Friday, August 31, 2007

The Coming "Bush/Cheney" War Against Iran?

A news report today indicates that the international community has become increasingly frustrated in its efforts to reduce Tehran's support for terrorist violence in Iraq; and that the International Atomic Energy Agency plans to announce the end of its four-year program of inspections in Iran, which has been marked by the government's growing rejection of intrusive review of the country's nuclear development facilities.

At the same time,
French President Nicholas Sarkozy yesterday blasted Tehran for its nuclear ambitions, and warned that preventive strikes may be warranted in the face of continued Iranian recalcitrance.

As well,
President Bush has warned against the specter of a "nuclear holocaust" should Tehran's authoritarian state develop devastating nuclear capabilities.

This concerted international drumbeat of counter-Iranian diplomacy might be considered a substantial measure of the West's stiffening resolve against Tehran's aggressive designs.

Of course, not everyone would agree with such an interpretation, particularly those on the hard left, who continue to demonize the Bush administration for its alleged fear-mongering and bellicosity.

For example,
check out this entry from FireDogLake, which denounces the "Bush/Cheney" regime's rush to war:

Now Bush has described the Iranian regime as posing the threat of a “nuclear holocaust.” Not just a “mushroom cloud.” This time, it’s a nuclear holocaust — terms reserved for the most heinous of crimes and the most despicable of enemies. No sane government engages in such inflammatory rhetoric. But where is the dissent? Where is the outcry?

Throughout this inexorable march to war, the Democratic Congress has done worse than nothing. They’ve voted for resolutions condemning Iran without having the factual basis for knowing what Iran is doing or intends, relying only on neocon and Administration propaganda. They’d listened to dishonest and crazed warmongers like Joe Lieberman, for heaven’s sake. They’ve voted for resolutions that would support regime change, but they’ve refused to pass resolutions or amendments that would require the Administration to seek new authorization to start a war with Iran. Most of our Democratic Presidential candidates — Kucinich and Gravel excepted — have pretended to be “serious” people by refusing to rule out military strikes against Iran, even nuclear strikes. These are not serious positions; they are seriously irresponsible.

But of course, this Administration does not need authorization. It it now operating completely outside the law, outside the Constitution, outside any checks by Congress or influence from those who might counsel against war. By Presidential fiat, it has declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist group, effectively making them an enemy of the US without any Congressional declaration of war. We have a lawless, reckless and belligerent Administration, and it is about to start another unlawful war, even as it tries to convince the American people that it is a good thing that the regime has 160,000 US troops bogged down in another quagmire, vulnerable to an enlarged regional war. Who will tell this crazed regime to stop? To whom would it even listen?

The Administration has repeatedly told us Iran is responsible for many of the deaths of US soldiers in Iraq. They trot out their propagandists in Iraq to shows us the weapons and their markings, suggesting that their use in Iraq is a delberate policy of the Iranian government. Their neocon supporters are already spreading the theme that Iran has effectively declared war on the US by arming and training those who are killing our soldiers in Iraq.

The only thing the Bush/Cheney regime needs is the money to wage its aggressive war against Iran, but how they’ll get it is patently obvious. That money is embedded in the authorizations for supporting US troops and their activities in Iraq. Congress no longer asks what the money is for: it’s assumed to be for “supporting the troops.” Now the regime is asking for another supplemental authorization — another $50 billion — and while Democrats are promising a fight, some are already announcing they will “support the troops” by giving the Administration all the money it requests.

Wake up Democrats: you are being asked to fund an aggressive war against Iran. This war will be on your heads. Stop.
I see an ever-deepening sense of irrational desperation among the hard-line forces of the left. It's almost as if the radical cadres have indicted as imperialists and war criminals all the nations of the Western international order.

And notice the conspiratorial tone of the post: The "unlawful" Bush/Cheney "regime" now operates completely "outside the law." War rumblings are foisted by the "neocons" and the administration's "propagandists." Undue influence is detected among "dishonest and crazed warmongers" such as centrist Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

But of course those over at FireDog have the gumption to attack the Democrats for budgeting funds for this "aggressive war against Iran," while at the same time begging the party to "wake up" to the administration's imperialistic project.

It's really too much!

I've noted before that some mainstream policy analysts have suggested that the military option cannot be ruled out, and indeed some have said preventive strikes might be the last, best alternative for decapitating the Iranian nuclear development program.

But hey, a little hard-headed policy analysis is not going to get in the way of a good leftist smear campaign against the Bush/Cheney warmongers in Washington.

Irreconcilable Differences? Taking Sides on Iraq

As any political blogger worth his salt knows, when talking about the Iraq war, it's not easy to convince the other side of the rightness of your cause. Political opponents disagree vehemently. They talk past each other, unable to bridge seemingly irreconcilable differences. Political demonization becomes de rigueur.

In her Wall Street Journal essay today, Peggy Noonan addresses this issue as a national dilemma. She notes that, sure, there's progress in Iraq, but it's not like Iraq constitutes a unitary state; and she rightly warns that prospects for Iraqi political reconciliation are bleak.

Noonan provides a pragmatic interpretation of the situation:

All sides in the Iraq debate need to step up, in a new way, to the characterological plate.

From the pro-war forces, the surge supporters and those who supported the Iraq invasion from the beginning, what is needed is a new modesty of approach, a willingness to admit it hasn't quite gone according to plan. A moral humility. Not meekness--great powers aren't helped by meekness--but maturity, a shown respect for the convictions of others.

What we often see instead, lately, is the last refuge of the adolescent: defiance. An attitude of Oh yeah? We're Lincoln, you're McClellan. We care about the troops and you don't. We care about the good Iraqis who cast their lot with us. You'd just as soon they hang from the skids of the last helicopter off the embassy roof. They have been called thuggish. Is this wholly unfair?

The antiwar forces, the surge opponents, the "I was against it from the beginning" people are, some of them, indulging in grim, and mindless, triumphalism. They show a smirk of pleasure at bad news that has been brought by the other team. Some have a terrible quaking fear that something good might happen in Iraq, that the situation might be redeemed. Their great interest is that Bushism be laid low and the president humiliated. They make lists of those who supported Iraq and who must be read out of polite society. Might these attitudes be called thuggish also?

Do you ever get the feeling that at this point Washington is run by two rival gangs that have a great deal in common with each other, including an essential lack of interest in the well-being of the turf on which they fight?
But Noonan reaches past her pragmatism to take slaps at the administration. On the one hand she calls for "maturity" among all sides in the debate, while on the other excoriates President Bush for his failure to "calm the waters" among rival domestic audiences.

But wait!

Then she says Bush is right on Iraq after all, but it'd be best if he were "graceful" and "humble" in advocating his position! Not only that, perhaps the White House ought to ask for some help on the issue. Okay, but from whom? Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid?

Yeah, right!

I always enjoy Noonan's cool detachment and considerable wisdom. Sometimes, though, it takes a steely resolve to really meet one's objectives. I think Bush is right to stare down his domestic opponents - the president's one of the only officials in Washington who continues to understand the stakes of our mission.

We're doing better in Iraq now because we didn't cut and run amid all the defeatist blather this last few years. I'm not so sure that being more "graceful" toward implacable opponents will help the mission. And I certainly don't see so much grace
among those fanatically opposed to any hint of successs on the ground.

Pragmatic politics may be recommended at times, but with the current partisan emotions roiling hot and heavy over the war, I doubt the present time is one of those occasions.

