Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
It’s also important to know the true history and origins of this sacred holiday, that honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. David Blight, a history professor as well as the author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, wrote the following about America’s first Memorial Day:
“And with great organization, on May 1, 1865, the black folk of Charleston, in cooperation with white missionaries, teachers, and Union troops, conducted an extraordinary parade of approximately ten thousand people. It began with three thousand black school children (now enrolled in freedmen's schools) marching around the Planters' Race Course with armloads of roses and singing "John Brown's Body." Then followed the black women of Charleston, and then the men. They were in turn followed by members of Union regiments and various white abolitionists such as James Redpath. The crowd gathered in the graveyard; five black preachers read from Scripture, and a black children's choir sang 'America,' 'We Rally Around the Flag,' the 'Star-spangled Banner,' and several spirituals. Then the solemn occasion broke up into an afternoon of speeches, picnics, and drilling troops on the infield of the old planters' horseracing track.In the spirit of unity and renewal from that first Memorial Day, let us properly acknowledge those who gave their lives in wars past and present. Whether one agrees with wars in Iraq or Afghanistan as well as other conflicts such as Vietnam, the memory of those who have served and died deserves the highest honor and prestige we as a people can convey. Where would any of us be today for example if not for the sacrifices made by the “greatest generation” in World War Two?
This was the first Memorial Day. Black Charlestonians had given birth to an American tradition. By their labor, their words, their songs, and their solemn parade of roses and lilacs and marching feet on their former masters' race course, they had created the Independence Day of the Second American Revolution.
To this day hardly anyone in Charleston, or elsewhere, even remembers this story. Quite remarkably, it all but vanished from memory. But in spite of all the other towns in America that claim to be the site of the first Memorial Day (all claiming spring, 1866), African Americans and Charleston deserve pride of place. Why not imagine a new rebirth of the American nation with this scene?”
Yet since that first Memorial Day described by Blight, we’ve overlooked those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. So while you’re enjoying a hot dog or perhaps attending a baseball game, please remember that these soldiers are not disposable units. A culture that casually disregards their sacrifice has resulted in a military that can’t provide body armor for soldiers in the field and the scandal that occurred at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Perhaps the best way we can honor our dead is to care for those who wore the uniform and survived. Anything less is a stain on our national character.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Raab is not fond of former New York City Mayor and current Republican presidential candidate, Rudy Giuliani. How fortunate that today Raab had lunch with my colleague and gave permission for me to share his two pithy observations about “America’s Mayor”:
1) “Those who know him best like him least.”
2) “He approved of marriage so much he did it three times.”
I would love to pick Raab's brain and learn everything he knows about Giuliani.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Personally, I was an activist before I became a blogger and didn’t need an account with Daily Kos to become one. If the blogosphere ceased to exist tomorrow I would remain involved. I’m sure that’s true for many of us. That said, liberal bloggers have amplified the voice and impact of core progressive values in the ongoing debate-taking place.
Whether this amplified voice has the leverage to facilitate transformational progressive change inside the corridors of power remains to be determined. I hope so. Certainly retaking the congress as well as numerous statehouses in 2006 was an important step and the “netroots” were important to that effort.
I have my doubts though about the long term and believe “crashing the gate” of a political party is not an elixir for our democracy. Indeed, history is replete with examples of “gate crashers” or “revolutionaries” dethroning the previous order only to become corrupted themselves. As Orwell’s classic Animal Farm illustrated, it didn’t take long for the pigs to resemble Farmer Jones. The real gate to be crashed is as information brokers, fact-checkers and investigative reporters free of corporate influence and dedicated to preserving accountability on the citizenry’s behalf.
The foundation for any democratic civil society is truth. Without it a civil society can’t remain civil because the absence of truth translates into a loss of faith in the laws and institutions designed to promote opportunity and justice. Once a citizenry loses faith, either anarchy or oppression isn’t far away. Hence, the importance of a free, independent press doggedly pursuing truth wherever it leads. Truth seekers are gatekeepers of integrity that preserve democracy’s machinery.
