Friday, July 18 2003
SCREW UP: Some of you may have noticed we've had an issue with the commentary page this morning. Here's the explanation: First and foremost, it started with me writing something I probably shouldn't have written (see below) suggesting that people who disagree with me should "move to another country." After rereading the post I felt the language was not only a bit over the top but also open to misinterpretation. But when I went to post an update, I screwed up the commentary page altogether and had to take today's entire blog down. Sorry.

Getting back to my comments this morning, bear with me for a moment while I employ the time-honored Congressional tactic of "revising and extending" my remarks.

One thing I did not mean to suggest is that it is America's responsibility to send military troops all over the globe trying to install Democratic regimes and alleviate suffering. Despite our passion for liberty at home and our desire to see it flourish around the globe, I'm not suggesting we need to invade China because they treat their people horribly or that it's our sole responsibility to stop civil wars in Liberia, Congo, the Sudan, etc.

What I do think, however, and where I think Blair was dead on the mark is that the spread of liberty ultimately enhances our security. And while I agree we should use diplomatic tools, economic tools, and any other tools at our disposal to encourage its spread and in its defense, there are times - as has been the case with Afghanistan and Iraq - where military force is an absolutely vital component of battling terrorism and making the world safer by breaking despotic regimes that harbor terrorists and replacing them with democracies.

Anyone who thinks we win the war on terror using all carrot and no stick is kidding themselves. People who believe we'll end up more secure using only military force are also being naive. What's most frustrating about liberal ideology in this country - and we're seeing a classic example of it now with the base of the Democrat party in the presidential race - is a refusal to acknowledge that military force is a legitimate and necessary response to combat the growing confluence of tyrannical regimes and terrorists, and also an easy acquiescence to the objections of other countries where U.S. national security interests are concerned. - T. Bevan 2:33pm

"THE TASK IS YOURS TO DO:" Here's hoping the Democrats spend as much time analyzing Tony Blair's speech yesterday as they've spent scrutinizing President Bush's SOTU. It was a remarkable tribute to our country, our values, and to the fundamental reason America has become the sole hyperpower in the world.

Blair's speech also laid out a convincing case for why we as a country, along with as many freedom loving allies as we can muster, have an obligation to use every means at our disposal to aggressively prevent the spread of terror and promote the spread of democracy around the world.

There's little doubt that some on the left will interpret these ideas as a facade designed to facilitate more "U.S. IMPERIALISM!" All I can say is: You're damn right. What we are talking about is an imperialism of freedom, of human rights and human dignity. Disagree on tactics and methods if you like, but if you can't support the passionate pursuit of liberty for your fellow man then move to another country that doesn't hold these values quite as dear as we do.

Bush gets it. Blair gets it. The leaders of Eastern Europe get it. It's time for the rest of the world to start getting it too.

DOES EMOTION EQUAL PATRIOTISM?: Anyone else see Fred Barnes tear up on the Special Report panel last night? Barnes was commenting this poignant passage in Blair's speech:

But, members of Congress, don't ever apologize for your values. (Applause.) Tell the world why you're proud of America. Tell them when "The Star-Spangled Banner" starts, Americans get to their feet -- Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Europeans, East Europeans, Jews, Muslims, white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers, and those whose English is the same as some New York cab drivers I've dealt with -- (laughter) -- but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress. Tell them why Americans, one and all, stand upright and respectful. Not because some state official told them to, but because whatever race, color, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's why they're proud.

Aside from the fact that I'm sure Ann Coulter will be calling Fred a "girly-boy" in some upcoming column, Barnes display of emotion intrigued me, not only because it mirrored the emotion I felt when I watched Blair's speech, but because it made me wonder whether such emotion is a measuring stick (albeit a crude one) of one's patriotism.

On one hand it's sort of an absurd idea. Some people are just more emotional than others and are stuck differently by different symbols or words. Mort Kondracke didn't tear up when he talked about the speech and that doesn't mean in any way that he isn't as patriotic as Barnes.

On the other hand, such a involuntary display of emotion is indicative of a deep, overwhelming sense of love and pride for America that can only be defined as patriotism.

There's no doubt all Americans feel this to a certain degree. But I found myself thinking that there is just no way you'd see Paul Krugman or Norman Mailer burst into tears under the same circumstances.

