"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Election of 2004

In September 2003, the Washington Post reported that 69% of Americans still believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. A key to Republican political strategy has been claiming and implying that Iraq was involved in 9/11. That claim makes the war on Iraq central to the war on terrorism and boosts Bush’s claims to defending Americans against terrorism. As late as June 17, 2004, Bush said he possessed “overwhelming” evidence that ”there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.” Early in the addresses of the speakers at the Republican National Convention, some version or other of this claim was made to conflate the war on terrorism with the war in Iraq. After mentioning 9/11 Rudolph Giuliani said, “Well, they heard from [them] in Afghanistan ....They heard from us in Iraq.”

British observer Francine Stock noted that 9/11 made it possible for revenge to return to the morality of movies because Hollywood, reflecting the nation, thinks its just fine, even holy, to be angry”. She noted that in Man on Fire, Denzel Washington read his Bible before embarking on a killing mission. Given the national mood, it was not difficult to demonize anyone who criticized the purity of Americans. Kerry had won a number of medals for his service in Vietnam, but he came home a sharp of that war, and this would prove to be a great liability in 2004. The president’s surrogates, in 2003, were able to transform Kerry’s heroism into a liability by criticizing his accounts of how he had tossed his ribbons in an anti-Vietnam War demonstration and parsing the different accounts he had offered of this action. They claimed that he had allied with Jane Fonda and even offered pictures of the together, which later turned out to have been cleverly manufactured. By calling him “Hanoi Jack,” they also diverted attention from the fact that Bush and Cheney had stayed home during the war. Bush won support by “suggesting that criticism [ of the U.S. course in Iraq] is dangerous, even treasonous.” These tactics would prove to be very effective when the campaign began in earnest in 2004.

The claim that only Bush could combat terrorism at home and abroad was the Republican trump card. It had been carefully nurtured since September 11, 2001, and it proved an argument the Democrats could not counter without angering many who had developed an intense emotional attachment to the president. They could not point out the fact that 9/11 happened on Bush’s watch or reference multiple facts that demonstrated that counter -terrorism was not a Bush priority before 9/11. A war in its first years historically accords a sitting president a great advantage in the election, even if things are going badly on the battlefield. The Bush administration maximized this advantage by repeatedly insisting that the war in Iraq was an indispensable element in the war on terrorism. By repeatedly mentioning Iraq in the context of the 9/11 outrages, the impression was created among most Americana that Iraqis were somehow involved in those attacks in September 2003, the Washington Post reported that 69% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Of those who voted for Bush, fully one third were certain that the US forces had found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

As late as June 17, 2004, Bush said he had “overwhelming” evidence that “there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.” This employment of contiguity created a deep belief that the invasion of Iraq was necessary and that Bush was to be praised for doing so. The fact that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction simply did not matter to most voters. When casualties continued to mount and the invasion turned sour, most voters stayed with Bush. Even Bush’s uncharacteristic admission that the invasion of Iraq had been ”a miscalculation” and remark that the war on terrorism was unwinable had no impact on the voters. They were convinced he was necessary to protect America. The capture of Saddam Hussein, the turn over of power to an interim regime, and the presence of the interim prime minister in the US were enough to shore up the belief that the war in Iraq would end well. A more open exploitation of the politics of fear was the suggestion that Al Qaeda would be much more successful in the US if John Kerry were president. Vice President Cheney was repeatedly to predict a massive attack in the US if Kerry became president. Senator Orin Hatch said Al Qaeda terrorists would do everything possible “to try and elect Kerry.” Hatch also claimed, “Democrats are consistently saying things that I think undermine our young men and women who are serving over there.” Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert claimed that the terrorist network would be more effective within the US if Kerry were president. Political commentator Bill Schneider soon made the same point while discussing poll data, noting that the Al Qaeda would certainly welcome a Kerry victory. The New York Times express surprise and dismay that “those on the Bush team would dare to argue that a vote for John Kerry would be a vote for Al Qaeda.” The paper said Bush’s claim that criticism of his war policies endangered American troops and offered aid and comfort to the enemy “despicable politics.” The editors thought it “reflects badly on the president’s character that in this instance, he’s putting his own ambition ahead of the national good.” However, there could be no question that these tactics were very effective.

Kerry and Edwards denounced the “politics of terror” but did not couple their comments with a critique of Bush’s homeland security policies. The full exploitation of people’s fears began at the Republican convention, and within weeks Bush developed a large lead. According to analyst Bill Schneider, many of the voters who switched to Bush were women who were won over by the fear tactics. The New York Times poll showed that 48% of women supported Bush and 43% backed Kerry, a sharp reversal of the standings in July. Only 26% of all respondents believed Kerry could do a better job of protecting the United States from terrorists.

