Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Attoney Joshua Spivak, in the Washington Post (March 6, 2004):
Now that Sen. John Kerry has locked up the Democratic presidential nomination, the question turns to his selection of a running mate. Among the names being discussed are Dick Gephardt, John Edwards and Tom Vilsack -- a congressman, a senator and a governor. Do those job descriptions affect their chances? Maybe. While there are few formal selection criteria for a vice presidential nominee, past choices have historically followed a little-noticed pattern: Candidates are almost always drawn from the ranks of federal officials -- current or former senators, congressmen or Cabinet members.
In contrast to the presidency, where four of the past five incumbents served as chief executive of their states, governors are rarely selected as running mates. Since California's Earl Warren in 1948, then-Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's choice in 1968, has been the only state official nominated for the vice presidency by the Republican Party. Gerald Ford chose a long-serving former governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, to be his vice president when he succeeded Nixon in 1974 but replaced Rockefeller with Sen. Robert Dole on the 1976 ticket.
As for the Democrats, you have to go all the way back to 1924 to find their last gubernatorial choice for vice president -- Nebraska's Charles Bryan, brother of the"Great Commoner," William Jennings Bryan. Edmund Muskie, the Democratic nominee in 1968, and Joseph Robinson in 1928 had served as governors, but both had established significant reputations in the Senate by the time they were tapped for the nomination.
The reason behind the preference for federal officials is not obvious. Ever since John Adams got stuck with ideological and electoral opponent Thomas Jefferson as his vice president in 1796 (under the pre-12th-Amendment rules), choosing a running mate has been critical to presidential politics. But while vice presidents were judged important for electoral reasons, they rarely did much during the president's term, living up to the title"his superfluous excellency" that Adams had bestowed on the job. In recent years, vice presidents have had greater political stature, but they still have not been chosen based on their fitness for office. Rather, selections tend to reflect a presidential candidate's wish to counter a weakness, such as inexperience in a certain area, or to lend ideological, geographical or generational balance to the ticket.
Sometimes that is a good reason for favoring a federal official, as when presidential nominees whose experience is limited to the state level choose running mates with a background in Washington or foreign affairs. Such thinking explains Jimmy Carter's choice of Sen. Walter Mondale in 1976 and George W. Bush's choice of former defense secretary and congressman Dick Cheney. But even nominees with wide national experience have mostly chosen current or former federal officials as running mates. In 2000, Al Gore's shortlist was composed exclusively of senators.
The most logical explanation for the preference for federal officials may simply be that their positions give them a broader public profile. Committee hearings and the ability to sponsor and support bills affecting a nationwide audience make many federal lawmakers household names, something most governors never achieve. Cabinet officials, similarly, operate on the national stage, and they have the additional advantage of providing a connection with the policies of the presidents they served.
A corollary to the wider profile is the message to interest groups implied by the choice of an elected federal official. During a typical congressional session, a lawmaker casts well-publicized votes on hot-button issues such as abortion, gun control or the environment, which may not come up during a typical governor's term. By picking as his running mate someone with a favorable record on specific issues, the presidential nominee is able to reassure wavering voters that he has their interests at heart.
Will this pattern continue? Besides Vilsack of Iowa, governors Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Mark Warner of Virginia and, especially, Bill Richardson of New Mexico also have been touted as running mates for Kerry. Will one of them get the nod? Richardson, with his experience as a congressman, U.N. ambassador and Cabinet secretary, may be able to buck the trend, but history suggests that none of them should stay up at night waiting for that phone call.
Jamie Reno , Michael Isikoff and Evan Thomas; With T. Trent Gegax, in Newsweek (March 8, 2004):
The swift boats, like the one John Kerry captained, were sitting ducks. Hiding in the dense jungle along the riverbanks of the Mekong Delta, the Viet Cong could open up on the Americans with machine guns, mortars and rockets--and vanish before the Americans could effectively shoot back. So the U.S. military adjusted, dropping tons of herbicide on the foliage to strip the enemy of its cover. "They just told us they sprayed something to kill the bushes," recalls Mike Medeiros, who served with Kerry aboard PCF (Patrol Craft Fast) 94 in the winter of 1969. "It looked like a moonscape... You saw skeletal remains of trees everywhere. It was like, whatever they're using is some serious stuff."
Some of Kerry's men, contacted last week by NEWSWEEK, don't recall being directly sprayed, or saw planes or choppers dropping the herbicides in the distance. Other Swift Boat crews patrolling near Kerry's boat say they were doused. But everyone, including Kerry, realizes today that they fought in a highly toxic environment. "We know they used defoliants, at least I knew they used defoliants, because it was all around us," says Kerry. "We'd often see the C-130s flying over us--they'd come down along the river and drop this stuff on us," recalls Wade Sanders, who served with Kerry in the delta, on different boats but sometimes on the same patrols along the Cambodian border. "The wind would carry the mist right onto us. But they didn't tell us what it was. We thought it was mosquito spray." The "stuff" was Agent Orange, which, over time, can be lethal to humans as well as to most other living things. "We used to bathe in those rivers and swim in the water to cool off," says Sanders. "Agent Orange was everywhere, all around us, but no one ever told us not to go in the water." Over the years, says Sanders, he and Kerry "have had many discussions about our exposure to Agent Orange."
In his first public comments about his experience with Agent Orange, Kerry told NEWSWEEK, "I don't think I saw as much as he [Sanders] did, but I saw some of it, and I know we were in the water... That was just the nature of life on a boat down there. It was a reality." But, Kerry said, "I've never really thought about it... I don't think about it in a personal sense."
Agent Orange was one of the many tragedies of Vietnam . It may have killed or sickened, via long-incubating cancers and nerve disorders, thousands of American soldiers and sailors (not to mention many more Vietnamese). The government, which once avidly drenched the delta with the poison, has awakened to its dangers. "The environmental hazard of the battlefield--that could be equally as deadly as a bullet wound," said Anthony J. Principi, secretary of Veterans Affairs last year. "We learned that the hard way after Vietnam with Agent Orange." Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, the charismatic Navy commander who ordered the spraying of the Mekong Delta, became a crusader for vets suffering from diseases related to Agent Orange. When Zumwalt's son--like John Kerry, a Swift Boat captain--died of lymphoma in 1988 at the age of 42, Adm. Zumwalt came to blame his son's death on the Agent Orange campaign he had commanded. Kerry, who always preferred action over personal revelation, has dealt with the tragedy his own way. Kerry's health could become a political football (though it's worth remembering that Dick Cheney's heart condition raises questions about the Republican ticket). Ever the stoic, often a loner, Kerry is likely to tough it out. In his interview with NEWSWEEK, his tone was calm, unperturbed.
As a U.S. senator, Kerry has fought for years to help fellow veterans suffering from cancer, nerve and skin disorders and other diseases linked by medical science to chemical dioxins contained in Agent Orange. He was a chief sponsor of the 1991 legislation that now affords some 10,000 exposed veterans up to $2,300 a month for various disabilities. Kerry recently tried unsuccessfully to help Tommy (Trees) Forrest, who served on different boats but in the same combat area, to win benefits for cancers growing on his liver. "I personally observed the spraying of Agent Orange," Kerry wrote in a letter to Veterans Affairs on June 25, 2003 . "I hereby testify with absolute certainty that Thomas G. Forrest and anyone else in that area of operations were definitely exposed to Agent Orange." On the same day, he wrote the same testimonial for one of his closest friends, Giles Whitcomb, a Naval Intelligence officer who served with Kerry in the delta and died last year of lymphoma.
Kerry himself was successfully operated on last year to have his cancerous prostate removed. Did Agent Orange put him at risk? Is he still at risk because of his exposure to the toxic chemical? "I presumed and I still presume, it is my belief that my particular cancer was hereditary and part of my genes," Kerry told NEWSWEEK. "It's gone now. I'm in perfect health, and I'm not concerned about something." Kerry's father died of prostate cancer at the age of 85, and doctors often look first at hereditary factors to predict a patient's risk. About one in six American men gets prostate cancer; roughly a quarter of them between the ages of 55 and 64 (Kerry is 60). The survival rate for those, like Kerry, whose cancer is caught early and undergo surgery is very high.
Still, prostate cancer is one of roughly a dozen diseases that the VA now considers "presumptive" evidence of exposure to Agent Orange. In 1996, the VA began compensating any vet diagnosed with prostate cancer on the ground that it may have been caused by Agent Orange. According to the VA, Kerry himself is entitled to receive Agent Orange benefits, but the wealthy Kerry has not asked for them.
