Friday, March 14, 2003

"Bush's obsession with Iraq seems nutty. It's loopy. It's crazy. It's insane...Why is Bush conjuring up imaginary enemies far away and allowing our ship of state to sail in meaningless circles? Bush is looking more and more like Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny. I'm half expecting to see a press conference with Bush mindlessly rolling a pair of steel ball-bearings in one trembling hand as he rambles on about how Saadam Hussein has stolen Bush's quart of strawberries and is hiding them someplace. "

You might be tempted to believe this is a quote from Paul Krugman's NY Times column this morning. It's not. It's the rantings of some vile, neo-nazi, white supremacist from late last year.

We thought about whether to post this at all, because we don't want people to think that we're trying do a slime job on Krugman or trying to insinuate he holds some of the abhorrent views as the guy quoted above. The point we did want to make, however, is that when you engage in the kind of blatant partisan hyperbole that Krugman did this morning, you often find yourself in very shaky intellectual company.

Consider the argument Krugman advanced today - and let's be sure to dispense with the canard that Krugman doesn't hold these views but that he was only quoting other people inside the government and foreign policy arena who do. Krugman writes:

"And more people than you would think including a fair number of people in the Treasury Department, the State Department and, yes, the Pentagon don't just question the competence of Mr. Bush and his inner circle; they believe that America's leadership has lost touch with reality."(emphasis added)

This is truly a remarkable statement. It goes well beyond stating policy disagreements or citing reasons that argue Bush is misguided. Krugman would have us believe that Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, Tenet - indeed anyone inside or outside of government who agrees with the policy - are, in effect, delusional.

To reinforce this notion, Krugman returns to quoting the Nelson Report:

"Sober minds wrestle with how to break into the mind of George Bush."

The not-so-subtle inference here is that Bush's mind is not "sober" - in other words sane and rational - and furthermore that it is closed off to such arguments. Again, this is way, way beyond a policy disagreement or even the concept that reasonable minds can disagree about the issue. Indeed, the whole point of Krugman's article is not to discredit Bush's policy on the merits but to discredit Bush himself by advancing the notion that he and the other top officials in the administration are unreasonable and "out of touch with reality." - T. Bevan 11:26 am

KRUGMAN: It is hilarious how the stature of being a professor at an Ivy League institution or really any institution of "higher learning" leads some academic elites to believe they can get away with saying or writing anything. I mean the average Joe would think that Paul Krugman, who is a former Professor at MIT and a current Professor of Economics at Princeton University, would have intelligent, cogent and honest points to offer in a column in the nation's largest paper.

My intention is not to demean all professors or institutions of higher learning. I actually have a great degree of respect for the pursuit of knowledge at all levels. As a graduate of Princeton University with a degree in Economics and Politics I have first hand experience with brilliant professors and also first hand experiences with professors who are, quite frankly, morons.

None of this is really news to people who are familiar with the liberal arts institutions in this country. They all have a certain number of professors (98% of which are on the political left) who are intellectual quacks. These people let their hatred of either America, capitalism, white men, the U.S. Military, conservatives (you get the picture) cloud their ability to fairly discuss the truth when it comes to their respective fields.

Now, I have to be honest. As someone who reads 20-30 columns a day on average, I rarely waste my time any more on Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman. Dowd invariably leaves me speechless and stuttering after most of her columns. I'm always left with the same question: "How can this crap run twice a week in the nation's largest paper?"

Krugman, on the other hand, with the veneer of his Princeton Professorship, tries to pass himself off as a serious player in the policy debates of the nation. And when he dials down his hatred of George W. Bush, mutes his anti-capitalist instincts and sticks to economic subjects he actually can produce some thought-provoking work.

Unfortunately the good work appears once every eight to ten columns and over 75% of the time we are left with deliberately misleading pieces filled with distortions and half-truths designed to push his ideological agenda. Which, of course, is why the people who run The New York Times keep Dowd and Krugman on board.

On the eve of war, when we have over 200,000 young men and women about to go into battle and risk their lives for our freedom; Krugman uses his national platform to suggest the Commander in Chief "has lost touch with reality." This is reckless. This is wrong. And this is a LIE.