For example, Carl Bernstein and his partner Bob Woodward, before he became co-opted by the very insiders he used to expose, relentlessly pursued President Richard Nixon’s diabolical efforts to subvert the Constitution. In so doing they helped preserve our democracy’s checks and balances. Congress initiated impeachment proceedings against Nixon and he resigned. The system worked.
We’re dependent upon truth seekers to scrutinize the fine print and actions of those in power on our behalf. Since we have our own lives, families and jobs to look after -effectively seeking truth ourselves is a Herculean challenge. Most of us don’t have the resources, ability to travel on demand or cultivate sources among the powerful.
Sadly, our country is at best ill served by the so-called free press. When I watched Bill Moyers report how the press covered the lead-up to the Iraq War, I was thunderstruck by their lame justifications for not doing their job. Walter Pincus, a national security reporter for the Washington Post actually admitted to Moyers that since the Reagan Administration,
“We stopped truth squading every sort of press conference, or truth squading. And we left it then-- to the democrats. In other words, it's up to the democrats to catch people, not us.”And there was this classic exchange between Moyers and Tim Russert from Meet the Press:
BILL MOYERS: What do you make of the fact that of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news, from September 2002 until February 2003, almost all the stories could be traced back to sources from the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department?How the hell does any reporter justify allowing a political party to interpret the truth? Political parties are not about truth. Political parties are self-serving entities dedicated to obtaining and maintaining power. Since the Democrats were spineless and didn’t provide an alternative dialogue, Pincus and Russert believe they should be excused from doing their jobs? Ridiculous. Yes, Republicans were feculent and irresponsible while Democrats were feckless and cowardly. All the more reason for the press to do their job and relentlessly pursue the truth.
TIM RUSSERT: It's important that you have a-- an oppos-- opposition party. That's our system of government.
BILL MOYERS: So, it's not news unless there's somebody-
TIM RUSSERT: No, no, no. I didn't say that. But it's important to have an opposition party, your opposit-- opposing views.
I’m a loyal Democrat and support my party as a means to advance progressive causes I believe in. And Democrats such as Henry Waxman are doing a splendid job of investigating the Bush Administration’s malfeasance now that they have the majority. It was also oversight by the Democratic controlled Senate Judiciary Committee that resulted in former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s dramatic testimony.
Nevertheless, I don’t want the press to solely cede ground to Democrats about holding the Bush White House accountable. Nor do I want the press to curry favor with powerful Democrats and refrain from reporting on their transgressions.
Of course reporters such as Pincus and Russert merely reflect the will of their corporate bosses who curry favor from the powerful. Some reporters remain dedicated to their craft. James Risen of the New York Times, who first reported about the Bush Administration’s domestic surveillance program in violation of the FISA framework is a fine example. However, the New York Times management didn’t allow the story to surface prior to the 2004 election.
As I see it, the real gate being crashed is what people like Josh Marshall are doing at Talking Points Memo. It was reporting done for that blog that broke the bough on how the dismissal of US Attorney’s were covered and exposed Attorney General Gonazales as a liar. And citizen contributors to Firedoglake were so effective as information repositories for the Scooter Libby trial that even mainstream press reporters relied on them for real time facts. Epluribus Media has also become an effective vehicle for citizen journalism.
Another example on a smaller scale is a good friend of mine who used to work for Kaiser Permanente, a health organization that claims to be a non-profit. She was a whistle blower and they responded by personally trying to destroy her. So she transformed her Corporate Ethics blog into a repository of information regarding Kaiser’s harmful activities against their patients. Kaiser Thrive Permanente Exposed is another weblog devoted to serving the public by exhaustively covering Kaiser in a manner that the corporate media has resisted.