It is impossible to judge the health risks to Kerry or any other veteran, says Dr. David Tollerud, who has overseen several government-sponsored studies on the health effects of Agent Orange, without knowing how often they were exposed, and how directly. A team of researchers at Columbia University has developed a computer model that can be used with detailed military records to assess precise exposure levels. To prepare such an assessment for Kerry, "we'd need the daily log of his Swift Boat," says Jeanne Stellman, a Columbia public-health professor who is overseeing the study. It is significant, she says, that Kerry was in the Mekong Delta, "the most heavily sprayed area in Vietnam , particularly in 1968 and 1969." On the other hand, Spellman cautions, from a purely statistical viewpoint, Kerry stands a greater risk of getting assassinated than getting cancer as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange.
The evidence on the level of Kerry's exposure is unclear. Jim Wasser, Kerry's second in command aboard PCF-44, recalls seeing Agent Orange clouds in the distance, not raining down directly. "But air currents took it a long ways," he says. Medeiros, who served with Kerry on a different boat, PCF-94, doesn't recall seeing any spray. (Both Wasser and Medeiros are healthy; "I look at every day as a bonus," says Wasser.) Forrest, who was on boats patrolling the same rivers as Kerry (including PCF-98, the same boat as Wade Sanders), recalls, "They'd fly overhead and release it in a mist. The bad thing about it was we got fish off the Vietnamese. We'd pick up wood and barbecue and that stuff was coated with Agent Orange. We'd bathe in the water, and Agent Orange dioxins aren't soluble." Kerry recalled to NEWSWEEK, "I'm not sure that I remember a specific incident of being doused, but I do remember that's what they were doing."
Some who have spent time with Kerry believe that he is haunted by the subject of Agent Orange. Historian Douglas Brinkley remembers getting a phone call from Kerry last December after the senator had just finished reading the galleys of Brinkley's new book, "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War." One of Kerry's only criticisms, recalls Brinkley, was that "I didn't write enough about Agent Orange... He was obsessed with Agent Orange." Brinkley speculates that Kerry has been affected by the tales of woe from delta vets who are just starting to feel the sometimes delayed impact of Agent Orange. He was particularly moved by the recent death of his buddy Giles Whitcomb, a Harvard grad whom Kerry befriended in training and stayed close to all the way through the war (they even double-dated). "The devastating effects of Agent Orange are just coming to fruition. When John talks about these veterans, I think it's visceral," says Brinkley. "There's something going on there, and it may underneath it all be personal--like, 'I may have been doused, too'."
Kerry denies that he broods at all over Agent Orange. He has not released his medical records, but he promised to release a summary: "I'd be happy to have my doctor release something... I just had a checkup about three weeks ago. My blood is perfect. My EKG was perfect."
Dave Kopel, Paul Gallant & Joanne D. Eisen, in National Review (March 3, 2004):
Sri Lanka is technically in a state of civil war. It is just barely held together by a tenuous ceasefire that is splintering day by day, threatening to dash the hopes of a country that yearns for peace. Last month, President Chandrika Kumaratunga dissolved parliament and called for new elections to be held on April 2 — almost four years earlier than expected. Kumaratunga thereby sabotaged what had once been promising negotiations between the government of Sri Lanka (controlled by the island's majority Buddhist population) and the Tamil Tigers (a Hindu minority). A canny politician, Kumaratunga would not have taken such as bold step unless she expected to win. This is, apparently, a move toward intensifying the civil war.
Sri Lanka's constitution provides for both a prime minister and a president; when the two belong to philosophically opposed political parties, the condition is termed" cohabitation." It seems it was just cohabitation that halted the peace process that might have ended 20 years of civil war.
Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and his party have been willing to make compromises in order to achieve a lasting peace. On the other hand, President Kumaratunga and her party, the People's Alliance, have resisted concessions to the Tamil Tiger insurgency. If the new elections give decisive power to Kumaratunga, the scene will be set for nullification of the 2002 ceasefire. Kumaratunga is officially committed to the original ceasefire, but her allies are now complaining that"the ceasefire with Tamil Tiger rebels threatens national security."
But that depends on who defines"security."
Located 22 miles off the southern tip of India, the island nation of Sri Lanka (population 19 million) is approximately the size of West Virginia. Its capital, Colombo, lies on the southwest coast. The nation was called Ceylon when it gained independence from Great Britain in 1948; the name was changed to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (which means"resplendent island") when it adopted a new constitution in 1972. It remains an independent member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Ceylon became a British colony in 1796. But long before the British arrived, the country consisted of two separate cultures, each with its own language, religion, and customs. The majority is composed of Sinhalese, who live in the west, south, and center of the island. Their name means"of the lions," and they are primarily Buddhist.
Tamils (primarily Hindu) make up a smaller portion of the population, and have traditionally lived in the east and north. Many Tamils from India were relocated into Sinhalese areas by the British during the early 19th century, nearly doubling the number of Tamils on the island. They were employed as cheap laborers on the tea plantations. At the time of independence, there were about 4.6 million Sinhalese and 1.5 million Tamils.
When the British withdrew from Ceylon, they left democratic institutions and a British-style parliamentary form of government. What transpired soon afterward is a perfect example of how democracy does not always produce stability or equity.
Almost from the moment of independence, Sri Lanka's democratically elected government discriminated against the Tamil minority. For example, the Citizenship Act of 1948 disenfranchised the descendants of Indian Tamil laborers brought in by the British, people who had been living in Ceylon for more than a century. A million Tamils were given a choice: accept citizenship in a foreign country, India, or live as strangers in their own land. For decades afterward, these people lived in limbo .
Finally, in 2003 the Sri Lankan government relented , and allowed them to apply for citizenship.
The 1948 Citizenship Act increased Sinhalese control of government relative to the Tamils. In 1947, the Sinhalese controlled parliament by 67 percent; by 1952 they had 73 percent. The Sinhalese gains paved the way for additional discriminatory legislation against the Tamils. ...
Paul Vallely, in the London Independent (March 3, 2004):
IT IS as if bombs had been placed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Good Friday - with a few more for good measure at the Vatican and in Canterbury Cathedral. Yet even that comparison fails to convey the outrageous and sacrilegious impact of the blasts that killed scores of Iraqi Shia worshippers yesterday as they celebrated Ashoura, their most holy ritual of the year.
The festival commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. It lies at the heart of Islam's historic rift between the Sunni and the Shia - and is seen by Shias as the greatest suffering and redemptive act in history, much in the way that Christians view the death of Christ.
The great schism in Islam began almost immediately upon the death of Mohammed AD632 with a dispute over who should succeed him. The split eventually led to the murder of one contender, the Prophet's son-in-law Ali. Nineteen years later Ali's son, Hussein, set out with just 72 supporters "to deliver Iraq from the pretender", as Shia historians put it.
They took on thousands of soldiers from the other side. They were killed, AD680, at Karbala by the army of the Sunni caliph Yazid. On the 10th day, now known as Ashoura, the defenders fell one by one until only Hussein remained.
Wounded and dying, he re- entered his tent and took his infant child in his arms, but the enemy killed him with an arrow as he lifted his hands to the heavens. They then cut off his head and trampled on his body. This bloody death has since assumed cosmic proportions. Shias believe that Imam Hussein, by deliberately taking on thousands of enemy soldiers, knowingly sacrificed himself for justice, freedom and peace on behalf of all humanity.
Over the centuries the Shia have developed graphic forms of penance to atone for the martyrdom of the great leader. For 10 days they fast, wear black, attend vigils and conduct processions to express their grief at the death of the Imam, his family and his followers.
These expressions of sorrow are more concentrated and extreme than anything else in the Shia tradition.
The faithful beat their chests with the palms of their hands and mortify themselves with stones. The more zealous flay their backs with chains. Participation in the rituals is believed to be an aid to salvation.
But there is something more. Imam Hussein's battle against the forces of darkness is believed to have transcended the particularity of time and place. The fight is against the injustice, tyranny or oppression of the present day.
Thus the mixing of Ashoura chants with political slogans is a Shia tradition. And Muharram, the month of which Ashoura is the 10th day, is charged with greater emotion than anything else in the Shia calendar.
