Broder Sticks To His Guns

David Broder took Democrats to task for allowing an incompetent like Harry Reid to rise to party leadership, pointing out several of the Senator’s foolish foibles as examples. This column sent the netroots into a tizzy, with many of them declaring Broder as irrelevant and past his expiration date. The Senate Democratic caucus even sent him a letter, signed by all 50 members, extolling the virtues of Reid and lauding his “straight talk” — apparently all endorsing the notion that we have lost the war in Iraq.
Today, Editor & Publisher caught up Broder, who has no intention of retracting his remarks:

David Broder said he wouldn’t change anything in his April 26 column, which angered many readers and caused 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus to write a letter criticizing Broder in Friday’s Washington Post.
In that Thursday piece, Broder criticized Harry Reid for saying the Iraq War is lost militarily, compared Reid to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and concluded: “The Democrats deserve better, and the country needs more, than Harry Reid has offered as Senate majority leader.”
“I still think the Democrats can do better, and should do better,” said Broder, when reached today by E&P. … Broder told E&P that he was “astonished and delighted” that 50 Democratic senators “spontaneously” came up with the letter (adding that he was being “tongue-in-cheek”).

The letter was something of a non-sequitur. His criticism wasn’t that Reid spoke his mind, but that he put his foot in his mouth when he did. Declaring a war “lost” while American troops are still fighting — and making progress — reveals a hysterical streak that doesn’t reflect well on leadership. As Broder pointed out in the column, not even the people who signed the letter would defend what Reid said, instead trying to use Clintonian word parsing to make it appear that Harry Reid had not just capitulated to terrorists in Anbar and Baghdad. Calling the President a “loser” may make the netroots swoon with delight, but it hardly makes for a professional atmosphere between Congress and the White House.
Also, the final argument that Democrats made in defending Reid is simply hilarious. They applaud the fact that he passed a budget bill, and noted only that “great strides” had been taken on everything else. Granted, the Republicans refused to do it themselves after the midterms, preferring to let the Democrats deal with it, but every Congress passes budget bills; the 109th did it, too. If that’s the threshold for excellence in Washington, then there can be no such thing as mediocrity. Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations!
Broder had to have laughed himself silly at that letter, and the Democrats had to be silly to write it. Is the Senate Democratic Caucus so sensitive that it must write group letters every time they receive criticism? No wonder these people want to run away from the terrorists in Iraq. They can’t even abide David Broder and the Washington Post opinion section.
UPDATE: It’s “The soft bigotry of low expectations.” I didn’t quote it properly, but thanks to CQ reader Susan, I’ve corrected it now.

She’s Baaa-aaack!

Guess who’s blogging again? The Anchoress has recovered enough to resume blogging, although she may still want to take it easy for a while to regain her strength. In the meantime, be sure to check out her post on her latest bout of song poison, as well as her take on Al Gore and Democratic openness to media coverage.
Addendum: Guess who else is (almost) back? Our neighbor, Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD). Congressional Quarterly — the other CQ — has the story:

Sen. Tim Johnson, who suffered a debilitating brain hemorrhage in December, has left a rehabilitation center to continue his recovery at his home in northern Virginia.
The transition from a full-time rehabilitation facility to outpatient and home care puts Johnson, D-S.D., one step closer to returning to full-time Senate duties. While Johnson has started to handle paperwork, cosponsor legislation and receive briefings, his staff and his doctors have refused to speculate on when he might be able to return to the Capitol.
“He’s at a point where rehab is the focus . . . five days a week,” said Julianne Fisher, Johnson’s press secretary.

Senator Johnson, we hope that you return to full health as quickly as possible. We may not agree on much, but we’d rather you are hale and healthy for the debate. This is good news indeed.

