Saturday, February 22 2003
WELL, THAT WAS QUICK:
The troops haven't even hit the ground in the Philippines and The Los Angeles Times has already produced the obligatory "quagmire" piece. In an article titled "Americans Could Face a Swamp in Philippines," John Hendron writes:

The stepped-up role raises concerns of escalating involvement that have dogged the Pentagon since the Vietnam War, when an advisory mission eventually grew into a deployment of hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers.

It's all so predictable these days....

IRAN, AL-QAEDA, & NORTH KOREA: This piece from MEMRI is a must read. For anyone who doesn't have their head stuck in the sand, it's just more evidence that the Axis of Evil exists and is a growing threat to the U.S. and the world.

SWAYING IN THE BREEZE: Editor & Publisher has been surveying editorial pages at the top 50 newspapers (by circulation) in America over their position on the war. Their results confirm what we've seen here at RCP over the last few weeks:

While the first two E&P surveys (Jan. 20 and Jan. 31) documented that a majority of the top 50 newspapers (by circulation) opposed President Bush's desire for a quick invasion, on various grounds, a third survey conducted Feb. 7, immediately after Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N., charted a dramatic shift. Several previous critics of invasion suddenly espoused pro-war views. E&P identified and charted three groups: very pro-war, severely skeptical, and the cautious (but not necessarily opposed to war).

In the latest survey, the composition of the groups has not only shifted somewhat but a persistent condition for going to war has emerged.

Of the 37 papers publishing editorials on Iraq between Feb 15. and Feb. 19, the hawks numbered 15 and doves 9, while the cautious camp became solidly internationalist. Some that once reluctantly accepted a quick war for different reasons are now calling for any invasion to be backed by a stronger world coalition or with the full support of the United Nations Security Council -- a noteworthy condition at a time when the U.N. appears deeply fractured. Thirteen papers now occupy this middle ground, meaning that almost two-third's of the total sample oppose any war for the time being.

Let's summarize: a majority of editorial pages at major US newspapers 1) originally staked out antiwar positions 2) were convinced enough by Colin Powell's presentation on February 5 to change their views and 3) fell back into the antiwar or "internationalist" camp after the UN Security Council meeting on February 14.

We've seen this trajectory in paper after paper - even though it makes little sense. How can Powell's argument be compelling enough to create a major shift in the editorial community on February 5, only to see them shift again in less than two weeks? It should also be noted this shift occurred absent ANY new, significant proof of Iraqi cooperation with inspections.

Are editorial writers really that fickle? Or did de Villepin's rhetoric on Valentine's Day provide enough of an excuse for editorial writers to dismiss and discard Powell's facts and return safely to their original antiwar positions? - T. Bevan 9:15 am

Friday, February 21 2003
IT'S A BAZAAR: If you add up the numbers in this story from the Times of London, the U.S. will be dishing out upwards of $50 billion in "direct assistance" just to get countries on board with the war effort before the first shot is fired.

As we work diligently inside the hallowed halls of the United Nations to fashion another Security Council resolution (as if this new piece of paper will magically confer some moral authority lacking in the previous seventeen resolutions), outside in the real world we are being taken to the cleaners.

Turkey, of course, is setting the standard of this money-grubbing free for all, seeking to push the current US offer of $26 billion to more than $30 billion. Think about that number. It's more than we've spent so far to excavate what used to be the World Trade Center towers and to rebuild New York City.

Meanwhile, three non-permanent members of the UNSC (Angola, Cameroon and Guinea) are currently in Paris proclaiming their solidarity against the war with French President Jaques Chirac, but continue to haggle for dollars with the United States on the side.

This is, I suppose, just part of the process of organizing any war effort, though it's distasteful to watch and should convince any doubters that despite moral protestations to the contrary, the struggle over Iraq is all about national self-interest. In the case of the United States, that interest is national security and the protection of its citizens. And at least an intended byproduct of our effort will be to liberate the Iraqi people. I'll leave it up to you to speculate on the interests of France and the rest.

THE PRIDE OF EUROPE: Of course, I can't mention Jaques Chirac without pointing out that despite his busy schedule organizing protection for Saddam Hussein and lecturing the United States about the immorality of war, he's found time to entertain and meet privately with the Butcher of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, in Paris this week. Messieur Chirac demonstrates once again he's got a little soft spot for murderous tyrants who brutally oppress their people. The French must be so proud.

HIGH PROFILE: Donna Brazile gets some serious ink in today's New York Times. This comes on the heels of her widely noted interview with the Washington Times on Wednesday where she voiced concerns that Democrats are losing African-American votes to the GOP. Here's a quote from Katharine Seeyle's article today:

[Brazile] said her party was more preoccupied with appealing to white men, 37 percent of whom vote Democratic, than to black women, 95 percent of whom vote Democratic. And yet, she said, the party counts on black women to show up on Election Day.

