Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Well, I'm Back

Just in time for the Republican National Convention. Actually, the cable in my dorm-room isn't working, and between assembling furniture, planning courses, and drinking my fucking ass off, I've barely had any chance to pay attention to things. Jamie Kirchick told me tonight that he expects the convention to produce a big bounce for George Bush. We'll see. Until the middle of August, I was convinced that John Kerry would win the election. Now I have no idea.

Apparently some of the delegates are passing around Purple-Heart Band-Aids in mockery of John Kerry's war service. [How many of these assholes took shrapnel?--ed.] If there is in fact a just deity around whom the universe turns [highly unlikely--ed.], these scumbags---and the SBVF"T" and their defenders---will turn off enough voters to tip the election to Kerry.

Instapundit Watch

[Ed note: The Instapundit Watch will continue through my blogging break/week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 21. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Instapundit Watch

[Ed note: The Instapundit Watch will continue through my blogging break/week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 20. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Good For Andrew

I'll be back full time on Wednesday or Thursday. But I've just got to link to this post by Andrew Sullivan, which places the SBVF"T" in, as they say, a nutshell:
Every time I checked out the blogosphere or the cable news or the papers, I felt relieved to be absent with leave. The low point was obviously the Swift Boat vets, jumping like bait on the end of Karl Rove's line. For a president who never served in Vietnam to get his cronies to lambaste an opponent who actually put his life in danger was, well, breathtakingly bold. And you really have to hand it to Bush. He knows how to campaign hard, to deploy smears of opponents indirectly, to stoke fears of minorities to rally votes, and every other hardball tactic. I wish I could get all huffy about this, but it's always been Bush's campaign mojo: divide, smear and beam. Kerry should have seen it coming. The only thing that can deflect from it is a more effective smear in the other direction. But the Bush-haters have now so debased that currency Bush is essentially in the clear. Advantage: Rove.

P.S.: I loved Bush's comment yesterday about the smear-ad: "I can understand why Senator Kerry is upset with us. I wasn't so pleased with the ads that were run about me. And my call is get rid of them all, now." "Us"?? I thought Bush had nothing to do with it.
Sigh. I wish I could be as stoic about this as Andrew. Is Glenn Reynolds taking notes? It is possible to be a conservative and an influential blogger and still not transform one's site into an echo-chamber for fraudulent, defamatory, and libelous attacks.

Instapundit Watch

[Ed note: The Instapundit Watch will continue through my blogging break/week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 19. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Instapundit Watch

[Ed note: The Instapundit Watch will continue through my blogging break/week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 18. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Instapundit Watch

[Ed note: The Instapundit Watch will continue through my blogging break/week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 17. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

[Second ed note: Jamie Kirchik tells me that I'm being too hard on Glenn. He is, after all, a social liberal who supports gay marriage, stem-cell research, abortion rights, etc. It speaks well for Reynolds that he takes those positions. Nevertheless, he decided on his own and free of coercion to spend a month hawking the transparently fraudulent swift boat case as well as legitimizing Michelle Malkin's defense of the Japanese internment. Until he comes clean, the Instapundit Watch has to continue.]

Friday, August 27, 2004

Instapundit Watch

[Ed note: The Instapundit Watch will continue through my blogging break/week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 16. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Instapundit Watch

[Ed note: The Instapundit Watch will continue through my blogging break/week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 15. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Okay, For Real, The Last Thing

David Corn notices that Bush lied about being in the Air Force (he was never in the Air Force). This, btw, is entirely separate from the spottiness of his National Guard record.

And Dana Milbank offers up some of Bush and Cheney's most egregious distortions of John Kerry's words.

This election is a contest between a flawed, somewhat colorless, overly ambitious, but still decent, serious, intelligent, and capable man on the one hand, and an absolute mudbeast on the other. Bush hasn't encountered an anti-Kerry lie he doesn't grinningly approve of, nor is he capable of telling a complete, unqualified, unadulterated truth.

Thought For The Week

From Kipling's "Follow Me 'Ome" (with Orwell, I've decided to restore the "h's"):
So it's knock out your pipes and follow me!
And it's finish up your swipes and follow me!
Oh, hark to the big drum calling,
Follow me -- follow me home!

One Last Thing

Ben Ginsberg, the Bush-Cheney campaign's top attorney, has been giving legal advice to the SBVF"T". No coordination, right?

: Via Atrios, from CNN's Newsnight:
JOHNS: Behind the scenes, Kerry's aides were fighting the swift boat charges with unusual ferocity. They say they have evidence one of the top members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is an outright liar.

