Friday, October 17 2003
THE WATERSHED:
We may look back at yesterday as the defining moment of the 2004 election. Ted Kennedy framed the debate over the vote on Iraq by delivering a stinging indictment of the Bush administration on the floor of the Senate. It was a full embrace of the most liberal views within the Democrat party regarding Iraq: Bush took America to war on a lie, the war is a complete and total failure, and we need to turn everything over to the U.N. and get out now. Just to provide some context to how far left Ted Kennedy is leading his party on the issue, his speech is virtually indistinguishable from Dennis Kucinich's position on the war.

John Edwards has already taken the bait and probably crippled his candidacy in the process. I spoke to a senior advisor to the Edwards campaign a few days ago and their strategy is to try and make a respectable showing in Iowa (third or fourth and within double digits of the winner) and then use victories in the more conservative states of South Carolina and Oklahoma on February 3 to become the delegate leaders in the race. But after initially supporting the war, Edwards is now tying himself in knots to explain his position on Iraq:

CROWLEY: Senator, if I could -- you know, it's very clear that the primary voters in your party are very much against this war and it's also clear that you voted for it. If we look at this in the political sense, this looks like a way to kind of backpedal this. You know, it was a war you were for. Why not step up to the plate and say here's the money?

EDWARDS: A very simple reason -- because this policy is failing. The way this president is conducting this period of the work in Iraq is not being successful. You know, we don't have a plan, we don't know how long we're going to be there. We don't know even an estimate of the longterm costs. When is the transition from our security force to the Iraqi security force supposed to take place? There are so many unanswered questions. And before we just give this president a blank check going forward, we need answers to those questions. More importantly, the American people need answers to those questions. I have not backed away one iota from the importance of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. But I want this mission to be successful. And in order for it to be successful, we have to change the course that we're on right now.

In order for the mission to be successful you have to deny funding for it? This makes no sense. To say you're going to deny our troops in Iraq funding because you want to "send the President a message" is bad politics and even worse policy.

Edwards may think he can triangulate his way to the nomination based on polling data, but he's mistaken if he thinks he can separate his vote on reconstruction with his vote on the war resolution itself. Mort Kondracke and James Klurfeld get it right; this is a horrible mistake for John Edwards and John Kerry.

At least Howard Dean has been consistent, even though this vote has taken its toll on his candidacy as well. Dean has shown himself to be far less than the "principled, straight-talking leader" he's billed himself to be by engaging in a hypocritical kabuki dance for the last two weeks and refusing to take a stand on the issue because "he's not running for Congress, he's running for President."

Finally, after being lambasted in the press for lacking leadership, yesterday Dean announced he would oppose money for Iraq's reconstruction. Last night he went on to tell the audience at a Virginia fundraiser, ""People will be attracted to you if you tell them what you truly believe." Better late than never, I guess.

Gephardt is most likely the big winner here (Lieberman got it right too, but his campaign is on life support). He's already running well in Iowa even though he's supported the war from the beginning. This vote shouldn't change his standing. And Gephardt has offset his support of the war by cranking up the Bush-bashing rhetoric about 50 notches to try and keep pace with Dean. Now Gephardt can still continue his harsh criticisms of Bush knowing that he's got the national security issue in his back pocket for the general election. Dean, on the other hand, has set the controls of his campaign for the center of the sun.

TIGER PRIDE: Being an alumnus of the university that proudly harbors Paul Krugman is somewhat of a sore spot for me. And even though our basketball team isn't the powerhouse it once was, there are still plenty of reasons to be proud of the old alma mater. If you're one of the people who thinks collegiate faculties are dominated by left-wing ideologues, I urge you to read this. - T. Bevan 8:04 am

Tuesday, October 14 2003
A TALE OF TWO RESUMES:
Bobby Jindal and Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria are two of the brightest stars of the Indian-American community. They're both currently running for office, and both doing so as Republicans.

As you may know, Jindal is a candidate for Governor of Louisiana and just shattered conventional wisdom by winning 33% of the vote in the primary on October 3. He's extremely young (32), conservative, and boasts a resume that's out of this world: graduate of Brown University and Oxford (Rhodes Scholar), selected as Louisiana state health secretary at the age of 24, directed a national commission on Medicare at 26, became the president of the University of Louisiana System at 27, and was chosen as a top health-policy adviser with the Bush administration at the tender age of 29. The guy is by all accounts a prodigy.

