Kyle's Republic
Friday, February 27, 2004
 
Noonan's tolerance

Peggy Noonan drafts two sentences that contradict each other, and then puts them side by side.

First:

"America is now a country--it was not always--in which people feel free to hold whatever private views on all human groups and behaviors while bowing to the moral necessity to show respect and regard for all groups that are different, in whatever ways."

I agree with that. That sounds pretty much like the case. But then:

"We have gone beyond tolerance in America; we have arrived at affection and sympathy and mutual respect."

But "tolerance" is exactly what the first sentence describes. No matter what you think or feel of another group, you recognize its right not to be mocked or discriminated against -- that's the deal she describes in America today. And then she says this deal represents "affection and sympathy and mutual respect" -- when those are precisely the things that aren't guaranteed.

Having shuffled matters around, she gets heartfelt: "It has been beautiful to see, and I have seen it in my lifetime. It's worth talking about."

This is in a column supporting Bush on gay marriage, which is just the sort of issue that busts the tolerance deal. The people against gay marriage don't want something they hold scared to be defiled. Which means they consider gays dirty. It's one of those cases where people's opinions regarding a particular group become more important than their general policy of respecting differences. Which isn't too comfortable for gays, of course.

To have written these two sentences together, Noonan must have turned off her brain. In general you get the feeling she hums her columns -- there's not much of logical through-line, just a musical flow and a lot of nifty little effects. She has a way of darting across the gap between writer and reader, startling you with a burst of emotion ("It has been beautiful to see, and I have seen it in my lifetime") followed by the quietly straightforward ("It's worth talking about"). You wind up feeling like she's standing very close to you.

Most of the time I find she doesn't make sense, but with her political allegiances she couldn't. She's a good writer, and very often she finds she has to say silly things. So she shuts off her brain and goes ahead and says them. Having a knack for instant emotion probably helps. But maybe more about her later.




 
 
Imitation Phony

Mickey Kaus dislikes Kerry and has run a lot of posts calling him vain, hypocritical, egotistical, etc. So this aside is a surprise:

"I accept that Kerry's smarter in private--I once interviewed him as part of a small group of reporters and don't remember coming away thinking 'This guy's a phony.' Unfortunately the public only gets to see the pompous pandescender. And a president needs the ability to move the public."

By "smarter," Kaus seems to mean "not so awful." After all this time of calling Kerry a phony, he says he personally found Kerry not to be a phony. Instead he says the problem is that Kerry just seems like one.

I feel Kaus is struggling toward some new formulation of the issue. Or else he just enjoys being against Kerry and tries to think of reasons as they come.
 
 
Bush vs. Hastert

Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall can't figure out what this is about: Bush says extend the deadline for the 9-11 panel; Hastert says no; Bush prevails. Drum and Marshall agree it's kabuki but can't figure out the point.

One possibility is that Bush is setting up a record to show he favored the report. He's cooperating as little as possible, but this way he has something to point to show he fought for the panel.

If this is playacting, as Drum and Marshall say, then Hastert had the part nobody wants. A lot of bad thriller/action movies set up a strong character by having him yell at some poor fud who works for him. Hastert looks like the guy who'd get yelled at: big and soft, glasses.


 
 
Smooth

The Hill does an interview with an unnamed Republican convention official. He has horrible things to say about plans for this year's convention: “Or, and this is a real possibility, we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero. It’s clearly a venue they’re considering.”

They've already scheduled the convention as near as they could to Sept. 11. So maybe there's something to this. The source is described as "a GOP insider" and "a veteran official of past GOP conventions." He describes an action-packed, decentered mounting of the convention, with the feel of a new-theater production of Henry IV: “They might not even have a podium, or maybe a rotating podium or even a stage that comes up from underground. It would be like a theater in the round, with off-site events that are part of the convention.”

The events, the insider said, could include the U.S. Marine Corps Band playing the national anthem on the deck of the USS Intrepid. (People at the convention would watch it on a big screen.)
 
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
 
Money quote

Now I'm going to see it. Partly as civic duty, partly because combining money and egomania can produce some remarkable things.

From Jami Bernard's review in the Daily News:

"Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ' is the most virulently anti-Semitic movie made since the German propaganda films of World War II.
...
"Jews are vilified, in ways both little and big, pretty much nonstop for two hours, seven minutes.
...
"The lashings are so brutal that chunks of flesh go flying and blood rains like outtakes of "Kill Bill."
...
"'The Passion of the Christ' is a brutal, nasty film that demonizes Jews at an unfortunate time in history."

My favorite: "Gibson cuts from the hook nose of one bad Jewish character to the hook nose of another in the ensuing scene." Damn.
 
 
My favorite point about conservatives

Eric Alterman makes it regarding Andrew Sullivan, who is gay and a Republican:

"But why is it that it takes a direct attack on Andy’s own identity for him to realize that this administration has no concern for anyone but the wealthy business elite, conservative Christians and neocon strategists who make up its political base? Funny how this arch-defender of the Bush/Ashcroft assault on our civil liberties has become so attached to the U.S. Constitution all of a sudden now that they’re coming after people like him."

Alterman underlines the point in discussing Dick Cheney, who has a gay daughter:

"Note again to right-wingers: Why are you only reasonable when it affects you personally? Does anyone think a Cro-magnon Conservative would embrace this position if his daughter didn’t happen to be gay?"

Dan Quayle was another example of the same principle, in this case as it applies to abortion rights. An interviewer asked him what he would tell his daughter if she were pregnant and wasn't sure she could raise the child. He said he'd tell her it was her decision.

When it comes to them, they're liberals. When it's everybody else, they're conservatives.
 
 
Jason Alexander

This is weird. As a person he always seemed pretty goofy and lovable, and none of the Seinfeld supporting players have much practical sense. Even so, this is extreme.

From a Washington Post gossip column:

Speaking of "Seinfeld," Jason Alexander is pushing a peace plan for the Middle East, based on an Internet referendum that would gauge opinions of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians on issues like settlements, borders and terrorism. Confessing "pure blind optimism," the actor most famous as the bumbling George Costanza visited Tel Aviv yesterday and plans to travel to the West Bank today. "What this initiative wants to do is embolden moderates on both sides," he told reporters. Sporting a thick beard, Alexander couldn't resist joking: "No, I'm not Hasidic. I'm unemployed."
 
Monday, February 23, 2004
 
Sure, the death of irony

From Wonkette. She's making fun of the people who told a pollster they'd like to see Osama bin-Laden or Hussein get executed on TV:

"Even electrocutions aren't as much fun as they used to be. They're 'humane.' Whatevs. If you want to compete with "Fear Factor," you'll need an execution that's, like, extreme."
 
