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Thursday, July 31, 2003
Moving the Goalpoasts
If you aren't reading Talking Points Memo, do it. Now. I can wait.
Back? Good. Doesn't Josh Marshall make a great point aboutGDub changing his line? I mean:
Saddam had a weapons program.
It's Fisking Time!
There are times when an article is just so dumb you've got to respond to it, point by point, and show just how plainly dumb it is.
Usually, I reserve this for people like Syl Jones or Ann Coulter, but occasionally a blogger just drives me so batty I have to reply.
Norm Gera, time to be Fisked.
[This is an amended and slightly enlarged version of part of a talk given to the Workers' Liberty summer school in London on 21 June under the title 'After the Holocaust: Mutual Indifference and Moral Solidarity'. To be fair to those who invited me, I should point out that, although the views I expressed in this part of the talk met with a perfectly civil reception, they plainly weren't shared by most of the audience.]
Nor me. Nor anyone else. But okay. Begin.
I want to say something about support for democratic values and basic human rights. We on the left just have it in our bloodstream, do we not?, that we are committed to democratic values. And while, for reasons I can't go into here, there are some on the left a bit more reserved about using the language of basic human rights, nonetheless for many of us it was this moral reality, and more especially its negation, that played a part in drawing us in: to protest and work against a world in which people could just be used for the purposes of others, be exploited and super-exploited, worked maybe to an early death, in any case across a life of hardship; or be brutalized for organizing to fight to change their situation, be 'disappeared', or tortured, or massacred, by regimes upholding an order of inequality - sometimes desperate inequality - and privilege. In our bloodstream.
Well, I would argue those on the far left, like those on the far right, are rarely committed to human rights and democratic values. The liberals, after all, are the ones who have pushed speech codes on college campuses. By and large, yes, the left has usually been more supportive of human rights issues than the right, but then again, the left had its blind spots (communism) like the right had theirs (fascism). This is why many of us have learned that the simple left/right dichotomy so often espoused is just that--an oversimplification.
But we continue.
However, there is also a certain historical past of the left referred to loosely under the name 'Stalinism', and which forms a massive blot on this commitment and these values, on the great tradition we belong to. I am of the generation - roughly 1960s-vintage, post-Stalinist left - educated in the Trotskyist critique of that whole experience, and in the new expansion and flourishing of an open, multi-faceted and pluralist Marxism; educated in the movement against the war in Vietnam, the protests against Pinochet's murderous coup in Chile and against the role of the US in both episodes and in more of the same kind. Of a generation that believed that, even though the Western left still bore some signs of continuity with the Stalinist past, this was a dying, an increasingly marginal strand, and that we had put its errors largely behind us. But I fear now it is not so. The same kinds of error - excuses and evasions and out-and-out apologia for political structures, practices or movements no socialist should have a word to say for - are still with us. They afflict many even without any trace of a Stalinist past or a Stalinist political formation.
I don't get it. I don't even know what he's trying to say here, other than trying to shoehorn the name "Stalin" in about a dozen times. Most of us on the left know that Marxists come from a tradition including Stalin. Most of us on the left also were always opposed to Marxism. We don't come out of a "Trotskyist critique of that whole experience," we come out of a Kennedyesque disdain for communism.
I obviously don't have the time or space here to rehearse all of the relevant arguments. I will confine myself to sketching some important features of the broad picture as I see it.
Thank Jebus. Because if there's one thing Marxists can do, it's yammer on forever about stuff.
September 11. On September 11 2001 there was, in New York, a massacre of innocents. There's no other acceptable way of putting this: some 3000 people (and, as anyone can figure, it could have been many more) struck down by an act of mass murder without any possible justification, an act of gross moral criminality. What was the left's response? In fact, this goes well beyond the left if what is meant by that is people and organizations of socialist persuasion. It included a wide sector of liberal opinion as well. Still, I shall just speak here, for short, of the left. The response on the part of much of it was excuse and apologia.
Well, I'm on the left, and many of the most liberal people I know offered neither excuses nor apologia. Most of us reacted with blind anger, followed by a more calm, measured anger. Certainly, there were liberals saying dumb things at the time. Pat Robertson was also saying we deserved what we got. Just proving again that the wingers on both sides of the aisle are stupid.
But continue, please.
At best you might get some lip service paid to the events of September 11 having been, well, you know, unfortunate - the preliminary 'yes' before the soon-to-follow 'but' (or, as Christopher Hitchens has called it, 'throat-clearing'). And then you'd get all the stuff about root causes, deep grievances, the role of US foreign policy in creating these; and a subtext, or indeed text, whose meaning was America's comeuppance. This was not a discourse worthy of a democratically-committed or principled left, and the would-be defence of it by its proponents, that they were merely trying to explain and not to excuse what happened, was itself a pathetic excuse. If any of the root-cause and grievance themes truly had been able to account for what happened on September 11, you'd have a hard time understanding why, say, the Chileans after that earlier September 11 (I mean of 1973), or other movements fighting against oppression and injustice, have not resorted to the random mass murder of civilians.
Well, let's see.
First of all, I thought at the time that it was wise of us to understand the motives of our enemies, not to excuse or ameliorate their guilt, but to make it easier for us to stop them. If we could find ways to placate an opposed population at the same time we took out their thuggish leadership, so much the easier for us. As for the role of US foreign policy in creating our problems--there is certainly something to this. But British and French foreign policy led to World War II; we can look at what mistakes were made without declaring the Nazis victims. Similarly, looking at how our support for the mujihadeen ultimately created a menace like bin Laden teaches us something the next time around--without making Osama into a nice guy who's just misunderstood.
As for the whole Chile/Arab World argument, it's facile. The Latin culture is different by significant degrees from the Muslim culture, and only a person who has ignored the role of culture in the development of human life could fail to understand that.
Why this miserable response? In a nutshell, it was a displacement of the left's most fundamental values by a misguided strategic choice, namely, opposition to the US, come what may. This dictated the apologetic mumbling about the mass murder of US citizens, and it dictated that the US must be opposed in what it was about to do in hitting back at al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan.
The people who argued against attacking Afghanistan after 9/11 had rocks in their heads. There was considerable evidence that Afghanistan was a hotbed of al-Qaieda activity, Osama bin Laden lived there, the regime that held power was sympathetic to their cause. Those idiots on the left (and there were some, though never more than about 7% of the total U.S. populations) who were unable to see a need to attack an enemy that had struck us were just fools.
Of course, the Bush administration also failed to commit sufficient force to secure Afghanistan and find Osama; we're still paying the price for that.
(Am I a horrid lefty if I accuse the administration of not using enough force? Hmm....)
The liberation of Iraq. Something similar has now been repeated over the war in Iraq. I could just about have 'got inside' the view - though it wasn't my view - that the war to remove Saddam Hussein's regime should not be supported. Neither Washington nor Baghdad - maybe. But opposition to the war - the marching, the petition-signing, the oh-so-knowing derision of George Bush and so forth - meant one thing very clearly. Had this campaign succeeded in its goal and actually prevented the war it was opposed to, the life of the Baathist regime would have been prolonged, with all that that entailed: years more (how many years more?) of the rape rooms, the torture chambers, the children's jails, and the mass graves recently uncovered.
Ah, yes. The "Saddam was a bad guy so it was good we got him" argument that's so in vogue today. You know, after that other "Weapons of Mass Destruction" reason kinda fell apart.
I argued dozens of times that I thought the left's tactics were doomed to failure, to say the least. Too many Bush=Hitler signs, too many "Free Mumia" signs, too little nuanced argument that Iraq was cooperating, albeit sluggishly, with weapons inspectors and that war need not start immediately.
Yes, Saddam was evil. I think we're all on board with that one. But it has never been the policy of the United States to attack and occupy a country just because the leadership was evil. If that was the case, dozens of countries would have been targets over the last few decades, from Chile to the Phillipines to China to North Korea to Singapore to Myanmar to Iran to Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria to Israel to...well, when we start going down this road, we find it's a long, depressing one, and worse, we find that the U.S. just can't solve everyone else's problems. Certainly, not alone.
With help, maybe. But of course, we managed to anger just about everyone when we rushed to war in order to counter Saddam's "imminent threat" of attack. Saddam was a bad guy, but by rushing in bass-ackwards, we've created a situation where it is more likely (though by no means certain) that a new Saddam could rise in Iraq, with all the rape rooms, torture chambers, and mass graves that you could want.
Humanitarian intervention. First, there is a long tradition in the literature of international law that, although national sovereignty is an important consideration in world affairs, it is not sacrosanct. If a government treats its own people with terrible brutality, massacring them and such like, there is a right of humanitarian intervention by outside powers. The introduction of the offence of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trial after the Second World War implied a similar constraint on the sovereign authority of states. There are limits upon them. They cannot just brutalize their own nationals with impunity, violate their fundamental human rights.
