Is there something the F.B.I. isn't telling us about those San Diego hijackers?

Is there something the F.B.I. isn't telling us about those San Diego hijackers?

Is there something the F.B.I. isn't telling us about those San Diego hijackers?

A mostly political Weblog.
Oct. 5 2002 4:29 AM

Two (2) Non-Krugman Items!

Is there something the F.B.I. isn't telling us about those San Diego hijackers?

Let me get this straight: Two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alzhami -- known to the C.I.A. as potential trouble since at least January, 2000 -- come to the enroll in flight schools and settle in San Diego, where they rent rooms from a man who happens to be an F.B.I. informant. What are the odds of that just happening? ... Maybe the Muslim community in San Diego is small, and there are only so many landlords -- but you can see why Congressional investigators might be suspicious. ... Newsweek, when it broke the story a few weeks ago, reported that a "senior law enforcement official" said that "the informant never provided the bureau with the names of his two houseguests from Saudi Arabia." But it also says the informant was a "'tested' undercover 'asset' who had been working closely with the FBI office in San Diego on terrorism cases related to Hamas." ... One suspects there is a layer of intrigue and incompetence here that we're not being told about -- for example, did the F.B.I. actually know the two men were up to no good and engage in some fatefully-hamhanded attempt to string them along or protect them in exchange for other information? Stranger (or as strange) things have happened. ... 1:34 A.M.

Welfare bill non-dead: A bill "reauthorizing" the expiring 1996 welfare reform law -- often included on lists of legislation that will not get finished in the end-of-session-Iraq-debate crunch -- may still pass. Active negotiations are now underway in the Senate over a three-year extension of the 1996 reform (instead of the five-year extensions previously contemplated)..The stripped-down three-year bill would presumably give Republicans and Democrats a bit of what each wants (e.g. money for day care as well as for "marriage promotion"). ... The deal could still easily fall through, which would most likely result in a simple one year extension of current law that kicks the issue over until the next Congress.  But those on the left in this debate have good reasons to want a bill now:

1) Antipoverty advocates and Democrats want more money for day care (and to preserve funding levels for welfare generally) and they're worried there won't be any money left next year, when the bill for pre-election spending comes in;

2) They have to at least worry that the Republicans might regain the Senate and widen their margin in the House (even if the opposite might well happen);

3) About a half-dozen Democratic Congresspersons in close races are on the record with a potentially damaging vote against reform. They might like to have a reform bill they could go on record as voting for;

4) Daschle's Senate, where the bill has been languishing, can rightly be attacked as having been dilatory, and the up-for-reelection chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus of Montana, can fairly be charged with writing a loophole-ridden bill.


Why would the Bush White House want to cut a deal? That's harder to figure out -- Republicans may see an opportunity to fix work "participation" requirements that have dwindled to nonexistence because states get to count people who've left welfare (about half the caseload) as if they were working. They also want funding for their precious "marriage" initiative (a vague PR effort that hardly seems worth giving up ground on the work issue for). …The key, as always in welfare reform, is what happens to the nasty little fine print clauses the left tends to write into the law to weaken reform -- new "anti-displacement" restrictions on when "workfare" workers can do jobs regular workers might conceivably be hired to do, new procedural hurdles that make it difficult to end payments to recipients who refuse to work, loopholes that allow states to return to the bad old days of counting often-useless training and education as if it were actual work. Such provisions are actually in the bill passed by Baucus' Senate Finance Committee Democrats. ... 11:12 P.M.


Saturday, October 5 , 2002  

Good David Carr NYT piece on Paul Krugman's latest journalistic triumph, for which he graciously (for him) accepted responsibility  here.... Could Carr's article -- which is refreshingly, even eagerly, tough on Krugman -- reflect a new, harder line by the NYT in insisting on accountability from its op-ed columnists? And could this new, harder line have anything to do with ... oh, the possibility that one Steven J. Hatfill will file a whopping-great libel suit against the Times and Times columnist Nicholas Kristof? Or was NYT editorial page editor Gail Collins simply tired of being embarrassed by the columnists on the pages that are allegedly under her control? Note the somewhat tutorial-like tone of her comments:

Gail Collins, the editorial page editor of The Times, described Mr. Krugman's comments as a retraction last night and said, "One of the important things about being a good reporter or columnist is to acknowledge when you failed to connect a dot, and I think that's what Paul is saying."

