Have you noticed that we are finally focusing on hunting and capturing Osama Bin Laden? Two and one half years after the 9/11 attacks, the 'sounds' out of DC and Central Command are finally serious about getting America's Number One Enemy. In fact, the very team which bagged Saddam in December has been re-deployed to Afghanistan to use their techniques on Osama.

The media, too, is 'sniffing' around the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There have even been reports that Osama is 'surrounded' or 'confined' in a certain area.

But here is a key question: exactly why has it taken us so long?

Why weren't we still over there after 9/11 - and after we knocked off the Taliban - and why didn't we stay there until we caught or killed this SOB?

Why did we almost totally divert our focus toward Iraq and Saddam?

Why didn't we send hundreds of thousands of troops into Afghanistan - and northeast Pakistan - and root out the mastermind of 9/11?

And, of course, the inevitable question: is this new 'push' to get Osama, as a former GOP Congressman said this week, "the real beginning of the Bush re-election campaign"?

Many self-styled political experts are opining that "if we get Osama before Election Day, Bush is a shoe-in." To which the reply must be that President's Bush's approval ratings have actually plummeted since the capture of Saddam in December. Not because of the capture but because other factors have overwhelmed the good feeling engendered by the capture.

Osama Bin Laden must be caught or killed. Of that there is no doubt. In fact, we were told that by the President shortly after 9/11 when Mr. Bush said we'd get him "dead or alive." But somehow that bravado and machismo was soon transferred over to another international villain - Saddam Hussein - even though he had not attacked America and killed 3000 people.

With the Iraq story now producing nothing but bad headlines and more American casualties the Administration has suddenly renewed its focus on Osama. Can the USA not do two things at the same time? Couldn't we have hunted both of these bastards at the same time?

It is high time that the President re-focus our national energies on the hunt for Osama. The taunting audio and video tapes - a new one just came two days ago - by Bin Laden and his right hand man, Ayman Al-Zwahiri (convicted for the murder of Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat), and the constant terror alerts here are further proof that we can never be at peace with these two renegades on the loose.

Capturing Osama, however, will be much more dofficult than getting Saddam. Why? Because while the Iraqis feared Saddam the Pakistanis and Afghan tribespeople revere Osama. The Pakistani government, military and intelligence service is riddled with fundamentalist Muslims loyal - not to our ally, President Musharref - but to Osama.

CIA Director George Tenet recently went back to Pakistan to help re-start the search - with a new wrinkle. US military forces are now allowed inside Pakistan to conduct searches and raids. This seemingly good development - bought with billions more in US aid to the Paks and even more 'secretly' to their intel operation - works only if the integrity of these searches is not compromised. Unfortunately, what the two-faced Paks do is take our money with one hand and then point us away from Osama's hiding places with the other.

Over 80% of the Pakistani people admire Osama and his 'teachings.' The un-elected President - General Musharref - who seized power in a coup against an elected government - (how about our belief in Democracy in the Middle East?) - has already had two assassination attempts against him in the last 9 weeks. What would be the result to him and his government if American soldiers caught Osama on Pakistani territory? A revolution would likely start - with nuclear consequences. It is not inconceivable that pro-Osama forces could seize power - and thus gain control over the Pakistani nuke arsenal.

We must get Osama. We should have already killed him. Clinton passed up on the opportunity 3 times. And the Bush Administration dropped the ball after they decided Saddam was their 'man.'

Now the race is on: will we get this international murderer before our election? Or will Osama continue to haunt - and taunt - us for years to come?


Watching Enron's former President, Jeff Skilling, be cuffed and marched into court last week as he was charged with 42 felonies for fraud and conspiracy crystalized our modern-day culture: we are ruled and dominated by liars.

Skilling, my old Harvard Business School classmate, was an unethical - and unapologetic - student 26 years ago. Who could have known that he would take his perfidious and psychopathic personality to Houston and literally ruin thousands of lives? Furthermore, who could predict that he could take a polygraph test administered by the former head FBI polygrapher and pass? Such is the depth of his illness that he actually believes that he knew nothing about the company he ran!

He should at least be indicted for incompetence. Or for testing our intelligence to ask us to believe a guy who took over $60 million in pay out of Enron did not know that the company was about to tank.

But Jeff Skilling fits right in with today's pop culture: his Enron tenure - 1900-2001 - perfectly dovetails with White House lies. From G.H. W. Bush's out-and-out whopper about "never raising taxes," to Bill and Hillary Clinton's eight plus years of lying constantly about everything, Skilling merely is reflecting the decline of honesty in this country.

This culture is today rife with the Big Lie. Look at the still-raging war in Iraq. A year ago another President George Bush churned the nation into a white-hot frenzy over the imminent threat of Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Based on repeated assertions that we had to strike first - or else - the American people overwhelmingly supported our first-ever 'pre-emptive war.'

