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Free Advice for John Kerry

John Kerry is among the legion of politicians who still don’t know the First Rule of Holes: When you’re in one, stop digging. He’s been jumping down into the same deep hole, shovel in hand, for more than three decades.

In 1971 he angrily threw someone’s war medals over the White House gate. Were they his own or someone else’s? Were all the medals from the Vietnam War? Or did he rudely toss World War II medals onto the lawn along with them?

As is typical for John Kerry, on Friday he says he tossed his own medals then denied it on Sunday. (See Kaus for the details.)

Most people don’t really care if John Kerry did and said dumb things in ‘71. I certainly don’t. I was only one year old at the time. I do expect him to act like an adult and be honest about it, however. He is, after all, auditioning for president of the United States.

I don’t care for John Kerry, but I’ll throw him a rope all the same. Here you go, senator. Say this on the TV: “Today’s more strident anti-war activists remind me of my own immature self back in 1971.” It will kill two proverbial birds with a single figurative stone. It will play well among people who matter. And you’ll feel a lot better.

This is just some simple free advice for the John Kerry campaign by someone who is not, at this time, a supporter. You’re welcome.

Europe Gets Jihad

Europeans are having serious problems with some of their immigrants.

LUTON, England, April 24 — The call to jihad is rising in the streets of Europe, and is being answered, counterterrorism officials say.

In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan after World War II have turned against their families’ new home. They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street.

They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the “Magnificent 19″ and regard the Madrid train bombings as a clever way to drive a wedge into Europe.

These people are not at all like the Basque ETA or the Irish Republican Army. Those groups could be appeased or even surrendered to. The IRA does not wish to conquer London. The ETA has no desire to fly its flag over Madrid. You can’t appease people who want to conquer you, especially when they don’t have the power to pull it off if you’d let them.

So far to my knowledge, the only politicians in Europe who are even willing to talk about this are far-right nutjobs like France’s Jean Marie Le Pen (a Vichy nostalgist) and Austria’s Jorge Haider (a Nazi enthusiast). This can’t go on.

Either the mainstream liberals and/or conservatives need to figure out what to do about this (and they can start by pitching political correctness over the side and admitting they have a problem) or the ghosts of Europe’s past will walk again.

Our Saudi “Allies”

I’d like to see the corrupt and reactionary House of Saud strung up on lamposts as long as they aren’t replaced with an Al Qaeda regime. The Bush Administration’s coziness with the princes is and has been troubling, but this is as good an explanation as any I’ve seen.

WASHINGTON – During the Iraq war, Saudi Arabia secretly helped the United States far more than has been acknowledged, allowing operations from at least three air bases, permitting special forces to stage attacks from Saudi soil and providing cheap fuel, U.S. and Saudi officials say.

The American air campaign against Iraq was essentially managed from inside Saudi borders, where military commanders operated an air command center and launched refueling tankers, F-16 fighter jets, and sophisticated intelligence gathering flights, according to the officials.

Much of the assistance has been kept quiet for more than a year by both countries for fear it would add to instability inside the kingdom. Many Saudis oppose the war and U.S. presence on Saudi soil has been used by Osama bin Laden to build his terror movement.

The best that can be said about them is that they are temporarily useful enemies.

Bush’s Ironic Bounce

President Bush is up in the polls.

WASHINGTON — As worries about the Iraq war and terrorism have pushed ahead of the economy among the public’s priorities, President Bush has edged ahead of Democratic challenger John Kerry, national polls suggest.

Bush is ahead of Kerry by five points in the latest CNN poll, and he’s up by six points in the latest Gallup.

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post tries to figure out how this is possible after a month of bad news.

In the past month or so, everything has gone wrong for George W. Bush. He has been criticized at hearings of the Sept. 11 commission for being lackadaisical about terrorism. Richard Clarke accused him of being weirdly obsessed with Iraq. More than 100 Americans have been killed there in the past 30 days, and Bush was so inarticulate in his recent news conference that you could say he violated the standards of his own “No Child Left Behind” policy. Still, if this keeps up, he’ll win reelection in a landslide.

I am one who would just barely answer “Bush” if a pollster called my house. For me it’s real simple.