And I think we've learned something today, Paul, haven't we! ... So when, in this new regime, will Krugman acknowledge in the NYT the failed dot-connecting  -- which he backhandedly admits on his Web site-- in his July 16 column  about George Bush and the Texas Rangers? Isn't part of being a good columnist acknowledging your mistakes in the same place where you publish them? .... [Why so hard on P.K.? The same thing could happen to you--ed. True. I'm not a good reporter -- it's a skill, which Krugman does not apparently have either. But even my pathetic B.S. detector tends to start vibrating at the words "freelancer" and "Salon."] P.S.: Here is the now- admittedly defective Krugman column. Note that the "unsubstantiated" bit of evidence Krugman didn't "press" his source on is the main attraction in his lead paragraph. ... P.P.S.:   Here is the letters page from MediaNews with two letters from Jason Leopold, the writer whose now-unpostedSalon piece started this controversy, giving his version of the events. ... 12:44 A.M.


Friday, October 4 , 2002  

WaPo acknowledgeswhat Krugman won't about the Bush tax cuts:

Indeed, given the twin shocks of 9/11 and the post-Enron stock market decline, the short-term stimulus created by the tax cuts has turned out to be fortuitously well timed. 

11:56 P.M.

Justice Greenhouse writes:

"The worst that can happen is that their guy has to run in a competitive election," Professor Hasen said of the New Jersey Republicans.


Uh, no. The worse that can happen for New Jersey Republicans is that a pro-GOP intervention into the Torricelli ballot dispute by the U.S. Supreme Court triggers a voter backlash nationwide and energizes Democrats with memories of Bush v. Gore, costing the GOP control of both the House and the Senate. (It's risky interevening before the election's been held!) ... I tend to think the MinuteMan Plan  is the course of wisdom for the national GOP, and even for New Jersey GOP candidate Forrester. ... 5:31 P.M.

The anti-"Homeland" movement gathers momentum: More support from the right. ...9:36 A.M.

I've now read three reasonably funny things on Scrappleface in a row. Book him!...[Link via Instapundit] 8:57 A.M.

One question I've always had about Paul Krugman's writings on the threat of deflation is this: Assume he's right and that the U.S. is in danger of going into a Japan-like vicious circle of falling prices and falling spending and investment. Assume we should throw everything we've got at the problem now to prevent this from happening. Assume that this includes using monetary policy -- lowering interest rates as much as possible (which isn't much). Why doesn't it also include fiscal policy -- deficit spending?


Until this week, as far as I remember, Krugman hasn't really emphasized the spending side, and I daresay the reason is obvious -- if fiscal stimulus is a good thing at the moment, that means Bush's tax cuts, at least in the short term, were a good thing for the overall economy, and Krugman can't quite bring himself to admit this. ... In today's column, Krugman does acknowledge that we need a "plan for fiscal stimulus." But he still can't admit that the fiscal stimulus we've had, in the form of the Bush tax cut, was a step in the right direction, if an insufficient step, in the short run. (I'm not questioning here Krugman's argument against Bush's long-term tax cuts and the likelihood of long-term deficits, though I question it here.) Krugman's particularly slippery when he asks "why not have another rebate" without acknowledging the desirability of the rebate we already had. ...

And, if Krugman's argument for short-term fiscal stimulus is right, how can he then ridicule Bush for the sudden disappearance of the surplus -- not in the long term, but also in the short term, as in the following paragraph  from his Web site:

But how did things get so bad, so quickly? This year's deficit will be around $165 billion - a non-Social-Security deficit of more than $320 billion. So we're $400 billion down from the surplus just two years ago.

Didn't Krugman want the small surpluses to quickly turn into deficits -- isn't that what fiscal stimulus is? If the deflation threat is so real, and the greater risk is not doing enough, wouldn't even a bigger deficit this year be just what the doctor ordered?


