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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Neocon Tinfoil

Susan at Suburban Guerrilla points out a statement by Wes Clark in the debate yesterday that needs some further explanation:

I saw the Democratic debate, and I think Wesley Clark made the best point: Instead of attacking terrorists, Bush chose to attack states.

Which is how we got into this mess.

Exactly so. But, it is interesting to look at how this came to pass. I wrote back in September about Paul Wolfowitz's "You can believe me or you can believe your eyes" philosophy of governance. In that post I mentioned that it was none other than Laurie Mylroie, nutcase extraordinaire, who was responsible for this absurd notion that terrorism, by definition, must be state sponsored. She testified to that fact just recently before the congress. If you want to see a full blown paranoid mind, complete with tin foil, being taken seriously by a bunch of dim-witted politicians, read her testimony.

Here is her conclusion about Al Qaeda and the threat we face from terrorism. Keep in mind that Wolfowitz and Cheney have endorsed her views and that she is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute:

A major misunderstanding regarding the nature of terrorism arose in the wake of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, with the claim that a new form of terrorism had emerged that was no longer state-sponsored.

On the contrary, the major terrorist strikes against the U.S. that were attributed to "loose networks" of Islamic militants, including al Qaeda, are much better explained as Iraq, working with and hiding behind the militants. In short, the 1991 Gulf War did not end with the cease-fire declared back then.

Read the whole thing. It makes Tom Clancy read like Nancy Drew. This woman is to foreign policy and terrorism as Ann Coulter is to civil discourse. Yet, she is influential among the highest reaches of the administration and inspired this ridiculous belief that terrorism is dependent upon, and in fact a reflection of, enemy governments rather than the far flung ideological movement it really is.

This bizarre theory was convenient for those who wanted to invade Iraq for other reasons and it certainly provided a nice excuse to continue with boondoggles like missile defense and other hallucinogenic neocon wet dreams. But, this error (a belief in which was fueled largely, I believe, by knee-jerk rejection of all things Clinton) led to a strategy that has exacerbated the terrorist threat and exposed America's strategic weaknesses with no benefit.

There was one state sponsor of global terrorism. It was Afghanistan. The rest is a delusionary obsession of one lone nut who managed to convince many of the fringe dwellers and old anti-communist comrades that inhabit the Bush administration that she is right and provided the others with a good excuse to avoid the real threat of terrorism so that they can continue on their long myopic march toward global hegemony.

If people won elections based upon fact vs fantasy, we would win this next one in a total landslide. (Unfortunately, the opposite may be true, in which case we'd better find some slick slogans to beat their "I made U Safe" mantra.) But, for those of us who actually like real information, I think the neocon intellectuals' acceptance of this totally bizarre, off-the-wall theory takes the cake. I don't know whether they are psychologically impaired or if they are stupid. But, this strategic error, as Suburban Guerrilla points out, is the single biggest reason we are in the mess we are in today in Iraq.

UPDATE: Tim Dunlop wrote an excellent piece about this yesterday and ties it together with the ongoing argument about what constitutes winning the war on terrorism. Here is an excerpt, but read the whole thing:

The Istanbul attacks do, however, reinforce that we all need to take the threat seriously. But while I absolutely applaud Bush and Blair’s recent comments about eliminating this threat, what concerns me is that they seem to be under the impression that terrorists are a discrete group that can be counted, isolated and therefore eliminated. Thus they instantly connect the “war on terrorism”, a metaphoric construct, with the actual war in Iraq:

Meanwhile, Blair said the assaults in Istanbul wouldn’t have a negative impact on Britain’s or America’s commitment in Iraq. Bush described the U.S.-led coalition’s work in the nation as “noble” and “necessary”.

This is so depressing. It not only shows an unhealthy desire to use whatever comes to hand as a prop to support anything and everything they do, this sort of talk also indicates that they are using the presumptions of state-based war to frame their understanding and responses to the threat of terrorism. By seeing the fight against global terrorism through the prism of state-based war, we are likely to respond with, well, wars on states, and this is insufficient at best and counterproductive at worst, as it has been in Iraq.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Action, Reaction

Jesse writes about Tom Friedman's latest intrepid foray into obviousness -- "the 2000's are the era of the Security Man," and points out the odd contradictory messages the Bush people push to maintain the sense of unreality about the "war" we are fighting.

But, the most amusing riff in Friedman's little Sunday epiphany is this gem:

We had to react, but we must stop overreacting. Terrorists win when they prevent us from enjoying and spreading our values. We defeat them not just by how we react, but by how we don't react.

That's so true. Overreaction is self-defeating isn't it? Especially when the perpetrators are trying to provoke an overreaction. You might even say it plays right into their hands.

Of course, Friedman and I disagree just a little on what constitutes overreaction. I tend to think its an overreaction to invade a country that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack just so that we could swing our giant manhood all over the mideast --- particularly when the aftermath of that little demonstration has illustrated to the entire world that we are not exactly omnipotent. And, when that act ends up creating even more terrorists, I can't help but think that such action might be a bit counterproductive to the cause of fighting terrorism. But, that's just me.

Tom thinks overreaction is when a "Security Man" for Colin Powell cancels a speech for security concerns. (I guess it never crosses his mind that Powell might have cancelled his speech for the same reason Junior cancelled his --- heckling concerns.)

I suppose that it was always understandable that Americans would react to 9/11 with shock, horror and a blind desire to hit back. But, it is usually believed that leaders, whether of men or beltway opinion, would set aside their emotions as quickly as possible and employ their rational minds to solve the problem and guide the country through the crisis. One might even say that this defines leadership.

Tom didn't agree with that. He said:

No, the axis-of-evil idea isn't thought through - but that's what I like about it. It says to these countries and their terrorist pals: "We know what you're cooking in your bathtubs. We don't know exactly what we're going to do about it, but if you think we are going to just sit back and take another dose from you, you're wrong. Meet Don Rumsfeld - he's even crazier than you are."

There is a lot about the Bush team's foreign policy I don't like, but their willingness to restore our deterrence, and to be as crazy as some of our enemies, is one thing they have right. It is the only way we're going to get our turkey back.

I'd hate to accuse Tom of overreacting, seeing as how he's against it and all, but that just sounded a little bit over the top to me. The administration, enabled by a totalitarian patriotic fervor, pretty much did as Dr. Friedman ordered. We defied the whole world and lashed out like a puerile, glass jawed bully, crazed with fear and anger.

So, it's nice that Tom has belatedly realized that "we defeat them not just by how we react, but by how we don't react" but he hasn't quite grasped the larger message yet. He seems to believe that the concept of overreaction applies only to the parochial trope that the terrorists win when we can't "enjoy and spread our values."

Sometimes, Tom, the terrorists win when we overreact and drain the resources actually fighting terrorism to invade a country that had nothing to do with terrorism and end up creating even more terrorists. It may not be in the same league as making Colin Powell cancel a speech he didn't want to make, but it sure as hell looks like a win to me.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Pre-Emptive Self Defense

That damned liberal media. Look at the lede of this NY Times article about Bush's new commercial.

Poor Bush. The Democrats have been launching "sustained attacks" and "undermining him with their sniping." Bad Democrats.

After months of sustained attacks against President Bush in Democratic primary debates and commercials, the Republican Party is responding this week with its first advertisement of the presidential race, portraying Mr. Bush as fighting terrorism while his potential challengers try to undermine him with their sniping.

The new commercial gives the first hint of the themes Mr. Bush's campaign is likely to press in its early days.

It shows Mr. Bush, during the last State of the Union address, warning of continued threats to the nation: "Our war against terror is a contest of will, in which perseverance is power," he says after the screen flashes the words, "Some are now attacking the president for attacking the terrorists."

By indirectly invoking the Sept. 11 attacks, the commercial plays to what White House officials have long contended is Mr. Bush's biggest political advantage: his initial handling of the aftermath of the attacks.


With somber strings playing in the background, the commercial flashes the words "Strong and Principled Leadership" before cutting to Mr. Bush standing before members of Congress. Intended to call out the Democrats for their opposition to Mr. Bush's military strategy of pre-emptively striking those who pose threats to the nation, the screen flashes "Some call for us to retreat, putting our national security in the hands of others," then urges viewers to tell Congress "to support the president's policy of pre-emptive self defense."

I'm going to call my Congressman and Senators right away. I do not want to put the security of the US in the hands of others. While it is now obvious that there were no actual WMD in Iraq, it is still true that Saddam had scientists who had the scientific knowledge to make theoretical plans and then theoretically use those plans to make deadly WMD that could be given to theoretical terrorists. This invasion, therefore, was a pre-emptive act of self-defense.

And now that I can see the full implication of what constitutes a pre-emptive act of self defense, I want him to invade Japan immediately.

They have many top flight scientists who could create any number of lethal weapons of mass destruction. They have a history of being hostile to America. They have home grown terrorists who gassed their own people. They could be a threat to the region if they ever obtained nuclear weapons.

I see no reason why we should wait for a mushroom cloud before we pre-emptively defend ourselves from the theoretical possibility that Japan might desire someday to attack us.

Update: Matt Yglesias on TAPPED also points out the obvious. This is a basically dishonest attack on the patriotism of the Democratic candidates implying that they don't want to fight terrorism and are lobbying for retreat:

This combination of scapegoats and strawmen makes it essentially impossible to have a rational debate about anything, and truly gives the lie to the alleged conservative enthusiasm for civility.


