>> IRAN WATCH CONTINUED...
Oppression reaches a milestone in Iran.
By Michael Rubin
Twenty-five years ago today, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stood triumphant in the holy city of Qom. For two days, millions of Iranians had flocked to the polls to vote in a referendum. The question was simple: "Do you want an Islamic Republic?" According to revolutionary authorities, 98.2 percent said yes.
Khomeini claimed victory. "By casting a decisive vote in favor of the Islamic Republic," he told enthusiastic crowds, "you have established a government of divine justice, a government in which all segments of the population shall enjoy equal consideration, [and] the light of divine justice shall shine uniformly on all...."
So began a quarter century of tyranny. In the weeks that followed, Iranians would awake to see pictures splashed across the front page of the official daily Ettelaat of government officials, intellectuals, and liberals before and after execution. Khomeini gave vigilantes tacit approval to sack the U.S. embassy, even while distancing himself from their actions. Looking back on her experience as a revolutionary, one elementary-school teacher told me during my first trip to Iran, "Khomeini promised us Islamic democracy, so we voted yes. By the time we realized we got another dictator, it was too late."
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the key issue is not degree of reform, but rather fundamental ideology. Iran's leadership uses the rhetoric of democracy to bestow respectability to one of the region's most brutal regimes. President Muhammad Khatami may call for democratic reforms, but he has never believed in universal suffrage. Writing in the official daily Keyhan while still a deputy in the Majlis [parliament], Khatami argued that ordinary people cannot comprehend God's will, and so the full privileges of democracy should only extend to those with clerical education. He has never repudiated his view.
Far from being on the path of reform and moderation, as is claimed by many European governments, access-seeking pundits, oil-company lobbyists, and Senator Arlen Specter (R., Penn.), the Islamic Republic continues to erode the basic human rights of its citizenry. Khatami, now more than halfway through his second term, has failed to implement a single substantive reform. On March 17, 2004, he quietly announced that he would no longer seek to push fundamental reform through the Majlis. No amount of negotiation with Khatami, even if he were sincere, would change the fact that he has neither the will nor the power to implement meaningful change.
Over the last five years, Iranian authorities have closed more than 50 newspapers. According to Reporters Sans Frontiers, the Islamic Republic has the second-greatest number of imprisoned journalists in the world. On July 11, 2003, Iranian authorities murdered Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi while she was in detention. Nevertheless, with Iranian state television tightly controlled and satellite access limited, it was possible on March 30, 2004, for Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi to claim with a straight face, "No country enjoys freedom, democracy, and the press freedom that currently exists in our country."
The fight against capital punishment is among the European Left's most popular causes. When it comes to Iran, however, there is only the silence of hypocrisy. Executions in Iran have risen proportionally to European trade. During the Khatami administration, application of the death penalty has ballooned. Iranian newspapers regularly document executions. For example, on February 14, 2004, Jomhuri Islami announced the public hangings of several youths, some less than 18 years old, in an orchard in the southwestern town of Mahshahr. Four days later, Sharq reported public hangings in Bandar-e Gaz's main square. On February 25, Jomhuri Islami announced the public hanging of Mohammad Ali Firouzi, only after he received 173 lashes.
Iranian women today mark a quarter century of oppression. While the American media applauds the struggle of women to win new rights throughout much of the Middle East, correspondents often fail to mention that in Iran, women fight for the restoration of basic rights taken away by the Islamic Republic. Human-rights groups may march against the French government's decision to ban the veil in French public schools, but they remain conspicuously silent about the Islamic Republic's enforcement of mandatory veiling.
The Islamic Republic's constitution does guarantee limited rights, but Iranian authorities use vigilante gangs to sidestep even these. Police fail to respond to calls as vigilantes break up crowded lectures in Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. In the late 1990s, Fedayin-e Islam, a shadowy group linked to Iran's intelligence ministry, assassinated a series of writers and intellectuals, a crime as yet unsolved, which has cast a pale over the reform movement. In 1999, armed vigilantes from Ansar-e Hezbollah attacked a student dormitory, setting off widespread protests. Authorities used the unrest as reason to crackdown on freedom of expression. Scores of students and dissidents arrested in the aftermath of the crisis still languish in Tehran's Evin Prison.
