Friday, December 19 2003
DEAN'S SECRET REVEALED: Over in Deanland, the front-runner is starting to take some serious heat. The New York Times wins the award for today's most obvious headline with, "Some Democrats Uneasy About Dean as Nominee." That's some scoop.

It's clear, however, the split in the seams of the Democratic party is growing wider by the day, and Howard Dean is the one who is doing the pulling.

Yesterday he not only repeated his widely criticized remark that America is no safer after Saddam's capture, but he went one whopper further, saying the country is no safer today than it was on Sept. 10, 2001.

The statement is demonstrably false by any measure and wildly out of touch with reality. I'd be willing to bet that 90% or more of all Americans would disagree with it.

But here's the real genius behind Dean's strategy and his hold on the nomination: to refute this lie one must give at least tacit credit to the Bush administration for making the country safer. That's something the hard left of the party base is not willing to do.

When any one of Dean's rivals try to hammer him for making such ridiculous statements Dean strikes back hard, as he did yesterday, leveraging the Bush-hating emotion in the party to bludgeon his opponents:

After several days of brushing off his rivals with a few glib asides, Dean responded with a denunciation that lumped Bush together with his Democratic opponents or, as he called them, the "Washington politics-as-usual club."

"I think the Democratic Party has to offer a clear alternative to the American people," Dean said in remarks hastily tacked onto the beginning of a long-planned speech on domestic policy at the Manchester City Library. "We must make it clear the capture of one very bad man does not mean that this president or the Washington Democrats can declare victory in the war on terror."

Dean's campaign has been so resilient to this point because he now embodies the anti-Bush rage of the left with an almost Messianic completeness. To now disagree with Dean - even when he tell such a monstrous, laughable lie - is to be a heretic.
UPDATE: See Robert Tagorda, Dan Drezner, and Hugh Hewitt for more on Dean.

DEAN TELLS IT LIKE IT IS - AND LIKE IT ISN'T: One other Dean note. Follow the logic from this story in Newsday, where Dean responds to criticisms of his "George Bush knew about 9/11" remarks:

Bush called the comment "an absurd insinuation" Monday.

One of Dean's rivals, Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), yesterday likened the comment to rumor mongering. "If you are unsure about a rumor, you shouldn't be spreading it," he said.

Dean defended his comment Tuesday, saying it was no different from what the Bush administration did during the run-up to the Iraq war.

"The difference is that I acknowledged that I did not believe the theory that I was putting out," he said.

In recent days, Gephardt and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) have said Dean lacks credibility and experience.

Rivals have been especially critical of Dean's assertion Monday that the capture of Saddam Hussein had not made America safer.

On the plane, Dean said he personally wrote that line. "If I think something is true, I say it," he said.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

CASH AND KERRY: Yesterday John "F." Kerry loaned his campaign a cool $850,000 and said he will put in more money once he's completed mortgaging his home.

Now, everyone who has even a passing acquaintance with politics knows that even if Kerry loses he won't be going homeless anytime soon. This is merely an effort to present the image of Kerry as a "fighter" who's willing to go for broke (literally) and put it all on the line.

Maybe it will work, but Kerry's candidacy has been so lousy for so long now you just have to think he's pouring money down the spider-hole of a failed campaign. - T. Bevan 8:33 am | Link | Email

Thursday, December 18 2003
CLARK'S LOW:
As you can see, today's blog is late and short. I guess it's better than nothing, though that's certainly debatable and up to you to decide. But seriously, who does Wes Clark think he is?

In a blistering critique of the commander in chief, Clark said that "capturing Saddam Hussein doesn't change the fact that Osama bin Laden is still on the loose."

"If I'd been president, I would have had Osama bin Laden by this time," Clark said at a news conference in Concord, New Hampshire, where he was campaigning for votes in the nation's first primary, January 27.

"I would have followed through on the original sentiment that the president gave us -- Osama bin Laden, dead or alive.

"Instead, he executed a bait-and-switch. He took the priority off Osama bin Laden. He shifted the spotlight onto Saddam Hussein."

This is so lame I can't even find the will to summon the proper derogatory reference. Clark's doing his own little version of the "bait-and-switch", trying to diminish the impact of a great moment for the Iraq people and the US military for his personal political gain by putting the focus back on bin Laden. Fine.

But what is Clark going to say when we yank bin Laden (or what's left of him, anyway) out of a cave at some point in the future? It's absolutely, positively going to happen. You know it, I know it, and Wes Clark knows it too.

