

Well, if you read the whole post, or just the larger passage from which it's drawn, it couldn't be more clearer I stop well short of accusing Reynolds of racism. The larger point is about Reynolds' flagrant indulgence in useless and ethnically shaded stereotypes that obscure the nature of terrorism itself when we're discussing the "war on terror." Here's the paragraph in question:
Perhaps this is why Reynolds, somewhat predictably, uses the story to springboard into his two favorite themes when it comes to right-wing extremists: A) they might form an alliance with Islamist extresmists! and B) they might form an alliance with left-wing extremists! These are his two favorite themes, of course, because the root of all evil in Reynoldsland are the twin threads of dark-skinned Muslims and left-wing antiwar liberals. Associating right-wing extremists with these two factions is much easier for someone like Glenn than associating them with a perhaps more logical faction, like, for instance, right-wingers. Ah well.

I responded to Glenn via e-mail:
I say nothing in the post about you having a "generalized prejudice" about Muslims or anyone else. What I do say is that you wave the twin stereotypes in a way intended to associate liberals with our national enemies (speaking of cheap shots). I agree that "dark-skinned" was gratuitous, but it clearly refers to the stereotype which I felt you were using in both cases.

You know, Glenn, I have a relatively narrow definition of what constitutes a "racist" or "racism", and I wouldn't have even argued that the kind of dabbling in stereotypes that I found objectionable comes close to fitting the definition. Maybe you would. Maybe that's why you thought MEChA was racist and I didn't.

If you felt it was a cheap shot, fine. I felt your constant suggestions of fifth-column-type collusion between war critics (I was one) and Islamist radicals (not to mention your reference to MEChA as "fascist hatemongers") was a cheap shot too, and I no doubt wrote it in that spirit. However, it still doesn't comes close, in my estimation, to accusing you of racism.

The note about "generalized prejudice" was in reference to Reynolds' e-mailed response to me, in which he said:
You're not dumb enough to think that all Muslims are dark-skinned, or that I think that, or that I have a generalized prejudice against Muslims beyond the terroristically-inclined ones.

That was a cheap shot. And I remember it.

Ooh, he carries a grudge. Well, good. I'm glad. I normally tend to regret taking shots like that -- it was a little over the top, but it was about making a point regarding the nature of the stereotypes he was engaging in -- but I definitely don't have any sympathy for his whining about "cheap shots." Reynolds is a past master.

A couple of supplementary points:

-- I didn't "repeat" anything. The interview quoted my blog, as you can see.

-- Glenn says I didn't provide anything in the way of substantiation, but that's simply not true, as anyone clicking on the link can see. I linked directly to this post, which contains the following passage:
One thing that's troubling is the potential for cooperation between Arab terrorists and domestic extremists.

"Arab terrorist" is, of course, an ethnic description, and a stereotype. "Dark-skinned Muslims" was (I thought) a fairly obvious reference to Reynolds' use of it.

I'm still wondering, of course, whether Reynolds will even bother to acknowledge the chief point of the post: When it comes to flinging about accusations of racism without substantiation, he is himself a proven offender, and on a fairly substantial scale. I've obviously given up on an apology.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

AWOL: Document diversion

The louder they squeal, the more direct the score.

The Rabid Right is positively foaming over CBS News' story detailing George W. Bush's misadventures in the Texas Air National Guard. They are insisting -- no, demanding -- no, ranting with absolute maddened certainty that the documents CBS produced from Jerry Killian's files are frauds, dammit, frauds, I tell you!

The frantic nature of these claims is essentially a concession to the deeply damning nature of the documents in question. What all their frothing is intended to do, of course, is give them something, anything, to talk about other than the contents of the Killian memos. (See, for instance, the preoccupation of certain bloggers with the "forgery" claims, and the distinct lack of interest in the documents' actual content.)

I was especially amused by tuning in to local right-wing radio in Seattle. When Kirby Wilbur of KVI-AM denounced the documents Friday as "a fraud" and "a scam," you could practically hear the veins popping in his forehead. Dori "I never heard right-wing bullshit yet that I wouldn't swallow whole" Monson of KIRO rhapsodized at length about how blogs had done such a great job of "fact checking" the story, while of course neglecting to mention that it was blogs like this one that had kept the story about Bush's Guard service alive in the first place. Funny, too, how quickly guys like Monson were willing to pick up on data from right wing blogs regarding this story, while those on the left side of the aisle who've been blogging about this matter for more than a year have gone largely unnoticed.