Norman Hsu is Shady Character in Democratic Fundraising Circles

This morning's Los Angeles Times has an excellent background story on Norman Hsu, the mystery Democratic fundraiser who's at the center of Hillary Clinton's fundraising scandal:

Money has brought both trappings and trouble for Norman Hsu. Major contributions to the campaigns of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other candidates have made the apparel executive an insider in elite political circles. He shows up in cozy pictures with politicians, at lavish fundraising events, and on the boards of prestigious organizations.

But Hsu's history includes more unsavory episodes and associations. In 1990, he allegedly was kidnapped by Chinese gang members in San Francisco as part of an apparent effort to collect a debt. A year and a half later, he pleaded no contest to a charge of fleecing investors in what authorities called a Ponzi scheme of fraud. Along the way, he left a bankruptcy filing and bitter investors who accused him of making off with their savings.

Hsu is now at the center of a political scandal, with Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) and others rushing to return his contributions and sever embarrassing ties to a man still wanted on an outstanding warrant for the fraud case in California. Hsu could turn himself in as early as today in San Mateo County, where a hearing on the matter has been scheduled.

Read the whole thing. Hsu's a fugitive from justice who enjoys a reclusive life of luxury. Yet, Democratic Party bigwigs have welcomed Hsu into their fundraising circles, apparently oblivious to his shady side:

Hsu has donated or raised more than $1 million for Democrats and their causes, often delivering large donations from multiple individuals. Some of these "bundled" contributions have raised suspicions. In particular, Hsu has worked closely with a family in Daly City, Calif., headed by William Paw, a mail carrier, and his wife, Alice, who is listed as a homemaker.

The Paws apparently never donated to national candidates until 2004. Since then, they have given $213,000, including $55,000 to Clinton. Barcella denies Hsu provided money for the contributions, which would violate federal law. The Paws, Barcella said, "have the financial wherewithal to make their own donations."As a result of his largesse, Hsu's stock rose rapidly in Democratic circles.

He is a member of Clinton's "HillRaiser" group, made up of individuals who each pledge to raise more than $100,000 for her presidential campaign. Hsu helped host a series of high-profile events, including one in March at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle, an ardent Clinton backer. In May, he co-hosted a fundraiser in Palo Alto with Susie Tompkins Buell, another Clinton bundler.
Captain Ed wonders where Hsu got all his money (and check Memeorandum for additional commentary).

A look at the Times piece suggests Hsu was a shady hustler running Ponzi schemes. The deeper question is why wasn't Hsu vetted more carefully by those who have welcomed him into the top circles of the Democratic Party establishment.

The GOP and the Women's Vote

Kimberly Strassel's essay this morning argues that on women's issues this presidential campaign season, the Democrats are back in the seventies. The party's retro take on "what women want" provides an opening for GOP candidates to snag women voters with market-based approaches to gender equality (or really, equity):

The Democrats'...views of what counts for "women's issues" are stuck back in the disco days, about the time Ms. Clinton came of political age. Under the title "A Champion for Women," the New York senator's Web site promises the usual tired litany of "equal pay" and a "woman's right to choose." Mr. Richardson pitches a new government handout for women on "family leave" and waxes nostalgic for the Equal Rights Amendment. Give these Boomers some bell bottoms and "The Female Eunuch," and they'd feel right at home. Polls show Ms. Clinton today gets her best female support from women her age and up.

The rest of the female population has migrated into 2007. Undoubtedly quite a few do care about abortion rights and the Violence Against Women Act. But for the 60% of women who today both scramble after a child and hold a job, these culture-war touchpoints aren't their top voting priority. Their biggest concerns, not surprisingly, hew closely to those of their male counterparts: the war in Iraq, health care, the economy. But following close behind are issues that are more unique to working women and mothers. Therein rests the GOP opportunity.
Here's an example of how a smart Republican could morph an old-fashioned Democratic talking point into a modern-day vote winner. Ms. Clinton likes to bang on about "inequality" in pay. The smart conservative would explain to a female audience that there indeed is inequality, and that the situation is grave. Only the bad guy isn't the male boss; it's the progressive tax code.

Most married women are second-earners. That means their income is added to that of their husband's, and thus taxed at his highest marginal rate. So the married woman working as a secretary keeps less of her paycheck than the single woman who does the exact same job. This is the ultimate in "inequality," yet Democrats constantly promote the very tax code that punishes married working women. In some cases, the tax burdens and child-care expenses for second-earners are so burdensome they can't afford a career. But when was the last time a Republican pointed out that Ms. Clinton was helping to keep ladies in the kitchen?

For that matter, when was the last time a GOP candidate pointed out that their own free-market policies could help alleviate this problem? Should President Bush's tax cuts expire, tens of thousands of middle-class women will see more of their paychecks disappear into the maw of their husband's higher bracket. A really brave candidate would go so far as to promise eliminating this tax bias altogether. Under a flat tax, second-earner women would pay the same rate as unmarried women and the guy down the hall. Let Democrats bang the worn-out drum of a "living wage." Republicans should customize their low-tax message to explain how they directly put more money into female pockets.
Read the whole thing. Strassel argues that GOP candidates are best positioned to move beyond the "progressive" rhetoric of women's "rights," to instead focus on women's "choice," "opportunity," and "ownership."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Rationality of Fear

As regular readers of this page know, I've had a few run-ins with a number of bloggers on the hard-left.

One exchange of note was with the ultra-liberal Ms. Libby over at The Impolitic.
I had criticized Ms. Libby for her attacks on Peggy Noonan.

Noonan had made the case in one of her Wall Street Journal essays that we might consider legislation establishing English as the national language - in light of our super high rates of immigration and language diversity - and I defended her position against Ms. Libby's dismissive multicultural rants against Noonan's refusal to "condescend" to the immigrants.

In response, Ms. Libby attacked me for my "irrational fears":

I think you're afraid of just about everything and your answer to every fear seems to be commit wanton acts of violence against those who make you tremble.
I don't think I'm calling on the emotion of fear when defending American culture, but here's my response to Ms. Libby:

It's not fear but a respect for tradition and reason that animates me...[yet]....

Fear is a basic human impulse, a necessary instinct. I'd be scared if planes were plowing into the New York office towers where I worked. I'd be scared if I was getting off the Madrid underground as it was exploding into a fiery ruin of death and destruction. But hey, it's easier to brush off legimate argumentation as "fear mongering" than actually engage it persuasively.
I was reminded of this exchange this week after reading Dr. Sanity's post on the psychology of fear. Dr. Sanity notes that fear is a reasonable response to dangerous environmental change, and as an emotion it is moderated by human reason.

Dr. Sanity compares
the mature analysis of the current terrorist threat by Vice Admiral John Reed to the left-wing "fear-mongering" argument of the radical left. Where Vice Admiral Reed - who chairs the National Counterterrorism Center - suggests that it's perfectly reasonable for the U.S. to worry about and prepare for a terrorist attack, hard-line leftists condemn those who would mount vigorous policies of defense.

Dr. Sanity quotes Glenn Greenwald's prototypical example of a fear-mongering diatribe against the Bush administration:

Bush opponents must finally overcome the one weapon which has protected George Bush again and again: fear. Fear of terrorism is what the Administration has successfully inflamed and exploited for four years in order to justify its most extreme and even illegal actions undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism.
Dr. Sanity responds with a devasting critique of this line of logic from radical Bush-haters:

This blogger is essentially arguing that-- instead of using a healthy and appropriate psychological defense called anticipation against terrorism and the Islamofascists (who most certainly want to kill us and destroy our society)--we should instead switch to a psychotic one, denial; and maintain that the only thing we have to fear is...President Bush. The latter is a defense mechanism called displacement that I have already discussed in an earlier post.

