Wednesday, December 24 2003
No blog today, just a plea for everyone to take a few moments and spread the Christmas spirit - especially to the US troops at home and abroad. Jed Babbin's NRO piece lists a few choices worthy of your consideration:

Here's a list of some more charitable organizations to consider:

You can also visit the Military, Veterans & Patriotic Service Organizations of America web site and select from one of more than 40 different charitable groups supporting various military-related causes.

If you can't give money, consider something else. At "Operation Hero Miles" you can donate frequent flier miles to US military personnel to help them get home to visit family and friends while on leave.

There's also "Operation USO Care Package" where you can send, well, a care package to our troops. Click here to view the soldiers' wish list and, after the pangs of guilt subside, see if you have any extra items around the house that might make life a little easier for one of our guys and gals in Iraq.

Or you can clean out any extra toys that might be replaced this Christmas and send them to Chief Wiggles who will give them out to the children of Iraq. Winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people through acts of compassion - no matter how small - help make our troops safer and will help get them home as soon as possible.

Finally, if for some reason you can't donate money, miles, toothbrushes or toys, there is still something you can do. If you're reading this blog then you've obviously got a computer, which means you can click here, here, and/or here to send a message of support to our troops.

I urge you to do something now. One of the reasons we're able to spend a safe, comfortable holiday at home is because the brave men and women of the US military are willing to sacrifice these special days on our behalf, fighting terrorism half way around the globe. It's the least we can do and the absolute bare minimum of gratitude that the public of a free nation owes its defenders.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. - T. Bevan 9:03 am | Link | Email

Tuesday, December 23 2003
Earlier this week Charles Krauthammer explained why Saddam's capture was of immeasurable historical importance:

Saddam was the most aggressive and enduring exemplar of a particular kind of deformed Arabism, a kind that arose in the post-colonial era, appealed to the greater glory of the Arab nation and promised a great restoration. Ironically, its methods and ideology were imported from the West, the worst of the West. The Baath Party was modeled on the fascist parties in early 20th-century Europe. Its economics were Western socialism at its most stifling and corrupt. Saddam then created the perfect fusion of the two, producing a totalitarianism of surpassing cruelty modeled consciously on Stalin's.

Saddam's destiny is important because he was the last and the greatest of these pan-Arab pretenders, though he gave it a psychotically sadistic character unmatched anywhere in the Arab world. This stream of Arab nationalism brought nothing but poverty, corruption, despair, torture and ruin to large swaths of the Arab world. The mass graves of Iraq are its permanent monument.

To see just how good Krauthammer's analysis is, check out this piece by Ramzy Baroud in this morning's Seattle Times. Baroud, who is editor-in-chief of The Palestine Chronicle newspaper, says when he learned of Saddam's capture "something inside me was crushed."

He continues:

"Seeing Saddam in that cluttered state, willingly opening his mouth to an American military doctor, being treated "like a cow," as the Vatican claimed, provoked an array of emotions that I could hardly contain. Even then, I had no illusions: It was not the "capture" of Saddam that engulfed me with these emotions; it was what Saddam represented or, perhaps, failed to represent. It was the fear of a future undoubtedly bleak, unforgiving.

Saddam, in his eccentric ways, symbolized the last drive for pan-Arab nationalism. In many ways, he was unrivaled. He was one of very few who dared to stand up to what many people in the world see as a harsh and domineering United States. To many people living in the Middle East, Saddam Hussein was simply the "lesser of the two evils."

Arab nationalism, even under the shabby state of the former Iraqi leader, remained important, for it represented the only collective political identity Arabs aspired to attain. Politically fragmented and easy prey to outside interests, many Arabs, especially in poorer countries, held tight to the fading dream of unity."

Saddam's capture has truly changed the equation in the Middle East (and beyond) forever. We're already seeing the repercussions all around us and you can bet they will continue long after he's tried and executed. - T. Bevan 3:01 pm | Link | Email

DEAN'S LATEST DECEPTION: A reader emailed us with an editorial that apparently ran in the Quad City Times on Sunday. I haven't been able to find a link to it on their web site (UPDATE: Link available here), but I see now it's also being reported by The New York Times. This is a remarkable story that deserves more attention.

