Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Equivocation (ee-kwv-kshn)

Anyone out there hearing similarities between this guy:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan

and this guy?

Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf

Let's try again:

"There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"


Q Scott, why did the administration feel it was necessary to coach the soldiers that the President talked to this morning in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I don't know what you're suggesting.

Q Well, they discussed the questions ahead of time. They were told exactly what the President would ask, and they were coached, in terms of who would answer what question, and how they would pass the microphone.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, are you suggesting that what our troops were saying was not sincere, or what they said was not their own thoughts?

Q Nothing at all. I'm just asking why it was necessary to coach them.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the event earlier today, the event was set up to highlight an important milestone in Iraq's history, and to give the President an opportunity to, once again, express our appreciation for all that our troops are doing when it comes to defending freedom, and their courage and their sacrifice. And this is a satellite feed, as you are aware, and there are always technological challenges involved when you're talking with troops on a satellite feed like this. And I think that we worked very closely with the Department of Defense to coordinate this event. And I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect.

Q But we asked you specifically this morning if there would be any screening of questions or if they were being told in any way what they should say or do, and you indicated no.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's what the question was earlier today. I think the question earlier today was asking if they could ask whatever they want, and I said, of course, the President was — and you saw —

Q And I asked if they were pre-screened.

MR. McCLELLAN: You saw earlier today the President was trying to engage in a back-and-forth with the troops. And I think it was very powerful what Lieutenant Murphy was saying at the end of that conversation, when he was talking about what was going on in January, how the American troops and coalition forces were in the lead when it came to providing security for the upcoming election, an election where more than eight million Iraqis showed up and voted. It was a great success.

And he talked about how this time, when we had the preparations for the upcoming referendum this Saturday, you have Iraqi forces that are in the lead, and the Iraqi forces are the ones that are doing the planning and preparing and taking the lead to provide for their own security as they get ready to cast their ballots again.

Q But I also asked this morning, were they being told by their commanders what to say or what to do, and you indicated, no. Was there any prescreening of —

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any such — any such activities that were being undertaken. We coordinated closely with the Department of Defense. You can ask if there was any additional things that they did. But we work very closely with them to coordinate these events, and the troops can ask the President whatever they want. They've always been welcome to do that.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bush Telconference with Soldiers Staged

Bush's desperation just keeps getting creepier:


WASHINGTON - It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions
President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in
Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.

"This is an important time," Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary, said, coaching the soldiers before Bush arrived. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you."

Barber said the president was interested in three topics: the overall security situation in Iraq, security preparations for the weekend vote and efforts to train Iraqi troops.

As she spoke in Washington, a live shot of 10 soldiers from the Army's 42nd Infantry Division and one Iraqi soldier was beamed into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building from Tikrit — the birthplace of former Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein.

"I'm going to ask somebody to grab those two water bottles against the wall and move them out of the camera shot for me," Barber said.

A brief rehearsal ensued.

"OK, so let's just walk through this," Barber said. "Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question and you hand the mike to whom?"

"Captain Smith," Kennedy said.

"Captain. Smith? You take the mike and you hand it to whom?" she asked.

"Captain Kennedy," the soldier replied.

And so it went.

"If the question comes up about partnering — how often do we train with the Iraqi military — who does he go to?" Barber asked.

"That's going to go to Captain Pratt," one of the soldiers said.

"And then if we're going to talk a little bit about the folks in Tikrit — the hometown — and how they're handling the political process, who are we going to give that to?" she asked.

Before he took questions, Bush thanked the soldiers for serving and reassured them that the U.S. would not pull out of Iraq until the mission was complete.

"So long as I'm the president, we're never going to back down, we're never going to give in, we'll never accept anything less than total victory," Bush said.

The president told them twice that the American people were behind them.

"You've got tremendous support here at home," Bush said.

Less than 40 percent in an AP-Ipsos poll taken in October said they approved of the way Bush was handling Iraq. Just over half of the public now say the Iraq war was a mistake.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Thursday's event was coordinated with the Defense Department but that the troops were expressing their own thoughts. With satellite feeds, coordination often is needed to overcome technological challenges, such as delays, he said.

"I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect," he said, adding that the president wanted to talk with troops on the ground who have firsthand knowledge about the situation.

The soldiers all gave Bush an upbeat view of the situation.

The president also got praise from the Iraqi soldier who was part of the chat.

"Thank you very much for everything," he gushed. "I like you."

On preparations for the vote, 1st Lt. Gregg Murphy of Tennessee said: "Sir, we are prepared to do whatever it takes to make this thing a success. ... Back in January, when we were preparing for that election, we had to lead the way. We set up the coordination, we made the plan. We're really happy to see, during the preparation for this one, sir, they're doing everything."

On the training of Iraqi security forces, Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo from Scotia, N.Y., said to Bush: "I can tell you over the past 10 months, we've seen a tremendous increase in the capabilities and the confidences of our Iraqi security force partners. ... Over the next month, we anticipate seeing at least one-third of those Iraqi forces conducting independent operations."

Lombardo told the president that she was in New York City on Nov. 11, 2001, when Bush attended an event recognizing soldiers for their recovery and rescue efforts at Ground Zero. She said the troops began the fight against terrorism in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and were proud to continue it in Iraq.

"I thought you looked familiar," Bush said, and then joked: "I probably look familiar to you, too."

Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and
Afghanistan, denounced the event as a "carefully scripted publicity stunt." Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said.

"If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference," Rieckhoff said. "He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains."

Abortion as Motivator

Praise the Lord and Pass the Initiatives

LA Times

State Republicans are moving to rally Christian conservatives behind an abortion measure on the November special election ballot in hopes that, once drawn to the polls, they will back the rest of Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's fall agenda.

