There was an interesting note a few days ago on Ruy Teixeira's blog, commenting on the recent Ipsos-AP poll. I'd heard there was something like this in the poll. But reading Ruy's post jogged my memory ...
First, consider the question of whether the Iraq war was a mistake. You know when more people than not starting thinking a war was a mistake (remember Vietnam!), the incumbent administration is in real trouble. And Ipsos now has the first example of this. They asked the question: "All in all, thinking about how things have gone in Iraq since the United States went to war there in March 2003, do you think the Bush administration made the right decision in going to war in Iraq or made a mistake in going to war in Iraq?" The response: 49 percent mistake/48 percent right decision. When Ipsos asked the same question four months ago, however, they got a lopsidedly positive reply: 67 percent right decision/29 percent mistake. Quite a change.
Note that this question specifically mentions "the Bush administration"; they also asked the same question with "United States" substituted for Bush administration. That question returns a more positive reply: 57 percent right decision/40 percent mistake. Interesting how the specific mention of the Bush administration apparently moves people toward the "mistake" judgement.
Perhaps someone can help me with this.
Based on this article which ran today in Salon and emails I've exchanged today with veterans who are familiar with what these records should look like, apparently President Bush didn't release his complete military service records even though the White House repeatedly said he did.
I fear this is becoming another example of my press colleagues' deep-seated corruption.
I've never quite understood all the arcana of the Bush Air National Guard story, so I never know quite what to make of new reports. But there's an article out in Salon on Tuesday which makes a pretty straightforward case that the 'complete' service record the White House released last February, actually wasn't complete at all.
Here are the key grafs ...
The president and his staff are doing a very good job of convincing the public he has released all of his National Guard records and that they prove he was responsible during his time in Alabama and Texas. But the critical documents have still not been seen. The mandatory written report about Bush's grounding is mysteriously not in the released file, nor is any other disciplinary evidence. A document showing a "roll-up," or the accumulation of his total retirement points, is also absent, and so are his actual pay stubs. If the president truly wanted to end the conjecture about his time in the Guard, he would allow an examination of his pay stubs and any IRS W-2 forms from his Guard years. These can be pieced together to determine when he was paid and whether he earned enough to have met his sworn obligations.
Unlike lawyers, journalists pay little attention to concepts like chain of custody for evidence. In the case of the president's Guard records, whoever possessed them and had the motive and opportunity to clean them up is a critical question. When Bush left the Guard about a half year early to attend Harvard Business School, his hard-copy record was retained in a military personnel records jacket at the Austin offices of the Texas Guard. Eventually, those documents were committed to microfiche. A copy of the microfiche was then sent to the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver and the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. Those records are considered private, and they cannot be released to anyone without the signature of the serviceman or woman. The White House has never indicated that Bush has signed the authorization form. And this is what prompts unending suspicion.
The documents given to Washington reporters were printed from one of those two microfiches. According to two separate sources within the Guard who saw the printout and spoke with me, the microfiche was shipped to the office of Maj. Gen. Danny James, commander of the Air National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va. James' staff printed out all of the documents on the film and then, according to those same sources, James vetted the material. Subsequent to being scrutinized by James (who commanded the Texas Guard and was promoted to Washington by Bush,) the records were then sent to the White House for further scrutiny prior to release to the news media.
This is a considerably different process from what was practiced by Sen. John McCain during the 2000 presidential campaign ... McCain signed a release form, and his entire record, a stack of papers more than a foot tall, was made available to reporters without being vetted by the campaign.
So what to make of this new Iraqi flag that the IGC apparently sprung on the country today -- to near universal disapproval?
The big complaint on the streets of Baghdad seems to be that a) it looks too much like the flag of Israel --- you can see the old and new Iraqi flags along with the Israeli flag down on the right hand side of this article in the Post --- and b) that the words "Allahu akbar" were removed.
Frankly, looking at the thing (and, again, you can see it here) I have to wonder whether the biggest problem isn't that it's just one of the lamer flags I've ever seen. But, I suppose, let's stick to substance.
If there weren't so much blood and history and human tragedy on the line with all this, the stuff these characters come up with would almost be funny. I mean, what were they thinking? Truth be told, it does look like the Israeli flag. I don't think there's any getting around that, especially when viewed in context.
In an ideal world, of course, maybe that wouldn't be a problem. But people's difficulty getting it through their heads that we don't live in an ideal world has already gotten us into a fair amount of trouble in the country. True, they didn't replace "Allahu akbar" with the 'Sh'ma'. So I guess we can be grateful for small favors. But we're not exactly dealing with a receptive audience here, now are we?
In any case, back to the flags ...
If you look at the flags of the various Arabic-speaking countries (scroll down on this page to see), they're strikingly uniform. Most have some mix of green, red and black. Some lack one of more of those three colors. But overall they're quite uniform.
I think there are only two members of the Arab League whose flags have any blue -- Djibouti and Somalia. And Somalia isn't even an Arabic-speaking country, at least not primarily.
In any case, judged against the flags of pretty much all the other Arab states, this one sticks out like a sore thumb -- or mabye a pale blue thumb, but same difference.
