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Flush twice... it's a long way to Sally Quinn's place!

Pundit Pap
for Nov. 9, 2003
Attack of the Attacking Attackers
by the Pundit Pap Team

Nov. 9, 2003 -- NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (apj.us) -- This Sunday, we saw wave after wave of attacks emerge on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.

No, we're not talking about Iraqi insurgents -- we're talking about the Washington "journalists" who host and guest on the so-called liberal media's political talk shows.

On FOX News Sunday, Pat Roberts tried to attack Democrats for allegedly politicizing the Senate Intelligence Committee. Carl Levin quite effectively counterattacked in the segment that followed, not only debunking this latest GOP attack on Democrats (by demonstrating that the memo was in fact a laying out of strategy to get to the bottom of pre-war Iraq intelligence and what exactly George W. Flightsuit and his handlers knew about it), but effectively accusing Republicans of having leaked the memo themselves after a dumpster-diving campaign. Over on CNN Late Edition -- which we seldom cover but is becoming the most consistently enjoyable Sunday program for hardcore political junkies -- Dick Gephardt sounded like he's grown a spine, attacking Dim Son, Howard Dean, the GOP leadership, the Confederate flag and almost anything and everything Wolf Blitzer threw his way. George Stephanopoulos, Tim Russert, Tony Snow and even Wolf Blitzer all seemed to be in a surlier mood than usual.

There were two underlying reasons for the growing nastiness.

First, the former lapdogs are starting to nip at the pant leg of the former Texas governor as his Big Iraq Liberation Adventure continues its spiral into chaos and possible failure -- they're no longer buying what Smirk, Condi, Rummy and "Colin Blow" are selling. In fact, the silence about the Misadministration complaining about the lack of good news was deafening this Sunday.

Second, it's all-out campaign season. Forget the fact that the Iowa caucuses haven't even been held, let alone the New Hampshire primary. It's worth noting that the press made a big to-do about Howard Dean's shrewd decision to forego public funding altogether. It's also worth noting that the predictable celebrity press corps speculated that Dean may have blundered and declared this some sort of proof that the public component of campaign finance is somehow a problem. Funny, but there are a few people out there who might remind the Superstars of Political Press Wrestling that John McCain and Russ Feingold think the problem is, well, a wee bit bigger than they imply!

Here's a little of what we caught...

McLaughlin Group
As the Worm Turns

Nov. 9, 2003 -- MOLINE(apj.us) -- As the worm turns, the McLaughlin Group's "Fat Tony" Blankley was left in the lonely position of clumsily trying to defend Bush's train wreck. And it was incredibly delicious.

Unfortunately, the majority of the American public is dense and pitifully misled -- and though it takes entirely too long, reality tends to eventually seep into their frightened little consciences. Know-nothing Bushists are forced to look even more foolish than usual in their tortuous attempts to insult our intelligence by blatantly telling us that up is down, black is white.

The bloom is coming off the rose, and people are getting sick of them telling us that we can't believe our lying eyes.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

When you attempt to polish a piece of excrement, you're bound to fail and look really stupid in the bargain.

So there is something soul-satisfying about the fact that their well-funded campaign of lies, deception, and bait-and-switch tactics are falling apart due to the fact that the public is finally realizing that what the White House and their enablers spouts bears little or no relationship to reality.

Today's group included the regulars, Tony "Bratwurst in a $3000 suit" Blankley, the valiant and beleaguered Eleanor Clift, Pitchfork Pat Buchanan, and once again, the latest meddler from across the pond, the Brit Lionel Barber of the Financial Times (something no doubt all of you subscribe to... doesn't everyone?)

Of course, right off the top we had to endure, if only for a few seconds, the mind-boggling stupidity and insult of the Simian Punk mouthing phrases that would make any thinking person howl with laughter, were it not so staggeringly disturbing that he may actually believe what he says. Today's dose consisted of this menace slouching over the podium, grimacing and clamping his mouth and trying as usual to convey toughness, attempting to sell the absolutely ridiculous suggestion that the "tair-ists", as if they're some monolithic organized group, are only attacking and killing people in Iraq because they believe that the US will get cold feet and run due to the unacceptable deaths.