The Shia clerics who led the Iranian Revolution were careful to frame the revolt against the decadent Western regime of the Shah in an Ashoura/Hussein paradigm. One of the great slogans of the Iranian Revolution was, "Everyday is Ashoura; every place is Karbala". Ayatollah Khomeini issued a proclamation describing the month as one of "epic heroism and self-sacrifice".
Small wonder that in his time Saddam Hussein tried hard to suppress Ashoura celebrations, imprisoning those seen to strike their breast in public. The Baathist security forces and the army used to surround Karbala for two months to keep people from practising the rituals.
Checkpoints were set up on the roads leading to the holy city or the shrine at Najaf, where Hussein's father, Ali, is buried. Those who tried to pass the checkpoints were killed or arrested.
Saddam even banned books which mentioned Imam Hussein's name or the story of the battle of Karbala.
When Saddam's regime was toppled, hundreds of thousands of Shia spontaneously made for Karbala, but this year was to have been the first in which Ashoura was to be celebrated openly by the Shia population.
Whoever planned yesterday's bombs could not have chosen a more potent place or time.
Gail Russell Chaddock, in the Christian Science Monitor (March 3, 2004):
In high-profile probes, he's built a record that some see as grandstanding, others as boring in on core questions.
One criticism of John Kerry's early Senate investigations was that, in his own words, they "looked at strange and nefarious types that people did not take seriously." On Oct. 24, 1991, that rap ended.
On the other side of the witness table in the vast Hart Senate hearing room was seated Washington powerbroker Clark Clifford - a man who'd played poker with Winston Churchill and advised every Democratic president since Harry Truman. He was an icon in official Washington, especially for Democrats with an eye on the Oval Office.
But Mr. Clifford was also implicated in a $ 20 billion-plus criminal banking enterprise across 73 countries - unwittingly, he said. Top party activists, including uber-fundraiser Pamela Harriman, had urged Senator Kerry not to embarrass Clifford by calling him to testify.
It was a defining moment for Kerry, whose investigations, more than his legislative record, have been highlights of his 19-year Senate career. He told staff to "get the truth out" and follow evidence where it led - even to the heights of his party.
"It was a career risk," says Jack Blum, Kerry's special counsel in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) investigation. "I can't think of any more potentially career disruptive move than grilling Clark Clifford."
As a fourth term US Senator, Kerry's legislative record is modest; Few bills bear his name. His 6,310 Senate votes, mainly liberal, have enough twists and turns to invite charges of inconsistency. But his signature investigations were models of dogged, even relentless focus, and may tell more about his persona and likely attributes as a president than anything else he has done in his 19 years in the Senate.
His probes included tracking illegal gunrunners to the Reagan White House (1985-86), drug traffickers to Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega (1988), and Mr. Noriega's dirty money to BCCI and some of the top powerbrokers in Washington (1987-92).
"Every one of his investigations is about holding government accountable and forcing Washington to change official reality to conform to the facts on the ground," says Jonathan Winer, a top Kerry aide during these investigations. "He did it year after year after year. One investigation led to another."
To supporters, this capacity to ask penetrating questions is one that helps a leader craft policy in often-complex situations. But critics say Kerry's focus on investigation has smacked of grandstanding, prompting the moniker "live shot Kerry" early in the senator's career. Others note that obsession with detail sometimes reflects a reluctance to set bigger-picture objectives or, when needed, to move on.
A former county prosecutor, Kerry thrives on the minutiae of a long, complex investigation. Unlike many senatorial colleagues, he reads through evidence himself. He's an aggressive questioner, constantly bringing hearings back to basics: what witnesses knew and when they knew it. But he's also shown he can build consensus, as he did with a charged MIA/POW investigation that opened the door for the US to restore relations with Vietnam.
If he makes it to the White House, Kerry will be only the third US senator in history - after Warren Harding and John Kennedy - to go straight from Capitol Hill to the presidency. And neither got there by writing great laws.
A colleague on the Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden (D) of Delaware, says Kerry approaches such investigations with a prosecutor's mind: "He is very logical and almost didactic in the way he approaches issues. He takes a complicated problem and tries to deconstruct it."
Such work involves a mastery of detail that senators usually leave to their staff. But a former aide describes handing Kerry 800 pages of documents during the Noriega investigation, along with scripted questions to use in the hearing the next morning. "To my amazement, he read not only the script, but the documents," says Jack Blum, the subcommittee's former chief investigator.
Colleagues credit Kerry with doing much of the heavy lifting himself. Mr. Blum adds that pressure to back off the BCCI investigation was intense: "From Day 1, there was never a committee that took such an unmerciful pounding from the White House. Kerry said: 'Just ignore it.' "
Later, he turned his investigative attention to how to spend the "peace dividend" after the end of the cold war. Kerry warned that a more dangerous war was already taking shape, with global crime organizations that corrupted entire governments, especially the "Big Five" - the Italian Mafia, Russian mobs, Chinese triads, Japanese yakuza, and Colombian drug cartels. "It will take only one megaterrorist event in any of he great cities of the world to change the world in a single day," he wrote in his 1997 book, "The New War: The Web of Crime that Threatens America's Security."
Nearly absent from Kerry's watch list are Islamic terrorist groups, including those affiliated with Osama bin Laden, who reconstituted a network for terrorist money laundering in the Sudan after the collapse of BCCI.
But by then, Democrats had lost control of the Senate and Kerry had lost his mandate for pursuing investigations. As the Kerry operation wound down, Blum says Kerry wanted to get into "the whole bizarre relationship between US intelligence and Muslim radicals who were training in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but time ran out. And on both the Democratic side and the Republican side, there was no stomach for it, because we were winning the cold war. It turns out that was a grotesque mistake."
Liz Marlantes, Noel Paul, and Sara B. Miller, writing for the Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA) (March 4, 2004)
Kerry and Bush will bring different styles, ideologies, and issues to a divisive race. With the matchup between Sen. John Kerry and President Bush now assured, the stage is set for what observers believe could rank among the most classic - and potentially divisive - confrontations in decades.
After a period in which the two major parties often seemed to blur their differences as much as air them, these two candidates promise to offer clear-cut differences on a range of major issues, from foreign policy to trade agreements, from taxes to the death penalty.
Stylistically, the contrast may be equally stark, pitting an intellectual former war hero from the Northeast against a plain-spoken Texan who has never seen combat but has led the nation to war. The matchup makes it likely that the fall election will be close, and could further polarize an already divided nation. It may also have a profound effect on the direction of the country, magnifying the stakes for both sides.
Already, many observers see this campaign as a clash of historic proportions."You probably would have to go back to '64, when Goldwater was running against LBJ [to find] such a basic, fundamental choice between liberals and conservatives," says presidential historian Haynes Johnson.
Others go back even further:"I don't think we have seen so clear-cut a choice between two candidates since FDR ran against Herbert Hoover in 1932," says presidential historian Robert Dallek.
Both candidates are working to present their opponent as far out of the mainstream. The Bush campaign has already begun scouring Kerry's voting record, highlighting votes he cast against defense systems and portraying him as weak on national security. Similarly, they're casting Kerry's past positions on cultural matters - such as his vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of gay marriage - as far to the left of where most Americans stand.
Bush is also working to portray Kerry as indecisive and prone to flip-flopping, referring in recent political speeches to the Massachusetts senator as having two positions on everything...
...And while the Bush campaign may portray Kerry as evasive, Democrats are firing back at the president's credibility - hitting him, particularly, on the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. These attacks have already taken a toll, with polls showing more members of the public questioning Bush's trustworthiness.
Current polls show Kerry tied with or beating Bush. But Bush has only just begun to campaign - airing his first ads of the season this week - and will have record sums of money at his disposal over the next eight months. Currently, Kerry remains largely unknown to many voters, making the fight to define him critical over the next eight months.
Still, both sides agree the election will be a referendum on Bush's four years in office, with the economy and the iraq war dominating the debate, though cultural issues such as gay marriage could also play a key role. And most see the contest coming down to a handful of battleground states - with the rest of the country immovably fixed in"red" or"blue" territory. The most critical states may be those where cultural leanings tend to give Bush an edge, but where the loss of manufacturing jobs has caused serious economic pain and could ultimately boost Kerry...
...But others argue the two candidates are already locked in a clash that will inevitably be polarized around cultural and policy differences - and personal style.
The differences can be noted"just by looking at geography," says Mr. Ali."Kerry is from possibly the most Democratic state and Bush from the most Republican state."
