Sunday, July 11, 2004

Sneak Preview! The Cheney-Edwards Debate

LANNING for the 2004 vice presidential debate is already under way. In an attempt to level the playing field, Senator John Edwards's image will be digitally altered to make him 40 percent less "hot looking," and Vice President Dick Cheney will be on a five-second delay. Finally, each man has submitted a wish list of questions to ask the other during the high-stakes face-off.


1. Former Senator Alfonse D'Amato has suggested President Bush dump you from the ticket. What's your response to him, in two words?

2. If Halliburton and the Carlyle Group both invited you to the movies on the same night, who would you go with?

3. Over the past four years, how many days would you say you spent above ground?

4. Describe in detail your favorite high-impact aerobics routine.

5. Didn't "Fahrenheit 9/11" totally rock?

6. Exactly when did you remove Kenneth Lay from your online buddy list?

7. If there really are no plans to reinstitute the draft, why did you just request a sixth deferment?

8. Is it true that you wept during Darth Vader's death scene?

9. If anything happened to you while serving a second term, would George Bush be fit to be president?

10. Here's something I've always wondered: Does the other side of your mouth work?


1. Who made the final out in the 1954 World Series?

2. What do you have that Dick Gephardt doesn't have, besides eyebrows?

3. Agree/disagree with the following statement: "Litigators are opportunistic leeches who are sucking the lifeblood from our nation's economy."

4. On average, how many times a day do you check yourself out in shiny surfaces?

5. Is it true that your son, Jack, said of Senator Kerry, "Daddy, please don't make me play with that weird old guy anymore"?

6. On the night Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, which pajamas were you wearing, the ones with the cowboys or the ones with the ducks?

7. What's your secret to remaining fully conscious when Senator Kerry is speaking?

8. What's Malibu Barbie really like?

9. If, as you say, there are two Americas, which one is your vacation home in?

10. Do you have any idea how late it is? This is a school night.

Andy Borowitz is the winner of the National Press Club's first award for humor.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Michael Moore as seen by Freedom Rider

A July Surprise?

July Surprise?
by John B. Judis, Spencer Ackerman & Massoud Ansari

Post date: 07.07.04
Issue date: 07.19.04
ate last month, President Bush lost his greatest advantage in his bid for reelection. A poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post discovered that challenger John Kerry was running even with the president on the critical question of whom voters trust to handle the war on terrorism. Largely as a result of the deteriorating occupation of Iraq, Bush lost what was, in April, a seemingly prohibitive 21-point advantage on his signature issue. But, even as the president's poll numbers were sliding, his administration was implementing a plan to insure the public's confidence in his hunt for Al Qaeda.

This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. A succession of high-level American officials--from outgoing CIA Director George Tenet to Secretary of State Colin Powell to Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca to State Department counterterrorism chief Cofer Black to a top CIA South Asia official--have visited Pakistan in recent months to urge General Pervez Musharraf's government to do more in the war on terrorism. In April, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, publicly chided the Pakistanis for providing a "sanctuary" for Al Qaeda and Taliban forces crossing the Afghan border. "The problem has not been solved and needs to be solved, the sooner the better," he said.

This public pressure would be appropriate, even laudable, had it not been accompanied by an unseemly private insistence that the Pakistanis deliver these high-value targets (HVTs) before Americans go to the polls in November. The Bush administration denies it has geared the war on terrorism to the electoral calendar. "Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election," says National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack. But The New Republic has learned that Pakistani security officials have been told they must produce HVTs by the election. According to one source in Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), "The Pakistani government is really desperate and wants to flush out bin Laden and his associates after the latest pressures from the U.S. administration to deliver before the [upcoming] U.S. elections." Introducing target dates for Al Qaeda captures is a new twist in U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism relations--according to a recently departed intelligence official, "no timetable[s]" were discussed in 2002 or 2003--but the November election is apparently bringing a new deadline pressure to the hunt. Another official, this one from the Pakistani Interior Ministry, which is responsible for internal security, explains, "The Musharraf government has a history of rescuing the Bush administration. They now want Musharraf to bail them out when they are facing hard times in the coming elections." (These sources insisted on remaining anonymous. Under Pakistan's Official Secrets Act, an official leaking information to the press can be imprisoned for up to ten years.)

A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed tnr that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

he Bush administration has matched this public and private pressure with enticements and implicit threats. During his March visit to Islamabad, Powell designated Pakistan a major non-nato ally, a status that allows its military to purchase a wider array of U.S. weaponry. Powell pointedly refused to criticize Musharraf for pardoning nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan--who, the previous month, had admitted exporting nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya--declaring Khan's transgressions an "internal" Pakistani issue. In addition, the administration is pushing a five-year, $3 billion aid package for Pakistan through Congress over Democratic concerns about the country's proliferation of nuclear technology and lack of democratic reform.

But Powell conspicuously did not commit the United States to selling F-16s to Pakistan, which it desperately wants in order to tilt the regional balance of power against India. And the Pakistanis fear that, if they don't produce an HVT, they won't get the planes. Equally, they fear that, if they don't deliver, either Bush or a prospective Kerry administration would turn its attention to the apparent role of Pakistan's security establishment in facilitating Khan's illicit proliferation network. One Pakistani general recently in Washington confided in a journalist, "If we don't find these guys by the election, they are going to stick this whole nuclear mess up our asshole."

Pakistani perceptions of U.S. politics reinforce these worries. "In Pakistan, there has been a folk belief that, whenever there's a Republican administration in office, relations with Pakistan have been very good," says Khalid Hasan, a U.S. correspondent for the Lahore-based Daily Times. By contrast, there's also a "folk belief that the Democrats are always pro-India." Recent history has validated those beliefs. The Clinton administration inherited close ties to Pakistan, forged a decade earlier in collaboration against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But, by the time Clinton left office, the United States had tilted toward India, and Pakistan was under U.S. sanctions for its nuclear activities. All this has given Musharraf reason not just to respond to pressure from Bush, but to feel invested in him--and to worry that Kerry, who called the Khan affair a "disaster," and who has proposed tough new curbs on nuclear proliferation, would adopt an icier line.