Thanks to Yglesias and Atrios for linking to this piece of shit by James Lileks and getting my blood pumping this morning:

Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you’re the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there's a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba'athists. You owe him.

Utter, fucking bullshit. The Iraqis owe us nothing. Absolutely nothing. We did not invade their country for their sake, we did it for ours. (The exact reasons, of course, are subject to change depending upon available facts and gullibility of the audience.) It was a war of choice. Any sacrifice our soldiers have made is on behalf of the United States of America and it is only the United States of America that owes them gratitude for it.

Iraq is their country. They have every right to criticize the way we are handling the invasion and occupation of that country. They do not answer to us either morally or legally.

It is unbelievably arrogant (not to mention shockingly blind to the very concept of "liberty" we are supposed to be promoting) to suggest that our invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation subjects the citizens of that nation to a requirement that they not only refrain from criticizing the fact that we've allowed the country to descend into chaos, but that they should actually be grateful for it. As the man who makes Midge Dector quiver with septuagenarian lust once said, "freedom is untidy."

Life under Saddam was undoubtedly terrible. But, daily life in a war zone is hardly an improvement. Here's a post from Riverbend on Tuesday. I'm sure she should realize how much she owes America for the freedom they've brought her but somehow she seems more concerned with the fact that ordinary people are being randomly bombed out of their homes and rousted out of their bedrooms in the middle of the night:

They've been bombing houses in Tikrit and other areas! Unbelievable… I'm so angry it makes me want to break something!!!! What the hell is going on?! What do the Americans think Tikrit is?! Some sort of city of monsters or beasts? The people there are simple people. Most of them make a living off of their land and their livestock- the rest are teachers, professors and merchants- they have lives and families… Tikrit is nothing more than a bunch of low buildings and a palace that was as inaccessible to the Tikritis as it was to everyone else!

People in Al Awja suffered as much as anyone, if not more- they weren't all related to Saddam and even those who were, suffered under his direct relatives. Granted, his bodyguards and others close to him were from Tikrit, but they aren't currently in Tikrit- the majority have struck up deals with the CPA and are bargaining for their safety and the safety of their families with information. The people currently in Tikrit are just ordinary people whose homes and children are as precious to them as American homes and children are precious to Americans! This is contemptible and everyone thinks so- Sunnis and Shi'a alike are shaking their heads incredulously.

And NO- I'm not Tikriti- I'm not even from the 'triangle'- but I know simple, decent people who ARE from there and just the thought that this is being done is so outrageous it makes me want to scream. How can that ass of a president say things are getting better in Iraq when his troops have stooped to destroying homes?! Is that a sign that things are getting better? When you destroy someone's home and detain their family, why would they want to go on with life? Why wouldn't they want to lob a bomb at some 19-year-old soldier from Missouri?!

The troops were pushing women and children shivering with fear out the door in the middle of the night. What do you think these children think to themselves- being dragged out of their homes, having their possessions and houses damaged and burned?! Who do you think is creating the 'terrorists'?!! Do you think these kids think to themselves, "Oh well- we learned our lesson. That's that. Yay troops!" It's like a vicious, moronic circle and people are outraged…

The troops are claiming that the attacks originate from these areas- the people in the areas claim the attacks are coming from somewhere else… I really am frightened of what this is going to turn into. People seem to think that Iraq is broken into zones and areas- ethnically and religiously divided. That's just not true- the majority of people have relatives all over Iraq. My relatives extend from Mosul, all the way down to Basrah- we all feel for each other and it makes decent people crazy to see this happening.

There have also been a string of raids all over Baghdad, but especially in Al-A'adhamiya. They've detained dozens of people with the excuse that they own more than one weapon. Who owns less than two weapons? Everyone has at least one Klashnikov and a couple of guns. Every male in the house is usually armed and sometimes the females are too. It's not because we love turning our homes into arsenals, but because the situation was so dangerous (and in some areas still is) that no one wants to take any risks. Imagine the scene: a blue mini-van pulls up… 10 dirty, long-haired men clamber out with Klashnikovs, pistols and grenades and demand all the gold and the kids (for ransom). Now imagine trying to face them all with a single handgun… if Baghdad were SECURE people would give up their weapons. I hate having weapons in the house.

I'm so tired. These last few days have been a strain on every single nerve in my body. The electricity has been out for the last three days and while the weather is pleasant, it really is depressing.

This is one good reason why nations should think twice before they try to justify their foreign adventurism as acts of "liberation." Oddly enough, people often believe that once they are liberated they should actually be, you know, free.

And speaking of freedom, it's comforting to know, at least, that General Buck Turgidson...er Tommy Franks, is no longer in the military:

Gen. Tommy Franks says that if the United States is hit with a weapon of mass destruction that inflicts large casualties, the Constitution will likely be discarded in favor of a military form of government.

Franks, who successfully led the U.S. military operation to liberate Iraq, expressed his worries in an extensive interview he gave to the men’s lifestyle magazine Cigar Aficionado.

In the magazine’s December edition, the former commander of the military’s Central Command warned that if terrorists succeeded in using a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) against the U.S. or one of our allies, it would likely have catastrophic consequences for our cherished republican form of government.

Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the U.S. in the wake of Sept. 11, Franks said that “the worst thing that could happen” is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties.

If that happens, Franks said, “... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.”

Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack.

“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important.”

Franks didn’t speculate about how soon such an event might take place.

Already, critics of the U.S. Patriot Act, rushed through Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, have argued that the law aims to curtail civil liberties and sets a dangerous precedent.

But Franks’ scenario goes much further. He is the first high-ranking official to openly speculate that the Constitution could be scrapped in favor of a military form of government.


Franks ended his interview with a less-than-optimistic note. “It’s not in the history of civilization for peace ever to reign. Never has in the history of man. ... I doubt that we’ll ever have a time when the world will actually be at peace.”

Franks is one of those good-ole boy Generals who hated Wesley Clark. Clearly, it was because Clark reads something other than comic books.

Saturday, November 15, 2003


I can't really expand on anything Mark Kleiman says here about the new "Perot-crazy" unpatriotic meme that the Republicans are busily spreading about Wesley Clark. He pretty much clears up the lies and the willful misunderstandings of Clark's words about al Qaeda and Iraq. (It is indisputably true that they pulled specialized troops from Afghanistan to run Dick and Don's Excellent Adventure.)

I will, however, address the image with which they are trying to stick Clark and whether I think it will work.

I said below in the comments of the previous post about General Shelton that I believe that this was to be expected. The only thing you can really smear Clark with is his military service since he was such a straight arrow personally.

But, it is difficult to come down too hard on his military career without indicting the entire military establishment and the civilian leadership he served under. Those glowing performance reviews are going to be hard to refute without asking everybody up the the entire chain of command, including Colin Powell, why they consistently promoted this incompetent nutcase. The military is one institution that people would like to believe functions as a meritocracy -- in fact, it is the one institution that people would like to believe in, period. It's playing with fire to come down too hard on its processes.

So, they will try to caricature him and the Perot image is probably the best they can come up with. Pro-military, technocrat, eagle scout type. But, here's the thing. Perot acted crazy on television. Lots of people liked his brand of craziness, but it was craziness nonetheless. He was wildly entertaining. But, he wasn't presidential. And when that became clear to most people it ruined his chances to actually win the election.

Clark appears steady, calm and reasonable. He doesn't look or act crazy. His supporters aren't crazy. He isn't a "character." They'll have to provoke him into completely losing it on national television to make people believe he's nuts.

These kind of character smears only work if there is something about them that people can sense might be true. You could believe that Bill Clinton was a womanizer and a bit of a 60's hedonist because there was something undeniably sexual and hedonistic about the guy. Many didn't judge him harshly for those things, but it wasn't hard to believe that he was that way.

Gore could be painted as a petty liar and slightly deranged because his speaking style was stiff and formal and ripe for the kind of derision that a shallow, celebrity obsessed culture loves to pile on poor suckers who have the misfortune to be uncool. Geeks are cool only in big cities. Everywhere else, they are just wierdos who need to be stuffed in a locker.

McGovern was easily portrayed as a peacenik not because of his own record, which was that of a war hero and moderate. It wasn't even because of his stand on the war because most people agreed with him by 1972. It was because of his youthful supporters, who scared the straights by giving the impression that they were about to take over the Democratic party (which they did, eventually, and then cut their hair and joined the DLC.) People didn't mind McGovern so much or love Nixon so much, but they looked at the television and had no problem believing that he was, in fact, the candidate of "acid, amnesty and abortion."

Gray Davis was blamed for a crisis that didn't even exist merely because his personal style was so bland that in an era of phony heroic masculinity, they were able to sell dullness as incompetence.

