Saturday, June 14, 2003


Click on the license plate above and it to the ACME License Maker where you can create your own customized license plate.

That sound you hear is the grinding of Karl Rove's teeth

CNN/USA Today/GallupPoll. June 9-10, 2003. N=1,029 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.


"Do you think the country was better off with Bill Clinton as president, or is better off with George W. Bush as president" Options were rotated

Clinton Bush No
% % %
6/03 46 49 5

Friday, June 13, 2003

Segway Update

TAP has a possible explanation for why Dubya fell off the "idiot-proof" Segway:
"You have to turn it on," explained Segway spokeswoman Stacy Ferguson, whose office had spoken to White House officials after the incident. In all likelihood, she said, Bush "didn't see the display." (That display is green, with a smiley face, if the unit is ready to go. Maybe the president didn't see the blank screen.) The president was holding a tennis racket when he got on, so perhaps he was distracted. "We have been saying that the Segway is great on the sidewalk, but it's not meant for the tennis court," ventured Ferguson -- though the president was on a driveway.
If this is really what happened then Bush's idiocy is even worse than previously imagined. If you just got a brand new toy like the Segway are you likely to jump on the thing with a tennis racket the first time you try it, just expecting it to start working for you? No, of course not. Any normal human would be a little tentative at first in approaching the device until they gain their "legs" and feel more comfortable with it. But not George. "Tentative" is not a word in his vocabulary. Nor is "cautious" (just look at his foreign policy). Dubya just expects things to work for him and if they don't then it is the thing's fault. I bet he never reads the instructions for anything. Update: Allen, in the comments, makes the follow astute observation:
What I find saddest and least amusing about the photos is that they look and feel like how Bush has been interacting with our Democracy. No desire to carefully interact with the exquisite sense of checks and balances, but just a big ham-fisted desire to push it where he wants. Unfortunately, for this analogy, democracy gets knocked down and Bush stumbles but gets away unscathed. The reverse would be the preferred outcome.
Sounds about right to me Allen. Bush views the whole world as nothing more than a toy to play with and, if it breaks, it was the toys fault not his.

Is that flop sweat I smell?

White House Says Bush Had More Evidence Iraq Sought Uranium in Africa (courtesy Lambert) The White House on Friday stood by President Bush's assertion that Iraq has sought uranium in Africa in recent years, saying that his allegation in January was supported by more evidence than a series of letters now known to have been forged. Additional intelligence pointed to Iraq also seeking uranium in Somalia and possibly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said a senior Bush administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The uranium reportedly sought was in a raw form that would have to undergo a complicated enrichment process before it could be used in a nuclear weapon. Officials did not specify the sources of any such additional intelligence. Intelligence officials have previously described other evidence of recent Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium in Africa as fragmentary. After Bush repeated the British claim in his State of the Union address in January, the United Nations sought U.S. documentation. The purported Iraq-Niger letters were turned over to the United Nations, which found them to be forged. In retrospect, officials said, it would have been better to have left the uranium claim out of the president's speech, even though the speech was fact-checked by the CIA and other agencies. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday the report was not central to the president's case that Iraq had prohibited weapons and programs.
In retrospect this shows all the signs of being a hail-mary pass. Are we to believe that after fending off questions about the forged Nigerian documents for several months that only now would the administration come out and say that they had other evidence to back up Bush's SOTU comment? If they had that evidence why do they wait until now to reveal its existence? Could it be because the press isn't buying the spin they have been pushing on the Nigerian story (that the information that it was a forgery never reached the White House?) It will be interesting to see if the media becomes its compliant self once again in response to this new story. Update: Lambert also points us to this TNR comment on this story:
Are we expected to believe that the administration has been sitting on a mountain of evidence suggesting Saddam had tried to purchase uranium from multiple African countries, but that the only piece of evidence it actually ended up citing in public was the one that happened to be bogus? Are we expected to believe that, once Niger story was publicly revealed to be bogus, the administration decided it'd be better to keep sitting on the legitimate evidence that Saddam had been trying to purchase uranium from Africa and, instead, to just let the bogus evidence speak for itself? Well, Dick, I guess we could share this incredibly incriminating, incredibly damning pile of evidence with the rest of the world. But then that would probably prove the merits of the war beyond a reasonable doubt, and getting help from all those second-rate European armies would be much more trouble than it's worth. Good point, Don. Why don't we just keep that stuff quiet and rest our case with the forged Niger documents... Are you kidding us? THERE ARE NO OTHER SOURCES. It's about time the administration owned up to it.
Of course they won't own up to it. Don't you people get it? In the world of George W. Bush there is one cardinal rule: George W. Bush is NEVER wrong. He NEVER makes a mistake. He is ALWAYS in the right and if there is a mistake it is ALWAYS someone elses fault.

