Friday, July 11 2003
BUSH LIED: I've been sitting back watching and digesting the enormous amount of panting going in the media and the blogosphere over the Bush/Niger (that's pronounced "nigh-jure" to me but "neesh-air" to most media elites) story.

Obviously, much is being made about the CBS News' claim yesterday that "Bush Knew Iraq Info Was Dubious." The story doesn't bear out this claim, but it does report that members of Bush's National Security Council were briefed that the intel on Niger's alleged uranium purchase was questionable. Okay, fine. We also learn from the story that apparently 1) both Condi Rice and Colin Powell read the speech before it was delivered and believed the CIA had cleared the Niger reference and 2) George Tenet never saw a final draft of the speech.

Then there's this little tidbit in today's Washington Post story about the CIA's effort to get the British to strip the reference to the Niger purchase from their official government dossier:

"We consulted about the paper and recommended against using that material," a senior administration official familiar with the intelligence program said. The British government rejected the U.S. suggestion, saying it had separate intelligence unavailable to the United States.

Putting the two stories together it seems reasonable to believe that the CIA was running around warning various people at various times about the "sketchy" nature of the Niger intel, but that there also still existed at least some evidence in September 2002 suggesting that the Niger story wasn't totally bogus. It also seems that there was some general confusion among the various high-level players in the administration as to who had seen which drafts of the speech, when they'd seen them and what they'd approved or thought had been approved.

Based on what we know so far, you can either believe that a mistake was made by allowing a claim based on questionable intelligence into Bush's State of the Union OR you can believe the President of the United States got up in front of the world and knowingly used information that had already been proved to be completely fraudulent to bolster the case for going to war.

In my mind the more plausible answer is that the administration failed to properly coordinate and vet the intelligence used in the speech. A mistake was made. The administration has admitted such. Does the fact that it was the SOTU magnify the mistake? Yes. And does the fact that it was related to the issue of going to war magnify the error even more? Of course.

It is certainly the right of liberals and Democrat presidential candidates to believe there was a vast conspiracy to mislead the American public and to scream "BUSH LIED" at the top of their lungs, but it strikes me as a little overly dramatic (even bordering on hysterical) and may not play quite as well with the public as they hope.

ADMIRING ISRAEL: Longtime RCP supporter Nathan Wirtschafter alerted us to this column by Amnon Rubinstein in Ha'aretz Daily this morning which offers an eloquent tribute to the strength of Israel's democracy:

No, we did not win, but Israeli society - to the surprise of many - proved wondrously resilient. Israel's achievement in this war is unique. In a situation of indiscriminate terror against civilians and intolerably difficult military service in the territories, the state allowed its citizens to leave the country. Even veteran democracies have forbidden their citizens to leave their borders during war or to take their currency out of the state. In Israel, both civilians and reservists can escape from the danger for the price of a plane ticket. Yet despite this, people did not flee the country and call-ups of the reserves were not impaired. No other state has ever experienced this phenomenon: hell at home and the door wide open, but nobody uses it.

Read the whole thing.

MORE SAVAGE: Bruce Bartlett passed along some additional thoughts on Michael Savage's firing that are worth a read:

I think the only reason he [Savage] got onto MSNBC in the first place is because its left-wing producers think all conservatives are exactly like him. I think they genuinely thought they were giving people like us what we wanted. And if they turned out to have made a mistake hiring him, it would be easier to discredit a more responsible conservative voice in the future. They can always say they gave a conservative a chance and see what happened. Win-win situation for the left, I would say.

Along these lines, I would add that oftentimes those on the right who are most widely quoted in the major media are not the best spokesmen. I think Jerry Fallwell, for example, gets invited on many liberal shows just so he will make a fool out of himself and discredit the whole conservative agenda. I know there are many occasions when I will talk to a reporter from, say, the New York Times and the next day see that they quoted some fool making idiotic comments on the same topic instead of me. I think this is one of the most effective elements of liberal bias.

I think there's a great deal of truth to this, and you don't have to look very far to see an example of exactly what Bartlett is talking about. - T. Bevan 8:32 am

Thursday, July 10 2003
TRICKY DICK: Let's compare:

"This president has a pattern of using excessive language in his speeches and off-the-cuff remarks. This continued recklessness represents a failure of presidential leadership."
- Richard Gephardt Press Release, July 8 2003.