P.S.: Yes, the Bush tax cuts are "back-loaded," with the biggest impact coming in a few years. But the short term stimulative effect of the cuts was not insignificant. Krugman and Jeff Madrick, whose Thursday column  Krugman cites, argue that we need $100 billion more in stimulus. But by Krugman's own estimate, the Bush tax cuts have already provided $60 billion in stimulus. Maybe that's not enough -- but it's not chopped liver.

And while most of the long-term Bush cuts go to the rich, the cuts so far have not been that skewed. Karen Kornbluh writes, in The Washington Monthly:

Little noted in discussions of the Bush tax cut were the provisions that reduce taxes for lower, and middle-income families with children--the refundable child tax credit, the expanded child and dependent care tax credit, and marriage penalty relief. These provisions will be partially phased in before the 2004 election, unlike most of the far larger cuts for wealthy Americans.

P.P.S. At least Krugman's ally  Madrick   is man enough to acknowledge that

War spending plus tax cuts arranged when the economy was prospering have turned out to be timely.

Of course, Madrick says the "president stumbled inadvertently" into these "stimulative policies" -- Bush can't actually have done something right intentionally! Never mind that Bush explicitly cast both long-term and short term tax relief as an anti-recession remedy, as in this March 28. 2001 New York Times report:

"We need an immediate stimulus for our economy," Mr. Bush said, referring to some of the ideas gathering force in the Senate without throwing his explicit support behind any single measure. [Emphasis added.]

Nor is it clear that the cuts were arranged "when the economy was prospering." In 2001, it's true, Democrats (myself included) were accusing Bush of overstating the problems of the U.S. economy in order to justify tax cuts as a remedy. But now Krugman and Madrick are in effect saying Bush was right about the economy's precarious state.. ... Not that they'd ever put it that way.

P.P.P.S.: I'm pretending I haven't read Andrew Sullivan's blog, which makes many of these same points today.

Backfill: Further study, which involved reading every Krugman column with the words "deficit," "Bush" and "stimulate" in it for the past year, has uncovered a column a year ago  that does focus on the need for fiscal stimulus. But even there Krugman does somersaults to avoid satying that the short-term part of the Bush tax was a good thing because it helped provide such stimulus. ... 1:31 A.M..


Thursday, October 3 , 2002  

Funny, he doesn't look Blueish ... well, actually, he does!  ... P.S.: What color is the Green Party candidate? ... P.P.S.: Asked and  answered. ...   3:18 P.M.


Wednesday, October 2, 2002  

And another thing: From WaPo --

Forrester attorney Peter Sheridan said there was no basis for waiving the 51-day requirement in the law. "Just because a Democrat falters, that doesn't give a right to the court to rewrite four or five sections of the law," he said.

In response, a somewhat baffled Verniero, recalling Forrester's repeated demands that Torricelli step down after being "severely admonished" by the Senate ethics committee, asked Sheridan: "Didn't Mr. Forrester call for Mr. Torricelli to withdraw? Was he expecting to run unopposed?"

Huh? That's how op-ed writers reason. It's not how judges are supposed to reason. Verniero should be ashamed ... Plus if Torricelli had actually withdrawn when Forrester called for him to do so, he'd have beaten the statutory 51-day deadline and avoided this mess.  [But I thought you liked a "last minute switcheroo" system.--ed  I do.Some state should try it! But in New Jersey the elected legislature pretty clearly set the cutoff date at 51-days out. I'm not saying the legislature always wins -- some voting laws need to be overturned in the name of constitutional rights. (New York's absurdly restrictive ballot access rules are Exhibit A --they systematically make running for office virtually impossible for non-machine candidates.) But I don't see how the New Jersey court justifies simply ignoring this clear statutory deadline, which was a reasonable attempt to balance all the same factors the court balanced -- and maybe even a few more. Why even bother to write a statute?] ... Maybe if we could somehow get the New Jersey court to rule on the New York ballot laws .... 11:52 P.M.

This is really a bit much:

[T]hey tried to take away our rights, to smother our choice at the voting booth."

