Saturday, May 03, 2003

Dean's closing statement

The official Dean blog has posted his closing statement from tonight's debate: We can't win this election if we worry so much about electability that the American people can't tell the difference between us and the Republicans. The great unspoken political lie, which comes from stages like this, is elect me and I’ll solve all of your problems. The great unspoken truth is that the future of this country rests in your hands, not mine. You have the power to rise up and take this country back. You have the power to give this party the backbone to challenge this President, and all of the harm he has done to our country. You have the power to create jobs, balance the budget, and bring us our dream, which Harry Truman put in our platform in 1948 – health care for every American. The reason people don’t vote in this country is that we don’t give them a reason to vote. This campaign is about giving all of you a reason to vote. Abraham Lincoln said, "A government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth." President Bush has forgotten the ordinary people of this country. It’s time to take our party back and it’s time to take our country back.

Images from South Carolina

Kerry looks like he is struggling to smile while forcing his hands not to leap out and throttle Dean. ("Damn it! I'm supposed to be the clear front-runner! Why are you tied with me in New Hampshire?") Graham just looks befuddled. Dean looks like he is on fire. Gephardt seems to be at least able to show a natural smile. It may even be genuine. Is it just me or does Dean look like he is having a blast? Enjoying yourself on the campaign trail is probably a good indicator of potential success. Who likes dour candidates? "You are getting Sleeeeeepy!"

Is the campaign season to long?

Every election cycle it seems that things get started earlier and earlier. We are already having the first Presidential debate and its still nine months to the first primary! I was thinking about this some this morning when I was struck by one of the biggest dangers in having such a long campaign season: journalistic boredom. Consider this: the vast majority of voters don't start paying attention to the campaign until a couple of months before an election (for some it only starts to sink in a couple of weeks before hand). But political journalists have to cover it from the very first hint from any potential candidate that they might run. This can be 2-3 years before the average voter even becomes aware of the campaign. So, by the time Joe and Jane citizen are starting to ask questions about the candidates the journalists who are supposed to be providing them with the answers have already spent thousands of hours with these guys and already been exposed to these questions over and over and over and over and over again. By the time the voters show any curiosity on the subject they are more then ready to be over and done with it all. Is it any wonder the journalists who cover these races start getting a little punch drunk by that time? Is it any wonder that they latch onto meaningless, but fresh, stories about the candidates at a time when their audience is just starting to pay an interest in the story? Maybe we need to switch to a system like they have in other countries where it is outright illegal to campaign for political office more then a few weeks before any election. I'm sure both journalists AND voters would appreciate the change.

Friday, May 02, 2003

More on delusion and the Big Lie

Digby's coverage of the topic of the Big Lie ties in closely with my previous posts about self-delusion. He starts of with a quote from that master manipulator, Adolf Hitler, about how people have a hard time believing that someone would push the Big Lie because they themselves would never have the chutzpah to do the same (no, Adolf didn't actually use the word "chutzpa".) Digby continues on this topic: Smart guy, no doubt about it. That surely explains why so many Americans believe that Iraq and 9/11 are connected and why many probably believe that WMD have been found or that they were destroyed in the days before the war or any other of the improbable explanations as to why the fundamental rationale on which this war was based simply must be true in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. A good number of people simply do not want to believe that the President of the United States would blatantly lie over and over and over again on a subject of such importance. The average person isn't the only one who suffer from this lack of skepticism. I believe many in the establishment press have the same malady. Any time the topic of Bush outright lying is brought up, the rare times it is brought up, it is quickly dismissed as nonsense by even the most educated of commentators. As I said before, it's not just a matter of people can't comprehending the idea that someone could lie that blatantly. It's also that they have a hard time acknowledging this because to do so would require them to admit that they were foolish enough to be fooled by the lie in the first place. Most people simply don't have the strength of character to admit that kind of fallibility. Me, I suffer from chronic insecurity, so its easy for me to acknowledge that I might get it wrong. Sometimes horribly wrong. Digby moves even beyond this question to the case of those who fully acknowledge the nature of the lie but don't consider it that big of a deal. Like the boss who requires his staff to obsequiously and insincerely flatter him (because he delights in forcing them to say something they don’t believe purely to please him, and knowing they know it) it is less an act of narcissism than a demonstration of power. Regardless of whether they had bad intelligence or just bad intentions, for the administration to straightforwardly say to their supporters that the arguments they had them put forth with such fervor prior to the war were never correct and don’t matter anyway is, in effect, demanding a loyalty oath that says they are willing to give up any claim to personal integrity in support of the party. You can believe me or you can believe your lyin' eyes. Nothing could delight the Bushies more than to hear the gnashing of the teeth of the opponents as they blatantly lie, shrug when caught in the lie and then not suffer any consequences for their arrogance. Read the whole post to get the full flavor. It's quite good.


Suggested sound bite for Howard Dean to use in response to Bush's little photo op the other day: "Bush wants to lead a pep rally. I want to lead a nation." (Yes, I suppose any of the Dems could use that line. But I want Dean to use it first.)