In fact, there is a strong element of paranoia here too. And a noticeable touch of both projection (ask yourself who is really desperate about getting and keeping power) and hysteria--though he thinks he can use it to describe normal people justifiably afraid of irrational fanatics not amenable to reason. The implication is that the only purpose such "fears" (deemed "inappropriate" by Greenwald's) are being manipulated must be to "justify illegal actions."

The basic tenor of his fear is easy to deduce: while we are fighting this illusory enemy, Bushitler has been amassing power and will soon set himself up as a dictator and destroy our freedom. I will let you decide who we have to fear more--the President of the United States or the religious fanatics of Islam who want to obtain nuclear weapons and have issued a religious fatwa justifying using them? Who do we have to fear more: those who are trying to prevent another 9/11 or those who would like nothing better than to do something even worse in our country?

Anticipation is the realistic anticipation of or planning for future discomfort. This defense mechanism includes goal-directed and even overly careful planning or worrying--depending on the situation. Anticipating realistic events such as death or illness or separation and loss; and then consciously utilizing personal insight and self awareness to mitigate the worse effects, if possible is the height of maturity and healthy psychological functioning.
Read Dr. Sanity's whole post. I enjoy reading her blog immenseley. I like her powerful ability to pick apart left-wing irrationalism with cool reason and science. I particularly like this entry because it affirmed that I was essentially correct in my layman's analysis of the importance of fear in our responses to threat.

Of course, deep psychological analysis such as this is anathema to those on the hard-left, like Ms. Libby at The Impolitic. Bush-haters are masterful at weaving all kinds of attacks on the administration's terror policy, denunciations that are generally supreme cases of the most utter denial of the fundamental challenges facing American national security today.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Democrats Flustered by Progress in Iraq

Some commentators have suggested that hard-line leftists in the Democratic Party are rooting for U.S. failure in Iraq, an outcome that might improve the party's political prospects (see here and here, for example).

As the good news continues to come in from the front lines, Democratic Party antiwar talking points have become increasingly creative in spinning arguments to paint the war as an unmitigated disaster. Noting the wide variety of upbeat reports from analysts and news outlets,
Jeff Jacoby explains how military improvments on the ground have created a dilemma for the Democrats:

For most Americans, positive developments in Iraq are very welcome. But good news is bad news for the Democratic left, where opposition to the war has become an emotional investment in defeat. House majority whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina was asked by the Washington Post what Democrats would think if Petraeus reports next month that the war is going well. "That would be a real big problem for us," Clyburn candidly replied.

The intensity of the left's determination to abandon Iraq was reflected in the reaction to a single line in Hillary Clinton's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars last week. "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq," she said, referring to the surge, "and in some areas, particularly al-Anbar province, it's working."

That mild comment instantly drew fire from Clinton's Democratic rivals. John Edwards's campaign manager, David Bonior, warned her against "undermining the effort in the Congress to end this war." New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, another presidential hopeful, piled on: "The surge is not working. I do not give President Bush the same credit on Iraq that Hillary does." When Barack Obama addressed the VFW one day later, he stuck to the defeatists' script. "Obama Sees a 'Complete Failure' in Iraq," The New York Times headlined its report on Aug. 22.

Within 48 hours, Clinton was scurrying to toe the all-is-lost line once again: "The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to take steps to ensure a political solution. It has failed. . . . We need to . . . start getting out now."

Since 2002, Clinton has been all over the lot on Iraq. She defended George W. Bush's claims on WMDs. She opposed setting a timetable for withdrawal. She voted yes on authorizing the war. She voted no on funding the troops. We likely haven't seen the last of her shape-shifting.

Clinton is hardly the only presidential candidate prepared to say whatever it takes to get elected or to retreat under pressure from her party's hard-liners. But it is worth pointing out: There is a principled alternative.

Consider Brain Baird, a liberal Democratic congressman from Washington state. He has opposed the Iraq war from the outset, and still believes, as he wrote in a Seattle Times

column on Friday, that it "may be one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation."

But having recently come to believe that the new military strategy is working and premature US withdrawal would be disastrous, he is speaking out in support of staying the course. Naturally he is being denounced on the left; one influential blogger calls him a “Bush dog” and "Dick Cheney’s trained monkey" and a crowd of angry antiwar constituents berated him during a townhall meeting Monday night. (“We don’t care what your convictions are,” said one. “You are here to represent us.”) The heat is unpleasant. But Baird is standing his ground.

That is what John F. Kennedy called a profile in courage, and it is troubling that there are no such profiles among the Democrats running for president this year. JFK was elected at a time when Americans could trust his party to confront international threats with resolve. That changed after Vietnam, where the Democratic left insisted on defeat and got its way, only to lose voters' trust on national security for a long time thereafter.

Today the left insists on defeat in Iraq. It beats up any Democrat who strays off-message. It treats good news from the front as "a real big problem." Is that any way to win an election? In the short term, maybe. But we're in the midst of a long-term war -- one that Americans don't want to lose.

Jacoby's right: The hard-line left forces will practically kill for a U.S. defeat in Iraq.

Frankly, I'm utterly fascinated at the left's despicable treatement of those of reason who can appreciate the gains U.S. forces are making in Iraq. Jane Hamsher, of FireDogLake, attacked Representative Baird in a recent post, calling him a "snake-oil salesman" and the new "Michael O'Hanlon of the House."

Maybe the "O'Hanlon" jab was supposed to be derogatory, but a few more
O'Hanlon's in the Democratic Party caucus might not be a bad thing.

SAT Scores and Tattooed Avril Wannabes

The College Board announced a national decline in average SAT scores this week.

I wasn't planing on writing about it, but considering
the discussion of satire around here lately, I thought I'd share this hillarious post by Harvey over at IMAO:

Average scores on the reading and math sections of the SAT test declined slightly this year, indicating that America's teenagers are dumber than ever. This news was greeted by jubilation from Democrats across the country.
Harvey notes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's statement:

The fact is, Democrats have nothing to offer the average intelligent, self-sufficient person. All we can do is take advantage of drooling idiots who want to put their lives in the hands of the Nanny State. Our only shot at political power is the votes of people who are too dumb to think for themselves. This time, it's the jackpot. Think for themselves? Hell, these pierced & tatted Avril wanna-be's can barely think at all!
Read the whole thing. Pelosi apparently danced a little jig upon hearing the news. Yet, as Harvey explains:

... some people objected to being called "mega-tard-tastic" just because of piss-poor standardized test scores. Miss Teen USA contestant Lauren Upton (Miss South Carolina) explained her point of view.

Lauren Upton, of course, has become famous around the blogosphere with her response to the fact that just 1 in 5 people can find the U.S. on a world map:

I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because…. some.. people out there… in our nation….. don’t have maps and I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should.. uh….our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S….. er, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children…..

Here's Upton's YouTube:

According to Harvey, upon hearing Upton's answer, Speaker Pelosi danced another jig.

Great stuff!

McCain's Public Funding Problem

Breaking news reports suggest that John McCain's presidential campaign has met the eligiblity for public election financing through the Federal Election Commission (see Liberty Pundit and The Politico).

This is an interesting development, either signaling new life for McCain's once-frontrunner campaign or the best new measure of just how desperate his White House bid really is.

Here's some background from The Politico:

John McCain on Tuesday became the first 2008 presidential candidate to qualify for taxpayer dollars for the primary election.

McCain’s application and qualification for the funds is likely to be interpreted by opponents as a desperate move, even though it does not lock him into the public financing system.

Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for McCain, said: “This isn't a sign of desperation — it's a sign of prudence and should be interpreted as such.”

