Time's Hugh Sidey gets the scoop from Bush 41:
Perhaps the toughest challenge for the former President is to stay silent as commentators traffic in the cliche that the coming confrontation with Saddam is the result of a Bush failing "to finish the job the last time," the son trying to avenge his father's loss of nerve ...
Hmmm. I seem to remember someone other than a "commentator," someone fairly important, trafficking in the "cliche" that those who failed to finish the job the last time might be overly eager to make up for their prior loss of nerve. .... Oh yes -- it was Bush 41's son, the current President Bush. Remember that endless WaPo Woodward and Balz series on Bush 43's decision-making in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 -- a period in which Bush decided to hold off on an Iraq attack? It contains this paragraph, describing Bush 43's thought process:
His other concern was one that he did not express to his war cabinet but that he said later was part of his own thinking. He knew that around the table were a number of advisers -- Powell, Cheney and Wolfowitz -- who had been with his father during the Gulf War deliberations. "And one of the things I wasn't going to allow to happen is, that we weren't going to let their previous experience in this theater dictate a rational course for the new war," the president said.
No wonder Bush might be "angry" with "jaw ... locked" these days, as Sidey reports. He's "more convinced" than ever "that Desert Storm was fought properly and ended properly," according to Time. Yet one of those who seems to buy into the argument that drives him up the wall -- the argument that some of his former advisers might be making up for his failure to oust Saddam -- is his own son, the President. The psychodrama deepens! Far from calming such talk, Sidey's little Web item should give it new life. Maybe 41 did indirectly put Scowcroft up to writing that op-ed after all. .... This possibility also takes away some credibility from both Scowcroft and James Baker, the Bush 41 advisers who have dissented on Iraq.: If they're, in part, serving Bush 41s personal defensiveness -- or their own -- maybe they aren't acting entirely as Wise Men. That's especially true if you, like me, think Bush 41 is defensive for good reason, in that he really did have a failure of nerve and military strategy at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. (Why call off the battle before those elite Republican Guard units could be beaten and demoralized?) ... 6:12 P.M.
Friday, September 6, 2002
Foolhunting -- 9/11XS Edition: I'm afraid this doesn't seem to be a joke (though you never know). ... Click on the link and wait until the ad for the "Twin Towers evening bag" pops up.... P.S.: Perhaps this product is so wildly cheesy and offensively inappropriate that it achieves a sort of sublime beauty, like "Piss Christ.". But I don't think so!. ... 5:36 P.M.
Thursday, September 5, 2002
Will Adam Nagourney Please Make Up His Mind:
Domestic Concerns Take Center Stage in Congress Races
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
With Focus Shifting to Iraq, Domestic Issues Fade
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
September 9, 2002:
Scratch That -- It's Domestic Issues All the Way Now, Really
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
Update: Reader D.T. says this is a "cheap shot" because, in between Nagourney's Sept. 1 story and his Sept 5. story, President Bush made it clear he'd ask Congress for authority to go to war against Iraq. But it was clear Iraq talk would play a role in the campaign when Nagourney wrote his first story -- he mentions it himself, and Wapo's Dan Balz wrote about the possibility that Iraq would :"ris[e] on the public agenda" back on August 19. Nagourney, who is paid to think at least a couple of days ahead, underestimated the impact of Iraq in the process of arriving at a clear, catchy thesis on Sept 1. (Balz's competing Sept. 1 thumbsucker, in contrast, was the less glamorous but more accurate "Elections Lack Clear Direction.") Then, playing catch-up and looking for another clear thesis, Nagourney almost certainly underestimated the continuing importance of domestic issues in his second piece. 10:24 P.M.
New York Times ... or The Onion? You Make the Call!
Study Finds Mothers Unaware Of Children's Sexual Activity
Sept. 4 — Half of all mothers of sexually active teenagers mistakenly believe that their children are still virgins, according to a report released here today by a team of researchers ...
Teenagers, meanwhile, are under illusions of their own: 45 percent of boys, and 30 percent of girls, whose mothers say they "strongly disapprove" of teenage sex did not describe their mothers' outlook on the subject accurately. ...
Next: A team of researchers discovers that when teenage women say they can't go on social outings because they are "busy," they often are not describing their schedules accurately: 45 percent are in fact not busy at all. ...("This explains a lot," said Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey. ....) 3:16 P.M.