       -- This week's N.J. Democratic senatorial candidate,  Frank Lautenberg, after the state Supreme Court had bent the law to allow him to enter the race after the statutory deadline.

11:40 P.M.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey has now ruled in favor of Democrats  who want to substitute Lautenberg for Torricelli after the seemingly-clear 51-day statutory deadline -- Statutes? Bah! -- and both Volokh and Reynolds  have the same reaction I do, namely to wonder if we missed the class in law school where they taught about the "interest of the election laws to preserve the two-party system." Volokh charges  that they'd never do the same for the Socialist Party candidate -- but it looks as if the justices are pleading guilty to that charge from the outset. The decision also results in a typical all-cases-must-now-be-decided-by-us-judges Florida-style muddle, Volokh points out. ... I would add that the court doesn't appear to have made any effort to discern a statutory scheme here. The operative rule seems to be: "We're going to do what we think is right unless there's an incredibly clear black-letter statute saying we can't. And then we can always declare it unconstitutional." Does the elected legislature have any role to play here at all? (It's ironic that the court pays such attention to finding what it thinks is the most democratic way to pick a lawmaker, even as it brushes aside the actual work-product of those democratically-elected lawmakers, namely statutes.) ...5:10 P.M.

The trouble with "competitiveness": A kf reader previously noted that the right to "a competitive race," seemingly advocated for New Jersey by the NYT, could be handy in an attack on gerrymandered Congressional districts across the country. Instapundit (via Power Lines) links to an extremely good interview  with political scientist Daniel Polsby on the subject. ... But Polsby also points out why "competitiveness" isn't the right touchstone here: We don't want "competitiveness" in every district. We want "compactness." If voters in City X are all Democrats, let them have a lopsided election in which the Republican candidate is doomed. We wouldn't want to artificially draw salamander-like boundaries just to manufacture a close race. But by the same token, we don't want to artificially draw salamander-like boundaries to manufacture a not-close race either (i.e. gerrymandering). We want actual geographic communities to vote the way they want -- and if that produces competition, fine. If not, fine. But it will produce a whole lot more competition than we have today, when gerrymanders predominate and only 40 out of 435 seats are in any doubt. ... The state of New Jersey is already as compact as the state of New Jersey can get, so the Torricelli case is different from the typical gerrymandering case. ...Yes, the assumption here is that voters should be grouped into geographic communities of interest, as opposed to other, more virtual, communities. Maybe one day Americans won't get most of their contacts and concerns from their meat-space neighbors, but for now, the geographic assumption seems solid. It's also the assumption built into our Constitution. ... P.S.: Note that the geographic assumption also reinforces social equality, to at least some extent, by lumping various geographically-close classes of people together. I don't think we'd want to divide into virtual "districts" by, say, income level or occupation or education level even if that were a more "accurate" grouping of interests. ... 4:21 P.M.

Several e-mailers have argued that last-minute Lautenberg-style substitutions, as endorsed below, replace the democratic choice of party primary voters with the hand-picked selection of back-room party bosses. But that's short-term thinking! Once the last-minute switcheroo became an accepted political maneuver, it wouldn't be hard to make the selection of possible substitutes more a more democratic process than the one currently on exhibit in New Jersey. Primary voters could also choose the back-up candidates, for example, or rank them in a preferential order that was then tabulated to provide a roster of potential replacements. (Often the current "winner" of a primary has only 30 percent of the vote anyway.) ... The resulting system might even have some of the virtues of Instant Runoff Voting, the system used in Ireland and Australia that takes into account voters' second choices. ... I admit I haven't thought through all the potential implications. (Take it away, Rick Hertzberg!) ... P.S.: See how much fun  it could be! ...3:44 P.M.

There's a whole lotta Torchblogging going on, especially on the legal issues surrounding the Democrats' attempt to replace Sen. Torricelli on the New Jersey ballot. I can't keep up with it all, but Instapundit has a separate page with many of the links. ... 3:22 P.M.