McCain has lagged behind the Republican front-runners in the polls and in fundraising. Participating in the public financing system would allow him in the coming months to get an infusion of loans by borrowing against the promise of taxpayer dollars.

But the system is a trade-off, since it would also cap at about $50 million the amount of cash his campaign can spend during the primary — a limitation that would go into effect immediately.

The leading contenders for the nomination will likely quickly eclipse that level of spending, potentially putting McCain at a distinct disadvantage in early states.
Read the whole thing. Campaign analysts have touted a "$100 million entry fee" for the top canididates to be considered viable players by the time of the first presidential primary contests in early 2008.

There's a bitter irony here for McCain: The ability of both George Bush and John Kerry to each raise more than $250 million in the primaries in the 2004 presidential election is a direct consequence of the new fundraising regime arising out of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. Now McCain finds himself unable to match that level of money power himself, and he'll be relegated to utlilizing a public funding system he himself made impotent.

Top-tier candiates nowadays forego public "matching funds" for the primaries because with individual contribution limits now at $2000 per person it's easily possible to raise and spend way more money than would be permitted under the federal spending caps. If McCain takes public funding, he'll be limited to $21 million dollars at the start of the primaries (as reported by The Politico), likely to be a dramatically lower figure than his top rivals for the nomination.

Also, the top candidates this year have indicated that they won't take public money even in the general election campaign, an unprecedented development. The way things are going, McCain, ever the political reform maverick, won't be among them. The Arizona Senator's best days as a top White House prospect were back in 2000, when the rules of the campaign game were different, and more ameniable to his come-from-behind insurgent style.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

After Gonzales: Twilight for the Bush Presidency?

The resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales marks a significant turning point for the Bush administration.

For one thing, Gonzales' exit signals a witch hunt victory for hardline leftists and the Democratic Party (
see Memeorandum's Monday blog round up here). In addition, the administration faces a remaining term on the defense, with little recent legislative momentum and an upcoming presidential election season likely to pull attention away from the White House.

This morning's Wall Street Journal has an analysis of the prospects for the Bush administration's remaining lame-duck agenda:

President Bush's loss of another close, longtime aide closes one particularly messy stage of his second term, but suggests a new one may be opening: the lame-duck phase.

That hardly means Mr. Bush is irrelevant, but it does suggest his means for exerting influence are going to be different -- and perhaps clumsier -- from hereon. Increasingly, it appears he will be preoccupied with three objectives: managing the Iraq war; using presidential vetoes to thwart Democratic plans and spending impulses; and advancing a Republican agenda as best he can through regulatory moves and executive actions that skirt congressional inputOver the past several months, the controversy over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his firing of eight U.S. attorneys has impeded parts of Mr. Bush's agenda, notably the effort to expand wiretaps of terror suspects. The attorney general chose to use Congress's August recess period to put a stop to such distractions by ending his embattled term.

Over the past several months, the controversy over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his firing of eight U.S. attorneys has impeded parts of Mr. Bush's agenda, notably the effort to expand wiretaps of terror suspects. The attorney general chose to use Congress's August recess period to put a stop to such distractions by ending his embattled term.

his August break, though, marks a broader turning point for the Bush presidency. Since Republicans lost control of Congress in last fall's elections, it has been an uphill struggle for Mr. Bush to move big items on his domestic agenda past an uncooperative legislature, or to shake the shadow of the war in Iraq. By his aides' own admission, those tasks will get even more difficult when Congress returns this fall.

Read the whole thing. The White House discounts the notion of declining influence in the remaining months of office:

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, rejected the notion that the administration is losing momentum. "The term 'lame duck' is for dime-store political scientists," he said. "It demonstrates a misunderstanding of the power of the presidency, and a miscalculation of the energy and intentions of this president."

He said the White House has an "aggressive" agenda that will address an overhaul of surveillance laws, the Iraq war, spending, education and free trade, and he pointed to solid support among Republicans in Congress for blocking bad legislation, if necessary through upholding vetoes.

Whether the term "lame duck" has much meaning or not, the administration is certainly a far cry from the early-2005, post-reelection era of robust political capital.

Yet, I do think that given the nature of Congress' slim Democratic majority, and the central role the Iraq war will play over the next 15 months, the president is in a good position to set the debate, thwart the Democrats' big spending agenda, and help position GOP candidates for victories at all levels in November 2008.

Public opinion polls show Congress sustaining less public support than the administration. With additional victories in Iraq (and a reasonably good assessment on the war's progress by General Petraeus in September), the Democrats will be desperate to portray the war as a failure, and Bush can hammer their liberal lawmaking agenda with the veto. The appearance of gridlock will consolidate a "do-nothing" image for the "Pelos-tinians" in Congress, and the administration can shift attention to international diplomacy, and can develop an agenda to rebuild America's moral capital in global politics.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Modest Proposal? Call for Coup d'Etat at HuffPo is Only "Satire"

I first read about Martin Lewis' call for a military revolt against the Bush administration over at Michael Van Der Galien's page. Lewis wrote a letter to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace requesting that President Bush be relieved of his civilian command of the military, placed under arrest, and tried for conduct unbecoming.

It's a pretty outlandish scenario, but not too crazy to be cooked up by the rabid Bush-bashers on the left side of the dial.

It turns out Lewis' proposed coup d'etat provoked an intense backlash in the right-wing blogosphere, and
Lewis has responded with an entry over at Huffington Post this morning. He argues that his letter to the general was simply an exercise in Swiftian satire (after Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal").

I'm not expert on Swift, but Lewis does seem to be elevating himself up to an august level of satirical accomplishment. I'll let scholars of English literature hash out the comparisons between the Lewis and Swift essays.

I'd point out here, though, that if Lewis was not serious in his initial letter to the Joint Chiefs Chairman, he's certainly gotten into the ring this morning with his rebuttal to the right-wing. Here's a major flurry of blows against the conservatives' reaction, which Lewis sees as insufficiently deferential to his satirical turn:

The wing-nut world is up in arms (in some cases literally) with calls for me to be tried for sedition and treason. Some want me deported. Others are advocating hanging or shooting against a wall. Worst of all -- someone wants the FBI to open a file on me. (And I thought that the FBI was busy with important matters...)

But how do you explain satire to people who are uncontaminated by either wit or wisdom?

And of course -- as befits those who worship at the shrine of Atwater and Rove -- my satire has been twisted into headlines such as "HuffPo Calls For Military Coup In USA" Yup -- these guys are the Chubby Checkers of politics. They sure know how to twist... Again and again.

If there is even a single person left in the progressive/liberal/Democratic world who doubts how vicious and malevolent these people will be in their desperate attempt to retain the White House and regain Congress next year -- be aware now. These people will literally stop at nothing. 2000, 2004 and 2006 will seem like church picnics compared to how dirty they will fight the 2008 elections.

I'm just a minor satirist on a small soapbox -- and they came after me with all the ferocity of the Bush administration chasing Bin Laden... (Note to right-wing-nuts: That was what we elite, effete snobs -- who CAN hold a candle -- call:

After all that they have done to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Max Cleland and many more -- I got off very lightly. I was only threatened with murder a couple of times. But what gutter smears will these people come up with to demonize Democratic candidates next year?

And will the mainstream media fulfill its obligation to the American people to stand up and denounce and debunk these Un-American Activities?

Read the whole thing. Lewis declaims any conspiratorial intent. He hides in the alleged respectability of a career in humor writing. But I have to agree with those on the right who take issue with this line of comedy: The challenge today for the United States in Iraq is of the highest stakes, and humor of this sort is of the worst taste imaginable.

Satire has its place in media and literature, but a blog post at the vehemently partisan Huffington Post ought to be taken for what it is: A brazen ideological attack on the presidential administration hardline leftists oppose.

