Shouting 'Cross the Potomac

barstool philosopher,
backseat driver
but never a Monday morning quarterback

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UVA Center for Politics and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball Predictions 2002


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Saturday, March 16, 2002

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
What would Saturday be without a report on the Ipse Dixit caption contest? Yours truly submitted a plethora of entries in an effort to hold off Rags and JulieC and was mildly successful, finishing in a tie with a non-Refuge person. QP friend Ray Eckhardt also entered. He could be dangerous if he becomes a regular, although I said that about Dan Dickinson ... "you gotta play to win."

Michael Kinsley devoted a whole column yesterday to a subject I raised on Thursday in a forgettable "Two Minute Drill" entry: Virginia Thomas's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. She is Justice Thomas' wife. Kinsley was pretty brutal.

I'd like to mention one aspect of the "Tipper Gore for Senate" boomlet that is not being mentioned. Just as in New York, where Andrew Cuomo is blocking the aspirations of African-American contender Carl McCall, Tipper's potential run could block African-American Congressman Harold Ford's chance at the nomination. Why is it that the party of affirmative action sees its best African-American candidates challenged by arguably less qualified "celebrity" candidates?

This Just In Things look a little different for John Walker Lindh these days, as he cools his heels in an Alexandria, VA jail cell. Now he claims, in court papers recently filed, that he "wanted to leave his unit after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but didn't because he feared for his life." Funny how he forgot to mention that to US forces interrogating him in Afghanistan, but I'm sure there's an explanation.

Friday, March 15, 2002

Who You Callin’ Unilateral?

Tony Adragna
[Since very few people read it originally, and even fewer have linked through to it from the post below, I've decided to repost this item here]

There has been much praise here in the U.S. of Mr. Bush’s unilateralist rhetoric – a sentiment which I share in the context of defending the U.S. and her citizens. But, reading this morning’s story about the U.S. sponsored Security Council Resolution on the Middle East, I began an examination of how closely U.S. action has matched the rhetoric. My conclusions might surprise both those who have praised and those who have been critical of this administration’s “unilateral” action.

Mr. Bush’s first “unilateral” act was withdrawing the U.S. from negotiation of the Kyoto Accord. A July 2001 Time article summed up European opinion of the decision, referring to the U.S. as a ”rogue nation” in environmental affairs. But, the same article can’t help pointing out that the Europeans eventually, though too late, came around to the U.S. position:
Of course, the revised Kyoto Accord hammered out in three days of intense negotiations in Bonn is but a shadow of its former self. It has reduced the average cut in greenhouse gas emissions required by the year 2012 from 5.2 percent below 1990 levels to 1.8 percent below 1990 levels, and has incorporated a number of the negotiating positions previously advanced by the Clinton administration, such as crediting nations for maintaining large forests to serve as "carbon sinks" to soak up the offending gas. (And all this in response not to pressure from Washington, which had removed itself from the debate by rejecting Kyoto out of hand, but to the demands of other industrialized countries such as Japan and Canada.)
The parenthetical wants to highlight that U.S. self-interest had nothing to do with the final accord. Instead, it should highlight that “other industrialized countries” were pursuing self-interest at the same time that they were critical of the U.S. for doing the same. But, more importantly, I ask two questions in examining U.S. withdrawal from Kyoto: (a) is a failure to act multilaterally the same thing as acting unilaterally, and (b) was this administration’s withdrawal rightly criticized as the signal act dooming U.S. participation in Kyoto.

That the U.S. withdrawal was a unilateral act is undisputed, but beyond that withdrawal there has been no unilateral action on the question of global climate change. Far from acting alone to globally address the question, the U.S. has instead focused on addressing domestic environmental issues. Where trans-national issues are involved, as at the U.S. border with Mexico, bilateral action continues to be how we proceed. Further, the withdrawal itself [was] merely the funeral for a body that had already been pronounced dead in the U.S. Senate. Even if Mr. Bush had resubmitted the treaty, it’s very likely that the Senate would have simply rejected it again (the original rejection was by a margin of 95 – 0). Whatever U.S. unilateralism there was in the Kyoto matter, it definitely didn’t start with Mr. Bush.

