Saturday, April 03, 2004

Bush's commitment

Digby has an excellent catch: a speech by Bush at the National Defense University in which he announces his new security scheme, involving the revocation of the ABM treaty and the building of a national missile defense system. He announces that he's sending Wolfowitz, Armitage and Hadley to the capitals of American allies (remember when we had allies?) to work on creating his "new framework for security and stability that reflects the world of today."

The date: May 1, 2001.

Mentions of terrorism: None.

Read the whole post.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/03/2004 11:48:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Were they mercenaries?

Via Body and Soul, which also has a good post on the subject, Kathryn Cramer has some very interesting and informative posts on the topic of whether the "civilian contractors" killed so brutally in Fallujah were mercenaries or not. Start here and work down the page, but don't neglect this earlier post. (Also check the main address to see if she has anything new.)

On the balance of what I know at this time, it's clear to me that they were indeed mercenaries, and that military outsourcing, so necessary to achieve Rumsfeld's plans to transform our armed forced, extends not only to support services, but also to activities that, at one time, would have been carried out by fighting troops.

Phil Carter, of the ever estimable Intel Dump, says "In a nutshell, these employees are not quite civilians and not quite soldiers." He promises a fuller analysis of their legal status on Monday, which I'll be looking for.

Update: Read Steve Gilliard as well.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/03/2004 11:03:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Friday, April 02, 2004

Crystal ball gazing (short version, revised)

Events continue to move forward, regardless of my own proclivity for procrastination, so while I'm still struggling with a long post justifying my last reported electoral vote count (which was Kerry 271 - Bush 186 - still in play 81, with 270 needed to elect), a new poll in Wisconsin forces me to move that state from the Democratic column into the "in play" category.

Thus, my current count is:

KERRY - 261 (168 safe + FL-27, IA-7, ME-4, MI-17, OH-20, OR-7, WA-11)
BUSH - 186 (148 safe + AZ-10, AR-6, LA-9, VA-13)
IN PLAY - 91 (CO-9, MN-10, MO-11, NV-5, NH-4, NM-5, PA-21, TN-11, WV-5, WI-10)

This puts Kerry below the 270 needed to elect. He needs to secure Pennsylvania, Wisconsin or Tennessee, or a number of smaller states.

Update: It occurs to me that the bulk of the long post I've been working on concerns my rationale for assigning each of the swing states to Bush, Kerry or as "in play" based on poll results and other information, but that the initial part of the post, explaining the assumptions I'm utilizing, is fairly short and can be posted here:

It's still a long way to the election, but I think Kerry must be pretty happy with the way things are looking right now. In fact, I've just completed my own assessment of where we are at the moment, and it seems to me that Kerry should be able to get enough Electoral Votes to put him over the top. What's interesting is that I reached that conclusion even though I wasn't able to assign Pennsylvania (21 votes) to either candidate, or Missouri (11), Minnesota (10), Tennessee (10), or Colorado (9), for that matter. [And now I've also put Wisconsin (10) into that category. -- Ed]

Here's how I arrived at my conclusion, using election figures from Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections:

I start with a bunch of assumptions. First that there are 12 states (CA, CT, DC, HI, IL by 12.01, MD, MA, NJ, NY, RI, VT), representing 168 votes, which are safe for the Democrats. Gore won all of these states by more than 15% in 2000, except Delaware (13.06%) and Vermont (9.94%). (Originally, I was going to set 10% as the cut-off point for considering a state to be "safe", but nobody that I can find is projecting Vermont to be anything but Democratic in 2004, so I made an exception in it's case.)

For the GOP, 18 states (AL, AK, GA, ID, IN, KS, KY, MS, MT, NE, NC, ND, OK, SC, SD, TX, UT, WY), with 148 votes, are safe. Again, Bush won all of these in 2000 by over 15%, except Georgia (11.69%) and North Carolina (12.83%).

That leaves 21 states, representing 222 electoral votes, as the "battleground" or "swing" states. Nine of these states (IA, ME, MI, MN, NM, OR, PA, WA, WI), with 92 votes, went Democratic in 2000, while 12 of them (AZ, AR, CO, FL, LA, MO, NV, NH, OH, TN, VA, WV), with 130 votes, went for the GOP.

I looked at each of these 21 states individually, and tried to determine, on the basis of polls and other information easily available to me, how they might go in the next election.

The rest of the post, which, as I've said, I'm still laboring over, looks at each state and provides the information I've used to make the assignment.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/02/2004 05:14:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



Steve Gilliard raises our hopes and dashes them on the rocks once again, all in one fell first of April swoop:

The Associated Press has learned that after prolonged discussions with the Kerry Campaign, former consumer activist and presidential candidate Ralph Nader will end his presidential campaign within the next week and endorse John Kerry.


Nader said his decision to withdraw from the race was based on a series of agreements he and Kerry came up with over the last two weeks.

"Unlike Gore, Kerry listened to my ideas and has agreed to back them," he said. "He explained to me that our positions were closely aligned and if I didn't quit, he'd send Howard Dean to run me down like a dog. That he was no Al Gore and if I didn't get out of the way, he'd break my legs and dig up my financial records for a lark."

With such a persuasive argument, Nader said he was eager to get on the Democratic team.

Oh well, even if it only lasted a couple of paragraphs, it was fun thinking for a moment that Nader actually got it and understands what his being in the race has the potential to do.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/02/2004 01:15:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Hart's discontent

Gary Hart, interviewed in Salon, on how the Bush administration responded to the recommendations made by the Hart/Rudman commission on the threat of terrorism and other national security issues:

[A] bipartisan commission of seven Democrats and seven Republicans who had spent two and a half years studying the problem, a group of Americans with a cumulative 300 years in national security affairs, recommended to the president of the United States on a reasonably urgent basis the creation of a Cabinet-level agency to protect our country -- and the president did nothing!

So the administration was warned by Clarke, by Tenet, and by Hart, Rudman and their commission -- raising an interesting theoretical question: how many warnings of dire consquences does it take to sway someone with fixed ideas from their chosen course of action? Clearly for the Bush people, perhaps because many of them reached their conclusions through a thought process entrely infused with ideological considerations (although this probably doesn't apply to Bush himself, who seems to act out of personal motives and a sense of macho swagger: "I don't want to swat at flies!" and may be out of reach of all but the very simplest philosophies), it takes more than a few warnings, and more evidence than current intelligence and investigative techniques make possible.

Hart also speculates on why the administration hasn't done what they so clearly long to do, fire George Tenet:

You know why I think George Tenet is still in his job? I think there are smoking guns all over the White House. I think if you crack the White House safe, you're going to find memos from Tenet saying, "The terrorists are coming, the terrorists are coming." [...] I think since 9/11 they've been walking a very fine line, between wanting to put the blame on the CIA and knowing if they did so unjustifiably, they're going to get whacked. And I think that's exactly what this little dance is about, and I think that's why they did not fire Tenet. They want him and those who work for him not to retaliate.