This causes me to indulge in that phenomena that has gotten the right in full whine mode, rational Bush hatred.

This is so blindingly stupid on so many levels that I can only touch on a couple. First, this assumes that these many disparate and independent groups, all with different motives, are somehow a well-organized, cohesive group that all march in lockstep and have all agreed on a strategy together. Maybe they had a three-day conference at a Hilton somewhere? Sheer ignorance once again from the Chimp, but that's not news.

Secondly, this amounts to stating that no amount of death and loss is too much for this cretin. No matter how badly our forces are slaughtered, the Chimp is going to tough it out. In other words, he has ruled out ever acknowledging failure or even pulling back or a change in strategy. Even if deaths reach the thousands, says Smirk, I'm a tough guy, and I'll never stop sending them to their deaths. My pals and I want the plunder of this war, and damn it, no amount of American lives lost, and even plunging the economy into permanent tailspin is not too high a price for the rest of you to pay. Facts? Reality? Only suckers pay attention to those. I'm a tough, tough, courageous leader. So courageous that I'm scared silly to admit even the smallest misstep. So courageous that I won't change a thing even in the face of horrible failure. As long as my mistakes only cost other people their lives and, by wrecking the economy, their jobs, homes, and well-being, as long as it only impacts lower income people, hurts children by taking funds away from their education, passes on the massive debt for them to have to bear once I'm long gone, destabilizes the world and solidifies murderous rage against the US, then hey, it's worth it.

Well, at least he's again made it crystal clear. The only way we can hope to at least modify this death wish of a policy is to send Bush back under the rock he came from. Let him go steal someone else's money, and put him somewhere where he can no longer indulge in his favorite pastime, sending people to their deaths for his own perceived benefit.

What Bill Clinton has said is true. Sane people, when they find themselves in a hole, stop digging. Bush and his crew though, finding themselves in a hole that's getting deeper by the minute, demand a larger shovel and make us and our children and their children pay for it.

"America will never run", says our Great Warrior King. I guess instead, America will continue to hemorrhage lives and treasure even if it's the stupidest thing we've ever done. And even if the American people do not support it.

Which brings us to -- ISSUE ONE!!

Polls show support for this arrogant putz's reckless, cynical, and ill-conceived foreign policy are slipping below 50%, showing hope that even the disconnected majority of Americans seem to be waking up. Of course, the right will move heaven and earth to try to convince them to just hit the snooze alarm - at least until after the election. But I'm hoping they might even put on their slippers and blearily search for the coffee maker.

The rapacious right knows full well that a wide awake America spells certain extinction for their reign of error. I mean, how long can a person stand there while a millionaire goes through their wallet before it finally dawns on them that maybe it's not such a good deal?

Blankley was reduced to looking like a dope by first citing some polls and trying to say that they indicate support for the war, only to be slapped down by Mad King John when he mentioned that John Zogby, purveyor of one of the polls cited, had specifically said that White House attempts to spin the results as positive are a lie, saying that there wasn't anything within the poll that should give any comfort to the White House. Blankley simply reverted to dismissing this bad news in a typical way, by asserting that Zogby has always been against the war. So? Numbers don't lie Tony, only craven spinners do.

Spain, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands have all given a big "See ya!" to Smirk, and withdrawn their support, such as it was, and the Red Cross and UN have also pulled out almost all of their staffs. Turkey, after reaping billions in bribes from this rancid administration, now have told Chimpy to go pound sand as well. They're outta there.

McLaughlin read the damning recap of the ever-shifting spin put out by the White House regarding the source of the increasingly deadly attacks in Iraq. First it was "scattered pockets of local resistance, disorganized with no central command," then it was "Ba'athists and foreign insurgents," then it suddenly was all "centrally coordinated and controlled, perhaps by the boogie-man Saddam himself."

Which is it?

Buchanan states the obvious, that things are shifting to anti-Americanism.

Clift sees that the White House is in far more trouble than they can admit.