I don’t like Bush. Didn’t vote for him. Used to hate him. Slowly grew to be neutral. (There, I just channeled his father.)

Kerry just doesn’t have it together. He’s a cipher. I have no idea how he would perform on foreign policy. And neither does anyone else. He might do a fine job. Really, he might. But “Take a chance with John Kerry” isn’t a compelling slogan unless you’re a Bush hater.

Since Al Gore received slightly more votes nationwide than Bush did, a small but significant percentage of people who didn’t vote for Bush last time around would vote for him today. Some of those people are converts. Others probably prefer the devil they know to the one that they don’t.

If I had to grade Bush I’d give him a C. The only reason I give him that high a grade is because of who he’s compared with. He gets a Gentleman’s C, and only because I’m grading on a curve. (On foreign policy, though, I would give him a B. He earned that from me.)

John Kerry does have my sympathy. He could give a “Sister Souljah” speech and distance himself from the more feral anti-war activists. Some moderates and centrists would think that was fine. The trouble is he would also give Ralph Nader a bounce at his own expense. Bad news in Iraq doesn’t help him, and he probably expected it would. He’s trapped in his own box.

A New Iranian Blog

Mohammad Ali Abtahi is the Vice President of Iran. And he has a blog.

Here is one of his entries.

I believe that America, close to the presidential elections, needs Iraq situation to be convulsed more than ever. It is because the best reason for America’s stability is these convulsions. Bush needs to announce the public in America that there is an unfinished project in Iraq that no one else other than him can make it to the last point and if doesn’t finish, the Middle East will be in war and fire and America will be injured and damaged more than any other country.

If my analysis be the right one, Moghtadi Sadr attitudes and actions in Convulsion making in Iraq and unifying Shiite and Sunnis together against America, is just exactly what America needs in such a situation.

The out of tradition attitude by America which is being shown against the convulsions in Iraq, like the blockade of Falluja or killing the innocent Iraqi citizens who are extremely tired of killings and wars, or closing some newspapers in Iraq by America, which are all opposite of the principles that America used to talk about. These are all in concern with how much do the Americans need a convincing reason for their stability in these days close to their elections and also how much would these manners be effective for Bush’s stabilization.

I hope that those who are influential in political areas of Iraq, including Shiite and Sunni parties, pay attention to this reality and do not prepare grounds for the longer stability of occupational regime and let Iraqis to be able to decide on their destiny as soon as possible.

He’s writing in English so he’s talking to us, not to Iranians.

What to make of that? Well, here’s a snip from another post that gives us an idea of his character.

Reporting is a beautiful world. I love the world in which the person should think about an event each second. Even once, Ebrahim Nabavi asked me in an interview “what is the best profession of the world?” I answered: reporting and being a correspondent.”

Sure. If he believes that, I’m a mullah.

(Hat tip: Who Knew?)

Frum Spins Woodward

Other people can read Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack so I don’t have to. I can only read so many books in my life, and this one doesn’t make the cut.

Still, other people’s reactions to it are interesting.

Here’s something David Frum learned from its pages:

George Bush told Saudi ambassador Bandar of his intention to go to war in Iraq before he told Colin Powell. Personally, I wonder whether this revelation is quite true. The source of this story is most likely Bandar himself — and his claims should always be swallowed with a good portion of the annual output of an especially productive salt mine.

That seems about right. Of course it might be true. Who knows? Let’s say it is and see what Frum thinks.

But if it were true, it would suggest several important and disturbing conclusions.

(1) It would rather give the lie to the claim that the Iraq war was masterminded by Israel, wouldn’t it?

I don’t see how. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Besides, anyone who thinks the United States is a Jewish sock puppet lives in a phantasmagorical mental universe. Weighing evidence is beyond them.

(2) It would suggest that by the end of 2002, the president no longer trusted Powell to do the basic work of diplomacy for him.

Eh. I don’t know.

(3) Again if true, the story would suggest that the breakdown of relations between Powell and the president did severe damage to the national security of the United States — by placing the president in a position where he had to inform doubtfully friendly states of major decisions before he told them to his own secretary of state!

