Thursday, October 21, 2004

It’s the Accountability, Stupid.

Candidate Bush in 2000 promised to usher in a new era of personal responsibility.

Well, it’s about time!

I think personal responsibility – accountability, if you will – is something that we are desparately short of in these trying times. And I for one applaud young George’s suggestion that we renew our focus on holding people accountable. Well done, George. Go and get yourself a pretzel!

And of course, the arch-enemy of accountability is hypocrisy, so let’s begin the new era with a review of George’s own accountability. Let’s start with the war in Iraq, shall we?

George was pretty sure that Saddam represented a grave threat to America. He said in defending his invasion, “Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are controlled by a murderous tyrant who has already used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people.” In fact, he wasn’t just saying there is a body of intelligence which strongly suggests that Hussein has WMDs. He was certain; he knew it; “there was no doubt.”

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

“'I’m confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe, that Saddam had a weapons program.”

And as for the connection between Al-Qaida and Saddam, Bush said, “We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaida members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.”

So, when confronted with unmistakable evidence that both propositions were wrong – that Iraq in fact did not have WMDs, and that it did not in fact have any meaningful contacts with Al-Qaida, the President took full responsibility, and humbly apologized to a forgiving nation.

Oh, wait, no he didn’t. First, he just lied:

“We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.”

But then he argued that he didn’t really say WMDs at all. He had meant to say WMD “related program activities,” which in fact was born out. And as for Al-Qaida, well, they never really meant that there were ties between the 9/11 attack and Iraq, just between Al-Qaida terrorists and Iraq (which would be true for dozens of countries, of course, including the US, who had “ties” to Osama Bin Ladn himself during the USSR’s Afghan war.

OK, so Bush isn’t big on accepting responsibity for leading the US into a war by mistake. (A pretty big “oopsie” by any measure.) What about taking personal responsibility for his domestic policies?

Well, when he proposed a massive tax cut, fears of a deficit arose amidst a weakening economy. However, George was sure that deficits wouldn’t materialize: “we can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits, even if the economy softens.” Whew! Hang on…

We ended up having record deficits. Which is a problem, according to George:
“Many of you have talked about the need to pay down our national debt. . . I agree. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act now.”

It turns out, though, that taking responsibility for these deficits means that they’re not really that important after all, as Vice President Cheney explained: “ Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.”

But surely the massive tax cuts were designed to create jobs, right?

“He has proposed a jobs and economic growth plan that would help create 510,000 new jobs this year and a total of 1.4 million new jobs by the end of next year. The president will not be satisfied until everyone looking for work can find it. “ – White House press release

The President’s plan will help the economy to create 1.4 million new jobs by the end of 2004.” – same

So, when the economy failed to produce any additional jobs, and in fact ended up actually losing jobs, the President took personal responsibility, right?

I think by now you know the answer. The failure to create jobs is given the “bush’ treatment: first it is denied -- “we have too created jobs.” Then it is argues that job creation isn’t really relevant, and that the paltry level of jobs is in fact more than adequate, since those without jobs are too stupid and/or lazy to actually get one, so that the job loss is in fact not real since everyone who deserves a job has one. Plus you can always sell things on e-bay.”

And before we conclude this screed, who can forget candidate Bush’s accusation against President Gore in 2000: “If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that.” Thank God!

Coming Next: The Republicans’ Dire Predictions Are Always Wrong

The Case for Permitting Children to Work.

Over at the Sadly, no blog, there is a challenge to mimic one of the right’s trademarks, the contrarian “case for” piece. You know, the Case for Invading Brazil, of The Case for Outlawing Democrats, etc.

So here’s my entry.

The Case for Restoring Children’s Right-to-Work

In a perhaps over-zealous effort to infantlize the nation's youth, Thoedore Roosevelt, so-called Republican, gave in to the goo-goo crowd of his day and flat-out outlawed child labor. The harmful effects of this dubious decree reverberate to this day.

Consider the case of Marilyn O'Leary, a third grade student in Floral Park, a suburb of New York City. Marilyn would like to have some money to buy a new Barbie video game. But sadly, Marilyn's parents have not given her the money she needs, claiming that Marilyn needs to focus more on the left-wing agenda that passes for social studies at her local union-dominated school.

