Public Nuisance

Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.

The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, September 29, 2003
Clifford May's feeble defense of the outing of Varerie Plame is revealing, but not in any way he intended.

On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

That wasn't news to me. I had been told that — but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

According to May's biography, he has held a variety of positions with the Republican Party and right wing think tanks, after a career in legitimate journalism. He has never been in public service, so it may be assumed he does not hold, and has never held, any form of security clearance. Yet an unnamed former official casually disclosed to him highly confidential U.S. secrets, a fact which Mr May seems to consider quite ordinary.

In other words, Mr May thinks that since conservatives don't worry about silly notions like protecting secrets or obeying laws against disclosure of agent identities when chatting inside the family, it's no big deal if they adopt the same rules for talking to the public.

Mr. Wilson has said that his mission came about following a request from Vice President Cheney. But it appears that if Mr. Cheney made the request at all, he made it of the CIA and did not know Mr. Wilson and certainly did not specify that he wanted Mr. Wilson put on the case.

It has to be seen as puzzling that the agency would deal with an inquiry from the White House on a sensitive national-security matter by sending a retired, Bush-bashing diplomat with no investigative experience. Or didn't the CIA bother to look into Mr. Wilson's background?

If that's what passes for tradecraft in Langley, we're in more trouble than any of us have realized.

If endangering intelligence assets doesn't trouble Mr May, endangering George Bush's approval ratings clearly does. Mr May is troubled by the irresponsible decision the CIA made in inquiring into the Niger uranium story in 2002: they allowed Joseph WIlson's expertise and professional qualifications to trump the more important fact that he was no friend of the Bush administration.

Fortunately, this sort of dangerous misconduct hasn't spread to other parts of the Bush administration. Newsweek has just published an article showing how the group assigned to rebuild Iraq was carefully chosen to ensure that mere competence would never be allowed to trump partisan loyalty. The vetting was so thorough that "even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion." No doubt this wise decision played a large role in the many breathtaking successes of the post-war Iraq Administration. In fact, the results are so breathtaking that, just today, the 191st coalition soldier since Bush announced, "Mission Accomplished" stopped breathing.

The Bush administration hasn't always had such a laissez faire attitude to leaking of classified data as it shows when the leaker is one of their own.

The FBI has proposed administering polygraph exams to members of Congress who had access to information that was leaked.

Senate leaders agreed Sunday that members of Congress should not submit to lie detector tests as part of an FBI investigation of intelligence leaks....

The FBI investigation was requested by congressional intelligence committees after news organizations reported details of Arabic conversations intercepted by the National Security Agency on Sept. 10. The conversations made vague references to an impending attack on the United States.

These leaks, unlike certain others we could mention, drew a direct presidential response:

MR. FLEISCHER: I think your question is in regard to a report that was in the newspapers and widely on TV yesterday and this morning that had extraordinarily specific information that was provided under a promise of confidentiality to the committees that are doing the investigation of events leading up to 9/11. And the information that was leaked is alarmingly specific. And the President does have very deep concerns about anything that would be inappropriately leaked that could in any way endanger America's ability to gather intelligence information, anything that could harm our ability to maintain sources and methods, and anything that could interfere with America's ability to fight the war on terrorism.

The President was deeply concerned about these leaks. We do not know who did it. The President earlier today asked the Vice President to call the chairmen of the committees who are doing the investigation. The Vice President spoke with Congressman Goss and with Senator Graham to convey the President's concerns about anything that would be released that could indeed harm America's ability to gather information and to maintain access to that information. And the President and the Vice President are satisfied that the chairmen will address this issue.

When an embarassing leak came out of the Air Marshal program, there was no lack of effort to track it down,

The Transportation Security Administration is conducting a “witch hunt” to ferret out and discipline employees in the federal air marshal program who have talked to the media, several sources within the program told Some air marshals are even being threatened with having the USA Patriot Act, a law enacted to help fight terrorism, used against them. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, denies that any such investigation is taking place.

HOWEVER, A DEPARTMENT Of Homeland Security spokesman did acknowledge that an investigation is under way surrounding the circumstances involving a decision to pull air marshals from high risk flights in an attempt to save money at the cash strapped TSA, a story first reported in late July on

The TSA leaker exposed how poor the Bush record really is on homeland security, just as Joe Wilson helped expose that the Iraq invasion was more about Bush's quarrels with Saddam Hussein than about protecting the nation from WMD. Just as this administration has politicized other aspects of government, it has politicized leaking, using existing and new law aggressively to intimidate insiders who warn the public of its failures, but leaking and declassifying infornation that it considers politically useful to publicize.

The Stonewall Attack

Josh Marshall posts a long excerpt from today's White House press briefing illustrating that the administration isn't interested in coming clean on the Plame story. It's pretty obvious that they know who the guilty parties are; the smart thing to do would be to fire them right now, take the hit, and have it all be a distant memory long before November 04. This gang is, in theory, smart, but, not for the first time, their hubris is interfering with their intelligence.
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Bat Man

Dick Gephardt may not want to take batting practice (see below), but Howard Dean is definitely using his. The Dean bat, which yesterday was at $1.7 M out of a target of $5 M, is now at $12.5 M out of $15 M. This seems to claim that Dean has raised almost $11 M in less than one day, which is hardly believable. Joe Trippi confirms my suspicion that the campaign has switched form the bat count to showing all contributions for the quarter. By shifting to the quarter totals, which really are impressive, the Deaniacs hope to draw attention away from the fact that they are falling well below the $5 M in 10 days goal that was set for the Dean bat in this inning.
The mainstream media omerta on the Plame story has been broken in a big way. After coverage of the referral of the inquiry to the DoJ, the Post has published a major story with new information.

Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account touched off a political fracas over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.

This strongly suggests that the White House is distancing itself from the guilty parties - and the point that there's more than one guilty party is also new.

Mark Kleiman argues persuasively that the source for this story, most likely George Tenet, knows who the two officials involved are, and that one of them is likely to be Karl Rove.

It's intriguing to note that six reporters were fed the story, although only two used it. That means that quite a few people around D.C. probably know the score on this, and makes it more likely that Wilson could have found out, from an off the record chat with one of those reporters, about Rove's involvement. As for the suggestion that some bloggers tried to make when the story first came out, that outing Plame was an accidental occurence in the course of a regular discussion, that is now a very dead parrot.

It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

Little me with my quiet upbringing, I thought that it was generally wrong for a senior government official to violate the law and harm the nation's security. Turns out it's worng only if the person you're going after isn't really damaged by it. This administration has taught us so much about ethics.

A source said reporters quoted a leaker as describing Wilson's wife as "fair game."

It seems that one of the leakers who outed Plame may be a ScientologistTM. Scientologists running this administration would actually explain a few things. Incidentally, note the elaborate indirectness of the citation above, which may well be a record.

Mark Kleiman, who really shouldn't be so innocent, is surprised by the brazenness of it. He also describes administration PR as "prolefeed", a marvelous Orwellian term which was not, to my knowledge, actually used by Orwell. The sad reality is that this administration is only about grabbing power, and using it to reward friends and punish enemies. Everything else is phony. Protecting the country from terrorists is as much prolefeed as the flight suit and the plentiful jobs that would appear if Congress were only willing to cut taxes a few more times for the wealthy.

