Highlights of This Page
White House blocks bombing of Afghanistan heroin production facilities, collaborates with Afghan drug lords. Bush "wins" second term in demonstrably stolen election. Kerry concedes within hours of the initial results; Bush claims a "mandate. "Operation Phantom Fury;" US attacks Fallujah. Hastert's "majority of the majority" policy shuts out Democrats from the legislative process.
See my Update Information page for an explanation of why this and other pages between September 2004 and September 2006 are not yet complete.
"George Bush says he's for election reform. Reform this! I say park the state police cars, take down the roadblocks, stop asking people of color for multiple forms of ID, print readable ballots, open the polling places, count all the votes -- and start practicing democracy in America again."
-- Terry McAuliffe, DNC chair
White House blocks bombing of Afghanistan heroin production facilities, collaborates with Afghan drug lords
- November: In an NSC meeting, the uncomfortable subject of the increasing chaos in Afghanistan is broached by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
War in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, relentlessly touted as an unmitigated success story by Bush officials, is sliding into anarchy, with a resurgent Taliban, an ineffective national government largely confined to the capital city of Kabul, and a huge surge in opium production all causing problems for the beleagured country and its US occupiers. But Powell has noted the reports from his assistant secretary of state, Bobby Charles, and Charles's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). Charles is dismayed by the information from the CIA about the unchecked growth in opium production throughout the Afghan countryside. Charles is a protege of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and has a strong understanding of how issues play with the Republican leadership in Congress. He knows that drug trafficking is always a hot-button issue. Charles realizes that if the American people know about the scale of the drug crisis in Afghanistan, and how little the US is doing about it, then Congressional sentiment and support for the Bush administration could quickly shift. Charles has been raising a ruckus for months, with little response. "I started clanging the fire bell," he later recalls. "You had to take it seriously or it would devour the democracy." Charles's warnings are unwelcome; he is nicknamed "Cassandra" even within his own office, and a White House official warns him his pronouncements are "inconvenient" for the administration. When Condoleezza Rice takes over as Secretary of State in January 2005, Charles is removed from his post.
- Powell lays out the facts behind the growing drug problem and State's proposals to counter the threat. Bush seems open to the ideas of spraying the poppy fields and changing the rules of US engagement (detailed below). Powell emphasizes the political advantages of a new crunch on drug trafficking, and Bush decides that the US must step up efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's heroin industry. Charles is initially elated, but quickly realizes that Bush doesn't always have the final say within his administration. As reporter James Risen observes, "Charles was about to discover what Colin Powell already knew: Donald Rumsfeld and his lieutenants treated the president's statements as nothing more than the start of negotiations." Rumsfeld has a long history of either talking Bush out of his decisions, or just ignoring them entirely. Weeks later, Charles learns that the plan for aggressively countering Afghan heroin production is dead, and that he himself is on the outs. Powell is on the way out, and Bush has given in to the Rumsfeld-led opposition. Risen writes, "For Afghanistan's drug lords, business was very good under the United States Central Command."
- From the outset in Afghanistan, US officials have not only ignored the drug problem in Afghanistan, but actively worked side-by-side with many of the Afghan drug lords who made up key elements of the US-aligned Northern Alliance. In 1998, the CIA created a target list of potential bombing targets throughout Afghanistan, including major drug labs, warehouses, and other drug-related facilities. But after the 9/11 attacks, both Pentagon and White House officials refuse to authorize bombing attacks on any of the drug-related facilities on the list. "On the day after 9/11, that target list was ready to go, and the military and the NSC threw it out the window," a CIA source recalls. "We had tracked these [targets] for years. The drug targets were big places, almost like small towns that did nothing but produce heroin. The British were screaming for us to bomb those targets, because most of the heroin in Britain comes from Afghanistan. But they refused." Had the US bombed those targets, "it would have slowed down drug production in Afghanistan for a year or more."
- White House officials excuse their refusal to do anything about the opium production in Afghanistan by saying they don't want to indulge in "nation building," in spite of the fact that nation building is exactly what they are doing in both Afghanistan and Iraq. American troops are there to fight terrorists, not suppress the poppy crop, they argue. Pentagon officials in particular don't see any connection between the opium crop and terrorists, and worry that any actions against the drug-financed warlords would entice those warlords to turn against the US and join their erstwhile opponents of the Taliban. In February 2002, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith said that counter-narcotics isn't part of the war on terror, and Defense would have nothing to do with it in Afghanistan. The US military lacks the forces in Afghanistan to go after the drug producers, and the CIA, focusing on its own counter-terrorism efforts, quickly began gutting its own counter-narcotics center after 9/11. The problem was largely left up to the British, who themselves lacked the manpower and intelligence sources in Afghanistan to do much about narcotics trafficking. As a result, opium production, once curtailed by the Taliban (though the Taliban likely were attempting to control the heroin market for their own product, and not trying to cut heroin production for any moral or ethical reasons), doubled between 2002 and 2003, and nearly doubled again in 2004. By 2004, Afghanistan is producing 87% of the world's heroin, and opium is the crutch of the Afghan economy. By this time, even the Karzai government is becoming hopelessly corrupted, earning the label of "narco-state" from some observers.
- Unfortunately for Feith's argument and the other excuses and refusals, opium production has everything to do with terrorism. It is likely that heroin sales largely funded the 9/11 attacks, and is certainly a massive source of funds for terrorism around the globe. But after Donald Rumsfeld personally met with a number of Afghan military commanders, "whom Afghans know as the godfathers of drug trafficking," says Afghan expert Barnett Rubin, "the message has been clear: help fight the Taliban and no one will interfere with your trafficking." Even the rules of engagement for US forces in Afghanistan protect drug traffickers, with US soldiers told that they "could" destroy drug shipments or supplies, but not that they "must." Opium and heroin simply are not a priority for the US in Afghanistan. By 2003, reports began to surface that US troops were ignoring shipments of opium when they discovered the drugs during searches. A former Green Beret who served in Afghanistan says bluntly that US commanders ordered him and his colleagues specifically to ignore heroin and opium when he and his unit discovered them on patrol. "Rumsfeld didn't want drugs to become a core mission," says Charles.
- Even though the US has hard intelligence on the locations of key heroin processing labs and warehouse, particularly in southeastern Afghanistan, the White House and Pentagon refuse to do anything to disrupt their operation. In January 2004, a British Special Forces strike team called for an air strike on a drug lab by a US Air Force A-10; the damage to that single laboratory caused a 15% spike in heroin prices. The bombing raid was not followed up by further raids. "We had regular reports of where the labs were," Charles later recalls. "There were not large numbers of them. We could have destroyed all the labs and warehouses...in a week. I told flag officers, you have to see this is eating you alive, that if you don't do anything by 2006 you are going to need a lot more troops in Afghanistan."
