I'd been meaning to do an item on Sistani.org, but fellow Kerryphobe Marc Cooper got to it first, and does a fine, preemptive job. (Where was Wonkette? Asleep at the wheel?) ... I contend, though, that Cooper gravely overstates the severity of the Grand Ayatollah's prominently-discussed rule against masturbation. Remember, a law is only as strong as the penalties for violating it! ... .... Cooper also has more serious things to say about Iraq, including a link to this useful Micah Sifry post that places him in the mini-tsunami of pundits floating the idea of quick elections. ... Backfill: Hesiod blogged some of the other 'Ask-Sistani' entriesweeks ago. ... 11:36 P.M.
Too fast ... or too slow? The press is acting as if the key question in Iraq is "why turn over sovereignty so soon?" But isn't the question that begs to be answered "Why hold elections so late?" Why does it take sixlongmonths after June 30 to have a vote? Why not, like, two months? ... We're now desperately looking for a "legitimate interim government" to hand over power to. But Americans should know that the only legitimate government is going to be an elected government.So why not get on with it? Hand over power to some (U.N.-led?) caretaker group that doesn't have to be perfect because its only goal will be to hold elections in a matter of weeks. Or delay the American handover until August 15, at which point sovereignty will be transferred to the winner of elections held the week before. ...
Morton Abramowitz raises this possibility in the most provocative of today's "What To Do?" pieces, though even he seems to feel it would entail huge risks. But if elections were held quickly, wouldn't the Sistani faction win? Isn't that the best we can hope for? (Fareed Zakaria, in his what-is-to-be-doner, advocates doing virtually anything to win Sistani's blessing for the unelected interim government. If we're sucking up to him, why not just have an election to produce a government he controls?) ...
An early election would make it clear to all Iraqis that any disruptive violence was not designed to drive out the occupying infidels but rather to disrupt the election campaign and prevent Iraqis from determining their own fate. An early election would give voice and power to the so-called "silent majority" of pro-moderation Iraqis that polls show exists, before continued occupation erodes more of their moderation. ...
I'm not an Iraq expert (though I have played one on TV!), but I don't completely understand the U.S. reluctance to hold quick elections, unless the Bush administration still entertains the fantasy of turning over power to Ahmad Chalabi. (Was the purpose of Bremer's June 30 transition to an unelected government designed precisely to avoid elections for another half year and give people we picked--i.e. non-legitimated people--a leg up?) And the "delay the transition/stick it out" position of Hillary and Gen. McCaffrey seems completely ill-conceived. Delay until what? Until we turn the whole population against us? ...
Obvious objections: 1) It takes time to negotiate a constitution. More time than it takes to negotiate the alchemical "legitimate" unelected interim government and a constitution? Anyway, a process could be established that would allow the constitution to be changed later. 2) A civil war might break out: True. But our troops are still in the vicinity. We could always go back in if the situation degenerates. A civil war might break out under the slow-election" scenario too. Indeed, it woould have more time to break out before the formation of a legitimate (elected) government. ....
Unthinkable thought: Keep this between us, but would a violent-but-short Shiite vs. Sunni civil war (in which the U.S. was not involved) be the worst thing that could happen? Just askin'! It might be the essential predicate to a rough ethnic and religious balance of power. Or it might produce a stable, de facto partition. ... 10:32 P.M.
The grimmest lesson of Fallujah? Will any democratic government we could conceivably leave behind in Iraq be strong enough to stop Sunni towns like Fallujah--filled with well-armed, well-trained America-hating young men--from becoming ongoing hotbeds of terrorist plotting? The lesson of recent events in Iraq would seem to be a pessimistic one in this regard. (You'd need a strong, non-American military force able to thoroughly police Fallujah and Tikrit. But the Iraqi national forces haven't exactly proven to be a mighty hammer. And the Sunnis, in a loose federal system, seem unlikely to want to crack down on their own.) ... That's true even if the Marines are able to completely clean out the current Fallujah "vipers' nest"--something that also looks increasingly unlikely, given the political pressure for a cease-fire. ... It means that the Iraq War--even if we basically succeed in nation-building--could result in the creation of a new series of towns that --like the towns on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border--are a terrorist Petri dish. If that's the outcome, then in one respect at least we will have succeeded in replacing one terror threat (Saddam) with another, no? .... 12:42 P.M.