Mark also notes that this is an opportunity for Clark. Not just for Clark - any Democratic candidate who can't hit a pitch this fat into the bleachers should pack it up and go back to the minors.

Update: The Plame story was raised this morning on both "This Week" and "Meet the Press". No new information. Gephardt, when Russert asked him about Plame, didn't even take a swing at it.

Friday, September 26, 2003
Today's news from Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A mortar blast tore through a market north of Baghdad, killing eight civilians, and a U.S. soldier was killed in an ambush in the north of the country as the American-led coalition struggles to maintain order five months after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

Amid the continuing violence, the United Nations announced it was cutting its staff in Baghdad and Iraqis prepared to bury an assassinated member of Iraq's Governing Council.

The blast occurred about 9 p.m. Thursday at a market in Baqouba, about 30 miles north of Baghdad. Eight civilians died and another 18 were wounded, the Army said. Troops of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division rushed to the scene to help.

Naturally, the biased media will continue to pretend that Iraq is going badly. When are they going to realize that they can't fool Glenn?

Monday, September 22, 2003
Smear of the Day

Robert Novak has assembled some old and discredited lies along with some new ones to create the latest hit piece on General Clark.

Novak focuses first on Clark's 1994 meeting with Bosnian Serb leader (and war criminal) Ratko Mladic. Without citing sources for his claim, Novak states, "U.S. diplomats warned Clark not to go to Bosnian Serb military headquarters to meet Mladic, considered by U.S. intelligence as the mastermind of the Srebrenica massacre of Muslim civilians (and still at large, sought by NATO peacekeeping forces)." As others have pointed out, this sentence is at best extremely misleading: at the time that Clark met Mladic, Mladic was not yet an indicted war criminal, was not sought by NATO peacekeeping forces, and was not mastermind of the Srebenica massacre, which had not yet taken place. But there also seems to be little or no support for the claim that any warning against meeting Mladic was given to Clark. Here's what Clark said in Waging Modern War (pp 38 - 40):

I checked with retired General John R. Galvin, a former Supreme Allied Commander who had been serving as an on-call military adviser to [US special envoy] Chuck Redmond[sic - the correct name is Redman]. Galvin recommended that I see the generals on bith sides, including Ratko Mladic.... I checked with Redmond to be sure I had his support for the trip.... The visit to Bosnia proved critical to my later understanding of the issues in the region. I met almost all the key players, from the U.N. team, the Bosnian Muslims..l. [and] General Mladic...

Meeting with Mladic was especially useful.... How many people, I reflected at the time, have the opportunity to size up a potential adversary face-to-face? He carried a reputation among the U.N. forces for cunning and forcefulness, I found him coarse and boastful. He knew far less than he thought about NATO, airpower, and the capabilities of the United States.

But I learned even more about the problems of the Balkans...two days later... A Washington Post reporter called. He'd been tipped off about a cable from the American Embassy in Sarajevo, complaining that contrary to instructions I had visited Mladic. It seemed that even though I had checked with Chuck Redmond about my itinerary, and I understood that it had been "worked", the U.S. ambassador hadn't approved the visit. Following my Army public affairs training, I tried to say as little as possible. ...

The story ran in the next morning's paper: Despite Warning, U.S. General Met With Serb War Crimes SUspect". This was untrue - there was no warning - but the story generated several phone calls...

The fact was that I had not received instructions not to visit."

Novak offers no support for his statement that Clark was warned against visiting Mladic, nor does he bother to mention that Clark has denied it. Novak and his fellow conservatives piss and moan eternally about bias and inaccuracy in the press, but, when it suits their agenda, are perfectly willing to pick up one obscure, unconfirmed article and treat it as unimpeachable fact.

Novak also says, "The incident cost Victor Jackovich his job as U.S. ambassador to Bosnia, even though he protested Clark's course. " Novak clearly implies that Jackovich was dismissed, but in fact Jackovich was given another posting as Ambassador to Slovenia. Nothing in the record supports the claim that this was a punishment or demotion. Jackovich was also given a Distinguished Presidential Award for his Balkans service in 1994, and subsequently received another prestigious appointment.

Novak also states,

This was what U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's team seeking peace in Yugoslavia tried to avoid by instituting the "Clark Rule": whenever the general is found talking alone to a Serb, Croat or Muslim, make sure an American civilian official rushes to his side. It produced some comic opera dashes by diplomats.

No source is given for this claim. No such 'rule' is mentioned in Clark's account, or Holbrooke's or any other I have seen. Did the Mladic incident cause Holbrooke to lose confidence in Clark and shuttle him off to the side of the negotiations? In a word, no. In fact, Holbrooke formed his team in 1995, after the Mladic meeting. From Holbrooke's account, Clark seems not to have conducted major negotiating meetings independently, but that's hardly unusual: Clark was, at this time, a military adviser to negotiations being managed by the State Department. Furthermore, throughout his own memoirs, Holbrooke is consistently generous in praising Clark, and the text makes clear that he repeatedly trusted Clark with crucial assignments. The following quotes are all from Holbrooke's To End A War, with page numbers in parentheses:

As we talked, General Wesley Clark joined us. He was in a complicated position on our team. A West Pointer, a Rhodes scholar from Arkansas, and a Vietnam veteran, he had been one of the fastest rising officers in the United States Army - the youngest brigadier general at the time he got his first star....With three stars, Clark was at the crossroads of his career; this assignment would lead him either to a fourth star - every general officer's dream - or to retirement. Assignment to a diplomatic negotiating team offered some exciting possibilities, but it could be hazardou duty for a military officer, since it might put him into career-endangering conflicts with more senior officers. Clark's boyish demeanor and charm masked, but only slightly, his extraordinary intensity. No one worked longer hours or pushed himself harder than Wes Clark. Great things were expected of him - and he expected them of himself. (9)

A short time later President Clinton called from Jackson Hole, Wyoming...I told him he could be especially proud of the actions of his fellow Arkansan, and put General Clark on. (14)

So our seven-person core team was set: myself, General Wes Clark, [and five others].... As I was soon to discover under conditions of the highest stress, I could not have wished for a stronger team. (83)

General Clark, on the other hand, believed the bombing should resume. This put him in a difficult position. For a three-star general to make unwelcome suggestions to men with four stars on their shoulders was not normally a wise career move, but after Mount Igman [the incident where Clark repelled down a hill trying unsuccessfully to rescue Robert Frasure, Joseph Kruzel, and Nelson Drew] Clark was committed. ... To ensure that no damage would be done to Clark's career, Strobe [Talbot], Sandy Berger, and I all talked to General Shalikashvili. When, a year later, Clark received his fourth star... General Shalikashvili told me that Clark's performance in Bosnia had, in the end, been the key factor in his promotion. (118)

I asked Clark, Owen, Hill, and Pardew to work on a document that would end the siege of Sarajevo....Milosevic and I watched as General Clark began to read his draft to the Serbs, pausing regularly for translation. (150)

As Clark, who openly disagreed with his own military colleagues on this point, observed, " We are leaving a huge gap in the Bosnia food chain." Events were to prove him right. (252)

Clark and his colleagues had prepared well for the meeting. (283)

President Clinton and Secretary Cohen chose as NATO's new Supreme Commander none other than Wes Clark. In naming Clark they had, in effect, sent Dayton to NATO - an important signal of determination. (349)

Clark is also mentioned in Holbrooke's acknowledgements, and is shown standing next to Holbrooke in the book's cover photo.

