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Archive for October 24th, 2006

Olbermann’s Special Comment on GOP Fearmongering


And lastly, tonight, a Special Comment on the advertising of terrorism.
The commercial, you have already seen, it is a distillation of everything this administration and the party in power have tried to do these last five years and six weeks.

It is from the Republican National Committee, it shows images of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. It offers quotes from them, all as a clock ticks ominously in the background. It concludes with what Zawahiri may or may not have said to a Pakistani journalist as long ago as 2001, his dubious claim that he had purchased suitcase bombs. The quotation is followed by sheer coincidence, no doubt, by an image of a massive explosion. “These are the stakes” appears on the screen, quoting exactly from Lyndon Johnson’s infamous nuclear scare commercial from 1964, “Vote November 7th”.

There is a cheap Texas Chainsaw Massacre quality to the whole thing. It also serves to immediately call to mind the occasions when President Bush dismissed Osama bin Laden as somebody he didn’t think about, except, obviously, when elections were near. Frankly, a lot of people seeing that commercial for the first time have laughed out loud, but not everyone. And therein lies the true threat to this country.

The dictionary definition of the word ‘terrorize’ is simple and not open to misinterpretation: “To fill or overpower with terror; terrify; coerce by intimidation or fear.” Note please that the words ‘violence’ and ‘death’ are missing from that definition. For the key to terrorism is not the act-but the fear of the act. That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotape statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them? Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; the Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home! Only the Republicans have a bigger bankroll.
When last week, the CNN network ran video of an insurgent in Iraq evidently stalking and killing an American soldier, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Mr. Hunter, Republican of California, branded that channel quote “the publicist for an enemy propaganda film,” and added that CNN used it to sell commercials. Another California Republican, Representative Brian Bilbray, called the video quote “nothing short of a terrorist snuff film.”

If so, Mr. Bilbray, then what in the hell is your party’s new advertisement? And Mr. Hunter? CNN using the film to sell commercials? Commercials? You have adopted bin Laden and Zawahiri as spokesmen for the Republican National Committee.

‘To fill or overpower with terror; terrify. To coerce by intimidation or fear’
By this definition, the people who put these videos together: first, the terrorists and then, the administration, whose shared goal is to scare you into panicking instead of thinking, they are the ones terrorizing you.

By this definition, the leading terrorist group in this world right now is al Qaeda, but the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party.

Eleven presidents ago, the chief executive reassured us that ‘we have nothing to fear, but fear itself.’ His distant successor has wasted his administration, insisting there is nothing we can have but fear itself.

The Vice President, as recently as this month, was caught campaigning again with the phrase “mass death in the United States”. Four years ago, it was the now Secretary of State, Dr. Rice, rationalizing Iraq with quote, “we don’t want to be…the smoking gun to be the mushroom cloud.” Days later, Mr. Bush himself told an audience that quote “we cannot wait the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

And now we have this cheesy commercial, complete with images of a faked mushroom cloud and implications of mass death in America.

This administration has derived benefit and power from terrorizing the very people it claims to be protecting from terror. It may be the oldest trick in the political book: scare people into believing they are in danger and only you can save them. Lyndon Johnson used it to bury Barry Goldwater. Joe McCarthy leaped from obscurity on its back. And now the legacy has come to President George W. Bush.

Of course, the gruel of fear is getting thinner and thinner, is it not, Mr. President? And thus, more and more of it needs to be made out of less and less actual terror. After last week’s embarrassing internet hoax about dirty bombs in footballs stadiums, the one your Department of Homeland Security immediately disseminated to the public, a self-described former CIA operative named Wayne Simmons cited the fiasco as quote “The, and I mean, the perfect example of the President’s Military Commissions Act of 2006 and the NSA Terrorist Eavesdropping Program-how vital they are.”

Frank Gaffney, once a respected Assistant Secretary of Defense and now the president of something called The Center for Security Policy added “one of the things that I hope Americans take away from this is not only that they’re gunning for us. Not just in a place like Iraq, but truly worldwide.”

Of course, the “they” to which Mr. Gaffney referred, turned out to be a lone 20-year-old grocery bagger from Wisconsin named Jake. A kid trying to one-up some loser in an internet game of ‘chicken.’ His threat referenced seven football stadiums, at which dirty bombs were to be exploded yesterday. It began with the one in New York City, even though there isn’t one in New York City and though the attacks were supposed to be simultaneous, four of the games were scheduled to start at 1:00 pm Eastern time and the others at 4:00 pm Eastern time. Moreover, the kid said that he had posted the identical message on forty websites since September. We caught him in merely about six weeks, even though the only way he could be less subtle, less stealthy and less of a threat was if he bought an advertisement on the Superbowl telecast.

Mr. Bush, this is the what–100th plot your people have revealed that turned out to be some nonsensical misunderstanding or the fabrications of somebody hoping to talk his way off a waterboard in Eastern Europe? If, Mr. President, this is the kind of crack work your new ad implies that only you, and not the Democrats, can do, you, sir, need to pull over and ask for directions. The real question, of course, Mr. Bush, is why did your Department of Homeland Security even release that information in the first place? It was never a serious threat. Even the first news accounts quoted a Homeland spokesman as admitting strong skepticism. The kind of strong skepticism which most government agencies address before telling the public, not afterwards.