How about the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty? Whatever criticism there was on the merits (including my own), the criticism that focused on the unilateral aspect of the act was quite disingenuous. Likewise, people who praised the act as a refutation of multilateralism were missing something. What’s missing from both the criticism and the praise is recognition of the fact that the withdrawal occurred within the framework of the treaty itself, and only after consultation with Russia. Sure, the withdrawal was de facto unilateral, but at the same time the act was de jure consistent with the bilateral agreement. It might be argued that if Mr. Bush had looked into Mr. Putin's soul and saw a monster, then Mr. Bush wouldn't have withdrawn. I won't make that argument, because Mr. Putin in fact demured, and, despite the rhetoric, we'll never know whether Mr. Bush would have flinched. What we do know, though, is that the withdrawal wasn't as unilateral as it might seem at face value.

Finally, we come to the fight against terrorism. Critics have labelled this "America's War", and even more cynically "Bush's War". Meanwhile, proponents of unilateral action have pointed to the administration's actions as the laudable end of multilateralism. Neither the critics nor the proponents are correct -- we've done nothing unilateral in this current conflict. Prior to commencing action the U.S. recieved international support from both NATO and the U.N.. Once action began, our movement into Afghanistan was facilitated by neighboring governments -- specifically, Uzbekestan and Pakistan -- without whose acquiessence we would've had a much more difficult task. In fact, it might even be argued that sending in troops would have been impossible without the support of countries in region, and the administration wouldn't have even tried. But, again, such an argument is unprovable, so we have to go with what we do know -- rhetoric aside, we haven't acted unilaterally.

Might we act unilaterally in the future, particualarly againt Iraq? I won't make a prediction. However, after looking at how the war has been expanding so far -- into the Philippines and Yemen -- I suspect that we'll see more bilateral action accompanied by more unilateralist rhetoric, but no unilateral action.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

What He Said,
And What He's Doing

Tony Adragna
Yesterday I noted the disconnect between rhetoric and action. Today brings more observations. Despite what might seem to be unilateralist rhetoric coming from the world's lone superpower, what's really happening is that the U.S. is doing everything possible to bring the international community along. In fact, the rhetoric is less about acting alone than it is about prodding movement out of our friends. In the President's own words:
"It's going to require a resolve and firmness from the United States of America," he said. "One of the things I've learned in my discussions and at least listening to the echo chamber out there in the world is that if the United States were to waver, some in the world would take a nap when it comes to the war on terror. And we're just not going to let them do that."
Why would Mr. Bush care if "some in the world would take a nap when it comes to the war on terror"? Because he knows that we need the rest of the world, at least our friends, to make this work.

But, it's more than just arguing for support: there's also a move toward quiding the ol' quo. How else can the shift in tone taken with Sharon be explained? I'm quite certain that the deaths of so many Palestinian civilians is the reason that the U.S. sponsored the first ever Security Council Resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Or, might it have been to appease our Arab friends?

While hoping (as I am ever hopeful) that a recognition of valid claims might go a long way toward turning off the spigot of popular support for militant extremists, I'm just cynical enough to believe that there's other motivation behind the shift in Mid East policy. I won't criticize those other motives, because I think that they're just as valid. And I'm not being too cynical - just read what TWT reported immediatley below (on their website) the "'heartless' Saddam" story:
The president praised Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's proposal to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 war.
"The first and most important qualification ... for there to be peace is for people in the region to recognize Israel's right to exist," Mr. Bush said.
"I can't think of anything more deep than that right, that ultimate and final security, and when the crown prince indicated that was on his mind, we strongly embraced that."
Need I say more?

Well, just one more. Remember the Bush-Putin summit, and how Putin so much wanted the warhead reduction agreement in writing? Remeber how Mr. Bush was praised for taking the debate beyond "documents" and into the realm of heartfelt agreement between people? Guess who won that argument?