Then Tony got goofy by saying a poll shows 2/3rds of Iraqis are "glad we're there." How stupid is that? I've heard polls done in Iraq cited before. The entire concept strikes me as very suspicious. The entire country, with small exception, is a lawless nightmare. Are we to believe that some polling company sat in New Jersey or something and called thousands of "ordinary Iraqis" and, in Arabic, chatted about their views on current events? Give me a break! They barely have telephone service at all. But from this bit of shoddy work, we end up with Tony expecting us to take as true that 2/3rds of Iraqis are "glad we're there." And if that dubious poll were taken today, after the bungling and insults, and after the Iraqis have realized that we're not there on some benign mission, but rather to control their oil and economy, I trust it would not be as rosy. I might also point out that "glad we're there" at the moment is a hell of a lot different than "want us to stay indefinitely and control all aspects of the country". I don't think Tony would cite the results of THAT poll.

Tony spluttered and struggled to get out some ludicrous spin points. The irony here being that the spin he put out actually is more cause to stop Bush. He said the "president" has no exit strategy because he intends a long term commitment to "democratizing" Iraq, and even more ominous, the rest of the Middle East! Good luck, Chimpy. Just wish you weren't dragging the rest of us down with your ship.

Clift noted that Incurious George's beyond-annoying penchant for casting this whole struggle in biblically vast terms as some struggle between good and evil, and attempts to sell the idea that they'll somehow establish a functioning democracy in Iraq -- while at the same time refusing to acknowledge by his presence at their return a single US casualty of the war -- is just outrageous. "If his dream comes true", Clift suggests, "I don't think any of us will be around to see it." Let's hope to hell that the world never has to endure the results of Smirk's "dream".

All the panel (except Tony) agrees that the administration is lying when they try to tell us that the resistance forces are centrally controlled.

McLaughlin, who for all his faults at least exhibits some intellectual honesty in being dubious of Smirk's Big Adventure, predicted that if Saddam were captured, Bush's popularity would soar, but if the resistance continued, it would "drop like a stone" as is beginning now.

1 out of 3 Americans want us to pull out of Iraq. This is amazingly heartening. Will it grow to 50%? Buchanan says yes, by spring. But he says we'll all give our glorious leader free rein to do things as he wishes. (The fact that our voices are ignored is the most frustrating part of all of this. Pat ignores that we have no choice in the matter. At least until 2004.)

The famous right wing callousness and viciousness made an appearance in the form of Fat Tony's nasty crack while Eleanor Clift was speaking. Clift was saying that if the casualties continue at the pace they are now, that Bush's numbers will go down. McLaughlin asked if she believes that will happen. Clift said that she doesn't wish for those results, to which the vile Blankley quipped, "Yes, you do." Nice one, you bloated leech. Clift, to her credit immediately called him on this sneering comment, and Mad John rushed to bail out Blankley by helpfully suggesting, "You didn't mean it that way," a statement with which the smarmy former Gingrich lackey quickly, but unconvincingly, agreed.

The Dem disaster in the South was next up. 7 southern states having 2 Republican senators. There's also a slew of Democratic legislators that are stepping down. (5 or 6 to be precise). In the House, among Southern members, the Republicans have an 81 to 55 edge. Smirk also carried 13 southern states in 2000.

The typical reference to LBJ signing away the south by passing the Civil Rights Bill, and Nixon's "Southern Strategy", in which the Republicans shrewdly capitalized on the race issue to capture then racist wing of the Democratic party. Of course, the Dems were right to jettison this vile crew, but these latent KKKers have become a favorite group among the Republicans, as evidenced by the victory of the loathsome tobacco fat-cat, Haley "Show Me The Money" Barbour

What's this mean?

To distill the collective wisdom of the panel, it don't look good for the Democrats. Buchanan says that the Dems are in danger of not only losing the South, but border states like Kentucky as well.

Blankley then acknowledged another odious edge that Republicans have: money. He said that money doesn't talk, it shouts, but said that money was not the cause of the Dems' woes, that it was simply that they were on the wrong side of the issues.

Next up was the absolutely cheap-shot attacks on Howard Dean for simply using a radioactive term in describing a valid and crucial fact, namely, that the Dems need to get through to southern white males and help them understand that voting Republican is to vote against their own interests, particularly economic. A paraphrase of what J.C. Watts' father so memorably said applies in this instance. A poor or middle-class southerner voting Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.

