Six Arab states join rush to go nuclear
By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor
Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE and Saudi Arabia seek atom technology
THE SPECTRE of a nuclear race in the Middle East was raised yesterday when six Arab states announced that they were embarking on programmes to master atomic technology.
The move, which follows the failure by the West to curb Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, could see a rapid spread of nuclear reactors in one of the world’s most unstable regions, stretching from the Gulf to the Levant and into North Africa.
The countries involved were named by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Tunisia and the UAE have also shown interest.
All want to build civilian nuclear energy programmes, as they are permitted to under international law. But the sudden rush to nuclear power has raised suspicions that the real intention is to acquire nuclear technology which could be used for the first Arab atomic bomb.
“Some Middle East states, including Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Saudi Arabia, have shown initial interest [in using] nuclear power primarily for desalination purposes,” Tomihiro Taniguch, the deputy director-general of the IAEA, told the business weekly Middle East Economic Digest. He said that they had held preliminary discussions with the governments and that the IAEA’s technical advisory programme would be offered to them to help with studies into creating power plants.
Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert on nuclear proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that it was clear that the sudden drive for nuclear expertise was to provide the Arabs with a “security hedge”.
“If Iran was not on the path to a nuclear weapons capability you would probably not see this sudden rush [in the Arab world],” he said.
The announcement by the six nations is a stunning reversal of policy in the Arab world, which had until recently been pressing for a nuclear free Middle East, where only Israel has nuclear weapons.
Egypt and other North African states can argue with some justification that they need cheap, safe energy for their expanding economies and growing populations at a time of high oil prices.
The case will be much harder for Saudi Arabia, which sits on the world’s largest oil reserves. Earlier this year Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister, told The Times that his country opposed the spread of nuclear power and weapons in the Arab world.
Since then, however, the Iranians have accelerated their nuclear power and enrichment programmes.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Evangelist admits buying meth but denies sex
By Steven Saint
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) - Embattled evangelist Ted Haggard admitted on Friday to buying the drug methamphetamine and seeking a massage from a gay male prostitute but denied he had sex with the man or used the stimulant.
Haggard, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals on Thursday after being accused by a male escort of having had a sexual relationship with him and using meth.
"I did call him. I called him to buy some meth. But I threw it away. I was buying it for me but I never used it," Haggard, who looked uneasy as he sat in a car with his wife, said in an interview with KUSA TV in Colorado broadcast on CNN.
Asked if he had sex with his accuser, he replied tersely, "No I did not." He said he had sought the man out at a Denver hotel for a "massage."
Haggard said he stayed at a number of hotels in Denver because he went to the city to write.
Evangelicals said they were praying for Haggard but were troubled by the situation.
"This is a blow as the National Association of Evangelicals is a significant organization for us. We would always want to lift up a high standard of conduct for church leaders," said Gary Ledbetter, the director of communications for the Dallas-based Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
The NAE is composed of 60 member denominations representing 45,000 churches across the United States.
Haggard also temporarily stepped down as senior pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
"I have put myself on an extended suspension from my senior pastor's role. I've resigned from the NAE -- because both of these roles are based on trust and right now my trust is questionable," he said.
With his chiseled features and wide smile, Haggard was a poster boy for the evangelical movement and social conservative causes. Harper's magazine reported he had regularly advised the White House.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said on Friday Haggard had been on a couple of evangelical calls with the White House, "but was not a weekly participant in those calls. I believe he's been at the White House one or two times."
Conservative Christians are a support base for the Republican Party and President George W. Bush. Evangelical leaders have been urging the faithful to vote on Tuesday with polls showing Republicans set to lose control of one and perhaps both houses of Congress.
They also have encouraged conservative voters in eight states including Colorado to support proposed amendments to ban same-sex nuptials.
Some evangelicals expressed suspicion at the timing of the accusations so close to the elections.
"We've been praying that the whole truth will come out, either way. Even if Mike Jones (Haggard's accuser) is telling the truth, it seems weird that this is coming out five days before an election," said Chris Uhles, an evangelical lay minister based in Colorado Springs, a major center of evangelical activity.
Some analysts said they saw little impact at the polls.
"People have settled their opinions of Republicans and Democrats and this is especially true of evangelicals. It's come too late to have an impact on the poll," said Scott Keeter of the PEW Research Center.
The episode has revived memories of the financial and sex scandals that brought down two of the most prominent televangelists of the 1980s, Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.
(Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Dallas)
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:01 AM
U.S. seeks silence from CIA prisoners: W. Post
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is arguing that detainees held in secret CIA prisons shouldn't be allowed to describe in court how they were interrogated, the Washington Post reported in its Saturday edition.
The government believes that interrogation methods used by the CIA are among the nation's most sensitive national security secrets, and that their release "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage," the Post said, citing recent court filings.
Terrorists could incorporate the information into their counter-interrogation training, the government told Judge Reggie Walton.
The government is trying to block access to 14 detainees transferred in September from the secret prisons to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
An attorney for the family of one of those detainees, 26-year-old Majid Khan, responded in a court document that there is no evidence that he has top-secret information, the Post said.
"The executive is attempting to misuse its classification authority ... to conceal illegal or embarrassing executive conduct," lawyer Gitanjali Gutierrez wrote, according to the Post.
The government argues that detainees such as Khan have no right to speak to a lawyer under the new Military Commissions Act, which established separate military trials for terrorism suspects, the Post said.
The government also is concerned that lawyers could pass information back and forth for detainees, the Post said.
Captives who have spent time in CIA prisons have said they were sometimes treated harshly with techniques like "waterboarding," which simulates drowning, the Post said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:59 AM
What You Don't Know
I read. A lot. About politics.
Over the summer I read about George Allen's troubles with common decency, and in particular, race. I learned that Allen opposed an official celebration for Martin Luther King's birthday, but he supported an official celebration of the Confederacy. He sought out, and posed for pictures with, white supremacists.
He kept a Confederate Flag and a noose in his office. And then, who can forget, he called a dark skinned University of Virginia student "Macaca."
Well, it didn't take any great leap of faith for me to put all this evidence together and suspect that George Allen was a very bad man -- and almost certainly a racist. So when I heard he was coming to Staunton, a town about 40 miles away from my home in Charlottesville, VA, I decided to make the trip. I was appalled that nobody in the dilapidated Fourth Estate had thought to themselves, "Sheesh, he called the kid "macaca," a racial slur. I wonder what other slurs Allen has used... Hmmm... One slur has particular relevance in this country..."
In late August this year, I learned from George Allen's campaign web site that he'd be in my neck of the woods. I decided to attend a couple of his events that day and ask the questions that, evidently, the media didn't think were relevant.
So I introduced myself to the Senator, listened to an excellent speech he gave to an all-white audience, and approached him as he was engaged in some retail politics. He had just finished having his picture taken with some supporters when I reached out my hand and said:
Me: "...given what's been in the news, I think some of us at the law school have some other questions on our mind. Have you ever used the word, 'nigger'?"
Allen: "Oh listen..."
Me: "Have you?"
Me: "You never have in your life?"
The conversation continued with me asking about the confederate flag and the noose he kept in his office.
A staffer, David Snepp, inserted himself between the Senator and I, invaded my personal space and told me that I couldn't ask these questions because the event was for "real journalists" only.
Real journalists. Ponder that.
Now it's three months later. I've asked the Senator some more difficult questions and the media, when not lying of their own volition, are swallowing the campaign's story without the slightest degree of skepticism. They repeat every falsehood uttered by power and authority without question.
They've asserted without evidence that I coordinated with, first, the DSCC and then later, with the Webb campaign.
I've coordinated with nobody. I am a private citizen. I am a constituent of the Senator's. And I am a person concerned about the trajectory of our country. I've attended public Allen events on my own initiative.
A little more on that... At the Staunton Allen event, I noticed a young man taking still photos of the event. I had noticed him earlier with a video camera. I approached him and asked if he was working for Senator Allen. He said no -- that he was actually working for the Webb campaign. I told him to put away his still camera and get out his video camera -- I explained what I was about to do. He got the video camera out.
After I asked the Senator if he had ever used the n-word, he asked me to step aside so that he could conduct his media event. He promised to answer my questions when he was finished. Snepp fetched the hotel management and had them ask me to leave the premises. I tried to make the case that the Senator had indicated that he wanted to continue our conversation, but the manager was insistent, so I heeded his request.
His campaign schedule had been posted to his web site, so I knew he was going to do a meet and greet in downtown Staunton next. I drove to that location, hoping to follow up with the Senator there. While waiting, I called the Webb campaign headquarters and let them know what I had done previously. I told them that it was critically important that they give me the video guy's cell phone number so we could coordinate the next steps -- so he could shoot video of my follow-up questions.
The Webb camp refused. They said the candidate didn't want to engage in that kind of politics.
I later asked if I could get the video of my questions to the Senator. I wanted to put it up on YouTube. The Webb campaign never returned my calls.
Today, the Allen campaign is spinning whatever lies they can about me being connected to the Webb campaign. There is no evidence to support the allegation, but the media is more than happy to repeat it. Why aren't they so willing to repeat the allegation that the Senator spit on his first wife? Why aren't they reporting that the Senator refuses to address the nature of his arrests in Charlottesville in the 1970s?
What has happened to our media?
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:59 AM
Cheney: Democratic victory would embolden militants
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney, campaigning for Republicans four days before congressional elections, said on Friday that victories for Democratic critics of the Iraq war would tell militants that "their strategy is working."