Web Site of the Day: Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Warren Tolman, a Democrat, promises "a brand new Bob Reich Flip-Flop/Fib of the Day" every day between now and the Democratic primary. ... Let's see. There are 11 more days before that particular election. That means Tolman has to come up with 11 more Reich fibs... Sounds do-able! ...9:49 A.M.
Andrew Sullivan and his readers have broached the rich subject of Guilty Southern White Boys (NYT editor Howell Raines, columnist Tom Wicker, etc.) and their pernicious continuing influence on American politics. Sullivan sees them -- and they are a definite political/social type -- as hicks attempting to prove they are not bigots to Northern snobs. Virginia Postrel is righter, I think, when she says that GSWBs tend to think conservatives are evil and liberals are good because in the South, in the 50s and 60s, conservatives were evil and liberals were good. GSWBs also tend to look beyond formal equality (e.g. "color-blindness") to motivation because, in the South, in the 60s, ill motives tended to do their work through formally equal rules (e.g. literacy tests, rigged court systems) and the real question was "are you one of the good guys or one of the bad guys" (As is sometimes the case, Sullivan doesn't quite understand America yet.) . ... And then there is, of course, the guilt, which tends to elevate the importance of the race issue and militates against finding fault in the oppressed. Plus the self-congratulatory righteousness on having resisted temptation and joined the good guys. ...
I should add that GSWBs reflexively favor federal control over decentralized state control because, in the South in the 50s and 60s, the Feds were good and the states were evil. I have an old friend, a GSWB, who knows all about the perverse consequences of welfare and the problems of the underclass but couldn't bring himself to endorse the 1996 welfare reform because it involved replacing a federal program with state programs. (I'm not talking about NYT welfare reporter Jason DeParle, although he's a GSWB too.) ... Classic GSWB sentiment: Raines comment, in his 1994 mid-life-crisis book, on "President Reagan's success in making life harder for citizens who were not born rich, white, and healthy." Of all the ways, in 1994, to sum up the good and bad of the Reagan presidency! ... Classic GSWB self-congratulation that leads to crude paleoliberal politics: "My parents raised me to admire generosity and to feel pity." (Raines again.) ... .
Was Bill Clinton a GSWB? Good question. He had the Manichaeanism down, which is what enabled him, for example, to dehumanize the dead Koresh disciples at Waco. (I doubt he's seen Waco: Rules of Engagement and learned how many were black.) It also explains why he was reportedly shocked to discover there were non-racist opponents of affirmative action. And I never got the feeling he understood that it isn't illegal to be a racist. But in other respects -- i.e. his empathy for middle class opponents of traditional Democratic liberalism -- he clearly transcended the type. (Maybe that's why Raines hated him!) ... My greatest respect is reserved for pro-civil-rights Southerners, like Charles Peters of the Washington Monthly, who somehow never became GSWBs ... Update: Instapundit, who after all actually lives in the South, takes a statesmanlike middle position, and links to other GSWB comments. ...12:42 A.M.
Wednesday, September 4, 2002
Quote of the Day:
"As polls showed McCall pulling ahead, Hillary Clinton's leanings seemed to become apparent."
-- USAT's Richard Benedetto describing Senator Clinton's support for Carl McCall in the closing stages of the N.Y. Democratic Senate primary. 8:28 P.M.
More talent flees TAP: Laura Secor, The American Prospect's highly-regarded, recently-hired Acting Executive Editor, is already leaving (for Alex Star's new Boston Globe "Ideas" section). The New York Observer has the news. ... Assignment desk: Isn't it time someone from the established business press recognized TAP for what it is -- not a tired half-socialist publication but a pioneering example of post-90's capitalism? The magazine seemingly has no editors left at all, yet it keeps on cranking out its branded, saggy articles on poverty and the glory of public sector unions! It's a ghostly, perpetual motion machine, one that has somehow solved both the problem of productivity and the problem of extracting surplus value from labor in a single, brilliant organizational leap. .... Suggested title: "Downsizing Without Layoffs: The Management Secrets of Bob Kuttner." ....1:14 P.M.