The scariest thing in the just-released Aug. 6 presidential briefing isn't the too-vague-to-freak-Bush-out warning of suspicious activities ("consistent with" hijackings "or other types of attacks"). It's the suggestion that Ahmed Ressam, convicted of plotting to blow up LAX, may have been only loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda:
Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that Bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation.
This reinforces the theory that mass-destructive terrorism in the near future won't even come from Al Qaeda, much less from nation states--but rather from small groups of highly motivated causists or even from loners. The latter threat, of course, is much harder to stamp out (even if individual unaffiliated terrorists are less well-trained and hence sometimes--like Ressam--get caught). ... P.S.: Alert reader E.H. notes that the first paragraph suggests that Al Qaeda wasn't behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing either. .. P.P.S.: Note that the memo raises the possibilities of hijackings, and of "explosions," but it doesn't explicitly connect the two. If you were President Bush reading it on August 6, 2001 you'd think, well, they a) might hijack a plane and hold it hostage, or b) they might blow up a building. You wouldn't connect the two threats. In the grim calculus we all go through, youd think that at worst, it would be an Oklahoma City-scale disaster. That would reflect a failure of imagination, and of intelligence-gathering--but this failure (to connect the threats) is more the memo's than it is Bush's. .....3:01 A.M.
It's just the Web! The editors (or edit-bots) at the NYT Web site appear to have cut something from Bob Kerrey's Sunday op-ed. Like his main point! Let's go to the text:
My second conclusion about the president's terrorism strategy has three parts. First, I believe President Bush's overall vision for the war on terrorism is wrong. — military and civilian alike.
Second, the importance of this distinction is that it forces us to face the Muslim world squarely and to make an effort to understand it.
Er, what distinction? How is President Bush's overall vision for the war on terrorism wrong? Kerrey's core claim is hiding somewhere in the space between the two paragraphs. ... P.S.: The screwed-up punctuation after the word "wrong" suggests there was some sort of keystroke glitch. Maybe it's in the print edition. .... P.P.S.: I suspect the missing point is a Bob Wrightish argument--terrorists don't need states because "in the modern world, intense hatred is self-organizing and self-empowering."... Update: I was close! Kerrey's point, which is in the print edition, is that terrorism is just a "tactic" chosen by a specific group of people, radical Islamists. But if it's a tactic available to that group, operating outside of the structure of nation-states, it's available to other groups as well. ... P.P.P.S.: Kerrey's defensive opening sentences suggest he knows he made a bad impression in his televised Rice grilling. ... 1:43 A.M.
More kf-approved, sensible-but-pointed takes on Clarke and the 9/11 hearings from National Journal's Stuart Taylor--
Mr. Clarke credits the Clinton administration with worrying more about Al Qaeda than we did. But worrying is not a policy.
and Robert Wright --
[A]ttention has centered on a pseudo-scandal: could 9/11 have been prevented? Probably not. Even a quite vigilant administration would have needed some luck to catch wind of Al Qaeda's plans. Moreover,
President Bush was hardly alone in the central confusion that kept him from being quite vigilant: the idea that "rogue states" are a bigger threat than terrorism per se, and indeed that terrorists can't do much damage without a state's help.
More scandalous, as some have noted, is that the administration didn't change this view after 9/11 ...
