Sunday, March 11, 2007


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The Sun-Sentinel,0,5325953.story?coll=sns-newsnation-headlines

Poll: Character Trumps Policy for Voters
Associated Press Writers

March 11, 2007, 12:50 AM EST

WASHINGTON -- For all the policy blueprints churned out by presidentialcampaigns, there is this indisputable fact: People care less about issuesthan they do about a candidate's character.

A new Associated Press-Ipsos poll says 55 percent of those surveyed considerhonesty, integrity and other values of character the most importantqualities they look for in a presidential candidate.

Just one-third look first to candidates' stances on issues; even fewer focusforemost on leadership traits, experience or intelligence.

"Voters only look at policies as a lens into what type of person thecandidate is," said Ken Mehlman, chairman of President Bush's 2004re-election campaign. That campaign based its voter targeting and messagingstrategies on the character-first theory.

The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults, conducted Monday through Wednesday, foundhonesty was by far the most popular single trait -- volunteered by 41percent of voters in open-ended questioning.


The new war on abortion

By Emily J. Minor
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hindsight is powerful, which means that Allyson Kirk knows now what shedidn't know then.

If only she'd been herself that day, she might have realized that the carparked outside the clinic - the one with the bumper stickers, W '04 andMother, Behold Your Son - was probably owned by someone who worked inside.

The campaign has one mission: Stop abortion.

Abortion opponents are running thousands of centers, called crisis pregnancycenters - dispensing everything from baby clothes to free ultrasoundpictures to prayer. There are as many as 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers inthe U.S. and about 130 in Florida.

By comparison, about 1,800 centers in the U.S. provide abortions.

In Florida, the crisis pregnancy centers are supported by millions ofdollars in taxpayer money. In last year's state budget, then- Gov. Jeb Bushpersonally put in $2 million from the tobacco settlement fund to pay forthings such as billboards, radio spots and job training at the centers. Somecrisis centers get state money for every hour a counselor spends face toface with a client - $50 an hour, up to $1,300 a month.


The New York Times

March 11, 2007
The Failed Attorney General

During the hearing on his nomination as attorney general, Alberto Gonzalessaid he understood the difference between the job he held - President Bush'sin-house lawyer - and the job he wanted, which was to represent allAmericans as their chief law enforcement officer and a key defender of theConstitution. Two years later, it is obvious Mr. Gonzales does not have aclue about the difference.

He has never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush's imperial presidency. Ifanyone, outside Mr. Bush's rapidly shrinking circle of enablers, still haddoubts about that, the events of last week should have erased them.

First, there was Mr. Gonzales's lame op-ed article in USA Today trying todefend the obviously politically motivated firing of eight United Statesattorneys, which he dismissed as an "overblown personnel matter." Then hisinspector general exposed the way the Federal Bureau of Investigation hasbeen abusing yet another unnecessary new power that Mr. Gonzales helpedwring out of the Republican-dominated Congress in the name of fightingterrorism.

The F.B.I. has been using powers it obtained under the Patriot Act to getfinancial, business and telephone records of Americans by issuing tens ofthousands of "national security letters," a euphemism for warrants that areissued without any judicial review or avenue of appeal. The administrationsaid that, as with many powers it has arrogated since the 9/11 attacks, thisradical change was essential to fast and nimble antiterrorism efforts, andit promised to police the use of the letters carefully.

But like so many of the administration's promises, this one evaporatedbefore the ink on those letters could dry. The F.B.I. director, RobertMueller, admitted Friday that his agency had used the new powers improperly.


The New York Times

March 11, 2007
Another Warning on Warming

If President Bush requires any more proof that he sits on the wrong side ofthe global warming debate, he should listen to his own scientists. Aninternal draft of a report the administration will soon forward to theUnited Nations shows that his program of voluntary reductions has donelittle to stop the rise in greenhouse gases generated in this country.

There is no sign that this report will alter Mr. Bush's thinking; hecontemptuously dismissed a similar report five years ago as bureaucraticboilerplate. But we are hopeful that it will add momentum to the billscirculating in Congress that would impose mandatory limits on these gases, acourse Mr. Bush has opposed since renouncing his own 2000 campaign pledge todo just that.

The document - a distillation of expert views in various federal agencies - will show that Mr. Bush is making modest progress towards his goal of makingsure that emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases grow at a slower ratethan the economy. But it will also show that in absolute terms, emissionswill grow nearly as fast in the next decade as they did in the last, whenthey increased by 11.6 percent. This is not much better than business asusual. And as national policy it is clearly unacceptable.

The carbon lodged in the atmosphere since the beginning of the IndustrialRevolution has already taken a toll - disappearing glaciers, increasinglyacidic oceans.

