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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Political Theater: Our President Doesn't Deal with Losers, or Cripples, or Whiners

Here's the barebones store as reported by the Associated Press -
Cleland unable to deliver letter to Bush
Wednesday, August 25, 2004, 2:09 PM
CRAWFORD -- Former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter protesting ads challenging John Kerry's Vietnam service to President Bush at his Texas ranch today, but neither a Secret Service official nor a state trooper would take it.

The former Georgia senator, a triple amputee who fought in Vietnam, was carrying a letter from nine Senate Democrats who wrote Bush that "you owe a special duty" to condemn attacks on Kerry's military service.

"The question is where is George Bush's honor, the question is where is his shame to attack a fellow veteran who has distinguished himself in combat?" Cleland asked. "Regardless of the political combat involved, it's disgraceful."

Encountering a permanent roadblock to Bush's ranch, Cleland left without turning over the letter to anyone.

"I have a letter signed by nine members of the U.S. Senate, all of whom have served honorably and I'd like to hand it to a responsible officer here on the gate," Cleland said as he tried to deliver it to security personnel at the roadblock. He accused a member of the president's security detail of trying to evade him.

"I am just going to return the letter and make sure it gets in the mail," Cleland said as he returned to his car.

In their letter, the senators said, "This administration must not tacitly comply with unfounded accusations which have suddenly appeared 35 years after the fact, and serve to denigrate the service of a true American patriot." ...
And AP provides much additional he-said she-said detail.

Oh, these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are causing no end of problems.

Of course this is all over the news.

As Digby over at Hullabaloo comments, this was made for the evening news and cable "analysis" shows.
This is creative and the press loves it. Max Cleland, disabled veteran and former US Senator is greeted by some lowly functionary in Crawford because Bush is too much of a pussy to talk to him himself.

Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton would have used the moment to show himself as a regular guy with respect and humor.

Bush hid. As usual.
But perhaps this was calculated. Our president doesn't deal with losers, or cripples, or whiners. Call it tough love.

Cleland had with him that Rassman fellow - who famously said John Kerry saved his life way back in 1969 in Vietnam, pulling him from the water under enemy fire, even though Kerry himself was wounded. The Navy gave Kerry a medal. The Navy says it happened. Everyone who was there said it happened, just like that. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth say it just isn't so, as that is not what they heard. Everyone is lying, including the Navy. Oh well.

And the Bush folks tried to give Cleland a counter-letter, saying the Democrats should stop picking on George Bush. Cleland said no thanks.

Atrios at Eschaton says sure, Cleland ambushed Bush for a bit of theater, but a real man would have known how to handle it.

And then Atrios points to this comment - from Steve Gilliard:
Yes, this was a campaign stunt, and yes, Cleland has his own grudges against these people, but a real man would have invited Cleland and Rassman up to the ranch house, gave them some sweet tea, taken the letter and let them go.

... Now, let's be real. Cleland probably owes Kerry a $20 because one of them had to have bet Bush would live down to character, and the other bet that he couldn't be so stupid as to turn away a triple amputee from his home. But make no mistake, they knew what Bush would do, and they bet on him doing it.

Yet, once again, the Bush campaign walks into a trap set by Kerry. Two decorated veterans show up to you door and you hide from them? That's just stupid. It's bad politics if nothing else.
Really? Maybr it is good politics. As was pointed out previously here it seems half the country likes this child bully who can sucker-punch the skinny, brainy wimp and get away with it. The same probably goes for crips and losers. This is know as playing to your base, in many senses.

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has a number of things to say about this, and about this guy Patterson (not our Bob) he sent out to meet Cleland and hand Cleland the counter-letter.
... The president gets called on to step up to the plate and say one way or another way he supports his friends' (rapidly deteriorating) smears on his opponent's military record.

And he just won't do it.

First, he sends out his chief spokesman to dodge the question.

Then he dodges the question.

And now, politically on the defensive, he calls another veteran and asks him to rush over to the ranch to face Max Cleland.

(It turns out that Patterson, the guy who got the 911 call from the president, has received $150,000 in campaign contributions from Bob Perry, the funder of the Swift Boat ads.)

Needless to say, the president doesn't have to play into the Kerry photo op by showing up to take Cleland's letter; a straight answer about the Swift Boat smears would do nicely.

But he just can't do it -- a classic bully.
But Marshall hones in on another detail.
Cleland got stopped at the first roadblock.

He tried to give the letter to secret service officials guarding (giving the word rather a new meaning) the president. But the president got a political ally from Texas, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson -- who is also a vet -- to show up and offer to take the letter, if Cleland would take a letter from him in exchange.

Cleland told him never mind; he'd rather stick it in the mail.

That prompted Patterson to utter this pricelessly unlovely retort ... - ""I tried to accept that letter and he would not give it to me," said Patterson. "He would not face me. He kept rolling away from me. He's quite mobile."

Yes, quite mobile. Classic.

Did I mention that President Bush is addicted to having others do his dirty work for him?
Well, gee, these triple-amputees can be damned tricky! And rude like you wouldn't believe. And insulting. Cleland wouldn't even face Patterson.

The nerve of some people - as you'd think they'd show the third string substitute representative of the president (who was no doubt busy running the country) a little more respect. Cleland must think he's a big shot because he was stupid enough to actually go to war, and then careless enough end up in a wheelchair with no legs and only one arm. Hell man, the guy could have joined the Texas Air National Guard way back when. It's his own fault. What a loser.

You have to love political theater.


Of course, you have to grant that the Bush folks are under a lot of pressure and we should understand if they are a tad short-tempered. Tuesday Vice President Cheney said Bush's call for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage was something he thought was the wrong thing to do. And also on Tuesday the commission headed by a former secretary of defense released its findings - and said the responsibility for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere went all the way up the chain of command to Rumsfeld - crappy planning and lousy resource planning (not enough folks for much of anything that was done in Iraq) and not much oversight at all. Just bad management. And then John Kerry again called for Rumsfeld to resign, or be removed. Then on Wednesday morning a second commission reported its findings - the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib was far worse than reported and did indeed include actual torture, and some senior commanders needed to be brought to courts martial. Geez. And then Wednesday evening, after Cheney had floated his idea that maybe the administration could be a bit more moderate on this business with the gay folks (Cheney has a daughter who is a lesbian) - well, the Republican National Committee finalized its plank on this matter, the official party position. No gay marriage should be allowed anywhere, and the constitution really should be amended, and further, no "civil unions" should ever be allowed for gay couples in any state - no contracts, no shared insurance, no tax breaks like "real" married folks get, no "family" hospital visitation rights when one or the other falls ill - no nothing. Now the party may fight itself, and the gay wing, the Log Cabin Republicans, may bolt.

And then too on Wednesday we discovered that the Bush campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth shared an election lawyer - one Benjamin Ginsberg who helped out with the Florida recount arguments in 2000 - and he resigned from the Bush campaign. That's against the law. These independent "527" opinion organizations are not allowed to coordinate with candidates - or they fall under the traditional spending restrictions. What was Ben thinking? He told Reuters he was thinking this - "I was at the nexus of making sure (coordination) didn't happen. To suggest otherwise is flat wrong." Huh? He was coordinating the non-coordination? Guess so. So the Bush campaign lost its top outside attorney.

Max Cleland just showed up on a bad day.


Ah yes, and here's the latest (via Josh Marshall) from the Bush folks (at - If Kerry Can't Handle the 'Swiftees,' How's He Going to Handle the Terrorists?

So the high-minded discourse continues.

Posted by Alan at 21:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 25 August 2004 21:59 PDT home

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