Saturday, June 26, 2004

With Cheney's "F-Bomb," Conservatives Show Their Hypocrisy

Just a brief note on Vice President Cheney dropping the "F-Bomb" at Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Amazingly, Cheney told Fox News that he felt better after swearing Tuesday. He had no remorse whatsoever for his immature act, which occurred in a public setting, with other Senators and government officials within earshot. (Hardly surprisingly -- this administration never admits mistakes.)

Even more amazing, the conservative pundits don't have a problem with Cheney's act, or his inability to apologize. A panel with Brit Hume, Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer actually seemed to revel in Cheney's actions, saying it showed how "human" he was, and that "everybody" uses language like that.

So much for touting family values.

What's hypocritical, of course, is that the conservative commentary now is 180 degrees off where it has been with former vice president Al Gore. How many times have the conservatives attacked Gore not for what he said, but for the way he said it?

"Screaming ... screeching," Sean Hannity said of Gore last week, while a passive Alan Colmes sat quietly. It's a cause that Hannity has taken up several times. Gore was too loud, Hannity says, failing to acknowledge that Gore's "rant," as he calls it, lasted all of about four minutes in an hour-long address, and was in response to an increasingly boisterous crowd.

Gore raises his voice while making serious points, and the conservatives pounce. Cheney shows a lack of professionalism, spouts a word that responsible politicians don't use in public gatherings, and the conservatives applaud him.

It's sad, really.


Friday, June 25, 2004

Those Oregon Conservatives Aren't Stupid

You have to hand it to the conservatives in Oregon. They may have come up with a gameplan to help get President Bush re-elected. And unfortunately, it's perfectly legal.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Two conservative groups have been phoning people around Oregon this week, urging them to attend Ralph Nader’s convention Saturday in hopes of putting Nader’s name on Oregon’s presidential ballot.

The groups make no bones about their goal — to draw votes away from Democrat John Kerry and help President Bush win this battleground state in November.

“We disagree with Ralph Nader’s politics, but we’d love to see him make the ballot,” said Russ Walker of Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group best known for its opposition to tax increases.

The Oregon Family Council also has been working the phones to boost attendance at Nader’s event — with the idea that it could help Bush this fall.“We aren’t bashful about doing it,” said Mike White, the group’s director. “We are a conservative, pro-family organization, and Bush is our guy on virtually every issue.”

Even if it comes from an unusual source, Nader can probably use the help, given that this will be his second attempt to win a spot on Oregon’s ballot.In April, Nader held an evening rally in Portland that was intended to attract 1,000 people needed to sign petitions to put him on the ballot. Only 741 showed up.

Should Nader publicly rebuke the conservatives? Should he risk not appearing on the Oregon ballot to avoid tainting his claim that his candidacy "hurts Bush as much as it hurts Kerry"? The AP story says Nader's Oregon chairman, Greg Kafoury "isn't bothered by (the conservatives) actions." That might say volumes about Nader's campaign -- if in fact it represents Nader's views.

The story does not quote the Kerry or Bush campaigns.

This is a presidential election we're taling about, and perhaps the story the media should be discussing is the GOP's continued efforts to undermine the Democratic Party by cutting corners on the democratic process. The Oregon effort isn't far removed from the GOP-led effort to redistrict Texas to increase the chances of GOP congressional victories, or the fact that the electronic ballot boxes to be used in Florida -- the ones with no paper trail -- are made by a company headed by the Ohio chairman of Bush-Cheney 2004. And if the Oregon conservatives are successful, can we expect similar efforts in other states?

Remember the conservative mantra: "The ends justify the means." If that means Republican dirty tricks, so be it.

Let's see Tim Russert ask Ralph Nader where he will disavow the Oregon effort. Heck, let's see Chris Matthews ask Republican National Committee chair Ed Gillespie whether he will disavow the effort. Something tells me the major media will look the other way.


Thursday, June 24, 2004

USA Today Uses Oddball Logic to Support Bush "Economic Recovery"

The Bush-Cheney re-election team really wants to change the subject from Iraq, Abu Ghraib and the 9/11 Commission to the economy, where even Democrats admit things have improved from their nadir.

But Bush-Cheney want to convince the American people that things are downright rosy, and in their usual over-the-top, full-court-press, don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts, ends-justify-the-means, my-interpretation-of-the-numbers-are-better-than-your-numbers style, that means that anyone who points out basic facts -- like John Kerry -- is a backward-looking, ill-advised pessimist.

The Bush administration needs an ignorant society to make its claims of success stick -- at home or abroad. And too often, the media is all too willing to help. I don't know if it's simply giving the administration the benefit of the doubt, laziness in reporting, or a true belief that the economy is good. It doesn't really matter, because any way you slice it, it's just bad journalism.