I'm sure that there is an effective way to smear Clark and I imagine that Rove and company will turn over every rock to find it. But, one of the reasons I think he might have a chance to beat Bush (a difficult task for any Democrat, I fear) is that his strengths track nicely with the current zeitgest, making it more difficult to negatively caricature him than the others.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

General Shillton

Steve Gilliard talks about General Hugh Shelton campaigning for John Edwards:

That's the real news. I would bet you could count on one hand the number of Dems Hugh Shelton has voted for. He can't stand Clark, but I get the feeling a lot of military people are going to turn against Bush. The thing about Clark is simple: there are those who think he's a liar and untrustworthy, others think he's the brightest soldier they've ever met. Shelton is of the camp who considers him the Courtney Massengale of his generation. That's a name which comes from Anton Meyer's Once an Eagle, about two officers who rise to general from WW I to Vietnam. One, Sam Damon, is beloved by his men, the other Massengale, is seen as willing to do anything to get ahead. To earn that sobriquete is a short hand verdict on your character and it's a bad one.

But I'm stunned that Shelton would jump into Democratic politics at all. That's a bad sign for Bush.

Maybe I'm cynical, but to me it's obvious that Shelton's "jumping into" Democratic politics isn't bad for Bush, it's on behalf of Bush.

Shelton knows that Edwards is highly unlikely to win the nomination. It's a move to stop Clark in South Carolina where he probably needs to win outright. And regardless of whether he succeeds in helping to tank Clark, once the Democratic nominee (who isn't Edwards) becomes known, Shelton says that he simply cannot vote for someone who believes in XYZ and he has decided, after all, to vote for Bush.

Nice 'n tidy.

As for whether Clark's the Courtney Massengale of his generation, it seems to depend upon who you talk to. I have no doubt that he was highly ambitious. Most generals are, including Shelton. And I would expect that only movie stars and politicians can compete with the higher reaches of the military for sheer volume of ego per square inch. To get 4 stars probably means leaving a certain amount of carnage in your wake and a long line of fans and enemies.

This is one of those issues for which there will never be an objective consensus of opinion amongst his fellow generals. Too much psychology, competition and subjectivity is involved. The officer corps of the military can sometimes more resemble a bunch of hissing junior high school girls angling for a slot on the cheerleading squad than a group of heroic, granite jawed warriors. Backstabbing and bitchiness, as well as long term strategic alliances and friendships, are part of the game, so you can only draw so many conclusions from the opinions of peers in this highly competitive club. At the end of the day, the only thing you can really say is that it's extremely difficult for anyone to reach that pinnacle and leave it at that.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Radio Days

Seeing the Forest has a superb post up about the Wurlitzer and AM radio's influence, specifically on the California recall debacle. Read the whole thing:

I listened to the panel and couldn't get over the feeling that all these smart people were missing what to me is the most obvious component. I think that we can't ignore that when you turn on AM radio you hear nonstop ridicule of Democrats and praise for Republicans. There's just no way around this. This is what radio IS now, and this has to have an effect, not just in California, but nationwide. (I'm using AM radio as my example, but the fact is that the right dominates every communications channel.) Before the California election every AM station I tuned into was promiting Arnold all day, every day, nonstop. I mean national as well as local talk shows. Sean Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck, etc. All of them, all the time. They were talking about how the Democrats had caused all the problems in the state, and how "we" all want Arnold to get rid of Davis and "fix" the state. All day, every day.

I have a little bit of a marketing background, but I don't think you need to be a professional to know that marketing has an impact on people. It's pretty basic that repetition drives a message into people's consciousness. And what is going on around us, on the radio, on TV, in the newspapers, and from the Right's politicians is repetition. Coordinated repetition of strategic messages.

In most parts of the country there is NO OTHER SOURCE OF INFORMATION. The public is saturated with right-wing messaging from radio, Fox News, and right-wing local newspapers. People like you and me don't tend to listen to these right-wing talk shows, but I think we should. I think we need to understand the extent of right-wing domination, we need to experience it, and it would benefit our understanding of America to know what they are saying, every day. I listen when I'm driving somewhere -- usually turning it off in disgust after a few minutes of lies -- but I try to listen in several times a week.

Oh, Gawd. If I do that, my road rage level goes up about 100 points. I worry about public safety.

But, he's right.

I don't think anyone can overstate how important the Wurlitzer is to GOP success, and I would suggest that AM radio is the real driver. Even here in Los Angeles, one of the most left-wing, 5th column, commie, big cities in the country, it's all there is on talk stations.

So, I listen to NPR (when it's not doing a play or a music show during drive time) which is like still lukewarm water compared to the boiling oil of AM talk. You hear the Democratic point of view, but you also hear the Republican point of view, usually in a constrained, civil exchange in which each person is allowed to fully expound on the issue at hand. It's an excellent way to educate yourself about issues, but anybody who says that it serves as a counter to the screaming GOP advocacy of the Rush Limbaughs is full of shit.

Sometimes I listen to Pacifica which, with the exception of Democracy Now, is almost entirely devoted to cultural programs and is actively hostile to the Democratic Party about 90% of the time.

So, I listen to music most of the time in the car. Considering how much time I spend reading and following the news, it's actually a nice respite for me. But, as Dave points out, many people get most of their information from these bozos or at least become comfortable with the hyperbolic hostility expressed toward the Democratic party and those who make up the Democratic coalition. They begin to think that this is normal and reflects the thinking of the average person.

The toxic waste of right wing hate radio is seeping into the collective unconscious of the entire country. It's a big problem for us and we'd better figure out what to do about it.

Why You Shouldn't Vote For A Callow, Empty-Headed Bimbo, Part XXIV

Constrained within a strong foreign-policy-making apparatus, such as that of the previous President Bush, theory-makers can be highly valuable. People like Wolfowitz are assets when it comes to challenging the assumptions of pre-existing policies, bringing ambitious ideas into a debate, and articulating basic principles. Kirkpatrick, Richard Pipes, and others were useful in exactly this way under President Reagan. Under Reagan, the more ambitious fantasies of the neoconservatives were effectively checked by George Shultz and other practically minded policymakers.

Under the current Bush, however, the check was blank—Powell was beaten down while Condi Rice and Dick Cheney somehow went AWOL. The result was that a few charismatic, outside-the-box thinkers were able to bamboozle the president into mistaking their roll of the dice for a mature judgment. No wise old head (where was Brent Scowcroft when we needed him?) took the president aside to explain that winning a debate in the Cabinet room isn't the same thing as having a sensible policy. (Bush's tax cuts are another example of a similar phenomenon, driven by a different set of ideologues: the supply-siders.)

I guess it's ridiculous to think that the President of the United States shouldn't, you know, actually need to be taken aside and told this. (I'm beginning to think that the GOP was so scarred by Nixon that they made a secret vow to only elect idiots to the presidency from then on.)

If this is the new standard then I don't see why we should even pretend anymore that the president is anything but a spokesmodel. I'm now officially backing the Brad Pitt/Halle Berry ticket. At least we won't have to look at the ugly faces of a bunch of pasty middle aged white men all the time.

As for who is actually making policy --- I don't think that's anybody's business, do you? Don't worry your little heads about it. Just listen to the pretty people make pretty speeches and shop, shop shop. God bless America.

Slap Happy Cyborg

It looks like Schwarzenegger is following the Bush playbook to the letter. Keep everything hidden and secret as much as possible and when you fuck up, which you will do often because you are arrogant, stupid and aggressive about everything, metaphorically hold your critics' heads in the toilet and flush. In other words, Arnold, treat everyone who disagrees with you the way you treat women.

Here's Arnold's latest idiocy --- and I'm not talking about hiring that political hack and intellectual fraud Stephen Moore.

SACRAMENTO — The dispute was hardly dead, but the charges that Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger abused more than a dozen women over the past three decades had receded from the headlines. Attention was pivoting to the upcoming inauguration. Schwarzenegger was making news by filling out his Cabinet and appointing senior staff. No new accusations had surfaced since his election victory on Oct. 7.

Yet in the span of an afternoon on Thursday, the focus lurched from Schwarzenegger's methodical efforts to build a government to the uncomfortable question that had dominated the final days of the recall campaign: his treatment of women.

At a news conference about an unrelated lawsuit, Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer took a question about the groping allegations. He largely repeated a point he had made during the campaign: that the accusations were troubling and should be investigated. He said he had told Schwarzenegger as much during a private meeting the day before. It might have ended there.

But Schwarzenegger's transition team quickly arranged a conference call with reporters, where a spokesman aggressively rebuked Lockyer.

During the call, Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman also disclosed that the governor-elect would hire a private investigator to examine the allegations.

The thinking behind both statements was "surprising," Walt Stone, chairman of the political science department at UC Davis, said Friday. "It surprised me that they reacted at all."

Stone said, "The flow of news was away from this, and the emphasis was on the establishment of the new administration. What this does is bring it back."

But, you've got to love this right back in your face Rovian response. It's just classic:

GOP political strategist Dan Schnur said he saw "two silver linings" in Schwarzenegger's reaction to Lockyer.

"It sends a strong message to everyone in the Capitol about how seriously the new governor takes the confidentiality of private conversations. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Lockyer are both smart enough politicians to put this behind them in pretty short order. But the first time a legislator thinks about going public with the details of a private conversation, they'll remember how hard a slap Lockyer took."

Damn right.

The Terminator "slapped" the attorney general "hard" and everybody had better watch what they say from now on. Dick "Chainsaw" Cheney couldn't have put it any better. You boys ever heard of a little gal named Valerie Plame???

Sadly, this will probably work. The women are being crybabies, the attorney general is being partisan and Governor-elect Schwarzenegger is one badass mofo (who happens to use make-up, botox treatments and liposuction.)