"When I'm president, we'll have executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day."
- Richard Gephardt, June 23 2003

THE CULT OF ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM: For the first time in long time, Bob Herbert has written a column about race that is thoughtful, important, and free from the usual underlying tones of victimology.

Herbert takes a look the destructive cultural trend that has taken hold among African-American kids who believe that learning "is only for white kids." He tells the story of Caroline Jhingory, a 22-year old black woman from Washington D.C. who went off to college and returned to find that her friends treated her with derision and as an outsider. Herbert writes:

Ms. Jhingory had come face to face with the dilemma that many black youngsters encounter as they try to improve their lives by studying, going to college and making other efforts to escape the swarming tentacles of poverty and ignorance. Old friends and sometimes even relatives may see those courageous efforts as a threat, and react bitterly.

Though the trends seems new to Herbert, some African-Americans have been raising alarm bells about the issue for some time. Three years ago in his book called "Losing the Race," Dr. John McWhorter explored in detail the origins of what he termed a "cult of anti-intellectualism" that has taken root in African-American culture:

This anti-intellectual strain is inherited from whites having denied education to blacks for centuries, and has been concentrated by the Separatist trend, which in rejecting the "white" cannot help but cast books and school as suspicious and alien, not to be embraced by the authentically "black" person.

McWhorter argues that the pervasiveness of the cult of anti-intellectualism among the African-American community is responsible, far more than any other factor, for the achievement gap we continue to see between African-American students and white and Asian students.

But let's get back to Herbert for a second. If Herbert truly believes there is a deleterious anti-intellectual strain running through African-American communities, especially with respect to education, how does this square with his unwavering support for affirmative action?

Doesn't the lowering of academic standards under the guise of "diversity" merely reinforce the notion among African-Americans that they need not take education as seriously as other groups and that lower academic performance is not only acceptable but expected from them as a group? Herbert almost concedes as much in the second to last sentence of his column:

Then comes the flip side: the all-out wild child has to walk onto a college campus or into a professional environment, and suddenly the feelings of inadequacy swell up like a wave that is about to overwhelm you.

Indeed, McWhorter and others argue that the varied array of policies aimed at closing the educational achievement gap that we've seen come and go over the years - from ebonics to culture-neutral SAT's to affirmative action - seek to find ways of incorporating this cult of anti-intellectualism into the public school system rather than addressing the cause of the problem itself.

McWhorter believes that anti-intellectual attitudes have become so strong and so pervasive among the African-American community that radical changes to our system are required to change the educational paradigm, the social attitudes, and the peer pressure that currently inhibit so many bright young black students from excelling academically.

One idea is to open all-black elementary schools and high schools and create an environment where promising students (like the ones mentioned in Herbert's column) can pursue academic excellence without being encumbered by the social stigmas currently attached to such performance in urban public schools.

Even though this idea has merit and could possibly succeed in addressing the exact issue Herbert writes about in his column, I'd be absolutely shocked if Herbert would stand up in favor of the idea. Liberals would screech that this would be a return to segregation and that it's merely a diversionary tactic by conservatives to avoid spending more resources on public education.

The unfortunately truth is that Bob Herbert has admirably written about a serious problem in the African-American community, but I'm afraid the ideological rigidity of liberalism won't allow for even the slightest changes in public policy - like the implementation of school vouchers and educational choice - to help provide a remedy. - T. Bevan 8:04am

Wednesday, July 9 2003
IRANIAN HEROES: Yesterday the the 29 year-old Iranian twins' quest for individual freedom ended in death on an operating table in Singapore. Today, the entire world turns to watch, remember, and pray for those lost and those continuing to struggle for freedom in Iran.

Having just celebrated the day that marked the end of our own struggle for independence 227 years ago, Americans should continue to be thankful and proud of our freedom. Just as importantly, we should recommit ourselves to being passionate and tireless advocates for freedom around the world. Godspeed to the Iranian people.

RAMPAGING GUN CONTROL: After yesterday's dual rampages in Meridian, Mississippi and Bakersfield, California, you can be sure it won't take long for the press releases to start flowing from gun control groups.

