The Second Debate

I only watched part of the debate tonight. I taped the whole thing and may sit down to absorb it this weekend. (Then again, I may not.) I found this one far more irritating than the first.

I did see a few small pieces. And instead of reacting to the debate as a whole (I can’t, sorry) let me react to two things I did see.

George W. Bush still can’t explain who we are fighting and why even after all this time. Yes, weapons of mass destruction are a problem. But, you know what? England has weapons of mass destruction and we aren’t worried about those. I don’t lose any sleep over the French Force de Frappe. Bush continues to reduce our enemies in the Terror War down to abstract nouns; terrorism and weapons. Wrong answer. Paul Berman, an anti-Bush leftist, knows who and what the enemy is better than the president does. Berman more or less agrees with the neoconservatives here. Yet not one of those in his administration is willing to talk about this or explain it to anybody who doesn’t read the same geeky magazines I read. That needs to change. And it probably never will.

As for John Kerry, I am tired of his alternate universe where Bush “pushed our allies away.” I can’t stand to listen to it anymore. One of two things is happening here. He is unseriously playing “politics” and hoping to fool everyone to score points. (If so, he is not fooling me and I don’t care to have my intelligence insulted on a regular basis.) Or he desperately needs to catch up — fast – on what has changed in the trans-Atlantic alliance since the end of the Cold War. Robert Kagan, one of the smartest thinkers around, can fill him in on the details. This ought to be old news by now, senator. Do your homework. If you are elected president, there will be a test.

Kerry-Haters for Kerry

These guys need a link.

Are you going to vote for John Kerry even though you find him unpleasant, annoying, arrogant, waffling, misguided, or just generally unappealing in some profound way? Then you’ve come to the right place! We’re Kerry Haters for Kerry — perhaps his largest constituency! No need to hide in the Kerryhating closet anymore while you pretend to everyone that he’ll be a great president. Here you are among friends.

I’m almost a Kerry-hater for Kerry. I tried talking myself into being a Kerry-hater for Kerry. But I couldn’t quite do it.

They have some great bumper stickers over there for those of you who understand where I’m coming from but plan to vote for him anyway.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Documents: Saddam Bribed France, Russia, and China

John Kerry rather undiplomatically described the allies of the United States as a “coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted.”

As it turns out there really was a coalition of the bribed and the bought. And lo and behold, Britain, Australia, and Poland aren’t it.

SADDAM HUSSEIN believed he could avoid the Iraq war with a bribery strategy targeting Jacques Chirac, the President of France, according to devastating documents released last night.

Memos from Iraqi intelligence officials, recovered by American and British inspectors, show the dictator was told as early as May 2002 that France – having been granted oil contracts – would veto any American plans for war.

But the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which returned its full report last night, said Saddam was telling the truth when he denied on the eve of war that he had any weapons of mass destruction (WMD). He had not built any since 1992.

The ISG, who confirmed last autumn that they had found no WMD, last night presented detailed findings from interviews with Iraqi officials and documents laying out his plans to bribe foreign businessmen and politicians.

Although they found no evidence that Saddam had made any WMD since 1992, they found documents which showed the “guiding theme” of his regime was to be able to start making them again with as short a lead time as possible.”

Saddam was convinced that the UN sanctions – which stopped him acquiring weapons – were on the brink of collapse and he bankrolled several foreign activists who were campaigning for their abolition. He personally approved every one.

To keep America at bay, he focusing on Russia, France and China – three of the five UN Security Council members with the power to veto war. Politicians, journalists and diplomats were all given lavish gifts and oil-for-food vouchers.

Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, told the ISG that the “primary motive for French co-operation” was to secure lucrative oil deals when UN sanctions were lifted. Total, the French oil giant, had been promised exploration rights.

John Kerry should have taken this into account a long time ago. I doubt a single person in the Bush camp is surprised by this. A lot of us have been wondering all along what on earth Kerry is talking about when he complains about Bush’s supposed lack of diplomacy. If Kerry were president he would have to deal with the exact same international shenanigans.

How would he handle it? I’d like to know, but he will never tell us because he would have to yank one of his planks before he could do so.

(Hat tip: David Batlle via email.)

The Liberal Case for Bush

Here it is, the piece I promised a long time ago, published at Tech Central Station: The Liberal Case for Bush.

Republican Celebrities

For those interested in mixing gossip and politics (generally a bad idea, I’d say) here’s a list of conservative celebrities I found via Roger L. Simon’s comments section. I don’t know how accurate this is, but it’s on Wikipedia which I’ve generally found pretty reliable.