Bush's strategy could work. In large part because of the increased U.S. pressure, Musharraf has, over the last several months, significantly increased military activity in the tribal areas--regions that enjoy considerable autonomy from Islamabad and where, until Musharraf sided with the United States in the war on terrorism, Pakistani soldiers had never set foot in the nation's 50-year history. Thousands of Pakistani troops fought a pitched battle in late March against tribesmen and their Al Qaeda affiliates in South Waziristan in hopes of capturing Zawahiri. The fighting escalated significantly in June. Attacks on army camps in the tribal areas brought fierce retaliation, leaving over 100 tribal and foreign militants and Pakistani soldiers dead in three days. Last month, Pakistan killed a powerful Waziristan warlord and Qaeda ally, Nek Mohammed, in a dramatic rocket attack that villagers said bore American fingerprints. (They claim a U.S. spy plane had been circling overhead.) Through these efforts, the Pakistanis could bring in bin Laden, Mullah Omar, or Zawahiri--a significant victory in the war on terrorism that would bolster Bush's reputation among voters.

But there is a reason many Pakistanis and some American officials had previously been reluctant to carry the war on terrorism into the tribal areas. A Pakistani offensive in that region, aided by American high-tech weaponry and perhaps Special Forces, could unite tribal chieftains against the central government and precipitate a border war without actually capturing any of the HVTs. Military action in the tribal areas "has a domestic fallout, both religious and ethnic," Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri complained to the Los Angeles Times last year. Some American intelligence officials agree. "Pakistan just can't risk a civil war in that area of their country. They can't afford a western border that is unstable," says a senior intelligence official, who anonymously authored the recent Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and who says he has not heard that the current pressures on Pakistan are geared to the election. "We may be at the point where [Musharraf] has done almost as much as he can."

Pushing Musharraf to go after Al Qaeda in the tribal areas may be a good idea despite the risks. But, if that is the case, it was a good idea in 2002 and 2003. Why the switch now? Top Pakistanis think they know: This year, the president's reelection is at stake.

Massoud Ansari reported from Karachi.

Barbara Ehrenreich

July 11, 2004
Let Them Eat Wedding Cake

Commitment isn't easy for guys — we all know that — but the Bush administration is taking the traditional male ambivalence about marriage to giddy new heights. On the one hand, it wants to ban gays from marrying, through a constitutional amendment that the Senate will vote on this week. On the other hand, it's been avidly promoting marriage among poor women — the straight ones anyway.

Opponents of gay marriage claim that there is some consistency here, in that gay marriages must be stopped before they undermine the straight ones. How the married gays will go about wrecking heterosexual marriages is not entirely clear: by moving in next door, inviting themselves over and doing a devastating critique of the interior decorating?

It is equally unclear how marriage will cure poor women's No. 1 problem, which is poverty — unless, of course, the plan is to draft C.E.O.'s to marry recipients of T.A.N.F. (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). Left to themselves, most women end up marrying men of the same social class as their own, meaning — in the case of poverty-stricken women — blue-collar men. But that demographic group has seen a tragic decline in earnings in the last couple of decades. So I have been endeavoring to calculate just how many blue-collar men a T.A.N.F. recipient needs to marry to lift her family out of poverty.

The answer turns out to be approximately 2.3, which is, strangely enough, illegal. Seeking clarity, I called the administration's top marriage maven, Wade Horn at Health and Human Services. H.H.S. is not "promoting" marriage, he told me, just providing "marriage education" for interested couples of limited means. The poor aren't being singled out for any insidious reason, he insisted; this is just a service they might otherwise lack. It could have been Pilates training or courses in orchid cultivation, was the implication, but for now it's marriage education. As recently as 2001, however, Horn was proposing that the administration "show it values marriage by rewarding those who choose it" with cash "marriage bonuses."

When I suggested that — with food pantries maxing out and shelters overflowing across the nation — poor women might have other priorities, Horn snapped back: "It's fine for you to make the decision on what low-income couples need." Silly old social-engineering-type liberal that I am, I had actually doubted that marriage education might be helpful to couples doomed to spend their married lives on separate cots in the shelter.

Besides, he went on, low-income people are eager for government-sponsored marriage education. Lisalyn Jacobs, who tracks T.A.N.F. marriage policy at the women's group Legal Momentum, told me she finds it "obscene" that, in the face of coming cuts in housing subsidies and other services, H.H.S. is planning to spend any money at all on marriage, much less the $200 million now proposed. But she may be unaware, as I am, of the mobs of poor women who picket H.H.S. daily, chanting: "What do we want? Marriage education! When do we want it? Now!"

If marriage were a cure for poverty, I'd be the first to demand that H.H.S. spring for the Champagne and bridesmaids' dresses. But as Horn acknowledged to me, there is no evidence to that effect. Married couples are on average more prosperous than single mothers, but that doesn't mean marriage will lift the existing single mothers out of poverty. So what's the point of the administration's marriage meddling? Jacobs thinks that the administration's mixed signals on marriage — O.K. for paupers, a no-no for gays — are part of the conservative effort to "change the subject to marriage." From, for example, Iraq.

But this may be too cynical an explanation. Quite possibly, the administration wants to ban gay marriage so that gay men can be drafted to marry T.A.N.F. recipients. Think of all the problems that would solve, and, if the Queer Eye stereotype holds true, how tastefully appointed those shelters will become.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company