…It’s What The Issues Say About You

Via Political Animal, a brilliant dissection of why Kerry isn’t connecting by smart liberal Mark Schmitt.

If I were running the issues department of the Kerry campaign, or any campaign, the sign above my desk would not be James Carville’s “It’s the Economy Stupid”: my sign would say, “It’s not what you say about the issues, it’s what the issues say about you.” That is, as a candidate, you must choose to emphasize issues not because they poll well or are objectively our biggest problems, but because they best show the kind of person you are, and not just how you would deal with that particular issue, but others yet to rear their heads.

I couldn’t agree more.When I hire someone for a project, I look at their resume, but what matters as much as the specific skills they bring to bear (in almost all cases) is who they are. This is illuminated by what they have done, what they can do, and what they want to do. But the reality is that in most cases, when I hire someone, the critical contribution they make will be the one I didn’t know I would need when I hired them.

This is multiplied a thousandfold in the case of someone with the kind of broad responsibilities a President bears.

I don’t know what the next four years holds, and neither do any of the rest of the voting public. So we have to choose someone based on a combination of what they believe and who they are.

Kerry’s personal history, persona, and policies have never gelled into anything consistent. Sadly, the thread that runs through it all is one of self-regard. that’s why minor incidents like “I don’t fall down!! The SOB knocked me over!” carry so much weight – because we’ve ‘framed’ Kerry with who we believe him to be, and so when he acts in a way that’s consistent with what we already believe, small facts reinforce big impressions.

I don’t think that Kerry’s reversals of position before, during, and after Vietnam or his brave – but not unquestionably so – record while there are the problem.

I think the problem is that Kerry has never offered up an explanation for what he did that ties the pieces together and gives a clear picture of who he is and what he believes. And because he has no consistent political philosophy – just a belief in a certain set of institutions and in a certain kind of fairness – we get a Lego candidate, assembled from blocks, incidents, and promises.

Back to Schmitt:

As much of a liberal policy wonk as I am, I don’t believe that issues should be the basis on which people base their votes. To rank character very high is not just a tactical necessity for candidates, it’s perfectly legitimate for voters. First, this is not a parliamentary system, and rational voters know that they are not really choosing a platform along with a president, but rather are choosing a particular stance or attitude in relation to the other centers of power in the political system. And, second, in a basically affluent and tranquil society — despite income inequality, despite 45 million uninsured, despite all that — the problems we don’t know about are still a bigger deal than the ones we do.

I’ll say it again: I couldn’t agree more…

29 thoughts on “…It’s What The Issues Say About You”

  1. Not bad.

    But this is, essentially, extended rhetoric. It’s a discussion about selling a product.

    The product itself is flawed, because the selection process for Democratic candidates was such that a substantially better candidate could not have been selected, and whoever was selected could not have had enough of the right kind of support: warm, positive support driven by values and affection, not hate. (The kind George W. Bush has lots of.)

    So the question is: how do you get strong candidates, and good support for them?

    One way indeed is to say, we want to win, and we think this is a clever way to run a campaign, and the candidate that best conforms to this must be the winning one. As for supporters, there are always ways to manipulate them.

    But isn’t that exactly how you got here? You had candidates essentially promoted for their rhetorical value. Wesley Clarke and John F. Kerry were war heroes to placate the frightened, belligerent boobs, men who would win office as “strong on defence” and then do the opposite. Whichever won the candidacy, you were going to get a suit of mighty rhetorical armour clanking around a man with not much substance to offer. You would still have had Michael Moore and the Democratic National Convention, signifying the dominance of propagandistic skill over truth and substance; and an unfortunate candidate, unknown and un-cared-for, trying to sell he-knows-not-what to an audience half of which is ready to abandon him no matter which side of any issue he comes down on.

    The Democratic Party doesn’t agree with itself. The leaders want to win so they can enjoy the spoils of office. But there is no agreement among the troops except for what hatred can be whipped up among them to say that, if we’re not all for something, least we’re all against someone.

    And indeed phenomenal levels of hatred have been achieved. But Bush-hatred, carried forward by any candidate who seemed a useful prop for it, has proved a dead end, and it will be even more irrelevant in 2008.

    Sooner or later you will have to address the need for shared values, policies, substance. You need something positive and real, not just fantasies of hate, as illustrated by the fraudulent CBS memos.

    But you will have plenty of time to think about this after you get steamrollered by one of the greatest presidents ever to bless your republic with his services.

  2. Some personal thoughts on why the Democratic Presidential campaign and Kerry are failing.

    No matter how Kerry tries to paint the picture of himself and his accomplishments he comes off as Dorian Gray. A man who has sold his soul for the goal of being president. It is not simply the publics view of his aloof elitist status that plays a significant part in this perception in as much as it is the way the Democratic Party and the MSM portray Kerry.

