5/14/2004

Bush's Vanishing Base

Liberals aren’t the only ones unhappy with Bush’s record. In recent months, both moderate and conservative Republicans have voiced (or mumbled) their concerns over the direction of Bush’s policies. This Knight-Ridder article looks at some of the disparaging remarks that have been made by influential conservatives:

“President Bush is facing sharp dissent from his conservative base that could force him to change course on the war in Iraq and other issues or risk losing critical support for his re-election campaign.

"The complaints are rising from the traditional conservative wing of the Republican Party — including such influential voices as Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois and columnist George Will, who are challenging the "neo-conservative" doctrine that the United States can remake the Middle East by toppling Saddam Hussein and nurturing a democracy.

"It would be foolish, not to say ruinously arrogant, to believe that we can determine the future of Iraq," Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said yesterday.

...

“Days earlier, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested Bush's vision of America's role may be unrealistic and unwise.

'"We need to restrain what are growing U.S. messianic instincts, a sort of global social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy, by force if necessary," Roberts said in a speech.

...

‘"There's a growing split between conservatives and neo-cons," said a senior House Republican aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. "From day one, traditional conservatives did not believe that the United States could deliver democracy to Iraq."

“Unlike traditional conservatives, who are wary of big government, budget deficits and foreign entanglements, so-called "neo-conservatives" believe that America has an opportunity and even a duty to export its concept of liberty. Some in the administration thought Iraq would be Exhibit A of how readily Western democracy would take root.

“Will, who is influential with traditional conservatives, recently scorned such neo-conservative thinking. Conservatism, he wrote, means seeing the world as it is, not as it should be.

‘"Traditional conservatism," Will wrote. "Nothing 'neo' about it. This administration needs a dose of conservatism without the prefix."’

And from the center, this Salon piece makes the case for a moderate backlash among centrist Republicans in the 2004 election. “[T]here's little doubt that behind the scenes, some moderate Republicans are rooting for the other side. If Bush wins, one aide to a moderate Republican says privately, "that would be the worst possible situation."

The Bush campaign has been working to reassure its core constituents (the memory of the Bush I reelection fiasco is still fresh in their minds) by having Cheney speak at NRA and Right to Life conventions. And last night, Bush delivered a speech at the 40th annual meeting of the American Conservative Union in Washington.

No wonder so many Republicans taken issue with the Bush agenda. Look at the Republican Party Platform from the 2000 convention. These clips were compiled by MattS at DailyKos, and they illustrate how Bush resembles Clinton in the eyes of some Republicans. (Can you believe it? Bush mirrors Clinton?)

"The arrogance, inconsistency, and unreliability of the administration's diplomacy have undermined American alliances, alienated friends, and emboldened our adversaries." [ed. this is referring to Clinton's administration]

"Gerrymandered congressional districts are an affront to democracy and an insult to the voters. We oppose that and any other attempt to rig the electoral process."

"Nor should the intelligence community be made the scapegoat for political misjudgments. A Republican administration working with the Congress will respect the needs and quiet sacrifices of these public servants as it strengthens America's intelligence and counter-intelligence capabilities and reorients them toward the dangers of the future."

"The current administration has casually sent American armed forces on dozens of missions without clear goals, realizable objectives, favorable rules of engagement, or defined exit strategies. Over the past seven years, a shrunken American military has been run ragged by a deployment tempo that has eroded its military readiness. Many units have seen their operational requirements increased four-fold, wearing out both people and equipment."

"The rule of law, the very foundation for a free society, has been under assault, not only by criminals from the ground up, but also from the top down. An administration that lives by evasion, coverup, stonewalling, and duplicity has given us a totally discredited Department of Justice."

"Sending our military on vague, aimless, and endless missions rapidly saps morale. Even the highest morale is eventually undermined by back-to-back deployments, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, inadequate training, and rapidly declining readiness."

Visit DailyKos to see more examples.