Polls show Democrats may be poised to take control of at least one chamber of Congress in Tuesday's elections, largely due to anger over the war.
In an interview with ABC television, Cheney cited the example of antiwar Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont's primary win against Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman to suggest al Qaeda militants would draw messages from the vote.
Lieberman, a supporter of the war, is running as an independent after losing the Democratic primary, and leads Lamont in the polls.
"I think when they (militant groups) see something happen such as happened in Connecticut this year with the Democratic Party in effect (having) purged Joe Lieberman, primarily over his support for the president and the war, that says to them that their strategy is working," Cheney said on ABC's "This Week."
Cheney later told a rally for Republican candidates in Colorado Springs that if the United States were to withdraw from Iraq prematurely, it would validate the predictions of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
"He and his followers believe that America doesn't have the stomach for this fight and they are absolutely convinced they can break the will of this country," Cheney said.
Democrats have accused Cheney and President George W. Bush of using scare tactics to urge Americans to vote for Republicans.
The vice president also said the Bush administration would proceed "full speed ahead" with its Iraq policy, regardless of the election outcome.
"Clearly, there have been problems," Cheney said, but he added, "We've got the basic strategy right."
Asked how the election would influence Iraq policy, Cheney replied: "I think it will have some effect, perhaps, in the Congress, but the president has made clear what his objective is. It is victory in Iraq and it is full speed ahead on that basis and that is exactly what we are going to do."
In a visit to Fort Carson, Colorado, earlier on Friday, Cheney told an audience of 5,000 soldiers and their families that Americans "do not support a policy of retreat" in Iraq and gave an optimistic assessment of the situation there, saying the Iraqi security force was "growing in size and ability."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:57 AM
Convicted Republican Ney resigns from House
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Bob Ney of Ohio resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, three weeks after pleading guilty in the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal.
Ney submitted a letter of resignation, effective immediately, to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican who along with other lawmakers had urged him to step down immediately.
Ney had said in August he would not seek re-election to a seventh two-year term in the November 7 elections.
By staying on for a bit longer, he remained eligible to receive his paycheck and benefits, which drew widespread criticism.
Ney was the first lawmaker convicted in the Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, and the fourth House Republican to step down under pressure in the 109th Congress.
Their cases have rocked Republicans as they seek to retain control of the House on Tuesday. Democrats have accused Republicans of "a culture of corruption."
In the race to replace Ney, Democrat Zack Space holds a whopping 58 percent to 33 percent lead over Republican state Sen. Joy Padgett, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.
Other corruption-tainted Republicans who left the House were former Republican leader Tom DeLay of Texas, indicted on state campaign finance charges; Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California, convicted of accepting bribes, and Mark Foley of Florida, found to have sent sexually explicit e-mails to former interns.
Ney admitted he illegally accepted trips, meals, drinks, tickets to concerts and sporting events and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars in return for official acts performed on behalf of the lobbyist Abramoff and his clients.
Having abandoned his re-election race as federal authorities examined his links to the convicted Abramoff, Ney said last month he was ashamed of the way his public service career was ending.
In his letter to Hastert, Ney made no mention of his wrongdoing. He wrote: "It has been an honor to serve the people of the 18th congressional district of Ohio for the past 12 years."
"Having completed all outstanding work in my congressional office, I now hereby resign," added Ney, 52.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, blamed the House Republican leadership for letting Ney remain on the congressional payroll weeks after admitting guilt to accepting bribes, calling it "an embarrassment to this institution and an insult to the American taxpayer."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:55 AM
Friday, November 03, 2006
The Two Faces of Diebold
Stunning Document Surfaces to Show That America's #1 Voting Machine Manufacturer Hides Security and Operation Flaws from The State of Maryland and the Country
In September, 2003 Linda Lamone, the Administrator of Maryland's State Board of Elections and President of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) hands over a critical study on the security of the Diebold Election Systems machines that count all of Maryland's votes.
Between the time that the State of Maryland commissioned the highly respected Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to evaluate the effectiveness and security of their electronic voting machines and the time that the study is made public, critical pieces of information have been edited, omitted and, in some cases words added, to fundamentally alter the original meaning of the report's conclusions.
Enter the world of electronic voting machines, the "cure" to hanging and dimpled chad.
It is a seamy world of secrecy, proprietary software, partisan executives "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President", politicians asking programmers to design software to flip vote totals, and lots and lots of money.
And it is a world of completely inconsistent realities. Diebold and the other manufacturers insist that their machines are safe and secure yet every single cyber security expert and computer scientist has, for years, been screaming into an empty wilderness of media attention, that . . .
The machines can be hacked, by the implanting of malicious code, at the factory.
The machines can be hacked during transport from the factory.
The machines can be hacked while on "Sleepovers" before the election.
The machines can be hacked (in 1 minute with a .50cent mini bar key) during the election, and
These machines can be hacked, at the tabulator, after the election.
What makes this SAIC report, called "The Pentagon Papers of Electronic Voting" by some computer experts, so important is that:
1. It shows, in black and white, that what Diebold says to election officials and voters across the country is not the truth.
2. It shows that there are virtually no security protocols in place for certain Diebold machines and that the recommended security protocols were purposely removed.
3. It shows that the analyzed Diebold machines were not functional nor secure for use in elections and raises serious doubts that they are ready for the November 7, 2006 Midterm elections.
The study, dated September 17, 2003, is the response to research performed by Johns Hopkins University Computer Science Professor Avi Rubin citing severe security flaws on the Diebold touch screen machines, including a surprising lack of security, (encryption), on the memory cards. Maryland sought to ascertain whether their Diebold Touch Screen machines were, in fact, safe for Maryland voters to use.
But Diebold, in return for allowing their super secret, proprietary machines to be examined by the independent laboratory, insisted on two huge concessions from the State of Maryland.
First, SAIC would not be allowed to even look at the source code, the heart and guts of electronic voting machines. Second, they would be allowed to go through the SAIC Report, line by line, and redact anything and everything that they felt was proprietary, had a potential for security breaches or could provide a roadmap for anyone who wanted to compromise the system.
In other words, whatever they wanted to do with the public part of the report they could.
In addition to its value in showing the massive difference between the public and private, redacted and un-redacted faces of Diebold, this document is exceedingly relevant as we go into the November 7 elections. 468 federal seats and countless state and local contests are being decided by Diebold and other similar electronic voting machines. The outcome of these elections will set the direction of our country for the next two years.
The issue is whether Diebold has implemented the critical changes in its software and hardware called for by the full, genuine un-redacted SAIC Report. What makes this so very important is that the software, including the core "source code" that runs the machines that process and count almost all of America's vote on November 7 is as secret as the formula for Coca Cola and recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Why tabulators, for example, which act as nothing more than an elaborate abacus, have "proprietary software", hidden from election officials, Secretaries of State, Attorneys General and even the Governor of every state, is a true mystery and raises huge and angry suspicions within the computer scientist and cyber security communities.
And no one, except these four private, for profit corporations, Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and Hart, is allowed to see or inspect the software (and the core source code) to EVER know if the machines have operated properly or if there was, or is, malicious software that could alter the vote.
Now we come back to Linda Lamone.
It seems that Maryland's Board of Elections, under orders from Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, hired another firm, Freeman, Craft and McGregor, to review the vulnerabilities identified in the SAIC Report, the real one, and confirm to the Governor and the State that they had all been fixed.
The report has been completed but Linda Lamone will not disclose the contents of the report. Governor Ehrlich can't get her to do it, nor can Giles Berger the Chairman of the Maryland Board of Elections. It is important to note that even Berger, the SBE's Chairman, has not seen the original, unredacted report. Berger and his staff have been left to make sense of the 38 page report. Although this version had been made public, it was intended for limited official use. SBE members say they were aware redactions had been made but they were not allowed to see the original report. But SBE Administrator Linda Lamone has.
Back on August 11, 2006 Lamone briefed her staff about then Freeman report, telling them that the report also needs to be proprietary and not made public.
What are they hiding from the State of Maryland? What are they hiding from America's voters??
As a result of the courage of a top Maryland official, the entire SAIC report, showing the Diebold edits, omissions and additions, was just made available.
Now we can see, precisely, what Diebold is . . . and should be, afraid of!
The full State of Maryland Electronic Voting System Security Study, conducted by the SAIC and delivered to Maryland on September 17, 2003 is 152 pages plus 41 pages of appendices. The report that Linda Lamone handed to the Governor and to her own Board members was only 38 pages. 38 pages!
In total there are hundreds of edits, omission and additions. Here are a few examples:
Table of Contents page VII
Original SAIC Report:
Chapter 5: Risk Assessment Results, Steps 2 - 9
5.1 Step 2: Threat Identification
5.2 Step 3: Vulnerability Identification
5.3 Step 4: Control Analysis
5.3.1 Management Controls Analysis
5.3.2 Operational Controls Analysis
5.3.3 Technical Controls Analysis
5.4 Step 5: Likelihood Definition
5.4.1 Likelihood Rating Rationale
5.5 Step 6: Impact Analysis
5.5.1 Impact Rating Rationale
5.6 Step 7: Risk Determination
5.7 Detailed Risk Assessment Results
Submitted Report: Risk Assessment Results Chapter Completely Omitted
Executive Summary Page 2
Original SAIC Report: In response both SBE (Maryland State Board of Elections) and Diebold stated that the devices do not operate on the Internet, and that the State's procedural controls reduce or eliminate many of the vulnerabilities identified in the report.
