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barstool philosopher,
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but never a Monday morning quarterback

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Sunday, June 06, 2004

President Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911-2004

Will Vehrs
It is difficult to add to anything new to the outpouring of tributes to our 40th President. His optimism, srong beliefs, and humanity are being well-chronicled by those who knew him and those who covered his career.

My most vivid memory was that November night in 1980 when the election returns showed that the man so many had underestimated for so long would win the presidency. I felt a sense of excitement and possibility for the nation that I have not felt before or since.

He was an ordinary man who attained extraordinary greatness. He was an American original.

May President Reagan rest in peace. May we somehow recapture his sense of optimism, even as we disagree on the means of attaining "that shining city on a hill."

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Holiday Wishes

Warm holiday greetings go out to all our loyal QP readers. We hope you enjoy the best of the season!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Gregg Easterbrook is Wrong

Will Vehrs
TNR's Gregg Easterbrook is back from a brief hiatus. He must have had a bad experience holiday shopping at the mall. How else to explain this mean-spirited item?

The "decorative turkey" in George W. Bush's hands in the Thanksgiving pictures from Baghdad should in fact make people angry. Hundreds of American dead, thousands of Iraqi dead, and the White House is staging phony photos on Iraqi soil? The occupation of Iraq may be justified, but White House use of the war as a political prop is becoming unseemly. And think: somebody had to fly a fake turkey to Iraq. Voters are not stupid; this sort of thing may backfire on Bush.
I don't know where to begin in expressing my outrage at this commentary. All across America, millions of families pull a fully-cooked turkey out of their oven on Thanksgiving and photograph it with family and friends before carving. That's a little impractical at an Army mess hall, so a decorative, "fake" if you will, turkey is put on display while the real turkey is placed in steam trays to be served to troops moving through the chow line.

If somebody like Easterbrook is willing to do some research--check out several Army mess halls (or Navy dining facilities, whatever you guys call them, Tony)--to discover if "fake" decorations are used at Thanksgiving and finds that the Bush "photo-op" was totally staged and could not have happened anywhere else, then I might have at least a smidgen of respect for his point of view. But even then, why should troops thousands of miles from home be denied this little bit of Americana on a national holiday? Bush also got photographed behind the steam trays when he was serving the "real" food--what was that? Phony?

Easterbrook is right; voters aren't stupid. They know Bush went to Iraq for Thanksgiving and most will give him credit for a nice gesture. They won't read a lot into it, unlike pundits who seek a nefarious purpose whenever it suits them.

On a more positive note, I concur with Easterbrook's tribute to the late Senator Paul Simon (D-IL):
His commitment to the pastoral world of downstate Illinois was genuine; when Simon left the Senate he went back home, to Springfield, to live out the remainder of his days there. So many prepackaged politicians rhapsodize about the soil and the good folks of home, but never return to these things; Simon did, using his final years to found a public-policy institute at Southern Illinois University.
I can't think of a better tribute to a politician than to say he (or she) was "genuine."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

David Brooks is Right

Will Vehrs
Tony, some big-time bloggers are taking on David Brooks' column on Howard Dean that appears in today's New York Times.

Their sensibilities were offended by this passage:

Everybody talks about how the Internet has been key to his fund-raising and organization. Nobody talks about how it has shaped his persona. On the Internet, the long term doesn't matter, as long as you are blunt and forceful at that moment. On the Internet, a new persona is just a click away. On the Internet, everyone is loosely tethered, careless and free. Dean is the Internet man, a string of exhilarating moments and daring accusations.
Jeff Jarvis offers to take Brooks on a tour of the Internet, insinuating he's getting his information from an AOL chat room; Andrew Sullivan quotes Jarvis approvingly.

Brooks is the pundit who declared on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer that he reads first thing every morning. Brooks knows a thing or two about blogs, about "Fisking." and about the power of links. The mistake I think Jarvis and Sullivan make is to confuse blogs and the Internet. There are probably more AOL screen names in Vermont than reasonably even-handed political blogs in the whole world. Howard Dean didn't rise to be the Democratic titan that he is by favorable reviews from the top bloggers. He rose by capturing the mood of highly partisan Democratic bloggers, Democratic web sites, angry message board posters, MeetUp emailers, and a host of other Internet applications. These are not places where "Fisking" matters, where people say, "Wow, these bloggers really deconstructed Dean's changing positions, I better re-evaluate my support."

I daresay that if you challenge a Dean position or a quote from the candidate in the comments section of a Dean-leaning blog--or if you challenge Bush in a Bush-leaning blog--you won't get a spirited defense. You'll get called names, accused of apostasy, and treated to a shrill listing of the other's guy's defective positions.

"Fact checking your ass," and "Fisking" are noble endeavors, especially when practiced with equal fervor against Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or Greens. But let's get real--only a small number of outlets practice that type of honesty. They are a tiny subset of the fierce Internet partisans who never find fault with their candidate, partisans who would sooner challenge the question and the questioner than the whatever their candidate happened to say. Crusading bloggers fight a constant battle against these ideologues. Sullivan, with his "Poseur" awards and the like, ought to see this clearly.

I reserve a special level of disagreement for Josh Marshall. Josh doesn't challenge Brooks' "diss" of the Dean Internet phenomena so much as declare Brooks a whack job for criticizing Dean. Josh Marshall, the blogger who never met an anti-Bush screed that he didn't like, shocked--Shocked! that a Democrat might be criticized. Ye Gods.

