Friday, February 28 2003
GRAHAM MAKES NINE: Bob Graham is officially in, raising the number of current candidates for the Dem nomination to nine. It could go as high as eleven or twelve in the next few months.

Graham's candidacy certainly makes the race more interesting. The conventional wisdom is that Graham will probably hurt Lieberman the most by sucking all the money out of Florida - including tapping into Lieberman's otherwise uncontested reservoir of cash in the Florida Jewish community.

Graham also makes the race much tougher for Edwards. Even though Edwards will probably run well to the left of him, Graham is a legitimate Southern candidate (think Edwards minus the hairspray and plus some substance) and should be able to mount an effective challenge in South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Zogby's latest poll shows Kerry with a strong lead in New Hampshire, but that was before he hired Bob Shrum to help "craft his message."

DEBORAH COOK: Stick with me while I backtrack to Tuesday to talk briefly about Adam Cohen's knee-capping of Deborah Cook, President Bush's nominee for the 6th Circuit. Cohen's piece is titled, "Deborah Cook Is the Typical Bush Judicial Nominee — So Watch Out" and it's a textbook example of how to write a hatchet job. Cohen highlights certain facts and distorts others in an effort to mislead readers about Cook:

In eight years on the Ohio Supreme Court, Justice Cook has been a steady voice against injured workers, discrimination victims and consumers. The court's most prolific dissenter, she frequently breaks with her Republican colleagues to side with big business and insurance companies. Often she reaches for a harsh legal technicality to send a hapless victim home empty-handed.

Now, I don't know Deborah Cook and I'm not a lawyer. But after spending a couple of hours reading the opinions Cohen cites as proof of Cook's propensity to "protect corporations pestered by sick or fired workers" (Davis v. Wal-Mart, Norgard v. Brush Wellman, Mauzy v. Kelly Services, Oker v. Ameritech) it's hard to find any "there there" - other than Cohen's willingness to stretch and bend the truth.

Cohen omits the fact that in two of the cases cited (Mauzy and Oker) Cook was joined in dissent by another justice, making them 5-2 decisions. In the Norgard case the decision was 4-3, more or less contradicting the idea that the mean-spritied Justice Cook was out to protect the corporation and stick it to the poor worker in the beryllium plant.

It is true that Cook was the lone dissenter in the Davis case and that her argument rested on a technical legal argument involving the concepts of tort spoliation and res judicata. For more on Cook's dissent in the Davis case and how Cohen distorted her position, I'll leave it to legal experts like Lawrence B. Solum, visiting Professor at the University of San Diego (via Eugene Volokh). - T. Bevan 7:55 am

Thursday, February 27 2003
BUSH V. HUSSEIN: Last night was about as close to a debate between George Bush and Saddam Hussein as we are ever going to see.

Addressing the American Enterprise Institute, President Bush laid out a case for action against Iraq that rested on a much larger and bolder philosophical premise: that American security is inextricably linked to the spread of freedom and democracy around the world. Bush argued that democratic governance in Iraq and Palestine would be an inspiration and would lead to greater peace and security in the region:

"It will be difficult to help freedom take hold in a country that has known three decades of dictatorship, secret police, internal divisions, and war. It will be difficult to cultivate liberty and peace in the Middle East, after so many generations of strife. Yet, the security of our nation and the hope of millions depend on us, and Americans do not turn away from duties because they are hard...

We go forward with confidence, because we trust in the power of human freedom to change lives and nations. By the resolve and purpose of America, and of our friends and allies, we will make this an age of progress and liberty. Free people will set the course of history, and free people will keep the peace of the world. "

A couple of hours later CBS aired Dan Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein (Transcript: Part I, Part II, Part III). The Iraqi dictator denied he possessed any weapons proscribed by the United Nations (including the al-Samoud missiles Hans Blix demanded be destroyed), spoke of how the Iraqi people kept showing their support by "reelecting" him with 100% of the vote, and refused to admit that Iraq suffered a defeat in the first Gulf War. Saddam argued that Iraqis:

"must defend ourselves, and defend our right to dignity, and to live in peace and to live in dignity and freedom. What did Iraq threaten the United States with? Iraq has not committed any aggressive against the United States. Nor, nobody in Iraq. Neither an official nor anybody in Iraq says that the United States is our enemy.