As the blogosphere continues to mature, it is the gate crashing of citizen journalists that has me the most excited. Hopefully citizen journalism from the “reality based community” will become more adept at keeping the corporate media, corporations and politicians honest.
My optimism however is tempered by two concerns. One is that the powerful elites among the corporations, mainstream press and politicians will pass laws that undermine the effectiveness of online citizen journalism. My second fear is that citizen journalists will at some point resemble Farmer Jones.
ADDENDUM: Sixty Minutes exposed Kaiser Permanente's despicable treatment of homeless patients in their broadcast this evening. Click here to learn about their coverage. It wasn't so long ago that the print and broadcast media simply reinforced Kaiser's propaganda. Credit goes to the friend I referenced above as well as Kaiser Thrive Permanente Exposed for pushing the mainstream media to finally understand what Kaiser is truly about.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Sunday, May 13, 2007
In my opinion, Giuliani was the consummate charlatan as mayor. He ran a corrupt patronage mill, dismissed his first police commissioner, William Bratton because he received too much positive press and governed incompetently. Prior to 9/11, Giuliani’s fiscal mismanagement was exposed and New Yorkers were fed up with his volatile immaturity. And his last police commissioner, Bernie Kerik knowingly benefitted from a relationship with a mobbed up construction firm.
Giuliani received too much credit for crime reduction and exploited the tragedy of 9/11 to accumulate wealth. I think The Onion put it best when they noted Giuliani was running to be President of 9/11. As a Yankee fan it sickened me whenever Giuliani joined broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay in their radio booth while they heaped gratuitous praise upon him.
That said, I applaud these words from Giuliani’s recent speech at the Houston Baptist College:
Yes, I know Giuliani’s speech is largely the result of political calculation. His dismissive mealy-mouthed views about abortion during the GOP presidential debate at Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Library were widely ridiculed. The Christian Right will never embrace him so Giuliani’s campaign has decided to stop pretending. He’s hoping to appear authentic and courageous while still appealing to Republican corporatists and security hawks. I get that.
"Here are the two strong beliefs that I have, here are the two pillars of my thinking, that always inform my judgments about this. One is, I believe abortion is wrong. I think it is morally wrong, and if I were asked my advice by someone who was considering abortion, I would tell them not to have the abortion, have the child. And if nothing else, the adoption option exists, and it’s one that I would hope personally, if I knew you, if you were a friend or relative. That’s pillar No. 1. That will always remain the same. I can’t imagine ever changing my mind about that. I’ve believed it since I can remember, I’m going to believe it until I die.
The second principle, the second pillar that guides my thinking on it is that in a country like ours, where people of good faith, people who are equally decent, equally moral and equally religious, when they come to different conclusions about this, about something so very very personal, I believe you have to respect their viewpoint. You give them a level of choice here. Because I think ultimately even if you disagree, you have to respect the fact that their conscience is as strong as yours is about this, and they’re the ones that are most affected by it. So therefore I would grant women the right to make that choice.
I’ve always believed both of those things. I will always believe them. And that will inform my decision-making about abortion. ...”
Furthermore, I have no doubt Giuliani would embrace the Christian Right’s positions on abortion and other social issues if he could do so without appearing phony. This man would sell his soul to become president. And given the former mayor’s temperament, cronyism, incompetence and distorted worldview, if he’s the GOP nominee I’ll work my butt off to defeat him. For damn sure I don’t trust this man’s judgment about what civil liberties to compromise in the name of national security.
Putting my distaste for Giuliani aside however, I hope his candidacy awakens secular minded Republicans to take back their party for the good of the country. The scandal regarding the hiring and firing of Justice Department prosecutors powerfully illustrates that religious fanatics have infiltrated decision making in the corridors of power.
Former Justice Department official, Monica Goodling, was allegedly involved in the dismissal of as many as ten federal prosecutors. Ms. Goodling is a 1999 graduate of Regents University founded by Pat Robertson “to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world.” In 1988, when Pat Robertson finished second in the Iowa caucuses I considered him cartoonish. Ms. Goodling’s influence however, demonstrates how pervasive Robertson’s reach has become.