Second thoughts about nuclear war: Prof. Eugene Volokh and Prof. Glenn Reynolds  both argue that my reading of the New Jersey "nuclear weapon" statute is wrong -- and that it doesn't allow New Jersey's Democratic governor to postpone the coming election if Senator Torricelli resigns less than 30 days before Election Day. Wednesday's New York Times, on the other hand, assumes that postponement is a live possibility  -- one that, in the manner of nuclear weapons, will intimidate the Republicans into allowing Sen. Torricelli to be replaced on the November ballot by ex-Sen. Lautenberg. .... So whom are you going to believe, Volokh and Reynolds or the New York Times? ... Wait, don't answer that! ....

Actually, I now see the professors' point -- the statute was probably written to cover the situation in which a Senator dies or quits two years into his six year term,. If this happens 30 days before an election, then it's too late to elect his successor at that election. The statute maybe wasn't designed to cover the situation of a Senator who resigns 30 days before his seat is about to be filled at the normal end-of-term election. As kf reader P.Y. notes,if you read the statute to apply in that case it would allow the absurd situation in which Torricelli (hypothetically) lost in the Democratic primary, yet by resigning on October 25th he could enable the postponement of an election in which he's not even on the ballot and would be replaced anyway. Actually, allowing the postponement of an election in which Torricelli is on the ballot is an absurd enough result. ...

My simple response to these arguments is that if New Jersey wanted to avoid these absurd results they could have written a statute that doesn't, by its plain language, call for them. It's not as if it would have been hard to do. Even Volokh acknowledges the obvious plain-language reading of the statute, calling it "one possible grounds for disagreement." I'll say! ...

Actually, if I were a Republican leader and New Jersey Democrats threatened to use this statute to postpone the election, I wouldn't be intimidated. I'd say, "Go ahead. Make our day!" The more you think about it, if the Democrats call off the election just because they're about to lose it, the public backlash will be hellacious. And it won't necessarily be confined to New Jersey. Already, the Torricelli battle is occupying some of the national non-Iraq media space Democrats were hoping would be spent broadcasting bad economic news. Even without a manipulative postponement, a long, drawn-out Florida-esque court fight threatens to partially nationalize the 2002 election on terms highly unflattering to the Democrats -- "Hi! We're the party of Bob Torricelli and New Jersey Sleaze!" A high-handed, undemocratic cancellation of the election by Gov. McGreevey would magnify this possibility by a factor of about fifty.

On the other hand, I'm growing more sympathetic to the Democrats' non-nuclear alternative of substituting Lautenberg for Torricelli on this November's ballot. Critics argue that this precedent, if followed everywhere, would result in a situation in which faltering candidates were routinely replaced in the final days of a campaign, throwing elections into a tizzy and rendering useless all the campaign strategy and advertising their opponents have designed for use against them. ...

And you have a problem with that?

Consider the virtues of this new last-minute-substitution system: The voters would be more likely to get the two most appealing candidates, not the "two evils" they now commonly pick the lesser of. More choices! Better choices! Meanwhile, the wishes of primary voters would still be respected (their nominee would get a fair shot -- only if he were so far behind that he himself quit, Torricelli-style, would he be replaced). Elections would be far more exciting -- they'd be like the final lap of a stock car race in which new entrants were allowed to zoom onto the track! Voters would pay attention. And, yes, all the carefully calibrated strategies designed to defeat a particular opponent would be useless -- candidates wouldn't know whom their ultimate opponents would be. They might have to resort to the last-ditch, common-denominator strategy of actually stating their own positions and arguing for them! ... It all sounds do-able and desirable, a form of democracy better suited to our fast-paced electronic age (with its ability to quickly process new information) than the cumbersome system of permanent party nominees, designed as it was for the horse-and-buggy, pen and ink era in which information took weeks and months to spread out to the hinterlands. ... Bring it on! ...

In October of 1988, I actually wrote a Newsweek article urging the failing Michael Dukakis to quit the Democratic ticket and let his far-more-electable running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, carry the Democratic banner against George Bush I on Election Day. (The piece went completely unnoticed, if I remember.)  It's hard for me to reconcile that 1988 impulse with opposition to the Democrats' attempt to substitute a more electable candidate for Senator Torricelli ... except that New Jersey law seemingly prohibits it. But aside from that ...

