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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Thursday, 2 September 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Choosing sides: The defining moment of the Republican National Convention...

I rather like the summary Sidney Blumenthal provides of the key political event this week in the United States - Zell Miller addresses the Republicans, and the nation.

Backwoods preacher pours hellfire on Democrats
Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian (UK), Friday September 3, 2004

Now Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton, and is Washington bureau chief of - a pesky, overly-intellectual online commentary site. But he nails it -
The belligerence of the Republican convention's keynote speaker was so overpowering it easily obscured the monochromatic performance of Dick Cheney. Senator Zell Miller of Georgia did not vary his grim expression or his shouting like a backwoods preacher casting out the devil. But his raw rhetoric framed the most profound questions about patriotism and democracy in wartime.

The previous speakers, from Rudy Giuliani to Arnold Schwarzenegger, had been chosen for their lack of partisan regularity in order to better carry attack lines against John Kerry. Superficially, Miller was to be the crescendo of this tactical march to the podium, a Democrat regretting his party's fall from grace and singing the praises of the Republican president.

Miller had been a keynote speaker at the Democratic convention of 1992 that nominated Bill Clinton. His politics then were a vibrant southern populism against the special interests. In the Republican sweep two years later, however, Miller experienced a near-death experience, almost losing as governor because he suggested removing the Confederate battle-flag from its corner of the state flag where it had been placed during the white resistance to civil rights laws.

Afterwards, Miller tacked steadily rightward.

Upon leaving the governorship, he jettisoned his Democratic alliances and became a lobbyist for the Phillip Morris tobacco combine. Elected as a US senator, Miller played as though he had been betrayed, aligning himself with the Republicans. In this he was following the tragic trajectory of southern populists past, who had transformed themselves into their opposites.

"Today," Miller said, "at the same time young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our commander in chief." In one sentence, he advanced a new stab-in-the-back theory, achieved the seamless merger of Iraq and Afghanistan, attributed political division to the Democrats (who had supported the war in Afghanistan and overwhelmingly backed the congressional war resolution on Iraq), and stripped the presidency down to its military function.
Yeah, well, that's about it.

Other highlights?
... he offered a peculiar history of the constitution and the bill of rights. "It has been said so truthfully," said Miller, "that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the agitator, who has given us the freedom to protest."

Kerry, by contrast, was plotting a betrayal to the United Nations and, even worse, "Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending".
Ha! You can't have a Republican National Convention without mentioning the French!

But the whole thrust?

"Miller's skewed history of the United States was intended to taint political debate itself as subversive."

That about sums it up.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, notes he has hear that when people in the White House first turn on their computers in the morning, they go first to Andrew Sullivan's blog." They ain't gonna be happy with this. But Andrew Sullivan is not a real Republican. He's gay. And was born in the UK. Yeah, he's a pro-Reagan, pro-Contra, pro-SDI, pro-Gulf War conservative... but he's GAY!

Here's part of his take on Miller, and Cheney who followed him -
THE MILLER MOMENT: Zell Miller's address will, I think, go down as a critical moment in this campaign, and maybe in the history of the Republican party. I kept thinking of the contrast with the Democrats' keynote speaker, Barack Obama, a post-racial, smiling, expansive young American, speaking about national unity and uplift. Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech, jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric. As an immigrant to this country and as someone who has been to many Southern states and enjoyed astonishing hospitality and warmth and sophistication, I long dismissed some of the Northern stereotypes about the South. But Miller did his best to revive them. The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.

And note these items on Barack Obama in Just Above Sunset: August 1, 2004 - Cain's Question and August 15, 2004 - Who Gets to be Black?.

Barack Obama and Zell Miller are as different as night and day - or would that be as different as black and white?