More signs of reform: Josh Marshall saw it coming -- today the NYT bluntly admits its error on Kissinger. 1) This answers one of the remaining mysteries in the controversy, which was the question: "If Kissinger was so badly mischaracterized, why didn't he complain?" Looks like he may well have complained; 2) Where does the Times' confession leave its outright defenders, like Marshall and John ("The New York Times gets Kissinger's position right.") Judis? Presumably it leaves them claiming, as Marshall does, that the NYT simply "buckled" under pressure from a few neocon columnists. That's a more serious accusation against Howell Raines than anything Andrew Sullivan's come up with. ... If the all-powerful Krauthammer, Kristol, and Gigot could only get Saddam to collapse as fast as Raines, the case for war would be a lot stronger! ... 11:06 A.M.
Tuesday, September 3, 2002
Tomorrow's cheap lede today: Goodbye, Cuomo N.Y. dynasty. Hello, Clinton N.Y. dynasty ... Update: Richard Perez-Pena's take is actually much more satisfyingly counterintuitive: By dropping out, Cuomo was really screwing the man who beat him, Carl McCall. ..12:19 P.M.
Reform -- or vacation? Josh Marshall notes that the NYT seems to have relented on the Kissinger question -- i.e. whether he should be classified as a Bush dissenter or Bush supporter. ... Hmmm. A good front-page welfare story. A good front-page disability story. Fairer coverage of the Iraq debate. Evidence of reform on the Times' part is beginning to pile up. (Andrew Sullivan has noticed the change too.)... Two main theories seem plausible: 1) Someone important at the NYT has realized that the paper's marked, error-inducing politicization is rather quickly undermining its credibility and embarrassing it within the profession. Bill Keller's bold op-ed rebuke is the most obvious candidate for change-inducing agent here. 2) The NYT editors and reporters who are responsible for the paper's marked, error-inducing politicization have been on holiday, and the Times will revert to form when they return. ...Which theory is right? Only time will tell! ...12:34 A.M.
Monday, September 2, 2002
Rauch vs. Reich -- Don't Burn the Toast! Jonathan Rauch's Slate expose of Robert Reich's "memoir" has become an issue in Reich's campaign for Massachusetts governor. One of Reich's Democratic primary opponents, Warren Tolman, is running ads charging, accurately, that Reich was ''forced to rewrite his book after the media exposed numerous untruths." Reich has responded by accusing Tolman of ''gutter politics," adding ( according to the Boston Globe):
''I'm frankly surprised that he would stoop to this. ...This is the worst form of old-style dirty politics. Shame on him.''
I suppose Reich himself can't be fairly accused of actually believing that.... Probably the biggest objection to the former Labor secretary, among those who know him, isn't that he's not smart. (He's very smart.) It isn't that he's not a leader. (He's a born leader.) It isn't that he doesn't care. It's that he's a bull______r. How is it "gutter politics" for Tolman to bring up this most salient aspect of Reich's character? If Ken Lay ran for office, would it be "dirty politics" to bring up Enron?... According to the polls, Reich is in second place, but instead of being able to focus his attack on the candidate in first place, state treasurer Shannon O'Brien, he's coming under fire from the fast-rising #3 or #4 candidate, Tolman. This isn't a good position to be in, two weeks out... P.S.: Reich recently claimed credit as a Clinton-administration deficit-fighter, a boast that will cause peals of laughter in Washington. As Scott Lehigh points out (in a Globe op-ed piece you can read if, unlike me, you can somehow get past the paper's annoying registration form) Reich was actually on the opposite side of that intra-administration debate. ... P.P.S.: Here is a general overview of the race as it stands. ... Update: Here's a good link to Lehigh's op-ed. ... Here's a good, long piece on Tolman. ... 9:41 P.M.
Everybody Hates 'Homeland': Alert kf reader A.C. emails to claim, correctly, that Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist, made the basic arguments against the word "Homeland" on NPR's "Fresh Air" back in October, 2001, before either Peggy Noonan or kausfiles. ... At the end of a piece criticizing the song "America the Beautiful," Nunberg said:
Granted, we all love our purple mountains, not to mention the deserts, wetlands ... But it's reductive to make our landscape the focus of our national anthem. Any country can do that. The Swiss sing about the Alps going bright with splendor; the Czechs sing about water bubbling across the meadows and pinewoods rustling amongst the crags ...
Anthems like those are appropriate for nations that have no essential commitment to a particular form of government: landscapes don't have any politics, after all. But the American experiment was supposed to be different ...