I think Brazile's concerns are well-founded, but the problem Democrats face is twofold. First, for years Democrats have been well beyond the point of diminishing returns with respect to African-American voters. In other words, Democrats have consistently received 90%+ of the black vote and it makes no sense for them to spend valuable resources to try attract another one or two percent of the African-American vote. It simply won't make a difference.

Of course Democrats take African-Americans for granted, why wouldn't they? African-Americans have allowed themselves to be taken for granted by blindly voting as a bloc for Democrat candidates. For Democrats to be competitive in future elections they will absolutely need to expand their base among whites, particularly men, without losing a significant portion of the black vote. It's going to be a tough balance to strike as the years go by.

Second, Democrat attempts to demonize Republicans as racist are sounding more and more outdated, especially as significant numbers of African-Americans continue to make their way into the middle class. Issues like tax cuts, school choice, and less intrusive government resonate with middle-class voters, regardless of their race. Unless Democrats come up with new ideas to address this socioeconomic shift, their strong bond with the African-American community, which is based in large part upon emotion, will most likely continue to dissipate.

PROOF: Why people hate lawyers. - T. Bevan 8:34 am

Thursday, February 20 2003
ESTRADA WATCH: The Latino Coalition is one of the major Hispanic groups supporting Miguel Estrada. (For the record, the others are the Hispanic National Bar Association, LULAC, The Hispanic Business Roundtable and the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce).

Anyway, here is a copy of an ad the Latino Coalition recently ran in Roll Call. Yesterday the coalition announced they will put television ads supporting Estrada on air in Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and the District of Columbia. President Bush also went on Spanish language television yesterday to blast Dems for holding up a vote on Estrada.

Right now, Democrats say they have 44 votes and will hold firm. But, as Byron York reported yesterday in his piece for The Hill, the players in this drama are exploring a few behind-the-scenes scenarios to break the impasse.

The Dems had better hurry. The longer this fiasco goes on and the more public it becomes, the worse it will be for them. For every registered Democrat Hispanic voter they whip into a frenzy by calling Estrada a "Latino Clarence Thomas" the Dems will alienate two or three more moderate and independent Hispanic voters they otherwise would have won.

GEPHARDT DEJA VU: This whole presidential declaration thing is weird. I could have sworn Dick Gephardt officially announced his candidacy weeks ago, but I guess that was just the pre-announcement announcement. It sort of took the edge off of an otherwise boilerplate event.

Gephardt's announcement added a couple new twists to his standard "my-daddy-was-a-milk-truck-driver" stump speech that he's used to court labor unions for the last two decades. In addition to assailing President Bush on a whole host of issues, Gephardt tried to tackle the class warfare issue head on:

"I already know what the other party will say. They'll say I'm practicing 'class warfare' by opposing their tax giveaways for the wealthy, their endless procession of loopholes for the special-interests to jump through.

Let me tell you: the real class warfare is a President who thinks it's okay to eliminate taxes on stock dividends, while shifting the tax burden onto middle-class families."

All in all, pretty predictable stuff.

The one thing that did jump out of Gephardt's speech was a tiny piece at the end where he put the spin on his experience and took a not-so-subtle slap at his biggest potential rivals in the all-important (at least for Gephardt anyway) Iowa primary::

"I'm not going to say what's fashionable in our politics that I'm a Washington outsider, that I couldn't find the nation's capitol on a map, that I have no experience in the highest levels of government. I do, and I think experience matters. It's what our nation needs right now.

I'm not the political flavor of the month. I'm not the flashiest candidate around. But the fight for working families is in my bones. It's where I come from; it's been my life's work."

Take that Howard Dean and John Edwards! Gephardt's explicit support of the war effort puts him on thin ice in Iowa and without a strong showing there his candidacy will be in serious trouble by the time he touches down in Manchester.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Many of you may have noticed that we've experienced some technical difficulties in the last 48 hours and yes, it was due to the blizzard. However, we've been told everything is back to normal and we fully expect to be running smoothly from here on out. Shoot us an email if you run into any issues with RCP's functionality. - T. Bevan 9:35 am

Tuesday, February 18 2003
NYT OP-ED PAGE DOES IT AGAIN: Despite the frequent complaints (many of which originate in the blogosphere) of front page editorializing and silly mistakes, the New York Times is still a great paper. Few newspapers can match the depth and breadth of The Times' coverage, as well as the quality of its reporting. Given all of this, it's fair to expect the Times' op-ed page would also be one of the best in the country and, even with an unashamedly liberal ideological perspective, would advance thoughtful, cogent, and well written arguments using a roster of competent columnists.