Among those listed:

Stephen Baldwin – One of ‘em was bound to join the Dark Side. Suck it up, Alec.

Bo Derek – This surprises me for some reason.

Dr. Phil – This doesn’t surprise me a bit.

Gary Sinise – But he seems so sensitive. (Well, he is just acting. -Ed.)

Yaphet Kotto – Cool, in a stereotype-busting sort of way. (He’s black.)

Denzel Washington. – Cool again. (See above.)

Leslie Nielson – He’s not supposed to be a Republican. He’s from Canada!

Alice Cooper – Guys like him seriously freaked out the Christian Right back in the day. Now he’s the man. Heh.

Shirley Temple – She’s still alive?

David Lynch – Proving that Republicans can be weird too. And I mean that in a good way. His movies rock. Except for Eraserhead. What the hell was that all about, anyway?

Yeah, I know. This is trivial and irrelevant. But it’s fun to bust up stereotypes once in a while.

A Liberal Muslim Manifesto

“We are of Muslim culture. We oppose misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and the political use of Islam. We reassert a living secularism.”

That’s from A Muslim Manifesto From France published in this summer’s issue of Dissent Magazine.

It was written by Tewfik Allal, a French Muslim who showed up at a demonstration in Paris to protest the banning of headscarves. He was shocked by what he saw at that rally. So he went home and wrote his manifesto with help from his feminist wife. Good on ‘em. More where this came from, please.

Saddam and Zarqawi

This is supposedly news, but it actually doesn’t say much of anything.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A CIA report has found no conclusive evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which the Bush administration asserted before the invasion of Iraq.

“There’s no conclusive evidence the Saddam Hussein regime had harbored Zarqawi,” a U.S. official said on Tuesday about the CIA findings.

But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that the report, which was a mix of new information and a look at some older information, did not make any final judgments or come to any definitive conclusions.


The CIA report concludes Zarqawi was in and out of Baghdad, but cast doubt on reports that Zarqawi had been given official approval for medical treatment there as President Bush said this summer, ABC said.

I don’t know what the report actually says. It isn’t available. In any case, it supposedly doesn’t arrive at any conclusions one way or another about Zarqawi’s alleged alliance with Saddam Hussein. But let’s take out Occam’s Razor.

As Christopher Hitchens once put it, Baghdad under Saddam Hussein was a place that was as difficult to enter as it was to leave. You couldn’t exactly waltz in there as a foreigner and check yourself into a hospital as if you were showing up to buy smokes at a corner grocery in Brooklyn.

And if Zarqawi wasn’t welcome in Iraq, why did he choose Baghdad as a place to see a doctor? There are plenty of Arab countries that were not under sanctions that deprived them of medical supplies. There were plenty of Arab countries that are not totalitarian police states (Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Kuwait,) that he could have chosen instead. So, why Iraq?

If Zarqawi really was connected to Saddam Hussein, these sentences near the article’s conclusion should follow logically.

Before last year’s invasion to topple Saddam, the Bush administration portrayed Zarqawi as al Qaeda’s link to Baghdad.

Following Saddam’s capture in December and waves of suicide attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces which followed, Zarqawi quickly became America’s top enemy in Iraq.

None of this makes a lot of difference in any case. We did not invade Iraq because of Zarqawi. We invaded Iraq to kick off a slum-clearance program in Araby.

John Kerry is No Tony Blair

Joe Katzman, in a roundabout sort of way, argues with my “hawkish case for John Kerry” approach. He makes good points, as always. In a nutshell: John Kerry is no Tony Blair.

Is he right? To an extent, absolutely. But ultimately, I don’t know. We have to guess at what a John Kerry foreign policy would actually look like. His campaign has been all over the place, so it isn’t a good predictor. His record is a poor predictor, too. Presidents can’t act like senators. They are leaders. They can’t just say yay or nay to someone else’s proposals.

And let’s be honest. We have to guess at what a second round of George W. Bush’s foreign policy would look like, too. Will Bush fix Iraq? I wish I knew. I wish I knew a lot of things that I don’t actually know.

If I had a crystal ball and could take a good hard look at two alternate futures I would know without a doubt which of our two candidates I would vote for.

Today I’m leaning 51 percent Bush and 49 percent Kerry. When I wrote my hawkish endorsement for Kerry I was leaning slightly his way. Now that I’ve written my “liberal case for Bush” (forthcoming at Tech Central Station.) I’m leaning a bit toward Bush again. Partly this is because I found my own endorsement for Bush slightly more persuasive than my own endorsement for Kerry. But it’s also, in part, because of what Joe Katzman says at Winds of Change.