The co-author of the book "Unfit for Command," former swift boat commander John O'Neill said Kerry made up a story about being in Cambodia beyond the legal borders of the Vietnam War in 1968.

O'Neill said no one could cross the border by river and he claimed in an audio tape that his publicist played to CNN that he, himself, had never been to Cambodia either. But in 1971, O'Neill said precisely the opposite to then President Richard Nixon.

O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.


JOHNS: Now, O'Neill may have an explanation for this but he has not returned CNN's calls. What does seem clear is that a top member of the swift boat group is now being held to the same standard of literal accuracy they've tried to impose on John Kerry -- Aaron.

BROWN: Do they -- are they going to, they being the Kerry side here, are they going to keep talking about this beyond today or are they done with it?

JOHNS: Well they say -- they said both things, excuse me, Aaron. They said they'd really like to get off of it. They've also said they do like to debate the issue of Vietnam because they think it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in their favor.

The thing that is clear is they think they have to keep going ahead and responding to charges against John Kerry, especially when it has to do with his biography or his resume.

BROWN: And just quickly on the O'Neill thing, just for my edification here, Mr. O'Neill's publicist played for you a tape where Mr. O'Neill says what again?

JOHNS: Well, he says in the tape essentially that he did not go to Cambodia, plain and simple. He says that a couple times in fact in this little short interview that was played for me on the phone. Now, of course, as you listen to that conversation with Richard Nixon, he says something completely different or, at least, that's what it sounds like -- Aaron.

UPDATE UPDATE: Ginsberg resigns from the Bush campaign. In case you were wondering, that is the sound of the tables being turned.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Instapundit Watch

[Ed note: It will continue through the week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 14. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Taking A Break

Well, I'm in the process of returning to school. For the next week or so, before shopping period starts but after the majority of students return to campus, we have what is officially called "orientation" but referred to by everybody as "Camp Yale." With the exception of the Instapundit Watch, blogging activities will be on hold while I descend into a world of drinking, drugs, gambling, and anonymous unprotected sex (just like camp, right?).

A few parting thoughts. It seems that the SBVF"T" story is beginning to burn out. The press is getting sick of it (thanks Glenn, you loathsome imbecilic prick). Maybe, in the long run, it's not such a bad thing that it all happened this way. The O'Neill/Corsi slander was going to come out no matter what---and though Kerry and the media should have been quicker to attack it, it peaked as an issue too soon, and forces Bush into the dilemma of having to conduct his convention either as a prolonged and transparent attack ad, or else as the highlight reel of a failed administration.

I'm almost positive that the SBVF"T" would have preferred getting national attention sometime after Labor Day. And now no one is going to pay much attention to the second attack ad, which is a risible distortion of Kerry's Senate testimony, but would be capable of doing damage, since we are, as I said, the United States of Amnesia, and since Kerry himself has managed to do something unthinkable---transform the Vietnam War into a just cause in the minds of Democrats. (Shame on all of them.)

Enough about all that. I'll try not to talk about it when I return to a full blogging schedule. When I do come back, I want to begin by saying a few things about how we can come to conclusions about the truth behind 35 year old slightly shrouded events---the key, I think, is Occam's Razor, and discarding positive or negative absolute statements about empirical facts in favor of assigning probabilities to various logically valid theories. And while I'm talking about philosophy, I'm going to have to get in a few words about Jonah Goldberg's pants-soilingly embarrassing effort to write as a philosopher.

Last word: I just saw some anti-gambling asshole on TV complaining about the pernicious effects of ESPN's broadcasting of the World Series of Poker, and his plans to make an anti-poker video in order to---what else?---save the children.

Fuck the children. See you in a week.

How Was Kerry On The Daily Show?

He looked drugged. He laughed way too hard at only slightly funny Jon Stewart lines. Stewart, on the other hand, all but declared himself a Kerry supporter.

UPDATE: Dana Stevens says "Watching Kerry strike out was especially heartbreaking given that Stewart was pitching not just softballs but marshmallows. Puffy interview marshmallows with rainbow sprinkles on them...." Yeah, that's about right.

Absolutely Damning

Atrios has the goods here and here.