- Charles proposed a number of counter-narcotics actions, many based on the US's experiences in Latin America. One particular source of controversy was his aggressive plan to aerially spray Afghan poppy fields with herbicide, a plan opposed by the Pentagon because of fears it would spark anti-American sentiment. It was no secret that many Afghanis were strongly opposed to any such spraying programs, but Charles believed that if the spraying were connected to a vigorous public relations campaign and serious aid for alternative agricultural development, the Afghani people would come around. But the plan foundered when US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, along with Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, came out in opposition to the plan. Charles also pushed for a stronger drug interdiction campaign, but such would require the Pentagon to change its guidance to American soldiers in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon was reluctant to do so.
- In the summer of 2005, the Afghan insurgency, flush with drug money, intensifies its efforts to its most dangerous levels since the October 2001 invasion. US officials are surprised to learn how well-funded and well-armed the elements of the insurgency -- a confusing mix of Taliban, al-Qaeda, and native tribal jihadists -- have become. "The Bush administration," writes Risen, "had purchased an illusion of stability in Afghanistan at the price of billions of dollars' worth of heroin that was flooding into the streets of Europe and the United States." (James Risen)
"Don't you dare vote against God." -- Ohio pastor demanding that his congregation vote for Bush, quoted by James Moore and Wayne Slater
- November: The Atlantic Monthly publishes an exhaustively researched, damning article dissecting Bush political guru Karl Rove's history of lies, slanders, and crimes committed as a campaign manager for a variety of state and national candidates.
One example from November 1994 is especially telling. In that year, Rove brought his style of campaigning to Alabama, where he managed the campaigns of four state judges running for election. Three of them won. Rove's style was markedly different from the usual low-key, barely-there campaigns for the judiciary; his style, honed in a wealth of Texas races, was to demonize the Democratic opponent with character assassinations and whisper campaigns, the more scurrilous the better. The truth of the allegations was irrelevant; they would usually not be disproven until after the election, by which time it wouldn't matter. The three victorious races were marred with the usual slanders of judicial misconduct and allegations of bribery from the bench, and in one case a tremendous battle to selectively recount votes to ensure one candidate, Perry Hooper, would win an election originally called for his opponent (and with the usual charges of fraud, bribery, thievery, and so forth against the Democratic opponent).
- But Rove's single losing candidate, Harold See, featured a campaign that was breathtaking in its calumny. See was running against incumbent Democrat Mark Kennedy, a charismatic judge who for decades had been a staunch advocate for the rights of abused and neglected children. Kennedy, who co-founded the Children's Trust Fund of Alabama and began the Corporate Foundation for Children, and who had just completed a term as president of the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, was scoring points with voters through the use of television advertisements hawking his lifelong commitment to children and his achievements on their behalf. Rove got an idea of how to counterattack from one ad showing Kennedy holding hands with a child. Kennedy, Rove decided, would be portrayed by the See campaign as a closet pedophile. "We were trying to counter the positives from that ad," says a former Rove staffer from the campaign. The actual mechanics of beginning such a gutter-level slander campaign without it being traced back to the See campaign was the easy part. "It was our standard practice to use the University of Alabama Law School to disseminate whisper-campaign information," says the staffer. "That was a major device we used for the transmission of this stuff. The students at the law school are from all over the state, and that's one of the ways that Karl got the information out -- he knew the law students would take it back to their home towns and it would get out." This would create the impression that the lie was in fact common knowledge across the state." It worked quite well, to the horror of, among others, Kennedy's wife, who was physically sickened by the allegations against her husband. "What Rove does," says Kennedy's former campaign manager Joe Perkins, "is try to make something so bad for a family that the candidate will not subject the family to the hardship. Mark is not your typical Alabama macho, beer-drinkin', tobacco-chewin', pickup-drivin' kind of guy. He is a small, well-groomed, well-educated family man, and what they tried to do was make him look like a homosexual pedophile. That was really, really hard to take." Kennedy won by a razor-thin margin, but was so shaken by the ordeal -- including a Rove-planted article in Readers Digest -- that he chose not to run for re-election.
- Rove's campaign strategies for 2004 are micromanaged by himself and hand-picked underlings like Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman (himself a closeted gay man) though Rove almost never allows himself to be connected with them. In West Virginia and Arkansas, flyers similar to those that plagued the Richards campaign appear, depicting a man on his knee in front of another man (a typical pose for a marriage proposal) and labeled "Approved," while a picture of a Bible was labeled "Banned." The text told voters that this would happen if they voted for Democrats. The flyer is a product of Mehlman's RNC, but the idea is almost certainly Rove's. In Ohio, the key to mobilizing conservative voters is to press for the passage of a controversial anti-gay referendum, even though state Republicans such as its two senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, and its governor, Robert Taft, do not support it. Ohio already has a law on the books affirming that a marriage is, in the eyes of the state, only between a man and a woman; "Issue One" is far too harsh and sweeping for passage. Officially, the word from the Rove campaign staff is that the state GOP will keep its distance from the referendum. Unofficially, Rove is all over it, sending out his point man, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who spends one Sunday after another fulminating against gays from church pulpits and exhorting churchgoers to register and vote Republican. "It's a great organizing tool," says political science professor John Green. "A lot of those folks would have been targeted anyway, but Issue One just made it easier, because whatever doubts people may have had about George Bush were overcome. The pastors and activists really wanted to turn out the vote to pass it. And they didn't just want to win, they wanted to win big. Even if Karl Rove wasn't directing that huge army, the organization that Rove created at the grass roots in combination with the Ohio Republican Party picked up those people. Issue One in Ohio reinforced the master plan."
- Of course Rove is deeply involved. Blackwell told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "All things flow from" the Republican National Committee, and Rove runs the RNC through Mehlman. Mehlman himself said before the election that a strong turnout for the gay-marriage ban was critical in "determining where Ohio's electoral votes will go," a message Blackwell repeated to the faithful in his own campaign mailings. "The president's campaign has asked me to help with [Issue One]," Blackwell wrote, "and I have agreed. I am working closely with state and national leaders to protect and defend the sanctity of marriage. No one is spending more time communicating with the key elements of the GOP base on behalf of the president than I am."
- Rove also sent David Barton, a Texas minister and the founder of Wallbuilders, an organization that denounces the separation of church and state, to Ohio to work the churches. "I was a paid surrogate for the RNC, but of course, at that point, it's the president's campaign because Karl's got the party," Barton later says. "The Bush campaign, obviously, did help. The Republican leadership in Ohio, short of Ken Blackwell, was a hindrance, but Bush was a real help. He was in several states, actually."