Now we are told - by the very same people who urged the war - that no WMD exist and none existed before the war either.

So who lied to us?

Was it President Bush and Colin Powell and Rummy and Vice President Cheney?

Or were they lied to by the CIA and other intel agencies?

It is at the heart of President Bush's present political difficulties. His credibility is mostly shot because you can't take a country to war based on a lie - whether it be deliberate or not.

Imagine how conservatives would react if Clinton or Kerry took us into a war based on lies and/or faulty intelligence?

G.W. Bush's credibility problems have now mushroomed to his immigration policy and budget. On immigration he claims it is a "no amnesty" proposal - and no one believes him.

On the budget we now learn his prescription drug bill will cost hundreds of billions more than he originally told us when the bill was signed.

And just last week he and his cabinet had to retreat on their own jobs forecast after they all realized that their 2.6 million new job prediction could never materialize.

When a president's credibility is gone it is hard - if not impossible - to get it back. No wonder his Air National Guard problems persisted: even his own supporters now have doubts about his veracity.

The Big Lie mentality applies to other aspects of our society, too. Take the now-infamous Super Bowl half-time show. Janet Jackson lied to the organizers in advance about her plans. And then, after it was over, her co-conspirator, Justin Timberlake, had the affrontery to describe the bared breast as a "wardrobe malfunction."

No one ever admits to their lies, do they?

Lest anyone doubt that lies are bipartisan, please know this: John Kerry is a total liar. Having dealt with him in 1991 and 1992 on the subject of our living POWs abandoned in S.E. Asia, I can tell you that Kerry is a total liar. He is also vicious and cold-blooded. G.W. Bush doesn't have a clue what he is in for this year.

Typical, isn't it? Our two main political parties are dominated by total lies. The GOP platform in 2000 specifically called for the "elimination of the Department of Education." What was the first thing President G.W. Bush did after being inaugurated? He met with Teddy Kennedy and cut a deal to increase spending on the Department of Education by 11%.

What about the Defense Department? All during the 2000 campaign Mr. Bush had promised, "Help in on the way." Did he increase defense spending in 2001 after taking office? No, he refused, citing the need for Secretary Rumsfeld to 'study' the situation.

It wasn't until after the 9/11 attacks that the Bush Administration increased spending on the Pentagon.

Similarly in 2000 Mr. Bush decried the use of our military for "nation building" and pledged to stop it. Guess what? The Bush Administration has our troops stretched beyond their limits - and they're doing more "nation building" than the Clinton Administration did.

The lies go on and on. We must all be cynical of everything our government tells us.

As the 2004 campaign unfolds, you are going to hear more lies than ever before.


Because they think they can get away with it.


The cardinal rule in selecting a Vice Presidential nominee is to “do no harm.” Furthermore, the Veep nominee preferably should bring to the ticket ‘something’ that the presidential nominee himself would not have had: a state, a region or a group of voters.

Plus, the traditional role of the Veep nominee is to be an ‘attack dog’ against the other ticket.

With these rules in mind, let us predict John Kerry’s Vice Presidential short list – not necessarily in order of preference:

1) Senator Bob Graham of Florida: the retiring senior Senator and former Governor of Florida ran a lackluster presidential campaign before dropping out last fall. However, Graham offers Kerry and the Democrats the key to the White House. Winning Florida virtually guarantees the White House. Gore barely lost it four years ago. Is it winnable this time -–even with a state icon like Graham on the ticket? That is the question in depth polling will measure between now and the Democratic Convention in Boston this summer. Graham also is en effective and eager attack dog against G.W. Bush. He has led the charge in criticizing Bush on 9/11 and Iraq.

2) Senator John Edwards: having run a decent – but over-rated – campaign for President, many are now pushing for Edwards to be on the ticket. But he couldn’t even beat Kerry in the South – other than South Carolina – so what exactly does he bring to the ticket? His home state of North Carolina? Nope. Bush will win it whether Edwards is on the ticket or not. True, Edwards is new, fresh, young, and attractive and is generally the second most popular Democrat after Kerry. But he does not appear to give Kerry anything Kerry doesn’t already have. Perhaps in Border States Edwards can sell well. Perhaps. Also, his so-called ‘positive’ campaign raises the question: in a general election will he be willing to “go negative” on Bush-Cheney and be an attack dog? Will be risk his all-positive image? Will he be any good in this role?

3) Congressman Richard Gephardt of Missouri. Can this two-time poor presidential candidate carry his crucial Show-Me State for the ticket? If so, then he is a real possibility. So, too, would his union appeal be in crucial battleground states of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The negatives are his protectionist trade policies and his lackluster campaign style.

4) Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. This popular, engaging former Congressman, Energy Secretary and UN Ambassador is Hispanic and that is why Kerry will consider him. This crucial – and rapidly growing – voting bloc could be the key group in presidential elections from now on. Richardson’s negative include trying to help Bill Clinton out by getting Monica Lewinsky a job in the US Mission to the United Nations. Would Kerry want all that raised again? Does Kerry want any more of the Clinton taint attached to his campaign?

5) Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. A no name nationally and thus an untested national candidate, Nelson is young, attractive and a fresh face. Plus, he is from Florida. Kerry may want to have a totally new face on the ticket – and from this crucial state.

6) Senator John McCain – Kerry’s number one choice. Why? Because McCain is the darling of the crucial Independent voter – and the so-called ‘mainstream media.’ A Kerry-McCain ticket would be a juggernaut bringing the Democrats and the Independents into a coalition. Kerry and McCain – two decorated Vietnam vets – would be a stark contrast to Bush and Cheney – two Vietnam ‘avoiders.’ Kerry and McCain are the best of friends. They both hate G.W. Bush. But McCain is a Republican and only last week agreed to serve, at President Bush’s request, on the new Intelligence Panel. Will McCain bolt the GOP to join Kerry? That is the million-dollar question.

One name circulating about – Hillary Clinton – is very, very unlikely to be on Kerry’s short list. Why? Because she is a polarizing figure certain to re-energize Bush’s now-lackluster conservative base.

Besides, what does Hillary bring to the ticket? New York? Kerry will win it anyway!

Conclusion: Kerry will want McCain but if he can’t get him, the short list above is where he will find his running mate.

Four years ago I used the “Five Tools of Politics” as a template by which to gauge the 2000 presidential candidates. This is simply – and only – a way to measure their ‘candidate skills’ - not a way to measure the content of their political philosophies. Issues – also crucial to a campaign – are not the subject here; skills as a presidential candidate are. It is now clear that John Kerry will be this year’s Democrat Party presidential nominee. So let us examine a Bush-Kerry race.

Baseball’s greatest talent evaluator was St. Louis Cardinal and Brooklyn Dodger general manager Branch Rickey. He taught his scouts to grade aspiring players on five baseball skills: 1) hit; 2) hit with power; 3) run; 4) field; 5) throw. Any player who combined these skills was a sure-fire major leaguer. To this day, baseball people salivate when they find a “five-tool” player.
Similarly, in elective politics, there are five attributes that, when combined, almost guarantee that a candidate will rise to the political “major leagues” known as the presidency:
1) Fire-in-the-belly. This over-riding hunger borders on the obsessive. Virtually all successful political candidates, no matter how well they disguise it, would “walk over their mothers” to win, as Nixon White House aide Charles Colson once put it.
2) Self-discipline. The ability to rein in one’s own worst instincts, habits and weaknesses. Both President Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich ruined their legacies through a lack of personal self-discipline. The Speaker couldn’t keep his mouth shut; the President couldn’t keep his fly shut.
3) Authoritative presence. Especially in the television era, candidates must project an air of gravitas and weight. Dan Quayle’s “deer in the headlights” look undercut anything he said or did.
4) Raise money. All successful candidates find a way to raise enough money to win. Some, like JFK, merely asked their father to pay. Others spend years developing a network of donors; others cultivate special interests. However they do it, winning candidates always come up with “the mother’s milk of politics”.
5) Communicate a positive vision. Derided by President George H.W. Bush as “that vision thing”, it is this singular ability that elevated Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt into the political Hall of Fame. The skill to speak in a way that inspires voters is invaluable – and very rare. (No wonder so many campaigns today resort to “negative campaigning”; their candidate is incapable of painting with voice and words a believable picture of a better future.)

With these Five Tools in mind, let us examine the now-certain November match-up of President George W. Bush versus Senator John F. Kerry:

1) Fire in the belly: this is not an issue with either man. G.W. Bush has already proven that he has that fire – especially during the 2000 Florida recount. And Kerry has been dying to run for president since he came home from Vietnam 35 years ago.

G.W. Bush is haunted by his father’s defeat for re-election in 1992. Nothing motivates him more than restoring the Bush Family name by being re-elected. (Oddly, in 1992 then-President George H.W. Bush did not have the fire in the belly for his own re-election. He seemed strangely passive and laconic. Many in his family believe he was sick that year with the thyroid condition, Graves’ Disease.)

Yesterday’s MEET THE PRESS appearance clearly showed that Mr. Bush is hungry and will fight like hell to win this year’s election.

2) Self Discipline: this was already the undoing this year of former front-runner Howard Dean. His inability to keep his often-volatile temper in check culminated in the career defining Iowa “Scream.”

This is a key quality for a good candidate. G.W. Bush showed in 2000 that he could keep his temper in check and stay “on message” so as not to ‘step on his spin of the day.’ In an era of ‘media cycles,’ it is vital that the candidate stick to his script. Bush did it well in 2000 – and so far Kerry is doing it well this year, too.

