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Friday, September 27, 2002

Cynical on Bush... Yet Still supporting War!

Tony Adragna
Jacob Weisberg has written the definitive essay. My intuitive sense, and I'm not oft wrong, is that this essay explains why most Democrats in Congress support Mr. Bush on going to war notwithstanding disagreements on "process." So long as Congress passes a resolution that fairly limits the President to action in Iraq, then we've resolved the only disagreement that has practical implications in the instant case...

The Democrats Don't Want A Debate On Iraq?

Tony Adragna
The most cynical bit of reportage & punditry on The Great Debate hold that Democrats aren't really interested in the debate, but are just trying to get past it. The assertion is that "Most Democratic leaders - including Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (S.D.), House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (Mo.) and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joseph Biden (Del.) - have been sounding more supportive of Bush than, in their hearts, they are."

Now, everybody points to Gore. Republicans throwing vitriol at Gore for his recent speech & alternately claiming that Senate Democrats wouldn't have recently offered any opposition but for Gore's example. Anti-war liberals praise Gore simply for his oppositionism.

What folks are missing is what myself noted on Aug 4 and Kondracke noted on Aug 5:
The Senate was at its best [...] last week, launching a vital national discussion on Iraq policy...

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Iraq hearings exposed massive uncertainties about how to handle the threat from Saddam Hussein, letting the public in on the debate that's raging inside the government.
Those hearings raised & examined some serious issues. Biden made clear at the time that "The purpose of the hearing is to begin a serious and open discussion."

But, the administration wasn't yet ready...

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee took the matter back up on September 24 — the President told Congress what he wanted on Thursday the 19th, and Biden resumed hearings on the following Tuesday.

Anybody following Biden's hearings can't honestly say that the Democrats aren't joined in a "serious" debate over what the President wants. But — and this is the rub — it not a partisan debate! Since the Democrats aren't being oppositionists, and have made a political calculus to cut their losses on an issue where there's more agreement tha[n] disagreement, everybody asserts that the Democrats aren't taking the issue seriously.

As I've asked before, would it be "serious" and responsible in the context of a debate on war for the Democrats to be oppositionists simply for the sake of oppositionism? I'll take the response to Gore — who really had something to say, but I'm cynical of his motivations — as an answer...

The Democratc leadership is defintely frustrated over the timing and scope of Mr. Bush's request — and there's skepticism over the political committment to see the job done properly — but, if the performance of Biden's committee is any indicator, there's broad bipartisan support for taking action against Iraq and equally bipartisan skepticism on some important issues.

Who's keeping debate on the Congressional Resolution from taking place? Nobody! It's been going on in Biden's committee, at least — well... considered, rational discussion and questioning of administration officials has been happening, rather than oppositionism.

The debate began on July 31st, but most of the press & punditry — and a helluva lot of the Blogsophere — have simply been to[o] busy getting snippety to have given any time to "seriously" considering what's going on!

Suddenly the Times is Right?

The NYT story is "news analysis" written on the 24th — is Krauthammer flip-flopping on the reliability of NYT "analysis"?

On what did Gore "consult" with Reiner — "foreign policy" or whether he should make the speech? NYT doesn't say. Look at the whole passage:
Mr. Gore's advisers described his speech as a genuine expression of sentiment about an issue with which he has long been closely identified, rather than an attempt to position himself for the 2004 presidential election. He wrote it after consulting a fairly far-flung group of advisers that included Rob Reiner, the actor and filmmaker
If you review what Mr. Gore has actually said on the issues — Iraq specifically, and foreign policy in general — then what "seem at odds" is actually consistent!

For instance, Sullivan took an especially lazy approach to the "final reckoning" speech — he linked to a blogger who asserted an inconsistency between the two speeches, but neither one bothers to provide a link to the Feb. 12, 2002 speech! What everybody links to is reportage, but never to the sustantive statement [the Larry King interviews don't count] — why not? Is that because... ummm. such a review would prove the assertions false?

Krauthammer says "American foreign policy today would be made by Gore-Reiner" if Gore had been elected, never mind that it would be Gore-Lieberman — BTW, Lieberman was way ahead of Mr. Bush on Iraq — and the foreign policy comes directly from the Democratic Party 2000 Platform!

The only thing Krauthammer & Sullivan are "serious" at is dishonesty!

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Tony, I was in Alexandria, VA yesterday, unable to jump in on the issues you covered so well in your inimitable style ....

Second Rate Charles Krauthammer today is a distant also-ran to Michael Kelly in the Gore-bashing sweepstakes. It's a good effort, but Kelly didn't leave much on the table for Krauthammer to work with:

The New York Times reports that Gore wrote the speech "after consulting a fairly far-flung group of advisers that included Rob Reiner." Current U.S. foreign policy is the combined product of Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz and the president. Meanwhile, the pretender is huddling with Meathead.

Had it not been for a few little old ladies baffled by the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach, Fla., American foreign policy today would be made by Gore-Reiner instead of the Bush brain trust. Who says God doesn't smile upon the United States of America?

