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Impeach Bush

ABC's Weapons "Scoop" Turns Up Empty
Fair.org
April 29, 2003

On April 26, ABC's World News Tonight led with a major scoop. Anchor Claire Shipman announced at the top of the broadcast, "U.S. troops discover chemical agents, missiles, and what could be a mobile laboratory in Iraq. An ABC News exclusive." But ABC's "exclusive," as it turns out, appears to be false.

The April 26 report began: "The U.S. military has found a weapons site 130 miles northwest of Baghdad that has initially tested positive for chemical agents. Among the materials there, 14 55-gallon drums, at least a dozen missiles and 150 gas masks." Correspondent David Wright explained, "Preliminary tests showed it to be a mixture of three chemicals, including a nerve agent and a blistering agent." Wright added that an Army lieutenant "says the tests have an accuracy of 98 percent."

While expressing some reservations, Wright called it "by far the most promising find in the search for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," especially since it included what his military source told him "looks like a mobile laboratory."

Perhaps somewhat self-consciously, ABC followed Wright's report with a short segment about weapons claims that have turned out to be false alarms. But ABC continued to pump the story the next day, with Wright appearing on This Week to explain that "what may turn out to be a very significant find are these mobile laboratories, which appear to have a pumping apparatus as well as machinery to mix chemicals."

The story led World News Tonight again on Sunday, as anchor Carole Simpson explained that "for the second day in a row, some of the preliminary tests have come back positive for chemical agents."

But the report also noted one new development: the arrival of a Mobile Exploitation Team (MET Bravo), which conducts its own testing of suspected weapons sites. When those tests were done, the story had changed significantly. According to an April 28 report in the New York Times, the MET Bravo team "has tentatively concluded that there are no chemical weapons at a site where American troops said they had found chemical agents and mobile labs." As a member of the team told the Times, "the earlier reports were wrong."

Reporters should be cautious when preliminary tests seem to confirm the existence of banned weapons in Iraq, particularly since so many of these initial findings have not been borne out (see FAIR Action Alert, 3/25/03). ABC was aware of this, but still chose this story as its lead news item for two days. On Monday, April 28, the story had seemingly crumbled. But ABC's viewers were none the wiser: When the news was that ABC's "exclusive" had washed out, there was no mention of the story on the Monday or Tuesday broadcasts of World News Tonight.

copy; Fair.org 2003

Commentary:
OK, this is some heavy duty stuff. This story is a prime example of how the press is being led around by the Bush White House. ABC News had an exclusive, which means they had to kiss someone's butt to get. The information was a lie and ABC didn't have the integrity to tell its listeners it was lied to or to tell the audience they lied to them. ABC news didn't verify the story before it was manufactured into news.

A real news story has value if it can answer the five W's, who, what, when, where and why. ABC News failed to answer those question and is therefore not capable of doing serious journalism.

This kind of wimpy journalism has been going on for well over a decade. The press crucified President Clinton based on supposition and innuendo, or they simply made things up. The media told us Iraq had WMD even though Bush provided no proof. They pushed war around the clock based on a guess from Bush, even though they knew he lied about Iraqi nuclear weapons.

Millions upon millions of Americans learned something on ABC News that they thought was the truth. Millions were lied to.

Can you trust Peter Jennings? Of course not. Just like you can't trust the other networks that pushed war for months.

 
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CNN's Reliably Narrow Sources
Fair.org
Steve Rendall
March/April 2003

In a nation where news media are criticized from every imaginable direction, it's reasonable to assume that a media criticism show would include guests offering a wide range of critical viewpoints. With that in mind, FAIR took a look at CNN's Reliable Sources, studying its guestlist to see how many critical voices were heard on the program that claims to "turn a critical lens on the media."

Airing weekly for more than a decade, Reliable Sources is hosted by Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz. Built around guest interviews, with an average of three or four guests each week, the show also features a weekly commentary by its original anchor, journalist and former Reagan administration spokesperson Bernard Kalb.

Covering one year of weekly programs (12/1/2001=11/30/2002) with 203 guests, the FAIR study found Reliable Sources' guestlist strongly favored mainstream media insiders and right-leaning pundits. In addition, female critics were significantly underrepresented, ethnic minority voices were almost non-existent and progressive voices were far outnumbered by their conservative counterparts.

FAIR classified each guest by ethnicity and gender, and by their status as a media "insider" or "outsider"--with "insider" denoting employees of mainstream U.S. news outlets. Sources with identifiably right-of-center or left-of-center views were coded by ideology. Sources who espoused a centrist perspective, or whose political viewpoint could not be determined, were not coded by ideology.

Reliable Insiders
The most striking thing about Reliable Sources' guestlist is how dominated by mainstream journalists it is: Three out of four (76 percent) of Reliable Sources' guests were media insiders, journalists working for mainstream U.S. news organizations. The remaining 24 percent included guests from opinion journals, the academy, the international press and independent Internet publications.

While any broad-ranging discussion of media ought to include mainstream journalists, the independent perspectives of scholars, activists and citizens whose communities are reported on and affected by news media also deserve to be heard--and it's doubtful that the diverse perspectives of such sources can be represented by only 24 percent of the guests. With a large majority of Reliable Sources' guests depending on media corporations for their livelihoods, the show's guestlist makes it unlikely that many hard-hitting criticisms of the news industry itself will be heard.

More guests were drawn from the host's two employers--the Washington Post (24 guests) and CNN (22 guests)--than from any other mainstream media outlets. Newsweek, another property owned by the Post, provided 11 guests, followed by Time (7), the New York Times (6) and New York Magazine (6). When opinion journals--whose employees were not counted as media insiders--are included, the outlet that provided the third-highest number of guests was the conservative National Review, with 12 appearances.