How convenient

Officials Plan Speedy Ground Zero Environmental Review Rebuilding officials said yesterday that they hoped to complete a review of the environmental impact of the proposed construction at the World Trade Center site by next April. This would allow them to lay the cornerstone of a 1,776-foot tower in August 2004, during the Republican National Convention.


Matthew Yglesias has posted a retrospective on his support for the Iraq war, pre-invasion, and his feelings about it three months afterward. It's another recommended read. I came at this from a direction opposite to the one Matt took. I was pretty much opposed to invading Iraq from the beginning, not because I was convinced one way or the other by the arguments for or against the war but because I just didn't trust the Bush crowd not to fuck it up. Not the military action itself, which I had little doubt would succeed, and which the Bushies had the least influence over (despite Donald Rumsfeld's best attempts to make it so). It was the lead up and the follow through that I was worried about. I think history and recent events have vindicated my fears on this. Bush really is a fuck up and I think he will continue to be a fuck up as long as anyone gives him any kind of responsibility over anything. But, even despite that, over time I came to believe that, if properly presented, I could have been a hawk for invasion. But, like Matthew and Josh Marshal, I came to the conclusion that there just wasn't sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the threat was so imminent that it was necessary to wreck 50 years of international cooperation in order to engage in a unilateral pre-emptive action. I am convinced that the UN would have eventually backed military action in Iraq, though it might have taken another year of inspections and wrangling and concessions to reach that point. If we had done so then we could have gone in under an umbrella of international support that would have made the subsequent maintain-the-peace operation that much easier to sustain. Instead we are now one of the most distrusted nations on Earth, essentially alone in the task of maintaining order in one of the most chaotic hellholes in the entire world, with all the commensurate death, destruction and financial ruin that such a situation entails. Thank you Mr. Bush for proving my misgivings to be spot on.

WMD and belief

Nicholas Kristof has a new column out today that discusses the issue of the forged Niger documents that were used by Bush to show that Iraq was actively trying to acquire uranium for a nuclear weapons program. He neatly points out all the flaws in the current spin from the White House that attempts to paint this as a case of massive communication failure rather than an administration that was so hot to find something to justify an attack on Iraq that it was willing to "overlook" certain vital information, such as the fact that many people already knew the documents were forgeries. I urge you all to read it and pass it along to others. It's a good column and it lays out the case against the administration's spin very nicely. But that is not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is the conclusion to Mr. Kristof's column:
I don't believe that the president deliberately lied to the public in an attempt to scare Americans into supporting his war. But it does look as if ideologues in the administration deceived themselves about Iraq's nuclear programs — and then deceived the American public as well.
Why does Mr. Kristof feel it is necessary to add this qualification to his column? He could have left his column as a simple statement of the problems with the administration spin and then concluded by asking how the White House can resolve the problems with their current storyline. But instead he chooses to end with a statement that essentially absolves the President of any malicious intent and suggests that, at worst, Bush was simply deceived by his underlings. Now, do I know that Bush "deliberately lied" on these matters? Do I know that he wasn't a dupe of his underlings? No. I do not. But Mr. Kristoff has nothing to backup his assertion of the opposite. All he has to go on is his "belief" that Bush wouldn't do something like that. On what does he base that belief? A naive assumption that American leaders simply aren't like that? A psychological aversion to even considering the idea that our president might willfully deceive us on an issue of such grave import? The fear that he would be labelled a "kooky conspiracy theorist" if he didn't add that disclaimer? Like the "but of course Dean can't win" meme, the "Bush wouldn't deliberately lie about something that important" meme has become a reflexive response from the pundit corps. So reflexive that Kristoff felt it necessary to knee-cap his otherwise excellent column by including it in the concluding paragraph. There is no factual reason to assert that Bush did not deliberately lie on this matter. Nor is there any reason, other self-serving desire to cover-your-ass, to conclude a column filled with factual evidence with nothing more than wishful thinking. Don't tell me what you believe Mr. Kristoff. Tell me what I need to know so that I can decide for myself what I should believe.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

I've been a fool!