Kathuria, who you may not know, is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. He's also fairly young (38), conservative, and boasts a resume that is otherworldly: medical degree from Brown University, MBA from Stanford, and, according to his resume, has "founded and built businesses valued at a combined $1-2 billion." These businesses include X-Stream (a free Internet service provider in the UK), New World Telecom LLC (a wireless communications company), Koshika Telecom Ltd. (an operator of cellular mobile telephone services in India), HealthCite (a web site designed to deliver medical information to consumers and physicians) Agatel, Inc. (a developer or wireless LAN networks) and MirCorp (the well-publicized joint venture that sent "citizen-explorer"/millionaire Dennis Tito into space in 2001). Like Jindal, Kathuria has been widely praised in the press both at home and abroad, and he's repeatedly been referred to as a savvy businessman and a "tycoon" of cutting-edge industries.

But according to a front page article in Sunday's Chicago Tribune, Kathuria's resume contains a bit of...let's see how to put this nicely....padding. Actually, the Trib asserts that aside from Dr. Kathuria's academic accomplishments, almost everything else on his resume is "highly embellished". The Trib also reports that Kathuria is not and has never been registered to vote. All in all, it's a pretty damning piece.

So damning, in fact, that the Illinois Leader reports that Kathuria will hold a press conference today announcing a $100 million libel suit against the Tribune and its reporters, Rick Pearson and Andrew Zajac. Kathuria says he will provide documentation to substantiate many of the claims on his resume and prove the Tribune was out to smear him with "malice aforethought."

We'll have to wait and see what Kathuria comes up with. I have to say I'm a bit skeptical that one of the more respected papers in the country would put its reputation on the line to attack a candidate who is running close to last in a field of 7 candidates and has no shot at winning the GOP nomination, let alone becoming the next Senator from Illinois. It just doesn't make any sense.

TOM DELAY'S BABY: Here's an humorous piece from Texas State Rep Jim Dunham (D) in this morning's Houston Chronicle bashing redistricting. I couldn't put it up on the home page, of course, but it's certainly worth a look - and a chuckle. Especially this part:

Moreover, this new map has saddled Texas taxpayers with a costly and unnecessary bill -- between $10 million and $20 million for a political welfare check for national Republican Party, all because DeLay can't figure out how to convince Republican voters to elect Republican members of Congress in the current Republican-leaning districts.

Right, Jim. The reason "DeLay can't figure out how to convince Republican voters to elect Republican members of Congress" is because Democrats have - for something like 10 consecutive times over the last 100 years - gerrymandered the districts so egregiously that they've completely distorted Congressional representation in what is now an overwhelmingly Republican state.

BARBARA LEE'S BABY: This is another piece that I didn't want to put up on the home page, and while it's equally misguided it's not very funny at all. Barbara Lee, the well-known, ultra liberal Congresswoman from Berkeley writes:

President Bush and his advisers told the American public, Congress and the international community time and time again that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Now grave questions have arisen regarding the interpretation of intelligence information presented by the administration.

The American people deserve answers. That is why I will be introducing a resolution stating that Congress should not adjourn until it establishes either a select committee or an independent commission to investigate the origins of this war. And congressional Republicans should respond to Americans' calls for real answers by refusing to adjourn until such an independent body is created.

Somehow I doubt the aforementioned Tom Delay will take Lee's advice.

Lee goes on to say that we need to publish a "concrete timetable" for withdrawing our troops and that getting out of Iraq is important so that we can "take care of unmet needs at home."

Finally, the Congresswoman finishes with the "quagmire, full retreat" exacta:

This misguided foreign policy is exacting real costs on the American people. We need to know how we got into this quagmire, and we desperately need to know how to get out. For all of these reasons, I oppose this $87 billion appropriation. Congress must not blindly sign another check that is simply the latest, but not the last, installment on the president's doctrine of pre- emption.