Well...yeah, sure, I guess. It's just that nobody's ever invaded solely for human rights reasons. Ever. Not even the U.S. in Iraq. (Yes, we can note, say, Tanzania removing Idi Amin, but even then, there were sound national interest reasons for them to do so.) There have been a few peacekeeping forces deployed, yes, but an actual invasion reaches a higher standard.
Is there then, today, a right of humanitarian intervention under international law? The question is disputed. Some authorities argue that the UN Charter rules it out absolutely. War is only permissible in self-defence. However, others see a contradiction between this reading of the Charter and the Charter's underwriting of binding human rights norms. Partly because the matter is disputed, I will not here base myself on a legal right of humanitarian intervention. I will simply say that, irrespective of the state of international law, in extreme enough circumstances there is a moral right of humanitarian intervention. This is why what the Vietnamese did in Cambodia to remove Pol Pot should have been supported at the time, the state of international law notwithstanding, and ditto for the removal of Idi Amin by the Tanzanians. Likewise, with regard to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq: it was a case crying out for support for an intervention to bring the regime finally to an end.
Maybe. But of course, this was not why the United States invaded. At least, not why we invaded in March.
Just think for a moment about the argument that this recent war was illegal. That something is illegal does not itself carry moral weight unless legality as such carries moral weight, and legality carries moral weight only conditionally. It depends on the particular law in question, on the system of law of which it is a part, and on the kind of social and ethical order it upholds. An international law - and an international system - according to which a government is free to go on raping, murdering and torturing its own nationals to the tune of tens upon tens, upon more tens, of thousands of deaths without anything being done to stop it, so much the worse for this as law. It is law that needs to be criticized, opposed, and changed. It needs to be moved forward - which happens in this domain by precedent and custom as well as by transnational treaty and convention. I am fully aware in saying this that the present US administration has made itself an obstacle in various ways to the development of a more robust and comprehensive framework of international law. But the thing cuts both ways. The war to depose Saddam Hussein and his criminal regime was not of a piece with that. It didn't have to be opposed by all the forces that did in fact oppose it. It could, on the contrary, have been supported - by France and Germany and Russia and the UN; and by a mass democratic movement of global civil society. Just think about that. Just think about the kind of precedent it would have set for other genocidal, or even just lavishly murderous, dictatorships - instead of all those processions of shame across the world's cities, and whose success would have meant the continued abandonment of the Iraqi people.
Well, maybe the war in Iraq could have been supported by everyone. Of course, had President Bush gone to the UN and said, "We want to invade Iraq because Saddam hurts his people. That's why. The weapons thing is secondary," then maybe we would have had a debate on that issue.
We didn't. Because this wasn't the reason we invaded Iraq.
Heck, I would have been more supportive of a war had this been the reason. But it wasn't. It was about removing a threat to American security that turned out not to be much of a threat.
I could tee off more on this article, but I just can't anymore. The fact is, we went to war to stop Saddam from developing weapons he never had. Is it good that Saddam is gone, and Uday and Qusay are sharing an apartment in Dis? Yes, it is. But to argue that the left failed in recognizing the good of the human rights side of this ignores the hash the Bushies made of the diplomacy here. And it ignores the fact that the human rights side of this was never, never, never the issue.
Hey, Remember That Centrifuge?
You know the guy with the nuclear bomb in his front yard--oh wait, it's a centrifuge--oh wait, it's from 1991?
Well, he says it wasn't even a centrifuge.
According to the Washington Post, Mahdi Obeidi, the Iraqi scientist who turned in the parts to the CIA, says they are rocket parts, and disputes strongly that Iraq was trying to secure a new centrifuge in the runup to war.
But, you know, Saddam was bad and all. And people were too dumb for us to explain why we wanted to go to war. So, um...WMD.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
The Republican Wing of the Democratic Party
Well, the DLC hasn't endeared itself to the left. This is not new--the DLC is viewed by hardcore dems like New Labour is to old socialists; yeah, it was a nice tool to get our guy into power, but isn't time to just get over it already and go back to our roots?
That, and the DLC tends to do dumb things, like put out polls that are nothing but good news to the republicans.
But in all the many, many, many complaints about the DLC and their latest poll, nobody has gone out of their way to say something: the DLC has a point.
Oh, not the point that Joe Leiberman must be the nominee or the party is doomed. Lieberman (R-CT...erm, D-CT) is to the right of me, and I'm skating on the thin right edge of the Democratic party. Not only does he not disagree with Bush much, he is in many ways just George Bush with a less viable economic plan. Yes, the DLC has embraced him as their own, but that isn't any reason for moderate lefties like me to support him.
Nor that the Democrats cannot nominate a mainstream liberal and win. Sharpton has no shot, but there's no reason to believe that, say, John Kerry couldn't conceivably beat Bush in '04.
No, the point the DLC is right about is this: the Democrats need white men to win. Do they need to win among white men? Absolutely not. But the dems can't afford to get crushed among white men--cf. 1994.
And the issues the DLC highlighted--especially national security--are key if the Democrats want to win power in 2004. And they do.
So what can the Democrats do to win power without resorting to yet another campaign about prescription drugs and narrow, piddling differences? What can they do to take votes from white men without alienating their base, or their core constituencey? What, in short, can they do to win?
It's very simple.
Run as the Party of Responsibility.
Responsibility has been a GOP buzzword for approximately forever. Typically, Republicans mean that responsible types are those kindly CEOs, who cut taxes so everyone can have Their Money back. Hard-working types who don't need welfare, who go to work nine to five. People who take ownership for their actions, who don't cry to the courts every time something goes wrong.
But this can be turned on its head, and if done correctly, can win people who believe in doing the right thing, and owning what you do.
The GOP loves to talk about "tax and spend liberals." The standard line is that those crazy Democrats will just spend, spend, spend, and they'll take all of your money if you let them.
But what's the truth? Discretionary spending under the Bush administration has climbed faster than at any time during Bill Clinton's presidency. The deficit, meanwhile, has exploded, because the Bush administration has lacked the fiscal discipline to either hold the line on spending or raise taxes.
Is this isolated? Nope. Republican-controlled state legislatures raised spending more than Democratic-controlled legislature. The difference is minor, but what sounds better: "The Democrats Spend Less," or "Well, the Democrats only spent like .4% less, so it's really basically the same, and besides, they're liberals."
It's easy to sell this as a responsibility issue. Yes, the Democrats are in favor of raising taxes--because Democrats believe in balanced budgets and fiscal discipline. Furthermore, Democrats are not averse to cutting spending on meaningless programs (like, say, eight million to create a futures market for terrorist acts.) Can you trust us? Point to the record. And finally, take the GOP "household budget" question and ask, "Who's more responsible--the guy who runs up debt on his credit card, or the guy who takes a second job?"
This is easy--we're for it. They're against it.
Now, this doesn't mean "McDonald's is evil! They market to kids! Sue them!" (See: Personal Responsibility.) But it does mean that if MCI routes calls through Canada that originate in the Department of State, they should be prosecuted. If Enron rips off Americans, they should be prosecuted. If any company breaches the public trust, their leadership should be prosecuted.
Why is Ken Lay still a free man? Ask this question over and over. And you will have a nice little cudgel.
Foreign Policy Responsibility
The Buck Stops Here. It was a Democratic President who said it. Stand up and say that yes, there may be false starts and errors in the War on Terror--there have been already. But as the party in power, we'll admit to it, and we won't hide behind the CIA if something goes wrong. More to the point, we'll keep our eyes on the prize--which means getting bin Laden, destroying al-Qaieda, and securing Afghanistan.
Iraq. Ah, Iraq. Iraq may have been a questionable priority--certainly, there should have been a more honest debate about it. But we're there now, we can't walk away. Instead, we need to work more closely with allies we have burned bridges with--and take ownership of our mistakes that led to hard feelings. We need the French, and the Germans, and the Russians, and the Belgians, and just about everyone. We made mistakes by dismissing them--we won't do the same again.
That doesn't mean we are giving a veto to other countries--ultimately, we must make our own decisions. That's what responsibility is about. But we are recognizing that it's easy to start something by yourself, but it's hard to finish without friends helping.
And we will learn the lesson of Iraq, which is that, as much as you may think a country is bad, you need to have good intelligence before you invade. You need to be sure of what your priorities are. You need to be willing to listen to evidence that may contradict what you think. And sometimes, you need to step back from the brink, or explore other options, before you act.
And certainly--certainly--when you act, you must be prepared, not just for the action itself, but the aftermath of the action. That is the essence of responsibility.