And because of this country's misguided labor laws, Marilyn has forfeited her right to work.

In a small building behind a Hess gas station, Eduardo Martinez has a small factory, affixing stickers to various promotional items, like a toy gas truck. Because of the small size of some of the items Mr. Martinez would dearly love to have children, preferably 10 and under, to handle the work. But his right to hire the best worker for the job, at a price that the market deems fair, is utterly and completely cut off.

The time has come in this country to abandon antiquated notions of paternalism, and join the rest of the world in competing with our full might. If Guatemalan children can affix designer logos to polo shirts, just wait til Mrs. Frossberger's third grade class at Floral Park Elementary School gets their hands on a needle and thread. Look out Indonesia: soon, we'll have polo shirts in Wal-Mart for just 99 cents.

A Grand Unified Theory explaining the basic Fundamentals of American Politics, in language that is Simple to Understand.

There have been many attempts to explain American politics in terms of two competing ideas, from Tories and Rebels, Whigs and Tories, Democrats and Republicans, Conservative and Liberal, even male and female. And I suppose it’s no original contribution to note that there is another dichotomy, change vs. status quo, that underlies much of our political life. But I rarely hear these words used in our political discourse, which I think is a disservice to our society.

It may be that the change/status quo pair is more or less synonymous with the unsatisfied/satisfied. While one can look at things from a variety of perspectives, looking at our political life as a contest between those who would change things and those who would preserve things as they are explains quite a bit, and illuminates just how far our culture has swung to the preservers, and how far it has to go until the changers have their day.

Of course, I use the terms preservers, conservatives and Republicans more or less synonymously, as are changers, liberals, progressives and Democrats. I think, however, that the impulses toward change (for/against) are powerful motivators and drive much of our political rhetoric.

Currently, Republicans and Democrats are locked in what appears to be a dead-heat death match for the White House. Republicans tell voters that the world is uniquely dangerous, and that their man Bush is uniquely able to defend (preserve) their safe, comfortable lives. Further, the Republicans argue that if the other man should win, terrible and disruptive things would ensue: taxes would rise, government would become fat and lazy, schools would return to the “soft bigotry” of the past, and the government would take over our healthcare system and ruin it. Democrats insist that while security is paramount, we aren’t doing enough (dissatisfied with the status quo), and that other areas of our lives – jobs, healthcare, education – are in desperate need of change.

In short, Republicans are running on a platform of preserving the status quo, while pointing out that the other party is proposing all manner of scary changes. The Dems acknowledge that preserving our physical safety is key, but propose to make changes to further that goal. Further, they propose numerous changes designed to address areas of dissatisfaction. They point to the other guy as a do-nothing leader whose efforts to implement change have been a failure.

I believe that there is an ideal balance between change and anti-change, and that the interplay of these opposing forces in our society generally serves our interest well. Consider a world made up entirely of anti-changers – Republicans, if you will. It’s easy to guess that we wouldn’t have Medicare or Medicaid, or Social Security or even the minimum wage or anti-child labor laws. Indeed, I don’t think it’s unfair to wonder whether we’d still be living in an essentially feudal society, where those who controlled wealth and power used it to advance their own interests, and helped others only as their consciences dictated.

Now consider the opposite world where there are only those who desire change – liberals run amok. Would it be a society where basic concepts like private property and the rule of law had trouble persisting? I confess it’s a little hard to imagine what it would look like, but it’s easy to imagine that we’d be pursuing change for change’s sake, and that our standard of living would be far lower as society’s resources were routinely used to effectuate changes. We would, however, probably have free cable tv with all the premium services for everybody – and therein lies the problem. Without a semi-permanent infrastructure of institutions and conventions that resist change, wealth creation becomes much more challenging, as generations of communists can attest.

No, the ideal world is not one-sided. It is the constant friction between the two forces that produces the best results over time, though in a majority-rule society, a slight advantage to the forces for change is probably desirable, for it is in the end the forces of change that light the way to the future, even if they are stronger for having overcome the forces that would have us stay right where we are.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Random Thoughts Turning Into the Home Stretch

Couple of errant matters:

I am still just absolutely dumbfounded that there are any Americans who want to re-up with Bush let alone almost half. Even those that say they plan to vote for the President seem to struggle to come up with any reasons, other than he seems tougher on terrorists and that the economy is improving. Apparently, the encroaching fascism doesn’t seem to be a worry.