With 35 right-leaning guests and 16 from the left (69 percent vs. 31 percent), the right had a better than 2 to 1 advantage. Right-wing syndicated talkshow host Laura Ingraham appeared seven times, more frequently than any other guest; the second-most prominent guest (6 appearances) was conservative National Review editor Rich Lowry. (The third most frequent guest was Time's Karen Tumulty, with five appearances.)

Reliable Sources' conservative guests not only appeared more often than their progressive counterparts, they tended to be more staunchly ideological; many are avowed activists and campaigners for the conservative movement, like talkshow host Rush Limbaugh or Jay Nordlinger and Byron York of the National Review.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich and internet blogger Joshua Micah Marshall of www.talkingpointsmemo.com were the most frequent left-of-center guests with three spots each. No other left-leaning guest appeared more than once in the year studied. Reliable Sources drew no guests from National Review's progressive counterparts--magazines like In These Times, The Progressive or The Nation.

New frontiers in homogeneity
White guests outnumbered all others on Reliable Sources, 194 to 9, making the show's guest roster 96 percent white. To put it another way, 33 percent more guests were employees of National Review than were people of color. This guestlist was perhaps the most ethnically homogenous of any FAIR has ever studied; by comparison, PBS's NewsHour had a U.S. guestlist that was 90 percent white (Extra!, Winter/90); the guests of Fox's Special Report were 93 percent white (Extra!, 7=8/01).

Of the show's nine non-white guests, three were African-American and three were Latino. With each group representing about 13 percent of total U.S. population, they provided slightly more than 1 percent apiece of Reliable Sources guests. The show featured one appearance by an Asian-American; no Native American guest appeared during the year studied.

Two shows included an Arab viewpoint; in both cases the guest was Hisham Melhem, the Washington bureau chief of the Lebanese daily As-Safir. In a year in which Arab-Americans figured prominently in the news, when news media were criticized by some for contributing to an atmosphere of hostility to Arabs and Muslims, Reliable Sources featured no Arab-American guests.

Given that surveys of newsroom staffing and of mainstream coverage routinely show U.S. journalism to be dominated by white voices and stories, the near invisibility of ethnic minority viewpoints on a show that professes to address media fairness is conspicuous.

Women, like ethnic minorities, have been traditionally underrepresented in mainstream U.S. journalism. If Reliable Sources addressed the gender imbalance question, you couldn't tell by its guest list. Reliable Sources preferred male guests (155) to females (48); a greater than three to one margin (76 percent to 24 percent.)

And what about public interest voices? Citizens' groups, many of which have concerns about media coverage and its effects on their communities, received no representation at all on Reliable Sources during the year studied.

An example, not an examination
When a debate over media is limited to a narrow group largely consisting of media insiders, views held by large numbers of people will likely be left unvoiced. Concerns about how media underrepresents women and people of color, for example, are unlikely to get prominent attention in a forum that mirrors, and indeed exaggerates, that underrepresentation.

Criticisms of the way the U.S. media system is structured, with its emphasis on corporate profit and its reliance on advertising revenue, are particularly unlikely to be addressed by Reliable Sources--both because the critics from the left who are most likely to raise such issues are such a small minority, and because the bulk of the guests are media insiders who depend upon that system for their bread and butter.

On several critical questions of media fairness and inclusion, then, Reliable Sources serves less as a vehicle for examining the media order than as an example of how media fail to provide a forum for an open, wide-ranging debate.

Research assistance: Peter Brogan

© Fair.org 2003

Commentary:
Did the media call President Clinton a liar? Yes. Did they call Vice President Gore a liar? Yes. Have they called Bush, Bush Sr. or Reagan a liar. No. There is one truth. The media hates democrats--most likely because democrats candidates are smarter and more successful than their republican counterparts.

 
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GAO Slams Justice on Treatment of Aliens
By CURT ANDERSON
The Associated Press/Washington Post
Friday, May 9, 2003; 6:05 PM

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department's effort to interview some 7,600 foreigners in the United States after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was conducted haphazardly, leading to incomplete, inconclusive results, congressional investigators say.

The hastily created program of voluntary interviews - meant to identify and disrupt potential terrorist threats - encountered difficulties because of duplicate names, errors in government systems and problems finding people who had moved or left the country, the General Accounting Office reported Friday.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, found that as of March about 3,200 people, or about 42 percent of the government's list, had been interviewed. The project initially was expected to end in May 2002 but remains unfinished.

The report was requested by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis. Conyers, the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Friday that the Justice Department "cannot provide a shred of evidence" that the interviews were successful.

"I can only hope that this utter failure will cause (Attorney General John Ashcroft) to redirect the resources of his department and the FBI to better protect us from future threats," Conyers said.

Feingold called the program "questionable at best" and urged the Justice Department to thoroughly analyze its effectiveness "before contemplating any future interview programs."

Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock defended the interviews, saying they produced investigative leads on individuals who were attending flight schools and people involved in producing false identity documents, among others.

"We continue to believe the project was a positive step in disrupting potential terrorist activities," Comstock said.

Shortly after the 2001 attacks, Justice Department officials scrambled to head off a feared second wave. They pushed through Congress the USA Patriot Act, which increased government surveillance powers; detained hundreds of people on immigration violations; and made plans to interview thousands more foreigners.

The interviews were intended to check out people in the United States on temporary visas who had characteristics similar to the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks. The interviews focused on young men who entered the United States after Jan. 1, 2000, and were from one of 15 countries where the al-Qaida terror network had a known presence.

A list of more than two dozen questions provided by the Justice Department to U.S. attorneys around the country sought information about potential terrorists, plots in the works and the anthrax attacks of October 2001.

The Justice Department insists the interviews provided useful leads but, citing the sensitivity of anti-terrorism efforts, refused to provide any examples to the GAO. Justice officials say "fewer than 20" of those interviewed were arrested, most on immigration violations and none as suspected terrorists.