Of course, Tony thought it was foolish, which may be true. Had Dean simply used the term "Bubba", rather than using the Confederate flag on a pickup truck as a visual reference, there would be no flap whatsoever. And as Tamara Baker has noted, Dean has been repeating this phrase for months with no alarm raised.

The loathsome attack during a debate by John Edwards, who descended into sounding just like a disingenuous Republican by drawling that the last thing "we" in the south need is someone "like YOU" coming down and telling us what to do. Huh? What the hell?

Dean wasn't telling anyone what to do. And Edwards was jumping on a favorite dopey hot button sentiment that the Republicans have used for ages, kicking up resentment of all things Northeast (read: traitorous liberals) and that attempts to save the south from it's reactionary, outdated, and dangerous attitudes is something evil.

When McLaughlin put up a Dean quote saying, "Don't base your vote on race, guns, God, and gays," Buchanan quipped, "What other issues are there?" to guffaws from the panel.

That pretty much says it all about why the Republicans have locked up the south.

They then touched on a supposed effort to tax the internet. This will never succeed (I hope!), and I doubt it has much chance of passage anytime soon. It would truly be a horrible decision. There is a House bill which would establish a permanent ban on taxation of the net, though some in the Senate, citing the lack of local and state funds, don't want to exclude the possibility of it in the future. (Of course, this is a good example of the indirect effects of the foolish course in Iraq which most people don't comprehend. The draining of the federal treasury for this quagmire is denying states funds, which in turn will result in higher local and state taxes and fees.)

Which brings us to the closing predictions.

Buchanan: Alan West will not be court-marshaled.
Clift: Good job numbers for Bush but he's still got a long way to go or he'll end up with the worst job creation record since Hoover.
Tony "Blankie", as my 8 year old son calls him: CIA director George Tenet will be out by Christmas. (As fall guy for Smirk's mistakes.)
Barber: Look out for Robert Rubin's new book which will extol the successes of the Clinton years and savage the Bush tax plan.
McLaughlin: A unofficial peace plan will be proposed which will gain popularity with the Israeli people and Sharon will put it to a referendum.

With that, the show wrapped up, and not a minute too soon, as the entire time I was trying to write this my son was hanging on me wanting to go to the Y. So I wrote this under very adverse conditions.

-- Dash Riprock

Dash Riprock is a free-lance smart aleck based in Moline, IL. He may be reached at dashriprockapj@hotmail.com

This Week
ABC Smackdown! Dick "Dick" Perle vs. Dick "The Anvil" Holbrooke
Players: formerly boyish host George "Steph" Stephanopoulos, Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), former U.S. ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke and American Enterprise Institute fellow turned foreign policy meddler Richard Perle

Practically the first words out of Steph mouth this Sunday were, "Questions about US policy [in Iraq] become more and more urgent."

Steph first turned to Biden, detailing the string of bad news -- 33 American GIs dead in Iraq this week alone, a closed UN mission, the Red Cross beating a retreat. Biden said that the administration is grasping for strategy. Biden himself said he recommends a NATO-led force, an administrator (i.e. someone to replace Paul Bremer) that reports to NATO and the UN Security Council (UNSC), and a completely overhauled Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). Steph said the UN and Red Cross have both pulled out -- what would compel them to return? Self interest, said Biden: "They [i.e. European nations] are in more trouble than we are in trouble" in that Iraq is in NATO's back yard. Biden said that both French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and German PM Gerhard Schröder have not been cooperative (but should have been critical of the reason why: failure of the Bush Boy and everyone short of a couple people on Secretary of State Colin Powell's staff to even consider acting like diplomats). Steph said that Little George's goal is an Iraqi force -- and Biden said he agrees with that goal but look at the issues: it will take about three years to build up a self-sufficient security force, and at this time we need more feet on the ground. Biden said he does agree with those who want a better "quality" of force -- but that means military personnel and commanders prepared to take on the counterinsurgency and intelligence missions. Steph suggested that the present force is the result of politics -- and Biden picked up the ball, pointing out that 600,000 pounds of Iraq ammo went unguarded, and we're seeing the result of that failure (i.e. politics trumping planning).