 
Another response to Brooks

Toles sums up the White House, the UN, and Iraq.
 
 
Kerry votes to watch out for

Here's one I'd be curious about: "By 1995, with the death toll there estimated to have reached a quarter-million, Congress voted to end the arms embargo hamstringing the beleaguered Bosnians. Kerry was one of 29 senators who opposed this resolution."

Joshua Muravchik brings it up in an anti-Kerry op-ed piece in the Wash. Post.

The piece has a brief spell of arguing in the alternative: "Last year, in contrast to 1990, Kerry voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq. And he has reversed himself on other issues as well." Translation: Kerry's always dovish, and not only that he's inconsistent.
 
 
Competing for the optimism prize

In certain circumstances you want to make bringing up the past seem like bad manners. Bush faces such circumstances now. So he says, "We hear a lot of old bitterness and partisan anger. Anger is not an agenda for the future or America.''

But then Edwards, dissing Bush, says, "I can't imagine he's got all that much to say tonight. The people want this campaign to be about the future, not the past.''

I understand Edwards is supposed to be the forward-looking one relative to Kerry, but up against Bush he'd certainly be talking about the guy's record. Maybe he means to do it without seeming to do it, which might be something good trial lawyers can pull off.

Bush has this further line: "It's going to be the year of the sharp elbow and the quick tongue.'' How true! I like the Reagan feel to it, plainspun poetry. He's talking about what you can expect in an election year, but "sharp elbows and quick tongue" sums up my idea of Bush. He's an aggressive little fellow who hits you hard and low and who makes sure he wins. He also mouths off a lot (at Andover they called him "Lip").

Meanwhile, Kerry said this about Bush at a town hall meeting in Queens: "One thing we know for sure, we know he can't run on his record." That's not so bad. Maybe some of Kerry's people know how to talk like humans.

The article is here.
 
 
Nader redefines “front”

Wild phrasing. Sounds arch, what with the pseudo-archaic flavor:

"Relax. Rejoice that you have another front carrying the ancient but unfulfilled pretensions and aspirations of the Democratic party."

The argument itself isn’t much. Nader uses “front” to mean army, which is bizarre. A front is the zone where contending forces fight. Most of us would say the Democrats’ front is winning elections. If Nader wants to open a front, he should look into anti-corporate lawsuits and consumer safety.

A Republican, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, pulls a similar sort of dodge: "We're happy that Ralph Nader's joined the fray. Good. Bring some more on." The tone taken is that of someone who's such a scrapper he doesn't mind being ganged up on. Which would make sense if the Democrats and Nader could add their votes together, as opposed to taking them away from each other.

Some more Nader: "We mean to initiate a liberation movement for the Democratic Party, whose liberals have allowed it to slip away, year after year since about 1980, into the hands of corporate interests, too often bought and sold dialing for dollars." Why use "liberals" here? Maybe he's spelling out he's no more left than any good Democrat, it's just he's got freedom of action because he's not tied to the corporations.

New York Times coverage is here. The Washington Post did a better job, here, but the Times article has a Nader photo that's almost in a league with the Harold Bloom shot in New York.
 
Sunday, February 22, 2004
 
Do you understand the Brits?

The Observer in a light-hearted mood. The "Predikt-a-Vote" quiz offers, in a waggish way, to help the paper's typical reader get straight in his or her mind about his(her) political and cultural sympathies. It's all multiple choice.

The first option listed for the first question: "Flapping by the bass bin, gurning."

Fucked if I know.


 
 
Sixteen years left for civilization

Most people believe in global warming in the same dutiful, abstract, expert-dependent way they believe in the value of flossing. But the Pentagon, according to Britain's Observer, believes in climate change the way it believes in incoming missiles.

The paper says it has uncovered a suppressed DOD report that predicts global catastrophe by 2020: famine, deluges, an end to adequate water and energy. The bottom will be knocked out from under civilization and nations will have to fight to stay alive. One of the article's few direct quotes from the report: "Once again, warfare would define human life."

Kevin Drum points out this is the British press we're talking about, so fact checking will have come a long way behind high-energy presentation. (He also links to a slightly meatier Observer sidebar about the report's contents.) The Observer, like anybody with one eye on the apocalypse, takes some satisfaction in how silly our leader is going to look: "The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists."

The paper does get on-the-record quotes from the report's two authors, "Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network." The two have nothing reassuring to say. On the other hand, Global Business Network ("GBN's services are designed to enhance both the competitive and adaptive capacity of organizations through," etc.) seems pretty set on continuing to make money. So some mixed signals are being sent.

The Observer makes a lot of the report's sponsorship by the Pentagon -- which, as the article observes a few times, is not a liberal organization -- and by the shadowy DOD genius known as Andrew Marshall. Others might find that less persuasive, since left to right is only one way of measuring an idea. There's also sane to hysterical, as a few other Pentagon big thinkers have demonstrated lately.

Marshall has his admirers at Wired, but not so much at The American Prospect. For its part, the Observer seems quite taken by him ("a Pentagon legend"). It notes: "Dubbed 'Yoda' by Pentagon insiders who respect his vast experience, he is credited with being behind the Department of Defence's push on ballistic-missile defence." That last bit, the ballistic missile defense, is an example of what I mean by grand defense intellectual nuttiness. Backing SDI has never impressed me, and in any other context it wouldn't impress the Observer.
 
 
Jews like us

Atrios says Christopher Hitchens "has discovered he has Jewish relatives and seems to have adopted the kind of condescending philo-Semitism which is all too common these days."

What kind of condescending philo-Semitism is that? No one tells me anything.
 
 
Wow. Really?

From Mark Kleiman's blog:

"One of the bitterest lessons I learned as a young and naive liberal staffer on Capitol Hill was that the 'public interest research' produced by the Nader groups was systematically fraudulent. Every time I actually got into an issue deeply enough to understand the details -- nuclear power, toxic waste, pharmaceutical regulation -- I discovered that the Naderites had no more respect for the facts than the industries they were fighting: in some cases, less."

I had no idea, and that isn't a joke. Of course, we didn't hear anything about Nader's fraudelence until he started making things so awkward for our side. Still ... it could be true. My pre-2000 notion of the man dates from the 1960s, when GM was hounding him. I'm seriously out of date on this.