Clarks' candidacy has always been implicitly based on the failure of George W. Bush's foreign policy. But this is goes a bit further. He's now positioned himself so that his run for President of the United States rests,at least to a degree, on the hope that America fails to find the world's most wanted terrorist between now and next November. That's a new low. - T. Bevan 12:46 pm | Link | Email

Wednesday, December 17 2003
CORRECTION: This morning I wrote today's NY Times/CBS poll had President Bush's job approval numbers up 7 points to 52%. Those numbers actually refer to George W. Bush's "handling of foreign policy." On the question of job approval, the NYT/CBS poll shows President Bush up 6 points to 58%. My apologies.

"MADDIE" ALBRIGHT: You may have heard about this exchange from the panel discussion on Special Report last night but just in case you missed it, here's the transcript:

MORT KONDRACKE: "I was here at Fox News, Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state was in the Green Room getting made up for a different show. And she said do you suppose that the Bush administration has Usama bin Laden hidden away somewhere and will bring him out before the election?"
MARA LIASSON: "The October Surprise."
KONDRACKE: "The October -- she was -- she was not smiling, you know."
BRIT HUME: "What did you say?"
KONDRACKE: "I said you can't seriously believe that. And she said, well, she thought it was a possibility. I mean, you know, that is just unthinkable. That's irrational. It's -- but they will believe anything about George Bush, the Democratic Party. And this is not some kid in sandals, you know, working in the Dean campaign. This is the former secretary of state."

It's becoming clearer every day the Bush-hating fever raging through the hard left of the Dem base has now infected the entire party. - T. Bevan 12:15 pm | Link | Email
UPDATE: Albright claims her comments were "tongue in cheek." Sorry Madam Secretary, it sounds more like "foot in mouth."

THINGS THAT MATTER - PART I: Wanna know how out of touch Howard Dean is with a huge portion (if not a huge majority) of Americans and how they feel? I submit this extraordinary email I received in response to my post Monday as Exhibit A:

Dear RealClearPolitics.com:

I appreciate your optimism as expressed in You're Next, Osama. I pray you are right, not so much for me-- and I want that slime captured real bad -but for my wife and her dad.

The latter is in a cancer hospital in the Bronx dying of a brain tumor. His only son, Lt. Joseph G. Leavey, led Ladder 15 to the 78th floor of the WTC's South Tower. They directed a number of folks to safety, several whom we know by name who made it out, before that first tower collapsed while Joe and his crew were trying to get to the people above where the plane hit.

When I spoke to my wife, in NYC, on the phone Sunday morning, her dad had already awoken her with a phone call of Saddam's capture. She said it gave him hope.

I cheered our troops, many of whom I once served with during my career in the Army, for capturing Saddam. I'm not a "but what about Osama" liberal Bush-hater and yes, with George W. Bush as president, we will get Osama.

I pray that Joe's dad lives long enough to see his son's murderer also in custody or, preferably, in a pine box.

Howard Dean says it "doesn't matter" whether Osama bin Laden is tried at The Hague where he will not face the death penalty. It does matter. It matters a lot to a great number of Americans.

If you're against the death penalty that's fine, go ahead and make your case. Dean didn't do that, nor did he seem to know the implications of what he was saying. But he certainly knows the implications now, and he hasn't done a thing to change or clarify his position. In the general election, this is the kind of low hanging fruit your opponents can only dream about.

THINGS THAT MATTER - PART II: In his interview with Diane Sawyer last night President Bush fended off a barrage of questions about Iraq's WMDs. Here's the key exchange:

DIANE SAWYER: But let me try to ask this could be a long question. ... ... When you take a look back, Vice President Cheney said there is no doubt, Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, not programs, not intent. There is no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction. Secretary Powell said 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons and now the inspectors say that there's no evidence of these weapons existing right now. The yellow cake in Niger, in Niger. George Tenet has said that shouldn't have been in your speech. Secretary Powell talked about mobile labs. Again, the intelligence the inspectors have said they can't confirm this, they can't corroborate.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yet.
DIANE SAWYER: an active
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yet.
DIANE SAWYER: Is it yet?
PRESIDENT BUSH: But what David Kay did discover was they had a weapons program, and had that, that let me finish for a second. Now it's more extensive than, than missiles. Had that knowledge been examined by the United Nations or had David Kay's report been placed in front of the United Nations, he, he, Saddam Hussein, would have been in material breach of 1441, which meant it was a causis belli. And look, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous person, and there's no doubt we had a body of evidence proving that, and there is no doubt that the president must act, after 9/11, to make America a more secure country.
DIANE SAWYER: Again, I'm just trying to ask, these are supporters, people who believed in the war who have asked the question.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you can keep asking the question and my answer's gonna be the same. Saddam was a danger and the world is better off cause we got rid of him.
DIANE SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still
PRESIDENT BUSH: So what's the difference?
DIANE SAWYER: Well
PRESIDENT BUSH: The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger. That's, that's what I'm trying to explain to you. A gathering threat, after 9/11, is a threat that needed to be de dealt with, and it was done after 12 long years of the world saying the man's a danger. And so we got rid of him and there's no doubt the world is a safer, freer place as a result of Saddam being gone.