Un-submitted Edited Version: In response both SBE and Diebold affirmed that the devices do not operate on the Internet, and the State's procedural controls reduce or eliminate many, if not all, of the vulnerabilities identified in the report.
Submitted Report: Completely Omitted
Executive Summary Page 3
Original SAIC Report: Risks identified were predominantly associated with a wide variety of administrative controls for voting system security. Among management and operational controls, SAIC found risks in the controls on access to servers, administration of passwords, use of system audit logs, intrusion detection and level of security training for elections personnel.
SAIC concluded that with the management and operational procedures currently in use, the risk of system compromise is high. SAIC indicated however that these vulnerabilities can be mitigated by adequate security planning and administration
Edited Version: Risks identified were predominantly associated with a wide variety of ABSENT administrative controls for voting system security. Among management and operational controls, SAIC found risks in the controls on access to servers, administration of passwords, use of system audit logs, intrusion detection and level of security training for elections personnel.
SAIC concluded that with the management and operational procedures currently in use, the risk of system compromise is high. SAIC indicated however that these vulnerabilities can be mitigated, if not eliminated, by adequate security planning and administration.
Submitted Report: Completely Omitted
Original SAIC Report:
2.1.4 SBE does not require the secure transmission of election vote totals
"The SBE does not require encryption for the election results transmitted from the local polling sites to the LBE. Those results are transmitted over a private, point to point connection, via modem. Those transmitted results become the official results after the canvassing process is completed. A 100% verification of the transmitted totals to the original PCMCIA cards (i.e., computer memory storage of actual vote totals) or the paper totals is not performed."
Submitted Report: "The SBE does not require encryption for the election results transmitted from the local polling sites to the LBE. Those transmitted results become the official results after the canvassing process is completed. A 100% verification of the transmitted totals to the original PCMCIA cards (i.e., computer memory storage of actual vote totals) or the paper totals is not performed."
Original SAIC Report:
8. Controls are not implemented to detect unauthorized transaction
attempts by authorized and/or unauthorized users
There is no documentation that describes security controls for detecting unauthorized transaction attempts by authorized or unauthorized users. Therefore, the application of security controls may be applied inconsistently, incorrectly or incompletely.
Since a threat source is more likely to exploit a system if the evidence of his/her actions cannot be gathered or will go undetected, failure to have controls for detection increases the likelihood of system attacks, and consequently, of system compromise:
Submitted Report: Completely Omitted
Original SAIC Report:
2.1.9: No documentation currently exists regarding appropriate access controls to the AccuVote-TS voting system
There is no documentation that identifies the process for maintaining appropriate access controls to the AccuVote-TS voting system. Without proper documentation, the consistent implementation of security controls cannot be verified or validated.
The lack of proper documentation has resulted in the vendor default settings being left in place with the default user ID in the configuration. This information (i.e., passwords) is also documented in various manuals.
Failure to correctly document access procedures, and use of vendor default passwords allows anyone with access to those documented passwords authenticated user privileges to the system. That access would allow the unauthorized user to do anything the legitimate user could do.
Submitted Report: Completely Omitted
2.3.1 Audit logs are not configured properly and are not reviewed
Original SAIC Report: The GEMS server audit logs are not configured to log any security events (i.e., extended logging) at the operating system level and the current log size is too small. Consequently, recorded events are overwritten. In addition, the audit logs are not reviewed.
Failure to properly log and to review those logs makes it significantly more likely that an intruder's actions will not be detected. Assurance on non-detection may encourage a possible intruder to attempt a penetration of the system.
We recommend that the Windows 2000 operating system be configured to audit all security events and the log size should be set to an appropriate size. We also recommend that the event logs be reviewed on a regular basis.
Submitted Report: Completely Omitted
Despite its original date, and certain Diebold claims that all problems have been remedied with its machines, the report is considered to be a serious "smoking gun" by all computer experts who have seen it. It is evidence, they say, of a very purposeful plan by Diebold to hide the operational and security flaws on the machines that count all of the votes in Maryland and Georgia and many of the votes in states across the country.
The extreme sensitivity to investigation of Diebold voting hardware and software by Linda Lamone, the person who many say is responsible for selling Diebold systems to election directors across the country and even internationally, played out in a highly unusual unaired network television interview. Lamone, the former President of the NASED, was chiefly responsible for making recommendations to other states on which electronic voting machines they should use. Lamone is acutely aware of the problems associated with Diebold voting machines, yet remains steadfast in her defense of them. In her offices in Annapolis, Maryland last month, with a Diebold touch screen voting machine proudly displayed right behind her, Lamone abruptly stopped our interview, ripped off her microphone and walked off when I asked about the source code - and whether she believed its counting software should remain secretly controlled by Diebold.
Abrahams: Alright so you don't want to talk about the source code issues at all? (Lamone shakes head no) It is not relevant that we know that source code has been viewed?
Lamone: (looking at someone off camera) Yeah the ITA did it. And that whole system has been taken over by the national Institute for Standards and Technology in partnership with the election assistance commission. We are because I am participating in this are writing new, we have written new standards against which the voting systems are going to start being tested next year. I am participating in another project with the election assistance commission to write management guidelines covering security and other issues for election officials across the United States.
Abrahams: The reasons honestly why I ask the questions about the source code is because there are a lot of people out there- elected officials and scientists who say even if the machines are secure when those memory cards are taken to the tabulator and those tabulators count the votes we don't know how the votes are counted. The state doesn't know and the state has not been able to see the source code so it is an issue of voter confidence.
Lamone: I think you are in fantasy land. (speaking to someone off camera) I think I want to end this.
Abrahams: I am not in fantasy land- I just have a couple more questions
Lamone: No (takes off her microphone)
Abrahams: You don't want to finish? I just have a couple more questions...
Lamone-: No! (Finishes taking the microphone off and speaks to someone off camera)
Abrahams: I don't know why you don't wish to continue this. I am asking you legitimate questions relating to the Diebold voting systems.
(Camera holds on empty chair with the Diebold Electronic Voting Machine, sitting alone, in the immediate background)
Given the voting breakdowns in Maryland during the September Primaries and the upcoming November 7 Midterms, the edits to the SAIC study and the reactions of Lamone during the ABC interview are of great concern to those studying electronic voting.
This is ever more so, according to the experts, because in 2002, under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), America totally turned its elections, and in a very real sense, its Democracy over to Diebold and three other private for profit corporations - ES&S (Election Software & Systems), Sequoia and Hart Intercivic.
These four corporations make the E-poll books that now hold America's voter rolls, the electronic voting machines that process America's votes and the tabulators that count America's vote.
There is still time, for a courageous Secretary of State, Attorney General or Governor, to stand up and publicly demand that Diebold and the other manufacturers do the following:
1. Prove that the many recommendations, contained in the un-redacted SAIC Report, have been complied with.
2. In Maryland, release the Freeman, Craft, McGregor Report showing what, if anything has been fixed since the SAIC Report
3. Make the electronic voting machines and tabulators available immediately before, during and after the November 7 election for identified, certified computer scientists from the state government, (an "Election Swat Team") to inspect for evidence of tampering, factory installed malicious code, malicious code that might have been added after leaving the factory, malicious code that might have been added during the election.
4. Make emergency Paper Ballots available for all voters who are not comfortable trusting the electronic machines. If the counties across this country have to pay Rush Fees to printers in their jurisdiction, so be it. Democracy demands nothing less.
We do not have only Diebold to blame for the critical position the un-redacted SAIC Report shows we are in. The Federal Government, despite mandating these machines has refused to exercise any oversight over them and bears huge responsibility, from The White House to the Congress.
George Bush's own appointee to the Chair the EAC, The Election Administration Commission, Rev. DeForest Soares, quit that post, stating, rather dramatically that, "There is no prototype. There are no standards. There is no scientific research that would guarantee any election district that there's a machine that can be used to answer these very serious questions. And so, my sense is that the politicians in Washington have concluded that the system can't be all that bad because, after all, it produced them. And as long as an elected official is an elected official, then whatever machine was used, whatever device was used to elect him or her, seems to be adequate. But there's an erosion of voting rights implicit in our inability to trust the technology that we use and if we were another country being analyzed by America, we would conclude that this country is ripe for stealing elections and for fraud."
And Congress has refused to do anything to protect the voters or the Democratic process.
Congress refused to require that the four manufacturers make the software available for inspection (the Independent Testing Laboratories only perform tests on the machine's functionality.) They do not even look (and they're not required to look) for vote-flipping malicious code inside the software. Congress refused to require voter verified paper trails where the voter would look at a paper receipt inside the machine (not take it home with them), verify that it was correct and then allow for it, the hard copy, to be stored separately. And, further, Congress has refused to require mandatory random audits at polling stations or any other verification that the totals that are reported are, in fact, anything close to what they should be.
And, it is unlikely that Congress will ever solve the problems indicated in the SAIC Report. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the man who will likely become Senate Majority Leader, (together with convicted Ohio Republican Congressman Bob Ney) lead the effort to keep legislation requiring voter verified paper trails and machine transparency from ever coming to a vote in Congress, and even urged their Congressional colleagues to vote against any efforts to do so (see "Dear Colleague" Letter on March 3, 2004)
See contents of that letter here.
See ABCNews.com blog here: Political Punch
In other words, despite the brilliant rallying cry of their hero, Ronald Reagan, "Trust but Verify", the Republican Leadership has, in fact, created a Democracy where we are asked to do one but with no effort at all to do the other.