If Kleiman's right, I would try to extrapolate another rule of the universe from the matter. When you have anything that's difficult to do -- understanding regulatory policy, for example -- the brand-name representative of that thing is usually a debased example.


 
 
Hey-yo!

Cheney spoke a couple of weeks ago at a dinner of the American Enterprise Institute. (Occasion: presentation of the Irving Kristol Award to Charles Krauthammer.) First, his remarks showed once again the superiority of conservatives, and especially neoconservatives, when it comes to handling language. Second, he provided a good example of how convention can overwhelm reality, even a reality that is universally recognized. To wit, he made this well-turned joke:

"I spent a time at AEI when I was a scholar, a time when I had an office, a small staff, and not much in the way of actual responsibility. It turned out to be a lot like the vice presidency."

The transcript notes "(Laughter.)"
 
 
I know the feeling

"Stroke seems to me the fate of a certain kind of liberal." -- someone named George Packer on Woodrow Wilson.

 
 
The Wolf scandal and the alleged Wolf scandal

Naomi Wolf recalls a distressing moment: "My whole body, my whole self-image, once again, again, burned with culpability." Again, again. Burned with culpability. And someone who writes like that got a Rhodes scholarship?

All right, here's some more: "I could practically hear my own pulse: What had I done, done, done?"

Wolf is accusing someone famous of having groped her back in 1986. His name is reported in every article about this, but I'm going to be demure in a Kerry-intern-scandal way and not spread the contagion to the three people who read my site.

Apparently, the man helped her get the Rhodes, so like many other (presumably male) authority figures he owes a certain debt of shame regarding this awful person's career. If he also tried jumping her, that would be an entire additional scandal, provided you believe Wolf on how his alleged actions made her feel. If you don't tend to believe Wolf on anything, you may find the whole mess pretty stupid. And that seems to be the reaction of those writing about the matter.

A nice bit of understatement from the New York Observer: "Sources at New York said that Ms. Wolf’s article was being fact-checked, and may change significantly in the next few days." The article, of course, is the one about how the famous old man's allegedly active hands transformed Ms. Wolf's pulse into a talking drum operation.

Since Ms. Wolf and I are the same age, my favorite comment is from Wonkette: "Naomi Wolf is accusing Xcxcxc Cxcxc of sexual harassment when she was his student. Did they have sexual harassment back then? Like, he asked to see her ankles or something?"

 
 
Colorful and tiresome

I guess the blogs will be telling us about David M. Halfbinger's profile of Mrs. Kerry in the New York Times. He starts by calling her "offbeat if not a little odd" and keeps the pace from there: scarves, botox; "musing aloud in accented English," sometimes about tai chi and Shiva; "often wears a pained, or even bored, expression" (that is, when her husband is orating, so there's her link with humanity).

"She can be direct with him like probably nobody else can," a Kerry campaign hand says. You know what that means.

A favorite passage: The Kerrys are "touchy-feely on the trail. When they traveled together in New Hampshire, he routinely stood by watching admiringly as she rambled on in a near whisper, her flowing hair hiding her eyes. 'Isn't she spectacular?' Mr. Kerry would say."

Mrs. Kerry is quoted on one topic where she makes sense. Her husband loses his reserve around vets, she says: "when you see him with Vietnam veterans, people who've been where he has, he's completely different." I note this because my mother had already picked up on the fact and told me about it.

But the short version of Halfbinger's piece would seem to be this: what a crazy foreign loudmouth. Maybe she is, maybe she isn't, but if this is the route the Times is taking, you can imagine how much we're going to hear from the other side. Already she sounds like a character from an unmade Buck Henry political satire.

(On that note, and as an adventure in language, I offer a final quote from the article. A Democrat, looking at the Republicans, warns of "a volume of negativity that's already accelerated." The phrase is so clunky it has to come from a former member of the Michael Dukakis political team, in this case Kitty Dukakis's press secretary.)
 
Friday, February 20, 2004
 
By eating twenty of these little hotdogs on toothpicks

Try to imagine George Bush saying, "We don't share your values, folks. We would rather impress the art elite at cocktail parties." I can't -- probability gets in the way. But that's the mental discipline you need to be a hardcore cultural conservative.

Here's the full quote, from one Robert H. Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute. He says Bush "upped the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts, which has boldly promoted the homosexual agenda for schoolchildren. The White House message to social conservatives was: 'We don't share your values, folks. We would rather impress the art elite at cocktail parties.' "

How serious is this? I don't know, because I never heard of Knight until the Washington Times called up some evangelical groups and got an earful about George W. Bush and his misdeeds. Items: the president is "troubled" instead of outraged by the stunt marriages in San Francisco; "porn is in the living room" (quote by Gary Bauer); and Bush is making a judge out of Alabama's attorney general, who had the sad duty of prosecuting the Ten Commandments man. The evangelicals don't like Bush's education bill either, though in their part of the universe it's known as "the Ted Kennedy Leave No Child Behind education bill."

Don Wildmon, whom I recognize from some boycotts, is allowed to sum up. He says Bush "has already upset the economic conservatives, and I know the problem he is having with evangelicals. ... There is a major problem there."

The article contains not a word of the White House's side of all this, or even anything from evangelicals who might not be livid at the president. Possibly that decision is a sign of disaffection among movement conservatives; I don't know the paper well enough to say.

 
 
Correction

I made a huge error in a recent post about David Brooks and the Zawqari memo. The administration is not talking about getting 80% of our troops out of Iraq by the end of June. That is the deadline for giving way to a homegrown government. Our generals are talking about keeping about 100,000 troops in Iraq for at least a couple of years.

I lost track of changes in the timetable when I could no longer print out news articles and read them. Now I can and this is the unpleasant surprise that was waiting for me.
 
 
When artists find their subject

From the Washington Post:

"The president's team said it ... has even prepared a couple of ad scripts targeting long shot Dennis J. Kucinich, an Ohio congressman."
 
Thursday, February 19, 2004
 
Reusable condoms

A while ago I said the Iraq debacle had reduced Colin Powell to a used condom. That was rude, but it seems Slate's Fred Kaplan agrees with me. Today he gives a long rundown detailing Powell's policy humiliations at the hands of Cheney and Rumsfeld. And, he says, not only does Bush ignore his secretary of state, but now the rest of the world does too, the reason being that Powell shilled for the war. The general has lost all credibility outside Camp Bush and never had any influence inside it -- that's the argument.

Here's Kaplan's version of my condom line:

"And his fateful briefing one year ago before the U.N. Security Council -- where he attached his personal credibility to claims of Iraqi WMDs -- has destroyed his once-considerable standing with the Democrats, not to mention our European allies, most of the United Nations, and the media.