    You say huh? Okay what exactly do you mean.
    The MSM portrays Kerry as the ultimate symbol of wealth rating up there with names such as Bill Gates and others of formidable financial means. Now this in and of itself is not a bad thing. If that was all that was said about his wealth it would be insignificant. The issues of trying to answer the questions of how he attained the wealth and how he uses it is where the public discourse within the rank and file differ. The softer side of Kerry and wealth has never come out on this issue if in fact there is one. Wealth and character go hand in hand. The publics perceptions right or wrong of wealth and it’s benefits can be viewed as either negative or positive. (IE Bill Gates philanthropic gestures in helping to eliminate disease and promoting higher education versus Kerry’s frivolity of expensive bicycles, wind surfing equipment, yachts, personal jets, entourages and SUV’s.) This flies in the face of the Democratic mantra that you will get yours as well because we are going to give it to you. How can the Democratic Party give you something when they hold on to the asset required to give it to you and use it for self aggrandizement versus using it for the benefits that you perceive you are being denied. Sure Kerry has divulged his tax records but everyone knows that is not the same money providing for Kerry’s mansions and personal exploits. Of course we all know Ms Heinze has a lot to do with that. Whether Kerry and the Democratic party would rob her to support their agenda is a story yet to unfold.

    Okay what’s left to persuade people he’s the right man for the job. _”The leaders want to win so they can enjoy the spoils of office.”_ What exactly are the spoils, who / whom gets them and what will they do with them? The publics perception of the powers of the President and the spoils so to speak are for the most part without merit. If one were to read the constitutional powers the President wields coupled with congressional laws one would quickly come to the realization the President’s powers are very limited when it comes to the issues we want solved. The President can do as much about the economy “Secrets of the Temple”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0671675567/104-6424673-6995919?v=glance as he can about health care, education, social security or any number of the primary issues being floated to the public by either party or the MSM. When these are stripped away the only issue that the President has any stranglehold on is the matter concerning the defense of this nation. My personal view is Kerry and the Democratic Party or so divided on this issue they don’t know what to do. Blame the MSM or blame the party they’ve thrown the debate on the table and haven’t resolved it within their own ranks. Above all else Kerry realizes this and he has placed the issue where it squarely belongs. For all his antics Kerry can only attempt to show the American people that he will be a conscious, determined and steadfast leader which will add to his resolve and convictions in fighting the War in Iraq as well as the WoT. He has played his Vietnam trump card in efforts to appease the public concerning his leadership capabilities and patriotism. For what ever reasons his fault the parties fault all of this has fallen down around him like a house of cards. Whether or not Kerry and Democratic party get out of this rut remains to be seen.

  3. Interesting analysis. I, too, liked Schmitt’s item, although I think it’s an argument for examining Bush’s ‘the buck stops there’ and ‘tell ‘em anything’ character flaws, not Kerry’s being miffed at getting knocked down while snowboarding.

    The facts of the matter remain:
    1) There were no WMDs
    2) None, zero, nada
    3) The best planning for the post-combat phase was ignored, and what was left was insufficient and incompetently executed
    4) Abu Ghraib, Abu Ghraib, Abu Ghraib
    5) No one, not Rumsfeld, not Cheney, and certainly not Bush accepts any responsibility for any of that. *There’s* your character issue.
    6) 1000 dead American soldiers and counting

    If that many Americans die for a screwed up war waged on false premises, at least one should be fired for it.

    At least Kerry recognizes there’s a problem; our nit-wit president doesn’t seem to. Stay the course? You have got to be kidding.

  4. Thomas Nephew

    bq. ”The facts of the matter remain:
    1) There were no WMDs
    2) None, zero, nada
    3) The best planning for the post-combat phase was ignored, and what was left was insufficient and incompetently executed
    4) Abu Ghraib, Abu Ghraib, Abu Ghraib
    5) No one, not Rumsfeld, not Cheney, and certainly not Bush accepts any responsibility for any of that. There’s your character issue.
    6) 1000 dead American soldiers and counting”

    1) So far this has proved to be the case. However given the same information both the President and Kerry had at the time neither would have acted any differently. Who got bamboozled? 9/11 Commission Report and the Senates Prewar Intelligence Report on Iraq all came to the same conclusion. Water under the bridge now in my opinion this is a non-issue. We are there now, how we got there is not going to pull us out or play any vital role in electing the President for 2004.

    2) Yep exactly correct none, zero, nada. Intelligence reports do however indicate that the goal of WMD(s) was one Iraq was willing to go to any lengths to attain. I might add at that point not a single bit of diplomacy was going to change their minds on the subject. Seems a lot of Senators and Congressman as well as the world believed that one too.

    3) Looking back on events as they have occurred in a Monday night quarterback fashion does nothing but highlight the mistakes for a what could have / should have / would have been. Regardless of how it looks the arguments would pose themselves in a different manner. IE Things are going swimmingly and all looks well (Damn isn’t the President lucky but we could do better!) Things are going bad. (Damn the President got us into this mess and we can do nothing to save ourselves. BTW if you elect me I’ll save the world – I know what we should have done because Monday night has already been played! No guarantees on next Monday night though I‘ll profess to know exactly how to handle every situation so this never happens on my watch!) While we are at it tell me what post combat phase was developed and ignored prior to the war and why it can’t be used now (whoops Monday night quarterbacking again)?

    4) And your point is? Bad apples exist on every side of every issue. Whether or not we act on the bad apples or turn a blind eye is what is relevant. I suppose you’re blaming Bush for Abu Ghraib as well. See answers 1 and 2. Abu Ghraib would never have happened had the first two didn’t turn out the way they did (whoops Monday night quarterbacking). For Pete’s sake man where’s your crystal ball everyone should have known Abu Ghraib was coming and should have done everything to prevent it!