I understand what the President is trying to say here, but curtly responding to the question with "So what's the difference?" is a terrible gaffe. There's a huge difference between Saddam Hussein having WMD's in his possession and "the possibility he could acquire weapons."

The WMD issue matters, and its going to continue to matter well into the future, not only for us but for our Coalition partners as well. The threat of WMD was one of the central justifications for preemptive action in Iraq and, even as the other reasons for toppling Saddam emerge more convincingly as time goes on, our inability to find either a stockpile of WMDs or conclusive proof that Saddam possessed an infrastructure capable of WMD production will have future consequences and does diminish the credibility of the administration's case - to a degree.

There is still plenty of searching to be done in Iraq, plenty of leads to follow and plenty of interrogations to conduct. I still believe, as the President does, that we will continue to uncover evidence that Saddam was either in possession of WMD's or, at the very least, heavily invested in WMD acquisition and production.

THINGS THAT MATTER - PART III: We've been remiss about discussing the Telegraph story from Sunday reporting documents have been found that show September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met with and received training from Palestinian uber-terrorist Abu Nidal in Baghdad. The guys at Powerline were on top of this story and also question why it didn't get any attention from the WaPo and NYT.

Other things that matter from today: a host of new state polls on the Dems, most of which show Howard Dean still with a commanding lead and Wes Clark assuming the mantle of number two; a new NYT/CBS poll showing what we'll call a nice "spider-hole bounce" for President Bush: 7-point jump in job approval (to 52%) and a significant 23-point spread swing in the right track/wrong track (from 39% RT/56% WT to 49% RT/ 43% WT). Lastly, John Thune's announcement he won't run for the SD House seat. - T. Bevan 8:15 am | Link | Email

Tuesday, December 16 2003
DEAN'S BIG SPEECH:
It's a tad ironic that Howard Dean chose a location just down the road from Hollywood for yesterday's event. It was the biggest speech of his campaign to date, addressing the biggest question facing the future of the country, and attempting to answer the biggest question about his candidacy for President of the United States.

So there he was at the podium of the St. Regis hotel, flanked by that renowned image of foreign policy toughness, Warren Christopher (D'oh!), playing the part of the sober, serious, Presidential leader. The normally rolled-up shirt sleeves tucked nicely beneath the suit coat and the normally loud, animated Dean persona replaced by an index card-reading automaton.

As to the content of the speech, it seems Dean wants to do two things: 1) restore "multilateralism" as the primary force driving US foreign policy and 2) show he's tougher than Bush by outspending him.

For example, Dean says we're spending $2 billion annually to corral and quarantine existing WMD's around the world through the Nunn-Lugar program. He wants to triple that number. President Bush recently committed $10 billion to fight HIV/AIDS. Again, Dean will triple it.

And though he doesn't give a number, Dean promises to spend more - it sounds like much more - on homeland security:

We will do more to protect our cities, ports, and aircraft; water and food supplies; bridges, chemical factories, and nuclear plants.

We will improve the coordination of intelligence information not only among federal agencies but also with state and local governments.

And we will enhance the emergency response capabilities of our police, firefighters and public health personnel. These local first responders are the ones on whom our security depends, and they deserve much stronger support from our federal government. (Emphasis added).

This is the classic view du jour among liberals who want to seem tough on national defense, but it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue. The ones on whom our security depends are the men and women in the US military and what they're able to accomplish battling terrorism in far away places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Indonesia. Firefighters and emergency response teams at home are surely important (especially in larger cities that might be more attractive targets for terrorists) but they don't protect us from attacks, they respond to attacks after they happen. There's a big, big difference.

Dean attacked Bush's foreign policy as "radical" and "dangerous", promising that as president he would rebuild our strained relations abroad and forge "a new global alliance to defeat terror." This new alliance would do.... basically the exact same thing we are doing today: share intelligence, round up terrorist suspects, and freeze terrorist assets. The only real difference, so far as I could tell, is that Dean promises that under his leadership the whole world would be doing these things together, rather than just the countries that are willing to do them right now.