The GAO said it could not measure the success of the interviews because of the secrecy and because no analysis has been done of the results.

There was also mixed response from the mostly Middle Eastern communities where the interviews were conducted, with some officials saying people felt uncomfortable despite the voluntary nature of the sessions. But the GAO found no instances of abuse or wrongdoing by the FBI or any other agents.

The report urges the Justice Department to do a thorough review of how the project was set up so that problems can be avoided in future cases, even if officials must move quickly as they did after Sept. 11.

"National security, as opposed to interview project methodology and oversight, was rightfully paramount in importance," the GAO report said. "We believe that lessons that can assist similar future efforts can be gleaned" if a thorough analysis is done.

During the Iraq war, the FBI interviewed about 10,000 Iraqis who live in this country, producing 250 reports for the Defense Department describing Iraqis leaders and the location of sites such as bunkers, factories, tunnels and communications systems.

On the Net:

General Accounting Office: http://www.gao.gov

Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
National Security? Poppycock.

If Ashcroft was interested in real terrorism every person would have been interviewed by now. This war on terrorism is an inside joke on the American people. The White House probably goes to bed laughing thinking they're getting away to this warless war.

 
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FCC keeps ownership rules secret
By DAVID HO
The Associated Press/Washington Post
Friday, May 9, 2003; 10:20 PM

WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission's two Democrats said Friday they are frustrated by lack of information on the agency's review of media ownership rules and their chairman's refusal to make proposed changes public.

The agency's media bureau is expected to provide a draft proposal on rule changes to the five FCC commissioners by the end of Monday, three weeks before a planned vote on overhauling rules that govern ownership of newspapers and television and radio stations.

The FCC has been studying whether those decades-old restrictions still reflect a market altered by satellite broadcasts, cable television and the Internet.

FCC Chairman Michael Powell has said repeatedly that the rules are outdated and should be changed. The two other Republican commissioners are thought to have similar views.

Many large media companies are seeking broad changes to a rules regime that they contend hurts business.

Commissioner Michael Copps, one of the FCC's two Democrats, said that with only a few weeks until the vote, "We don't know what we're going to be working on. It's like a state secret."

Copps spoke on Capitol Hill alongside Democrats from the Senate Commerce Committee at a panel discussion of experts opposed to media consolidation.

Sens. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said eased ownership restrictions will leave a few giant media companies in control of what people see, read and hear.

"The country is really standing on a cliff when it comes to media concentration," Wyden said. "When you go over that cliff you are going to be fundamentally changing what this country is about, and not for the better."

Current ownership rules prevent mergers between major television networks and limit the number of TV and radio stations a company can own in a market. The rules also prohibit any single company from owning TV stations that reach more than 35 percent of U.S. households or owning a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same city.

A 1996 law required the FCC to study ownership rules every two years. Many changes proposed since then have remained unfinished or were sent back to the FCC after court challenges. Last year, the agency combined reviews of a half-dozen rules into the single effort now under way.

The FCC eased the restriction on major TV network mergers in 2001 by allowing the networks to combine with newer networks like WB or UPN.

Copps criticized arguments that the rules should be eased because cable TV and the Internet provide more diversity as sources of news and entertainment. He said most cable channels and sources of online news already are owned by a few large media companies.

Copps has traveled around the country with fellow FCC Democrat Jonathan Adelstein in recent months to get public comment on the review. Powell refused their repeated requests to have more than one public FCC hearing.

Lawmakers, musicians, academics and consumer groups have asked Powell to delay the media ownership vote or make public in advance details of proposed changes. Other lawmakers, mainly Republicans, and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans have urged Powell to stay on schedule.

Powell has said there is no need for more public comment, and he sees no reason to delay.

Adelstein said the June 2 vote is "a rush to judgment." He said he asked Powell to make the recommendations public in a briefing to the commissioners, but the chairman refused.

"It would be helpful to him to eliminate the charge that the public isn't being involved in this," Adelstein said. "He said he wouldn't do it."

Powell had no immediate comment on the Democrats' statements, but last week he singled out Adelstein as one of the commissioners who had been helpful in working with him developing the media ownership proposal.

Adelstein said he was pessimistic his contributions would be included in the draft.

"Most people in this country have no idea what's about to happen to them even though their very democracy is at stake," he said.

In the past, FCC commissioners occasionally have asked that an item on their agenda be postponed for a month. Copps and Adelstein said that remains an option, but they will wait until they see the proposal. Powell is not obligated to grant a delay.

---

On the Net: FCC: http://www.fcc.gov

© 2003 The Associated Press

Commentary:
What possible excuse can Powell have for keeping important information from the democrats and the American people. Doesn't he trust Americans with the facts or the truth?

 
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Iraqi cleric calls for 'independence'
BBC
Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK

The leader of Iraq's best-known Shia opposition group has told thousands of supporters that Iraqis would not accept a government imposed by foreigners.

Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim was addressing a crowd in the southern city of Basra, after returning from exile in Iran on Saturday.

The 63-year-old cleric was a fierce opponent of Saddam Hussein throughout his 23 years of exile - and many Shias consider him their most important leader.

His movements in Iraq are likely to be closely watched by United States and British officials, who are concerned that he might push for an Islamic state in Iraq.

"We now have to know our own way to rebuild Iraq, and forget the past," he told a jubilant followers who had gathered in a stadium in Basra on Saturday.

"We Muslims have to live together... We have to help each other stand together against imperialism.

"We want an independent government. We refuse imposed government," Ayatollah Hakim went on.

Many of his supporters carried his portrait and chanted their loyalty to him.

"Hakim has had many martyrs in his family," one follower, Mohammad Lamrayani, told Reuters news agency.