But then we are now asked to believe that Ronald Reagan was the second coming of Alexander the Great and Jesus Christ, so what do I know?

Update: Julia hilariously parses the entire article. Arnold finds out it's haaard to be the governor-elect.

That's What I Want

The man from Tennessee, South Knox Bubba, explains the new world of unlimited campaign fundraising:

Howard Dean rejects public campaign financing.

Instead, he's counting on PayPal and encouraging supporters to shave their heads and hang out at airports begging for donations. He's also hoping Confederate-flag-waving pickup-truck-driving trailer-trash Republicans will see the error and futility of their ways and forego one Wrestling Megamania Death Match pay-per-view and send him the money instead so they can get health insurance for the seven or eight naked little rug rat bastards playing with empty beer cans and Tampaxes in the dirt out by the lawn jockey next to the trailer stoop. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Meanwhile, Bush is having serious fundraising problems. Numerous limousines have sustained damage ranging from ruptured tires to broken axles under the weight of bags of cash collected at $100,000 per-plate bar-b-cue events. Campaign officials are also concerned that there aren't enough banks to spread the deposits around to keep their accounts under the FDIC $100K insurance limit. A White House spokesperson said "It's just another example of Bush economic policies putting people like limousine axle repairmen back to work."

I plan on setting up a stand on the median at Pacific Coast Highway and Sepulveda and selling oranges and bags of peanuts for Clark at rush hour. It's the least I can do. I think we can all come up with some novel ways to help out our candidates, or the Democratic party for that matter, if we just put our minds to it.

On a serious note, I think it's absolutely a-ok to forego the funds if you can raise more than you'd lose by doing it. In Dean's case, it's probably going to benefit him most in the primaries where a large field is scrambling for money. But, let's not ever delude ourselves into thinking that we can compete with the Republican machine on fundraising or even come close. Bush's ability to raise cash is the one thing he does exceptionally well and it is the single biggest advantage he has. And, it's a huge, huge advantage.

It's also true, however, that if the money advantage were the only thing that mattered in presidential elections, Democrats would never win.

Girls Don't Know Nothin' Bout Birthin' Babies

TBOGG kindly links to the bright and shiny new anti-choice law and notes a particularly wierd passage:

`(c)(1) The father, if married to the mother at the time she receives a partial-birth abortion procedure, and if the mother has not attained the age of 18 years at the time of the abortion, the maternal grandparents of the fetus, may in a civil action obtain appropriate relief, unless the pregnancy resulted from the plaintiff's criminal conduct or the plaintiff consented to the abortion.

TBOGG points out:

… the maternal parents or the husband may sue the doctor for damages, not the wife. Thanks to an alert reader who pointed that out. Nonetheless, I still find it amazing that the legislators think less of the psychological damage of the mother than they do of the psychological damage of the sperm provider who made his contribution weeks or months before.

Well, at least a husband can't sue if he gave his permission. (All you girls say, "thank you, Daddy.")

So, it's only if his wife gave permission for the procedure, which she must have done, and he would rather she had died or ruined her chances for another child than have it, that he gets to sue the doctor. This must be what "respecting the sanctity of marriage" is all about. Husbands suing their wives' doctors for doing procedures their wives want. It's quite beautiful, really.

It's interesting that this law ignores the woman involved pretty much across the board. She, apparently, is some infantile pet who cannot be held responsible for what they claim is a brutal, inhumane act, despite the fact that she must have given her permission to do it. The doctor alone is responsible. And then, after the fact, her parents or her husband are given standing to sue the doctor who performed this act with her consent.

Poor, stupid women. They don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a good thing President George W. Bush and Denny Hastert and Rick Santorum are there to protect them from themselves.

Someday the purveyors of “the culture of life” are going to have to face the fact that they are morally incoherent when they fail to hold women responsible for committing an act they call murder. And, when that happens the law is going to have to decide whether it is reasonable to hold a woman liable for murdering something that is literally part of her own body.

The only way they can make these criminal abortion laws work is to completely strip women from the equation, as if they are children who can’t be expected to know right from wrong. If women were held criminally and civilly liable for an abortion, the law would have to recognize a pregnant woman as some kind of lesser citizen whose bodily integrity is subject to the state. Not that there isn't precedent for such a thing. Ye Olde Constitution itself proclaimed that African slaves could be counted as 3/5th of a human being for electoral purposes, so I suppose it wouldn't be too hard for someone to argue that a woman is only 1/2 of a full citizen when she carries a fetus inside of her. Should be an interesting legal argument and we can be sure that our favorite justice Nino would find comfort in the fact that the original intent of the framers was for women and slaves to be counted as less than full citizens in numerous ways.

And then there's the little problem that the vast, vast majority of the citizens of this country would never stand for women being jailed for having an abortion.

This is why you cannot take these pro-life people seriously. Their rigid morality, even on this, their most passionately held belief, is quite flexible when it suits them.

slightly edited for spelling, clarity and snarkiness.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Cheap Cannon Fodder For Phony Preppie Chickenhawks

Don’t you feel all warm inside at how the Republicans are supporting the troops? It’s nice to know that they put the highest priority on the men in uniform and their loved ones:

From the Center For American Progress:

DOD - FLYING THE FRIENDLY SKIES: Responding to a request for an inquiry by Sen. Norm Coleman, the GAO released a report yesterday that revealing that "military and civilian defense officials improperly used government credit cards to buy 68,000 first-class or business-class airline seats when they were supposed to fly coach."

The tickets cost the government in excess of $124 million over two years. The GAO reported that John Stenbit, the Assistant Secretary of Defense purchased 17 first class tickets for $68,000, citing an unspecified medical condition. Jack Dyer Crouch, another Assistant Secretary, took 15 luxury trips costing $70,000, justifying the expense by saying he needed to be ready for meetings upon arrival. The Pentagon has convened a task force to investigate.

The Army took Spc. Christopher Cohn of Urbana to Iraq, but it wouldn't pay to bring him all the way home.

Cohn returned home from Tikrit, Iraq, last week for a two-week rest and recuperation leave, but federal funds flew him and other soldiers only as far as Baltimore, Atlanta or Dallas. The connecting flight home was on the soldier's dime.

Cohn, 21, said his $170 flight from Baltimore to Columbus was a bargain and he would have paid much more.

"It could've been $1,000 and I'd have paid it," said Cohn, a mechanic and wrecker operator with the Springfield-based 656th Transportation Company.

To help soldiers combat such travel expenses, frequent fliers are being asked to donate their miles to "Operation Hero Miles." The program, begun by Maryland Democratic U.S. Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, provides round-trip fares on Delta, Southwest and Alaska airlines. The Web site, www.heromiles.org, has collected more than 7.8 million miles.

Congress recently approved an $87 billion Iraqi supplemental funding bill, which includes $55 million to pay for the travel expenses of soldiers returning to their hometowns. However, the funds will not be available for several weeks.

55 million to pay for Americans who are getting their asses shot off and 124 million for a bunch of bureaucrats to upgrade to first class to make their big fat asses more comfortable.

This is an excellent use of taxpayer money during a time of war and deficits. Some people are just going to have to sacrifice and we’re proud to say that the troops and their families are once more at the front of the line while Rummy’s pasty faced paper pushers are kept in the lap of luxury.

And, then there's this:

FORT WORTH, Texas - With hostilities in Iraq (news - web sites) continuing as Veterans Day approaches, government leaders must remember their promises to help those who have fought and are fighting for this country, Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, said Saturday.

Edwards, delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address, said trillion-dollar tax cuts benefiting the wealthy are hindering government support for military families and veterans. He criticized House Republicans' March vote to cut veterans' health care services by $28 billion over 10 years.

What message does it send to our veterans when the (Bush) administration says American taxpayers can afford to build new hospitals in Iraq, but we cannot afford to keep open veterans hospitals here at home?" Edwards said.

Six Veterans Affairs hospitals nationwide are being considered for closure in a proposed $4.6 billion restructuring plan. A decision is expected by year's end.

The administration has said it wants to cut costs at outdated or underused medical centers and offer improved care, notably in the South and West, where growing numbers of the nation's 6.9 million veterans live.

Meanwhile, Edwards said, 60,000 veterans are waiting six months or more for an appointment at a VA hospital.

Democrats have proposed increasing funding for VA hospitals, expanding access to health care for the National Guard and Reserves and improving care for injured soldiers who return from Iraq, Edwards said.

Democrats have opposed the administration's proposals to impose new fees and co-payments on veterans seeking health care.

There are a lot of people who have become convinced that government programs mainly benefit lazy, big-city liberals and that cutting taxes for the wealthy will not touch them or the things they value. The military is something they value.

This is one way to illustrate the fact that when Republicans say they support the military, what they really mean is that they support bureaucrats, expensive weapons systems and big military contracts for their fat cat cronies, not the troops. And it's an opening to discuss Republican hypocrisy on the issue of "honor and integrity" and the values of patriotism and shared sacrifice in a time of war. A lot of Americans sincerely and deeply believe in those things and this administration has pulled a bait and switch the likes of which have never been seen before.

It's a wedge issue in the making and it's in our favor.

Terrorist Lapdancers

I missed this one last week.

LAS VEGAS – The FBI used the USA Patriot Act to obtain financial information about key figures in a political corruption probe centered on striptease club owner Michael Galardi, an agent said.

