Friday, May 28 2004
John Kerry gave a big national security speech yesterday. In it he outlined four "imperatives" for his new national security policy: 1) build & strengthen international alliances, 2) modernize the military, 3) deploy all resources against terrorism (diplomatic, economic, etc), and 4) break our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

Numbers 2 & 3 are rhetorical window dressing. They are already being done by the Bush administration to great effect.

Number 4 is a political nod to the environmental wing of the Democratic party and a whack at Bush-Cheney Big Oil, but it's also a long-term plan (10 years) that may or may not produce any real gains in national security.

The real meat of John Kerry's new national security policy - and the distinction he's been trying to make between himself and the President for months now - is point number 1: John Kerry will rebuild the global alliances destroyed by George W. Bush over the last four years and restore the credibility of the United States within the international community.

Put aside, at least for the moment, that Kerry has repeatedly dismissed the coalition of 30-plus countries operating in Iraq as "fraudulent." Exactly how will President John Kerry accomplish the goal of rebuilding our alliances?

Out of a speech yesterday that was over 2,900 words long, Kerry devoted a measly 215 words to explaining the single most important imperative of his new national security policy. Here they are:

"The first new imperative represents a return to the principle that guided us in peril and victory through the past century – alliances matter, and the United States must lead them.

Never has this been more true than in the war on terrorism.

As president, my number one security goal will be to prevent the terrorists from gaining weapons of mass murder. And our overriding mission will be to disrupt and destroy their terrorist cells.

Because al Qaeda is a network with many branches, we must take the fight to the enemy on every continent – and enlist other countries in that cause.

America must always be the world’s paramount military power. But we can magnify our power through alliances. We simply can’t go it alone – or rely on a coalition of the few. The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale – to find the extremist groups, to guard ports and stadiums, to share intelligence, and to get the terrorists before they get us. In short, we need a “coalition of the able” – and in truth, no force on earth is more able than the United States and its allies.

We must build that force – and we can. We can be strong without being stubborn. Indeed, that is ultimately the only way we can succeed. "

That's it, folks. Personally, I'd say that's a little lean in the specifics department. Kerry's overarching national security vision boils down to something like, "trust me America, I'll get the French and Germans to like us again."

I'm being a little flip, but this is deadly serious stuff. The limitations (or perils, if you prefer) of a multilateralist driven foreign policy are real, especially if they are conducted at the direction of a person who has demonstrated such a marked capacity for ambivalence and an aversion to the use of force for anything other than humanitarian purposes.

In the Washington Post today, Jim VandeHei reports that Kerry's own advisors can't even explain when and where we might possibly exert force under his new vision:

Still, it is unclear how Kerry's multilateralism would administer military force. In a briefing before the speech, Kerry's foreign policy advisers said it is uncertain whether the senator from Massachusetts would have waged war with Iraq if he were president.

Since it seems unclear to some people, let me help clarify: there is no way - and I mean not a snowball's chance - that John Kerry would have taken military action against Saddam Hussein without the explicit authorization of the UN Security Council. Kerry has made it clear that the unanimous vote on Resolution 1441 calling for "severe consequences" against Saddam wasn't good enough.

Remember, Kerry wasn't even in favor of taking military action after Saddam Hussein had invaded another country and his army was pillaging Kuwait City in 1991.

Remember also that there wouldn't even have been a Resolution 1441 pushed through the Security Council in the first place if President Bush hadn't laid down the markers of just how serious a matter Iraq's full compliance was to the United States of America.

In other words, it's almost beyond dispute that if John Kerry were president, Saddam Hussein would still be in power. Hussein and his sons would still be running a rogue state, flouting international law, destabilizing the region, and profiting daily from a corrupt and scandalous UN -un oil-for-food program.

The more apt question - and one which I think does remain unclear given Kerry's overriding concern for multilaterism - is the following hypothetical: if for some reason one of our allies (France, Germany, and/or Russia) had objected to an invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, would John Kerry still have put boots on the ground? If faced with a similar choice in the future, what will he do?