Bad Timing? How did we end up fighting both Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites at the same time--if, as David Ignatius claims, the decision to "break [radical Shiite cleric] Sadr's power" was essentially our choice? The simultaneous two-front battles surely maximize the chance that the two major Islamic groupings in the country will begin to join together to throw us out. ... Could the answer be that the Sunni insurgents in Fallujah intentionally produced the two-front battleground by killing four American contractors three days after the U.S. had set the anti-Sadr campaign in motion by shuttering Sadr's newspaper (on 3/28)? The timing wasn't necessarily in our hands--though it does seem particularly foolish to have started the Sadr fight by suppressing a paper and ceding Sadr a large chunk of moral high ground. ... P.S.: On the whole, Ignatius' column is a valuable, calmly panicked what-to-do-now piece. Note that he does not advocate abandoning what Bush's opponents, in what has become almost an article of faith, condemn as the "arbitrary" "artificial" June 30 deadline set for American political reasons. He thinks the arbitrariness (like that of most deadlines) serves a purpose:
At this point the handover is largely a fiction: Iraq doesn't yet have clear plans for a transitional authority, let alone maintaining security. But it's a useful fiction. The deadline will force Iraqis to make decisions and compromises -- even as they depend on U.S. troops to keep order. [Emph. added.]
KERREY: You've used the phrase a number of times, and I'm hoping with my question to disabuse you of using it in the future. You said the president was tired of swatting flies. Can you tell me one example where the president swatted a fly when it came to al Qaeda prior to 9/11?
RICE: I think what the president was speaking to was...
KERREY: No, no. What fly had he swatted?
RICE: Well, the disruptions abroad was what he was really focusing on...
KERREY: No, no...
RICE: ... when the CIA would go after Abu Zubaydah...
KERREY: He hadn't swatted...
RICE: ... or go after this guy...
KERREY: Dr. Rice, we didn't...
RICE: That was what was meant.
KERREY: We only swatted a fly once on the 20th of August 1998. We didn't swat any flies afterwards. How the hell could he be tired?
Why couldn't Bush have rationally concluded that non-fatal retaliatory strikes, such as those undertaken by Clinton in 1998, only had the effect of making bin Laden a bigger, more powerful figure? Can't Bush identify with, and be "tired" of, American actions taken under previous administrations? Even Democratic ones. It's the same country! ... P.S.: Why Bush didn't respond forcefully, in a non-flyswatting way, to the Cole attack in the 8 months before 9/11 is a different, more legitimate (if answerable) question, and what Kerrey was ultimately driving at. His inability to frame his question clearly--the erratic emotionalism that led him to instead latch onto on a side non-issue--is one reason we should be grateful when John Kerry fails to take Al Hunt's hack advice to put Kerrey on the ticket. ... 1:48 P.M.
The kausfiles "Compassion" Challenge: A common complaint among Democrats is that Bush hasn't governed in the bipartisan fashion they expected. Often this is phrased as, "Whatever happened to compassionate conservatism." The latter formulation, at least, seems misleading. You disagree? Then name one significant new "compassionate conservative" policy initiative you expected Bush to launch that he didn't. Don't say faith-based social services--that one was trivial to begin with. Social Security? Bush has advocated exactly what he said he was going to advocate (e.g., substituting individual accounts for some fixed benefits). It's not his fault that the idea isn't very appealing. ... I can think of only two examples that fit the bill: 1) Educational vouchers for poor children who are trapped in bad urban schools--an idea that was largely preempted by Bush's push for No-Child-Left-Behind testing and accountability for those schools; and 2) Job training, which Bush has in fact belatedly started to emphasize. ...
P.S.: True, there are laudable unexplored bipartisan initiatives (tougher environmental regulations and corporate accounting rules) that aren't really "compassionate." There are dramatic new "compassionate" initiatives Bush did push forward (immigration "reform"). And I can think of areas where Democrats maybe thought Bush would just cave in to old-style compassionate non-conservatism (Medicare's drug benefit; the shape and size of the tax cuts, watering down welfare work requirements). But those things don't meet the relevant challenge--"compassionate conservatism" wasn't supposed to be a general promise to act more like a Democrat. ...
Maybe my Democratic friends can help me out....
P.P.S.: I guess I also expected more symbolic actions that fit in with the social egalitarian underpinnings of Bush's moving 2000 convention speech. He hasn't done a whole lot, even at the photo-op level, to emphasize to those struggling to escape the underclass that "We are their country, too." The obvious exceptions are his visits with soldiers. ...