This is a spot where the Nanny Staters and the pro-Welfare Staters will run into the room, shouting "No! No personal responsibility! It's the corporations and the government!"
But you can be for personal responsibility and be a Democrat. Indeed, it works perfectly--if you're willing to challenge yourself.
We know that welfare reform was needed. You can argue over whether things were rolled back too much or not enough, but the emperical evidence is that the Johnson Great Society programs hurt families, and while they had some success lifting people out of the deepest levels of poverty, they did not succeed in ending poverty in this country.
But by adding personal responsibility to welfare reform, the Democrats can make some powerful strides while staying true to their liberal roots. By promoting welfare as a means to work and personal success off the dole, Democrats can shore up tottering NASCAR dads. But they can do so and still help people by supporting an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a sliding scale that rewards people for working. Furthermore, the Democrats can advocate or expand programs that help poor working mothers and fathers find child care, that help poor children learn. By tying these rewards into work, Democrats can honestly say that they're working to help the poor advance in the economy, and rewarding those who take responsibility for their lives.
As for the McDonald's lawsuits, personal responsibility means education. It means using our "Corporate Responsibility" plank to force companies to disclose food ingreedients, cigarette ingreedients, and so forth. But once that has been done, it means trusting people to make their own decisions. If I want to buy McNuggets knowing full well that they have a week's worth of fat, that's my decision. But I can make an informed decision if I'm given adequate information--something that is sorely lacking.
This does not mean Tort Reform Now! It just means that we back of trying to save adults from themselves.
The other part of personal responsibility, of course, is that by making people responsible for their own decisions, we take the morality out of it. If people are gay, that's fine--it's their personal choice, and they are responsible for it. If someone's divorced, that's their decision. And so forth.
Certainly, this is but a quick rendering of an idea. Better minds than mine could take this idea and make it better. But I believe that this could be a vehicle for a Democratic victory in '04 and beyond. Maybe some out there are willing to give up on the idea of white male Democrats. But I am a white male Democrat--at least some of the time--and it's not beyond comprehension that my vote and the votes of those like me, if they're fought for and won, might just elect Democrats.
Just a thought.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
MN Commerce Commissioner May Have Violated Law with UA Settlement
KARE-TV in Minneapolis/Saint Paul is reporting that Commerce Commissioner Glenn Wilson entered into a settlement with United Associates that violated state law.
The settlement, which sought to conclude litigation with a company that had sold insurance to seniors while hinting that Medicare was doomed, included secrecy clauses that attempted to hide the settlement from federal regulators and insurance oversight boards.
The clauses violated state law, which required disclosure of the settlement.
The office of the Commissioner of Commerce indicated that Commissioner had received advice from the Attorney General's office that the settlement passed muster. However, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike Hatch (DFL-Burnsville) stated that the Attorney General's office had specifically objected to the language in the settlement before the settlement was filed.
KARE-TV still doesn't have the story up on their site, I will link to it as soon as it's available.
As that conservative guy with the dopey hat says: Developing....
UPDATE: According to an article in City Pages, Wilson was recommended to Gov. Pawlenty by the omnipresent Elam Baer. Yes, that Elam Baer.
UPDATE: Here's the story
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Is Condi Done?
Condoleeza Rice. National Security Advisor. Republican Poster Girl for Diversity. Mentioned as a future California Governor, a possible '04 replacement for Dick Cheney, a political star on the rise, for sure.
Ah, but sometimes, things just don't quite go according ot plan.
Things have gotten so bad with the uranium scandal that Condi may lose her job, according to a Washington Post article. Why? Because there is mounting evidence that she either knew of questions surrounding key evidence before the SOTU, or she ignored said questions. And because she's basically the last firewall between the scandal and George W. Bush. (Yes, of course, Bush said the words, so one might think he would take responsibility, but of course we've determined this administration's slogan is "The Buck Stops...erm...over there somewhere.")
In the article, Brookings Institution foreign policy guru Michael O'Hanlon puts it succinctly: "If Condi didn't know the exact state of intel on Saddam's nuclear programs...she wasn't doing her job."
And a person close to Rice says, "She knows she did badly by [Bush], and he knows that she knows it."
So will Condi lose her job over this? Well, the administration is saying all the right things--we support her, she has the President's confidence, yada yada. But of course, that's usually the last thing said about a White House staffer before he or she is shown the door.
Watch Out, Mitch Berg!
I've got my cool swag. Check it out! (You could even buy something!)
Okay, it's two days late, but if my daughter hadn't had pinkeye, it would've been on time....So from now on, this is a Sunday feature!...If Larry King hadn't written his insane column in USA Today, would I even want to do this?...The Timberwolves' starting five next year is Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell at guard, Wally Szcerbiak and Kevin Garnett at forward, and Michael Olawakandi at the post. That's a lineup that can match up with any team in the league--except for the Lakers....Elam Baer can give me a job paying $60,000 a year any time. I promise to do twice the work Tim Pawlenty did....Dan Barriero has the best talk show on Twin Cities radio, hands down....Uday and Qusay Hussein are dead, but Ndudi Ebi remains free....You know, I really like vanilla ice cream, but I like Scotch more....
...The Cubs and Red Sox are both in striking distance for their respective division championships. Could there be a Cubs-Sox series? And if so, would that presage the end of the world? Because the Baseball Gods will never let either of those teams actually win a world championship....The football pre-season is coming, meaning one thing: Gregg Easterbrook is going to start writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback again!..."The Restaurant" is actually a pretty good show, though I refuse to describe it as "One of the funniest shows to come down the pipe in a long time"....
...I'm secure enough in my masculinity to say I like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," a show that panders shamelessly to stereotypes of straight men as incorrigable slobs, and gay men as guys with fashion sense and the ability to organize. Actually, that sounds about right to me....If a train left New York at 3:14 traveling 54 miles per hour, and a car left Boston at 4:47 traveling at 49 miles per hour, is Ann Coulter still a vapid idiot?...Former Soul Coughing lead singer Mike Doughty has an album due out this fall, which is being produced by Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson. Some of the stuff off the new album is going to be outstanding, especially "From the Bottom of a Well"....
Mitch Berg is selling stuff on his site. I'd buy some, but it's all so...conservative. Maybe I'll have to put up a site of my own. Would anyone like to buy a "Bill O'Reilly is a Moron" T-Shirt?...Is there a better columnist in this town than Dara Moskowitz? And if so, who?...
I'm still undecided for who I'm supporting for the Democratic presidential nomination. I like John Edwards, but realistically he has no shot. So I'm trying to decide between John Kerrey and Howard Dean. I welcome anyone who wants to try to convince me either way. Note: I will not consider Dick Gephardt until he takes a class on separation of power, and don't waste time pitching Kucinich, Sharpton, Mosley Braun, et al. You may as well pitch Morry "The Grizz" Taylor, who come to think of it might be the best candidate from any party since John Anderson in 1980....
...I think this feature has been a big success...The Twins still have a shot at the AL Central, but the ChiSox are going to have to cool off...Norm Coleman is not 99% better than Paul Wellstone, but he is 99% more arrogant....And finally, my Super Bowl pick for 2004: Tampa Bay 24, New York Jets 17. As Gregg Easterbrook says: all picks guaranteed wrong or your money back!
Voulez-Vous the Bus
I will be the first to admit that the Paul Wellstone true believers have always rankled me a bit. They're generally from the wing of the Democratic party that makes me want to be an independent: the sanctimonious nanny-staters who believe that what a majority of Americans want is more government services, fewer cars, and higher taxes. They're also the folks in the party most likely to adopt the attitude that any deviation from doctrine makes you a Republican. To these folks, I look a lot like Ralph Reed, except Ralph Reed at least has the decency to choose a different party.
And while I hold the late Sen. Wellstone in the highest regard as a person, I will be the first to admit I was deeply ambivalent about his record and his effect on Minnesota politics. In my first foray into blogging, I openly mused about whether Wellstone's triumph in 1990 had been bad for the DFL.
But no matter what my feelings about Sen. Wellstone are, I am appalled by the recent outbreak of anti-Wellstone bumper stickers and rhetoric flowing from the GOP and their bobos.
KSTP-tv reported on the "It's Time to Park the Bus" bumper sticker that graced a GOP staffer's car, right between the "Liberate Iraq" and "Support our Troops" bumper stickers. Of course, Republicans pooh-poohed the question, implying that the DFL may have planted the sticker.
This is hardly the most offensvie sticker out there. There's "He's Dead--Get Over It!" and my least favorite, "Tombstone!" It all falls into a disturbing pattern of glee by the right at the demise of the late Sen. Wellstone, and an attempt to try to shovel dirt on those who still support and remember him.