I haven't talked very much about the Project For a New American Century (PNAC) before, except in general terms, because I have never actually read any of their position papers. Maybe I should. I was just alerted to this little gem in a report titled REBUILDING AMERICA'S DEFENSES: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century (warning: large PDF file if you click this link). "Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor." (pg. 51) Whoah! Who would have thought they would have been so close to the mark on that point! (sarcasm alert)

Delusion and Dysfunction

On another note, close related to the previous post, I was listening the to local community radio station in Portland, KBOO, this morning. They had on as a guest the writer Derrick Jensen. I have never heard of him before, but what I heard from him made me want to go out and buy one of his books. He talked a lot about communication and language and how many people simply don't see things that are going on around them that they don't want to see. He brought up, as a for example, the three rules of a dysfunctional family: 1) Don't talk about the bad thing going on in your family 2) Don't talk about rule #1 3) Don't talk about rule #2 In a truly dysfunctional family the situation has gotten so bad that not only do people not want to confront the bad thing, they don't even want to confront the fact that they don't want to confront it and they will deny to their dying breath that they are avoiding dealing with the fact that they are avoiding dealing with it. I was struck, while hearing this, by how similar it sounds to the way America works today. So many people who are in a position to see just how bad things are (Democrats, Republicans, members of the press, etc.) continue to act as if things really aren't that bad (for instance, see my recent complaints about the lack of outrage on the part of the Democrats about the GOP's attempts to exploit 9/11 for the upcoming Republican convention). Not only do they refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem, they refuse to acknowledge that they are even avoiding the problem and act surprised when anyone suggests that they are. You don't need to resort to conspiratorial theories about right-wing bias in the media when it is easier to explain their behavior as simply the actions of deluded individuals. Andrew Sullivan, by his recent comments, demonstrates that he is a prime example of a deluded individual. I don't question the fact that he is honestly shocked at how Bush handled the Santorum mess. Nor do I consider him stupid for not seeing it. He just doesn't want to acknowledge the bad thing that is sitting in the middle of his living room because, to do so, would require acknowledging a lot of other bad things he has had to do in order to avoid acknowledging that one bad thing. It can ben an extremely traumatic experience when people wake up from a form of self-delusion . It is an experience that requires an extraordinary level of courage to come to terms with your own part in that delusion. This is an important point to remember when it comes time to convince the average American that Bush is not as great as they think he is. They are becoming so entwined with the proposition that he is a great leader that, to admit it is false, would require them to admit to all the ways they have fooled themselves into thinking it was true. How many people do you know who could withstand the psychic backlash that would produce? If we are to convince people that Bush is the danger that he is we cannot simply assault their delusions directly. That will just encourage them to defend them even harder and to sink farther into the delusional state. In other words, the more we attack their approval of Bush the more likely that approval is to become as deep as it is wide. What is the correct way for dealing with this? I don't really know. The best suggestion I can make is to turn the conversation around and require them to justify their belief in Bush's leadership abilities. Don't attack them for their delusions. Let them try to draw you into their delusional state. But come prepared with logic and facts to refute whatever it is that they say. The point is that you have to get them to come to the conclusion that they are the ones who have gotten it wrong. You can't do it for them.

Is Andy finally opening his eyes?

Andrew Sullivan once again demonstrates his cluelessness. First he was shocked by how his hero, George W. Bush, came down in support of Santorum. Now he's surprised that his mild expression of discomfort at Bush's photo-op yesterday has resulted in a deluge of angry mail: OKAY, OKAY: Like Glenn Reynolds, I'm besieged by people who think I'm wrong about the tone of Bush's campaign speech last night. Fair enough. It's a subjective judgment call, and I certainly respect those who took it otherwise. But what amazes me is the vituperative tone, and how many then accuse me of being anti-war, anti-Bush and anti-American. Me? Are politics so polarized that you have to either engage in hagiography or hatred of our leaders? Is there nothing permissible in between? Ummm, Yes. This is the world you helped create Andy what with your harangues against potential "fifth columnists" on the left and your unquestioning hero worship of the Texas Dauphin. Are you really so blind to what is going on that you are surprised by the response you have gotten? Perhaps this experience might garner a little more sympathy from you for Dixie Chicks. Not likely, but there is always hope. David Brock was once a right-wing water-carrier as well.

Worth a thousand words

Mike Thompson's take on yesterday's events:

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Join the Chick Rebellion!


Dean one of the "Big Five"

Howard Fineman thinks that Dean is now in the "Big Five" as far as the Democratic race is concerned. Regardless of what else he says about Dean, that's a pretty good development because a lot of people listen to Fineman (I happen to agree with MWO that he is the king of media whores, but I can't deny his influence). NO FRONTRUNNER: Each of the Big Five can make the claim, which means that there is no real leader of the pack. Joe Lieberman still leads in the general polls, based largely on the name recognition he earned as Al Gore’s running mate in 2000. Dick Gephardt has a strong base in Iowa, where voting begins next January. Kerry was anointed by the media/political insiders, but is only narrowly ahead in make-or-break New Hampshire. John Edwards won the first-quarter fund-raising race. Howard Dean broke into the upper tier as an antiwar candidate, and though he’s lost some media buzz lately, he’s neck and neck with Kerry in New Hampshire.

Only a military man should be President?