One passage in Holbrooke suggests how Novak's story might have begun: "The Bosnian Serbs were essentially isolated at Dayton. Dark and brooding, they hovered on the edge of the conference... trying to communicate with Carl Bildt and Wes Clark, who they thought would be more accessible." (238) In other words, after their positions were rejected in the peace conference, the Bosnian Serb leaders tried to renegotiate the same rejected demands with Clark in a back channel. Naturally, this attempt was blocked.

Novak repeats a long-discredited smear: "Clark attributed one comment to a Middle East "think tank" in Canada, although there appears to be no such organization." Not only do such groups exist, the name of the Canadian who made the call was publicly revealed several days ago - and revealed on this blog almost three weeks ago. (See earlier post.)

Novak also alleges, " After claiming that the White House pressured CNN to fire him, Clark later said, `I've only heard rumors about it.`" This is a smear created by Fox to 'Perot' Clark and then spread around by the Wurlitzer. In fact, Clark has never claimed to have direct knowledge of a White House attempt to fire him from CNN, only to have heard rumors of it. The very Fox story in which the charge was first made makes this clear, although you wouldn't know it from the headline:

Clark Alleges White House Pushed CNN to Fire Him
The White House pressured CNN to fire former military analyst Gen. Wesley Clark, the retired Army chief told a Phoenix radio station on Monday.

"The White House actually back in February apparently tried to get me knocked off CNN and they wanted to do this because they were afraid that I would raise issues with their conduct of the war," Clark told Newsradio 620 KTAR. "Apparently they called CNN. I don't have all the proof on this because they didn't call me. I've only heard rumors about it."

CNN had no immediate comment on the general's allegations. White House officials told Fox News that they are "adamant" that they "never tried to get Wesley Clark kicked off the air in any way, shape or form." Beyond that, the White House "won't respond to rumors."

Here is a classic example of the Mighty Wurlitzer at work. Clark said that he suspected the White House had tried to fire him, while being explicit in stating that he had only rumors, not direct confirmation. Fox then claimed that he had made the charge as a fact. Other news sources carelessly treated Fox as journalism rather than propaganda, and repeated the headline without fully repeating the story that made it clear that the headline was spin. And now Novak repeats Fox's distortion of Clark's words as fact, then treats Clark's actual statement as a retraction!

Incidentally, all these accounts take for granted that the story isn't true. Note however, that CNN hasn't denied it. The White House has denied trying to get Clark "kicked off the air", which isn't really the same thing as denying that they tried to have Clark kicked off CNN. Given the careful parsing that this administration routinely uses to show that their deceptive statements aren't actually lies, that really doesn't count as a denial.

Only a tiny number of people can really say with certainty whether Clark was asked not to meet with Mladic or whether there was a 'Clark Rule' on the Holbrooke team. Since Novak hasn't troubled to find out basic facts concerning charges he makes, is either deliberately deceptive or ignorant of the time line for events he describes, repeats documented fictions, doesn't mention or seem to be aware of Clark's version of events, deliberately fills his article with slanted language, and offers no sources or evidence for allegations inconsistent with the known record, these claims can be dismissed, at the very least until they reappear (and they will reappear) in some more credible form.

More Good Poll News

This new poll shows Clark not only in first place, but with a solid 9 point lead. And that isn't even the best news - for the first time, Clark is actually beating Bush head to head - the first poll result in which Bush loses to a specific Democrat! Kerry also beats Bush by 1% among registered voters. It should be noted that the sample is rather small and the results well within the margin of error.

The poll doesn't really tell us anything about what the reults next November will be. It does tell us that the logic behind the Clark draft was real. There is a feeling among grass roots Democrats that the pre-Clark field wasn't up to snuff. There is a readiness among voters to send Bush back to Texas. And Clark's credentials as a decorated combat veteran and four star General do translate into credibility with the electorate, giving voters the confidence they need to dump Bush.

Hecht Call Confirmed

Philanthropist Thomas Hecht has now confirmed that he placed a call to Wesley Clark urging him to connect the 9/11 attacks to Iraq, the same call which George Will and others have described as being a story made up by Clark. If you didn't want to wait for the media to confirm this story, you could have read it here two weeks before it was published in the media, when I suggested that the call came either from Hecht or his associate Dr Frederick Krantz. Although the report linked above tries to claim a conflict between Clark's version of the call and Hecht's, the conflict is not really with what Clark said, but with misquotations or out of context quotations of Clark's statements. In fact the only substantive difference between Clark's account and Hecht's is that Clark says the call was placed on 9/11. Hecht says it was placed on the 12th or 13th. (Even those statements could possibly be consistent since Hecht lives in a later time zone than Clark. More likely, one or the other simply has a faulty memory.)
More Signs the Right Never Had It
Here's another great item, also a catch from Crooked Timbers. The unofficial Bush/Cheney campaign blog posted the following item:

More Signs The Left is Just Losing It

At his Fed-Ex Field concert last weekend, Bruce Springsteen said Bush "ought to be impeached and started chanting, 'Impeach, impeach.' But the call was not picked up by the multitude, some of whom even began to boo"

What Springsteen actually said was, “It’s time, it’s time to impeach the president and get someone in there who knows what the f*ck they’re doing! – Clarence ‘Big Man’ Clemons!” Springsteen in his stage talk routinely refers to Clemons as "King of the World", "Master of the Universe", and "The Next President of the United States". It was at this point that the crowd started to "boo".

Yup, the right, at least this blogger and the conservative journalist he quoted from, is entirely unaware that Springsteen fans shout "Bruuuce" at concerts and have been doing so for about 25 years.

Presumably Glenn, Virginia Postrel, and all the rest who have been telling us over and over again that the right is fresh and hip while the left is full of ancient fuddy-duddies will explain that the Bush/Cheney crowd is so heavy into Nappy Roots and Rob Zombie that they just don't have time for old school types like Bruce.