Is it acceptable that anybody with power should go and destroy others? Or anybody who is being pushed or urged by big companies or multinational companies, should go to dominate others and destroy them?

For the sake of argument, let's throw aside a few facts that contradict this statement: 1) Saddam actually used the word "enemy" to describe the U.S. earlier in the interview 2) he tried to assassinate former President Bush after the first Gulf War and 3) he used his superior power to invade a weaker nation just a few short years ago.

In the larger context, the contrast of Bush's speech and Hussein's interview crystallizes what this debate is all about: George W. Bush. It's certainly not about a petty tyrant looking into the camera and telling boldfaced lies for the umpteenth time. Even the most ardent antiwar types admit Hussein is a liar, human rights abuser and violator of international law - which is why they choose to shift the focus back to the real target of their animus.

The left's blind hatred of George W. Bush has many roots (he's a moron, a cowboy, a corporate shill , a bigot, he stole the election, etc), but collectively it runs so deep both at home and abroad that it compels them to ascribe to the President - against all history, logic and evidence - the most cynical and scurrilous motives for action in Iraq. These range from oil to a personal vendetta to world dominance and imperialism. They say the President is the one who is lying, the one hiding things from the public, the one manufacturing evidence against Hussein.

Certainly, a reasonable case against action in Iraq can be made - though I don't think it can be made honestly without addressing the possible costs of inaction. Yet very few on the left actually argue against Bush's policy, instead they argue against the man.

And they do this for two simple reasons. First, it's always easier to attack the person than to attack the underlying merits of their policies. Second, ever since Bush's popularity skyrocketed after September 11, the left has a vested interest in diminishing his personal stature.

At home, Democrats are desperate, not to find a way to insure Hussein's full and complete disarmament but to energize their base to win an election. Hence the incredible array of cognitively dissonant rhetoric from major Democratic party candidates and officeholders.

In Europe, France and Germany have for weeks been going to extraordinary lengths to stem Bush's (and Blair's) influence around the globe. This includes throwing NATO into a crisis and now, even as we speak, contemplating the public repudiation of a resolution they both signed onto just four short months ago.

As with most debates, trust is a critical component of whether you are swayed by someone's argument. The left doesn't like George W. Bush, and they don't trust him. And to an unfortunately large number of those on the left, that's pretty much all that matters. - T. Bevan 10:54 am

Wednesday, February 26 2003
THE NATIONAL SECURITY TEST: This isn't exactly a new insight, but it became more readily apparent this weekend while watching Meet the Press: the Democrats have a big problem when it comes to national security. The pundits and talking heads who talk about the first George Bush's sky-high ratings post the Gulf War and their subsequent collapse are very wrong to suggest something analogous might happen today. Now, I'm not saying this President Bush's approval ratings can't drop, but this war and the Gulf War 12 years ago are entirely different creatures.

It all comes back to 9/11. Iraq might be over, but this war will not be over on election day next year. And the bottom line is the Democrats will have no chance, irrespective of how bad the economy gets, unless they nominate someone who passes the national security test.

The two Democrats on Meet the Press this weekend dramatically underscored this point. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich was a total embarrassment and his election to President would pose a significant material threat to the safety of every American. Read the transcript, it's there in black and white. He has no chance. The same can more or less be said of Howard Dean, Carol Moseley-Braun and Al Sharpton.