I'm sure I'll be pilloried in the blogosphere for "attacking" other people's patriotism. Maybe it is an unfair characterization. Maybe you can't measure the level of one's patriotism by the size of the lump they get in their throat when they think and speak about America. But then again, maybe you can.

SAY WHAT?: Last night Aaron Brown turned to Matt Frei, the Washington correspondent for BBC World News, to analyze Blair's speech. Frei couldn't even make it through an answer to Brown's first question without letting slip a noticeable anti-American bias. Check it out:

BROWN: How will the speech play, would you guess, back home?

FREI: Well, all the headlines apparently in London and in London newspapers are history will forgive us that line from the Blair speech and, of course, I think as Suzanne Malveaux pointed out perhaps the voters in parliament won't forgive Tony Blair.

The heat is certainly still on him but there's something that happens in the British voter even in the most skeptical British voter, a kind of chemical reaction when they see a British prime minister subject to a 14-minute standing ovation in (unintelligible).

I think even the most hardened critic will be quite warmed by that experience because, to be honest, everybody likes to be liked by America, even by this America.

What exactly does Frei mean by "this America?" Even the most charitable interpretation of Frei's remarks can't erase their disparaging and elitist tone . It's no wonder America has such a tough time fighting the public relations battle abroad when journalists from even our closest ally have an anti-American/anti-Bush administration bias that shapes the news they beam back home. - T Bevan 9:16 am

Thursday, July 17 2003
THE DEMS WORK ON BUSH: Ever shuck an oyster? You search along its seal until you find the right spot, ram the knife in then work like crazy twisting and turning to pry open the rest of the shell.

This is exactly what the Dems are trying to do to Bush. The Niger uranium story is the knife, and every Democrat within shouting distance of a microphone or television camera is scrambling to use the story to launch a broader attack upon the President's credibility and honesty.

It's a bizarre frenzy to watch, especially from a lackluster group of Democrat presidential candidates who didn't have much of anything newsworthy to say two weeks ago and are now falling all over themselves to see who can make the most outrageous claims possible.

Bob Graham, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and is on the record recently saying the intelligence against Iraq provided a "compelling case" for action, calls the president a liar in Newsday this morning.

Meanwhile John Kerry is inventing new "gaps" faster than we can count, declaring in just a matter of hours yesterday that America suffers from an "intelligence gap" and a Homeland Security "preparedness gap", both of which President Bush is responsible for.

According to Dem politicians and liberal columnists, Bush didn't just lie about the Niger uranium purchase. He lied about the aluminum tubes. He lied about al-Qaeda and Iraq. He lied about the cost and casualties of the war.

But wait, there's more: Bush lied about the deficit, Homeland Security, taxes, education, corporate corruption, the environment, even his shoe size and SAT scores. The Dem line of attack is quickly evolving into "you name it, Bush lied about it."

We'll have to wait and see if shouting "Liar, Liar Pants on Fire" will work for the Dems as an election strategy - it certainly didn't work for Republicans in 1996 or 1998. Then again, in '96 and '98 you had a stellar economy and a world class spin/attack machine defending the President. Right now Bush has neither. - T. Bevan 9:11 am

Wednesday, July 16 2003
CIVIL UNIONS "YES", GAY MARRIAGE "NO": The three Dem presidential candidates with the least chance of winning the nomination (Braun, Kucinich, and Sharpton) went on record yesterday supporting gay marriage. The rest of the attendees at the Human Rights Campaign forum (Graham and Edwards did not attend) said they support civil unions but not gay marriage.

Joe Lieberman and John Kerry were actually hissed at by the crowd when they offered the traditional view embraced by a large plurality of Americans that marriage is a social, civil, and religious covenant designated for a woman and a man.

As expected, Howard Dean was the crowd favorite, despite the fact he spent most of his time playing semantic games with Sam Donaldson over the definition of "civil union" and "marriage."

But it was Dean's closing statement that caught my attention - and actually made me laugh. He said that people ask him how on earth he is going to win the South. To illustrate the answer, Dean told a story of a gay WWII veteran living in the South who came up to thank him for his support of civil unions after a recent campaign stop. If Dean thinks the gay veteran vote is going to propel him to victory in the South, he's a bit more delusional than I thought.

TWO MISSING WORDS: Since the parlor game of the month seems to be parsing the President's speech, it occurred to me that the entire flap over Bush's State of the Union address could have been avoided by adding two simple words: "may have." As in:

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein may have recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Adding these two tiny words would have reflected the conflicting nature of intelligence reports without diluting the seriousness of the charge. Both statements are true, of course, but one is definitive and the other is not.