The leaked, un-redacted SAIC Report makes it clear that these machines are not ready for our midterm elections next week and that Diebold, and, perhaps the three other manufacturers, have been fraudulently hiding serious operational and security flaws from the states and the voters.
Unless there is emergency action undertaken by our states, we could have 468 mini Florida 2000s and the control and direction of our Congress debated for many months to come. Nonetheless, absent the ability to properly inspect the software on these machines, the best safeguard may, indeed, be for everyone to vote. The larger the turnout and, conceivably, the larger the margin of victory, one way or another, the less likely these far from proven machines will be able to alter the vote in defiance of the exit polling.
Until we can get Diebold and the other manufacturers who hold our democracy in their corporate hand to tell the truth about their hardware and software, our democracy may hinge on people doing what it is really all about anyway, getting out and voting.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:19 AM
Britons wary of Bush more than Kim Jong-il: poll
LONDON (Reuters) - The United States is seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbors and allies, with Britons saying President George W. Bush poses a greater danger than North Korea's Kim Jong-il, a survey found on Friday.
A majority of people quizzed in three out of four countries polled also rejected the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The findings came just days before the U.S. mid-term congressional elections, with a growing number of U.S. voters wanting their troops in Iraq to be brought home.
Britain's Guardian newspaper said it carried out the survey along with Israel's Haaretz, La Presse and Toronto Star in Canada and Mexico's Reforma.
In Britain, which alongside Israel is traditionally a close Washington ally, 69 percent of those questioned said they felt U.S. policy had made the world less safe since 2001.
A majority of Canadians and Mexicans agreed, with 62 percent of those polled in Canada and 57 percent in Mexico saying their neighbor's policy had made the world more dangerous.
As for Israel, just 25 percent of people asked said Bush had made the world safer, while 36 percent felt he had upped the risk of conflict and a further 30 percent said at best he had made no difference.
Israelis alone were in favor of Bush's decision to invade Iraq, with 59 percent for the war and 34 percent against.
The ratio was starkly different in the three other nations.
Some 89 percent of Mexicans felt the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein was unjustified, as did 73 percent of Canadians and 71 percent of Britons, the survey said.
The perceived failings of U.S. foreign policy placed Bush alongside al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a cause of global anxiety, it said.
North Korea's nuclear test last month drew worldwide condemnation, while Western powers are trying to force Iran to scale back atomic work they fear may be used to make bombs. Iran says its aims are purely peaceful.
Asked whether they thought the U.S. leader was a great or moderate danger to peace, 75 percent of British people said yes. Some 87 percent felt the same about bin Laden, while Kim scored 69 percent and Ahmadinejad clocked 62 percent.
Just 23 percent of Israelis said Bush he represented a serious danger, with 61 percent disagreeing.
ICM interviewed 1,010 adults from October 27-30 in Britain. Professional local opinion polling was used in the other three countries, the Guardian said. In Israel, 1,078 people were asked, 1,007 were quizzed in Canada and 1,010 in Mexico.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:17 AM
Prepare for Civil Disobedience
It may be that the polls tighten, exit polls confirm a close election, and Democrats take a narrow victory in the House and do not gain control of the Senate. Under those circumstances, sustaining public outrage because of voter fraud may be difficult. Warranted, but perhaps difficult.
More likely, the polls will remain more or less as they are, or even tilt a bit more in the direction of the Democrats.
If the election results are, nonetheless, a narrow Democratic victory in the House and failure for the Democrats to take control of the Senate, then the likelihood of massive voter fraud---from intimidation, to voter roll purging, to electronic hacking---is high. Under those circumstances, small "d" democrats, that is, anyone concerned about our democracy, must take to the streets.
In '00 times were relatively good, and few understood the implications of the neocon agenda that usurped the Presidency. Hence, there was no big issue to move the public. In '02 the Administration manipulated 9/11 by pivoting on a Homeland Security Department (they had been against it, because it would become subject to Congressional oversight, whereas they wanted it all secret) and rolling out the Iraqi threat that, strangely, a year earlier Cheney had told us had been "contained". [One can only wonder what the Bush Administration did in that year that allowed Saddam Hussein to escape containment.] Fear stilled scrutiny.
By '04, much to the chagrin of Bush and Cheney, the country began to emerge from its fear. To reinforce it, however, they found old, discredited "intelligence" data and trotted them out to raise the terrorist threat every time the Kerry/Edwards campaign was catching momentum. Strangely, once the election was over, few elevated terrorist announcements occurred. Nonetheless, the extent of voter fraud required to retain the White House exceeded that in '00. In Ohio in '04, like Florida in '00, the Secretary of State (in charge of elections) was also the State Chair of the Bush/Cheney campaign. Had the Kerry/Edwards campaign challenged in Ohio, there was a 100% guarantee that the terrorist threat would have been immediately elevated, and remained elevated, to make those whose only sin was to want their votes counted seem unpatriotic for perpetuating uncertainty in time of war.
Today, the country is a powder keg. An election result differing from the exit polls that keeps the House close and denies the Senate to the Democrats is the spark that will re-ignite the flames of democracy that is our birthright. The Administration has cynically calculated that the American people do not really care about their rights, do not really care about our system of government, do not really care about the humiliation visited upon them by the lies, the incompetence, the corruption and the coverups.
They are wrong. At a time when 103 US soldiers were killed in one month in Iraq, when we are losing a battalion per month to death and injury in Iraq, when soldiers' families have to suffer through multiple redeployments (while the neocons' children, including the Bushes, do not even have the honor to volunteer to relieve that pressure), when veterans' care and benefits are being simultaneously cut, when a failing national security team is valued over the nations' security, when people who vote for Democrats are told they are helping the terrorists, the American people shall not sit idly while the Administration, whose pursuit of power exceeds their sense of decency and public responsibility, acts with such utter contempt for the interests of 300 million citizens.
Thomas Jefferson described the balance perfectly: "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
As Saddam Hussein, and others of his ilk, have shown, no illegitimate government opts to act properly when it feels threatened; rather, it increases its abuses. Perhaps this Administration will, at long last, surprise us, but we cannot expect it. Too many times they have broken faith with the American people.
The day of reckoning approaches. If they again abuse our elections as they have abused our patience on so many matters, their "long train of abuses and usurpations" must be resisted. Be prepared.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:14 AM
Evangelical leader resigns over sex scandal
By Keith Coffman
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) - The president of the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals, who has had regular talks with the White House and vocally opposes gay marriage, resigned on Thursday after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a male escort.
Ted Haggard, who denied the accusation, also temporarily stepped down as senior pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, the church said in a statement.
"I've never had a gay relationship with anyone," Haggard said in an interview with Denver television station KUSA on Wednesday night. "I'm steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."
The New Life Church statement quoted Haggard as saying he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations."
"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date," the church statement quoted Haggard as saying.
Mike Jones, who said he was a male escort, told KUSA on Wednesday he had had a three-year sexual "business relationship" with Haggard.
Haggard, who is often credited with rallying conservative Christians behind President George W. Bush for his 2004 re-election, talks to Bush or his advisors every Monday, Harper's Magazine reported last year.
Haggard supports a proposed amendment to the Colorado constitution that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Colorado voters will decide on that issue next week when they vote in the congressional elections.
Such ballot initiatives also help the Republican Party which polls say is in danger of losing control of Congress in Tuesday's midterm vote.
Evangelical Christians have been a key base of support for Bush and the Republican Party.
A father of five, Haggard has long been a leading figure among conservative U.S. evangelical Christians.
Time Magazine included him in its list of the "25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America." Harper's Magazine, an influential liberal periodical, described New Life last year as "America's most powerful megachurch."
While the National Association of Evangelicals is associated with conservative causes it is not as rigidly ideological and staunchly supportive of the Republican Party as other evangelical groups.
Its vice president of governmental affairs, Richard Cizik, is vocal in support of policies to stop global warming: an issue not associated with most Republicans.
Jerry Falwell, a prominent conservative Christian and Republican Party stalwart, was quick to play down the organization's role and Haggard's standing among evangelicals.
"He (Haggard) doesn't really lead the (evangelical) movement. ... He is the president of an association that is very loosely knit and I've never been a member of it," Falwell said in a CNN interview on Thursday.
(additional reporting by Ed Stoddard in Dallas)
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:12 AM
U.S. shuts Web site said to reveal nuclear guide: NYT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government has shut down a Web site it set up in March containing documents captured during the Iraq war after arms experts and officials raised concerns it offered a guide to building a nuclear bomb, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
The newspaper said the Bush administration started the site under pressure from congressional Republicans who had hoped to use the Internet to find new evidence of the dangers posed by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
In recent weeks, according to the Times, the site posted documents that weapons experts said contained detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Gulf War that one diplomat called "a cookbook" for building an atom bomb.
On Wednesday night, after the Times informed the government about the concerns, it said the government suspended the site. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said the site was suspended "pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing."
The paper quoted European diplomats as saying that officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear watchdog made a private protest to the U.S. ambassador to the agency, voicing concern the information could help countries like Iran develop nuclear weapons.
The site, known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom Document Portal," contained about a dozen documents with charts, diagrams, equations and long narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts told the Times went beyond what was available on the Internet and other public forums.
The Times said the documents provided information on building nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.
"For the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible," A. Bryan Siebert, a former official at the Energy Department, which runs the nation's nuclear arms program, told the paper.