Vietnam Vets Help Defend Sen. Kerry Thu May 1, 1:50 AM ET CONCORD, N.H. - The "Doghunters" are on the prowl. The band of Vietnam veterans who have been protecting John Kerry's political flank since 1984 will be canvassing American Legion halls and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts in coming weeks to mobilize support for the Democrat's presidential bid. The timing suggests a counteroffensive designed to help Kerry with military voters after he angered Republicans — and upset a few Democrats — with his wartime comment that the United States, like Iraq (news - web sites), needed a "regime change." Not so, say the Doghunters. "It has nothing to do with regime change," said John Hurley, an Army veteran and semiretired lawyer from Wellesley, Mass. "It's based on John's war record. John became very engaged with veterans as soon as he got back from Vietnam, and veterans in turn have become engaged with John." ... "I think we can put together the largest veteran organization ever to support a political candidate," Hurley said. "The message is simple: We want a veteran in the White House." I am glad that so many veterans are coming out to work for Kerry. But I am disturbed by that final comment. "We want a veteran" is a nice rallying cry. Indeed, I cheered at the thought at first. But, on further consideration I think it is a dangerous proposition. First of all, Clinton wasn't a veteran. Are these Kerry supporters now saying that it was a mistake to have Clinton as President because he wasn't a veteran? Second, Dean isn't a veteran. Nor are many of the other Dem. candidates (does Edward's have any military background?) What are the Kerry supporters going to do if Dean gets the nomination? Say that the "we want a veteran" claim no longer applies? I'm frankly disturbed by the idea that only a military person should be considered for President. I blame this in part on the recent confused usage of the title of "Commander in Chief". It is often used in a way that makes it sound like it is just another of the President's title in all of his or her functions. No. Bush is not the "Commander in Chief" of America. He is the "Commander in Chief" of the U.S. armed forces. Just read the Constitution: Article. II. Section. 2. Clause 1: The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. There is nothing here that says that Bush, or any President, is "Commander in Chief" of anything BUT the military. I was disturbed when Gore said that Bush was his "Commander in Chief". No. Gore is a civilian and, as such, HAS no "Commander in Chief". I was disturbed when Zell Miller, several months back made the claim that he thought it was his duty to give his "Commander in Chief" the support he needed in the Senate. No. Miller is a Senator. A member of a branch of government co-equal in power to that of the President. Legislatures should never consider themselves as subservient to the chief executive (a much better over-all title for President btw). Clinton was not my Commander in Chief. Bush is not my Commander in Chief. Dean (or Kerry) will not be my Commander in Chief. The confusion on this point is a bad harbinger for the future.

The next for Americans to panic about

I walked into the local Barnes & Noble after lunch, looked to my left towards the newstand section (my usual first stop), and this is what I saw: Now, admittedly, SARS is a serious issue. But it looks like the establishment media is once again switching into another "let's scare everyone to death" phase.

How to deal with mudslinging in the Democratic race: get used to it

There's been a lot of talk in the blogosphere and in the establishment media as well about how the Dean/Kerry dustup could hurt the Democrats in the long run when it comes time to unite and turn the guns on Bush. Liberal Oasis has some calm words of assurance at this moment that I think we should pay attention to: Yes, ideally Dems should not bloody each other when we all should be setting our collective sights on Dubya. Realistically, presidential politics is a nasty game filled with humongous egos. When someone sees an opening to land a punch, there’s gonna be a punch. With a nine-way race, such squabbling will be rampant. It will be unpleasant to watch. But it's unstoppable, and hence, not worth grousing about. And by no means does it ensure defeat in 2004. The race in 1992 between Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown got real mean. Clinton was quite bruised at the end of it, running behind Bush and Perot in some polls. But he still won. In 1988, the Poppy Bush-Bob Dole race was no tea party. After Bush used misleading ads to beat Dole in New Hampshire, Dole went on TV and told Bush to “stop lying about my record.” But Bush still won. Despite the negative punditry that surrounds such fighting, there is an upside. It’s good practice. I would hope that, once the dust settles, we can ALL put our bad feelings behind us and unite against the true enemy. It can be done.

At The Turning Of The Tide

Feeling discouraged? Go read William Rivers Pitt's perspective on supporting a team that never seems to get the breaks. It made me feel better.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Where's the Democratic outrage?

Go read this Tomasky piece in The American Prospect. He brings up the point that Democrats are to quick to get upset over comments like that from Sen. Santorum while ignoring real outrages like the GOP's announcement that they will hold their convention in NYC to coincide with the 3rd anniversary of 9/11. While I have applauded Gov. Dean for taking on Santorum I also think that Tomasky has a point: why HAVEN'T the Democrats been howling at this announcement? Why hasn't any of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, Dean included, gotten before the camera and denounced this blatant attempt to politically profit on the death of 3000 Americans? I asked this question back when this was first announced and I am still asking it now. Why won't the Democrats express outrage at actions like this? Could it be that they really don't understand what an outrage it is? What a terrible thought that is.

So, the innocent have nothing to fear in Bush's America do they?

Read this and then tell me that again. (courtesy Tom Tomorrow)

Would a chaotic Iraq really be bad for Bush?

So, for the second day in a row, American forces fire into crowds of Iraqi protestors, killing some. Regardless of who is to blame for this tragedy, the fact remains that it just adds to the impression that the situation in Iraq is far from being "in control" and that it could, at a moment, shift into complete chaos (making the looting look like nothing). Some may think that if the Iraq situation falls apart that that would hurt Bush in 2004. Actually, it could help him. Look at Israel and the conflict over the West Bank. It seems that every time things fall apart there Ariel Sharon's approval goes UP. The fact that his belligerent approach to the Palestinians may have exacerbated the situation doesn't seem to matter once people feel that their sense of calm and order is being threatened. The same could happen here. If Iraq descends into chaos, Bush/Rove could manipulate the reporting of the situation to make it look like it is all the fault of the Iraqis and, by God, we better keep Bush in power if we don't want things to really get bad.