Steph then played an audio clip of Biden scathing the so-called "MBA Preznit" for taking the advice of Vice President Dick Cheney and War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- and saying a businessman would fire the screwups! (It was a great clip -- we can only hope that the Democratic presidential candidates' staffers were watching and taking notes.) Steph prodded Biden to say that others in the administration had accurately forecast the problems and given good advice. Biden said, "I'm not suggesting the President do this." (Huh? This almost sounded sarcastic, and in fact we hope the Smirkster takes Biden's advice and retains the ball-and-chain advisors that will help sink any chance of being elected, permanently tarring the Boy King as a miserable one-term failure just like his daddy.)

Steph asked about reports that emerged in the last couple of days about an alleged last-minute diplomatic effort by Saddam Hussein to avert a war through a Lebanese businessman contacting none other than "neocon" chickenhawk Richard Perle, who would be a guest in the following segment. Biden says he is not (yet) convinced the reports are accurate, but it appears that Smirk did not go far enough diplomatically.

Following the break Steph welcomed Perle and Holbrooke, and detailed the report that an Iraqi representative approached Perle with a proposed plan to avert war, including allowing FBI agents free rein to inspect Iraq and a juicy oil deal to boot. Perle immediately assumed that arrogant, huffy, know0it-all, "I'm better and smarter than you are" attitude for which he is infamous (even conservatives we know want to slap the self-important, priggish Perle around to knock both a little bit of humility and somewhat better PR presence into him) as he tried to huffily dismiss the possibility that Iraq itself had approached the Misadministration through a Lebanese businessman, calling the parties who approached him Saddam's "worst thugs" (this from a member of the same team that puts people like John Negroponte, John Bolton and John Poindexter into positions of power and kowtows to "friends" in Central and South America who could teach Saddam a thing or two about effective thuggery -- Perle's overweening hypocrisy is quite the spectacle to behold on a Sunday morning after just half a cup of coffee). Was this communication presented to the President? Perle said many things are presented to the President (well, duuuh, Perle -- we know he refuses to read the newspapers, probably because he can neither read nor think critically -- which is why he sees the world in such black-and-white absolutes of so-called "moral clarity", and can be so easily led on by such "geniuses" as Rummy, Condi, Cheney and, of course, Perle).

Holbrooke immediately jumped in with the gloves off. It's clear that there is no love lost between Holbrooke and Perle -- these guys clearly do not like each other personally. Holbrooke said that Perle was trying to oversimplify a complex story (translation: covering his ass and making up hooey)-- and Perle was in on the initiative far earlier and more intimately than Perle had implied to Steph (translation: he's a liar, just like Dear Leader). Holbrooke detailed some of the points of the initiative, including opening the country to weapons inspectors and turning over a 9/11 suspect with direct ties to Osama bin Laden. When Perle obnoxiously tried to say that Holbrooke was defending Saddam, Holbrooke slapped him down (in a way, frankly, that real journalists would do if they weren't busy playing press flaks for the Chimpy Administration and, by extension, the Project for a New American Century, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, and the rest of the conservative-chickenhawk infrastructure). "It was not another of these shady, crazy offers... so why did it NOT rise to the Cheney-Rumsfeld presidential level?" At this point, Perle took on that sheepish look that screamed, "Oh, hell, I look like a third-rate stooge" and claimed with a bitter expression on his face and a tone of shrillness in his voice that the offer was a trap to demolish our credibility.

(Okay, let's stop for a minute. Yes, an inspection of Iraq would prove that all those claims Junior and Dicky and Colin and Condi made about Saddam allegedly having hundreds of tons of weapons of mass destruction and a nuclear program were 100% wrong -- and yes, it would have demolished the Administration's credibility. But a "trap"? You have to laugh. The top decision-makers in this country were completely mistaken about Iraq -- it is they, not that wily, evil evildoer of evil Saddam Hussein, who trapped themselves. Why didn't Steph jump all over Dicky the P about that?)