    5) Really! How much responsibility should our Congressmen and Senators bear for being duped? Should we toss them all out of office because they can’t recognize a used car salesman when they see one? If anything it is our Congress and Senate who is at fault for trusting the bureaucracies they themselves created.

    6) Yes and as people continue to volunteer to serve in our armed services they will continue to fight for what they believe to be a just cause. Have you seen the retention rates and enlistment rates for our armed services. Perhaps you should tell these young men and women their beliefs are folly. Better yet lock the doors and isolate all the recruiters so they can’t enlist. You would think if these people thought this was really a bad choice they wouldn’t volunteer. Pray tell look in your crystal ball and tell me what it is these people don’t see that you do?

    Now you might think from my comments I’m taking the WoT as well as the War in Iraq cavalierly. I’ll tell you now I am not. I see the WoT and the War in Iraq as an issue that must be resolved and the woe is me attitude offers no solutions. Put one on the board and lets get serious.

  5. Interesting analysis, but the main point — the issues framing the candidate, and not the other way around — suggests that _initiative_ is part of it, and by that I mean in the military sense, staying ahead of events, making them happen, and not waiting around for the consultants to phrase it for you.

    Frankly, credentials and presence count for plenty. I’ve seen the presidential talent shows at California Democratic state conventions — the pre-game shows — and frankly there wasn’t much. Kerry look and sounded like one of those Disneymatron presidents, he opened his mouth and Democratic phrases came out, but that was all. No presence. Edwards was charming and well-spoken, and the mill-worker’s son riff was ok, but not much on how one Senate term meant he could lead. (And Kucinich gets up there, stares at the convention for a minute, then sings “America the Beautiful” a capella. Creepy).

    So we had credentials or presence. Which is why someone like Howard Dean lit up the hall. After years — decades — of Mondale mayonnaise it was nice to get a little salsa in the dip. He acted like (1) he meant what he said and (2) those were his words.

    (And to use Joe Katzman’s current Warner Bros. metaphor, maybe W. has a little of that, even if the presence echoes Elmer Fudd at times, with the syntax and the shotgun.)

    Presence might trump the credentials. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger came to the California governorship with flimsy credentials, but they seemed to have presence, or at least had a clear idea of how to present, no, project themselves. They seemed to mean it. We are electing leaders, not university department chairs.

    But a lot of these candidates aren’t making it to party leadership, or, like Arnie, bypass them if that party is weak (and the GOP is weak in California, self-deconstructed). Russ Feingold never gets in the door, and there’s a rumor-gram among some rank-and-file Democratic activists that the party bosses tripped Howard Dean. And I notice that a _mensch_ like Rudy G. or John McCain or Arnold may get to speak but never get to Cabinet level.

    I’m not aware of “hatred” among the Democratic rank-and-file, BTW. (Turn on Michael Savage, now that’s the real thing). It’s frustration. After years of state and national candidates acting like Wile E. Coyote, complete with the dazed the-anvil’s-gonna-hit-me-again look on their faces, they want a real candidate. Bill Clinton was one of the few, at least down to the waist.

    If Kerry pulls through it won’t be because of anything he did, I suspect, but because of some epic screwup by W. or his people — far beyond the current ones. Without the initiative even that is doubtful. That’s no way to run.

    “We’ll charge valiantly, and be butchered valiantly … knowing it will fail, _helping_ it to fail. … I’ve never seen anything so brutally clear as this.” — Gen. John Buford, “Gettysburg”

  6. Thomas Nephew,

    You summed up why the left can’t seem to persuade many non-leftists that they are intellectually serious about the WoT: lots of bare assertions, no analysis, cynical speech designed for maximum emotional impact but minimal rational support, no credible alternative plan on offer.

    And you stand around scratching your head wondering why you lose elections.

  7. Bob Harmon, thanks. That was a real reply – very instructive.

    Thomas Nephew: “Stay the course? You have got to be kidding.”

    Yes, stay the course. I’m not kidding.

  8. Mark, given that you’ve determined that the war in Iraq was not only wise but a moral imperative (a cult-like confusion of the role of morality in politics), I’m hardly surprised that Mr Nephew’s analysis didn’t impress you. But the facts on the ground agree him him (or rather, us). As far as analysis, I’ll try to supply some, but I’d appreciate your outlining just what analysis consists of. From other threads, I recall your favorite “analysis” is the repetition of the assertion that 25MM people have been liberated from fascism, which isn’t true as a fact, and isn’t really an analysis.

    To the extent I can make sense of Kerry’s Iraq policy, while he believed that Saddam possessed WMD, we was willing to let the UN inspectors look for them. By the time we invaded, it was looking as if there were no WMD after all, a prospect so terrifying to the Republican Party that the inspection teams had to be forced out of Iraq at near-gunpoint. So USMC’s suggestion that the Kerry Administration and the Bush Administration would have pursued similar courses is not realistic.