How could I have been so taken in by Howard Dean when I should have been supporting Albert "Al" Hamburg all along! (Thanks to Kynn for setting me right)

Dubya: Who will take this bullet for me?

Not the CIA for one
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA rejected any blame on Thursday for the use of a faulty intelligence report by President Bush as he built his case for war against Iraq. A spokesman, Bill Harlow, voiced confidence that "a careful reading" of documents supplied to congressional oversight committees would show the spy agency "did not withhold information from appropriate officials" about Iraq's purported attempt to buy uranium in Niger. The Central Intelligence Agency, he said, had shared hundreds of pages of material with the panels looking into charges, from lawmakers and others, that the administration and the intelligence community oversold the weapons threat to foster public support for ousting President Saddam Hussein. The latest challenge to the CIA involved a claim in Bush's State of the Union address that Saddam had been trying to buy "significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Bush aides have given somewhat conflicting accounts of how this claim made it into the speech. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said intelligence officials declared the charge incorrect "as the information was received." On Sunday, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said "someone may have known" the information was false 11 months before Bush's speech, but the White House believed it to be true at the time. But she said the claim, attributed in the speech to the British government, was what "the intelligence community said we could say."
Update: I wonder if this is a response to this story.

Fall down go boom

George and his Daddy take the new Segways out for a spin The Segway is supposed to be this great personal transport device that is almost impossible to fall off of as long as you don't do anything stupid. Whoops! Update: Here's a little news story about the Segway. Note the following:
The two-wheeled HT uses a number of gyroscopes and computers to mimic the human body's sense of balance, making it impossible for the device to fall over when being ridden, according to company representatives.
I guess they forgot to factor Shrub into the test suite. Update #2: Zounds! I poor my heart and soul into post after post of thoughtful writing and I get maybe 100-200 hits a day. I post a picture of Bush falling off a Segway and I get a couple hundred hits in an hour! Guess it just proves that the marketroids are right about what brings in the eyeballs. (Not that I'm knocking the additional traffic mind you. :-) BTW, here's a link to a more complete set of pictures showing the whole sorry incident.

Clarification on ePatriots

There have been some questions about the ePatriots donation. Wouldn't it be better to donate this money to Dean first instead of going through the DNC? Yes, it would and I would very much encourage everyone to go donate as much as they can directly to the Dean campaign (look for the Contribute link). I'll leave the Boot Bush graphic up if for no other reason than Dean will need that money once he gets the nomination.

MoveOn to hold first online presidential primary is considering throwing its considerable resources behind a presidential candidate and they want our help in deciding who they will chose. They ran a straw poll among its membership last month and the top three vote getters were Howard Dean, John Kerry and Dennis Kucinich. One of these three will get the endorsement and the support of the MoveOn organization. If you register with MoveOn (click the link above) you can join in the first ever online primary to help decide who will get the endorsement. This is big folks. MoveOn helped raise nearly $700,000 in a couple of days for the campaign of Paul Wellstone last year. They have over 1.5 million members on their list. This has the potential to boost Dean's online activism push by an order of magnitude!

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Boot Bush

Boot Bush! Donate to the DNC today I've joined the ePatriots movement. To contribute just click on the Boot Bush banners. You can sign up for this too!