National intelligence director John Negroponte resisted setting up the Web site, the Times said, but President George W. Bush approved the site after congressional Republicans proposed a bill to require the documents' release.
According to the Times, conservative politicians and publications hoped analysis of the some 48,000 boxes of documents seized in the Iraq invasion would reinvigorate the search for proof Saddam had unconventional arms programs.
Bush cited concerns about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction as a major cause for the Iraq invasion. No such weapons have been found.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:10 AM
Democrats warn debt could trigger crisis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic lawmakers warned on Thursday that U.S. reliance on foreign countries to purchase U.S. debt could lead to a financial crisis as they faulted the Bush administration's economic stewardship.
"If the United States does not begin to take steps to reduce its unsustainable dependence on foreign borrowing in an orderly way, there could be a run on the dollar that could precipitate an international finance crisis and a sharp increase in interest rates," a report issued by Democrats on the congressional Joint Economic Committee and House of Representatives Financial Services Committee said.
The report comes less than a week before elections in which control of Congress is at stake. It was also less than a month after President George W. Bush claimed victory in his effort to cut the U.S. budget gap in half from a once projected, but never reached, peak of $521 billion in fiscal 2004.
The Bush administration credited a surge in revenues that it pinned on strong economic growth for cutting the deficit to $247.7 billion in the fiscal year that ended September 30. The deficit is down from a record $412.7 billion in 2004.
The Democratic report, released by Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Barney Frank of Massachusetts, said foreign ownership of outstanding U.S. debt had jumped to 42.1 percent from just 4.7 percent over the past 40 years.
Foreign ownership of Treasury securities rose to $2.2 trillion in August from $1.0 trillion in January 2001, it said, citing Treasury data.
During that period, China's holdings increased to $339 billion from $61.5 billion, while the holdings of members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries rose to $104.8 billion from $48.5 billion, the report said.
The report said foreign purchases of U.S. debt had likely dampened what otherwise would have been upward pressure on interest rates, but warned that investor sentiment could turn in a way that could hurt the economy.
The Democrats said it would take years of prudent fiscal policy to reduce reliance on foreign lenders and bring the federal debt to a prudent level.
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:09 AM
Get the "Where's the Apology" Commericials Ready and Run 'Em Through Tuesday!
Within any problem lies an answer, so said Einstein.
Kerry botches a joke about Bush. Republicans demand an apology to the troops and their families.
A problem for Democrats? Only if they don't seek the answer inside the problem.
The answer? Republicans want to call for apologies when defaming our troops, let's get this party started.
Run Bush's hysterical search for WMD at the White House Press Corp Dinner.
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run Rumsfeld's "Go to war with the army you have, not the one you want."
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run Cheney's "The insurgency, if you will, is in its last throes."
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run John Boehner's "We''ll beat (Kerry) to death."
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run Bush's "Brownie, your'e doin' a heckuva job."
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run Cheney's "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run George Tenet getting the Medal of Freedom from George Bush.
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run Wolfowitz testifying how the war would pay for itself.
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run Rumsfeld saying that he couldn't see the war going past six months.
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
COMMERCIAL # 10
Run Barbara Bush saying that living in the Astrodome is working out really well for Katrina victims
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run Tony Snow saying that the thousands killed in Iraq was "just a number." Bush's war is a "comma"; a "nanosecond."
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
655,000 dead Iraqis
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run web photos of Rush Limbaugh (the same Limbaugh Bush and Cheney use to sell their message) mocking Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's.
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Run photos of the flag-draped coffins of our young heroes we're not supposed to see.
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Ending Graphic: Where is the apology?
Got any more? Let's pile 'em up, I'll add them to the list and we'll ship the bunch of 'em to the DNC.
If they don't use them, then they do have a problem.
Steve Young is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" www.greatfailure.com
Bush: Death and carnage in Iraq, the slaughter of Iraqi civilians and 2818 dead American
soldiers are but just a "comma in time."
There is no civil was in Iraq.
Rummy or Cheney: We're in the end game.
We will be greeted as liberators.
The orchestrated toppling of Saddam's statue.
Iraq oil will pay for the war.
John McCain for saying we will not torture, then selling his political soud to the Devil
Bush, and now we will torture.
Laura Bush for damning Michael J. Fox by accusing him of using his illness to
"manipulate people's feelings."
Barbara Bush for saying Hurricane Katrina victims never had it better in their lives than
being in Texas shelters.
Bush: You're doing if fine job, Brownie.
Bush: Cheney and Rumsfeld are doing fine jobs and will be with me until January 2009.
Bush: We'll get Osama bin Laden dead or alive, then he went off to easier pickin's in
For that he owes the Afghani people an apology.
For all the others he owes the American people...BIG TIME!!!
"Bring it on, George." Apologize!
Posted by politicalstuff at 2:07 AM
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Electronic voting machines count about 87% of the votes cast in America today. But are they reliable? Are they safe from tampering? From a current congressional hearing to persistent media reports that suggest misuse of data and even outright fraud, concerns over the integrity of electronic voting are growing by the day. And if the voting process is not secure, neither is America's democracy. The timely, cautionary documentary HACKING DEMOCRACY exposes gaping holes in the security of America's electronic voting system.
In the 2000 presidential election, an electronic voting machine recorded minus 16,022 votes for Al Gore in Volusia County, Fla. While fraud was never proven, the faulty tally alerted computer scientists, politicians and everyday citizens to the very real possibility of computer hacking during elections.
In 2002, Seattle grandmother and writer Bev Harris asked officials in her county why they had acquired electronic touch screen systems for their elections. Unsatisfied with their explanation, she set out to learn about electronic voting machines on her own. In the course of her research, which unearthed hundreds of reported incidents of mishandled voting information, Harris stumbled across an "online library" of the Diebold Corporation, discovering a treasure trove of information about the inner-workings of the company's voting system.
Harris brought this proprietary "secret" information to computer security expert Dr. Avi Rubin of Johns Hopkins University, who determined that the software lacked the necessary security features to prevent tampering. Her subsequent investigation took her from the trash cans of Texas to the secretary of state of California and finally to Florida, where a "mini-election" to test the vulnerability of the memory cards used in electronic voting produced alarming results.
As the scope of her mission grew, Harris drew on the expertise of other computer- science experts, politicians and activists, among them: Andy Stephenson, candidate for secretary of state in Washington state; Susan Bernecker, Republican candidate in New Orleans; Kathleen Wynne, an activist from Cleveland; Dr. Herbert Thompson, chief security strategist, Security Innovation, Inc.; Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections for Leon County, Fla.; and Harri Hursti, a computer-security analyst. Academics, public officials and others seen in interview footage include: Deanie Lowe, supervisor of elections, Volusia County, Fla.; Mark Radke, marketing director of Diebold; David Cobb, presidential candidate, Green Party; and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio.
Diebold software, or other software like it, is installed in thousands of counties across 32 states. David Dill, professor of computer science at Stanford, says the problem is that there are "lots of people involved in writing the software, and lots of people who could have touched the software before it went into that machine. If one of those people put something malicious in the software and it's distributed to all the machines, then that one person could be responsible for changing tens of thousands of votes, maybe even hundreds of thousands, across the country."
In Florida, Leon County supervisor of elections Ion Sancho presided over a trial "mini-election" to see if the vote could be hacked without being detected. Before votes were actually cast, computer analyst Harri Hursti "stuffed the ballot box" by entering votes on the computer's memory card. Then, after votes were cast, the results displayed when the same memory card was entered in the central tabulating program indicated that fraud was indeed possible. In other words, by accessing a memory card before an election, someone could change the results - a claim Diebold had denied was possible.
Ultimately, Bev Harris' research proved that the top-secret computerized systems counting the votes in America's public elections are not only fallible, but also vulnerable to undetectable hacking, from local school board contests to the presidential race. With the electronic voting machines of three companies - Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia - collectively responsible for around 80 percent of America's votes today, the stakes for democracy are high.
One of the executive producers of HACKING DEMOCRACY is Sarah Teale, whose previous HBO credits include "Dealing Dogs" and "Bellevue: Inside Out."
HACKING DEMOCRACY was directed by Simon Ardizzone and Russell Michaels; produced by Simon Ardizzone, Robert Carrillo Cohen and Russell Michaels; executive producers, Earl Katz, Sarah Teale and Sian Edwards; edited by Sasha Zik. For HBO: supervising producer, John Hoffman; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:29 AM
The Real War
By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
There is a war going on -- and I don't mean the fake one between the White House and John Kerry. I mean the real one, in Iraq.
And each and every day, there's more evidence that President Bush's strategy for winning that war isn't working.
Bush's plan calls for American troops to remain in the country as long as it takes for a democratic central government to take hold. But there's little sign that the government has been able to exercise any authority whatsoever outside the fortified Green Zone. The rest of Baghdad is in the throes of civil war. The Kurdish north is essentially independent, the south is ruled by Shiite militias and the Sunni center is in a state of anarchy.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's supposed unity government surprised everyone by showing it is capable of exercising authority -- but it wasn't the sort of act that bodes well for the future.
Maliki showed he can serve his Shiite militia masters by stopping the U.S. military from bothering them.
Ellen Knickmeyer and John Ward Anderson write in The Washington Post: "American soldiers rolled up their barbed-wire barricades and lifted a near siege of the largest Shiite Muslim enclave in Baghdad on Tuesday, heeding the orders of a Shiite-led Iraqi government whose assertion of sovereignty had Shiites celebrating in the streets. ...
