I got into a big debate the other day with a Howard Dean fan about the merits of his presidential campaign. I think because he saw that I'm a white, tech-savvy, moderate-to-liberal east-coaster, he assumed I'm a Dean supporter. Once he became aware of my skepticism about the good doctor, he asked me to give him one good reason Dean shouldn't get the nomination.
The first thing that came to mind was Dean's incessant flip-flopping on a variety of issues. (This is not to say there aren't other reasons; it's just the first thing I thought of.)
Dean's fan acknowledged that a few of his candidate's policy positions have "evolved" over time, but rejected the notion that Dean is a serial flip-flopper. At a minimum, he said, Dean is no worse than any of the other Dem candidates.
My challenger had a point, at least about Dean's rivals. All presidential candidates waffle and flip-flop sometimes. It's been this way for as long as we've had presidential campaigns as candidates need to make the adjustment from representing a state or a district to appealing to an entire nation.
The current field of Dems has some candidates who've offered a few doozies. When Dick Gephardt first came to Congress, for example, he said that "life begins at conception" and proposed a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions. Now Gephardt is ardently pro-choice.
John Kerry said in 1992 that affirmative action "has kept America thinking in racial terms," and lamented "the costs" the policy has had on the country. Today, however, Kerry considers himself as a champion of affirmative action.
Carol Mosley Braun said in 1998 that she'd never run for public office again, yet she's a presidential candidate now.
Dennis Kucinich had a dramatic conversation before entering the presidential race on the issue of reproductive rights. As Common Dreams reported, "Twice in the past three years, NARAL gave him a rating of 'zero.'" As recently as 2001, Kucinich agreed with a Bush proposal to withhold international family-planning funds from international organizations that even discuss abortions. In 1999 and 2000, Kucinich agreed with the Right to Life Committee on 19 of 20 votes. Now Kucinich, perhaps the campaign's most liberal candidate, says that he is definitely "pro-choice."
(And don't even get me started of George W. Bush, whose entire presidency has been one huge flip-flop. Remember the candidate in 2000 who bragged about a foreign policy driven by "humility," who emphasized "compassion," who boasted of bringing Democrats and Republicans together, and ran on a platform of a balanced the budget and a robust job market?)
Yet, despite these examples, I would argue that Howard Dean has flip-flopped more times, on more issues, than any of the Dems running for president. It's a continuing problem that may ultimately come back to haunt his campaign. In fact, it's so bad I decided to make a list.
I'm not talking about Dean's mistakes or apologies. I don't care that Dean mysteriously called Latin America "the most important hemisphere in American history" last week. It's easy to overlook the fact that Dean, when asked last month if he supported gay marriage, said, "I never thought about that very much." It may not matter that Dean said Saddam Hussein's fall from power is "probably a good thing" earlier this summer. No one will remember that he falsely accused John Edwards of avoiding talk of his support of the Iraq war before an anti-war Dem audience in California.
I mean straight up, direct examples of Dean holding one position and then deciding he believes the opposite shortly thereafter. It's happened often enough the last couple of months for me to create...The Carpetbagger Report's Top 10 Howard Dean flip-flops (in no particular order).
1. North Korea
In January, Dean said on CBS' Face the Nation that he approved of Bush's policy towards North Korea and agreed with the president that the approach will be successful.
"I concur with most of the president's policy on North Korea," Dean said, to the surprise of many Democrats and supporters who had criticized Bush's approach. "We have substantial differences on Iraq, but I like the idea and I believe in the idea of multilaterals. And the president's pursuing a policy in cooperation with the Chinese, the Russians, the South Koreans and the Japanese, which we ought to see bear fruition."
Just one month later, Dean flip-flopped without explanation, describing Bush's North Korea policy as "incoherent, inconsistent and dangerously disengaged."
2. Social Security retirement age
At a candidate forum hosted by the AFL-CIO in August, Dean faced criticism from Kucinich for considering moving the Social Security retirement age. Dean responded forcefully that he wanted to "tell everybody that I have never favored Social Security retirement at the age of 70, nor do I favor one of 68."
In 1995, Dean praised then-Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) for recommending changing the retirement age to 70. At the time, Dean said, "I believe that Sen. Packwood is on exactly the right track." A month later, Dean said "moving the retirement age to 70" was a way to help reduce the deficit and balance the budget.
Far more recently, in June 2003, Dean said on Meet the Press, "I would also entertain taking the retirement age up to 68."
3. Public Financing and Campaign Spending Limits
In March, Dean promised to raise a fuss if any of the other candidates decided to abandon spending limits and skip public financing.
"It will be a huge issue," Dean said in March. "I think most Democrats believe in campaign finance reform.... [I've] always been committed to this. Campaign finance reform is just something I believe in." As recently as June 7, Dean wrote to the Federal Election Commission that he will abide by spending limits in the primaries.
Last month, Dean said his campaign was "exploring" the possibility of opting out of the public financing system because of his success in raising money and his desire to spend more in the primaries than his opponents. He said he "didn't remember" making earlier promises to the contrary and said his campaign was free to "change our mind."
(Actually, Dean's flip-flopped on this issue twice. In addition to the recent conversion as a presidential candidate, Dean also did a reverse on spending limits while governor of Vermont. In 1997, Dean helped create a system whereby statewide candidates would agree to a spending cap and participate in public financing. At the time, Dean vowed that the bill would "change the way campaigns are run" in Vermont. When it came time for Dean to run for re-election in 2000 under the campaign finance system he helped create, Dean rejected public financing and exceeded the spending cap by 300 percent.)