Slipping Away UVA Professor Larry Sabato has updated his Crystal Ball analysis of the mid-term elections. The House seems to be slipping out of the Democrats' reach. Sabato shows 220 seats as safe or leaning Republican, with only 9 now rated as toss-ups. That's down from 16 when he started tracking. The Senate remains in play, with possible results still ranging somewhere between +2 Democrats and +2 Republicans.

Meanwhile, E. J. Dionne, Jr. analyzes a House race in Indiana and the role Iraq is playing. Naturally, he's troubled by the Democrat giving the President a "pass" on war.

Tax 'em If You Got 'em George Will looks at the mixed message being sent by tobacco taxes. He also looks at the ways states have used tobacco settlement money:

About 5 percent paid out so far has gone to anti-smoking measures. New York has spent some settlement money on a sprinkler system for an upstate golf course. Alabama has used some money to discourage satanic worship in public schools. Nevada is using some money to convert its public television stations to digital broadcasting. North Carolina has devoted almost three-fourths of its money to measures for the production and marketing of . . . tobacco.

Increasing Virginia's lowest in the nation tobacco tax is sure to be an issue before the General Assembly early next year.

Nebraska Depravity I always have thought that the death penalty might act as a deterrent in certain situations, such as during the commission of robbery. Bank robbery might get you 20 years; killing someone during the robbery might get you executed. Rational criminals should select the former option, not the latter. I don't know if Nebraska still has the death penalty. If they do, the scum that perpetrated that horrific bank robbery/slaughter yesterday provided a chilling example of my rational criminal theory being wrong. [Update: If I'd read the articles on this crime more closely, I would have noticed that Nebraska is a capital punishment state.]

Fantastic First Fritz Congratulations to Fritz Schranck, winner of the Ipse Dixit Caption Contest in what I believe to be his maiden effort. JulieC and Dan carried The Refuge flag into battle quite well as yours truly sulked on the sidelines.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Gore's Oppositionism...
And the Disingenuous Response

Tony Adragna
Just a redux of what I said Tuesday — I swear I didn't read Tim Noah beforehand. He did beat me to the press by half an hour[time zone difference]...

Wednesday, September 25, 2002
Update 10:30 PM: Mr. Bush's "not interested in the security of the American people" is defended from Daschle's complaint — the defense is that Daschle took it out of context.

Please! He did say it, right? Does the context matter? "Security of the American people" is just as wrapped up in Mr. Bush's arguments for going after Iraq as it in the "Homeland Security" initiative. And Mr. Bush's message was clear!

Is Anybody "Serious"?

Tony Adragna
If it sounds as if I'm getting agitated, that's because I am, Will. I'm tired of hearing everybody mau-mauing the Democrats on "seriousness", when the truth is the critics simply disagree and are seeking advantage through the art of the disingenuous.

Mr. Bush waxes political polemic when he says that the Democratic-controlled Senate is "not interested in the security of the American people." That the sentiment is seconded and widely disseminated doesn't make it true! It's a prevarication we normally see at election time, which makes me question why he said it — does he really believe it, or is he playing politics!?!

Mr. Bush talks loud & carries a big stick, but he won't swing — why is our president mollycoddling the international community? Maybe because Americans
aren't all that for going to war if it means going alone

Range of Support for U.S. Military Action Against Iraq
                                                                     Favor   Oppose
If other countries participate in invading Iraq   79    18
If the United States has to invade Iraq alone    38   59

Is the President serious? Are the 59% who oppose unilateral action "serious" considering that the President has told us Iraq poses a threat to our national security.

Daschle goes to the Floor of the Senate to correctly observe that Mr. Bush's comments are hurtful & divisiveespecially hurtful considering that "Democrats" includes people like Inouye & Cleland — and Trent Lott's response is "Who is the enemy here?...The president of the United States or Saddam Hussein?" You'd think from Mr. Bush's comments that he believes the Democrats are the enemy!

Is Mr. Bush "seriously" trying to get that resolution through Congress? Or is he just looking for ammunition to fire off at the Democrats when he gets not so broad language.

Can we take Denis Kucinich "seriously" when he whinges 'bout his dissent not being heard because "[...]our leadership has been so outspoken in favor of Bush . . . it causes Democrats to be characterized as favoring the war." The Man has a mouth, and if he can't use it, then his constituents sent the wrong person to Congress!

And who are these "rank-and-file Democrats" Kucinich speaks of? I would hardly call the 28 "many" opposed to their leadership.

Is the press "serious" when it constantly gives voice to dissent from the left while allowing dissenters within the president's own party to go unscathed.

Does anybody wanna have an open and honest debate — WOULD SOMEBODY LIKE TO GET SERIOUS...

Thank God it's West Wing night — at least Martin Sheen can play "serious"...

Beinart Amazes

Tony Adragna
Beinart argues "that Bush's speech was fundamentally dishonest" because he's not really motivated by a desire to make the UN relevant nor by a desire to see Security Council resolutions enforced. Rather, the real reason is regime change and getting at Hussein's WMD.

No disagreement with Beinart so farexcept, isn't one of the intents of those resolutions to disarm Iraq's WMD arsenal & deconstruct the whole program? And, if you state Mr. Bush argument correctly — y'all need to approach the intent of these resolutions with the same seriousness that the United States does — is it a dishonest argument?