Iranians have lost faith in the Islamic Republic. Recent telephone polls indicate that 85 percent of Tehran's residents seek fundamental change. According to the Iran-based Organization of Combatant Youth, voter turnout in recent polls was just 14 percent. Iranians visiting Iraq last month reported that in rural districts (to which Western journalists are forbidden access), turnout hovered near seven percent. According to Majlis deputy Fatimah Haqiqatju, as quoted in the [New Jersey] Star-Ledger, "It has gotten to the point where it is impossible to accomplish political reform within the system. The fate of the country will be either dictatorship or collapse, although they [the clerics] should remember that the outcome of a dictatorship is also collapse."
Twenty-five years after Khomeini declared the Islamic Republic, nearly 70 million Iranians struggle to be free. It's imperative that we do not abandon them.
-- Michael Rubin is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Washington Rebuffs Offer by Chief U.N. Nuclear Inspector to Act as Go-Between With Iran
By George Jahn Associated Press Writer
Published: Apr 1, 2004
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Indications of continued nuclear cover-ups by Iran are nudging previously reluctant U.S. allies closer to Washington's view that Tehran should be penalized, European diplomats said Thursday.
The diplomats spoke to The Associated Press just days before chief U.N. nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei flies to Tehran. His mission could be jeopardized by a U.S. refusal to have him act as an intermediary with Iran.
The U.S. refusal appeared to be part of a strategy to wait and hope that new revelations in the coming weeks about Iran's nuclear program by ElBaradei's International Atomic Energy Agency would swing international sentiment behind Washington.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming disputed a U.S. assertion that ElBaradei's offer was spurned, saying senior State Department officials "made note" of his efforts.
ElBaradei's one-day Tehran visit begins Tuesday. His offer to mediate "wasn't taken seriously" during last month's talks in Washington with President Bush, an American official said.
The U.S. official and others said Washington felt there was nothing to discuss as long as suspicions remain about Iran's nuclear program, which America insists is geared toward making weapons.
Iran's nuclear ambitions first came under international scrutiny last year, when the IAEA discovered that Tehran had not disclosed large-scale efforts to enrich uranium, which can be used to generate power or in nuclear warheads. Finds of traces of weapons-grade uranium and evidence of suspicious experiments heightened concerns.
Critics say that Iran has since reneged on commitments to win international trust - such as a promise to suspend enrichment - as IAEA inspectors have discovered new evidence of past experiments that could be used to develop weapons.
Iran argues that it is honoring its suspension and all other pledges. In an allusion to the United States, Pirooz Hosseini, the chief Iranian delegate to the IAEA, told AP that criticism of his country's nuclear record was "propaganda ... coming from certain circles."
But Vienna-based diplomats said evidence continues to accumulate against Iran.
One cited intelligence from the United States and an unnamed country suggesting that within the past year, Iran had moved nuclear enrichment programs to smaller, easily hidden sites.
Another said IAEA inspectors had complained that they were forced to use Iranian equipment instead of their own cameras and devices to test for traces of enriched uranium at one site in February.
The Iranians "don't want the photos leaving the country, so the Iranians will in certain cases ... keep the photos and the cameras," one of the diplomats said.
Adding to the skepticism was Iran's weekend announcement that it inaugurated a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, 155 miles south of Tehran, to process uranium ore into gas - a crucial step before uranium enrichment.
Iran insists the move does not contravene its pledge to suspend enrichment. But Britain, France and Germany - who have blunted past U.S. attempts to come down hard on Iran - on Wednesday were critical. They said the Isfahan plant sent the wrong signal.
The Germans, French and British now think that "things are not going well," said a diplomat.
Last year, the three secured Iran's agreement to suspend enrichment and cooperate with the IAEA in exchange for promised access to western technology. They have stymied U.S. attempts to have Tehran brought before the U.N. Security Council for allegedly violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty.
The diplomats said willingness to believe Iran was fading. One said Iran's "cat and mouse tactics" boosted sympathy for the U.S. position.
Even if no "smoking gun" is found, Iran's past record could be reviewed and declared in violation of the Nonproliferation treaty, said another diplomat. That would open the way for Security Council involvement.
>> CHINA'S MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX?
Iran signs $20bn gas deal with China
Iran has agreed in principle to sell $20 billion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to China over the next 25 years.