On May 12th, the New York Times reported that,
“Deeply religious and politically conservative, Ms. Goodling seemed to believe that part of her job was to bring people with similar values into the Justice Department, several former colleagues said.”Ms. Goodling was inexperienced and thirty-one when she joined the Bush Administration’s Justice Department. During the 2000 election she worked as an opposition researcher at the Republican National Committee. Yet this young political operative was interviewing applicants for civil service positions at the Justice Department.
Ms. Goodling elevated her values above qualifications and professional competence when reviewing whom to hire or fire. The New York Times quotes one department official as saying Ms. Goodling even asked one applicant if he had ever cheated on his wife. Specifically, the New York Times also reported David C. Woll Jr., a young lawyer hired to a prestigious post in the Justice Department was asked this question. Mr. Woll had no comment for the New York Times.
I have no problem with people of faith or spiritually minded individuals entering public life. Many of us need to believe there is something bigger than ourselves. And people motivated to feed the hungry or promote social justice because of their faith are admirable. Martin Luther King and Ghandi were both people of faith for example.
Alarmingly however, virulent cadres of religious fanatics who believe their rigid interpretation of scriptures is above the civil laws and customs of American society are ascending. We see the repercussions in their ascent whenever a woman is denied her right to purchase morning after pills at a pharmacy or the half-baked theory of intelligent design is proclaimed legitimate science.
Whether one is liberal, conservative, libertarian, pro-business, pro-labor, hawk, dove, or everything in between, the imposition of religious values above our freedoms, science and recruiting the most qualified personnel in government is un-American. If Giuliani can mobilize a secular constituency within the Republican Party that becomes a counterweight to radical Christian evangelicals, I say halleluiah. We saw how timid Democrats were during the Terry Shiavo controversy. I don’t trust the Democratic Party to provide a counterweight to religious extremism by itself.
That doesn’t mean Giuliani can or will prevail with a candidacy that promotes tolerance for differing social viewpoints. The man is as flawed and imperfect a messenger as one can be. Someone with impeccable family values credentials without Giuliani’s personal baggage would make for a far better messenger. But he can have a positive impact in spite of himself that outlasts the 2008 campaign. Howard Dean didn’t win in 2004 but the Democratic Party has adopted more of Dean’s posture.
Next month Giuliani will address the Executive Series Luncheon at Regents University. Pat Robertson will be in the audience. I hope Giuliani stands tall and preaches the same message of social tolerance there that he did at Houston Baptist College. This country needs a strong secular counterweight in both major political parties. We’ll know progressives are getting somewhere when the center of political gravity pulls even the Republican Party in a more secular direction to remain competitive.
Giuliani was a poor mayor and would make a horrible president. Hopefully, his candidacy can at least awaken secular conservatives and restore a semblance of balance and sanity to our culture.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Several weeks ago, Berrett-Kohler published renowned social scientist Riane Eisler’s new book, The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating A Caring Economics. Eisler postulates that both capitalism and socialism represent systems and cultures of “domination.” People who provide caring and nurturing are devalued while exploiters and hierarchies are rewarded. Eisler’s book attempts to take the best from both systems to replace “domination” with “partnerships.” It is her contention that the real wealth of nations is in fact “human capital” and traditional measurements such as the Gross National Product, are insufficient.
Eisler believes the next phase of human development needs to be a transition from domination/hierarchical systems to partnership-oriented models. According to Eisler, partnership oriented societies structured by “hierarchies of actualization” prioritize the well being of people over short-term considerations such as a corporation’s quarterly balance sheet or a nation’s raw economic output.