But back to the dyspeptic Sullivan, and what he thinks of this Miller fellow.
THE "OCCUPATION" CANARD: Miller first framed his support for Bush as a defense of his own family. The notion that individuals deserve respect regardless of their family is not Miller's core value. And the implication was that if the Democrats win in November, his own family would not be physically safe. How's that for subtlety? Miller's subsequent assertion was that any dissent from aspects of the war on terror is equivalent to treason. He accused all war critics of essentially attacking the very troops of the United States. He conflated the ranting of Michael Moore with the leaders of the Democrats. He said the following: Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator. And nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators.

That macho invocation of the Marines was a classic: the kind of militarist swagger that this convention endorses and uses as a bludgeon against its opponents. But the term "occupation," of course, need not mean the opposite of liberation. I have used the term myself and I deeply believe that coalition troops have indeed liberated Afghanistan and Iraq. By claiming that the Democrats were the enemies of the troops, traitors, quislings and wimps, Miller did exactly what he had the audacity to claim the Democrats were doing: making national security a partisan matter. I'm not easy to offend, but this speech was gob-smackingly vile.
Yes, only Brits use that gob-smacked term. But it works here.

And further on the French come up again -
THE FOREIGN AGENT: Another lie: "Senator Kerry has made it clear that he would use military force only if approved by the United Nations. Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide." Miller might have found some shred of ancient rhetoric that will give him cover on this, but in Kerry's very acceptance speech, he declared the opposite conviction - that he would never seek permission to defend this country. Another lie: "John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday's war." Kerry didn't want to do that. Yes, he used his military service in the campaign - but it was his opponents who decided to dredge up the divisions of the Vietnam war in order to describe Kerry as a Commie-loving traitor who faked his own medals. What's remarkable about the Republicans is their utter indifference to fairness in their own attacks. Smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears is wrong when it is performed by the lying Michael Moore and it is wrong when it is spat out by Zell Miller. Last night was therefore a revealing night for me. I watched a Democrat convince me that I could never be a Republican. If they wheel out lying, angry bigots like this as their keynote, I'll take Obama. Any day.
Yeah, well the Republicans can dismiss Sullivan. He's gay. What does he know?

He also had this to say about the Cheney speech which followed the Miller thing (my emphases) -
CHENEY'S SPEECH: It was a sound one, certainly defensible in its sharp attacks on Kerry and heartfelt in its defense of the character of the president. But it was over-shadowed by the foul rhetoric that went before him, rhetoric he blessed with his opening line. On a substantive note, it is astonishing to me that neither he not anyone, in invoking the war on terror, has mentioned any developments in Iraq or Afghanistan over the last year. These speeches could have been written as Baghdad fell or at the latest, when Saddam was captured.

And this party and president claim to be war-leaders. Real war-leaders explain defeats and set-backs, they recognize the current situation, they grapple with reality. But this war is easy, it seems. There are no problems in Iraq. Everything is peachy. Democracy is breaking out everywhere; no mistakes have been made; no rethinking is necessary after the travails of the occupation (sorry, Zell). I understand the political need to put a gloss on things. But the surrealism of the rhetoric is, in some respects, an insult to the American people, who deserve a real accounting of where we are. Of all the difficult choices we have to make - in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia - nothing is spoken. There is not even a nod to reality. Just an assertion that only the Republicans have the balls to fight this war. It may well work in the election. But it speaks to the character of our leaders that they prefer bromides and denial to a real accounting and real leadership.
Lost another one to the side of the wimps, it seems. Sullivan has gone over.

My comments - Shwarzenegger gave a speech the previous evening saying those who don't think the economy is just fine are "economic girly-men." Out of work, can't find a job? Suck it up! Arnold may have a net worth nearing a billion and used to get forty million a movie. Trust him. He knows. One summary I saw? "Once I was a skinny kid in Austria with a Nazi father and I was scared of the communists, but since then I've taken steroids and I'm rich. Also don't worry about troop strength because the soldiers we've already got still have some limbs left. Vote for Bush or you're a big faggy queer sissy nelly gay person."