OK, now I've said enough...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
While readers might have hoped that my sabbatical would be the death knell of this insufferable feature, it is not to be.

Celebrity Boxing Not surprisingly, Tonya Harding defeated Paula Jones in Fox's Celebrity Boxing last night. Whatever else Ms. Harding might be, she is athletic; any Paula Jones athleticism is probably confined to one room in her trailer. I'd like to be the Don King of future boxing match-ups. I'd book the ex-CEO smackdown: Ken Lay v. Jack Welch. I'm looking for an opponent to face Jeff Skilling in a big money bout. On the distaff side, I'd like to pair the "Pugilistic Plagiarizer," Doris Kearns-Goodwin, against ex-Harvard Business Review "Marriage Mauler" Suzy Wetlaufer.

March Madness John Feinstein's WP column on the Patriot League is a must-read "reality check" for those ready to plunge into NCAA basketball tournament March madness. This little excerpt probably goes without saying:

Most of the schools competing in the NCAA basketball tournament, which gets underway in earnest today, don't graduate all or most or many of their players; the graduation rate for Division I men's college basketball players is 42 percent, a number that dips noticeably if only starters are counted.

Student-athletes: almost an oxymoron, thanks to a "win at all costs" ethos in college athletic departments.

More Shadows As usual, a provocative William Safire today. He has some sensible observations on the "shadow government" dust-up. He reminds us of presidential succession order and recommends overhauling it; Senator Daschle demurs, saying that if the Pope can run the Catholic Church, 84 year old Robert Byrd can run the country. Rather than gripe about President Bush setting up a "shadow government," Safire asks:

What is Congress doing to prepare to avert national paralysis in the remote event the Capitol is suddenly destroyed?

Safire also gets sarcastic while making a good point:

The Supreme Court hints it has plans for emergency succession, but won't say; Pat Leahy at the Senate Judiciary Committee should stop rubber-stamping Bush nominees for judgeships long enough to demand to know the Supremes' plans.

Bushisms Jacob Weisberg has restarted "Bushisms" over at Slate. That feature was amusing at first, but it's obvious now that it's just a heavy-handed attempt to keep the idea of the President as "intellectually-challenged" alive. He mangles the English language--get over it. It has not proven to be a hinderance in leading the country. Weisberg would do better to spend more time analyzing Bush's policy decisions and their political ramifications than looking for "gotcha" malapropisms.

Virginia Constitutional Crisis There's a big story going here in Virginia. A judge has overturned state redistricting approved by the Republican General Assembly last year; this might mean new special elections for all or part of the state. The Republican Attorney General, Jerry Kilgore, immediately announced he would appeal. The Democratic Governor, Mark Warner, announced the next day he was not happy that Kilgore was appealing and made the argument that Kilgore could not appeal without his concurrence. The two are meeting today to hash it out. This is classic political posturing around a series issue.

INS Snafu Like President Bush, I'm "plenty hot" about the INS approving Atta's stay in the US six months after his terrorist death. I'm sure many others will express their outrage much better than I, but I have to wonder about the FBI. You would think they would have been all over the INS and confiscated every document pertaining to the terrorists and that the INS not only would have turned them over, but covered their a**es for the future. Their incompetence is breathtaking.

Mrs. Thomas Speaks Out Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, writes an open letter to Charles Pickering to today's Wall Street Journal (subscription only). It's intensely personal and her bitterness toward "the left" is palpable. Personally, I think her piece just adds to the divisiveness. I think she could have made her case without the underlying rancor she feels. That's not to say I disagree with much of what she says.

Tony Ain't Chopped Liver!

Your Truly
Hey folks! Blog Watch II hasn't gone away! The AM Edition is on sabbatical, but I'm picking up Will's blogs, and rotating coverage on my regularly PM Edition. Blog Watch II Lives!

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Did He Say
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Station?