Google News Democratic Poll for 6/11/2003

This Week (6/11) Last Week (6/4)
1 John Kerry 2490 16.1% -0.8 1 2460 17.0%
2 Bob Graham 2280 14.8% -0.8 2 2260 15.6%
3 Howard Dean 2140 13.9% +0.6 4 1930 13.3%
4 Joe Lieberman 2130 13.8% -0.8 3 2120 14.6%
5 John Edwards 2490 13.2% 0.0 5 1910 13.2%
6 Dick Gephardt 1740 11.3% +1.2 6 1460 10.1%
7 Dennis Kucinich 1220 7.9% +0.5 7 1070 7.4%
8 Al Sharpton 860 5.6% -0.4 8 861 5.9%
9 Carol Moseley Braun 539 3.5% +0.4 94423.0%
Everybody's absolute numbers are up this week indicating increased news media attention on the campaign. Dean just barely retakes 3rd place from Lieberman. I've added something new this week: a percentage share of the total stories for each candidate as well as an indicator of how this value changed from the previous week. This measure indicates that Gephardt, Dean, Kucinich and Braun had the best week, in that order, as their total shares went up. Meanwhile Kerry, Graham, Lieberman and Sharpton slacked off while Edwards remained steady. (Methodology: All numbers are taken from the hit counts when searching on the Google News Service for news stories containing each candidate's name. Click on each name to rerun the search. You will likely get different results as the numbers are constantly changing. I make absolutely no claim that these numbers have any real meaning.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Ain't gonna fall for it

Matthew Yglesias points us to a post by Paul Muller in which Paul challenges liberal bloggers to post one positive thing that Republicans have done. I suppose this is Paul's way of trying to get liberals to prove they aren't just blind Republican/Bush haters and can actually think. I agree with Matthew's response:
I'm not going to take him up on this one. Bush does plenty of things that I find unobjectionable and so you won't see me objecting to those things. Still, I think he's a very bad president overall and I'd like to see him out of office so I'm not going to waste my time lauding him. I will, though, give him a bit of faint praise which is to say that he's done a good job turning his party away from the ugly race-baiting used by, say, his father. I know that being non-partisan is supposed to be a good thing, but the fact of the matter is that there are two parties vying for power in this country and unless you're genuinely unable to make up your mind between them there's no sense in pretending you think they're roughly equivalent just in order to sound more sophisticated.
Back in the early 90s when Rush Limbaugh was on the rise (back when I used to find him sometimes interesting to listen to) he used to answer his critics who would accuse him of not presenting the other side by shouting, "I AM the other side." I disagree with most everything that Rush stands for, but he was right on this one thing: it is not up to us to talk up the opposition or to provide them with any positive strokes. I have occasionally said positive things about Republicans (usually old-line ones or moderates) but, as a general principle, I see no reason to waste my time trying to explain where Republicans get it right. If such a discussion is fitting within a larger topic I am talking about I won't hesitate to do it. But I'm not going to go out of my way to do it either. (Just as an example, look at my comment above about Rush Limbaugh.) Besides which, this is a trick that the right has used repeatedly to keep the left off-guard. It is an appeal to the stereotypical image that liberals will go out of their way to see the good in all people. Responding to this appeal derails the conversation when it starts to swerve into areas that the right is uncomfortable with (such as, say, where Saddam's WMD are). Sorry. I'm not gonna bite that bone anymore. If Republican's want to defend their honor they can do it themselves. I see no reason to waste a single minute trying to help them out. They want validation for their views? Go looking for it from an audience that actually cares.

Life on mars or WMD found?

Lou Dobb's asks us which will happen first. Why don't you go and answer him.