4. U.S. trade standards
In August, Dean told the Washington Post that China and other countries could get trade deals with the United States only if they adopted "the same labor laws and labor standards and environmental standards" as the United States. When a reporter from Slate asked if he meant just general "standards" or "American standards," Dean insisted that he would demand that other countries adopt the exact same labor, environmental, health, and safety standards as the United States.
Last week in the DNC debate in Albuquerque, Dean shifted gears and said he doesn't believe that our trading partners have to adopt "American labor standards," saying that international standards would work.
5. U.S. policy on the Cuban trade embargo
Dean, up until fairly recently, was one of many politicians from both parties open to easing trade restrictions with Castro's Cuba. He admitted as much in response to a question from a reporter last month, saying, "If you would have asked me six months ago, I would have said we should begin to ease the embargo in return for human-rights concessions."
According to an Aug. 26 article in the Miami Herald, Dean has "shifted his views" on Cuban trade now that he has "surged to the top of the race" for the Dem nomination. Dean said he believes the U.S. can't ease Cuban embargo restrictions "right now" because "Castro has just locked up a huge number of human-rights activists and put them in prison and [held] show trials."
6. "Regime change" in Iraq
In March, before the U.S. invaded Iraq, Dean sounded a lot like Bush on the possible war, suggesting that disarming Saddam Hussein, with or without the United Nations, should be America's priority.
According to an interview with Salon's Jake Tapper, when Dean was asked to clarify his Iraq position, Dean said that Saddam must be disarmed, but with a multilateral force under the auspices of the United Nations. If the U.N. in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the U.S. should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn't, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice.
When the U.N. chose not to enforce its resolutions, Bush followed Dean's position and launched a unilateral action against Iraq.
Since then, Dean has held himself out as someone who has opposed the war all along.
7. Death penalty
In 1992, Dean said, "I don't support the death penalty for two reasons. One, you might have the wrong guy, and two, the state is like a parent. Parents who smoke cigarettes can't really tell their children not to smoke and be taken seriously. If a state tells you not to murder people, a state shouldn't be in the business of taking people's lives."
In 1997, his position was beginning to "evolve," but he insisted, "I truly don't believe it's a deterrent."
In June 2003, however, Dean had abandoned his earlier beliefs. He said, "As governor, I came to believe that the death penalty would be a just punishment for certain, especially heinous crimes, such as the murder of a child or the murder of a police officer."
8. Repealing Bush's tax cuts
A year ago, Dean started out saying he'd repeal all of Bush's tax cuts. Asked about how he'd pay for increased spending in health care and education, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, Dean "doesn't hem or haw" when answering the question. "'By getting rid of the President's tax cut,' Dean says. Not freezing it, mind you -- getting rid of it. All $1.7 trillion worth."
Then Dean began to equivocate. In July 2002, Dean said on Meet the Press, "[T]here's a few little things I wouldn't repeal. There are some retirement investment pieces I wouldn't repeal, although I would have to add some so that lower-income workers could help pay for their retirement, not just people like me."
Dean's position changed a little more in March, saying his tax policy would be to "repeal the president's tax cuts for people that make more than $300,000, with a few exceptions."
In May, Dean came full circle, saying that he's back to wanting to repeal "all" of the Bush tax cuts.
9. Troop deployment in Iraq
In June, Dean said on Meet the Press, "We need more troops in Afghanistan. We need more troops in Iraq now."
In August, Dean said U.S. troops need to stay in Iraq. "It's a matter of national security," Dean said. "If we leave and we don't get a democracy in Iraq, the result is very significant danger to the United States."
In last week's debate in Albuquerque, Dean completely reversed course, saying, "We need more troops. They're going to be foreign troops, not more American troops, as they should have been in the first place. Ours need to come home."
10. Civil liberties in a post-9/11 America
Shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, while Dean was still governor of Vermont, he suggested a "reevaluation" of civil liberties in America.
Specifically, Dean said he believed that the attacks and their aftermath would "require a reevaluation of the importance of some of our specific civil liberties. I think there are going to be debates about what can be said where, what can be printed where, what kind of freedom of movement people have and whether it's OK for a policeman to ask for your ID just because you're walking down the street."
More importantly, Dean said he didn't have a position on whether these steps would be good or bad. When asked if the Bill of Rights would have to be trimmed, Dean said, "I haven't gotten that far yet."
In March 2003, Dean told The Nation's David Cord that he believes "portions" of the USA Patriot Act "overreach," but added, "I haven't condemned Congress for passing" the legislation.
On August 19, however, Dean accused Ashcroft of taking advantage "of the climate of fear and adopted a series of anti-terror tactics that go far beyond protecting our country and erode the rights of average Americans." He added that the U.S. should "roll back" the USA Patriot Act.
I'm not reporting all of this to help Karl Rove and the Republicans, so spare me your emails. The truth is the bad guys already know all of this. I'd hazard a guess that Rove has dozens of college students locked up in the basement of the OEOB, sleeping on cots, and spending their waking hours chronicling every word every Dem candidate utters. Rove and the RNC don't need The Carpetbagger Report; they have an extensive research operation that blows my little blog away.