Obviously, I'm not really in need of more reasons to back Clark. But Crooked Timber has given me another anyway.
The Village Voice (link from Filibuster) has some ideas for negative ads to use against Bush. My own dream negative ad would be to show the rescue workers at Ground Zero and talk about the White House ordering the EPA to lie about the dangers theyh were being exposed to. Cut to the Saudi royals and Bin Laden relatives who were flown out of the countryh after 9/11 when our airspace was closed to everyone except our enemies. If done right, an ad juxtaposing Bush's disregard for the American heroes at Ground Zero with his solicitude for the Bin Laden clan would be nasty, fair, and devastating. (The Voice does actually suggest an ad using the Saudi flights, but I still think mine is better.)
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Mark Kleiman reports haviing received two emails concerning Clark from friends whom he (Kleiman) describes as "each with an Ivy League PhD, each of them substantially smarter than the average holder of an Ivy League PhD". One reads as follows:

I'm almost tempted to contribute. Clark would be almost as juicy an
opponent for Bush as Dean. This is the guy who advocated and engineered the
phony air war against Serbia. Quotes from Clark during this period versus
on-ground reality will make amusing campaign reading. As will quotes from
other NATO commanders (British and others) who claim that if they had not
restrained Clark's attempted bullying of Russian commanders at the end of
this campaign Clark was well on the way to starting WW III. Then, of course,
there is party affiliation: Republican one year, independent the next, then
Democrat. Poor Wesley can't seem to make up his mind, except when it is
expedient to assist a grab at power.

It will be amusing to watch the media repudiate their original takes on
Clark during the Kosovo campaign if he becomes the Democrat candidate: Just
as it was amusing to watch the various spins on Dean play out in the media.
First, when they were trying to get a viable Democrat candidate elected,
Dean was portrayed as a wild-eyed left-wing radical, to whom any other
Democrat candidate should be preferred. Then, when it was so clear that
Dean had so energized the extreme left, attack-Bush-at-any-price wing of the
party, that it began to seem inevitable he would be the Democrat nominee,
the media suddenly began portraying Dean as a moderate populist. Now that
Clark provides the media with a potentially viable Democrat candidate, I'm
sure they'll start comparing him to some combination of the best of
Washington, Jackson, Polk, Grant, and Eisenhower. Of course, these generals
achieved victories and Clark failed miserably in his most famous campaign,
but what the hell.

Is it just me, or does this rant contain a hidden message, something along the lines of "Conservatism causes brain damage"? Mark knows the author and says he is brilliant, so I have to take him at his word. But nothing here other than the grasp of syntax suggests that the writer is impressive in either education or intellect. He has turned one notorious off-hand remark by a highly questionable source into the considered judgments, even the consensus of numerous people who have never said anything remotely close to the words he puts in their mouth. The author professes to be appalled at Clark's switching parties and his supposed advocacy of reckless use of military force, but I stronglyh suspect he has no such reservations about the party switching of Ronald Reagan and it is clear he has none about the much more dangerous acts of George W Bush. As if this weren't enough, the author, who is certain that the facts of the Kosovo campaign condemn Clark, seems more than slightly unfamiliar with those facts. For instance, by making the statement that "Clark failed miserably", he seems to have no idea who actually won the war. Whether comparing quotes from Clark to the reality of the campaign will provide "amusing reading" or not, comparing the strange opinions of our anonymous PhD to the historical facts certainly does. For the record, accomplishing your main political objectives without losing a single soldier is called victory; "miserable failure" is when you claim to be fighting a war against al Qaeda, but stop pursuing them to start a side battle in Iraq where, after hundreds dead, thousands wounded, and over $150 Bn in expenditures, the net result is that al Qaeda terrorists (along with pro-terror Shia radicals in Iran) have now gained a foothold in Iraq that they never had before.

Friday, September 19, 2003
Tell Us What You Really Think

Retired ambassador Joseph Wilson, in his interview with Josh Marshall:

Marshall:...So, setting aside why we're in Iraq, how we go there, whether we should have gone in in the first place, where are we now? Where do you see our position right now?

Wilson: Well, I think we're fucked.

I just hope he wasn't that honest when he was a diplomat.

Thursday, September 18, 2003
Why Clark Can Win
Claims that Clark can't win repeatedly make the same arguments: he has no voter base, it's too late to get into the race, and Clark lacks political experience.

The voter base problem is easily solved. Clark's base is Democrats who are determined to beat Bush and want the strongest candidate to do it. That base is easily large enough to win in the Democratic primaries.

Is it too late? Critics claim that Clark doesn't have time to build a nationwide organization before the primaries. Wake up, folks: it's already there. Clark has over 20,000 volunteers and around 150 local coordinators in 50 states. It's true that a group of volunteers can't really substitute for a professional campaign organization, but no Clark rival except Dean really has those running yet in more than 3 or 4 states. And the party leadership, sensing a disaster if Dean is nominated, is likely to do a lot to help Clark bridge the gap between meetup volunteers and a serious campaign organization.
< p>Money is one of the main hurdles to get over. According to reports in the campaign, over $500,000 was raised yesterday; not a bad start. Whether Clark has the support to raise the necessary money remains to be seen, but he does have the time.

Clark is without political experience, but that's as much an advantage as a disadvantage in American politics. Voters prefer non-politicians, but critics say that Clark will stumble due to his inexperience, or be unable to handle questions outside of his military/foreign policy expertise. The truth is that Clark has been doing many interviews recently, and these appearances suggest he is extremely effective. Here's a sample from an extremely successful appearance on Bill Maher:

MAHER: Right. A lot of the – you know, they all talk about the military. Very few of them served like “hm-hm.” [holds up Bush doll] [laughter] [applause] I want to – I want to read you a quote, because I’m not saying whether you’re going to get into this or not, but Howard Dean, who is apparently the front runner now for the Democrats, he said last week, he said, “In Vermont, politics is much further to the left.” He said, “A Vermont centrist is an American liberal.”

And then his campaign manager came out and said, “That’s not an admission he’s a liberal.” [laughter] Which, quite frankly, pissed me off. Because somehow they hijacked that word, “liberal.”

Now, you’re a Democrat. You said that last week.

CLARK: Absolutely.

MAHER: Okay. [applause] I’m just – I’m just wondering, of all the people who has the credentials to say, “liberal” is not a bad word, I’m wondering if I could get you to say that.

CLARK: Well, I’ll say it right now.

MAHER: Good for you.

CLARK: We live in a liberal democracy.

MAHER: Right.

CLARK: That’s what we created in this country. [applause] That’s our—

MAHER: That’s right. Thank you.

CLARK: That’s in our Constitution. [applause continue] Let me follow on this, okay? I think we should be very clear on this. You know, this country was founded on the principals of the Enlightenment.

MAHER: Right.

CLARK: It was the idea that people could talk, reason, have dialogue, discuss the issues. It wasn’t founded on the idea that someone would get stuck by a divine inspiration and know everything right from wrong. I mean, people who founded this country had religion, they had strong beliefs, but they believed in reason, in dialogue, in civil discourse. We can’t lose that in this country. We’ve got to get it back. [applause]

MAHER: Thank you.

CLARK: I’d like to follow that. Can I follow that?


CLARK: Because, you know, a lot of people have said, “What are you interested in? Why would you even consider running?” And they say, “Isn’t it just about Iraq?” It really isn’t. Iraq is part of it. I think the foreign policy has serious problems.

MAHER: Right.

CLARK: But I think the economy and the way the administration has dealt with the economy has serious problems. But more fundamental than that, it’s about what kind of country we want to live in. I think this nation wants open, transparent government. I think it likes a two-party system. I think it likes to hear reasoned dialogue, not labeling, name-calling and hateful politics. [applause] And I think 2004 is the election that voters have to put that back in.