Lewis can deny malicious intent all he wants, but if he's as clever a satirist as his Swiftian moment suggests, he knows damn well that his roundabout call for a military coup against the administration will send his hard left revolutionary cadres to the barricades. September is expected to be a month of widespread protest against the Bush "regime." What better way to whip up the passions of the mob than with calls to decapitate the "illegitimate" regime occupying the White House.

Elections are never enough for the uncleansed hordes of the left. It's politics by other means - anything to destabilize the Republican hold on power. Lousy attempts at satire just reflect the desperation of such efforts.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Paranoid Style of the American Left

I'm always amazed at the hard left's fascist slurs against the Bush administration. Fascism has come to America, they say, and the Bush administration is the next Hitler!

Yeah, right! And Guantanamo will be our Auschwitz. We'll use ferries off the coast of Florida to transport our victims of genocide, rather than the cattle cars that rumbled the Jews to the camps during the Holocaust.

One could go on with the absurd examples,
which is what Noemie Emory does in her devasting critique of current left-wing paranoia in the Weekly Standard:

The fascists are coming! Or rather, they're already here, installed in the White House, planning like mad to subvert the Constitution and extend their reign in perpetuity, having first suppressed and eviscerated all opposition and put all of their critics in jail. Thus goes the rant of America's increasingly unhinged left.
Read the whole thing - the article's a true classic. I love the conclusion in particular:

Let's give the last words to Mark Crispin Miller, as he told the blog Buzzflash in February 2006: "That sort of warped perception comes from extreme paranoid projectivity: the tendency to rail at others for traits or longings that one hates and fears inside oneself. We're dealing with a movement that is anti-rational. It's's a movement that believes what it believes, and it believes what it believes is right. It believes what it wants to believe. If it hears contrary evidence, it comes up with evidence of its own. This is not a movement that the rational can ever shame into surrendering by merely demonstrating its illogic to its followers. Paranoia is based on fear, and therefore on a kind of 'logic' that's impervious to evidence and quite incapable of learning from experience. Paranoia is an atavism, deep within us all."
Anti-rational, eh? Maybe Miller's on to something!

New Congress is King of Oversight

Thomas Mann, Molly Reynolds, and Peter Hoey have an interesting article in today's New York Times on the 110th Congress' comparative legislative productivity. Here's the introduction:

JUST before Congress adjourned for its August recess, Democrats engaged in a flurry of legislative activity, while Republicans complained about a “do-nothing” Congress’s meager policy accomplishments. Deep partisan differences, narrow majorities and a Republican in the White House have frustrated Democratic ambitions and fueled a toxic atmosphere in both chambers of Congress. The public’s low approval ratings reflect broad discontent with the direction of the country but also displeasure with Congress for failing to reverse course on Iraq and for continuing the bitter partisan warfare.

But has this really been a do-nothing Congress? The circumstances are similar to those in 1995, when a new Republican majority in both houses took office under a Democratic president. So perhaps the best question to ask is, how is this 110th Congress doing compared with the 104th Congress, in 1995?
The authors make the case that the new Democratic congressional majority has produced a more substantive legislative record than did the Republicans after 1994:

The new Congress has enacted a far-reaching lobbying and ethics reform bill, an increase in the minimum wage, recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, foreign investment rules and a competitiveness package, and has embedded a number of major initiatives and new priorities in continuing and supplemental spending bills. Democrats also made headway on energy, children’s health insurance, college student loans, Head Start, drug safety and a farm bill — though much of this awaits action in the Senate or in conference and faces a possible veto.
The tale of the tape is what I find interesting, however. Be sure to click here for the article's informative graphic, which includes a nice table of comparative statistics.

One of the biggest achievements of the new Congress is to ramp up the level of legislative oversight of the executive branch. While some have argued that Congress in recent years has been too deferential to the presidency (including Mann himself), the Democrats are probably less worried about the proper functioning of the separation of powers than they are about punishing Republicans for their ambitious, highly-partisan (even brazen) agenda of recent years.

Here's a nugget from the article:

Democratic promises to restore civility and regular parliamentary procedure by allowing the minority party a larger role in deliberations have foundered. The number of restrictive rules for debate has increased, and the conference process has been short-circuited on various occasions.
I've yet to see any sweeping legislative successes under the Democrats - for example, nothing as monumental as the Republican-led Welfare Reform Act of 1996.

Pelosi, Reid, and the Democrats appear in disarray over Iraq, and the administration's steadfast resolve on the war has kept the Republian Party's priorities at the top of the policy agenda.

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

Theo Spark published an excellent guest-post over at Jules Crittenden's yesterday. He discusses the global struggle against fanatical Islamist terrorism, and makes the special case that liberalism itself is a destabilizing fifth column infecting Western societies.

Some of the most hardcore elements of the left are in open alliance with the forces of Islamist totalitarianism.
I've blogged about the relationship on occasion.

I'm not sure how well known this ideological-religious alliance is, but I'm pleased to see that David Horowitz's Freedom Center is planning a
national series of campus demonstrations to raise awareness on the nature of Islamo-fascism. The events will take place during Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, scheduled for October 22-26.

Here are the goals of the events:

TO EXPLAIN WHO THE ENEMY IS -- not “terror,” but a fanatical religious movement associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the sponsors of the Muslim Student Association; it is a movement including al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- whose common goal is the creation of a global Muslim empire ruled by an Islamic “pope” or caliphate, to be based in Iraq, once America is defeated.

TO COUNTER THE LEFT’S BIG LIE -- that “George Bush created the war on terror,” and to do this by means of campus demonstrations, guest speakers, and documentary films. The speakers will include former Senator Rick Santorum, Robert Spencer, Christopher Hitchens, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, Frank Gaffney, Cliff May, Phyllis Chessler and Ibn Warraq. The films will include Obsession; Suicide Killers; Border; Islam vs. Islam; and Islam: What the West Needs to Know.

TO PROTEST THE VIOLENT OPPRESSION OF WOMEN IN ISLAM -- the “honor killings,” arranged marriages, child brides, and second-class citizenship of Muslim women.

TO STRENGTHEN THOSE ON CAMPUS WHO REJECT THE ANTI-AMERICAN CURRICULUM OF THE TENURED LEFT which teaches that America is a racist, sexist, homophobic, imperialist “Great Satan” whose little Eichmanns deserve what they get at the hands of Medieval religious fanatics armed with the latest technologies of death.

TO TEACH AN ALTERNATIVE CURRICULUM THAT WILL ARM AMERICA AGAINST THE RADICAL JIHAD – This curriculum will teach that Islam, as currently practiced in Muslim states, oppresses women, gays, Christians, Jews and atheists. It will teach that “Islamo-fascists hate us not because we are oppressors but because we are Christians, Jews, atheists, gays, and liberated women, and because we are tolerant, generous and free."
Check out the whole article. FrontPageMag has called out the Muslim Students Association, a group which has refused to denounce Islamofascism, and one that has close ties to the hardline anti-American organization, International ANSWER.

Apparently the local UCLA chapter of the MSA solicited student donations for the Middle East terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah (during rallies at their "anti-Zionist week").

Further, FrontPageMag notes that a MSA speaker at Queensborough Community College in New York told the crowd "The only relationship you should have with America is to topple it!"

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Geriatrics of U.S. Primacy

Mark Haas has a pathbreaking article on the demographics of America's global preponderance (pdf) in the current issue of International Security.