Tony Adragna
I had a good laugh on the train ride home reading Edwin Morris' "Reagan National Nameport". He starts off comparing the Reaganistas' victory in re forcing DC's Metro system to spend $400,000 thousand to redo signage, with "the same satisfaction that Welsh nationalists felt when they emblazoned one of the smallest rail stations in Britain 'Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.'" It gets better from there. In attempting to make everybody happy by honoring not just Reagan and Washington, but their wives too, Morris comes up with:
Whoops -- I forgot to mention Jane Wyman, the distinguished actress who was Ronald Reagan's first wife and helpmeet. She should be honored too. Taking into account her own adoptive and marital self-transformations, that would make it "Ronald and Sarah Jane Mayfield Fulks Wyman Futterman and Anne Frances Robbins Nancy Davis Reagan George and Martha Dandridge Custis Washington National Airport."
Thank God Morris finally ends up where all DC metro residents have always been when he says, "[...]maybe we should dispense with ideological incense-swinging and go back to calling it plain old 'National Airport'."(emphasis added)

Who You Callin’ Unilateral?

Tony Adragna
There has been much praise here in the U.S. of Mr. Bush’s unilateralist rhetoric – a sentiment which I share in the context of defending the U.S. and her citizens. But, reading this morning’s story about the U.S. sponsored Security Council Resolution on the Middle East, I began an examination of how closely U.S. action has matched the rhetoric. My conclusions might surprise both those who have praised and those who have been critical of this administration’s “unilateral” action... (read the rest of my argument From Left Field)

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Was Bork “Borked”

Encarta defines ”bork” as:
to deny Senate confirmation of a nominee, especially for a U.S. Supreme Court or federal judgeship, by use of sustained public disparagement (slang)
I don’t think that definition does justice, because implied in the usage is that the disparagement (criticism, discrediting) is without merit and injust. Clearly, much of the criticism of Judge Bork was without merit, but was he denied confirmation on the meritless criticism?

John MacKenzie argued in a May 2001 opinion column that Judge Bork wasn’t really borked because what earned him rejection wasn’t the unfair criticism, but his own outspokenness in promoting a judicial philosophy that the Democrats couldn’t be expected to swallow. But, MacKenzie’s argument is disingenuous to the extent that even where the criticism had merit, it was couched in language that was at face value offensive.

I’m one of those people who believes that there’s nothing wrong with an ideological test in judicial confirmation proceeding – so long as the test is not on specific issues, but on constitutional philosophy. I’m pretty sure that’s where Greenfield faulted Judge Bork – the soundness of his philosophy rather than his qualifications as a jurist. But, I’ll agree that nothing is proven (after all, he wasn’t allowed to prove himself), making Cohen’s statement nothing more than assertion.

What I would like to see in the Pickering deliberations, as should have happened in Bork’s case, is less rhetoric and more examination. There may be very good reasons in Pickering’s record as a jurist (How often has he been overturned? How often has he been upheld?), and reasonable ideological grounds, for the Senate to deny his confirmation.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
This cloying feature returns to irritate and infuriate ....

The First Lady in Richmond, VA Laura Bush was in Richmond yesterday to dedicate a hospital library and visit a local school. The big local story was Mrs. Bush's "friend," a precocious but insufferably persistent 11 year old, Rashad Davis. Little Rashad is one of those kids, undoubtably encouraged by his adoring mother, who tries to capture the attention of public figures by pushing to the front of every line at their public appearances and sending them a barrage of letters and tapes of his music. Why newspapers find this self-absorbed pursuit of publicity newsworthy is beyond me; it only spawns imitators and ultimately disappointment for the kids whose PR efforts aren't as successful.

Janet Reno in Norfolk, VA The former attorney general and current Florida gubernatorial candidate was at Old Dominon University yesterday, picking up $20,000 for a speech. She's a step behind the current Democratic talking points on the war:

I have trouble with a war that has no endgame and I have trouble with a war that generates so many concerns about individual liberties.