But Sullivan says "smearing opponents as traitors to their country, as unfit to be commander-in-chief, as agents of foreign powers (France) is now fair game. Appealing to the crudest form of patriotism and the easiest smears" is wrong.

Sullivan needs to grow up. That's the game now.

Oh yeah - Cheney had better disavow is daughter, quickly.... Alan Keyes is on his case.

As your recall, Barack Obama now faces Alan Keyes in the race for the open senate seat in Illinois. His first opponent dropped out after it was revealed that his glamorous Hollywood wife divorced him partly because he kept insisting she would really enjoy naked hot monkey sex with him in front of large crowds at sex clubs. She suggested she wouldn't like that at all. Oh well. Obama was far ahead in the polls anyway. The Illinois Republicans then tried to the run Mike Ditka, the former Chicago Bears football coach with the notoriously short fuse. But Ditka stepped away. There was some talk of the Republicans trying to get Ted Nugent to run - the former rock star, avid hunter and NRA guns-for-everyone enthusiast. He hates wimps and girly-boys too. But that went nowhere. So the Republican tapped Alan Keyes, of Maryland, to run against Obama.

And Keyes is a gas. And in tune with the zeitgeist for the party.

Keyes takes jabs at his own party
Jennifer Skalka and Ofelia Casillas - September 1, 2004
... As the Republican National Convention focused on unity Tuesday, Keyes lashed out at Vice President Dick Cheney's gay daughter.

... Keyes' first comments about Mary Cheney came during an interview Monday night on Sirius OutQ, a New York-based satellite station that provides 24-hour gay and lesbian programming.

After the candidate told the hosts that homosexuality is "selfish hedonism," he was asked whether Mary Cheney is a "selfish hedonist."

"Of course she is," Keyes replied. "That goes by definition. Of course she is."

On Tuesday, Keyes defended his remarks, adding that if his daughter were a lesbian, he would tell her she was committing a sin and should pray.
Oh man, the lines are drawn. On one side the manly men, with a vengeful God on their side, who asks no questions and punish those who do. On the other side? The girly-men, the fags, and, of course, the French, who shun God's rues about proper sex and think too much - the questioners, the doubters.

The next sixty days are going to be a lot of fun.



Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, points to this - a Georgia Democratic Party-produced ad run on CNN by a local
Atlanta cable system. Zell Miller exposed. Amusing.

Posted by Alan at 21:37 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 3 September 2004 07:43 PDT home

Topic: Making Use of History

Low-Rent Crystalnacht

As so it begins -

On November 10, 1938 the Nazi enthusiasts went on a spree of threats toward and vilification of certain undesirable people - and caused quite a bit of damage to their shops and homes throughout Germany. Historians named it "Crystalnacht," the "Night of the Shattered Glass."

Note this from the Centre Daily, the newspaper of State College, Pennsylvania, where Penn State has its main campus -
Posted on Thu, Sep. 02, 2004

Vandals strike county Democratic headquarters
Byline - Lara Brenckle

STATE COLLEGE - Centre County Democratic Headquarters was vandalized late Tuesday when someone smashed the thick, tempered glass in the building's storefront window, causing about $3,000 worth of damage.

According to State College police Cpl. Mark Argiro, witnesses in the 300 block of Calder Way heard the window break and saw a white Ford Tempo carrying three men leaving the area.

Investigators will review surveillance tapes taken by cameras posted on Beaver Avenue from McAllister Street to Hiester Street, in hopes that the white car seen leaving the area was caught on tape. If it was, police can attempt to identify the license plate, Argiro said.

Joanne Tosti-Vasey said she was working alone at 9:32 p.m. in the headquarters at 236 East Calder Way when she heard "a loud thud and a boom and (the glass) fell."

Tosti-Vasey, who was not injured, said she did not see anybody because a wall blocked her line of vision. ...
And the Associated Press reports this via the Grand Rapids Press -
Vandals smash window at Grand Rapids HQ of Kerry campaign
September 1, 2004, 2:20 PM

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- Someone tossed a cement chunk through a storefront window of the local John Kerry presidential campaign headquarters in an act of vandalism a Democratic official said appeared to be politically motivated.