- The gay-marriage issue also works to unseat Democrat Tom Daschle, the Senate Majority Leader. In Wisconsin, swing voters are inundated by robo-calls purporting to come from the Kerry campaign which told their targets, "A vote for Kerry is a vote for gay marriage; it's our time." GOP senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky attacks his Democratic opponent, a 44-year old bachelor, as being "limp-wristed" and a "switch-hitter." Televangelist Rod Parsley exhorts 500 so-called "Patriot Pastors" to register voters with the warning that gay marriage represents "the most horrific untested social experiment in human history." But Issue One puts Ohio over the top for Bush, and Ohio puts Bush over the top for re-election. The combination of conservative Christians and anti-gay campaigning -- with one African-American pastor in Ohio telling his congregation directly to vote for Bush and threatening, "Don't you dare vote against God!" and another telling his congregation that God favors Bush -- is ultimately successful. "In Rove's political arithmetic, division equaled addition," write authors James Moore and Wayne Slater. (Atlantic Monthly, James Moore and Wayne Slater)
RNC flyer saying that Democrats will support gay marriage and ban the Bible
- November: During the final weeks of the election, unusual and counterproductive "get out the vote" efforts appear on "behalf" of the Democrats in key battleground states.
In Michigan, African-American voters are phoned and told that their vote for Kerry will be a vote to legalize gay marriage, a position that Kerry doesn't support, and flying in the face of polls that show African-American voters largely oppose the measure. Michigan Democratic voters are also told by phone that their polling places had changed, resulting in perhaps thousands of Democratic voters either trying to vote in the wrong polling places (and being given provisional ballots that are largely discarded) or failing to vote at all. On Election Day, voters in Florida are treated to demonstrators purporting to be gay Kerry supporters from Fort Lauderdale, mincing around in flamboyant dress and waving signs advocating gay marriage. Of course, it turns out that none of these "get out the vote" efforts are sponsored by anyone affiliated with the Kerry campaign or the Democratic Party. The question is, then, if the Democrats didn't fund these suicidally stupid campaigns guaranteed to backfire, then who did?
- In a related campaign effort, Republican voters in Arkansas and West Virginia are told in flyers mailed out by the Republican National Convention that if elected, Kerry intends to ban the Bible, an insanely wrongheaded allegation that nevertheless energizes some recalcitrant conservative voters. Well after the elections, RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson confirms that the ad campaign originated in the RNC offices, in part under the auspices of outed RNC gays Dan Gurley, the national field director, and administrative director Jay Banning. (Gurley and Banning will tell gay activist Mike Rogers that their sexual identity was no secret at the RNC offices, and that they had the support of their fellow workers. Gurley refuses to discuss the "Ban the Bible" mailers, merely saying that he sometimes has "policy differences with any number of elected officials.")
- And Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, who is mandated by law to run a non-partisan election and remain uninvolved, flaunts the law by tape-recording "robo-calls" that are made to thousands of Ohio voters about the anti-gay Issue One. Blackwell, a conservative African-American, is key to reaching out to black church congregations; the fact that, by law, he is supposed to remain above the political fray means nothing to him or to Karl Rove. Ohio State political scientist Herb Asher recalls receiving one of Blackwell's automated calls urging him to vote for Issue One. "You f*cker," Asher remembers fuming. "I mean where are the ethics from the National Association of Secretaries of State to say he shouldn't be involved?" (Rove's justification is that Issue One and similar amendments in ten other key battleground states had "arisen organically" and had no connection with the Bush campaign, which is an abject lie: Rove orchestrated the amendments to the point of fixing their wording. As for Blackwell, the position is that he is merely exercising his rights as a matter of conscience. This, too is a downright lie.) (Al Franken [multiple sources], James Moore and Wayne Slater)
- November 1: The day before the election, Kerry is already down a million votes,
writes investigative journalist Greg Palast, because of voter purges and absentee ballots being discarded, mostly in overwhelmingly minority districts in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and New Mexico, where Hispanic voters have a 500% better chance of having their vote "spoiled" than white voters. A week before the election, Colorado secretary of state Donetta Davidson removed several thousand voters from the state's voter rolls, tagging felons as barred from voting. But unlike Florida and a few other Deep South states, it is perfectly legal for felons to vote in Colorado. Only those actually serving their sentence lose their rights. There has never been a single instance of a felon voting from prison, so to carry out this illegal purge, Davidson declared a putative "state of emergency" in Colorado. "However," Palast writes, "the only 'emergency' in Colorado seems to be President Bush's running dead even with John Kerry in the polls." Davidson, a Republican, knows that statistic show convicted felons vote 90% Democratic. Hence the purge. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, home of Cleveland, black voters are three times more likely to have their voter registration challenged than white voters. GOP plans to challenge the votes of 35,000 voters in Ohio, almost all black and almost all Democrats, was itself challenged by federal judges, so instead, the GOP has produced secret "caging" lists that will not be revealed until Election Day. "The voters on the 'caging' lists, disclosed last week by BBC Television London, are, almost exclusively, residents of African-American neighborhoods," Palast writes. "such racial profiling as part of a plan to block voters is, under the Voting Rights Act, illegal. Nevertheless, neither the Act nor federal judges have persuaded the party of Lincoln to join the Democratic Party in pledging not to distribute blacklists to block voters on Tuesday."
- Absentee ballots are another prime target for vote discarding. In some states, absentee ballot requests, largely prompted by concerns over electronic vote tampering, are up 500%. Over the country, 15 million absentee ballots will be cast. Many of those will not be counted. In Broward County, Florida, almost 60,000 requests for absentee ballots went unfilled. Broward's election supervisor is a Republican recently appointed by Governor Jeb Bush after Bush removed the elected supervisor, a Democrat.
- New Mexico is a particularly horrific example. "If the vote is stolen here, it will be stolen in Rio Arriba County," says a New Mexico politician. In 2000, 10% of the Rio Arriba votes went uncounted. Those votes are called "spoilage." In one Rio Arriba precinct, not one single vote for president was counted. Not coincidentally, Rio Arriba is 73% Hispanic, and in New Mexico, Hispanics tend to vote Democrat. According to Hamilton College's Dr. Philip Klinkner, a nationally recognized vote statistician, a Hispanic voter in New Mexico is 500% more likely to have his or her vote spoiled than a white voter, and the figures for Native American voters is worse. In 2000, over three million votes were spoiled, and almost half of those were cast by African-Americans. In Rio Arriba, Democrats have an eight-to-one registration edge over Republicans. Among African American voters, the number is even higher. How to counter that edge? Refuse to count the votes. Palast concludes, "The total number of votes siphoned out of America's voting booths is so large, you won't find the issue reported in our self-glorifying news media. The one million missing black, brown and red votes spoiled, plus the hundreds of thousands flushed from voter registries, is our nation's dark secret: an apartheid democracy in which wealthy white votes almost always count, but minorities are often purged or challenged or simply not recorded. In effect, Kerry is down by a million votes before one lever is pulled, card punched or touch-screen touched." (TomPaine, Greg Palast)
Bush "wins" second term in demonstrably stolen election
- November 2: In a hotly contested election marred by widespread allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities,
2004 presidential elections
George W. Bush narrowly defeats John Kerry for a second term as president of the United States. According to official results, Bush wins with a 2.7% margin of victory, the smallest margin of victory by a candidate since Woodrow Wilson. Aside from the 2000 election, won by Bush with just 5 votes in the Electoral College, his 279-252 victory is the smallest of any sitting president since Harry Truman. 12 million more voters go to the polls than in 2000, casting more votes than any election in US history. Though the official results have resulted in Bush's anointing as president, and Kerry will concede the election less than 24 hours later, the election results are still in doubt, with a firestorm of allegations of election-machine manipulation, voter intimidation, and other problems which may well have resulted in Bush being fraudulently re-elected. The results in the states of Ohio and Florida are particularly in question. See my Stolen! page for information on the vote fraud issue. The congressional elections give a similar victory to Republicans in the House and Senate, with Republicans tightening their control of both houses. Bush immediately declares that he has won a "mandate" from the American people and will govern accordingly for the next four years. (Wikipedia)
- November 2: Election day for the Bush campaign is frenetic.