The effect of civil unions on the campaign

The question came up on the BartCop forum regarding the impact Dean's support of civil unions will have on the election. I've thought a lot about this issue and I think this is as good an opportunity as any to state my opinions on the matter. The short of it: I don't think it will be fatal. In fact, I think it will be a net benefit for Dean. The long of it: 1) Dean is not running away from the issue. Your typical cowardly politician would be trying to sweep under the rug their support for something that his pollsters tell him might be a political hot potato. Dean, contrary to such advice, is loudly advertising his support for civil unions. People like that kind of political courage, even if they don't necessarily like the position. Effect on election: positive 2) Similarly, by talking so loudly about it now it makes it harder for the opposition to make a big deal about it. Dean is ALREADY making a big deal about. It is not a secret. Effect on election: neutral to positive 3) People like to think they are on the side of the angels. Many may be personally squeamish about the issue of homosexuality, but Dean is framing this issue as one of equal rights, not homosexual rights. Framed that way it gives the squeamish the opportunity to vote for something that they might otherwise reflexively oppose. This proved to be true in Vermont where Dean signed the legislation into law just prior to a close election, even though it was supported in the polls by only 40% of the populous, and Dean went on to win. Effect on election: neutral to positive 4) People who care a lot about this issue will become strong activists for Dean. The homosexual community has a much higher percentage of experienced activists than other communities. Inspired and experienced activists are worth their wait in gold. They will be able to do a lot of work for Dean behind the scenes. A gay man can phone bank in rural Mississippi without revealing he is gay. Effect on election: positive Yes, there will be negative effects because the bigots and homophobes and freepers will freak out about it. But most of them wouldn't have voted for Dean anyway. They can be more than offset by the numbers of disillusioned and disaffected voters Dean is bringing into his camp. In other words, who cares if he loses the 10% of the registered voters who are bigots if he can bring in 11% of the registered voters who haven't bothered to vote in recent elections?

"Chris Matthews is the Joan Rivers of cable news reporting."

Had to pass that one along. It comes courtesy of Michael H., a poster to the comments section of The Left Coaster.

Timelines and deadlines

On Nov. 8th, 2002, the United Nations security council passed UN resolution 1441 which re-established the inspections regime in Iraq. On March 20th, 2003, the United States, claiming that Hussein has failed to live up to the terms of 1441 and other UN resolutions, begins the invasion of Iraq. On April 9th, 2003 the statue of Saddam Hussein is toppled in Baghdad. Scattered fighting continues for several days, but many would go on to portray this as the day Hussein fell and America...sorry, the "coalition"...seized control of the country of Iraq. 11/8/2002 to 3/20/2003 is a span of 133 days. 133 days is all Bush gave Saddam to come clean about his weapons program. 62 days have passed since the fall of Hussein and no WMD have been found. That leaves 71 more days (August 20th, 2003) for Bush to surpass the period he set for Saddam. Think he will make it?

An unlikely course of events...but...

Apparently McCain is backing up calls by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to hold joint Intel+Armed Service hearings on the question of Bush's justification for going to war (link courtesy RonK). McCain is still expressing public confidence in the President's case. But what if he is also position himself to be the next Howard Baker? This leads me to a truly far-fetched idea: what if the WMD story causes the Bush administration to go into total meltdown mode and Bush starts to lose large amounts of public support? In the meantime, McCain, via these hearings, will build his own support within the public. Can you see where this could lead to: a damaged Bush agrees with the party not to run again (ala LBJ) and McCain steps into assume the nomination and win in 2004. As I said, this is a far-fetched idea. For one thing it would require Bush to do something for the good of the party and when has Bush EVER done anything for the good of someone else? But it would certainly completely change the dynamics of the 2004 race. Instead of Dean going up against a damaged Bush he would be going up against a strengthened McCain. Oh well, it's just an idea. No need to worry about it. There are much more likely things to worry about right now.

The purpose of intelligence

Gene Lyons' new column for tomorrow (no link yet, I get a courtesy copy by email) makes an interesting connection I hadn't thought of before. To wit, the Bushies treatment of intelligence reports prior to Iraq mirros its treatment of intelligence reports before 9/11. Namely, if it doesn't fit their preconceived notion of reality then they just ignore it. The Bushies don't seem to understand that the purpose of the intelligence service is to tell you what you NEED to know, not what you WANT to know. (I'll try to link the story once it becomes available)

The Party of Spending and Deficits Is ... the GOP

"The Republican reputation for being for small government is wholly undeserved," said Riedl. "Republicans are politicians first, and they're trying to spend money to get themselves re-elected. "The current crop of Republicans is surprising in their lack of principles," he surmised. "They seem willing to spend on any special interest they need to win re-election next year."
The comments of some left-wing radical? A campaign lackey of some Democratic candidate for President? Nope. Brian Riedl is the federal budget analyst of the Heritage foundation, a conservative think tank. This quote comes from an article published on NewsMax, one of the leading lights of the web-based anti-Clinton movement of the 90s. Second only to WorldNetDaily when it comes to radical right wing reportage. Don't believe the pundits when they say all Republicans just love Bush.