The point, rather, is for those of us who want a new president in 2005. Rove may know all about Dean's flip-flops -- he's probably already started crafting the TV ads -- but it's Dem voters who seem unaware of the good doctor's policy problems. We need to consider whether this is a problem before we vote for our nominee. Do Dean's flip-flops mean that he lacks conviction? A problem with discipline? These are questions that Dems should consider before we settle on our choice as a party.
Just as importantly, should Dean get the nomination, we need to know what the GOP will be using against our presidential pick once the election season heats up next year. Hiding public truths in the hopes that the GOP won't notice isn't an effective plan for success.
Ed Morrissey has blogged at Captain's Quarters since 2003, and has a daily radio show at BlogTalkRadio, where he serves as Political Director. Called "Captain Ed" by his readers, Ed is a father and grandfather living in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, a native Californian who moved to the North Star State because of the weather.
The Question of the Bottom of the Ticket
Due to my exchange with Eric at Nuts and Dolts regarding the 2004 election, I've been reconsidering the issue of the Republican ticket in 2004. After reading Peter Schramm's post on No Left Turns (via Powerline), I've decided that this issue is much more critical than it looked earlier.
First, Schramm is correct in asserting that Dean is remaking the Democratic Party into a radical-left political organization. As Hugh Hewitt predicted in his NRO column and blog today, Dean has energized this subset of the left so much that disengaging them by trying to drag them to the center probably isn't an option, and probably isn't where he wants to go anyway. Schramm predicts that if Dean can coast to the nomination, he will stay left and bring on another McGovern-style catastrophe. Hillary will stand on the sidelines and allow the debacle to unfold, establishing herself as a Churchill-in-the-wilderness figure that can then re-establish the Democrats as a centrist party for 2006 (her Senate re-election bid) and 2008, when she runs for President.
All of this will be good news for Bush and the Republicans in 2004, and the national election should not only safely return Bush to the White House, but will also produce significant gains in both houses of Congress as centrist Democrats either defect or stay home on Election Day. Bush will gather a powerful mandate and his legislative program will have at least two years, relatively unopposed, to establish itself. Even the mid-terms will probably be favorable or at least neutral to Bush while the Clintons and the DLC remnants re-establish their primacy in the Democratic Party.
This, however, will not be good news for the Republicans in 2008. A crushing Dean defeat gives Hillary the full four years to take over the party, initially in the guise of her Senate re-election campaign. Her husband will be recommissioned to raise funds, along with Terry McAuliffe and James Carville and possibly John Edwards. While the rabid right thinks that Hillary is too hated to be successful in a presidential election, Hillary and Bill give the party two important qualities that it lacks at the moment: glamour and credibility. They've won before, they've governed before, and they've delivered when asked. The leftists will be discredited as the driving force in the Democratic party, but the Clintons will skillfully harness them with the centrists to build a formidable coalition in 2008.
Put that against a Republican party that has been without credible opposition for at least one election cycle, and I will guarantee you a party that will overreach in its legislative program (as would the Democrats under the same conditions). Legislative overreach will alienate the independents and centrists that Bush will claim in 2004. Without credible opposition, Republicans will completely own the results of their extended rule, and there will be vulnerabilities as well as victories.
Now, under these conditions, who will run for President for the Republicans in 2008? I suggested that Bush would like to see Jeb run, but as more than one person has pointed out, that would be the third different Bush running in six elections, and the typical American revulsion at monarchy will make that a difficult sell, even to Republicans. Dick Cheney, while a fine and hardworking public servant, is not electable. He's spent most of the past term keeping an extremely low profile, even for a VP, so he excites no one as a Presidential candidate. He's too identified with the hard right of the party, and his past health issues effectively disqualify him for the Presidency, at least to the electorate.
That means that the VP slot must be opened up to someone who can reasonably compete in 2008 for the Presidency, since it allows the candidate four years to be seen in a quasi-executive role. (Of course, the VP will need to be allowed a lot more visibility than in this past term.) And because of the glamour and prestige of the Clintons, especially Hillary, it needs to be a candidate who can compete in this arena. It needs to be someone who can give credibility to the Republican Party with centrists and significant demographic segments of the population. Most of all, to be credible, the VP must be elected with Bush and not anointed later in the term. The 2004 election campaign will give the candidate the opportunity to demonstrate campaigning abilities and full potential to retain the Republican gains made in 2004.
Condoleezza Rice fills all of the qualifications. As a Vice Presidential candidate, she can actively campaign in a manner from which her role as NSA chief necessarily restrains her. She is unquestionably smart, attractive, skillful in debate, and possesses an excellent temperament, from all indications. She has the trust of Bush and his team and will provide the continuity desired in case she needs to ascend to the Presidency during Bush's term. Her candidacy in 2004 and 2008 would undoubtedly be historical and bold, out-glamourizing even the Clintons. The only element lacking from Rice's portfolio is a proven ability to campaign and to weather the kind of bruising that elections bring.
All that is needed is farsightedness on the part of Bush and the Republican team. They will feel a strong desire not to rejigger a winning formula in Bush-Cheney. But if Dean is already taking the Democrats over the cliff for 2004, Bush and Rove need to strategize against their real opponent in governing during the second term and in securing their post-office legacy.
Poetry Corner with Mr. Know-It-All
After the guys at Fraters Libertas got a chance to look at my post on the nauseatingly bad rap-poem the Strib published today, they assigned me the task of reviewing Bill McAuliffe's year-end poetry in 2000 and 2002. Up until that point, I had no idea that this was a running feature of the Star Tribune.