There's a curious parallel between the swelling popularity of "America the Beautiful" and the Administration's choice of the phrase "homeland security" rather than "domestic security" ... It's easy to understand what they were getting at, given the shock of an attack on American soil. But even though "homeland" is a perfectly good English word, up to now we've never used it to describe our own country. It has an alien sound, like the German word Heimat ... it's the word we use for peoples who feel an ancestral connection to a particular plot of ground. Whereas the idea of America isn't that it's a place that people come from but a place that they come to. The Germans and Palestinians and Kurds and Ukrainians have homelands; we just have a nation and a flag.
Well, and tactfully, put! ... But the NYT, in its recent piece, still should have mentioned Noonan's opposition, at least on the Scowcroft-Bites-Man principle (that prominent Bush-affiliated dissenters from Bush policies are more newsworthy than the usual dissenters). ... 2:46 P.M.
Here's another argument against the current employer-based health care system, one even Republicans should appreciate: When laid-off veteran workers with chronic bad backs or stress problems can't find new jobs -- because potential employers, understandably, don't want to foot the bill for their health care -- they go on Social Security disability and become dependent on the state. ... Louis Uchitelle's excellent article really belongs where it's been put -- on Page A1. Column 6. This isn't one of those Robert Pear slow-weekend sneak jobs. Whichever NYT editors are now on vacation should stay on vacation! ... Uchitelle's piece is also a warning to Tipper Gore types about the potential costs of mental health "parity," since many of the new disability claims involve vague hard-to-disprove claims of stress and depression. ... 1:48 P.M.
Sunday, September 1, 2002
Retiring GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey is experiencing "strange new respect," the well-documented phenomenon in which the press detects growth, statesmanship and character in formerly-vilified Republicans who take stands Democrats agree with. Armey opposes invading Iraq, and gets a nice farewell interview with Jake Tapper in the Times magazine. ... 9:35 A.M.
Saturday, August 31, 2002
If the phrase "homeland security" fails to be the best match for the country's mood or memory, the president can always change it.
1) Unfortunately, the NYT joining the cause is unlikely to win over many Bushies, who loathe the Times. 2) A better tack, suggested by Becker's reporting is this: It's a Clinton-era phrase. Bush can blame him. 3) Shouldn't Peggy Noonan get some credit for being the first, as far as I know, to dis "homeland" in public? 4) Note again that even the "good," patriotic meaning of "homeland" -- "your roots, the region where you grew up, your identity, where you belong" -- is a bad and un-American meaning. We're a country of people who abandoned their regions and roots and even identities because they rightly recognized that other things (e.g. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) are more important (a point Noonan made in a second anti-Heimat column). Outside the U.S., too, geography-based identity politics -- of which Islamic fundamentalism is one conspicuous example -- is not something to be celebrated or encouraged. ... [Do you think it's an accident that two NYT pieces you like -- Becker's and Kaufman's (see below) -- appear on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, in one of the least-read papers of the year? It's all part of the conspiracy, don't you see?--ed. You're beginning to sound like an obsessive crank. Think positive!] 10:15 P.M.
Kaufman vs. Bernstein: It's a blowout! The NYT gives front-page play to an excellent Leslie Kaufman story on how the predictions from the left that welfare caseloads would soar once the economy went sour are proving wrong. The long-anticipated welfare increase
has not happened in New York City, which has the largest number of public assistance cases of any city in the nation. Nor has it happened in many other large urban areas.
Although unemployment in New York City has risen more than 20 percent from its low in March and the numbers of families calling themselves homeless have jumped to record levels, the number of people who get public assistance has tumbled to 418,277, down 9.5 percent since the start of the year.
But wasn't it only seven-and-a-half months ago that the NYT ran a piece, co-authored by Raymond Hernandez and the wildly-biased Nina Bernstein, under the headline
Welfare Rolls Grew in City Late Last Year
It was! On January 17, 2002, Hernandez and Bernstein wrote that
For the first time in six years, New York City's welfare rolls began to rise by several thousand people in the late fall, adding to growing concerns among government officials nationwide that the country's revamped welfare system may be caught short in the recession.
What's more, in their second graf, Hernandez and Bernstein cited a "new study [that] projects that unemployment could drive the number of public assistance recipients up 14 percent by next fall." The "shift has been abrupt," they declared, suggesting that New York might be one of the states running out of federal welfare money due to "surging caseloads."