The report predicts even graver consequences to come, including severe andpersistent droughts in the Western United States. Essentially a scientificdocument, the report will not recommend new directions in policy. But itsclear message is that stopping and then reversing these emissions is theonly way to avert real trouble.

As Congress is beginning to realize, that will require a program of carboncontrols at home and a good deal of persuasion and technological changeabroad, especially in China, which will soon overtake the United States asthe world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases.


The New York Times

March 11, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
On the Road With Bush and Chávez

Caracas, Venezuela

WHEN I was a little boy in San Félix de Guayana, a Venezuelan village on thebanks of the Orinoco, the doctors who worked in the poorest communities werefrom the United States. My father, an honest lawyer who was unemployed hisentire life, felt a genuine sense of pride in the United States, and intime, he transmitted this pride to me. One of the first books he ever gaveme, covered in an olive-green dust jacket and stamped with gold-foilletters, was an illustrated biography of John F. Kennedy, his personal hero.

All of this feels like nostalgia now. Today, the doctors in my hometown areCuban.

One of the most significant battles to determine future relations betweenthe United States and Latin America is being waged at this very moment,under a cloud of old antagonisms and with pitfalls lurking at every turn.President Bush's Latin American tour - he is scheduled to visit Brazil,Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico before returning home on Wednesday -
s a diplomatic counterattack, clearly aimed at the growing influence ofVenezuela's president, Hugo Chávez.

The ultimate goal of this tour is to create an alliance that would giveBrazil, the world's 10th-largest economy, a key, if restrained, regional andglobal role. Supported by the four other nations Mr. Bush is visiting,Brazil would balance Mr. Chávez's growing radical influence.

Here in Caracas, the debate is intense and never-ending when it comes tothis peculiar struggle for control over the economies and the sources ofenergy in the hemisphere. I must confess that I share the skepticism of themany Venezuelans who do not believe that any real changes or diplomaticmiracles will take place in the region.


The New York Times

March 11, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Why Libby's Pardon Is a Slam Dunk


EVEN by Washington's standards, few debates have been more fatuous or wastedmore energy than the frenzied speculation over whether President Bush willor will not pardon Scooter Libby. Of course he will.

A president who tries to void laws he doesn't like by encumbering them with"signing statements" and who regards the Geneva Conventions as a nonbindingtechnicality isn't going to start playing by the rules now. His assertionlast week that he is "pretty much going to stay out of" the Libby case is ascredible as his pre-election vote of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld. The onlyreal question about the pardon is whether Mr. Bush cares enough about hisfellow Republicans' political fortunes to delay it until after Election Day2008.

Either way, the pardon is a must for Mr. Bush. He needs Mr. Libby to keephis mouth shut. Cheney's Cheney knows too much about covert administrationschemes far darker than the smearing of Joseph Wilson. Though Mr. Libbywrote a novel that sank without a trace a decade ago, he now has the makingsof an explosive Washington tell-all that could be stranger than most fictionand far more salable.

Mr. Libby's novel was called "The Apprentice." His memoir could be titled"The Accomplice." Its first chapter would open in August 2002, when he and asmall cadre of administration officials including Karl Rove formed the WhiteHouse Iraq Group (WHIG), a secret task force to sell the Iraq war to theAmerican people.

The climactic chapter of the Libby saga unfolded last week when the guiltyverdict in his trial coincided, all too fittingly, with the Congressionalappearance of two Iraq veterans, one without an ear and one without an eye,to recount their subhuman treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.


The New York Times

March 11, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
The Vanishing Neoliberal


On July 25, 1981, Michael Kinsley published an essay in The New Republiccalled "The Shame of the Democrats." The Democratic Party, the young Kinsleywrote, is viewed "with growing indifference." It is run "by lawyer-operatorswith no commitment to any particular political values." It is filled "withpoliticians who will do or say anything for a word or a dollar of support."It represents "a dwindling collection of special interest groups whoseinterests are less and less those of either the general populus or the tiredand poor." In short, Kinsley wrote, "the Democratic Party has collapsed notjust politically but morally."

And so began the era of neoliberalism, a movement which, at leasttemporarily, remade the Democratic Party, redefined American journalism anddidn't really die until now.

In the early days, the neoliberals coalesced around two small magazines, TheNew Republic and The Washington Monthly. They represented, first of all, achange in intellectual tone. While the old liberals could be earnest andself-righteous, the neoliberals were sprightly and lampooning. While the oldliberals valued solidarity, the neoliberals loved to argue among themselves,showing off the rhetorical skills many had honed in Harvard dining halls.