Having lost the political debate on the wisdom of the war in the Congress and with the American people, Krugman suggests the President who is about to order our troops in to battle may be insane, a modern day Captain Queeg. Absolutely despicable. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Disagreeing with the wisdom of the war is fine. That is what a free democracy is all about. But after having lost that debate I would hope that all Americans would rally behind our President and our troops and pray for their well being and safety. Instead Paul Krugman puts the word out that the Commander in Chief just may be crazy. It is a disgrace. J. McIntyre 7:45 am

Thursday, March 13 2003
I: Bill Safire's column today sheds some light on just one tiny part of the behind-the-scenes machinations driving the "antiwar" bloc in the UN Security Council. The French hide behind the morally righteous slogan that "war is always a failure" but perhaps we should take a moment to recognize that the true failure here - that is, the failure of the United Nations to muster the courage to enforce its own resolutions - is due in large part to nations like France, Syria, et al. illegally circumventing economic sanctions on Iraq thereby undermining the U.N.'s authority. As Safire says, "the truth, however, will out" and it won't be pretty when it does.

DON'T BE SO NAIVE - PART II: The thinking in this NYT editorial epitomizes what's wrong with the UN and why diplomatic efforts in the Security Council will ultimately fail. The Times writes that the U.S. should not only back the compromise Blair is desperately seeking in the Security Council but should also agree to 1) extend a deadline for compliance to the six benchmarks proposed by the U.K. and 2) not be allowed to make an independent judgment of whether Iraq is in full compliance.

What the New York Times is proposing is just a rerun of the same bad movie we've already watched: the day before any given deadline Saddam will offer some half-gesture - like going on Iraqi television and denouncing WMD's but not admitting that he possesses them and has hid them from the world - and the French and the Syrians will rush to his defense saying Saddam has complied. And we'll be right back to where we are now in the Security Council, except three or six months will have passed while our troops are standing idle in the desert.

Proof of just how unserious (or hopelessly naive) The Times' editorial board is follows:

The ultimate goal should not be a symbolic Security Council majority of nine, but passage of a resolution without a disabling veto.

Let's be clear: avoiding a "disabling veto" means capitulating to the French. It means more inspectors, no deadlines, and more endless semantic discussions over the level of Iraqi compliance. A majority vote would indeed be symbolic, but let's face it: symbolism - not action or moral authority - is just about all the UN has left to offer at this point.

DON'T BE SO NAIVE - PART III: I guess it's NY Times day here at RCP. I can't resist posting this David Firestone profile of new Senate Majority Leader Frist. It is peppered with a distinctly liberal "how-we-long-for-the-good-'ol-days-of-Trent-Lott" theme, including this little riff:

"While some Republicans criticize Dr. Frist, 51, for not being more attentive to keeping the Senate running, he has delighted conservative leaders by digging in on many of the same ideologically polarized issues favored by the White House. Many conservatives had become disenchanted with the deal-brokering practiced by Mr. Lott and other past Republican leaders, including Mr. Dole and Mr. Baker."

Firestone leaves the impression that Frist is a darling of conservatives and is generating concern among moderates. But if you read the article carefully, Firestone doesn't produce one unflattering comment to substantiate this idea. In fact, he does the exact opposite, explaining away the praise of moderates as a "honeymoon."

The entire premise of Firestone's piece rests on the gripes of Senator Lott, and it looks to me as if Firestone decided well ahead of time what the storyline was going to be. You know, sort of a liberal journalistic version of the Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come. - T. Bevan 10:14

Wednesday, March 12 2003
WE'RE PAST THE TIPPING POINT: It's a matter of simple physics that the longer you stand on a highwire the greater chance you have of falling. As we linger on the diplomatic highwire now (and perhaps for a few more days), it's becoming more and more clear that the UN's failure to unify and to enforce its resolutions will cost American lives.

In the short-term, Saddam will have more time to prepare for battle: to stockpile weapons; to dig trenches and fortify military targets; and to booby-trap oil fields, bridges and roads. In the long-run, France's intransigence in the Security Council may cost America lives as well. Instead of uniting to deliver the message that the UN would enforce its resolutions by force (if necessary) and that it would not tolerate WMD proliferation and threats - or even potential threats - to world security, the Security Council is sending the exact opposite messages to tyrants and to terrorists. As a result, the coming U.S. invasion has a higher likelihood of being resented around the world - especially in Arab countries- and could end up producing more future terrorists than it otherwise would have.

It didn't have to be this way. The world community could have struck a blow against tyrants, against the production and possession of WMD's, and against terrorism. In the end, however, it was wishful thinking to believe that a body that embraces and places in positions of esteem some of the most wretched regimes on earth would stand for any principle other than individual self-interest.

The U.S. and the U.K. may still scrape together a compromise that will win a majority of Security Council votes (as well as a French veto), but any chance for the UNSC to make a unified, authoritative statement is long since gone.

