Friday, June 11 2004
DO ME A FAVOR:
No blog today, just a quick favor to ask. I'm sure you know we read a lot of articles here at RCP - actually, it's heck of a lot more than a lot.

Over the last four years we've seen just about everything under the sun, from the best of the best to the worst of the worst. I must say, however, I've never come across anything as repugnant as this:

Is U.S. like Germany of the '30s?
ANDREW GREELEY

BERLIN -- I can understand, my German friend said, why Germans voted for Hitler in 1933 -- though he did not receive a majority of the vote. The Weimar Republic was weak and incompetent. The Great Depression had ruined the nation's war-devastated economy. People were bitter because they thought their leaders had betrayed them in the war. They wanted revenge for the humiliation of Versailles. Hitler promised strong leadership and a new beginning. But why did they continue to support that group of crazy drug addicts, thugs, killers and madmen?

The historical question remains. I leave aside the question of the guilt of the whole German people (a judgment beyond my competence because I am not God) and ask what explanations might account for what happened. Hitler turned the German economy around in short order. He was crazy, of course, a demagogic mystic sensitive to aspirations of the German spirit. He appealed skillfully to the dark side of the German heritage. Anti-Semitism was strong in Germany, as it was in most European countries, but not violent until Hitler manipulated it. He stirred up the memories of historic German military accomplishments and identified himself with Frederick the Great -- thus placating the Prussian ethos of the German army. He promised glory to a nation still smarting from the disaster of 1918. Germany was emerging from the ashes, strong and triumphant once again. He also took control of the police apparatus. The military might have been able to dump him till 1937. After that he was firmly in power. The path lay open to holocaust.

Can this model be useful to understand how contemporary America is engaged in a criminally unjust war that has turned much of the world against it, a war in which torture and murder have become routine? Has the combination of the World Trade Center attack and a president who believes his instructions come from God unleashed the dark side of the American heritage?

What is this dark side? I would suggest that it is the mix of Calvinist religious righteousness and ''my-country-right-or-wrong'' patriotism that dominated our treatment of blacks and American Indians for most of the country's history. It revealed itself in the American history of imperialism in Mexico and after the Spanish-American War in the Philippines. The ''manifest destiny'' of America was to do whatever it wanted to do, because it was strong and virtuous and chosen by God.

Today many Americans celebrate a ''strong'' leader who, like Woodrow Wilson, never wavers, never apologizes, never admits a mistake, never changes his mind, a leader with a firm ''Christian'' faith in his own righteousness. These Americans are delighted that he ignores the rest of the world and punishes the World Trade Center terrorism in Iraq. Mr. Bush is our kind of guy.

He is not another Hitler. Yet there is a certain parallelism. They have in common a demagogic appeal to the worst side of a country's heritage in a crisis. Bush is doubtless sincere in his vision of what is best for America. So too was Hitler. The crew around the president -- Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Karl Rove, the ''neo-cons'' like Paul Wolfowitz -- are not as crazy perhaps as Himmler and Goering and Goebbels. Yet like them, they are practitioners of the Big Lie -- weapons of mass destruction, Iraq democracy, only a few ''bad apples.''

Hitler's war was quantitatively different from the Iraq war, but qualitatively both were foolish, self-destructive and criminally unjust. This is a time of great peril in American history because a phony patriotism and an America-worshipping religion threaten the authentic American genius of tolerance and respect for other people.

The ''real'' America is still remembered here in Berlin for the enormous contributions of the Marshall Plan and the Berlin airlift -- America at its best. It is time to return to that generosity and grace.

The strongest criticism that the administration levels at Sen. John Kerry is that he changes his mind. In fact, instead of a president who claims an infallibility that exceeds that of the pope, America would be much better off with a president who, like John F. Kennedy, is honest enough to admit mistakes and secure enough to change his mind.

Jaw-dropping, no?

So do me a favor, email Andrew Greeley (agreel@aol.com) and let him know what you think. Don't forget to copy Steve Huntley, the editor of the Sun-Times editorial page (shuntley@suntimes.com).