"Maliki's decision exposed the growing divergence between the U.S. and Iraqi administrations on some of the most critical issues facing the country, especially the burgeoning strength of Shiite militias. The militias are allied with the Shiite religious parties that form Maliki's coalition government, and they are accused by Sunni Arab Iraqis and by Americans of kidnapping and killing countless Sunnis in the soaring violence between Iraq's Shiite majority and Sunni minority."
And do you remember how Bush used to describe his strategy in Iraq? (Other than " stay the course ," naturally.)
On June 28, 2005 , Bush proudly announced: "Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down."
He repeated it over and over again, at least 40 times , until the phrase was retired almost exactly a year later. His last unprompted use of the phrase was on June 26, 2006 : "And as you well know, our standards are, as Iraqis stand up, the coalition will be able to stand down."
At his September 15 press conference , about 10 weeks after he had mentioned it last, Bush was asked if the strategy was still operative. He said it was.
But he put it this way: "We all want the troops to come home as quickly as possible. But they'll be coming home when our commanders say the Iraqi government is capable of defending itself and sustaining itself and is governing itself."
As Thomas E. Ricks wrote in The Washington Post in October regarding "stand up, stand down": "By strict numbers, the Iraqi side of that equation is almost complete. Training programs have developed more than 300,000 members of the Iraqi army and national police, close to the desired number of homegrown forces. Yet as that number has grown, so, too, has violence in Iraq. . . .
"With the insurgency undiminished and Iraqi forces seemingly unable to counter it, U.S. commanders say they expect to stay at the current level of U.S. troops -- about 140,000 -- until at least next spring. That requirement is placing new strains on service members who leave Iraq and then must prepare to return a few months later. Tours of duty have been extended for two brigades in Iraq to boost troop levels."
And in today's Washington Post, Walter Pincus has a short story that speaks volumes about why the Iraqis' "standing up" hasn't allowed us to "stand down."
Pincus writes: "U.S. military advisers are confronting difficult behavior from Iraqi soldiers, who tend to fire all their ammunition in response to a single sniper shot or go on rampages even against civilians upon witnessing the death of a colleague, according to Lt. Col. Carl D. Grunow, a former adviser to an Iraqi army armored brigade. . . .
"His article, based on his year in Iraq, which ended in June, is in the July-August Military Review and is one of several in recent issues that have dealt forthrightly with concerns of military participants with the U.S. effort to rebuild Iraq's army during the ongoing war. . . .
"Grunow also notes that some Iraqi soldiers do not show up for training that is difficult, and he says that up to 40 percent of some Iraqi units run away in the face of dangerous situations -- without punishment."
The War and the Elections
Peter Grier writes in the Christian Science Monitor: "The White House, as well as some experts outside the government, say al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups deliberately are trying to inflict more casualties to influence next week's midterm elections and break American will. . . .
"Others say the rising toll is not so much the result of a deliberate decision by U.S. adversaries as it is the cost of moving more U.S. troops into Baghdad in recent weeks in an attempt to more fully control the capital city.
"'The October boost in U.S. casualties was almost inevitable the moment the U.S. attempted to stiffen and replace Iraqi forces in an essentially hopeless mission,' writes Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, in his most recent analysis of Iraq."
Bush and Prayer
Talk about motivating the base. Bush sat down for an interview with Melissa Charbonneau of the Christian Broadcasting Network yesterday.
Here's a video excerpt .
Charbonneau: "What's your prayer for the nation?"
Bush: "My prayer is for peace. My prayer is that this world be peaceful, so children can grow up understanding the benefits of freedom.
"Let me just say something about prayer. I have been deeply affected by the fact that people from all walks of life pray for me and my family. It has served as a great source of strength and comfort, and I thank our fellow citizens for those prayers. They don't need to do that, but they do. I am amazed when I work rope lines. . . . People are there, it's like they've come to say 'I've come to let you know I'm praying for you, Mr. President, I'm lifting you and your family up in prayer.'
"And my answer to them is: That is the greatest gift you can give a president. And I thank people for that. It's made an enormous difference in my life as the president. . . .
"It's an amazing country, you know? When you've got total strangers praying for a guy like me. It really is. I think it makes us very unique as a nation, and I embrace it."
Fox News yesterday broadcast part two of Bush's interview on Monday with Sean Hannity. Here's the transcript ; here's the video .
Bush explained how the Decider works: "First of all, in order to make good decisions, you have to understand the principles that you believe in. . . .
"Secondly, you've got to have good people around you that are capable of giving you good advice. In other words, you've been in the Oval Office. It can be slightly intimidating. And you want to make sure you have people come in there that say, 'Look, here's what I believe.'
"And, thirdly, then you have to be able to make a decision. And making a decision means you're thoughtful, you listen, you think a lot about it. But when you decide, you decide.
"And, fourth, it means you've got to have a team that, when you make the decision, it is, 'Yes sir, Mr. President,' and they carry out the decision you make."
Hannity asked Bush if he felt being president was his God-given destiny, and Bush demurred.
"You know, I don't know. There's just an interesting argument. I think mankind has to be very comfortable about ascribing to God, you know, kind of human answers. In other words, God is bigger than humans."
Bush also sat down yesterday with Morris Jones of Sinclair Broadcast Group. As usual, good questions were rewarded with non-answers.
Today, Bush holds an interview with right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.
Just Who Is Bush Motivating?
Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post: "His name is not on any ballot this fall, but George W. Bush is the central issue of campaign 2006. Tuesday's vote will deliver a referendum on six years of Bush's leadership -- bold and principled or radically divisive, depending on one's political ideology -- and the wartime policies he has championed.
"Other issues may come into play, congressional scandals and performance among them, but in the end, next week's verdict will be remembered for what it says about this president. With Bush's approval ratings hovering just below 40 percent, Republicans are braced for big losses.
"GOP strategists know well that no political party has successfully weathered a midterm election with such an unpopular president in office. Bush's challenge as he campaigns in the final days of the election is to find a way to excite and mobilize a fractured Republican base without triggering an even bigger turnout among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents that could cost his party the House or Senate. . . .
"One GOP strategist, speaking candidly about the president on the condition of anonymity, offered this assessment: 'I'd say he's at least 50 percent of the problem.'"
Kerry is So Very
The White House political machine -- flailing without someone in particular to vilify -- yesterday gleefully jumped at the chance to make John Kerry a central issue in this campaign.
And while the broadcast media can't seem to get enough of this story, the print media is being a touch more skeptical.
Jim VandeHei and Chris Cillizza write in The Washington Post: "President Bush last night accused Sen. John F. Kerry of disparaging U.S. troops in Iraq, echoing the 2004 strategy of ridiculing the Massachusetts senator to raise anew questions about Democratic leaders and their commitment to the troops. The highly coordinated White House effort came as Republicans sought to shift the focus away from an unpopular war and GOP scandals that are putting their congressional majorities at risk.
"The controversy erupted after Kerry told a California audience on Monday: 'Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.' . . .
"The president said Kerry owes service members an apology -- echoing a parade of prominent Republicans who criticized the Massachusetts Democrat throughout the day. . . .
"In his defense, Kerry said that his comment was a 'botched joke' and that he was referring to Bush's intellect, not that of American military personnel serving in Iraq."
How scripted is this? "The White House tipped off the networks to when Bush would attack Kerry, so the comments could be carried live and make the evening news."
Here's the text of Bush speech: "The senator's suggestion that the men and women of our military are somehow uneducated is insulting and it is shameful."
Here's Kerry's response : "It disgusts me that a bunch of these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country, are willing to lie about those who did."
Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg write in the New York Times: "For at least a few hours on Tuesday, President Bush had a chance to relive his victorious campaign of 2004, taking a break from a bleak Republican campaign season as he attacked Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts over the war in Iraq."
But is there a downside even to this?
"In the process, Mr. Bush brought renewed attention to the war in Iraq, which he defended with vigor while campaigning in Georgia, at the very moment that a number of Republican Congressional candidates, following the advice of party strategists, were stepping up their efforts to distance themselves from the White House on the war as the campaign enters its final days."
Press secretary Tony Snow got the ball rolling at yesterday's briefing. He even came prepared with the text of Kerry's remarks.
"What Senator Kerry ought to do first is apologize to the troops," Snow said. "This is an absolute insult."
When Snow was done, Hearst columnist Helen Thomas piped up: "Does the president owe the Democrats an apology for saying that the terrorists -- that they will appease the terrorists?"
The Half Empty Arena
Nedra Pickler writes for the Associated Press: "He didn't fill the arena at the Georgia National Fairgrounds -- plenty of seats were empty in the back along with nearly half of the vast floor space. But the thousands who came out for the Halloween night rally were enthusiastic, applauding his call for tax cuts and against gay marriage."
Trick or Treat
After his speech, Bush stopped off in a residential area of the Robins Air Force Base, where he stood near a gazebo and handed out boxes of presidential M&Ms to costumed trick-or-treaters for about 15 minutes.
Here's a photo gallery from the Macon Telegraph.
Standard Order of Business
Devlin Barrett writes for the Associated Press: "Rep. Charles Rangel feels bad -- but not too bad -- about directing a curse word at Vice President Dick Cheney.
"Rangel, a Harlem Democrat who regularly exchanges verbal volleys with the vice president, called Cheney a 'son of a b . . . ' on Monday when asked by the New York Post about comments Cheney made about him in a television interview.