    And as a second example, the Bush Administration is most definitely responsible for the general conditions at Abu Ghraib. Who was it who described the Geneva Conventions as “quaint” and “obsolete”? Who was it who authorized extensive use of ghost detainees? Who was it who asserted in court (unsuccessfully) the right to incarcerate anyone in the world, including US citizens, at the President’s whim? No, Rumsfeld didn’t authorize each and every act of rape at Abu Ghraib; perhaps he didn’t even authorize even one of them. But the attitude that we were no longer bound by the rules of civilized countries was a conscious choice of the Administration. I’m sure that our treatment of Iraqi civilians has been a great help in the past months—for the anti-American “insurgents”.

  9. AJL

    bq. _”So USMC’s suggestion that the Kerry Administration and the Bush Administration would have pursued similar courses is not realistic.”_

    Again my point here is this is Monday night quartering backing. I can only relay what Kerry’s position is today or what it is / was yesterday. Kerry and his party are not giving me a solid position on what they will do tomorrow (which is when he will take office if he wins). Neither he nor the Democratic party have provided any substance or a solid front on this issue. Until they do I find it very hard to take Kerry seriously. At this point the nation can ill afford to opt for a tomorrow as though it were a Christmas present. I hear the argument now of well it has to be a secret because the current administration will jump on it if we tell them. That’s pure BS for two reasons. One is it shows the Democratic Party would rather let this nation go to the wolves then concentrate on resolving the issues and two it highlights the fact that the Democratic party does not want it’s constituency to know exactly what is in store for them. Kerry and the Democratic party know if they reveal any plans they may or may not have they run the risk of people making a full fledged decision. How do I know Kerry wont use nukes simply because he gets fed up with the situation? I don’t but I do know where this administration stands on the issue.

    Finally if you think the current administration isn’t open to options and ideas that’s your perception. The current administration has done the same thing in Monday night quarter backing to some extent and I’ll not deny that. The current administration has one goal in mind and that is to win the War in Iraq and win the WoT. If opponents believe that this is bad policy then lay something on the table that will provide for our security and well being and the rest of the world be damned. We’ll weigh the potential consequences and suffer them if we must. If you can’t do that then your arguments will not be entertained simply because it’s a waste of time and provides no value to the situation at hand.

    bq. _”Who was it who asserted in court (unsuccessfully) the right to incarcerate anyone in the world, including US citizens, at the President’s whim?”_

    It is claims like these that throw people into a frazzle. First I can not point to a single incident where the President has had any US citizen or anyone in the world for that matter incarcerated. I can’t think of one in past history let alone today. Nor can anybody point to a specific power that entitles the President to do such a thing (by law I suppose he could enact a citizens arrest if he wanted to but the decisions as to what happens after the arrest are not his to make save a potential pardon). If you know of one please point it out. Laws such as the ones you describe will not come from any administration they will come from our legislative branch as well they should. Keep in mind laws of this nature are not a reflection on the administration as much as it is on our legislative branch. They after all wrote the rules of engagement.

  10. If USMC, by saying — “First I can not point to a single incident where the President has had any US citizen or anyone in the world for that matter incarcerated. I can’t think of one in past history let alone today.” — he means did a President personally order this, by name? Probably not.

    If you mean by directive, there are a few cases, notably the Lincoln Administration’s suspension of habeas corpus — see the cases of Clement Vallandigham (ex parte Vallandigham, 68 U.S. (1 Wall.) 243 (1863)) and Lamdin P. Milligan (ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2 (1866)) as examples. FDR issued executive orders, not Acts of Congress, to deal specifically with the Quirin (ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942)) defendants and with the Nisei; “Fred Korematsu’s recent column”:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/09/16/EDGP28P0T11.DTL is very worth reading, as is the case of “Kenji Ito”:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2004/09/07/eguillermo.DTL. These are cases with US citizens (except Quirin, where only Herbert Haupt was a (naturalized) citizen), arrested on the basis of an executive order and either detained, or in the ex parte cases, tried before military tribunals and not civilian courts.

    It is true that the USA-PATRIOT Act passed Congress, not 2 months after 9/11 and literally overnight (though I suppose it’s not the first time they passed a law unread). It’s also true — see some of the opinions in “the Padilla case”:http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=000&invol=03-1027 — that executive detentions could still exceed that law.

    (Not that an Act of Congress is, in and of itself, Constitutional. Or wise. It does give the President more authority than if he just says “make it so.” USMC does have a point to that extent.)

    Which is not to say that, if a US citizen has committed espionage and treason, that s/he should not face charges and possible execution. They should. But there’s a big difference between executive detention and a properly-investigated, properly-prosecuted case. I wonder if this Administration (all right, or a Kerry Administration) is capable of it. So far, Mr. Ashcroft, in his “prosecutions so far”:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/09/17/MNGK68QJLG1.DTL, is batting 179 for 310. That’s not an argument for locking up people so much as it is finding a good prosecutor.

    What’s Rudy G. doing these days? He was, after all, a Federal prosecutor. If anyone should be a wartime Attorney General, he should, and his absence does not reflect well on this Administration.

    A final thought, from Justice Robert Jackson, “But my apprehensions about the security of our form of government are about equally aroused by those who refuse to recognize the dangers of Communism and those who will not see danger in anything else.” Read “terrorism” for “Communism” and the thought still holds.