Friday, December 05, 2003

James Carville's Wife on Iraq Policy

Tony Adragna
I'm watching CNN's Newsnight lastight and came across this
BROWN: I think you're probably right, so let's talk about some of the other things for a bit.

The president got a pretty good bounce, it looks like, in the polls after the Thanksgiving visit. As somebody who has dealt in political strategy, clearly, there are risks and rewards to the policy from a political point of view. What are they? What are the dangers?

MATALIN: Well, from the policy in Iraq?


MATALIN: The policy in Iraq is -- Iraq, it's part of the long- term strategy to bring stability to a region that, without, it's going to cause our continued insecurity, as the president said in a really ground-breaking speech, reversing, or changing, or transforming 60 years of policy that you can't buy stability at the expense of liberty.

So he's thinking long. This administration is going long-term, bring, if not democracy, some sort of representative government that offers opportunity and hope. And the political danger in that is -- whatever it may be is irrelevant, relative to the policy danger of not confronting this threat that is new to us, this asymmetrical, 21st century threat.

And people have no choice. We could do it the way we did for the last 20 years, since Khobar Towers, which resulted in terrorists that got bolder, stronger, better financed, more organized; 60,000 went through the terrorist camps and the al Qaeda camps. So he has -- this president has a bias for action. So the danger is in not taking action, not in taking action.

BROWN: But, roughly, half the country -- it depends on the poll and it depends on the week -- half the country doesn't think the administration is dealing with Iraq especially well today.

MATALIN: Well, then, that's what campaigns are about. And what I've heard from the Democratic field -- and I don't doubt that, when there is an ultimate nominee, they'll be up to the challenge to have a debate on this, but they haven't offered an alternative to the Bush proposals.

It's one thing to bash Bush all the time, as one is wont to do or the process dictates in a primary. But when we get mano-a-mano, Americans have to make a choice. And the president has out a policy that is a forward strategy for peace, as he calls it. And, look, this is how politics works. There's nine of those guys. They're all over the field. And we're not even suited up yet.

So when it's on an even playing field and people are making a choice, comparing the Bush policy of action to the policy of question mark at this point, then they'll make the choice. And I feel confident as a citizen, as a mother, that I'd rather look forward to a place, a globe that is more secure than not, where my kids can feel more secure than I feel today.
The first bit of text I highlighted is kinda confused. I don't know whether Matalin simply misspoke, or was being deliberate, but never has anybody revised so much history with so few words — the Khobar Towers bombing, at which these 12 Nomads fell, wasn't "20 years" ago.

What did happen "20 years" ago?

On 18 April, 1983 the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed by a terrorist in a van loaded with 2000 ponds of explosives. 68 people, of whom 17 were Americans, died.

On October 23rd, 1983 the Marine Barracks was similarly attacked. 241 U.S. service members died.

Mr. Reagan went on to withdraw the U.S. Marines from Lebanon, and won a second term to the presidency in 1984. There grew a lucratrive industry in hostage taking, and our response is to attempt buying the support of the Iranian Ayatollah in influencing the terrorists to release the hostages. Iran-Contra blows up, but all the egg miraculously misses Mr. Reagan's face...

It's OK to beat up on Mr. Clinton's failings, but let's not fortget that he inherited from his predecessors Reagan & Bush no less than the current President Bush did from him.

The second bit of highlighted text is a bit more interesting. Let me read you something
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.
Who said that? If your answer is President Bush, then you're wrong. That quotage comes directly from the 2000 Democratic Party Platform. OK, so Mr. Bush is saying it too, but there's nothing particularly Bushian about this — he just happens to be the president who gets to do it...

'Course, there are Democrats opposed to Mr. Bush's approach, but not all opposition is equal. Some simply oppose the way the president is going about putting the plan into action, and there's some valid criticism that even senior Foreign Relations type Republicans agree with. Others oppose the policy in total, but I'm not sure there opposition really matters politically or practrically — neither Kucinich nor Sharpton are getting anywhere near the White House, Dean's oppositionism is more political than practical, and the other candidates fall into the prior set of critics...

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Leave Limbaugh 'lone?

Tony Adragna
So, I'm watching Hardball and saqwe something intertesting — Brent Bozell defends Limbaugh as just having abused his own body. Nothing to investigate, Limbaugh got himself some treatment, end of story....

... Well, not so fast. See, Limbaugh didn't just abuse his own bodyhe broke the law!

OK, so I'm not a great fan — or any kind of fan — of drug laws [or Rush Limbaugh]. But, my friends to the right who complain of the breakdown of society as they argue the necessity for laws criminalizing all manners of immoral conduct — drug abuse is certrainly much less than virtuous...

'Course, things could be much worse for Limbaugh — somebody coulda looked to see whether those cash transactions we heard about not too long ago had anything to do with drug purchases...

The top rated radio talk show host is still but a man, and all across the country there are daily prosecutions for illegal possession & usage of drugs. Sure, Limbaugh is taking a beating in news — he's the top rated radio talk show host, not some nobody...

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Quasipundit's New Season Begins Tonight

Tony Adragna
Sorry for the dearth of entries these past several months. Yours truly has been dealing weith unemployment... and a bit of burn out. I am currently employed again — minimum wage at a photo processing plant during the mid-shift [2pm - 10pm], but it's better than nothing [still looking for a better job? YES!!!].

It will, of course, take me a little time to get back up to speed — hopefully not as long as it's gonna take to complete re-reading Churchill's A History of the English Speaking Peoples...