April 24 2004
GEPHARDT'S A CONTENDER: Let's get a couple of things straight
concerning the election next year, if the economy and the stock
market improve over the next 15 months President Bush will win,
period. The only real political question will be by how much.
The elections of 1984 (59%-41%) and 1988 (53%-46%) are probably
reasonable blueprints for the size of victory President Bush could
You can breakdown
the economic/stock market possibilities into three broad groups:
1) UP and IMPROVING, 2) FLAT and STAGNANT, and 3) DOWN and WORSENING.
Scenarios 2 and 3 are the only ones where the Democrats have a
chance to win.
For a Democratic
candidate there are two elections that will take place: first
the nominating process which will take place over the next 12
months and second the general election to take place next November.
To become President you have to win the first and then the second,
in that order. Gephardt's
bold move toward universal heath care gives him a chance to
win the Presidential exacta.
If you throw
out Bob Graham as a fringe candidate/VP wannabe, Gephardt and
Lieberman are the only Democratic candidates who pass the sniff
test on national security. In the post 9/11 world in which we
live, at least for election 2004, general election candidates
better have bonafide national security credentials if they want
to win. On paper, Kerry and Edwards will make the case that they
have those necessary national security credentials, but the public
can see through phony votes and calculated positions. Of the announced
candidates, Gephardt and Lieberman are really the only two who
project a strong and confidant image in combating terror and defending
the American people. (If the Democrats nominate Howard Dean, say
hello to 1972. Kucinich, Mosley-Braun and Sharpton are joke candidates,
though Sharpton may be able to cause quite a bit of mischief.)
now has a lot going for him. He's a seasoned politician who has
been a round the block a few times, not unimportant post 9/11.
He has very strong union backing, a key Democratic constituency.
He passes the sniff test on national security which makes him
electable in the general, which in turn makes him attractive behind
the scenes to the movers and shakers in the Democratic hierarchy
who want to win. By stepping out early with a bold
and ambitious plan to scrap all the Bush tax cuts and provide
health insurance for all Americans he has an issue he can
use to energize the Democratic left. If he is going to win the
nomination he will have to mend fences with this large and important
group who viscerally hate his stand on the war.
wisdom is this move by Gephardt helps him in the primaries, but
hurts him in the general. But I wonder just how much this would
hurt him in the general election. Remember, the only scenarios
where the Democrat has a chance to win are scenarios 2 and 3 where
the economy is stagnant or worsening. If the stock market continues
to fall and unemployment continues to rise scrapping the Bush
tax cut in exchange for universal heath care for all Americans
may make for a powerful campaign issue.
None of this
is meant to suggest I am endorsing Gephardt's proposal, which
from my early reading, looks to be a prescription for an economic
disaster. The point here is from a political stand point this
is a smart, strategic move from Gephardt. It gives him a big issue
to campaign on which might be enough to win him the nomination
in a crowded field.
wins the nomination he can throw Bob Graham on as VP. Suddenly
you have a Democratic ticket that is solid on national security,
likely to win California, New York, Missouri, Florida and if you
throw in a bad economy in a real position to upset a very strong
McIntyre 8:36 am
April 23 2003
ET TU, NEWTUS?: I'm afraid it's a
little bit worse than I'd expected. Let me first say that
I don't think Newt's critique of the State Department is completely
without merit., they've had (and continue to have) their struggles
and make mistakes. But it's fairly obvious from the full
text of the speech and from the public way the speech was
delivered that Newt's primary interest isn't really in reforming
the State Department but rather in taking a nice fat slap at Colin
meat of Newt's indictment:
State Department remained ineffective and incoherent, the French
launched a worldwide campaign to undermine the American position
and make the replacement of the Saddam dictatorship very difficult.
This included twisting Turkish arms to block a vote in favor
of the United States using Turkish soil to create a northern
front and appealing to the other members of the Security Council
to block a second resolution.
a pathetic public campaign of hand wringing and desperation
the State Department publicly failed to gain even a majority
of the votes on the UN Security Council for a second resolution.
Opposing America and a world of progress had somehow become
less attractive and more difficult than helping America eliminate
the fear of Saddam’s wicked regime.
the Defense Department was capable of overcoming losing access
to Turkey, losing public opinion support in Europe and the Middle
East and turned those disadvantages into a stunning victory
working in concert with our British allies and with support
largely secured by Centcom and DoD among the Gulf States. Had
Centcom and DoD been as ineffective at diplomacy as the State
Department (which is supposedly in charge of diplomacy) Kuwait
would not have been available, the Saudi air base would not
have been available, and the Jordanian passage of special forces
would not have been available, etc.
how much disdain Gingrich might have for the State Department,
it's wildly disingenuous to blame them for being on the short
end of a battle against world opinion at the UN or in the Turkish
parliament. After being on the losing end of so many of his own
battles with the press and public opinion Newt should know better.