No — what's dishonest is Beinart's assertion that the United States' "rationale" for going to war includes "to make the United Nations relevant." Mr. Bush offered no such rationale, but merely (if that phraseology works here) warned that if UN fails to act, then it truly exposes itself as irrelevant.

Beinart gets even sloppier in discussing the administration's response to Iraq's [read Hussein's] offer to permit inspections:
But the bigger problem with Bush's speech isn't that he embraced a false rationale for war, it's that he obscured the real one. By suggesting that America's causus belli is Saddam's violations of U.N. resolutions, Bush raised a number of previously ignored--and entirely unconvincing--pretexts for war. He demanded that Saddam release the "Kuwaiti, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Omani nationals [who] remain unaccounted for" from the Gulf war. He demanded that Iraq "cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shia, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others." And he demanded that Iraq "immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program ... to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people." When Saddam seemingly capitulated on weapons inspections this week, the Bush administration said it wasn't good enough because he hasn't fulfilled these other demands.
'Cept, was that really the administration's response? I seem to remember — though I'm amenable to correction — that Iraq's offer was rejected because Hussein can't be trusted to honor an agreement, so we need the threat of force behind our demands! Knowing that Hussein isn't going to allow "unconditional" inspections — indeed, he's already started in on conditions WRT his "palaces" — we've gotten to the rationale for regime change.

Rather than suggesting that the administration rephrase its arguments to the diplomatic community, Beinart might better ask "why diplomacy?"...

Republicans Aren't Serious

President told to Put Up, or Shut Up!

Tony Adragna
Is the President really a "unilateralist"? NO! All the rhetorical blustering aside, those chastising Mr. Bush for pushing action without concern for what others think — or praising him on the same point — aren't paying attention! Mr. Bush's diplomacy is definitely geared toward seeking support for a different prescription — confronting aggressors rather than negotiating with them — and that's a long past due change in my opinion. But, notwithstanding Mr. Bush's skepticism of the UN — something not new in conservative circles — nothing we've done to date [ I know, but I gotta say it again] has been unilateral, and Mr. Bush is actively working to ensure that we need not act unilaterally.

If Mr. Bush is truly concerned with only what's in our own interest, and pursuing our interests without regard to international opinion, then he ought get busy doing!

Does Mr. Bush belive the threat posed by Hussein is of immediate concern, and linked directly to terrorism aimed at the U.S.? I don't know! The administration has argued those two points affirmatively, but deeds are how belief is proven.

If Mr. Bush truly believes that Hussein poses a threat which the President's inherent authority is meant to address, then he ought get busy exercising that authority — it is his duty!

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Afternoon Rush Yesterday I was in beautiful Amherst, Virginia. Driving back to Richmond, I had Rush Limbaugh on the AM radio, ranting about Al Gore and the speech Gore gave to the Commonwealth Club. While I was lapping up a fair bit of the criticism, I found it disingenuous for Limbaugh to trash Gore for raising the Iraq issue when fellow Democrats want to change the subject to "kitchen table issues." Iraq is too important to "change the subject" at the national level and, agree or disagree, Gore was right to address the issue. Senate and House candidates are free to campaign on healthcare, social security, and the economy. Pundits are telling us that that is what people out in the states supposedly want to talk about. But national figures, like Gore, need to be heard on Iraq.

Gore Bashing Michael Kelly's WP column today absolutely eviscerates Al Gore. Here is one of the milder passages:

Gore's speech was one no decent politician could have delivered. It was dishonest, cheap, low. It was hollow. It was bereft of policy, of solutions, of constructive ideas, very nearly of facts -- bereft of anything other than taunts and jibes and embarrassingly obvious lies. It was breathtakingly hypocritical, a naked political assault delivered in tones of moral condescension from a man pretending to be superior to mere politics. It was wretched. It was vile. It was contemptible. But I understate.

Bush Bashing Maureen Dowd, using her patented pop cultural metaphors, slams the Bush Administration over its reaction to Germany's position on Iraq:

I used to think the Bush hawks suffered from testosterone poisoning, always throwing sharp elbows and cartoonishly chesty my-way-or-the-highway talk around the world, when a less belligerent tone would be classier and more effective.

But now we have the spectacle of the 70-year-old Rummy acting like a 16-year-old Heather, vixen-slapping those lower in the global hierarchy, trying to dominate and silence the beta countries with less money and fewer designer weapons

I never thought Dowd was a big fan of Bush 41, but she uses him to really turn the knife in Bush 43:

Bush senior was a master of personal diplomacy … But W., who was always the Roman candle and hatchet man in the family, has turned his father's good manners upside down — consulting sparingly, leaving poor Tony Blair to make the case against his foes for him, and treating policy disagreements as personal slights.

A Word on Politics Critics are charging that the Bush Administration is cynically using the Iraq issue for political purposes during this off-year election campaign. They may very well be, but if they are, it is a huge, dangerous gamble for a relatively small return: preserving a slender House majority and gaining one Senate seat.

For that miniscule pay-off, President Bush and, if the critics are right, Karl Rove, are willing to risk a costly and complicated war with an absolutely uncertain final result, even in victory. That uncertain result includes far more negative potential consequences for a Bush re-election campaign (bloodshed while occupying Iraq, conflagration in the Middle East, etc.) in '04 than positive ones.