P.P.P.S.: I'm not saying that the unreasonableness of expecting any more significant "compassionate conservative" initiatives from Bush is a reason to support him. Quite the opposite. But we should be accurate: It's not that didn't follow through and give us all the C.C. goodies he could have--thus governing in a different way than we'd been led to expect. It's that his "compassion" closet was always mainly--visibly--empty. The few initiatives that were arguably part of the "compassionate conservative" agenda, he's pushed. ... 3:24 A.M.
Thursday, April 8, 2004
the senator's reference to democrats was made in a discussion about intensified partisanship in washington. his full answer was something like "i have differences with democrats, but i don't think they're evil . . . i think the Democratic Party is a fine party . . . we need a strong two party system," etc.
the herald story made it seem that the senator's comments about the democrats and his criticism of his own party were part of the same answer. they were not. later in the meeting with constituents of Rep. Meehan, he was asked why he wouldn't become a democrat and run with john kerry. he reaffirmed his indentification with the republican party, and said that he was obviously more in agreement with republicans than democrats, but that he worried republicans had lost their way on spending, environment and other issues. he went on to state that he would never leave the party, and that he would work to help the party return to its principles.
Regarding the possibility McCain might nevertheless campaign for Kerry, Salter notes that his boss
has, indeed, endorsed bush. he is co-chair of the bush-cheney relect in arizona, and campaigned for the president in new hampshire shortly before the primary.
Does this rule out any McCain-Kerry shenanigans? I say no (New Hampshire was a long time ago). ... But it would be a flip-flop!
P.S.: McCain was impressively emphatic ("I will not, under any circumstances" ..."I want President Bush re-elected") in his near-Shermanizing on Hardball Monday. But McCain's earlier, flirtatious non-foreclosing of the possibility of being Kerry's running mate may--as alert reader S.K. notes--wind up hurting Kerry if McCain isn't on the ticket."Now, whoever Kerry does pick as VP will seem sort of disappointing." 11:12 A.M.
Wednesday, April 7, 2004
Hardcore Chris is at it again, attempting to distill Rasmussen's 3-day tracking crack into dangerous daily super-crack. ... 1:20 P.M.
I guess the people at ABC's The Note were really put out about missing that Friday Kerry shakeup. They've gone and started a 24/7 news page. Viable market niche! ( Drudge, its main competition, graciously links to it) ... But ABC already missed Kerry's controversial al-Sadr comments. The impolitic Kerry language trumpeted by right-wing NewsMax doesn't bother me that much--I want a president who recognizes the peril of getting sucked into an Aideed-like manhunt for a bad guy who nevertheless represents tens of thousands of Iraqis. What bothers me more is Kerry's easy use of left-agitprop phrases like "If all we do is make war against the Iraqi people ... ." Is that really a good description of what we are doing in Iraq? ... P.S.: Is any part of Kerry's recent rise in the polls the result of something he's been doing, as opposed to Bush's troubles in Iraq? (Suggested answer: No.) ... Hostage to Fortune (if not Business Week): The Note itself--the normal, regular one--still seems partial to its dubious "inertia" theory, writing:
This is a really close race and in part because so few voters are paying attention, nothing is likely to drive the polls in any significant direction until after the conventions.
As Bill Clinton would say, they could be right! ... 1:05 P.M.
A Democrat Who Can Win! Did John McCain really say this:
``I think the Democratic Party is a fine party, and I have no problems with it, in their views and their philosophy ..."
The dateline is 4/2, not 4/1. ... Of course, McCain ruled out running on Kerry's ticket. But he didn't rule out campaigning for him, did he? ... [Link buried deep within The Note] 3:29 A.M.
Tuesday, April 6, 2004
If Dick Morris is going to write columns based on the Rasmussen daily tracking poll--and who am I to say he can't!--he really needs a shorter lead time. In Tuesday New York Post Morris explained why "Kerry's Crash Continues," noting that
The latest daily tracking polls by Scott Rasmussen show that President Bush has moved up six points in the past week to take a three-point lead over Sen. John Kerry.