Be nice, be thoughtful, but please explain to the misguided Mr. Greeley why he's got it so terribly backward. - T. Bevan 7:05am Link | Email | Send to a Friend
UPDATE:
A couple of people have emailed to let me know I failed to point out Andrew Greeley is a Catholic Priest. True. Here is an excerpt from the bio on his website:

One of the most influential Catholic thinkers and writers of our time, priest, sociologist, author and journalist Father Andrew M. Greeley has built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career that spans five decades. He is the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction and his writing has been translated into 12 languages. A Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, Father Greeley is a respected scholar whose current research focuses on the Sociology of Religion.

The fact Greeley claims to be "one of the most influential Catholic thinkers and writers of our time" (as opposed to just a run of the mill hack pundit) only makes his willingness to compare Bush, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft and Rove to Hitler, Himmler, Goering and Goebbels that much more sickening. - T. Bevan 9:31 am

Thursday, June 10 2004
MAKING SENSE OF THE TIMES:
New LA Times poll out this morning showing Kerry opening up a 7-point lead on Bush nationally. Not too surprising, really, given the source.

What is a bit surprising, however, is that the move toward Kerry comes despite a 51% job approval rating for President Bush, which is unchanged since the last LAT poll in March which had Kerry up three points.

The Times' says Bush's approval rating remains strong "partly because of his continuing strength on the terrorism issue and partly because of his virtually unanimous support from Republicans and independents who consider themselves conservative."

But this analysis seems to suggest a trend that's almost exactly opposite from what we've seen in other polls, namely, that Republicans and Independents have softened a bit on Bush's job approval rating but still support him as their choice over Kerry. Hence Bush has remained close in the horse race with Kerry despite job approval ratings dipping into the mid-to-low forties.

The LAT poll causes more head-sratching when you look at their state results, which are starkly at odds with other recent data.

Bush with an eleven point lead in Missouri? Not a chance. Even the biggest Bush booster in the country wouldn't claim that the President would win the Show-Me State by double digits as things stand right now. The latest polls show Bush has, at best, a tiny lead over Kerry.

In Ohio, three consecutive polls conducted during the last three weeks - including a Mason-Dixon one with a pretty big sample - show Bush with a small lead, but the LA Times has Kerry up by three.

Likewise, the last three polls in Wisconsin - albeit two from Zogby's online operation and one by a Dem firm - have Kerry ahead by sizeable margins. The LA Times has Bush up two. I suppose it's possible Bush has a small lead in Wisconsin, but not likely. With only two exceptions over the past three months (both Badger polls which I've been told over samples Republicans, by the way) the state has been leaning toward Kerry.

Finally, just from a common sense standpoint the LA Times state data is at odds with its own national results. If John Kerry really is leading by 6 or 7 points nationally then there is simply no way Bush is winning Missouri by 11 and Wisconsin by 2.

The LA Times poll does confirm one major trend: Bush continues to get poor ratings on his ability to handle the economy (43% in the Times poll), despite the fact the economy is doing quite well by almost every indication. Jonathan Weisman examines this issue in more detail in today's Washington Post.

There is still plenty of time for good economic news to seep in to voters' minds between now and the election, but it's looking more and more as if no matter how much the economy improves, the theme this November will be "it's Iraq, stupid."- T. Bevan 8:05am Link | Email | Send to a Friend
UPDATE:
Matthew Dowd says the LA Times poll is bogus (via First Read):

Bush campaign senior advisor Matthew Dowd tells First Read that the [LA Times] poll "is a mess. Bush is leading independents by three, ahead among Republicans by a larger margin than Kerry is ahead among Dems, and we are down by seven. Outrageous. And it gets worse. They have Dems leading generic congressional ballot by 19. This means this poll is too Democratic by 10 to 12 points."

Dowd adds, "Apparently the Los Angeles Times has uncovered a Democratic revolution in this country that has happened in the last ten days."

All this may be true, but that makes it even more bizarre that the Times would have Bush up by 11 points in Missouri and 2 in Wisconsin. Something is definitely not right with the numbers.