It sinks to the lowest denomonator of political discourse in this country, the idea that our political opponents are not merely people who have different views for our country, but instead our mortal enemies. The idea that we should celebrate the death or demise of our opponents, and gleefully kick sand at them, no matter what the cost to our country.
The problem is not limited to Republicans. Democrats openly wondered how long the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (D-NC) could live when the Senate was 50-50, until Jim Jeffords (I-VT) broke ranks with the GOP.
And of course, the politics of personal destruction have been practiced on politicians of all political stripes, from Bill Clinton to Rep. David Livingston (R-LA) to Newt Gingrich to Gary Hart to...well, it's a list that is growing by the day, one that includes personal attacks on George W. Bush (who may have been an alcoholic and addict once, but who is by all accounts clean and sober now).
I am not saying you cannot attack your opponents for their conduct in office. Certainly, Bill Clinton deserved scrutiny on Whitewater for whether he had provided favors for friends while Governor of Arkansas. Certainly, Gov. Pawlenty deserves scrutiny on Telgate for whether he provided favors for friends while serving as House Majority Leader. And certainly President Bush deserves scrutiny on whether or not he was honest with the American people before the war.
But whether I agree with the President or not (and usually, not), I do believe that George W. Bush is doing what he believes is best for the country. I think he's completely wrong, but that doesn't mean I think he's motivated by evil intent. I believe Bush thought war with Iraq was vital to the health of America, so vital that he was willing to bend the facts to sell it. I don't think it was about oil, or his father (much as I like to needle him about it), I think he honestly thought it was the best thing to do.
I think he was wrong. And I think his errors have severe consequences. And I think he should be chastised for deceiving the American people. And I think he should be voted out of office.
But I don't think he wanted to hurt his country. I don't believe that for a second. I think he did--but we all know the road to Hell is paved with good, not bad intentions.
Bush is not Hitler. Pacifists are not traitors. GOP committee chairs are not fruitcakes. And those who cherish the memory of Paul Wellstone need not "get over it" until they're ready to.
Somewhere we have lost the ability to respect our opponents. Somewhere we have lost the ability to empathize with them, to try to understand them, to wonder if maybe, just maybe, they might be right on an issue once or a while.
That loss is vital and disturbing. The new tone in Washington is one of warring camps. Our nation deserves better. But we won't get better until those of us who value compromise, who distrust the extremes, who know too well that we aren't always right stand up and demand harmony.
Sadly, though, I fear that day is far, far off.
Thursday, July 24, 2003
A Teaser! Ooh, Goody!
A brand new feature will debut tomorrow here on the o-Rama. I'll give you a hint: Larry King and Sid Hartman love it!
Look for "Dot...dot...dot...." exclusively here tomorrow and every Friday!
Kos has been a nice guy and done the math:
Time for administration apologists to run to the SOTU address and count how many words Bush spent claiming Iraq and Al Qaeda were partners in crime. Actually, let me help:
Hey, it's just 62 words. And as Jay Leno said, it's not like we went to war over it or anything.
Paul Wolfowitz has admitted that the US has made some mistakes in post-war Iraq. Among those inscruable, totally impossible to predict things that have caused the problems:
* Guerilla Attacks
Now, just to be clear: if I could forsee these problems, then the administration has no business claiming they couldn't. I mean, who didn't think there would be at least some guerilla sniping?
But hey, mistakes were made. So let's move on.
The Invincible George W. Bush
When can you tell things are going seriously wrong for a politician? Is it when his opponents get hold of a scandal? When military operations don't go as planned? When Congress is recalcitrant?
No, it's when his own partisans start sniping.
The canary in the coal mine today is George Will. Never mind that Will's complaint is that Bush is not behaving in a sufficiently conservative manner. That was Buchanan's complaint about the elder Bush in '92, and it wounded him critically. A few snippets:
Today a conservative administration is close to asserting that whatever the facts turn out to be regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the enforcement of U.N. resolutions was a sufficient reason for war. If so, war was waged to strengthen the United Nations as author and enforcer of international norms of behavior. The administration also intimates that ending a tyranny was a sufficient justification for war. Foreign policy conservatism has become colored by triumphalism and crusading zeal. That may be one reason why consideration is being given to a quite optional intervention -- regime change, actually -- in Liberia.
Now, I don't agree with Will on everything here, but the fact is that Bush has done a good job at keeping his right flank covered. If the conservatives start opening up on the President now, it would represent yet another sign that all the talk of the unbeatable George W. Bush is so much chatter.
Gray Davis Must Go
I haven't posted much on the now inevitable recall vote for Gov. Gray Davis (D-CA). Mainly, I've kept my peace because I'm not a Californian, I'm a Minnesotan. I don't expect many bloggers in San Jose care about Gov. Timmy's exploits.
But I do feel compelled to say this to the Democrats in California:
Cut him loose.
Gray Davis is a bad Governor. I know it, you know it, the American People know it. He can't really lead, he's made problems worse, he's lost the respect of the legislature, and he's the target for all of the anger of your state. And he's dragging your party into the crapper.
You don't want Davis to maintain his position. You want him out.
Find a viable Democrat to run in the run-off for Governor. Coalesce around him or her and tell any other would-be Governors that entering the race is their political death-knell. Have that person campaign like crazy, and beat a split field of Republicans.
And every one of you, cast a "yes" vote on the recall question.
Davis has failed. It happens. You can support him to the death or you can find a way to regain the trust of the citizens of California.
Cut him loose. Now.
I don't know if Kobe Bryant is guilty or innocent. I rather imagine that evidence collected over the next six to twelve months will allow a jury to make that determination, at least within a reasonable doubt. I do know he put himself in a very bad situation, and that he's a scoundrel who at the very least cheated on his wife. (And anyone who believes this is the first time, I have some cabins in Northern Minnesota with a lovely mountain view to sell you.)
I also know that the woman who accused Bryant is deserving of privacy. She may turn out to be lying completely, but until that's determined we should assume that she's telling the truth, and that as a possible victim of a violent crime she deserves our compassion.
Of course, Tom Leykis would disagree.
Leykis is one of those sports talk radio guys I hate. He's one of those guys for whom sports is the most important thing on earth, and woe betide anyone who would get in the way. His guy, Kobe, seems like a nice guy to him, so obviously this woman must be lying. And if she isn't, she still probably should've kept her mouth shut. I mean, Kobe scores thirty points a game! (Fortunately, my local sports talk radio station, KFAN, is light on these idiots.)
Leykis lamely tried to argue that because the woman was allegedly the victim of a violent act, she should feel no shame. This is true, but unfortunately, that is not how society acts toward rape victims.
And let's be honest, the real reason he spoke her name on the air was because he didn't think it was "fair" that Kobe Bryant was talked about while she was anonymous.
Kobe Bryant is an internationally known sports figure, who chose to engage in some sort of sexual activity with a woman who was not his wife. At best, he's a jerk. At worst, he's a rapist. He took the actions he took knowing full well that he was a celebrity, and that there was a chance he'd be caught and exposed.
The woman who was either assaulted, if you believe her, or who slept willingly with him, if you believe him, was not a celebrity. She had barely met Bryant by all accounts. She may or may not have realized he was married. She put herself in a potentially bad situation, but that is not a crime. She certainly wasn't bucking to become a national figure.
The truth will out. We will find out if Kobe is a monster or merely an asshole; we will find out if this woman is a liar or a victim. Perhaps, like the O.J. case, we will never truly know. But until we have a better idea, this woman has a right to privacy.
Oh, and as for truth: according to the New York Daily News, the woman who accused Bryant has "shocking" physical injuries. But she probably faked those, right?
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
9/11 Report Shows No Link Between Iraq and al-Qaieda
The joint congressional inquiry into the al-Qaieda attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, shows that US intelligence could find no link between the Saddam Hussein regime and al-Qaieda.
A senior government official said, "The report shows there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaieda."
The statement was confirmed by former Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), who, when asked if he agreed with the statement, said, "I do ... There's no connection, and that's been confirmed by some of bin Laden's terrorist followers."
The report runs directly counter to the Bush administration's contention that Iraq and al-Qaieda had close ties, one of the administration's key reasons for ousting Hussein.
Cleland blasted the Bush administration for delaying the release of the report.
"The reason this report was delayed for so long -- deliberately opposed at first, then slow-walked after it was created -- is that the administration wanted to get the war in Iraq in and over ... before [it] came out. Had this report come out in January like it should have done, we would have known these things before the war in Iraq, which would not have suited the administration."
The unidentified government official also criticized the administration's emphasis on an Iraq-al-Qaieda connection.