We are past the tipping point. Diplomacy has failed and further delay is suicide. The only thing that matters now is winning the war, and winning it well.

History will not remember the farce at the UN that preceded the war: the droning reports of Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei; the pompous pronouncements of deVillipin, Fischer, Ivanov, et al..; or the U.S.'s ridiculously furious courting of the tiny African nation of Guinea for permission to protect America's national security.

In my mind, history will judge the invasion of Iraq by only two measures: how much we find and how much it costs to find it. If we uncover huge stockpiles of horrible weapons and incur few military and civilian casualties, the invasion will be recognized by history as a success of the highest order. If the outcome is the reverse, history's judgment will be significantly less kind.

Freeing the Iraqi people from Saddam's rule will almost certainly be seen by history to be a moral and just cause, which it is, but I've never been one to pretend that the liberation of Iraq is anything other than a beneficial byproduct of the pursuit of U.S. national security. It buttresses the case for action, but it's not the precedent.

Clearly, the rebuilding of Iraq will also represent a critical period and a historic opportunity for the U.S. and coalition forces. It will be a chance not only help shape the future of the Middle East, but also for the U.S. to directly demonstrate compassion and to mend fences with valuable allies. A huge and daunting task, to be sure, but one that is only made tougher by waiting. - T. Bevan 7:07 am

Tuesday, March 11 2003
The US, UK, France And The UN: Interesting email received earlier today.

Regarding the blog from this morning, I think you missed the British and American strategy slightly. The nine votes are key. If France and Russia abstain it would be great, but a resolution with nine votes that fails only because of a French veto gives Blair the cover he needs and Bush some cover he doesn't need but would still be helpful. It is all a matter of switching the argument from "the world is against this" to "France is against this." The Labor backbenchers should see the folly of siding with the French against their own government. Wise Democrats (increasingly, sadly, a contradiction in terms) should see something similar, but they are out of power and thus have a natural instinct to oppose the policies of the party in power. At some level, Labor knows they were out of power for almost 20 years until Blair brought them in from the cold and moderated the party enough to be palatable to the British voters for two elections, and quite conceivably a third. The French and the Russians understand the calculus involved, too. Once the resolution gets to nine votes, they are faced with being on the wrong end of a 9-3 vote (Syria being the third). This could conceivably peel the Russians off with some face saving concession, which would leave only the French. I get the sense that Chirac is either crazy with the idea of French power, or is hiding French complicity in violating the sanctions (why is the Weekly Standard the only media outlet running the picture of Saddam and Chirac together in a French nuclear facility in the 70s?) France may offer its vote in exchange for a delay that is unpalatable to the U.S. military, and then the final vote will wind up being 9-2. Bush and Blair will claim international support, the pretense of the importance of the Security Counsel will end, and the war will go forward.

The end of that pretense will be a sad event. In the end, this resolution is not about preventing this war because this war is going to happen. It is about preventing the next one. When the Russians or the Chinese want to invade one of their troublesome neighbors, they will have an excuse not to go to the Security Counsel. That the Americans were acting under the auspices of several other resolutions will be forgotten; that we acted despite the failure of this resolution will be remembered. And when that next war happens, the fault will lie with the French, not the Americans.

David Friedman - Decatur, GA

IRAQ AND THE UN: President Bush had put the U.S. in a win-win position with his press conference on Thursday where he made it clear the diplomatic circus at the UN would come to an end this week with an up or down vote on Saddam's regime:

"We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam."

The win-win scenario depended on two key factors: 1) Bush stuck to his guns and demanded a vote; and 2) Blair didn't crack from the insane political pressure he is under at home.

If there is to be an up or down vote today or tomorrow at the UN, the U.S. and Bush can't lose. If the resolution wins nine or ten votes and manages to avoid French and Russian vetoes it will, rightly, be proclaimed as an enormous diplomatic accomplishment. And with nominal UN approval the carping on the left of "war -only with UN approval" should come to an end.

If the resolution fails or is vetoed, it will be just as well because it will expose the farce that is the United Nations. Either way we will achieve closure to the Hans Blix "is he disarming" joke of the last six weeks.

Anyone who has bothered to listen to President Bush since September 11 knows full well we ARE going to war in Iraq, unless Saddam is fully and 100% disarmed or he is removed from power - exiled, killed, imprisoned, etc....