Yesterday, USA Today followed the lead of the Bush spin points and wrote an editorial on how Kerry's "credibility is wilting" because he keeps talking about the struggles of the middle class "even in the midst of a robust expansion" of the economy.

Read the points that USA Today makes, and consider the pained logic they use to knock Kerry:

Kerry's index paints a partial inflation picture. It plots the rise in costs for health care, gasoline and college tuition, which have risen sharply during Bush's presidency, but it ignores falling or stable prices for other items — from cars to computers to clothing. It also ignores the relatively low unemployment rate of 5.6%, record low interest rates and a stock market up 40% from its 2002 lows, despite recent doldrums.

Take a look at these points:

1) Health care, gasoline and college tuition costs are up, but Kerry doesn't consider cars, computers and clothing. Alliteration aside, which grouping costs more? If you don't have health care insurance, even prescriptions can run into the hundreds or even thousands. If you don't have health care, a necessary procedure certainly can run into the tens of thousands. College tuition? Most public universities are charging $1,500 or more per year since Bush took office. That's $6,000 for one student over a four-year college career.

By comparison, how many computers does the average person buy in a four-year period? One? So, great, you just saved $200. And car prices aren't lower -- they're stable. What's lower is the monthly payment plans being offered -- how many offers have you seen recently promoting low monthly payments, with a huge balloon payment in month 48? That may get you into a car cheaply, but you pay eventually, either by having to finance that car buy over seven years (to cover the balloon) or by getting whacked when you trade the car in. And let's face facts: the reason so many automakers are offering these cut-rate deals is because the auto industry remains in a slump.

How about points three and four. Unemployment is 5.6%, which is higher than when Bush took office. And if you believe the critics and the studies they cite, the average person getting back into the workforce is earning at least 35% less than what they earned in their previous job. And a greater percentage of people finding jobs in this "recovery" are faced with the prospect of no health insurance in their new positions.

As for the stock market -- the New York Stock Exchange is hovering just over 10,000. It peaked at about 11,000 under Clinton. So the average person's stock holdings have decreased in value since Bush took office. Great recovery.

Back to USA Today's pained logic:

It ignores the economic recovery. Most measures of economic health, while below levels of the booming 1990s, have been heading upward. The economy has added an impressive 1.2 million jobs since January, inflation rose a modest 2% over the past year, and wages are picking up.

Economists will tell you that the economy needs to produce 175,000 jobs just to keep up with population growth. So in five months (June figures aren't out yet), that would equal 875,000 jobs. The Bush "recovery," with all the bells and whistles thrown into it to get it chugging, has barely outpaced that figure. And that's the best this economy has provided. Bush promised 6 million new jobs from his second tax cut stimulus package -- the one that came after 9/11 and after the dot-com crash. Even with the recent job creation, the nation has lost about 1 million jobs since that stimulus was passed -- putting Bush only 7 million jobs off the pace he promised.

Meanwhile, while inflation has been low under Bush, it was up 0.6% in May, and is on pace to be up significantly in 2004 (when compared with 2003) -- the effect of higher gas, milk, meat and other price increases. Wage growth may be picking up, but it's not keeping pace with what you would expect in a normal economic recovery.

It overstates the nation's "misery ." The traditional misery index is a respectable 7.8% so far this year. That compares with a high of 20.6% in 1980 and a low of 6.1% in 1998. It has averaged 7.7% under Bush, lower than in any presidential term in the past 30 years, except for Bill Clinton's second.

Think about this statement -- Bush has done better than any president except Bill Clinton in his second term? So, things have gotten worse in the past four years! But Kerry is wrong to suggest that?

Kerry's supporters say his index taps into the anxiety average Americans feel. "If anything at all goes wrong — an illness or temporary layoff — most families can't pay the bills, and they risk everything they've built and saved for," the candidate said last week. Those fears are felt by many workers, particularly in the nation's industrial Midwest, where economic gains have been uneven. But they don't compare with the anxieties sparked by runaway inflation in the 1970s or worse recessions in the 1980s and early '90s.

So it's wrong for people to feel the economy is worse now than under Clinton's second term, and instead they should feel better because things are not as bad as they were in the 1970s?

If USA Today -- or the conservatives it agrees with -- want to say the economy is getting better, that's a point to debate. I'm sure even Democrats would agree things are modestly better than a year ago or certainly after 9/11. But should we only look at this month's data, or 2004 data? Shouldn't we elect a president based on what was done over the entire presidency?

Bush-Cheney scold Kerry for looking backward instead of looking forward. They call him a pessimist, and portray Bush as an optimist.