Holbrooke persisted, asking insistently, "How high did it go?" Perle parroted that rehearsed "It was a trap! A trap, I tell you!" talking point (mind you, he didn't sound like a frantic Peter Lorre, but he did sound like a completely cornered Edward G. Robinson realizing that his vast criminal plot had collapsed. "It was a plot! A plot, I tell you! They were out to get me from the beginning!" If it weren't so reflective of the misguided, paranoiac underpinnings of most of the neoconservative "American hegemony" movement, it would have been awfully funny.)

Fareed Zakaria interjected that the occupation is failing and is not seen to be legitimate in the eyes of even parties that are friendly to us. Holbrooke said that Fareed is wrong -- because there has been no end to the war in Iraq (what? mission NOT accomplished? say it isn't so!), and there can be no democracy enhancement when there is a war going on. Holbrooke said he does not want to be a pessimist -- we have no choice but to succeed in Iraq -- but we failed to clean up and secure conventional weapons in Iraq. Perle made a surly admission that the US is playing catch-up.

Then Steph played footage of Dick Perle ten years ago saying that if we took Baghdad we'd be in a quagmire -- the public would not accept the casualties! (We just about doubled over laughing at Perle's somewhat dazed-looking reaction. It was priceless.) Perle blathered about an Iraqi civil war and "Saddam's bitter enders," claiming that most of the country is stable. (Most of the country? To our surprise...) Fareed said that the Sunni Triangle is no small part of the country -- it is the most populous area with all the transportation hubs, including the key airports. The question is whether the Kurds in the North and Shi'a in the South maintain de facto autonomy. George Will, for once, jumped in with a good point when he noted that regime change is not easy and the IGC is "our creation." Perle tried to pitch this hand-picked council as "diverse and representative" (yep -- of every faction willing to kowtow to the Bush-Halliburton-Bechtel-PNAC line) -- but Will, no liberal, scoffed at Perle's depiction. Holbrooke said, "Your description of the situation STUNS me," adding that the comparison to Algeria (where the French went from liberators to resented occupiers) holds -- and even people who benefited from the ouster of Saddam are bound to turn on America. Perle tried to make a point that the Turks were not invited to the table -- but Holbrooke, shutting down Perle's constant interruptions, said that the US should never have asked the Turks, an important ally, to send troops until we had better control of the nation. Holbrooke called it a "diplomatic fiasco."

There was one last eruption of sniping over "democratization," and Fareed said that Shrub loves democracy if it means offing a tyrant, but the present wrecking crew in the White House loves to put down the real work of achieving democracy, painting it as "liberal." Will stupidly compared it to Mississippi, and Perle stupidly asserted that it took a war to free the slaves -- evidence that both neoconservatives were completely stunned stupid by the walloping that Fareed, Steph and Ambassador Holbrooke dished out.

We are willing to bet that the rigorously smacked-down Perle will never, ever, ever again consent to appear on This Week.

-- JJ Balzer

Shorter Meet the Press
Why sit through an hour of "attack the Democrat" TV when you can read it in five minutes?
Players: Tim Russert, presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards (D-SC)

Tim: Let me begin my attacks on you by pointing out your pledge to support our troops months ago -- then not voting in favor of Smirky's $87 billion payout for Iraq. You must hate our troops!

Edwards: You forget something, fat man -- Junior has no long-term plan and I won't give him a blank check to spend when he has no policy.

Tim: But... but... no money for body armor! You must want our troops dead and maimed!

Edwards: I'll say this slowly, Tim, so you understand: I'm not telling this president he can keep coming back for more money when he has no plan.

Tim: Your hometown paper claims that your vote was a stunt to revitalize your campaign.

Edwards: Untrue. It would've been wrong to support no plan, and I had to stand up for what I said: we need to change course.

Tim: What would you do in Iraq? The major powers are not assisting.

Edwards: Why not ask me why, Timmy? It's because that arrogant little twit in the White House won't relinquish control. I'd turn over the IGC to the UNSC tomorrow. I'd turn security over to NATO. We need a policy -- and an international effort that the region will support.

Tim: The French don't want to participate. What if they veto us?