Indeed, many see the contest as a replay of the 2000 election - only more contentious. The fact that Kerry won the Democratic nomination"defines the Democratic Party as liberal on virtually every aspect of American politics," says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University. On the other hand, he adds, Bush"is not as popular as he was two years ago."
Law professor Stephen Gillers, in the NYT (March 3, 2004):
With John Edwards's decision to quit the race, expected to be announced officially today, John Kerry's nomination as the Democratic candidate for president is secure. Speculation about his choice for vice president can now begin in earnest.
Mr. Edwards himself is an obvious choice: a skilled campaigner, he would also attract Southern voters. Other possibilities include Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who have both regional appeal and executive experience, and dark-horse candidates like former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.
Amid this conjecture, however, one name is conspicuously absent: Bill Clinton.
Mr. Clinton's strengths would compensate for Mr. Kerry's weaknesses almost perfectly. Not only is Mr. Clinton the most talented campaigner of his generation, but he is also a Southerner and since 1948, when Harry S. Truman chose Senator Alben Barkley of Kentucky as his running mate, every successful Democratic ticket has included a Southern politician.
Besides, people might even pay to watch Bill Clinton debate Dick Cheney. So why not?
The first objection, the constitutional one, can be disposed of easily. The Constitution does not prevent Mr. Clinton from running for vice president. The 22nd Amendment, which became effective in 1951, begins: "No person shall be elected to the office of the president more than twice."
No problem. Bill Clinton would be running for vice president, not president. Scholars and judges can debate how loosely constitutional language should be interpreted, but one need not be a strict constructionist to find this language clear beyond dispute. Bill Clinton cannot be elected president, but nothing stops him from being elected vice president.
True, if Mr. Clinton were vice president he would be in line for the presidency. But Mr. Clinton would succeed Mr. Kerry not by election, which the amendment forbids, but through Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that if a president dies, resigns or is removed from office, his powers "shall devolve on the vice president." The 22nd Amendment would not prevent this succession.
So much for the constitutional obstacles. The political ones may be more formidable. They can be summarized in two questions: would Mr. Clinton want the job; and would Mr. Kerry want him to take it? We won't know until we ask, of course. But before asking, we might cite some reasons for both men to consider a Kerry-Clinton ticket seriously....
Peggy Noonan, in the WSJ (March 4, 2004):
Mr. Kerry seems to me not a man of deep belief but of a certain amount of sentiment and calculation. One has the sense he is a liberal Democrat because of the time and place in which he was born, that he inhaled a worldview as opposed to struggling through to one.
I have been wondering how much of Mr. Kerry's career is an essentially unreflective meditation upon the life of John F. Kennedy. Or to put it more directly, how much of his professional life has been a case of JFK disease.
The murdered president dominated the imaginations of more than a generation of Democratic politicians, and continues as their most formative role model. President Clinton had a famous JFK complex. No one who was there will ever forget the moment at the 1992 Democratic Convention when the famous picture of teenage Bill Clinton pushing himself forward to reach out to shake hands with President Kennedy flashed across the screens that loomed over the convention floor. I was there in Madison Square Garden, and the impact on the crowd was electric, as if Leonardo's painting had come alive and they were actually seeing God touch Adam.
Gary Hart in 1984 took JFK disease to the point of physically imitating Kennedy on the campaign trail, shoving his hands distractedly in and out of the pockets of his suit jacket, tugging at his hair (actually this was more like Bobby Kennedy). I saw Mr. Hart do this with my own eyes the night he won New Hampshire. I was a young writer at CBS, working on Dan Rather's copy. I thought Mr. Hart attractive and his imitation suggestive of deep weirdness. It turned out he did a fabulous verbal imitation of Teddy too.
Sen. Kerry has had his JFK moments too. The other day I watched a clip of Mr. Kerry's famous testimony to Congress on Vietnam 30 years ago. Have you ever heard it? It was a total JFK impersonation--"hoff" for half, etc. In the pictures that exist of Lt. Kerry in Vietnam he seems startlingly similar in pose, squint and physical attitude to pictures of John Kennedy with his crew in World War II. PT boats, Swift boats;"Mahs-CHEW-sitts," the initials JFK . . .
If you saw a generation of Republican candidates doing a physical imitation of Ronald Reagan or George Bush the elder, would you find it weird? I think you would. The only person in politics who has ever tried to morph himself into Ronald Reagan was Al Gore in his first debate with George W. Bush. He even wore makeup that echoed the heightened color of Mr. Reagan's cheeks. He wound up looking not like Mr. Reagan but like a turn-of-the-century madam in a San Francisco whorehouse, but that's not important. What's important is the jarring weirdness of seeing one politician trying to make you unconsciously experience him as another politician. ...
Paul Reybnolds, in the BBC News (March 3, 2004):
The role played by the United States in the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti shows that Uncle Sam still wants to keep things quiet in his backyard.
The precise circumstances of Mr Aristide's leaving may be debated. He says that he was in effect forced from office, having been warned that thousands would die, including himself maybe, if he did not agree to go.
He told CNN that it was a"real coup d'etat...a modern way to have a modern kidnapping."
US diplomats say that he agreed to go and that when they went to his house early on Sunday morning to escort him to the airport, he was already packed.
They say that he wrote a letter of resignation before getting on a State Department chartered aircraft.
It might have been a bit of both. Mr Aristide needs some cover for his actions in fleeing. Washington needs to lay the responsibility on him.
Certainly the Bush administration made little attempt to defend a man President Bill Clinton had championed when he ordered marines into Haiti 10 years ago. When, in this crisis, the opposition in Haiti refused to accept that Mr Aristide be part of a power-sharing arrangement, Washington pulled the plug.
The State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said of Mr Aristide after he departed:"We all know the political history of Haiti is such that during President Aristide's time, he created a lot of division within the society - the polarisation grew, the violence grew.
"There were many armed gangs that were directly associated with him and his rule... So, one way or the other, a lot of the violence did come out of the fact, the way he ran the country."
Critics say that something else was at work. The harshest critic in this instance is a leading world economist Jeffrey Sachs, now Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York. He argued in an article in the Financial Times that the United States had overthrown a democratic leader:
"The crisis in Haiti is another case of brazen US manipulation of a small, impoverished country with the truth unexplored by journalists. President George Bush's foreign policy team came into office intent on toppling Mr Aristide, long reviled by powerful US conservatives such as former senator Jesse Helms who obsessively saw him as another Fidel Castro in the Caribbean.
"Such critics fulminated when President Bill Clinton restored Mr Aristide to power in 1994, and they succeeded in getting US troops withdrawn soon afterwards, well before the country could be stabilised. In terms of help to rebuild Haiti, the US Marines left behind about eight miles of paved roads and essentially nothing else.
"In the meantime, the so-called"opposition", a coterie of rich Haitians linked to the preceding Duvalier regime and former (and perhaps current) CIA operatives, worked Washington to lobby against Mr Aristide."
That American attitudes can change so quickly can be partly explained by the uneasy relationship which the United States has always had with the Caribbean basin.
It really began with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 when President Monroe warned the European powers, especially Spain, which had just lost its colonies, to stay out of the Western hemisphere. It has continued with invasions or interventions in Cuba, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama and Haiti itself. ...
Columnist Jerry Large, in the Seattle Times (March 4, 2004):
Our history and Haiti's are intertwined, and our fates could easily have been different. A turn down one path, and Haiti might have become a thriving democracy. A turn down another path, and the United States might have been just a small neighbor of the French Empire.
If it hadn't been for the success of the Haitian revolution, the United States might never have extended beyond the Mississippi River. Had not the United States turned its back on Haiti, that nation might have thrived.
What did happen is this: The colony called St. Domingue was France's most valuable overseas possession, producing fortunes in sugar, tobacco, coffee and other products for European markets and French profits.
The cash register rang until enslaved people revolted in 1791 and, after years of warfare, gained control of the entire island in 1794.
Toussaint L'Ouverture led the revolution, the second successful revolution in the Americas, and began creating a multiracial society of free white and black people.
President John Adams recognized the rebel government and even sent U.S. frigates as a show of support. But Adams had just lost the election of 1800 to Thomas Jefferson, who reversed the U.S. stand as soon as he took office in 1801.
Jefferson even told the French he would help them re-establish control of the island.
