Sunday Thoughts

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Every single bit of major U.S. political news this week is just rehashing of the same old things. We already new Kerry was going to win the nomination. We already knew there were intelligence failures, and that there would be an investigation. We already knew Pakistan had sold nuclear secrets to North Korea. YAWN.


So I am going to start this week with something you may not have heard of. The Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker, was on John McLaughlin's interview show last week, and he lambasted the spending of the Republicans. He didn't single out the Republicans, of course, but they are the ones in control. Head on over to the GAO web site and read his speech to the National Press Club.

One of the most interesting things he talked about, which is also in the speech, is that while we have a debt of $7 trillion ($1t in assets, $8t in liabilities), we have many trillion more in liabilities in various borrowed-from "trust funds," and other things like promised benefits which have yet to be funded. Walker says the actual liabilities are about four times the $7 trillion figure we often hear quoted, closer to $30 trillion.



Speaking of debt, someone on This Week commented that personal debt is at an all-time high, and George Will quipped, that's because there's never been a better time to be in debt. He's got a good point. We create a society where being in debt doesn't really hurt you, for the most part, so people are, unfortunately, more likely to be in debt.


What happened in Pakistan this week demonstrates why Pakistan is a good case study for those -- like Howard Dean -- who cannot understand why we would invade Iraq over WMD, regional security, etc. but not other nations. Pakistan has admitted to selling nuclear secrets to enemies of the Western world (well, they say it was only the one scientist who did it, but they pardoned him, which is telling), and we are doing nothing against Pakistan. Why?

Three major reasons: 1. it isn't continuing to happen so there's no reason to go in with guns blazing; 2. we need Pakistan's help in the transformation of the region; 3. Pakistan would be much harder to transform itself, as it has a much higher concentration of Islamist extremists and terrorists, to the point where the U.S. does not want democracy in Pakistan at this time, and fully supports the man who removed the democratic government with a military coup.

In other words, there is no upside to invading Pakistan, booting Musharraf, or otherwise acting against his government. It's all downside. And if it looks like Bush is just allowing them to get away with something bad they did, it is because he is. There's nothing else he can do right now.

Bush Meets the Press

President Bush met the press this weekend, and he gave a fine performance. His answers on the economy weren't great, but no one really cares: all they care about is more jobs, and that is something we either will or won't have in 6 months.

I'm not saying the economy is not important, and that everythging he said about it is OK, just that in political terms, voters don't care about the deficit or debt, as long as they have jobs and can afford a house.

His answers on the war in Iraq were the best I've heard from him in a long time. I was disappointed by the recent speeches where he reiterated his reasons for war, but this interview was good. He did repeat himself too much, and he is really hurting himself by appearing defensive (I've never seen such a defensive State of the Union), and that didn't stop, but his answers were better.

What I was most pleased with was that he went back to his argument that getting rid of Hussein and transforming Iraq into a "free Iraq" is key in the transforming of the entire Middle East region, which is key in combatting the Islamist terrorist threat.

Now, perhaps I am biased here, as this is has always been my major reason for supporting the war, but it also happens to be, as best I can tell, the main reason we went to war in the first place. Not because of WMD, not because of the "grave and gathering danger" posed by Iraq's WMD knowledge, not because of humanitarian concerns, but because Iraq was controlled by a "really bad guy" who, as long as he stayed in power, would both directly and indirectly contribute to the spread of Islamist terrorism in the region, which all of us agree is a significant threat.

It's something I would not have supported before 9/11, but something I fully supported in late 2002 and continue to support today, because I was stupid, ignorant, and arrogant before 9/11, thinking that we had a much better handle on the world than we actually do. The intelligence failures in Iraq only serve to further convince me: we clearly don't know when someone is going to attack us, and we should work to change the region from the inside.

Anyhoo, enough of my yakkin'. On Chris Matthews' show, some of the pundits commented they didn't think the American people could have been sold on such a "Big Idea" for going into Iraq. David Brooks disagreed, and said the WMD case was used not because the American people couldn't buy the other argument, but because they needed a legal argument for the U.N. I think that is a big part of it, but I think Wolfowitz also made it clear in his oft-quoted statement that not everyone agreed on the "Big Idea" reason, while they did agree on WMD.

Give It A Rest

George S. asked John Edwards, once again, if he would accept the VP nomination. And then again. And then again. Why does anyone think that such a question is required to be answered? If he doesn't want to answer it, grow up and give it a rest.

Unfortunately, Edwards did answer the question in the end, after about George asked the question for the eighth time or so. I wish he had stuck to his guns and not answered, or better yet, said, "George, please stop wasting everyone's time. I've given the answer I have, and if you don't like, that's your problem."

Indepedent Investigation

When Kay et al started asking for an investigation, I said I was against such a thing, because, in my ignorance, I didn't know how a truly independent commission could have the access needed to do a proper investigation. As it turns out, the commission is not all that independent, as it has elected political party members heading it up. I am not going to question their integrity, but I just don't see how "bipartisan" equals "independent."

And I am also dismayed it is going to take so long to get results. Since it won't be done until after the election, the British investigation might be a huge part of the U.S. elections.


I guess I should mention the primaries, so, I'll ask: why hasn't CNN announced Clark as the winner of Oklahoma? I guess it doesn't matter, especially since the notion of a "winner" in the caucuses is misleading (since Kerry, Clark, and Edwards all got about the same number of delegates), but I'm curious, and have been unable to find out.

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