"They could have gone through any number of storefronts, so I don't think it was an accident," said John Otterbacher, Kent County spokesman for the Democratic presidential ticket.

Local campaign official Jim Rinck said nothing was taken from inside the headquarters during the vandalism early Tuesday.

Kim Yob, chairwoman of the Kent County Republican Party, said she was sorry to hear of the vandalism but dismissed the possibility of any Republicans being involved.

"We're not yelling at Democrats, telling them we hate them," said Yob, who The Grand Rapids Press contacted at the Republican National Convention. "But out here in New York, these (protesters) are out of control. I'm walking down the street and some people were screaming, "I hate Republicans."'
Justification? Fair is fair?

This week we saw the current governor of California, a charismatic German-speaking Austrian muscleman movie star, speak at the Republican Convention in New York. He was a big hit - a strong leader who folks cheered, as he himself cheered on a leader who also should not be questioned. And he excoriated all the "girly-men" out there who doubt we always are right in all we do.

His enthusiasts decided to have some fun?

One thing leads to another.

There was Zell Miller's speech twenty-four hours after Shwarzenegger spoke.

William Saletan says this -
The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.

In a democracy, the commander in chief works for you. You hire him when you elect him. You watch him do the job. If he makes good decisions and serves your interests, you rehire him. If he doesn't, you fire him by voting for his opponent in the next election.

Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power--the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics.

Are you prepared to become one of those countries?
I don't know. I have a brown shirt or two - but more rust-colored actually. They are nice shirts.

So Miller's enthusiasts decided to have some fun?

Maybe so.

Digby over at Hullabaloo says this -
It has been clear for quite some time to anyone who is paying attention that the modern Republican party is actively undermining the democratic process. Look at the Republican funded recall in California or the strong-arm redistricting all over the country, not to mention the more subtle forms of anti-democratic rule like bald-faced lying about government statistics and holding secret meetings and creating entirely new forms of executive privilege.

Yes, standing up before the nation and saying that speaking out against the president during a presidential campaign is putting our troops at risk is a very shocking charge. But, this is hardly the first time they've said that. I simply don't understand how people who are paid money to watch politics for a living have missed what seems to me to be an obvious development over more than a decade. Every election since 1992 has been dicier and dicier. With each cycle, they have gotten more and more aggressive in breaking the rules and challenging accepted norms. The only real question at this point is if they have been successful in rigging enough voting machines to swing this election if it's close enough. I'm hoping that they just haven't had the time to get it done because if they have there is absolutely no reason to believe they won't do it. They do not have any limits.

So yes, this election is a referendum on American democracy. At this point, they all are - and they have been for quite some time. I'm glad some members of the media are noticing. Maybe this time they won't be so willing to smugly tell us to "get over it" if things go wrong.

But, I doubt it. Until elections are actually cancelled (which we -- shockingly -- even discussed openly for a while) or journalists are jailed for sedition or some other heinous suspension of the constitution (for ordinary white people, mind you) is employed, the media will continue to support the slow erosion of our political system until it will be too late to get it back.
Wrong. The press isn't going to save us. Too many people long for the strongman who ignores all the rules to get things done - the bold man who will save the homeland, the fatherland. The press just reports the news.

Arnold won easily out here and is now talking about abolishing the state legislature, or making it, actually, part-time and, shall we say, honorary. A crude solution but didn't Mussolini at least get the trains to run on time? Sometimes, to get things done, you just have to act boldly and assume all the power - and not be one of those girly-men. One level up, the president famously says treaties and rules don't apply to us and we need no allies like before - the UK and Fiji will do fine - and folks love him for it. He will save us from the bad guys. He's no wimp. He may make some really bone-headed decisions, and cannot explain himself if he perhaps even knows what he means, but he gets things done. The women swoon. The men are emboldened to punish folks with questions.