On a question he couldn't nave been expecting, this really couldn't have been any better. Dean, the seasoned professional who supposedly is going to take apart the inexperienced general, slipped up and implied he was a liberal. Excepting unorthodox views on guns, he pretty much is, obviously. After which, Trippi was pretty much reduced to saying, "Nassty liberalssess. We hatess them. But those who are volunteering for our campaign shouldn't take it personally."

Clark stood up for liberals - but notice he did it without actually saying he was one. He hit the sweet spot, where he's reaching primary voters on subjects they feel strongly about - the media smearing of liberalism and Bush's attempts to delegitimize opposition - while he doesn't say a single word that can be used against him in the general. His answers to Maher's earlier questions on Iraq were similar, hitting Bush hard on lack of competence and preparation.

If he can hold to this formula, Clark has a real winner. Hit Bush hard and consistently for extremism, dishonesty, inability, and especially for his endless failures in foreign and domestic policy. Do that through the primaries, where the Bush-bashing and the prospect of victory will draw in the party faithful. And in the general, keep on doing the exact same thing. Any Democrat, Clark included, can make the case on jobs and the budget deficit. But every poll shows that security, where Bush has in fact been as bad as he has on jobs, is Bush's political strength. No Democrat can make the case on security and terrorism as effectively as Clark.

Executed well enough, this can give Clark the left, the center, and even chunks of the right that are unhapppy with Iraq, infringements on civil liberties, and Bush's fiscal recklessness, leading to a blowout victory.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Meet the Press Whore

One reason that Dick Cheney was able to lie so freely on Meet the Press is that Tim Russert, the famous tough questioner, made no attempt to discourage his lies. He rarely asked follow-up questions, even though he had a one-on-one interview for most of an hour, and he never challenged any of the several statements that he knew were false. In the face of deliberate lies, Russert repeatedly just changed the subject.

MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.
MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?
...We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.
Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.
MR. RUSSERT: We could establish a direct link between the hijackers of September 11 and Saudi Arabia....

MR. RUSSERT: Vanity Fair magazine reports that about 140 Saudis were allowed to leave the United States the day after the 11th, allowed to leave our airspace and were never investigated by the FBI and that departure was approved by high-level administration figures. Do you know anything about that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don’t, but a lot of folks from that part of the world left in the aftermath of 9/11 because they were worried about public reaction here in the United States or that somehow they might be discriminated against. So we have had, especially since the attacks of Riyadh in May of this year from the Saudi government, great support and cooperation in going after terrorists, especially al-Qaeda....
MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the situation in Iraq. ...

MR. RUSSERT: We, in fact, have about 140,000 troops, 20,000 international troops, as well. Did you misjudge the number of troops necessary to secure Iraq after major combat operations?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: ...So I don’t think there was a serious misjudgment here. We couldn’t know precisely what would happen. There were a lot of contingencies we got ready for that never did happen....
MR. RUSSERT: The Congressional Budget Office said that: “That the Army lacks sufficient active-duty forces to maintain its current level of nearly 150,000 troops in Iraq beyond next spring."....

MR. RUSSERT: In terms of costs, Mr. Vice President, there are suggestions again—it was a misjudgment by the administration or even misleading. “Lawrence Lindsey, head of the White House’s National Economic Council, projected the ‘upper bound’ of war costs at $100 billion to $200 billion.”...
...It looked like the administrations truly misjudged the cost of this operation.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I didn’t see a one-point estimate there that you could say that this is the administration’s estimate. We didn’t know. And if you ask Secretary Rumsfeld, for example—I can remember from his briefings, he said repeatedly he didn’t know. And when you and I talked about it, I couldn’t put a dollar figure on it.
MR. RUSSERT: But Daniels did say $50 billion.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, that might have been, but I don’t know what is basis was for making that judgment. We do know that we are prepared and need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to make it work...
MR. RUSSERT: Is the $87 billion the end of it? Will the American people be asked for any more money?

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to weapons of mass destruction. I asked you back in March what you thought was the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq. There’s the question, and here is your answer:
“...the combination of [Saddam’s] development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
VICE PRES. CHENEY: And the tie to terror.
MR. RUSSERT: Where are they?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think that the jury is still out in terms of trying to get everything pulled together with respect to what we know....
And since we got in there, we found—we had a gentleman come forward, for example, with full designs for a process centrifuge system to enrich uranium and the key parts that you’d need to build such a system. And we know Saddam had worked on that kind of system before. That’s physical evidence that we’ve got in hand today.
So to suggest that there is no evidence there that he had aspirations to acquire nuclear weapon, I don’t think is valid, and I think David Kay will find more evidence as he goes forward, interviews people, as we get to folks willing to come forward now as they become more and more convinced that it’s safe to do so, that, in fact, he had a robust plan, had previously worked on it and would work on it again.
Same on biological weapons...We had intelligence reporting before the war that there were at least seven of these mobile labs that he had gone out and acquired. We’ve, since the war, found two of them. They’re in our possession today, mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing the capacity for an attack....
MR. RUSSERT: There’s real debate about those labs. But I want to talk about something very specific. And that was the president’s State of the Union message when he said that the British had learned that Saddam was acquiring uranium from Africa.l...

MR. RUSSERT: ...What happened to Dick Cheney, deficit hawk.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I was just looking at the picture you got there, Tim. I hadn’t seen it in a long time. I am a deficit hawk. So is the president. The fact of the matter is, we’ve always made exceptions for recession, national emergency, time of war....One of the reasons the deficit got as big as it did, frankly, was because of the economic slowdown, the fall-off in deficits, the terrorist attacks. A significant chunk was taken out of the economy by what happened after the attacks of 9/11.
MR. RUSSERT: And tax cuts.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Tax cuts accounted for only about 25 percent of the deficit.
MR. RUSSERT: But we see deficits for the next 10 years, big ones. How do you deal with that, when you have Social Security, Medicare, coming up?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: We anticipate even with the added spending that we’ve asked for now we’ll cut the deficit roughly in half from where it’ll be next year over the next five years.

Sunday, September 14, 2003
The New Republic, which was once a great liberal magazine and intermittently acts as if it still is, has recently been rating the Democratic candidates on such categories as political courage, intellectual honesty, and sucking up to neocon foreign policy. Okay, I made up the last one - sort of. They seem to believe that support of their publication is a vital necessity for Democratic candidates, a claim for which they cite none other than Howard Kurtz, who is one of the many low points of a Washington Post editorial page that has become such a collection of shameless shills and pathetic hacks that The New Republic's decline is, in comparison, hardly noticable. However, on their own criterion of intellectual honesty, TNR gets no better than a D. This piece attacks Howrd Dean's much-noted statement that the US should "not take sides" in the Middle East. It claims that Dean's statements mark "a precipitous break with previous policy, which is based on strong military, economic, and political support for Israel". But another post quite properly points out than Dean made this statement in regard to negotiations, where the US still has to function as an honest broker between the sides. Dean has clearly stated that he is committed to the traditional bipartisan policy that "the United States will maintain its historic special relationship with the state of Israel, providing a guarantee of its long-term defense and security".