The New York Times

March 11, 2007
Between Black and Immigrant Muslims, an Uneasy Alliance


Under the glistening dome of a mosque on Long Island, hundreds of men satcross-legged on the floor. Many were doctors and engineers born in Pakistanand India. Dressed in khakis, polo shirts and the odd silk tunic, theyfidgeted and whispered.

One thing stood between them and dinner: A visitor from Harlem was coming toask for money.

A towering black man with a gray-flecked beard finally swept into the room,his bodyguard trailing him. Wearing a long, embroidered robe and matchinghat, he took the microphone and began talking about a different group ofMuslims, the thousands of African-Americans who have found Islam in prison.

"We are all brothers and sisters," said the visitor, known as Imam Talib.

The men stared. To some of them, it seemed, he was from another planet. Asthe imam returned their gaze, he had a similar sensation. "They live inanother world," he later said.


The New York Times

March 11, 2007
Dismay Over New U.N. Human Rights Council

UNITED NATIONS, March 9 - The United Nations Human Rights Council begins athree-week session in Geneva on Monday amid expressions of frustration fromrights advocates at its early performance and alarm over proposals thatmight weaken it further.

"So far it's been enormously disappointing, and the opponents of humanrights enforcement are running circles around the proponents," said KennethRoth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch.

The council was created in a 170-to-4 vote of the General Assembly a yearago to replace the Human Rights Commission, which had been widelydiscredited for allowing participation by countries like Sudan, Libya andZimbabwe who used membership to prevent scrutiny of their own records.

The commission was long a major embarrassment to the United Nations, withformer Secretary General Kofi Annan, who first proposed its replacement in2005, commenting that it "cast a shadow on the reputation of the UnitedNations system as a whole."

When the 47 members of the new council were elected last March, tighterentry requirements succeeded in keeping the most notorious rights abusersoff the panel, and there was some hope of less politicized behavior.


New John Edwards Sells Less Biography, More Liberal Issues

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 11, 2007; A01

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa, March 10 -- When he first ran for president, then-Sen.John Edwards (N.C.) was the fresh face in the Democratic Party, aperpetually buoyant campaigner who built his candidacy around his ownbiography and whose success in the primaries earned him a place on the 2004Democratic ticket.

Fast-forward to today, and there is a new John Edwards on the campaigntrail. His demeanor is more serious and his elbows far sharper than fouryears ago. Two years after leaving the Senate, he rarely mentions his timein Washington. Nor does he talk about his experience as Massachusetts Sen.John F. Kerry's vice presidential running mate.

His political positions also have more edge. An emphasis on biography hasgiven way to a focus on issues, where there has been a demonstrable shift tothe left -- on the Iraq war, health care and the federal budget deficit. Thechanges have given him entree to the liberal voters and constituencies whoare influential in selecting Democratic presidential nominees.

Although he labors in their shadows, Edwards has drawn attention from theparty's two glamour candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) andBarack Obama (Ill.), this year's fresh face. Both rivals recognize thepotential threat he carries to their candidacies, particularly in Iowa,Nevada, South Carolina and New Hampshire, states where the nomination battlebegins.

Edwards's moves have raised eyebrows inside the party among those who wonderwhether the differences indicate a genuine evolution or pure politicalcalculation.


It's Uphill for the Democrats

They Need a Global Strategy, Not Just Tactics for Iraq
By Tony Smith
Sunday, March 11, 2007; Page B01

The Democrats' victory last November obviously reflected popular sentimentagainst the war in Iraq, but nothing seems obvious now as Democrats try toexploit their new majority status in Congress.

Iraq had flustered the congressional Democrats because Democrats don't havean agreed position on what America's role in the world should be. They wantto change the Bush administration's policy in Iraq without discussing theunderlying ideas that produced it. And although they now cast themselves asalternatives to President Bush, the fact is that prevailing Democraticdoctrine is not that different from the Bush-Cheney doctrine.

Many Democrats, including senators who voted to authorize the war in Iraq,embraced the idea of muscular foreign policy based on American globalsupremacy and the presumed right to intervene to promote democracy or todefend key U.S. interests long before 9/11, and they have not changed coursesince. Even those who have shifted against the war have avoided doctrinalquestions.

But without a coherent alternative to the Bush doctrine, with its confidencein America's military preeminence and the global appeal of "free marketdemocracy," the Democrats' midterm victory may not be repeated in November2008. Or, if the Democrats do win in 2008, they could remain staked to avision of a Pax Americana strikingly reminiscent of Bush's.

Democratic adherents to what might be called the "neoliberal" position arewell organized and well positioned. Their credo was enunciated just nineyears ago by Madeleine Albright, then President Bill Clinton's secretary ofstate: "If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are theindispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further into the future." Shewas speaking of Bosnia at the time, but her remark had much widerimplications.