The difference between the two presidents is that Jefferson was a slave owner, and slave owners were worried about the example the island revolution held up for enslaved Americans.
As it turned out, the French had grander plans than simply retaking the island. Napoleon wanted to secure a big chunk of what is now the American heartland.
The plan was for the huge army he sent in 1802 to retake St. Domingue, then fortify the territory that stretches west of the Mississippi from Louisiana to Idaho and halt the westward expansion of the United States.
But with the help of yellow fever, the people of St. Domingue defeated Napoleon's army and declared a republic in 1804, and the dictator gave up on North America. He sold the middle of the continent to the United States (technically France had already given the Louisiana Territory to Spain, but, hey, who's talking about ethics?). We called it the Louisiana Purchase, and it was a bargain at $15 million.
The United States doubled in size. We didn't thank the Haitians for their role in this, however. Jefferson established an embargo of the nation that lasted most of the century.
On top of all that, France demanded the new nation pay it $150 million in reparations for its losses if it ever wanted to trade with another nation. The U.S. backed the demand. Most of Haiti's meager budget for years went to pay on that debt.
That is how St. Domingue went from a jewel to the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. ...
David Freddoso, in Human Events (March 4, 2004):
The Cold War and the ominous threat of Communist expansion are long over. Still, Americans should start thinking about communism again. Why dig up the past? Because our current enemy--loosely organized Islamic radicalism--is not nearly as serious a threat as the one Sen. John F. Kerry (D.-Mass.), pooh-poohed under questioning from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971:
"I think [the threat of Communism] is bogus. Totally artificial. There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald Hamburger stands."
Was it worth fighting to resist Red expansion? Kerry thought not.
"To attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom . . . is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy."
Several writers have addressed Kerry's slanders against every American who served in Vietnam and his accusations of unspeakable daily war crimes committed"with the full awareness of officers at every level of command." But Kerry's direct statements on communism, while less potent politically, are even more interesting because they place the man squarely on the losing side of history.
Russian Soldiers in Our Streets
Former Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R.-Ala.), a Vietnam POW who suffered four years of solitary confinement in Hanoi and who later wrote When Hell Was in Session , was Kerry's Senate colleague from 1985 to 1987. When Kerry was testifying in Washington in 1971, Denton was in his sixth year of captivity in North Vietnam.
"We barely won the Cold War," Denton said to me last week. "If we had gone the way Kerry was voting while I was in the Senate, we would have Russian soldiers walking in our streets today."
Laugh if you like, but this is not the exaggeration it may seem. When Kerry testified in 1971, the outcome of the Cold War was still very much in doubt. Communism was on the move not only in Southeast Asia, but also in South and Central America, in Yemen, in East and West Africa. Stateside, only a prescient few even recognized the Cold War as a war that could and must be won decisively.
John Kerry was obviously not one of them. In his opinion, America merely"reacted to the forces which were at work in World War II and came out of it with this paranoia about the Russians, and how the world was going to be divided up between the super powers, and the foreign policy of John Foster Dulles…a direct reaction to this so-called Communist monolith."
Communism, Kerry told the Senate committee, was not a global threat, but one form of government among many, just like ours:
"Politically, historically, the one thing that people try to do, that society is structured on as a whole, is an attempt to satisfy their felt needs. And you can satisfy those needs with almost any kind of political structure, giving it one name or the other. In this name it is democratic; in others it is communism; in others it is benevolent dictatorship…"
Kerry went on to suggest that it was the American system that was failing to meet its people's needs, even as whole peoples faced extermination under communist regimes in Asia.
With his testimony and public witness, John F. Kerry handed global communism perhaps its greatest propaganda victory since Sputnik. Imagine this handsome young veteran officer, his chest gleaming with medals, as he cited dubious accusations against American soldiers from unreliable sources, implicating America as the world's greatest war criminal, and her policies as outdated"paranoia about the Russians."
Kerry went so far as to remark, in 1971,"I think we are reacting under Cold War precepts which are no longer applicable." ...
Gail Russell Chaddock, writing for the Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA) (March 3, 2004)
One criticism of John Kerry's early Senate investigations was that, in his own words, they"looked at strange and nefarious types that people did not take seriously." On Oct. 24, 1991, that rap ended.
On the other side of the witness table in the vast Hart Senate hearing room was seated Washington powerbroker Clark Clifford - a man who'd played poker with Winston Churchill and advised every Democratic president since Harry Truman. He was an icon in official Washington, especially for Democrats with an eye on the Oval Office.
But Mr. Clifford was also implicated in a $ 20 billion-plus criminal banking enterprise across 73 countries - unwittingly, he said. Top party activists, including uber-fundraiser Pamela Harriman, had urged Senator Kerry not to embarrass Clifford by calling him to testify.
It was a defining moment for Kerry, whose investigations, more than his legislative record, have been highlights of his 19-year Senate career. He told staff to"get the truth out" and follow evidence where it led - even to the heights of his party...
...As a fourth term US Senator, Kerry's legislative record is modest; Few bills bear his name. His 6,310 Senate votes, mainly liberal, have enough twists and turns to invite charges of inconsistency. But his signature investigations were models of dogged, even relentless focus, and may tell more about his persona and likely attributes as a president than anything else he has done in his 19 years in the Senate.
His probes included tracking illegal gunrunners to the Reagan White House (1985-86), drug traffickers to Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega (1988), and Mr. Noriega's dirty money to BCCI and some of the top powerbrokers in Washington (1987-92)...
...If he makes it to the White House, Kerry will be only the third US senator in history - after Warren Harding and John Kennedy - to go straight from Capitol Hill to the presidency. And neither got there by writing great laws.
It's an irony of politics that a strong legislative resume may be more likely to sink a presidential bid than to make one. Thousands of votes make too big a target, experts say. And the grind of making laws rarely helps a newcomer make a name.
Early on, Kerry took the road prospected by John F. Kennedy: nailing a big oversight investigation. For Kennedy, it was corruption in the Teamsters union - a high-profile probe including recognizable villains, misdeeds you can talk about over breakfast, and television coverage...
...Even before his Senate career began, Kerry had made his way into public life by asking questions. Best known is his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as a witness for Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971 when he queried:"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Elected to the US Senate in 1984, he gave up a prized offer to be on the Senate Appropriations committee and joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee instead. It was a sign of longstanding interest in world affairs, fed by his father's career involvement in the foreign service. Kerry's internationalist views echo today in his calls for repairing relations with longtime allies in Europe...
...Later, he turned his investigative attention to how to spend the"peace dividend" after the end of the cold war. Kerry warned that a more dangerous war was already taking shape, with global crime organizations that corrupted entire governments, especially the"Big Five" - the Italian Mafia, Russian mobs, Chinese triads, Japanese yakuza, and Colombian drug cartels."It will take only one megaterrorist event in any of he great cities of the world to change the world in a single day," he wrote in his 1997 book,"The New War: The Web of Crime that Threatens America's Security."
Nearly absent from Kerry's watch list are Islamic terrorist groups, including those affiliated with Osama bin Laden, who reconstituted a network for terrorist money laundering in the Sudan after the collapse of BCCI.
But by then, Democrats had lost control of the Senate and Kerry had lost his mandate for pursuing investigations. As the Kerry operation wound down, Blum says Kerry wanted to get into"the whole bizarre relationship between US intelligence and Muslim radicals who were training in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but time ran out. And on both the Democratic side and the Republican side, there was no stomach for it, because we were winning the cold war. It turns out that was a grotesque mistake."...
...But if he has tried to take on the role of a Senate private eye, Kerry has also revealed his approach to issues through votes on policy - amassing a record that is not as reflexively liberal as some portray.
In his first year in the Senate, Kerry was an early supporter of the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act, which required Congress to work within deficit-reduction targets...
...He opposed much of the Reagan defense buildup. He voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991, but backed the 2002 resolution to use force in Iraq. GOP opponents hope to use such votes to define Kerry as soft on national defense."He seems to think that because he is a war hero, that he gets a free pass on national security issues. The fact is he voted to gut American intelligence-gathering capacity and fought every meaningful new weapons system since he has come to Washington," says House majority leader Tom DeLay.
The liberal label may be most apt on environmental and social issues. He has supported gun control, abortion rights, and legislation promoting the civil rights of homosexuals. On this year's hot controversy, he says he opposes gay marriage and supports civil unions.