This also explains why Tenet hasn't felt it necessary to join in the administration's fun and games in attempting to smear Clarke's reputation. He doesn't have to because the administration can't force him to because he's holding something over them. (Fred Kaplan reported in Slate that Tenet and Colin Powell were the only holdouts in not going after Clarke, but he seems to have overlooked Powell's appearance on CBS's Face The Nation last week, during which he basically said that Clarke was lying.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/02/2004 12:57:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The potential North Korean connection

This, from the website of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, was sent to me by a friend:

North Korea Could Give Nuclear Weapons to Terrorist Groups, U.S. Military Officials Warn

By Marina Malenic
Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- Two U.S. military commanders said yesterday that North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, and the possibility of those weapons ending up in the hands of terrorists, were among their greatest military concerns. (see GSN, March 31).

While North Korea-s conventional military capabilities have remained constant for "the past 12 or 24 months," the continued development of Pyongyang's "asymmetrical threat" is of greater concern, Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, and Army Gen. Leon LaPorte, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, told the House Armed Services Committee.

"As we assess the military capability of North Korea ... the thing that concerns us the most is the development of their asymmetrical threats, their special operating forces, their weapons of mass destruction," LaPorte said. "I think the conventional threat will remain constant. It's the asymmetrical threat, with weapons of mass destruction, that is the unknown," he added.

Fargo added that North Korea's potential sale of nuclear materials to terrorists is of grave concern.

"I think our largest concern would be if nuclear material was sold to al-Qaeda, clearly," he said. "They have the will and the skill, obviously, to carry out a devastating terrorist attack. ... That is a kind of nightmare scenario, and that's why we feel so strongly about a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula," he added.

LaPorte added that the threat of North Korea taking part in such weapons transfers is credible given Pyongyang's record of arms dealing.

"They're a known proliferators of missiles, missiles technology, narcotics and other illegal activities," LaPorte said. "What's to prevent North Korea from deciding to sell to other nations or terrorist organizations nuclear grade -- weapons grade material? Given the history of North Korea relative to selling missiles and missile technology it's a concern we must address," he added.

My friend, who's pretty familiar with nuclear matters, wanted to know why the US just didn't buy up, under exclusive contract, all the plutonium and U235 that North Korea can make, at a cost he estimates to be about $1 million per warhead (less the resale value of the material once its reprocessed as fuel for reactors). "Surely," he asks, "we can outbid Al-Qaeda?"

Such a market-oriented solution, which puts the material out of reach of terrorists and provides North Korea with much needed hard currency, should appeal to conservatives, although the neocon bully-boys in the Bush administration would probably look down on a non-military solution to the problem.

[Thanks to Gar for the link.]

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2004 08:59:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Don't bogart that joint appearance

Howler is good on the upcoming Bush/Cheney joint appearance before the 9/11 commission:

It's official: When Dick Cheney meets the 9/11 commission, he will be accompanied by his personal chauffeur, George W. Bush. The arrangement is a coup for the commission. Eavesdropping drivers often recall details that harried execs have forgotten. "Bush," as he's affectionately called, may fill in the gaps on awkward matters which Cheney "forgets."

As Somerby says "The arrangement simply cries for parody," and Billmon has a nice skit featuring a foot-stomping, finger-twitching Cheney signaling Bush the right responses:

Kean: Commissioner Ben-Veniste, you may begin.

Ben-Veniste: Mr. President, what did you know and when did you know it?

Bush: Say what?

Ben-Veniste: (chuckles) Sorry, Mr. President. I couldn't resist that one. (clears throat, grows more serious) Mr. President, you were inaugurated as president on January 20th, 2001, were you not?

Bush: (evasive) You mean as president of the U.S. of A.?

Ben-Veniste: Yes sir, that's right.

Bush: Well, I, that is, um ... I think ... (Cheney loudly stamps his foot under the table, twice)

Bush: (carefully pronouncing each word) Yes, Commissioner, that statement is correct.

Ben-Veniste: And as president, you bear the ultimate responsibility for your administration's performance, do you not?

Bush: Responsibility? I'm not sure I like the sound of that ... (Cheney loudly stamps his foot, once.)

Ben-Veniste: (annoyed) Is something wrong, Mr. Vice President?

Cheney: It's just my foot, Commissioner. I'm afraid it's gone to sleep. (stamps it again, once.)

Bush: (slowly and precisely) No Commissioner, I must disagree with you about that.

Ben-Veniste: About what?

Bush: What?

Ben-Veniste: You must disagree about what?

Bush: (flustered) Whatever you just said, that's what.

(Maybe, given Bush's background with the Texas Rangers, Cheney will choose to use baseball signals to communicate with his protege -- you know, wipe across the chest, tap on the head, touch the nose and chin three or four times in alternation, then clap your hands and make a "swing away" motion means: "Don't answer that question: your political life depends on it".)

But in all seriousness, Josh Marshall correctly analyzes what the joint appearance really means:

Only three scenarios or explanations make sense to me.

The first -- and most generous -- explanation is that this is simply another way to further dilute the Commission's ability to ask questions.

If, say, the meeting lasts three hours, that's three hours to ask questions of both of them rather than three hours to ask questions of each -- as might be the case in separate meetings.

That wouldn't be any great coup for the White House. But it would be one more impediment to throw in front of the Commission's work, which would probably be a source of some joy for the White House.

From here the possible explanations go down hill -- in every respect -- pretty quickly.

Explanation number two would be that this is a fairly elementary -- and, one imagines, pretty effective -- way to keep the two of them from giving contradictory answers to the Commission's questions. It helps them keep their stories straight.

(It's a basic part of any criminal investigation -- which, of course, this isn't -- to interview everyone separately, precisely so that people can't jigger their stories into consistency on the fly.)

The third explanation is that the White House does not trust the president to be alone with the Commission members for any great length of time without getting himself into trouble, either by contradicting what his staff says, or getting some key point wrong, or letting some key fact slip. And Cheney's there to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2004 02:31:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



I am just sick and tired of people not giving Bush & Company any credit for taking the long view and adopting policies that show great foresight and prescience. Hasn't anyone realized yet that the Bush administration knew that by invading Iraq, withdrawing from the Kyoto protocols and refusing to support the International Criminal Court (for instance) they would alienate the rest of the world, including most of our very own closest allies, and that in the Brave New World Order created by this realignment, having a working Missile Defense System makes an awful lot of sense!