It goes like this: in August the Quad City Times submitted a list of 20 questions to all the Democrat presidential candidates, one of which asked them to complete the following sentence: "My closest living relative in the armed services is...?"

Dean responded by saying "my brother is a POW/MIA in Laos, but is almost certainly dead."

This is technically true (the DoD did end up classifying Charlie Dean as MIA) but grossly misleading and deceptive. For those who don't know, Charlie Dean was a civilian and an antiwar activist who worked for George McGovern in 1972. After the election he left to travel the world, eventually wandered into Laos with an Australian buddy where they were both taken hostage and, in all likelihood, executed on December 14, 1974. Charlie's remains were recently discovered and returned to the U.S. in late November of this year.

Here is the complete text of the editorial as relayed to us via email. We normally don't publish things like this without having a link to verify its authenticity (UPDATE: Link available here), but I've crosschecked the text below with quotes from the NY Times article and didn't find any discrepancies so I believe its a true representation of what appeared in the QC Times yesterday:

For 12 weeks, editorial page readers have learned a little bit about the human side of our presidential caucus candidates.

Our Caucus Q&A each Sunday defines each candidate in terms behind position statements. They have divulged childhood experiences and influential teachers. In today's installment, the candidates named their favorite comedy film.

Last Sunday, Howard Dean offered an unusually revealing answer.

The candidates were asked to complete this sentence: My closest living relative in the armed services is...?

Dean's reply:" brother is a POW/MIA in Laos, but is almost certainly dead."

Dean's truthful answer provided an inaccurate response. His brother was never a member of the armed services.

In an interview Friday with the Times editorial board, Dean said he believed the question was meant to get at his personal understanding of the military. That definitely was the intent of our question.

We wanted to know the intent of his answer.

Dean said he visited Vietnam with veterans and military personnel and participated in digs to unearth enlisted men's remains. That experienced (sic) created a strong affinity for men and women in uniform.

Charlie Dean's remains were found last month in a Laotian rice field, ending nearly three decades of anguish for his family.

Charlie Dean by many accounts was a renegade, an antiwar activist who didn't scream objections and wave signs.

He worked for George McGovern, and in 1974, began a world journey. The news stories called him a "tourist", but his activism was much more than that. He crossed the Pacific by freighter. He worked on an Australian ranch.

Then, for reasons only he knew, he went to Southeast Asia to see the war firsthand.

At some point, he was arrested by Laotian communist troops and held against the formal objections of the U.S. and Australian governments.

The U.S. Department of Defense as Missing in Action (sic) meaning that he was among those officially sought by our government. He wasn't the only civilian with such a classification.

But he was a civilian, not a member of the armed services.

Charlie Dean's capture and death in Southeast Asia certainly shaped his brother's opinions about the American military. Knowing that story tells us something about the candidate.

So does inaccurately implying a direct family connection to the armed services for the 72,000 Quad-Citians who received Sunday's newspaper.

That's pretty strong medicine coming from an editorial board, but it's well deserved.

According to the New York Times, Dean responded to the editorial at a townhall meeting in New Hampshire calling it "one of the greatest cheap shots I've ever seen in journalism."

Dean claimed he misunderstood the intent of the question and was not trying to mislead anyone:

"The way I read the question was that they wanted to know if I knew anything about the armed services from a personal level," he said. "I don't think it was inaccurate or misleading if anybody knew what the history was, and I assumed that most people knew what the history was. Anybody who wanted to write about this could have looked through the 23-year history to see that I've always acknowledged my brother's a civilian, was a civilian."

This is absurd and shameful. First, the question could not have been more simple and straightforward. Dean is way too smart (we hear this all the time, don't we?) and after campaigning nonstop for over a year should be way too experienced dealing with the media to know better than to conjure up ulterior motives to simple press questions.

Second, why on earth would it be the editorial board's duty to research Dean's "23-year history" of answering questions about his brother to find - and then add to his remarks - the stipulation that Charlie Dean was a civilian? It isn't.

Even if the entire country knew the story of Dean's brother (which they don't) it would still be Howard Dean's responsibility as a candidate for President of the United States to note for the record that his brother was a civilian. Of course, that's only if Dean wanted the record to be unambiguously truthful on the matter.