Haas discusses how global democraphic dynamics will alter the international distribution of capabilities. States with increasingly elderly populations will enjoy less robust economic growth, and larger shares of gross domestic product will be devoted to social welfare programs for the aged. These states will be less likely to mount aggressive foreign policies, and the traditional balancing dynamic in great power politics will be attenuated.

America is not immune from the burdens of a growing population, yet demographic trends in the U.S. imply less geriatric overload than is true of other advanced industrial democracies. This situation should bode well for the perpetuation of American hegemony, although there will be the likelihood of some retrenchment in U.S. foreign policy:

Aging populations are likely to result in the slowdown of states’ economic growth at the same time that governments face substantial pressure to pay for massive new expenditures for elderly care. This double economic dilemma will create such an austere fiscal environment that the otther great powers will lack the resources necessary to overtake the United States’ huge power lead. Investments designed to improve overall economic growth and purchases of military weaponry will be crowded out. Compounding these difficulties, although the United States is growing older, it is doing so to a lesser extent and less quickly than all the other great powers. Consequently, the economic and fiscal costs for the United States created by social aging (although staggering, especially for health care) will be signifcantly lower for it than for potential competitors. Global aging is therefore not only likely to extend U.S. hegemony (because the other major powers will lack the resources necessary to overtake the United States’ economic and military power lead), but deepen it as these others states are likely to fall even farther behind the United States. Thus despite much recent discussion in the international relations literature and some policymaking circles about the likelihood of China (and to a lesser extent the European Union) balancing U.S. power in coming decades, the realities of social aging and its economic and military effects make such an outcome unlikely.
I really like this article, especially Haas' discussion of comparatively high rates of fertility and immigration in the U.S. There's much mention in press punditry about how immigration helps sustain America's entitlement system, but there's less attention to how America's open, assimilationist immigration policies in fact sustain American global leadership.

I've argued a number of times here against the renewed "declinism" thesis that has seeped into discussions about America's global leadership role. We will face some important retrenchments in the years after the Bush administration, but a future of continued U.S. global primacy looks likely for some time to come.

See here,
here, here, here, and here, for some of my earlier posts on U.S. hegemony.

Spinning Troop Morale

In my lectures on the mass media, I always note the media's goal of maintaining high standards of press objectivity in reporting. But I also discuss bias in the news, which can result from things like corporate control of the press, as well as the ideological orientations of editors and reporters.

I actually give the media more credit than some on both the right and the left. Today's Los Angeles Times, however, provides an great example of media bias in reporting on the war.

In this morning's edition, the Times has a front-page article entitled, "
Morale Dips as Some GIs Say Leaders Are Way Off Base."

The piece is a really blatant example of liberal antiwar spin masquerading as journalism. Tina Susman, the author, rests her story on the sentiment among a good number of soldiers that the war is hopelessly misguided, and she's sure to quote the most dramatic statements of disillusionment in the ranks. Here's a key snippet of her spin:
As military and political leaders prepare to deliver a progress report on the conflict to Congress next month, many soldiers are increasingly disdainful of the happy talk that they say commanders on the ground and White House officials are using in their discussions about the war.

And they're becoming vocal about their frustration over longer deployments and a taxing mission that keeps many living in dangerous and uncomfortably austere conditions. Some say two wars are being fought here: the one the enlisted men see, and the one that senior officers and politicians want the world to see.

"I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed," said Spc. Yvenson Tertulien, one of those in the dining hall in Yousifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, as Bush's speech aired last month. "I don't want to be here anymore."
I'm sure there's much more of this thinking among those in uniform. Yet, Susman's own reporting suggests that such views represent a minority, and in areas of combat showing substantial success, morale is high:

Plenty of troops remain upbeat about their mission in Iraq. At Patrol Base Shanghai, flanking the town of Rushdi Mullah south of Baghdad, Army Capt. Matt Dawson said residents used to shoot at troops but now visit them and offer ideas on improving security."

For the 20-year-old kids here who have been shot at for 10 months in a row, the change is a tremendous feeling," Dawson said last week.

The Army cites reenlistment numbers as proof that morale remains high and says it expects to reach its retention goal of 62,200 for the fiscal year.

"On the 4th of July, we reenlisted 588 service members . . . in Baghdad. That has to be an indicator," said Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, who visits bases to gauge morale on behalf of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Based on his encounters, Hill said, he would rank morale at 8 on a scale of 1 to 10."Units that are having real success are units where troop morale is extremely high," Hill said.

"Units that are sustaining losses, whether it be personnel losses, injuries or casualties -- those are organizations where morale might dip a bit."
Here are some poll numbers:

The latest in a series of mental health surveys of troops in Iraq, released in May, says 45% of the 1,320 soldiers interviewed ranked morale in their unit as low or very low. Seven percent ranked it high or very high.
The article would have been credible if the interpretation were flipped around 180 degrees. Perhaps the title might have said: "Troops in Iraq Upbeat but Morale Issues Linger."

Such a heading would have been much more honest.

O'Hanlon's Methodology

Michael O'Hanlon has responded to the criticism of his upbeat New York Times article on Iraq in today's Washington Post.

I wrote recently that
progess in Iraq was causing fits on the left. I was particularly bothered by TRex over at FireDogLake, who, citing Glenn Greenwald, called O'Hanlon a liar.

Thus I'm pleased to see O'Hanlon calling some of these guys out with his clarification on methods and sources:

How can one gather and assess information about Iraq -- collected on a trip or from any other source? Information from a war zone is difficult to attain and interpretation is open to many views.

Unfortunately, much of the blogosphere and other media outlets have emphasized the wrong question, challenging the integrity of anyone who dares to express politically incorrect views about Iraq. Last week, Jonathan Finer criticized on this page ["
Green Zone Blinders," Aug. 18] a New York Times essay that Ken Pollack and I wrote, as well as the comments of several senators, for claiming too much insight based on short trips to Iraq. Finer suggested that we did not leave the Green Zone, although we frequently did, on this and other trips, and he ignored how critical Pollack and I have been of administration policy in the past.

Worse, Finer and critics such as Rep. Jack Murtha and Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald have suggested that our analyses are based on a few days of military "dog-and-pony shows." Our assessments are based on our observations as well as on years of study. That experience creates networks of colleagues such as military officers whose off-the-record insights can inform ours and who in the past have often told us when they did not think their strategies were working or could work. While hardly making us infallible, this also led each of us to oppose predictions of a "cakewalk" before the invasion and to join Gen. Eric Shinseki in criticizing invasion plans that had too few troops and too little thought given to the post-invasion mission.
Read the whole thing. O'Hanlon restates the case that things are measurably better in Iraq.

I particularly like O'Hanlon's point about how critics will attack politically incorrect views. "Attack" is putting it midly. There's so much investment in failure among left-wing critics that war backers are demonized (which must be necessary to keep the antiwar momentum going).

I noted earlier that O'Hanlon's been very skeptical of America's prospects in the war (which I think gives his recent assessment additional credibility). But because he was an initial war booster, his analysis is suspect by people who despise the Bush administration.

On a related note, some readers might find interesting
the debate between international relations professor Dan Drezner and Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald has criticized the "Foreign Policy Community" of experts for their dismissal of the left-wing netroots and their criticism of the Iraq war. Apparently, this has been a pretty lengthy exchange, and Drezner's got some additional posts here, here, here, and here.

I'm just getting into this debate myself, but I am intrigued by the question of the relative importance of experts versus the netroots in the determination of American foreign policy (sounds a little like the "
red versus experts" conflict during China's Cultural Revolution.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Trojan Horse Pragmatism: Markos Moulitsas as Vanguard of the Revolution

Peter Beinart has a very interesting analysis of Markos Moulitsas and the netroots up at the New Republic.