Wednesday June 9 2004
THE DRUMBEAT OF PROGRESS:
Continues in Iraq. Even The Guardian grudgingly concedes the resolution is a step forward and "could give more credibility to Washington's case that real sovereignty will be transferred to Baghdad at the end of this month and that in turn increases the likelihood of a stable sovereign government emerging from the whole sorry saga."

It's only fitting that the LA Times would credit the diplomatic success at the UN yesterday to the magnanimity of our European friends and President Bush's willingness to throw himself at the mercy of the leaders at the G8 summit:

June 9, 2004
NEWS ANALYSIS
U.S. Finds Humility, Compromise Go Long Way With G-8
By Mary Curtius, Times Staff Writer

SAVANNAH, Ga. — President Bush traveled to this week's Group of 8 summit of industrialized nations, searching for commitments of help in Iraq and for partners in his efforts to promote democratic reform in the Middle East.

The president appears to be getting his wishes — thanks to changing circumstances and the Bush administration's recent willingness to compromise.

Some of the nations that harshly criticized the decision to go to war now say they have little choice but to help the U.S. succeed in Iraq. Diplomats from these nations say they are lending their support because the security of the world is at stake....

Diplomats said the U.S. showed humility in pre-summit negotiations. "And with humility, perhaps, comes the beginning of wisdom," the French diplomat said dryly.

Oui! It's probably impossible for Ms. Curtius to wrap her head around the idea that there was, in fact, a very serious security issue while Saddam Hussein was in power, flouting international law and coddling terrorists. It was an issue the UN Security Council recognized for years but failed to act upon, and one that after 9/11 President Bush decided was not subject to compromise.

More to the point, however, is the mischaracterization that France, Germany and Russia have come running to the rescue. Even though US is and has always been willing to compromise within reason, it seems to me we gave up very little of significance yesterday. Much of this is due to the fact that we've already done a good deal of the heavy lifting in Iraq - weathered the storm, so to speak, with leadership, determination and sacrifice - and we've left our allies with very little to find objectionable in helping finish the task of promoting a free and democratic Iraq.

P.S.: Guess what? We're making progress in other places as well.

WATCHING NUNN: I'm sure it's just coincidence. Last week John Kerry announced that one of the primary national security goals of his administration will be to lead a worldwide alliance devoted to the safeguarding of nuclear materials around the globe. It's a shrewd tactic that helps Kerry get to the right of George W. Bush on national security in a way that's completely in sync with the base of the party.

On the same day, political guru Charlie Cook floated Sam Nunn's name - along with Wes Clark - as a possible VP pick for Kerry to shore up the national security credentials of the Democratic ticket:

"Over the last month, Iraq has come to completely dominate the issue agenda. How long this lasts is anyone's guess. But if it continues to be the case six weeks from now, when Kerry has to narrow the field and make a final choice, this raises the issue that he might need to "heavy up" on the national security side. This would mean picking someone whose credentials on that front are so stellar that Americans would see the new team hitting the ground running with no transition time, while feeling more comfortable with the new Democratic team in this more dangerous world.

Alas, the Democratic bench is not a deep one. In fact, you're really left with two names: retired Gen. Wesley Clark and former Senate Armed Services Chairman Sam Nunn of Georgia.

Is Nunn or Clark likely to be picked by Kerry? Probably not. But an election that is driven either exclusively or even primarily by foreign policy -- with Democrats campaigning on the issue of failed Republican national security policy -- might yield a ticket that would look very different from more normal circumstances."

Then yesterday, lo and behold, up pops an op-ed in the Washington Post co-authored by Sam Nunn urging G8 leaders to "take concrete and urgent steps" to safeguard nuclear material to prevent al Qaeda from becoming "the world's 10th nuclear power."

I agree with Charlie Cook that Nunn remains a long shot. He could give Kerry some much needed help in the national security department. But Nunn would make a lot more sense as a running mate if John Kerry had a prayer of winning even a couple of Southern states outside of Florida - which he doesn't.

Still, with the economy continuing to improve and dissipating as a political issue, Kerry may find himself wanting someone like Nunn to help cement a serious purpose for his campaign that resonates nationally, rather than a person who delivers little more than helping Kerry try to win a single, targeted state.