The Digital Age



I try to avoid making the Vietnam comparison, but sometimes it fits too well to pass up. Take the case of “war in the digital age.” We’re just beginning to understand what it means to fight in a world of instant communication. First, we were hit by the digital photographs from Abu Ghraib. Next, it was the video of Nick Berg’s decapitation fed to us over an al Qeada-allied website. And today, “senators…read despairing e-mails from U.S. soldiers in Iraq…Troops are sending emails home to their congressmen, and they don't tell happy tales. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois read Rumsfeld an e-mail from a career officer in Iraq, saying troops were "appalled and ashamed" over Abu Ghraib. "Nobody wants to compare this to Vietnam," the email said. "But it's starting to feel that way on the ground. Everybody just wants to finish their year, get the hell out and forget they were ever here."’

Thirty years ago, the American public was dealing with a similar struggle. At that time the new medium was television, and each night families would turn to the nightly news to see American soldiers killed in their living room. It was difficult to swallow, and those images helped galvanize the American opposition to the war.

In other digital-age news, the June issue of Reason magazine will be dedicated to “the database nation.” Each subscriber will receive a customized cover that features a satellite photograph of their home. “Inside, the personalization continues. Subscribers can find out how many of their neighbors are college educated and what percentage of kids in their zip code are being raised by their grandparents.” Supposedly the purpose of theme is to educate readers on the disappearance of privacy in the digital age. Good to know.

Fantasy Camps

I found this on Wonkette. Is this a sick joke, or is it real? Either way, it's almost as offensive as the real Abu Ghraib prison.


Torture

Months ago I read this fascinating article in the Atlantic Monthly on the use of torture and intimidation in interrogations. The subject of article is obviously quite relevant to today’s discussions on Abu Ghraib.

While re-reading the piece, this question came to mind: what would happen if Osama bin Laden were captured before the election? This topic has disappeared from the media in recent weeks, but it’s certainly worth considering. Is this the only thing that can save Bush from his plummeting poll numbers? Or would there be a backlash? Would people ask, “Why didn’t we catch him three years ago instead of chasing after Saddam Hussein?” Who knows.

5/13/2004

Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop enters the presidential campaign. First, Dan LeRoy writes in the Weekly Standard on the Democrat Party’s absurd history with rap. Meanwhile Kerry tears up listening to a song dedicated to him. These stories are pretty embarrassing for the Democrats; they come off as middle-aged white guys who don’t understand the genre but pander to the community anyway for their votes. Still, I’d say it’s better than pandering to the NRA and to fundamentalist Christians, as the Bush campaign has.

Kerry in Florida



Kerry as he lands in Jacksonville, Fla. on May 11, 2004. From CJR Campaign Desk.

5/12/2004

Swing States

The New York Times tells us again that the battleground states will be important in November. Is this news? Tell me, who did not this?

According to the Times, twenty-two states are up for grab this election, including a few unusual ones like Arizona, Colorado and Louisiana. This map is one-third larger than the one that existed during the 2000 election. Here are some interesting excerpts (and it looks good for Kerry):

“Arizona is one of the states that has caught the early attention of the candidates as they adjust to this new terrain. The changing demographics here - in particular, the increasing number of Hispanic voters - has made it more Democratic since 2000, when Mr. Bush defeated Mr. Gore by six percentage points, campaign aides said. A poll of Arizona voters conducted by KAET-TV and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in late April found that Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry were effectively tied.

“Ms. Napolitano said that in 2000, Mr. Gore virtually ignored Arizona, which for a generation was identified with the conservative icon Barry Goldwater. She said the only nod to Arizona she could recall from the Gore campaign was a visit by Hadassah Lieberman, the wife of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, who was Mr. Gore's running mate.

“By contrast, Mr. Kerry was here for two days last week, and he and Mr. Bush are running television advertisements. "Bush has been here twice since the primary," said Ms. Napolitano, who has tracked the moves by the Republican opposition since the state's Democratic primary in February.