"He deserves our welcome after 23 years abroad. It is the right of every Iraqi to come back now after the fall of Saddam Hussein."

Standing aside?

The ayatollah had not set foot in his homeland since he went into exile in 1980, at the start of the Iran-Iraq war.

The BBC's Jane Peel says the roads to the stadium were virtually blocked as people rushed to see their spiritual leader.

But our correspondent adds that, although Basra is dominated by Shias, many are uncomfortable at the idea of an Islamic state.

Some are also wary because of Ayatollah Hakim's Iranian connections.

Ayatollah Hakim's supporters have said he does not favour an Iranian-style Islamic republic for Iraq.

Recently there has been speculation over whether he would continue to head Sciri or hand over the leadership to his younger brother, Abdulaziz Hakim.

He returned to Iraq earlier and, as deputy head of Sciri, has been taking part in talks with US officials on an interim Iraqi authority.

Caution

The ayatollah's return comes as the United Nations Security Council debates a draft resolution on post-war Iraq proposed by the United States and Britain.

Several member states have spoken against clauses in the resolution that limit the UN to an advisory and co-ordinating role.

France's permanent representative at the UN, Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, said the organisation's role should be enhanced - particularly in the political field.

The Russians say they want to see the return to Baghdad of UN weapons inspectors, and the continuation of the oil-for-food programme under UN supervision.

The current draft resolution aims to end 12 years of sanctions, and gives the British and Americans wide-ranging powers in post-war Iraq.

The 15 members of the security council are holding a weekend retreat with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, before further formal discussions next week.

© BBC 2003

Commentary:
Let's see; the US lied to the UN about weapons of mass destruction, lied about getting an up or down vote to go to war, lied to the UN about a nuclear program in Iraq and now the US wonders why no one trusts the government. Good grief.

Besides, the UN still has the legal authority to do weapons inspections in Iraq, not the US or Britian. Bush has shown he can't be trusted, it's as simple as that.

 
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Saddam letter urges fight
BBC
Last Updated: Saturday, 10 May, 2003, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK

A London Arabic newspaper has published a new hand-written letter said to be from the ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The letter calls on Iraqis to transform mosques into centres of resistance against US-led forces.

"All of you protect the homeland and all of you take up the resistance. Do not ...let them seize your oil and wealth... ," the message says.

The letter, dated 7 May and sent by fax to the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, bitterly attacks the US and Britain, but also pours scorn on Iraq's neighbours.

The newspaper, which published a similar message dated 28 April - Saddam Hussein's birthday - said it believed he had written and signed it.

The former president's fate has been unclear since the start of the war on 20 March, but this is the third message allegedly from him to surface since the end of last month.

On 7 May, Australia's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper carried the transcript of what appeared to be an audio tape recording by him urging Iraqis to fight against the US-led "invasion".

 ...Make the enemy feel that you hate him by word and deed

This latest letter calls on the Iraqi people - Shia and Sunni, Arab, Kurd and Turkmen alike - to unite to resist the occupiers.

Defence of the homeland, the letter insists, is a religious and national duty.

"I call on you, children of Iraq, to turn the mosques into centres of resistance and to ensure the triumph of religion, Islam and the homeland, and to make the enemy feel that you hate him by word and deed."

The letter also appears to refer to reports in the US media that Saddam Hussein ordered his younger son, Qusay, to take about $1bn in cash from the Iraqi Central Bank just hours before the first bombs fell on Baghdad.

State department spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed the report on 6 May following an article in the New York Times.

The letter said to be from Saddam Hussein says: " I say that the American and British invaders have plundered the antiquities and your oil from your wealth and even plundered from the banks amounts of money that exceed by far what they are declaring."

Neighbours condemned

The letter also details what it describes as the treachery and lies of countries in the region.

Syria has been under intense US pressure over its stance on a number of issues, including allegedly giving refuge to fleeing members of the Iraqi regime.

But the letter is scathing of the Syrian Government.

"While the Syrian regime embraced oppositionists who are traitors and allowed them to make contact with the CIA and Britain, it did not allow resisters to stay for a few days."

Saudi Arabia "allowed the invaders to desecrate the land of the Prophet" while Turkey "allowed US and British aircraft to kill your brothers and your country's sons for years."

There has been no conclusive evidence so far to determine whether Saddam Hussein is dead or alive, although it is the view of many Middle East analysts that he survived the US bombs and is probably still inside Iraq.

© BBC 2003

Commentary:
Let's see, under Bush Sr. we had massive deficits, a silly little war that didn't kill Saddam and an economy in shambles. Like father, like son.

 
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Cut taxes and forget the deficit
Copley News Service/Empower America
Jack Kemp
May 06, 2003

Speaking eloquently and very thoughtfully from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln last week, with the magnificent backdrop of our marvelous young men and women of the Navy, President Bush announced the end of major hostilities in Iraq. Unfortunately, we're not able to accompany that good news with any good news on the economy.

Overall, the economy grew at a tepid inflation-adjusted rate of 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2003, virtually unchanged from last year's fourth quarter rate of 1.4 percent. No wonder: Fixed investment in the economy fell in the first quarter, including a 7 percent drop in the computer industry. Construction spending and manufacturing activity also were off in March, and there were worrisome indications of weakness in the housing market, which had been the one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economic picture.

To top it off, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan says there's no need to cut the top rates because there is sufficient stimulus in the economy already.

Despite the skepticism of Greenspan - whose job it is to keep the dollar stable, not conduct tax policy - we desperately need lower tax rates on capital and labor now.

Without more capital investment, the economy cannot sustain new job creation, so it is not surprising that the economy continues to shed jobs and we find ourselves mired in a jobless recovery with unemployment at its highest level since 1994. The Labor Department reported the day after the president spoke that the unemployment rate rose to 6 percent in March with 48,000 lost jobs.