The only problem is that by the time Morris' column ran, Rasmussen had Kerry back up by three. The numbers Morris cited were four days old--an eternity in Rasmussen time! ... P.S.: Note Morris' deeply cynical consultant's advice to Bush on Iraq:
American voters care vastly more about the safety of our own troops than the restoration of peace and order in Iraq. Bush needs to get over his nation-building fixation and cut our losses after the transfer of sovereignty.
He should keep our troops on bases and end the patrols into the towns and villages. ... Even if Iraq remains a powder keg with constant bombings and attacks, they will make no political difference in our election unless Americans are killed. [Emph. added]
Kerrry's "No Child" Panderflop: Ron Brownstein's Monday column is the beginning of wisdom, and maybe the end, on Kerry's No Child Left Behind position. It's, yes, a flip-flop--and not a pretty one. My colleague Will Saletan, in a very clever piece last week, suggested that Kerry's switch on NCLB was justified:
Kerry, Edwards and Gephardt ... supported Bush's "No Child Left Behind" education bill in 2001. Then the administration withheld money for it, and they decided they'd been conned.
Except, as Brownstein shows, Kerry does more than call for putting more money behind the new law. He has switched positions on the core of the bill he voted for, buying into the teachers' unions' self-serving desire to water down the law's standards by taking into account 'inputs' as well as results:
Pressured by rival Howard Dean's denunciations of the act and the unwavering opposition from groups representing teachers and school administrators, Kerry retreated from his [own campaign] book's powerful demand for accountability.
Instead, he reversed himself to insist that schools be judged not only on outputs — their success in improving student performance — but inputs as well, such as whether teachers and students show up regularly.
Who cares if they learn anything when they do show up? ... Other factors Kerry wants considered, Brownstein reports, are "parental satisfaction" and graduation rates. (Who cares if the degree is worthless?)
Kerry wasn't betrayed by Bush. He was betrayed by his own opportunism. ... P.S.: Brownstein also notes that
The demand for loosening the accountability standard is based largely on the myth, now embraced by Kerry, that the law punishes schools designated as needing improvement.
The main consequence of "needing improvement" for three consecutive years is that low-income students get subsidized tutoring. ... P.P.S.: Maybe NCLB will fail because it's a heavy-handed (almost French!) attempt at centrally-directed bureaucratic perestroika. But Kerry doesn't seem to want to give it a chance. If NCLB does fail, the left should realize, the likely next alternative isn't a massive federal subsidy to the unionized status quo. It's vouchers. ... 1:35 A.M.
Monday, April 5, 2004
As "firm" as the day is long!
THE PRESIDENT: No, the intention is to make sure the deadline remains the same. I believe we can transfer authority by June 30th. We're working toward that day. We're, obviously, constantly in touch with Jerry Bremer on the transfer of sovereignty. The United Nations is over there now. The United Nations representative is there now to work on the -- on a -- on to whom we transfer sovereignty. I mean, in other words, it's one thing to decide to transfer. We're now in the process of deciding what the entity will look like to whom we will transfer sovereignty. But, no, the date remains firm. [Emph. added.]
That's what President Bush said today when asked about the June 30 Iraq handover date. Would you summarize this as "Transition Date Still Firm," the way WaPo did? Isn't it (like what Colin Powell said a few weeks ago) the opposite of firm--exactly the sort of thing a politician says when a commitment is weakening and he wants to leave himself room to change his mind? Maybe Bush's current "intention" won't be fulfilled despite his best efforts at "working toward" the goal. His 'belief' that "we can" meet the deadline could be disappointed! Indeed, the very admission that the deadline maybe can't be met--implicit in "I believe we can"--represents a backsliding of sorts. ... A more accurate headline would be: "Bush considering postponing transition." ...
P.S. The NYT joined in, reporting, "Mr. Bush reiterated today that he was standing firm on the June 30 transition date." Not! If Bush wanted to stand firm behind the date he would have said, "We will transfer sovereignty June 30. Period." ... (Imagine that Bush had been asked if he was going to dump Cheney from the ticket, and he'd responded, "No, my intention is to keep him. I believe we'll be able to run together. I'm working toward that goal," etc. Shockwaves would ripple! The lede wouldn't be "Bush reiterated today that he is standing firm on Cheney ... .")
