Sunday Thoughts

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Bush Campaign Ads

It's amazing to me not that the Democrats are playing hardball (OK, that is a little bit strange), but that anyone cares about this. The only people -- literally, the only ones -- who are in the news complaining about using images of firefighters and 9/11 in the Bush campaign ads are people who don't like Bush anyway. The attacks are clearly partisan and lacking in substance, and yet many people give this "story" time. I guess I shouldn't be amazed at a news media that enjoy a good row.

Anyway, I've heard lots of Bush-haters complain about Bush "exploiting" victims and firefighters in his ads, but where is the outcry about the DNC expoliting the victims' families in order to criticize Bush? One man said he was upset that his son was being used as a campaign prop: the fact is, of course, that no such thing happened. His son was not in the ad in any way. This father is not thinking clearly and his grief is being exploited in order to attack Bush. Is this somehow acceptable, whereas showing a few short, respectful, images is not?

The basic principle here is that people are not upset by the ad. People are upset by Bush, and because of that, are attacking his ad.

The other side of this is that the Bush team should have anticipated the attacks of the ads, despite there being nothing untoward about them, and that shows they've got some tightening up to do.

9/11 Commission

Speaking of 9/11, many people are criticizing Bush because he will only give an hour to the 9/11 Commission. Rudy Giuliani -- former New York mayor, longtime federal prosecutor -- was on Meet the Press and said the reason is because an hour is all they need, and if they are given more, they will use it, and waste the President's time. The same thing goes for the restriction to him meeting only with a couple of members of the commission: if he met with everyone, everyone would would want to ask him all the same questions, and waste his time.

Giuliani seemed certain that if more time is really needed, Bush will accomodate the commission, but seemed even more certain that an hour is plenty of time.

Blix Speaketh

One of the greatest criticisms of Bush and the Iraq war is that Bush should not have believed or argued that Iraq had WMD, despite the fact that the previous administration believed it, despite the fact that the CIA believed it, despite the fact that many European intelligence agencies believed it, despite the fact that the UN Security Council affirmed it as a matter of fact in Resolution 1441.

Now, according to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, chief UNMOVIC inspector Hans Blix "says in a new book that he believed, at the time of the war, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction." (I've not found any direct quotes or other references online.)

That's not to say all these people believed all the specifics that Bush and his people said and believed about the weapons (e.g., the mobile weapons labs and the aluminum rods). But all of them believed that Iraq possessed WMD, and it is increasingly clear that a belief that Iraq had WMD was not in the least bit unwaaranted, unreasonable, or radical.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and Bush can certainly be criticized for things like what tactics were used to convince people that Iraq had WMD, how reliable the specific claims were, and whether force should have waited for better evidence. But much of the criticism has been levelled on Bush simply because he thought Iraq had WMD, which is something that almost everybody else thought too, including, it appears, Hans Blix himself.

Not that I personally care what Blix thinks. He thinks the terror threat in this world has been overestimated, which to me is ludicrous. I think we are still understimating it, because I think someone could still hijack a plane and ram it into an American building pretty easily. I think we still have a lot of work left to do before we can possibly overestimate the threat. Many people thought we were overestimating the threat before 9/11 too, and they were clearly wrong; to make the same mistake again would be horribly foolish.

He also thinks the Iraq war was illegal, using a reasoning which would make any war not authorized by the UN an illegal war, which is a position that has never, since the beginning of the UN, been accepted by the international community (except to selectively discredit wars that people don't like, such as Blix is doing here).

But as to the specifics, he said that the UNSC was a party to the ceasefire, not the US and UK individually; that's a valid argument, but the problem -- as I've been arguing for over a year -- is that the US only gave the UNSC control over the process because it promised in 1991 to hold Iraq accountable, and since the UNSC would not do so, the US -- in its sovereignty -- chose to take matters into its own hands in 2003. This really is not a matter of legality, but of credibility, and the UNSC lost a lot of it when, for 12 years, they refused to act on the pledge they made in Resolution 687 (the ceasefire), where they said they would take whatever additional steps may be required to secure peace and security in the area.

Blix says if the US and UK had waited a few more months, war might have been averted. That ignores two other truths: if the UNSC had done more to prevent the Iraq situation from devolving, then we might never have gotten to this point; and further, that this war was not merely about WMD (as I've mentioned many times previously), but about transforming the region into a peaceful one.

Blix said, "Perhaps Blair and Bush, both religious men, felt strengthened in their political determination by the feeling they were fighting evil, not only (arms) proliferation." Perhaps Blix and most of the UNSC forgot that they were supposed to be securing peace and security in the area, not merely fighting the proliferation of NBC weaponry.

Kerry's Flip Flops

I won't deny that Kerry changes his mind on issues. The most clear example, to me, is NAFTA and trade policies. But most of the attacks on Kerry are unwarranted. In the RNC website, several of the 30 issues listed are dishonest fabrications; most of the time, they take a complex position with subtleties and make it sound like he is opposing himself instead. Before you believe Kerry flip-flopped on something, do the research. For example:

  • 1. Support for war: Kerry was always against a "rush" to war and was always apprehensive about using force, evidenced by his first supported the Biden-Lugar resolution, and his statement on the floor when he voted for the resolution that passed. He was never a full-throated supporter of unconditional force against Iraq.