Excerpt 1:
CNN's Newsnight just played the O'Neill-Nixon tape, with text graphic on screen:

O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.
Excerpt 2:
JOHN O'NEILL: The whole country's watching him avoid the question. You asked about Cambodia. How do I know he's not in Cambodia? I was on the same river, George. I was there two months after him. Our patrol area ran to Sedek, it was 50 miles from Cambodia. There isn't any watery border. The Mekong River's like the Mississippi. There were gunboats stationed right up there to stop people from coming. And our boats didn't go north of, only slightly north of Sedek. So it was a made up story. He's told it over 50 times, George, that was on the floor of the Senate. He wrote articles about it, it was a malicious story because it painted all the guys above him, all of the commanding officers, in effect, as war criminals, that had ordered him into a neutral country, it was a lie.
I suspect that a thorough search of the Nixon tapes would produce enough material to send O'Neill back into whatever hole he crawled out of. [Is Houston, Texas a hole?--ed.] [Yes!--F.]

I've been wondering for a while what the point has been of making a controversy out of Kerry's statements about Cambodia. Whether he was there in December 1968 or January or February 1969 just isn't interesting. The idea, I guess, is to suggest that Kerry was never in Cambodia. If that were true, then by pulling a simple Van Odell, we can conclude that no American soldiers were ever in Cambodia, at least until R. Milhous Nixon told us that his invasion of Cambodia "[was] not an invasion of Cambodia." As with Kerry's medals, the record on this is clear and incontrovertible. There were covert missions in Cambodia as early as 1967. Has Glenn Reynolds read William Shawcross? Does he know who Shawcross is?

The meta-strategy on the part of the accusers and some of their Insta-accomplices is to make the election about the justice of the Vietnam War---and to rely on what Gore Vidal called the "United States of Amnesia" to forget that John Kerry's testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was absolutely true, and along with the BCCI investigations, the noblest act of his political life.

"These Charges Are False"

Perhaps in response to the Daily Show calling out the media for their pseudo-objectivity, that was the title of the L.A. Times Editorial today. Read the whole thing. Money-mun-mun:
The technique President Bush is using against John F. Kerry was perfected by his father against Michael Dukakis in 1988, though its roots go back at least to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It is: Bring a charge, however bogus. Make the charge simple: Dukakis "vetoed the Pledge of Allegiance"; Bill Clinton "raised taxes 128 times"; "there are [pick a number] Communists in the State Department." But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.

Then sit back and let the media do your work for you. Journalists have to report the charges, usually feel obliged to report the rebuttal, and often even attempt an analysis or assessment. But the canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false. As a result, the voters are left with a general sense that there is some controversy over Dukakis' patriotism or Kerry's service in Vietnam. And they have been distracted from thinking about real issues (like the war going on now) by these laboratory concoctions.

Instapundit Watch

Day 13. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

To Pull A Van Odell

During the course of writing this blog, I've often encountered, and railed against, the one-anecdote-proves-a-trend school of social science, whether it's Maggie Gallagher insisting that one girl who had difficulty being raised by a lesbian couple "proves" that gay marriage will be bad for children, or James Lileks' contention that using his tax rebate to hire builders to work on his house "proves" that supply-side economics works.

At Pandagon, Jesse Taylor proposes a name for this sort of nonsense:
Van Odell (n.) - The insistence that an event or phenomenon cannot have happened, be happening or happen in the future because it did not, is not and/or will not happen to an unrepresentative sample of said group. Has strong millitary connotations.

Example - When Katie said that nobody liked the brand of athletic shoes because she disliked them, she committed an egregious Van Odell.
I'll be considering adopting this into my official blogging lexicon.

How The Media Should Deal With Smears

E.J. Dionne is on to something:
Alas, this is the classic course a smear campaign takes. A group throws up accusations that, when subjected to scrutiny, prove to be full of holes. Supporters of the attack campaign say that, well, those charges may not pan out, but there must be something here. Let's just keep attacking.

The media have to do more than "he said/he said" reporting. If the charges don't hold up, they don't hold up. And, yes, now that John Kerry's life during his twenties has been put at the heart of this campaign just over two months from Election Day, the media owe the country a comparable review of what Bush was doing at the same time and the same age.

If all the stories about what Kerry did in Vietnam are not balanced by serious scrutiny of Bush in the Vietnam years, the media will be capitulating to a right-wing smear campaign. Surely our nation's editors and producers don't want to send a signal that all you have to do to set the media's agenda is spend a half-million bucks on television ads.

This is also a test of John McCain. When he ran against Bush four years ago, McCain was smeared mercilessly. When McCain protested to Bush about the attacks at one of their debates during the 2000 primaries, Bush brushed him off. "John," Bush said, "it's politics."