Unfortunately, the only thing currently growing at a robust rate is the size and scope of the federal government. Left unchecked, this growth in government presents a significant drag on the potential for future growth of the private sector and the overall health of the economy.

Bush realizes that it is the private sector, not the government, that is the catalyst for economic growth, and so he has proposed an economic growth plan that centers on tax reforms and incentive-based tax-rate reductions rather than promoting pork-barrel spending schemes in the name of fiscal stimulus. As annoying as the misinformation about the president's tax proposals from the political left may be, they are not nearly as destructive as the rear-guard assault on the president's sound economic proposals by the "fiscal austerity" wing of the Republican Party, which continues to place budget deficits uber alles, even over restoring strong economic expansion.

It is really a shame that Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich deliberately and single-handedly torpedoed Bush's tax-reform proposals to restore long-run vitality to the economy.

Voinovich, for example, has staked a claim as a "leading deficit hawk in the Senate." Recently on "Meet the Press" he explained, I'm all for eliminating the tax on dividends, but it's more a part of tax reform than it is an immediate stimulus (which) is what we really need today. We need a shot in the arm to the economy, but we don't need to shoot ourselves in the foot in terms of a deficit."

While I have no doubt about the senator's sincerity, he is, with all due respect, dead wrong and profoundly misguided. It is probably no coincidence that Voinovich mentioned that he is a lawyer, which only goes to prove Justice Louis Brandeis' dictum that, "A lawyer who has not studied economics ... is very apt to become a public enemy."

To his great credit, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas has stepped in to help sort out the mess created by the renegade senators.

He unveiled a $550 billion economic growth proposal last week that would reduce the tax rate on dividends and most capital gains to 15 percent or 5 percent, depending on the taxpayer's income. In addition, the bill would maintain the president's increase for small business expensing from $25,000 to $75,000; it would establish a 50 percent "bonus depreciation" through 2005 for qualifying capital investments and accelerate the marginal tax-rate reductions, among other initiatives.

There is also encouraging scuttlebutt around Washington that the Senate Finance Committee will seek to enact the president's entire dividend tax cut but phase it in over several years to accommodate the Senate's deficit phobia. Although I agree with Vice President Dick Cheney and Treasury Secretary John Snow that there is no good reason not to enact the president's entire economic growth program immediately, the Finance Committee idea and Thomas' bill are both reasonable compromises. They maintain the essence of the president's proposal while going most of the way toward satisfying the deficit obsessions of the Republican Senate.

The way should now be clear for Congress to declare hostilities on the tax bill at an end so that by Memorial Day we not only can commemorate those who gave their lives in the past for our freedom today but also celebrate the beginning of a new season and claim victory for the American worker and the American economy.

Reproduction of material from any Empower America pages without written permission is strictly prohibited
Copyright 2002 Empower America

Commentary:
I wanted to read for myself what conservative morals look like. Clearly, they don't represent a type of morality I'm familiar with. Empower America is run by Gambling Bill Bennett and Jack Kemp. Kemp is the guy who convinced Reagan to cut taxes in the 80's. It was Kemp's tax cut (or should we call it Reagan's) in the 80's that created our current fiscal insanity. Reagan borrowed over $1.6 trillion and gave it away. He created more debt than all previous presidents in history combined.

What is this obsession with cutting taxes? In the 90's conservatives said we had to balance the budget. Today, they want tax cuts that blow historic holes in the budget. What gives? Are they insane or just power hungry?

Reagan promised to balance the budget in four years. He couldn't do it in eight. Bush Sr. promised no new taxes, but raised taxes. This Bush said he wouldn't raid social programs to pay for his tax cut. He has. We have a trend here folks. It's called failure.

As things look right now Bush will borrow more money than any president in US history while he gives a good chunk of that borrowed money to the super rich. Bush, like Reagan picks those who he thinks should be winners and losers. He wants the rich to be the winners and future generations are the losers who have to pay for Bush gave away.

 
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Bennett made millions lecturing people on morality--and blown it on gambling
Washington Monthly
By Joshua Green
June 2003

"We should know that too much of anything, even a good thing, may prove to be our undoing...[We] need ... to set definite boundaries on our appetites."

--The Book of Virtues, by William J. Bennett

No person can be more rightly credited with making morality and personal responsibility an integral part of the political debate than William J. Bennett. For more than 20 years, as a writer, speaker, government official, and political operative, Bennett has been a commanding general in the culture wars. As Ronald Reagan's chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, he was the scourge of academic permissiveness. Later, as Reagan's secretary of education, he excoriated schools and students for failing to set and meet high standards. As drug czar under George H.W. Bush, he applied a get-tough approach to drug use, arguing that individuals have a moral responsibility to own up to their addiction. Upon leaving public office, Bennett wrote The Book of Virtues, a compendium of parables snatched up by millions of parents and teachers across the political spectrum. Bennett's crusading ideals have been adopted by politicians of both parties, and implemented in such programs as character education classes in public schools--a testament to his impact.

But Bennett, a devout Catholic, has always been more Old Testament than New. Even many who sympathize with his concerns find his combative style haughty and unforgiving. Democrats in particular object to his partisan sermonizing, which portrays liberals as inherently less moral than conservatives, more given to excusing personal weaknesses, and unwilling to confront the vices that destroy families. During the impeachment of Bill Clinton, Bennett was among the president's most unrelenting detractors. His book, The Death of Outrage, decried, among other things, the public's failure to take Clinton's sins more seriously.


His relentless effort to push Americans to do good has enabled Bennett to do extremely well. His best-selling The Book of Virtues spawned an entire cottage industry, from children's books to merchandizing tie-ins to a PBS cartoon series. Bennett commands $50,000 per appearance on the lecture circuit and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from such conservative benefactors as the Scaife and John M. Olin foundations.