"... his often-abject loyalty to Bush, especially on the Iraq question, makes him an unseemly candidate for a future Democratic administration."

In short, Kaplan says, Powell better start looking for a private sector job and writing his memoirs.

Okay, now that someone agrees with me, I'm going to disagree. I can't really argue with Kaplan's point, but I will say he doesn't really argue for it. Of course, he has a string of incidents to back up the case for Powell's lack of influence inside the administration. But he offers nothing to support his assertion that Powell's credibility with the free world -- that is the world outside Team Bush -- has been blown. He's closer to saying Powell's credibility should have been blown, and that's certainly true. But "should" doesn't add up to much, and politics is deeply screwy.

Let's assume that none of us knows what will happen, because none of us does. Consider this. Churchill and Nixon came back. And white swing voters love Powell -- he's the authoritative black man who knows his stuff. So, possibly, Bush gets reelected and his extended disaster is enough for a liberal Democrat to win in 2008. That liberal Democrat needs a military man to reassure the country's many non-liberals and non-Democrats that foreign policy or security policy is in safe hands. Result: six years after the UN flop, Powell is testifying at his confirmation hearings.

Or maybe not. But reading an obituary of a living man is guaranteed to make you contrarian. And, to be fair, Powell did not make any of the big mistakes here. He argued against moving Iraq up our hit list after 9-11. When he lost the argument he could have quit and watched the administration careen forward without any brakes. Or he could stay and fight, compromising just enough to stay in the game. "Just enough," as these things do, turned into a whole lot, but by that point circumstances were making his decisions for him. His root mistake was the same a lot of us made: he thought Bush II's foreign policy would be managed like Bush I's. Then he found out he was riding the tiger, and that's something nobody does very well.

He's got murky stuff in his past -- the My Lai investigation, his Iran-contra testimony -- but so does everyone with half a finger on power. In the end I can't get pissed at Colin Powell, and if it turns out we need him once again, somewhere down the road, then stranger and worse things have happened. In fact they're happening right now.
 
 
On the other hand

Elsewhere in Red Country, this vignette from the Daytona 500:

"Then Bush's motorcade drove by. One middle finger went up in the crowd, then another, and soon they were everywhere."

Apparently, the president's security and media measures had created some inconvenience for attendees.
 
 
Changing times

The mayor of Chicago supports gay marriage. But it's not that. It's just the idea of Richard Daley's son saying the words "transgender and transsexual community."
 
 
The Kentucky vote

The Democrats won a special election in Red Country, which is worth noting. But this article from the Louisville Courier-Journal indicates we shouldn't get too excited about this as a portent for November. (Note: I don't know anything about the paper, but the article's tone is straightforward enough.)

Basically, Chandler, a Democrat, beat Kerr, a Republican who had run ads painting herself as a loyal Bush Republican. But ... "All available polling showed that most voters in the district clearly approved of the job Bush is doing." It's just that the Democrats made a push to find the anti-Bush voters and get them to the polls.

And, the article says, the Democrat's campaign manager found that a focus group of the other candidate's supporters "'felt she hadn't earned the right to run on Bush's coattails.' He said those voters liked Bush, but thought the ad 'was in lieu of talking about who she is.'"

Finally, Bush disappeared from the GOP candidate's ads, but it was for a very good reason: "Kerr featured Bush in some of her early TV and mail advertising, but he largely dropped from view after the Federal Election Commission ruled on Jan. 29 that such ads were contributions to Bush's re-election campaign and would require reimbursement from his campaign."

On the other hand, our side did get the most out of whatever anti-Bush vote the district had to offer (nothing in the article to indicate how big that might be). And Dixie Grugin, 77, "a retired teacher in Frankfort," voted for the Democrats only because the other candidate was "too much 'me and Bush.'" Grugin speaks for many of us when she says of the president: "I don't like him. I think he's a pipsqueak.'"
 
 
A trial lawyer's hands

Watching Edwards on TV at the gym, no sound, I saw him get off a good one for his supporters. Maybe it was the "objects appear closer" line, because the place went up and he broke into a big grin. And to mark his satisfaction he drew one palm along the other, fingers of both hands extended.

First, it's good to see anyone on national TV actually use his hands rather than locking them into that dumb thumb-wrestling pose Clinton used (or one of its variants). But, two, Edwards looked exactly like a slick trial lawyer who has just got off a good one.

I read someplace that, when speaking, Edwards has the most expressive body language of any candidate in years. The writer seemed to think this would help Edwards once TV started putting him in more medium shots instead of close-ups. But TV is not a medium that favors expressiveness. Making big faces does not work as well for speakers on TV as it does in a hall. Possibly it's the same for the body equivalent of making a face. Interesting to find out.
 
 
The making of a populist

From Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post:

"One participant in a private meeting Edwards had a year ago with labor leaders on the issue of trade describes the North Carolina senator as 'clueless' when it came to workers' concerns over agreements that privileged property but not labor."

Since then, the column says, Edwards has learned a lot. But what about being a millworker's son?
 
 
Quotes for the 21st century

"I've got friends who are graduates of this institution and are very successful," said Garcia, a high school teacher. "I have a friend who graduated from here and developed the ham they use in the breakfast sandwiches at Burger King."

From a Washington Post article on a small Texas college that's been derided by one of its professors.
 
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
 
Richard Cheney and the nature of executive power

On Brad DeLong's blog, a quote has surfaced from Chief of Staff, a book built around reminiscences by Rumsfeld and Cheney of their staff days under the Ford administration. Cheney:

"When I was chief of staff, I had to deal with Nelson Rockefeller. And, by God, I dealt with Nelson Rockefeller. When I was through with him there was nothing left but a smudge on the White House carpet."

At the time Cheney was, what, thirty-five years old. Just a few months before he'd been deputy chief of staff and confined to choosing the kind of salt shaker to use for a presidential lunch meeting. And here he was humiliating one of the country's richest men and most famous politicians, a man who had never been a victim in his life until he was dumb enough to become vice president.

How things have changed. Now we have a chief of staff who's sent to fetch cheeseburgers, and a vice president who decides what countries we invade. The single constant is the name of the person holding the whip hand. A lesson for political scientists: forget the nature of the vice presidency. It is good to be Dick Cheney.
 
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
 
And he can rappel

From TNR, on Clark's end-of-campaign party:

"There, at the top of his lungs, the former Supreme Allied Commander sang Madonna's 'Like a Prayer' and Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin'.' One ex-Clarkie quipped, 'The scariest part was that he knew all the words.'"