The bottom line is that Dean has made some statements which, if taken out of context and spun the right way, suggest he wants to make a fundamental reverse in US support for Israel. And he has made several statements which state, clearly and directly, that he has no such intention. Dean could have spoken more clearly, but his imprecise remarks are far more acceptable than TNR's calculated misinterpretations.

Thursday, September 11, 2003
Headlines That are in Need of Some Clarification

From the Washington Post:

"Jewish Intermarriage Still Rising
But Rate Leveling Off, Survey Finds"

Thanks for explaining that.

George Bush has threatened to veto the appropriations bill if the final bill contains language overruling his elimination of overtime pay for millions of workers. There seem to be enough votes to keep the provision, although not nearly enough to override a veto.

This is yet another example of an obsession with being pro-business that for Bush goes beyond a political stance towards an Ahabian obsession. The provision is clearly popular - three of the six Republicans who support it are facing close re-election campaigns next year. (Of the other three, Snowe and Chafee are traditional renegades. Why Stevens backs it is a bit of a mystery.)

Taking away overtime is a more direct assault on workers than Bush usually goes for. Since we know that Republicans do get substantial support from blue collar workers, it could cost millions of votes. Even more striking, the bill is a direct attack on job creation. The ability to require overtime at regular pay is a direct disincentive for those companies that have labor shortages to hire new people. You would really think that with an election coming up, the President with the worst jobs record since Hoover would be looking for ways to encourage businesses to hire. But you would be wrong.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Clinton Phobia

Certain memes just won't go away. However many times she denies it, some people just refuse to accept that Hillary is not a candidate for President in 2004. And now that she seems to be backing Wes Clark, Ezra Klein thinks that she is angling for the VP slot on his ticket.

Now both Clintons are ambitious; no question of that. But both are, oddly enough, also capable of doing what they think is in the best interests of the country or the party without worrying first about their own agendas. If Ezra hasn't figured this out, he may be spending too much time reading the NYT editorial page.

Hillary surely would like to be President. But she knows what a divisive figure she is, and the fact that she turned down 2004 without even trying indicates to me that she has accepted that she is unlikely ever to get there. After all, she has been First Lady, and is the only First Lady in history to win office in her own name. She will be a serious candidate for a cabinet job in the next Democratic administration, especially if formed by a candidate that she and Bill backed. (But not in 2005, while a Republican is Governor in NY.) Or, since her seat is safe, she could stay in the Senate for several terms and become a liberal champion there, like Ted Kennedy. She probably has plenty of time left; her father lived to the age of 82 and her mother is still alive. These accomplishments may be enough to satisfy even Hillary's ambition.

A VP who would appeal to the party base makes sense for Clark, but Dean would be a far better choice, since he isn't so alienating to conservatives and many moderates.

As for the theory that Clinton will make Clark his puppet, the record shows that Clark was remarkably successful at standing up to Clinton when they disagreed, even when Clinton was Commander in Chief and Clark was absolutely bound to carry out his orders. That he would no longer have that independence when operating in his own name is absurd.

Correction: It was not Ezra but Matt Singer who wrote the offending piece. Since Ezra is not merely a fine blogger, but also the only Banana Slug on the Not Geniuses team, I regret having incorrectly criticized him. However, when I have time to take up the matter at more length, I will correctly criticize him for having repeated the fallacy that Clark can't be nominated.

It 's pretty depressing being a Californian these days, and not just because our economy has gone down the crapper. The recall election is quite a study in denial and delusion.

The very idea that there should be a recall is doubtful. We're in trouble now primarily because the national economy slumped, and the high tech sector centered in the Silicon Valley was hit much harder in the slump than other sectors. 9/11 hit us harder than other states because San Francisco is the most popular destination in the country and Los Angeles isn't far behind. Conventions, which have been hit by the weak national economy, were also a major source of income. And the energy crisis drained significant amounts of money from the state.

Only the last of those is even partly Davis's fault, and his fault there is less than that of others. The deregulation bill wasn't passed on his watch. He failed to predict and prepare for the results of bad law and bad policy created by the Wilson administration. And the same people who were behind Wilson and carry more fault for the energy disaster than Davis are now trying to ride Schwarzenegger back into power.

We are stuck dead in a massive budget crisis, and everyone knows it. Everyone who is reasonably well informed knows why: prop 13. But even in the midst of crisis, nobody seems to have a serious plan. Bustamante has advocated eliminating the prop 13 loophole for business property. (Much business property is owned by holding companies, and when it is sold, the company, not the property itself, changes hands. So the property is never reassessed and is still being taxed on its value from 40 years ago or more.) However, nobody believes he can really change it.

Bustamante has proposed a sound, if probably impractical, reform. The Republicans have pretty much nothing but hot air and the continuing pretense that vast savings can be achieved by greater efficiency without effecting any programs that voters like - which is, after all, nearly all of them. Apparently Republicans want you to believe that cutting waste is a fresh idea that nobody has ever thought of before, even though it was the main theme of Ronald Reagan for his 8 years and a constant theme of the 24 years of his successors.

McClintock has been praised for the courage he supposedly showed in the debate. He took firm positions which, as he well knows, are unpopular with most Califonia voters against abortion rights, coastal protection, and immigrant rights. This wasn't really the political daring it was marketed as: McClintock knows those positions are hugely popular with conservative voters he wants to woo away from Schwarzenegger, just as he knows that he only needs about 30% of the vote to have a solid chance of winning. But on the budget, he promised to make $15 bn appear out of nowhere by privatizing government functions and eliminating redundant agencies.

Schwarzenegger promises an audit. He seems to think that the fact that he has no idea what California is spending its money on means nobody else does either. He has promised no cuts in education, and he has promised (what else) further tax cuts: elimination of the increased auto registration fee that is the only significant tax increase since the crisis began. As long as balancing California's budget doesn't require increased taxes, reduced spending, or actual expertise, Schwarzenegger is ready to take the job on. Perhaps on his first day in office, he will force the director to send the budget back to rewrite to come up with a new bottom line.

Everybody seems to agree that you can't ask voters to shoulder real burdens, in the form of either new taxes or reduced programs, even in the midst of a crisis. That doesn't speak well for the future of the state. But why bother with serious issues when you can talk about whether Arnie was in an orgy in 1978, Bustamante was in a racist group even earlier, or Davis is insulting to Germans with thick accents?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I took my own advice and went to my local Draft Clark meetup last night. My general impressions were favorable. It was definitely an organized meeting with an agenda, not a chatty get-together. The meeting organizer was sharp and has contacts with Clark meetup organizers from other cities and draft Clark web sites.

The crowd was smaller than the Dean meetup I went to about a month ago, but still respectable - about 20 people, and it wasn't the only Clark meetup for the area, and probably not the largest. The Dean group struck me as generally less diverse: heavily white, young, and male. The Clark group tended to run to 30s and 40s, but ranged from college age to a couple probably in their 70s. It was probably more diverse ethnically as well, although a clear majority of participants were white. It's clear that the Clark campaign has got an effective national network up and running, with volunteer organizers in every major city tied together over the Net. That makes possible things like the video message that was played at meetups around the country yesterday - but not at ours, where we had the wrong equipment. In terms of grass roots organizing and digital tools we are behind the Dean campaign, no doubt of that, but we have a solid framework and the capacity to grow very rapidly once Clark announces and a formal campaign can launch.