The Edwards And Cheney Debate

Let me begin with a caveat. I only watched the first half of the vice presidential debate, the portion that focused on foreign policy.

I have no idea who “won” or who will be perceived to have won. And I don’t really care.

Both were confident, articulate, knowledgeable, and presidential. Both had some command of the facts, and both were sometimes right. When they were wrong they weren’t offensively or freakishly wrong. There were no Howard Dean moments, in other words. (Although I’m liking Dean more these days. He’s out of his radical phase now.)

When John Edwards said we lost more soldiers in September than in August, and more soldiers in August than in July, and more soldiers in July than in June, he proved he isn’t stuck in denial about the fact that Iraq has taken a turn for the worse. I worry about Bush and Cheney sometimes. Are they even aware that Iraq is on fire? I don’t know. Probably. But I don’t know. They talk about Iraq as though everything is rainbows and sunshine. You don’t have to buy into hysterical doom-mongering to see that Iraq is whacked. And you can’t solve a problem if you can’t even admit a problem exists.

But Edwards seemed to be in denial about something else. He said the United States is taking 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq. Well, senator, welcome to the unipolar world of the American superpower. Our European allies do not have the military capacity to project power as we do. They cannot match us on the battlefield no matter how much they might want to. (And let us not forget that they do not want to.) That’s because they deliberately reduced their military power down to token “me too” levels. They knew — rightly — that we would pick up the slack. So we will pick up the slack. You and John Kerry will never get Europe to pick up your slack. It isn’t politically possible. Nor is it physically possible.

Edwards and Cheney went back and forth like this. Sometimes Cheney was right. Other times Edwards was right. I can imagine that if these two men were working together they could cobble together a plan for success in Iraq that isn’t hampered by Republican chauvinism or left-wing defeatism.

I don’t trust Kerry and Edwards, mostly because of John Kerry. Kerry is the boss, not Edwards. And Kerry has ran a wobbly campaign following a shaky record where he has been consistently on the weak side of national security.

But I don’t trust Bush as much as I used to, in part because he really does appear to be in denial. Also because he has practically no political capital to carry out a foreign policy I basically agree with, and because he is such a polarizing figure he has become an enormous liability.

I would put more trust in a Cheney/Edwards or an Edwards/Cheney ticket than the two options we currently have. Too bad it’s not an option.

The Plot Against America

One of our best journalists, Paul Berman, reviews the new novel by one of our best fiction writers, Philip Roth.


The Plot Against America is an alternate history. What if the United States joined the Fascist Axis in the 1930s? Berman insists this novel is not a cheap political allegory, that Roth is not in any way trying to compare the current political climate to the fictional one that takes place in his book. But he does say this:

Still, after you have had a chance to inhabit his landscape for a while and overhear the arguments about war and fascism and the Jews, ”The Plot Against America” begins to rock almost violently in your lap — as if a second novel, something from our own time, had been locked inside and was banging furiously on the walls, trying to get out.


(Post-script: I don’t want anyone to misunderstand why I posted this. I do not think the United States is on the road to fascism. Not in any way whatsoever.)

Heinz-Kerry: No Blood for Oil!

I can see why those on John Kerry’s campaign staff cringe when his wife Teresa pops off in public. She is no Hillary Clinton. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. (I like Hillary now more than I did before. She isn’t on my short list of top choices for president — that honor goes to John McCain, Harold Ford, Rudy Giuliani, and Barak Obama. But I would vote for her over either Kerry or Bush.)

Here are a few quotes from Teresa Heinz-Kerry today.

On 9/12 every single newspaper in the world said ‘We are all Americans.’ Today it is not the case.

She’s quoting Le Monde. The French daily said we are all Americans now. But Le Monde is not “every single newspaper in the world.”

I don’t have a copy or an image of a newspaper from Iraq on September 11, 2001. But I do have an image of one of Saddam’s newspapers commemorating the first anniversary of September 11, 2001.

The Arabic script does not say “We Are All Americans Now,” and it especially doesn’t say “We Are Still All Americans.”

The Taliban is back running Afghanistan

The Taliban does not run Afghanistan. I’m real sorry the Taliban aren’t yet discussed in the past tense, but today’s Afghan government – such as it is – is run by a guy named Hamid Karzai. An election is scheduled this coming Saturday.

No American boy or girl should lose their lives for oil.

Now that I can agree with. Good thing we aren’t fighting for oil.

John Kerry, Neoconservative

William Safire at the New York Times says John Kerry transformed himself into a “hard-line, right-wing, unilateral” neoconservative. I wouldn’t go that far, but he makes some good points. Whatever Kerry’s faults, he is not the second coming of George McGovern. Really, he isn’t.