But as David Brooks ably notes this morning Dean's vision is so idealistic it borders on fantasy - as if he could wave a wand and countries that have heretofore been reluctant or obstinate in fighting terrorism would line up to follow his lead.

The unspoken fundamental of Dean's argument is simple and personal: the leaders of many countries in the world aren't doing as much as they can or should be doing to fight terrorism because they hate George Bush. But they'll like Howard Dean, and because of this he'll be able to them get to cooperate more.

Dean wants the world to "like us again." Personally, I'm not buying it. We've been down that road before and it always leads to the same place. Last time it led to September 11.

Of course we all want other countries to like us and admire us (and, by the way, if immigration is any indication the world still admires America a great deal), but not if it comes at the cost of terrorists and countries who sponsor them ceasing to fear us. At this moment in history it's better to be feared than liked. And President Bush has made amply clear the reasons some have a legitimate reason for fearing us and what they must do to alleviate that fear.

Finally, Dean claimed he will restore a "high moral purpose" to American foreign policy. I'd be interested in hearing Dean articulate a higher moral purpose than promoting liberty and democracy for the people of the world. Dean's obsession with multilateralism and corresponding idea that the legitimacy of any given policy is determined by the UN and the will of the international community leaves me fearing that his definition of "high moral purpose" will be cutting back room deals with Jacques Chirac so he can get France's vote on the Security Council rather than doing what's right for US national security. - T. Bevan 10:46 am | Link | Email

Monday, December 15 2003
YOU'RE NEXT, OSAMA:
I'm at a loss this morning to add much to the discussion of Saddam Hussein's capture. As you've probably seen, the front page is overflowing with opinions about how Hussein's arrest will effect the situation in Iraq, the War on Terror and next year's election.

For the record, I agree with most of the emerging conventional wisdom. Yes, the imagery is extraordinarily powerful. Yes, the political benefits for President Bush are obvious and real (just how temporary they are remains to be seen). And yes, Howard Dean is going to have to start dancing.

I guess what struck me most as I watched the entire affair unfold yesterday was the utter inevitability of it all. We knew Saddam would be captured eventually, we just didn't know when or how it would happen.

But spending hours becoming acquainted with the intricate details of Operation Red Dawn brought me back to a sharp reality: while we've all been lounging around these lazy fall and winter weekends watching football and preparing for the holidays, the men and women in our armed forces have been eating, breathing and sleeping nothing but Saddam Hussein since May.

Coming face-to-face with their efforts, I was awestruck not only by their relentless focus and dogged determination, but also by the flexibility and creativity underlying their perseverance.

Needless to say, my opinion is that while these are qualities to be expected in the finest military ever assembled, they're also qualities - not coincidentally - that best characterize the leaders of this administration, especially President Bush.

We have the luxury of going about our business every day without worry - shopping for holiday gifts and bickering about the BCS rankings - precisely because our President and our military remain obsessively focused on beating back terrorism in Iraq and beyond.

It's part of a promise he made to us after September 11, 2001, and something he's continued to make good on in the two years since, battling the adversity and intransigence of apologists at home and abroad.

Saddam's arrest yesterday was the fulfillment of part of that promise. Assuming he's still alive, Osama bin Laden's capture or death will be another. We don't know how or when it will happen, but we all know with the same sense of inevitability that with George W. Bush as President it will happen.

RETHINKING JIHAD- SORT OF: Sheikh Ahmed Al Khalidi is one of three Saudi clerics arrested earlier this year for "promoting militancy" and for urging Saudis not to cooperate with efforts to track down those responsible for the bloody Riyadh bombing on May that killed 21 people.

Last night during an interview on Saudi TV, Khalidi called on his fellow Muslims in Saudi Arabia to lay down their arms:

"There are no enemies here for them to carry arms against and there is no jihad here and no fighters. We only have those (non-Muslims) under the protection of the state and Muslims whose blood, wealth and honour should be safeguarded."

Telling Saudis not to murder other Saudis in Allah's name is good first step, I suppose. But how about calling on Muslims to stop killing Jews and Christians around the world as well? Why exempt only Saudi Arabia from the fatwa? The excerpts from the interview leave me with the distinct impression that Khalidi's new found compassion doesn't go very far and he'll be back in the mosque soon encouraging jihad against the Zionist pigs and the Great Satan - just as long as it doesn't happen in Saudi Arabia. - T. Bevan 9:40 am | Link | Email

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