BALLANCE RESIGNS: From the Raleigh News & Observer:

U.S. Rep. Frank Ballance, a political power in northeastern North Carolina who is facing a federal investigation and a debilitating disease, said Tuesday that he is stepping down because of poor health.

While in the Senate, Ballance channeled more than $2 million in state grants to the John A. Hyman Memorial Youth Foundation in Warrenton. He helped start the nonprofit drug-abuse prevention and treatment program and served as its board chairman.

The foundation failed to file required financial reports with the IRS and the state, and legislators cut the foundation from the state budget last year.

A state audit later found that Ballance approved payments for services provided by his family, campaign staff and campaign contributors. The audit questioned about $325,000 in spending from July 1, 2000, to April 30, 2003.

The foundation is under a federal grand jury investigation.

And you wonder why politicians have such a bad reputation in this country. I know, innocent until proven guilty.

BROKAW EDITS BUSH: N.E. Republican raises eyebrows with a look at the editing habits of Tom Brokaw and NBC News.

QUOTE OF THE (YESTER)DAY: "Michael Moore's previous book was Stupid White Men, titled in a spirit of gentle persuasion unmatched since Martin Luther, that original Antinomian, wrote Against the Murderous and Thieving Hordes of Peasants. Moore's new book, Dude, Where's My Country?, contains ten chapters of fulminations convincing the convinced. However, Moore does include one chapter on how to argue with a conservative. As if. Approached by someone like Michael Moore, a conservative would drop a quarter in Moore's Starbucks cup and hurriedly walk away." - P.J. O'Rourke in The Atltantic Monthly. - T. Bevan 10:05am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday June 8 2004
DEFENDING BLANKLEY:
Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley caused a mini-uproar in the blogosphere with his recent comments on George Soros. As you're probably aware, Soros caused an uproar of his own last week when he compared Abu Ghraib with 9/11 at a meeting of the liberal group Campaign for America's Future. Soros said:

"I think that those pictures (the Abu Ghraib pictures) hit us the same way as the terrorist attack itself. Not quite with the same force because the terrorist attack, we were the victims."

The following day Blankley appeared on FNC's Hannity & Colmes program with Democratic strategist Richard Aborn to discuss Soros' remarks. I've excerpted Blankley's comments in full from the running dialogue between Hannity, Colmes, Aborn and Blankley:

"Look, if he wasn't a multibillionaire he'd just be another ignored left-wing crank, but we all pay more attention to people who have several billion dollars. And so people are paying some attention to it. I actually don't terribly worry about this kind of idiotic statements. Because -- I used to get angry as in your previous segment, when ... made the language he used. But I found that American politics tends to be self-correcting, and when people like this make these extraordinary and outrageous statements. ....

It bounces back against them, and, you know, we're commenting on it. I think the public knows -- this man by the way...

Any elected politician has to be very careful who they share the ... with. And I think Hillary made a mistake in being on the same platform with statements that I don't think she would be prepared to make.....

Yes, Americans have all rejected those photos. But let's get back to Soros. This a man who blamed the Jews for anti-Semitism, getting Abe Fluxman [sic]-- excuse me -- head of the Anti-Defamation League to call it an obscene statement. This is a man who, when he was plundering the world's currencies in England in '92, he caused a Southeastern Asian financial crises in '97.....

He said that he has no moral responsibility for the consequences of his financial actions. He is a self-admitted atheist. He was a Jew who figured out a way to survive the holocaust.....

When a man with this kind -- when a man is with this kind of money, and he's spending it on trying to influence the American public in an election -- trying to buy the election; he is not going to -- we have a right to know what kind of an unscrupulous man he is.

I know. He supported the abortion movement... .

He's a robber baron, a pirate capitalist and he's -- he is a reckless man.....

He supported abortion in Eastern Europe in a country that's losing population. He's a self-admitted atheist, I think he's a very bad influence in the world. He's entitled to spend his money, and the public is entitled to know what kind of a man he is.

Let me state up front that I didn't see this exchange live, and that can often make a big difference in trying to figure out the intent of what one reads later in print.