In Chapter Ten, which is entitled, “The Caring Revolution” Eisler writes,
“Many of our economic habits were shaped by a warped story of human nature and an economic double standard that gives little or no value to the essential work of caring and care giving. The measures of productivity we habitually use include market activities that harm our health and natural environment while assigning no value to the life-supporting activities of households and nature. The money that central banks and circulate bears little relation to any tangible assets. Quarterly corporate reports fail to factor in the health and environmental damage a company’s products or activities cause. Government policies, too, are often based on fantasies rather than realities, as dramatically shown by the George W. Bush administration’s denial of the urgent need to take action against global warming.Eisler is the author of five books, including her international bestseller, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History and Our Future. She was born in Vienna, fled from the Nazis with her parents to Cuba and later emigrated to the United States. An attorney and longtime social activist, among Eisler’s honors are inclusion as the only woman among twenty illustrious thinkers including Hegel, Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Arnold Toynbee in Macrohistory and Macrohistorians. She received this honor in recognition of her work as a cultural historian.
We have a choice. We can keep complaining about greed, fraud, and cutthroat business practices. We can put up with the daily stress of unsuccessfully juggling jobs and family. We can tell ourselves, there’s nothing we can do about policies that damage our natural environment, create huge gaps between haves and have-nots, and lead to untold suffering. Or we can join together to help construct a saner, sounder, more caring economics and culture.”
Eisler obtained degrees in sociology and law from the University of California, taught pioneering classes on women and the law at UCLA. She is a founding member of the General Evolution Research Group (GERG) and the Alliance for a Caring Economy (ACE). She serves as a commissioner of the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality with the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other spiritual leaders. Eisler is also the co-founder of the Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV) and president of the Center for Partnership Studies that promotes initiatives to advance a way of life based on harmony with nature, nonviolence, and gender, racial, and economic equity.
Eisler agreed to a podcast interview with me about her life, book and worldview. Please refer to the media player below.
This interview can also be accessed at Itunes by searching for "Intrepid Liberal Journal".
ADDENDUM: My thanks to Mike Finnigan for linking this post in today's blogroundup at Crooks and Liars.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
There is no topic more sobering for a nation than war. Yet, on May 1, 2003, our adolescent President dressed up as a fighter pilot and made a spectacle of declaring “Mission Accomplished.” The corporate media, MSNBC's Chris Mathews especially, opted to uncritically praise President Bush’s tawdry exploitation of symbolism. As a patriotic American, I was embarrassed by my President’s behavior that day and deeply offended by bastions of the mainstream media such as Chris Mathews and CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Unlike a real news organization such as Knight Rider, much of the mainstream media ignored that the American intelligence bureaucracy had considerable doubts about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. Then they compounded their sins by celebrating President Bush’s cynical use of the symbols of war such as a fighter pilot’s uniform and a navy carrier. A day that will live in infamy as an example of the media’s disgraceful failures the previous six years and a reminder of why the elitists on your television screens have blood on their hands.
Media Matters has provided detailed transcripts from some of the most egregious coverage from that day which I pasted below.
Chief among the cheerleaders was MSNBC's Chris Matthews. On the May 1, 2003, edition of Hardball, Matthews was joined in his effusive praise of Bush by right-wing pundit Ann Coulter and "Democrat" Pat Caddell. Former U.S. Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-CA) also appeared on the program.:
MATTHEWS: What's the importance of the president's amazing display of leadership tonight?
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the actual visual that people will see on TV and probably, as you know, as well as I, will remember a lot longer than words spoken tonight? And that's the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star. A guy who is a jet pilot. Has been in the past when he was younger, obviously. What does that image mean to the American people, a guy who can actually get into a supersonic plane and actually fly in an unpressurized cabin like an actual jet pilot?
MATTHEWS: Do you think this role, and I want to talk politically [...], the president deserves everything he's doing tonight in terms of his leadership. He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics. Do you think he is defining the office of the presidency, at least for this time, as basically that of commander in chief? That [...] if you're going to run against him, you'd better be ready to take [that] away from him.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Bob Dornan, you were a congressman all those years. Here's a president who's really nonverbal. He's like Eisenhower. He looks great in a military uniform. He looks great in that cowboy costume he wears when he goes West. I remember him standing at that fence with Colin Powell. Was [that] the best picture in the 2000 campaign?