The Associated Press gets it pretty much right when it says, "The new design not only abandons the symbols of Saddam's regime. It also avoids the colors used in other Arab flags: green and black for Islam and red for Arab nationalism."
But, really, why would worry about that, since Islam and nationalism don't seem to have very big audiences over there anyway?
An outside investigation into the Senate memo-snooping case? The DOJ has asked David Kelley, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, to investigate what happened with those Democratic staff memos pilfered by GOP Senate staffers.
Dick Cheney goes to Westminster College, the site of Winston <$NoAd$>Churchill's 'iron curtain' speech, and embarrasses himself by sandbagging the University President who accepted Cheney's request to speak at the college.
Here's the first graf of an email President Fletcher M. Lamkin sent to faculty, students and staff this afternoon ...
I would like to thank each and every one of you who were so courteous and respectful to Mr. Cheney during his visit and speech. Frankly, I must admit that I was surprised and disappointed that Mr. Cheney chose to step off the high ground and resort to Kerry-bashing for a large portion of his speech. The content and tone of his speech was not provided to us prior to the event -- we had only been told the speech would be about foreign policy, including issues in Iraq. Nevertheless, I was extremely proud of the students, staff, and faculty who represented the College so well during the organization of the visit and during the speech itself -- inside and outside of the gym.
ABC News is currently running a web headline which reads: "Medal Dispute, EXCLUSIVE: Did Kerry lie about Vietnam War medals?"
Here's a question. Can someone tell me the last time ABC used the "L" word about President Bush? Or is it always 'exaggeration' when it's President Bush?
And yes, I noticed Chris Vlasto's name too.
Late Update: As of 2:54 PM, the headline now reads: "Medal Dispute, EXCLUSIVE: Why did Kerry change story about Vietnam medals?
That, and why did ABC change its headline?
Would you like to read on-location TPM coverage <$NoAd$>from the Democratic and Republican conventions?
Well, here's your chance.
TPM's readership is more than twice the size it was last October when we last did this. So newer readers won't remember. But we first did this last October 26th when we put out a call for reader contributions to fund a reporting trip to New Hampshire. The funding part of the experiment was overwhelmingly successful and ... well, you have to be the judge, but I thought the reporting part of it went well too.
(You can see most of the results from the TPM archives of the third and fourth weeks of January.)
In any case, the pitch this time is really pretty much the same as last time. So let me quote from that post from October 26th ...
The normal way to do this would be for me to go to one of the publications I write for, get them to pick up the tab (hotel room, transportation, etc.), and write it up for them.
But that would mean saving most of the reporting for some magazine or website or newspaper and not doing much or any of it for TPM. And, frankly, I think blog coverage is much better suited to covering something like the New Hampshire primary than magazines or newspapers. Because itâs really about moment-to-moment reports, running commentary, and a lot of other stuff that doesnât easily fit into the rubrics of conventional journalism. Besides, you want to know whatâs happening while itâs happening, not in a lazy summing-up a week after the votes have been counted ... I want to dedicate this trip entirely to blog coverage so I want to fund it with reader support, reader subscriptions. Thatâll be part of the experiment too --- whether this kind of independent journalism can come up with the resources to fund high-quality on-the-ground play-by-play reporting.
âSubscriptionâ in this case doesnât mean anything exclusive. TPM will be freely available to anyone and everyone who wants to read it, whether theyâve contributed or not, just like always. (And of course many readers have already generously contributed to the general upkeep of the site.) Here Iâm using the term in a somewhat old-fashioned sense to refer to putting some money up, not for the general support of the site, but to fund a specific project youâre going to make use of or benefit from.
Yesterday the president's longtime handler and current campaign advisor Karen Hughes was on CNN attacking John Kerry's military service record and subsequent work as a Vietnam war protester.
But before getting lost in the details of Hughes' attacks, let's draw back and see the big picture -- something the press would do well to consider and try.
What's the signature pattern of the president's life?
When he faces a challenge or a tough scrape, he lets his family and friends bail him out, do his fighting for him. You see it again and again through failed businesses, legal scrapes, the whole matter of ducking service in Vietnam and then getting help cleaning up subsequent unfortunateness while he was serving in the Texas Air National Guard.
It's even come up again and again on the campaign trail. George W. Bush has faced three opponents (McCain, Gore and Kerry) since he came onto the national political stage -- each served in Vietnam, though each under very different circumstances. He's had his lieutenants attack the service of each one.
So here we have the same pattern again -- no different. The president wants to challenge John Kerry's military service. So he gets Karen to do it for him. You can get tripped in the chutzpah of this because this not only throws light on an earlier period when the president couldn't fight his own fights, it repeats the pattern.
But here's some free advice for Kerry.
Don't get mixed up on the details. Take this directly to the president. Tell him to turn over a new leaf in life and stop being a coward. If the president wants to attack or question your war record or what you did after the war, tell him to do it himself. No special deals, no hidden help from family retainers, no hiding behind Karen Hughes. Tell him, for once, to fight his own fights.