I can’t help but think when this guy gets in and introduces 1) national flat tax that just kills the middle class, 2) privatization of Social Security (that so unbalances the system that we will have a budget deficit approaching a billion), and Syria/Iran (Iraq 2.0), there’s gonna be lots of Bush supporters who are going to plead either that they didn’t know he was gonna do these things (even though he says he is), or two, no one told them what bad news this guy was. Oh, and a whole lotta, “Gee, I’m sorry I helped trash freedom and democracy. Whoops! My bad.”

Then the grown-ups will have to take over and clean up this God-awful mess.

I sometimes think that the Dems aren’t really ready to take back the reins of power. So much of the Democratic rhetoric is essentially an attack on the Repubs and Bush, and so little (too little?) is on the vision for the future. With a bit more time, we will certainly bring many more Americans over to our world view of hope and optimism, but right now an awful lot of us still seem utterly trapped by fear and hatred.

The Dems have not quite finished sharpening their message. If we do regain some element of power, we will still have before us the hard work of articulating and selling a basic message. Everyone knows the right’s message: the liberals are tax and spend, big government types who have no God and are completely amoral. But the counterpart from our side is still not fully gelled. The Repubs are heartless robber barons who could give a fig about working class people, and will screw the little people every chance they get. While this seems clear to me, it’s not “soup” until it becomes an unspoken premise of The Media’s thinking.

Plus, that’s just the negative side. On the positive side, everyone knows the Repub vision: smaller government, lower taxes, um…OK that’s about it. But everyone knows it. On our side, we’re still carrying the negative image the Repubs paint of us, and haven’t yet articulated our own vision. In other words, we’re still busy fending off the false attack of the right that what we really want is Big Government and higher taxes. The idea that what we want is better healthcare, schools that work, tax fairness, incentives for businesses to innovate, etc., is still only penciled in.

The right is unified by a single big idea: that the private market place is more efficient than government programs. Our big idea is still a bit murky: it’s something like the government has a useful role to play in correcting the injustices of the market (like only rich people being able to afford health care). But to me, at least, it’s still not there. Somehow or other, I think our big idea will have to take off from the idea of the government as value-adder.

On a related note, from my own perspective, I think the job market remains rather depressed for all but the most low-level jobs. I see precious little hiring of anyone other than customer service types and salespeople. I still don’t see new corporate spending on anything really new. Cowardice reigns! Spend on sure things only – nothing else. Risk is for the poor, not those with means.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Debate III In a Nutshell

Kerry easily carries off a mature, presidential performance, nicely highlighted by the sniveling, “class-clown” act of the incumbent. The actual president (footnote omitted) was unbelievably juvenile in his performance. He seems uninterested and unaware of what his job entails. He seems to think the job description is something like “Believer-in-Chief.” I was as floored as I ever am that someone so obviously ill-equipped for the job was in the job.

I thought Bob Schieffer did a magnificently bad job. I really couldn’t believe the question about the President’s faith:

You were asked before the invasion, or after the invasion, of Iraq if you'd checked with your dad. And I believe, I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority. I would like to ask you, what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?

What in the world is this question supposed to elicit? What did Bob expect Kerry was going to be able to say “in response?” This struck me as an overt effort to give the President a chance to speechify in his trademark Unprepared Student style about faith at the end of the proceedings. I was especially surprised when the question turned away from what I thought was going to be something a wee bit challenging, like, “What led you to reject the judgment of your father and others in his administration that invading Iraq was a mistake because of the risk that we would get bogged down in a quagmire with no real exit strategy?”

Or something.

The real stunners of the night to me were:

-- When the President blamed the flu vaccine shortage on foreigners (the British), said we were working with some less foreign foreigners (the Canadians), and that the patriotic thing to do was to simply do without. Yikes!
-- The President lying about his intemperate remarks about wanting Osama dead or alive (of course). I think this may well be the symbolic nail in the coffin of his re-election campaign. It’s just too easy for the media to replay the two clips right after each other. And as far more perceptive minds than I have noted, it cuts right to the heart of the public’s dissatisfaction with the administration. It is a clear demonstration of the “taking their eye off the ball” charge, it is a clear demonstration that the President is plainly a liar, it is a clear demonstration that the President lacks the maturity to accept any kind of responsibility, and it is a clear demonstration that the President lacks the judgment to handle such an awesome responsibility.