Iraqi prisoners are consistent: there was no WMD program

Iraqi Captives Deny Illegal Weapons (CBS) Senior Iraqi prisoners are all insisting during interrogation that Iraq had no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons' programs, U.S. officials said. The officials said they believe many of the prisoners are lying to protect themselves. The Bush administration has stood by its belief that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons and the means to make more, although none have turned up since the war started on March 19. The denials also mean U.S. officials aren't getting any information on places to look for the weapons it alleges are in Iraq. Addressing the lack of weapons finds so far, President Bush has said that cooperation by Iraqis would be important. By denying Iraq had weapons, the prisoners may be trying to distance themselves from Saddam's rule, one official said. "They are all sticking to that story," the U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "They've got every reason to lie, at least initially." Do they really? And what reason would that be? It's not like Saddam or his thugs have that much power over them anymore, so they can't exactly feel much threat from them. Could it be that they are worried about potential prosecution if WMD are found? Perhaps, but wouldn't it behoove them to cooperate with investigators in return for a lighter prosecution? Criminals and prosecutors make these kind of deals all the time. From where I sit, it looks to me like these people would have all the reason in the world to blab all they know about Saddam's alleged WMD program and very little reason not to. We have here a living example of the prisoner dilemma: if even just one of these high-ranking prisoners starts to blab then the others lose the leverage they might need to get better treatment. Do you really think they trust each other to remain silent? If they were smart and there were WMD then they would be dumping boatloads of information. They have to know that such information is as good as gold with the Bush administration. Yet we are supposed to believe that the discipline of Saddam's thugs is such that they all, to a man, continue to tell the same consistent lie: that there was no WMD program. I always believed that the Bush administration was lying (sorry, putting the emphasis on certain facts more than others) about what they thought Saddam had. But even with that I still considered it likely that he still had a nascent chemical/biological program of some kind (I never bought the nuclear theory). I'm beginning to think that there may never have been a WMD program of any kind after the Gulf War and that the exploitation teams will be lucky if they find decrepit supplies that haven't been touched in years. It's still early yet, but things are not looking good for the WMD theory. Ahhh! What am I worrying myself about this for? We won didn't we? Didn't we?

Bush vs. Bush

Now this is just fucking brilliant (pardon my freedom). John Stewart and the Daily Show put together a "live" debate between President George W. Bush and Governor George W. Bush (by using clips from the recent past and the 2000 campaign) to demonstrate once and for all just how diametrically opposed they are on how to handle foreign policy. Go here to watch it (requires high speed link). The first few seconds may be choppy, but it should clear up after that. My favorite: Gov. Bush (2000): I'm not so sure its the role of the United States to go around the world saying "this is the way its got to be".

More "defeatism"

The War Room at the Dean campaign continues to chug along. Look at what else they have dug up in relation to the Chris "we won't always be #1?" Lehane smear: "This is a brief moment in history when the United States has pre-eminent military, economic and political power. It won't last forever.... This is just a period, a few decades this will last, and I think that all of us who are Americans should think about this and ask ourselves how do we wish this moment to be judged 50 years from now."-- William Jefferson Clinton, February 22, 2002. So, Sen. Kerry, exactly how was what Gov. Dean said any worse then what Bill Clinton said? (BTW, there's several other hilights from the war room up on Dean's blog as well.) (You know, something else better happen for me to talk about or I'm going to get a reputation for being All Dean All The Time.)

And coming to the defense of Howard Dean is...William F. Buckley???

Well, it's not a resounding defense, but he right out says that Dean had a good point in his contention that our foreign policy cannot be based on the assumption that America will always be #1. Senator John Kerry was spoiling for a fight with Governor Howard Dean. Both men want to be president of the United States and they have to quarrel about something, since they are contenders for the same Democratic nomination. Howard Dean, who is campaigning every day and has already lost his speaking voice, though he has 15 months to go before the Democratic National Convention, said something rather trivial about how U.S. military preeminence can't be counted on to solve all problems, which is on the order of saying that man cannot live by bread alone. But it was enough to get Senator Kerry to scream and yell that Governor Dean wants to sell short the military and that such an attitude toward the military is inappropriate in a man who seeks to serve as commander-in-chief, etc., etc. Buckley goes on to say that the emphasis is not so much on whether the U.S. should or should not have military superiority (this is a given) but instead on how to use it effectively. So there has got to be a political fight in the season ahead on the matter of the exercise of that solemn power we have accumulated. The pas de deux featuring Dean and Kerry is a preview of it. The challenge: how to motivate Democratic voters to reject the leadership of George W. Bush without appearing unappreciative, let alone disdainful of, the final American triumph in the dazzling historical enterprise for military superiority. That has ended. What we are left with is an analogue to what has been dubbed "the skyjacker's leverage." You have a modern airliner carrying 400 passengers and serving, at a speed of 500 miles per hour, everything from pâté de foie gras to the latest movie on the screen, and the whole thing is suddenly at the mercy of one passenger who has explosives in the heel of his shoe. Just because we have all this great military technology does not mean that we can assume that it will give us the decided advantage in all future foreign policy conflicts. I think my main objection with Kerry's stand is that he wants to be able to criticize Bush for how he uses the military power that he himself authorized Bush to use as Bush sees fit. It's a position that I consider untenable and will most likely come back to bite Kerry in the long run. (I also think it comes close to an abandonment of his own responsibilities as a member of the Senate, but that's another discussion). I'm curious where Buckley falls on the pale-con/neo-con axis. I wouldn't be surprised if he was a strong paleo-conservative. What do others think?

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Did the Kerry campaign have an ulterior motive?