Why not sit back and let Bush implode? Genuine principles and beliefs, of course, but I also suspect that some fear this sweeping Bush approach might succeed where ages of incremental multi-lateralism and status quo diplomacy have failed to change the dynamic.

Why I Like Kaus Mickey Kaus's latest offering, on the homeland security/civil service security issue, is a perfect example of why I'm a Kaus guy. He looks at all the angles, the upsides and downsides, plus peeks around the corners and into the closets. He recommends two tiers for new homeland security employees: Column A, "fire at will" employees and Column B, civil servants with all current job protections.

Let half the workers in the agency be patronage employees who can be fired on the spot if the boss doesn't think they're doing the job (or doesn't like their attitude or trust their political views). Let half the workers retain civil service protections. The Column A workers can be the gung-ho troops who work 18 hour days and fly off to distant cities on a moments' notice because they believe in the mission the president has given them. (As patronage employees, they'll be chosen in part because they agree with the presidents' views.) Let the Column B employees act as cautionary voices and whistleblowers.

The Heat's Debut My 7-9 year YMCA soccer team, the "Heat," had a practice scrimmage with the "Strikers" yesterday. The kids played well, keeping the ball in Striker territory almost the entire game. Unfortunately, the one time the Strikers got near our goal, a Heat player inadvertantly scored the only goal of the game for the Strikers. No run up the score, Steve Spurrier preason debut for Coach Will ....

Our first official game is Saturday at 9AM, against those very same Strikers. Stayed tuned to the QP Sports network for complete coverage.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

New Sites Added

QP Staff
Hey, I'm under-paid and not so well appreciated — plus I gotta sorta take time out to work, eat, sleep, etc, — so forgive the infrequency of adding new linkage.

I promise to be more diligent, and here's some new links:
Derek Crane

Common Sense and Wonder

Jim Miller on Politics

Croooow Blog: Rantings and ravings on the news of the day.

TIME, "The Plan", and Lessons In Reading Comprehension

Tony Adragna
I thought we went over this already, but for Mr. Musil's sake I'll do it again.

First, the story makes no assertion that "a plan" was turned over. Rather, the author refers to a "briefing" which included a "Powerpoint presentation" — fairly routine in the most trivial of meetings — which "outlined [Clarke's] thinking to Rice". Then the author leads the reader to infer that such a plan — the previously shelved "strategy paper" — was handed over by noting that "A senior Bush Administration official denies being handed a formal plan" that nobody is ever quoted as having said was handed over.

Despicable journalism — the author meant to imply everything that readers read into the story. The proper thing would be for TIME and the author to correct the record.

And those who made faulty inferences in their own punditry on the story likewise ought set the record straight!

But, while pointing fingers, let's not be overzealous — Berger makes no "retraction" of anything he was quoted on in the story. That's because there's no reason to do so! Berger never said that a plan of any kind was handed over — at least the story never quoted him as having said any such thing.

Berger is correct when he says[scroll down] "the reports of that are just incorrect" — "the reports", as in what the TIME author wrote was wrong.

What Berger maintains, as he was accurately quoted on in the story, and as the current administration confirms, is that Berger's team "briefed" the incoming administration on "thinking" vis a vis the potential threat — specificaly WRT al Qaeda — what the Clinton administration had been doing about the threat, and suggestions on how to responses.

If I may be of any further service, please don't hestitate...

Mr. Gore and "Forward Engagement"

Tony Adragna
While I agree, Will, that Gore's speech was timed and toned as opprtunitic oppositionism, and I agree that time's well past looking for alternatives other than military force in dealing with Iraq, I urge a second look at what Mr. Gore had to offer — both in re Iraq and the Bush Doctrine.

On Iraq Gore did offer criticism, but he also offered his own opinion of how Bush ought approach Hussein. You can disagree with that opinion — noting that it's informed by pre-September 11 notions that are now irrelevant — but he did offer a different approach!

More importantly, though, is that Gore did offer an alternative to the Bush Doctrine. "Forward Engagement" comes right out of the Democrats 2000 platform:
Al Gore and the Democratic Party know that we must be able to meet any military challenge from a position of dominance. But Al Gore and the Democratic Party also recognize that there is a new security agenda - threats that affect the entire world and transcend political borders.

During the past century, we have learned that if we wish to avoid war, we must be strong enough to deter aggression, but also farsighted enough to invest in peace. Now it is time to apply this lesson to the new global challenges we face - to shape a new strategy of Forward Engagement to guide our conduct around the world.

Forward Engagement means addressing problems early in their development before they become crises, addressing them as close to the source of the problem as possible, and having the forces and resources to deal with these threats as soon after their emergence as possible.

While we must always stand prepared to use our military power when all other options fail, Forward Engagement also means addressing societal and political problems before they evolve into threats to our national security and values - before armed conflict becomes the only way to achieve our goals. And Forward Engagement means drawing on all three main sources of American power - military strength, a vibrant, growing economy, and a free and democratic political system - to advance our objectives around the world.