-- I was struck by how obviously inconsistent the President’s remarks were about government sponsored health care. On the one hand, he seemed to think it was, I suppose like all government services, poor quality and likely to lead to abuse (“government- run health will lead to poor-quality health”). But on the other, he seemed quite proud of the government run health care programs: “Veterans are getting very good health care under my administration.” I’m surprised even the muddled press hasn’t picked up on this. Pretty obvious, in my view.

-- The President saying that what unemployed workers really are interested in is education, specifically the No Child Left behind Act. Well, in about three weeks Mr. Bush may have the opportunity to learn first hand what unemployed people are interested in. I’m pretty sure it ain’t higher fourth grade reading scores. He topped off this corker with the “reading is the new civil right” quote. Which I thought was pretty remarkable. What’s the next civil right, I wonder? The right to electricity? Freedom from the 100 hour workweek? (Actually, if Bush wins, we might just be campaigning for that…)

-- Kerry’s smackdown of Bush’s lame defense of his funding for NCLB – actually, two of them. First, “He'll tell you he's raised the money, and he has. But he didn't put in what he promised, and that makes a difference in the lives of our children.” A point which was not rebutted. Second, “You don't measure it by a percentage increase. Mr. President, you measure it by whether you're getting the job done.” KO, Kerry.

-- One for those paying close attention, perhaps, but I thought it was choice: Kerry’s smackdown of Bush defense of his performance on Pell grants. “But you know why the Pell Grants have gone up in their numbers? Because more people qualify for them because they don't have money.” Kerry surely could have hit this more crisply, but for those paying attention, this was pretty devastating: Bush can cite one million more families qualifying for Pell grants because he has made more families worse enough off that they qualify. Too bad the available pool of funds hasn’t been increased (in fact it’s been decreased).

Highlights anyway.

Oh, and by the way, just why won’t anyone in the press ever hold these Repubs responsible for their bad judgments. Every single time we’ve raised the minimum wage, the Repubs have been 100% certain that a catastrophic economic collapse will ensue, and they’ve been wrong every single time. In fact, every time we do something over the Repubs objections (which is every time we do something that doesn’t have as its primary purpose benefiting corporate America), the objections turn out to be crap. And never once have I seen a reporter call these guys on it. They’re now claiming that if Kerry gets in, he’ll tax everyone to death. Didn’t they make the same claims about Bill Clinton? Weren’t they proven embarrassingly wrong?

And that concludes the screed for the day. Respond, if you dare…

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Sinclair Broadcasting – A Classic What To Think

The last few days have seen the leftwing blogosphere apoplectic over the decision by the Sinclair Broadcasting Company to air on the many TV stations is owns a documentary titled “Stolen Honor” that is about the allegations that Kerry’s Viet Nam service was less than honorable.

Those of us on the left are falling for the bait, “Big Time.” There’s a database of Sinclair’s advertisers, complete with names and phone numbers, so all of us outraged dems can call the Dayton Ohio Tire Center to complain about their advertising on Sinclair, the license renewal info for each station has been posted so we can all remember to complain at license renewal time, and there’s even some corporate info posted designed to help drive down the company’s stock price.

The outrage stems from the fact that many of these stations are in swing states, and that the allegations have proven effective at getting people to dislike Kerry and support the Other Guy. Oh, and that the allegations are demonstrably false.

All of which misses the point, in my view. Gather round, chillin’, and have the World’s Most Reasonable Man tell you What to Think:

This entire Affair has been orchestrated to prevent the showing of our “Stolen Glory,” “Fahrenheit 911.” There’s been some talk of getting Fahrenheit 911 on broadcast air before the elections. And while Fahrenheit 911 is scrupulously accurate, those on the right can concoct some arguments that suggest there are come cut corners. In my view, there are some corners that may be a wee bit cut, but so what – the overall message is unquestionably accurate.