    To bring this thread back to its starting point: If George Bush doesn’t mean what he said about “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” it’s reason not to vote for him; I won’t. Making us choose between a Constitution and victory in the war on terror may mean we end up with neither. Meanwhile, Kerry is floundering because he can’t enunciate a clear national strategy; USMC’s earlier posts are right about that. But this is going to be a very long war; it will be going on in 2008 when Bush’s second term ends, if he has a second term; we might as well figure that a new President will have to carry it on at some point. Our military will fight it even if the President doesn’t have a clue.

  11. Bob Harmon
    Thanks for clarifying and you are right. That is exactly what I meant. The President can’t say Mr. Jones you go to jail and have you locked up on a whim. It is statements like those presented by AJL that take everything out of context and simply muddy the waters. The average person isn’t going to read or get involved in the minute details. The average person is going to assume the President is nothing more than a dictator if given such authority.

    And yes you are correct about this being a very long war. The President couldn’t have been any clearer about that. For those that remember the hostages taken in Iran during the Carter administration and thought they would be released immediately, they certainly found out different. As a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps at the time even I knew then the situation would last well over a year.

    Bob like you I’m not going to sugar coat this one and have people believe that all will be well in short order. It just isn’t going to happen. This isn’t McDonalds where you get your order in 5 minutes or less. Simply pulling out and letting the whole middle east go up like a powder keg isn’t the answer either. I truly think Kerry realizes that but he won’t come out and say so and if I can’t get his word on it I want nothing to do with him.

  12. The President can’t say Mr. Jones you go to jail and have you locked up on a whim.

    That is exactly what he told Mr. Padilla. Now, Padilla’s incommunicado detention was gussied up with a declaration that he was some sort of illegal combatant, but since Padilla was denied any opportunity whatsoever to contest this designation before a neutral arbiter, the detention was absolutely at the Executive’s whim.

  13. AJL

    bq. _”On the merits, the court accepted the Government’s contention that the President has authority as Commander in Chief to detain as enemy combatants citizens captured on American soil during a time of war. The Second Circuit agreed that the Secretary was a proper respondent and that the Southern District had jurisdiction over the Secretary under New York’s long-arm statute. The appeals court reversed on the merits, however, holding that the President lacks authority to detain Padilla militarily.”_

    If you call that on a whim then in your eyes I guess he most certainly can. What you are missing here and your whim is cause for detention.

  14. No, USMC, when the President can say you are a terrorist and you can’t dispute him in any tribunal, and then locks you up, then that’s whim. It doesn’t matter if he has to call you a terrorist, a super-duper enemy combatant terrorist, or a jaywalker, as long as the authority is his alone. The idea of an omnipotent Executive whose designations are equivalent to criminal convictions is completely alien to Anglo-American legal history, and has been rejected by our courts. Thank Goodness.

  15. Again, we need some clarification. It is true that Mr. Padilla was pulled out of the Federal court system and landed in the brig. That case is still up in the air — _Padilla v. Rumsfeld_ was on very fiddly legal points, “see the Windsofchange thread”:http://windsofchange.net/archives/005160.php on this case — and hardly conclusive, even in Padilla’s case. USMC noted the part about the Southern District of New York — the site of WTC — having a claim on jurisdiction over him.

    The whimsy is Congress passing a literally-overnight omnibus law giving the President vastly overreaching authority, and with Ashcroft for his pattern of prosecutions. And “abuses of the Patriot Act”:http://2theadvocate.com/stories/091704/new_cox001.shtml for non-wartime offenses.

    I agree that arrest and trial should be on probable cause. But let’s be precise about who’s abusing what, and in this case it appears to be sloppiness by Justice and the Congress, not W. being the Red Queen.

  16. Bob
    Thank you. I’ll no longer worry about the President be it (Kerry or Bush in 2004) calling me a terrorist and having me locked up just because he says it must be so.

  17. USMC, that is true, though a combination of whimsies by Congress and an Attorney General could get people in trouble anyway. Probably more likely, because a President who snaps his fingers and orders you arrested is risking impeachment or a tour of the Paranoia Caucus at St. Elizabeth’s.

    Your real worry should be some of the rougher edges of the Patriot Act, the Anti-Terror and Effective Death Penalty Act, and various anti-drug laws. (No one’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session, a thought I believe is either H.L. Mencken’s or Mark Twain’s).

    Beyond that, maybe who’s President isn’t as important as some think. It’s kind of silly to think that Kerry will surrender the Republic on Jan. 20 (“Is this a surrender offer, Osama, or a demand for our surrender? I can’t make this out?”) or that George W. is the sole talisman of our fate. The Republic will survive either of them. If I sound unenthusiastic about Kerry, don’t think I won’t vote for him, I will; it’s just that, hey, people, you’re supposed to vote for candidates, not _marry_ them! If they don’t work out you can always pick someone else.