P.P.S.: Note that the tried-and-true escape hatches come at the beginning of Bush's statement. They didn't just pop out accidentally in some disorganized ramble. They were what he was planning to say.
P.P.P. S.: Why do papers like the NYT and WaPo misread the plainly vague meaning of Bush's words? Are they lazily falling into a familiar "question-rebut" groove? Or are they setting Bush up for a charge of flip-flopping when he ultimately puts off the Iraq handover (just as he's been charged with flip-flopping for inevitably agreeing to let Condoleezza Rice testify in public)?* ... Given the bylines on the WaPo story--including famed Bush critic Dana Milbank--I can't help but suspect the latter. Milbank's smart enough to know a weaselly fudge when he hears it. ... A third possibility, of course, is that White House aides told reporters on background that the president really intended to be firm. But isn't what he actually said more important? ... [*Is the flip-flop charge unfair in these cases?--ed. A bit. In both, sound negotiating strategy may require the President to say he won't do something before he finally agrees--after getting the best deal he can. But what's really going on with the Iraq handover may be the opposite: Bush trying to advertise his ability to renege on the deadline, which is a potentially powerful source of leverage. (It's why our man in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, is not quite a lame duck.) Too bad the papers didn't convey this implicit threat. ...
More: Alert reader J.M. notes that Milbank is one of the many prominent reporters who fell for Richard Clarke's "registered as a Republican" con. ... 8:12 P.M.
Sunday, April 4, 2004
Get Your Kerry Vision Right Here: In what looks to be a significant article, Washington Monthly's Paul Glastris attempts a recovery-proof vision implant into the Kerry campaign. Glastris' point: The lobbyists Kerry attacks as "powerful interests that stand in your way" actually do stand in the way of creating more jobs in two particular areas 1) broadband, and all the new industries universal broadband access could produce; 2) pharmaceuticals and biotech. A third element: Solving the health insurance problem would also presumably help the economy by ending "job lock" (workers afraid to quit for fear of losing their health insurance) and making labor more adaptable. A president willing to crack heads and beat down the lobbyists in these three areas could, Glastris argues, plausibly promise to create lots of new jobs, in addition to whatever jobs are now finally coming back after the recent recession. In short, "We can do better." It worked for JFK. (Not that Kerry would ever imitate him.) ....
This is a highly promising line of domestic attack, but
a)We want numbers: How many jobs might actually be created by breaking the lobby-jams in broadband, biotech, etc.? Are the numbers dwarfed by those employed or unemployed in the ordinary ups and downs that accompany shifts in the economy--so that Glastris' proposed policies pale in importance next to getting the macroeconomics right.
b) Speaking of macroeconomics, Glastris at first says Bush's recession-fighting theory ("put more money in people's pockets, so they'll spend it and create demand") is "dumb" and has "demonstrably failed." But the way he describes the strategy, it sounds like straight Keynesianism--and given the recovery, maybe it hasn't failed. A later, contradictory Glastris passage seems more fair and balanced.
President Bush and his defenders argue that the administration can't be blamed for the decline in employment and the slow pace of job creation over the last three years. And there's something to that. It was inevitable that the end of an historic boom should be marked by a contraction of the labor market. Presidents have only so many levers they can pull to stimulate growth and employment, and the Bush administration has pulled all the obvious ones. It has vastly increased government spending, largely in defense and homeland security, jawboned down the value of the dollar to help American exports, supported Alan Greenspan's low interest rates policy, and pushed through two massive rounds of tax cuts. Democratic critics point out that the tax and spending initiatives could have been enacted in such a way as to produce more jobs. Larger breaks for middle-class families rather than the wealthy might have been more stimulatory and less detrimental to the nation's long-term fiscal health. The billions spent in Iraq might have gone to keep state governments from purging their payrolls. These are valid points; had we followed the Democrats' advice, there's a good argument that we'd be in a substantially better economic position now. But, we'd probably still be facing a dearth of jobs. [Emphasis added.]