Ignoring US energy sanctions on Tehran, the two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding to begin shipping LNG supplies in 2008, reported Middle East Newsline.
The Beijing-based Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp., a spin-off of China's defense and missile contractor, China North Industries Corp. - the target of US sanctions amid missile sales to Iran - would get an annual 2.5 million metric tons of Iranian LNG.
China is already a major oil customer of Iran.
Saudi royal replaced as investment chief
Saudi Arabia changed the head of its investment authority on Monday, replacing Prince Abdullah Bin Faisal Bin Turki with prominent businessman Amr Dabbagh.
Although Bin Faisal, a member of the Saudi royal family, had openly criticized the slow pace of privatization and the failure to open up major sectors in the oil-rich kingdom to foreign investors, he said that he was bowing out for purely personal reasons.
Dabbagh chairs the Jeddah Marketing Board, and is president and chief executive officer of the Jeddah-based Dabbagh Group of Companies, which comprises 28 firms operating in various businesses in 30 countries.
The outgoing investment chief insisted that although he had been "transparent about our problems and issues" during his tenure, this is not why he was stepping down.
"I have spent 29 years in public service and I wanted to take time off to look after my family," said Bin Faisal, a former chairman of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu.
In interviews with
AFP in the past few months, Bin Faisal complained about the failure to open up major sectors to foreign investors and said government departments had to eliminate red tape and make way for privatization and reform.
With Bin Faisal in the helm, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has, since its establishment in April 2000, licensed some 2,000 projects worth more than 52 billion Saudi riyals ($14 billion), in which the share of foreign investors totals 85 percent. But Bin Faisal argued this was by no means satisfactory in a market the size of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government endorsed a plan to open up 20 vital sectors to local and foreign private investors 18 months ago, in a bid to generate tens of billions of dollars to pay for a staggering public debt, improve services, and create more jobs for nationals.
The plan opened up telecommunications, water desalination, air transport, airport services, construction and management of highways, seaport services, and local oil refineries to the private sector.
But sectors such as oil exploration, security, retail and wholesale, education, and land and sea transport are among activities still barred to foreign investors.
Chalabi `will be cleared'
The Iraqi National Congress (INC) has issued a statement claiming that its leader, Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi, will soon be cleared of alleged wrongdoing in the bankruptcy of a Jordanian bank.
"New information, never released before, about the bankruptcy of Jordan's Petra Bank will soon emerge and demonstrate that the bank's hardships were tailor-made by... senior Jordanian officials," INC spokesman Entifad Qanbar told reporters.
He charged that these officials, whom he did not identify, were in the pay of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and allegedly worked hand in hand with members of the ousted regime to bring about the bank's collapse.
Chalabi, a secular member of Iraq's majority Shia community and a key US ally in post-Saddam Iraq, has been convicted in absentia by a Jordanian court of fraud and embezzling $288 million from Petra Bank into Swiss bank accounts. But Chalabi has always maintained that his conviction was the result of a plot by the Saddam regime to frame him.
Qanbar dismissed the case against Chalabi as a "farce" and said the new information that would be made public soon "will convince the world that the whole issue was planned," adding that "internationally known legal experts will reveal this scandal."
Secret bunkers held chemical weapons, says Iraqi exile
April 1, 2004
A scientist describes Saddam's weapons and stealth technology programs, reports Russell Skelton.
For seven years, before he was tortured and sentenced to death, Rashid (not his real name) worked at the top of Iraq's scientific establishment. He says he regularly met Saddam Hussein and his cousin and strongman deputy prime minister Abdul Tawab Huweish. After the Gulf War he was put in charge of a taskforce code named "Al Babel" to develop stealth technology to make aircraft and missiles undetectable on radar.
Rashid, who now lives in Melbourne, also claims to have had access as a trusted insider to secret underground bunkers where chemical weapons were stored. "Saddam gave me access to everything, he was so desperate to perfect the stealth technology," he says.
Now Rashid's great fear is that Saddam loyalists still active in postwar Iraq may get to the chemicals and weapons he saw hidden away before fleeing for his life.
"If those weapons still exist, the worry is that they will be used against the Iraqi people, the US forces or even sold off to al-Qaeda. Maybe those weapons no longer exist, but I find it hard to believe they could disappear so easily," he says.