And it follows that a few enthusiasts will prove they're not wimps and smash a few windows here and there. One thing leads to another.

And here in the Hollywood Hills I thought I just saw the Von Trapp family climbing out over the hills headed for Vermont.

Here we go again.

Posted by Alan at 18:52 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 2 September 2004 20:16 PDT home

Wednesday, 1 September 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Well, it could be true... you just never know.

Oh, it's been all over the political pages, so it deserves mention.

Basics - should something happen to the President, then to the Vice President, the next in line to run the whole show is the Speaker of the House of Representatives. You could look it up in the constitution. That go-to guy at present would be Representative J. Dennis 'Denny' Hastert, Republican of Illinois, graduate of Wheaton College (fundamentalist Christian) and a former high school coach at Yorkville High School (1964-1980). His basic bio is here - he's been in the House since 1986 and speaker since 1999. Between the teaching gig and the US House, he spent four years in the Illinois House of Representatives. He's been around.

His voting record by issues is here.

But no one much pays attention to him. And one assumes he got tired of that.

So on Fox News Sunday he made some waves. He decided to raise some questions about George Soros, the Democratic Party financier and donor to anti-Bush 527 ads and a major financial backer of - to float an idea about this Soros, the billionaire financier. Chris Wallace was the interviewer and wanted Hastert to say something about and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and all these groups airing attack ads not directly tied to each candidate.

Here's the key part of the exchange -
HASTERT: Here in this campaign, quote, unquote, "reform," you take party power away from the party, you take the philosophical ideas away from the party, and give them to these independent groups.

You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where--if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from. And I--

WALLACE (interrupting): Excuse me?

HASTERT: Well, that's what he's been for a number years--George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there.

WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

HASTERT: I'm saying I don't know where groups--could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know. The fact is we don't know where this money comes from.
Before, transparency--and what we're talking about in transparency in election reform is you know where the money comes from. You get a $25 check or a $2,500 check or $25,000 check, put it up on the Internet. You know where it comes from, and there it is.
Ah, now we see, Soros is an international drug dealer, and that's where those who oppose George Bush get the funds to oppose him.

Note he doesn't say this is true. He says he just doesn't know. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Jack Shafer points out here -
Soros runs the Quantum Fund hedge fund and earned a reported one billion dollars in 1992 betting against the British pound. According to the Christian Science Monitor, he's dropped five billion of his fortune on his various "open society" programs around the world. He's given $12.6 million to the anti-Bush 527s, chump change relative to the size of his fortune. In addition, Soros has been a very public advocate and funder of drug-law legalization and liberalization campaigns.
Ah, the last part is the kicker, a lever Hastert can use.

Soros is ticked. And here (PDF format) the letter he sent Hastert on the 31st demanding an apology, and a retraction.

Hastert fires back a letter here saying he never referred to drug cartels on Fox News Sunday, that Chris Wallace did. Technically correct of course, as Wallace did ask whether Hastert was saying Soros made his money from dug cartels, and Hastert only say, well, he just didn't know for sure.

Actionable? Slander?

Hypothetical - If I say I heard you like to rape and murder Girl Scouts, and since there is no evidence you haven't raped and murdered Girl Scouts, well I can say I just don't know if it is true or not. And I haven't said anything slanderous. I just said I don't know.


Hastert's letter does list initiatives to decriminalize illegal drug use to which Soros has contributed. The bugs him. But Soros is giving these groups money. He's funding them, not the other way around.

Oh well. Drugs is drugs. And Hastert too doesn't do nuance.

Jack Shafer points out his theory of where Hastert got the whole idea, and it is amusing -
Where did Hastert get the notion that Soros might be getting money from drug cartels? A good guess would be the organization headed by political fantasist, convicted felon, and perpetual presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. This campaign literature from the "LaRouche in 2004" Web site, dated Oct. 29, 2003, makes the drug charge directly:

Years of investigation by LaRouche's associates have answered that question in grisly detail: Soros's money comes from impoverishment of the poor countries against whose currencies he speculates, and from deadly mind-destroying, terrorism-funding drugs.