Edwards: You'd love that, wouldn't you, Tim. Well, I have a brain and I don't accept that infantile premise. Of course we can't just walk away! Because this numbskull pretend-a-dent has done things the way he has, we've set ourselves up for failure. Members of the UN and NATO want a stable Iraq, and it can be a success, but your boy Junior blew it.

Tim: Biden and McCain say more American troops are needed.

Edwards: Is it possible we need more troops there? Sure. But some commanders say we don't need additional American troops. International troops are a better idea.

Tim: The administration turned down help from Turkey.

Edwards: Thank you for reminding viewers of a classic example of failed policy, Tim -- it's about time you showed a little balance. I believe that if we make the case to NATO and the UN we can put an international face on the rebuilding of Iraq. We have to go to our friends. That means we need to go to France -- don't cringe, Tim, they are our friend -- along with Germany and Russia, and argue that we have a chance to bring democracy to an Arab power. Let's sit down, share decision-making authority, and stabilize the situation.

Tim: But... but... they might say no!

Edwards: I don't buy your spin, Tim.

Tim: It's time to attack you for what you said in the lead-up to war about not trusting Saddam Hussein. Here's a video clip of you not only claiming he has nukes -- and getting booed. People must really hate you. You said Saddam could have nukes in 6 to 9 months -- what did you base that assertion on?

Edwards: A cumulative body of intelligence evidence that's starting to look like a Keystone Kops production. And yeah, I got booed. You could use a little of that, pudgy -- it's an exercise in character-building. It's enormously important for a candidate to be consistent -- and I knew I would be booed for saying that, but they deserved to know where I stood.

Tim: Do you regret giving Smirk a blank check on Iraq?

Edwards: No.

Tim: So where are the WMDs?

Edwards: Again, a good question. You must be getting soft in your middle age, Tim! We have a huge responsibility to find out why there's such a huge discrepancy between what was said and what was found. Did someone exaggerate -- or mislead? We're missing an adequate intelligence presence in Iraq, and we don't know what went wrong before Congress gave Junior the go-ahead to act against Saddam.

Tim: Why didn't you demand more information from the Administration about their claims that Saddam was going to get nukes?

Edwards: I was convinced then and now that he was out to acquire nukes.

Tim: We have found no WMDs -- so what was the threat?

Edwards: He's started wars. He's used WMDs. We know he was trying to acquire nukes.

Tim: The French were saying at the time of the vote to give UN weapons inspections more time. Should Little George have gone along with the French?

Edwards: We do not have the luxury of hindsight. Hundreds of Americans died in Iraq. I won't tell their parents that it was not important that they lost their lives there.

Tim: So Smirk was correct and his policy was right.

Edwards: I stand by my vote to OK war with Iraq -- but if I knew then what I knew now I would've fought for more diplomacy.

Tim: The Washington Post blasted you for criticizing the PATRIOT Act after you voted for it and rejected moves to tone it down. They called you a liar who was taking cheap shots. Do you regret your vote?

Edwards: Not when it comes to the provisions about agencies sharing data and using more high-tech means to gather and share that data, but there are provisions that undermine due process and safeguards. The administration's approach to just locking away anyone they call an enemy combatant with no access to lawyers or the courts is wrong and against everything this nation stands for. We can fix these problems at the national level.

Tim: But... but... Ashcroft has never used the controversial provision that allows DoJ to check people's library records.

Edwards: Parsing words there, Tim? They have been in touch with libraries and book stores. That has a chilling effect.

Tim: Biden has ripped critics of the PATRIOT Act. So did Feinstein. That's what my favorite stealth right-winger for the Washington Post, Steno Sue Schmidt, wrote.

Edwards: We've seen a slew of complaints. I respect Biden -- but he's wrong.

Tim: You're just using Iraq and PATRIOT to campaign, pal.

Edwards: I'm not afraid to be booed for my views, Tim-meh -- if I were playing politics, I'd play to the crowd.

Tim: How would you describe the economy?

Edwards: It's had a little lift, and we need some real recovery.

Tim: But.. but... 7.2% growth! A 1/10th of a percent growth in employment1 We're on a roll, baby!

Edwards: Wake up and smell the pink slips, Tim: people are slipping into poverty.