Since we are going to war (barring a last minute total capitulation by Saddam), it is critically important to just get it done. Which is why it was so important for Bush to state unambiguously at Thursday's press conference that there would be an up or down vote this week.

Unfortunately it looks like Blair is beginning to show signs of cracking under the pressure. What we don't know is just how strong alliance is between Bush and Blair. Tony Blair has been a true hero up until now, but while President Bush is probably perfectly comfortable waging war without an 18th resolution from the UN, Tony Blair genuinely wants and needs the imprimatur of the United Nations. At the end of the day it is in Britain's best interest to maintain the legitimacy of the UN as an institution. As the leader of the Labour Party in the UK, I'm sure Blair truly believes in working within the framework of the UN.

If Blair were to have a public spilt with Bush or if his government were to fall it would be a disaster for President Bush and the U.S. So it is very understandable that the White House is willing to go to great lengths to keep the Brits on board. But at some point - and some point soon - the Chinese water torture at the UN has got to come to an end.

A little tweaking of the language maybe and perhaps an extension of the deadline by a week or two is fine. It is not preferable, but if it keeps Blair on board, OK. Either way, there needs to be a vote very shortly that provides a clear and unmistakable deadline for war unless Saddam complies and it needs to be very clear there will be no further reporting back to the Security Council and no further votes. This vote is it.

This entire situation has the ability to spin completely out of control, which is why it is so critically important to obtain closure. There needs to a FINAL vote. If we win, great. We have a deadline and either Saddam complies or there is war. If we lose, fine. We go this weekend. Delay is our enemy and we are already at war. J. McIntyre 7:04 am

Monday, March 10 2003
BUSH AND FAITH: There has been a lot of ink spilled recently over the role of faith in George W. Bush's life and presidency - some of it good and some of it bad. I thought Howard Fineman's article two weeks ago did a fair job of exploring and explaining Bush's faith, even though you could still sense an underlying secular condescention in the timing and imagery of the Newsweek profile.

This nasty piece of work by Les Payne in Newsday, however, strikes a very different note. I don't know that I've ever read a column more derisive not only of the President's intelligence but of his personal beliefs. If you're a Christian and you like Bush, prepare to be offended:

The problem with middle-aged drunks turned Christian is that they can't sleep without yakking about Jesus, and they won't let anyone else sleep, either. Instead of embracing their religion as a private matter, they flaunt it as a mission to convert. They can become a terrible nuisance, especially to those born into the religion.

The drunk-gone-zealot may be reassuring to the troubled family. But it is not altogether reassuring to a modern world facing such a fanatic on the trigger of weapons of mass destruction that are capable of destroying the Earth several times over.

The rest of the column is equally vile.      

Let's hope Joe Lieberman doesn't get elected President, who knows what Payne would write about a devout Orthodox Jew in the White House.

But Payne probably wouldn't write something similarly critical about Lieberman's religious beliefs for two reasons: first, he would most likely agree with Lieberman's policies and therefore wouldn't need to attack him personally and, second, using the same sort of derisive language about Lieberman would almost certainly cause the ADL and others to charge Payne with being an anti-Semite. As we can see from Payne's column, however, these same rules don't apply to conservatives or to Christians.

THE DIFFERENCE A WEEK MAKES: Though largely irrelevant to the final outcome of going to war, the drama at the UN has been an incredible rollercoaster ride. Last week the U.S. and Britain seemed to be losing the battle and were nowhere near getting nine Security Council votes for a new (a.k.a. 18th) resolution on Iraq.

Look at the news today: The London Times reported over the weekend that Hans Blix buried a "smoking gun" in his 167-page report, we now have reports of Iraqi missiles altered for chemical/biological warfare use, Turkey's election yesterday seemingly cleared the way for U.S. troops, and Colin Powell is optimistic about winning the vote.

In the short span of a week, France now finds itself on much shakier ground. After having aggressively led the antiwar forces inside the Security Council over the past three months, France could now find itself in the embarrassing position of either 1) abstaining on the new resolution or 2) vetoing a resolution that is supported by a majority of Council members and then having their veto ignored by the U.S. There is still a lot of game left to play at the UN and the outcome is far from certain, but should things continue to swing against the French and they find themselves in a no-win debacle on the center of the world stage all I can say is: it couldn't have happened to a nicer country.

THE PANEL: On March 20 John and I will be part of a panel discussing "Conservatism and the New Media." So if you live in Chicago and are interested in attending, click here for info. Kathryn Jean-Lopez and Tom Roeser will also be attending, so it should be a great discussion. - T. Bevan 8:00 am

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