The LaRouchie slander of Soros dates back to the early '90s. Michael Lewis recorded an anti-Soros protest by LaRouche followers in a Jan. 10, 1994, profile in the New Republic. Since then, the drug charge has been a LaRouche literature mainstay. See, for example, this cached copy of a 2002 interview with LaRouche from his organization's Executive Intelligence Review.

Hastert may have also brushed up against the idea in a 1997 House hearing about needle exchanges that he chaired. David Jordan, the former U.S. ambassador to Peru, testified that Soros has backed drug legalization initiatives and owns a piece of a bank in Colombia. Connecting the imaginary dots, Jordan says, "And I think it would be very interesting for you to look to see and bring sometime [sic] who benefits from the legalization of narcotics."
Ah, not saying it's so, but it could be so?

Note - the Just Above Sunset background item on Lyndon LaRouche is this - January 11, 2004 Odds and Ends: "Religious cults, like fringe candidates, are never quite as much fun as you'd imagine. Lyndon LaRouche, Scientology... whatever."

But Shafer's catch - this connection to Lyndon LaRouche - is a minor issue.

What is most interesting is the dynamic here - attack by raising an outrageous allegation and say you just don't know if it is true or not. Stay safe, legally. But get the message out. And the damage is done.

Works every time.

Posted by Alan at 21:01 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 2 September 2004 09:33 PDT home

Tuesday, 31 August 2004

Topic: For policy wonks...

Nuance for Dummies

Think golf. Josh Marshall at Talking Point Memo tees up the ball...

Three quotes from President Bush -

From a White Press conference 13 April 2004, this -

"One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can."

From 28 August 2004 this -

"I don't think you can win it (i.e., the war on terror). But I think you can create conditions so that the -- those who use terror as a tool are -- less acceptable in parts of the world."

From 31 August 2004 this -

"We meet today in a time of war for our country, a war (i.e., the war on terror) we did not start yet one that we will win."

Which is it? Fooled ya, suckers! You don't know, do you?

Marshall comments -
Come to think of it, this may be an ingenious way to pump up viewership for the president's speech on Thursday night. Tune in to find out his final answer: can we win or can't we? We'll be on the edge of our seats.

We're told that later today the president will be commenting on whether the war between Oceania and East Asia is winnable.
Yeah, yeah.

Not important. As Elizabeth Bumiller points out in the New York Times -
President Bush, in an interview broadcast on Monday, said he did not think America could win the war on terror but that it could make terrorism less acceptable around the world, a departure from his previous optimistic statements that the United States would eventually prevail.

In the interview with Matt Lauer of the NBC News program "Today," conducted on Saturday but shown on the opening day of the Republican National Convention, Mr. Bush was asked if the United States could win the war against terrorism, which he has made the focus of his administration and the central thrust of his re-election campaign.

"I don't think you can win it," Mr. Bush replied. "But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

As recently as July 14, Mr. Bush had drawn a far sunnier picture. "I have a clear vision and a strategy to win the war on terror," he said.

At a prime-time news conference in the East Room of the White House on April 13, Mr. Bush said: "One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we are asking questions, is, 'Can you ever win the war on terror?' Of course you can."

It was unclear if Mr. Bush had meant to make the remark to Mr. Lauer, or if he misspoke. But White House officials said the president was not signaling a change in policy, and they sought to explain his statement by saying he was emphasizing the long-term nature of the struggle.

Taken at face value, however, Mr. Bush's words would put him closer to the positions of the United States' European allies, who have considered Mr. Bush's talk of victory simplistic and unhelpful. ...
Oh geez! Bush is getting all French on us now?

Ah, he must have misspoken. No change. Not really.

He takes it back, or, well, adds nuance. Or what passes for nuance these days when you speak to a convention of the American Legion.