The party has hired Gary Marx, a top liaison to social conservatives in
President Bush's reelection campaign, to assemble up to 10 organizers to build support among evangelicals and other religious conservatives for Proposition 73. The measure on the Nov. 8 ballot would require parental notification when minors seek abortions.

In mailers sent to Republican voters, the party also has trumpeted Schwarzenegger's endorsement of the abortion proposal. "Arnold says vote yes," one glossy party mailer says about Proposition 73.

To broader audiences, the Republican governor has muted his support for Proposition 73, focusing instead on four other measures he is pushing to change state budget, education and campaign laws. Schwarzenegger's campaign ads do not mention abortion, nor does he bring it up at public events.

Like the multimillion-dollar mailing program, the church project led by Marx reflects the hope of Schwarzenegger's political team that a strong turnout of abortion opponents inspired to vote by Proposition 73 could boost prospects for the governor's entire agenda.

"If we can get Proposition 73 voters into the polls, it will have a benefit for the other propositions as well," said Mike Vallante, chief operating officer of the state Republican Party.

Lew Uhler, a leader of the campaign for Schwarzenegger's measure to curb political spending by labor unions, Proposition 75, agreed that anti-abortion voters would be a key factor in the election.

"We are very fortunate to have that measure at the top of the ticket," he said. "It is the most emotion-packed issue on the ballot, and it appeals to a broad range of people, irrespective of party."

The Republican church program is partly an attempt to replicate the Bush campaign's success in mobilizing swing-state evangelicals behind the president last year through extensive face-to-face conversations with fellow parishioners, neighbors and co-workers.

The state party also is putting another Bush campaign tactic behind Schwarzenegger's ballot measures: the use of vast consumer marketing data to project voters' political leanings.

Republican National Committee has taken data on Californians' magazine subscriptions, book purchases and other personal information and merged it with the state party's list of voters' names, addresses, party affiliations and frequency of casting ballots in elections.

The combined data have enabled the state party to refine its selection of which California voters to target with mail, phone calls and home visits — and to calculate which initiatives they might support.

"It allows the campaigns to talk to people not based on their party affiliation but based on what their passions are, what their interests are," Vallante said. "It's truly an amazing thing that these consumer data companies collect."

The moves to align Schwarzenegger with religious conservatives are inherently awkward; he vaulted into the governor's office partly on the strength of his reputation as a social moderate who supports abortion rights.

But the quiet attempts to maximize November's conservative vote are important to the governor because turnout is likely to be low for a special election that has sparked little public interest. Unions and their Democratic allies are mounting similar efforts to prod large numbers of their own core supporters to the polls.

The election results, strategists on both sides say, could hinge on which side is most successful in luring its base voters to cast ballots.

To strategists for organized labor and Democrats, any spike in interest in the election among religious conservatives poses a threat to their campaign against Schwarzenegger's ballot measures.

"It is a powerful force to be reckoned with in California politics — and certainly in Republican California politics," said Steve Smith, a labor strategist who is also managing the campaign against the abortion proposal.

The Marx church project is expected to cost at least $150,000, according to Vallante.

A former executive director of the Virginia Christian Coalition, Marx was a political consultant at Century Strategies, the firm led by Ralph E. Reed Jr., onetime leader of the national Christian Coalition.

Most recently, Marx has been executive director of Judicial Confirmation Network, which has sought to build support for Bush's Supreme Court nominees.

In Bush's reelection campaign headquarters in Virginia last year, Marx was one of the main players in building the president's evangelical base.

Among other things, the campaign gathered a vast collection of church membership directories, then set out to identify those not registered to vote, sign them up and ensure they cast ballots for the president.

But the scope of the California campaign is far narrower, and the organizers have less than four weeks until the election.

The state party, Vallante said, has put Marx and his team in charge of "getting the word out" about Proposition 73 in churches, mainly in California's conservative-leaning inland counties.

In a brief telephone interview Wednesday, Marx said: "When we're able to identify voters that are pro-Proposition 73, we make sure that we tell them how they can get registered to vote" — and make sure they cast ballots.

Peter Henderson, director of public policy at California Family Council, a conservative advocacy group, called the Marx project a welcome addition to conservative turnout efforts.

"Proposition 73 is really the linchpin of conservative involvement in the special election," he said.

Historically, political organizing of Christian conservatives in California has been a challenge.

The state's vast size and its reliance on television to propel campaigns are impediments. As is a dearth of money: The lack of competitive presidential contests in California has led the national Republican Party to spend more heavily in other parts of the country.

Also, many of the state's biggest church congregations, particularly in fast-growing outlying suburban areas, are nondenominational, with no central authority setting a unified statewide political agenda.

A notable exception is the Roman Catholic Church. The state's bishops have endorsed Proposition 73. The California Catholic Conference has put Yes on 73 announcements on its website to print in church bulletins. The conference has also posted suggested homilies for pastors to read at services in the state's 1,100 Catholic churches.

"A choice for life can never be wrong," one homily says. "Proposition 73 is the right thing to do."

Beyond churches, the main vehicle to draw conservative voters to the polls in California is talk radio, including a statewide network of Christian stations with mainly religious programming.

Of all the issues on the ballot, abortion is the one that radio hosts "can talk about for two or three hours on the air," said David Spadey, director of national news and public affairs at conservative radio network Salem Communications Corp. of Camarillo. "That's really the only issue on the ballot that has the social, traditional-values component to it," he said.

On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger promoted his election agenda on nine conservative radio shows.

For the most part, he stuck to promoting Propositions 74, 75, 76 and 77, the main focus of his campaign.

When asked about Proposition 73 by Eric Hogue of Salem's KTKZ in Sacramento, he bluntly expressed support for it.

"I wouldn't want my daughter to be taken away from her school without my permission and sent to a hospital for an abortion," he said. "That's as simple as that."