Apparently Dean wrote a letter to the QC Times saying he was "deeply offended." Mr. Dean, spare us the pleas for sympathy over your damaged sensibilities because you decided to omit a fact that was absolutely crucial to offering a straightforward answer to a very simple question.

We'll post links to Dean's letter and the editorial itself if and when they become available.

THE MONEY RACE: Dean rolls on. Meanwhile, Kerry is mortgaging his house and Lieberman is stiffing his campaign workers to pay for advertising.

ILLINOIS SENATE RACE: Now this is interesting. Dennis Byrne, a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune op-ed page, yesterday called on Illinois Republicans to reject Peter Fitzgerald's decision to retire and organize a draft movement to send him back to the Senate in November. Will it happen? Doubtful. But it does give you an idea of just how bleak things are for the Illinois GOP.

The Republican front-runner is Jack Ryan who, despite being a political novice, probably offers the best chance for Republicans to hold onto Fitzgerald's seat at this point. But his worst nightmare is just beginning to play out with the indictment of former Republican Governor George Ryan on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and fraud. They aren't related, of course, but that hardly matters. The trial is going to be ugly, long, and front page news running right through the middle of the general election campaign. - T. Bevan 10:44 am | Link | Email

Monday, December 22 2003
AL SHARPTON: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: You just have to love it. Only in America can a person with no political experience and no qualifications declare themselves a candidate for President of the United States and then use an utterly quixotic campaign to rehabilitate a tarnished reputation. That's essentially what Al Sharpton has done in just a few short months.

You'll remember back in January when Sharpton made his run official, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile tried mounting a "favorite son" campaign against him. The plan called for fielding African-American candidates in key primary states to try and dilute Sharpton's potential influence on the primary process. Clearly, despite the entry of Carol Moseley-Braun into the race shortly afterward, the plan hasn't worked.

Despite reports that his campaign in South Carolina is "a mess," Sharpton is pulling 11% of the vote there, tied for third place with John Edwards and well within striking distance of both Wes Clark and leader Howard Dean. He also continues to poll respectably in New York (8.5% average in last 2 polls), Virginia (6%), Georgia (5.6%) , and Ohio (6%).

National polls are meaningless to legitimate candidates because they have zero effect on the nominating process. But for fringe candidates like Sharpton who don't have a prayer of winning and whose only concern is a personalized seat at the table of political power, national polls are a barometer by which they can measure - and leverage - their influence in the party. The bigger Sharpton's national numbers get the more he's seen as representing an important constituency, the more coveted his endorsement becomes, and the more the eventual nominee has to promise him in return for that endorsement.

In that respect, nobody is benefiting more from John Kerry's demise than Sharpton. He's out-polled Kerry in three of the four latest national polls and is running, on average, 2-points ahead of John Edwards. The man who gave us the Tawana Brawley hoax and the riot at Freddy's Fashion Mart is, in the eyes of some Democratic voters, more qualified to be President than two sitting United States Senators. How's that for creating an image of legitimacy?

Sharpton has managed to do exactly what many Democrats feared most. He's inserted himself into the middle of the biggest, most important fight of the Democratic party and turned himself into the political version of Don King; a flamboyant, entertaining, spotlight hugging self-promoter. Weeks before the first vote has been cast, Al Sharpton's mission is already accomplished.

MORE FODDER FOR THE ANTI-DEAN GANG: An astute reader sent through this editorial appearing in today's Burlington Free Press. Apparently the Vermont state hospital is in such disrepair it's going to have to shut down:

If legislators would not want their loved ones kept at the Vermont State Hospital, why should anyone?

"Just the thought of any member of my family going there makes me really sick to my stomach," said Rep. Joyce Errecart, R-Shelburne, a member of a special legislative committee studying the future of the Waterbury facility.

The 10-member Health Access Oversight Committee last week recommended closing the state mental hospital and transferring its patients to more modern treatment centers....

Although the hospital embarrassment was left by the previous governor and legislators who served with him, the 2004 Legislature and the Douglas administration must make the state hospital a high priority, always keeping in mind the kind of treatment they would want for their families. (Emphasis added).

Looks like we'll see just how fast the Gephardt and Kerry campaigns can produce direct mail. - T. Bevan 8:36 am | Link | Email

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