  • 2. Marriage Penalty: I don't know the details, but I have no reason to assume Kerry didn't support the same bill in an alternate form, or opposed the bill because it included some other things he was against; I can't find the bill in question in Thomas, but I won't believe the GOP without understanding the full picture.

  • 8. No Child Left Behind: I do think Kerry's assertions against Bush's handling of NCLB are weakened by his support of the bill, but his criticism is more against Bush's handling of the bill than against the bill itself.

Also, some of the issues compare his views from 30 years ago to today; are people not allowed to change their minds over 30 years?

Not that the Democrats are much better. The Kerry people are as bad on defense as Bush's have been, counter-attacking Bush as a flip-flopper, quoting his pre-9/11 positions about deficit spending and nation building. What a shock that 9/11 made Bush reevaluate and change some of his positions.

Final note: former Clinton comedy writer Mark Katz said, on This Week, that Kerry might want to take a cue from "another craggy, Lincoln-esque leader from another deeply divided political era: when accused of being two-faced, President Lincoln quipped, 'if I were two-faced, would I have chosen this one?'"

New Paltz Redux

Since last week's events, the mayor of New Paltz has now been banned for a month from performing any marriage ceremonies, because the court recognized he was -- despite his insipid denials to the contrary -- clearly violating state law by solemnizing marriages without licenses.

More gay couples were married in New Paltz this weekend, by ministers, on private property, but once again without marriage licenses. If these ministers were, as they said, performing civil ceremonies by the power granted them by the state of New York, then they too will be subject to criminal charges. If not, then they were just participating in utterly symbolic performances without any legal meaning.

Aristide Redux

Last week the cries came out strong that Aristide claimed to have been kidnapped. No one backs up his story, save for his wife and a few people who worked for him at his palace. The Americans, the French, the private security firm from San Francisco whose guards were with him the entire time, and his current hosts in Central African Republic (CAR), all deny his claims in one form or another.

He claimed to have been kidnapped, forced onto the plane at gunpoint. His security detail denies this. He claims to have been a prisoner in CAR. The French troops protecting him and his CAR hosts deny this.

Not that it is proof he is lying, but his CAR hosts have revoked his telephone privileges in the palace, because he was only causing political problems for them with his claims, and it seems clear they don't really want him around anymore.

Even Charlie Rangel -- one of the most prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who had been pushing this story most of the week -- backed of from the assertion that Aristide has been kidnapped. On Wednesday, he tried to pressure assistant secretary of state Roger Noriega into admitting that the US would only "allow" Aristide to leave if he resigned, which -- if true -- would prove that Aristide was not kidnapped at all, unless you dare take the word "allow" literally (i.e., that we would have prevented him from leaving the country by his own means), which is unreasonable.

What happened now seems clear, considering Rangel's change of tune: Aristide wanted a bus out of town, the US would provide one for him, but made it clear they wanted him to resign first, because they wanted a "sustainable political solution" to the problem: Aristide leaving while still claiming his position would not do anyone any good, except Aristide himself. Noriega said the US "probably" would have helped him leave even if he did not resign.

But what is also clear is that the US had no obligation to do anything, and that Aristide could have secured his own transportation if he didn't like the terms being offered. He went with the US and France because the US and France could help guarantee his safety and would give him greater flexibility in final destination. It was his choice, and he chose wisely, and the US were suckers for trusting that he would be grateful.

Dean Redux

On CNN they had a very interesting documentary, "True Believers: Life Inside the Dean Campaign." It shows pretty clearly how you can have a lot of support and money and attention and that at the end of the day, if the candidate is not well-liked by enough people, he has no chance of winning. I believe now more than ever that Dean would have meant an easy victory for Bush in November, and that Kerry makes a Bush victory far less certain.

The volunteers and staffers were asking, "what did we do wrong?" You chose a loser, that's what went wrong. Joe Trippi -- campaign manager, and star of the documentary -- liked to say, "it's the people, stupid!" But the problem is that the people need someone to vote for, and while many people liked Dean, many more disliked him.

"The Scream" may have had an impact on New Hampshire, but it happened after Iowa's caucuses, so it was not a factor there. And in Iowa, Dean spent over a month campaigning, spent tens of millions of dollars, had more campaign workers than anyone else, and came in third with less than 20 percent of the vote.

Some would claim it is because the media killed Dean, but every candidate gets attacked by the media; in December and early January, the media was writing off Kerry as an also-ran, attacking his finances and organization. Yet Kerry came in first.

And even in New Hampshire, Dean's poll numbers up to the last minute looked like he and Kerry were about even, but in the end, he lost by 13 points. This means the polls were not very accurate, so to say Dean "dropped" from a certain percentage in the polls to his final result is ridiculous.

The reasonable explanation for Dean's loss in Iowa is that the voters did not like Dean. All the money and organization in the world can't help you if your candidate is a loser. Yes, I know, it is heresey to say the voters actually chose their candidate, but I call it like I see it. As the voters do.

A-caucusing I Go

I will attend my first caucus tomorrow, the Washington State Republican Precinct Caucuses on March 9. The suspense of which Republican candidate will win is killing me!

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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