Come again? Bush had to tell the Saudis what was up before he told Colin Powell? Why would he have to? Who on earth could have made him?

I’ll give Frum some slack for describing an enemy state as “doubtfully friendly.” His NR colleagues have done a fine job exposing the perfidy in that kingdom. He knows what I know.

And that’s what makes his blame-it-on Powell spin so ridiculous. Either Frum thinks Colin Powell is less trustworthy than the Saudis or he believes Bush thinks so. Either way…ptth.

I rather doubt the story Woodward is telling is true. If it is true, that’s a problem. And it’s a problem because of what George W. Bush did, not because of what Colin Powell might have done to deserve it.

It’s probably best not to blame Powell for being stabbed in the back. And it’s also probably best not to accuse him of endangering national security in the process. Let’s try to remember who supposedly did what to whom here. It’s pretty straightforward.

(Hat tip: Matt Welch)

UPDATE: On a slightly related note, it looks like the Bush campaign likes Woodward’s book. Moe Freedman has the details.

Happy Anniversary to us

Today (Tuesday) is Shelly’s and my second wedding anniversary. So you get nothin’!

Enjoy the fine blogs to your left. See you again shortly.

Another Kind of Terror

Damn this is creepy.

MADRID, Spain (CNN) — The body of a Spanish police officer who was killed in a raid on suspected Islamic terrorists was removed from its tomb Sunday night, dragged across a cemetery, doused with gasoline and burned, a Spanish police official told CNN.

I don’t believe in evil, at least not in the religious sense of the word. But this makes me think of gothic horror novels, not politics.

UPDATE: CNN completely changed that story. If you follow the link now there is no mention of what I excerpted. Here’s a cached version at Google where you can read the original before they purged it.

Paranoid Blowhard

So Rush Limbaugh thinks Hillary Clinton might murder John Kerry and dump his body in a park. That’s what happens when you spend your entire life in a dittohead partisan echo chamber.

Gary Farber explains.

I’m sure plenty of people will defend him by saying he’s joking. Well, that’s what Michael Moore says about his crackpot theories, too. I’m a comedian, he says. Yeah, whatever. Then again, maybe Al Franken can joke around about assassinating George W. Bush and conservatives will finally think he’s funny.

Duelling Opinions

Oxblog found what looks to be an interesting Web site called Opinion Duel.

It’s a collaboration project between The New Republic and National Review. If you’re interested in serious debate between smart and reasonable people, check it out. A flame war forum it definitely is not. At the time of this posting, Jonathan Chait and Ramesh Ponnuru are going at it. If they can be faulted for anything, they’re too polite.

None of the Above

I watched John Kerry for a few minutes on Tim Russert’s Meet the Press and all I could do was sigh. Why did the Democrats have to pick this guy? No one really likes him much whatever they think of George W. Bush.

I don’t like John Kerry, but I don’t hate the man either. I’m one of the very few people who feels exactly the same way about President Bush.

I agree with Roger L. Simon about almost everything, and I agree with Andrew Sullivan slightly more often than not. Today is no exception.

Roger said “I am not in a panic over the election the way some are.” The same goes for me for mostly the same reason. He quotes from a piece in the LA Times by Moisés Na“m, editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine, about how history makes a president more than the other way around.

All recent U.S. presidents have learned that despite their immense power, they remain at the mercy of uncontrollable global forces, which can render their personal views and campaign promises largely irrelevant. The Clinton campaign’s famous dictum, “It’s the economy, stupid,” proved a better election-year slogan than a predictor of how often international turmoil would distract his administration from domestic issues. Bush reneged nearly as quickly on his campaign promise to adopt a “humble” foreign policy, wary of active foreign engagements and nation-building efforts.

That’s basically right. George Bush has certainly done a 180 on foreign policy since the election. He started out as a paleoconservative Buchananite and morphed into an aggressive Wilsonian hawk. He began as a shrugging isolationiast and ended up in the same place I was led to by Bosnia.

Andrew Sullivan is likewise soft in his opposition to Kerry.

Here he is in an interview with Timothy Perry.