The Democratic Party believes that America's peace and security depend on our unflagging leadership and engagement in global affairs-and that Forward Engagement is the strategy that must guide us. We must maintain America's economic and military strength. We must also form partnerships to help solve global problems and take advantage of new global opportunities. That means we must deepen our key alliances, develop more constructive relationships with former enemies, and bring together diverse coalitions of nations to deal with new problems. America has a responsibility to lead - and should lead from within the international community.
The platform then goes on to criticize Republican thinking
At a time when new conditions require new thinking, the Republican Party offers little more than outdated positions and a narrow worldview that lets international problems fester.

Some Republicans believe America should turn away from the world. They oppose using our armed forces as part of international solutions, even when regional conflicts threaten our interests and our values.

Other Republicans want America to act unilaterally. They attack the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - even at the risk of precipitating a new nuclear arms race. They voted down the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, threatening both our security and our global leadership. They have attempted to sabotage the Clinton-Gore administration's efforts to negotiate with other nations by declaring that any arms control agreement - regardless of content - would be "dead on arrival."

Mired in the past, the Republican Party fails to realize that ensuring peace and security for Americans today does not just mean guarding against armies on the march. It means investing in building the global peace. It means addressing the fact that more than 1 billion of the Earth's inhabitants live on less than $1 a day - inviting social dislocation, violence, and war. It means meeting new challenges such as international crime and terrorism, environmental degradation, and pandemic diseases head-on. And it means that Forward Engagement must be the new pole-star of our global strategy.
It's the same policy vision & criticism[mostly] Gore offered in the Feb. 12, 2002 speech and the The Commonwealth Club of California speech.

"Fisk" him for being an opportunistic oppositionist, disagree with his assessment of the dangers vis a vis "broadening the war" — fair game. But, he did offer an approach that he views as more "constructive" than Mr. Bush's. And Gore's consistent in delivering the message — unlike our "wobbly" Chief Executive...

Mr. Gore's Oppositionism

Tony Adragna
"They don't make Gore an isolationist, or a reluctant warrior on terror, or any other kind of ideologue. They just show that he is a pure opportunist, with no consistency in his political views on foreign or domestic policy."
In my opinion, that's Andrew's most relevant criticism of Gore's comments yesterday.

The point of what I wrote this morning is that Gore really didn't say anything that hasn't already been said! So, what's the point of the exercise?

Look, Mr. Gore hasn't done a "u turn" as Andrew suggests. A read of Gore's Feb 12, '02 "final reckoning" speech puts the lie to that charge:
Our most important immediate task is to continue to tear up the Al Qaeda network, and since it is present in many countries, it will be an operation, which requires new forms of sustained cooperation with other governments.


As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table. To my way of thinking, the real question is not the principle of the thing, but of making sure that this time we will finish the matter on our terms. But finishing it on our terms means more than a change of regime in Iraq. It means thinking through the consequences of action there on our other vital interests, including the survival in office of Pakistan's leader; avoiding a huge escalation of violence in the Middle East; provision for the security and interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf States; having a workable plan for preventing the disintegration of Iraq into chaos; and sustaining critically important support within the present coalition.
Then you go on in the same speech to read the following:
The Administration in which I served looked at the challenges we faced in the world and said we wished to tackle these "With others, if possible; alone, if we must." This Administration sometimes seems inclined to stand that on its head, so that the message is: "With others, if we must; by ourselves, if possible."
The speech yesterday was not substantially different from what he delivered in February — so why was the Feb speech proclaimed "agreement" while the recent comments are headlined "Gore blasts Bush on Iraq war"?

It's the tone that's different — both from the way Gore previously made the same points and from the way that those same points have been made in the Senate. Why the change in tone?

Simple: Everybody's looking for oppositionism, and Mr. Gore is playing to the audience!

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Tony, I'm afraid I agree with Andrew Sullivan on Gore's speech--no constructive ideas on how to deal with Saddam Hussein, just criticism.

One account of Gore's speech that I read described his tone as "mocking." Gore's biggest political problem, it seems to me, is tone. His condescension in the debates may have cost him the election. To be "mocking" on an issue as serious as Iraq is not what I think the American people want. Everyone yaps at Bush to "make the case," but I think the opposition has to make a case, too: how do we keep Saddam from using his WMD without a premptive strike?

As for action against Iraq being a diversion from the War on Terror, let's hope the terrorists think so. We will always have a lot of assets following the terrorists, whatever else we do. When terrorists think we're diverted, that's when they might become emboldened and pop their heads up.

California Scheming Dodd Harris has a good post on California's new paid family leave program. While I think business often cries "wolf" too often over the potential harmful impact of new regulations, I don't think enough people factor in the cumulative effect of regulatory mandates when small business growth is stunted and economic conditions are sluggish. Dodd is right to point out that the costs of the California program won't be known for some time and may skyrocket long after Gray Davis is gone. The program also may perversely help only those least in need.

Drunken Laws Tony, our favorite Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist, A. Barton Hinkle, is at it again, this time looking at laws surrounding alcohol in Virginia and other states. Here's a Virginia law that's just crazy:

If you are the proud proprietor of a tavern, saloon, honky-tonk, or alehouse, you may display signs in your window advertising intoxicating brews - so long as they are not any that you serve. So if you keep some Old Speckled Hen on tap, you may not advertise the fact in your window. But you may put a sign for the Hen in your window if you don't serve the stuff.