Online political talent

Billmon is receiving some justified praise for the apparent impact his list of WMD quotes is having on the development of this story. Both Hesiod and Needlenose have congratulated him for it and I would agree with their kudos. Bill is naturally humble in his acceptance of this praise. But he also brings up an important point:
Keeping track of what those in power say -- and holding them accountable for it -- is not brilliance. It is (or should be) the stuff of ordinary journalism. It's the kind of thing the American media used to do, sometimes -- before 9/11 and our endless "war" on terrorism caused it to shut down the part of its collective brain devoted to critical thinking.
Bill is right, of course, that this does not reflect glory on himself as much as it reflects shame on the establishment media (though I think he is wrong in suggesting that this started with 9/11. This problem has been building for a long time). I've been in online political forums for years and I have been astounded by the level of reasoning and research ability exhibited by my fellow travelers. These abilities put to shame most of those who actually get paid to do those things. One reason I have been attracted to Howard Dean is that he has been making the kind of noises I have been hearing online for years. It has occurred to me that the people in power haven't made these noises is because they honestly didn't know what was going on. Dean's is a very internet connected campaign, so it wouldn't surprise me if there aren't a few people at high levels in his campaign who have been regular readers of online political forums for years. Finally all this time we've been wasting may just start paying off.

Wishing for politicians who aren't politicians

My posts on this blog are often inspired by conversations I have in other online forums (mailing lists, newsgroups, other blogs, etc.). The following is a post that Ron Charset made to the Dean Networking mailing list.
Yes, I accept there is a certain amount of gamesmanship in politics, and the candidate has to get into office to be able to lead and make positive changes. And I know this campagne will become VERY nasty once bush & co. start feeling threatened with unemployment. I just have been disallusioned so many times with candidates (for many offices) who turn out to be much less than they campagned as. I really want to believe Mr Dean is the real thing.
This taps into a line of thought I've been developing for several years now: perhaps it is the unrealistic expectations that are part of what leads to disillusioned voters? I like Dean a lot. I want him to be President. I have sent him money and am organizing for him in the Portland area. But Dean is a politician and I never let myself forget that. People keep saying they want someone who ISN'T a politician to run for office. But the minute you decide to run for office, YOU BECOME A POLITICIAN. It is an unavoidable state of being. But that does not mean you have to become a bad politician and, so far, I think Dean is doing an excellent job of avoiding that. I fully expect Dean to compromise on some issues that I wish he wouldn't compromise on. But that is okay because I don't believe there is anyone out there who wouldn't do the same and a lot who would do even worse. Hell, if I were to run and win I would probably end up compromising on some things I would rather not compromise on. It's the nature of the biz. Isn't it an unrealistic hope that politicians won't act like politicians? I'm here to tell you that it ain't gonna happen. When Dean becomes President it is almost assured that he will do at least one thing that I will seriously disagree with. Is it worth surrendering our entire political system to the cockroaches just because this happens? I say no. I hope Ron and others will to. Update: Great quote (thanks Lance) "I hope that one day you have the privilege and thrill to vote for a candidate who precisely agrees with you on every important issue. I did. Once. However, by the time I ran for reelection I wasn't so sure of that anymore." -- Barney Frank That just about covers it.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Common Wisdom in Washington D.C.

I was flipping through the channels tonight and caught a bit of Hardball. They were doing a round-up on WMD and the Democratic campaign. The usual suspects were Mathews, Fineman, John Fund, and some Democratic consultant (didn't catch his name). All of them, except for Fund, were effusive in their comments about Dean. They said that he is, so far, the only interesting story to report in this race and they were all talking about the energy behind his campaign. And yet, and yet, at the very moment they were saying this they all, to a one, caveated their comment with a reflexive, "but of course he can't win". It's almost as if none of them are willing to risk the laughter of their colleagues if they were to suggest that Dean might just beat Bush. Yet I could tell in the manner of their speaking that deep in their hearts they are starting to think just that. The "but of course he can't win" is almost spat out as a kind of mantra to ward off the scary demons that might attack them if they suggest that Bush might lose to a previously unknown Northeastern Democratic. We know the tied will really start to turn when one of them gets the courage, or perhaps just lets down his guard, and admits that yes, maybe, just maybe, Dean can win!

