David Pryor and Dale Bumpers believe that Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, can defeat George Bush in November. The two former senators who served with Kerry answered questions last week from an audience of about 100 at the headquarters of the Arkansas Electric Cooperatives in Little Rock. The gathering was a preview of a two-part interview of Bumpers that the co-ops sponsored on AETN; they financed a similar interview of Pryor that was broadcast last year.
Pryor said that Kerry would have trouble in the South but that he thought any of the Democrat candidates could beat Bush "because the disappointment with Bush is growing almost daily." He said, "We're at a stage when the dissension against the Bush Administration is increasing every day, so what the Democrats ought to do is to bring their party back together again."
While both Bumpers and Pryor have been appearing at rallies for Arkansan Wesley Clark, Bumpers said flatly, "Yes, Kerry can beat Bush this fall." This week's Newsweek poll shows that Kerry leads Bush 49 to 46 percent. He said that the Republicans' attack on Kerry will be that he's just a Massachusetts liberal like Ted Kennedy. "But that's not relevant, and the fact that Kerry comes from Massachusetts has nothing to do with the fact that the country is facing a $10 trillion deficit down the road," Bumpers told the crowd.
Bumpers also said antipathy about Bush and "concern for the future of the country is worse than I have ever seen." Sixty-three percent of the money Bush asks the Congress for goes to the wealthiest people in the country. "What is the President thinking? Consider the fact that 35 million Americans are living in poverty. Consider the fact that most children want a college degree but can't afford one."
Then Bumpers praised Wesley Clark's statement that every American child, rich or poor, should be able to get a college education and that he would see to it if elected. Bumpers reminded the audience that the government paid for college education for 1.5 million GIs after World War II. "The Congress didn't pass that law just out of gratitude It wanted to strengthen the nation."
One of the interesting questions asked of Bumpers was how, when he was governor in 1971, was he able to persuade the legislators to increase the state income tax, which Arkansas legislators have always been against it, including the current session? Well, he said, the "old bulls, " meaning the veteran legislators, came to his rescue. So, someone asked, "are you saying that term limits is a factor?"
Bumpers hesitated. "I don't want to denigrate anyone in the legislature [several legislators were in the audience], but philosophically it's a bad idea. I might just say that I think term limits is the worst thing that ever happened to this state. And if I were still in office, I probably wouldn't say that out loud."
Over the weekend, President Bush finally decided to appoint a nonpartisan panel to decide whether the intelligence agencies were responsible for incorrectly reporting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was about to use them. David Kay, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector, has now made it clear that Iraq had no such weapons, which, of course, was the Bush Administration's main reason for invading the country last year.
As you we might have expected, the panel will not make its report until next year, after the election is over. There's also another panel that is investigating whether the Bush administration had been warned of attacks like those in New York and Washington in 2001 and had done little or nothing to keep them from happening. This panel, led by Thomas Kean, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, was created by the Congress months ago, and it excuses its dawdling by saying that the White House isn't cooperating in handing over records. It was supposed to report May 27, but last week Kean called for a 60-day extension.
The United States and the world want to know why our country started a war in Iraq. We have dethroned one of many of the world's evil men, but has the cost been worth it? The war has ended friendship with many of our allies and the United Nations. The cost of lives is heavy, and it continues long after Bush's announcement of the war's end on May 1.
As of last week, 524 American soldiers had been killed as well as more than 100 soldiers from other countries fighting with them. There's no real count of the Iraqi soldiers who were killed - the British newspaper, The Guardian, estimates that it's between 13,500 and 45,000.
Innocent Iraqi men, women and children, abused for years by Saddam Hussein, have been killed by the thousands, first by the war and now by religious maniacs and followers of Hussein - 80 worshippers in a mosque, 22 in the Iraq United Nations building, 67 Sunday and Monday at a holiday celebration and a political meeting, etc.
There are no official figures of civilian deaths, but an organization of writers and professors in Great Britain called "Iraq Body Count" estimates civilian deaths between 8,100 and 9,938. You will recall that U.S. Commander Gen. Tommy Franks said, "We don't do body counts."
Newspaper photographers never get much money or attention. I know because I got my first job as one in the 1940s. In 1957, a guy named Will Counts learned it when he made the best pictures of the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School.