GOP Straw Poll (Update & Bump)

It’s time again for another GOP straw poll from our friends at GOP Bloggers. Actually, it’s past due; I haven’t kept up with the monthly polls. In the meantime, they’ve added a couple of new options, including Fred Thompson and Jim Gilmore. As always, the poll will count the selections for Captain’s Quarters readers separately, allowing us to take the temperature of the CQ community.
Tomorrow, I’ll report on the results from the first day of polling.
UPDATE & BUMP, 4:20 PM CT: Once again, CQ has generated the largest number of straw-poll votes on the first full day, and it’s a runaway for Fred Thompson. He has 55.9% of the first-choice CQ vote, followed by Rudy Giuliani at 20.9%. Mitt Romney comes in third at 8.7%, while McCain trails (None) with only 2.2%.
Acceptability ratings gives Rudy better news. Sixty-one percent of CQ readers thus far consider Rudy acceptable, behind Thompson’s 77%, but only barely. If Thompson doesn’t run, it looks like a lot of his support goes back to Rudy, and probably due to potential war leadership. Romney is also very close behind at 55% acceptability. Duncan Hunter has a surprisingly low level — still positive, but only at 15%, pretty low for such a reliably conservative candidate. Newt Gingrich also comes in low at 20%, but he does better than John McCain, who comes in at a -16%.
Considering that 62% of CQ readers rate their conservatism at an 8 or higher, these are somewhat surprising numbers for acceptability. We’ll see if the numbers change at all overnight.

CQ Radio Today: Victory Caucus

blog radio
Today’s installment of CQ Radio (2 pm CT) welcomes NZ Bear from the Victory Caucus to discuss the developments yesterday in the Senate. We’ll talk about Joe Lieberman, the two Republican defections, what we can expect from the President and when, and what we can do to make a difference. NZ’s been able to reschedule for today, and we’ll get an update on the progress of the Iraq supplemental as well as discuss Sam Brownback’s alliance with Joe Biden to split Iraq into three proto-states.
Be sure to join us at 646-652-4889! We’d love to get you into the conversation. And make sure you’re keeping up with the conversation at Heading Right!

The Unfairness Doctrine

George Will takes aim at the effort led by Dennis Kucinich to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine on the broadcast industry — and its ultimate aim to destroy talk radio. He points out that the heart of this effort is a mistrust by “illiberals” to trust the marketplace and a failure of left-wing radio to appeal to the American broadcast market:

Some illiberal liberals are trying to restore the luridly misnamed Fairness Doctrine, which until 1987 required broadcasters to devote a reasonable amount of time to presenting fairly each side of a controversial issue. The government was empowered to decide how many sides there were, how much time was reasonable and what was fair.
By trying to again empower the government to regulate broadcasting, illiberals reveal their lack of confidence in their ability to compete in the marketplace of ideas, and their disdain for consumer sovereignty—and hence for the public.
The illiberals’ transparent, and often proclaimed, objective is to silence talk radio. Liberals strenuously and unsuccessfully attempted to compete in that medium—witness the anemia of their Air America. Talk radio barely existed in 1980, when there were fewer than 100 talk shows nationwide. The Fairness Doctrine was scrapped in 1987, and today more than 1,400 stations are entirely devoted to talk formats. Conservatives dominate talk radio—although no more thoroughly than liberals dominate Hollywood, academia and much of the mainstream media.

The Left blames talk radio for many of the nation’s ills. After the Oklahoma City bombing, Bill Clinton and other Democrats openly accused conservative talkers of complicity in generating the hate behind the attack — even before the Clinton administration had fully investigated the terrorist attack. Tom Daschle, then Senate Majority Leader, said that Rush Limbaugh indirectly encouraged people to threaten public officials by stirring up anger.
But that’s not the reason they want to slam the lid on talk radio. The most compelling reason is their inability to compete in the field. With the exception of a couple of national talkers like Ed Schultz and Michael Jackson, they have built no market. Part of that is because the mainstream media has done a much better job disseminating liberal punditry than conservative. That market also gets served on the radio waves by NPR, which normally has good signal coverage in every major market, and which cares little about competition because of its government support. Conservatives turned to talk radio because the mainstream media didn’t meet the market need, and the explosion of growth stunned those who thought that conservatism had petered out in the second term of Ronald Reagan.
Instead of offering a compelling product, liberals want to shut down the market. They want to put government in charge of deciding what comprises each side of an argument, how much time each gets allocated, and so on. In practice, it’s completely unworkable. Radio stations don’t have the time and resources for that kind of accounting, and their already-thin profit margins will disappear entirely if they are forced to air broadcasting that interests no one — as Air America has proven over the last few years. Stations will either go off the air or offer informercials, sports talk, or more top-40 broadcasting.
That’s apparently what people like Kucinich want — an end to debate that operates outside the control of the government. The fact that they complain about their lack of success in a free market for opinions and debate should inform the debate over the Fairness Doctrine. And if not, I expect business to get very brisk at Blog Talk Radio.