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Hastert’s Chief of Staff Testifies in Foley Probe


Spends Over Six Hours Before Investigators on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (Oct. 24) – The House ethics committee questioned Speaker Dennis Hastert’s top aide for more than six hours Monday, as investigators tried to determine whether Hastert’s office knew at least three years ago of Rep. Mark Foley’s come-ons to male pages.

The closed-door testimony by Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer could help determine who is telling the truth about when the speaker’s office first learned of Foley ‘s conduct. Hastert has said it was in the fall of 2005.

Campaigning for a Republican candidate in Tennessee, Hastert said he plans to testify before the committee this week.

“What Mark Foley did was wrong. It was ethically wrong. It’s a shame. It’s actually disgusting,” Hastert told reporters after a campaign rally.

In Washington, Palmer’s lawyer, Scott Fredericksen, said his client hasn’t changed his version of events. The Hastert aide has disputed one account that he personally was notified about Foley in 2002 or 2003.

Fredericksen said the testimony was “consistent with the position he’s taken all along.”

Palmer spent the longest time in the committee offices than any other witness, entering at 1:57 p.m. and leaving at 8:18 p.m. This is the third week of testimony, as the committee tries to learn how the Republican leadership handled Foley’s inappropriate conduct.

The speaker has a lot riding on the outcome. He has fended off calls for his resignation with statements that his staff acted properly after the 2005 notification, and quickly had a lawmaker and the House chief clerk confront the Florida Republican.

Hastert said he didn’t learn about Foley until late September, when the scandal became public and Foley resigned.

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Bush officials: No big move in Iraq plan

WASHINGTON – With just two weeks until Election Day, the White House sought to ease political anxieties about security in Iraq but rejected calls from lawmakers for a dramatic policy shift.

The Nov. 7 elections will determine whether Republicans retain control of Congress, and lawmakers in both parties are calling on President Bush to change his war plans.

“We’re on the verge of chaos, and the current plan is not working,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (news, bio, voting record), R-S.C., said in an Associated Press interview. U.S. and Iraqi officials should be held accountable for the lack of progress, said Graham, a Republican who is a frequent critic of the administration’s policies.

Asked who in particular should be held accountable — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, perhaps, or the generals leading the war — Graham said: “All of them. It’s their job to come up with a game plan” to end the violence.

Bush, in a CNBC interview, said, “Well, I’ve been talking about a change in tactics ever since I — ever since we went in, because the role of the commander in chief is to say to our generals, `You adjust to the enemy on the battlefield.'” conference.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said the United States would adjust its Iraq strategy but would not issue any ultimatums to the Iraqis. “Are there dramatic shifts in policy? The answer is no,” Snow said Monday.

He acknowledged, however, that Bush no longer is saying that the United States will “stay the course” in Iraq.

“He stopped using it,” Snow said of that phrase, adding that it left the impression that the administration was not adjusting its strategy to realities in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials in Iraq said Tuesday that government leaders there have agreed to develop a timeline by the end of the year for progress in stabilizing Iraq and reducing violence that has killed 300 Iraqi troops during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan alone.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander who appeared at a news conference with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, also said Iraqi forces should be able to take control of security in the next 12 to 18 months with minimal American support.

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U.S. poll: No one’s winning in Iraq

ATLANTA, Oct. 24 (UPI) — Sixty percent of U.S. citizens say they believe neither the United States nor insurgents are winning the war in Iraq, a CNN poll published Tuesday said.

The poll also found the number of people who say they believe the U.S.-led coalition is winning has fallen by half since December to 20 percent, while 18 percent said they believe the insurgents are winning.

In all, 64 percent of 1,013 adults polled by telephone by Opinion Research Corp., in the past three days said they oppose the war in Iraq.

While the Bush administration has refused to set a withdrawal schedule from Iraq, 57 percent of respondents said the United States should.

The non-confidence was echoed at 60 percent for those who believe things are going badly for the United States in the war on terrorism, which is up 7 percent since September, CNN said.

The poll had a 3-point margin of error.

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Independents favor Democrats in U.S. poll

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (UPI) — Independent U.S. voters favor Democratic candidates in next month’s midterm elections by a 2-1 ratio, a Washington Post-ABC News poll published Tuesday said.

Of 1,200 adults contacted Thursday through Sunday, 59 percent of independent voters said they would vote for Democrats in the Nov. 7 poll, compared with 31 percent who favored Republican candidates.

Yet the divide appears to be more a measure of dissatisfaction with the status quo than a surge for the Democrats, the Post said, as half of the independents said they would vote against the Republican candidate rather than to affirmatively support the Democratic candidate.

Along partisan lines, 95 percent of Democrats said they will support Democratic candidates for the House, while 88 percent of Republicans said they would vote along party lines, the report said.

The poll’s approval rating for U.S. President George Bush dipped to 37 percent from 39 percent two weeks ago and down from 42 percent last month.
The poll had a 3-point margin of error.

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