I like that so much. First off, I go for that kind of song. Second, it's good to see a public figure indulging in naked, unashamed, intimately felt pleasure (mind you, of a sort Drudge wouldn't bother with reporting).

Nobody affects to enjoy light-rock power ballads. If you're singing one, it means you have an open soul and a child's pleasure in using your lungs. That's a lot better than having taste. Clark's aides have taste: they objected when he wanted "Don't Stop Believin''' as his campaign theme. But there you have the difference between staff and leaders.

On leaving the military Clark said he would either make $40 million or bring his golf game to a professional level or run for president. You can call that flaky, but I call it a capacity for having fun.
 
Monday, February 16, 2004
 
For my parents

The link to the Bush stripper story.

I told you guys this was from a second-tier superrmarket rag like the Star or the Globe, and specifically not the National Enquirer, but I was specifically wrong. The source is the Enquirer, though in a somber and reflective mood. The paper explicitly disclaims any reason to believe the story it is is publishing, offering the piece only as an item of interest to political scientists curious about the tone of the upcoming presidential campaign. Before getting to the claims of "instant combustion," it presents us with the analyses of G. Gordon Liddy and the University of Virginia's Prof. Larry Sabato, the freshest pairing of political experts I've come across.
 
 
The Kerry scandal, what's left of it

This gives me a chance to see if I can do links -- for example, this one to the story where the girl says there's nothing to the rumors and her parents say they're going to vote for Kerry. Also, she is 27 at this date, not 24, a change in math that alters the tint, if not the complexion, of the alleged (and now evaporated) event.

A few days ago the "snarky" blog Wonkette was nosing around Kerry's remarks on Imus, claiming to find in his wording signs of a non-denial denial. Well, I guess not. Looks like it was just a regular old denial, the sort we're not used to hearing nowadays.

Kerry is not a toupee wearer, and I'm relieved.
 
 
Elegy

From William Saletan in Slate:

"God bless Dean for bringing honesty to a political process rotten with double-dealing and cowardice. That's why I'm counting on him to immediately fire his campaign chairman, Steve Grossman, for trying to slink aboard Kerry's boat ... As long as there are Grossmans in the world, we'll always need Deans."

When they say politics needs you, it means they assume you won't be around much longer. (I assume Saletan also does not like Steve Grossman too much.)
 
 
My parents say this is funny

For once our side is ahead of the curve and can relax for a few weeks. Because, when you think about it (joke coming), George Bush has spent the past three years campaigning for a Democratic president.
 
 
Life in the echo chamber

Some poll has Edwards a few points behind Dean in Wisconsin (with Kerry way out in front, of course). This reminds me of one of my few original observations: I've never seen more than twenty seconds of Edwards speaking, I can't think of a single quote from his mouth, and I keep reading in the newspaper about another race he's lost or is on his way to losing. But I think of him as a great campaigner. Why? Because James Carville said he's the best since Clinton, another guy said he's the best since Clinton, and another ... well, you get the idea.

Maybe Edwards is a superlative speaker and campaigner who has just hit some bad breaks. That happens -- politics is a bitch. But the point is that the evidence of his electoral failures bulks rather large, yet I have to forcibly remind myself that it exists. What seems real to me are the opinions that get retailed on TV and around the Web.
 
Saturday, February 14, 2004
 
The Kerry scandal, addendum

The point, which didn't occur to me until afterward, is that it didn't bother me that Kerry had committed adultery. And yet I still felt there was a scandal.

(Again, put "alleged" and "allegedly" in where relevant.)
 
 
Not the best offer, really

David Brooks's column today discusses a terrorist memo the government says it has uncovered. His lead-off quote:

"America, however, has no intention of leaving, no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes."

Did the terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, really write that? Because the administration has been saying we'll get 80% of our troops out by June. So ... I don't know. Maybe the terrorists have bad information. Or maybe our 20% still counts as America not leaving, even while the UN floods in to do most of the work. Because that -- some Americans, a whole lot of UNers -- seems to be what Brooks's column recommends, and none dare call it retreat.

(I'll note here that the column's Zarqawi quotes are all very convenient for the administration. But espionage conspiracy theory is out of my depth. A second note: I assume but don’t know that what Brooks says here is what the administration wants heard. If the column does represent the administration, the boys have not been thinking very hard.)

The administration has been sidling up to the UN since the fall. The column is a continuation of the sidle (no hard feelings about saying you'd be irrelevant, etc.). It's also a bid to make clear that the good feelings include "responsible Democrats." This may be because congressional Republicans have been made very nervous by the public’s ugliness over the nonexistent WMDs. Before, Bush could count on a solid Republican vote in Congress and tell the Democrats to go screw. But now, to take a big example, the Senate Intelligence Committee has voted unanimously to investigate what the administration got up to with the faulty Iraq intelligence. So Bush needs as many allies in Congress as he can find.

Brooks actually names three of his “responsible Democrats,” which to my mind makes the gesture stand out. At least it feels unusual. One of them is Hillary Clinton -- a distinctive choice, given how Bush's base feels about her. But Joe Lieberman doesn’t get mentioned. Maybe he went too high-profile with supporting the war and is considered useless in getting Democrats on board.

As to what Brooks is proposing, it’s the usual: the U.S. invades, then everyone else cleans up for it. He makes a show of coming halfway ("the hard-power people and the soft-power people need each other"), but we still get the same non-choice Bush put forward in his September speech. That's where Bush acknowledged that Iraq was kind of a mess and said the solution was for the United Nations and U.S. taxpayers to pitch in.

Even as gussied up by Brooks, the olive branch offers nothing. There's no hint that the administration made a mistake in invading Iraq, or at least in thinking reconstruction would be easy. To the contrary: his three responsible Democrats all voted for the war, the implication being that it's still irresponsible to have been against this disaster. And there's no hint of an assurance that we won't wind up in future messes of the same type. Again, to the contrary: when Brooks says soft power and hard power need each other, he means they need each in order to remake invaded countries.

So the principle still seems to be that the U.S. (Bush) does whatever it can get away with. And when it (he) can get away with less than expected, the rest of us step in to fill the gap. In this case, of course, the gap is huge.

This gets to me. Making the Iraq decision wasn't our business: the international community was steam-rollered, the U.S. public was jerked around. But somehow we own the consequences. It's like living with someone who decides to trim the tree overhanging your house by daubing it with gasoline and setting it on fire. Then he hands you a bucket and says, "I hope you'll do the responsible thing." Or, in the Brooks version: "You're so good with water."