Few vices have escaped Bennett's withering scorn. He has opined on everything from drinking to "homosexual unions" to "The Ricki Lake Show" to wife-swapping. There is one, however, that has largely escaped Bennett's wrath: gambling. This is a notable omission, since on this issue morality and public policy are deeply intertwined. During Bennett's years as a public figure, casinos, once restricted to Nevada and New Jersey, have expanded to 28 states, and the number continues to grow. In Maryland, where Bennett lives, the newly elected Republican governor Robert Ehrlich is trying to introduce slot machines to fill revenue shortfalls. As gambling spreads, so do its associated problems. Heavy gambling, like drug use, can lead to divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, and bankruptcy. According to a 1998 study commissioned by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, residents within 50 miles of a casino are twice as likely to be classified as "problem" or "pathological" gamblers than those who live further away.

If Bennett hasn't spoken out more forcefully on an issue that would seem tailor-made for him, perhaps it's because he is himself a heavy gambler. Indeed, in recent weeks word has circulated among Washington conservatives that his wagering could be a real problem. They have reason for concern. The Washington Monthly and Newsweek have learned that over the last decade Bennett has made dozens of trips to casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, where he is a "preferred customer" at several of them, and sources and documents provided to The Washington Monthly put his total losses at more than $8 million.

"I don't play the 'milk money.'"

Bennett has been a high-roller since at least the early 1990s. A review of one 18-month stretch of gambling showed him visiting casinos, often for two or three days at a time (and enjoying a line of credit of at least $200,000 at several of them). Bennett likes to be discreet. "He'll usually call a host and let us know when he's coming," says one source. "We can limo him in. He prefers the high-limit room, where he's less likely to be seen and where he can play the $500-a-pull slots. He usually plays very late at night or early in the morning--usually between midnight and 6 a.m." The documents show that in one two-month period, Bennett wired more than $1.4 million to cover losses. His desire for privacy is evident in his customer profile at one casino, which lists as his residence the address for Empower.org (the Web site of Empower America, the non-profit group Bennett co-chairs). Typed across the form are the words: "NO CONTACT AT RES OR BIZ!!!"

Bennett's gambling has not totally escaped public notice. In 1998, The Washington Times reported in a light-hearted front-page feature story that he plays low-stakes poker with a group of prominent conservatives, including Robert Bork, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A year later, the same paper reported that Bennett had been spotted at the new Mirage Resorts Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, where he was reputed to have won a $200,000 jackpot. Bennett admitted to the Times that he had visited the casino, but denied winning $200,000. Documents show that, in fact, he won a $25,000 jackpot on that visit--but left the casino down $625,000.

Bennett--who gambled throughout Clinton's impeachment--has continued this pattern in subsequent years. On July 12 of last year, for instance, Bennett lost $340,000 at Caesar's Boardwalk Regency in Atlantic City. And just three weeks ago, on March 29 and 30*, he lost more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. "There's a term in the trade for this kind of gambler," says a casino source who has witnessed Bennett at the high-limit slots in the wee hours. "We call them losers."

Asked by Newsweek columnist and Washington Monthly contributing editor Jonathan Alter to comment on the reports, Bennett admitted that he gambles but not that he has ended up behind. "I play fairly high stakes. I adhere to the law. I don't play the 'milk money.' I don't put my family at risk, and I don't owe anyone anything." The documents offer no reason to contradict Bennett on these points. Bennett claims he's beaten the odds: "Over 10 years, I'd say I've come out pretty close to even."

"You can roll up and down a lot in one day, as we have on many occasions," Bennett explains. "You may cycle several hundred thousand dollars in an evening and net out only a few thousand."

"I've made a lot of money [in book sales, speaking fees and other business ventures] and I've won a lot of money," adds Bennett. "When I win, I usually give at least a chunk of it away [to charity]. I report everything to the IRS."

But the documents show only a few occasions when he turns in chips worth $30,000 or $40,000 at the end of an evening. Most of the time, he draws down his line of credit, often substantially. A casino source, hearing of Bennett's claim to breaking even on slots over 10 years, just laughed.

"You don't see what I walk away with," Bennett says. "They [casinos] don't want you to see it."

Explaining his approach, Bennett says: "I've been a 'machine person' [slot machines and video poker]. When I go to the tables, people talk--and they want to talk about politics. I don't want that. I do this for three hours to relax." He says he was in Las Vegas in April for dinner with the former governor of Nevada and gambled while he was there.

Bennett says he has made no secret of his gambling. "I've gambled all my life and it's never been a moral issue with me. I liked church bingo when I was growing up. I've been a poker player."

 

But while Bennett's poker playing and occasional Vegas jaunt are known to some Washington conservatives, his high-stakes habit comes as a surprise to many friends. "We knew he went out there [to Las Vegas] sometimes, but at that level? Wow!" said one longtime associate of Bennett.

Despite his personal appetites, Bennett and his organization, Empower America, oppose the extension of casino gambling in the states. In a recent editorial, his Empower America co-chair Jack Kemp inveighed against lawmakers who "pollute our society with a slot machine on every corner." The group recently published an Index of Leading Cultural Indicators, with an introduction written by Bennett, that reports 5.5 million American adults as "problem" or "pathological" gamblers. Bennett says he is neither because his habit does not disrupt his family life.

When reminded of studies that link heavy gambling to divorce, bankruptcy, domestic abuse, and other family problems he has widely decried, Bennett compared the situation to alcohol.

"I view it as drinking," Bennett says. "If you can't handle it, don't do it."

Bennett is a wealthy man and may be able to handle losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Of course, as the nation's leading spokesman on virtue and personal responsibility, Bennett's gambling complicates his public role. Moreover, it has already exacted a cost. Like him or hate him, William Bennett is one of the few public figures with a proven ability to influence public policy by speaking out. By furtively indulging in a costly vice that destroys millions of lives and families across the nation, Bennett has profoundly undermined the credibility of his word on this moral issue.