In yet another example of this self-disciple, President Bush carefully stuck to his script on MEET THE PRESS yesterday. He did not allow himself to fall into any traps set by Tim Russert.

3) Authoritative presence: This is one of Kerry’s strengths. He looks presidential to many observers. He is tall, thin and overly serious. Thus, to some, he commands respect and appears authoritative. Howard Dean failed miserably on this test.

President Bush is, after all, the President of the United States so it is hard to question his presence. But often opponents have a problem measuring up to a President – especially when they appear side-by-side at the Presidential debates. Kerry will dwarf the President by at least 5 inches. And Kerry’s sonorous speaking style connotes a level of seriousness that many want in the Oval Office.

4) Raising Money: No one has ever – EVER – raised as much money as the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign. Kerry’s key to fundraising? He married it!

5) Communicate a positive vision: this is the gold standard that makes candidates into leaders. G.W. Bush on occasion has risen to a level where he inspired people. His post 9/11 performances was excellent. But lately he has fallen flat. His State of the Union Address was a flop and his initiatives – especially on immigration and Mars - were greeted with yawns and cynicism. He seems devoid of positive vision -–other than the notion of going back to the Moon. More is required than merely saying, “I have a vision,” which is what the President said several times on MEET THE PRESS.

Kerry, too, is relying on negative feelings toward Bush. What positive or uplifting thought or vision has anyone ever heard come out of Kerry’s mouth?

The key to this race may be which one of these two men can rise about their boring, plodding speaking styles and find a chord that connects them with people. Reagan and JFK could do it.

Can either of these two do it?

Next: Kerry’s Veep Short List


President George W. Bush’s political standing has eroded – alarmingly – in the past two weeks.

All public polls show a declining job performance number – and a rising disapproval number - despite a supposedly improving economy and a soaring stock market. Let us try to examine what is really happening:

1) Team Bush has greatly underestimated the remaining ‘worry factor’ about the economy. Many, many people are ‘worried’ over their money, their total taxes, their jobs and their children’s jobs. This underlying fear factor has undermined Bush – right at the heart of his presidency.

2) The Bush flurry of initiatives leading up to the State of the Union went over like a lead balloon. Beginning with the now-obviously-disastrous immigration proposal followed by the unpopular Trip to Mars, the President is losing political credibility. People see these initiatives suddenly announced in an election year and their cynicism takes over.

3) Polls taken after this year’s State of the Union speech show that a majority of people did not have a ‘positive’ feeling about it. In the previous three years this annual speech boosted Mr. Bush’s ratings; this time it was a negative. Why? He is losing credibility.

4) The revelation that the budget deficit is ballooning has cut into the Bush Base. Conservatives are furious with the increased spending programs. They say, “We didn’t vote Republican to have yet another Big-Spending political party!”

5) The Democratic presidential candidates’ constant pounding on the President also contributes to his lower ratings. He has yet to fight back and defend himself. When he does – after a Democratic nominee has been selected – he can help shape the race to his advantage.

6) But – by far – the biggest reason for Bush’s declining ratings is Iraq. David Kay’s revelation that there are no Weapons of Mass Destruction – and were none before the war either – has undercut Mr. Bush on his supposed strength: national security. Believe this: the Kay Report has rocked the White House to its core. Just look at the Bush Flip Flop on having an ‘independent commission’ to explore intelligence failures. In the middle of last week the White House opposed it vehemently; today the White House has totally reversed itself and is ready to appoint a ‘Warren Commission-style panel.’

Team Bush hopes that this investigation can be dragged out way past the November election. That way Mr. Bush can dodge questions about launching a war based on a false premise. He can just say, “That is being looked into and I don’t want to prejudge the commission’s findings.”

Whether such an approach can work in a presidential campaign is doubtful - especially if Senator John Kerry – a ruthless opponent – is the Democratic nominee. Kerry – who voted for the resolution authorizing force – has already said that “President Bush lied to me” about the WMD. If he maintains such an approach, the White House is going to be on the defensive all year long.

Kerry and the Democrats are also preparing the political battlefield: if Bush questions the Democrats’ patriotism, then they are ready to charge him with being AWOL from his Air National Guard duties in 1972 while he was in Alabama. You are soon going to hear the name of Colonel Turnipseed, the base commander in 1972 who has claimed that G.W. Bush never reported in to him as he was required to. Curiously, in the 2000 race it was discovered that all of G.W. Bush’s National Guard records had disappeared from the USG’s records center.

You can bet that the Kerry forces are prepped to go all out on this issue to contrast Kerry’s Vietnam War record. The famous ‘flight suit photo’ of President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln last spring may come back to haunt him in more ways than one.

Conclusion: It is still early in this race. Much is yet to happen. But for Team Bush, they need to get on the offensive – and soon.