Rashid's days of working at the top came to an abrupt end in 1998 when he was arrested with a group of other scientists and army officers on charges of plotting to remove Saddam. He was taken to a high-security jail in the centre of Baghdad, run by the Mukhabarat (secret police), where he was tortured for three weeks, suffering severe spinal injuries.
Rashid was then transferred to the Abu Ghraib jail outside Baghdad for execution. "Each morning prisoners were executed. Some were shot and some were hung. I could see the executions from my cell window. You lived in a constant state of terror because you never knew who was next."
Rashid says he escaped when a high-ranking military officer and close friend bribed the guards to swap his file with that of an executed prisoner. "On visiting day I just walked out. Everything had been arranged; I had false travel documents that got me and my family across the border to Syria," he says.
Rashid's problems did not end there. The Iraqi secret police came looking for him at Damascus University where he taught physics part time, and he fled to Melbourne on an Emirates flight. He says he left his wife and family behind because the family had money to buy only a single ticket and at that stage he was the one whose life was in immediate danger.
Rashid has told The Age he knows of five secret storage bunkers around Baghdad, Basra and Tikrit, three of which he visited regularly as a top scientist and senior employee of Iraq's now defunct Atomic Energy Commission.
One, he says, was under an island in the Tigris River near Saddam University. Another was beneath the house of one of Saddam's cousins, and reached by a tunnel with a hidden entrance 800 metres away.
He described the bunkers as being built 15 metres underground, of reinforced concrete, and multi-storeyed. "Between these layers, pipes would rise up, through the building above to provide access for ventilation.
"The lethal chemicals were stored in drums and the bunkers were air-conditioned. But there were also artillery shells and 122-millimetre rockets armed with chemicals."
He says the sites had been built using foreign construction companies, including a company from China, and that nobody was allowed to approach without authorisation and extensive ID checks by the Special Republican Guard.
Rashid says meeting Saddam was always a bizarre experience. "Suddenly his people would appear unannounced. They would take you to a location and examine you carefully: mouth, hands, eyes and ears. Then you would be taken to another place and checked again. This could happen up to three times. Finally he would come into the room."
Rashid says Saddam was moody but was always on top of what was discussed, and read all scientific reports sent to him. "Nothing ever happened unless he approved it. That included the purchase of special equipment, sending people overseas to be trained. If you told him a project would take six months to complete, he would want it in four months."
After arriving in Australia, Rashid was issued with a temporary protection visa.
Even though Rashid's wife and four children have been processed and found to be refugees by the UNHCR in Syria, they remain stranded there. Australia's immigration laws prevent TPV holders access to family reunion and they have not been issued with a visa.
Although Rashid is known to authorities in Australia, he asked that his real name not be published, to protect him and his family from Saddam loyalists still active in Iraqi communities in and outside Australia.
"It's still too dangerous for us to speak out; I don't know who to trust. There are former army officers living in Australia who were close to Saddam," he says.
Kerry can't recall being at '71 parley
By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff, 4/1/2004
Senator John F. Kerry said through a spokesman this week that he has no recollection of attending a November 1971 meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War at which some activists discussed a plot to kill some US senators who backed the war.
"Senator Kerry does not remember attending the Kansas City meeting," Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan said in a statement to the Globe in response to written questions about the matter. "Kerry does not remember any discussions that you referred to," the statement added, referring to the assassination plot.
In the past couple of weeks, some media and Internet reports have raised questions about whether Kerry was at the meeting and, if he heard about the assassination plot, whether he alerted authorities.
Kerry has long been portrayed as not being at the Kansas City, Mo., meeting because Kerry recalled quitting the organization at an acrimonious July 1971 session, four months before the November meeting at which the assassination plot was discussed.
But last week, the Kerry campaign seemed to leave open the possibility that he had attended the November session, after historian Gerald Nicosia said he had found an FBI document that he said indicated that Kerry was there. As a result of Nicosia's assertion, Kerry's campaign said in a statement that while Kerry did not remember being at the meeting, "If there are valid FBI surveillance reports from credible sources that place some of those disagreements in Kansas City, we accept that historical footnote in the account of his work to end the difficult and divisive war."
The assassination plot was suggested by antiwar activist Scott Camil. Camil and Kerry knew each other well; the two were together during the April 1971 protests on the Mall in Washington. In a telephone interview from his Florida home, Camil confirmed historical reports that he had suggested a vague plot aimed at prowar senators, but he said he has no recollection of seeing Kerry at the meeting.