Investigators used a section of the Patriot Act to get subpoenas for financial documents, said Special Agent Jim Stern, a spokesman for the Las Vegas FBI office.

"It was used appropriately by the FBI and was clearly within the legal parameters of the statute," Stern said.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday that records were subpoenaed from Galardi, the owner of Jaguars in southern Nevada and Cheetah's in Las Vegas and San Diego; his lobbyist, former Clark County Commissioner Lance Malone; former Commissioner Erin Kenny; County Commission Chairwoman Mary Kincaid-Chauncey; former County Commission Chairman Dario Herrera; and Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald, who lost a re-election bid in June.

The Patriot Act, passed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was originally touted by the government as a tool to help federal law enforcers combat and prevent terrorism.

So, what's the problem? The Ashcroft justice department promised that they would never misuse these provisions and we must believe them or we too are terrorists and Saddamites. Therefore, strippers and nightclub owners must be engaging in terrorist activities and the PATRIOT Act is being rightfully invoked.

Just think of those poor FBI agents who had go back again and again and again to gather the evidence. The hardship. The sacrifice. President Bush himself has personally offered to don his flight suit and "go to San Diego," to support the troops. I hear he plans to ride down the "runway" on the back of a cheetah, singing "It's Raining Men."

Seriously, my friends, we are at war. We don't have time for any shilly shallying about civil rights and civil liberties. Bin Laden and Saddam are out to git us and we'd better git them first. We cannot let them infiltrate our most cherished institutions.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Kick Ass Haiku

And the winners of the DNC Kicking Ass haiku contest are:

1st place: Mark L.

I pledge allegiance
to the United States of
Halliburton, Inc.

2nd place: doogieh

What Roves the hallways
of the Bush America?
Some say it's treason.

3rd place: Wayne Canne

deficit rich guy tax breaks

4th place: doogieh

Please watch what you say.
Patriots don't criticize
The Republicans.

5th place: acallidryas

New attacks each day.
Over one hundred more dead.
Mission Accomplished?

6th place: Mark L.

No child left behind,
Clean skies, healthy forests and
Iraq. Pants on fire!

7th place (tie): Rumblelizard

There should be limits
To freedom, he said. And now,
We see he meant it.

7th place (tie): Shant Mesrobian

Screwed the country bad
Two thousand four awaits him
He'll go just like Dad.

9th place (tie): Irfo

Preppy cheerleader
Pretends to be working man
But nothing's working.

9th place (tie): Debbs

Watch fat cats choke down
$2,000 hot dogs.
Hand me a pretzel.

Special Honorable Mention: Hollywood Liberal

Thank you DNC...
Can't stop thinking Bush haiku.
Now look what you've done!

Dereliction of Duty

Sisyphus Shrugged has the goods on this strange story of the Green Beret who's been accused of cowardice:

I'm much too angry to talk about this yet, so

I'm going to let Siegfried Sassoon do it for me.

For those of you who aren't familiar with him, Sassoon was a poet and a british soldier in World War 1 who was not executed for his anti-war statements (although the army did consider it) because he was a decorated hero with a reputation for being almost suicidally eager to kill the enemy after his brother was killed at Gallipoli.


So we're OK with putting soldiers on trial for their lives in the dark because they sought treatment they're entitled to under military law, but they're willing to be flexible if anyone should, you know, hear about it.

Way to model your basic military virtues for the soldiers, kids.

Anyway, here's what Siegfried Sassoon had to say about - erm - a not entirely dissimilar war*

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation. I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed. On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the contrivance of agonies which they do not, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize".

and this is what he had to say about Staff Sergeant Georg-Andreas Pogany and his fellow sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (who include a majority of the homeless men in the United States)

No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're 'longing to go out again,' -
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died, -
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.

Support our troops. Refuse them medical care and then shoot them.

There's a metaphor for you.

This is one of the wierdest stories to come out of the war so far. The charge is highly unusual in the first place, but it turns out that the Army doc on the scene said the guy just had a case of PTSD and needed a couple of days rest. Apparently, he had a bad reaction to seeing a body cut in half for the first time.

They've dropped the cowardice charges but he's going to be charged with dereliction of duty.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The Reagan Cult

It may be apocryphal, but the bin Laden family's good friend and everybody's favorite Leninist right wingnut, Grover Norquist, is reported to have said back in the 1980's:

"We must establish a Brezhnev Doctrine for conservative gains. The Brezhnev Doctrine states that once a country becomes communist it can never change. Conservatives must establish their own doctrine and declare their victories permanent…A revolution is not successful unless it succeeds in preserving itself…(W)e want to remove liberal personnel from the political process. Then we want to capture those positions of power and influence for conservatives. Stalin taught the importance of this principle."

I think he's been damned successful so far. You can't fault the guy for thinking small.

Inspired as he is by all things totalitarian, Norquist went on to do a number of things that Uncle Joe would be proud of, one of which was The Legacy Project.

Here's what Mother Jones had to say about it:

Win one for the Gipper? Hell, try winning 3,067 for the Gipper. That's the goal of a group of a powerful group of Ronald Reagan fans who aim to see their hero's name displayed on at least one public landmark in every county in the United States.

A conservative pipe dream? The intrepid members of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project don't think so. Launched in 1997 as a unit of hard-line antitax lobby Americans for Tax Reform, the project's board of advisers reads like a who's who of conservatives; it includes, among others, staunch GOP activist Grover Norquist, supply-sider Jack Kemp, and Eagle Forum chief Phyllis Schlafly. To this crew, the Great Communicator is the man who almost singlehandedly saved us from the Evil Soviet Empire, made Americans proud again, and put the nation on the road to prosperity through tax cuts that helped the poor by helping the rich help themselves.

Buoyed by an early success in having Washington National Airport renamed in Reagan's honor in 1998, the project started thinking big. In short order, they convinced Florida legislators to rename a state turnpike. From there, it was a logical step to the push for a Reagan memorial just about everywhere. "We want to create a tangible legacy so that 30 or 40 years from now, someone who may never have heard of Reagan will be forced to ask himself, 'Who was this man to have so many things named after him?'" explains 29-year-old lobbyist Michael Kamburowski, who recently stepped down as the Reagan Legacy Project's executive director.


...it was the Gipper's ho-hum performance in a 1996 survey of historians that apparently triggered the right's recent zeal to enthrone him in the public eye. It was in that year that presidential historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., in The New York Times Magazine, asked 30 academic colleagues and a pair of politicians to rank all US presidents, and when conservatives saw their undisputed hero languishing in the "average" column, they were aghast. Appearing on the heels of Clinton's landslide victory over Bob Dole, the Schlesinger article seemed a slap in the face, a challenge to the GOP to stake its claim on recent history.

The charge was led by the Heritage Foundation -- a conservative think tank that helped devise the Republican Contract with America. In the March 1997 issue of the foundation's magazine Policy Review, the editors charged that Schlesinger's survey was stacked with liberals and New Deal sympathizers, and presented opinions from authors more appreciative of the Gipper. (The 40th president has always fared better with the general public than with the pointyheads: In a recent Gallup poll, respondents rated Ronald Reagan as the greatest American president, beating out second-place John F. Kennedy and third-place Abraham Lincoln.)

Two issues later, for its 20th anniversary, Policy Review ran a followup cover story: "Reagan Betrayed: Are Conservatives Fumbling His Legacy?" For its centerpiece, the magazine invited soul-searching by prominent Reagan acolytes including senators Phil Gramm and Trent Lott, representatives Christopher Cox, and Dick Armey, then-Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, Gary Bauer, and Grover Norquist. Soon after the cover story appeared, Norquist launched the Reagan Legacy Project as an offshoot of Americans for Tax Reform, which he had founded a decade earlier to further Reagan's fiscal policies.

And tonight, Grover won the very first Ronald Reagan Award. from the Frontiers of Freedom Foundation. Check out the sponsors, a veritable who's who of GOP luminaries.

How sweet it must have been for these lovers of freedom to be able to celebrate successfully repressing a "docu-drama" about their Dear Leader without even having seen it. After all, "a revolution is not successful unless it succeeds in preserving itself."

I have no doubt that they all stood up at the gala tonight and proudly proclaimed "Thank You Comrade, Norquist!"

And Now For Something Completely Different

A rousing essay on pornography by Steve Gilliard. If I'm not mistaken, Steve is a heterosexual.

Not that there's... no I won't go there.

Very Gracious

He is a fine fellow, which I always knew and always said.

I too apologize if I offended anyone in my zeal to make my point. I used the phrase "waving the flag on the stump" and was rightly accused of demagoguery by a couple of people I respect. I truly didn't mean to say that Dean himself was doing this, but was responding to some of his supporters who seemed to feel that he should even more actively use the symbol. I succumbed to my love of hyperbolic imagery in a situation where it wasn't appropriate and failed to make it clear where I was deriving that particular concept from.

I suspect that Howard Dean and I have a lot in common, personality-wise.

Now let's put all this nonsense behind us and figure out how to get those redneck crackers to vote for us!

I'm kidding...I'm kidding...

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Final Word

I promise

From The Temple of Democracy, which with the SPLC, are the best online resources out there when it comes to the "southern heritage" movement and racial politics in America.

What Howard Dean doesn't understand.