ByWord has some interesting thoughts on the Kerry vs. Dean dustup (courtesy CalPundit). Matthew Gross, writing for the Dean campaign in today's NotePad said:
If your biggest fear is headlines that scream "Kerry vs. Dean," why go out of your way to create headlines that scream "Kerry vs. Dean?"
Easy. Because Kerry's biggest fear isn't those headlines. Matter of fact, those headlines are precisely what he's after. John Kerry started the fight with Howard Dean so that Dean would look like the top challenger in the race. This is because he wants Dean to be the top challenger in the race.
I think ByWord is on to something here. That does sound like the kind of smart political strategy you would want to follow if you are the front-runner. However, there are two problems with it: (1) being a Dean supporter I naturally think Kerry is underestimating Dean's chances to beat him for the nomination. I think Kerry would have an easier chance beating Edwards or Lieberman. (2) While it is smart politics to try and raise up the challenger you think you can most likely beat, I think it is stupid politics to adopt the smear tactics of the opposition party in the process. That just alienates people who should be on your side when the general election comes around. If you want to attack an opponent in order to raise their name value and put them on the debating stand with you after February then you can do so without resorting to distortions that you have to know are distortions. Reserve the venom for the general election guys. You'll need it.

Why it's not a good idea to smear a fellow Democrat

William Saletan points out that, while Kerry didn't use words as blunt as Dean's, he himself has hinted at the dangers that America faces if it should ever lose economic and military dominance. ... Outlining his foreign policy views in January, he warned, "In a world growing more, not less interdependent, unilateralism is a formula for isolation and shrinking influence." Interdependence? Shrinking influence? Are these the words of a defeatist? Of course not. Kerry wasn't "compromising" or "tolerating" the decline of American power. He was simply describing trends. China has five times our population. Its economy is growing faster than ours. Every empire in the history of the world has eventually lost its supremacy. You don't have to like it. You just have to face facts, or at least prepare for the worst. Good doctors do it all the time. So do good soldiers. In a USA Today interview on Dean's remark, Lehane said it's "surprising and eye-opening to see a major candidate for president even ponder the possibility of not having the strongest military in the world." How do you like that? John Kerry's spokesman thinks it's irresponsible for a presidential candidate to "even ponder the possibility" of losing our pre-eminence. That kind of rosy dogmatism may not be good medicine or good soldiering, but it sure is good politics.

An important message for Democrats

I'm getting a little sick of some of the comments I am hearing from Democrats about how Dean used a "poor choice of words" when he made his comment about America not always being #1. I've been telling several people not to get hung up about his choice of words but they keep harping back on this topic on mailing lists and blog entries. I have only one thing to say in response:


Yes, of course it would have been better if Dean had used different words. But by continually harping on this we are falling back into the old trap of acting guilty when the Republicans distort a Democratic message into sounding like something worse than what it was. Perhaps this is just another manifestation of the Democrat's desire to play fair, I don't know. But you know what people are called who play fair in politics? Losers! Do you see the Republican leaders berating Bush when he makes a gaffe of any kind? Of course not! Do you see Republican partisan's dissecting their own candidate's comments for possible flubs? Are you kidding me? They don't because they understand that doing so plays into the opposition's desire to paint their candidate as not up to the job. If we waste time criticizing Dean for a poor choice of words THEN WE ARE DOING THE REPUBLICAN'S JOB FOR THEM! Every single candidate in this race will have at least one moment where they say something really stupid. If we sit around and fret about how those stupid comments can be used against us then WE WILL LOSE! Once again, Bush and the GOP don't sweat it when Dubya makes a blunder. We can learn a lot from their example. That is all. (Please spread this message far and wide if you agree with it)

Bush finally weighs in on the Dixie Chicks, thinks its just a complaint about record sales

PRESIDENT SPEAKS ON DIXIE CHICKS' COMMENT As everyone most probably knows by now, there has been much controversy over a comment made by Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks about being ashamed that the president is from their home state of Texas. In an interview with Tom Brokaw, President Bush spoke his mind about freedom of speech, using the incident as an example. "The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind," said Bush. "They can say what they want to say. They shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out. You know, freedom is a two-way street. But I don't really care what the Dixie Chicks said. I want to do what I think is right for the American people, and if some singers or Hollywood stars feel like speaking out, that's fine. That's the great thing about America. It stands in stark contrast to Iraq, by the way." Either Bush is clueless or he is being deliberately deceptive because the complaints from the Chicks have nothing to do with record sales (which have been just fine thank you) but from threats on the lives of them and their families. What does Mr. Bush think of that? Is that an acceptable form of behavior in the "Land of the Free"? You know, I think Mr. Bush could go a long way towards reversing the rising trend of violent threats towards dissent if he were to simply state that such actions were not acceptable to him and that he considered them un-American. It might not completely stop the yahoos. But it might get the rest of the country to turn against the yahoos as much as they might turn against people like the Chicks. But then that might require him to actually believe those things, so don't look for him to do it any time soon.

Be humble on the way up or you may pay on the way down

Billmon raises some interesting points in the debate about Howard Dean's "We won't always have the strongest military" comment. He brings up the point that America's foreign policy cannot become over-dependent on our ability to whip the ass of anyone who disagrees with us (which is a more crude way of saying what I think Dean was trying to say). But he also talks about efforts on the part of some European powers to encourage the adoption of the euro as a standard for international trade. I don't quite follow the economics of this argument, but billmon suggests that part of the reason the US can afford to rack up such huge trade deficits and build the military behemoth that we have is that the dollar is THE standard for international trade and this gives us an advantage over everyone else. I said previously that the Europeans were starting to discuss the idea of military alliances separate from the United States. But an-American (as opposed to anti-American) economic alliances may do us even more damage. Put another way, by the time my hypothetical America vs. Europe smackdown occurs, the American economy and the American military might not be the great beasts they are today. There's more than one way to undermine an empire.