Like everything else, at the end of the day this is about money. No one would care if the nice fascists over at the Sinclair Broadcasting Company wanted to donate an hour’s worth of air time to show their little exercise in rapid right-wing nuttery. But the fair market value of the time would have to clear the various legal requirements for political donations. (Whether it could clear these hurdles or not, I don’t know.) It would be a significant sum of money, but hardly anything compared with 90 minutes of NBC, ABC and CBS, which is what some on the left have been contemplating. The point is either to make sure that Fahrenheit 911 never sees broadcast air, or that if it does, it will be mind-numbingly expensive.

And that, dears, is What To Think for today.

Fighting for Our Lives!

In the ingoing vacillation between “We’re all doomed” and “Everything’s Going to be OK,” I’m full tilt into the “We’re all doomed” mode.

Caught a snippet of Randi Rhodes on Air America over the weekend, and she was discussing the book 1984 with a high school English teacher (who was great). And they danced around and almost hit the point that lurched me back into Terrified Mode. One of the secrets of double-think was to keep telling people that things are as we say they, that the past was as we say it was, and that the future will be as we say it will be.

And through the cunning use of double-think, simply repeating the lie over and over, it became indistinguishable from reality. (OK, I’m a little fuzzy on the book. I’ll read it cover to cover soon.) The point that frightened me was the idea that, to get people to believe the lies, they have to learn that what they see and hear with their own two eyes and ears is not reliable. I see this manifested today in the way the news media reports things. Today’s blogosphere is full of complaints that the news media tends to equate Repub giant whopper lies with Dem meaningless mistakes and omissions. True enough. But the big evil is that the media has taught most voters that what the politicians say is not true, that you can’t trust anyone, and that while Bush may have needlessly plunged us into war, trashed the economy and handed the environment over to the coal companies, Kerry’s explanation of some of his Senate votes is a bit muddy, and that his wife is super-rich and he may be a bit of a hypocrite.

People have learned that what the press tells them may very well be false – a cultural attribute the Repubs have helped build by feeding the press lie after lie, so that the public no longer trusts the one institution that is supposed to be their safeguard against tyranny. If the media has been corrupted by lies masquerading as “spin,” and the people no longer trust it, what is the way out?

It may be that we are in fact not on the verge of the huge upswing in progressive fortunes that I generally believe is underway. We may be having the last gasp of freedom before entering the dark world Orwell warned us of. If the Bushes are returned for 4 more years, I fear that those few elements of progressivism that remain will simply be squashed for good, and the days of freedom and light will be delayed even further.

Perhaps we’ll move to Guam, or Spain.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Coupla Loose Ends

A couple of loose ends to note. First, I thought Kerry did a superb job overall. But I think he was especially strong in appealing to women, while Bush’s pedantic and arrogant manner must have been off-putting especially to women. Plus, Kerry specifically hitting on the wage-gap for women, and just speaking the word women several times, was huge.

On another note, I absolutely love making the President deny that he’s going bring back the draft. It’s exactly the same as making your opponent deny that he’s beating his wife. Excellent.

I remember when Bush was asked whether he thought he had made any mistakes at his so-called “press conference.” His response was he wished that the question had been submitted in advance (presumably so he could prepare an answer). He then went on to think for a moment and conclude that, thinking back on everything, no, he really couldn’t really think of any. At the debate last night, having had these many months to prepare an answer, he didn’t seem to be any better prepared than he was so many months ago. And still, no real idea of any mistakes. Any adult who has ever encountered a child who’s always in trouble but it’s never their fault will recognize this putz in two seconds.

Big Thought: Remember the build-up to the Iraq invasion? Remember how the President and his people went way, way out of their way to assert their absolute conviction that they were right (phrases like “100% certain,” “no doubt,” “in fact,” etc.)? There’s a reason why: they knew they had to convince a skeptical populace, and they also knew the evidence was beyond thin. And that’s the big point: they knew perfectly well just how lousy their intelligence was. That’s why when the President was asked about mistakes he said there weren’t any (other than a few appointments which didn’t work out, but being such a gentlemen he declined to name them on the air (Paul O’Neill and Richard Clarke you know who you are), but then launched into a lengthy defense of Iraq. In my experience, impassioned defenses where none are called for generally belie a guilty conscience. My suspicion is that the President is going to spend the remainder of his days trying to convince anyone who will listen (and I’m hoping it will be people like Manny Rodriguez, his caddy at the country club) that his invasion of Iraq was justified, even required and noble. But the person he’s most trying to convince is himself.