My first impression is that what McAuliffe writes is only poetry in the sense that it rhymes. In fact, I can't spot a whole lot of metric or structural difference between any of the three, including this year's entry; it's almost as if McAuliffe has a MS Word Poetry Template into which he stuffs whatever comes into his head. For instance, these couplets don't show a lot of coherence or any sense of meter:
Enter the Wild -- they're among hockey's best --
with jerseys so cool they're also best-dressed.
Will St. Paul be home to the next Stanley Cup?
Will some empty taxi please pick Lucy up?
The last stanzas aren't even formatted properly, as if the newspaper belatedly discovered just how bad it was and rushed to get it finished. And for some reason, the 2002 entry is described as a "waltz", as if set to music, the first time I've ever seen poetry described as such. The meter is even worse in the 2000 edition than in 2002 or 2003. I won't bother excerpting it.
However, in my opinion, these previous efforts were simply wastes of time. What sets McAuliffe's 2003 effort apart is described perfectly by Saint Paul at Fraters Libertas:
In what I presume is a light hearted attempt to summarize 2003, fussy, middle-aged white guy Bill McAulife tries to channel Tupac Shakur. (And if McAulife isn’t a fussy, middle-aged white guy, my apologies for stereotyping. In my defense I was profiling based on the fact he raps like a fussy, middle-aged white guy).
By attempting to be hip(-hop) and by cutting his own audio track of the rap song, McAuliffe descends from mere bad writing to monumentally bad taste, and his newspaper should make a New Year's resolution to shut down the annual poetry cheese. Word.
Power Line Deconstructs Dionne
Yesterday I read this column by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post regarding the odd phenomenon of Bush hatred, which I have addressed earlier in my blog. The Post published it as a companion piece to another, more thoughtful column from Robert Samuelson (which demonstrates the Post's long-standing effort to be editorially fair, something we should all applaud). Unlike Samuelson, who sees the same irrationality of the fringe behind both Bush hatred and Clinton hatred, Dionne argued that Bush hatred is rational and legitimately springs from Bush's refusal to be "bipartisan":
It's hard to think of any other president who has gone so quickly from being so unifying to being so divisive. There was hardly a soul this side of Noam Chomsky who didn't support Bush for some time after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and didn't support the war on the Taliban in Afghanistan. Even Democrats who never conceded that Bush had legitimately won the 2000 election wanted to give Bush a chance to lead the country out of crisis.
So what went wrong? Unrequited bipartisanship. Implicitly, the Democrats expected that the new situation would produce a new Bush, less partisan and less ideological. For a few months after the attacks, that was the Bush who showed up to work every day. He and the Democrats did a lot of business together, and the country seemed happy.
While I had intended to write on this topic yesterday, Power Line beat me to it, asking for an answer as to why someone so benighted is still afforded column space in a major broadsheet. On the issue of bipartisanship, Deacon notes:
What about Dionne's claim that Bush responded with "unrequited partisanship" and "bold conservative policies?" Dionne cites two such policies -- tax cuts and the war with Iraq. Tax cuts may seem "bold" to Dionne, but they are a staple of Republican economic policy and something that candidate Bush had promised. Of course, Bush could have backed away from his promise, as his father did. But, as in the case of his father, that would have been less a gesture of bipartisanship than an act of political suicide. To Dionne and the Democrats for whom he speaks, the two things are same.
Not to mention the fact that the tax cuts are working to revive the economy. GDP grew at an annualized rate of 8.2% in the last quarter, the best growth seen in 20 years, and inflation is under control. Jobless claims are down to the level that Bush inherited on Inauguration Day. Those are the reasons Bush was elected in the first place, and Dionne's complaint is that he didn't cave in to the party which has made itself a minority by failing to listen to the electorate, which is tired of ever-increasing taxes being used to redistribute wealth. If anything, the 2002 elections should have reinforced this principle, since the Democrats and Republicans both made them into a referendum on Bush's policies.
Dionne's claim that the Democrats offered true bipartisanship is laughable, as Deacon again points out:
The overall Democratic response to 9/11 was as partisan as it could have been given the political dynamics of the time. They seized upon the need for immigration reform to promote actions that had nothing to do with keeping terrorists out, and everything to do with promoting their long-term immigration agenda. They seized upon the need for improved security to push for a huge new bureaucracy and then resisted attempts to allow the president to efficiently manage that bureaucracy, thereby placing their pro-union agenda ahead of the national security. Nor was Dionne's alleged one-way era of good feeling accompanied by any cessation of Democratc hostilities against Bush's judicial nominees, including those endorsed by Dionne's own liberal newspaper.
Further, on the subject of Iraq, the Democrats blatantly changed positions on American policy established under the Clinton administration, which insisted that not only did Iraq indisputably possess WMDs, but that Saddam Hussein was a clear threat to the US and that "regime change" was the explicit policy of the US regarding Iraq. This policy, enacted in 1998, had clear bipartisan support and a number of speeches given by Democrats with names like Daschle, Kennedy, Kerry, and a host of others spoke out for action which would result in Saddam's removal, with or without the UN's involvement, including a Democratic governor named Howard Dean. Only in 2002 did that rhetoric turn completely around into Bush's "unilateralism" and "cowboy" approach to foreign policy.
Read Deacon's entire post at Power Line. Dionne writes well but has become so estranged from reality that he may be entering Ted Rall territory soon, and the Post needs to decide whether they will subsidize the journey.