P.S. : So you thought kf was crude to suggest, below, that the NYT 's editorial writers wanted to "override" N.J. laws in order to pursue their idea of "competitive" elections? Well, kf reader T.H. actually e-mailed a letter to "Mr. Sulzberger" at the Times objecting to their editorial on similar grounds. He got this generous-yet-revealing response:

Dear [T.H.],
    Thank you for your message about today's editorial on the New Jersey senate race.
    In championing the cause of a competitive election, we do not mean to suggest the law is unimportant. Our view, however, is that there are competing principles here, and that the importance of giving New Jersey voters a choice on election day should prevail over the legal issues associated with ballot access. Were the circumstances reversed, and it was the Republican candidate who had dropped out of the race, I can assure you we would have taken precisely the same position that we did this morning.
    Philip Taubman

12:33 A.M.


Tuesday, October 1, 2002  

Heads We Win, Tails We Postpone: Dave Kopel has a useful post on New Jersey election law, which makes it pretty clear that the NYT's David Kocieniewski was wrong to buy the Democrats' line that "New Jersey election law allows political parties to change candidates 51 days or more before the election, but the law is unclear about making a switch after that point." [Emphasis added.]

The law in question says "not later than the 51st day before the general election," which seems pretty damn clear to me. (Yes, a crazy, tortured alternative reading is possible -- it would restrict the statute to pre-51 day vacancies and leave later vacancies subject to other laws and statutes. It's crazy and tortured because the statute is clearly intended to regulate ballot changes by setting 51 days as the yes/no dividing line.)

But I agree with Counterspin Central that Kopel is whistling past the graveyard when he breezily asserts that the Dems nuclear weapon in the Torricelli ballot dispute -- the "Heads We Win, Tails We Postpone" scenario in which Torricelli steps down in late October and New Jersey's Democratic governor appoints a replacement and simply calls off the election -- is unconstitutional. The N.J. statute Kopel cites seemingly allows just this possibility -- but Kopel says, with wild overconfidence, that it would be struck down because:

The U.S. Constitution specifies that Senate terms last for six years; the term of the New Jersey seat in the U.S. Senate currently held by Torricelli expires in January 2003.

Huh? There are at least a couple of seemingly powerful arguments against this reading, starting with Counterspin's point that Torricelli's term in office wouldn't be extended. Alternatively, you could say that his governor-appointed (and presumably Democratic) replacement would serve out his six-year term, and then serve the beginning of the next six-year term, the same way appointed Senators often serve for brief periods when a Senator dies or resigns. Maybe it would take two separate appointments -- so what?

Counterspin also notes a clause in the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provision that would seem to give states like New Jersey the power to make such weird vacancy-filling rules. A GOP challenge to those rules would mainly give the U.S. Supreme Court an irresistible chance to show they really can be principled strict-construction federalists, and not just Republicans. ...

In short, it looks as if the New Jersey Democrats do already possess a weapon of mass destruction -- postponement -- that they can trigger should they lose the battle to take Torricelli off the ballot. The real issue would seem to be non-legal --  whether there would be a huge public backlash if Governor James McGreevey called off the election because his party was about to lose it. ...[Links via Instapundit.] 4:47 P.M.

How is an election not like a horse race? Where does it say New Jersey voters have a right, not just to a choice of candidates, but to "a competitive race" -- a right so important it must override trivial concerns like state laws about when names can be removed from a ballot? Is an election like a basketball game that has to be kept close in order to keep it exciting? The NYT editorial board seems to think so. ... (It's way too cheap and obvious to note that if it were the Republicans who had nominated a sleazeball  headed for defeat, then ensuring a "competititve" race might not be the highest Times priority. So I won't make that point. But others will!) ... N.B.: Alert kf reader K.M. notes

maybe it wouldn't be too bad to have a court find that there is a "right to competitive elections."  Considering that about 350 Congressional districts have been gerrymandered to be safe seats for incumbents, such a ruling could be useful.

Good point! But isn't there a difference between structuring the entire Congressional delegation to deprive specific blocs of voters of effective control (gerrymandering) and, once a voting structure is in place, overriding state laws to guarantee a close race in each particular election (what the Democrats want in New Jersey)? ...1:01 A.M.