As with so many other parts of his candidacy, Kerry is offering a return to the policies of the Clinton administration. His foreign policy vision is being crafted by the same people who led us through much of the 1990's: Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, William Perry, Richard Holbrooke, and Rand Beers.

Americans can make their own judgments about the consequences and results of the policies and policymakers who guided us before September 11. But Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Kerry advisor, doesn't paint too pretty a picture:

"They might as well go into the situation room and commit the same mistakes they did before," said Mr. Gelb, a former New York Times foreign affairs columnist. "The ideas they bring to the table are basically ideas that worried the American people for the last 20 years - whether Democrats are clear-sighted enough, tough enough."

To a very large degree the question this November will be whether the public wants to hand the keys to America's national security back to these people again. - T. Bevan 8:31 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Wednesday, May 26 2004
In an interview with The Hill yesterday, Richard Clarke claimed sole responsibility for authorizing the post-9/11 flight that allowed many of Osama bin Laden's relatives to leave the country.

The mystery of who authorized the flight has been a staple of the Michael Moore left for some time now, especially since 9/11 Commission Chairman Lee Hamilton mentioned publicly that the commissioners had asked the question at least "50 times" but had never gotten an answer. They have one now. Or do they?

In the interview Clarke said:

“I take responsibility for it. I don’t think it was a mistake, and I’d do it again...”

"It [authorization of the flight] didn’t get any higher than me. On 9-11, 9-12 and 9-13, many things didn’t get any higher than me. I decided it in consultation with the FBI.”

But Clarke's response seems to contradict his public testimony before the 9/11 Commission:

“The request came to me, and I refused to approve it,” Clarke testified. “I suggested that it be routed to the FBI and that the FBI look at the names of the individuals who were going to be on the passenger manifest and that they approve it or not. I spoke with the — at the time — No. 2 person in the FBI, Dale Watson, and asked him to deal with this issue. The FBI then approved … the flight.”

“That’s a little different than saying, ‘I claim sole responsibility for it now,’” Roemer said yesterday.

However, the FBI has denied approving the flight.

FBI spokeswoman Donna Spiser said, “We haven’t had anything to do with arranging and clearing the flights.”

“We did know who was on the flights and interviewed anyone we thought we needed to,” she said. “We didn’t interview 100 percent of the [passengers on the] flight. We didn’t think anyone on the flight was of investigative interest.”

When Roemer asked Clarke during the commission’s March hearing, “Who gave the final approval, then, to say, ‘Yes, you’re clear to go, it’s all right with the United States government,’” Clarke seemed to suggest it came from the White House.

“I believe after the FBI came back and said it was all right with them, we ran it through the decision process for all these decisions that we were making in those hours, which was the interagency Crisis Management Group on the video conference,” Clarke testified. “I was making or coordinating a lot of the decisions on 9-11 in the days immediately after. And I would love to be able to tell you who did it, who brought this proposal to me, but I don’t know. The two — since you press me, the two possibilities that are most likely are either the Department of State or the White House chief of staff’s office.”

Instead of putting the issue to rest, Clarke’s testimony fueled speculation among Democrats that someone higher up in the administration, perhaps White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, approved the flights.

“It couldn’t have come from Clarke. It should have come from someone further up the chain,” said a Democratic Senate aide who watched Clarke’s testimony.

Clarke’s testimony did not settle the issue for Roemer, either.

“It doesn’t seem that Richard Clarke had enough information to clear it,” Roemer said Monday.

“I just don’t think that the questions are resolved, and we need to dig deeper,” Roemer added. “Clarke sure didn’t seem to say that he was the final decisionmaker. I believe we need to continue to look for some more answers.”

Clarke says the issue of the flight is a "tempest in a teapot", but Chairman Hamilton warned that it is "a story that could shift" and it still "under review."