Maybe, as Brooks says, all responsible parties agree on what must be done with Iraq now that it's been invaded. But that doesn't mean we agree about what to do regarding the Iraq situation as a whole, because the whole includes not only Iraq but also the U.S. Some changes have to be made over here, most obviously the removal of the people who got us into this wreck. And the creation of assurances, formal or informal, that we won't drag other powers into garbage like this again. If the U.S. wants the world to stand clean-up, it has to find some way of letting the world in on what messes get made.
 
Friday, February 13, 2004
 
The Kerry scandal

The Sun, in London, just named a girl, gave her age, and reported her parents' view of the situation. She's 24 and the parents say she and Kerry didn't do anything but that the senator was awfully anxious to have her work on his last reelection campaign. She would have been 22 then, I suppose. Her father calls Kerry "a sleaze."

What to make of this? It's kind of interesting to see a post-Monica sex scandal struggling to be born. It's depressing too, when the target is your candidate, but still interesting.

From the first reports, even when nobody knew an age or whether the allegations dated from the '80s or yesterday, the right seemed to see this as a direct score against Kerry. You'd think that was premature, of course, given the Monica mess. Back then the conservatives and Washington convened a scandal, the public went AWOL, and the prosecutors had to keep the thing going on their own.

No lawbreaking is alleged in this new furor, so presumably it will live or die on the public's say-so. And how will the public decide? Here we have the interesting part. Everyone is still making up our sex scandal rules as we go along. Assuming the charges, however they develop, are true and voters believe them, what details will be necessary for this issue to cut?

Going by my own reactions to the Sun, I'd say one requirement is an extreme difference in age. (Seeing 24 in the article kind of shook me.) Being recent is also very important. So does having the accused employ position and power in his chase, partly because doing so is unfair to the rest of us, partly because it's undignified. To me, offering a 22-year-old a salary just so you can get within firing range -- it seems only a few shades off from desperate. Worse, he got turned down. It all sounds grubby and pathetic, and it would make me a lot less happy about voting for him. As a Democrat I still would, but I'd understand swing voters who didn't.

Put "allegedly" in front of the relevant verbs, of course, since I have no idea whether the girl's parents are really up on their daughter's private life. Maybe the girl met Kerry once at a news function (she's an AP reporter) and she didn't like the way he was eyeing her dress. Who knows? I'm just trying to guess voter reaction by following my own reactions.

If the Sun story pans out, Kerry will make Clinton seem lucky when it comes to sex scandals. The allegations here bear a family resemblance to the Lewinsky mess (young girl, recent events, laughable behavior), something Clinton didn't have to weather until five years in office had given him some ballast with the public. Back when Clinton was just a name, as Kerry is now, the scandal he ran into was the far more benign Gennifer Flowers affair. Yes, in that case the accusers had tapes that pretty much nailed, or at least stapled, Clinton to the wall. But the woman in question was no child, the whole thing had happened a while back, and you didn't necessarily have to laugh and make a face whenever you thought about it. All the wrong had been done to Hillary, and she could bail Clinton out by indicating she had forgiven him and the past was past.

This is different. Notice that in Kerry's case I didn't give a thought to his wife. I wish I had, but I didn't. Yet I was still swayed against him. So I'm guessing that Teresa Heinz could stand by her man and not many voters would care. That girl would still be too young, damn it. And Kerry would still look like a fool.

Enough about the public. What has this exercise revealed about me? Maybe I adhere to some kind of sporting-bachelor, Details code under which the scandal's Kerry would have acquitted himself shabbily. That would be a surprise, but it's a reasonable inference. If so, the question wouldn't be so much one of morality as of ton, what lively Edwardian Brits called "tong." And maybe, to return to the public, there is a "tong" vote. No matter what events say, every unattached man seems himself as potentially a chick scorer and he has strong feelings about the way others come off in the pursuit. Spazzing out would be a grave blow to any man's reputation. And chasing a 22-year-old at age 58, and failing, is definitely spazzing out.

So I hope the Kerry scandal turns out to be nothing, or at least that it involves a 33-year-old heart surgeon who spent a few weekends with him reading Thomas Jefferson's letters naked in bed. I could live with that. Whereas what the Sun tells us makes him sound like a toupee wearer. And I'm guessing any sex-scandal rulebook we develop would hold that to be fatal.
 
 
I knew it

This I got right. From my very first entry, Dec. 10, 2003:

"Gore for Dean. Now Dean's in trouble. ... there's going to be a second groundswell and Dean will have a fight on his hands -- from Clark, maybe. Poor old Gore will get the blame. ... Expect this: the rise of a second dark horse between now and the vote ... a lasting black eye for Al Gore."

Now consider the top to this New York Times piece:

"WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — He is a standard-bearer of the Democratic Party, one of the best-known figures in American politics and the presidential candidate who won more popular votes in 2000 than George W. Bush. But is an endorsement from Al Gore the kiss of political death?

"That is the question — and the joke — buzzing through Democratic circles and late-night talk shows as even Howard Dean, the candidate bestowed with Mr. Gore's endorsement, traces his precipitous tumble from front-runner to the day in early December that Mr. Gore gave him his seal of approval."

Many things in politics cannot be calculated. But Al Gore's talent for self-defeat runs a true and steady course.

How Gore's involuted personality got him into this latest fix is something I don't know. In fact maybe I'm being unfair. But that's the mark of a Jonah -- even when you're unfair to him, you wind up being right.

When you come down to it, just two predictions in that entry came true, and it was a long entry with a lot of predictions. First, I called the rough waters ahead for Dean in New Hampshire, something most experts didn't see coming. But I didn't realize the waters would be rough because of how he did in Iowa. And I hedged mightily about which candidate would be rocking him. In other words, this call was only a qualified success.

But when I said Gore would wind up looking bad -- there I nailed it. If you want to make a prediction about any situation that involves Gore, the safest forecasts are the ones in which he winds up getting blamed. This can't be fair, yet somehow it is. Maybe that's one way you can tell destiny when you see it.

 
Thursday, February 12, 2004
 
Follow-up

Let me put it this way: if Bush had owned up to his lousy National Guard record, that might mean he had changed. But he didn't. Because, then as now, his aim is to feel like a hero without putting himself out in any way.
 
 
Now that I believe

Kerry (as quoted by Bob Novak) said this a while back to Vogue: Bush suffers a ''lack of knowledge'' and ''He was two years behind me at Yale, and I knew him, and he's still the same guy.''