She was asked about Bill Clinton:

She said the scandal "had its effect on the country, but it's touching to see how many people have a bond with [Clinton], even some of the people who excoriated him at the time."

After a long pause, she said, "I sure wish he'd told the truth."

Jesse Ventura in Minnesota The WSJ lead editorial slams "The Body" or "The Mind" Jesse Venura, Governor of Minnesota, for his efforts to raise taxes, rather than cut the budget as other governors have done. They quote him as saying, "In a time of war and in defense of our country, I will break any campaign promise." The Journal editors add drily, "as if Minnesota's state budget is financing the Pentagon." Remember Ventura chic? It seems to have disappeared.

Post-Borking Richard Cohen makes an observation that I think is fallacious. He opposes Charles Pickering's nomination to the Appeals Court and his point is that Pickering isn't being "Borked." Fair enough. But check the last sentence of this quote from his column:

When The Post back in 1987 announced its position on the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, there was no doubt the writer was the late Meg Greenfield. In sentences that locked together like Legos, with wit and erudition, she bewailed the Borking of Bork. She celebrated his experience, saluted his intellect, hailed his intellectual courage and, in the end, found him unfit for the highest court. Since then, the extremely extremist Bork has proved her right. [emphasis mine]

Robert Bork's positions and opinions, once he was defeated for the court, cannot be used to "prove" what he might have done on the court, or why he would have been a bad choice. Must a person who has demonstrated "judicial temperament" as a judge, as Bork did on the Appeals Court prior to his confirmation battle, continue that temperament once a private citizen? I think not.

Nice Is As Nice Does Paul Krugman laments the passing of James Tobin, Nobel laureate economist. He writes,

His passing seems to me to symbolize the passing of an era, one in which economic debate was both nicer and a lot more honest than it is today.

Krugman, of course, is an exemplar of "nice" economic debating. And he's always honest, too. Just ask him.

Sabbatical For personal reasons, I am taking a sabbatical from my daily Blog Watch II and Print Punditwatch columns. For how long, I cannot say, but I will try to continue tweaking Tony here in QP and I will definitely continue TV Punditwatch on Sundays.

Monday, March 11, 2002

Nightline Still On For Tonight

Letterman announces that he won't be moving, and he hopes Nightline doesn't either - Letterman is a Nightline fan!

What's He Compensating For?

Tony Adragna
I agree on Donaldson, Will. I wanna know why he's getting paid millions while people in the field are making a pittance - not that our servicemembers are in it for the money.

I thing Donaldson's question is a good one -- some people are wanting to know the answer to that very question -- but Gen. Franks was definitely the wrong person to ask. How did Franks respond? I woulda told Donaldson that servicemembers are in it for the service, not for the compensation.

I did see an interview with the Special Master (what's his name?) handling the fund. He gave an answer to another question, and I wasn't particularly happy with his answer. The question was about payng benefits to non-traditional partners. The answer was: we'll follow whatever the state law is (some states pay benefits to partners, others don't). The answer is a cop-out. We're talking about federal dollars...

Nuclear Wrong Headedness

Tony Adragna
There’s really nothing new about having plans to use nuclear weapons. Anyone who has ever been in service, or read a Tom Clancy novel, ought be familiar with the acronym “SIOP”. The Single Integrated Operational Plan was conceived in 1960 (designated SIOP-62), and, with modifications over the intervening years, had been the U.S. plan for engaging in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. They were plans, they were prudent, and thank God they were never needed.

There’s also nothing new about the idea of employing nuclear weapons as a counter-force -- the Trident II (D5) submarine launched ballistic missile was designed specifically to strike preemptively at Warsaw Pact nuclear forces that could be targeted against NATO troops in the event a conflict. That was Secretary Schlessinger’s reasoning, anyway. The system was built, and has been operational since 1990 (though the targets are obviously not what they were).

Now we’re hearing concerns about tactical nuclear weapons. While the focus of recent debate on nuclear arms has been on strategic nuclear arsenals and the continued viability(or lack thereof) of the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine, not much has been said about the status of tactical nuclear weapons – until now.