Scandal fatigue?

Michael Langer asks an interesting question: why has the level of public outrage about government scandal become so muted? As part of his discussion he draws a comparison between how the American public reacted to the Clinton scandals and how they might react to the growing scandal over justification for the Iraq war:
It is interesting to consider this in the context of reading The Clinton Wars, since Republican efforts to tarnish the President in the 90s were, despite their success in the impeachment process, relatively stymied. Correctly or not, Republicans pursued Clinton with a fervor, vitriol, and conviction similar to that which is shared by a small portion of the left in its approach to our current president. Yet in both cases, those who have pursued popular presidents for actions fervently believed to be immoral or illegal - or a combination of the two - have had little success translating this to unfavorableness in the polls. It is beginning to seem as if this phenomenon is becoming more the rule than the exception in American politics. It is as if Watergate represented the high water mark in the fight for demanding moral virtue in Washington. Since that time there has been no shortage of outrageous political scandal among elected officials, yet there has been little public outcry. Like the wrongs of Watergate were swept away by Ford's pardons and the crimes of Iran-Contra similarly swept under the rug by the outgoing George H.W. Bush, Americans' demand for integrity in their public officials has mysteriously vanished. Lyndon Johnson earned himself a "credibility gap" by justifying war with fictitious measures; nowadays similar behavior earns you twenty points in the approval ratings.
Michael's analysis of this question is fascinating, but I think it has one fundamental flaw: it presumes that the American people will equate Clinton's perfidity about his personal behavior with Bush's exaggeration about reasons for going to war. It requires us to believe that most Americans are simply to stupid to see the fundamental difference between the two levels of malfeasance. Indeed, Clinton's "popularity" was as much a function of people's negative reaction to those who would try to turn a question of morality into a litmus test for fitness to serve as it was about how fit Clinton really was to serve. Recall that Clinton's approval ratings went UP more than 15 points after the Lewinsky scandal broke. But Bush's popularity is tied very closely to the nature of the current brewing scandal: his ability to defend this country against national security threats. People trusted Clinton to run the countries economy and there was little connection between that and his dalliances with Lewinsky. People trust Bush to defend the country and there are multiple connections between that and Bush's handling of the Iraqi situation. To put it simply: the people's negative reaction to the Clinton scandals had to do with their irrelevancy, not whether people were simply willing to cut a popular President an inordinate amount of slack. Some look at Bush's high poll numbers and pronounce the American people stupid. I prefer to consider them duped. And when people come to realize that they have been duped they can turn against those who duped them even more harshly then those of us who were never fooled in the first place.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Killing Powell's argument

Powell's 'killer argument' ... Powell said that evidence had already been found. Speaking to CNN, the secretary noted that he had shown February 5 in his speech to the U.N. Security Council a drawing of vans purported to be biological weapons labs "and voila, the vans showed up a few months later." "Now, people are debating whether or not these vans truly are biological vans," Powell said. "Sure they are. What other purpose are there?" Powell then offered a "killer argument" supporting his contention that the vans "are exactly what I said they were." "I can assure you that if those biological vans were not biological vans, when I said they were, on February 5, on February 6 Iraq would have hauled those vans out, put them in front of the press conference, gave them to the UNMOVIC inspectors to try to drive a stake in the heart of my presentation," he said. "They did not."
So, let me see. Powell's counter argument is that Saddam could have proven that the evidence he presented was false by just bringing out the vans and showing the world that they weren't for Bio-Chem weapon production. He didn't, therefore that is what they were for. Of course, Bush could prove that he wasn't a liar if he would just come out and reveal the intelligence that has him so convinced he was right. But he's not doing that, therefore, by the new Powell Doctrine, he must really have been lying. Boy, that was simple wasn't it?