I'm not questioning Ms. Lee's patriotism, only her judgment. If I were a terrorist (Note to Attorney General Ashcroft: this is a purely a hypothetical) I would be ecstatic to read this op-ed and I'd be hopeful that if I could just hold out long enough and cause enough mayhem, Ms. Lee's ideas would catch on. - T. Bevan 10:30 am

Monday, October 13 2003
TOLERATING RUSH LIMBAUGH: I was one of three panelists on Bruce DuMont's "Beyond the Beltway" radio/television show last night. Bruce had planned on spending the first 20 minutes or so of the program discussing Rush Limbaugh and then moving on to other issues like the California recall election, the war in Iraq, and the 2004 Democrat presidential race.

But within minutes of mentioning Rush's name, the phone lines lit up like a Christmas tree and stayed that way for the next 2 hours. Comments from callers ranged all across the board: everything from "he's a scumbag hypocrite who got what he deserved" all the way to "liberals are liars and cheats with no moral standing on which to judge others." Talk about your rollercoaster.

Anyway, as the only Republican/conservative on the panel, I ended up in the somewhat unenviable position of trying to defend Limbaugh's alleged drug habit. Actually, let me rephrase that. I really didn't defend Rush's actions other than to say I thought that 1) he had a personal problem that required treatment, 2) he made a courageous and poignant effort in addressing the issue on Friday and 3) he should face the consequences of his actions if he's convicted of breaking the law. Maybe this will lead to Rush doing some time, maybe it won't (I'm not a lawyer but I'd be surprised if a first offense will result in Rush going to prison). The point is that Rush Limbaugh shouldn't be above the law.

What I did defend over the course of the show, however, is the predictable argument that conservatives are all hypocrites because they dare to discuss "values" and "morality" and then have the nerve to defend people, including some of the most notable leaders of the movement like Limbaugh and Bill Bennett, whose own personal failings, vices, sins, etc. are exposed.

First, let me say I will concede that, generally speaking, people don't like to be "lectured to." I'll also concede that people have every right to look at an individual's past actions to make a critical evaluation of their positions and/or credibility on a given issue.

But the core of the liberal argument is that in order for anyone to discuss "morality" or "values" of any kind, he or she must be an absolute paragon of virtue in every respect. This is absurd on its face. Taking this argument to its logical conclusion would result in a very small group of people having a very brief discussion on morality in American life - probably somewhere in the middle of Kansas.

I may decide I don't want to take Rush Limbaugh's advice on drugs, Bill Bennett's advice on gambling, or have Bill Clinton give me tips on marriage, but that doesn't mean these men should be automatically disqualified from discussing "values" or "morality" in any way - especially as they relate to the formulation of public policy in this country.

One panelist actually told me the difference between liberals and conservatives is that "we preach tolerance, you preach morality" - as if the two are somehow mutually exclusive. I almost laughed. "That's it America! You can be either A) moral and intolerant or B) tolerant and immoral. Make your choice."

In one sense, though, the panelist was correct: the term "tolerance" has become the all encompassing catchphrase of liberals and progressives everywhere. It has, in effect, become their morality.

"Tolerance" used to stand for the simple idea of religious and racial freedom and equality. It used to stand for the concept that while we may not necessarily agree with each other, we would strive to see and respect each other as American citizens, equal in the eyes of God and the law.

Unfortunately, that's only a small part of what "tolerance" stands for today. The word "tolerance" has now been expanded to encompass a whole host of issues, from abortion-on-demand to affirmative action to homosexual marriage to school choice. The list is practically endless.

And by collating all of these various issues under the umbrella of "tolerance," liberals have now defined any opposition to these policies - irrespective of fact, debate or merit - as "intolerant." End of discussion.

This is one reason why, I believe, a good number of liberals have come to see conservatives not just as fellow citizens with a differing world view, but as truly hateful, nasty people who want to roll back the clock to the days of Jim Crow, child labor and back-alley abortions.

It's an astonishing feat, really. Progressives have spent the last few decades carving America up into tiny little pieces, nurturing and germinating a multitude of hyphenated interest groups, and at the same time they've managed to boil everything down to singular litmus test of tolerance.

It's been an effective strategy - especially as practiced in the last decade by Bill Clinton. But the result hasn't been such a good thing for the country. We've now seen the concept of "tolerance" turned on its head. Today "tolerance" is used as a bludgeon to intimidate opponents and stifle debate, and its most devoted practioners are really and truly the least tolerant people in America. - T. Bevan 10:34 am

 

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