Why now?

It is because we’ve found a use for tactical nuclear weapons that is both completely rational, and delimited. That scares me…

Dirty Donaldson

Will Vehrs
I was outraged yesterday, as I noted in Punditwatch, at Sam Donaldson's parting question for General Tommy Franks on This Week. He asked the General if he thought it was fair that WTC victim families were being offered an average of $1.85 million while families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan got $7700.00 and a small monthly stipend.

This was a "kick in the groin" question that Donaldson had to know Franks could not and would not answer truthfully, given his position. It was a question that more properly belonged in an interview with Senator Daschle or Speaker Hastert. It was an example of a question that fronted for the opinion of an unknown person or persons. If Donaldson holds the opinion that it's not fair for WTC victim families to get more, he ought to come out and say it at the roundtable, instead of hiding behind a loaded question that had to be totally unexpected.

I have a suggestion. Supposedly, the Red Cross is having trouble distributing all the money it got for the victims of 9/11. Anyone who believes that families of service members killed in the War on Terror should receive additional financial assistance, write the Red Cross, list the donation amount you made, and ask that that amount be transferred to a compensation fund for the families of service members killed in the line of duty.

In the meantime, those who believe we do not compensate military casualties enough should come out of the shadows and tell us what a soldier's life is worth.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

QP Sunday

Will Vehrs
There's whole lotta Blog Watchin' goin' on as the QP staff reviews the blogs day and night for your entertainment and edification.

The Sunday edition of Print Punditwatch has been posted with a plethora of pundits pontificating. There's humor, cliches, and some provocative topics in the pile.

TV Punditwatch should be up by 2PM. The Punditwatcher himself is warming up, fortifying his body with coffee and insuring his tools are at the ready: sharpened pencils and a VCR.

Love those HollywoodPulse headlines, Tony ....

Gone Fox Hunting!

Tony Adragna
I didn't see this on FOX, but this is the best headline I've seen in coverage of the story: Fox News Channel Finds Itself Outfoxed.

Jeesh, even I check sources - though I do sometimes misread things, I at least make sure that the source is reputable. How could FOX have mistaken for a "source"? I mean, just look at some of the teasers in the sidebar:
--New Chinese-Made Version of "Friends" to Be Titled, "Six Ha-Ha People with Coffee Restaurant"

--CBS Viewers Deliver Dismal Grammys Ratings, Demand "Matlock" Be Returned to Lineup

--Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, Eddie Albert to Be Euthanized in April Pay-Per-View Extravaganza

--Madonna To Star in London Play, "Diva Without a Cause"

--Denzel Washington Embraces New "Let's Get the Homeboy an Oscar!" Campaign

--Dennis Miller Bumped From "Monday Night Football," Makes Some Historical Reference We Don't Get

--Lonely Tom Green Pines for a New Woman to Cover in Vomit

--Miss D.C. Wins Miss USA Title, Is Immediately Offered Internship by Gary Condit

--Rosie O'Donnell Announces That She is "Still Gay;" Anne Heche Proclaims "I'm Still a Major Nut Case"

--Greg Brady and Danny Partridge To Fight on Fox Show; Marcia and Jan Booked for Sequel

--News That Marlee Matlin is Pregnant Again Falls on Deaf Ears

--"Seinfeld" Support Group Readies as New Julia Louis-Dreyfus Show Gets Panned by Critics

--Dick Wolf Launches New Series, "Law & Order: The Fourth One"

--Mariah Carey...Oh, Never Mind
OK, maybe they just looked at the body of the story:
While making the point that Poundstone has not yet earned the right to mistreat her kids in private, the judge declared in open court last Friday that the embattled comic had proven herself worthy of earning the opportunity to practice so-called "monitored" abuse.
Or, maybe they didn't!

OK, FOX really isn't better than the competition, but that's something I've known all along (despite FOX's assertions to the contrary) - now FOX has gotta prove that it isn't worse...

[thanks Duncan!]