2004 presidential elections
Bush casts his vote early that morning at the photogenically rural Crawford, Texas fire station, near his "ranch" in Texas. His pollster, Matthew Dowd, predicts a two-to-three point victory. "As you know, I'm a five-point man myself," Bush retorts. Kerry is, on paper, a formidable opponent, but his Vietnam experience, which contrasts so badly with Bush's questionable National Guard service, has been undercut by the expansive smear campaign orchestrated by the "independent" organization Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and Kerry's campaign had floundered in responding quickly and effectively. Kerry's position on Iraq is unclear, with Kerry saddled with the baggage of having voted to authorize military action against Iraq, and Kerry never being able to articulate a clear alternative to Bush's own war policies. All in all, Kerry came across during the campaign as indecisive and uncertain, whereas Bush succeeded in presenting himself as consistent and tough. (Note from the editor: This entire item is based on material from Bob Woodward's book State of Denial. I believe that Woodward's information is accurate, but Woodward believes the election results are fundamentally honest, and that perception informs his portrait of the events of the day. I disagree with that belief.)
- The initial reports, based on exit polling, are disheartening for the Bush campaign. "It doesn't look good," Dowd reports that afternoon to Karl Rove. Mississippi, a solid GOP state, only shows Bush winning the state by a single percentage point; the same thing is happening in another solidly red state, Alabama, Condoleezza Rice's home state. Bush is losing badly in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Virginia, considered a reliable Bush state, has Bush ahead by a single point. Colorado and Nevada are too close to call. "God d*mn," Rove sputters. "How can this happen?" Dowd is wrestling with the same question. "It's one of two things," he says. "Either these things are totally screwed up, or we fundamentally misunderstood the electorate, and I don't want to say its the second because that would say that we really didn't know what we were doing." Their campaign malpractice would become the stuff of legend. Rove tells Bush that he needs to comb through the numbers, but "either we're going to get blown out or something's fundamentally flawed with these numbers." Bush isn't as worried as Rove, Dowd, or Rice. "Well, let's see what happens," he advises. "We've been through this before." Bush knows the media has the same numbers all of his people have, and he doesn't want pictures going out over the airwaves of campaign officials looking anguished or despondent. "Everybody put their game faces on," he orders.
- Bush and his entourage are met at the White House by Andrew Card, who, by orders, is wearing the biggest grin he can muster. "There are smiles on all our faces," he reports. "I've seen the numbers," he says. "I don't believe the numbers. And not only that, you don't believe the numbers. So we are well positioned." Rice is a different story. For the first time in four years, her deputy Stephen Hadley recalls later, she looks frazzled. She even has a break in her usually picture-perfect posture. Rice ushers Hadley into her office, closes the door, and tells Hadley that the polls are indicating a blowout for Kerry.
- Bush's parents, George H.W. and Barbara, are staying the night at the White House, but they, along with the family friends in tow, agree to leave the president and his entourage alone. Besides, Barbara says, the elder Bush is so nervous about the results that his stomach is flaring up.
- Around 5 PM, Rove tells Bush that the exit polls are skewed. The pollsters are polling a greater percentage of women than actually voted, he believes, and they are accounting for more late deciders than there actually are. Rove is in shock. Everything, every argument and analysis he is making shows him these numbers have to be wrong, but he can't quite shake the doubts. Maybe the numbers actually are right. He figures if he is ever going to have a heart attack, it will come tonight. At 5:30, Rove yells at Rice, who comes into his office for an update, "Bad, bad, bad! I'm so pissed off I can't see straight."
- Head speechwriter Michael Gerson, the author of the infamous "axis of evil" State of the Union address, already has Bush's victory speech written. Now, he realizes, he had better get to work on drafting a concession speech. Bush will be gracious in defeat, Gerson decides, and already has the first line: "I just recelved a call from my opponent who is no longer my opponent. He is president-elect of the United States."
- At 7:15 PM, Rove shifts to the War Room, which has been converted, with all of its cutting-edge technology, into "election central" for the Bush campaign. Detailed maps and election numbers are available at the push of a few computer keys. The elder Bush arrives in the War Room two hours later, visibly nervous. Rove reports that Bush is leading in Ohio and Florida. At 11 PM, Card phones Kerry's campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill, to "give the Kerry campaign a nudge." Cahill is firm. "I don't know what your numbers are showing, but our numbers are showing that we're going to win. And if your numbers are showing that, we should probably think about scheduling a phone call. Do your numbers show that?" Card replies politely, "No." Cahill has no intention of being pushed into any sort of concession. "Okay, I am not pushing," Card says. "I am not pushing. That's it." At 11:30, the younger Bush enters the War Room and observes, "The election that will never end." He looks exhausted; he almost never stays up this late. He is outraged that none of the networks will call Florida for him yet, even though 95% of precincts have already reported. Ten minutes later, ABC calls Florida for Bush; the other networks follow suit. The War Room erupts in cheers.
- An hour later, Bush demands, "When will it end?" He wants to go to the Reagan Building, where his supporters are gathered, and declare victory. When can he go? Maybe an hour, Rove tells him. The networks aren't calling Ohio yet, though Rove is confident the state will go to Bush and tip the election to him. At 12:51 AM, Card decides the numbers are sufficient. "Congratulations," he says, turning to Rove, "we just won the election." Shortly after 1 AM, Card calls Cahill again. Cahill is still not budging. Can we expect a phone call? Card asks, implying that Kerry should concede. "We won't be calling you," Cahill retorts, implying that the Kerry campaign is expecting Bush's own concession. Shortly thereafter, two networks -- NBC and Fox -- call Ohio for Bush, but the others continue to hedge.
- Around this time, Bush campaign communications expert Mary Matalin is discussing the hanging elections with her husband, Democratic strategist James Carville. Carville is not part of the Kerry campaign, but he has excellent sources within the Kerry camp. During the conversation, Carville gives an astonishing piece of inside information to Matalin. Carville says that the Kerry campaign is going to challenge the provisional ballots in Ohio -- some 250,000 of them. "I don't agree with it," Carville tells his wife, "I'm just telling you that's what they're talking about." Matalin immediately informs Dick Cheney of the news. The provisional ballots, which likely won't be counted for days, could turn Ohio towards Kerry. Cheney is shocked and angered by the news. "You'd better tell the president," he tells Matalin; the two find Bush and tell him of the possible challenge. "They're going to contest it," Matalin tells Bush, who is ready to leave for the Reagan Building and declare victory. Matalin says someone needs to contact the Republican secretary of state for Ohio, Ken Blackwell, who will be in charge of any counting of provisional ballots. For Carville to alert the Bush campaign of the potential challenge is beyond belief.