In typical right-wing fashion, their insistence that the documents are forged has metastasized into a conspiracy theory linking the Kerry campaign to the CBS report, what some bloggers are calling "Forgerygate." Rush Limbaugh went on the air and declared that CBS was "coordinat[ing] dirty tricks with the Democrat National Committee and the Kerry campaign," and theorized:
Now, what has happened here, if these documents are indeed forgeries, what has happened here is that CBS's own friends have set them up.

CBS's own friends have used them. The Democrats, the Kerry campaign, have used CBS, have used Dan Rather in an effort to smear George W. Bush with lies, with forgeries.

Then he went on the air again and declared flatly: "These documents are forged."

Rather hilariously, all of these critics are doing themselves exactly what they're accusing CBS of doing: Running with "facts" and "analysis" that are materially false and ultimately bogus, and rushing them out without double-checking them.

Mark Steyn's column for the Sun-Times was a classic case of this:
Unfortunately for CBS, Dan Rather's hairdresser sucks up so much of the budget that there was nothing left for any fact-checking, so the ''60 Minutes'' crew rushed on air with a damning National Guard memo conveniently called ''CYA'' that Bush's commanding officer had written to himself 32 years ago. ''This was too hot not to push,'' one producer told the American Spectator. Hundreds of living Swiftvets who've signed affidavits and are prepared to testify on camera -- that's way too cold to push; we'd want to fact-check that one thoroughly, till, say, midway through John Kerry's second term. But a handful of memos by one dead guy slipped to us by a Kerry campaign operative -- that meets ''basic standards'' and we gotta get it out there right away.

The only problem was the memo. Amazingly, this guy at the Air National Guard base, Lt. Col. Killian, had the only typewriter in Texas in 1973 using a prototype version of the default letter writing program of Microsoft Word, complete with the tiny little superscript thingy that automatically changes July 4th to July 4th. To do that on most 1973 typewriters, you had to unscrew the keys, grab a hammer and give them a couple of thwacks to make the ''t'' and ''h'' squish up all tiny, and even think it looked a bit wonky. You'd think having such a unique typewriter Killian would have used a less easily traceable model for his devastating ''CYA'' memo. Also, he might have chosen a font other than Times New Roman, designed for the Times of London in the 1930s and not licensed to Microsoft by Rupert Murdoch (the Times' owner) until the 1980s.

Of course, CBS stands by its story, and for good cause. As their story explains, it is folks like Steyn, and not CBS, who have adopted information that simply doesn't hold water:
In a report on Friday night's "CBS News Evening News," Dan Rather noted that many of those raising questions about the documents have focused on something called superscript, a key that automatically types a raised "th."

Critics claim typewriters didn't have that ability in the 1970s. But some models did, Rather reported. In fact, other Bush military records already released by the White House itself show the same superscript -- including one from as far back as 1968.

Some analysts outside CBS News say they believe the typeface on these memos is New Times Roman, which they claim was not available in the 1970s.

But the owner of the company that distributes this typing style told CBS News that it has been available since 1931.

There's a great deal more available on the Web that utterly demolishes the "forged documents" theories. Of course, I haven't heard any of CBS' accusers rush to interview the people posting this material, but perhaps we should just wait until hell freezes over.

In the meantime, do be sure to check out Hunter's excellent compilation of information at Daily Kos. Also, check out (via Atrios) the debunking in PC Magazine of the notion that the ability to recreate a Selectric document with Word is anything exceptional, since Word was specifically designed to mimic a typewriter.

One of the problems with the critics' claims that really leaps out at anyone familiar with document authentication is the fact that every single one of the "experts" they cite has only been able to work from computer-generated copies of the documents available on the Web. That these "experts" are willing to make these condemnatory pronouncements of "forgery" without examining the original documents from which CBS worked is just a stunning piece of unprofessional behavior, and strongly suggestive of a partisan motivation. As Lambert at Corrente points out, these "experts" are clearly stepping beyond the ethical code governing their profession.

Moreover, there really shouldn't even be any reason to doubt the existence of certain of the CBS documents in question, especially the document showing the orders for Bush's suspension dated Aug. 1. This document almost certainly should exist, since previously released documents (referrring, in fact, to "verbal orders of the Comdr on 1 Aug 72") demonstrate with utter clarity that Bush was suspended from flying early August, including paperwork generated by the suspension.

Another of the documents shows that Killian issued a direct order to Bush to obtain his physical. Again, the existence of this document shouldn't be controversial, since obtaining such an exam is in fact a standing direct order for all Guardsmen anyway, and Killian was obligated to issue a direct order of this sort when Bush failed to do so.