The more accurate way to look at it is that Kerry is willing to acknowledge problems in the economy, and if elected, do something about those problems. Bush wants Americans to ignore their own economic interests, look the other way when their children's tuition rises or gas breaks $2/gallon, and passively agree with the administration that things are rosy.

I just have to believe the American people are smarter than that.


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Follow the bouncing ball, please:

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that Saddam Hussein had "long-established ties" with al Qaeda, an assertion that has been repeatedly challenged by some policy experts and lawmakers.

The vice president offered no details backing up his claim of a link between Saddam and al Qaida."He was a patron of terrorism," Cheney said of Hussein during a speech before The James Madison Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Florida. "He had long established ties with al Qaeda."

Of course, President Bush, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Powell and National Security Advisor Rice have all, at some point, said the opposite. Bush, in September of 2002, actually went out of his way to publicly correct the vice president.

As quipped on Air America's "Unfiltered" this morning (I'm paraphrasing), it's as if the administration has one message for the New York Times, and another for the campaign trail.

But, please, follow the bouncing ball.

What folllows is s a partial transcript from today's press conference with Bush spokesman Scott McLellan.

Q Can I ask about Vice President Cheney, because yesterday he repeated what is a very controversial claim. He said that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda. Does the President believe that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda?

MR. McCLELLAN: We certainly talked about the ties with terrorism between the -- between the regime that was removed from power, and we talked about those ties prior to the decision to remove that regime from power. So that was well-documented. Secretary Powell went before the United Nations and talked about some of those ties to terrorism, as well. And Zarqawi is certainly a senior al Qaeda associate who was in Iraq prior to the decision to go in and remove the regime from power.

Q There's also al Qaeda in the United States. That does not mean the United States is cooperating with those members of al Qaeda. Just by the presence of someone does not mean there's a cooperation.

MR. McCLELLAN: But, remember, we're talking about an oppressive regime that was in power in Iraq that exercised control over that country. And go back and look at what we documented, Norah. We documented all this, and I think that's what the Vice President was referring to.

Q So today you're saying the President does agree there were long --

MR. McCLELLAN: We stand by what we've said previously, in terms of the regime's ties to terrorism, yes. And I think that's what the Vice President was referring to.

Q The President said there were no ties in the run up to the war.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, that's a mischaracterization. There were clear ties to terrorism between the regime --

Q He said there were no ties with al Qaeda.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- certainly supporting suicide bombers in the Middle East.

Q Are you repudiating what the President said?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you're talking about September 11th.

Here's my question: Is the only thing preventing impeachment hearings the fact that there's a Republican House and Senate?


We Get It -- Kerry's Wealthy (But What About Bush?)

The New York Times had two items -- one a news article on John Kerry's vice presidential-selection process, the other a column by conservative David Brooks -- which continue a theme.

Kerry is well-off.

He's a rich guy. His wife is the Heinz pickle heiress, you know. He plays classical guitar, got a Yale Law degree, speaks French, likes to vacation with the well-to-do on the snowboard trails in Idaho. Hey, he has a boat. The guy has money.

We get it.

But what's amazing is that this information is front-and-center -- the implied message is that Kerry is so rich that he's out of touch -- while anything reference the wealth of Bush and Cheney is afterthought.

The news article, by Glen Justice, "Of 4 Choices, 4 Millionaires for 2nd Spot in Kerry Run" highlights Kerry's wealth, as well as four possible veep picks -- Sens. John Edwards, Bob Graham, Evan Bayh and Bill Nelson.

"That's the Senate, said Stanley Brand, a former general counsel to the House of Representatives who advises members of Congress on ethics. "It has become a millionaire's club."

For what it's worth, Brand has been labeled a Democrat.But who exactly is Kerry to choose? A truck driver from Columbus? A plumber from Grand Rapids? Perhaps a pro bono lawyer from Miami?

Politics is a rich person's game. George Bush has a checkered past -- he got a loan to buy a stake in baseball's Texas Rangers, then cashed out for a humongo profit (after trading Sammy Sosa to the White Sox). He also was involved in what some have called an insider trading scandal at Harken Energy, cashing out of some $846,000 of stock. And, of course, Vice President Cheney is a wealthy man, from his ties to Halliburton, which continue to paying him handsomely. Last time I checked, quite a few people in the Bush administration -- Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Commerce Secretary Evans, etc. -- are very well-to-do.

But none of that appeared in the Kerry article. Kerry's rich, you know.

Bush, according to today's drivel from David Brooks, "went to business school and drives a pickup around his ranch." Kerry, meanwhile, "graduated from law school and plays classical guitar." Brooks concludes: "So we can watch the conflict between these two rival elites play itself out in almost crystalline form."