- At 1:30 AM, Cahill tells the press: "The vote count in Ohio has not been completed. There are more than 250,000 remaining votes to be counted," she says, referring to the provisional ballots. "We believe that when they are, John Kerry will win Ohio." But the Bush campaign is ahead of the curve, thanks to Carville. Blackwell is aware of the situation. At 1:49 AM, Rove learns that the Nevada secretary of state is about to call the state for Bush. Barring a contested election in Ohio, that will give Bush the election. Rice is listening in, and tells Rove, "Congratulations, after all we did to screw it up."
- By 2 AM, Bush is in full demanding mode -- calling Rove every two or three minutes, demanding why he can't just declare victory and be done. Why don't the networks just call the election? Why isn't Kerry conceding? Why isn't the world abiding by reality? "He's going insane," Rove tells his aide Susan Ralston. White House communications director Dan Bartlett talks with one of the vice presidents of Fox News, whose CEO, Roger Ailes, had been the elder Bush's senior media consultant. Ailes is being careful this night not to talk directly with anyone from the White House, but the Fox official is relaying a message from Ailes. In 2000, Fox had been the first network to call Florida, and the election, for Bush. Ailes's message this time is, "You don't want me to be the first one to call it." At 2:43 AM, Bush, watching CBS and calling anchor Dan Rather "horrible," is told that he is leading the popular vote by 3.8 million. "If the popular vote made it," Bush says snidely to Rove, "I wouldn't be here." Rove reminds Bush that he is leading in the electoral vote.
- Bush receives a phone call from Britain's Tony Blair, who had gone to bed believing that Bush had lost. He is frankly stunned that Bush is still in the race. "Latest I've been up since college," Bush tells Blair. "I need one more state." Rove tells Bush that they will get a proposed statement from Ohio's Blackwell within a half hour. Blackwell is known for not playing along with party discipline. "I'm the president of the United States," Bush fumes, "waiting on a secretary of state who is a nut." Nevada is officially called for Bush, who snaps, "Can I get my coat?" Blackwell calls, and reports that there are no more than 175,000 provisional ballots in his state, making it virtually impossible for Kerry to overcome Bush's lead of around 140,000 votes. But Blackwell still won't call it.
- Reports come in that the networks are going to go off the air without calling the election. "They can't go off the air!" Rove shouts.
- At 3:36 AM, Mike McCurry, the former Clinton press secretary and a last-minute addition to the Kerry team, e-mails Nicole Devenish, the Bush campaign communications director, advising her off the record that the Bush team should not try to force a resolution just now. Don't pressure Kerry, he tells Devenish; if left to draw his own conclusions, McCurry says, Kerry will concede on his own. Bartlett tells Bush about the e-mail, summarizing McCurry's message as, "We'll do the right thing at the right time." Bush snarls that he is tired and going to bed.
- At 4:24 AM, Rove asks Card, "What should we do? Networks won't announce." Card believes they should declare victory. He wants to avoid another election debacle like Florida 2000, and it is important to begin managing perception. "We know we won," he advises. "We should declare it." They wake Bush and put him on speakerphone to the War Room. Card and former Bush campaign crony Jim Francis advise Bush to declare victory. It would be kind of a pre-emptive strike, they say. Otherwise the media will peck the situation to death. They have to fill the vacuum, provide the news, make the headlines "Bush Declares Victory!" The declaration will become reality. Francis says the Democrats will attempt to dispute Ohio and drag the election out, "and act like it's a 500-vote difference instead of 150,000 votes," a direct reference to Florida. They absolutely want to avoid getting mired in court challenges and recounts. But Matalin disagrees. The media might make a story of the declaration, and want to know why now and not, say, an hour before. Even Hadley, who rarely volunteers any opinions about political issues, weighs in. He absolutely opposes any precipitate declaration of victory. Pressuring Kerry might force him to fight back. Kerry will see for himself that he has lost if given the time he needs. "If you jam him, the lawyers will go and it's a mess." Bartlett agrees. Bush should stay put. He then says, "John Kerry, for seven hours or so, was president of the United States in his mind, and was being treated like it and acted like it." "Don't jam him," Hadley repeats. "He's absolutely right," Matalin choruses. Before long, Bartlett and Francis are in a heated argument. Over the speakerphone, Bush is mumbling about declaring victory. Bartlett knows that Bush, if challenged, will instinctively fight. Bartlett finally says to Bush, "You cannot go out there and put the crown on your own head. You just can't do it." After a moment, Bush replies, "Laura thinks the same thing. Laura doesn't think I ought to go out either." At 5 AM, Bush finally says, "Let's do it tomorrow." Hadley later calls it Bartlett's finest moment, holding off the cascade and avoiding a confrontation, with legions of lawyers and a huge mess. Of his own role in arguing against the stampede for victory, Hadley later jokes to a colleague, "That may be the most useful thing I did in four years." (Bob Woodward [multiple sources])
2004 presidential elections
A study of the political ads run by both the Bush and Kerry campaigns shows that Bush ran 49,050 negative ads (including repeats, of course) in the top 100 ad markets, while Kerry ran 13,336. 75% of Bush's television ads were negative as opposed to 27% of Kerry's. (Campaign Media Analysis Group/Al Franken)
- Frank Rich, the noted New York Times political columnist and media observer,
2004 presidential elections
writes in his 2006 book The Greatest Story Ever Sold that the conventional media wisdom that says Kerry made a mistake in bringing up Vietnam during the campaign is dead wrong. Conventional wisdom says that by making Vietnam such an issue during the campaign, Kerry brought the slanderous wrath of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth upon himself, and moreover, Americans didn't want to replay the Vietnam debacle yet another time. Rich writes that the election "was not that simple."
- Both Kerry's Vietnam service and Vietnam as a comparison to Iraq were entirely relevant to the 2004 campaign, Rich writes. As with Vietnam, the news from Iraq got worse and worse as the year wore on. "What you're seeing on your TV screens," Bush said in May, was "desperation by a hateful few." But such dismissive denigration not only minimized the reality of the growing calamity in Iraq, it went against the feelings of the majority of Americans, who, according to one poll after another, are increasingly uneasy about the war and feel less safe by the day because of the war. Insurgent attacks have spiked month after month, and the September 2004 ascension of Bush's handpicked prime minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi was hardly effective; even the most cursory examination of Allawi revealed him to be little more than a Bush sockpuppet. Kerry was not wrong to bring up Vietnam, writes Rich, but after doing so, he "choked." Rich writes, "It turned out he had almost nothing to say about the subject except that his military service proved that he was manlier than Bush. Yet nearly anyone could look manlier than a president who didn't even have the guts to visit the 9/11 Commission without his vice president as a chaperone. Kerry was a man's man not just because he had volunteered to fight in the war and Bush had avoided it. Kerry had also been brave when he came home from Vietnam and forthrightly fought against the war, on grounds that history upheld. But he hadn't been man enough to stand up for that part of his past during the campaign, and because he hadn't been, he was now doomed to keep competing with Bush to see who could best play an action figure on TV. In that race, it's not necessarily the man with the best military record but the best actor who wins. And Bush was easily the more practiced actor, with the more accomplished studio behind him besides. Kerry never understood that it takes a certain kind of talent to play dress-up and deliver lines like 'Bring 'em on' with a straight face."