McCain snapped back, "George, everything isn't politics."

McCain was right, and when he returns to the United States from a trip to Europe this week, he should stand up for that principle by suspending his campaigning for Bush's reelection until the smears against Kerry's Vietnam record stop. More than anyone, McCain is the person to make the case that slaughterhouse politics is particularly ill-suited to this moment in our history.
I'm not holding my breath waiting for exposés of Bush's activities 30 years ago. Nor do I have any reasoned expectation that John McCain will stop campaigning for Bush in response to the SBVF"T". But it would certainly be a nice thing to see.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Why Is The Real News Fake And The Fake News Real?

Once again, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show put the "real" media to shame*:
STEWART: Here's what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry's record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the US military, and haven't been disputed for 35 years?

CORDDRY: That's right, Jon, and that's certainly the spin you'll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.

STEWART: Th-that's not a spin thing, that's a fact. That's established.

CORDDRY: Exactly, Jon, and that established, incontravertible fact is one side of the story.

STEWART: But that should be -- isn't that the end of the story? I mean, you've seen the records, haven't you? What's your opinion?

CORDDRY: I'm sorry, my *opinion*? No, I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons'. I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity' -- might wanna look it up some day.

STEWART: Doesn't objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what's credible and what isn't?

CORDDRY: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well -- sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! [high-pitched, effeminate] 'Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality! Mmm, mmm, mmm.' Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.

STEWART: So, basically, you're saying that this back-and-forth is never going to end.

CORDDRY: No, Jon -- in fact a new group has emerged, this one composed of former Bush colleages, challenging the president's activities during the Vietnam era. That group: Drunken Stateside Sons of Privilege for Plausible Deniability. They've apparently got some things to say about a certain Halloween party in '71 that involved trashcan punch and a sodomized piñata. Jon -- they just want to set the record straight. That's all they're out for.

STEWART: Well, thank you Rob, good luck out there. We'll be right back.
*I originally tried to paraphrase the exchange. Atrios has the transcript.

UPDATE: I hasten to add that Jon Stewart also played video footage of George Elliot profusely praising John Kerry's war record during his 1996 re-election campaign. Has any other media outlet actually aired this tape? It wouldn't be the first time Jon Stewart broke a story.

Done With Cambodia Part II

Spoke too soon. Fred Kaplan definitively ends the debate on this. I hope Glenn Reynolds is reading.

Don't Fuck Up

Comedy Central just ran an ad indicating that John Kerry would be the guest on The Daily Show tomorrow night. If you've seen Kerry's MTV interview with Gideon Yago, you'll understand the title of this post.

Instapundit Watch

Day 12. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Hardball Gets Blackballed

The Republicans might just have declared a boycott of Chris Matthews' show. The reason? "The GOP thinks Matthews has gone over to Sen. John Kerry 's side and is too critical of the Bush campaign's editing of a Hardball interview with Kerry posted on the party's negative site, www.kerryoniraq.com."

Let's just get this straight. Matthews got upset that the Republicans cropped video footage of Hardball to make it seem as if John Kerry was saying something other than what he said. It's just about the lowest form of campaign advertising imaginable. And they did it with Matthews' show. How dare he react to that? He clearly needs to be punished.

Bush Is To Conservatism As Cheez Whiz Is To Cheese

Matthew Yglesias will not let the Cheez Whiz lie die. Neither will we.

There Is A War On, Right?

And it's not in Vietnam. Go figure.

Done With Cambodia

Via Atrios, this is the last word. I mean it Glenn, shut the fuck up.

Back To Normal

Here's the online clearing house of stuff that debunks the SBVF"T" claims.

Rabbit Hole

Very odd day. I noticed this fantastic post from Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner on Mayor Bloomberg's big brother campaigns:
When it comes to smoking, Nurse Bloomberg still has trouble with facts. Here he is in Athens (the Nurse is a major supporter of the insane effort to bring the Olympics to New York City) arguing that his smoking ban is a good reason to give the games to New York. Amongst his comments were these:

"Very few people smoke in New York City - the number of people that are smoking is declining precipitously and, for the first time since, I think, World War II, life expectancy in New York City is higher than it is on average in the United States."

The Nurse’s implication is clear. He has saved lives!
Keep reading, it just gets better.