Scripps Howard, writing for the Newsday (New York) (March 2, 2004)
WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush isn't the first to come up with the idea of a marriage amendment to the Constitution.
Theodore Roosevelt proposed a similar amendment in 1906, saying Congress should be given authority to set national marriage and divorce standards.
Historian Kathleen Dalton said the issue then wasn't gay marriage, but Mormon practices of polygamy and quickie 60-day divorces in Reno, Nev.
Dalton, author of"Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life," said marriage concerns struck a chord with American progressives.
"Roosevelt was a moralist who believed a lot of political questions had moral issues to them," Dalton said. She noted that Roosevelt was opposed to birth control and campaigned against divorce and in favor of public flogging of wife-beaters.
In 1906, the country was still mired in issues from the 1896 admission of Utah into the Union, which sparked a debate over Mormon practices of polygamy. Dalton said that the Women's Christian Temperance Union met with Roosevelt to get his support for traditional marriage, and that the president already was upset at the wealthy, who could afford to use divorce laws in Reno to get out of their marriages.
"The issue then was not one man and one woman, but one man and several women," she said.
In his State of the Union address in 1906, Roosevelt urged Congress to tackle the marriage question, even though the federal government traditionally had left social matters to the states.
"I am well aware of how difficult it is to pass a constitutional amendment," Roosevelt told lawmakers."Nevertheless, in my judgment the whole question of marriage and divorce should be relegated to the authority of the national Congress ... and surely there is nothing so vitally essential to the welfare of the nation, nothing around which the nation should so bend itself to throw every safeguard, as the home life of the average citizen. The change would be good from every standpoint."
Joanne Mariner, a FindLaw columnist and human rights attorney, in Findlaw.com (March 1, 2004):
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, president of Haiti until yesterday, has ceded power. Pressed to resign by the U.S. and French governments, and facing a threatened rebel assault on Port-au-Prince, Aristide was flown out of the country early Sunday morning.
By the end of the day, the U.S. had already sent the first military troops of a planned multinational force to restore order to Haiti. It marked the third time in less than a century that the U.S. has intervened there militarily.
The last such U.S. intervention, just under than a decade ago, is worth recalling now. There is the striking symmetry, to begin with: In 1994, the United States sent troops to Haiti to facilitate Aristide's return to the presidency; now, it's sending troops because it convinced him to leave.
But there is another symmetry, as well, that merits examination. In 1994, the U.S. had little use for efforts to bring justice to the victims of violent human rights abuses committed under military rule. Rather than assisting in the prosecution of human rights crimes, it preferred to placate the perpetrators: to overlook violence rather than to confront it. Indeed, in several different ways, the U.S. directly impeded efforts to prosecute past human rights crimes in Haiti.
Why is this history relevant now? Because the authors of those past abuses are back. Louis Jodel Chamblain, a former paramilitary responsible for countless atrocities under the military government that ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994, is a leading commander in the insurgent coalition that fought to oust Aristide. Jean-Pierre Baptiste, a less prominent paramilitary from the same period, is also among the rebel forces.
And a large number of the insurgents -- perhaps the main body of their forces-- are former officers and soldiers of the Haitian army. Responsible for killings, rape, torture and other violent abuses during military rule, the army was disbanded in late 1994, a thoroughly discredited institution.
Louis Jodel Chamblain is, beyond any doubt, the most shocking figure to have reemerged among the rebels. A sergeant in the Haitian army until 1989 or 1990, Chamblain was one of the founders in 1993 of the paramilitary group known as the Revolutionary Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress (FRAPH). As FRAPH's second in command, and its operational leader, he had a reputation for violence and action.
"I was never paramilitary chief," asserted Chamblain in a recent interview with the New York Times ."I was the leader of a political organization. FRAPH helped people and brought the Haitian people together."
FRAPH's repressive activities, in fact, helped lead nearly 100,000 Haitians to flee their country. At least 3,000 people were killed during military rule, and many thousands more suffered torture, rape, beatings, extortion, arbitrary detention and other abuses.
But in 1994, when U.S. forces entered Haiti, they allowed FRAPH members, notorious military officers, and other perpetrators of human rights crimes to escape unhindered into exile. Indeed, the U.S. government pushed hard for the passage of a broad amnesty law that would have officially barred the prosecution of the countless crimes committed under military rule. Failing in that effort, it impeded the prosecution of such crimes by refusing to return incriminating documents that it had seized from military offices, and by granting Emmanuel Constant, an infamous FRAPH leader with CIA ties, protection from deportation in the United States.
Chamblain himself escaped to the Dominican Republic after the U.S. intervention, as did other former soldiers and paramilitaries. Although he was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for a 1993 murder and a 1994 massacre, he never served a day behind bars for his crimes.
Chamblain's case, unfortunately, is rather more paradigmatic than exceptional. Although the Haitian government took some steps to achieve accountability for the abuses committed under military rule, including prosecuting some of the leaders of an infamous massacre, the demands of justice went largely unmet.
The army was disbanded but never fully disarmed, and its worst abusers remained free. Demobilized soldiers organized into groups to defend their interests, and became increasingly alienated, resentful and dangerous. In recent years, as conditions in Haiti worsened, a group of former soldiers began mobilizing near the border of the Dominican Republic in the central part of the country. That group, joined by reinforcements, laid the groundwork for the armed uprising of this February.
So now that Aristide is gone, what can be expected next? Guy Philippe, the leader of the rebellion that led to Aristide's ouster, has already stated that he expects his men to be part of the new government. And it would not be surprising for Philippe to pressure that government to issue a broad series of pardons to benefit men like Chamblain.
But if the United States wants stability in Haiti, it should recognize that impunity encourages violence and unrest. In 1994, by letting Chamblain and his ilk off the hook, the U.S. helped sow the seeds of the current crisis. Now that the U.S. is back in Haiti for another round, it should not make the same mistakes twice.
Jim Straub, an organizer based in Richmond, VA, in TomDispatch.com (March 2, 2004):
In 1999, the global justice movement first captured mainstream attention in the U.S. when, on the streets of Seattle, it protested and shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organization. The motley, if energetic, collection of groups ranging from environmentalists to trade unions to anarchists to farmers who coalesced into a single movement at that time were taking on nothing less than the preeminent economic development of the age: corporate globalization.
Since then, the forces of global justice have become perhaps the largest and most inspiring progressive movement seen in North America in three decades. But auspicious beginnings do not automatically mean victory; with a stated goal of nothing less than the reorganization of the global economy for the benefit of the planet rather than corporate profit, the global justice movement, as the past five years have shown, will simply have to get much bigger if it is to have any hope of succeeding. To this end, the movement has begun to look to the global south for inspiration. There, mass movements have been fighting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other global economic institutions for decades.
But while rural organizations like Mexico's Zapatistas and Brazil's Landless Movement have much to teach us, there is a limit to the practical usefulness of such groups as organizing models here in the US. In the global north, we need to find modes of organization that are applicable to a highly urban, modern, partially de-industrialized country, where much of the population has historically had relatively high living standards. As globalization's "race to the bottom" pushes down on these living standards, progressives and radicals in the United States hoping to turn dissatisfaction with corporate power into a mass movement would do well to consider another "downsized" nation that has recently seen a prolonged nationwide uprising: Argentina.
Long known as "the European country in South America," Argentina once had a social structure akin to those of the developed world. Of its 34 million citizens, 87% live in cities, where a cosmopolitan and literate populace long enjoyed the least unequal class structure in Latin America. But over the past 20 years, Argentina's relatively large middle class and well-off industrial working class have gradually had their living standards worn away by corporate globalization. (In this sense, Argentina may give us a peek at the economic future of many northern cities and rust belt states in the U.S.) Once the world's breadbasket and an industrial power, plant closings, wage losses and social cutbacks have gradually plunged many of its city dwellers into poverty and economic insecurity.
As unemployment and inequality rose throughout the 1990s in Argentina, the International Monetary Fund's "star pupil" -- so called, because Argentina's rulers applied the IMF's dictates of privatization and social cuts more rigorously than almost any other nation in the world -- eventually entered an economic tailspin that plunged startling numbers of its once-comfortable citizens into poverty. The final and dramatic economic crash, in December 2001, sparked a mass uprising that brought literally millions of enraged Argentines into the streets against their government with the slogan, "All the politicians must go". In the first ten days of this popular insurrection, no less than four presidents were installed and overthrown.