Reporting assistance provided by Robert W. J. Fisk, Soyoung Ho, and Brent Kendall.

* misstated in original version as April 5 and 6

Copyright © 2003 The Washington Monthly

Commentary:
In two months Gambling Bill lost $1.4 million. Did he live in the casino? More of those conservative family values we can do without.

 
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The Man of Virtues Has a Vice
Newsweek
By Jonathan Alter and Joshua Green
May 02, 2003

May 2 —  In his best-selling anthology, "The Book of Virtues,' William J. Bennett writes: "We should know that too much of anything, even a good thing, may prove to be our undoing … [We] need to set definite boundaries on our appetites.'

DOES BENNETT? The popular author, lecturer and Republican Party activist speaks out, often indignantly, about almost every moral issue except one—gambling. It's not hard to see why. According to casino documents, Bennett is a "preferred customer' in at least four venues in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, betting millions of dollars over the last decade. His games of choice: video poker and slot machines, some at $500 a pull. With a revolving line of credit of at least $200,000 at each casino, Bennett, former drug czar and secretary of Education under Presidents Reagan and Bush, doesn't have to bring money when he shows up at a casino.

More than 40 pages of internal casino documents provided to The Washington Monthly and NEWSWEEK paint a picture of a gambler given the high-roller treatment, including limos and tens of thousands of dollars in complimentary hotel rooms and other amenities. In one two-month period, the documents show him wiring more than $1.4 million to cover losses at one casino. In one 18-month stretch, Bennett visited a number of casinos for two or three days at a time. And Bennett must have worried about news of his habit leaking out. His customer profile at one casino lists an address that corresponds to Empower.org, the Web site of Empower America, the group Bennett cochairs. But typed across the form are the words: NO CONTACT AT RES OR BIZ!!!
       Some of Bennett's losses have been substantial. According to one casino source, on July 12 of last year, Bennett lost $340,000 at Caesars in Atlantic City, and on April 5 and 6 of 2003 he lost more than $500,000 at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Some casino estimates put his total losses over the past decade at more than $8 million. "There's a term in the trade for his kind of gambler,' says a casino source who has witnessed Bennett at the high-limit slots in the wee hours. "We call them losers.'

Reached by NEWSWEEK, Bennett acknowledged he gambles but not that he has ended up behind. "Over 10 years, I'd say I've come out pretty close to even,' Bennett says, though he wouldn't discuss any specific figures. "You can roll up and down a lot in one day, as we have on many occasions,' Bennett explains. "You may cycle several hundred thousand dollars in an evening and net out only a few thousand.'

 But during the 18-month period, the documents show, there were only a few occasions when Bennett turned in chips—worth about $30,000 or $40,000—at the end of an evening. Most of the time, he drew down his line of credit, often substantially. A casino source, hearing of Bennett's claim to breaking even on slots over 10 years, just laughed.

"I play fairly high stakes. I adhere to the law. I don't play the ‘milk money.' I don't put my family at risk, and I don't owe anyone anything,' Bennett says. The documents do not contradict those points.

Bennett, who earns more than $50,000 per speaking engagement and made several hundred thousand dollars in publishing advances for the more recent of his 11 books, says "I've made a lot of money and I've won a lot of money. When I win, I usually give at least a chunk of it away [to charity]. I report everything to the IRS.'

 "You don't see what I walk away with,' Bennett says. "They [the casinos] don't want you to see it.'

Bennett says he plays slot machines and video poker for privacy. "I've been a machine person,' he says. "When I go to the tables, people talk—and they want to talk about politics. I don't want that. I do this for three hours to relax.'

 He has made no secret of his gambling, Bennett adds. He says he was in Las Vegas in April for dinner with the former governor of Nevada and gambled while he was there. "I've gambled all my life, and it's never been a moral issue with me. I liked church bingo when I was growing up. I've been a poker player.' He says that after a recent speech in Rochester, he was asked whether he would run for president in 2008 and answered that he might enter the World Series of Poker instead.

Bennett has long been known to be part of a small-stakes poker game in Washington with Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia and lawyer Robert Bork. But his high-stakes gaming comes as a surprise to many friends. "We knew he went out there [to Las Vegas] sometimes, but at that level? Wow!' says one longtime associate.

Bennett and his organization, Empower America, oppose the extension of casino gambling in the states. In a recent editorial, his Empower America cochair, Jack Kemp, inveighed against lawmakers who "pollute our society with a slot machine on every corner.' The group recently published an "Index of Leading Cultural Indicators' that reports 5.5 million American adults as "problem' or "pathological' gamblers. Bennett says he has his gambling under control.

When reminded of studies that link heavy gambling to divorce, bankruptcy, domestic abuse and other family problems he has widely decried, Bennett compared the situation to alcohol. "I view it as drinking,' Bennett says. "If you can't handle it, don't do it.'

© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.

Commentary:
Bennett heads an organization that wants to stop gambling, but only for average joe. Bennett can always fly to Vegas and get HIS betting in. What a hypocrite.

 
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President and Senator Clinton--a force to reckon with
Newsweek
May 12, 2003

May 12 issue —  If you write about politics, you had to be in Columbia, S.C., last weekend for what amounted to the start of the 2004 Democratic presidential road show.