    Although, frankly, this thread harps on Kerry’s incoherence in speech. I’m having trouble finding coherence W’s _conduct_ of the war: WMDs? Try North Korea. Create a stable democracy in Iraq? Well then, why aren’t we cleaning out Fallujah or spending the reconstruction money or bothering to protect the poor souls lined up in front of recruiting stations? Take the battle to the terrorists? So far we seem to have more of them in Iraq than before the invasion, while the terrorists in western Pakistan and in Saudi seem to be there still. None of this makes sense, but that’s not what either candidate is expressing, at least not coherently.

    Oh, and this quote, about another presidential candidate (of 1856), is timely:

    “Neither misuse of Senatorial power in the pursuit of advertising, nor the creation in newsprint of a great public hero, is an invention of our age, which has not seen any betterment of the technique that erected [John C.] Frémont into a martyr … a figure of oratory and newsprint. That creation was almost enough to wreck the republic. It was enough to convince innumerable people … that incompetence is courage, that self-seeking mutiny is statesmanship, that youth and purity of intention — if purity exists in the main chance — qualify a stupid man to lead armies and govern a nation, that martyrdom in headlines erases blunders and nullifies treason, that greatness is a loud noise.”
    —Bernard DeVoto, The Year of Decision: 1846 (published 1943)

  18. Bob

    bq. _”Beyond that, maybe who’s President isn’t as important as some think. It’s kind of silly to think that Kerry will surrender the Republic on Jan. 20 (“Is this a surrender offer, Osama, or a demand for our surrender? I can’t make this out?”) or that George W. is the sole talisman of our fate. The Republic will survive either of them.”_

    On this you and I are both in agreement. As I’ve stated before the presidential powers are rather limited in scope. The one power as acting commander and chief of the armed services in my opinion is what is at stake. All other issues are really a side bar. Even those of foreign policy as these issues are debated, molded, and formulated by our congressional and senatorial branches.

    Now has enough been done with regards to North Korea and Iran concerning nukes? I don’t thinks so. Neither Kerry nor Bush have offered anything other than status quo concerning this issue. IE Pound the UN, pound NATO, pound IAEA, non-favored trade status and sanctions etc.. Has there been enough done in homeland security? Absolutely not it’s moving at a snails pace but it is moving. Changes in this area aren’t coming from Kerry or Bush nor should they. These changes will be debated, molded, and formulated by our congressional and senatorial branches as well they should be. We can argue that time is of utmost importance but as with any bureaucracy it will move at its’ own pace.

    Why aren’t we cleaning out Fallujah or protecting the poor souls lined up in front of recruiting stations? Are we really doing the best we can? All of these are good questions. Yes we have had some draw backs and yes we’ve had some advances. The political posturing of trying to appease all sides and trying to win the hearts and minds of all versus a majority is what is at stake. More troops, less troops, right mix, UN and NGO involvement etc.. The end goal is still a government by the people and of the people for all Iraqis. (Where does Kerry stand on this issue? Pull Halliburton out and send in Heinze? Another Big Dig project in Boston?) For anyone to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq security must be established. How we go about that is still being played out. Training Iraqi troops and police officers is just the tip of the iceberg in attempting to institute security for all Iraqi citizens. So yes this is going to be a very long war for any PoTUS.

    Are we doing enough with regard to OBL? Terrorists including OBL have not slipped under the radar and taken a back seat. Is there a priority structure for all we want to accomplish? I would certainly hope so since everyone seems to agree we are limited in resources required. IE Ground intelligence, language skills, etc.. Yes this will take time to address. These are things that don’t happen overnight, even jello must cool and harden otherwise consider it soup. Are we doing enough concerning our relations with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This is yet another area of debate that for all of its’ faults will most likely remain status quo. Our agenda versus their agenda come to agreement in some terms and disagreement in others. Will we continue to work on those areas of disagreement? For the interest of all and the stakes on the table it only makes sense to do just that.

    As for your comments about the Patriot Act yes there are things that need clarification and there are some very gray areas in the law. My point concerning the issues some perceive as utmost importance (the woe is me syndrome) really are not. I trust our legal system and our legislative branch (with all of its’ flaws) to resolve those issues one way or another. It has done so in the past and I have every reason to believe it will do so in the future.

  19. USMC, All very good points, and the legislative and judicial branches do have a way of fixing errors, sooner or later (e.g., Milligan was exonerated in 1866, the year after the war ended). Trouble is, sometimes these enactments take decades to repair. The Alien & Sedition Acts were reversed during Jefferson’s administration but not found clearly unconstitutional till _New York Times v. Sullivan_ — in 1964. The Supreme Court did take up the WWI abuses of the Alien and Espionage acts of 1917, and Holmes and Brandeis wrote a series of very noble dissents on them through the 1920s — but dissents nonetheless. (I recommend Anthony Lewis’ “Make No Law” on these themes). _Korematsu v. US_ is still valid case law, though Fred Korematsu is very much alive and testifies vigorously that this was a crummy deal.

    The PATRIOT Act may very well be with us for a very long time and its various provisions may each require a hearing before some future Court. It will be a long discussion and one advantage of an independent judiciary is that it is removed from both political pressures (i.e., getting re-elected, not to mention the posturing that goes with it) and from the then-current frenzy in which the law may have been passed.

    I figure that these enactments will be haunting us long after OBL is put down, and that’s why I took up the study of law at 50. I’m retired from the military venue of “defend[ing] the Constitution against all anemies, foreign and domestic” but there’s still plenty I can do in that line, on other fields of honor.

