mr. zilla goes to town

Friday, October 01, 2004

major coincidence

In today's WPost:

The Defense Department has embarked on what it says is the most aggressive voter education campaign in military history, hoping to solve problems that caused thousands of military absentee ballots to be nullified in the 2000 election.

...The military does not keep voter registration figures, but voting assistance officers in Iraq said they have noticed a sharp increase in the number of service members who want to vote -- the first time since the Vietnam War that a presidential election has been held when there is such a large troop deployment.

...The Defense Department has announced several initiatives, including efforts to ensure that mailed ballots are given priority handling. The Pentagon has worked with state elections officials so that many states will try to mail absentee ballots at least 45 days before an election to ensure service members receive them in time to vote, though some have missed their deadlines because of legal disputes over whether to include Ralph Nader and a variety of initiatives on ballots. Most states will also fax blank ballots to service members, and some allow ballots to be downloaded from the Internet.

Vigorous efforts to assist voters to be able to exercise their franchise are fantastic, no matter the circumstances they're in. And if there's anyone that deserves a special effort, its soldiers on the front lines. (Let's set aside for the moment the idea that the true test of a principled democracy is how you treat everyone, not just those deserving of special attention.)

But to go with the above story, back in Thursday's WaPo, we read:

The Bush administration, battling negative perceptions of the Iraq war, is sending Iraqi Americans to deliver what the Pentagon calls "good news" about Iraq to U.S. military bases, and has curtailed distribution of reports showing increasing violence in that country.

The unusual public-relations effort by the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development comes as details have emerged showing the U.S. government and a representative of President Bush's reelection campaign had been heavily involved in drafting the speech given to Congress last week by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Combined, they indicate that the federal government is working assiduously to improve Americans' opinions about the Iraq conflict -- a key element of Bush's reelection message.

With a 1.4 million strong constituency of serving US military personnel, and probably five times that in family members and retired personnel who are eligble voters, this isn't a percentage play to be sneezed at. Flogging public funds in the effort to put a snow job over the troops in the late stages of a Presidential election campaign stinks to high heaven. My only consolation is that no doubt serving personnel want certainty that their mission is just and valuable, the terms of holding that belief are not going to rely on pre-deployment PR bullshit but on getting home in one piece.


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