One last thread: the President has claimed (including in the first debate) that the “miscalculation” (which somehow or other doesn’t count as a mistake) of the “catastrophic victory” (if you wrote this in fiction people would say it wasn’t believable) was the cause of the problems we’ve been seeing in Iraq. But doesn’t anybody remember that the invasion plan was heavily promoted as “shock and awe?” It wasn’t “grind ‘em down,” or “Operation Delayed Victory.” The catastrophic victory was exactly what they told everybody they wanted. The miscalculation was that they simply didn’t believe that the Iraqi’s wouldn’t welcome them as liberators. (“we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”) In fact – once again, I suspect they feared that the event would go off exactly as it “in fact” did, and just desperately wanted to believe that it would go off the way it should in their fantasy.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Meanwhile, Over on Planet Mordor...

I just watched John Kerry deliver an absolute knock-out blow to the embattled President by exercising utter mastery. But the Pundits of Planet Mordor agree: Bush was far less embarrassing than last time, so it’s about a draw. And hey! How about those wonderful questions from the audience members.

First of all, on the audience: I was struck by just how much courage it took to stand up, and clearly and plainly speak to the President of the United States some pretty harsh words (i.e, “Did you really go fishing in the rain this afternoon?”). I thought every single questioner was quite impressive and showed a lot of gumption. See? I told you Americans were all right. As for the questions themselves, while I agree that they were quite good, the press’ fawning all over them just underscores to me just how bad most “journalists” are at their jobs. These are the questions that they should be discussing every day, and yet they seem quite concerned with things like Bush’s scowling, Kerry’s tan, etc. Memo to press: maybe if you tried a little harder, you could catch the journalistic standard of Missouri Third Grade Teacher Sandy.

On to the main event: Kerry KO’d the bastard by any reasonable measure. He has permanently defanged the flip-flopper charge once and for all. He has poisoned everything the President says about Kerry by charging that the President is just trying to scare us. Kerry did not flip, nor flop, nor was he wighy-washy or muddled or verbose. Not even French. Asked to speak plainly into the camera and say that he would not under any circumstances raise taxes on families earning under $200K, Kerry did just that without the slightest hesitation. Bush’s answers were frankly strange, and fodder for the conspiricists amongst us who believe that the President’s health is in fact declining and causing him to be a Bigger and Bigger Jerk.

As the discussion wore on, I thought the reaction of the audience members was clearly favoring Kerry. I thought Kerry connected with the American people tonight in a way that pretty much cements things for him come the 2d. I really can’t see how, barring some October surprise or other unforeseen-able event, Bush can win this thing. But then, I don’t really see how he’s getting any votes at all. Are there any Americans who think invading Iraq was a good idea? That we had no choice in order to defend ourselves? I mean besides the President and his immediate family (which for these purposes includes the Dark Lord Cheney).

I may have more on this later, but if the polls fail to continue their current Kerry-favoring trend I’d be pretty surprised.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Looking over the transcript of the VP debates, I’m struck by how easy it would have been to deliver some serious whup-ass on the Vice President. Edwards struck me as very Old Democrat, mouthing his scripted platitudes but not engaging in real debate.

The Vice President started off with a long rambling analysis of why it was a Good Thing to invade Iraq. First, he claimed,

It's important to look at all of our developments in Iraq within the broader context of the global war on terror.
Thus began the administration’s ever-popular, ever-misleading pap about how taking out Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11 and the larger “war on terror.” The truth is the Iraqi invasion had little to with the war on terror, and everything to do with a neo-con fantasy about bringing democracy to the Middle East at the point of a US Army gun. Dark Lord Cheney went on to say recite the latest version of why we went into Iraq:

Concern about Iraq specifically focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein had been, for years, listed on the state sponsor of terror, that they he had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad; he paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers; and he had an established relationship with Al Qaida. Specifically, look at George Tenet, the CIA director's testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations two years ago when he talked about a 10-year relationship.