- Kerry may have delivered his own coup de grace in August, when during a press conference against the backdrop of the Grand Canyon, he was asked if he still would have voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein if he had known then that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Kerry said he would. "Would Kerry also have answered that a senator should have voted to authorize the Vietnam War even if he knew that the Johnson administration had hyped North Vietnamese attacks on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin?" Rich asks, and answers, "Hardly. His answer about Iraq was a moment of supreme intellectual dishonesty that sullied his own Vietnam past as surely as the sleazy Swift Boat character assassins had." By taking that stance, Kerry put himself squarely behind the Bush administration's fraudulent push towards war, and ensured that voters would see little difference between himself and the "war president." Kerry never directly challenged the legitimacy of the war, but instead presented himself as a panderer of toothless band-aids to fix the Iraqi problem -- more international cooperation, more troops overseas. He hardly touched on the issues surrounding Abu Ghraib. "Yet," Rich writes with a measure of cold comfort, "it was a measure of how badly the war was going that a candidate as slandered and ineffectual as Kerry lost by only some three million popular votes in November, holding a president who had been king of the world after 9/11 to a bare 51% majority." (Frank Rich pp.147-9)
- Another myth that is soon debunked is that Bush won the election because a significant number of voters made their choice based on "moral values."
2004 presidential elections
This widely touted claim comes from a single badly constructed exit poll, where a group of voters was given a list of issued to choose from as most impacting their decision; 22% picked the category "moral values." 80% of those polled were Republicans, which in itself destroys the credibility of the poll; more accurately designed and broader-reaching polls show that voters are far more concerned with issues like the the economy, health care, and education, and, of course, terrorism, but that 22% share is far lower than voters choosing "moral values" in the two previous elections (35% in 2000 and 40% in 1996). And a Pew Center analysis shows that the question is poorly worded; because the category of "moral values" is so general as compared to the more specific choices given, it became a catchall category for everything from anti-abortion true believers to those concerned with aiding the poor to those who voted to be nice to one's mother, and, more importantly in pollspeak, became an easy alternative for "none of the above." More specifically worded polls put concerns about "moral values" issues such as abortion and gay rights in the single digits. ABC polling director Gary Langer later noted that the "moral values" bandwagon in the press "created a deep distortion -- one that threatens to misinform the political discourse for years to come."
- "It really is Michael Moore versus Mel Gibson," former House speaker Newt Gingrich says. Some even believe that a turning point of the election was the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" of singer Janet Jackson during the February Super Bowl, and the storm of outrage over the apparently inadvertent glimpse of Jackson's bared breast bestowed upon viewers, and an incident crowned by pundit William Safire as "the social-political event of the past year." Karl Rove crowed about voters' revulsion against what he calls "the coarseness of our culture, about what they see on the television screen, what they see in the movies," apparently unconcerned about the fact that in a political sense, he was responsible for the majority of the campaign sleaze and coarseness being broadcast on the nation's televisions. The "anti-abortion, anti-gay, socially conservative agenda is ascendant," gloats columnist Robert Novak. Rich writes that, for the Washington pundit corps, issues such as Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and the escalating terror alerts are suddenly irrelevant, relegated to the wings in favor of voters' concerns over a flash of female skin, their "revulsion" over Whoopi Goldberg's scatological jokes about Bush during a Kerry campaign rally, the anti-gay marriage amendments on so many state ballots, and John Kerry's "tasteless" reference to Mary Cheney's lesbianism. The press took the "moral values" story and ran away with it.
- It doesn't take a poll to show that many millions of voters' primary issue is terrorism, or more accurately, the fear of terrorism. As satirical political commentator Al Franken writes, "Every one of the roughly 23 million voters who thought terrorism was the number one issue (if you believe this stupid exit poll) is a person who used to think something else was the number one issue. That is, before 9/11, and and Bush's constant reminders of 9/11, scared the sh*t out of them. Some of these people were probably "moral values" voters in 2000. Some of them were probably "economy/jobs" voters. And a lot of them were probably "non" voters. That is, they didn't vote. But now they did. And even though...9/11 happened while Bush was president, that's not what mattered. What mattered was that through the skillful use of scary wolves [a reference to an October attack ad from the Bush campaign] and other subconscious and not-so-subconscious 'priming' techniques, Bush, Rove, Rush Limbaugh, and company had ensured that on November 2, 2004, as they entered the voting booth, Americans had one thing on their minds. Voting. Voting for that guy, the one who's gonna protect them from terrorism. On that day, on that terrible day -- 11/02 -- 86 percent of terrorism voters went for Bush."
- Of course, Democrats reacted predictably; as Rich writes, "flagellating themselves with a vehemence worthy of [Gibson's lurid religious film] The Passion of the Christ. They spoke incessantly of their need to find religion and connect with 'values voters.' They sought out liberal evangelical leaders such as Jim Wallis to tutor them en masse in ostantatious piety. The Republican right, for its part, saw an opening to use the 'values' mandate to shove its own values down people's throats." The fact that 60% of Americans polled support either gay marriage or civil unions, and 55% are in favor of abortion, is forgotten. "Kerry's defeat notwithstanding, it was blue America, not red, that was inextorably winning the culture war," Rich writes, "and by a landslide." But the media, led by the nose by religious culture warriors preaching televised Armageddon and selling their Left Behind books, itself preaches otherwise. (Al Franken, Frank Rich p.151)
- Another interesting aspect of the Republicans' attack on Kerry over abortion rights involves the lie that in 1992, then-Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey, a conservative Democrat, was denied the opportunity to speak at the Democratic convention because of his anti-abortion views.
GOP campaign strategies
In reality, Casey was not allowed to speak because he refused to endorse candidate Bill Clinton. Of course, the lie about Casey burns through the media, fueling the GOP strategy of painting the Democrats as a thoroughly pro-choice party. Former Clinton strategist Paul Begala calls this out on his CNN show Crossfire, where he nails co-host Robert Novak down on Novak's attempt to promulgate the smear. (As Begala's colleague James Carville says, "You'd have to be an idiot to give a speaking role to someone who hasn't even endorsed you.") In 1992, many anti-abortion Democrats, including John Breaux, Richard Daley Jr, Howell Heflin, and future Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, did speak at the 1992 convention and conventions thereafter, including 2004's edition.