Bush: 'We Will Win' the War on Terror
President Reverses Statements Made in 'Today' Show Interview
Mike Allen, The Washington Post, Tuesday, August 31, 2004; 4:48 PM
NASHVILLE, Aug. 31 -- President Bush rushed Tuesday morning to reverse his assertion that the war on terror cannot be won, trying to deflect a planned barrage of Democratic attacks by telling the nation's largest veterans group that "we are winning, and we will win."

Bush, asked about "this war on terror" in an interview aired Monday on NBC's "Today" show, had said: "I don't think you can win it." But with Democrats castigating him as a defeatist, he told the annual convention of the American Legion that "in this different kind of way, we may never sit down at a peace table."
Ah, you see when you talk about a table it becomes more clear. We will win, but we won't be sitting down at any tables, so it might not look like we won.

Got it?

Well, to clarify any problem you have with the subtlety of that idea, President Bush decided that he had better explain this all in more detail and nuance to the largest political audience available at any one time in North America - the listeners to the Rush Limbaugh radio show.

So he dropped by the Limbaugh show as a special guest and said this -
I should have made my point more clear about what I meant. What I meant was that this is not a conventional war. It is a different kind of war. We're fighting people who have got a dark ideology who use terrorists, terrorism, as a tool. They're trying to shake our conscience. They're trying to shake our will, and so in the short run the strategy has got to be to find them where they lurk. I tell people all the time, "We will find them on the offense. We will bring them to justice on foreign lands so we don't have to face them here at home," and that's because you cannot negotiate with these people. And in a conventional war there would be a peace treaty or there would be a moment where somebody would sit on the side and say we quit. That's not the kind of war we're in, and that's what I was saying. The kind of war we're in requires, you know, steadfast resolve, and I will continue to be resolved to bring them to justice, but as well as to spread liberty ... There's no doubt in my mind, so long as this country stays resolved and strong and determined, and by winning, I just would remind your listeners that Pakistan is now an ally in the war on terror.
They lurk, you see. And that makes things complicated. And Pakistan is an ally. Case closed.

Marshall adds this -
The president deserves every whack he gets for changing his position twice in three days on the issue he has made the centerpiece of his campaign. But folks should also start using his bobbling to make the point that the issue is less whether the president thinks the 'terror war' is winnable than the fact that he doesn't even have any clear idea of how to fight it

(A reader makes a good point: Reading the above, you can see why President Bush doesn't 'do nuance.' It ain't his strong suit.)
Yeah, well, he tried.

The actual conversation that started all this? From the Matt Lauer interview on "The Today Show" note this -
LAUER: You said to me a second ago, one of the things you'll lay out in your vision for the next four years is how to go about winning the war on terror. That phrase strikes me a little bit. Do you really think we can win this war of ter--on terror? For example, in the next four years?

Pres. BUSH: I have never said we can win it in four years?

LAUER: No, I'm just saying, can we win it? Do you say that?

Pres. BUSH: I don't--I don't think we can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the--those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in part of the world, let's put it that way. I have a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand is to find them before they hurt us. And that's necessary. I'm telling you it's necessary.
Okay, he's just a little vague here, but hoping we get the general idea. Or he's trying to show us he's a deeper thinker than we imagined, as he can be are nuanced as that Kerry guy.

Many, many commentators have pointed out that had Kerry said such a thing - that we cannot win this war on terror by the usual definitions of winning - the Republicans would have tarred and feathered him and run him out of town on a rail. Kerry would be pilloried as weak on terror and a traitor and a defeatist and so on and so forth - as cowardly and timid as, say, Max Cleland. Max Cleland and John Kerry don't like facing the enemy. Did either of them join the Texas Air National Guard and fly missions to protect Houston from the deadly, daily attacks of the Viet Cong air force? I think not! Cowards!