UPDATE: aS Deacon notes, Hugh Hewitt was first to address this story, writing this yesterday morning:
Jeesh. Do you suppose Dionne actually believes this stuff or just feels that he has to feed his increasingly out-of-touch audience? Skip over Hillary on the floor of the Senate holding up the New York Post with "Bush Knew" as its headline, or Patrick Leahy's and Chuck Schumer's hostage-taking smear machine at Judiciary, or any of a hundred other examples of bitter partisanship on the left that began when Al Gore withdrew his concession and continued unbroken from November 2000 until today. Dionne is free to ignore the obvious as long as he wants to. His self-delusion, if genuine, doesn't change a thing. Dionne can prattle on about tax cuts for the rich until a 45 state landslide fueled by a booming economy rolls home next November.
Read Hugh's post too, if you haven't already. It's highly entertaining as well as enlightening.
Where's the Beef?
The Washington Post issued a smackdown to a couple of Presidential candidates this morning with an editorial chastising them for grandstanding on "mad cow disease", or BSE:
Democratic front-runner Howard Dean announced that the discovery of an infected cow in Washington state "raises serious concerns about the ability of this administration to protect the safety of our nation's food supply." Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) helpfully urged President Bush "for once not to listen to the demands of corporate America and act on behalf of the health and economic needs of all Americans." All of this may be good politics for candidates who have to campaign in farm states such as Iowa. The trouble is that, at least at this stage, there is no particular reason to think that the regulatory systems designed to prevent an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in this country didn't function as intended. So far, anyway, the United States has seen exactly one infected cow. That case was detected because of routine testing of high-risk cattle ... In other words, a system designed to prevent the spread of the disease and identify cattle carrying it may well have done just that.
I haven't posted on this topic, mostly because it doesn't particularly interest me, and also out of a belief that the media would lose interest in a single case rather than turn it into the next Alar scare. It didn't occur to me that supposedly responsible politicians would latch onto it in order to start a consumer panic that could damage our economy and unnecessarily frighten the electorate. I guess I gave Howard Dean and John Kerry a little too much credit.
I traveled to Ireland in the summer of 2001 when foot-and-mouth disease was being detected all over the British Isles, and there is no doubt that it was an economic disaster. Sheep and cattle were slaughtered en masse in order to stop the spread of the disease, and disinfectant stations were set up at all farms and public attractions, as the virus that causes F&M can stick to soles of shoes and survive for a few days. The Irish Republic had mostly been spared except for a single case near the border with Northern Ireland. (Flocks migrate back and forth across the poorly-delineated hilly border country of Antrim.) However, its proximity to Northern Ireland and the UK (where the disease raged) severely impacted the export of beef and mutton and resulted in large subsidies to farmers until the disease was stamped out. When returning to the US, we had to again be disinfected when we came through Customs, a quick and almost effortless process.
No one is doubting that a string of BSE cases can be similarly economically devastating, but what we have here is a single case, from an animal that was born prior to feed controls enacted in 1997, and already known to be high-risk and tested as a result. The FDA is enacting more stringent controls regarding "downer" cattle, but so far it appears that the system put in place by the Bush administration worked as intended. Blaming Bush for an appearance of BSE in a cow that was exported to the US and detected by the apparatus his administration put in place makes little sense. Making sense is what Presidential candidates should be doing, and the Dean and Kerry campaigns have been failures at this task, among others.
UPDATE: I have edited this post after an alert reader, John, reminded me that what I experienced in Ireland was a foot-and-mouth outbreak and not BSE. BSE was an issue at the same time but was not the cause of all the measures being taken at the time I was in Ireland. He is correct, and while his feedback remains in the comments section, most people read these from the main page.
LA Times: Part 2 of Iraq's Violations of Arms Embargo
The Los Angeles Times concludes its two-part series on documents discovered in Baghdad which clearly delineate how the international community assisted Saddam Hussein in avoiding the effects of the UN-imposed arms embargo. Today's installment focuses on Polish arms dealers and how they evaded their own government to sell military hardware to Iraq, via (as in yesterday's article) Syria:
Desperate for missile technology in the summer of 2001, Iraq's arms brokers and spies homed in on the military scrap yards of this former Soviet Bloc nation. They operated out of this town, scavenging and assembling decades-old parts that were shipped to Syria, then trucked across deserts and mountains toward Baghdad.
Documents were forged and lies were told in an elaborate network built to evade United Nations sanctions. The shipment of up to 380 missile engines from Poland was critical to Saddam Hussein's covert program to extend the range of his new Al Samoud 2 missile beyond the limit of 150 kilometers — 93 miles — imposed on Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Such capabilities would have threatened regional stability by enabling Iraq to target Israel, Kuwait and Iran.
Unlike yesterday's installment, in this part the Times makes it clear that all military sales to Iraq were illegal, and evidence of them clearly showed Iraq in material breach of UN resolutions, including 1441:
In his dramatic U.N. speech Feb. 5, less than two months before the March 20 invasion, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell highlighted Iraq's procurement of the Volga/SA-2 engines as one reason for war. "Their import was illegal," Powell said of the engines, adding that the U.N. arms embargo prohibited "all military shipments to Iraq."
Read the entire article, which delves into the dark world of arms procurement and shady dealings under the auspices of countries that insisted Saddam was being kept isolated and disarmed by inspection regimes. Madeline Albright, for example, declared recently that Saddam was not a threat because of the international arms embargo and the policy of containment that Bush dumped in favor of direct war.