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2004 01:23:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Stay the course, but with a new captain

Another really good post from Publius on an idea that it's really hard to get liberals to sign on to (I know, I've tried), which is that given the circumstances that exist right now (not some idealized situation that should exist but doesn't), the best, the most ethically and morally correct thing for us to do in Iraq is not to pull our troops out, but to remain there and by remaining to attempt to do something to fix the terrible situation we've created by our own actions, or, at the very least, to stabilize things before trying to turn control over to somebody else.

Dick Clarke's book makes a very strong case for why it was such a horrible, tragic decision [to have invaded Iraq]. And you won't find anyone who opposed invading Iraq more strongly than I did -- for a whole number of reasons, many of which are yet to come. But we no longer have the luxury of deciding whether to invade. We did invade. Circumstances have changed irrevocably. Given our current position on the chess board, [the situation] requires us to stay in, not to pull out or get weak-in-the-knees (though I find it distasteful to talk about willpower when it's not my ass in the Sunni Triangle crossfire). That's why Kucinich's argument that if-it's-wrong-to-go-in-it's-wrong-to-stay-in is just not correct. He failed to factor new circumstances into the equation.

Especially after reading Clarke's history of terrorism, there's just no doubt that pulling out or wavering would be the worst possible response -- for America and the people of Iraq. Saddam, as bad as he was, was a cork in the dam that prevented the ethnic hatred from flooding the country. We removed Saddam and stuck ourselves into the hole in the dam. And if we leave, civil war -- violent, horrible civil war and humanitarian disasters -- will follow. Terrorists will fill the vacuum. Radicals will be encouraged. Israel would be threatened. Pakistan would be destabilized (everyone should say a little prayer for Musharraf every night). Just imagine Lebanon or the Balkans and multiply it several-fold and I suspect you're getting close.

We're in and we can't leave until we can establish some permanent stability (even if it takes 50 years). Obviously, we can't do it alone. But we can't back out either.

Publius is exactly right, and correct as well in saying that it's vital that we get the U.N. involved. (He's probably correct about needing more troops there as well, the only problem being that my understanding is that we don't really have any troops available to send, given the "leaner, meaner" military as shaped by Rumsfeld. This is yet another reason to get the U.N. into the picture, in order to get some forces fromother countries -- but the U.N. will almost certainly reject the idea of sending peacekeepers in until the security situation is stabilized, which we really can't do without additional troops. This is a Gordian knot which will have to be cut in some manner, but I don't know how.)

So Publius and I are on the same page, but the problem is that the solution requires the Bush administration to behave in a way that it has yet to show itself capable of doing, which is to say to respond to empirical facts with rational decisions to implement effective plans to alleviate the observed problem. This kind of rational and empirical response seems to be almost completely beyond their ken, preferring as they do to act out of ideological consideration through dogmatic decisions based on badly warped perceptions.

So what we are faced with is not the more theoretical question of what is the best thing to do in the current circumstances in Iraq, but which of the realistically available options would be better, allowing the Bush administration to continue making a complete mess of the occupation, or getting them out of the picture entirely, given that if they stay they won't make the right decisions or do the right things?

It seems to me that the answer is still that we have to stay, that no matter how much worse things get under Bush's misadministration, it's still better than the anarachy of the civil war that will result if we were to pull out, the vacuum that would be created in the region, and the breeding ground for terrorism (a la Afghanistan after the Russians got out) that would result.

Of course, this is yet another reason that it's vital for Kerry to win this election. It's not that I have any real confidence that Kerry has a fool-proof plan for how we can ultimately extricate ourselves from Iraq and still fulfill our moral obligation to the people of that country, but it is virtually a certainty that the operational, strategic and tactical chooses made under a Kerry administration will be better geared towards that goal than decisions made by Bush and Cheney.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2004 05:24:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The Clarke status

In an essay in the New York Review of Books critical of the press coverage prior to the Iraq war, Michael Massing singles out the work of the Knight Ridder Washington bureau as being skeptical of the claims of the administration at the time. Now, they appear to be continuing that outlook with this piece on where we stand with the various allegations connected with Richard Clarke's book and his testimony before the 9/11 commission:

Explanations of allegations Clarke, Bush administration exchanged
By Ron Hutcheson

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Former White House counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke's controversial book criticizing President Bush's handling of the war on terrorism has consumed Washington for 10 days and prompted a series of countercharges from the White House. Here, in a nutshell, is what we've learned so far from the charges, countercharges and conflicting accounts.

Allegation: The Bush administration failed to treat the al-Qaida threat as an urgent priority before Sept. 11, 2001.

True. Bush acknowledged in an interview with Bob Woodward last year that he "didn't feel that sense of urgency" before Sept. 11. But top officials from the Clinton and Bush administrations agree that their options for attacking al-Qaida bases in Afghanistan were limited until Sept. 11 galvanized world opinion. Although few in Washington were as alarmed by the al-Qaida threat as Clarke was, Bush was concerned enough that he directed his staff to come up with a better strategy for eliminating the terrorist network.

Allegation: The Bush administration was fixated on Iraq from the day Bush took office.

True, but some officials were more fixated than others. Iraq had been near the top of the list of global trouble spots for at least a decade, so it's not surprising that Bush pressed intelligence agencies to look hard for any evidence of Iraqi involvement in Sept. 11. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged that he raised the possibility of attacking Iraq in the days after Sept. 11, despite the fact that there was and still is no evidence linking Iraq to the terrorist attacks.

Allegation: More diligent action against al-Qaida could have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks.

Probably not, but there's no way to know for sure. The independent Sept. 11 commission is sharply divided on this question. There's no doubt that more could have been done to thwart the attackers, but Clarke has acknowledged that even if Bush had followed all his advice, it wouldn't have prevented the Sept. 11 attacks.

[Note: From everything I've seen and read, Clarke has never made the claim that the 9/11 attacks were entirely preventable, the most he's said is that if his advice about attacking al-Qaeda after the attacking the Cole had been carried out, al-Qaeda would have been considerably weakened, and might not have been able to mount a complex coordinated project like the 9/11 attacks. He's also said that he if the Bush administration had given the same high-level attention to counter-terrorism that Clinton did, then information might have moved between the FBI and CIA and up the ladder to Clarke, and that if he had known that two al-Qaeda operatives were in the country learning to fly airplanes, he "likes to think" that he would have been able to connect some dots and make a difference in helping to prevent 9/11. But never, from what I'm aware of, has he said that 9/11 was completely preventable. -- Ed]
Allegation: Iraq was a distraction from the war against al-Qaida.