It is not a new observation that the racial division between white and black working people in the former Confederate states has worked against them and enabled various elites to dominate both of them. Hinton Helper realized that the plantation system oppressed white non-elites before the Civil War. One of the fears of the plantation class before the Civil War was that blacks and whites would work together. You can read about this in "Towards a Patriarchal Republic: The Secession of Georgia," by Michael P. Johnson.

There were attempts for black-white alliances during Reconstruction, in the 1890s with Populism, and Mahon in North Carolina, and other times in the history of the South, and this has been an ongoing hope continuing to this day. However, it has been defeated, again, and again, and again. The trump card that the elites have played over and over is white nationalism. The convincing of white working people, farmers, that their interest lies in a common white identity rather than the common economic interest they hold with African Americans in the South. You can't defeat white nationalism by giving into it. You can't appeal to it and expect to defeat it. You also can't expect to beat the established interests in using it. They can always beat your appeal to it. You can't build an alliance on top of it. The established interests will bust it up with a stronger appeal to white nationalism than you will be willing to make.

To have a movement of ordinary people, black and white, against established anti-democratic interests, you need to defeat white nationalism. FDR thought he could build a progressive future by side stepping the issues. We now witness a party with its strength centered in the former Confederate states demolishing FDRs legacy one step at a time.

Why Imminence Matters

Or, one of the reasons at least. This may be the one that hits home with the public.

Matt Yglesias

"...the reason the Clinton administration was so focused on keeping the body-count super-low is that they were primarily involved in humanitarian "wars of choice." The standard of sacrifice that it is appropriate to ask of the military in such a conflict is different from the appropriate standard when the United States is responding to aggression or even, I would say, responding to a clear and present danger. This, however, is why all the talk about Iraqi weapons and whether or not the threat was imminent matters. We're taking casualties in Iraq like it was necessary to fight this war, at this time, in this way, with these allies or else seriously imperil America's national security. But it wasn't necessary, even if it did help out the people of Iraq and remove a long-term irritant from our foreign policy, only to replace it with a much more severe short-term one.

Monday, November 03, 2003

New Life!

Congrats to Mr and Mrs Kos on the birth of their adorable Bundle 'o' Joy, Aristotle Alberto. He looks like he's got the Democratic mojo already.

Bad Politix

I’m going to take another wack at this because the comments section from my last one won’t contain my response.

Howard Dean says: “White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back ought to be voting with us and not them, because their kids don't have health insurance, either, and their kids need better schools, too."

They ought to be, but they aren’t. And, for a good number of them the reason is pretty obvious. As David Niewert says in this post :

Why would the Confederate flag be an issue in northwestern Washington? Because it is a symbol of white supremacism for people well outside the South as well. This is why phony arguments about its meaning are only cover for the stark reality that anyone -- particularly anyone of color -- who is confronted by the flag knows all too well: The Confederate flag is meant to intimidate -- to trumpet the values of white supremacy. The "heritage" which it harkens back to is mostly rife with the charred corpses of lynched innocents.

Ok. I know that Howard Dean wants no part of that. But, it is inescapable that the confederate battle flag is a potent symbol of race hatred for some people and that it’s obviously not a symbol that the Democratic party should use or accept. And, rejecting the flag does not translate to telling all southerners they are jerks. After all, forty-five percent of white southerners vote Democratic and reject the confederate flag.

Dave Johnson says in the comments to my previous post that when Dean uses this language he is talking about getting poor white guys to vote for the Democrats. Of course he is. But, he’s also the guy who’s very likely to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States and I expect that person not to be a putz and use symbols and images that speak to beliefs that are completely at odds with the central values the Democrats have held fast to through “3rd ways” and “center-left realignments” and elections won and lost for the last 40 years. The only Democrat I know who might use the battle flag is Zell Miller and even he didn’t back Dean up.

As Sara says in the same comments:

I Assume Dean has a good point here, which he argued well at an earlier date, namely that the Symbolic Politics of identity had not gotten anyone health insurance or any other benefit -- and it was time for the Democrats to address all that. If this is his idea about how to do such, well it's pretty weak. It may be Dean is trying to prove he is not "politically correct" or one of the other points of opposition to liberalism, but it is unlikely to get him all that many votes from Molly Ivins "Bubba" and "Bubette" -- and it is going to hurt him among those of use who expect clear argument, and not just symbol chasing.

And, I would add that if you are going to use symbols and images to convey your argument to the masses (which I think is absolutely necessary in the modern media age) then you should certainly eschew associating yourself with negative symbols that the other side has created to sow division between the very people you are trying to bring together.

As for separating himself from the ranks of the politically correct, Dean already is perfectly positioned to do that. His “Sistah Soljah moment” would be to make a pitch for gun rights in front of the New York or California Democratic Party Convention. The boos that ensue from that would warm the hearts of pick-up driving swing voters everywhere and it wouldn’t have to be done again on the backs of a historically shat upon minority group who has shown this party nothing but loyalty. They already did their bit with the original Sistah Soljah.

Anybody who’s been observing politics for a while knows that this issue of how to attract white southerners is a big conundrum for the Democrats (although Ruy Teixeira would argue that we really shouldn’t worry too much about it.) But, the enthusiastic embrace of the flag as an election ploy by some in the comments to my last post on this subject (not Dean himself, mind you) tells me that the Democrats may suffer from a serious misunderstanding of who we can and cannot draw to the Democratic party.

Some commenters seem to believe that the issue of racial equality is a loser for Democrats so we are simply moving to a class based argument, just like the Republicans have been agitating for, for years. Pmac says that “most blacks are capable of sufficiently complex thought that says it's more self-interested to be divided by class than by race,” to which I can only observe that Ward Connerly has apparently been magnificently successful in making inroads in the democratic party even as we've been remiss in getting through to the pick-up truck crowd. I wonder, though, how African Americans by and large feel about this.

I do think it's pretty obvious that we can’t get the racist dittohead vote unless we tell our black voters to go fuck themselves. It’s a (southern) strategy to be sure, but I don’t think it’s a particularly good one even if it weren’t morally reprehensible. The fact is that we need to have an enthusiastic 95% turn-out of African Americans to go with our 45% of whites in order to win in the south anywhere, something that didn’t happen in 2002 and is widely considered to have been a huge contributing factor in our squeaker of a loss in the midterms. So, this is something we should be very sensitive to in this closely divided electorate.

But, even if we were to tell the African American consituency to suck it up, I doubt that expressing a wish to get more “white folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back” will ever draw many converts from the ranks of the right wing unless we are also willing to toss gay rights and abortion and a whole lot of other civil rights issues that virtually define the Democratic party on to the bonfire, too. That's the problem with capitulating in culture war battles. You give them an inch and they take a mile.

There are, however, many hard working white guys all over the country who just don’t want to hear about the damn flag or much of anything else about the culture wars anymore, from either side. They are concerned about losing their good paying jobs and their freedom to own a gun and the national security of the United States. They listen to Rush on the road from time to time but they think he’s kind of a blowhard and they voted for Junior but he’s starting to make them feel nervous. They believe in God but they don’t make a fetish of religion and they are just as sick of hearing people argue about that as they are of the pissing and moaning about the flag. They get teary when they hear the national anthem and yes, they drive pick-up trucks. But, as Gephardt shrewdly noted, they don’t fly the confederate flag, they fly the American flag.

They vote Republican because they think Democrats are weak. It is a matter of temperament, not culture. A lot of them were in or around the military and are comfortable with blacks in positions of equality or authority, and they don‘t give a shit about “southern heritage” symbols if they are going to cause trouble. They are sick and tired of hearing about race because it never seems to go anywhere. They like problems to be solved, not chewed over.

These guys are reachable for us from a number of angles, but we sure won’t gain any points by waving around the confederate battle flag on the stump. It looks patently phony, particularly coming from a Vermont doctor who signed the only civil union law in the country, and these guys are very sensitive to phoniness. And they are sick of the argument. The way to appeal to them is by reframing the culture war issues, not by clumsily evoking the GOP’s favorite divisive symbols. It’s not our style and everybody knows it.

Bush doesn't care about working people and has fucked up the Iraq war. We care about the working man and we will fix the situation in Iraq and deal with terrorism like adults. That is what will get these guys.

One final bone to pick on this issue.

Dean’s comment is one of those “process comments” that should not be on the campaign trail in the first place. It’s like Bob Dole blurting out that he was endorsing Prop 209 in California because it was a “wedge issue,” or Bush saying “I‘m gonna tell the American people that the nation is more secure.” If Dean believes that the Democrats need to appeal to “white folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals in the back” then it is incumbent upon him to actually formulate a message that will do that. Merely expressing a desire to do it isn’t going to move the ball forward. Edwards has a great message on this, and I really hope that people are paying attention to what he's saying.

And, for what it’s worth, saying that my position on this is colored by my support for Clark is bullshit. I’ve been writing about the confederate flag and the southern heritage movement for a long time and my reaction has little to do with the primary battle. I would come down hard on Clark exactly the same way, for both moral and practical reasons. It’s bad politics, that’s all. This is not a realigning election and we will lose if we don't keep our base enthusiastically behind us and appeal to enough swing voters to keep the GOP from stealing it. Let's wait for a second term to start planning how to deprogram the dittoheads, ok?

I hope that Dean wises up and figures out what he really needs to do to win in the South. He's a smart guy and I'm confident that he can figure out some way to communicate without evoking divisive culture war images.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Freeing The Inner Incubus

Leah over at corrente points to one of those patented incoherent rants by everybody's favorite wing nut guest pundit, Cliff May.

In response to a Red Cross worker wondering why someone would attack the Red Cross he says:

What do the terrorists and their allies want? They want to get Iraq and its resources e.g. oil, weapons, cash, -- back into their sweaty hands so they can utilize them to further for their viciously destructive aims. They can accomplish that by killing as many all foreign infidels and their allies as possible, and by driving the rest out of Iraq.

That includes you, Ms. Doumani. You too, represent the hated Judeo-Christian West and it won't help for you to say you never eat at McDonald's and that you think George W. Bush is a unilateralist and uncultured cowboy. The fact is you're working for the Red Cross and people who remember the Crusades and the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols remember what that cross used to stand for.


The "terrorists" want to get Iraqi oil, cash and weapons back into their sweaty hands...

Well, the hell with that. Possession is 9/10th of the law. WE have the Iraqi oil, cash and weapons and we're not giving them back.

And, there's nothing in his piece to suggest that this worker said a word about McDonalds or cowboys. That image just seems to have appeared unbidden in his fevered little fantasy about nefarious Anti-American Red Cross workers with foreign sounding names. He just opened a little can of Bush Doctrine preemptive whoop-ass on her in case she might be thinking about maybe having a program or a desire to hate Happy Meals and cowpokes in the future.

And then he pretty much tells her that the "terrorists" attacked the Red Cross because of the crusades, and his tone suggests that he isn't convinced that actually isn't a pretty good reason to blow the shit out of them. Damn those anti-freedom fry, crusading blood hustlers anyway.

I gotcher Sackin' o' Baghdad for yah, right here.

I fear we are starting to see the re-emergence of that crazy ass, Linda-Blair's-head-spinning like-a-top thing that was so characteristic of even the more sober wingnuts during the Clinton years. Whenever things don't go their way they go all wild eyed and drooly start screeching like Joan Crawford in coat hanger factory.

Flagging Support

I know that Howard Dean isn't a racist, but I also know he isn't stupid so I'm having a hard time figuring out why he's said this confederate flag bit more than once. His vaunted campaign staff have let him down mightily if they didn't school him by now about what an offensive symbol the confederate flag is to the vast majority of Democratic voters and cautioned him to not say it anymore.

This will not do, and it's not just the flag thing, it's also that he accuses his rivals of employing the GOP politics of racial divisiveness by criticizing him. He really is the one in the wrong on this and he sounds like a Republican member of the judiciary committee himself when he throws a racism charge at the others in this situation:

a Dean spokesman called the criticism "a desperate political attack on the part of Governor Dean's opponents."

Spokesman Jay Carson said Dean was trying to explain that Democrats need to broaden their appeal to Southern men, who in recent years have voted Republican in growing numbers. Carson said Dean has been using the flag line since he started campaigning, and that his rivals misconstrued it as support for the Confederate banner.

Dean also released his own statement to clarify his comments.

"I want people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic," he said in the statement.

"We have working white families in the South voting for tax cuts for the richest one percent while their children remain with no health care," said Dean. "The dividing of working people by race has been a cornerstone of Republican politics for the last three decades. For my fellow Democratic opponents to sink to this level is really tragic. The only way we're going to beat George Bush is if Southern white working families and African-American working families come together under the Democratic tent, as they did under FDR."

I'm more pragmatic than I've ever been about presidential politics, and I know that he wasn't actually endorsing the confederate flag, but antipathy to this symbol is embedded in the DNA of African Americans since the civil war (and liberals everywhere at least since the civil rights movement) so I can't quite figure out why he would think it was ok to use it. Appealing to racist sympathy, which is what the confederate flag symbol is really all about, cannot coexist with the Democratic party of 2004. It's not the same as supporting the NRA or being for free trade or once voting Republican. The issue of civil rights is the moral center of our party. It's not negotiable.

Sure, we must try to boost our appeal in the South, but we must be very, very careful never to do it that way. It's not only wrong, it wouldn't work anyway. For every yahoo who wudda, cudda, shudda voted Democratic if we accept the symbol of their (racist) "heritage," there will be 5 southern African Americans who will just stay home. Even if it weren't abhorrant on a moral basis, for Democrats, southern racism is a zero sum game.

If Dean meant to say that the party must once again appeal to working class and rural white guys who drive pick-up trucks (which is what I assume he meant) there is absolutely no reason to evoke that stupid flag. How about saying "working men who drive pick-up trucks and watch football on Sunday?" Or, "guys who drive pick-ups and wish they drove Nascar?" There are many, many more southern white men who don't feel the need to put a confederate flag in their pick-up than there are southern white men who do. Those are the guys we want.

I don't want to make too much of this (although I admit that I would be very hard on any Republican who regularly opined that he wanted confederate flag wavers to vote for him) but Dean has to stop using this image or risk developing a serious perception problem --- not just for being dramatically insensitive to racist codes and symbols, but as a mulish, my-way-or-the-highway, know it all.

That's what Bush actually is, but Karl Rove has the sense to know that he can't get elected if people see him that way. Neither can Howard Dean. A little humility is called for on this one.

Poor Bastards

You might call it blank-slatism. Colonized or occupied countries become prey to the philosophical imaginings and unrealizable political wish-lists of the home countries. Privatizing everything is a pretty hard slog at home? Let’s do it in Iraq where we control the whole show. School choice? Hey, teachers unions are nowhere to be found in Iraq. Let’s try it there.

Yo, Tom Friedman. Is this what you had in mind for spreading freedom and democracy in the middle east --- fulfilling every wet dream of a bunch of ivory tower think tank extremists who can't persuade Americans to drink their kool-aid? If it is, looks like you're getting your wish.

Good luck to the poor Iraqi people. They have been released from the yoke of authoritarian tyranny only to be placed in a neocon petri dish to be probed, prodded and experimented upon by a bunch of failed and discredited Dr Frankensteins.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

A Friendly Reminder

...lest we forget what we're dealing with:

Bush came to office after the closest presidential election in American history in 2000, and he is taking no chances in his bid for re-election.

He has vacuumed up about $90 million in re-election funds and is well on his way to his stated goal of $170 million. The money can only be used for the primary season.

Faced with no GOP challengers, White House and re-election officials say they will use much of the money for an enormous get-out-the-vote effort - the kind that helped Republicans win important races last year and take control of the Senate.

The cash also prepares Bush for heavy television advertising, though the money must be spent by the Republican convention that begins in late August in New York. The money will help Bush court Hispanics, Roman Catholics, union members and women, White House officials say.

Do not underestimate how very, very desperate these people are to remove that asterisk nest to Junior's name in the history books. All presidents want a second term. But, this one never got a legitimate first one and they know it. They won't go down easily.

We have to be very, smart and very realistic.

Heartless and Mindless

So, tell me again who the enemy in this war is? Female Iraqi physicians who fall in love with American GI's? Got it.

TWO US soldiers who marched down the aisle with Iraqi brides are to face a court martial.

"They've been formally charged with disobeying an order - no fraternising with the Iraqi people," said Vicki McKee, mother of one of the soldiers.
Her son, Sergeant Sean Blackwell, 27, married a English-speaking Iraqi physician, 25, in August.

They exchanged vows during a double ceremony with Blackwell's friend Corporal Brett Dagen, 37, and another Iraqi doctor in her mid 20s.

Both women had been working with US troops.

"How could they go to Iraq and not be friendly and fraternise?" Mrs McKee told the New York Post.

Now back to our previously scheduled program from Atrios featuring a letter from an aide to Paul Bremer who apparently believes that all the Iraqi people lived in caves and never even saw daylight under Saddam until we came along and showed them that they could walk on sidewalks and drink coffee and play cards and live, you know, life.

You'd think they'd be grateful enough that they wouldn't let their little doctor hussies marry our boys, though. That's taking "living life" just a little bit too far.

There is a war going on, you know.

Oh wait...not that there's a war on...you know what I mean...it's a liberation. But, that doesn't mean people are free to just like, marry anybody they want...that's fraternizing in a war zone...

never mind

Manifest Self-Delusion

All the Friedmanesque nonsense about American exceptionalism makes me want to lose my lunch. Wilsonian internationalism, liberal or neoconservative, has always had a santimonious missionary tone about American superiority that automatically makes it suspect in my eyes --- particularly when it has so often been hypocritically employed to excuse our worst impulses.

Should we stop genocide and ethnic cleansing? Yes. Should we not support authoritarian dictators on behalf of greedy American busnessmen? Yes. Should we work within international institutions to create global consensus on civilized behavior? Of course. Should we lead by example? If only we would.

Should we invade foreign countries and forcefully impose American style democratic capitalism because it is the best of all possible worlds and nothing could be finer?

Emphatically, no.