"He repeated his comments in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, but added, 'I shouldn't have said it.'
"'I thought that he should be flattered, there's certainly no animosity in it,' said Rangel, saying he had been making an observation about Cheney. 'Some people just have that as part of their personality.'"
John Harwood and Jackie Calmes write in the Wall Street Journal: "A week before Election Day, a new poll shows President Bush getting better marks for his handling of the economy -- an issue Republicans are emphasizing in the run-up to Tuesday's vote -- but voters' anxieties about Iraq continue to dominate their concerns. . . .
"Just 39% of voters approve Mr. Bush's performance while 57% disapprove. By 37% to 22% voters say they will be voting to send a signal of opposition to Mr. Bush rather than support; 38% say their votes won't reflect their feelings about the president."
Al Kamen writes in The Washington Post that "Richard Perle former Reagan assistant secretary of defense, former Bush brain-truster on the Defense Policy Board, and a key promoter of the war to find Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, [last week] blistered the administration as 'dysfunctional' when it comes to stopping someone from bringing 'a nuclear weapon or even nuclear material into the United States.' . . .
"'And if it can't get itself together to organize a serious program for finding nuclear material on its way to the United States, then it ought to be replaced by an administration that can.'
"But President Bush, Perle emphasized, is not to blame for this sorry state of affairs. 'I haven't the slightest doubt that if one could . . . put this proposition to the president, he would first be shocked to learn that we don't have the capability. Secondly, [he] would immediately order that we develop it.'"
Yochi J. Dreazen blogs for the Wall Street Journal: "President Bush will hold no public events of any kind on Wednesday, an exceptionally light schedule this close to next Tuesday's midterm elections. That sparked questions about whether Bush has a 'November surprise' in store. This is, after all, a president who has twice managed to sneak away to Iraq.
"At the White House morning briefing, a reporter observed that the light schedule made it sound 'like something is cooking there.' Spokesman Tony Snow replied, 'No, not really.'
"That left some Democratic political operatives wondering just what Bush and his political guru, Karl Rove, might be up to."
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:19 AM
The Allen Report
Why Some Top Republicans Think They May Still Have the Last Laugh
The President, The Vice President and Karl Rove are all over the airwaves predicting that, against the apparent odds, the GOP will keep both houses of Congress next Tuesday. White House officials say this is not just cheerleading -- that they have five good reasons to think so. An exclusive look at what they think is the way to win in '06.
President George W. Bush points toward the fireworks as they begin exploding against the dusk Houston skyline, lingers to watch for a few minutes with a candidate for the Senate and one for the House, then gives a big wave to a euphoric crowd packed into the hangar behind him, salutes smartly, steps onto his Marine One helicopter and heads out into the night. Earlier, another crowd of boisterous Republicans had been urged to give "a warm Georgia welcome" to a President who soon had them shouting "U-S-A," "Amen!," "You're the man, George," and even, "Four more years!"
With less than a week until midterm congressional elections that will help determine the course of the final quarter of his presidency, the President is summoning the formidable campaign skills that helped him triumph in the primaries and general election of 2000, and win electoral and popular victories in 2004. It's all back: The darkened halls that explode in spotlights as the President takes the stage. His frenzied hand-over-hand greeting of a few lucky audience members as he races to the podium. And the contagious country music, from Brooks and Dunn "dreaming in read white and blue" to Texan Pat Green proclaiming: "You came upon me, wave on wave. You're the reason I'm still here, yeah." The crowd in Sugar Land, formerly represented by Rep. Tom DeLay, was treated to one of the greatest shows on earth: the President's chopper taxiing up to the hangar door, an aide racing his speech to the podium with the engine still running, then the President entering to the theme from Harrison Ford's "Air Force One."
With the crowd waving pom-poms, Old Glory and little Lone Star flags, Bush said hoarsely that he's "looking forward to sprinting to the finish line," and declared that the Democrats were doing some premature celebrating. "In Washington, some of the folks over there are already picking out their new offices," he crowed, in what has become a standard bit on the stump. "That's not the first time it's happened since I've been in Washington. You might remember, in 2004, some of them were measuring the drapes in the West Wing. They had their office suites all picked out. Except their problem was, the movers weren't needed. And the same thing is going to happen this year."
In case you missed it, the Gallup Poll reported in an Oct. 24 analysis: "A review of Gallup polling finds Bush's current 37% approval rating lower than any other president since 1974 at this point in a midterm election campaign." And political guru Stuart Rothenberg is still forecasting that Republicans will lose 18 to 28 House seats, more than the 15 that Democrats need to take control. But the President and his high command have been predicting in television interviews and newspaper editorial-board meetings that Republicans will hold both the House and Senate, a scenario that is foreseen by few others. Top Republican officials have been working in the past few days to convince reporters that there are solid reasons for this optimism, and that it's not just happy talk to try to convince the party's voters not to give up and stay home.
A dozen or so rallies like the Sugar Land extravaganza will be held in the campaign's homestretch, and the President's ability to excite core Republicans is one of the potential keys to victories in close races where Bush is dropping in, including his appearance Monday in Statesboro, Ga., where he was campaigning for Max Burns, a former congressman who lost the last election to Rep. John Barrow (D) and is now in a rematch. As the President's motorcade wended through Georgia Southern University, a bed sheet hung from a brick fraternity house proclaimed that Sigma Chi "Supports Bush." In Texas, he was appearing with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is far ahead of her Democratic opponent, and Shelley Sekula Gibbs, a dermatologist with a complicated name who's trying to convince voters in DeLay's former district that there's nothing complicated about writing in her name on voting machines.
A new Washington must-read by political journalists Mark Halperin and John F. Harris maps "The Way to Win" for presidential candidates in 2008, but White House officials say they have their own way to win in '06. Besides Bush's residual popularity in some crucial states and districts, Republican officials say the other reasons they're optimistic are:
1) No Republican is being taken by surprise, unlike many Democrats in 1994. Shortly after Bush's reelection, White House and Republican National Committee officials began working to convince House members that the formidable reelection record for incumbents (since 1996, 97.5 percent) was not something they could take for granted. "What we attempted to do last year," said one of these officials, "was to go out of our way to say to people: 'You face a potential of a race. In order to win as an incumbent, you better have a plan,' " including an intensive focus on voter registration, a message plan that would unfold in phases, and a ground organization that was operating in a measurable, quantifiable way. One official involved in the process said Republican officials deliberately "scared" lawmakers, telling them: "You face a very tough road. You better be ready."
2) Absentee ballot requests and returns, closely tracked by the party, are meeting or exceeding past levels for Republicans in key states and districts. Republican officials say White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and party operatives are scrutinizing this data with the same intensity that they followed metrics like voter registration earlier in the cycle. For at least 68 races, they have been getting reports once a week on the number of voters registered, phone calls completed and doors knocked on. Now, they're getting a second report on the number of absentee ballots requested, absentee ballots returned and early votes cast. "We can look at that data flow and make an assumption about what's going on and plotting it out," a Republican official said.
3) When the national parties, national campaign committees, state "victory" committee accounts and competitive campaigns are added up, Republicans maintained a substantial financial advantage over Democrats at the last filing period. "We didn't look on it as one pot," said one official involved in the process. "We looked upon it as four pots, with synergy available through all four."
4) Republicans say the district-by-district playing field favors them in several structural ways not reflected in national polls. Here is their thinking, starting with statistics from the President's 2004 race against John F. Kerry: "There are 41 districts held by a Democrat that Bush carried, and 14 seats held by Republican that Kerry carried, so we're fighting on better turf. You see it in the open seats, where Bush carried 18 of the Republican open seats and Kerry carried two. So we're fighting on better turf."
5) The get-out-the-vote machine designed by Rove and now-Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman in 2001 was dubbed the "72-hour" program, but officials say that's quite a misnomer and that it's really a 17-week or even two-year program. "In Ohio, we are making more phone calls this year than we made two years ago," said an official involved in the process. "Now, that's not the case necessarily in Virginia, which was not a battleground state. You have to build that. In other places, we built that and built it early."
On the road Monday, Rove playfully answered the receptionist's phone at a hotel where the President was conducting an interview with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity. "Historic Statesboro Inn," Rove said authoritatively, then went to track down the manager himself, returning several times to update the caller on the progress of his quest. On Air Force One on the way home, "the architect" made a rare appearance in the press cabin, handing out chocolate-covered pecans to the reporters. He waved the lid of the tin theatrically and said, "Sweets for my sweets!" In only a few days, it'll be clear whether he has outsmarted the pundits and Democrats, one last time.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:17 AM
GOP Launches 'Robocall' Campaign Attack
GOP Launches 'Robocall' Campaign Attack; Democrats Characterize Strategy As Desperate
By PHILIP ELLIOTT
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Press one if you think they're dirty tricks. Press two if you think prerecorded telephone messages are devastatingly effective, especially during the final days of a close campaign.
In at least 53 competitive House races, the National Republican Campaign Committee has launched hundreds of thousands of automated telephone calls, known as "robocalls."
Such calls have sparked a handful of complaints to the FCC and underscore the usefulness of the inexpensive and sometimes overwhelming political tool.
"As much as people complain about getting automated calls and saying they don't work, every politician is doing them," said Jerry Dorchuck, whose Pennsylvania-based Political Marketing International will make about 200,000 such phone calls each hour for mostly Democratic candidates. "Targeted calls play a key in very close races."