True. The war in Iraq diverted attention and resources from the campaign in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In addition, the war appears to have inflamed Islamic radicals, and allowed al-Qaida two years to decentralize. But Bush may be right in saying that a free and democratic Iraq could help blunt the appeal of terrorism in the Arab world and point the way to a new era there. And the lesson of what happened to Saddam Hussein could curb the behavior of other hostile nations.

Allegation: Clarke wasn't "in the loop."

False. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice put this one to rest almost as soon as Vice President Dick Cheney made the allegation. "I would not use the word out of the loop. ... He was in every meeting that was held on terrorism," she said. However, it isn't clear what loop Cheney meant.

Allegation: Clarke is an opportunist whose motives and credibility are suspect.

Judgment call. Clarke clearly has an agenda, but that doesn't mean his critique is incorrect. The election-year timing of his book's publication, his financial interest in maximizing public interest in it, his past praise for Bush's performance and his rosy view of the Clinton administration raise questions about his motives. Even so, rather than rebutting Clarke's criticism on its merits, Bush administration officials and their allies have cast doubt on his motives. Clarke has denied under oath that he would accept any position in a Kerry administration.

Also on the Clarke front, he's apparently asked MoveOn to withdraw their new ads, which feature excerpts from his 60 Minutes interview, but it appears to me to be primarily an attempt to try to preserve at least the appearance of objectivity, in order to help fend off charges of partisanship.

Or, rather, since nothing is going to stop the Bushies and their trained seals in the right-wing echo chamber from making the claim that Clarke is a Democratic partisan pure and simple, to lend credibility to the counter-claim that his only partisanship is towards an effective counter-terrorism program to help protect Americans from harm, which, in my opinion, is actually the case.

Clarke said it was unclear immediately whether he can legally demand that MoveOn stop airing the advertisement against Bush, since it includes remarks he made in a national news broadcast.

"The point is not whether they're acting illegally, but I certainly want everyone to understand they are acting without my permission and distorting my message," Clarke said.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2004 03:45:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


The wit and widsom [sic] of Ann Coulter

A continuing series (unless you each send me an unmarked $50 bill before next Thursday):

I think Condoleezza Rice was probably chomping at the bit, wondering why this angry, embittered, strange man with no personal life was in this misogynistic snit with her, for the only woman he worked for, I might add. [Scarborough Country 3/31/04]

I have to say, there have been many circumstances in the past few years that have made me wonder if someone really did put something psychotropic into the nation's water supplies sometime in the 70's -- or maybe Sigourney Weaver's Lt. Ripley had the right insight:

Excuse me, ma'am, did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?

[Link via Salon's War Room]

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2004 03:35:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


His cup overflows

Bush may already have reached his world record fund-razing* goal of $170 million.

I know we have the truth on our side, but the thing is, it takes an awful lot of truth to overcome $170,000,000.

[Link via Whiskey Bar]

[*An interesting error, I kept it in because Bush's funds will be used to raze everything good about this country and what it stands for. -- Ed]

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2004 01:41:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Parsing the smear

Publius has a good list of things which bother him about the administration's campaign against Richard Clarke, including the media's unwillingness to evaluate and differentiate between arguments (which allows the whole thing to degenerate and be framed as a partisan he said/she said conflict to the advantage of the lying party); the use of all-or-nothing rhetoric and a slash-and-burn strategy; and, of course, the blaming of Bill Clinton:

Scapegoating Clinton reminds me of what I did when I was a kid and I got in trouble. I would always try to pull my brother down with me, often with success. "Publius, did you break that vase" "Uhh. . . he hides his green beans under the table and comes back later and throws them away." The green bean scandal had no logical relation to me breaking the vase, but it made me feel better.

And he has also makes quite a good point about the value of the strategy to the Bushies:

One point that's being lost is that these vicious attacks serve another purpose too. They deter future defectors from speaking. It's a very rational strategy. There is a more-than-credible threat that if you attack this White House, they will try to destroy you. Already, we're hearing chatter that they're going to try to destroy Foster, the timid bureaucrat (I saw him on Nightline) who was forced to lie to Congress about the price of the Medicare bill.

He's right that it's a rational strategy, at least up to a point. Since the smear campaigns are necessarily very public, sooner or later the public (and, just as important, the press) will begin to catch on to the pattern and will no longer accept the administration's contentions. We don't yet know if the Clarke smear is the one that breaks the back for the public (the recent Gallup results say no, but there's reason for doubt), but there are encouraging signs that the press is no longer inclined to give the Bushies carte blanche.

Ed Fitzgerald | 4/01/2004 12:36:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

More Billyhoo

From Lloyd Grove in the New York Daily News

With the presidential primary season over early, Democratic insiders are speculating that presumptive nominee John Kerry will name a running mate well before the July convention in Boston to recapture momentum, goose his fund-raising and generate favorable publicity in key battleground states.

Some Dems are advising Kerry to name his potential Cabinet at the convention in Boston - with Bill Clinton's name being bandied about as a possible secretary of state (assuming such an appointment would pass Constitutional and political muster).

I was surprised that Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter didn't dismiss these rumors out of hand.

"President Clinton would clearly help the United States regain the respect of our allies across the world," Cutter E-mailed. "As a result of his arrogant go-it-alone policies, President Bush has driven away our friends and allies, leaving us to bear the burden of fighting terrorism and funding the reconstruction of Iraq. But it's premature to discuss vice presidential candidates or cabinet positions."

Interesting that the idea of Kerry announcing a "shadow cabinet" has escaped from the blogosphere and is now current among "some Dems" (albeit in the less potent version of doing so at the convention, not before as bloggers have been advising), and that the idea of Clinton as potential running mate (which has a real problem in the 12 Amendment, despite Professor Gillers' assurances otherwise, and would almost certainly be subject to a lawsuit by the GOP) has mutated into tapping Clinton for the cabinet. No lawyer here, but I can't see any constitutional problem with that, since we already jump over people in the line of succession if they don't qualify to be president, like foreign-born Madelaine Albright, but if anyone's really serious about Clinton serving in the cabinet, it might help if he would forswear in advance any intention of assuming the presidency should it come to that.

As for political muster, it really doesn't make an awful lot of sense, if you assume (as I think is reasonable for the moment) that the Republicans will retain control of the Senate after the upcoming election. The yahoos would be absolutely ga-ga at the possibility of getting Clinton in front of a Senate committee for confirmation hearings, which would open up every aspect of Clinton's life, career and reputation to yet another round of right-wing scrutiny, in the process sullying the escutcheon of the new administration.

I think the sad fact is that given what's happened to Clinton in the past, and his own facilitation of those events by his lack of good judgment as far as his personal life goes, he's never going to hold high office again if it requires confirmation by the Senate, not unless that body is tightly controlled by the Democrats, and that isn't likely to happen for quite a while. Better to make use of Clinton's large and potent talents in other ways, and keep him out of harm's way.