Contrast that with Calpundit's recent remark that the Guard issue matters only because of the coverup, not because of the original deed (whatever it may have been). Bush "is a different man now" than when he was busy screwing up in the Guard, Calpundit say.

True, the coverup is much more important. But it's not as if Bush's shambling thru the National Guard is without its own significance. Because I agree with Kerry. With most people you can assume thirty-five years brings some growing up. But not with Bush. He's substituted busywork for drinking, but he still doesn't have a thought beyond wanting to be Mr. Big. He doesn't think, he just lunges after whatever big, shiny goal comes within view -- as for example, remaking the Middle East with your army after all your wimp predecessors stuck to dabbling at the edges. That's the reflex of a kid, one with a country at his disposal.

So the stuff Bush has been doing since his Guard days is no doubt worse than whatever it is he's covering up, but I doubt the two things are that different. And while one involves policy, the other is purely personal behavior and shows the man bare. I have to admit that's why I'm interested, and why I think a serious revelation on this front could hit home with people who aren't already Bush haters.
 
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
 
Warning

The entry below this, "The Guard Issue, Again," is a restatement of an entry called "When One Issue Substitutes for Another." I thought I'd lost "When One Issue" thru a computer mixup, but I didn't.
 
 
The Guard issue, again

There are two things I'd like to add. First, when I say a lot of people had a false idea of Bush after 9-11, what I meant was that they took him to be a hero. It wasn't just a matter of the high poll ratings any president, even Jimmy Carter, can expect during a crisis. People thought they knew this man, and they admired him.

Of course, here I'm trying to mind-read a bunch of people I don't know, namely Middle America. But I bet their definition of hero cannot ever include a man who lies about his military record.

For the public, Kay's testimony ended any debate about WMDs. The Guard issue, if it plays out, could be another debate-ender for them, the black bar drawn once and for all across Bush's old image as fearless leader. Once that happens he'll have to find Osma bin-Laden very fast if he wants to stay in office. People will be ready to look at any charge against him, including the huge drifts of evidence indicating that the war's runup involved a deliberate shucking of the public.

Right now the WMD issue has caused a lot of disappointment, doubt, and even distrust of Bush. But there is still, in the public mind, the possibility that he simply erred. So there's no outrage. Put the WMD issue together with the Guard issue, and you get a huge deception (the WMDs) plus outrage (the Guard issue). Rightfully, the outrage really should belong to the WMD hoax -- the Guard business is more a matter for weary disgust. But at least this way they're neighbors.

The WMD issue, as it now stands, shows Bush can't be trusted. The Guard issue, if it pans out, would establish why he can't be trusted: he lies. And then the lights come up and Bush's show is over.

 
 
Brooks' foolishness

David Brooks, the affable new conservative at the New York Times, has been getting backs up with some of the claims in his op-ed pieces. My guess is he's not extreme, just a sucker for his own rhetoric.

Take the aside in his piece on what Bush should have said to Tim Russert. As an example of how Bush is a "war president," a man whose life is now a mission, he says Bush didn't bother with the halftime show at the Super Bowl -- he had to get up early the next day and keep running the war.

Paraphrased, the idea is nakedly stupid. But wrapped into Brooks' prose, it made sense until a full three minutes after I had finished the column. I expect he goes thru the same thing. The idea would have seemed dumb to him before he got going, but a couple of paragraphs in and he's ready for it.
 
 
A small, secret, public vice

The Times and Post chose the same picture for Rumsfeld's testimony last week, and it's one I wish I could show here. You've heard of guys who swagger while sitting down. Rumsfeld was sitting and as usual he was swaggering, but he was also cringing. With a subjective read of body language, I'd say he looked like a man trying to fast-talk his way out of a jam without admitting to himself he was fast-talking. Rumsfeld knows he screwed up, but he can't face up to it. He'd rather lie to himself and have his lie be on display to the public.

It's depressing behavior even if you don't like him. During his glory days he came across as a Shavian superman. Now he's not even a mensch. Some redwood he turned out to be.

Today Rumsfeld told reporters he can't remember any claims about Saddam being able to deploy WMDs in forty-five minutes. That's bad enough, but he added this clumsily casual, by-the-way attempt at ass covering:

"I'd have to see the statement. And to have an opinion, I would have to go ask the intelligence community as to what they thought at that time. Because what it is they thought very likely would be what it is I thought."

The sponsor of the Office of Special Plans is now hiding behind the intelligence analysts, the crew he used to needle as being too gutless to see Iraq's menace. He won't admit he was wrong about Iraq -- he told the Senate committee that the nonexistence of the WMDs was just a theory, that maybe they've gone to Syria or someplace. But he knows he was wrong and is taking cover.

And while doing so he expects everyone to collaborate in his personally necessary fiction that he didn't screw up. Peter Galloway at Knight-Ridder did an article that some of the blogs have linked to. In it he reports (admittedly without sourcing) that at a policy meeting Rumsfeld turned to Colin Powell and remarked, by way of who knows what, that L. Paul Bremer is working for the State Department. Bremer has worked for State, he's a diplomat by training, but right now he is working for Defense because he is head of our occupation in Iraq -- an occupation entirely staffed and overseen by the Defense Department. It's just that the defense secretary apparently doesn't like to see it that way because the project is going south.

How could he expect anyone, let alone Colin Powell, to believe this new version of reality? But somehow he does expect it. Like Bush, Rumsfeld believes a game isn't fair unless he wins.

This is smallness carried to a strange degree. Not just being too weak to accept blame, but telling himself the whole world will cooperate in his little game of hide from the truth. It's child's behavior, being done out in the open.

Oh, vanity.
 
Monday, February 09, 2004
 
When one issue substitutes for another
A couple of points I should have fleshed out in my post about Bush's service record.

I said a lot of people had a misconception of Bush after 9-11. What I meant is they thought he was a hero.

That kind of image, when it topples, topples very hard. I'm hoping for that. The nonexisting WMDs are a big political problem for Bush, a full-on blow that gives us reason for hope. But the issue could be a lot more. If people decide Bush scammed them, that he wasn't just stupid but also fed them a line, the outrage would cripple him politically.

Because of Kay's testimony, Bush opponents can point to the sheer error of going to war over the WMDs. And we're outraged, but maybe the broad public isn't.

What could outrage the public? Maybe the Guard issue. He posed as a man of character and he wasn't, he was a fraud -- the Guard issue, if proved out, would be a handy way of establishing that. The president got us into this dumb war for nonexistent reasons, and he scammed the public -- that would be the mix, even though the scamming would have to do with his service record and not the invasion.