EVEN SO, Meryl Gordon of New York Magazine was ambivalent. The event that drew her and the tribe was a Saturday-night debate, staged by ABC. But the nine Democratic contenders were so lacking in star power that only 57 ABC stations, reaching half the country, had agreed to carry the show, and then only on tape at 11:30 p.m.—'after,' as they say on the TV page, "your late local news.' On the other hand, Gordon fretted, she'd been invited to one of the glitzier Manhattan media events in ages: a Sunday brunch and baby shower hosted by Hillary Rodham Clinton for her former press secretary, Lisa Caputo. With Clinton's autobiography soon to hit the stores, Hillary Hysteria was more intense than usual. Every "TV diva'—Katie, Diane, Barbara—was expected to be there, plus swarms of producers, all of them eager to book Hillary for their highly rated programs. Plane connections were such that Gordon couldn't make it. "Tough choice,' she said. Political consultant Mandy Grunwald, who is advising Sen. Joe Lieberman, agreed: "It's the mother of all baby showers.'

THE ‘GOOD OLD DAYS'

The race to challenge an incumbent president always begins in the shadows, but the Democrats face special problems this time. They are sandwiched between two powerful forces. One, of course, is George W. Bush, a "wartime' president willing to use all the ships at sea—or at least one aircraft carrier—to underscore his popularity as the commander in chief in the global fight against terrorism. The other is the Clintons. They remain reviled figures in some quarters. But they are admired, especially by Democrats, as architects of what, increasingly, look like the "good old days' of the American economy. Indeed, if the Democrats are going to beat Bush, they'll have to brag about Clinton's economic record. That, in turn, means bringing the man himself—in all his controversial dimensions—back onto the stage in 2004.

The Clinton Nostalgia Tour begins next month, with the mega-hyped arrival of Hillary's "Living History.' Among other topics, it will discuss her husband's infamous trysts with Monica Lewinsky. The details aren't expected to be too juicy, but the overall effect will be clear: what one friend of the couple described as "not just a token slap.' With a first printing of 1 million copies—the kind of commitment reserved for the likes of Pope John Paul II—the book will require relentless salesmanship. The author, who prefers to keep the media at arm's length, will handle the selling. Her husband, meanwhile, is far along on his own book, now scheduled to be published in the fall of 2004—smack in the middle of the general election campaign.

Even when he isn't onstage, Bill Clinton is a central character. The former president has made himself the off-the-record clearinghouse of the Democratic race, phoning in unsolicited advice and vacuuming up gossip. "He knows everything that's going on down to the last detail,' said one of his advisers. Candidates value his calls and compete with each other to sing his praises as a strategist. "He's always got great advice,' said Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, who formally launches his campaign this week. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean went further. "We're not going to see anybody with Clinton's talent in our lifetime,' he said. Still, some strategists wonder privately about Clinton's motives. "His wife wants to run for president in 2008,' said one '04 adviser. "If they want to get back to the White House, why help us to get there first?'

Clinton, for his part, carefully protects his neutrality—and his record on the issues. He did so last week when dragged into the ongoing catfight between prep-schooled New England Yalies Dean ('71) and Sen. John Kerry ('66) of Massachusetts. Dean, who likes to make his points in dramatic fashion, was quoted as saying that America "won't always have the strongest military.' Kerry's team, eager to sell their man's record as a Vietnam vet, pounced. The remark, they said, showed Dean was a naif and a wuss who accepted the inevitability of military decline. In defense, Dean's forces found—and posted on the Web—Clinton quotes that appeared to support their man's original point: that diplomacy is crucial if the world's only superpower is to avoid being "encircled' by resentful countries. Clinton went ballistic, sources say. Normally hard to reach when traveling, he told The Washington Post from Mexico City: "I never advocated that we not have the strongest military in the world.' (As for Dean, he hasn't shed his antiwar skepticism. "I have not been convinced that Saddam was ever a threat to the United States,' he told NEWSWEEK.)

Clinton doesn't mind being cited when the topic is the economy, and the candidates were obliging in South Carolina. At a Friday-night fish fry, they used the recent rise in unemployment as evidence that Bush had, in Graham's words, "squandered the prosperity we had at the end of the Clinton years.' Party insiders predicted more of the same. "Clinton is going to become more and more of an asset,' said Jim Hunt, the ex-governor of North Carolina and a key supporter of Sen. John Edwards. "There are people in my state who voted Republican and are looking at the economy and saying, ‘You know what? You guys ought to bring that boy Clinton back'.' Given his economic record, "I wouldn't be ashamed to campaign with him,' said Dean.

Whether the Democrats will do so in the fall of 2004 remains an open question. The Clintons' never-ending marital soap opera—soon to be front and center again—is one reason. But so is his image on military matters. He has praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but is reviled by many military men and women—at a time when they are popular. They know his history, which includes a questionable escape from the draft and a stint in the 1972 antiwar presidential campaign of George McGovern. It's not a history that most of this year's crop of candidates will be eager to invoke. Kerry, for example, doesn't advertise the fact—indeed, he says he does not remember—that he had campaigned for McGovern in at least one Democratic primary that year, in Oregon. Perhaps Clinton will shed more light on the '72 campaign when his autobiography comes out next year. In the meantime, the reporters in South Carolina will be eager to hear what Hillary has to say—and to see which of the TV divas wins the bidding war at the baby shower.

© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.

Commentary:
I like this story. Once again we see how corrupt the media is. ABC does the debate, but puts it at a time when no one will watch it. Worse yet, few stations carry it because it doesn't have star power. So presidential candidate have to be stars these days huh? Did anyone have a clue who Bush was at this time in the last presidential election?

One has to wonder why anyone would still be complaining about peace, prosperity and record surpluses under Clinton. Compared to the joke we have now any candidate should be able to whomp Bush without breaking a sweat. What the dems need most is a media that will be fair. If it's fair, Bush is toast, so you can bet your bottom dollar they'll go after every democrat with vengeance and never mention Bush's endless lies.

Note in this article Bush is called a war time president, but there's no reference to his record deficits and lies about why he went to war. Fair or balanced? From the US press? Not a chance.


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