Two little words. No uproar. No apologies. No having to listen to Teddy Kennedy & Company's righteous indignation. What a shame. - T. Bevan 8:45 am

Tuesday, July 15 2003
LET THEM EAT YELLOWCAKE: The more I watch and listen to Democrats try and make hay out of the Niger uranium story, the more inclined I am to add four little letters beginning with "s" to the White House's assessment that it's just a bunch of "bull."

This morning the New York Times op-ed page floods the zone with an editorial that calls the Bush administration's depiction of Iraq's nuclear weapons program totally "indefensible." Is that so? Gail Collins obviously doesn't read the London Daily Telegraph which, oh by the way, reported the following yesterday:

British officials admitted that the country was Niger but insisted that the intelligence behind it was genuine and had nothing to do with the fake documents. It was convincing and they were sticking with it, the officials said.

They dismissed a report from a former US diplomat who was sent to Niger to investigate the claims and rejected them. "He seems to have asked a few people if it was true and when they said 'no' he accepted it all," one official said. "We see no reason at all to change our assessment."

The fake documents were not behind that assessment and were not seen by MI6 until after they were denounced by the IAEA. If MI6 had seen them earlier, it would have immediately advised the Americans that they were fakes.

Both Nick Kristof and Paul Krugman argue this morning that the Niger story is just one example of a larger pattern of "dishonesty" and "corruption" by the Bush administration with respect to manipulating intelligence to pursue a predetermined path in the war on terror.

As usual, Krugman's column struck me as particularly farfetched, especially this graf:

So the Iraq hawks set out to corrupt the process of intelligence assessment. On one side, nobody was held accountable for the failure to predict or prevent 9/11; on the other side, top intelligence officials were expected to support the case for an Iraq war.

According to Krugman, the Bush administration is to be held accountable both for not being sufficiently alarmist with respect to intelligence estimates prior to 9/11 and then for being unduly alarmist with those same intelligence estimates after 9/11.

Think about the absurdity and hypocrisy of this for a moment: Krugman wants to vilify the Bush administration for not piecing together scraps of intelligence, speculation and theory to "predict and prevent" a one-in-a-million terrorist attack scenario and then turn around and vilify the administration when they take seriously intelligence reports - reports that the British government continues to stand by even to this very moment - that Hussein attempted to purchase material to make a nuclear bomb.

The ridiculousness of this part of Krugman's argument does, I think, put a nice highlight on why this issue may not damage President Bush the way the Democrats hope and may even backfire on them in a big way.

Rather than offer up a clear cut case that "BUSH LIED!", what the Niger/uranium story does indicate explicitly to voters in this country is that if there is even the slightest indication that terrorists or rogue regimes around the world are trying to get their hands on WMD's, President Bush is willing to act swiftly and forcefully to take them down and defend America. This stands in stark - and I mean STARK- contrast to Howard "Let's Send Troops to Liberia but Not Iraq" Dean and most of the rest of the Dem presidential hopefuls.

So let the Dems eat yellowcake. Let them eat as much as they want. Here's hoping they choke on it.

THE NAACP THUGGERY: I'm continually amazed and astonished at the level of vitriol and verbal thuggery that accompanies the NAACP convention every year.

You probably saw the outrageous quote from Julian Bond the other day about racist Republicans. Yesterday, Kweisi Mfume used the rhetorical racial sledgehammer on the three Democrat presidential hopefuls who missed the event, telling them, "Your political capital is the equivalent of Confederate dollars."

The event - indeed the organization itself - has become so mean-spirited and misguided that fewer and fewer people can take it seriously. Instead of being a national forum to discuss serious issues of concern to the African-American community, the convention has turned into a 4 day hate-fest with the sole purpose of inflaming racial animosity in the country.

Two years ago I wrote about Mfume's similarly overheated convention rhetoric on the issue of police brutality. It's a very serious concern to African-Americans - indeed to most all Americans - and one that deserves our attention. But instead of trying to foster a constructive dialog on the issue, Mfume used the tragic case of Abner Louima to launch a gruesome, divisive diatribe:

"But what we do not support are all those others who believe that that badge and that night stick and that gun and that uniform have somehow given them the authority to take away the rights of others. They want to stick plungers up us. They want to beat us with telephone books and billy clubs. They want to smack on us and spit on us in the station house. They want to hold us down while we're being sodomized. They want to abuse us in our own communities and speak to us like dogs."