“Analysts outside the campaigns said there appeared to be less feinting than in any recent election. Mr. Kerry, for example, spent nearly $2 million last week on advertising in Colorado and Louisiana. Those are two states that had not been considered particularly competitive because Mr. Bush won them by more than seven percentage points in 2000. And Mr. Kerry campaigned in Louisiana on Friday and Saturday.

‘"It's an objective fact we have expanded the battleground," said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Mr. Kerry. "And we intend to further expand it."’

Personals

More from the dating front: “Brutally Honest Personals.” Thanks Elise.

The Ilusion of War...

It’s difficult at times to determine what’s accurate and what’s not among all the pessimistic view of Iraq. John Brady Kiesling, a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service who resigned in protest to the war in Iraq, had an intelligent piece in this Sunday’s Washington Post.

“The deadliest illusion about warfare is that the aim of war is military victory. The true aim of war is to accomplish the political, economic or security goals for which it was fought. In a war competently waged for rational ends, one could rationally expect that America's aims would best be achieved through dominance on the battlefield followed by the dignified establishment of a new and better order. But in a war like the one in Iraq, which is based on assumptions since proven false, we cannot win by being victorious.

“Any selfish motives aside, America's war aim remains the creation of a viable Iraqi state. Ideally, that state would serve as a democratic model to its repressive neighbors, but at a minimum American interests require that the new Iraqi state not harbor terrorists or pose a threat to its neighbors; that it renounce nuclear weapons, long-range missiles and nerve gas; and that it exercise an effective monopoly on violence within its own territory.

“My resignation from the U.S. Foreign Service in February 2003 was driven by my conviction that this minimum aim was unachievable. I was certain that the Iraq of 2004 would bear no resemblance to the Germany or Japan of 1946. Long before the publication of the awful photos from Abu Ghraib, we Americans lacked the legitimacy in the eyes of the Islamic world to be accepted as liberators rather than occupiers. Nor did we possess any magic toolbox of democracy-building to substitute for the slow, bloody evolution of democracies elsewhere. There was no external enemy -- no Red Army at the gates -- to validate us as the lesser of two evils. Iraq's internal schisms were too deep for quick fixes, and the highly touted Iraqi George Washingtons who trailed behind our tanks were irrelevant or fraudulent.”

The rest of the piece is worth reading.

The only part that I disagree with is the line: “Nor did we possess any magic toolbox of democracy-building to substitute for the slow, bloody evolution of democracies elsewhere.” Many people including myself believed that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a “slow, bloody evolution.” And we believed that the Iraqis were a people starving for democracy.

These things are still true. Iraq was “ripe” for democracy; the Bush administration, though, completely mishandled the war’s aftermath.

The Election is Kerry's to Lose

Zogby has made some pretty memorable blunders in the past, but in my mind he restored all credibility with his predictions in Iowa. He has just made another prediction: “John Kerry will win the election.” Let’s hope he’s right again.

From Zogby:

"I have made a career of taking bungee jumps in my election calls. Sometimes I haven't had a helmet and I have gotten a little scratched. But here is my jump for 2004: John Kerry will win the election.

"Have you recovered from the shock? Is this guy nuts? Kerry's performance of late has hardly been inspiring and polls show that most Americans have no sense of where he really stands on the key issues that matter most to them. Regardless, I still think that he will win. And if he doesn't, it will be because he blew it. There are four major reasons for my assertion:

"First, my most recent poll (April 12-15) shows bad re-election numbers for an incumbent President. Senator Kerry is leading 47% to 44% in a two-way race, and the candidates are tied at 45% in the three-way race with Ralph Nader. Significantly, only 44% feel that the country is headed in the right direction and only 43% believe that President Bush deserves to be re-elected - compared with 51% who say it is time for someone new.