    PS. Not nearly enough being done on homeland security, and this is a war that needs fighting on all fronts, not just formal military. No funding (or cuts) on IRS tracking of terrorist money, in a time when money is like a liquid logistics depot for terrorism. Not nearly enough for US Customs and the Coast Guard — and poorly coordinated even when budgeted. (See Oakland Tribune’s series “Missing the Target”:http://www.oaklandtribune.com/Stories/0,1413,82%257E27730%257E,00.html — good reading). And what, pray, are the candidates saying about that?

  20. Andrew, you say:

    “Mark, given that you’ve determined that the war in Iraq was not only wise but a moral imperative (a cult-like confusion of the role of morality in politics), I’m hardly surprised that Mr Nephew’s analysis didn’t impress you. But the facts on the ground agree him him (or rather, us). As far as analysis, I’ll try to supply some, but I’d appreciate your outlining just what analysis consists of.”

    I don’t consider it my job to teach you how to support assertions with arguments. There are plenty of websites that will help you with this. Nephew demonstrated how not to do it. You provided another fine example with your bald claim that “the facts on the ground agree [with us]”. Do you really expect anyone in the audience to say “Well, if Andrew Lazarus claims that Iraq is a failure, then I guess it must be so. I mean, he is Andrew Lazarus after all”? You must take us for complete fools.

    You want to claim that you didn’t support a genocidal fascist, Iraq is a failure or the moon is made of green cheese, I won’t stop you. But expect me to hold your arguments up to ridicule. Why must we go through this exercise everytime you make an unfounded assertion?

  21. OK, Mark,

    Turkey confirms 10 kidnapped in Iraq
    Casualties in Iraq (note upward slope)
    “I don’t think we’re winning. In all due respect to my friend Jon Kyl, the term ‘hand-wringing’ is a little misplaced here,” [Republican Senator Chuck] Hagel said. [snip] “The fact is, we’re in trouble. We’re in deep trouble in Iraq,” said Hagel, a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.
    Insurgent attacks on pipelines ravage Iraq’s economy, security

    Here’s the analysis: today the Washington Post, which has been quite pro-Bush and very much pro-war, woke up to the fact that the execution of our Iraq policy has been botched and that George Bush is in denial about the extent of the problem. Liberal Time columnist Joe Klein compared Bush’s “We’re having the election” claim with the babble of Baghdad Bob.

    Clap Louder.

  22. Andrew,

    I note that you have a tendancy to appeal to authority. Although expert analysis is helpful in specific cases, I don’t think the larger question of whether we are winning or losing in Iraq necessitates experts, so your appeals to authority are unpersuasive. Nor have you offered any reason to prefer your (journalistic) experts over those mil bloggers who are actually in Iraq and differ about our success.

    Also, as is your habit, you misconstrue your sources. The CNN article quotes individuals who note the difficulties in Iraq, but differ as to severity and finality. I’m happy that you agree with the Wapo editorial; you should have no trouble reconstructing your own arguments about the correctness of their opinion. I’ll take your failure to do so as indication of either intellectual laziness or a retraction.

    Since you seem to think we’ve failed in Iraq, at least do us the courtesy of outlining relevant victory conditions, and reasons why they haven’t been met. Simply averring to the recent awful developments, or telling us that other people have noted our difficulties in Iraq, without doing your own analysis, isn’t sufficient.

    Perhaps this might help: before you hit “post”, ask yourself if what you write would merit a passing grade on a politics final for any credible Western university. If the answer is “no”, hit preview and think some more.

  23. Mark, I wasn’t aware that the quality of your comments was so high. As a matter of fact, as Gary Farber pointed out in June, (see especially here,here, here) your preferred method of debate is to ascribe the most venal motives to your opponents (generally confusing the intended aim with collateral damage, an error you would never make in considering the innocent civilian casualties in the war you support), and then to argue its immorality. You have been asked at least eight times why the Iraq War was a moral imperative but invasion of Zimbabwe (given that Mugabe seemed to be, in 2003, a more extreme despot than Saddam under sanctions) is not. Reiterating that 25 million people have been liberated from Saddam (but see below) does not answer this question, unless you are making the curious argument that there is a population cut-off below which elimination of a fascist regime becomes optional. I would say failure to answer the question about Zimbabwe except by reference to Iraq would lead to a zero at a major Western university, at least on the short-answer section. Your obfuscatory evasion might do better as an essay.

    At least I get my facts straight, usually. You have yet to acknowledge the minor point that the Kurds should not be included in the 25 million, because they had already left Saddam’s de facto dominion. More to the point, you have yet to acknowledge that far from being liberated, millions of Iraqis are living under local tyrannies, millions more have seen there standard of living drop since Saddam, and our own best-case scenario is to install a government likely as fascist as Saddam but more pro-American. (I would say, less congenial to anti-American terrorists, but Saddam was already on bad terms with Al Qaeda.) When Mobutu was overthrown in Zaire, his replacement Kabila turned out to be every inch as savage. You seem to be under the misimpression that all 25 million Iraqis were immiserated by Saddam. The truth is, lots would probably trade his return for electricity. Not everyone has your noble dedication to freedom over air conditioning.