Tim: Bush says tax cuts are working.

Edwards: They're not. This is a radical shift of the tax burden from the wealthy to working Americans. That violates our values and it's lousy economic policy. America was in far better shape when the middle class was strengthened after WWII and during the Clinton years.

Tim: What would you do?

Edwards: Close tax loopholes, eliminate subsidies for millionaire agribusinesses, increase cap gains for the rich.

Tim: You supported tax cuts!

Edwards: I voted against them when the middle class got screwed. They need incentives to buy homes and drop investment gains taxes on middle class families. They've gone into a negative savings situation, and we have to find ways to shore up the middle class.

Tim: How would you balance the budget.

Edwards: There's always tension between the need to balance the budget and social plans, and I'd love to help the middle class save and invest, but my plan pays for it all while working toward a balanced budget.

Tim: The GOP will say you'll balance the budget by raising taxes.

Edwards: And you believe them? Didn't I just say I'd lower taxes on the middle class? I'd up cap gains on the rich from 15% to 25%. We should value hard work.

Tim: Governor Dean is opting out of public financing.

Edwards: I think he's making a mistake. I won't do that. He's sending a wrong signal to voters. It should be a matter of principle. He's doing something that is to his advantage.

Tim: Whaddya think of him?

Edwards: I like him personally. He should stop picking on Southerners. The Confederate flag stinks. He should never have brought up Southerners slapping the Dixie colors on their cars. Southerners see Northerners as elitists. They want respect.

Tim: What does the Confederate flag represent to you?

Edwards: A divisive symbol.

Tim: He wants to give felons the vote! What's your opinion?

Edwards: Give them the vote. We need to bring them back into society.

Tim: You're courting your fellow trial lawyers! They own you, pal! The Center for Responsive Politics says you're bought and paid for. And... and... the Justice Department is investigating you!

Edwards: C'mon, Tim. There was one set of contributions that were questioned by Ass-KKKroft's goons. I spent twenty years as a lawyer fighting big companies. They hate trial lawyers! Half of my money is not from trial lawyers.

Tim: But half from lawyers -- that's (pause) STRIKING!

Edwards: I'm proud of my record as a lawyer. The issue of companies gutting people's rights are serious. It's also important that some cases get peer review on civil cases -- that will keep frivolous lawsuits out of the courts.

Tim: The Nation says states should decide on gay marriage and you say the nation is not ready for gay marriage.

Edwards: The states should rule on this, but the President should state clearly that all Americans should have rights to raise families.

Tim: Should Canadian gay marriages be honored in the US?

Edwards: That's up to the states, if I were a governor I would not support it. I don't support gay marriage.

Tim: But... but... you support national gun legislation!

Edwards: That's a different issue, Tim, Guns that cross state lines are tied to crimes.

Tim: Your campaign, according to a state paper, is spending massive amounts -- and not getting much traction in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Edwards: I'm in the race.

Tim: You called Smirk (gasp!) a "complete unadulterated phony."

Edwards: He lives on a ranch, wears a big-ass belt buckle, and acts like a good ol' boy when he's nothing but a spoiled patrician. He's out of touch with the lives of most Americans. He has no health care plan. He does not understand what's going on in his own nation -- take a look at their "jobless recovery!"

Tim: But... the poll says people like George Bush as a person!

Edwards: I don't know him well. He seems like a personable guy, but come next year, he will be held responsible for the first presidency since Hoover's to see massive job losses and for driving us into massive debt.

Tim: Thank you.

My take: Edwards could be interpreted by some (and surely will be by some of his rivals) as being self-contradictory on his Iraq stance, but did stick it to the Administration on making it up -- and soaking the nation - as they go along. He was also pretty successful in slapping down the "trial lawyer" meme and mollifying more conservative-leaning Southern voters who lean Democrat.

But the biggest delight of all was the last point - Edwards' merciless labeling of the former Texas governor as a phony. The only thing we would have added is an attack on his intellect (none at all) and character (sending hundreds to death in Iraq when he went AWOL from a "champagne squad" reserve unit).

-- Jane Grice

... more to follow later tonight!



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