After reading these two articles based on documents recovered from just one office in Baghdad, it should be clear to those who can read that the "containment" and the arms embargo was a dangerous sham, and even that was about to collapse under the weight of French and Russian demands to end sanctions against Saddam's Iraq. Nothing could better point out the folly of leaving American security in the hands of such incompetents again.
Brazilian Judge: Fingerprinting = Genocide
A Brazilian judge, angry at the new US policy of photographing and fingerprinting incoming immigrants and visitors with visas, retaliated yesterday by requiring US visitors to Brazil to be photographed and fingerprinted as well. It's the kind of tit-for-tat petty revenge that often occurs in diplmatic relations, although rarely does the judiciary figure into it. However, the judge's comments were shocking:
"I consider the act absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis," said Federal Judge Julier Sebastiao da Silva in the court order released on Tuesday.
Photographing and fingerprinting are "worthy" of gassing millions of people to death? "Worthy" of cruel and medical experiments on helpless prisoners, including and especially children? I guess the Brazilians should know, seeing as they harbored the Nazis for decades after the end of World War II, especially the Angel of Death himself, "Doctor" Josef Mengele. Put up against that, I guess I could see how the learned jurist could overlook the fact that guests to our country murdered 3,000 of our citizens on our soil a couple of years back in an act that goes a lot further to being "worthy" of Nazi atrocities by Brazilian residents than mere fingerprinting and photography.
I guess this incident proves that stupid Nazi analogies aren't limited to the radical leftists in this country, but one would think that government officials from Nazi-sheltering countries might be a little hesitant to toss those stones. In the case of the ridiculous Judge de Silva, one would be wrong.
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The Embarrassment of Minnesota
No, I am not referring to the Minnesota Vikings. The title belongs to the state's "leading" broadsheet, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which constantly goes out of its way to demonstrate its parochialism and its condescending foolishness. Tomorrow's education in Strib madness comes from this article -- if you can call it that -- from Bill McAuliffe, a "rap" retrospective of 2003. In this case, "rap" replaces the more accurate "atrociously bad poetry", as even a quick read demonstrates:
Prince Roger Nelson's in the Rock Hall of Fame.
Purple is his color and music's his game.
And the orchestra's one hundred, it's a real grand dame.
With a brand new conductor, Osmo Vanska by name!
Jesse Ventura got his portrait on the wall.
Got a chokehold on "The Thinker" and he's lookin' real bald.
He's smoking a stogie, lookin' like he's got it all.
So why'd they have to put him in the downstairs hall?
I'm no great poet, but this is a featured article in a newspaper that pretends to take itself seriously (and when I say featured, I mean it is given a prominent ten-line display box on the Strib's main web page, with bold oversized headline). It's awful; it's not even a passable rip-off of rap, which I don't prefer but can be written well by people who know what they're doing. This reads more like a "rap" in a movie that gets performed by the clueless idiot who wants to fake people into thinking he's cool. In other words, it's an embarrassment, and any editorial staff that decides this rises to the level of a featured article either admits that they have nothing of substance to offer their readers, or holds their readers and community in such contempt that they don't care what dreck they serve up.
And if you think the written version is horrid, you should listen to the audio version that the 'newspaper' provides. It's the kind of rap you imagine your grandfather trying at the local karaoke bar; it's absent of any insight, and is so monotone and dispassionate that you could swear the singer performed it while sleepwalking. Un-freakin'-believable -- you have to experience it to comprehend its worthlessness. The Strib manages to "rap" up 2003 by proving beyond any doubt that they are the laughingstock of journalism.
So Long, Wilson, We'll Miss You
Fans of "Home Improvement" never saw his face, but no one can deny that Earl Hindman, the actor that played Wilson on Tim Allen's hit television show for nine seasons, provided a large measure of the show's heart and soul. Unfortunately for all of us, Earl Hindman has passed away at the too-young age of 61, of lung cancer.
CNN provides a brief obituary for Hindman but neglects his role in Silverado, Lawrence Kasdan's Western from the 80s, which features Hindman in a small supporting role. Fans of the movie may remember that he played the brother-in-law of Scott Glenn's and Kevin Costner's characters and his face was fully visible during his fine performance.
My wife and I, big fans of Home Improvement, send out our prayers to Earl Hindman's family, and our gratitude for the wonderful entertainment he helped provide our family.
Hugh Hewitt's Predictions for 2004
* Evan Bayh as Dean's VP candidate: I can't see Bayh jumping onto a rolling train wreck, even for the sake of the party. Edwards has less to lose and more to gain, and a stronger connection to the South. That change gives Bush Indiana and Maryland, loses him at least South Carolina, but overall makes no difference in Bush's landslide victory.
* I don't think Cheney stays on the ticket in 2004. I think Bush thanks Cheney for his service, but Cheney bows out due to "health issues", and Bush picks either Rudy Giuliani or possibly Condoleeza Rice or Olympia Snowe to round out the ticket. Bush likes bold, historical moves, and any of these three could help him expand his appeal and his base, marginalizing Dean even further.
* Power Line as the must-read blog of 2004? Of course! It's my must-read blog in 2003. I need to spend more time at the Evangelical Outpost, but I think he's right about that, too, from the multiple blogs that routinely reference it. (I'm angling for a prediction for 2005, naturally ...)