So what gives? On one hand, it looks pretty simple: Clarke was the person responsible for authorizing the flight. If so, then his testimony before the Commission was at best misleading and the fact he's kept silent about it knowing the Commission has been desperately seeking the answer shreds whatever is left of his credibility (which isn't much, if you ask me).

But if Clarke really was responsible for authorizing the flight for bin Laden's relatives it begs the obvious question: wouldn't someone from the White House have testified to that effect or leaked the information to the press?

On the other hand the article still seems to suggest, as do the quotes from Commissioner Roemer, that Clarke simply could not have been responsible for authorizing the flight on his own and had to have received direction from someone higher up in the White House. In other words, Clarke is taking the fall.

Why on earth would he do that? It makes absolutely no sense that Clarke would step up and fall on his sword to do the Bush administration any favors.

Nevertheless, Clarke is now on record saying he was the guy responsible for the flight. Watch how the left deals with this fact.

Will Al Franken apologize to President Bush on Air America? Will he even acknowledge the story at all? Will Michael Moore edit his award-winning film (which I believe contains references to Bush being directly responsible for spiriting bin Laden's relatives out of the country)?

Warning to my fellow Americans: do not hold your breath.

Or will the left turn on a person they've just spent months fawning over as a courageous, truth-telling whistleblower and now call Richard Clarke a liar? At least that would be a little more realistic, because Clarke was either lying before or he's lying now. - T. Bevan 8:03 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, May 25 2004:
To to all who contributed during our fund drive. It' a humbling and energizing experience to be on the receiving end of such a wave of support. We're truly grateful to everyone who gave so generously.

THE WINE & CHEESE BIAS AT CBS NEWS: Does CBS News conduct all of its polling at cocktail parties on the Upper East Side of Manhattan? That's what comes to mind after reading the thing they tried to pass off as an objective poll yesterday.

Thanks to the fact that two other polls were conducted over the same time period and released on the same day, we can get a better idea of just how the CBS poll compares:

Bush JA
CBS News

* This is the number for registered voters and differs from the "likely voter" number on our head-to-head poll page.

You'll notice the bias isn't pro-Kerry, it's anti-Bush. As we've mentioned before, CBS News/NY Times usually undersamples Republicans and oversamples Democrats and Independents, leading to weaker numbers all around for the President.

If you go back, as I did this morning, and look at job approval numbers from the same group of pollsters for the first five and a half months of 2004, you can see the consistency of the CBS/NYT bias more clearly.

In every instance except one this year (and a very iffy one at that), CBS/NYT produced the worst job approval number of any of the three polls during a comparative time period.

Averaging the numbers from 2004 yields the following result:

# Polls in '04
Avg Job Approval
Total # Polls/Median

So CBS/NYT is spitting out job approval numbers that run, on average, about 4.25% lower than their competitors and a full 3% lower than the average of all 29 polls taken by the three groups this year.

Is this a shocking revelation? Of course not. But it does help to quantify the anti-Bush bias inherent in the CBS/NYT polls and to provide a guideline for interpreting future results. - T. Bevan 9:03 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, May 24 2004
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STILL BUSH'S RACE TO LOSE: Five or six weeks ago there was a flurry of stories describing how Democrats were terribly concerned about the state of the Kerry campaign.

Only three or four weeks before that we witnessed the crescendo of Kerry's primary run and there was a lot of talk about how the White House had to "get in the game" and "get serious" with the campaign.

The latest flurry of punditry, brought on by the string of bad news in Iraq over the last few weeks, is best summed up by the theme "President Bush is in big trouble."

Everyone needs to settle down. Republicans should take a deep breath and perhaps take an early Memorial Day vacation and Democrats who are rubbing their hands thinking they are headed for the White House might want to temper their enthusiasm. President Bush is not nearly in as bad of shape as you would think from reading the papers or listening to the punditry on TV.

Yes, I know all about the falling job approval numbers, the right/track wrong/track polls, and about how no modern day President has won reelection with approval ratings below 50%. Lost in all the focus on particular polling, however, is an underappreciation of the significance of September 11, 2001 and the fact that America is at war.