In New York City alone, today's report projects, the caseload can be expected to rise by 66,000 by September, reaching 530,000 and leaving the current budget for grants short by $40 million.
It's not September yet, but the actual, real figure certainly looks like it will be closer to the 418,000 in Kaufman's story.
Nor was this just an earnest bit of reporting by Hernandez and Bernstein that proved to be misguided. It was something worse than that. Even at the time, back in January, a close reading of Hernandez and Bernstein's article (by, for example, their editors) would have indicated it was bogus. Their lede was based on a mild welfare increase "of 5,000, or about 1 percent, in October and November, to 469,000." But, buried skillfully in the seventh paragraph, was the news that
the caseload increases in October and November were followed by a drop to 462,595 in December.
In other words, the caseloads rose by 5,000 over two months, then they dropped by 6,400. The NYT billed this as "Welfare Rolls Grew"! After all, they grew for two months! The "shift" was "abrupt"! ...
P.S.: Kaufman's story, cleaning up the Hernandez/Bernstein mess, gives fair play to the claim, by the left, that the rolls are so low because New York is discouraging those who really can't find jobs from applying. But it might also be that welfare reform has changed the expectations of single mothers at the low-end of the labor market, so that now when they lose a job the first thing they do is go out and get a new one (since they know the welfare office is just going to make them look for work anyway, and they only have so many years of federal welfare benefits to draw on). And because the recession has hit low-end jobs in New York (and some other cities) less severely than it's hit better-paid jobs, it's still possible for many potential welfare recipients to find work. P.P.S.: Isn't it also possible that at least some quondam welfare recipients, who went to work in the late 90s, now qualify for unemployment compensation, and thus don't need welfare? ... Caveat: I'm assuming that Kaufman's numbers, showing a continuing national welfare decline, include recipients who have been transferred to various special state-funded welfare programs that states have created as a "safety net" for those who don't qualify for the main federal welfare program.. If not, all bets are off. ... 12:23 P.M.
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Sustainable hackery: Paul Krugman's most recent column ends with this paragraph:
A final thought: Wouldn't it be nice if just once, on some issue, the Bush administration came up with a plan that didn't involve weakened environmental protection, financial breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations and reduced public oversight?
What about EPA administrator Christie Whitman's decision to go ahead and get pollutants out of diesel fuel and engines, which most of the oil industry lobbied against? Is Whitman somehow not part of the "Bush administration"? ... P.S.: When President Clinton's EPA first approved those diesel rules in the closing days of his administration, the NYT ran the story as its front page lead. (""In terms of the environment,it just doesn't get any bigger than these smudge pots on wheels," was the unnamed-EPA-official's quote in the third paragraph.) But when Bush resisted explicit industry lobbying and affirmed the rules -- he could have rescinded them, since they hadn't taken effect when he took office -- the NYT ran the story on page A-19. ... P.P.S.: Bush ultimately approved the full-strength anti-arsenic rules also. ... P.P.S.: Whitman also ordered General Electric to spend $480 million to clean toxins from the Hudson. ... P.P.P.S.: Does Krugman make any effort these days to get a full picture? ... Update: Some readers suggest that Bush shouldn't get credit for plans the Clinton EPA "came up with" and that Bush only affirmed -- even though in the case of diesel fuel Bush was the one who took the brunt of the oil lobbyists' heat (Clinton conveniently having waited until the 2000 election was over and he had a few weeks left in office). But if you want a plan the Bushies "came up with," there's his "Blue Skies" plan to require a two-thirds cut in most power plant emissions. You can say this plan doesn't go far enough -- it cuts sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury, but not carbon dioxide -- but it's hard to argue, as Krugman does, that it means "weakened environmental protection." ... Link: For a clear-headed and highly-readable discussion of how Bush's enivronmental record has been unfairly portrayed by, yes, the media, see Gregg Easterbrook's "Everything You Know About the Bush Environmental Record is Wrong." ... 12:59 A.M.
Media Whores Online denies, somewhat unconvincingly, that it has become responsible. (MWO claims: "[I]n this issue, we count 22 instances of namecalling ...") ... 12:13 A.M.
Links Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes "Tilting at Windmills" Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. The Liberal Death Star--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh --Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman -- Always annoying, occasionally right. Joe Conason -- Bush-bashing, free most days. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]