A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy?

Hillary Clinton has complained for years that her critics come from a vast right-wing conspiracy to discredit and defame her and her husband. Will she now add Carl Bernstein to the conservative cabal out to get her? Bernstein will soon release an extensively-researched biography of the Democratic front-runner, and the Watergate reporter apparently has discovered a number of discrepancies between her official biography and the records he found.
I posted about this at Heading Right, the group blog of the conservative talk show hosts at Blog Talk Radio. Given the solidly liberal background of Bernstein, Hillary will have a difficult time escaping the impact of an exposé.

Ledeen Responds To Tenet

Michael Ledeen found himself in the middle of a controversy regarding the new book by former CIA chief George Tenet, and unexpectedly so. According to Ledeen, he had not been contacted by Tenet or his co-author for the book for his input. Nevertheless, Ledeen found Tenet’s scorn for him and his efforts to assist the intel community on Iran on the front page of the New York Times this past weekend. Now Ledeen responds at National Review Online, and he accuses Tenet of misrepresenting Ledeen’s efforts:

In December, 2001, I participated in discussions between two Pentagon officials and Iranians who claimed knowledge of Iranian-sponsored efforts to kill Americans in Afghanistan. We met in Rome, Italy over several days. The discussions were approved by Stephen Hadley, the deputy national-security adviser, and the two Defense department officials’ travel was approved by their superiors. The American ambassador in Rome was fully informed in advance, and fully briefed afterwards. The conversations produced detailed information about the identities, locations, and plans of Iranian-trained terrorists in Afghanistan. This was passed on to the proper authorities at the DoD, and I was later told by military officers that the information likely saved American lives.
Now comes the former director of central intelligence, George Tenet, with several pages about the meeting in his new book. He does not mention that American lives were saved, nor does he seem at all interested to learn that there were well-informed sources who were willing to help the American government. Nor, for that matter, is he much interested in the facts at all. His account is repeatedly wrong. He is wrong about the Iranians, wrong about the Americans, wrong about what was discussed, and wrong about the official status of the meeting. He misdescribes the Iranians as “dissidents” living overseas. He misidentifies the two Pentagon officials as subordinates of Under Secretary Douglas Feith (one of Tenet’s many betes noirs), but only one of them was in Feith’s shop. He says it “sounded like an off-the-books covert-action program trying to destabilize the Iranian government,” when the discussion was about Iranians in Afghanistan, not overthrowing the mullahs, and the meeting had been formally approved by the deputy national-security adviser (knowing Stephen Hadley, I presume he had the approval of his boss, Condoleezza Rice). Tenet calls it “Son of Iran-contra,” with which it had nothing in common save for the marginal involvement of Manoucher Ghorbanifar, who helped bring the Iranians to Italy, but was not a source of information. Someone might have reminded Tenet that Iran-Contra had to do with providing weapons to Iran in exchange for hostages, while the Rome meeting was about Iranian efforts to kill Americans in Afghanistan. Some parentage! He’s wrong about other things as well, some of which Ed Morrissey and Bill Kristol have pointed out.

Kristol pointed out a rather egregious error in Tenet’s post-9/11 narrative involving Richard Perle. Perle has acquired a Machiavellian reputation thanks to assertions like Tenet’s, only this time Tenet gets sloppy. He describes a conversation with Perle on 9/12 that supposedly shows the neocons in the Bush administration had determined from the first to use 9/11 as an excuse to attack Iraq — only the conversation could not possibly have happened:

On the day after 9/11, he [Tenet] adds, he ran into Richard Perle, a leading neoconservative and the head of the Defense Policy Board, coming out of the White House. He says Mr. Perle turned to him and said: “Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday. They bear responsibility.”
Here’s the problem: Richard Perle was in France on that day, unable to fly back after September 11. In fact Perle did not return to the United State until September 15. Did Tenet perhaps merely get the date of this encounter wrong? Well, the quote Tenet ascribes to Perle hinges on the encounter taking place September 12: “Iraq has to pay a price for what happened yesterday.” And Perle in any case categorically denies to THE WEEKLY STANDARD ever having said any such thing to Tenet, while coming out of the White House or anywhere else.