Early in the primaries, candidate Howard Dean said Bush used terrorism as a trump card, and the statement shocked even many liberals. Later it became clear he was all too correct. In early August Tom Ridge, Homeland Security czar, raised the terrorism alert on the basis of information that was several years old. The Wall Street Journal’s headline was accurate: “Security Becomes Top Campaign Issue: Bush Seizes Spotlight.” Only days after the Democratic Convention adjourned, the GOP seized the national spotlight with t he most specific terrorism alert since 9/11. Tom Ridge announced that information had been acquired that justified placing the financial districts in New York, New Jersey, and Washington on high security alert. Secretary Ridge raised the alert status to Orange, and left the impression that the financial institutions were still being surveiled and were targeted. Homeland Security people at first did not seem to have their story straight as they claimed that Al Qaeda was doing test runs in Newark at the Prudential tower and that they may be keeping other buildings under regular surveillance. Their lack of accuracy would prompt an observer to think the warnings were more about politics than about alerting the public. Later a press release revealed that the surveillance occurred three of four years before September ,11.

The Pakistanis had arrested several Al Qaeda operatives in the previous month, and on July 13 they arrested a computer expert whose computer contained files that various financial institutions had been carefully cased, with a view to finding security weaknesses. The seized material also suggested that up to six Al Qaeda operatives were in place in the US. Most of the information had been acquired before 9/11, but several items were updated in January 2004. There was no information indicating when or if attacks would occur. Ridge included in his announcement fulsome praise of President George W. Bush and his leadership of the nation in the war against terrorism. With the Bush campaign accusing opponents of being in league with the enemy and terror warnings that seemed to be politically timed, the New York Times observed, “The people running the government clearly regard keeping Mr. Bush in office as more important than maintaining a united front on the most important threat to the nation.”

It was eventually known that the computer expert was Mohammed Naeem Noor, who was immediately turned by the Pakistani authorities and used to entrap other terrorists. The biggest catch was Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who had a $25,000,000 bounty on his head because of his involvement in the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. By revealing that the first captive was a computer expert, the administration probably endangered the Pakistani sting operation. It later revealed his name, destroying any possibility of netting other terrorists. His name and unnecessary detail about his role in Al Qaeda were probably revealed to show how effective the administration was in ferreting out terrorists. Someone on the National Security Advisor’s staff on “background leaked the man’s name” and Dr. Rice scolded Wolf Blitzer on television because the leak was revealed to have come from her office.

One law enforcement official said the new findings were nothing new and asked “Why did we go to this level?” A Homeland Security official muttered, “There’s no greater threat today than there was six months ago.” Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey complained that the alert has made security officers “tax-payer supported campaign workers for the Bush re-election campaign.” The arrests in Pakistan led to the arrest of two important terrorists in Great Britain. In an unrelated development, two men were arrested in Albany for attempting to purchase a hand held missile they wanted to fire at the Pakistani ambassador to the United States. The cable television channels played on terrorism themes hour after hour, and on August 7, President Bush used his radio address to focus on terrorism, hoping to draw national attention to the one area where public opinion gave him an great advantage over any opponent.
Beginning in Spring, 2004, the Bush administration started sending high level visitors to Pakistan demanding that the Musharraf government round up Osama bin Laden and other high value targets before the American election on November 2. According to sources in the Interior ministry and Pakistani government, these demands were passed on to Pakistani security officials with instructions that they must produce before the election. An ISI officer revealed that a White House aide said 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 days of the Democratic convention. Howard Dean suggested that the timing of the warning was suspicious, but Kerry refused to criticize the timing of the warning. Going into the election of 2004, the Democrats were very much the underdogs in attempting to regain control of the House and Senate. Few seats were in play in the House and the Democrats were certain to lose between 3 and 6 in Texas due to redistricting. In the Senate, they were losing five southern seats due to resignations, and it was very unlikely these seats could be held in an increasingly Republican South.

The electoral vote was settled in Ohio, where both parties turned out record numbers. The Bush forces surprised the Democrats by demonstrating that they could “make more Republicans” by registering new voters and drawing infrequent voters from the condos and rural areas of the Buckeye state. Commentators saw Ohio as an important swing state. It was also important because it was a microcosm of the nation with its mix of metropolitan areas, agriculture, pluralistic population, and strong presence of Evangelicals. By July Kerry and the various independent organizations had outspent Bush in Ohio, $13 million to $9,000,000 but the president held a 6 point lead. In 2000, he carried the Buckeye State by almost 4 points. There was great concern about the economy there because more than 200,000 jobs had disappeared since 2001. Citizens voiced dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war in Iraq, but many believed it would be dangerous to change leaders in the middle of a war. Bush’s negative advertising campaign was effective in giving most voters reason to doubt Kerry’s reliability and they saw him as a northeastern liberal. Many Ohioans appeared to be strongly attached to Bush and were unwilling to turn against him despite their doubts about his economic and war policies.