The 'Surge' Is Succeeding

By Robert Kagan
Sunday, March 11, 2007; B07

A front-page story in The Post last week suggested that the Bushadministration has no backup plan in case the surge in Iraq doesn't work. Iwonder if The Post and other newspapers have a backup plan in case it does.

Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war washopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a newcounterinsurgency strategy. The conventional wisdom in December held thatsending more troops was politically impossible after the antiwar tenor ofthe midterm elections. It was practically impossible because the extratroops didn't exist. Even if the troops did exist, they could not make adifference.

Four months later, the once insurmountable political opposition has beensurmounted. The nonexistent troops are flowing into Iraq. And though it isstill early and horrible acts of violence continue, there is substantialevidence that the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed by the infusion ofnew forces, is having a significant effect.

Some observers are reporting the shift. Iraqi bloggers Mohammed and OmarFadhil, widely respected for their straight talk, say that "early signs areencouraging." The first impact of the "surge," they write, waspsychological. Both friends and foes in Iraq had been convinced, in no smallpart by the American media, that the United States was preparing to pullout. When the opposite occurred, this alone shifted the dynamic.

As the Fadhils report, "Commanders and lieutenants of various militantgroups abandoned their positions in Baghdad and in some cases fled thecountry." The most prominent leader to go into hiding has been Moqtadaal-Sadr. His Mahdi Army has been instructed to avoid clashes with Americanand Iraqi forces, even as coalition forces begin to establish themselves inthe once off-limits Sadr City.


What a Difference an Election Makes

By Edward M. Kennedy
Sunday, March 11, 2007; B07

Rome wasn't built in a day, but if this new Congress had been its architect,it might have been. It has been just 66 days since Congress changed hands,and already the results are remarkable. In my 45 years in Congress, I havenever seen the Senate turn so rapidly from stalemate toward real progress.While the daily media focus may be on our internal debates or the nextpresidential election, the biggest news of 2007 is that the electionmattered and that the Democrats have already delivered for the Americanpeople.

The biggest reason is that the election replaced a do-nothing Congress withthe kind of Congress that our Founding Fathers intended: an equal branch ofgovernment that takes seriously its responsibility to exercise oversightover the executive branch and to legislate in the public interest. Theprogress of the past few months only underscores how much our country hasneeded an active and alert Congress. The examples are numerous.

Last week, the Senate and the House held hearings on the inexcusableconditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. We have a lot of work to doto keep faith with our wounded soldiers. But it took a Democratic Congressto uncover what had been concealed by the do-nothing Republican Congress -- that this administration has been warehousing instead of rehabilitatingwounded soldiers who return from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hearings and the threat of legislation by the new Congress have forced themighty banking industry to admit that credit card fees and interest ratesare far too high and to pledge to end some of its worst practices. By takingthe problems of ordinary Americans seriously, the Democratic Congress willsave consumers tens of millions of dollars in credit card fees and interest.We're working toward similar reform of the student loan system. Our hearingshave already paved the way for change by demonstrating that this system isserving the interests of banks while failing our students.

Just last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee provided a forum for U.S.attorneys who were fired for political reasons. The Justice Departmentinitially pretended these firings were based on performance, and itthreatened the U.S. attorneys who tried to set the record straight. Hearingscalled by the Democratic Congress were the difference between uncovering thetruth and sweeping it under the rug. The testimony of these Bush appointeesmade clear that the Justice Department had been caught playing partisanpolitics -- and then trying to cover its tracks. Because Congress exposedthe truth, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales reversed course and agreed thatthe president should seek Senate approval for any new U.S. attorneys.


The Fading Freedom Mission

By David S. Broder
Sunday, March 11, 2007; B07

When President Bush, in his second inaugural address, pledged to "supportthe growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation andculture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," he seemedto be speaking for the whole country.

But two years later, a disillusioned American public, sobered by the war inIraq and still fearful of more terrorist attacks here at home, is ready tosettle for a less idealistic goal: protecting the United States and itsvital interests.

That is the main lesson of a poll that was released to me last week by theleaders of Third Way, a left-leaning Washington think tank (results areavailable online at

It is something the presidential candidates might well read. The poll wasdone by a reputable firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, interviewing asample of 807 registered voters between Jan. 30 and Feb. 4. The challengethe survey presents is a large one.

To be blunt, the Bush prescription for American foreign policy -- anaggressive effort to expand freedom and democracy around the globe -- haslost its credibility. But neither Republicans nor Democrats are widelytrusted to construct a new policy.



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