c) I've never understood the argument (which Glastris makes) that pharmaceutical companies haven't developed new drugs because the easing of advertising rules allowed them to make money by drumming up demand for existing drugs. If the advertising paid off in increased profits, how did it drain money from research? Shouldn't it have helped subsidize research?
d) Some of these new technologies--especially broadband--might create prosperity by boosting productivity. That's great in the long run. But in the short run, as we've learned (and Paul Krugman, among others, accurately predicted) greater productivity can mean corporations need fewer workers. Who needs hotel clerks and travel agents if executives are holding broadband videoconferences instead of meetings? And think of what those cheap, well-educated Indians could do with broadband from Bangalore!
e) OK, let's buy Glastris' case there are "powerful interests" that really do stand in the way of creating a more jobs. Glastris' vision still doesn't quite fit Shrum's 'you're-a-victim' version of the populist "powerful interests" spiel, which (as characterized by Glastris)
pointedly distinguishes who ... the bad guys are: not corporations or the rich per se, but "lobbyists," "the privileged," and others who "cut corners and break laws and get special benefits, while those who do what's right get the short end of the stick." [Emph. added]
Voters, in Glastris' version, aren't exactly getting the 'short end of the stick,' are they? i) Nobody's taking anything away from them. Lobbyists don't have to cheat or cut corners to create a logjam--they just (as Glastris notes) have to faithfully represent existing interests while potential new interests, including potential new corporate fatcats, go unrepresented because they don't exist yet. ii) Nor do the lobbyists blocking progress in, say, health care, only represent corporate or "privileged" elites. They also represent retirees, taxpayers, and hospital workers--in other words, they represent "us" as well as "them." iii) And the major vicissitudes in voters' lives (see (a) above) are still caused by large economic forces (trade, recession, war, general technological progress) and not lobbyists, whether they cheat or not.
Voters are just losing out on a prosperity bonus we think they could have if only we had a president who could take on some entrenched lobbies (which, explicitly, in Glastris' view, include Democratic interests like unions). The idea--interests naturally congeal around the status quo, blocking progress--is as much Mancur Olson and Jonathan Rauch as it is Bob Shrum.
Not that there's anything wrong with it! It's the best candidate for Kerry's Big Idea I've heard yet. Someone should tell Kerry. It just needs to be de-victimized before it's implanted in his brain. ... Then put Shrum to work making the threat of "'upstream' patent" proliferation vivid to the average voter. ... 7:08 P.M.
Saturday, April 3, 2004
Kausfiles, voice for civility: Josh Marshall charges I "misquote and misunderstand" him. But he doesn't say how I misquote him. That's because I don't misquote him. I cut and pasted his paragraph without changes! Internet Explorer, as James Baker might say, is neither Democratic nor Republican. ...
P.S.: I also didn't "misunderstand" Marshall. He wrote, "It wasas obvious four years ago as it is today that the most potent threats to America are asymmetric threats ... ." I claim the relative power of asymmetric threats was maybe just a wee bitmoreobvious after Al Qaeda killed 3,000 plus people on 9/11. You make the call! ...
P.P.S.: I'm not disagreeing with Marshall (and Clarke, et al.) on the more significant question of whether Bush took non-state "asymmetric" threats generally--or Al Qaeda in particular--seriously enough. He didn't! I'm disagreeing with Marshall's exaggerated anti-Bush language. He shouldn't say things are as obvious now as they were before 9/11--as if only a moron would have had different priorities before--when they weren't. He shouldn't go around saying people "misquote" him when they've simply hit Control-C, Control-V. (What if Scott McLellan erroneously said Bush was "misquoted"? You think Marshall might get an item out of it?) ... I'd originally thought Marshall maybe just made a sloppy language mistake. Now I sense a pattern! ...
P.P.P.S.: TNR's Peter Beinart has a particularly clear (probably too-clear) formulation of the clash between a Clinton/Kerry view of terrorism as non-state-sponsored and Bush's focus on states. Beinart even incorporates the U.S. failure at Tora Bora into his framework, arguing that Bush relaxed once the Afghan state fell. (It's unclear that this charge is true--there were other reasons for the failure at Tora Bora, such as excessive faith in our previously-useful local proxy warriors. But Beinart's version is very elegant and would make for a powerful Kerry campaign speech.) ...