All of this makes the argument, recently made here and elsewhere, that it is too late for a Clark candidacy, very dubious. Clark is far ahead of where Clinton was at this stage in 1991 or McCain in 2000. And he has the capacity to move faster. Even a few years ago, when the McCain campaign took off, it had to get the vast majority of donations by sending out snail mails and waiting for return checks to come back. That's a slow process that an insurgent campaign doesn't have time to wait for with new primaries being held every week.

It's clear that the Party establishment, rightly or wrongly, believes that a Dean campaign is a losing proposition, and is looking for a white knight to block it. None of the eight currently running against him has been able to step up to the plate. That leaves a huge opening for Clark. Particularly in the red states, party leaders who dread Dean are eager to see a ticket headed by a southern general. So Clark is likely to have support from party leaders, especially if his campaign starts to take off. And rumor has it that the Clintons are already very active in maneuvering for him behind the scenes.

Will he also be able to reach party activists and interest groups? What they want, above all, is to send Bush packing. The reality is that Bush has, even now with his Iraq adventure looking more and more like a disaster, a strong edge with voters on national security. It's probably his biggest edge and his best hope for winning. Dean accentuates that edge; Clark erases it. And at the same time, Clark has a degree in economics, so he can also talk about jobs and Bush's disastrous tax cuts. If Clark gains traction, liberals and unions will be getting on board, not getting in the way.

So the key question is how will voters react, something that can't be answered until Clark starts serious campaigning. But the outlook here is positive. Clark hasn't run for office, but he's been making quite a few televised appearances. It's proven that he comes across well on the tube and that he can think on his feet under questioning. He has also been giving speeches, where the audience reaction is reported to be positive. So there's every reason to expect that the candidacy will not be done in by Clark's lack of political experience.

The ingredients are all there. that doesn't guarantee success. Bob Kerrey, for instance, also seemed to have an ideal background for a candidate: Medal of Honor winner, modest background, success winning elections in a red state, even a glamorous movie star girlfriend. But his campaign just never got off the ground. The same thing could happen to Clark. But it isn't likely.

Gregg Easterbrook sees anti-Christian bias in the fact that national media has covered the Ten Commandments controversy in Alabama extensively while largely ignoring the unusual attempt by Governor Riley, a Republican, to introduce sweeping, and quite progressive, changes into Alabama's tax structure.

One wonders if Mr Easterbrook has ever actually read an American newspaper or seen a news broadcast in the last 20 years or so. On the one hand, you have a big hunk of rock surrounded by people screaing, praying, and trying to chain their wheelchairs to it. On the other, you have tax tables which show that the change to assessing property at full market value will be offset by the increased homestead exemption and new farmstead exemption, plus the reduction from 6.5 to 3.5 mils, but with 'current use ' protection for timber holdings of up to 2,000 acres, and did I mention the changes to the utility license and gross receipts taxes? I just can't imagine any possible reason, other than religious bigotry, why news organizations would rather run stories on the rock.

Incidentally, I know that 'old media doesn`t get blogging' is about the tritest, most cliched post topic imaginable, but really: not only do the two TNR blogs not link to non-pro blogs (a trait they share with most pro blogs), they don't even link to each other. At least, unlike Kaus, TNR does know how to do permalinks.

Blog Power

Is the Calpundit endorsement (okay, half hearted semi-endorement) the kiss of death? Reached at Calpundit headquarters, Kevin Drum stated only that he was 'definitely considering' voting for George Bush.

Seriously, this was probably overdue. Ueberroth didn't look impressive in his announcement or the first debate, and those are just about the only times that voters have seen him. Schwarzenegger has sucked up the media attention for the whole field - Bustamante can break through and get some, but the other candidates are having a hard time. Spending more money on the race was just a bad investment for Ueberroth, and he didn't get where he is by throwing good money after bad.

That's Tucker With a Capital "F"

More brilliant insight from Tucker Carlson:

Mr. CARLSON: Of course! What--I think what people--the--the--the key group in this primary election is going to be the left. People who are angry, not simply at George W. Bush, but because they were told to shut up for eight years under Bill Clinton. For--free-trade was forced down their throats, NAFTA was. There are a lot of people--you saw them in Seattle a couple of years ago bombing McDonald's. You saw them, two year--three years ago voting for Ralph Nader. They're the people who are voting for Howard Dean. They're going to make the difference.

Tucker has brilliantly identified the critical demographic for Democratic primaries: people who bomb restaurants. True, there are some controversies within the party: the 'Bush Lite' types who prefer to bomb empty buildings vs the real Democrats who go for suicide bombings during peak hours, but bombing restaurants, along with voting for candidates who attack our party, remain the key values which unite all Democrats. There's nothing - except of course George Bush, apple pie, and the American flag - that we hate more than candidates who waste our time talking about nonsense like jobs, health care, Social Security, environmental protection, and sane foreign policy.

Monday, September 08, 2003
Probably spurred by tonight's meeting, the meetup totals for Wesley Clark have risen to 12,544, blowing past Kucinich into a (distant) second behind Howard Dean, a solid 14% above the numbers for John Kerry and far ahead of the meetups for other candidates. The next moxt popular presidential 'candidate' in meetup is Al Gore, whom I would love to see drafted but is clearly not a candidate at all. Other declared candidates are trailing badly in the Meetup Primary; Joe Lieberman brings up the rear with a pathetic 293. I don't think he's signed up anyone except his staff and the writers for The New Republic. Unlike some other lib bloggers, I feel no deep urge to see Lieberman humiliated, but I think he will be.

There's still time to sign up and attend the Clark meetup for your area.

Opening Day

After looking wretched through much of the preseason, it turns out that all the 49ers needed to set them straight was a game that actually counted. Having an opponent who, at least on this given Sunday, was deeply incapable didn't hurt either. The Niners had an easy time of it, pulling away to win 49 -7. Except for an early turnover that led to Chicago's only score, they dominated from the very first series.

I've always been a bit confused by Kordell Stewart. Not watching Pittsburgh play very frequently, I tended to see him mostly in daily highlights. And Stewart, when he is on, is amazing. He makes a whole lot of highlight reel plays, both with his arm and with his running ability. How a QB who accomplished such miracles wasn't a real star, and even found himself riding the bench, baffled me.

After seeing him play today, I'm a lot closer to understanding. With two minutes left in the first half, the Bears were in trouble at 23 - 7, but still had a shot at regrouping and winning in the second half. Stewart completely took his team out with two quick interceptions than ran the halftime score to 33 - 7, and the Niners never looked back. Both passes were thrown well, but both were terrible decisions, with Stewart seeming not to notice DBs who were perfectly positioned to jump in front of his receiver and take the ball away. For a veteran QB to make that mistake - and then make it again a few minutes later - just won't cut it. On the evidence of this game, his career in Chicago is likely to be even more troubled than in Pittsburgh.