- Karl Rove and other GOP strategists decided well in advance that gay marriage and abortion rights will be two key "wedge issues" designed to split Democratic voters and inflame conservatives, even though Kerry is quite limited in his support for both measures. Sparked by the fall 2004 gay civil unions in San Francisco, GOP pundits predicted that it wouldn't be long before Democrats were demanding legislation legalizing bestiality and child predation, exemplified by GOP senator Rick Santorum's declaration that the US was heading for state-sanctioned "man on child, man on dog" relationships. Bush changes his 2000 stance that gay rights is an issue "best left to the states," and proposes a Constitutional amendment "in defense of heterosexual marriage" that would ban gay marriages and civil unions.
- The Family Research Council, headed by White House religious advisor Tony Perkins, claims in its book Getting It Straight that homosexuality is never natural or genetic, but always "springs from early experiences in the home, such as child abuse." Which raises the question: did Dick and Lynne Cheney abuse their lesbian daughter Mary? Did Phyllis Schafly abuse her gay son Jeremy? Did Alan Keyes abuse his lesbian daughter Maya? Was Newt Gingrich's sister Candace abused as a child? As far as anyone can ascertain, the answers to these question is uniformly "no." As political satirist Al Franken writes, "Did anyone in the White House leadership actually agree with the FRC's perverted view of homosexuality, and disagree with the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics? I really doubt it. But that didn't stop them from throwing bone after bone to the bone-craving Christian activists pushing anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives in eleven states. Every one of these initiatives passed. And Bush got...4 million additional evangelical votes." (New Republic/CNN/Al Franken)
- Several months after the election, comedian and political activist Whoopi Goldberg explains to Air America host David Bender why Kerry lost the election.
2004 presidential elections
Bender asks, "What happened to that guy who came back from Vietnam and showed such courage before the Senate committee?" Goldberg replies, "He was hijacked by a frightened group of people called the Democrats who believe in their own mind that their agenda is not worthwhile and therefore could not figure out how to fight for it. You see all the things that happened with Howard Dean, and all the little manipulations of people who, before we even began the campaign, were saying it's not going to be this person or this person, that's the guy we're nominating. Period. ...That for me was the first folly. I knew that no matter what else came that there was going to be a great change in our party. Now we are standing with our thumbs in our mouths going, 'What next?'"
(Air America Playbook)
- Political satirist Al Franken writes,
"[T]here was nothing new about the Christian conservative vote, unless you count the depths of the shamelessness with which it was wooed by Rove and company. The religious man-on-dog-and-pony show simply brought out the base. The fear-mongering terrified the middle. And the smear campaign convinced just enough of the terrified that Kerry couldn't protect them. That's how a terrible, unpopular president, a president who had misled his country into war and failed to produce a single net job by Election Day, a Republican facing an extraordinaryly united Democratic mobilization, managed to eke out a record-breakingly narrow victory. And them claim a mandate." As historians like myself understand, that's the true story of 2004. [Note that Franken does not completely accept the contention that vote fraud gave Bush the election.] But the ground troops of the religious right were fed a very different line. They were told that Bush owed his victory to them, and them alone. Richard Land, the Southern Baptist leader...put it simply: 'The faith factor was the difference in this election.'" And the religious right begins almost immediately to demand its due in return, including the appointment of Antonin Scalia as the Supreme Court's chief justice, along with other paybacks. Unfortunately for them, they will learn that the corporate oligarchs making up the Bush administration have relatively little use for them once the votes are counted and Bush is once again ensconced in the White House. (Al Franken)
- Republican talk show maven Rush Limbaugh later mocks Democratic voters for being "too stupid" not to be taken in by Republican dirty tricks on September 22, 2006.
GOP campaign strategies
He says, "I mean, you take a look at the average Democrat voter registration drive, you can take for every hundred thousand voters they register, the cumulative IQ would probably be less than a pencil eraser. So when it comes time for the election, half of them can be fooled in saying, 'No, it's not Election Day. It's tomorrow, Wednesday.' And they show up on Wednesday to vote when the polls are closed, and the Democrats claim a trick has been played on them. That's how stupid some of their voters are. ...You think I'm lying? That happened. Republicans did a dirty trick and sent a flier out a week early and said due to unfortunate circumstances, certain precincts, Election Day will be held on Wednesday, blah, blah, blah, blah. Democrats heard about it, this is such a dirty trick. They were worried because they knew it would work, because half their voters are stupid idiots! They have to be when you look at the way they vote." Crooks and Liars owner John Amato says in response, "You gotta love his 'blame the victim' mentality. Somehow, I don't think he was using the same line of reasoning (if you can call it that) when he was before the court [for drug charges]. Ah well, consistency is the hobgoblin of those of us with ethics and a respect for the law." (Crooks and Liars)
Bush and Kerry
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
-- Sinclair Lewis
Kerry concedes within hours of the initial results; Bush claims a "mandate"
"This election was not won by country club Republicans. I don't know if they exist. There are only country club Democrats. This election was won by people that carry lunch pails to work. I think that if it had just been policemen and firemen voting in this election, I would have won most -- you know, 90% of the vote." -- millionaire George W. Bush, who belongs to several country clubs, speaking to his cabinet, almost all of whom are millionaires and country club members, November 4, quoted by Bob Woodward
""Once the [Democratic] minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such." -- GOP activist Grover Norquist to the Washington Post, November 4
"I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11." -- Dick Cheney, November 5, 2004
- November 5: The first person on Bush's list to replace is Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Partisan Bush appointees
Bush meets privately with his national security advisor and intimate colleague Condoleezza Rice. Bush wants Rice to take the job. Rice is honored that he would consider her, she says, but she really thinks she ought to resign and go home. Bush won't hear of it. He wants to settle the Iraq situation, he says, and he wants to focus on one of Rice's personal priorities, securing a state for the Palestinians. Rice agrees to consider taking the position. She recommends that he name her deputy, Stephen Hadley, as his new national security advisor. "You know, Mr. President," she says, "you probably need new people. And you know, not just to move them around. You need new people because we've been through a terrorist attack, the worst terrorist attack in American history. We've been through two wars. You know, maybe you need a new team who can serve you." Bush is fractious: "Don't tell me what I need," he snaps. Rice forges ahead: "[T]he threshold issue for me is do I stay or not." Many people believe Rice wants to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. But the next day, Rice acquiesces. She will be the new Secretary of State.
- For many inside the administration, the biggest question mark is Rumsfeld. Bush is reluctant to ask him to resign, both out of a sense of loyalty and for fear of disrupting the war effort. Powell is the biggest advocate for change. He had previously told chief of staff Andrew Card, "If I go, Don should go." Rice, Hadley, and Card all support Rumsfeld's replacement, though they aren't clear on who should take his place. Card once again gets out his "hit-by-the-bus" book and pores over the list of possible replacements for Rumsfeld. He has numerous possibilities, from the eminently acceptable, including former Republican senator Dan Coats, who was considered for the job before Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz, to the unlikely, such as Powell's deputy Richard Armitage and Democratic senator Joseph Lieberman (supported by speechwriter Michael Gerson, who, at Card's behest, argues that Lieberman's appointment would prove Bush's willingness to be bipartisan). Even Fred Smith, the CEO of Federal Express, is an option, though he is apparently unwilling to take a government job. Senators John Warner and John McCain are other options, as is former New York City mayor Rudolph Giulani. Card's "sleeper" candidate is former Secretary of State and long-time Bush family "fixer" James Baker.