"They take a fact that you could draw several different conclusions from, and in every case they draw the conclusion that supports the policy, without any particular evidence that would meet the normal bar that analytic tradecraft would require for you to make that conclusion," he said.
How long before the Bush administration declares that Saddam's terrorist ties had nothing at all to do with the war in Iraq?
As a righty news hack might say: developing....
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
No, I Don't Like Pina Coladas
Is it me, or is the whole theme of "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" one of the most offensive, depressing concepts ever to hang a hit on? "Hey, I was going to cheat on my wife/longtime significant other, but the wacky thing is, she was gonna cheat on me! Ha ha!" And why was the guy going to cheat? Because things were boring.
A little newsflash for those of you out there who aren't married: there are going to be times when you and your significant other find yourselves in a bit of a rut. Why? Because you've lived with each other for several years, and know each other very, very well. Now, you can choose to keep starting new relationships up over and over and over again, but inevitably you'll head right back into a rut.
That doesn't mean you can't pull things out of the rut--shake things up, do fun and different things, whatever. You can. And you will. But you're never going to be happy in a long-term relationship if you're expecting nonstop excitement and making love in the dunes by the cape every night. Sometimes you just collapse into bed next to your spouse at one in the morning, after trying for the third time to get your kid to sleep, and mumble a half-conscious "love you" before passing out.
And you know what?
Having someone to pass out next to--the same person, your partner in life--that's worth more than ten thousand fleeting relationships.
Some people's relationships will falter. Some will break up. And not everybody who falls out of love or cheats on their spouse is evil. (They're wrong. But not evil.) But treating this subject with blithe cheerfulness is just plain wrong.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
It's always good when you go after your friends. In this case, the Bush Administration is targeting a political cartoonist who tried to make the case that he thought Bush was being politically assassinated, by showing a gun marked "politics" being held to Bush's head.
The Administration is hinting that it was a threat.
You don't go after your political soulmates just because they use imagery that offends you. All you do is anger people who might have agreed with you, but for a difference of expression.
L'Tour Eiffel is on fire. Nobody's mentioned terrorism as a possible cause, so I won't either.
Track 1, Now Departing for Pandemonium With a Stopover in Dis....
Were Uday and Qusay Hussein killed in an ambush? One hopes so. Contrary to what the right tries to insinuate, few of us who are questioning why we got into this war think that Saddam is a swell guy, and Uday and Qusay fine fellas. They're sadistic, evil men. (Of course, so are Charles Taylor, and Kim Jong Il, and Fidel Castro, and....) Much like South Park: The Movie, which gave us the line "It's been two weeks since Saddam Hussein was killed by wild boars, and nobody seems to miss him too much," nobody is going to mourn the passing of his sons.
Friday, July 18, 2003
If You Disagree With the President, Press the "Back" Button Now
Don't email email@example.com anymore. They won't read it.
No, now you have to wade through a nine page form at the whitehouse.gov site that begins by asking whether you agree or disagree with the President. Once done, you have to wait for an autoresponder to ask you if you indeed wanted to email the President, and then--and only then--the email goes through.
Good to know the White House wants citizen input so badly. Five will get you ten that our President would be unable to navigate the site.
Gov. Timmy failed to register his consulting firm, BAMCO, with a state legal oversight board. The law requires companies that give legal advice to register and pay filing fees to the board.
Pawlenty blamed the oversight on an attorney he consulted with in creating his company; Pawlenty himself is an attorney.
Now, I know many attorneys. Heck, counting my wife, three of my best friends are attorneys. Passing the bar does not give one magical powers or omniscience. It is perfectly reasonable that Pawlenty may not have been aware of filing requirements.
However, this is further evidence that our Governor may not be, shall we say, the most detail-oriented person in the world. His campaign was fined $600,000 for stepping over boundaries with regard to soft money, he didn't notice problems with the concealed carry law he signed, he wasn't aware of serious customer service problems while he served on a board of directors, he's not sure how much consulting work--if any--he did for Access Anywhere, and now he didn't properly file with the right people when he set up a consulting firm.
Now, this is not a big deal--people screw up filing all the time, and it appears that Pawlenty merely must file now. But this is further evidence that our Governor just doesn't seem to pay very close attention to things--and that just ain't encouraging.
British Weapons Inspector Found Dead in Likely Suicide
Dr. David Kelly, a British weapons inspector who in May had anonymously accused the Blair government of "sex[ing] up" intelligence on Iraq, was found dead near his home. Kelly had briefed Andrew Gilligan of the BBC on a number of aspects of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He had been recently questioned by Parliament's Foreign Policy committee.
Many close to him had complained that Kelly was being set up to take the fall for British intelligence failures in Iraq. According to a family friend, he was very angry about his treatment in front of the committee.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Eric Alterman rocks the party that rocks the party. Don't believe me? Well, check out how he says the SOTU would have been had GDub been intent on not deceiving the public:
Saddam Hussein has no nuclear-weapons program. He has destroyed most of his weapons of mass destruction. He has no ties with al-Qaida, nor, insofar as we can determine, with any other major terrorist group, and even the CIA can’t pin anything on him for at least a decade. He’s a bad guy, to be sure, but one of many in the world, and we’ve used his badness when we thought it convenient. Hell, Don Rumsfeld even paid him a visit as Ronald Reagan’s private emissary and didn’t find time to mention it.
Read the whole thing. I say: Take 'em bring! (It's a Conan O'Brien joke; never mind.)
Timmy Timmy Timmy, Can't You See/Sometimes Your Ethics Hypnotize Me/And I Just Love Your Sleazy Ways/Guess That's Why They're Broke And You're So Paid
Gov. Timmy is in trouble. As Gen. Jar Jar Binks might say, he's in big bombad trouble. Oh, sure, Mitch Berg--like the rest of the right--is trying desperately to make this into yet another DFL overreach, but this one isn't going away. Indeed, it's only going to get worse.
To get everyone up to speed: Then-Rep. Tim Pawlenty (R-Eagan) served on the board of NewTel, a holding company run by Elam Baer, a GOP bigwig and Pawlenty friend. During this time, one of NewTel's companies, New Access, was being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for "slamming"--switching customers from one carrier to another against their will. Now slamming is hardly unheard of in the telecom company (I dealt with dozens of slammed customers when I worked for--well, it's a really big baby bell that's name starts with Q), but the fines for a small company are not a good sign. Pawlenty claims not to know anything about this, which may be true. So far, nothing illegal--all that proves is that Pawlenty made a pretty bad board member, and was hooked up with a pretty . (At the same time, then-Mayor Pat Awada's [R-Eagan] company was investigating consumer complaints for New Access. This gives me great faith in her ability as Auditor. But I digress.)
The real bombshell, though, came during Pawlenty's meet-and-greet on Monday. Pawlenty, who sat down the press corps and told them to bring the noise, admitted that he had received $54,000 in compensation from New Access' sister company, Access Anywhere, in the form of a $4500 a month retainer paid to Pawlenty's company, BAMCO. BAMCO continued to receive payments through the gubernatorial election. Pawlenty has been unable to document whether he did any work at all for NewTel, though he claims to have done 10-30 hours a month of work. If Pawlenty did not do work, he was likely in violation of state ethics laws.
Pawlenty handled things okay so far--hey, at least he admitted receiving money, rather than waiting for someone to dig it up. The problem for Gov. Timmy, though, is that this is strike two. Strike one was last fall, when his campaign was fined $600,000 for violating capaign finance laws. Pawlenty did the same song and dance then--he made a big production about being open and honest and yada yada.
Well, if I don't pay a bill, and my wife catches me, and then I tell her, "oh, yeah, well, I didn't pay it," I'm not exactly being forthright, am I?
Pawlenty seems to be getting into quite a few ethical scrapes. This is bad, and it's early. Maybe the scandal will die out (though given the fact that the legislature is adjourned for the year and political reporters have little else to cover, that's doubtful). Maybe it will boomerang and hurt the DFL (though it's almost impossible to concieve of the DFL being in a worse position than they are right now). But most likely, this will prove embarassing to the boy wonder. Especially if there's a strike three looming out there.
I think the thing that discouraged me about the vice president was uttering those famous words, "no controlling legal authority." I felt like that there needed to be a better sense of responsibility of what was going on in the White House. I believe that--I believe they've moved that sign, "The buck stops here," from the Oval Office desk to "The buck stops here" on the Lincoln Bedroom, and that's not good for the country.
--Gov. George W. Bush, October 3rd, 2000
President Bush on Friday put responsibility squarely on the CIA for his erroneous claim that Iraq tried to acquire nuclear material from Africa, prompting the director of intelligence to publicly accept full blame for the miscue.