Here's a nonsensical Texas law:

Texas forbids taking more than three sips of beer while standing.

Apparently, Virginia had a similar "no standing" law until this absurdity was noted:

Virginia discouraged persons from drinking who could still stand up and walk, but allowed those too drunk to rise to guzzle more.

It's a fun piece; read it all.

Al Gore Speaks

Tony Adragna
Read the speech!

Really, it's not that different from what myself and the Democratic leadership have said with respect to the problems with "preemption" absent an imminent threat. That's why we prefer military action predicated on violations of Security Council resolutions.

Mr. Gore said nothing that hasn't already been said with respect to acting multilaterally instead of unilaterally

Mr. Gore's speech doesn't even get to the proposition that the US oughtn't act but with the world body's approval:
Nevertheless, Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power. Moreover, no international law can prevent the United States from taking actions to protect its vital interests, when it is manifestly clear that there is a choice to be made between law and survival. I believe, however, that such a choice is not presented in the case of Iraq. Indeed, should we decide to proceed, that action can be justified within the framework of international law rather than outside it. In fact, though a new UN resolution may be helpful in building international consensus, the existing resolutions from 1991 are sufficient from a legal standpoint.
And the line after the highlighted text points to the fact that Mr. Bush's proposed action in Iraq needn't a new doctrine of preemption since it "can be justified within the framework of international law."

Gore does question Bush's timing on going to war while we're still fighting TWOT. He questions what would happen to the international support we've had on TWOT if Mr. Bush insists on pissing in everybody's coffee cups. He's really not interested in going to war right now.

But Gore's speech is not 180° from Mr. Bush and senate Democrats!

It's more like 90° from Mr. Bush — war OK vis a vis Iraq, but not right now and not without international support unless there's an imminent threat.

And it's [like 45° from] where senate Democrats are — nothwistanding that critics have accused senate Democrats of rolling over for Mr. Bush, they certainly aren't all that behind giving him exactly what he wants.

Phil Donahue took a particularly counterfactual line in opining that every single Democrat agrees with Mr. Gore, but are too cowardly to say so... You wish, Phil — Inconvenient Fact: Gore's speech isn't "anti-war", but some Democrats are... You might as well argue that every Republican agrees with Mr. Bush, but they're all to cowardly to say so!..

Why are people taking such a facile CW approach to this whole damned debate!?!

Monday, September 23, 2002

War and the Democrats

Tony Adragna
Glenn Reynolds recentlypointed to a post by Jason Rylander accusing the Democrats of abdicating
I'm embarassed for my party right now, and nothing I see in the Democratic response to Iraq gives me hope for a Democratic political renaissance. As I see it, the Democrats have two choices: Start making some principled arguments to the American people showing why Bush is wrong on Iraq, or start convincing us liberals why, in this case, our usual skepticism about military action is wrong. That is the choice Messrs. Daschle, Gephardt, Kerry, Kerrey, Clinton, Biden, Dean, Edwards, and other prominent Democrats face.
Whose "usual skepticism about military action"? He can't be talking about the party that led us into WWII, Korea, Vietnam, or more recently supported military intervention in the Balkans.

I ask myself, why is a link to The New Republic editorial proclaiming that preemptive military intervention — even when labeled "forward engagement" — "is not alien to the Democrats' best traditions" included in the same post where is cited a contradictory assessment of the best Democrats' traditions? It's because both charge the Deomocrats with playing politics instead of taking a principled stand. But, is that charge true?

Certainly, the Vietnam experience had a lot to do with how liberals felt vis a vis U.S. foreign policy & military interventionism during the '70s and '80 — didn't it?
Yes, this is true. In the post—Vietnam War period, it was almost axiomatic that Democrats were dovish and Republicans hawkish. The war in Southeast Asia divided Americans as no conflict since the Civil War and made our parties behave almost predictably on international questions.

But a funny thing happened on the way to humanitarian interventions in the 1990s. A political role reversal of sorts occurred.

The bombing of Kosovo last year provides one example of this phenomenon. Based on cold war positioning, the Democrats could generally have been expected to be hesitant about overseas ventures, and Republicans largely gung-ho for military action. But the opposite took place.

Democrats, who opposed U.S. intervention into Central America in the 1980s or voted against the use of force in the Persian Gulf war, went so far as to advocate the use of ground forces against Serbia, which as it turned out were not needed.

Republicans, for their part, also did something unusual. Many in Congress voted against supporting bombing after it began. Some even invoked the War Powers Act, a piece of Democratic legislation from the Vietnam conflict that hampers strong initiatives abroad.
I've previously noted the same phenomenon when I observed "salient debate on foreign policy since Clinton's first term - at least - has been Unilateralism v. Multilateralism". not "war v anti-war" nor "interventionism v. non-interventionism." The "usual skepticism" isn't so "axiomatic" as Rylander suggests. The principle Rylander suggests ought frame Democratic opposition is the wrong principle, and he must be stoned deaf if he hasn't heard Edwards et al telling him why he should support military action in Iraq.

