Terrorism? What Terrorism? - January 21, 2004 - TimesWatch.org

Times Watch for January 21, 2004

Terrorism? What Terrorism?

Elisabeth Bumiller and Richard Stevenson offer this odd spin on Bush's State of the Union: "On Tuesday night, Mr. Bush offered no specific evidence to back up his more general and much less disputed statement that 'terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world.'"

Of Times' doubts on the matter, Professor Cori Dauber asks rhetorically: "How do we know it's true? Bali. Jakarta. Morocco. Riyadh. Istanbul. Plots in Singapore, Paris, London."

Bumiller and Stevenson then suggest the Patriot Act is in trouble: "With many crucial provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire on Dec. 31, 2005, Mr. Bush stepped into a potential minefield by calling for renewal of the law. Attorney General John Ashcroft has been leading the charge for the act as it has come under increasing attack from liberals and conservatives, who say it impinges on civil liberties. Democrats have promised to oppose renewing many important sections of the law, particularly those broadening government surveillance powers. Some critics in Congress applauded enthusiastically on Tuesday night when Mr. Bush noted that the law was scheduled to expire."

They leave out the inconvenient fact that, by cheering the potential expiration of the Patriot Act, most Democrats are in effect booing themselves: The Act passed both the House (356-66) and Senate (98-1) by overwhelming margins, including the votes of the top two finishers in the Iowa caucuses, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards.

For the rest of Bumiller and Stevenson of Bush's SOTU, click here.

" Elisabeth Bumiller | George W. Bush | Patriot Act | State of the Union | Richard Stevenson

War? What War?

David Sanger, hung up on Bush's use of the phrase "axis of evil" and wondering if America is still at war. In his profile of the State of the Union address, he writes: "As expected, Mr. Bush did not repeat his famous phrase 'axis of evil' to describe North Korea and Iran. Mr. Bush has often expressed frustration in the past few months that with Mr. Hussein defeated, Americans no longer regard the country at war, though he clearly does."

For the rest of Sanger on Bush, click here.

" "Axis of Evil" | George W. Bush | David Sanger | State of the Union

Bush "Rudely Ignoring" U.N Procedures

The Times editorial response to Bush's State of the Union address includes this loaded paragraph: "While it is too early to draw final conclusions about the ultimate success of military operations in Iraq, the fact is that Mr. Bush's decision to engage American forces so heavily without reliable intelligence, real international backing, legitimate United Nations authority or serious postwar planning has exacted a high price, for which he did not account in the rather glossy assessment in his State of the Union address."

But as Times critics note, the Times relied on the same "unreliable" intelligence when it noted the threat posed by Hussein in an editorial from January 27, 1998: "Unfortunately, it seems increasingly clear that what Mr. Hussein really wants is not relief for Iraq but an operational germ warfare program. Washington is rightly determined to thwart that ambition, even if it comes to military force."

As for the lack of "real international backing," Bush supporters could point to the 34 nations contributing to the war effort, 17 of which Bush named in his State of the Union address. And Times' talk of "legitimate United Nations authority" risks sounding like an oxymoron, given the U.N.'s refusal to enforce its own resolutions.

The Times then lamely hits Bush for being rude to the United Nations: "Washington is finally asking the U.N. to help smooth the transition to democracy and ensure international legitimacy. But that decision, however welcome it was, followed nearly a year of rudely ignoring U.N. procedures, undermining the authority of the U.N. and ignoring some of America's most important allies." By "important allies," the Times apparently means France and Germany, but is understandably reluctant to risk ridicule by spelling out the names of those "allies." For the rest of the editorial, click here.

" George W. Bush | Iraq War | State of the Union | United Nations

Not Bad For a Dumb Guy

From Wednesday's review of Bush's television presence by Times TV reporter Alessandra Stanley: "Mr. Bush still does not enjoy delivering impromptu public remarks, but he has mastered the art of teleprompter reading."

For the rest of Stanley's review of Bush's address, click here.

" George W. Bush | State of the Union | Alessandra Stanley

Loving Higher Taxes in Virginia

James Dao puts his usual chirpy, optimistic spin on Democratic politicians in Tuesday's "A Governor's Hard Sell: Higher Taxes in Virginia," a look at Democratic Gov. Mark Warner's push for a tax hike.

"But while Republicans control both houses of the legislature, Mr. Warner has one advantage: a schism between the party's moderate wing, which supports tax increases, and its staunchly anti-tax conservatives," Dao insists. "The rift opened in the 1990's during budget battles between the moderates and Gov. James S. Gilmore III, an anti-tax stalwart."

He then gives Warner his close-up: "For Mr. Warner, 49, the plan is a big gamble. Tall, toothy and telegenic, he is widely considered a rising star in the Democratic firmament. A rich-man populist with a regular-guy amiability, he is the kind of Southern moderate many Democrats say their party needs to regain support outside the liberal Northeast."

Later Dao positions the tax-raising Democrat Warner in the political center: "Born in Connecticut and educated at George Washington University and Harvard Law, Mr. Warner does not sound like a Virginian. But he has appropriated the courtly Virginia political style and its centrist politics. He does not talk about abortion rights, though he says he supports them, and incessantly promotes himself as a fiscal conservative. Now, with some Senate Republicans supporting a larger tax hike than his own, he finds himself right where he wants to be: in the middle."

Dao concludes by giving Warner the last word: "'The need is so obvious and my fix is so conservative,' he said in an interview. 'It's not as if I'm trying to create some grand new entitlement program.'"

But that's hardly the end of the story. As Cato's Chris Edwards wrote, conservatives have little reason to praise Warner's tax hike: "The state's annual financial report shows that state tax revenue rose at an annual average rate of 6.1 percent from 1992 to 2002, or slightly faster than state personal income growth of 5.5 percent. The Warner administration says that the sales tax needs to be 'modernized' to cover services and the Internet. But does the state need to tax everything? Sales tax revenue has grown at 5.3 percent a year during the past decade, indicating no shortage of funds."

The conservative National Taxpayers Union also weighed in with a comment from its president, John Berthoud: "Governor Warner justifies his record tax hike by claiming that many programs are underfunded, but in truth, in recent years, spending for most programs has greatly exceeded the growth in population and inflation."

For the rest of Dao's profile of Gov. Mark Warner, click here.

" James Dao | Labeling Bias | Taxes | Virginia | Gov. Mark Warner