It would be a lot better to convince people of Bush's Iraq War finagling, especially since the evidence is there. But that's a big issue, in two senses. It's sprawling, with a lot of sub-issues and a lot of bureaucratic back-and-forth. Also, deciding you've been lied to about an entire war is a big step, a big thing to face up to. The Guard issue could serve as a halfway house on the way to that realization.

The issue does have its drawbacks, what with all the chasing after different forms. But the bottom line seems simple: will the president release his records or won't he? If he doesn't, he'll seem pretty gutless. If he does and there's nothing there, then stick to Iraq. If he does and there's something damaging, then things really heat up.
 
 
Wish he hadn't said that
From Bush's autobiography, a key sentence for the Guard controversy:

"There was a sense of shared responsibility ... The responsibility to get the airplane down. The responsibility to show up and do your job."

He's talking about himself and the flight mechanics, what he learned about teamwork.

"The responsibility to show up and do your job."

If the Democrats ever needed a good cover for getting into this, there's a candidate. Character issue regarding hypocrisy. Not bad as a justification.

And if he did blow off service and then write those pregnant words ... how smarmy.




 
Friday, February 06, 2004
 
Bush's service record

Normally, issues like this don't cut twice. A candidate for president goes thru a long getting-to-know-you period, during which voters care about what he did as a dumb kid. Once he's in the White House, they figure they know him. He's on the TV every night and, anyway, what he does as president is enough to judge him by.

Back in 2000 the press gave a little air to Bush's spotty National Guard record and nothing much came of it. The charges were not convincingly answered, but on the other hand voters didn't show much interest. The issue drifted into Bush's cloudy background, one more item piled up in a lifetime of feckless privilege.

Now the issue is back and looking fairly hot, at least to Bush opponents. Why?

Some possibilities:

1) He started a war. Soldiers died doing their duty. So how much did he respect his own duty?
2) If he breaks rules and lies, maybe he was also lying about that odd war with the mysteriously nonexistent WMDs.
3) The alleged behavior sure sounds like a spoiled little punk, and it's Bush's spoiled-punkness that makes so many of us not just oppose him but despise him.

The third reason is obviously for the hard core alone. The first reason could be useful if the press has to find a rationale for getting into this business again. But it's reason number two that I think goes to the heart of Bush's situation.

Who is this man? I believe a lot of voters got a very false idea of him just after 9-11. Now they're starting to wonder. Pretty soon they may be deciding whether to throw out what they thought they knew and go back to basics with him.

The Guard issue could be the trigger. Even before more evidence comes out, I'd like to see some polls regarding how voters feel about the issue. My guess is that the more interest the public shows, the more voters we have who are willing to redraw their picture of George W. Bush.

If the evidence is there, and gets aired the way it deserves, a lot of swing voters may then be asking themselves questions about Iraq. Among them: could any competent man say so many untrue things by accident?

In short, and speaking optimistically, a lot of people may be deciding this year that Bush is a fraud.
 
 
Portents, 2
From Salon:

"Aside from firefighters, whose unions long ago endorsed the Massachusetts senator, few claimed to back Kerry before he won the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary."

Firefighters. I knew there was a reason I liked Kerry.
 
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
 
The Kay Challenge

I've been reading my usual liberal blogs, waiting for a real slamdunk of a quote from Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, or Cheney -- even from Feith -- to the effect that they had to lean on those wimps at the intelligence agencies to get them to face up to the Saddam threat. The reason: I want to refute and eliminate this Kay notion that the WMD mess was the fault of the intelligence agencies and not of George Bush.

But, so far, nothing much.

A reference to a Rumsfeld news conference in October 2002. He described jousting with his daily intelligence briefer from the CIA but didn't say outright that he did so to get a tougher estimate of Saddam's menace (at least not in the reference I saw).

Some pretty damning quotes from Richard Perle. But he wasn't actually a policymaker, more of a p.r. man with the job of getting crazy ideas into circulation at the Pentagon.

Also some damning quotes from James Hoagland (a WaPo columnist) and from the jacket flap of a new book by Laurie whatever-her-name-is. She's a right-wing academician who had the bad luck to come out this week with a play-by-play chronicle of how Rumsfeld, et al., wrestled State and the CIA into admitting how dangerous Iraq was. Hey, maybe my quotes are in there!

Meanwhile, the Hoagland material is at least emotionally satisfying. He goes into print at least once a week, so his ouevre allows for juxtaposition of past statements (the Bush team got the CIA to admit Iraq was dangerous) and present statements (the Bush team believed Iraq was dangerous because that's what the CIA told them). It's a real, Stalinist-style flip in the party line, done nakedly and in plain view. I'd read about this sort of thing, what with the Communists readjusting their attitudes in September 1939, but the notion always seemed far-off and freakish. Coming across an example in a contemporary op-ed page was like finding a manatee in the bathtub.

Finally, from my own memory I also have a few paragraphs in a WaPo article describing how Rumsfeld challenged Tenet to a gentleman's wager. The idea was that the U.S. inspectors would turn up huge troves of WMDs, thereby vindicating Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans and casting dirt on the CIA's analysis. But the passage in the article was based on blind quotes, and anyway I don't feel like looking through my stack of printed-out articles.

And all that leaves me without any of the bigs talking on record about how it was them, them all the time, who pushed the idea of Iraq-as-menace. That strikes me as quite a gap, given that every journalist and commenator I respect believes this to have been the case. The circumstantial case is huge. If nothing else, articles have been appearing since fall 2002 where unnamed intelligence analysts have been accusing the bigs of doing just that. Why would the analysts have said this if, in fact, they were the ones who believed in the Iraq menace? Bizarre.

Maybe professional courtesy kept Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc., from saying in public that they considered the intelligence pros to be full of it. Not likely.

Maybe the problem is with my filter and the liberal bloggers think the matter self-evidently calls for no rebuttal. If so, they're wrong. A lot of average, inattentive voters who get by with ten minutes of CNN still have to be convinced that we're talking about lies and not about a mistake made from the heart. At any rate, bloggers seem to think nothing is beneath rebuttal.

Or maybe ... but I'm tired now and will quit until tomorrow.
 
Monday, February 02, 2004
 
Institutional Lying
My brother says Bush isn't a liar because he doesn't know he's uttering falsehoods. Then I guess you could say Bush is the unwitting human spearhead of an institutional lying apparatus that he happened to assemble.

 
Everything the others don't get

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