Indeed, applying Democratic thinking as it has evolved over the last 10 years on the when, why & how of military intervention would expose the Democratic approach based on international law and seeking the support of the world body — rather than a unliateralist approach taking only our own "national interest" into account — for what it is: A principled argument against the the most extreme declaratory policies that have emanated from Mr. Bush's Cabinet!

And the fact that the Democratic leadership has repeatedly averred their support for unilateral preemption if all else fails exposes as false witness the charge that The Democrats believe mulitlateralism is "the insistence that the United States should not go to war if the rest of the world says no" — there's surely a diversity of opinion, including straight anti-war regardless aprobation from the world body... you wanna debate somebody, try debating the anti-war folks, they're the ones that need convincing...

Note also that the criticism of Democrats for being multilateralists is especially disingenuous considering that even Mr. Bush and his Cabinet are no true unilateralists...

I'm not sure what Reynolds is looking for — I suppose he's looking for oppositionism in all the wrong places [ go back to reading anti-war blogs, Glenn], and the fact that others have joined still doesn't make it anything more that a snipe hunt...

Brother Bob's Boldness

Tony Adragna
Mr. Novak has never been one to beat around the bushes — thank the Cosmic Creator for letting Bob come through again.

Novak is correct that neither party is really in a position to tackle the domestic agenda right now. Even after the election it's gonna be a hard sell to push the the Democrats' agenda (forget about repealing the tax cut), and the President's proposal for further cuts ain't going anywhere either. So, why even have that debate?

I hafta agree with Dionne, only I'd extend the point to include the Deomocrats. That Iraq is playing a part in the current election is really serendipitous for both parties...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Still Tight While I was away, Professor Larry Sabato of UVA's Center for Politics updated his Crystal Ball. His latest "Brutal B" (does anybody except Larry give that low a grade anymore?) shows the GOP maintaining control of the House, with 218 safe and leaning districts. Only 13 races are rated as toss-ups. The Senate remains in doubt: Professor Sabato sees the results ranging from +2 Democrats to +2 Republicans. Republicans need +1 to wrest control of the Senate. For Governorships, the Crystal Ball sees four net Democratic pick-ups.

This non-partisan handicapping is well within the range of partisan prognosticating. Yesterday, on This Week, three different sages took a shot:

Bill Carrick, Democratic Strategist: +8 Dems in the House, +1 Dem in the Senate

Bill McInturff, Republican Strategist: +2 Repubs in the House, +1 Repub in the Senate

Mark Helperin, ABC Political Analyst: +3 Dems in the House, no change in the Senate

McInturff's race to watch is the gubernatorial contest in New Mexico. I thought former Clinton cabinet official Bill Richardson was a lock, but McInturff says to watch Republican John Sanchez. He has already halved Richardson's big early lead.

Novak Mirrors Broder Tony, you noted David Broder's criticism of the Democrats. This morning, the Chicago Sun-Times' Bob Novak is hammering the Republicans:

However, apart from the war on terrorism, the Republican Party flinches from standing for much of anything in the 2002 election.

New Quiz Star Resurfaces Tim Carvell's entries used to dominate Randy Cohen's old Slate feature, "News Quiz." He's kept a remarkably low profile since those salad days. Today, however, Carvell's by-line can be found in the op-ed pages of the New York Times. It's a fairly pedestrian satire on the demise of Rosie O'Donnell's magazine. I can think of at least five bloggers who consistently churn out funnier stuff than this.

I Left My Season in San Francisco My Redskins continued to look vulnerable on defense and pathetic on offense as the 49ers chewed them up, 20-10. It wasn't that close. I'm afraid it's going to be a long, frustrating season, all the more disappointing because it started with such high hopes. Of course, my 40 years of riding the ups and downs with the 'Skins will stand me in good stead.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Even Broder Joins the Chorus

Tony Adragna
The Dean responds to two questions:
From Philadelphia: "I'm a Democrat. Considering that talk of an attack on Iraq has dominated the news, I'm really upset that Democrats have done so little to try and neutralize the Republicans on national security issues. Is there any way they can do that? Are there any prominent Democratic politicians who could give their party credibility on foreign policy or national security? Our party should not be at the mercy of the news media by hoping that domestic issues lead the news."

from Madison, Wis.: "During the Vietnam War, antiwar forces were vocally represented by Sens. Morse, Gruening, Fulbright, McCarthy, McGovern, Robert Kennedy, etc. But we do not hear antiwar voices in the Senate today. . . . The Democrats are even less likely to voice critical views than the Republicans. . . . Whatever the merits, the restriction of the legitimate boundaries of debate does not seem to be in the interests of our democracy. What's going on?"
OK, Broder replies:
Good question. The party certainly has potential spokesmen, including the chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and veterans of the Clinton administration Cabinet and National Security Council. Several things are going on, specific to Iraq. First, Saddam Hussein has no defenders in American public life. Almost everyone would like to see him gone. Second, there's a strong feeling he has been thumbing his nose for years at the United Nations and its inspectors. Third, no alternative strategy to reduce the threat of his using weapons of mass destruction is obvious. Fourth, the president, as commander in chief of the war on terrorism, has a standing that makes almost every politician wary of challenging him.
With respect to the Fourth, you hafta ask youself why would anybody challenge Mr. Bush if they agree on the First, Second, and Third? This isn't "rocket science" — answering the question from Madison simply requires stating the Democrats aren't antiwar!