Beinart notes that in dismissing the most left-wing candidates in recent presidential elections, Moulitsas is illustrating the netroots movement's political pragmatism, its willingness to coopt the Democratic Party as a mainstream institutional vehicle to advance its progressive cause.

What explains this? Mostly it's the historical marginalization of the radical protest fringe in mainstream electoral politics. Beinart provides an excellent historical review of the failure of new left and militant forces to bring about radical change. With the possibility of utopian revolution more distant, hard left forces today see opportunity in capturing the Democratic Party for their own left-wing fundamentalism.

Beinart summarizes this shift, arguing that the Daily Kos netroots represent the most viable radical movement in decades:

It's the first broad-based liberal movement to emerge since communism's demise. In the Progressive era, it was conventional wisdom on the American left--asserted by everyone from Eugene Debs to John Dewey--that socialism was historically inevitable. Then, during the Depression--until Stalin's alliance with Hitler and the news of his terrible crimes brought most leftists to their senses--the Soviet Union became a real-life model of what revolution, as opposed to mere reform, could achieve. Even in the '60s, the shift towards outright resistance coincided with an enthusiasm for revolutions abroad. In Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Frantz Fanon, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh, the New Left saw blueprints for the revolution it desired at home. Tom Hayden and Staughton Lynd visited Hanoi, and Stokely Carmichael moved to West Africa, where he took the name Kwame Toure in honor of the leaders who had brought independence to Ghana and Guinea. "For generations," writes Todd Gitlin in his excellent book The Sixties, "the American left has externalized good: we needed to tie our fates to someone, somewhere in the world, who was seizing the chances for a humane society."

Now that's impossible. Sean Penn can embrace Hugo Chávez and Michael Moore may swoon over Cuban health care, but such radical camaraderie pales in comparison even to that of the Reagan years, when every major campus boasted a branch of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, which championed El Salvador's Marxist fmln. The Soviet Union is gone, and, virtually without exception, leftist revolutions in the third world have ended in tears. (Nelson Mandela, perhaps the only recent foreign leader to enjoy demigod status on the American left, underscores the point. Post-apartheid South Africa may be anti-American, but it is more capitalist than it was under white rule.) Even the social democracies of Western Europe don't shine as brightly as they did a few decades ago. With the cold war's end, there is simply no compelling ideological alternative beyond America's shores.

On the right, this has produced a utopian spasm: a belief that communism's demise proves capitalism's perfection, vindicating its purest, most deregulated form. But, on the left, it has made revolutionary rhetoric sound absurd. The netroots feel the American system has gone fundamentally wrong; that, in some profound ways, it has become less just, less decent, less free. And yet, the American system is all they have. It can be reformed, turned into a better version of itself. But it can't be overthrown because there is nothing with which to replace it. Markos Moulitsas is an idealist in a post-utopian age.
Beinart's analysis can be taken a step further, however. Perhaps we might see Kos in the light of Marxism-Leninism. Kos's netroots movement is analogous to Lenin's vanguard of the proletariat.

Moulitsas himself - not unlike Lenin - demonstrates a tremendous level of confidence in his political skills, and the rightness of his cause. This outlook allows him to dismiss centrists, such as Joe Leiberman, as outside the true constituency of the Democratic Party. In his recent
writings and appearances, Moulitsas has evinced what I consider elements of megalomania. He's got an essentially irrational faith in the power of his movement, and his trumpeting of fake successes nicely illustrates delusions of grandeur.

Yet, in the event of Democratic Party successes next year, Moulitsas will claim the party's victories resulted from the efforts of the netroots and the appeal of its ideology. Kos will claim he and his acolytes alone possess the true progressive insights and credentials to achieve a long-lasting hard left agenda in the American political system. Rather than staying with the party's mainstream, electable functionaries, Kos will use his netroots hordes to purge party centrists, and they'll threaten to bludgeon the Democratic Party hierchy if it deviates from the netroots' Leninist line. A reign of democratic centralism will follow.

Kos' pragmatic political project is an ideological Trojan Horse. His pragmatism seeks to commandeer the official Democratic Party establishment to bring his movement to power and usher in a socialist revolution from below. As improbable as that might sound, Kos - in his drunken stupor of perceived power - certainly sees promise in the netroots's ideological role of as vanguard of the revolution.

Debating Sanctuary Cities

Kimberly Strassel's Friday Wall Street Journal essays are among my current favorites in mainstream press commentary. Her article this week is a disappointment, however.

Like the newspaper for which she writes, Strassel leans toward open borders advocacy. In her piece, she's critical of the debate erupting between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giulilani over illegal alien sanctuary cities, and she argues that the Republican Party risks alienating Hispanic voters, perhaps for decades:

A vocal Republican minority is demanding tough talk on an issue that has inflamed its passions for most of this year. Who are these two front-runners to refuse? Immigration gives them an easy way to talk up their security credentials, while simultaneously keeping the conversation away from thornier questions about social issues, or Mormonism, or unsupportive children. It also allows them to distinguish themselves from that dastardly immigration reformer, John McCain.

Unfortunately for their party, what neither man can do is keep the rest of America from listening. And for every base Republican who is gratified by talk of ID cards and border patrols, there's an entire family of Hispanic immigrants who are absorbing the mean language of "sanctuary cities," "lawbreakers" and "deportation." Many of these folks are religious, entrepreneurial, and true believers in the American dream; as such, they're the biggest new voting potential the Republican Party has seen in ages. But a growing number, just like those Catholics of yore, are angered by the recent rhetoric and wondering why they should pull a lever for any party that would go out of its way to tag their community as the source of America's problems.
I've written here many times that the great strength of the United States is our assimilationist culture and robust diversity. Yet, for the life of me I cannot understand how analysts can dismiss people's legitimate unhappiness with the breakdown of law and order on the issue of immigration.

Out of pragmatism, I supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill moving through Congress earlier this year. That support put me at odds with most partisans in the GOP base. But the idea of sanctuary cities goes against our reputation as a nation of laws, and I think it's an issue that just makes people mad. Strassel's wrong about this one: The sanctuary controversy is a debate the GOP presidential hopefuls want to raise.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

John Edwards and American Foreign Policy

Out of the four articles published so far in Foreign Affairs' Campaign 2008 series, John Edwards' is the least impressive. Edwards wants to make clear that the American war in Iraq was a mistake. He argues that the Bush administration's foreign policy is the worst in generations:

At the dawn of a new century and on the brink of a new presidency, the United States today needs to reclaim the moral high ground that defined our foreign policy for much of the last century.

We must move beyond the wreckage created by one of the greatest strategic failures in U.S. history: the war in Iraq. Rather than alienating the rest of the world through assertions of infallibility and demands of obedience, as the current administration has done, U.S. foreign policy must be driven by a strategy of reengagement. We must reengage with our history of courage, liberty, and generosity. We must reengage with our tradition of moral leadership on issues ranging from the killings in Darfur to global poverty and climate change. We must reengage with our allies on critical security issues, including terrorism, the Middle East, and nuclear proliferation. With confidence and resolve, we must reengage with those who pose a security threat to us, from Iran to North Korea. And our government must reengage with the American people to restore our nation's reputation as a moral beacon to the world, tapping into our fundamental hope and optimism and calling on our citizens' commitment and courage to make this possible. We must lead the world by demonstrating the power of our ideals, not by stoking fear about those who do not share them.

I might be more inclined to take these arguments seriously had they been made by someone who was not in office when the war in Iraq was launched, or by one who had not voted to authorize the U.S. mission to liberate the Iraqi people from decades of authoritarianism.