Postscript: Al Gore could always give Bill a job at the news channel he'll own once he and a partner finish buying it from Universal Vivendi.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/31/2004 11:22:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Breaking the links

I'm working my way through Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies (the slow pace of my progress due to factors that have nothing to do with the book -- I'll add my voice to those who report that the first chapter, at least, is a "good read" and will translate well into a movie-of-the-week), and came across this:

In the attack on Marine barracks [in Beirut in 1982, during the Reagan administration] ... 278 Americans died.

There would be no similar loss of American lives in terrorism until the Libyan attack on Pan Am 103 six years later during the first Bush presidency. Those two acts stood as the most lethal acts of foreign terrorism against Americans until September 11. Nothing occuring during Clinton's tenure approached either attack in terms of the number of Americans killed by foreign terrorism. Neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush retaliated for these devastating attacks on Americans.

So, the worst loss of American life due to foreign terrorism in the last 21 years happened during Republican administrations.

(Presumably the worst loss of life due to terrorism durng the Clinton years came in an incident of domestic terrorism by a right-wing militiaman, the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, in which 171 people died.)

It sounds to me that one can infer from Clarke's statement that the reputation of Republican presidents for being strong on national security issues is as undeserved as their reputation for having strong economies during their terms. The stock market does much better under Democratic administrations than it does during Republican ones (see here, here and here), and the economy, in general, does better as well, but it's an uphill battle trying to convince the public of that truth. It'll be even harder, I think, given the strong connections between the GOP and the military-industrial complex, to break the public of the unwarranted idea that they're safer with a Republican in the Oval Office.

How do the Democrats go about breaking that perceptual linkage, not just for Kerry and this election cycle, but forever?

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/31/2004 08:40:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Dean on Cheney, Bush and Rove

John Dean really doesn't like Dick Cheney:

There has never been a vice president -- ever (and even including Spiro Agnew who was Nixon's) -- who needed to be investigated more than Cheney. Nor has there ever been such a secretive vice president. Dick Cheney is the power behind the Bush throne. Frankly, I am baffled why the mainstream news media has given Cheney (not to mention Bush) a free ride. I don't know if it is generational, or corporate ownership, or political bias, but it is clear that Cheney has been given a pass by the major news organizations.


Dick Cheney is a political disaster awaiting recognition. In the book [Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush], I set forth a relatively long list of inchoate scandals, not to mention problems worse than scandals. They all involve Cheney in varying degrees. Bush can't dump Cheney, for it is Cheney, not Rove, who is Bush's backroom brain. He is actually a co-president. Bush doesn't enjoy studying and devising policy. Cheney does. While Cheney has tutored Bush for almost four years, and Bush is better prepared today than when he entered the job, Cheney is quietly guiding this administration. Cheney knows how to play Bush so that Cheney is absolutely no threat to him, makes him feel he is president, but Bush can't function without a script, or without Cheney. Bush is head of state; Cheney is head of government.


I quote Cheney from his time in the Ford White House when he said, "Principle is okay up to a certain point, but principle doesn't do any good if you lose." I think this statement sums up Cheney's thinking nicely.

And he makes an interesting observation about Bush and his relationship to Rove:

All candidates control their campaigns, and if they don't want such activity [like the ugly tactics used aganst John McCain in 2000 and now in play against Kerry], it doesn't occur. As I discovered in talking to people about Bush, he is a highly sophisticated political operator. I've noted in the book that Rove gets the credit for being Bush's political brain. It's an arrangement both men like, because it raises Rove's importance as a political operator, and lowers Bush's exposure. In truth, Bush is probably more politically savvy than Rove. Both men learned their politics from Lee Atwater, who ran Bush senior's 1988 campaign. Atwater made dirty politics into an art form, by which I mean he provided those for whom dirty deeds were done deniability while Atwater's people tore up an opponent's pea-patch and everything else. I expect the 2004 presidential campaign to make Richard Nixon look like a high-road campaigner.

So, another couple of data points in the ongoing quest to figure out whether Bush is actually in charge or just a figurehead. Things get complex because Cheney is, in Dean's view, "co-president" and yet Bush is, again as Dean sees it, in some sense in charge when it comes to politics, not Rove.

That makes a certain amount of sense, because a lot of "political savvy" we refer to as "instinct," but is actually not instinctual at all, it consists of ideas, tropes and techniques you can easily take in by osmosis when you're surrounded by politics all your life, as Bush was. The other stuff, the things that Cheney seems to be responsible for, actually take some specfic knowledge and grasp of information outside of the realm of pure politics. But I doubt that the dividing line is so bright and clear as that, especially given the thesis that most of the administration's failures and scandals have Cheney dead in the center of them, raising the question if the Bush administration's incompetency is really Cheney's incompetency, as Josh Marshall suggested not too long ago.

Dean is asked why the Bush-Cheney White House hasn't (yet) produced a John Dean figure who cracks open the secrecy of the place through whistle-blowing, and his answer is pretty inconclusive. I wonder if the difference isn't inherent in the disaparate personalities of Bush and Nixon.

Loyalty is such a overwhelmingly important thing to the Bushes, and Bush (the son) is able to project (at least for some people -- most of my friends can barely stand to watch him on TV or listen to him speak) an uncomplicated and friendly persona that encourages people to give that loyalty willingly. (That's the carrot, the stick being the example of what happens when you're disloyal and reveal that the Emperor not only has no clothes but he's also a little funny in the head.) Nixon may have also valued loyalty as much, but I don't think he had the personality to command it in the same way that Bush can, although he obviously had the personality to enforce it when necessary.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/31/2004 12:22:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Zell Miller is a traitor to his party

Senator worries about 9/11 panel dispute

March 30, 2004 | WASHINGTON (AP) -- The 9/11 commission's public quarrels with the Bush administration could "energize our enemies and demoralize our troops," Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., said Tuesday.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Miller, the Senate's lone Democrat to endorse Bush for re-election, also denounced former Bush counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, who has criticized the president as being slow to act against the al-Qaida terrorist network.

"The vindictive Clarke has now had his revenge, but what kind of hell has he, his CBS publisher, and his ax-to-grind advocates unleashed?" Miller said. Miller has backed Bush on practically every major foreign and domestic initiative. He said if there were intelligence breakdowns, Clarke was most to blame because he was in the "catbird seat" for a decade.

"It's obvious to me that this country is rapidly dividing itself into two camps -- the wimps and the warriors," Miller said. "The ones who want to argue and assess and appease, and the ones who want to carry this fight to our enemies and kill them before they kill us."