Tenet has yet to see his book hit the stores, and it already has serious credibility issues. He misidentifies a Defense Department analyst as a “naval reservist” in an attempt to belittle her credentials. Tenet can’t seem to understand that Iran-Contra involved arming the mullahs, not the dissidents. It’s a great display of why the CIA seems to have been rather incompetent during the years of his leadership. If the boss can’t get his facts straight, how can he have advised two presidents with any degree of competence at all?
Fortunately, Michael Ledeen had a few minutes to spare on Saturday afternoon for Mitch and me to interview him I’ve podcasted the main part of the interview here, where he rebuts Tenet and talks to us about Iran.

Olmert Faces Pressure To Resign After War Analysis

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faces new pressure to resign after an extensive investigation into the war in Lebanon last summer accused his administration of incompetence. Olmert has called for a Kadima party conference to address his opposition while the Winograd report gets released this afternoon:

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and defence minister, Amir Peretz, faced further calls for their resignation yesterday after leaks of a report into their management of last summer’s Lebanon war which suggests they made a series of errors.
The Winograd report, to be published today, directs strong criticism at the government’s conduct in the first days of the war, according to leaks in the Israeli media yesterday. In particular, Mr Olmert and Mr Peretz are rebuked for not seeking proper consultation and for accepting the army’s recommendations without question. The politicians’ lack of experience in military matters, the report says, meant they accepted the belief of Dan Halutz, the former chief of staff, that the war could be won by air power alone.
The report also criticises Mr Olmert for setting out his war aims – which were broadly to free two captured Israeli soldiers and expel Hizbullah from southern Lebanon – without checking to find if they were attainable. Aides of both men said they had no intention of resigning but the lack of confidence in the politicians may leave them no choice.

For a war of choice, Israel had shockingly poor preparations. The government, according to the Winograd report, had not prepared air raid shelters, despite knowing that Hezbollah would attack primarily with missiles and rockets. Their tanks were not properly fitted to repel anti-tank missiles. Food and other necessities for the IDF had not been sufficiently stocked. The Israelis were unprepared for war in a land of hostility, and that will surprise many Israelis who see no higher role for their government.
The Winograd committee will apparently call Olmert a “failure”, but he hasn’t played out the string yet. In the first place, this is an interim report. The final report will come in July, and it is expected to be even more critical, and in more detail, than the summary being released today. All of Olmert’s opponents, even within Kadima, have an interest in waiting until then to make a move on the Prime Minister. Both Olmert and Peretz have publicly stated that they will not resign their posts, at least not now, and both hope to show dramatic improvements in the deficiencies that Winograd will expose. (Peretz has admitted that he shouldn’t have accepted the position of Defense Minister, and will try to take the Treasury portfolio instead.)
By July, though, Olmert may have no choice. The Winograd committee will recommend sanctions on those who failed in their duty, and as PM, Olmert cannot hope to escape that. Also, the interim report will only focus on the events leading up to the war and the first six days of fighting, while the July final report will be much more wide-ranging. Among the questions will be why Olmert and Peretz did not act more aggressively in the sub-Litani region from the beginning and, hopefully, why they directed the attack against Beirut instead of Damascus, which supplies and supports Hezbollah.
In any case, Olmert is running on fumes, his political fuel exhausted. His opponents, such as Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, aren’t going easy on him as much as they await the most propitious moment to finish him.
UPDATE: Here is the summary of the Winograd report. It appears harsher than analysts expected, and it rakes both Olmert and Peretz over the coals, as well as the Chief of Staff. Here’s the “ouch::

11. The primary responsibility for these serious failings rests with the Prime Minister, the minister of defense and the (outgoing) Chief of Staff. We single out these three because it is likely that had any of them acted better – the decisions in the relevant period and the ways they were made, as well as the outcome of the war, would have been significantly better.

Brownback Supports The Biden Initiative On Iraq

Joe Biden has tried selling his plan to split Iraq into three protostates for at least the last two years, with not much success. First, the Turks would likely have a Kurdish insurrection on their hands, and more importantly, the Iraqis don’t seem particularly keen on the idea. However, Biden has won over one convert:

It would be an unusual pairing, but two presidential hopefuls from opposite sides of the political spectrum, Senator Brownback and Senator Biden, could team up on a proposal for Iraq that splits the country into three loosely federated states.
Mr. Brownback, a Republican known for his social conservatism, suggested yesterday that the bipartisan proposal could follow President Bush’s veto this week of legislation tying war funding to a timetable for withdrawal of American troops. The Kansas senator voted against the Democratic bill, but he has occasionally veered away from his party’s base on the war, and he initially opposed the president’s decision to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq earlier this year.
He has advocated a more aggressive diplomatic effort, and he even suggested yesterday, in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” that Secretary of State Rice should lead reconciliation talks among Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish leaders in Iraq.
Like Mr. Biden, a Democrat of Delaware, Mr. Brownback is a long shot for his party’s nomination in 2008, but they share common ground in advocating a “three-state solution” in Iraq that sets them apart from their rivals on either side in the presidential campaign.