This sort of language is inflammatory and unnecessary, and ultimately it hurts the credibility of the NAACP much more than it helps. - T. Bevan 8:41 am

Monday, July 14, 2003
THE "INFAMOUS 16 WORDS": "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."Tim Russert on Meet the Press described this sentence by President Bush in the State of the Union as "the infamous words the president uttered on January 28th."

All of Washington and the weekend talk shows were in hysterics over the "False Statement in State of the Union Address." The Democrats running for President think they now have the goods to attack Bush on foreign policy and national security. Forgive me if I think this is all a political sideshow and a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking.

Kate O'Beirne on CNN's Capital Gang did one of the better jobs of summarizing the facts of this "scandal":

The dishonesty here are all of the people who are ignoring the facts to this hysterical reaction to the 16 words in the president's speech. It is, in fact, not true that a possible nuclear program was the most fundamental reason for going to war.

Colin Powell, when he made his case, which everyone agreed at the time was the most compelling case about the need to defend ourselves at the U.N., never mentioned a nuclear capacity. So that's just rewriting history.

Secondly, our intelligence agencies agreed in a confidential report last October, they all agreed, that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear program. They offered six reasons, none of which had anything to do with buying uranium from Africa.

Fact, the president said the British intelligence finds that Iraq has sought to buy uranium from Africa. That was true then, and it remains true. British intelligence still say that is the fact. They haven't shared the intelligence with us, but they still stick by that assessment, and they say it had nothing to do with the forged documents. Niger in the past had sold uranium to Iraq and lied about it. So certainly they're not going to be telling Joe Wilson whether or not they did so this time.

In fact, in the early '90s, we found Iraq's program was nuclear program was far more advanced than either the U.N. or the CIA thought. There should have been a presumption in favor of the British intelligence report being so, and they still stick by it.

Gee, you mean those "infamous words" the president uttered are actually true? Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see the huge scandal here. This sentence was a small piece of a very large argument for why the world needed to do something about Saddam Hussein.

The President came to the conclusion after 9/11 that Hussein's Iraq posed a threat to the U.S. and our allies and he made a decision to act and do something about that threat. A lot of these criticisms are very easy to make with 20/20 hindsight, but you have to remember before any war starts you can not be sure how things may go.

Given their honest belief that Hussein posed a real threat to the U.S., Bush's administration had an obligation to produce as much public support as possible for the country's effort in Iraq. It's not a shocking revelation that in attempting to do this the administration would choose to highlight any reasonably credible evidence available at the time that bolstered its argument.

Furthermore, it's very easy after the fact to say you shouldn't have included this or that piece of evidence. The flaw in this argument is that it assumes the "evidence" contained in the intelligence reports on which the White House rely are akin to simple math problems like 2+2=4 when they are really much more ambiguous documents that force policy makers to make judgment calls.

Secretary Rumsfeld captured the essence of it very well on Meet the Press:

I think that it would be fair for a listener to all this to make a judgment about it, and say, “Well, how do I feel about that?”

And I think the president understood that. When he went to the Congress, he said, “There’s no smoking gun.” This is a difficult problem. It is a very difficult problem for the world because at that point where a biological or a nuclear capability is transferred to a terrorist group or used, the penalty for the mistake, the error, the failure to act, is not 3,000 people, as we lost on September 11, it could be 30,000 or 100,000.

Now, how do you make those judgments? You make them honestly and directly and forthrightly, and you told people what you know and what you don’t know. And that’s what we’ve done.

I believe Bush and more importantly I trust this Administration's judgment. And I think the Democrats and the liberals in the media are going to be sorely disappointed when this story doesn't produce the political damage to the President they want. J. McIntyre 7:32 am

Sign up for free updates from RCP:

Our Favorite Blogs
Ashbrook Center
Best of the Web
Empower America
Geitner Simmons
Hit and Run
John Ellis
Patrick Ruffini
Political Wire
Rich Galen
The Scrum
Talking Points Memo
The Corner
The Note
The New Republic

The Optimate
The Volokh Conspiracy

3/24/03 - 3/30/03
2/3/03 - 2/9/03
1/27/03 - 2/2/03