Cynthia McKinney and George Bush: A winning combination?

July 26, 2004|By Cynthia Tucker

"I'M BACK!" said Cynthis A McKinney.

She's ba-a-a-ck, said the rest of us.

Ms. McKinney, a controversial liberal Democrat from the Atlanta suburbs who lost her seat in Congress two years ago, is on the verge of winning back her post. If she succeeds, she ought to stop off at the Oval Office to thank her unofficial political strategist, President Bush. She couldn't have won without him.

Ms. McKinney was ousted after she suggested that President Bush knew about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 but did nothing to stop them so that his friends could profit from the resulting war.

In her current campaign, Ms. McKinney tamped down her rough edges and ran as a reasonable and experienced, mainstream - if liberal - candidate. Her father - an equally incendiary but dumber version of Ms. McKinney known for bigoted outbursts against her opponents - was kept out of sight, either by his daughter's newfound campaign discipline or by failing health.

Ms. McKinney also benefited from a splintered field. She was defeated two years ago by moderate Democrat Denise Majette, who decided this year to run for the U.S. Senate. With the congressional seat open in heavily Democratic territory, six Democrats sought the post.

But let's give credit where credit is due. Thanks to the machinations of the Bush White House and Halliburton, Ms. McKinney's remarks about profiteering from the Iraq war don't sound nearly as wacko as they did two years ago. One of the most riveting video clips in Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 shows a 2003 seminar in Arlington, Va., in which business executives drool over the opportunities for making money off the war.

An exhaustive investigation by the 9/11 commission turned up nothing - nothing - to suggest that Mr. Bush allowed the attacks to proceed so his friends could profit from the ensuing war. The president can be accused of many things: inattention, inexperience, ideological blindness and even misleading the country about the threat presented by Saddam Hussein. Those are charges that stick; Ms. McKinney's doesn't.

Nevertheless, the secrecy, deception, dissembling, corruption and wanton greed associated with the awarding of contracts to Halliburton have not only fed conspiracy theories among the lunatic fringe, they have also sparked numerous investigations by law enforcement agencies and watchdog groups. The Justice Department is also examining reports that Halliburton officials took millions in kickbacks in Iraq. The Pentagon is conducting an investigation into whether Halliburton overcharged the U.S. government millions of dollars for meals it never served to U.S. troops.

And now, a federal grand jury is investigating whether Halliburton violated federal sanctions by doing business with Iran while Dick Cheney was running the company. Let's be clear: While Mr. Cheney continues to claim that Mr. Hussein had substantial ties to al-Qaida, legitimate intelligence suggests that Iran may have had stronger ties to al-Qaida than Iraq. And Halliburton may have done business with the enemy - in violation of federal sanctions - while Mr. Cheney was at the helm. Even Ms. McKinney lacks the imagination to make that up. (Mr. Cheney, meanwhile, brings whole new meaning to the term vice president.)

So, with the president's help, Ms. McKinney may be on her way back to Washington. You don't suppose the GOP planned all this so they'd have Ms. McKinney as a convenient foil - to prod the base and loom as the wild-eyed enemy in fund-raising literature? Nah. They wouldn't do that. Would they?

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her column appears Mondays in The Sun.

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