However, I have watched and read Tony Blankley for a very long time. I've also had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple of occasions and talking to him privately about politics. I can't think of a single thing he's ever written or said throughout the years that would suggest he is even remotely anti-Semitic, and I doubt his current critics could, either.

Yet this one exchange seems to be enough for many on the left to conclude Blankley is a Jew-hater. Josh Marshall castigates Blankley's comments on Hannity & Colmes:

A "a self-admitted atheist" and "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust", has the man no shame?

And what's the point of that last line, exactly? A Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust? Tell me the subtext of that remark. It is rather telling how quickly those who used the charge of anti-Semitism as a political tool during the debate over the war now slide their hand back into the glove.

Given Blankley's professional background I guess we shouldn't be overly surprised that this sort of rhetorical dexterity is the handmaiden of verbal butchery or that the anti-Semitic playbook is so tempting, so ... well, so difficult to resist and so natural as it glides off the tongue.

In any case, Soros does deserve scrutiny, as anyone who puts such large sums of money into the political process does, just as Richard Scaife deserves the scrutiny which he has gotten. But it is no less important to call right-wing publications like these on their lies about Soros, and even more when outlets like CNN pick those lies up and run with them. And, of course, it's so important to make sure everyone takes note when someone like Blankley gets sloppy and lets his sanguinary hoofs and fangs show.

So, so important. (Emphasis added.)

I love the "Given Blankley's professional background guess we shouldn't be overly surprised..." In other words, Blankley used to work for Newt Gingrich and now works for the Washington Times, so is it any surprise he's a bigoted, anti-Semite with "hoofs and fangs?"

Kevin Drum over at The Washington Monthly chimes in:

Media Matters has the story on Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley's odious bloviating on Sean Hannity's show:

BLANKLEY: This is a man who has blamed the Jews for anti-Semitism....This is a man who, when he was plundering the world's currencies, in England in '92, he caused the Southeast Asian financial crisis in '97....He said that he has no moral responsibility for the consequences of his financial actions. He is a self-admitted atheist, he was a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust.

Translation: he's a Jew-hating Jew, he's a greedy Jew, he's a conniving and heartless Jew, he's an atheistic Jew, and he's a Jew who must have been (if you get my drift, wink wink) a Nazi collaborator. Anyone who's not a child knows perfectly well what Blankley was saying here.

It's nice that Drum and Marshall know perfectly well that Blankley is appealing to anti-Semitism in trying to defame Soros, but I suspect it is Drum and Marshall who are really doing the defaming.

It seems to me the essence of the point Blankley was trying to make - which he could have done a better job by using a little different phrasing - is that as a Jew who did escape Hitler's attempt to exterminate all of European Jewry, Soros should of all people be a little more aware of the forces in the world today who still would like nothing more than to see the Jews gone.

Blankley's comment about Soros being an atheist is a little gratuitous, but at the same time it seems reasonable to me that the public is entitled to know the religious beliefs of the man who is spending millions to influence the upcoming election.

Do you think if there was a multibillionaire hard-right, fundamentalist Christian spending millions to elect President Bush the media would suggest that person's religious views weren't relevant?

To be honest, the "robber baron, pirate capitalist" comment by Blankley seems to me where he is most vulnerable to being charged, not with anti-Semitism but with hypocrisy.

Soros made his money legally engaging in the capitalist financial system that exists and that Blankley to my knowledge enthusiastically supports. Unless Blankley is willing to criticize other financiers, speculators and hedge fund operators, he opens himself up to the criticism that his "robber baron, pirate capitalist" attack on Soros is a selective cheap shot based more on Soros' politics than how he acquired his wealth.

The point here isn't whether Blankley was making the best attack on George Soros, but how the left pulls out several phrases and then attempts to brand someone they ideologically disagree with as a bigot. This is a common tactic liberals use to try and discredit and silence their opponents.

The critics of Tony Blankley are going to have to come up with something a little more substantive than this single episode if they expect to have any credibility in accusing Blankley of trafficking in anti-Semitism.

