Friday, April 18 2003
BECHTEL: The NY Times carries in its top spot this morning an article about the awarding of an Iraqi reconstruction contract to San Francisco-based Bechtel. Having gotten just about everything else regarding the war quite wrong, the prominent placement of the Bechtel article suggests we are seeing the beginning of The Times shifting to "phase four" of its assault on the Bush administration, namely that it will now work to discredit the administration by suggesting through its reporting (the editorial assault began a few days back with Bob Herbert and this editorial) that the reconstruction of Iraq isn't really about the Iraqi people but rather just a big fat payoff to Bush and Co.'s corporate cronies.

And that's exactly the argument we get from Michael Kinsley this morning in the Washington Post. Nevermind that The Times article mentions that a number of other U.S. companies submitted bids as well (does anyone doubt The Times would find some nefarious connections with any of these companies to the Bush administration?), that subcontractors from numerous foreign countries - including non-coalition ones - will be employed, and that the primary reason for conducting a limited (Kinsley and The Times would use the word "closed" here) bidding process is expediting the reconstruction process in Iraq.

Lest anyone think I'm being hopelessly naive, let me just say that of course the companies who were asked to bid are well connected with the government. That's how this country works. You can bet the list of companies wouldn't have looked any different were this project being done under the Clinton administration. In fact, The Times' article points out that one of the companies in the bidding group (The Parsons Corporation) did the majority of the reconstruction work in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Obviously, what is different is that the Bush administration has chosen to let US companies take the lead role, as opposed to the UN. Again, they're doing this for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with "giving a big fat wet kiss" to corporate interests to curry political favor here at home. But those on the left with an anti-capitalist instinct and a disdain for the Bush administration simply can't help but see it any other way.

INSIDE JOB: How terribly upset will those on the left be if this Washington Post story turns out to be true?

THE POLLS ARE IN: Another round of polls out this morning from USA Today/CNN/Gallup and The Washington Post/ABC News. It looks as if they both tick down just slightly from the snap polls taken on Iraqi Liberation Day (Click here to see all polling info). - T. Bevan 7:52 am

Thursday, April 17 2003
THE RAT PACK: I couldn't help but snicker when I saw this quote in Donald Lambro's piece in the Washington Times this morning:

"We have nine experienced presidential candidates blanketing the issues, and the economy is going to be at the forefront of these issues," Mr. McAuliffe said.

Characterizing Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, and Carol Mosley- Braun as "experienced" makes McAuliffe sound like the Iraqi Information Minister of the Democratic Party.

WILL IT BE THE ECONOMY STUPID?: On a more serious note, Lambro's article follows on the heels of front page stories yesterday in both The NY Times and The Boston Globe reporting that the success in Iraq leaves Dems on the blade of a double-edged sword. The rapid military victory has now cleared the way for the candidates to focus on the struggling economy, but they now face a president with (once again) soaring popularity and favorability ratings.

Still, this is invariably good news for the front-runners. John "Regime Change" Kerry can stop contradicting himself every few days. Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, and John Edwards can finally give speeches on topics other than the war and don't have to worry about getting booed off the stage by party activists.

But the question of national security remains. Just exactly how large will it continue to loom in the hearts and minds of voters to what extent will it nullify the political effects of a bad economy?

Conventional wisdom states that Bush's wartime popularity will fade and that, in the end, the economy will matter most and people will vote their pocketbooks. There is certainly a great degree of truth to this, though I think such an analysis underestimates the power of 9/11 as a watershed event in American history and the fact that it will always be the tragic anniversary seven weeks before election day. The issue becomes even more pronounced if the Dems are unable to field a candidate that can pass basic national security muster with the American public.

Don't be surprised if President Bush, as with the GOP in the 2002 elections, defies the laws of political gravity and wins reelection with an economy little better than it is today. It might very well be, at least with respect to President Bush and his leadership since 9/11, that the famous slogan coined by James Carville during 1992 should be changed for the 2004 race to read, "it's national security stupid."

GONE WITH THE WIND: Senator Fitzgerald's sudden announcement that he won't be seeking reelection has set off a flurry of speculation in the Land of Lincoln over potential replacement candidates. Former Governor Jim Edgar has already emerged as the front-runner and preferred pick of the state party and, it seems, the White House, but it's not clear at this point that Edgar is up for the run.

Even though Illinois continues to trend Democratic and the state GOP is still in virtual shambles, Edgar would be a difficult candidate to beat. He's still held in high esteem here and it doesn't look like any of the Dem candidates have enough stature to go toe-to-toe with him. But if Edgar chooses not to run, it's going to be a wide open race and I would say the Dems stand better than a 50/50 chance of picking up Fitzgerald's seat. - T. Bevan 7:36 am

Tuesday, April 15 2003
FITZGERALD QUITTING?: The Illinois Leader ran a story yesterday about rumors that Senator Fitzgerald is going to call it quits. Apparently his office is denying the story, though it's no secret Fitzgerald is by far the most vulnerable GOP incumbent in 2004 and has been facing the prospect of a primary challenge for months now. The Leader article suggests that some of the speculation over Fitzgerald's possible stepping aside stems from some of the intriguing questions asked in this poll, released by the Senator's office over the weekend.

For some background reading on the players in this race, here is a recent Sun-Times column listing potential GOP rivals for the seat and a Pantograph story on the leading Dem challengers. Hardcore junkies will also want to sift through

We'll try to post more on this story as it develops and to answer the $64,000 question: if Fitzgerald really isn't going to quit, then who is behind the spreading of these rumors? (Late update: The Tribune this morning reports that "First-term U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) told close associates Monday night that he would not seek re-election next year, saying he had 'no fire in the belly' and citing concerns about the personal cost of another campaign and the lament that his independence had left him with few political friends.")

DUMB AND DUMBER: I'm actually getting tired of posting on the subject, but the sheer level of stupidity and revisionism flowing forth from the left just continues to astound. Like this knucklehead, for example, quoted in an article in today's CS Monitor on the future of the antiwar movement:

"There's not one iota of proof yet that what the US has done there [in Iraq] has helped anyone," argues Bob Wing, one of the national leaders of New York-based United for Peace and Justice.

There are only about twenty-five million Iraqis who beg to differ with you, Bob. How out of touch with reality (and/or deceitfully partisan) can these people get?

We find at least part of the answer on the cover of the latest issue of The American Prospect. Harold Myerson, is his essay titled "The Most Dangerous President Ever: How and Why George W. Bush Undermines American Security", purposefully ignores both history and reality in his drive to lay a mark on Bush. Here's a taste:

I miss Ronald Reagan.

I know, I know: Reagan was our first president to proclaim government the problem, to cut taxes massively on the rich, to deliberately create a deficit so immense that the government's impoverishment did indeed become a problem. He waged a war of dubious merit and clear illegality in Central America; he pandered to the most bigoted elements in American society.

The United States would be a far better place had he not been elected.

Myerson is clearly in the 5% of the population who still long for the good old days of the Cold War, of Carter stagflation and malaise. It's a shame that the Berlin Wall came down, that freedom took root in Eastern Europe, that we rebuilt our military, that we nearly doubled revenues to the Federal Treasury during the 1980's thanks to tax relief, and that we secured an unfathomable peace dividend in the process.

A little further down in the article, Myerson demonstrates what happens when you go to press with a partisan hatchet job a little prematurely:

"In its overreliance on a small number of neo-friendly Iraqi expatriates to gauge the mood of the Iraqi people, in its belief that our forces would be greeted as liberators, the [Bush] administration has made almost the identical error that the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations made at the Bay of Pigs. In each instance, ideology and hope were substituted for factual assessment; in each instance, the people have not risen to join U.S.-backed forces (in Cuba) or U.S. forces (in Iraq) to overthrow their tyrant. In Iraq the administration has underestimated the size and intensity of the forces committed to fighting for Saddam Hussein -- forgetting everything we have learned about the infrastructure of a modern totalitarian state.


Last but not least, no Bush-hating piece would be complete without the ad hominem slur. In this case, Myerson goes for the calculated and despicable historical analogy:

"None of these presidents, great or awful, seems quite comparable to Bush the Younger. There is another, however, who comes to mind. He, too, had a relentlessly regional perspective, and a clear sense of estrangement from that part of America that did not support him. He was not much impressed with the claims of wage labor. His values were militaristic. He had dreams of building an empire at gunpoint. And he was willing to tear up the larger political order, which had worked reasonably well for about 60 years, to advance his factional cause. The American president -- though not of the United States -- whom George W. Bush most nearly resembles is the Confederacy's Jefferson Davis.

Yes, I know: Bush is no racist, and certainly no proponent of slavery. He is not grotesque; he is merely disgraceful. But, as with Davis, obtaining Bush's defeat is an urgent matter of national security -- and national honor."

There you have it: Reagan is the devil and Bush is Jefferson Davis. I remind you this is the cover story of one of the most prominent "intellectual journals" of the American left. No wonder the guys at The American Prospect keep losing money. - T. Bevan 7:24 am

Monday, April 14 2003
Go the spoils, right? Not if you're the NY Times editorial board, Bob Herbert or Naomi Klein. Let's take these one at a time, since they are all variations of the same theme.

The NY Times editorial board warns the Bush administration this morning about using a no-bid system for awarding reconstruction contracts in Iraq:

"Even if a legal basis can be found for these closed bidding arrangements, they are unacceptable. The Iraq war was fought in the name of high principles. Victory should not turn into an undeserved financial bonanza for companies that have cultivated close ties with the Bush administration."

The Times argues the Bush administration should adhere to WTO rules and open all contracts to all bidders, foreign and domestic. This, of course, appeals to the Times' sense of "fair play."

But just exactly how "fair" would it be to Americans, who are footing the entire $100 billion plus cost of this war, to allow those who did everything in their power to oppose this war - and in the case of France and Russia largely for their own commercial interests - to be back in on the bidding? Would it be "fair" for Americans to lose jobs because French and Russian companies, many of whom are either partially or fully subsidized by their governments, win contracts? Don't count on finding a lot of support for this position.

Contracts should be open to bidding, but only to corporations from coalition countries. France, Germany, Russia, China and the rest should have to watch from the sidelines as those who vigorously championed the liberation of Iraq also lead the rebuilding of the country.

Bob Herbert takes a little more extreme position, trying to personally damage Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld by implying he was an agent of an insider deal with Saddam back in the 1980's. Here is Herbert's conclusion:

"This unilateral war and the ouster of Saddam have given the hawks and their commercial allies carte blanche in Iraq. And the company with perhaps the sleekest and most effective of all the inside tracks, a company that is fairly panting with anticipation over oil and reconstruction contracts worth scores of billions of dollars, is of course the Bechtel Group of San Francisco."

It's a popular liberal line to attack any business connection among Republicans as nefarious (My God, Karl Rove owns three shares of Qualcomm!!!) and to use it, most times incorrectly, as a point of extrapolation. The idea that Don Rumsfeld is doing his job with an eye toward pleasing certain corporate influences is laughable to just about everyone except approving readers of the NY Times op-ed page.

(A quick note: if you read the piece carefully Herbert quotes from a Rumsfeld memo which states that "I raised the question of a pipeline through Jordan. He said he was familiar with the proposal. It apparently was a U.S. company's proposal. However, he was concerned about the proximity to Israel as the pipeline would enter the Gulf of Aqaba." Isn't it odd that Rumsfeld would write that it was "apparently" a U.S. company's proposal if he was working on behalf of Schultz and Bechtel?)

But you have to go across the pond to get the really extreme, paranoid leftist view of things. Naomi Klein writes in the Guardian not that the Bush administration is going to use postwar Iraq to peddle commercial influence with its big business cronies, but that peddling commercial influence was the whole reason for going to war in the first place:

So what is a recessionary, growth-addicted superpower to do? How about upgrading from Free Trade Lite, which wrestles market access through backroom bullying at the WTO, to Free Trade Supercharged, which seizes new markets on the battlefields of pre-emptive wars? After all, negotiations with sovereign countries can be hard. Far easier to just tear up the country, occupy it, then rebuild it the way you want. Bush hasn't abandoned free trade, as some have claimed, he just has a new doctrine: "Bomb before you buy".

It's hard not to be amused by stuff like this. What's truly ironic is that were this war conducted under the leadership of a Democratic administration, people like Ms. Klein would be writing about how the reconstruction of Iraq's schools, hospitals, and infrastructure would represent the noblesse oblige of liberals, rather than the greedy pillaging of conservatives.

BEING WRONG: William Raspberry serves up a spirited - though pathetic and misguided - defense of the antiwar position. This is no small feat, given the events of the last three weeks but Raspberry gives it a go anyway, saying that those who opposed the war "have nothing to apologize for."

First, we get this analogy:

"Take something as ordinary as this: Your nephew insists he wants to go into the widget business, and you, knowing a little something about widgets, offer your opinion that the timing is wrong, his business undercapitalized and his reading of the business climate about 180 degrees off. He shouldn't do it.

But if he does it anyway, do you have to hope his business fails so you can be proved right? Of course not. Once he launches, you have to hope he succeeds -- unless you care more about your analytical reputation than about your family."

Raspberry is a smart guy, so he purposefully doesn't draw this analogy out to completion because it further undermines his case. So let me do it for him: Despite your advice not to get into the widget business, your nephew goes on to have spectacular success become an instant millionaire. Your advice to him would have been incontrovertibly wrong. And as for your "analytical reputation", well, it would be in a shambles anyway. No one would ever take your advice about the widget business again. Nor should they.

Then we get this:

Shouldn't ... all of us who thought the war was hasty and dangerous and wrongheaded admit that we were wrong? I mean, with the pictures of those Iraqis dancing in the streets, hauling down statues of Saddam Hussein and gushing their thanks to the Americans, isn't it clear that President Bush and Britain's Tony Blair were right all along? If we believe it's a good thing that Hussein's regime has been dismantled, aren't we hypocritical not to acknowledge Bush's superior judgment?

Not at all. If the Iraqi people end up better off as a direct result of America's insistence on launching the war without the support of the United Nations, it won't be the first time that good outcomes have resulted from bad means. I don't doubt that there are some children who are healthier and happier than they would have been if they hadn't been stolen from their parents. Can't we wish the best for those children without condoning kidnapping?

Tortured logic is probably too kind of a phrase to describe this last paragraph. It's the sort of thing you resort to when you find yourself in the wrong but can't bring yourself to admit it. - T. Bevan 7:22 am

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