Chicks against the machine

Charles Taylor has written a long and well-worth-reading essay on the Dixie Chicks and their recent interview with Diane Sawyer.

Hypocrisy, the American way

A good column on the whole "we won, so who cares if we were lied to?" phenomena: `Now that wasn't so bad, was it?'' One of my pro-war acquaintances said this in a reassuring, not gloating, manner. His tone was a congenial gesture in the wake of our heated arguments over the Iraq War in recent weeks; we had remained tensely civil. I shrugged. Indeed, the shooting war in Iraq had -- from an American vantage point -- gone well. Relatively few casualties on our side; surviving Iraqis clearly pleased to be rid of Saddam Hussein, if wary of our presence. This summation, of course, ignores many unanswered questions. So I asked him one. ''Would it bother you if we were to discover that George Bush lied about the case for going to war?'' I asked. He knew what I was referring to. His blunt answer left my jaw hanging. ``Everyone knows he lied about weapons of mass destruction being the point of the war.'' Just a few weeks ago, any statement from me that Bush's case for war was riddled with inconsistencies and illogic would have brought swift and fierce condemnation from this fellow. Now, basking in the glow of military conquest -- and confronted by a thus-far futile search for chemical and biological weapons -- this hawk breezily conceded the point while also waving it away as inconsequential. Have we become a country that wears its hypocrisy openly and proudly?

So it begins?

I previously posted on the far-out idea that there may come a day, if we continue to follow the path Bush has laid out for us, when Europe and America will be at war with each other. Think on that and then read the following article: 'Anti-war' four boost euro-role Four European Union countries which opposed the war in Iraq have ended a mini-summit in Brussels by announcing closer defence ties. The leaders of France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg say their plans include creating a joint military planning system by next year and a multinational headquarters for European military operations where Nato is not involved. They also intend to set up their own rapid reaction force. They want to launch a European Security and Defence Union, which others would be encouraged to join. The BBC's Chris Morris in Brussels says Europe's anti-war coalition has put down its marker for the future - it wants the EU to have a stronger, more effective defence capability, and the four are prepared to go it alone to begin with if they have to. This is the lesson George Bush has taught the world: be afraid of America. And what is the best response to that fear? Form military alliances to oppose American belligerence. Who could have imagined that we would ever reach a day like this?

Musing on political prognostication

Putting together the last post I was reminded of the last time I tried to handicap a race. It was a couple of days prior to the 2000 election. I posted my thoughts on what would happen on election night. I talked about how we should view the early returns and whether they would indicate a run-away race or a tight-race. I said, at the time, that Florida was the key. If the networks call it quickly for Gore then the race will be pretty much over for Bush. If it remains to close to call then I said, "Look for a long night ahead". Little did I realize at the time that that "long night" would last (please God only) four years.

Who will drop out first?

Here's my thoughts on how the Democratic primary season will play out. Specifically related to the question of who will drop out first. I think Sharpton will be in the race all the way to the convention. He isn't in this to win (I don't think he's naive enough to think he can actually get the nomination) but to use the platform. Kucinich could go the distance as well for the same reason. I think Braun will be out pretty quickly. I really can't understand why she is in there at all. Lieberman will probably fall soon after Iowa/New Hampshire. I just don't see any support for him outside the DNC establishment. Gephardt's future depends on how well he does in Iowa I think. If he comes in third (after Kerry and Dean) then he will be gone soon after. That leave's Edwards, Dean, Kerry, and Graham. Edwards will probably last a long time because he looks to have a pretty sizable war chest by the time the primaries start. But I don't think he will get much electoral support. If he loses badly in South Carolina then he will probably be gone very soon after. Graham is a mystery to me right now. I don't give him much chance since he got such a late start in the campaign, but he could provide some interesting fireworks on the road since he is very willing to hammer the Bush foreign policy. I think the nomination battle will come down to Kerry and Dean. Who will win I couldn't say. The money and name recognition favors Kerry. But Dean has a strong grassroots organization that could help him overcome the money advantages of Kerry while his status as the underdog could give him some advantage in the press coverage (the press is a sucker for David vs. Goliath stories). Kerry does have one other advantage over Dean: the support of the party establishment. It's unfortunate, but true, that the establishment may decide that Kerry is their man and they will go out of there way to sabotage Dean's campaign. I think this would be an extraordinary mistake since it would leave a lot of bitter feelings in its wake. But I don't trust the present leadership NOT to be that petty.

Monday, April 28, 2003

The Dean campaign responds

Now this is a good sign. You can find their response on Dean's blog here. I think they take the right approach by going after Chris Lehane much more then they go after Senator Kerry. Good job guys.

