More than 2,000 delegates gather in Philadelphia for the Republican National Convention, with their more than 2,000 alternates. The majority of delegates assembling here are more conservative than George W. Bush has sought to portray the Republican Party, this according to a New York Times-CBS News poll of those delegates. On a host of important issues, from affirmative action to environmental concerns to abortion, the poll found that delegates stand significantly to the right of much of the nation, and even to the right of rank-and-file Republican voters. In fact, a majority of the more than 2,000 delegates describe themselves as somewhat or very conservative.
The delegates, by and large, supported large tax cuts and school vouchers, oppose gun control, curbs on trade, environmental safeguards, abortion rights, prescription drug subsidies for the elderly and campaign finance regulation. In one notable exception of the contrast between the delegates and Republican voters, the poll, again conducted by the New York Times and CBS, found that fewer than half the delegates said they supported mandatory child safety locks on firearms.
Meanwhile, the Democrats launched the first of a week’s worth of critical TV ads on Sunday, beginning with an attack on Dick Cheney, before going after George W. Bush’s record as governor of Texas. Democrats chose the week of the Republican National Convention for their first negative ads of the general election, trying to counter the positive storyline that Bush and the GOP will project. It’s an early start to what many expect will be a hard-fought contest, and the ads are costing $3.5 million over the next week, as their targeted to seventeen battleground states that are considered toss-ups right now.
In other election news, though from another country, Peru’s Prime Minister warned that organizers of demonstrations that left six people dead and more than eighty wounded on Friday when President Alberto Fujimori was inaugurated, could be held responsible and prosecuted. The Colonial Center of Lima was converted into a smoky battlefield during the inauguration of the three-term president, who many call dictator, as thousands of demonstrators charged police barricades, threw firebombs and vandalized government offices. That’s how the government described it. You may remember, on Friday on Democracy Now!, we spoke with a number of the protesters who emphasized that they were nonviolent and that it was the government that was being violent towards them.
And this news from Portland, Oregon: eighteen men who were sickened last year while building an incinerator in the Umatilla Chemical Depot are accusing the Army of hiding leaks of highly toxic nerve and mustard agents on the day of the incident. The lawyer for the men said they are seeking an injunction to halt the construction of the incinerator in Eastern Oregon until safety protections are in place.
And this news about former UN arms inspector, Scott Ritter, once accused by Iraq of spying for the United States, he returned to Iraq this weekend to film a documentary about weapons sites and the impact of UN sanctions. Ritter told the Washington Post that President Saddam Hussein had agreed to give him and his crew access to weapons facilities throughout Iraq, with the aim of judging whether Iraq had rebuilt its arsenal since the inspectors left. Ritter resigned from the UN Special Commission, UNSCOM, then in charge of Iraqi disarmament two years ago, accusing the United Nations, United States of not being tough enough on Iraq when it violated Security Council resolutions.
The former Marine Corps intelligence officer, Ritter, has repeatedly denied that UNSCOM was turned into a US spying agency to topple Saddam, but months after his resignation, Ritter said Iraq no longer had a significant capability to use any weapons of mass destruction. He has said Washington and the United Nations should reassess their positions, not insist on 100 percent disarmament and stop killing the children, with more than half-a-million dead as a result of the sanctions.
And this news from Caracas, Venezuela: Venezuelans voted yesterday in a general election to give incumbent President Hugo Chavez six more years to carry out his peaceful revolution. Private exit polls gave Chavez, a charismatic populist who shot to fame in a failed 1992 coup, 54 percent of the votes cast compared to 34 percent for his rival.
And this surprise news at the last minute in Israel. Shimon Peres was defeated as President of Israel, and he was defeated by a right-wing candidate.