Bush is a rich guy who talks dumb while driving his pickup on the ranch down in nowheresville, Texas. Message: He may be rich, but he's one of us.

Bush went to Yale undergrad and got an MBA -- don't know if he earned it, but he does have it -- from Harvard University. But since he can't string together coherent, meaningful sentences off the cuff, he must be one of us.

Meanwhile, Kerry's playing the classical guitar, singing in French in between sipping his latte, preparing to join with another out-of-touch "limousine liberal" in his run for the White House.

This is the nonsense coming from the conservatives. The political gameplan is clear -- when in doubt, discredit the opponent.

I wonder if Edwards, Graham, Bayh or Nelson speaks French?


Thursday, June 10, 2004

Is There an Antidote for "Hannitization"?

The question keeps getting asked, and conservatives don't want to answer it:

"If a conservative pundit or politician distorts or exaggerates the facts, or outright lies, to score points in debate, doesn't that cast doubt on the credibility of everything that pundit or politician says?"

Let's look at conservative radio and television pundit Sean Hannity. Should we question Sean's credibility? Consider this recent exchange:

Elaine Kamarck: John Kerry has been a deficit hawk from the word 'go.' In the 80s -- don't laugh at me. Do you that that he voted with President Reagan? In the 80s, he voted for the famous Gramm-Rudman Act. Not many Democrats did that.

Sean Hannity: Did he vote for the Reagan tax cuts?

Kamarck: He voted for ...

Hannity: Did he vote for the Reagan tax cuts? No.

Why didn't Kerry vote for the Reagan tax cuts of 1981? Because he wasn't in Congress yet.

Now, that leads us to two choices:

1) Hannity didn't know that Kerry wasn't in Congress at the time, in which case, he's an idiot for debating an issue he hasn't researched.
2) Hannity did know that Kerry wasn't in Congress at the time, but assumed he could distort the facts and further turn his FOX News Channel audience against Kerry.

Hannity, of course, has repeated the Bush-Cheney 2004 claim that Kerry has voted for higher taxes 350 times in his career -- knowing full well that the figure includes times when Kerry voted for bills pushing tax cuts, but not as deep as competing bills would allow. According to various independent sources, using the Bush-Cheney 2004 math, President Bush had supported higher taxes 63 times since becoming president.

Hannity, like other conservative pundit and politicians, knows the claim is bogus. But it's easier to throw out the simplistic, albeit distorted, number, than to go over specific bills Kerry voted for that raised taxes.

Similarly, it's easier for Hannity and other to say that Kerry once supported a 50-cent gas-tax hike. The truth is that more than a decade ago, in considering ways to reduce the deficit, Kerry mulled a possible gas-tax hike. No bill was ever brought to Congress, and no vote was ever taken. Acting like a responsible politician, Kerry considered the pros and cons before deciding a gas-tax hike wasn't the best way to go.

BTW, Hannity probably doesn't remember -- and if he does, he won't mention -- that his favorite leader, Ronald Reagan, passed a gas-tax hike, in 1982.


Last month, prior to interviewing Sen. John McCain, Hannity said: "(Kerry) has voted against just about every major weapons system we now have."

As pointed out by Bob Somersby of The Daily Howler, that's technically correct, because Kerry voted against annual defense appropriations bills three times in 19 years. By default, that means he's voted against just about every major weapons system we have.

But using that logic, countless Democrats and Republicans have voted against funding our defense department, or education, or veterans benefits, or homeland security -- if they ever voted against an annual budget offered by the president.

Hannity knows that, but he doesn't want to tell his viewers. But McCain knew it was wrong to distort the facts.

McCain: I would be accused of voting against numerous weapon systems, because I voted against defense appropriation bills, because they're loaded down with pork.

So what did Hannity do? He changed the subject: "But on defense issues, the most important issue of our time, that -- your guy is George W. Bush, right?"

Is Sean Hannity credible? He has a right to his opinion, just like any liberal or conservative. But beyond the fact that Hannity distorts the truth to make his points, here's two questions: Why does Hannity have to distort the truth to make his points? Aren't there enough actual facts out there -- supporting Bush, not supporting Kerry -- for conservative pundits like Hannity?

I'd have more respect for Hannity if he just stuck to the facts, rather than the distortions.


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

List of JABBS Special Features

Here is a list of JABBS special features:

Campaign 2008: Let The Games Begin
A look at the 2008 race for the presidency

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...
Items regarding conservatives or conservative spin that are ludicrous, often requiring no additional commentary.

And Now For Something Completely Different ...
A JABBS-eye view of good news for America. (Conservative spinners may think otherwise.)

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