One last note: I enthusiastically agree with the Big Trunk's description of Hugh Hewitt as a magnanimous, gifted man "who seeks to use his success to benefit others." I'd use the same description for the guys at Power Line, who have been tremendously encouraging and helpful during my brief (three-month) blogging career.
UPDATE: Eric at Nuts and Dolts disagrees with my VP prediction, but only in timing. He feels that Cheney will ride out the election but will resign in the coming term -- an interesting and bold conjecture! Eric and I agree that the VP position will be the most effective launching pad for the Republican nominee in 2008, and Cheney simply won't be electable. However, I think that selecting a VP mid-term will expose the nominee to an unmerciful grilling in the Senate, which will have to confirm Bush's selection. The potential for embarrassing attacks and disclosures through that process may be too risky for a second term and will negate any political momentum the VP has in the next election.
However, if Bush wants Jeb to run in 2008, then he'll keep Cheney on to reduce competition for the primaries.
UPDATE 2: The guys at Fraters Libertas want Hugh to remember a blog he didn't mention -- and it's not even FL, for Pete's sake. It's Spitbull, which I'm blogrolling a bit belatedly. I note that they didn't seem to concerned with the omission of a certain jack-booted bard ...
Democrats Unimpressed with Dean's Complaints
Howard Dean's complaints about the tenor of the campaign over the past month fell on mostly deaf ears this wek, the LA Times reports:
Democratic Party National Chairman Terry McAuliffe has no plans to play referee to what has become a vitriolic presidential primary, saying through a spokeswoman Monday that voters would decide whether the negative campaigning was good politics.
A number of other Presidential hopefuls had some pointed barbs for Dean after his suggestion that McAuliffe force them to tone down their attacks. For instance, Joe Lieberman pointed out that if Dean was quailing at this primary campaign, then perhaps he's not ready for the championship round next fall. "If Howard Dean can't stand the heat in the Democratic kitchen, he's going to melt in a minute once the Republicans start going after him."
John Kerry pointed out yet another Dean hypocrisy, which seem to appear on an almost daily basis. "He was the first candidate to attack in this campaign and the first to run negative ads, and he has been attacking Democrats and their accomplishments during the Clinton years from day one of this race."
Gephardt gets even closer to the truth, plainly saying that the Dean campaign is complaining because their candidate is screwing up. "Howard Dean has spent the last year criticizing me and other candidates at every opportunity. Now as he makes a series of embarrassing gaffes that underscore the fact that he is not equipped to challenge George Bush, he suddenly wants to change the rules."
But Joe Lockhart, the indefatigable mouthpiece of the Clinton administration, probably says it best: "When he's attacked, he says it's time to take his marbles and go home. What does he think will happen if he gets the nomination? Does he think the Bush people will say, 'Let's have polite debate'? Who's he going to call then — his mother?"
The verdict: Howard Dean is a Jesse Ventura politician, for all the wrong reasons. He dishes it out but can't take it. You can come up with several names for people like this, including crybaby and wimp, and worse. But you can't escape the conclusion that Dean has puffed himself up way beyond his political and possibly emotional capabilities, and while he can probably coast to the Democratic nomination now, he'll get crushed like a bug once Karl Rove has a shot at him. Even the leading Democrats don't respect him any more.
LA Times: Syria Undermined Iraq Sanctions, Armed Saddam
The Los Angeles Times translated reams of documents seized after the fall of Saddam Hussein and reports that Syria ran extensive smuggling operations on behalf of the Iraqi dictator's regime, designed to undermine UN sanctions:
A Syrian trading company with close ties to the ruling regime smuggled weapons and military hardware to Saddam Hussein between 2000 and 2003, helping Syria become the main channel for illicit arms transfers to Iraq despite a stringent U.N. embargo, documents recovered in Iraq show.
The private company, called SES International Corp., is headed by a cousin of Syria's autocratic leader, Bashar Assad, and is controlled by other members of Assad's Baath Party and Alawite clan. Syria's government assisted SES in importing at least one shipment destined for Iraq's military, the Iraqi documents indicate, and Western intelligence reports allege that senior Syrian officials were involved in other illicit transfers.
Iraqi records show that SES signed more than 50 contracts to supply tens of millions of dollars' worth of arms and equipment to Iraq's military shortly before the U.S.-led invasion in March. They reveal Iraq's increasingly desperate search in at least a dozen countries for ballistic missiles, antiaircraft missiles, artillery, spare parts for MIG fighter jets and battle tanks, gunpowder, radar systems, nerve agent antidotes [emphasis mine] and more.
Nerve agent antidotes would have been very expensive, and would not have been bought unless Iraq was sure that they were needed on the battlefield. Why would they have thought that? Surely they know that the US could not possibly have used nerve agents in battle without our coalition abandoning us -- and rightly so. The purchase makes sense only if the Iraqis planned on using nerve agents against US troops. After all, the money spent on antidotes could have gone for more of the materiel they bought, which included:
* 380 SAM engines from Poland
* 20 T-72 tank barrels, and contracted for 175 of them
* 1,000 Russian heavy machine guns
* 20 million rounds of ammunition
* Tank engines
* Missile fuel pumps
In short, the UN arms embargo on Iraq was a miserable failure, helped in no small part by Syria, a member of the UN Security Council and the Middle East representative on the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee. Syria, as the article makes clear, accomplished the rearming of Iraq through extensive machinations at the highest levels of its government and profited handsomely from its actions. It evaded detection by a massively ineffective UN inspection process, if not completely incompetent. As a prime example, read the following narrative on the documents on which the Times based this article:
When they returned to Iraq in late November 2002 after four years' absence, U.N. weapons inspectors thus focused on smuggling in their search for evidence of proscribed missiles and chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. "We went one by one to every single [military] company we knew of in Iraq," said a senior U.N. inspector, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Al Bashair was target No. 1 on that list."