--Associated Press, July 11th, 2003
(via Josh Marshall)
I Guess Irony Can Be Pretty Ironic Sometimes
In a responsibility era, each of us has important tasks -- work that only we can do. Each of us is responsible ... to love and guide our children, and help a neighbor in need. Synagogues, churches and mosques are responsible ... not only to worship but to serve. Corporations are responsible ... to treat their workers fairly, and leave the air and waters clean. Our nation's leaders are responsible ... to confront problems, not pass them on to others. [Emphasis added--jkcf]
--Gov. George W. Bush, August 2000, Republican National Convention
The Buck Stops...Well, Over There Somewhere
Do you think Scott McClellan hates his life?
QUESTION: Regardless of whether or not there was pressure from the White House for that line, I'm wondering where does the buck stop in this White House? Does it stop at the CIA, or does it stop in the Oval Office?
Ari Fleischer got out just in time.
Monday, July 14, 2003
Bush Job Approval Slips
The same Newsweek poll that shows Bush's generic reelect slipping also shows his overall approval slipping. Bush's favorable rating is now down to 55%, its lowest level since March 13-14 (in comparison, Bill Clinton's was 68% on the day he was impeached), and his unfavorable has hit 37%, its highest level since before the war. Indeed, with the exception of a 53% approval on the eve of the war, Bush has equalled his lowest showing since May 10-11, 2001, when he was at 50% approval. Bush's favorable rating has fallen 16% from his post-war high of 71%, and his unfavorable has jumped 14%.
Stop pretending Bush is popular. He isn't.
Delicious, delicious Yellow Cake
Eric Alterman notes that the Bush administration may have devoted a few more than sixteen words to the Niger/Iraq connection.
Even though the CIA had removed the bogus Niger information from the president’s October 2002 speech in Cincinnati, but allegedly allowed it back in the Jan. 28 State of the Union, both Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice raised the issue around the same timeframe of Iraq’s alleged efforts to purchase uranium. A December State Department position paper asked, “Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?” And the State Department-funded Voice of America broadcast a story on Feb. 20, claiming, “U.S. officials tell VOA [that] Iraq and Niger signed an agreement in the summer of 2000 to resume shipments for an additional 500 tons of yellow cake,” referring to the uranium, though its reporters had sufficient journalistic conscience to mention no evidence had yet been presented to demonstrate that the transfer had occurred.
There's more. Read it.
Good Job, Ari. That'll Stop 'Em.
Oliver Willis hits the nail on the head:
When the press secretary claims that the concerns of the opposition party are "a bunch of bull", you know you've hit a nerve. Now its time to pound the beast until its bloody.
Indeed. Also, when the press secretary says "The bottom line has been gotten to," it hasn't. The media has been pretty slow on the draw, but nothing brings out the press' fighting spirit more than telling them there's nothing more to the story.
But at least our Fearless Leader says he gets "darn good intelligence." So...well, I don't know what that means. But oky doky.
Gasoline+Match=Fire. Good luck guys.
It depends on what...oh, I used that headline already
I will bring honor to the process and honor to the office I seek. I will remind Al Gore that Americans do not want a White House where there is 'no controlling legal authority.' I will repair the broken bonds of trust between Americans and their government.
George W. Bush
It didn't rise to the standard of a presidential speech, but it's not known, for example, that it was inaccurate. In fact, people think it was technically accurate.
(via Josh Marshall)
I need a drink
At least Andy Crouch at BeerScribe has some ideas. And Capital does make good beer....
Saddam trying to get uranium! We have to go to war to stop an imminent nuclear threat! Or, well, maybe not. It's not important.
Ah, I love revisionism. Now, those sixteen words weren't that important anyhow. Heck, we weren't going after Iraq because they were an imminent threat. There were all those other reasons, too! Like um...um...oh yeah, he tried to kill George Bush's dad! Oh wait, we didn't want to use that one....
Look, there were very good reasons to go to war with Iraq. But the only reason to go to Iraq when we did was because there was a clear and present danger of Saddam doing something to destabilize the region if we didn't act immediately. In order to get our war in March, we shredded alliances and fudged the truth, and damaged American prestige and credibility. If Saddam was, in fact, trying to secure uranium to build a bomb, that would represent the kind of provocation that would justify such a rash act. But if he wasn't...well, there was no reason we couldn't have waited for the fall. That we rushed ahead, half-cocked, without accurate information is the problem here. That, and if we were lied to once, we might have been lied to twice. Or three times. Or four times. Liars rarely betray others just once.
It Depends on What The Meaning of Technically True Is....
Just one sentence. That's all this whole wacky nuclear secrets thing is about. Sixteen measely words. And besides, it was technically true. After all, all Bush said was that the British had said Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Niger. He never said it was true!
Okay, let's try a thought experiment. I'm running short on cash. I think about borrowing money from my friend Don, but he's pretty tight with money and I know that he won't loan it to me. If I go to my wife and say, "Don's going to lend me the money," then I've told a lie.
But let's say I talk to Don's brother Chris, and Chris tells me that he thinks Don will loan me the money. Now, I know Don pretty well, and I'm pretty certain he won't loan me the money. So I go to my wife, and say, "Chris says Don will lend me the money."
Have I told the truth?
Well, technically. Chris told me that Don will loan me money.
But have I really told the truth? Of course not. I know that Don won't lend me the money. Simply repeating a known false assertion is lying.
The Bush administration had been warned by the CIA multiple times that the uranium story was dubious at best. They knew that the CIA did not support a statement of fact--they argued against a simple statement that Saddam was seeking to procure uranium. So what did the White House do? They made it "technically true." Just note that the British thought the statement was true, and they weren't lying. George Tenet has taken the fall for this, but what was he supposed to do? You can only tell the President he's wrong so many times before you throw up your hands and give up.
Now, let's compare this to another "technically true" statement, just one sentence, this one only eleven words long:
I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.
Bill Clinton has stated that he did not consider oral sex to be "sexual relations." So the sentence he spoke--the very one that got him impeached--was "technically true." He was lying, of course--but he was able to weasel-word it so that it wasn't exactly a lie.
It's true in life, and truer in politics: it's not the mistake that gets you, it's the cover-up. Had the Bush administration simply come out early and said, "Hey, you know what? That whole Niger uranium thing was wrong. We shouldn't have said it. We even had some evidence that it might not be true, which we ignored. It was wrong to do so, and we apologize," then this would be nothing. But the more they talk about this being but one sentence, the more I ask myself how many other sentences were technically true, how much more of the evidence was weasel-worded to fit. And whether George W. Bush is any more trustworthy than William J. Clinton.
The Popular, Invincible George Bush
According to a new Newsweek poll, George W. Bush now has but a one point lead on the question of whether he should be reelected. In answer to the question, "In General, would you like to see George W. Bush reelected to another term as president, or not?", 47% said yes, 46% said no, and 7% were undecided. This marks a precipitous drop from May 1, when 51% favored reelection with only 38% opposing, and 11% undecided.
In matchup polling against Democratic hopefuls, Bush has a decent, but hardly impregnable lead. Bush leads all candidates, leading Kerry 50%-42%, Gephardt 51%-42%, Edwards 51%-39%, Lieberman 52%-39%, and Dean 53%-38%. Considering how early it is, and how little coverage the Democrats have received so far, Bush's lead is very weak.
Bush still holds the advantage, but the advantage is slipping. Certainly, the latest scandal involving Niger uranium won't help. Essentially, all of the Democratic frontrunners could beat Bush in a normal, well-run campaign. It will not take an Act of God to do so. Whether the Democrats are able to pull it off or not, though, is an open question.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
CBS: Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False
The Bush administration knew that the Niger/Iraq uranium story was false when they included it in the State of the Union Address, according to a CBS News story.
According to the story, CIA officials warned members of the National Security Council staff that intelligence was "not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa."
The White House then changed the language in the speech to rely on British, not American intelligence. The White House used a British report that had relied on falsified documents when making the statement, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
While technically correct, the CIA had questioned the same evidence cited in the British report, and the White House knowingly included in the State of the Union information that its own intelligence agencies had questioned.
In recent days, the White House acknowledged that the information in the speech was, in retrospect, false. But this story represents the first indication that the White House may have known the statements to be false before Bush gave his address to the nation.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Mitch Berg Has a Good Idea
Mitch Berg and I don't often agree on much--he's a good guy, but he is a conservative--but he's spot on with regard to his solution to the whole "problem" of gay marriage. The solution? Get government out of the marriage business altogether. Make it a generic contract that people can enter into. Let churches decide their own policy on marriage, from my Unitarian church (which probably would perform polygamous marriages if it was free to do so) to the Mormon chuch (which will only marry straight Mormons...and which would also probably perform polygamous marriages if it was free to do so, come to think of it.) If people want to divorce, they can dissolve the contract. It makes a ton of sense--it would let people structure their lives as they wanted, let churches make their own decisions, and it wouldn't affect anyone adversely, as I am not affected by any contract that doesn't involve me. It's a great solution. That's why it will never happen.