It's certain that many mistakes were made in Iraq, but to argue that the war constitutes one our of greatest debacles ignores history and the strategic blunders that have been made in every war in which the U.S. has waged.

Edwards also argues for an immediate drawdown in Iraq, which is problematic, because the administration has rightly adjusted course and American forces have achieved great success in defeating the insurgency and establishing security in many regions of the country. Here's Edwards call to cut and run amid some of our greatest victories since March 2003:

We should begin our reengagement with the world by bringing an end to the Iraq war. Iraq's problems are deep and dangerous, but they cannot be solved by the U.S. military. For over a year, I have argued for an immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. combat troops from Iraq, followed by an orderly and complete withdrawal of all combat troops. Once we are out of Iraq, the United States must retain sufficient forces in the region to prevent a genocide, a regional spillover of the civil war, or the establishment of an al Qaeda safe haven. We will most likely need to retain quick-reaction forces in Kuwait and a significant naval presence in the Persian Gulf. We will also need some security capabilities in Baghdad, inside the Green Zone, to protect the U.S. embassy and U.S. personnel. Finally, we will need a diplomatic offensive to engage the rest of the world -- including Middle Eastern nations and our allies in Europe -- in working to secure Iraq's future. All of these measures will finally allow us to close this terrible chapter and move on to the broader challenges of the new century.

Edwards in fact sounds reasonable in his proposals. Yet, he provides no discussion of the strategic stakes his policy would entail. Unlike the recent essays in this series by Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani, Edwards refuses to acknowledge that the United States is not the source of the world's terror. Despite his obligatory reference to September 11, 2001, Edwards offers no compelling case that he clearly understands the true dangers facing the world today in Islamist fundamentalism.

Read the whole thing. It is true that the U.S. must begin a process of restoring our historic reputation as the force for global goodness. Doing so, however, requires a recognition of the rightness of our cause today. It requires clearly identifying the essential nature of our adversary. And it requires us to make no apologies for taking on agressively the nihilist forces bent on our utter destruction. This John Edwards has not done.

See also my previous posts in the series:

"Mitt Romney and American Foreign Policy."

"Barack Obama and American Foriegn Policy."

"Rudoph Giuliani and American Foreign Policy."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sanctuary for Illegal Aliens Dividing GOP

Ronald Brownstein's column this morning addresses the issue of illegal immigration "sanctuary cities." Mitt Romney, one of the GOP frontrunners for the 2008 presidential nomination, has denounced these sanctuaries, and his policy proposals have generated some controversy at the top tier of the Republican field:

Let's say the 7-year-old daughter of illegal immigrants working in a big American city wakes up this morning with a high fever and a rash.

Is it in that city's interest for the little girl to receive treatment at a local public clinic or hospital? Or is that community better off if the child's parents try to treat her at home because they fear a doctor will ask about their immigration status -- and report them to the federal government if they can't prove they are here legally?

Before you answer, recall that in the 1982 Plyler vs. Doe decision, the Supreme Court ruled that children of illegal immigrants have a constitutional right to public education. That means whether or not that child is examined to determine if her illness is contagious, she will soon be back in a classroom of other 7-year-olds -- many, in all likelihood, American citizens.

In most places, for most people, this would not be a hard call. Leaving aside any question of compassion toward the girl, the community's public health is clearly served if she is treated before she infects anyone else.

Likewise, most people would agree that communities are safer if illegal immigrants who have been the victims of crime, or possess evidence that can help solve a crime, can talk to police officers without fear of being quizzed about their status. Or if illegal immigrants enroll their children in school (as the Supreme Court allowed), rather than keep them at home for fear admissions officials will investigate the parents' status.

These are the judgments that have prompted Los Angeles, New York and dozens of other major cities to adopt policies that in varying ways discourage municipal workers from assessing the immigration status of people using local services and sharing such information with federal immigration officials.

They also are the judgments that have provoked the sharpest clashes yet between the two leading GOP presidential contenders, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Romney charges that these city policies encourage illegal immigration by offering the undocumented "sanctuary." He proposes to cut off federal funds for cities that adopt them and calls New York's approach under Giuliani especially egregious. "New York City was the poster child for sanctuary cities," Romney insists. On Tuesday, he launched a radio ad condemning these city initiatives and, by implication, Giuliani.
Read the whole thing.

Apparently, when Giuliani was mayor of New York, the city adopted a "don't ask, don't tell" policy on the issue of cooperating with federal authorities investigating aliens under criminal suspicion, which included welfare fraud cases. City officials were allowed to provide information to federal officials, but they would not be able to make inquiries regarding the immigration status of city residents receiving public services.

How do we explain this? Is this just being practical?

The more I read about the down and dirty details of enforcing our immigration laws, the less confident I am that the country will ever get serious about securing our borders and respecting the rule of law.

Well, maybe I shouldn't be so pessimistic:
Federal officials did arrest and deport Elvira Arellano, the illegal immigrant who had evaded deportation for a year by seeking religious sanctuary at the United Methodist Church in Chicago. Not a day too soon, I might add.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rudolf Giuliani and American Foreign Policy

Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, and a current candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, has laid out his foreign policy in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. He argues for a synthesis of realism and idealism in foreign policy, melding both orientations together while avoiding the extremes of each.

Giuliani minces no words when he declares that the U.S. is engaged in an epic battle against the forces of global destruction. America is mounting a defense against the "Terrorists' War on Us." We are still in the early stages of this war, he argues, and new ideas are needed to succeed in beating back the nihilist forces arrayed against us.

I like Giuliani's statement on the nature of the adversary:

They follow a violent ideology: radical Islamic fascism, which uses the mask of religion to further totalitarian goals and aims to destroy the existing international system. These enemies wear no uniform. They have no traditional military assets. They rule no states but can hide and operate in virtually any of them and are supported by some.
Giuliani goes on to note that our missions in Afghanistan and Iraq are just but difficult, and we must not waver in our efforts to defeat the terrorists threatenting those nations, and the U.S. must remain deployed for some time after victory to guarantee security and firmly plant democratic instituions.

Giulani's essay is wide ranging. He notes the current strain on our military, and the need to rebuild our forces for a stronger defense. He's clear on the WMD threat facing the nations of the world and proposes to build on the Bush administration's efforts to mount a ballistic missile defense against rogues states who delevop delivery capability to destroy the American homeland.

Giulani recognizes that the U.S. has an interest in deeper diplomatic engagement in international affairs, and he's clear to note that the United States can negotiate with nations without giving up our vital interests. Negotiations with adversaries, especially, can be linked to the preservation of America's military, economic, and moral values, and we can enter talks ready to walk away if our interests aren't satisfied.

Giulani's realistically clear on the danger of negotiating with our most implacable opponents. Here's what he says about negotiations with Iran:

Diplomacy should never be a tool that our enemies can manipulate to their advantage. Holding serious talks may be advisable even with our adversaries, but not with those bent on our destruction or those who cannot deliver on their agreements.

Iran is a case in point. The Islamic Republic has been determined to attack the international system throughout its entire existence: it took U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979 and seized British sailors in 2007 and during the decades in between supported terrorism and murder. But Tehran invokes the protections of the international system when doing so suits it, hiding behind the principle of sovereignty to stave off the consequences of its actions. This is not to say that talks with Iran cannot possibly work. They could -- but only if we came to the table in a position of strength, knowing what we wanted.

Read the whole essay. Giuliani lays out a number of additional and important areas of international life in which the U.S. can exert leadership. His is an ambitious foreign policy that will protect America's national interests.

See also my earlier posts on the Foreign Affairs Campaign 2008 series:

"Mitt Romney and American Foreign Policy."

"Barack Obama and American Foreign Policy."