But consider the two cases for a minute. In Meridian, it looks as if a guy who had a reputation for being aggressive and a borderline whacko finally just lost it and started shooting up the place. Six people died, including the gunman, and nine others were injured. The unfortunate truth is that there are absolutely no gun laws anyone can put on the books to prevent something like this from happening. None.

In Bakersfield, five people are dead from gunshot wounds: two women (aged 70 and 39) and three children (aged 4, 23 months, and 2 months). Police are currently looking for Vincent Brothers, a 41 year-old elementary school vice principal and ex-husband to the murdered mother. So far as we know, he was a well-liked man with no criminal record or history of violent assault - although he apparently did have a "turbulent" relationship with his ex-wife.

But again, short of completely erasing the Second Amendment from the Constitution and confiscating every gun in America, how exactly are the sort of things that happened in Bakersfield and Meridian preventable by passing more gun control legislation? The obvious answer is that, despite the horror we all feel when we see stories like this and the urge we feel to do something, they simply aren't preventable.

In fact, the only thing that might possibly have stopped either of these episodes from happening or might have saved a few of the lives lost yesterday is if the workers in the Mississippi factory or the women in the Bakersfield living room had guns themselves.

I'm not a gun owner and I'm not a person who advocates arming America to the teeth. I'm for moderate and reasonable gun control measures that are compatible with 2nd Amendment rights - just as there are moderate boundaries on one's 1st Amendment rights. We should allow states to pass laws that attempt to prevent bad people with bad intentions from getting their hands on guns and punish them when then do, so long as those laws don't unduly restrict a citizen's right to purchase and own a gun if they choose.

But even people who favor some form of gun control should be able to recognize that the moment the murderer walked through the door at the yellow stucco house on Third Street in Bakersfield, two innocent women and three innocent little children were doomed to certain death. With a gun, Joanie Harper, her mother and her children would have at least had a chance - no matter how small - to survive. - T. Bevan 8:33 am

Tuesday, July 8 2003
SAVAGE WARS: Michael Savage is gone - and MSNBC is a better network without him. I watched about five minutes of his show a few weeks ago and thought he came off as supremely arrogant, uninterested in engaging in serious debate and doomed to fail. I guess it was only a matter of time before the guy self destructed.

Even though a network spokesman said the decision to fire Savage was an "easy" one, the folks in MSNBC's programming department should be taken to task for putting Savage on the air in the first place - and not just because he may be a homophobe or a bigot.

The entire cable talk show industry formula is out of whack. You can't go around the country searching out the most outrageously loud and obnoxious people, put them on air and order them to generate instant ratings by being loud and obnoxious, and then fire them when they end up being loud and obnoxious.

Yes, Savage went beyond loud and obnoxious. Actually, it sounds like he went a bit insane. But in many ways Savage's outburst was not only predictable, it was exactly what the executives at MSNBC wanted from him. They put him on air for an hour every week and expect him to tiptoe along the fine line between outrageous, shocking, yet acceptable behavior and outrageous, shocking and unacceptable behavior.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not even remotely trying to defend what Savage said, it's just I'm not that surprised he said it, and neither should the folks at MSNBC who spent millions of dollars producing the show and signing the guy to a contract.

Bill O'Reilly is in much the same category: He's brash, boisterous and borderline rude with many of his guests. He' also smugly overconfident in his "working man of the people" routine. This combination is sometimes fun to watch if you agree with him, and absolutely unbearable to watch if you don't.

O'Reilly's already had a couple of near misses with self-immolation, once referring to Mexicans as "wetbacks" and making a joke at a gala charity dinner about some underprivileged kids stealing the hubcaps off of cars in the parking lot.

One of these days O'Reilly's going to put his foot in it but good. I suspect it will happen right about the time his ratings start to decline and he starts feeling the pressure keep the show on top.

Meanwhile, on the publishing side, Ann Coulter is taking an absolute beating over her new book, Treason: Richard Cohen, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Brendan Nyhan, Andrew Sullivan. Geez, even David Horowitz pans the book this morning over at FrongPage. I haven't seen such universally bad reviews on a single piece of work since Madonna made Swept Away.

But it's the same pattern with Coulter: conservative "bomb thrower" taps into huge, right-leaning media market and experiences phenomenal success. Bomb thrower gets bolder, Makes bigger, more elaborate bombs and throws them harder than ever at other side. Bombs explode in face.