"He had nothing to do with this," Camil said. "I don't remember seeing him there."
Another person at the Kansas City session, Larry Rottmann, also said he does not remember seeing Kerry there. A third key player, Randy Barnes, who headed the Kansas City chapter that hosted the meeting, has been quoted in the media as saying Kerry was there. But in a telephone interview, Barnes said he may have confused that session with an earlier one in St. Louis and now is unsure whether Kerry attended the Kansas City function.
"Quite honestly, I am not absolutely certain that John Kerry was at that meeting," Barnes said about the Kansas City session. "A meeting occurred in St. Louis and one occurred in Kansas City. I thought the Kansas City meeting was first."
But Barnes said he now realizes that "the St. Louis meeting was first. What I had thought was a certain thing, I am absolutely not sure now."
In any case, Barnes said, the plot suggested by Camil was never taken seriously and was quickly shouted down. As for Kerry, Barnes said, "John constantly gave an impassioned plea to be nonviolent, work within the system."
Many members of the organization agreed with Barnes that Kerry sought to moderate the group and that he quit the organization in 1971 when he could not come to terms with some of the more radical members the group.
Nicosia's history of the antiwar movement, "Home to War," says that Kerry resigned from Vietnam Veterans Against the War at a St. Louis meeting in July 1971 after a shouting match with another member. That reinforced the belief that Kerry was not in Kansas City in November 1971.
But two weeks ago, Nicosia said he examined some FBI reports that he had obtained during research for his book but had not reviewed. One report said Kerry was at the November meeting in Kansas City. The report, from an unnamed confidential source, said "John Kerry, a national VVAW leader, appeared at the meeting and announced to those present he was resigning from the executive committee for personal reasons; however, he would be available to speak for VVAW." The report does not mention discussion of a plot to kill senators; instead, it mentions that the group planned activities such as "a fast, a vigil, and guerrilla theater."
But another FBI report from the same period adds that an informant at the Kansas City meeting heard a "vastly more militant posture," prompting an FBI official to add this cautionary note: "Some information reports by various informants is at variance and considering extreme importance of developments in this matter and intense interest of other government agencies, it is essential that full details of meeting be ascertained accurately and immediately." The reports indicate that the FBI information about Kerry came not from FBI agents but from informants who fed information to the government. Thus, the reliability of the reports is difficult to verify.
Moreover, Nicosia has made public only about 50 of the 20,000 pages of FBI files as a result of an 11-year effort under the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI has not authorized a separate release of the files, although it is studying pending requests. Separately, Nicosia said Sunday that someone had broken into his home and stolen some of the files, and the case is under investigation.
Michael Kranish can be reached at email@example.com
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
Kerry Author: Stolen FBI Files Were 'Very Explosive'
FBI files documenting Sen. John Kerry's anti-war activities that were reported stolen over the weekend could have damaged the likely Democratic nominee's presidential bid, the San Francisco author who obtained the records said Monday.
Asked about the missing files, Vietnam War historian Gerald Nicosia told CNN: "This stuff is very explosive. It's an enormous amount of information."
"The police say it was a neat and professional burglary," he explained, noting that 3,000 to 4,000 pages were missing out of a total of 20,000 pages. Burglars ignored other valuables in the house, raising questions about whether the break-in had anything to do with political damage control on behalf of the Kerry campaign.
A Kerry spokesman had no comment on the apparent theft when asked by the New York Sun over the weekend. But Nicosia said he suspects political foul play, telling the Los Angeles Times for Tuesday's edition that he is a product of the Watergate era who understands the allure of political sabotage.
While researching his book "Home to War," Nicosia obtained Kerry's FBI files in 1999. The records have already proven problematic for the Kerry campaign, forcing the candidate to reverse earlier denials that he attended a November 1971 meeting of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War where a plot to assassinate pro-war U.S. senators was discussed.
Nicosia told the Sun that the intruders likely wanted more than the three file boxes that were removed, since other boxes appear to have been rifled. He speculated that the file thieves were interrupted, perhaps scared off by a neighbor's barking dog.
Since the break-in he has trouble sleeping, he told the Times, adding, "My kids were really spooked by the burglary."