Even more significantly, millions of those who came into the streets stayed there, and created a rich and inventive set of new social movements. In 2002, it was estimated that half of Argentina's population was actively participating in these new movements, which ranged from factories first occupied and then managed by their workers to democratic Neighborhood Assemblies where entire communities undertook to plan new forms of mutual aid and political protest together.
Given the fact that the U.S. is far more similar to Argentina than, say, to Bolivia or India, these new Argentine social movements have a nuts-and-bolts significance for those of us in North America hoping to someday chase a few corrupt presidents out of office with our own mass movements. Of course, similarities between the United States and Argentina are only relative and can be overstated: for one thing, ordinary Argentines were never as well off as many ordinary working- and middle-class U.S. citizens. For another, the U.S. is a much more multiracial society than Argentina, especially significant since in North America the ill-effects of corporate globalization fall disproportionately on people of color; and, of course, our recent political history bears little resemblance to Argentina's. There, tens of thousands were murdered during a military dictatorship that lasted from 1974-83. However, for concrete examples of building a mass movement against corporate globalization in an urban, semi-deindustrialized society where millions have gradually lost once-high living standards, the Argentine uprising, or Argentinazo, is second to none right now.
David Cay Johnston, in the NYT (Feb. 29, 2004):
Social Security retirement benefits are going to have to be cut, Alan Greenspan announced last week, because there just is not enough money to pay the promised benefits. President Bush said those already retired or"near retirement age'' should not worry. They will get their promised benefits.
That, in short form, was the story carried on front pages and television news programs across the country.
But there is an element that was forgotten in the rush of news. It dates back 21 years to the events that catapulted Mr. Greenspan into national prominence and led to his becoming chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Since 1983, American workers have been paying more into Social Security than it has paid out in benefits, about $1.8 trillion more so far. This year Americans will pay about 50 percent more in Social Security taxes than the government will pay out in benefits.
Those taxes were imposed at the urging of Mr. Greenspan, who was chairman of a bipartisan commission that in 1983 said that one way to make sure Social Security remains solvent once the baby boomers reached retirement age was to tax them in advance.
On Mr. Greenspan's recommendation Social Security was converted from a pay-as-you-go system to one in which taxes are collected in advance. After Congress adopted the plan, Mr. Greenspan rose to become chairman of the Federal Reserve.
This year someone making $50,000 will pay $6,200 in Social Security taxes, half deducted from their paycheck and half paid by their employer. That total is about $2,000 more than the government needs in order to pay benefits to retirees, widows, orphans and the disabled, government budget documents show.
So what has happened to that $1.8 trillion?
The advance payments have all been spent.
Congress did not lock away the Social Security surplus, as many Americans believe. Instead, it borrowed the surplus, replacing the cash with Treasury notes, and spent the loan proceeds paying the ordinary expenses of running the federal government.
Only twice, in 1999 and 2000, did Congress balance the federal budget without borrowing from the surplus.
Both parties have treated the surplus Social Security taxes as" cash flow to the government," which has been allowable since the Johnson administration started counting Social Security as part of the federal budget, not as a separate budget, said C. Eugene Steuerle, a tax policy advisor to President Reagan.
He said that voters were promised in 1983 that the federal debt would be paid off with the surplus Social Security taxes. The fact that this has not happened and the debt has soared shows that"government usually can only deal with one objective at a time,'' Mr. Steuerle said. Back then, he added, the prime objective was to settle on a Social Security tax rate that would back the system and not have to be tinkered with for decades - not how the surplus would be handled.
Todd Purdum, in the NYT (Feb. 28, 2004):
On April 22, 1971, John Kerry , a decorated 27-year-old Navy veteran of two tours in Vietnam, electrified the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with his passionate testimony against the war, and with tales from fellow veterans about"the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do" in Southeast Asia.
Summarizing the accounts of American soldiers he had heard at an antiwar conference in Detroit weeks earlier, Mr. Kerry said the men told how"they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."
As both a veteran and anguished opponent of the Vietnam War, Mr. Kerry has spent years working to square the circle of a conflict that divided his generation, and the nation. Now, his old words have come back to haunt his presidential campaign, as conservative backers of President Bush question whether Mr. Kerry is"a proud war hero or angry antiwar protester," as National Review Online recently asked.
The full picture is complex. In 1970 and 1971, Mr. Kerry was among the most prominent spokesmen for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, whose major patrons included the actress Jane Fonda, and which later staged takeovers of public buildings and walkouts from Veterans Administration hospitals. But when Mr. Kerry was involved, contemporaries recount, he often took steps to moderate the group's actions, believing it was better — for it, and him — to work within the political system that he ultimately sought to join. When he organized the mass march on Washington that resulted in his Senate testimony, Ms. Fonda was nowhere to be seen.
"I think Kerry made a big effort not to have me invited to participate in that," Ms. Fonda said in a telephone interview this week."Because I think he wanted the organization to distance itself from me, that I was too radical or something." She added:"I went to North Vietnam in July of 1972, so it was not even `Hanoi Jane' yet, but I was still considered a lightning rod and radical. He knew that they had to get the attention of Congress, and he didn't want any unnecessary baggage to come with them."
Asked for comment, Mr. Kerry replied through his campaign spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, that he had made an effort to limit the protest to veterans.
For many Democrats, part of Mr. Kerry's appeal lies in the very fact that he both served in, then opposed the war, giving him the cachet of gallant warrior and principled dissident.
But many critics see Mr. Kerry's words as impugning the honor of all who served in Vietnam, and in recent weeks, they have circulated a picture of him seated a few rows behind Ms. Fonda at an antiwar rally in Valley Forge, Pa., and taken pains to note that she helped sponsor the"Winter Soldier Investigation" in Detroit, to which Mr. Kerry referred in his Senate testimony.
Official Republican spokesmen have largely refrained from attacking Mr. Kerry's antiwar activities, focusing instead on what they say is his failure to adequately support national security programs over the years."I have not highlighted it, but it is public testimony," the Republican National chairman, Ed Gillespie, said this week."People have talked about it."
Mr. Kerry was so concerned that the April 1971 protest in Washington be nonviolent and legal that he faced criticism from fellow members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, who were growing more radical. He opposed the group's plan to sue President Richard M. Nixon to end the war, and in November 1971, he left it, citing"personality conflicts and differences in political philosophy."
In January 1972, after the group's protesters took over the Statue of Liberty, Mr. Kerry said in an interview with The New York Times that he had left to work on"electoral politics" and that the departure of moderates like himself had contributed to the organization's shift toward militancy. While the organization claimed 20,000 members, he said, it actually had fewer than 1,000 active participants.
Later in 1972, when protesters from the group including Ron Kovic, the disabled veteran later played by Tom Cruise in"Born on the Fourth of July," disrupted the Republican Convention, Mr. Kerry watched them on television.
"There was a lot of resentment against John because he wasn't more radical," recalled Bobby Muller, a friend from those days who now heads the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, recalled.
David G. Savage, writing for the Los Angeles Times (Feb. 29, 2004)
The ghost of Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun will be back in the news this week, five years after his death and more than 30 years after he wrote the momentous and still-disputed Roe vs. Wade opinion that legalized abortion.
His reputation in life was controversial. Liberals saw him as a conservative Midwestern Republican who grew in his job to become a champion of women's rights and a reborn foe of the death penalty. Conservatives saw him as a weak and indecisive judge who was unnerved by the criticism he received for the abortion decision...
...On Thursday, the anniversary of his death, the Library of Congress will open Blackmun's papers to the public -- all 1,576 boxes full.
Historians and legal scholars are eager to examine the papers, looking for clues to explain Blackmun's shift from right to left during his court career. President Richard M. Nixon nominated him as a conservative, law-and-order judge. By the time of his retirement, he was the court's most liberal justice.
It is a familiar story, and a distressing one for conservatives. Since Nixon's election in 1968, Republican presidents have named 10 justices to the Supreme Court while Democrats have named two. Yet the court as a whole has disappointed conservatives, largely because Blackmun, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy and David H. Souter proved more liberal on social issues than the Republican presidents who appointed them.
But the main clue to Blackmun's shift may be as simple as the Roe vs. Wade opinion itself.
"The explanation for his leftward evolution is the happenstance of his being assigned to write Roe," said David Garrow, a court historian at Emory University."It was not just the criticism and the hate mail he received, but also thank-you letters he received from women. Over time, he came to think he had done a great thing for women, and it made him much more attuned to the cause of protecting individual rights."...