I have said for months now that the more the country is focused on terror, Iraq and war the more it will ultimately benefit President Bush in the fall. While the media continues its gleeful self-flagellation over the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, the rest of the country has moved on in understanding the seriousness of the war and the context of the prisoner abuse in the larger scheme of things.

In many ways this election will be about whether the war in Iraq is more like World War II or Vietnam. Can you imagine hearing endless rants of defeatism in 1942: Why are are we in North Africa? Doesn't Roosevelt know it was the Japanese who attacked us in 1941? Can you imagine story after story on how we were abusing and humiliating poor Japanese and German prisoners?

Yet today all we hear from the mainstream media outlets is negative story after negative story. In an excellent article last week Mort Kondracke suggests that Congress and the media could talk the U.S. into defeat in Iraq.

The American establishment, led by the media and politicians, is in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq. And the results would be catastrophic.

The media - unperturbed by mistakenly likening both the Afghan war and last year's invasion of Iraq to Vietnam - focuses overwhelmingly on the bad news coming out of Iraq. There is plenty of bad news - but there is also much good, and it is being almost completely ignored.

Some Members of Congress - either out of a passion to defeat President Bush, pique at not being listened to by the Bush administration, or simply a need to hear their own voices - are declaring the war "unwinnable" or "a quagmire," or are demanding an "exit strategy."

Although everyone says they support American troops in Iraq, soldiers have to wonder whether the country is fully behind their mission. Iraqis, too, have to be wondering: Will America stay the course?

President Bush surely will. He strikes me as being as resolute as George Washington was at Valley Forge, Abraham Lincoln after the early defeats of the Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt in the darkest days of World War II. They didn't have "exit strategies," either.

We are at war and right now the war is not going very well. That is why the President's poll numbers are down. It's that simple.

What is not that simple, however, is taking the next step and assuming because the President's job approval is down John Kerry is going to win.

Eighty percent of the press may feel Iraq is more like Vietnam than WWII, but I get the feeling the majority of the American people aren't willing to concede that Iraq is another Vietnam.

And as long as America sees Iraq more like WWII and less like Vietnam, they won't want a President who just wants to get us out, they'll want a President who is willing to do what is necessary to win. It's going to be the number one factor in determining who wins the election this fall: which candidate is the best man to win the War on Terror?

President Bush is not hostage to events in Iraq and around the world as much as people think. The country is a lot tougher than the talking heads on TV and the prophets of doom in the press. Contrary to popular wisdom, events can get worse in Iraq and the country will hang in there as long as they believe there is a plan and a commitment to win. All President Bush has to do is show the same leadership he has shown since September 11th.

The President's biggest problem isn't Abu Ghraib or Al Sadr or Fallujah. His biggest problem - and the thing that most concerns the American public - is that for the last few weeks the White House has acted like it doesn't have a plan and doesn't know what it is doing.

I'm sympathetic to the difficulties in Iraq and I realize there are no easy answers. But the American people want more than just "stay the course" from the President. Unfortunately not only is the White House fighting the enemy in Iraq they are also constantly having to battle the forces of defeatism here at home.

The reason this race is still President Bush's to lose is because he is in control of whether he will show that leadership. I suspect he will. Amazingly, his opponents are once again "misunderestimating" him.

You would think after beating an incumbent Vice-President during a time of peace and prosperity and then personally carrying his party to an unprecedented victory in 2002, the prophets of George W. Bush's demise would be a little more circumspect in their predictions.

This is going to be a long 5 1/2 months until Nov. 2 and there are going to be many pendulum swings in the polls. Given the relatively even partisan split in the country we are probably headed for another close election. But I have news for all those cheering the President's current problems; George W. Bush is no Jimmy Carter. If there is going be a blow out this year, it's going to be the Democrats holding the short end of that stick. J. McIntyre 8:03 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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