I’m encouraged by some of the things Kerry has been saying recently…In general I trust Bush more than Kerry in this war – far more. But I’m open to persuasion and don’t think of myself as blindly in support of a person. If another person can better achieve our goals, the beauty of a democracy, unlike a dictatorship, is that we can change leaders quite easily.

I’d like to warm up to Kerry if for no other reason than that he might be our next president. If I don’t vote for him and he wins anyway, I’m not going to be one of those people who are sure to freak out and say it’s the end of us. In fact, I’ll swing around to being one of his defenders by default. I learned something by starting out as a Bush-hater and later deciding I was wasting both my energy and my time. Kerry may govern well, or at least passably. Clinton wasn’t half as bad as his worst detractors said he was, and neither is Bush. Kerry probably wouldn’t be either.

Still, I find myself more or less back to where I was during the last election when I voted for Ralph Nader. I was a paleoliberal then who was mad at the neolibs in the Democratic Party. Now I’m a neoliberal centrist annoyed with the paleos. I guess I’m just hard to please.

I don’t care for Ralph Nader as much as I used to (to say the least), but there’s one thing I really do (still) like about him. He wants an option on the ballot for “None of the Above.” I know it’s not likely to ever happen, at least not at the presidential level. But I like the fact that he brings it up anyway. I want to call do-overs. I’d like to see a Republican like John McCain run against a Democrat like Harold Ford. I would remain a centrist if we could have such a contest, but a happy one.

The First Egyptian Blog?

Glenn Reynolds found this blog from a Egyptian who calls himself GM. As far as I know, it’s the first and only Egyptian blog in English. (There may be some in Arabic, I don’t know.) He is just getting started, but it looks to be pretty interesting. Good stuff.

Directing Traffic

I understand why so many people still don’t know what a blog is, and I understand why they wouldn’t care if they did. Most of my friends are only vaguely aware I even have a Web site in the first place, and they certainly don’t read it. (A few read it, but only a few.) And that’s fine with me. While it’s fun to talk shop, so to speak, it’s also nice to be able to chill out with my friends and not yammer on about politics and the media all the time. Not to mention the fact that if I write something dumb or off the wall they won’t even know about it, let alone care about it. Nor will they hold it against me personally if I don’t vote for the same presidential candidate they do.

It does surprise me, though, how many people in “old media” are still out to lunch on this subject. They’re opinionated news junkies just like the rest of us. Maybe they just feel threatened and would rather not think about it.

Here is Jeff Jarvis on his blog today:

Many of us have seen it: A mention of a blog in a paper or a magazine or even on TV doesn’t bring in nearly the traffic of a big blog link. I get much more traffic from a mention by Glenn Reynolds than from a mention in Time magazine or the New York Times.

I remember the business head of MSNBC.com telling me sometime ago that Glenn Reynolds’ column there gets more traffic from external blogs than from the internal promotional power of the meganewssite.

See Media Drop’s comments (and links to Terry Heaton and Bill Hobbs) on a panel discussion that brought gasps to the lungs of flacks when they heard this phenom: Blogs cause more links than big, old media.

Gasps to the lungs of flacks! I’ll bet.

The truth is that big old media hardly directs any Internet traffic at all.

Howard Kurtz linked to me in the Washington Post. There was a time when I would have thought such a link would be huge. But no. Not at all. I got a grand total of 25 hits from him.

Whenever I publish a piece in Tech Central Station, a link to my blog is posted at the end. I usually get about 100 hits from that.

A few days ago Roger L. Simon linked me and gave me 500 hits.

When Glenn Reynolds links me, I get 10,000.

It’s tempting for people in the blogosphere to pat themselves on the back and say ha! to old media. Sometimes it’s a bit much, but only sometimes. I wonder if the folks at the Washington Post know just how much more traffic a blog can direct than the online version of their newspaper can.

Will the Opposition Lead?

Tonight is one of those nights I don’t have time to write. But I don’t want to leave you with nothing.

This piece in the New York Times by Paul Berman, one of the best writers and smartest thinkers around, is your required reading for Friday. Will the Opposition Lead?

New Column

My new Tech Central Station column is up: The New Neutrality.

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