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/30/2004 11:36:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Those who left

In the midst of what I think is a somewhat wrong-headed diatribe aimed, in part, towards Kevin Drum, Digby provides a useful list:

Rand Beers and Donald Kerrick and Roger Cressey and Paul O'Neill and John Brady Kiesling and Joseph Wilson and John H. Brown and Don North and Anthony Zinni and Karen Kwiatkowski and and Ray McGovern and Ray Mcmichael all of whom who have spoken out and/or resigned because of the administration's handling of the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.

It's really impressive that this many people in the world of politics and government service would take the extraordinary step of following their principles and leave their work because of it. It speaks volumes for the badness of the Bush administration, I think.

BTW, Digby's rant is "wrong-headed" because Dan Drezner's comments about Richard Clarke's personality -- which Kevin Drum quoted and agreed with -- don't appear to me to be offered (by Kevin at least -- Drezner goes farther in his remarks) in an attempt to take down Clarke or dilute the truth or power of the picture he's presented of an administration dangerously unfocused on terrorism, they're simply straight-forward observations, and I see nothing wrong with them:

Richard Clarke is the perfect bureaucrat. I mean that in the best and worst senses of the word. In the best sense, it's clear that Clarke was adept at maximizing the available resources and authority required to do his job, given the organizational rivalries and cultures that made such a pursuit difficult. In the worst sense, Clarke was a monomaniacal martinet whose focus on his bailiwick to the exclusion of everything else is phenomenal.

Indeed, that comports well with the sense I get from watching Clarke testify, seeing him on the interview shows, and from what I've read so far of his book, that's he's the kind of guy that would probably be really annoying to work with, but who is exactly the right kind of person to do the job that needed to be done.

Supporting Clarke is important, doing so to the exclusion of seeing him, and ourselves, clearly is folly. As I wrote before, I have little doubt that many of the people now extolling Clarke's virtues would have been castigating him severely if he had gotten his way and launched rolling air and missile attacks, similar to those then underway in Iraq, against al-Qaeda and the Taliban before the 9/11 attacks occured, which was what Clarke recommended at the time of the attack on the USS Cole, even before we knew with any certainty that al-Qaeda was reponsible. He would have been derided as a hawk and a warmonger by many liberal and progressives, possibly even by myself, I can't honestly say.

Update (4/1): I'm reminded by this piece by Sean Aday in The Gadflyer that prior to 9/11 al-Qaeda had already attacked two US embassies as well as the USS Cole, and that Osama bin Laden had proclaimed a fatwa against us, in effect declaring war on the United States. (I know these things, but they had slipped my mind when trying to put myself in my own shoes prior to 9/11 and wondering how I would react if Clarke's plan to attack al-Qaeda and the Taliban had been put into effect as he wanted.)

Assuming that I knew them at the time, or that they were made known to me, I think tehen that my reaction would have been similar, if less forceful, than the one I had following 9/11, which is that I would have seen them as legitimate actions against an enemy determined to harm us.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/30/2004 05:31:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE



It seems that Condoleeza Rice is going to tesify before the 9/11 commission in public, under oath, despite the (supposed) deep concern of the Bush administration about the (supposed) "constitutional issue" involved in a presidential advisor being compelled to testify (which Rice was not -- she's not under subpoena) before a congressional body (which the commission is not, in any case, but other presidential advisors have so testified in the past).

If the radio report I heard this morning was accurate, the administration apparently asked for a statement from the commission that Rice's testimony would not set a precedent. Now, mostly I take that as a face-saving measure, a bogus "compromise" which allows them to let Rice testify and stem the flow of adverse publicity (and complaining from within the GOP ranks), but it does raise some interesting thoughts:

  • Is it really possible for this commission to not set a precedent for other similar commissions in the future? That seems unlikely.

  • Is it really possible to do something and then say "but this doesn't set a precedent"? Doesn't the act of doing or deciding something set the precedent by itself, regardless of what the parties say about it?

  • Did they get the idea from the Supreme Court's decision which put Bush in the White House? If I recall correctly, the court's opinion there also tried to claim that it wasn't in any way a precedent, which seemed just as bogus then as it does now.

Any lawyers out there want to offer an opinion about precedents, how they're set, and who gets to determine what is and isn't one?

Update: Josh Marshall posted similar thoughts earlier today.

Isn't this more face-saving than precedent-blocking? To the extent that this precedent issue is even a real issue, what consequence does something in writing from the commission possibly have? Setting aside the logical problems with viewing this as a separation of powers issue (namely the fact that the commission is not an arm of congress) jurists decide what's a precedent, not some slip of paper a cornered White House extracts from people it appointed.

Update: Tom Schaller speculates about the extraordinary and exacting process by which the Bush administration decided to reverse their stance:

The president and his top advisers spent hours discussing various theories of the constitutional separation of powers, examining the precedents, and generally ruminating on the significance and standards for claiming executive privilege, both for the immediate as well as long term. They brought constitutional scholars to Crawford as the president vacationed, and in long, tedious sessions weighed the merits of the various and competing theories related to the separation of powers, never for a moment averting their eyes from the broader goal of preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution.

When they came out on the other side, this always-humble, self-effacing Administration arrived at a reasoned, measured, high-minded conclusion that, in order to uphold the country's highest principles, their initial resistance to allowing Rice to testify in public and under oath was bad for the country and our Constitution, and reversed their position accordingly.

This is the sort of thoughtful, bold, decisive leadership we've come to expect from our president.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/30/2004 03:45:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Shrinking Condi

Steve Gilliard has an interesting take on Condoleeza Rice's competency and personality:

Rice is just not competent. It's not her intelligence, but her academic work, would, if she was not an ideologue, have allowed her to teach at a second-rate state university or work at the CIA. She may be bright, but her degrees are, well, not that impressive. And given that she never worked for State, the Agency and never lived in Russia, well, she clearly had a helping hand.

Rice is crippled by a childhood and culture which doesn't allow her to stand up to men. She's what black folks call a "church lady". Someone who never marries, never has kids, but has a great job. All these women do is go to work, go to church and back to their tastefully decorated apartments. They are amazingly deferential to men and try to placate them. Exactly the wrong qualities needed in a National Security Advisor.

If you remember Anita Hill, well, she was the same kind of woman. I know a lot of women who would have smacked the piss out of Clarence Thomas, boss or no boss, if he made a joke about pubic hair to them. Hill needed the male approval, so she shut her mouth for years. Rice might have gotten huffy at such a joke, but challenge it? Nope.

She was a smart girl who grew up with an overprotective father and was quickly isolated from her peers. The only men she dealt with were mentors and family members. She pleased her parents with her piety and dedication.