    I’m not quite sure why it’s incumbent on opponents of the war to define the “victory conditions”. The unlikelihood of improving American security (or for that matter, all that much improvement in the lives of Iraqis) except in omnipotent fantasy was one of the reasons I opposed the war.

    And, finally, my “analysis” of the situation on the ground is simple: even the Green Zone is no longer safe. Insurgents control several cities, and Mark Steyn (any relation) is left boasting that American soldiers were killed in only seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces. My analysis is this shows the government has not established a monopoly on the use of force, and the security situation is deteriorating over time. Electricity and oil production are down; my analysis is our attempt to restore Iraqi infrastructure is failing. I’ve lost track of how many schools we’ve painted, my bad.

  24. Andrew,

    Your arguments, such as they are, haven’t gotten much stronger, and you persist in making unsupported, controversial claims. (Air conditioners vs liberty?!) If you want to go through this again, we can do so. At this point, though, it would be a thread hijack. Let me know if you are game for a rematch; we can continue on the old threads.

  25. Not especially, Mark.

    Not until you have a coherent theory—no, any theory—of why Iraq was a moral imperative and Zimbabwe isn’t. It’s much easier to criticize my reasoning than to offer your own. Perhaps you, yourself, realize that what isn’t attacking a straw man is conclusory.

    You know, the funny thing is it doesn’t matter if my rhetorical gimmick skills are up to yours, although personally I think they are. The situation in Iraq will continue to fall apart even if you can more fluently pretend it isn’t, and that the half-dozen specific disasters I link to don’t have enough “analysis”. They could name the center of Baghdad after Osama, and you could still say that there wasn’t enough analysis. And as I say, it wouldn’t matter. We would have lost.

  26. I’ll make it simple: Iraq was a moral _and_ strategic imperative, with connections to the broader war. Zimbabwe wasn’t, and with issues to take care of in Iran and contingencies in Korea there isn’t much left.

    You understand those Andrew – priorities? The act of having them does not erase a moral argument.

    I’d still like to see a Western military roll in, take out Comrade Bob and his regime, and separate the Shona & Ndebele. The USA and Britain are a bit busy, though – and may be about to become busier. Even if the USA and Britain were determined to stretch resources further, Sudan is likely the next spot with a moral imperative _and_ a connection to the wider war. So priorities put Zimbabwe on Britain and America’s back-burner again.

    Perhaps our European “allies” and the UN could take care of of this, instead? We keep hearing about how wise and moral they are, and how useful their help would be. Mugabe’s actions surely warrtant intervention, I’m told they have substantial and capable militaries, and this ought to be within their capabilities. (And if it’s beyond their capabilities, why do we waste time worrying about them?)

  27. Andrew,

    You haven’t learned much since that our last postings, because you continue to stand on bare assertions rather than substantive argument, only to cry foul when you get called on it.

    I’ve noted your contempt for your audience before, but you keep treating us like children: most of us have probably previously read whatever you’ve linked, so you’re not adding much to the conversation by doing so. It would be interesting if you actually made your own arguments. Lots of posters here do it; why can’t you?

    You can rely on journalistic authority figures and newspaper editorials if you like, but you can’t expect independantly-minded people to be persuaded by your little missives. If I wanted to listen to cynical old leftists making unfounded claims of failure and counselling surrender, I’d move to France.

  28. Joe,

    The Hamiltonian analysis is simple. Comrade Bob in Harare didn’t threaten the West’s security or its commerce. He is, however, a living embodiment of why parts of this world won’t prosper without the rule of law — read Hernando de Soto, hell, read The Economist — but he is not worthy of a Marine Expeditionary Force’s attention.

    Mind you, Iraq might have benefited from this calculus. If it was simply offering reasons to Saddam’s cabinet and generals to fully amortize him, the West could’ve offered 100 million crisp, new reasons. That might not have sufficed, but was worth a bid before funding a big-budget production like Operation Iraqi Freedom. Moral and strategic imperatives simply require clever investments.

  29. Mark,

    Your point about Andrew’s overall argument style has something to say for it, but this time he did come in with links. I know that I hadn’t read a few of them.

    Of course, it’s legitimate to point out that some of the links don’t fully agree with his own position, or to counter by noting that wars are unpredictable things that feature mistakes (this was a 100% prediction, because I’ve never seen a war that didn’t have a few), or to note that other sources on the ground differ, or that Andrew has had an agenda that focused on dfdefeat rather than winning since the outset and we have never seen even the hint of an alternative plan for the war ( “this was as close as he ever got,”:http://windsofchange.net/archives/004803.php – thus tying into “what the issues say about you”) so his position might carry less weight, or whatever. Those would all be things we could debate about.

    In this case, however, he is not arguing from bare authority. The fact that his conclusions have never changed regardless of the evidence at hand, however, makes it kind of funny when I hear him criticizing others for displaying the trait.

    Having said that, this is a war, not a sports bet. Past a certain point, I’m not particularly interested in handicapping. I’m interested in what it takes to win (again we’re at “what do the issues say about you”). Andrew has never been interested in that, which is why I’ve largely stopped discussing the issue with him.

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