The effort that we've mounted with respect to Iraq focused specifically on the possibility that this was the most likely nexus between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.
Deconstructing this is both easy and fun. Almost nothing recited by the Dark Lord turns out to be both true and relevant. But for Edwards, the easy smack down that could have helped put this away for our side would be to say, “Mr. Cheney has tonight recited a whole litany of reason why we had to invade Iraq. All I can say is that not a single one of these reasons was cited by the administration when it asked the US Congress for authority to use force under the certain circumstances, nor the United Nations when seeking to pass the test of global opinion.”

Or something.

An even more compelling example came when Cheney was trying to score points for the “Global Test” remark of Kerry’s (“We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States.”). First, Kerry said the opposite:

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.
Not that we would need to pass a “test before US troops are deployed to preemptively protect the United States,” as claimed be Cheney, but that Kerry would not cede, “in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.” So right there, boom. Smack-down, baby.

Secondly, and even more importantly, the global test that Kerry referred to is nothing more than the ability to convince the world (and our fellow citizens) that the government’s actions were justified. To make light of this “global test” is to lampoon none other than Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in the very first sentence of the Declaration of Independence:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to
assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which
the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the
opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.
And right there, “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind,” is what John Kerry is talking about. And, for what it’s worth, as I’ve written in a previous post, at the heart of our current difficulties: a lack of respect for the opinions of mankind. We might agree or disagree with France or Russia or China or Saudi Arabia, but to dismiss their views as irrelevant and of in interest is the root cause of the anemia of our coalition and our lack of success in Iraq.

OK, so Edwards quoting Jefferson might be a little much, but only a little. But it does bring out a larger issue: all through the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, many people agreed that Saddam Hussein posed a danger and ought to be confronted. But the evidence we had simply did not warrant an invasion. If it did, why aren’t those coutries whose security is actually threatened right there with us? Where’s Iran? Where’s Yemen? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Russia, for heavens’ sake. All these nations were with us in the Gulf War, and none are with us today. If we can’t convince these guys of the danger, then there was good reason to believe that we were overreacting. I think most Americans know in their hearts that the evidence simply did not warrant the kind of actions we’ve undertaken. (Of some concern, though, is the fact that many Americans don’t care: any killing of Muslims is A-OK with them. Sheesh.)

There were several more opportunities for Edwards to shove the dagger in, all basically missed. “Mr. Vice President, you and George Bush have made our supposed lack of consistency the centerpiece of your campaign. Which I can understand, because if I had your sorry record of failure, I wouldn’t want to run on it either. But the plain truth is, no matter how many times you pretend not to understand our positions, they have been absolutely consistent from the get-go. And I think the American people understand that. Even more importantly, however, is the fact that the American people understand that John Kerry wants to take this country in a different direction than the one it’s heading in, and I know on Election Day we’ll see a a majority of Americans agree with us, not you.”

Ah, democratic fantasies of what might have been. Let’s hope for some more ass-whuppin’ tomorrow night in St. Louis. (“Mr. President, being a lazy stupid slimebag is NOT hard work. Now cut it out.”)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Edwards Wins!

But Somehow I Don't Feel Victorious

Reviewing last night’s debate, I’m torn by two warring impulses. On the one hand, I believe the Senator did a god job by staying on message, remembering that the voters are choosing between rival candidates for President and not Vice President, and not “taking the bait” that the Vice President so often threw his way. So, kudos to the young Boy Wonder.

But on the other hand, the lack of clearly explaining his positions, his wishy-washy answers – in fact the very things that constitute “staying on message – made me yell at the TV. (I actually listened to more than half of it on the radio, where the Vice President came off far less evil than he did on TV).

I wanted Edwards to say, “You keep saying, over and over, that we were inconsistent in our views on the war. That we blow with the winds of the polls. Well, sir, nothing could be farther from the truth. John Kerry’s and mine position on Iraq has been consistent and crystal clear to anyone who’s bothered to look at our record. We are for disarming Hussein, but against an ill-advised rush to war without a broad coalition of allies and a clear plan for winning the peace.” Or, “Mr. Vice President, you may think my record or the record of Senator Kerry undistinguished. But sir, I beg to differ. I am proud of my service in the Senate, and proud to defend the record of Senator Kerry. Every time your friends –the big insurance companies, the big polluters, the wealthy – have come after my friends – the working people of this country, I’ve sided with the working people, because I know that what’s best for them is what’s best for this country.”