Instead, the page is a complete disaster. It's Maureen Dowd comparing world affairs to the latest Sex in the City episode twice every week and a predictable stream of emotional, hate-filled, anti-Bush rants from Bob Herbert. Let me stop here for a moment to give Tom Friedman and Bill Safire their due, you may not agree with everything they write but it's impossible to characterize their work as silly. Not so Paul Krugman.

Which leads me to today's offerings. Krugman and Nick Kristof shed any hint of intellectual seriousness and run naked through the daisies in their columns this morning.

Krugman argues that the American media, but Fox News and CNN in particular, have decided "not to present a mix of information that might call the justification for war into question" for fear of being labeled unpatriotic. Instead, the networks have decided its their job to "prepare" and "sell" the coming war with Iraq to the American public.

Kristof calls President Bush a foreign policy idealist, saying that he is showing a "cavalier obtuseness to practical consequences" of his policies. To make the point, Kristof even goes so far to say that Bush's pro-life beliefs and policies are killing people:

The upshot is that women and babies are dying in Africa because of Mr. Bush's idealism.

Kristof's answer is for pro-life people to support abortion policies, for Bush to abandon pursuing a tough, multilateral solution and "engage" directly with North Korea, to negotiate with Yasir Arafat, and to forego the threat of military force as a means of enforcing the will of the international community on Iraq.

Kristof actually suggests that Bush model himself after one of the most ineffectual leaders of all time - Jimmy Carter - whom Kristof describes as a man of principle who doesn't let his principles get in the way of making sure the children of the world survive. My goodness.

The reason Jimmy Carter can trot around the globe "staring down dictators and fighting disease" is precisely because he is unrestrained by practical matters like, let's see... US NATIONAL SECURITY. It should also be clear that one of the main reasons Bush (and a majority of the American public) support military action against Iraq is because one of the practical consequences of failing to intervene could very well be a mushroom cloud in Manhattan or some similarly horrible disaster.

Contrary to Kristof's argument, Bush's entire approach to foreign policy is driven by "nightmares of things that never were" and the antiwar crowd is guilty of pursuing the ideal of "peace at any cost" without acknowledging the potentially horrific consequences of such a policy. - T. Bevan 9:08 am

Monday, February 17 2003
THE 10 WORST: Tucked deep inside the five-pound pile of advertisements otherwise known as the Chicago Tribune's Sunday edition, Parade magazine has a story listing "The 10 Worst Living Dictators," authored by David Wallechinsky. There isn't a direct link to the story, so I've recreated Wallechinsky's list below:

1) Kim Jong Il - North Korea (Age 61, in power since 1994)
2) King Fahd & Crown Prince Abdullah - Saudi Arabia (Ages 80 & 79, in power since 1982 & 1995, respectively)
3) Saddam Hussein - Iraq (Age 65, in power since 1979)
4) Charles Taylor - Liberia (Age 55, in power since 1977)
5) Than Shwe - Burma (Age 70, in power since 1992)
6) Teodoro Obiang Nguema - Equatorial Guinea (Age 60, in power since 1979).
7) Saparmurad Niyazov - Turkmenistan (Age 62, in power since 1990)
8) Muammar al-Qaddafi - Libya (Age 60, in power since 1969)
9) Fidel Castro - Cuba (Age 76, in power since 1959)
10) Alexander Lukashenko - Belarus (Age 48, in power since 1994)

Dishonorable Mentions: Omar al-Bashir (Sudan), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Bashar al-Assad (Syria), the leaders of he People's Revolutionary Party of Laos. Wallechinsky finishes by asking whether Hu Jintao, the new head of the Communist Party of China will join the ranks by continuing the repressive regime in China.

It's an interesting list, and if you read the comments you get the sense Wallechinsky might have put it together with an ever-so-slightly hidden agenda. Iran is conspicuously absent. And in addition to placing Saudi Arabia above Saddam, there is this comment about the Iraqi dictator:

"After the Gulf War, Saddam was considered over the hill as a global-scale dictator until President George W. Bush began to promote his status as a threat to world peace."

That's a fairly quaint way to describe a tyrant who is alone among those on the list as having a twelve-year history of defying the international community and running roughshod over 17 consecutive UN resolutions.

It's also worth noting that Wallechinsky's list is based solely on human-rights abuses. If you take the list and cross-reference it with respect to those dictators who pose the greatest threat to US national security and assisting potential terrorists, the list would change to include Iran - probably at the number two slot - as well as Yemen. Syria, Sudan and Libya would move up the list, displacing Liberia, Burma and Equatorial Guinea. In the end, you'd be left with (GASP!) the Axis of Evil and a host of smaller Arab countries that have both atrocious human rights records and a soft spot for militant Islamists. - T. Bevan 9:22 am

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