MATTHEWS: Ann Coulter, you're the first to speak tonight on the buzz. The president's performance tonight, redolent of the best of Reagan -- what do you think?
COULTER: It's stunning. It's amazing. I think it's huge. I mean, he's landing on a boat at 150 miles per hour. It's tremendous. It's hard to imagine any Democrat being able to do that. And it doesn't matter if Democrats try to ridicule it. It's stunning, and it speaks for itself.
MATTHEWS: Pat Caddell, the president's performance tonight on television, his arrival on ship?
CADDELL: Well, first of all, Chris, the -- I think that -- you know, I was -- when I first heard about it, I was kind of annoyed. It sounded like the kind of PR stunt that Bill Clinton would pull. But and then I saw it. And you know, there's a real -- there's a real affection between him and the troops.
MATTHEWS: The president there -- look at this guy! We're watching him. He looks like he flew the plane. He only flew it as a passenger, but he's flown --
CADDELL: He looks like a fighter pilot.
MATTHEWS: He looks for real. What is it about the commander in chief role, the hat that he does wear, that makes him -- I mean, he seems like -- he didn't fight in a war, but he looks like he does.
CADDELL: Yes. It's a -- I don't know. You know, it's an internal thing. I don't know if you can put it into words. [...] You can see it with him and the troops, the ease with which he talks to them. I was amazed by that, frankly, because as I said, I was originally appalled, particularly when I heard he was going in an F-18. But -- on there -- but the -- but you know, that was --
MATTHEWS: Look at this guy!
CADDELL: -- was hard not to be moved by their reaction to him and his reaction to them and --
MATTHEWS: You know, Ann --
CADDELL: -- you know, they -- it's a quality. It's an innate quality. It's a real quality.
MATTHEWS: I know. I think you're right.
Later that day, on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Matthews said:
MATTHEWS: We're proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who's physical, who's not a complicated guy like [former President Bill] Clinton or even like [former Democratic presidential candidates Michael] Dukakis or [Walter] Mondale, all those guys, [George] McGovern. They want a guy who's president. Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It's simple. We're not like the Brits. We don't want an indoor prime minister type, or the Danes or the Dutch or the Italians, or a [Russian Federation President Vladimir] Putin. Can you imagine Putin getting elected here? We want a guy as president.
On the May 7, 2003, edition of Hardball, Matthews asked former Nixon administration official G. Gordon Liddy what he thought of the response to Bush's landing on the Abraham Lincoln. Looking at the footage, Liddy commented that Bush's flight suit made "the best of his manly characteristic." From the May 7 Hardball:
MATTHEWS: What do you make of this broadside against the USS Abraham Lincoln and its chief visitor last week?
LIDDY: Well, I -- in the first place, I think it's envy. I mean, after all, Al Gore had to go get some woman to tell him how to be a man. And here comes George Bush. You know, he's in his flight suit, he's striding across the deck, and he's wearing his parachute harness, you know -- and I've worn those because I parachute -- and it makes the best of his manly characteristic. You go run those -- run that stuff again of him walking across there with the parachute. He has just won every woman's vote in the United States of America. You know, all those women who say size doesn't count -- they're all liars. Check that out. I hope the Democrats keep ratting on him and all of this stuff so that they keep showing that tape.
MATTHEWS: You know, it's funny. I shouldn't talk about ratings. I don't always pay attention to them, but last night was a riot because, at the very time [U.S. Rep.] Henry Waxman [D-CA] was on -- and I do respect him on legislative issues -- he was on blasting away, and these pictures were showing last night, and everybody's tuning in to see these pictures again.