On March 2, 30 inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency arrived without notice to check reports that Al Bashair had put public tenders out on the Internet to buy high-strength aluminum tubes. The CIA had insisted the tubes could be used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
IAEA experts, customs experts, computer specialists and others locked the doors, unplugged phones and grilled Munir, the company's director, in his office. Before leaving, they copied 4,000 documents and downloaded data from office computers. They found no signs of nuclear-related procurement. Five days later, a team from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, the chief U.N. weapons hunting group, launched another surprise raid to check intelligence that Al Bashair had helped Hussein acquire mobile biological laboratories to churn out germ weapons. Again, they found no evidence.
The war began less than two weeks later. Days after U.S. troops entered Baghdad in April, Christoph Reuter, an investigative reporter for the German newsmagazine Stern, removed selected files from the abandoned Al Bashair office. He later provided the records and cooperated with The Times, which had the documents translated from Arabic and verified their contents with interviews in more than a dozen countries.
Note that the Times is careful to inject the issues of nuclear and biological weapon searches, in order to protect the UN inspection process, but the inspectors were supposed to be looking for all violations of UN resolutions. Iraq was not supposed to be purchasing any of these items, and Syria was not supposed to be shipping them across the border. Why didn't the inspectors find these documents? Because the inspections process was useless, and this episode proves it. Plus, these were the records that Al Bashair left behind; who knows what they destroyed or carted off as Baghdad fell? I would guess that the officials, using what little time they thought they had, would take care to make sure that records of the most egregious violations never fell into Coalition hands, as they would be useful evidence for later war-crimes trials.
As more captured Iraqi files are translated, we will find more evidence that the UN inspection process was a complete failure in terms of enforcing UN resolutions and ensuring global security. Even those who are supposed to be acting on behalf of global security, the UNSC, aided and abetted Saddam's scams for rearmament. Working through international bodies is a necessary step in protecting our national interests, but this article ought to remove any illusions that organizations that put dictatorships in positions of power will protect the interests of Western democracies. Bush was correct to proceed after the UN refused to enforce its own resolutions to build a coalition of Western powers to remove Saddam and put an end to a twelve-year chapter of impotence. (via a tip from Instapundit)
UPDATE: Power Line notices the reference to nerve agent antidotes, too.
Society of the Master of the Horse
It took some time, some detective work, and a lot of patience, but I have defied the predictions of the gang over at Fraters Libertas and fulfilled Hugh Hewitt's final task for my entry into the Society of the Master of the Horse. As you may recall, I had to pass three arduous tasks:
1. Write a post that denounced the guys at Fraters Libertas in a particularly shameful way.
2. Create an epic poem that mentioned at least ten blogs ... and also denounced Fraters Libertas and James Lileks.
3. Lastly, get a picture of me giving James Lileks a Hummel.
The third task has taken me almost four weeks to strategize. After all, James Lileks is a world-renowned figure, a man who would not be surprised easily, especially after being tipped off to my plans. However, I finally managed to catch up with James at an event I knew he couldn't miss, a moment he would never pass up ... the Annual Twin Cities PETA Barbecue and Chili Cookoff:
Please note that James and I demonstrate, in this photo, that Minnesotans are actually among the best-dressed urbanites in the nation, and that plaid is only de rigeur with Cheeseheads. He looks a bit surprised in this photo, but that's because I told him that Joaquin Phoenix had stolen the short ribs off of his plate while we were posing for the photo.
Brainstorming is Back!
Just got a ping from DC over at Brainstorming, which means she is back on line and blogging away. In fact, she tells us that she misses us, which means she didn't improve her taste any on her sabbatical. Anyway, check out the new layout at Brainstorming (of which I am a tad bit jealous!) and her new tag line from Einstein. Mostly, read through her posts; DC always is a great read.
And for the record, we missed you too. Welcome back!
It's Hard to be Humble
Howard Dean warns that he discovered "legions" of new voters who will not vote at all if he isn't the Democratic nominee for President in 2004:
Howard Dean said Sunday that the hundreds of thousands of people drawn to politics by his campaign may stay home if he doesn’t win the Democratic presidential nomination, dooming the Democratic Party in the fall campaign against President Bush.
“If I don’t win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they’re going to go?” he said during a meeting with reporters. “I don’t know where they’re going to go. They’re certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician.”
Words fail me at this pronouncement. While every campaign finds a handful of voters who have never voted before or who have never crossed party lines before, Dean claims that he has the unswerving loyalty of enough people to beat George Bush, and that these people are so loyal that they'll just stay home on Election Day if Dean isn't on the ballot. So they must be terribly involved voters if they don't care about any other issues on the ballot and don't bother to learn about any other candidate. Sounds exactly like the kind of people that I would imagine voting for Howard Dean.
To note this, here's my suggestion for a new Howard Dean campaign anthem:
Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble
when you're perfect in every way,
I can't wait to look in a mirror
I get better lookin' each day.
To know me is to love me,
I must be a hell of a man --
Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble,
But I'm doing the best that I can.
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