The mysterious "Editor" of The Scrum has resurfaced  to take issue with the kf-adopted Matt Miller  point that it's in Bush's cynical political interest to keep pushing the Iraq war back until 2004. The Scrum argues:

... it would be pretty difficult to both delay the war for two years while also maintaining the selling point (Saddam's evil and he may nuke us at any minute) as well as the sense of inevitability that has helped the White House with both diplomatically and politically.

Difficult, yes -- but hardly impossible. Invading Iraq, we're told, is not something we want to do in hot weather. So if Bush gives inspections a chance to work this spring, and they don't, a war the very next winter would happen at roughly the same time as the campaigning for the 2004 primaries in New Hampshire and Iowa (where the Democratic candidates would be appealing to the party peaceniks) ... I don't think that is what Bush wants to happen -- I think he's deadly serious about going after Iraq soon. The point is that after this November 5, he will be doing that despite, not because of, his self-interest in a positive, war-centric "issues environment" for his 2004 reelection campaign. The argument that General Rove is in charge will be increasingly implausible.  ... 12:28 A.M.


Monday, September 30, 2002  

Against Matter: Here is the NYT accountof a debate on the future of Ground Zero, in which architect Daniel Libeskind argued for building something, and New Republic Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier argued for leaving a void and a flag:

Mr. Wieseltier got the last word. "The thing that divides us is materialism," not architecture. "I live and sleep in rooms. I work in rooms. I walk in space." But there is no way that stones and buildings can communicate the highest spiritual ideas, he said. "There is no single greater danger to the cultural life of this society than the rampant teleology of materialism": biological, economic, aesthetic. Will society surrender to the tyranny of matter? [Emphasis added.]

So we don't build on the WTC site as a blow against ... evolutionary psychology? (That's what biological "materialism" means in Wieseltier's world, I'm pretty sure.) Suddenly the idea of building a giant shopping mall on the site has symbolic appeal. ... 9:47 P.M..

Speaking of tails overpowering dogs, please note the additions, amendments and backsliding caveats that have been appended to Friday's campaign finance item, below. ... 3:18 P.M.

Suppose you thought President Bush were orchestrating the Iraq crisis for purely political reasons. ... As Al Gore would say, I have not raised those doubts, but many have! They include columnist Matthew Miller. But Miller's recent column  has the virtue of taking the cynical, dog-wagging view of Bush to an out-of-the box extreme. In Miller's view, the long-term political trends -- i.e. for the next few presidencies, not just the next few weeks -- favor the Democrats, mainly for demographic reasons (e.g. Latinos):

Many Republicans think these trends favor Democrats, too. That's why George W. Bush, learning the lesson of Newt Gingrich, has always pretended to have a "compassionate" agenda. But Republican political consultants privately know the surest way to stem the Democratic drift is for the war on terror to become the master narrative of American politics. [Emphasis added.]

What's interesting are the implications of this super-cynical view (which I do not necessarily share!) for the Iraq question.. Specifically, if Bush wants to use the terrorism issue to help his own reelection in 2004 (and not just to win the mid-term elections this November) will he invade Iraq in January, as many conservative commentators hope and expect? The answer is no. If a January Iraq invasion were successful, it would probably be over too soon to help Bush in 2004 -- and Saddam Hussein's fall would open up the dangerous possibility that the nation's attention would quickly shift back to domestic issues on which Democrats have the edge. .... No, unless Bush is planning to invade Korea and Iran after Iraq, the optimal cynical strategy for maintaining anti-terrorism as the "master narrative of American politics" would seem to require Bush, once the midterms were safely over, to keep delaying the Iraq invasion for a year or two, so that the real military crisis comes closer to the next presidential election. (Miller has in fact  said this.).... In other words, to the extent that Bush is the purely cynical, self-interested dog-wagger that some Democrats (not me!) charge, he can't also be the irresponsible cowboy who is going to rush into war in January. It's not in his political interest. ...  12:55 A.M.




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" 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. 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.