Perhaps the bigger issue here isn't the cheap attempt to slur Blankley, but rather the desire to halt or slow the movement of many Jews from the Democratic Party to the GOP.

An important electoral subtext of the post 9/11 world we live in and President Bush's bold foreign policy is that many Jewish Americans are reconsidering their long held relationship with the Democratic Party.

This is not a small concern within Democratic circles and is I think one of the reasons Florida (barring Nelson or Graham on the ticket) will not be nearly as close as the pundits currently think. - J. McIntyre 10:08 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday June 7 2004
NINE WORDS ABOUT REAGAN:
I suppose I'm committing a bit of heresy by quoting Edmund Morris on Ronald Reagan. Still, at the very beginning of 'Dutch', Morris put down nine words that have stuck with me for years and I suspect will never leave:

"History admires the wise, but it elevates the brave."

America has long recognized Reagan's capacity for courage in various forms (physical, political, and moral), but in the two decades since his Presidency the country has rapidly come to an understanding of just how much wisdom Reagan possessed as a leader, especially with respect to his views on Communism.

Reagan was right about Communism - more so than all of his critics and even some of his supporters - and his conviction to the wisdom that Communism was a morally bankrupt ideology destined for the ash heap of history literally and irrevocably changed the course of the world. It's the single greatest reason Reagan will forever be both elevated and admired by history.

CALCULATING RASMUSSEN: ***Warning: we're about to engange in some serious speculation. All caveats to state polling data this far out from the election apply. In other words, taking any of this stuff too seriously until after Labor Day would be a mistake.***

As many of you know, Scott Rasmussen has unleashed a torrent of state polls over the past week, with more coming out this afternoon.

So far, Rasmussen has surveyed eight battleground states (AR, ME, MI, MN, MO, OH, OR, & PA) and 11 non-battleground states (AL, CA, GA, IL, NJ, NY, NC, OK, SC, TX, & VA).

For fun, I threw his results into the Wall Street Journal's new Electoral College Calculator and got the following tally: Bush 255, Kerry 199.

If you look at Rasmussen's results in the battleground states, however, you see that three of the eight show a one-point margin (MO, OR, & PA) and one of them shows a two-point lead (OH). All four are currently in Bush's column but could easily go to Kerry, which would yield an electoral total of Kerry 258, Bush 196.

But going back, if you take Rasmussen's recent results as spot on (see the warning at the beginning of this post) and work from a base EC tally of 255 Bush and 199 Kerry, then add in the remaining battleground states based on the most recent legitimate poll (which excludes Zogby's online stuff) it would go like this: Arizona to Bush, Iowa to Kerry, New Hampshire to Kerry, Washington to Kerry, West Virginia to Bush.

Nevada, New Mexico and Florida are too close to call - but they wouldn't matter anyway because you'd already have a total of Bush 270, Kerry 231.

The linchpin to this whole scenario is Pennsylvania, where Rasmussen has Bush ahead by a point but other recent surveys have shown Kerry ahead by 3-5 points. If Kerry wins PA, the tally moves to Kerry 252, Bush 249. Nevada and New Mexico remain irrelevant, and Florida becomes ground zero - again.

One final iteration to this scenario - which isn't very farfetched at all - is that in addition to winning Pennsylvania Kerry also picks up Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico but loses Florida. The result: Bush 269, Kerry 269.

DEAN QUIXOTE: A chuckle-filled article on Howard Dean in today's Wall Street Journal. He's still out and about, chasing the youth vote that served him so well this past primary season.

Howard Power™ currently includes a "spin-off" organization trying to sign kids up at concerts like "Dr. Dog" and pushing to reinvigorate that political powerhouse "Punx for Dean."

I jest because I care. I really wanted Howard Dean to be the nominee of the Democratic party this year. Reeaally wanted it. But he's not, and you can see why. Describing his failed bid for the White House and the movement behind it, Dean responded:

"I never really had a chance to look under the hood of the campaign until it was over."

What sort of clueless response is that?

A better description of the Dean run and his post-campaign activity is provided by his former pollster, Paul Maslin, who said: "The circus left town but the act remains." - T. Bevan 10:05am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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