The recent free fall in Bush's polling numbers is clearly drawing a response from the White House. It has to be why Colin Powell was sent out to do a Full Ginsburg on today's Sunday gabfests. (FNS wasn't shown on the Left Coast due to football, so I don't know whether Powell technically did the Full Ginsburg or a Near Ginsburg.)

Powell is certainly the most credible Bush sock puppet, but I had really forgotten just how smooth he is, radiating competence and reassurance. The contrast with his boss, who routinely turns the act of uttering a single sentence without a teleprompter to read from into the verbal equivalent of a trapeze act, is unsubtle. Powell is really good - damn if he can't take a shit sandwich and make it sound just like chicken salad.

But a shit sandwich, however skillfully marketed, isn't going to taste like chicken salad. Yes, we are making progress on rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure, but we don't have enough troops, the troops don't have enough resources, the progress is far too slow,and the people are turning against us with basic needs like public safety and utilities unprovided. Any sort of real democracy in either Iraq or Afghanistan is pretty obviously a fantasy. And the end result may very well be that we've spent a vast fortune and lost hundreds of GIs to deliver a new recruiting tool, and a new theatre, to Osama.

Friday, September 05, 2003

I didn't catch the whole thing, but from what I saw, Kerry looked quite good. Dean, for all that I had heard of his take no prisoners Bush-blasting rhetoric, didn't impress me much at all. And the claims that he has changed his positions on free trade and Iraq do seem, from what I know of his past statements, justified. Perhaps becoming the frontrunner this early wasn't a good development for him. He took off speaking out with nothing to lose and what was assumed to be no chance to win. Now that he has something to lose, will he instead lose the style that got him here?
A Prophet Without a Clue

Bill Simon is planning a 'shadow campaign' to put forward his 'ideas' for California's future.

"We really have a blueprint for California's future, and I'd like to make that available," he said in an interview at The Times. "I'd hate to have that be on a shelf somewhere and have somebody dust it off in 10 years and say, 'Hey, some of this was right.' "

Trust me on this, Bill: you got nothing to worry about.

Thursday, September 04, 2003
Oy Canada

The Clarksphere catches George Will repeating a fib made up by the Weekly Standard to smear General Clark. The post is a bit weaker than it might be; of the three groups described as 'Canadian mid-east think tanks', the Begin-Sadat Center, although founded by a wealthy Canadian businessman, Thomas Hecht, is actually an Israeli outfit that seems to have no offices or staff in Canada. And the Canadian-Arab Federation is an advocacy group that would take some straining to label as a think tank.

The CIJR, however, does fit the bill and is very probably the source of the mysterious phone call. This CIJR editorial shortly after 9/11 says:

States like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan as well as the Palestinian territory, aid [bin Laden] and other terrorist operatives directly; groups in Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia support him indirectly....

We face today a mutually-reinforcing Terrorist International, the dismantling and destruction of which must be the overriding aim of the emerging American-led coalition. As former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu put it recently, "America didn't simply attack the Japanese kamikazi pilots at the Battle of Midway, she sank their aircraft carriers". Without its "carriers", Islamic terrorism cannot be sustained.

A key technical term here is "regime-change". Diplomacy and the threat of force must be used either to push current rulers of Muslim states into active anti-terrorist measures, or to change those regimes should they refuse to cooperate....

Time is short, the terrorism will be ongoing, and experts fear not only more, and different, attacks, but the use of chemical and biological weapons. Fissile materials can be bought or stolen; Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and Iran and Iraq--thanks to UN incompetence and Chinese, French and Russian opportunism--are close to having them.

This language, along with condemnation of "ineffectual Clintonesque masquerades " shows the author, Frederick Krantz, who is also the Director of CIJR, is certainly close to Bush philosophically and politically. The other publications on their web site, although focusing primarily on Israel and the Intifada, often praise Bush and call for regime change in Iraq.

The Vice Chairman of CIJR's Board is Thomas Hecht, the same Dr Hecht who founded the Begin-Sadat Center. Dr Hecht has many other Jewish and philanthropic connections, including receiving awards from the Israeli government and sitting on an advisory board at Concordia University, whose faculty includes Dr Krantz. Dr Hecht, with his very close ties to Israel, almost certainly would qualify as "a fellow in Canada who is part of a Middle Eastern think tank who gets inside intelligence information" and "very well connected to Israeli intelligence", two descriptions Clark has used for the mystery caller. The Israeli think tank he founded employs several prominent Israeli scholars and at least one Israeli Major General. Its International Advisory Board includes Brian Mulroney, Alexander Haig (a former mentor to Wesley Clark), Moshe Arens, Yitzhak Shamir, Joe Lieberman, the late Daniel P Moynihan, 4 Israeli Generals and 3 Israeli Ambassadors. CIJR's International Board includes Alan Keyes and John Loftus, self-described as the man who "may know more intelligence secrets than anyone alive", and formerly included the late Menachem Begin. Its Academic Council includes Daniel Pipes and a former Knesset member. CIJR was the likely source of the call; it seems to be the only think tank in Canada focused exclusively on the Middle East, it supported regime change in Iraq from just after 9/11, and Dr Hecht, Dr Krantz, and probably some others associated with the organization would be in a position to have access to inside intelligence.

Addendum: OK, maybe it isn't the only Middle East think tank in Canada.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Mixed Links

Some believe that the recall is a Republican conspiracy. A new write-in candidate fuels rumors that it may actually be an Illiuminatist conspiracy. (link from Head Heeb.) Campaign manager Hagbard Celine has promised a Crusade (perhaps literally) to kick out the jams, although noting that the Eschaton has already been immanentized.

Tom Burka has recently returned from summer camp.

Jesse explains why "the part of the right that doesn't understand laws when trying to enforce Christianity is well-met by the part of the right that doesn't understand Christianity when trying to enforce laws".

This poll from last week - more results at Pollwatch - seems to show opinion moving strongly against Bush on Iraq. (It was taken 8/26 - 8/28, just before the Najaf bombing.) A majority continue to say that things are going well rather than badly. But it's now a very narrow majority (51% - 47%) where it was once large (60% - 36%). On whether the results of the war were worth it, there is now an exactly even split. A large majority opposes the current policy of denying the UN a significant role in creating a new Iraqi government. Most striking, a whopping 80% feels the administration has 'hidden some things' or 'been mostly lying' about Iraq.

Bush's main political asset has been his reputation, profoundly unearned, for truthfulness and ability to protect the country's security. If he is starting to lose that, he can become extremely vulnerable.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Matthew Yglesias wonders when legalized gay marriage in Canada will start destroying the American family. Apparently it's starting.
Monkey Media and Dr Frank are having an interesting debate on the prospects of John Edwards. I'll go with the monkey on this one - Edwards may have the GOTV machinery that Dr Frank thinks he does, but that does little good without a vote to get out, and polls show it doesn't seem to be there, not even in South Carolina. I'm hoping that Edwards drops out soon to concentrate on holding the Senate seat.