Liberals do the same thing. It's just a fact of our current media environment and it's probably here to stay, which is too bad. We need to see and hear less from the Michael Savages and Michael Moores of the world and more from people who are interested in serious, thoughtful debate. It makes me miss the loss of another Michael more than ever. - T. Bevan 8:19 am

Monday, July 7 2003
THE "MUJAHEDEAN": Responses to my previous post encouraging Republicans to support Howard Dean were all across the board. One guy emailed to say he thought the idea was "pure genius" while another offered a less flattering description that included the word "dumbass."

Mostly, I seem to have offended Dean supporters who are shocked - absolutely shocked! - that anyone could have even the slightest doubt that the anti-war, pro-civil union former Governor of a small Northeastern state with no foreign policy or military experience will beat George Bush next year. Apparently, people who hold this view just "don't get it."

I spent part of the weekend reading through liberal blogs and message boards trying figure out exactly what it is I'm not getting. All I see is a replication of the recently burst Internet bubble with a political twist. This isn't some sort of political and techonological revolution, it's a bunch of hard core lefties in liberal urban centers donating money and getting together at Starbucks.

Is what is happening with Howard Dean unique? Sure it is, in the same way it was unique that thousands of Internet companies were pumped full of millions of dollars and momentarily defied gravity before shuttering their doors because they couldn't produce any sustained results. Not to mention that the press's love affair with the Dean storyline won't last forever.

The real question is does any of this help Dean beat Bush in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan or Missouri? Again, I don't see it happening (See Adam Nagourney's piece in today's NY Times). And neither does Mark Steyn, who does a terrific job (as usual) of summarizing the Vermont origins of the Howard Dean Kool-Aid effect:

Just because these ideas are a surefire vote-loser everywhere across the country doesn't mean they won't catch on if enough of the tiny minority that believes in them moves to one small underpopulated jurisdiction. To the starry-eyed Democrat activist, as Vermont goes, so (eventually) goes the nation.

Rounding out the "mujahedean" are those who acknowledge Dean is headed for certain doom but couldn't care less. As Kate O'Beirne observed last week:

The Democratic base is angry, and I think he [Dean] well represents their mood, and there are a whole lot of them pessimistic about the chances of any Democrat knocking off a popular George Bush, and I think Howard Dean appeals to the death with dignity Democrats who would rather go down with a true believer, as they see it, like Howard Dean, than a Bush-lite candidate.

Now cut to an email I received last Wednesday:

While I believe you are correct that Howard Dean has very little chance of beating Bush, I will be sending money to Dean - and not for the reason you cite.

There is nothing I would like more than to see the lying Straussain "philosophers" and "gentlemen" of the Bush administration go to jail for willingly sending American young people into peril based upon false pretenses. I think it likely that the New American Centurions will be permitted by a largely uninformed electorate (24% who think Iraq used WMDs on American troops and 14% of whom are unsure) to continue their pursuance of the new American Empire.

However, why would I support candidates of the DLC wing of the republican party? I would rather support a candidate that more nearly represents the traditions of the democratic party and see him or her go down in flames.

Think Kate hit the nail on the head? Still, combining the "Death With Dignity" crowd with the Kool-Aid drinking fanatacists leaves you with support that's only a couple inches wide - even if it does run a mile deep. This may win primaries but it doesn't win general elections.

SPONSORING LANCE : No question about it, Lance Armstrong is an American hero. He's also the highest paid civil servant in the country. The US Postal Service, which bills itself as a "semi-independent" federal agency, is the primary sponsor of Armstrong's racing team and thus the largest contributor to his salary, currently estimated at about $4 million per year.

By the way, the USPS lost $676 million last year. As a matter of fact, since Lance started his consecutive winning streak at the Tour de France in 1998 the USPS has lost about $2.192 billion and the cost of a stamp has increased from 33 to 37 cents.

So let's dispense with the facade that the USPS's sponsorship of Armstrong and the rest of the pro cycling team is anything other than a colossal waste of taxpayer money. I'm not saying having Lance on the federal dole is necessarily a bad thing, but if we're going to do it and every year the sponsorship is going to serve to boost revenues and attendance at the largest sporting event in the great nation of France, the least we could do is see to it that Lance and Co. are provided with a more befitting sponsor - like the US Armed Forces or the Department of Defense. - T. Bevan 8:43am

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