Extraordinary Rendition

Extraordinary Rendition. That’s a euphemism for torture.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert wants to legalize it — sort of. He proposed a bill that would allow the United States to ship people off to totalitarian dungeons like Syria where torture is “legal” since we can’t do it ourselves on our own soil.

It’s a disgrace. Abu Ghraib sullied our reputation enough, as if it weren’t already dangerously bad to begin with. I was impressed by the fact that the vast majority of Americans choked when they found out what happened in the now-notorious Iraqi prison. And Dennis Hastert wants to crank this up even further?

The media is mostly ignoring this story, which is odd. I would think they would plaster this one all over the papers if they’re as liberal and partisan as they often appear. But we’re hardly hearing much about this. We should be, not because the story makes Dennis Hastert look bad in an election season but because Dennis Hastert is being bad period.

Please see Hilzoy and Katherine at Obsidian Wings for more.

Did Kerry Cheat?

Drudge is accusing John Kerry of cheating in his first debate against George W. Bush.

He has video showing that Kerry took something out of his jacket pocket and placed it on the podium.

Why is this a problem?

Section 5, pages 4-5 of the binding “Memorandum of Understanding” that was negotiated and agreed upon by both political campaigns states:

“No props, notes, charts, diagrams, or other writings or other tangible things may be brought into the debate by either candidate…. Each candidate must submit to the staff of the Commission prior to the debate all such paper and any pens or pencils with which a candidate may wish to take notes during the debate, and the staff or commission will place such paper, pens and pencils on the podium…”

Hmm. I dunno. It’s so…high school. If Kerry were to actually be busted cheating in the debates he would be in far worse trouble than if he had lost the debate. And why should he worry about losing a debate in the first place? Bush is awful in public and he always has been. Kerry is well-known as one of Yale’s top debaters.

This looks bad for him, though.

A top Kerry campaign source explained to the DRUDGE REPORT late Sunday how Bush supporters were once again trying to distract.

“Kerry did not cheat,” said the Kerry insider. “This is more lies from Republicans, who are hoping for a quick change of subject away from the president’s performance, and the new polls.”

When pressed on the fact that even brandishing a pen from his jacket would have violated debate rules, the Kerry staffer laughed, adding, “See you at the inauguration, Drudge”.

That’s it? The Kerry campaign doesn’t have anything to say except this is a Republican lie? Look at the video. It’s not a lie. He may not have pulled a hidden note card out of his pocket, but he pulled something out of his pocket. I watched him do it, and I watched in slow motion.

That lame defense only makes Kerry look guilty. And I’m inclined to think he isn’t guilty, not because I’m a fan but because it would be just too damn stupid. Maybe he pulled a piece of gum out of his pocket. I’ve no idea, but his campaign is going to have to come up with something more convincing than “that TV camera is a lying GOP operative.”

UPDATE: Bush cheated, too! Well, no. Actually, he probably didn’t. And like I said, Kerry probably didn’t cheat, either. The odds that one of them cheated are miniscule enough. The odds that both of them cheated are vanishingly close to zero.

Nevermind, They Do Both Suck

I’ve revised my opinion of the debates.

On style and delivery, John Kerry buffed the floor with George W. Bush’s ass. He just did. I know a lot of you out there really like George W., but come on. I can argue with Kerry better than he can, and I’m just a guy in his jammies. You think this only matters to intellectuals? Wrong. Most of the world doesn’t think Bush is a cowboy, they think he’s an oil-rustler. Who’s the enemy in the Terror War? Islamofascists. What percentage of the world do you think understands this? One percent? Two?

George W. Bush gets an F-, that’s an F minus, on clarity. When we’re three and a half years into World War IV and the president of the most powerful country on earth, the 900 pound gorilla on the good guy side, has never been able, not once, to explain who the enemy is and what on earth we’re doing, well, let me just quote Joe Katzman.

It’s an important part of the war, a critical part. You can’t outsource this to the damn blogosphere.

Amen, my Canadian brother. I am not the president’s spokesman. Nor is Joe or Glenn Reynolds or Charles Johnson or Roger L. Simon. It is not our job to do his job – especially since none of the people I just listed, including myself, even voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

But. But.

That doesn’t mean John Kerry has it together. Oh my, no. He may have been more articulate than usual at Thursday’s debate (thank you, Allah) but that can only take him so far. Now I want you to click this link. It will take you over to James Lileks’ latest Bleat. (And, boy, is this one a bleat.) He’ll tell you exactly, precisely, why when I think about voting for Kerry (and I have been trying to talk myself into it) I flinch.


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