Treasury Analyzes Kerry's Tax Proposals
Thursday, Apr. 01, 2004
WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department directed career employees to analyze tax ideas proposed by presidential candidate John Kerry and other Democrats after a request from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, officials said Wednesday.
The Republican National Committee posted an interactive feature on its Web site that attaches the largest of those cost estimates to Kerry's plan to raise taxes paid by the wealthiest taxpayers.
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said he was unaware of anyone at the White House approving the Treasury's decision to analyze Kerry's tax plan.
Although federal law prohibits civil servants from working on political campaigns while on duty, Treasury Department attorneys concluded the work was appropriate, Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols said.
"That's a core functionality of the department," Nichols said. "Doing the analysis is proper, it's prudent, it's appropriate. It's our obligation to do it."
The Treasury Department posted the analysis on its Web site March 22, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
DeLay requested the cost analysis to better counter Democratic attempts to amend budget and tax legislation with tax increases on higher-income taxpayers, DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy said. A group of Republicans had also considered using the results to assemble a "Kerry budget" for debate during last week's budget deliberations, he said.
"If you get a specific number on what those proposals actually bring in, then you can hold the Democrats accountable for their spending," Roy said.
Dems Say Foul
Democrats said the Treasury Department used their civil servants inappropriately.
"The Bush administration has an ugly habit of using the federal government for its political agenda," said Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said, "It was coercion. If they had refused to do it and they were made to do it, it's illegal."
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., asked the agency's inspector general to determine whether laws were violated.
The Office of Special Counsel advises that federal employees cannot "use official authority or influence to interfere with an election" or "engage in political activity while on duty." The office is an independent agency charged with investigating and prosecuting violations of federal personnel laws.
The Treasury Department analyzed the effect of three tax increases on individuals and couples who earn $200,000 or more. Kerry has pledged to roll back President Bush's tax cuts for those earning $200,000 or more.
The first would repeal a tax cut that reduced the top marginal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 36 percent. The second would repeal dividend and capital gains tax cuts for taxpayers earning $200,000 or more. The third would prevent taxpayers earning $200,000 or more from claiming full personal exemptions and itemized deductions.
The analysis concluded that "hardworking individuals and married couples could have their taxes raised" by amounts that ranged from $201 billion to $477 billion.
The RNC's "John Kerry Spendometer" states on its Web site: "Tax Plan: $658 billion over 10 years! Raising taxes on the top income bracket: $477 billion over 10 years."
? 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Herein lie stories of coincidence and chance: What do the Final Four, the Rule of 14, and middle names have to do with the 2004 presidential elections?
by Bill Whalen
03/30/2004 12:00:00 AM
SPRING HAS SPRUNG, which politically means it isn't pollen season but instead the pallid period between the primaries and the conventions. For scribes and pundits, that means open season for all sorts of crackpot thinking.
A warning: a few of these conspiracy theories, even Oliver Stone might dismiss. But hopefully it's enough to keep you entertained until there's real campaign news to report . . . or John Kerry's next round of extreme sports . . . or another "tell-all" book by a disgruntled bureaucrat.
"Height makes might" ain't always right. From 1904 to 1984, the taller presidential candidate won 80 percent of the time. But not so in the 2000 election: George W. Bush bested the taller Al Gore, who earlier had dismissed the less vertically challenged Bill Bradley. Note to the Bush campaign: the moment the lanky Kerry starts calling himself a "New Age Rail Splitter," remind voters that Teddy Roosevelt was only 5'8".
The presidential "Rule of 14." For the party out of power, the dream candidate makes a 14-year climb to the White House. It's true of Ronald Reagan (elected governor of California in 1966; president in 1980); Bill Clinton (elected governor of Arkansas in 1978; president in 1992); Jimmy Carter (first ran for office in 1962; won the presidency in 1976); and John F. Kennedy (first elected to the U.S. House in 1946; elected president in 1960). Under this rule, Kerry should scratch his first Senate term from his r?sum? and reset his political clock to 1990 (which would also eliminate some now-regrettable votes).
What's in a name? In the 19th Century, gentlemen-candidates who publicly sported a middle name tended not to be two-term presidents: John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison, James Knox Polk, James Abram Garfield. It may partially explain why Grover Cleveland dropped his first name, Stephen, from his political persona (that, and his family's habit of addressing each other by their middle names). If the election remains tight after Labor Day, will the New York Times suddenly change its style rule to "George Walker Bush"?