Various media figures hyped Bush's National Guard experience but made no mention of evidence that emerged during the 2000 presidential campaign that Bush may have received special treatment in getting into TANG and during his tenure. On the May 1, 2003, edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Blitzer noted that jets like the F/A-18 Hornet "helped win the war in Iraq" and twice commented on Bush's TANG background -- at one point calling Bush a "one-time Fighter Dog." From the May 1 edition of Wolf Blitzer Reports:
BLITZER: There was a riskier landing that the president wanted to make. The Secret Service, though, just wouldn't let the commander in chief ride in an F/A-18 strike fighter. But CNN's Kyra Phillips will be doing just that in a matter of only a few minutes. She's in the cockpit of this F/A-18 Hornet. Right now, Navy jets like this one, of course, helped win the war in Iraq. Now, they're headed home. We'll talk with Kyra as soon as she catapults off the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. That's coming up.
A little bit of history and a lot of drama today when President Bush became the first commander in chief to make a tailhook landing on an aircraft carrier. A one-time Fighter Dog himself in the Air National Guard, the president flew in the co-pilot seat with a trip to the USS Abraham Lincoln. And he then mingled with the pilots and the crew members of the carrier on its way back from a deployment which covered the war in Iraq and before that, the war in Afghanistan. From that same deck tonight, the president will make more history. He'll deliver a major address to the nation.
BLITZER: And the president clearly pleased by his own landing aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln.
And as we mentioned, President Bush is no stranger to military aircraft. He flew F-102 fighter jets in the Texas Air National Guard. He joined at the height of the Vietnam War but was never sent overseas and never saw combat. There's a picture of the young George W. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard.
On the May 1 edition of CNBC's The News with Brian Williams, Williams, now anchor of NBC's Nightly News, said of Bush:
WILLIAMS: And two immutable truths about the president that the Democrats can't change: He's a youthful guy. He looked terrific and full of energy in a flight suit. He is a former pilot, so it's not a foreign art farm -- art form to him. Not all presidents could have pulled this scene off today.
On the May 1 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta van Sustern, correspondent Jon Scott reported:
SCOTT: Greta, the president made just about as grand an entrance tonight as the White House could have asked for. He came in aboard an S-3B Viking. That's a sort of a workhorse of the carrier fleet, an aircraft that is sometimes used for aerial refueling. It can also drop targeted and non-targeted bombs, the so-called dumb bombs. It can do a little bit of everything, and today it brought some very important cargo, namely the president of the United States, the first time ever that a sitting president has landed on a moving aircraft carrier.
Now, of course, President Bush flew fighters in the Air National Guard, but no pilot, no matter how experienced, can land on an aircraft carrier first time out. The president did take the stick for a short time during his flight, but he let another pilot handle the landing. Now, he -- when he got here he was absolutely mobbed by the 200 or so crew members who are normally on deck during flight ops, as they call them. The people in the multicolored jerseys reached out for a handshake, a photo, anything they could get of this president. One observer here tonight said it was like the Beatles climbed out of that plane, and that's very much what it looked like from here.
On the May 1 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, White House correspondent Wendell Goler reported:
GOLER: With a tailhook landing on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, President George W. Bush made history in advance of a historic speech to the nation in which he'll declare the war in Iraq is all but over. Mr. Bush traded his suit and tie for a flight suit and took a 20-minute flight to the ship during which he briefly called on his skills as a pilot in the National Guard.
HUME: Wendell, the president said "Yes, I flew it," right? And you said he did. How much flying did he actually do today?
GOLER: Brit, the president says he flew the plane about a third of the way from North Island Naval Air Station to the carrier Lincoln. He says the pilot asked him if he wanted to do some maneuvers, but he flew it mostly in a straight line. He says he sure misses flying but that the S-3B Viking is a lot more sophisticated than the planes he flew during his time in the Air National Guard.