Military Ironies

I tend not to agree with anything that's written in the Weekly Standard---but I agree with almost everything in this piece. Money quotes:
On the kindest interpretation, the "war wimps" charge is based on a non sequitur, linking two things that have nothing to do with each other (military service as a young man, on the one hand, and sound judgment in geopolitical affairs, on the other). On a not-so-kind interpretation, it entails the repudiation of a crucial democratic principle: civilian control of the military. After all, if only men with military experience are justified in ordering other military men into combat, then national security has been ceded to an unsupervised warrior class--something that Democrats used to warn us against. And besides, by this definition, several of the country's wartime presidents, including Democrats Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, were war wimps.
Yet in 2004, Republicans find themselves supporting a candidate, George W. Bush, with a slender and ambiguous military record against a man whose combat heroism has never (until now) been disputed. Further--and here we'll let slip a thinly disguised secret--Republicans are supporting a candidate that relatively few of them find personally or politically appealing. This is not the choice Republicans are supposed to be faced with. The 1990s were far better. In those days the Democrats did the proper thing, nominating a draft-dodger to run against George H.W. Bush, who was the youngest combat pilot in the Pacific theater in World War II, and then later, in 1996, against Bob Dole, who left a portion of his body on the beach at Anzio.

Republicans have no such luck this time, and so they scramble to reassure themselves that they nevertheless are doing the right thing, voting against a war hero. The simplest way to do this is to convince themselves that the war hero isn't really a war hero. If sufficient doubt about Kerry's record can be raised, we can vote for Bush without remorse. But the calculations are transparently desperate. Reading some of the anti-Kerry attacks over the last several weeks, you might conclude that this is the new conservative position: A veteran who volunteered for combat duty, spent four months under fire in Vietnam, and then exaggerated a bit so he could go home early is the inferior, morally and otherwise, of a man who had his father pull strings so he wouldn't have to go to Vietnam in the first place.
Hugh Hewitt should be made to eat this issue of the magazine.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Gays And Republicans

My friend and classmate Jamie Kirchik---who seems to be employed by everybody these days (just kidding, congrats Jamie)---has an article about the unlikelihood of the Republicans accepting a very mild "let's agree to disagree" addendum to the party platform from the Log Cabin Republicans. In short, the probability is very small. Glenn Reynolds thinks that the Republicans need to come to terms with gay rights. Of course, nothing will advance gay rights like re-electing Bush, right Glenn?

Instapundit Watch

Day 11. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

I'm Prophetic

South Africa won the Tri-Nations. They won because Victor Matfield dominated the lineouts, because Os du Randt disrupted the Australian scrum in the second half, because of Breyton Paulse's flashes of brilliance, but most of all, they won because they wanted to more than the Aussies or New Zealand. I called it before they'd even played a match, and stuck with my convictions through their early defeats (if not for a last minute try by Doug Howlett and a very late try by Clyde Rathbone, the Springboks would have won an undefeated Grand Slam).

I defy anyone to find someone else who picked South Africa to win the Tri-Nations the same way I did, namely out of rational analysis of their strengths as a team. (In other words, I'm sure that there are plenty of Boer nationalists who expect South Africa to win every match, but they don't count as predictors.)

Matthew's Modest Proposal

Matthew Yglesias has what seems to be a relatively easy and straightforward way to eliminate a lot of dishonesty in political campaigns:
There is one and only one way that America can start to have a serious political debate. That is for the result of Candidate A making a false claim about Candidate B to generate the headline: "A Makes False Charges About B" and a lede like, "Speaking before an audience of supporters in Ohio yesterday, Candidate A said some things about Candidate B that were not true. 'Blah blah,' said B, which was false." The current practice of putting the charge in the headline and the lede, then explicating the charge for a few graphs, then providing contrary information in the next few graphs without expressing a judgment about who's right, and then spending the rest of the article speculating on whether or not the charges will be effective is a completely unacceptable incentivation of bullshit and the trivialization of American politics.
Obviously, everything he says is exactly right, and the sort of thing that smart people of any political bent ought to be able to endorse. The impracticality of Matthew's prescription is that it cuts against the two most important media biases, which, as I keep saying, are towards laziness and sensationalism.