"4" Factor. Since the advent of the two-party system, only once has the party that won in a "0" year election lost it in the subsequent "4" year contest. That was 1884, when one-and-out Republican Chester Alan Arthur (there's that pesky middle name again) chose not to run. Two differences between then and now: Arthur inherited the presidency after Garfield's assassination; and the GOP had controlled the White House for the previous 24 years (whereas the White House changed party hands four times in the 24 years from 1976 to 2000).
Hoop dreams? . . . From 1940 to 1972, the home state of the NCAA men's basketball champ also voted for the winning presidential candidate (the lone exception: 1960, when Ohio State won it all and Nixon didn't). Since 1988, the tournament has alternated from winner to loser, this year being the winning candidate's turn to carry the champ's state. The advantage here: Bush. Three of the teams in next weekend's "Final Four"--Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Duke--come from Republican "red" states. If you're a Democrat, the Connecticut Huskies are your team.
. . . Or field of dreams? Here's an oddity that might interest our baseball-loving president. Five times over the past century--the elections of 1912, 1932, 1960, 1976, and 1992--a Democrat has replaced a Republican in the White House. In each of those years, the winning Democrat also carried the home states of the two teams that played in the previous month's World Series. For Kerry, it's one more reason to pull for a Cubs-Red Sox series, with Massachusetts and Illinois safe Democratic bets. Then again, all bets are off if that occurs, as Hell will have frozen over.
Fair warning. Yale economist Ray Fair has a model for predicting the outcome of two-party votes, based on economic variables such as inflation and GDP growth. In early February, he predicted 58.7 percent of the two-party vote for Bush (up from 58.3 percent in October). It's bad news for Kerry. Since he started this voting forecast back in 1978, Fair has never misgauged the incumbent party's vote by more than 1.9 percent.
State(s) uncertain. Call it the "something's-got-to-give" election. If Bush wins, odds are he becomes the first president to be elected and reelected without once carrying California. Kerry, meanwhile, could be the first Democrat to win despite going 0-for-the-Confederacy (13 southern and border states, including Missouri). The last president to win with no help whatsoever from the South: William Howard Taft, in 1908. Like Kerry (and Bush), Taft was a Yalie--albeit more interested in snow cones than snowboarding.
UNFORTUNATELY, there are two "x" factors still to be determined. They're the ones that matter most--and we won't know them until sometime in November: how many votes will Bush receive, and how many states will he carry?
No president has ever been reelected without receiving a net-gain in votes over his first election. That's true for both two-time landslide winners (Reagan's vote total went up 25 percent in 1984; Eisenhower's 21.6 percent in 1956) as well as two-time plurality winners (Clinton received a 5.5 percent boost in 1996). Bush is the first president since Benjamin Harrison, in 1888, to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Harrison received 4.6 percent fewer votes in his reelection campaign, resulting in a net loss of four states and no second term.
As for states, Bush carried 30 of them in 2000, the lowest winning total in a 50-state election since Carter racked up a mere 23 states in 1976 (in a reversal of today's red-blue divide, Carter carried all of the Confederate states, save Virginia, plus Republican mainstay Ohio). Can Bush suffer a net loss and still win a second term? With a cushion of eight electoral votes among the red states, he can drop New Hampshire, or West Virginia, or Nevada--but not any combination of two or more of those states he won in 2000.
But there's another reason why Bush can't afford to regress, and it has to do with the president's predecessor. Bill Clinton won 31 states in 1996, one fewer than in 1992. While Clinton cruised to reelection with 379 electoral votes (9 more than in 1992), he left anything but fertile ground for Al Gore. Clinton carried Arizona and Colorado in 1992, then surrendered them back to the GOP in 1996--and they stayed "red" for Bush. In 2000, Tennessee and Arkansas--Clinton and Gore's home states, which voted Democratic in 1992 and 1996--also went Republican. So much for an Electoral-College bridge to the 21st Century.
For Republicans already thinking beyond this November, it's not enough for Bush to win. He has to build a cushion for the next GOP nominee who comes along in 2008, lest that candidate suffer the same indignity as Gore.
Which means adding one more adage to the list: in presidential elections, winning is everything--but size also matters.
Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.
? Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
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