WARNING: Posting to be light over the next few days
Another wedding this weekend (shout out to Sarah and Eric: woohoo), meaning friends from out of town are back and things will be going on, so the output will be fairly light. Just thought you'd like to know.
Josh Marshall Strikes Again
Read his post on the Niger Uranium doc scandal. Just do it. I'm not even going to bother commenting--Josh has the bases completely covered here.
Fair, Free, and Open
The co-chairs of the commission looking into possible intelligence failures before 9/11 criticized the Bush administration for stalling and delaying the release of documents. Also, the commission criticized the Justice Department and the Pentagon for placing "agency representatives" in meetings between commission investigators and people with potential information.
Great. Because covering your tuchus is far more important than seeing to it that we don't lose more American lives. Nice to see the administration has its priorities straight.
I've generally believed that the commission won't find anything particularly damning--certainly, there were failures in intelligence, but I've doubted that it was anybody's fault. I supported creation of the commission in order for us to learn from our mistakes, not to assign blame.
But the more the Bush administration stonewalls and drags its feet, the more I wonder if there is some massive failure that they're trying to cover up. Why is the administration so scared of what might come out? What are they trying to hide?
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
(Oh Yeah. The State Of The Union thing? Not True. Bye.)
The White House has issued a statement backing completely away from the Iraq/Africa uranium connection GDub cited in the State of the Union address.
Wonder when they'll back away from the claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? My guess is that we'll see a clarifying statement from the White House sometime this fall.
Those Rich Suburbanites and their Lack of Respect for Authority
A man drowned on Lake Minnetonka on the 4th of July after getting involved in a "boat rage" incident with another boat. Allegedly, the other boat ran him over after he fell into the water.
That's not the part of the story I'm interested in.
Unfortunately, hundreds of boaters refused to move their boats to let the Hennepin County Water Patrol move a sonar-equipped boat onto the lake--because moving would cause some boaters to lose their view of the fireworks.
Now, if I were a writer in the style of a conservative columnist--say, Ann Coulter or William Safire--I might point out that Lake Minnetonka is in the solidly Republican western suburbs, and I might ruminate on how those rich folk in Wayzata and Minnetonka don't teach their kids right from wrong. I might even go so far as to suggest that conservatives, with their "me-first" ethos, are causing damage to civil society to the point where people place their entertainment needs over the ability of law enforcement to search for a missing man.
But of course, I would never suggest such a thing. Never.
Monday, July 07, 2003
Black Is White! Up Is Down! Freedom Is Slavery!
Oh, and Ari Fleischer got in a heap o' trouble trying to explain about the Nigeria uranium memo that was false.
I can't even make sense of the transcript Josh Marshall so thoughtfully provided. Near as I can figure it, the White House had no idea what the CIA was doing, so they used the fake uranium memo in the State of the Union, but what the President said was true except for the memo, but actually it wasn't true, but maybe it was, but it probably wasn't, but it was because it was all based on the memo, and everything but the memo was true. Probably.
Well, that clears everything up, doesn't it?
Saturday, July 05, 2003
Bring It On
Minnesota suffered its first combat casualty on July 3, when Army Pfc. Edward Herrgott of Shakopee died in a sniper attack. In honor of our tough-guy President, the deaths in Iraq since May 1, when the major part of the war was "over."
Pfc Jesse A. Givens, Army, Springfield, MO, Tank Accident
Sgt Sean C. Reynolds, Army, East Lansing, MI, Accidental Weapons Discharge
Pvt Jason L. Deibler, Army, Coeburn, VA, Non-Combat Weapons Discharge
CWO Hans N. Gukeisen, Army, Lead, SD, Helicopter Crash
CWO Brian K. Van Dusen, Army, Columbus, OH, Helicopter Crash
Cpl Richard P. Carl, Army, King Hill, ID, Helicopter Crash
Lance Cpl Cedric E. Bruns, USMC, Vancouver, WA, Vehicle Accident
Lance Cpl Matthew R. Smith, USMC, Anderson, IN, Vehicle Accident
Pfc Jose Fraci Gonzalez Rodriguez, USMC, Norwalk, CA, Accidental Explosion
Lance Cpl Jakub Henryk Kowalik, USMC, Schaumburg, IL, Accidental Explosion
Lance Cpl Nicholas Brian Kleiboeker, USMC, Irvington, IL, Accidental Munitions Explosion
SSgt Patrick Lee Griffin, Jr., USAF, Elgin, SC, Enemy Ambush
Spc David T. Nutt, Army, Douglas, GA, Car Accident
MSgt William L. Payne, Army, Unexploded Ordinance Accident
Spc Rasheed Sahib, Army, Brooklyn, NY, Accidental Weapons Discharge
Cpl Douglas Jose Marencoreyes, USMC, Chino, CA, Vehicle Accident
SSgt Aaron Dean White, USMC, Shawnee, OK, Helicopter Accident
Sgt Kirk Allen Straseskie, USMC, Beaver Dam, WI, Drowned
1st Lt Timothy Louis Ryan, USMC, Helicopter Accident
Lance Cpl Jason William Moore, USMC, Helicopter Accident
Capt Andrew David Lamont, USMC, Eureka, CA, Helicopter Accident
Lt Col Dominic R Baragona, Army, Niles, OH, Vehicle Accident
Spc Nathaniel A Caldwell, Army, Omaha, NE, Vehicle Accident
Pvt David Evans, Jr., Army, Buffalo, NY, Accident at Iraqi Munitions Facility
Pfc Jeremiah D. Smith, Army, Odessa, MO, Vehicle Hit Unexploded Ordinance
Maj Matthew E. Schram, Army, Wisconsin, Enemy Ambush
SSgt Brett J. Petriken, Army, Michigan, Vehicle Accident
Pvt Kenneth A. Nalley, Army, Hamburg, IA, Vehicle Accident
Sgt Keman L. Mitchell, Army, Hillard, FL, Drowning
SSgt Michael B. Quinn, Army, Tampa, FL, Enemy Ambush
Sgt Thomas F. Broomhead, Army, Cannon City, CO, Enemy Ambush
Spc Jose A. Perez III, Army, San Diego, TX, Enemy Ambush
SSgt Kenneth R. Bradley, Army, Utica, MS, Under Investigation
Spc Zachariah W. Long, Army, Milton, PA, Vehicle Accident
Spc Kyle A. Griffin, Army, Emerson, NJ, Vehicle Accident
Spc Michael T. Gleason, Army, Warren, PA, Vehicle Accident
Sgt Jonathan W. Lambert, USMC, Newsite, MS, Vehicle Accident
Sgt Atanacio Haromarin, Army, Baldwin Park, CA, Enemy Attack
Pfc Branden F. Oberleitner, Army, Worthington, OH, Grenade Attack
Sgt Travis L. Burkhardt, Army, Edina, MO, Vehicle Accident
PO 3rd Class Doyle W. Bollinger, Jr., USN, Poteau, OK, Unexploded Ordinance
Pvt Jesse M. Halling, Army, Indianapolis, IN, Enemy Attack
Sgt Michael E. Dooley, Army, Pulaski, VA, Enemy Attack
Pfc Gavin L. Neighbor, Army, Somerset, OH, Grenade Attack
Spc John K. Klinesmith, Jr., Army, Stockbridge, GA, Drowning
SSgt Andrew R. Pokorny, Army, Naperville, IL, Vehicle Accident
Pfc Ryan R. Cox, USMC, Derby, KS, Non-combat Weapons Discharge
Spc Joseph D. Suell, Army, Lufkin, TX, Non-combat Cause
Pvt Shawn D. Pahnke, Army, Shelbyville, IN, Gunshot Wound
Sgt Michael L. Tosto, Army, Apex, NC, Non-combat Cause
Pvt Robert L. Frantz, Army, San Antonio, TX, Grenade Attack
SSgt William T. Latham, Army, Kingman, AZ, Shrapnel Wounds
Pfc Michael R. Deuel, Army, Nemo, SD, Gunshot Wound
Spc Paul T. Nakamura, Army, Santa Fe Springs, CA, Grenade Attack
Spc Orenthal J. Smith, Army, Allendale, SC, Small Arms Fire
Spc Cedric L. Lennon, Army, West Blocton, AL, Non-combat Cause
Lance Cpl Gregory E. MacDonald, USMC, Washington, DC, Vehicle Accident
Spc Andrew F. Chris, Army, California, Combat Operations in Enemy Territory
Spc Richard P. Orengo, Army, Puerto Rico, Gunfire
Spc Corey A. Hubbell, Army, Urbana, IL, Non-combat Cause
Cpl Tomas Sotelo, Jr, Army, Houston, TX, Grenade Attack
Sgt 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, Army, Linden, NJ, Cause Unknown
Pfc Keven C. Ott, Army, Columbus, OH, Cause Unknown
Sgt Timothy M. Conneway, Army, Enterprise, AL, Explosive Attack
Sgt 1st Class Christopher D. Coffin, Army, Bethlehem, PA, Vehicle Accident
Cpl Travis J. Bradachnall, USMC, Multnomah County, OR, Mine Clearing Accident
Pfc Corey L. Small, Army, East Berlin, PA, Non-combat Cause
Pfc Edward J. Herrgott, Army, Shakopee, MN, Sniper Attack
Name and Rank Withheld Pending Family Notification, Army, Enemy Ambush
Bring it on. Right, Mr. President?