The print media joined in the collective swoon the following day. From a May 2, 2003, article in The New York Times by staff writer David E. Sanger:
But within minutes Mr. Bush emerged for the kind of photographs that other politicians can only dream about. He hopped out of the plane with a helmet tucked under his arm and walked across the flight deck with a swagger that seemed to suggest he had seen Top Gun. Clearly in his element, he was swarmed by cheering members of the Lincoln's crew.
Even in a White House that prides itself on its mastery of political staging, Mr. Bush's arrival on board the Lincoln was a first of many kinds.
Never before has a president landed aboard a carrier at sea, much less taken the controls of the aircraft. His decision to sleep aboard the ship this evening in the captain's quarters conjured images of the presidency at sea not seen since Franklin D. Roosevelt used to sail to summit meetings.
Mr. Bush was clearly reliving his days as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard, more than three decades ago. "I miss flying, I can tell you that," he told reporters who bumped into him as he moved around the ship.
Washington Post staff writer Karen DeYoung reported on May 2, 2003:
Bush, who had taken off his helmet and thus avoided photographic comparisons to presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis's unfortunate episode with a tank helmet during 1988 campaign, jumped down in full flight regalia, a smile splitting his face. The Navy had planned an official greeting, with Bush being piped aboard and walking through two rows of "sideboys" saluting him -- a tradition that dates from the days when visiting officers were hauled up the side of the ship in a boatswain's chair.
Bush ignored it all, swaggering forward and pumping hands with everybody in sight before they could salute. "Here's a man with a birthday," he yelled at a television cameraman as he swung his arm around a sailor. "Put him on C-SPAN." For once, there were no security concerns to keep Bush from pressing flesh, and he made the most of it, hugging and patting everyone on the back -- from the greasy flight deck crew to F-18 pilots waiting to fly home this afternoon.
"Great job, great job," he kept saying. "I flew it," he shouted back to a reporter's shouted question about his flight. "Yeah, of course I liked it. It was fantastic."
Later, Bush explained that he had taken the controls from the pilot, Cmdr. John "Skip" Lussier, for about a third of the 15-minute flight at 360 knots, but had just steered during the "straight" parts. It was, he said, "much more sophisticated" than the jets he used to fly during his tour in the National Guard. Bush had a briefing from the Air Wing Commander and crew members who described their personal experiences flying in combat, watched gun camera footage and heard a battle damage assessment.
The weekend news programs brought even more praise for Bush's performance. On the May 4, 2003, edition of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer and Time columnist Joe Klein had this to say:
SCHIEFFER: As far as I'm concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time. And if you're a political consultant, you can just see campaign commercial written all over the pictures of George Bush.
KLEIN: Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb. You compare that image, which everybody across the world saw, with this debate last night where you have nine people on a stage and it doesn't air until 11:30 at night, up against Saturday Night Live, and you see what a major, major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent president.
On the May 4, 2003, edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Fox News Washington bureau managing editor Brit Hume recounted Bush's bravery:
HUME: But this was risky business. You know, there's grease and oil on the decks of those aircraft carriers. The wind's blowing. All kinds of stuff could have gone wrong. It didn't, he carried it off. Somebody, perhaps he, obviously, believed he could. But this was no slam dunk.
On the May 3, 2003, edition of CNN's The Capital Gang, then-Time columnist Margaret Carlson spoke of the "stirring tableau":
CARLSON: A hurricane couldn't have interfered with that particular parade. It was so well done, and even though we knew that everything was choreographed down to, you know, catching that fourth hook on the ship, it was still a pretty stirring tableau. Cecil B. DeMille couldn't have been done better. And even though you know there's no Santa Claus, Christmas is still great, as it was with that particular moment.
And appearing on the May 4, 2003, edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham discussed her reaction:
INGRAHAM: Speaking as a woman, and listening to the women who called into my radio show, seeing President Bush get out of that plane, carrying his helmet, he is a real man. He stands by his word. That was a very powerful moment.