Bush's handlers (especially spokesman Dan Bartlett) have had several different stories regarding why Bush skipped the physical, including the claim that Bush didn't go because his personal physician was unavailable. When this was definitively debunked (Air Force regs require the exams be administered by an Air Force flight physician) they shifted to their current position, the claim that Bush didn't show up because "he knew he wasn't going to be flying." But as I long ago pointed out, Bartlett's story doesn't add up: Even if Bush had permission to transfer, he decidedly did not have permission to ignore a direct standing order by skipping his physical, which in military-pilot culture is nearly a sacred annual rite. Moreover, Guardsmen simply don't have the option of deciding unilaterally to terminate their sworn obligation, particularly not such valuable assets as expensively trained pilots; had Bush actively sought to do so, he'd have been required to seek waivers and file for a reassignment of duties, no record of which is indicated anywhere in any of his records.

These aspects of the case have long been known, and the CBS documents not only fully confirm them, they also fill in some rich detail, particularly the way they make clear the turmoil that followed Lt. Bush's callow and irresponsible behavior and the difficult position in which he had placed Killian. However, the press has been missing in action on this story all along; and while one wonders why it took so long for CBS to dig into this case in the first place, they certainly deserve real credit for tackling it thoroughly.

Weighing all the evidence, I'll even venture to make a prediction:
The questioned documents will be thoroughly authenticated by independent analysts examining the actual copies used by CBS, and the news network will be vindicated.

And when that happens, I'll even make two more:
Not one of CBS' accusers or critics, especially those accusing it of falling for a "hoax" and conspiring with the Kerry campaign, will apologize to CBS, Dan Rather or any of the many other people they've smeared in this outburst.

The vast majority of right-wing True Believers will continue to claim, regardless of the evidence, that the documents are fraudulent.

Unsurprisingly, these same ideologues are already testing out their fresh memes for that eventuality, including Mark Steyn in the column above, who says this:
The tragedy for Rather, Oliphant, Krugman and Co. is that even if the memos were authentic nobody would care.

The main thrust of this meme is that Bush, unlike Kerry, isn't talking about what he did in Vietnam -- what matters is the "war on terror." Right. So why exactly were we hearing about Swift Boat Veterans for three consecutive weeks?

In any event, John-Paul at everythingsruined puts it best:
Perhaps "Bush doesn’t give much credence at all to his NG experience" because he can't. Again, there's the whole combat issue there. This is why the military doesn't make the barber at Fort Dix into a division commander, even though he may have been serving for 25 years. Kerry's military experience isn't just "I served in the military," it's "I've seen war up close, and I've shown leadership in extremely difficult situations." Bush's military experience is, "I flew some planes, until I found better things to do." Duh.

Tony Snow tried out a variation of the "who cares?" meme on his radio show Friday night, saying that it didn't matter, because what mattered was that we already know what kind of war president Bush is -- a "strong" one, of course.

Well, as I've explained previously, the whole question of Bush's Guard record is entirely relevant to the election:
The problem ... isn't George W. Bush's behavior in 1972. It is his behavior, and that of his administration and his campaign officials, in the very recent past that is at issue here.

Because the AWOL matter, first of all, demonstrates clearly that Bush has been lying to the American public about his behavior then, in an attempt to cover it up; and secondarily, in an extension of the first behavior, his military records appear to have been tampered with. The latter, we hardly need remind the critics, is a violation of federal law.

At the same time, the gross character flaw that the AWOL matter reveals is also very much part of what we have gotten from this presidency. There is no sense of accountability to the public anywhere in this administration; if something goes wrong [Can you say, "Weapons of mass destruction?" I knew you could.] it places the blame elsewhere. It falsifies budget figures and misleads the public about the grotesque debt load its deficits are placing on future generations. And it distorts intelligence estimates so that it can convince the public to participate in a war it had planned even before winning election. It bullies its opponents, and traffics in the most transparent way in keeping the public in line by fanning its fears of terrorist attack.

This is a presidency sold to the public on the phony image of Bush as a man of superior character -- a straight shooter, a veteran, a man who understands and respects duty and honor. (This was meant to contrast with Bill Clinton and, by extension, Al Gore.) But as we have explored at length previously, Bush's family connections are not any source of superior character; and as the AWOL episode demonstrates rather starkly, his personal history gives no evidence of having developed it either.

As we saw at the GOP National Convention, in fact, Bush's whole re-election campaign is predicated on the notion that he is a straight shooter: "You know where I stand." What the Texas Air National Guard episode makes clear, beyond any serious doubt, is that the man is mendacious manipulator -- one willing to falsify (perhaps criminally) the record about not only his own conduct in the military, but also his war-hero opponent's -- and there is no reason any of us should believe a word that comes out of his mouth. We know where he stands, all right: on the side of George W. Bush, and everyone and everything else is fair game.