To the men who are on this list: thank you for your sacrifice. It matters not whether this war is just or right for our nation; you have given the ultimate measure of devotion to our country, and we are forever in your debt. As for the men who are out golfing today before getting back to the White House...read this list carefully. This is who God told you to sacrifice, Mr. President, in order to smite Saddam. And this list, sadly, is just beginning to be compiled.
Those of you noticing that the percentage of accidental deaths was falling the further down the list you got were not imagining it.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
Restoring Dignity to the White House, one Stretched Truth at a time....
Almost since the end of Gulf War II: The Vengeance, conservatives have been griping about the liberal interest in just where the heck the WMDs went to. A typical colum might go something like this:
Why are the liberals so hung up on Weapons of Mass Destruction? It's not like anyone cares, because WE WON and SADDAM LOST and those WHINY LIBERALS SHOULD JUST GET OVER IT. And if they think the American people will care, they're wrong. Heh.
Well. I guess there's no sense mentioning that 62% of Americans believe the Bush administration either lied or "stretched the truth" about the WMDs. I mean, it's not like people care whether their President is misleading them. Besides, 33% of people think Bush told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and while that number looks suspiciously like core Republican support, I'm sure it isn't.
Folks, when Ari Fleischer feels compelled to note that over half of Americans don't believe Bush deliberately lied to them, this is a story.
When 63% of Americans believe there should be a Congressional investigation into the intelligence failure here, this is a story. When less than half of Americans--46%--now say that the war was the right thing to do, this is a story.
The fact is, Americans went to war believing that Iraq represented a clear and present threat to our national security. Not that they were running a few scattershot weapons programs, not that they wanted WMDs, but that they had VX and were ready to use it. The utter failure to turn up anything post-1991 shows that the Bush administration was at best, lying to themselves.
The fact is, I believe that the administration really was lying to itself. That's what scares me. If this were simply Bush lying to the American people, I'd believe him to be a shady, Nixonian character, but oddly, I'd feel that at least he knew what was going on.
The fact is, the Bushies wanted war with Iraq so much that they were willing to look at every tiny scrap of evidence for war, while discarding mountains of evidence against it. That isn't leadership. That's doing what you want, and then trying retroactively to justify it.
It's a dangerous, scary way to run a country.
The fact is that Bush is incompetent. It's taken two-and-a-half years to prove it on foreign policy (he's ably shown it on the economy), but the chickens are coming home to roost. From our failure to secure Afganistan to our failure to neuter al-Qaeda to our failure to find WMDs in Iraq, our President has shown himself to be a miserable screw-up.
Freedom of Speech, as long as it's speech we agree with
On this eve of Independence Day, a happy story about the textbooks our children use. Basically, thanks to the kind of unholy left-right alliance that is all too familiar, nothing outside of a narrow, safe, non-threatening middle is allowed to be taught to our children.
No mention of gender-specific words like "salesman" or "chairman." No mention of dinosaurs, lest we dredge up evolution. Don't show a picture of a little girl on grandpa's lap--it might signify incest. Don't bring up witchcraft, please. Don't show boys as being bigger than girls. Don't show an Asian as being "smart"--too stereotypical.
I, for one, don't mind my daughter occasionally coming across an idea that I disagree with. (Heck, I'll even let her read Mitch Berg's site). The way I figure it, if she never challenges the things I teach her, she doesn't really believe them. She simply holds them as an article of faith, an unexamined belief that will not stand against the slightest provocation. Indeed, my daughter is free to choose her beliefs for herself. If she ends up a vegan republican Baptist, well, I may not agree, but I won't stand in the way of her beliefs.
I want my daughter's views about the world to be challenged. I want her to hear things I disagree with. I want her to hear viewpoints I hate. Only by hearing about creationism can she truly reject it; only by learning about the KKK can she learn how evil they were. I want my daughter to learn and read everything, and draw her own conclusions--because I feel at least somewhat confident that she will agree with me most of the time. And if my arguments can't stand up to hers, then maybe, just maybe, she's right. If only others on both sides of the aisle could be as willing to let their children out of their doctrinaire view of the world. Then again, those who believe they hold a monopoly on truth are usually strangely unwilling to listen to anyone who may disagree.
Ann Coulter: Too Easy a Target
I keep getting angry about things Ann Coulter writes, and then I ask myself, why? It's not like Coulter makes a persuasive case, or even a coherent argument. Generally, Coulter's commentary has devolved to the point where she essentially shouts "Democrats Evil! Bush Good!" over and over again, as if in a desperate attempt to convince herself.
Coulter's latest round of idiocy is a series of columns designed to pump up sales of her latest laugher, Treason, where she argues that Democrats have been trying to hand the keys to the country over to the USSR/Osama since Truman (well, except for Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson...which basically means Carter and Clinton were desperately trying to sell our nation out. Strange that with twelve years of the Presidency in evil traitorous hands, we aren't all drinking vosk, except that we can't, because Osama is our President...oh, wait, I'm commenting on the substance of Coulter's arguments again. Pointless, that.)
Anyhoo, one of Coulter's big arguments is that Joe McCarthy was a swell guy. Yes, old Joe (R-WI) was a swell guy, a happy warrior if you will, who was tarnished by evil liberals who wanted nothing more than to let the Russkies roll right down Pennsylvania Avenue!
Or, as Coulter writes:
Liberals are fanatical liars, then as now. The portrayal of Sen. Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals weren't hiding under the bed during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation's ability to defend itself, while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy's name. Liberals denounced McCarthy because they were afraid of getting caught, so they fought back like animals to hide their own collaboration with a regime as evil as the Nazis. As Whittaker Chambers said: "Innocence seldom utters outraged shrieks. Guilt does."
As I say, innocence often utters outraged shrieks, especially when the innocents are falsely accused.
Of course, McCarthy rooted out Communists. Cast a wide enough net, and you'll find what you're looking for. If Mark Kennedy (R-MN) chaired a latter-day HUAC, and drug Arab-American after Arab-American before the committee, investigating every contact they had ever had, he would indeed find people with al-Qaeda, Hamas, and PLO sympathies. He would probably even find them in our own government.
The problem with McCarthy was never that he was fighting Communists; noted Republican Hubert H. Humphrey cast votes in the Senate curtailing the rights of Communists to assemble, and nobody blinked. The problem with McCarthy was not his foe, but his methods. McCarthy pulled everyone and their twin sister before his committee, investigating every meeting they'd ever been to, every person they considered a friend. If the person had been to a Communist party meeting in the 1930's, they were ousted from government, or their movie studio, or their jobs. Lives were ruined.
Were some of the people McCarthy targeted guilty? Yes. That does not excuse his methods. McCarthy moved against Americans on rumor and suspicion, and destroyed the lives of people based on their political philosophy--and often nothing more. It would be as if we would move against all who have supported Palestinian statehood, or opposed war in Iraq.
This is fundamentally anti-American. Our nation is built to withstand foolish ideas--that's why the KKK, the American Nazi Party, Ted Kaczynski, ANSWER, and Ann Coulter are all allowed to express their harebrained ideas. We believe that our republic can stand the strain of Communists in our midst--because, thanks to free expression, the vast majority of us who are not Communists can expose the foolishness and evil of that particular philosophy.
Whenever we try to stamp out free speech and free thought, we subvert what our country is. Joe McCarthy is reviled not because he fought Communists. He is reviled because he brought our nation, for a time, a little bit closer to what the USSR was. He wanted a nation without dissent, a nation where nobody could dare suggest that Communism was a viable alternative to Capitalism. He failed, and our country thrived because of it. We won the Cold War because we were willing to tolerate our Communists, while the USSR jailed their Capitalists. Freedom will prevail over tyranny. Coulter, for all her protestation, has not yet learned that lesson.