...Blackmun had been on the court less than two years when the justices took up a challenge to a Texas law that made all abortions a crime. When the justices voted 7-2 to strike down the law, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger selected his fellow Minnesotan to write the opinion because of Blackmun's background. Before becoming a judge, he had been the general counsel to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"He had spent much of his time working around doctors," Karlan, the Stanford professor, said."He viewed [abortion] as a medical matter. It was about the doctor-patient relationship. He also had the old-style Republican view that this wasn't the government's business."
Just as the Roe vs. Wade ruling has divided the nation, so did it serve as a divide in Blackmun's career. His clerks said the justice spent hours reading hate mail. By the late 1970s, Blackmun had split away from the conservative Burger, a boyhood friend from St. Paul, and aligned himself with the liberal Justice William J. Brennan, an Eisenhower appointee.
"He took so much heat from the right," said Dennis J. Hutchinson, a University of Chicago law professor and biographer of Justice Byron White."And the women's rights and liberals groups lionized him. That would have bounced off a lot of justices -- White, Powell, [Antonin] Scalia, for example. But Blackmun had a lot of insecurities, and he took slights very personally."...
...Some court historians say Blackmun's papers may contain little news, since the previously released papers of Justices Thurgood Marshall and Powell cover the same period."I would be surprised if there's anything that dramatically changes our thinking about him," said Mark V. Tushnet, a law professor at Georgetown University and a biographer of Marshall.
Some historians said they were troubled that Blackmun's law clerks gave advance access to the documents to Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times and Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio. They were given two months of advance access to the files, and their reports will begin Thursday....
...This is not an effort to manage the story," Koh said of the special arrangements."We didn't want someone to grab one piece of paper and make that the story. You need someone who can introduce this collection to the world in a way that promotes genuine public understanding of what this collection means."
That explanation has not impressed several historians who have worked on past collections."This is post-mortem spin control and the closest thing to an in-house press release," said Hutchinson of the University of Chicago."It anoints one person, or two, and says their version is authoritative and trustworthy. I think it's outrageous."
"This is an attempt to manage the coverage, despite what Koh says," said Garrow, who wrote a history of the abortion rulings."He wants a gentle and friendly front page in the New York Times. And he also wants NPR and the 'News Hour' to think well of Harold Koh."
There is, alas, one simple factual problem in Charles Krauthammer's thoughtful piece today. It is the following assertion:[B]ecause of the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution (which makes every state accept"the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State"), gay marriage can be imposed on the entire country by a bare majority of the state supreme court of but one state. This in a country where about 60 percent of the citizenry opposes gay marriage.
This is inaccurate. Historically, marriage has never been one of the"public acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings" that the Full Faith and Credit clause mandates are transportable from state to state. If that had been the case, we would never have had a struggle over inter-racial marriage. As soon as one northern state legalized it, it would have been legal in every Southern state. (Civil divorce, ironically, is such an institution. It is the result of a judicial proceeding. Civil marriage, in contrast, is a license.) It has long been established law that the states have a public policy exception to recognizing marriages from other states; and Massachusetts' marriage licenses, to cite the current controversy, are even issued on the condition that they are void elsewhere if unapproved in other states. So the notion that four judges in Massachusetts can impose civil marriage for gays on an entire country is simply mistaken. Some argue that activist courts these days will over-rule these precedents. But with 38 states explicitly saying they won't recognize such marriages; with the Defense of Marriage Act backing that up; the likelihood is minimal. And once you remove that premise, Charles' argument about who is the aggressor here is undermined (although I am glad that he wants to defend the Constitution from unnecessary meddling). In my view, the religious right amendment is both extreme - in that it bans any state from granting civil marriage rights to gays - and premature - in that the need for it on purely federalist grounds hasn't been in any way proven. Here's my offer, then, to my friend, Charles. If all legal precedent fails, if DOMA is struck down, if one single civil marriage in Massachusetts is deemed valid in another state, without that other state's consent, I will support a federal constitutional amendment that would solely say that no state is required to recognize a civil marriage from another state. By that time, we might even have had a chance to evaluate how equal marriage rights play out in a single state or two. How's that for a compromise?
A PREVIOUS MARRIAGE AMENDMENT: A letter writer to the Washington Post reminds us that marriage amendments have been introduced before."On Dec. 12, 1912, Rep. Seaborn Roddenberry (R-Ga.) proposed this amendment to the Constitution:"Intermarriage between negros or persons of color and Caucasians ... within the United States ... is forever prohibited." Ernest Miller provides some historical context.
Editor's Note: In a subsequent blog entry Sullivan noted that Roddenberry was actually a Democrat.
Sidney Schanberg, in the Village Voice (Feb. 24, 2004):
Senator John Kerry, a decorated battle veteran, was courageous as a navy lieutenant in the Vietnam War. But he was not so courageous more than two decades later, when he covered up voluminous evidence that a significant number of live American prisoners—perhaps hundreds—were never acknowledged or returned after the war-ending treaty was signed in January 1973.
The Massachusetts senator, now seeking the presidency, carried out this subterfuge a little over a decade ago— shredding documents, suppressing testimony, and sanitizing the committee's final report—when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./ M.I.A. Affairs.
Over the years, an abundance of evidence had come to light that the North Vietnamese, while returning 591 U.S. prisoners of war after the treaty signing, had held back many others as future bargaining chips for the $4 billion or more in war reparations that the Nixon administration had pledged. Hanoi didn't trust Washington to fulfill its pro-mise without pressure. Similarly, Washington didn't trust Hanoi to return all the prisoners and carry out all the treaty provisions. The mistrust on both sides was merited. Hanoi held back prisoners and the U.S. provided no reconstruction funds.
The stated purpose of the special Senate committee—which convened in mid 1991 and concluded in January 1993—was to investigate the evidence about prisoners who were never returned and find out what happened to the missing men. Committee chair Kerry's larger and different goal, though never stated publicly, emerged over time: He wanted to clear a path to normalization of relations with Hanoi. In any other context, that would have been an honorable goal. But getting at the truth of the unaccounted for P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s (Missing In Action) was the main obstacle to normalization—and therefore in conflict with his real intent and plan of action.
Kerry denied back then that he disguised his real goal, contending that he supported normalization only as a way to learn more about the missing men. But almost nothing has emerged about these prisoners since diplomatic and economic relations were restored in 1995, and thus it would appear—as most realists expected—that Kerry's explanation was hollow. He has also denied in the past the allegations of a cover-up, either by the Pentagon or himself. Asked for comment on this article, the Kerry campaign sent a quote from the senator:"In the end, I think what we can take pride in is that we put together the most significant, most thorough, most exhaustive accounting for missing and former P.O.W.'s in the history of human warfare."
What was the body of evidence that prisoners were held back? A short list would include more than 1,600 firsthand sightings of live U.S. prisoners; nearly 14,000 secondhand reports; numerous intercepted Communist radio messages from within Vietnam and Laos about American prisoners being moved by their captors from one site to another; a series of satellite photos that continued into the 1990s showing clear prisoner rescue signals carved into the ground in Laos and Vietnam, all labeled inconclusive by the Pentagon; multiple reports about unacknowledged prisoners from North Vietnamese informants working for U.S. intelligence agencies, all ignored or declared unreliable; persistent complaints by senior U.S. intelligence officials (some of them made publicly) that live-prisoner evidence was being suppressed; and clear proof that the Pentagon and other keepers of the"secret" destroyed a variety of files over the years to keep the P.O.W./M.I.A. families and the public from finding out and possibly setting off a major public outcry.
The resignation of Colonel Millard Peck in 1991, the first year of the Kerry committee's tenure, was one of many vivid landmarks in this saga's history. Peck had been the head of the Pentagon's P.O.W./M.I.A. office for only eight months when he resigned in disgust. In his damning departure statement, he wrote:"The mind-set to 'debunk' is alive and well. It is held at all levels . . . Practically all analysis is directed to finding fault with the source. Rarely has there been any effective, active follow-through on any of the sightings . . . The sad fact is that . . . a cover-up may be in progress. The entire charade does not appear to be an honest effort and may never have been."
Finally, Peck said:"From what I have witnessed, it appears that any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was in fact abandoned years ago, and that the farce that is being played is no more than political legerdemain done with 'smoke and mirrors' to stall the issue until it dies a natural death."...