Stop it now before it's to late

The text of a letter I just sent to John Kerry: Dear Senator Kerry, I read, with distress, a report this morning that your campaign has issued a statement criticizing Howard Dean for his alleged comments that the Iraqi people are not better off without Saddam Hussein and that Dean is suggesting that America should prepare to step down from its role as a superpower (I read this on the DailyKOS, I respectfully submit that, on the former point, you have been duped into perpetuating an RNC smear against Gov. Dean. He never said any such thing about the well-being of the Iraqi people post-Saddam. I have a more detailed analysis of this smear on my website Interesting Times( The short of it is that Matt Drudge seriously distorted the governor's comment in order to make it sound like he was saying something truly ridiculous. Do you really want to gain a reputation for taking your cues from Matt Drudge? As for the governor's comments that, "we won't always have the strongest military", I have not seen the context of these comments either, so I don't know how they might be distorted. But, in substance, I agree with the Governor. We can't assume that we will always be on top and thus able to beat down anyone who might oppose us. There are people alive today who can remember when Great Britain had a global empire as powerful as anything America has today. We should, as President Bush suggested in the 2000 campaign, be humble toward the world precisely because we won't always be able to enforce our will through our superior military might. We cannot rely on strength of arms to always carry the day. That way lies eventual destruction. I am writing you this letter to express my serious disappointment that you would sink to repeating right-wing distortions of the Governor's position. I happen to be a Dean supporter, but I know fully that his candidacy is a long-shot and that the Senator is the most likely nominee and would have been more then happy to support him if he won. But that support will be more difficult if you continue to perpetuate attacks as reprehensible as this one. Attack Gov. Dean on his policies and positions. Do not become a water-boy for the GOP smear machine. We cannot risk the consequences. Yours Truly, Chris Andersen P.S., I will be writing to the Dean campaign, urging them not to respond in kind to the smear your are perpretating but to instead try to elevate the level of debate to one of substance instead of distortion. The Democrats cannot afford to waste their time on nonsense like this. And the text of the letter I sent to Howard Dean: Dear Governor Dean, I read this morning, with distress, that the Kerry campaign has issued a press release calling into question your stance on the war in Iraq and your position on the continued strength of the U.S. military (I read this on the DailyKOS, I am distressed by this because the Kerry press release perpetuates a smear first produced by Matt Drudge last week. The Kerry campaign appears to have bought into the Drudge spin that you said that the Iraqi people were not better off without Saddam in your appearance on Wolf Blitzer last week. I did not see this program, but having read the transcript I can tell that this was a serious distortion of your position. It saddens me that John Kerry would sign on to the perpetuation of that smear and I have sent a letter to him telling him just that. However, I would urge you not to escalate this any further then it already has gone. As much as you might be personally offended by the Kerry campaigns awful tactic, getting into a pissing match with a fellow Democrat cannot be anything but a benefit to the Bush campaign. You should, instead, try to elevate the dialogue between yourself and Sen. Kerry above the level of RNC smears. Might I suggest that you meet with the Senator and try to come to some agreement on this matter? Part of being President will involve sitting down with leaders of the opposition and of foreign countries, people whose personalities and attitudes you may find repugnant. Part of being President will require you to work with them on agreeable terms. "Burying the hatchet" with Sen. Kerry would go a long way toward demonstrating that you have that quality in spades. Please do not escalate! The Democratic party must be united in at least one purpose: the removal of George W. Bush from power in 2004. All other considerations are secondary, including our personal feelings. I am a strong supporter of your campaign. I talk about you often on my web site (you can find a breakdown of the Drudge smear there at Please take this request to heart. We must not become a circular firing squad. Keep up the fight! Yours Truly, Chris Andersen I urge everyone else to send similar letters to both campaigns. We must stop this now before it gets out of control.

I was afraid of this

Last week I talked about Drudge's misquoting and distortion of a comment by Howard Dean on Wolf Blitzer. Here's the relevant extract from the transcript for that show: BLITZER: But governor, nobody -- nobody disagrees there are going to be problems. But aren't the people of Iraq so much better off now without Saddam Hussein on their back? DEAN: We don't know that yet. We don't know that yet, Wolf. We still have a country whose city is mostly without electricity. We have tumultuous occasions in the south where there is no clear governance. We have a major city without clear governance. We don't know yet, and until we do... BLITZER: You think it's possible -- excuse me for interrupting that whatever emerges in Iraq could be worse than what they have for decades under Saddam Hussein? DEAN: I do, I do. We have to think of this from an American perspective not an Iraqi perspective. The reason the president gave for going into Iraq which I disagree with is Iraq was a security threat to the United States. I don't believe Saddam was. But I believe a fundamentalist Islamic regime would be. That we have to guard against, that may be very, very difficult. I think the jury is out in terms of what we've created. The other thing is, you have to remember that this president has now created a new American foreign policy a preemptive doctrine. And I think that's going to cause America some serious trouble down the line, too. I don't regret my opposition to the war, I think in the long term interest of the United States, we have yet to see whether the war is going to be successful or not. Dean's response may have been a bit of a surprise for the cheerleaders in the media ('but, we toppled his statue!") but it is a well reasoned statement on the long-term difficulties that will come from the American invasion of Iraq. Drudge, of course, distorted what Dean said into the following headline: Dean: 'We Don't Know' If Iraqi People Are Better Off Without Saddam I said, at the time, that the Dean people had to be prepared to respond to this distortion and stamp it out as soon as possible. Some told me that I shouldn't worry so much until such a time as it becomes a bigger deal. Well, thanks to John Kerry, it has become a bigger deal. The DailyKOS has the item this morning: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Robert Gibbs or Kelley Benander Phone: 202-548-6800 Date: April 28, 2003 Statement from Kerry Communications Director Chris Lehane on Howard Dean's Statement on American Military Supremacy Washington, DC - today reported the following quote by Vermont Governor Howard Dean - "We've gotten rid of him," Dean said of Saddam Hussein's ouster. "I suppose that's a good thing." Pressed again last week on CNN, Dean refused to concede that Iraq is better off without Saddam. And two weeks ago, while campaigning at a Stonyfield yogurt factory in New Hampshire, the would-be Commander-in-Chief suggested that America should be planning for a time when it is not the world's greatest superpower: "We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military." Kerry campaign communications Director Chris Lehane reacted to those Dean statements by saying - "Howard Dean's stated belief that the United States 'won't always have the strongest military,' raises serious questions about his capacity to serve as Commander-in-Chief. No serious candidate for the Presidency has ever before suggested that he would compromise or tolerate an erosion of America's military supremacy. "A President Kerry, who will bring the perspective of having served on the frontlines to the job of Commander-In-Chief, will guarantee that America has the strongest, best trained, most well-equipped military in history." Why is Kerry taking his cues from Drudge? If Kerry has substantive criticism of Dean's positions then he should make them. But he should not become a water-boy for the GOP attack machine. I said last week that Dean should respond to this attack by talking about it in the context of the smear machine that is operated out of the RNC. But, now that Kerry has taken the point, it becomes that much harder for Dean to characterize this as simply a distortion of the right-wing Wurlitzer. Why is it that Democrats are more willing to play the smear game against each other then they are against the Republicans?