The reality is that Rice is also unlikeable. She is a rigid person, eager to please her bosses, a pattern which began in childhood. She also cannot lie well. She's the ultimate "good girl", so that she can't form a lasting, mature relationship with anyone, because the job comes first, as does the approval which comes with it. She's also socially isolated because, like a "good girl", in the black church context, she won't date white men. Which in her work environment is an illogical decision at best.

So you have a person who couldn't even escape Stanford without making a ton of enemies now expected to knock heads and force decisions. Maybe they should have hired Maxine Waters instead, because Condi Rice can no more challenge a room full of men than fly. She's too rigid and too addicted to the need for male approval to pull that off.

Rice, like all incomptents, lies when challenged, but is so constitutionally unable to do it, she throws tells off like a bad poker player. Of course she didn't care about Al Qaeda, the men she dealt with cared about Iraq. And while Dick Clarke liked her, an unusual response to many, he had zero respect for her ability and he'd worked with her in Bush 41, before she quit.

You would think the President would hire a National Security Advisor who was clever and could smack people around. Rice clearly is not clever and clearly cannot smack superiors or peers around. Her whole manner is of a high school principal, prim and rigid.

I think this is own major difference between George W. Bush and his father. Both obviously value loyalty to an extreme degree, but Bush Senior, being a more accomplished man himself, also has an awareness of, and respect for, competency and the abilities needed to get a job done. Bush Junior, never having had the need to complete anything himself, always having been rescued from the jams he gets into by his Poppy and Poppy's friends and connections, clearly has no way of making an independent judgement of competency and capability, and therefore seems to rely almost totally on loyalty as his primary indication of worth. If true, this explains why we're hearing that Bush himself is running the anti-Clarke campaign, since Clarke's disloyalty must be punished.

(I would imagine also that someone's ability to talk to Bush in a simple and comfortable way without appearing to be condescending would probably also rank high with him as well, given what I read as being his blustering overcompensation for his poor self-esteem. Of course, I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so I can make judgments like this from a distance without fear of being held accountable for them.)

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/30/2004 03:20:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Get Clarke, phase II

On Political Animal, commenter "Al S." sees a new direction to the White House campaign to get Richard Clarke:

Did you check out the news tonight? The slime and defend phase is over. The next phase in the PR campaign against Clarke has begun, and get this, it’s that when you look at the facts, there really is no disagreement between the White House and Clarke.

Jeff Greenfield peddled this line on CNN this evening, the whole theme of his segment being that when you look at what they are saying about the facts, there really isn’t any disagreement between Clarke and the White House. It all just about interpretating the facts.

Commission members Slade Gordon and Gov. Thompson were on Aaron Brown tonight, and they both peddled this line.

Condi on 60 Minutes: yes, of course Bush asked Clarke to look for links to Iraq the day after 9/11, but that was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

The slime and defend tactics having failed to do the job, we’re on to the next phase, which is that it’s all just a tempest in a teapot.

So now Clarke’s lies and perjury have disappeared. Bush/Cheney hope they are gone with the wind, and the media is fully willing to play along.

We need to keep the focus on what Clarke is actually charging, and the White House’s initial lies, such as its denial that Bush was even near the situation room on 9/12. We shouldn't be playing along with Bush.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/30/2004 02:15:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Crystal ball gazing (short version)

I'm working on a longer post with all the details (which is damn hard to do, since my computer is having power problems and turns itself off every 30 or 45 minutes, usually when I'm right in the middle and haven't saved anything for a while), but this is a quickie to say that I've been counting projected electoral votes based on polls, and various published opinions, as well as my gut feelings and naval gazing (I tried reading entrails, but my wife objected to the mess), and my current assessment is

KERRY - 271 votes
BUSH - 186

For the 2004 election, 270 electoral votes are needed to win, so things are looking pretty good at this juncture.

(BTW, among those unassigned votes are Pennsylvania's 21 big ones. I put Ohio (20) and Florida (27) in Kerry's column. Missouri (11), Minnesota (10), Tennessee (10) and Colorado (9) were unassigned. Virginia (13) went to Bush.)

I hope to present my reasoning, and the evidence I based it on, in the next day or so, if my computer cooperates.

Update: It may be that my timing in posting this was really bad, if you go by this piece in USA Today:

USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows a remarkable turnaround in 17 battleground states where polls and historic trends indicate the race will be close, and where the Bush campaign has aired TV ads. Those ads say Bush has provided "steady leadership in times of change" while portraying Kerry as a tax-hiking, flip-flopping liberal.

The ads have been one factor in wiping away an inflated lead Kerry held in those states. Most of them have had primaries or caucuses that allowed Democrats to dominate the news and Kerry to emerge as a victor. In a survey taken in mid-February, Kerry led Bush by 28 percentage points in those states, 63% to 35%. Now Bush leads Kerry in them by six points, 51% to 45%.

So this would seem to be evidence against my contention that Kerry is dong pretty well, but I have to make the point that aggregating poll results from 17 battleground states into one lump figure isn't really any more valuable, in terms of predicting the outcome of the elction, than looking at national figures, because the race will be determined by the results of 51 different elections, each weighted differently (by the electoral votes the winner will receive).

The national poll numbers are somewhat useful in that they provide fodder for campaigns to claim advantages, and thus to influence the voters in swing states which will ultimately determine the outcome of the election, but they are otherwise all but meaningless and shouldn't really be dwelt on, nor should they be touted by the media. Even less relevant are other sub-national groupings such as are being reported here. Until Gallup releases their data for each of the 17 states they're referring to, I can't really assess what this supposed change in direction means for my current counting.

I'm going to keep working on putting together my larger post, but if the Gallup results become available state by state, I'll take them into account and refigure things.

Update (3/31): Both Ruy Teixeira and Billmon counsel chilling out about the Gallup results.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/30/2004 01:41:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Monday, March 29, 2004

Dean speaks

Howard Dean, commenting on this essay by Kimmy Cash, writes:

I'm 55 years old, I thought of voting for Eldridge Cleaver in 1968 (I was too young to vote by about 10 days). After the Democrats crammed Hubert Humphrey down our throats at the 1968 Democratic convention. After the election, which Nixon won by 100,000 votes, I realized how self-indulgent that would have been. Sometimes a blow against the establishment is a blow against all the people we say we want to help. There is a big difference between a vote for John Kerry and a vote for George Bush, and no vote at all. The last two stand for keeping things the way they are. The first may not be as much change as you want, but it will be a step in the right direction and it will be a start, and most importantly more people will have health care etc. I guarantee you if you vote for Kerry you will be disappointed, and I also guarantee you if you had voted for me and I had won you would have been disappointed too at some point. But governing in the real world means you can really make things better, dropping out means hope is dead. So thanks for hanging in there! [...] This isn't about electing Kerry, and it wasn't about electing me, it's about taking the country back for people like you, no matter how long it takes!