Bush won reelection against Kerry 51-48 and carried 41 states. The results made it clear that West Virginia, Arkansas, and Tennessee had clearly entered the ranks of the safe Republican “red” states.. In addition, his party picked up 4 Senate seats and an equal number in the House, giving the GOP comfortable control of Congress. The election was not as close as prior polling data had suggested, and the Democrats suffered more defections than Republicans. Exit polls had shown Kerry three points ahead, but this information did not match reported results. While Kerry outdistanced him among Independents, Bush picked up Black evangelical votes and made some progress among Hispanics. The initial reports were that he gained 44% of the Hispanic vote, but that number was later reduced to 40%, still a great gain. By 2004, the press rarely discussed the effect of race upon voting, but it is difficult to disagree with Web Bryant that the Democratic Party continued to suffer for doing “the right thing on the race question.” similarly, It had also alienated white males by championing women’s rights, its limited assistance to gays must have been costly. Paul Starr observed that “A party can make only so many enemies until it can no longer do any good for people who need it.”

The politics of fear also gave Bush such an enormous advantage, that it is surprising that the race became close.. By an eighteen percent margin, the voters trusted Bush more than Kerry to deal with terrorism. The fear factor enabled Bush to dramatically increase his strength among married women, winning 49% of their votes. A Program for International Policy Attitudes study, released less than two weeks before Election Day, demonstrated that 75% of Bush backers were sure Iraq had been a major backer of Al Qaeda, and 55% also were sure this was the conclusion of the 9/11 commission. Most believed Iraq had or was ready to launch a major WMD program, and 72% thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the invasion that somehow were not found. These figures provide breathtaking proof of the effectiveness of the GOP political information campaign and call to mind a German Air Marshal’s statement in the 1930s, that if you tell people they are under attack, t hey will accept whatever else you say or do

According to exit polls, moral values were the most important issue, with 22% of voters ranking it above all other concerns. Of those who attended church weekly, 61% voted for Bush. Including moral values in such an election night poll was like asking them, “What do you like best--red, green, blue, or breathing?” Eighty percent of those who selected moral values were Bush voters. It is doubtful that these voters were only concerned about specific moral questions like stem cell research, abortion, or gay marriage. If that were the case, these people would have reacted adversely to the moral transgressions of a number of Republican leaders such as Newt Gingrich, Bob Barr, or Arnold Schwartzenegger. However, there was no noticeable reaction from the Right to their misbehavior.

It was the blanket charge that liberals supported a broad assault on traditional norms that counted. The so-called “Bush waiverers,” people who supported the president but doubted many of his policies, stayed with him because of this concern. What the response on the values meant was that many believed that liberals scorned ordinary citizens of Middle America and were disinclined to defend attack traditional American culture. William A. Galston has observed that not all who took this view were regular church attendees. He found that “in the 2004 election, [the] Democrats’ largest losses came among less fervent believers-- the broad mainstream of families worried about the erosion of moral standards and the corrosion of our culture.” There were many comments by conservative spokesmen after the election that the election was about culture. They reminded their constituents that the liberals were still plotting to undermine American culture. Evangelist and former major league pitcher Frank Pastore wrote that liberalism was still an “evil ideology” and that Christians were never to “compromise with the vanquished.”

Despite the exit polls, Karl Rove ranked the issues (1) war, (2) economy, and (3) moral values. In terms of what won for Bush, the combination was more likely war and the culture. Bill Clinton underscored the cultural factor by noting that gay marriage was “an overwhelming factor in the defeat of John Kerry.” It was the key to the maximum mobilization of the Republican base. On the other hand, it was the politics of terrorism that attracted people who were in the middle in 2002 and 2004. It was the key to self-identification of the party and the president in 2002 and 2004. also gave Bush a an enormous advantage. By an eighteen percent margin, the voters trusted Bush more than Kerry to deal with terrorism. The fear factor enabled Bush to dramatically increase his strength among married women, winning 49% of their votes. A Program for International Policy Attitudes study, released less than two weeks before Election Day, demonstrated that 75% of Bush backers were sure Iraq had been a major backer of Al Qaeda, and 55% also were sure this was the conclusion of the 9/11 commission. Most believed Iraq had or was ready to launch a major WMD program, and 72% thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the invasion that somehow were not found.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!