P4.S.: The Axis of Incomprehensibility Marshall is very impressed with the power of this murky pre-9/11 Pentagon chart. I can't figure out why. Who says the "probablility" arrow sweeps smoothly down to the right? And why does it matter that the arrows intersect where they do? Presumably terrorists and will try to get as high up on the "threat" arrow as they can. To figure out how serious a particular threat is, you'd have to do something like multiply the damage by the probability, yielding a curve that ain't on this graph, no?.
More: Marshall says that Condi Rice only acknowledged the (asymmetric) threats of "the suitcase bomb, the car bomb and the vial of sarin" in the "to be sure" paragraph of the speech she was scheduled to give on 9/11. To be sure. But the "to be sure" paragraph, in my experience, is often where the truth is! It's where you make big concessions and put your argument in perspective. It's not usually a throwaway to be ignored. .... Maybe Rice's "to be sure" was insincere. But her 9/11 speech isn't itself evidence of that. Apart from the irony of it being scheduled for that day, I don't understand why it is a big deal meriting front page treatment in WaPo. It doesn't seem like a smoking gun that proves anything except that the Bushies were pushing for missile defense, which we already knew.
Update: Alert reader D.U. writes, "Mickey, Need Medication?" Oh, wait. That's spam. ...
Friday, April 2, 2004
It's CW now: WaPo's E.J. Dionne endorses the 'rebranding' theory. ... I'm rethinking! 2:32 P.M.
Late-breaking Kerry infighting:TNR's Ryan Lizza breaks the news that Kerry Cyrano Bob Shrum has apparently consolidated his control over all of Kerry's campaign advertising. ... Does Shrum ever lose one of these internal battles? ... You don't want to be a powerful interest standing in his way ... P.S.: Is it an accident that this mildly embarrassing infighting news leaks out on a Friday too late to make The Note? ... P.P.S.: Buried by the big job-growth story too. Well done! ... Update: Noam Scheiber speculates gloomily and fills in details. The surface story is that the rival consultants couldn't agree on how to split the pie. So it was about money? Scheiber doesn't really believe it, and neither do I. ... 10:24 A.M.
Lynxx Pherrett of Assume the Position accepts and completes Tuesday's assignment to explain why we're still filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve:
The short answer to why the Strategic Petroleum Reserve isn't full is that filling was stopped mostly as a deficit reduction measure in 1994 when the SPR contained something less than 600 million barrels, leaving it a bit more than 100 million barrels short of the maximum capacity of 700 million barrels. Filling wasn't restarted until 1999-2000 to replace 28 million barrels sold in 1996 for further deficit reduction. The decision to completely fill the SPR was made in November 2001.
Pherrett takes a swipe at insidious Liberal Bias in Slate's Explainer in passing. ... Speaking of liberal bias, since Pherrett knows so much about oil, maybe he can explain why, if one of the benefits of the Iraq war was supposed to be greater influence over that nation's oil spigot, we are still being jerked around by the OPEC cartel. (Pithier query: Let's pretend this was a War for Oil. Where's the Oil?) ...Update: Here's Pherrett's answer. It's not exactly counterintuitive ("Iraq is currently incapable of producing enough oil to drive world market prices, so it provides no leverage with OPEC in the short term.") But he offers some useful numerical benchmarks. ... 10:14 A.M
Maybe the residents of Falluja overwhelmingly support the gruesome killing of four American contractors. But I haven't seen photos or descriptions of a "huge mob" (the NYT and NPR's description) conducting or celebrating the attack. I've seen photos of a small mob--no more than 100 people. ... 5:44 P.M.
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--He reports! And decides! Wonkette--Makes Jack Shafer feel guilty. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! David Corn--Trustworthy reporting from the left. Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. 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. Calmer Times--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--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog. B-Log--Blog of spirituality! Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk