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.
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
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.
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.
JOB: How terribly upset will those on the left be if this
Washington Post story turns out to be true?
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
here to see all polling info). -
T. Bevan 7:52
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:
have nine experienced presidential candidates blanketing the
issues, and the economy is going to be at the forefront of these
issues," Mr. McAuliffe said.
Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, and Carol Mosley- Braun as "experienced"
makes McAuliffe sound like the Iraqi Information Minister of the
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
April 15 2003
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.
background reading on the players in this race, here is a recent
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
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.")
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:
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.
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 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.
United States would be a far better place had he not been elected.
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.
further down in the article, Myerson demonstrates what happens
when you go to press with a partisan hatchet job a little prematurely:
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.
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:
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
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."
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
April 14 2003
TO THE VICTOR: Go the spoils, right? Not if you're
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.
Times editorial board warns the Bush administration this morning
about using a no-bid system for awarding reconstruction contracts
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."
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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:
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
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
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."
get this analogy:
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.
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."
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
... 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?
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?
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