I would venture to guess that neither Biden nor Brownback have ever engaged the Iraqis in a discussion about how much they would like to see their country hacked to pieces. Nor, to my knowledge, have they made an argument that explains how the United States Senate has the sovereignty to split Iraq into three new self-autonomous regions. The Iraqi people, under its democratic processes, elected a parliament that drew up and approved a constitution, and neither Brownback nor Biden have an explanation as to why that document shouldn’t be honored by the US.
That’s because there is no argument or explanation for the proposal. It’s haughty, arrogant, and in the end a rather stupid plan. That, coincidentally, accurately describes its principal author, but it is disappointing to see Brownback rise to support such a foolish and pretentious proposal.
A split of Iraq into three protostates would be a disaster, which even the Iraq study group acknowledged. It ceded all of southern Iraq to Iran, for all practical purposes, and creates an even bigger problem of access in the Persian Gulf. The Kurds in Turkey would amplify their demands for their own autonomy or to join with Iraqi Kurdistan, further destabilizing secular Turkey and creating an impetus for either civil war or a war against Iraqi Kurds, or both. Finally, without oil revenes, the Sunnis of the rump Iraq would wind up radicalized and more inclined to support Islamist terror groups like al-Qaeda, not move away from them as the Sunnis are doing now in Anbar and Diyala.
It’s hard to see how Brownback can think he gains politically by allying himself with Joe Biden, so it must be presumed that he really believes in this plan. If so, it shows that he cannot be seriously taken for a presidential contender. if Brownback would seriously follow this policy as President, then we need to make sure he doesn’t get there — or else we will have a regional catastrophe that could take decades to resolve.

Edwards: Clinton Tax Levels Are Just The Beginning

John Edwards has a refreshing strategy in the presidential primaries: pretend the center doesn’t exist. He wants to win the Democratic nomination by running hard to the left, especially on economics. In that vein, he told California Democrats at their state convention that not only will he raise taxes on high-income families, he considers that just a starting point:

Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said yesterday raising taxes for higher-income families back to their levels under the Clinton administration is a floor, not a ceiling, and he would consider even higher tax increases.
“What I believe is the starting place is to go back to the Clinton levels,” Mr. Edwards told reporters after addressing the 2,000 delegates to California’s state Democratic Party convention. …
“I believe it is more important to bring about the transformation,” he said, pointing to his universal health care plan, achieving independence from foreign energy and reducing global warming emissions. “Some people believe it’s more important to push those things off and reduce the deficit — the deficit’s the priority.”

So Edwards won’t raise taxes to eliminate the federal deficit, which would disappear entirely under the present economic policy in the next few years anyway. Unlike his fellow Democrats who want to drain more money out of the economy ostensibly to address government overspending, he wants to continue overspending, and pull even more money out of the pockets of Americans to fund it. The deficit? Ha! Edwards laughs in the face of the deficit!
The “transformation” Edwards wants is nothing more than a return to the same failed policies of the Great Society. We already have an entitlement burden that Washington has shown little courage in addressing. The Democrats won’t discuss reforming the basis of Social Security, claiming that it’s fiscally sound, when it will collapse within the lifetimes of almost half the people who currently pay into the system. Medicare, which is at least eight times the problem of Social Security, hasn’t even come under discussion. Yet Edwards wants to push a “transformation” that will add to the entitlement burden such activities as universal health care and global warming.
At least Edwards doesn’t pretend to be a centrist, unlike some of his competitors for the Democratic nomination. He’s running on the confiscate-and-spend, government-program platform that passed out of style during the Carter administration. A vote for Edwards is really an explicit vote for an overwhelming, European-style nanny state that we cannot afford. A vote for the other Democrats probably amounts to the same thing, but they’re either more clever or less honest than John Edwards.