Gingrich doesn't admit the obvious: Resolution 1441 was a diplomatic
victory and provided exactly the sort of cover the Bush administration
wanted and needed to move forward with the threat of force. The
battle in the UN Security Council to win a second resolution,
far from being the huge diplomatic failure that Gingrich asserts,
exposed the UNSC - at least in the eyes of the American public
- for being the ineffective debating club that it is.
paragraph quoted above, however, is the real giveaway. The idea
that the State Department's efforts in the months leading up to
the war were counterproductive to US interests but that Rumsfeld
and the DoD were able to succeed in spite of Powell &
Co. is just, to use Newt's term, "ludicrous."
obvious to anyone who follows the news that the State Deparment's
efforts were and continue to be made that much more difficult
by the impression (wrongly created I might add) of a trigger-happy,
warmongering Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld triumvirate that scares the
living piss out of the rest of the world.
to argue that Don Rumsfeld isn't the perfect person to be running
the DoD. But that doesn't mean that he or someone who shares his
thinking would be the best person to run State, as Gingrich seems
to suggest. Would the administration really be stronger with,
say, Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Perle as Secretary of State? Monopolies
of thought are extremely dangerous, and it's hard to imagine that
President Bush would be better served by one - especially since
the evidence indicates that Bush seems to agree with Powell's
advice at certain times and on certain issues.
left with then is that Gingrich is using the success of the war
in Iraq as an opportunity to promote the Rumsfeldian neocon view
and to take Colin Powell down a few notches by flaying his organization
publicly. This is the wrong time, the wrong fight, and the wrong
way to conduct a serious debate on the issue. You just don't take
such a historic victory, a weapon of invaluable rhetorical and
ideological value against your political adversaries, and turn
it against those who are on your team. -T.
Bevan 8:17 am
April 22 2003
I'm not sure the
speech Newt Gingrich is going to give today at the American
Enterprise Institute is going to be all that helpful. Actually,
I think it's a bad idea. As distressed as Gingrich may be over
Powell's decision to meet personally with Bashar Assad of Syria
- described in the article as the "last straw" for Newt
- nothing good is going to come from serving up such an aggressive,
wholesale indictment of Colin Powell and the State Department
in such a public way. Glenn Kessler reports in the Washington
said he plans to call for major overhaul of the State Department,
including hearings on Capitol Hill and an examination of the
department by a task force of retired foreign service officers.
He said he wanted to contrast the success of a transformed Defense
Department with the "failure of State," which he described as
"six months of diplomatic failure followed by one month of military
success now to be returned to diplomatic failure to exploit
the victory fully."
on the hill over the "failure of State?" The only words
that come to mind here are "extraordinarily unnecessary and
counterproductive." I'd prefer Congress spent less time on
superfluous oversight hearings and more time cutting my taxes
and protecting the country.
I think Gingrich is wrong on the merits. I don't think we've seen
a complete "failure" at the State Department over the
past six months. Nor do I see how Gingrich can lay the blame for
the antiwar, anti-American sentiment around the world leading
up to the war at the feet of Powell & Co. I'm a fairly creative
guy, but my brain simply cannot imagine a Newt Gingrich-run State
Department producing different - or better - results.
I like and
respect Gingrich but let's face it, diplomacy isn't really his
forte. It is, by definition, a skill of compromise and negotiation,
and one that is least effective when confined to a doctrine of
strict absolutes. This isn't to say our diplomacy shouldn't constantly
be guided by bedrock moral principals (like refusing to tolerate
corrupt regimes that engage in the terrorist trade), only to make
the simple observation that diplomacy is a finesse game rather
than an in-your-face game. And yes, Colin Powell has made mistakes
(as has Rumsfeld), but overall I think the guy has done an admirable
job under the circumstances.
I'm happy with the tension and the differing instincts between
State and Defense. While it never fails to provide a lot of grist
for the media mill, I think the passionate debate between the
two allows our President to make better decisions. I also happen
to think that when properly controlled the "good cop, bad
cop" routine has its advantages at the UN and overseas as
Don't miss this big,
long New York Times profile of the Bush reelection effort.
Be sure to make it all the way to the end for a couple of laugh-out-loud
descriptions of Dem presidential hopefuls by "unnamed"
AND KICKING: The Washington
Times reports that the Iraqi National Congress claims to be
hot on the heels of Saddam and one of his sons in eastern Iraq.
report didn't contain Frank Bruni's byline you'd swear it
was something straight out of a Monty Python script. - T.
Bevan 7:45 am