Over on Tapped, Garance Franke-Ruta thinks this is evidence that Dean isn't really supporting Kerry very fully, and that it shows that Dean wasn't really qualified to be president.

Well, maybe so, but what I was struck by was the apparent honesty of Dean's response (which he made voluntarily -- he was under no obligation to comments on the essay) and the emotional life it reveals, all too rare in a politician. Perhaps Franke-Ruta is right, and politicians shouldn't show their inner feelings in this way, but that's rather a sad commentary on how we expect our elected representatives to behave -- or, maybe we've just grown used to having them that way, because masking their true feelings is the safest path to election and re-election.

In any case, while she may be right about Dean's words showing that he wasn't the right person to be president, I think she's dead wrong about Dean's support of Kerry. What he wrote is precisely the correct way to reach someone who's disaffected (like Naderites and some Deaniacs) and lead them gently back into the system. By underplaying and not browbeating, Dean's words might well convince people who would otherwise sit this one out or cast a meaningless protest ballot that their vote is important, and that they're not ignoring their principles by voting for Kerry. His saying that these voters will be disappointed by Kerry reads true, because my own experience suggests that it's inevitable: I have yet not to be disappointed by my elected representatives in one fashion or another, but I understand that politics is the art of the possible and for that reason grant them large amounts of leeway, something that people perhaps more idealistic than I often have difficulty doing. Dean's words act to help them to do that.

I thought Dean's remarks where both truthful and subtle, which is a combination not often achieved by politicians.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/29/2004 09:18:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


A perjury trap of a different sort

So here's an interesting thought: If the GOP carries through on its threat to selectively declassify Clarke's testimony before Congress, in order to frame him as a perjurer, and in defending himself Clarke reveals things he said in non-declassified parts of the tesimony, presumably Clarke is then guilty of revealing classified information and can be indicted, arrested and tried for this crime.

The real question is, would they dare?

It seems to me that such an obviously shitty tactic would backfire on them with the general public in a way that the perjury trap they used to put Clinton in harm's way never quite did. That device is a little more subtle than this would be, though, and I have a feeling people really would grok that Clarke had, essentially, been entrapped by the need to clear his name and avoid perjury charges.

Of course, Clarke is also quite clearly well-versed in being able to speak clearly and coherently on his topics of interest without revealing classified information, so perhaps he would avoid the trap, and a perjury indictment, simply by the kind of artful dodging and infighting that I assume has served him well in decades of public service within the Federal foreign policy bureaucracy.

Update (3/30): Josh Marshall comments on the idea of using the declassification process for blatantly partisan reasons.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/29/2004 08:27:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


What a difference a day makes

Kevin Drum's post synopsizing Richard Clarke's book, Against All Enemies, brings to mind a harsh piece of reality, which is that many of the people now portraying Clarke as a hero for the blow he's landed to the glass jaw of the Bush administration would very likely have described him, prior to 9/11, as a hardline war-monger had they been aware of his views.

Listening to Clarke's testimony in front of the 9/11 Commission, it's clear that he wanted the U.S. to hit al-Qaeda hard, possibly even up to an invasion of Afghanistan, but certainly he wanted a series of rolling attacks by air and missle against the Taliban and al-Qaeda similar to the ones we were doing in Iraq at the time in enforcing the no-fly zones -- the kinds of attacks that American liberals were very unhappy about at the time.

To be very honest, I don't know what I would have thought about that myself, absent the brutal evidence of the September 11th attacks. I think I'll have to go back and take a look at some of my correspondance at the time to see if I can glean what my take might have been on Clarke's ideas for getting at al-Qaeda.

After 9/11, I know what I thought -- I was in favor of going into Afghanistan with military force as part of an overall strategy to retaliate, deal with the immediate threat and to get at the root causes of terrorism by Islamic militants, but my views on the day before are cloudy now, even to me.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/29/2004 12:52:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Props Dept.

Many thanks to skippy the bush kangaroo ("All AWOL All The Time") for the link.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/28/2004 10:32:00 PM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Foreign Policy for a Democratic President

Sandy Berger, Clinton's National Security Advisor (1997-2001), writing by request in Foreign Affairs, correctly states the essential result of the Bush/neo-con approach to foreign policy, and outlines what a successful Democratic approach should be:

[A]lthough the United States has never enjoyed greater power than it does today, it has rarely possessed so little influence. We can compel, but far too often we cannot persuade. Our most important global initiatives, from advancing reform in the Middle East to defeating terrorism, will likely fail, unless there is a change in approach -- or a change in leadership.


A Democratic president will face the challenge of restoring the substantive as well as the geographical reach of our foreign policy, showing the world that we understand a simple truth: all terrorism is evil, but not all evil is terrorism. For the vast majority of people in the world, the greatest danger is not al Qaeda. It is localized armed conflict over political power, resources, and ethnicity. It is poverty, disease, and environmental destruction. These scourges claim exponentially more lives each year than terrorism does. They should matter to us as much as we expect our concerns to matter to others.


We have the raw power to impose our will when we must, and far more often than not that power has been used for good, not ill. But whoever is president, we will need to rely most often on persuasion, not power, to achieve our goals. Who will be persuaded to stand with America if we do not stand for something larger than ourselves? Who will voluntarily work with us if we demand cooperation entirely on our terms? And if we do succeed in challenging the status quo in the Islamic world, as we did in Eastern Europe a generation ago, what will take its place, if U.S. leadership is rejected by those people who wish to bring about change?

The good news is that the world is eager for the United States to return to its tradition of leadership. Most countries would still be far more worried by the prospect of American isolationism than by American unilateralism. We can seize on these sentiments to forge new coalitions against terrorism and wmd and to build a freer, safer world.

But having the right aims is not enough. The United States needs leaders who ensure that our means do not undermine our ends. We need a forward-looking realism, without the ideological rigidity that has alienated our natural allies around the world. We need, in short, to reunite our power with moral authority. Only that combination will weaken our enemies and inspire our friends

Read the entire essay for Berger's specific recommendations and concerns.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/28/2004 02:09:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Who gets through?

Jeff Alworth asks:

The next time the US is attacked by terrorists, who has a direct, secure line to Department of Homeland Security (DHS)?

A. Local first responders--police, fire departments, port officials, etc.,
B. A consortium of public utilities,
C. State governors, who have the responsibility for activating National Guard units,
D. Hospitals and health care professionals, or
E. CEOs from 150 of the nation's largest companies, like Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, GE, Citigroup, and Bechtel.

You'll be shocked, shocked by the answer.

Ed Fitzgerald | 3/28/2004 12:28:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them.

I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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