Here's a bit from Tristero, who says it much more eloquently:

American values never had, and never will have, an "exceptional" role in the history of the world, any more than Islamic values did during the great conquests that constructed the Caliphate, any more than Roman values did under Caesar, Augustus, and the others, and so on. America's dominance of the world is a contingency of history, not proof of the rightness of our ideals. Sure, democracy is a lot better style of governance than a theocracy or a Roman Empire. But the US didn't invent democracy and was only one of several countries and cultures that helped spread it. And today, it is inarguable that other democratic countries have fairer election systems and that other democratic countries treat both their individual citizens and their businesses in many ways that even the most gung-ho America lover would envy. And it is arguable - indeed it is a very common argument - that American economic rule is any better than any other country's for the citizens of a third world country whose economy we dominate. The number of monstrous dictators this country has accommodated, and still does, is shocking.

Manifest Destiny and other ideas helped justify American expansionism. Today, it has resurfaced in debates about America's "exceptionalism" and as part of the "mission" of the neo cons. As I'll show in other posts, about Woodrow Wilson and others, it is also highly influential in one strain of American political liberalism. To say the least, in a world which has overwhelmingly rejected Bush's overt attempts to impose an American empire through military force -and which will certainly continue to resist such attempts in many different ways- America will need to drive a stake through its narcissistic fantasy that it is "special" and its values are, or should be, everyone's. Aside from the fact that it is patently ridiculous to believe America is exceptional, there lie monsters (example: the embarassing absence of the important nations of Europe from the Coalition of the Willing).

To recognize that the US is simply one more country that is sometimes great, sometimes mediocre, and sometimes horrible shouldn't diminish anyone's love of country. In my case, if anything, it increased it. Suddenly, the phony impression I had of a bromide, perfect America was replaced by wonderment at the sheer scale of this country's achievement, both for good and ill. Suddenly, America became real. Because "destiny" is bogus teleology. But America's interactions with its world and the challenges of doing that well while honoring America's boundaries are profoundly exciting.

Exactly. We Americans benefit hugely from the great riches and opportunity that this (mostly stolen) land gave a bunch of immigrants cast off from all over the planet, and there is much to be proud of in what we managed to achieve. But, it is completely absurd to look at this country and not be able to see that we are a long, long way from perfection and that there is much we can learn from others, from history and ourselves. We aren't exceptional and we don't have to be.

The line between good and evil is within each human being, they are not characteristics of nationality or tribe. We don't have a monopoly on either one and neither does anyone else.

Clark's Rx

Kevin Drum discusses Clark's views on Iraq and points to this post by Phil Carter in which he says that he's impressed with Clark's vision but sees a necessity for Clark to get specific on strategy and tactics, and frets that it will be extremely difficult for him to implement his vision in any case.

Kevin doesn't think specifics are necessary because he is more interested in the candidates' instincts and judgements, and I happen to think that fixing the problem will be surprisingly easier once Bush is defeated, particularly if the campaign has been waged in open opposition to the Bush Doctrine.

But if Carter wants some specifics, I've got his specifics for him, right here.

Clark appeared on the newshour last Thursday and discussed this and more at some length:

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's turn to Iraq. More attacks today. There have been horrific attacks this week. If you became president tomorrow, what would you do to restore some sort of security there?

WESLEY CLARK: Well, the first thing I would do is get the big picture right. And what you've got is a regional dynamic in which both Syria and Iran are working consciously against the United States in the region because they believe that this administration intends to handle them next.

So that a U.S. success, however it's defined in Iraq, means that then the United States is free to put more pressure on them. So they don't want us to have that success so the regional dynamic needs to be worked inside Iraq. We would go immediately back to Kofi Annan at the United Nations and say let's talk again about what the United Nations or an international organization could do. I would remove that occupying power, that authority there. I'd put it under the United Nations or an international organization. I would ask the Iraqi governing council to take more responsibility for governing Iraq.

One of the things we want to do is we want to avoid the emergence in Iraq of more intense sect feelings. You have the Kurds in the North. They're armed; they kept their army. They're very concerned if the Turks were to come in. They're prepared if anything should go wrong in the rest of Iraq, they're prepared to say, okay, we have got our independent Kurdistan. You have the Shia in the South. They've never gotten really organized and they're not... they have not been traditionally as radicalized as the Iranian Shia population has, but they're organizing. There's a 500,000 man army of god in Baghdad. There's others and there's jostling for position and there's been some assassinations and assassination attempts in there. If that goes the wrong way, we could have real violence in Iraq.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's go back to something you just said, though. Are you saying that the coalition authority that Paul Bremer heads now, you would transfer that authority to the U.N.?

WESLEY CLARK: Yes, I would.

MARGARET WARNER: Would you retain U.S. authority over the military aspect?

WESLEY CLARK: Yes, you must do that. The United Nations cannot do the military piece, but I believe that you can put the United Nations or you can form an international organization as we did in the case of Bosnia to do the political development and the economic development, and you can take Halliburton out of the expanded nation building role it has and let it do what it normally does which is provide some of the logistics back up for the American troops.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. But are you saying you would do this because you think then that would encourage foreign countries to send serious numbers of troops to help?

WESLEY CLARK: I think you do it for three reasons. First, because it takes the United States off the blame line in the eyes of the Iraqi people and especially in the Islamic world. So now it's not a U.S. occupation. It's a lot of the different nations who are simply there trying to help because remember it's not only the international authority but you make the Iraqi governing council immediately take more responsibility. Then number two, I think it improves your chance of getting more significant, more immediate grant economic assistance. Number three, I do think it makes it more likely you'll get more substantial numbers of foreign troops.

MARGARET WARNER: President Bush said in his press conference Tuesday, we're not leaving, quote unquote, until Iraq is stable. Are you suggesting that the U.S. would ever leave militarily before the situation was stable?

WESLEY CLARK: I think we have to be very careful about leaving. We don't want to leave prematurely. We don't want Iraq to fall apart, but there is a window in there in which we've got the optimum chance for stabilizing and after which if we don't handle things right, it could go downhill and be counterproductive for us.

MARGARET WARNER: So when you say, as you said in the debate Sunday night, you said you want the president... let me get the exact words...you're waiting for the president, to quote, have a strategy to get out. What is your strategy to get out?

WESLEY CLARK: Well, what I do is first of all I've just described it. I put the international authority in. I reduce the influence of the U.S. occupying authority. I put the Iraqi governing council more in charge. I work for the constitution of the Iraqis in the long term. I keep the U.S. in charge of the security situation. I build up the Iraqi security forces. And I would... I do it all the same way we did it, let's say, in the Balkans. We put out a matrix. You said here's your political. Here's your economic. Here's your military. Here's what you're going to do this month, that month, so forth. Here's where you want to be. Here's your objectives. Here's how much it's going to cost. Show it to the American people.

MARGARET WARNER: Here's what I'm trying to get at. Do you agree, for instance, with the Bush administration that until the Iraqis have a constitution and a government elected under that constitution that they can't run the show themselves?

WESLEY CLARK: No, I don't agree that they've got to have a constitution. I mean it took the United States of America seven years after its independence to get a constitution finished. I mean, we started with the Articles of Confederation. So they may work for a long time on a constitution. We don't want to be there running the show in Iraq for seven years.

There are a couple of interesting things in this. First, in the big picture, I think he has pinpointed one of the biggest mistakes of this war in his remarks about Iran and Syria.

The most obvious example of the immature intellectual psychology of the neocons was the absurd idea that the "shock and awe" of this invasion would force the other countries in the region to cower and capitulate for fear of being next. ( Indeed, their reliance on swaggering trash talk and threats reminds me of no one so much as Saddam himself.) This was always a case where leashing our power --- showing cool, controlled international leadership would have been far more effective in keeping terrorists and potential nuclear powers on their guard than impetuously unleashing it for spurious reasons and thereby proving for all to see that we are not the omnipotent colossos that our superpower status implied we were.

America looks much weaker, not stronger, in the eyes of our enemies than we did two years ago when we invaded Afghanistan.

Clark points out in the interview that in the case of Iran and Syria we made a grave error in how we dealt with them after we toppled Saddam. In the embarrassing high fiving euphoria of our preordained military victory (over a 4th rate dictatorship we'd systematically weakened for 12 years) we let the neocon hawks loose in the region to threaten Syria and Iran even more forcefully than we had before. In doing so, we've given them reason to become more aggressive in these early days than they otherwise might have. It was stupid and useless. Had we shut the likes of John Bolton's pie hole for him, we might have been able to keep the Syrians and the Iranians at least off balance and wondering. Instead, we threw down the gauntlet and gave them every reason to get involved from the get-go.

The other thing he said that intrigued me was this:

...you can take Halliburton out of the expanded nation building role it has and let it do what it normally does which is provide some of the logistics back up for the American troops.

What did he mean by that? Is this a reference to the military privatization issue or is there more to it? I think the Halliburton thing is a good campaign issue --- it's one of those one word symbols that, I think, can speak to the working class voters who might swing our way. (Edwards has some good rhetoric on this.) I'd be very interested in what specifically Clark was talking about because the idea of privatizing the military by giving billions to Halliburton cuts right into the patriotic, pro-military image of the GOP.

As for Clark's ability to implement his policy prescriptions, as I've said, I think it will be possible for anyone other than Bush to get more international cooperation (which Clark, of all those in the race, knows full well can be like herding cats) and I agree that it is the single most important key to getting the Iraq situation on track. As long as it's America vs Arabs, we are fucked.

Clark is very well equipped to deal with the challenges presented by a fractious international coalition. Indeed he may be the most qualified American in the country to do that as President and Commander in Chief of the military.