- He floats the idea of replacing Rumsfeld to Bush, and focuses hard on the choice of Baker as a perfect replacement. Bush is intrigued, but still unwilling to replace Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld himself plainly has no intention of leaving without being forced. Bush complains, "I've got Powell going. I'm going to have to replace Condi. Do I have to have some continuity in all of this? I feel more confident in making the change at State because I have Condi, in whom I have confidence. Where do I have the same confidence level for somebody, particularly in the middle of a war, at Defense?" Perhaps the key observation comes from Karl Rove, who points out that with the upcoming Senate hearings on the new nominee for attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, more hearings on a new Defense Secretary would make for too many Congressional hearings. More cogently, those hearings would probably turn into hearings on Iraq, a subject that no one in the White House wants to have too deeply explored. The idea of replacing Rumsfeld remains vague and undefined. For the time being, Rumsfeld is staying, though Card continues to push the idea with Dick Cheney and others; Cheney is a staunch Rumsfeld supporter, and he has the ear of the president like no one else. In mid-December Bush makes his final decision: Rumsfeld will stay. He isn't going to change Rumsfeld now. "That didn't mean he didn't want to," Card later says.
- Some changes at Defense are coming; Rumsfeld announces his intention to replace both Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, with Bush's approval. But their resignations will be stretched out to minimize the media impact of their departures. (Bob Woodward)
"Operation Phantom Fury;" US attacks Fallujah
- November 7: The US finally decides to do something drastic about Fallujah, that hotbed of Sunni insurgency.
Iraq war and occupation
General George Casey, the commander of all US forces in Iraq, plans "Operation Phantom Fury," which involves six Marine assault battalions and as many Iraqi battalions. Casey cordons off the city, leading most of the citizenry to evacuate and leaving a knot of suspected insurgents dug in for a defensive battle. Sunni delegates have asked for months for Fallujah to be left alone or, at best, treated like Najaf, where the Shi'ite Mahdi Army had occupied the holy mosque of Ali and were eventually allowed to leave. But not this time. Bush had won re-election, claiming a mandate to deal with Iraq as he sees fit, and the first national Iraqi governmental elections are only two months away. Casey and US ambassador John Negroponte had informed the White House that in order to ensure safe and peaceful elections, both the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr and the insurgents in Fallujah must be dealt with firmly, or the country will disintegrate.
- The US military later calls it "the heaviest urban combat that Marines and Army infantry soldiers have been involved in since the battle of Hue City in Vietnam." The fighting goes on over nine days, with the US killing between 1,000 and 2,000 suspected insurgents, with US losses between 70-95, and the Iraqis between 20 and 30 per battalion. The US commanders are most pleased with the fact that the Iraqis had stood and fought instead of running away. Around 60 of Fallujah's 250-some mosques suffer damage during the fighting; at least that many mosques are found to contain stores of weapons, a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Around 150,000 former residents are turned into refugees. The US media's coverage of the fighting is surprisingly limited, partially due to careful control of the reporting from the battle zones and partially because of the coverage allocated to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is reported near death. Most of the various leaders of the Arab world do not extend their approval to the attack, but few take hardline positions against the offensive. Perhaps the best news for the Americans is the severe degrading of the al-Qaeda forces within the city, though Iraq's senior al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, manages to escape. Still, the city is not thoroughly pacified, and though the city will never again be the center of insurgent activities as it was before the battle, the number and intensity of insurgent attacks in and around Fallujah will begin to increase again in the months and years following the battle.
- A year later, Italian state-run broadcaster RAI runs a documentary revealing that US troops used white phosphorus during the attacks, a napalm-like substance causing horrific chemical burns, as well as incendiary bombs very similar to napalm. The use of these substances violates the 1983 Chemical Weapons Convention. While human rights and antiwar organizations are horrified and protest the use of the chemicals, the US media downplays the use of white phosphorus and incendiary bombs, and there is little outcry among the general US citizenry. (Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Bob Woodward, T. Christian Miller)
- November 11: After reading Greg Palast's November 4 article entitled "Kerry Won," excerpted above,
a New York Times reporter e-mails Palast with two questions about his article. The questions illuminate just how seriously the Times and the mainstream media are interested in the massive vote fraud of 2004 that illicitly gave Bush the presidency for a second time running. The two questions are: "Are you a sore loser? Are you a conspiracy nut?" The next day, the Times runs the following headline: "Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried."
- November 13: Bob Jones III, the president of the conservative,
Christian evangelical Bob Jones University, writes an open letter to Bush, telling the newly re-elected president, "Undoubtedly, you will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by Biblican norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government." He advises Bush, "Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ." Jones adds, "In your re-election, God has graciously granted America -- though she doesn't deserve it -- a reprieve from the agenda of paganism." (Al Franken)
- November 14: The Iraqi city of Mosul erupts in violence, with insurgents ramping up attacks and half the city's police force walking off the job.
Iraq war and occupation
Ambassador John Negroponte tries to fly into the city but the rocket attacks force his plane to return to Baghdad, with Negroponte spouting profanities. General George Casey and his aide Jim Jeffrey fly into Mosul to assess the situation and, by the end of November, report back to the White House that, between the new epidemic of violence and the huge problems with the upcoming January 30 national elections, Iraq "was in deep sh*t." UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi begs Bush to delay the elections. The minority Sunnis are announcing they will boycott the elections; Brahimi wants to give them more time to accept their reduced role in Iraq's governance and decide to participate. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is asking for the same thing, and the Iraqi media is predicting a firestorm of violence around the elections. But Shi'ite religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wants the elections to go forward as planned, knowing that the elections will cement their dominance over Iraq's government. Bush wants the elections to take place as scheduled. "Everyone is for going ahead, right?" he asks in one NSC meeting, almost daring the participants to object. No one says anything. "Thank you for being strong," he tells them. "We gain nothing from delay. Sistani is right." The majority Shi'ites want the elections, Bush says, "and I'm supposed to say no?"
- Bush also orders that there be no interference in the elections by the US: "Let the chips fall where they may." But what that really means, as it turns out, is to let British intelligence handle the election manipulations. (Bob Woodward)
- Mid-November: Porter Goss's ascension to the directorate of the CIA causes fallout from within the agency.
Partisan Bush appointees
Deputy director for operations Stephen Kappes and his deputy, Michael Sulick, quit the agency after bitter clashes with Goss's chief of staff, Pat Murphy, depriving the agency of two veterans of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. Their abrupt departures cause an internal uproar inside the agency. (Bob Woodward)
Hastert's "majority of the majority" policy shuts out Democrats from the legislative process