The question from Philadelphia is a bit more complicated. I agree with Broder that the Democrats have rolled on the domestic agenda, but only 'til we've got the Iraq debate settled. To the extent that there's a political calculus on the decision to defer the domestic agenda, it's also a principled position when you balance the Democrats' domestic agenda against the principles of greater consequence involved in going to war.[IOW, what's wrong with Democrats not wanting that "any voter think Democrats are soft on Hussein"? — not only is this "Tactically speaking [...] a no-brainer", it also has the virtue of being true that the Democrats aren't "soft on Hussein"]

But note where the thrust of Broder's criticism goes — it's not about Democrats rolling on support for the war. Rather, it's about Democrats rolling on the tax cut! No matter how strongly liberals intimate that the Democrats' support for Mr. Bush vis a vis Iraq is more for political calculus reasons than out of principle, and the Democrats are therefore cowards, the critics keep returning to their real criticism.

Unless you believe, as the person from Madison seems to believe, that Democrats have a principled stance against war that they've rolled on, then the criticism is disingenuous. Notwithstanding the fact that what to do about Iraq has taken center stage in the current season, this partisan political criticism of Dems rolling on the domestic agenda has nothing to do with "princples" in re Iraq...

Democrats and the Bum Rap..

Tony Adragna
Will, you ever noticed that when both sides of a debate share criticism of a certain position, the criticisms are usually on target? What about when the certain position, along with those advancing it, is not only getting it from both ends, but the criticisms are diametrically opposed!

For instance, look at Mark Shields' comments — what I was hoping you'd capture was where Shields called the Democrats "cowards" for not raising those questions, as if those questions are relevant to the decision on whether or not we oght go to war. Brooks is correct — if you're house in on fire, you don't ask how much it's gonna cost to put the fire out. Those quetions Shields raised are irrelevant in the context of a debate on how to deal with a threat, regardless the immediacy of the threat. You decide what needs to be done, then worry 'bout financing later.

Indeed, to make an opposition argument on those points in the instant matter is not bravery — it's foolery! Could it be the reason Democrats haven't asked those questions is because they're no fools!?!

But Mark's criticism is really about an argument for repealing the '01 tax cuts, and I'm not contriving what he "really means" — Mark's idée fixe is the "equality of sacrifice" in wartime, and he thinks the Dems are "cowards" for not pushing that point in arguing to repeal the tax cut. Last Friday's "Political Wrap" transcript isn't up yet, but I seem to remember Mark mentioning the tax cut during that segment of the discussion.

The relevant question is once we decide on war, are we going to spend whatever it takes to prosecute a war to its goal ? The answer to that question has already been given — notwithstanding debates over how to finance war and the domestic agenda (whether we want to cut spending or raise taxes), "both parties vow to spend whatever it takes to oust the Iraqi leader if it comes to war" That's the responsible approach to take when talking about war.

Of course, there's a responsible way to broach Mark's idea at the appropriate time. When that time comes I'll be right behind Mark's charge of "cowardice" if Dems don't take up the issue.

What I really want to highlight about Mark's criticism, though, is that it's the complete opposite of the charge the Republicans — including the President — have made against the Dems. While conservatives are arguing that the Democrats aren't supportive enough of Mr. Bush and the war effort, liberals — especially the anti-war left — are beating up on Democrats for supporting Mr. Bush and the war effort.

Remember Mr. Biden's hearing on Iraq (July 31 and August 1)? Justin Raimundo said THE FIX IS IN:
[...] Kurz, and Biden, are liars: This isn't a "dialogue," it's a monologue, with only one side allowed to have its say. Let's go down the witness list, culled from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee website, and see for ourselves. On day one, we have the following:
Also, the folks at Indymedia got behind Scott Ritter in criticizing Biden for not calling Ritter as a witness. The criticim coming from these anti-war tpyes is actually fair criticism — they're opposed to war, where the Democratic leadership isn't!

But both — Dems aren't supportive and they are — can't be true!

What's true is that where you stand on going to war against Iraq is more complicated than which party you belong to — as I've repeatedly pointed out, there are Republicans who are against war in Iraq, and one of those even criticized Biden for not calling Ritter. What's true is that the disagreements between Mr. Bush and the Democrats aren't whether you support war per se, because those issues where we disagree are all ancillary to the debate on whether we go to war.

What's TRUE is that on the important questions — Is our policy on Iraq vis a vis "regime change" correct, and is there justification (while disagreeing on "the case") for prosecuting a war against Hussein's regime? — there is no disagreement between Mr. Bush and the majority of Democrats on The Hill.

So, next time somebody wants to say, hey, even liberals are beating up on the Dems, try looking a bit further than simply the similarity of the label being applied: That the Democrats are getting it from both ends isn't a signal of some validity to the criticism — just examine the critics and you'll see that they've diametrically opposed agendas and contradictory criticisms.

Punditwatch Is Up

Will Vehrs
Tony, I've posted Punditwatch and quoted liberally (so to speak) from your hero, Mark Shields. Hope that gives you the jumping off point you're looking for ....