The real point I'm trying to make is about Richard Gephardt. After enduring Kucinich for a half-hour, it was pleasant and reassuring to see a leading Democrat who does get it.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me start with Iraq because it’s very much on people’s minds. October 10 of last year, this was the authorization voted for by Congress, yourself, and the House. “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to—(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.” About two-thirds of the Democrats in the House voted against that. You voted for it. Many Democrats have suggested you gave the president a blank check, and should not have done that. Why did you vote for that authorization?
REP. GEPHARDT: Tim, first, we got to talk about what we’re trying to do here. To me, this is about disarming Saddam Hussein. And the reason I think that’s important is that we’ve got to keep our people safe. If you’re worried about terrorists getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction or components of weapons of mass destruction, you first look at Iraq as where they could get their hands on those components. I told the president on 9/12, “We got to put politics out of these terrorism issues and we got to try to work together to do what’s right, to keep the people of this country safe.” And that’s what I’ve tried to do every day since. I did urge the president, beginning, I think, in the spring of last year, to go to the U.N., to build an international coalition so that we’re not doing this alone. And I got him to—I negotiated language into that resolution that said that he would go to the UN and they would try to build that international coalition and that’s what he’s trying to do. That’s what he should do and I hope he will accomplish that, but in the end, this is about the safety of our people. We cannot have a weapon of mass destruction in this society..... This is about the safety of our people. We’re worried about a Ryder truck with an A- bomb in it at the Washington Monument or in New York or in St. Louis. We cannot have that happen. That must be avoided and we must use every human effort to see that it does not happen...... And after 9/11 you look back on a lot of things that we did or didn’t do, and maybe you’d like to do them better. 9/11 changed everything. You know, a lot of the argument about Iraq is whether or not the inspectors can prove that they have these weapons. It’s almost like setting up a legal case in a court. Well, you couldn’t prove before 9/11 that 9/11 was going to happen. We just didn’t think that terrorists were going to be able to do this in the United States. It was a wake-up call, and we have a huge obligation to keep our people safe, so we’ve got to do better than we’ve done in the past.

"9/11 changed everything." Gephardt gets it, and that's why he could be elected President. The anti-war-no-matter-what, see-no-evil Democrats don't get it and won't be trusted with the keys to the nation's security.

My quick take on the the currently announced field of Democrats is Gephardt and Lieberman pass the national security test. Edwards' words pass the test, but he just doesn't seem to look the part. Whether you like them or not Gephardt, Lieberman and Kerry are legitimate heavyweights, in this time of war Edwards is not (2004 is not going to be 1992). Kerry is trying to have it both ways and is hoping his service in Vietnam will give him cover on his pathetic fence-straddling. If he was smart he would come out very publicly in the next week in strong support of the war. Dean, Kucinich, Moseley-Braun and Sharpton have as much chance of becoming President as George McGovern in 1972. However, Howard Dean does have a real shot at becoming the Democratic nominee. That would bring a big smile to the face of Karl Rove. J. McIntyre 7:58 am

Tuesday, February 25 2003
KERRY'S AMBIVALENCE: Check out the following excerpt from Howie Kurtz's profile of Peter Beinart and his hawkish editorial leadership at The New Republic:

Beinart is a full-fledged, talon-baring hawk on Iraq, a stance that has led him to assail, among others, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the New York Times editorial page. He lambastes the Times, which has urged the Bush administration to build an international consensus for military action against Iraq, as a symbol of "the intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics," whose real position, he contends, is "abject pacifism."

And Beinart chides Kerry for making anti-war noises after voting to support action against Saddam Hussein, saying Kerry's presidential candidacy "is doomed to fail if Kerry keeps speaking so dishonestly about Iraq."

Kerry spokesman Chris Lehane sees the New Republic's criticism as a "backhanded compliment" to the senator's political stature.

"The country is clearly ambivalent about Iraq," Lehane says. "Kerry has been exactly where the country is. He thinks Saddam is bad but has grave questions about how the administration has handled the diplomacy." (emphasis added)

Everybody got that? The leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination is ambivalent on the single greatest question facing the country today.

Just to clarify, here is Webster's textbook definition of ambivalence:

ambivalence: n., uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite things.

This is not - I repeat not - a quality you want in a President. It's not even something you want in a candidate for the local school board. Yet, as Mickey Kaus and others have repeatedly shown, ambivalence is one of Kerry's defining character traits, and it very well may be his downfall in the end. - T. Bevan 8:42 am

Monday, February 24 2003
BYE, BYE INS: As of midnight this Friday, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will cease to exist. After 69 years of operation, the INS and its 36,000 employees will be absorbed by the new Department of Homeland Security.