They can single out single women, absentee voters, independents and party faithful with tailored messages, but they also can frustrate voters. Sometimes, the latter is their goal.
Bruce Jacobson, a software engineer from Ardmore, Pa., received three prerecorded messages in four hours. Each began, "Hello, I'm calling with information about Lois Murphy," the Democrat running against two-term incumbent Rep. Jim Gerlach in the Philadelphia-area district.
"Basically, they go on to slam Lois," said Jacobson, who has filed a complaint with the FCC because the source of the call isn't immediately known.
FCC rules say all prerecorded messages must "at the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call." During or after the message, they must give the telephone number of the caller.
"The way they're sent is deceptive. The number of calls is harassing. The way her stances are presented in these stories is deliberately misleading and deceptive," said Karlyn Messinger, another Murphy supporter from Penn Valley, Pa., who filed a complaint with the FCC.
NRCC spokesman Ed Patru denied any illegal intent.
"All of our political calls are in compliance with the law," Patru said.
Not so, said the Democrats.
"They are violating the regulations that were set up," said Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who said the DCCC employed one robocall this cycle and paid $500 for it.
"I think the real point here is that the Republicans are using a desperate campaign tactic that is misleading, at worst violating the law and at best is a page out of Karl Rove's playbook," Psaki said. "They clearly are attempting to mislead voters."
Democrats argued that that's the strategy.
"Because they are getting so many, they are only listening to the first part of the message," said Amy Bonitatibus, a Murphy spokeswoman. "They're hoping to turn off our base. ... These are pretty much dirty tricks by the Republican Party."
The NRCC, the GOP campaign arm for House candidates, has spent $2.1 million on such automated calls nationwide. In Illinois, at least three versions of a phone message target Tammy Duckworth, the Democrat in a tight Chicago-area race, and her positions on taxes, Social Security and immigrants.
"Illinois families will be footing the bill for illegal immigrants who get government benefits," the voice says in one.
In Connecticut's hotly contested 4th Congressional District, incumbent Republican Rep. Christopher Shays and Democrat Diane Farrell both said they are victims of misleading and annoying robocall campaigns. Shays, a 10-term congressman, said he has survived more than 20 robocall campaigns, including one that tried to link his stance on stem-cell research to that of religious extremists.
"These calls are at best misleading, and often blatantly wrong," Shays wrote in a letter to several newspaper publishers this summer.
Farrell spokeswoman Jan Ellen Spiegel said Tuesday the campaign has been a victim of "constant pummeling," including robocalls that begin with a recorded voice saying, "I'd like to talk with you about Diane Farrell." It's the same tactic employed in Murphy's district and elsewhere.
In North Carolina's 11th Congressional District, Republicans are going after challenger Heath Shuler, whose campaign said the calls are coming as late as 2:30 a.m.
"Calling people up, making people think it's me when it's actually them it's acts of desperation. ... I think it's part of the corruption in Washington," Shuler said.
That campaign funded two robocalls during the primary but isn't looking to use any more.
"You can't combat a bad robocall message with another robocall message," said Shuler spokesman Andrew Whalen.
It's not just the campaign committees. Outside groups also are joining the fracas. Common Sense, a nonprofit group based in Ohio, has expanded to four other states to help conservative candidates this cycle.
"We can ask the voter or the respondent questions about things that are important to them and then provide information to them based on the things they think are important," said Common Sense's Zeke Swift, who calls the efforts "custom campaigning."
During one call in Maryland, an automated voice asked questions that clearly favor Republican Michael Steele's bid for Senate.
It's not just Republicans. After Rep. Mark Foley resigned his seat amid the House page scandal, the progressive American Family Voices launched robocalls in 50 districts.
"Congressional Republican leaders, including Speaker Dennis Hastert, covered up for a child sexual predator. ... The answer is arrests, resignations and a new congressional leadership," the call told voters.
That Florida district, once a safe Republican seat, is now in play.
Associated Press writers Stephanie Reitz in Hartford, Conn., and Tim Whitmire in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:16 AM
The New York Times
Democratic Leader Put to Work as G.O.P. Campaign Star
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 1 — Representative Melissa Bean of Illinois, a Democrat, has a Republican opponent in next week’s election, but he does not appear in the advertisement that skewers her. Instead, that role is being played by a fellow Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader.
Judging by some of the political name-calling in the final days before the elections, Ms. Pelosi seems to be in the thick of campaigns for Congress from Illinois to Georgia and several places in between. She is the unwitting star of at least a half-dozen television spots — and countless radio spots, direct-mail campaigns and candidate debates —warning voters that if they choose their local Democrat for Congress, they are also casting a vote for Ms. Pelosi.
The problem with the tactic, Democrats and some Republican strategists say, is that many voters have no idea who Ms. Pelosi is. That can make the advertisements sound more desperate than menacing, or at the least, confounding.
“It’s awful hard to make a boogeyman out of someone no one knows,” said Ed Rollins, a Republican political consultant. “The reality is, no one is going to vote for a Republican congressman because they are afraid of Nancy Pelosi.”
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee suggested that Ms. Pelosi fell into the same category of unknowns as Representative J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, the Republican speaker.
“We don’t run Denny Hastert ads because he is speaker of the House and no one knows who he is,” said Sarah Feinberg, the spokeswoman. “People know who the president is, and that is why we have used him in more than 90 ads in 35 districts.”
In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week, 55 percent of those polled said they had not heard enough about Ms. Pelosi to form an opinion about her, compared with 10 percent who viewed her favorably and 17 percent who viewed her unfavorably. Other polls released in the last month have yielded similar results.
Still, many Republicans are betting that the prospect of Ms. Pelosi replacing Mr. Hastert as speaker should the Democrats take control of Congress will scare undecided voters into voting Republican.
“Nancy Pelosi is like kryptonite in Republican districts,” said Ed Patru, a spokesman for the Republican National Campaign Committee, which is paying for some of the advertisements. “We’d be more than happy to fly Nancy Pelosi in to those districts.”
Here she is in one of the group’s advertisements against Ms. Bean: “Melissa Bean follows liberal Nancy Pelosi 83 percent of the time,” growls the announcer, over images of the Golden Gate Bridge and some not-particularly-flattering snapshots of Ms. Pelosi, who represents San Francisco. “Melissa Bean. Just a Nancy Pelosi wannabe.”
Mr. Patru said that the committee is encouraging candidates in “overwhelming red states” to invoke the specter of a Speaker Pelosi in their campaigns. The tactic mirrors one employed by Democrats in 1996, when the speaker, Newt Gingrich, became an antagonist in advertisements attacking Republican candidates.
“She’ll reward illegal aliens with welfare, food stamps and free education,” warns the announcer in an advertisement for Mac Collins, a Republican who is seeking to unseat Representative Jim Marshall in Georgia.
In one of the most fiercely contested races in Indiana, a Republican incumbent, Representative John Hostettler, has broadcast a commercial linking his Democratic challenger, Brad Ellsworth, to Ms. Pelosi. A radio spot went even further: “Pelosi will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank,” the narrator says.
Representative Charles H. Taylor, the Republican incumbent in North Carolina’s 11th District, goes for an even broader approach, linking his Democratic opponent, Heath Shuler, to Ms. Pelosi; Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee; and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The television advertisements tend to share three features: images of Ms. Pelosi looking angry, startled or slightly bug-eyed; the words “liberal” and “San Francisco”; and dire tones reminiscent of the films shown to seventh-graders, warning of the dangers of marijuana.
The Republican National Campaign Committee even has a quiz on the home page of its Web site: “Which Nancy Pelosi quote do you find most disturbing?”
Ms. Pelosi is also used as a bat with which to beat on Democrats in debates and interviews. In Indiana, for example, Chris Chocola, a Republican incumbent, repeated Ms. Pelosi’s name throughout a debate with his Democratic challenger, Joe Donnelly. In Utah’s Second Congressional District, the Republican challenger, LaVar Christensen, has brought up her name incessantly on the campaign trail.
Among the many issues that surface in the advertisements — abortion, taxes and national security — immigration appears to be the most potent in Republican districts.
For example, an announcer in one advertisement produced by the campaign for Van Taylor, who is challenging a Democratic incumbent in Texas, warns over the sounds of a pounding kettle drum that his opponent, if elected, would pair up with Ms. Pelosi to raise taxes and offer welfare to immigrants. Voters are encouraged to “stop them” by voting for Mr. Taylor, to “protect our conservative values.”
Variations of the anti-Pelosi advertisements have appeared in past campaigns, but unlike in this case, the targets had already become speaker.
In addition to the Gingrich advertisements in 1996, the Republicans produced an advertisement in 1980 about Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., then the Democratic speaker, in which Mr. O’Neill refused to yield to warnings that his car was out of gas, intended as a metaphor for his party.
Mr. Gingrich’s spokesman, Rick Tyler, answered an e-mail message requesting comments about the anti-Pelosi advertisements with his own e-mail message: “Sorry. No interest here on that topic.”
In a recent interview, Ms. Pelosi said she was unconcerned about the advertisements because, she said, they had no traction with voters.
“The American people don’t know me,” she said.
But some Republicans running in close races are counting on her being wrong.
“Nancy Pelosi does not represent the values of middle Georgia,” said Ted Prill, the campaign manger for Mr. Collins, who is seeking a seat in the Third District. “There is a case to be made that a vote for a Democrat in Georgia is a vote for Nancy Pelosi.”
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:14 AM