Or something like that.

More later…

Edwards Survives!

Fears of "Dark Spells" Prove Largely Unfounded

Last night Democratic fears were laid to rest when Vice President Cheney did not appear to use any sort of dark magic to place an evil spell on Senator John Edwards, the Democratic Nominee. The Senator's friends and family were pleased, especially since many believed that the insanity of Senator Joseph Lieberman, who faced the Vice President in 2000, was due to just such a spell.
“I was so relieved I thought I was going to cry,” said the Senator’s wife Elizabeth. “When we saw the photos clearly showing the Vice President’s horns and tail, well, we were apprehensive to say the least. But I believe in my heart that my John will come through it all right.”

Kerry campaign advisor Joe Lockhart said, “I thought for a minute there that the Vice President was going to lean over and try to eat the Senator. But it was just a handshake. However, the results from the Senator’s medical exam are not yet final, though based on our review of the videotape, we’re cautiously optimistic this morning.”

Democratic strategists have believed for several years that the inexplicable level of support for the failed Bush administration could only be due to the supernatural powers of Dick Cheney. The first inklings of his special abilities came in 2001 when a poorly-lit video tape of what appeared to be a nighttime satanic ritual in a forest was sent anonymously to Al Gore. On the tape, several men, who have been tentatively identified as prominent neo-conservatives “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s chief of staff, Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz and Assistant Secretary for Middle Eastern Affairs Douglas Feith, can be clearly heard chanting, “O Dark Lord, We humble ourselves before your greatness. Death to Terrorists and/or Liberals Forever!” Neither the Vice President’s office nor the White House has commented on the tape to date.

Following review of the tape, many Democrats and para-normal researchers came to believe that the Vice President was using his powers to control the electorate. They cite the fact that, despite conclusive evidence coming to light of the administration’s many policy failures, deception and corruption, over 40% of Americans rate the President as a “strong and resolute leader, with no mixed messages.” The fact that so many poll respondents use almost the same exact language to describe their feelings – “strong,” “resolute,” "beloved leader," “no mixed messages” – has lent some support to the Democrat’s theory that the administration is in fact using magic to interfere with the normal political process.

The debates resume Friday night in St. Louis Missouri, where Senator Kerry and President Bush are slated to take part in an old-fashioned “quilting bee,” with members of the Quilting Society at Quilts on Main in historic St. Charles , Missouri. Senator Kerry is said to be undergoing a secret “preventative” ritual at a Catholic compound in nearby Louisiana this week.

Friday, October 01, 2004

One More Thing

In the debate, Bush inadvertently revealed his true point of view about Iraq. In doing so, he revealed why we are going it alone.

“LEHRER: Mr. President, new question. Two minutes. Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?
BUSH: I would hope I never have to. I understand how hard it is to commit troops. Never wanted to commit troops. When I was running -- when we had the debate in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that.

LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
KERRY: Jim, the president just said something extraordinarily revealing and frankly very important in this debate. In answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said, "The enemy attacked us." Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. al Qaeda attacked us.”

I think this exchange made the President mad. He was being accused – justly—of having flubbed the hunt for Osama bin ladn. And he was sensitive about it, especially because he spends almost all his time surrounded with people who dare not even think this thought let alone utter it for fear of harming the Presidential Morale. So in an unguarded moment, he lashed out.
BUSH: First of all, of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that.
And secondly, to think that another round of resolutions would have caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose, is ludicrous, in my judgment.
“Ludicrous.” Right there, ladies and gentlemen, is the heart of the matter. When assembling a coalition, we may agree or disagree with our prospective partners. And if we disagree, it’s not going to harm our overall relationship. But the Bush administration didn’t simply disagree with our partners, they dismissed them. We didn’t think they were mistaken, or seriously misjudging the risk, or simply wrong-headed. We thought they were “ludicrous.” We indicated to them that we had disdain for their points of view. “You’re with us or against us.” We showed a fundamental lack of respect for their views.
It’s the lack of respect – for our allies, for the loyal opposition, even ultimately for their own constituency – that will bring these people down.