The conservative but gay, American but once British writer Andrew Sullivan says the obvious -
The odd thing is that this really does sound like a parody of Kerry. And if Kerry had indeed said that, we would be hearing nothing else for weeks. And indeed, every time I hear the president talk extemporaneously about the war - his interview with Tim Russert last February was a classic - he does seem to have almost no conceptual grasp of what he's talking about. Back then, he seemed flummoxed by the very concept of a distinction between a war of choice and a war of necessity. Now he seems to be parroting a Council on Foreign Relations confab on the permanence of terrorism.

We're all told that the president knows what he believes about this war and today he corrected himself. But the issues here - how to fight Islamist terror, what constitutes success, the necessary blend of military action, diplomacy, police work, etc. - are not minor.

You have to be impressed by this president's resilience in the war and his aggression. He also deserves enormous credit for shifting U.S. policy toward democratization in that part of the world. But there are times when you have to wonder whether he really understands this issue as deeply as he needs to; and whether that limited grasp has led to some of the calamitous "miscalculations" that even he has now acknowledged.
Yeah, but folks don't care. Read the poll numbers.

Items like Fitness for Command (August 22, 2004 - No one wants to mention the elephant in the room, but things change...) - and the August 29 follow-up here - just reinforce the idea the pointy-headed intellectuals have it in for a guy who is just trying to do the right thing. He may be weak on the concepts, but he relishes killing the bad guys real dead. Why would you want more?

Punishment and revenge matter to people.

Even if we kill the wrong folks - yeah, no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and no ties to al-Qaeda or Osama and no real threat - and even if we mess up a bit (as it is still a but dicey on the streets there now) - at least we're doing something. Maybe the wrong thing, but something, unlike those who want us to be so thoughtful and prissy and follow the rules. Even if we lock up people for years with no charges and keep in from communicating with anyone at all - and maybe we got the wrong folks - at least we're doing something.

Remember the words of Marge Simpson - "We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." Doing something now is better than thinking things through and doing something clever after you figure out what might happen when you do it? Maybe.

Action trumps thoughtfulness. This is America.

Apropos of that, this Associated Press item caught my attention -

U.S. May Shift Billions for Iraq Security
Monday Aug 30, 5:38 PM ET
The State Department is considering whether $3.34 billion intended for public works projects in Iraq should be thrown at security, a State Department official said Monday.

The money would be part of $18.4 billion Congress approved last year for rebuilding Iraq.

Though Bush said this money was needed "urgently," little has been spent because of bureaucratic delays and security problems.

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, has recommended that the $3.34 billion be reallocated from water, sewage and electricity projects. If security is improved, oil production could be increased, eventually making more money available for reconstruction, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ...
Yep, making it up as we go along.

We don't do ready, aim, FIRE!

Not our style.

We do ready, fire, AIM!

Does it matter? You make adjustments.

We will soon reach the inevitable milestone in the war - one thousand dead American soldiers. Our scoffing at planning? Our quick but wrong-headed assessment of what the situation was and what it was likely to be if we acted this way or that - where we were not supposed to ask questions but just trust the guys in charge? Does it matter? It might matter to these one thousand soldiers, but they're dead.

Move on.

Posted by Alan at 17:56 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 31 August 2004 18:08 PDT home

Monday, 30 August 2004

Topic: Photos

Now on line!
Just Above Sunset ...

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, is online now.

Volume 2, Number 34 of contains...

[>] A special guest column from Rick Brown, the News Guy in Atlanta.
[>] Breaking news on the spy story from Friday
[>] Three sequential items on Political Character (if there is such a thing)
[>] A photo-essay on last week's celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of The Liberation of Paris, with words and pictures from Ric Erickson on the spot, along with links to items (in French) on how the French see California
[>] A surreal story, via Ric Erickson, of an odd event in Ch?tellerault
[>] Bob Patterson goes wild with two columns - digging deep for what is really what!
[>] Snazzy photography - working close-up and personal pretentious
[>] The usual odd quotes to amuse you...

... and more!

One of the photos?

Posted by Alan at 20:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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