At the very least, doing away with the INS is an important symbolic step that signals to folks here at home and abroad that the U.S. government is making changes to address threats to its security. Whether the move will result in any tangible increase in the government's ability to process, monitor and naturalize immigrants remains to be seen. I suspect there will be some marginal improvements in the short-term - bureaucratic shake ups usually have this effect - but it's hard to foresee any real substantial increases in effectiveness. Bureaucracies just don't work that way.

This will be good news to immigration activists like Cheryl Little, executive director of the Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, who is concerned that changes to the current, ridiculously lax U.S. immigration system might have an adverse effect on immigrants:

"There's a real fear that INS work will be less service-oriented and more enforcement-driven than ever."

Am I the one who has to break the news to Ms. Little? That's the whole idea: more security, less customer service. If I have to stand half-naked in the middle of Terminal B at O'Hare for a little extra security, then we can ask people seeking the privilege of visiting or living in this country to endure a few more minutes in line so we can devote more resources to catching the bad guys and lawbreakers. We're not talking jackboot oppression here, just common sense.

THOMAS & DEAN: Helen Thomas, the woman who masqueraded as an "objective" reporter for the Associated Press for the last nine decades, is now one of the left's silliest (and angriest) opinion columnists. Yesterday she put her foot down, calling for Democrats presidential candidates to get tough on the war:

"The Democratic presidential aspirants have been pussyfooting around the Iraq question, wanting to have it both ways on whether to support President Bush's rush-to-war.

The time has come for them to show some backbone. They should declare their position clearly and point to peaceful options that the president has no time for. Speaking of clarity, I salute Bush for his laser-focused campaign against Saddam Hussein, even if he ignores facts and history.

It's disappointing that the Democrats don't have a leading candidate to challenge that point of view with the force of moral clarity."

Thomas' answer to this lack of moral clarity is, of course, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Dean, who in the last few weeks has picked up valuable endorsements from Martin Sheen and Rob Reiner, wowed the crowd at the DNC's winter meeting last week with a passionate call to liberal arms.

But let's take a closer look at Dean's national security speech last week (the one which Thomas rhapsodizes about). Dean says:

I agree with President Bush - he has said that Saddam Hussein is evil. And he is.

He is a vicious dictator and a documented deceiver.

He has invaded his neighbors, used chemical arms, and failed to account for all the chemical and biological weapons he had before the Gulf War.

He has murdered dissidents, and refused to comply with his obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions.

And he has tried to build a nuclear bomb.

Anyone who believes in the importance of limiting the spread of weapons of mass killing, the value of democracy, and the centrality of human rights must agree that Saddam Hussein is a menace. The world would be a better place if he were in a different place other than the seat of power in Baghdad or any other country.

So I want to be clear. Saddam Hussein must disarm. This is not a debate; it is a given.

The questions are: how - when - under what circumstances - and by whom he is to be disarmed.

The Administration thinks the right answers to those questions are war, now, regardless of the circumstances, and with most if not all the fighting done by Americans.

I, for one, am not ready to abandon the search for better answers. (emphasis added)

This is fantastic rhetoric. No wonder it rings in the ears of Thomas and the rest of the antiwar crowd. The problem is that it lacks any hint of logic or realism.

Despite admitting all of the terrible truths about Hussein (he is a liar, violator of international law, and abuser of human rights) Dean articulates not a single new method of forcing Iraqi compliance. Instead, the former governor is content to offer as the centerpiece of his prospective presidential foreign policy a reliance on an inspection regime which has failed spectacularly over the last 12 years to disarm Saddam Hussein.

Let's remember also that inspectors wouldn't even be working in Iraq today if it weren't solely for the Bush administration's efforts. Are we to believe that inspectors would have returned to Iraq under a Dean presidency? So much for moral clarity. - T. Bevan 8:22 am

UPDATE: A reader emails to correct me: Helen Thomas was a reporter for UPI not the Associated Press.

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