Thoughts on the media campaign for 2004

There are two types of stories the American media loves. The first is the underdog story. The story of the guy who, against all odds, actually looks like they may pull off a surprise victory. Every election cycle they always pick out one of the "also rans" and anoint him as the favored underdog (and, as a consequence, they give that candidate a lot of free publicity). In 2004 it was Bradley and McCain. In 2004 I think it will be Dean. He has all the necessary earmarks. He's a bit of a "maverick". He criticize those in his own party as well as the President. He has a large devoted following. He gets people hot where most of the rest of the candidates put the people, including reporters, to sleep. This will be good for Dean in the short run. But it to being good in the long run will depend on the development of the second type of story the media loves: the downfall of the mighty. If Dubya looks like he could fall in 2004 the media will turn on him quickly because they would love to be able to report the story of a Goliath being brought down to earth by a lowly :-) The media are likes sharks. They go into a frenzy when they smell blood and Dubya's blood would be especially sweet for them. I happen to hate the fact that the media is more into telling stories than they are into reporting facts. But this is the reality we live in and Dean should try and take advantage of it.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Love the irony

Matt Drudge has it in for Sid Blumenthal. After all, the guy sued him (not without justification since Matt falsely accused Sid of beating is wife) and dragged him through court proceedings for several years before el Sid dropped the case. So Matt must have taken special delight in skewering Sid's upcoming book, The Clinton Wars, because it was, at the time, ranked #23,588 on Of course, just one day after Drudge makes his post, Sid's book has risen to #91 (at the time I am making this post). I guess it's true what they say: there's no such thing as bad publicity. To which Matt replies: D'oh!

Seeking the inner Chris

One thing I like about Matthew Yglesias' blog is that he often gets into the philosophical side of political discussions and I have always been something of an armchair philosopher (along with being an armchair historian, an armchair political theorist and an armchair psychologist. So many responsibilities I have.) Take, for example, this recent posting: Jacob Levy told us he wouldn't blog until Monday 'cause he was going to be engaged in some "tenurable activity" but instead he brings us an amusing anecdote:
[A senior CATO official] went on to generalize this to a "secret sin" theory of politics-- that people form their political views on the basis of a generalization of their own deepest darkests. (This, by the way, is something like the method Hobbes defends, though that fact didn't come up in conversation.) So: if you think it's only the law that keeps you from plunging into a life of full-time sexual depravity and debauchery, you become a moralistic conservative. If you think it's only the law that keeps you from becoming Ebeneezer Scrooge and screwing the poor just for the sheer sadistic joy of it, you become a lefty. And if you look inward and detect a craving for power, you generalize that to everyone else and become a libertarian. The moral was that people should listen to libertarians, believe them, follow their policy recommendations-- and not elect them.
I think there's probably at least a grain of truth to that view. Nevertheless, Professor Levy should get back to work. If he needs motivation, the Invisible Adjunct has many a cautionary tale to offer.
It's an interesting thought. I remember having a discussion with some friends a few years back in which I confessed that there is a part of me that suspects that inside everyone is a part of them that secretly agrees with everything I believe in and all I have to do is find the magic words that will release their "inner Chris" into the outside world. I fully admitted that my more rational side understands that this theory is ridiculous. But, in my more depressive moments, I can't help but think that if everyone just thought the way I did then the world would be such a better place. Since then the phrase "inner Chris" has become something of an in joke between myself and these friends.

Wishful thinking from the GOP

Republicans Confident Gay Rights Issue Will Hurt Dean WASHINGTON — Following the controversy caused by Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-Pa.) comments that seemed to equate homosexuals with adulterers and polygamists, Republicans say politicians backing gay rights may face trouble in the polls. ... But Republicans say former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has the biggest hurdle to clear when squaring his record on gay rights with more conservative voters. As governor, Dean passed the nation's only law giving gay partners the same legal rights as married couples. I have said this before and I think, at this crucial time, it is worth repeating. DEMOCRATS SHOULD NEVER TAKE POLITICAL ADVICE FROM REPUBLICANS! I mean really. If the Republicans actually thought that Dean's attacks on Santorum and Bush on this matter might actually help Dean do you think they would say so? Of course not! Indeed, they are more likely to play down the political viability of an opponents strategy if they think that it might actually be working. It's an old strategy: so seeds of doubt in the campaign of the opposition. My advice: don't listen to any of it. I think the homosexual question could be a winning issue for Dean because, while the majority of American's may still be squeamish on the topic, the majority also believe in the concept of fairness. I think if Dean appeals to that decent quality while pointing out the Republican's repeated playing to the bigot crowd he has a good chance of winning them over on the issue. The simple fact is that people want to perceive themselves as the good guys and, by voting for Dean, he is providing them a mechanism by which they can do a little self-validation (and making those who would vote for Bush have second thoughts about wanting to be to closely associated with a party that consciously tries to appeal to bigots).