"In that same poll, Kerry leads by 17 points in the Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000, while Bush leads by only 10 points in the Red States that he won four years ago.

"Second, there are very few undecided voters for this early in a campaign. Historically, the majority of undecideds break to the challenger against an incumbent. The reasons are not hard to understand: voters have probably made a judgment about the better-known incumbent and are looking for an alternative.

"Third, the economy is still the top issue for voters - 30% cite it. While the war in Iraq had been only noted by 11% as the top issue in March, it jumped to 20% in our April poll as a result of bad war news dominating the news agenda. The third issue is the war on terrorism. Among those who cited the economy, Kerry leads the President 54% to 35%. Among those citing the war in Iraq, Kerry's lead is 57% to 36%. This, of course, is balanced by the 64% to 30% margin that the President holds over Kerry on fighting the war on terrorism. These top issues are not likely to go away. And arguably, there is greater and growing intensity on the part of those who oppose and want to defeat Bush.

...

"Finally, if history is any guide, Senator Kerry is a good closer. Something happens to him in the closing weeks of campaigns (that obviously is not happening now!). We have clearly seen that pattern in his 1996 victory over Governor Bill Weld for the Senate in Massachusetts and more recently in the 2004 Democratic primaries. All through 2003, Kerry's campaign lacked a focused message. He tends to be a nuanced candidate: thoughtful, briefed, and too willing to discuss a range of possibly positions on every issue. It is often hard to determine where he actually stands. In a presidential campaign, if a candidate can't spell it out in a bumper sticker, he will have trouble grabbing the attention of voters. By early 2004, as Democratic voters in Iowa and elsewhere concluded that President Bush could be defeated, they found Governor Howard Dean's message to be too hot and began to give Kerry another look. Kerry came on strong with the simplest messages: "I'm a veteran", "I have the experience", and "I can win". His timing caused him to come on strong at the perfect time. As one former his Vietnam War colleague of told a television correspondent in Iowa: "John always knows when his homework is due."

Trans-Gender Golf Pros

The headline pretty much says it all: “Man Raised As a Girl Commits Suicide.” I try to avoid posting novelty news items, but there’s something about this case that shocks me.

Henry Hyde's European Adventure

It seems Republican Representatives aren’t as concerned about discretionary spending when it comes to their own traveling expenses. Here’s an egregious case of a “staff-heavy, seven-day, two-nation jaunt”

Commencement

This is all too typical. I give the Bush administration a bit of credit for some honorable deed, only to find out later that their actions were politically motivated.

Take the case of the Bush daughters’ commencements. When it was announced last week that neither Bush parent would attend the ceremonies, “White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the president and first lady decided to spare families the rigorous security measures that go along with a presidential visit.”

However, this gesture is not as honorable it appears. Unfortunately for the Bush daughters, neither Connecticut nor Texas is a battleground state. Bush will instead be dedicating his commencement-related activities this year to Louisiana, Colorado, and Wisconsin—all states that will be close in November.

“Mr. Bush turned down an invitation to speak at the Texas ceremony. But he will give a commencement address at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and at Concordia University in Mequon, Wis.”

Single Republicans

If you’re a lonely conservative, you may find this dating service helpful. Unfortunately, for lonely Democrats, www.singledemocrats.com only offers this message: Meet quality conservative American Singles at SingleRepublican.com. Is being "American" a common prerequisite among single conservatives?

VP Update

Bloomberg says it knows who the top-five VP choices are for the Kerry campaign:

“Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is focusing on five potential running mates, including former party nomination rivals Senator John Edwards and retired General Wesley Clark, according to campaign and party officials familiar with the selection process.

“The others under consideration are Representative Richard Gephardt of St. Louis, Senator Bob Graham of Florida -- both of whom also made bids for the Democratic nomination -- and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. Kerry won't name his choice until next month, the officials said.”

UPDATE: Here’s a piece on last weekend’s VP auditions.