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COLUMN NINETY-FIVE, AUGUST 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)


krugman@nytimes.com 

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BY PAUL KRUGMAN

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1. TOWARD ONE-PARTY RULE

Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Toward One-Party Rule
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2003 15:17:37 -0500 (EST)
From: info@blacklistedjournalist.com 
To: info@blacklistedjournalist.com 

June 27, 2003

Toward One-Party Rule

By PAUL KRUGMAN

In principle, Mexico's 1917 Constitution established a democratic political system. In practice, until very recently Mexico was a one-party state. While the ruling party employed intimidation and electoral fraud when necessary, mainly it kept control through patronage, cronyism and corruption. All-powerful interest groups, including the media, were effectively part of the party's political machine.

Such systems aren't unknown here " think of Richard J. Daley's Chicago. But can it happen to the United States as a whole? A forthcoming article in The Washington Monthly shows that the foundations for one-party rule are being laid right now.

In Welcome to the Machine, Nicholas Confessore draws together stories usually reported in isolation " from the drive to privatize Medicare, to the pro-tax-cut fliers General Motors and Verizon recently included with the dividend checks mailed to shareholders, to the pro-war rallies organized by Clear Channel radio stations. As he points out, these are symptoms of the emergence of an unprecedented national political machine, one that is well on track to establishing one-party rule in America.

Mr. Confessore starts by describing the weekly meetings in which Senator Rick Santorum vets the hiring decisions of major lobbyists. These meetings are the culmination of Grover Norquist's "K Street Project," which places Republican activists in high-level corporate and industry lobbyist jobs " and excludes Democrats. According to yesterday's Washington Post, a Republican National Committee official recently boasted that "33 of 36 top-level Washington positions he is monitoring went to Republicans."

Of course, interest groups want to curry favor with the party that controls Congress and the White House; but as The Washington Post explains, Mr. Santorum's colleagues have also used "intimidation and private threats" to bully lobbyists who try to maintain good relations with both parties. "If you want to play in our revolution," Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, once declared, "you have to live by our rules."

Lobbying jobs are a major source of patronage " a reward for the loyal. More important, however, many lobbyists now owe their primary loyalty to the party, rather than to the industries they represent. So corporate cash, once split more or less evenly between the parties, increasingly flows in only one direction.

And corporations themselves are also increasingly part of the party machine. They are rewarded with policies that increase their profits: deregulation, privatization of government services, elimination of environmental rules. In return, like G.M. and Verizon, they use their influence to support the ruling party's agenda.

As a result, campaign finance is only the tip of the iceberg. Next year, George W. Bush will spend two or three times as much money as his opponent; but he will also benefit hugely from the indirect support that corporate interests " very much including media companies " will provide for his political message.

Naturally, Republican politicians deny the existence of their burgeoning machine. "It never ceases to amaze me that people are so cynical they want to tie money to issues, money to bills, money to amendments," says Mr. DeLay. And Ari Fleischer says that "I think that the amount of money that candidates raise in our democracy is a reflection of the amount of support they have around the country." Enough said.

Mr. Confessore suggests that we may be heading for a replay of the McKinley era, in which the nation was governed by and for big business. I think he's actually understating his case: like Mr. DeLay, Republican leaders often talk of "revolution," and we should take them at their word.

Why isn't the ongoing transformation of U.S. politics " which may well put an end to serious two-party competition " getting more attention? Most pundits, to the extent they acknowledge that anything is happening, downplay its importance. For example, last year an article in Business Week titled The GOP's Wacky War on Dem Lobbyists dismissed the K Street Project as "silly " and downright futile." In fact, the project is well on the way to achieving its goals.

Whatever the reason, there's a strange disconnect between most political commentary and the reality of the 2004 election. As in 2000, pundits focus mainly on images " John Kerry's furrowed brow, Mr. Bush in a flight suit " or on supposed personality traits. But it's the nexus of money and patronage that may well make the election a foregone conclusion.

              Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company  ##

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2. WHO'S UNPATRIOTIC NOW?

Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Who's Unpatriotic Now?
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 15:17:37 -0500 (EST)
From: info@blacklistedjournalist.com 
To: info@blacklistedjournalist.com

July 22, 2003

Who's Unpatriotic Now?

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Some nonrevisionist history: On Oct. 8, 2002, Knight Ridder newspapers reported on intelligence officials who "charge that the administration squelches dissenting views, and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary." One official accused the administration of pressuring analysts to "cook the intelligence books"; none of the dozen other officials the reporters spoke to disagreed.

The skepticism of these officials has been vindicated. So have the concerns expressed before the war by military professionals like Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, about the resources required for postwar occupation. But as the bad news comes in, those who promoted this war have responded with a concerted effort to smear the messengers.

Issues of principle aside, the invasion of a country that hadn't attacked us and didn't pose an imminent threat has seriously weakened our military position. Of the Army's 33 combat brigades, 16 are in Iraq; this leaves us ill prepared to cope with genuine threats. Moreover, military experts say that with almost two-thirds of its brigades deployed overseas, mainly in Iraq, the Army's readiness is eroding: normal doctrine calls for only one brigade in three to be deployed abroad, while the other two retrain and refit.

And the war will have devastating effects on future recruiting by the reserves. A widely circulated photo from Iraq shows a sign in the windshield of a military truck that reads, "One weekend a month, my ass."

To top it all off, our insistence on launching a war without U.N. approval has deprived us of useful allies. George Bush claims to have a "huge coalition," but only 7 percent of the coalition soldiers in Iraq are non-American " and administration pleas for more help are sounding increasingly plaintive.

How serious is the strain on our military? The Brookings Institution military analyst Michael O'Hanlon, who describes our volunteer military as "one of the best military institutions in human history," warns that "the Bush administration will risk destroying that accomplishment if they keep on the current path."

But instead of explaining what happened to the Al Qaeda link and the nuclear program, in the last few days a series of hawkish pundits have accused those who ask such questions of aiding the enemy. Here's Frank Gaffney Jr. in The National Post:

"Somewhere, probably in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is gloating. He can only be gratified by the feeding frenzy of recriminations, second-guessing and political power plays. . . . Signs of declining popular appreciation of the legitimacy and necessity of the efforts of America's armed forces will erode their morale. Similarly, the enemy will be encouraged."

Well, if we're going to talk about aiding the enemy: By cooking intelligence to promote a war that wasn't urgent, the administration has squandered our military strength. This provides a lot of aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden " who really did attack America " and Kim Jong Il " who really is building nukes.

And while we're on the subject of patriotism, let's talk about the affair of Joseph Wilson's wife. Mr. Wilson is the former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the C.I.A. to investigate reports of attempted Iraqi uranium purchases and who recently went public with his findings. Since then administration allies have sought to discredit him " it's unpleasant stuff. But here's the kicker: both the columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine say that administration officials told them that they believed that Mr. Wilson had been chosen through the influence of his wife, whom they identified as a C.I.A. operative.

Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative. That happens to be a criminal act; it's also definitely unpatriotic.

So why would they do such a thing? Partly, perhaps, to punish Mr. Wilson, but also to send a message.

And that should alarm us. We've just seen how politicized, cooked intelligence can damage our national interest. Yet the Wilson affair suggests that the administration intends to continue pressuring analysts to tell it what it wants to hear. 

              Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company   ##

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