Let's go in reverse order. "Candidate A Lied" is a fairly attention-grabbing headline, but likely not quite so much as "Candidate B Did Blah Blah Blah." How can I be sure? Because in order for an accusation to merit a "Candidate A Lied"-type headline, the substance of "blah blah blah" is going to have to be fairly heavy stuff. No one is going to write an article about how Candidate A lied when he claimed that his opponent would raise taxes on the top 1% of income earners, when in fact his opponent had merely proposed raising taxes on the top 0.9%. It's just not interesting. Moreover, every newspaper and press outlet has its own political biases which, though usually less pronounced than the primary biases of laziness and sensationalism, influence their perceptions of just what is sensational. So, to take an obviously germane example, for every article that the Washington Post and New York Times print questioning the veracity of the SBVF"T" claims, the Washington Times and the New York Post will print at least several tabloid style articles in which the possibility that the SBVF"T" are liars is essentially buried. And the issue can be approached from another angle as well; the Washington Post and New York Times each have their fair share of reporters who accept the premise, at least to some degree, that anything a candidate says is news. So, finally, while there are countervailing forces arguing that sensationalism would best be served by writing about false accusations rather than the substance of those accusations, the scales are ultimately weighted in favor of headlines and ledes presenting smears as news and only bothering to investigate them beyond the point at which average readers stop paying attention.

But the real reason that Matthew's proposal is depressingly unlikely to take effect is the laziness factor. In order to be able to report that an accusation is false, a reporter not only has to do some real investigation, but has to perform some analytic mental labors, to assign probabilities to the various possible versions of events, to draw conclusions---in short, to think. It's not going to happen. There is absolutely no incentive for him to do so, and it is only a minority of journalists who would feel duty-bound to uncover the fraudlence of a charge before doing any reporting on it. And those points are only relevant to print journalism. Is any 24-hour news channel ever going to bother to report that "Candidate X's charge is false" before reporting that "some say Candidate Y did blah blah blah."? Please. Apropos of that last point, let's also keep in mind that a lot of the phony attacks---and all the truly baseless, wild, and injurious ones---are promulgated by surrogates, allowing individual candidates to maintain a respectability and plausible distance. (This is, of course, precisely the dilemma that the Kerry campaign faces now.) The average reporter is unwilling to do the mental work to expose the falsity of a candidate's charge in his headline or lede; what are the odds that he would do the further work of investigating an "independent group" and drawing its connections to a particular campaign? (Yes I'm aware of the Times piece. It was an adumbration of previously written material.)

There's a third bias worth mentioning, which is the one directly related to political biases. Matthew has been very insightful recently in pointing out what he calls the "hack gap," namely the alternative approaches liberal and conservative journalists take to their craft. In very general terms, a liberal journalist is a journalist first and a liberal, let alone a Democrat, much later. As such, he usually feels bound by the ethics of his profession to present the other side's case as fairly as possible. And he will usually not publish stories he knows to be untrue (and I'm not talking here about sociopaths like Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass). But the liberal reporter is accutely conscious of the perception of liberal bias in the media, and will often try to compensate by treating plainly bogus conservative memes neutrally, and thereby legitimizing them.

The conservative journalist, on the other hand (and again, these are generalities), is either a conservative or a Republican first, and only a journalist third. (Yes, I'm aware of the exceptions.) Michelle Malkin, on Hardball the other day, insinuated something to the effect that there are rumors that John Kerry deliberately shot himself to get out of Vietnam. Of course, the origins of these rumors are people like Malkin saying that such rumors exist. But it doesn't matter to her. Anything that might hurt the Democratic candidate is worth talking about. Most liberal journalists and reporters just wouldn't do that. The net result is that accusations about liberals and Democrats tend to be aired out under a mutually agreed-upon notion of objectivity. Accusations about conservatives and Republicans, by contrast, tend to be both presented and carefully scrutinized by one side, and utterly derided by the other (and offered as evidence of media bias).

I'm not, by the way, pretending that this phenomenon couldn't cut the other way. The position of a number of liberal editorialists on Michael Moore, namely that we know he's full of shit but so what because he might help unseat Bush, is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. But the Republican party, at least over the last 20 or 30 years, has gotten incredibly good at managing propaganda, producing raft-fulls of hacks posing as journalists who have to be given equal time (because otherwise the media are biased), and holding the vast majority of conservative reporters and commentators to its party line. It's not a coincidence that one constantly hears right-wing talk show hosts repeating RNC talking points almost verbatim. There's no secret conspiracy---vast or right or winged or otherwise---behind this; just a shared worldview and a willingness by the right to present a front that tolerates no apostasy. Most of these characters are only called "journalists" by that word's gradual debasement. But it no longer matters. They've been effectively mainstreamed.

The way to fight these phenomena---and let there be no mistake, they are self-sustaining---is not for the left to try to close the hack gap by producing its own hacks. That would only make the problem worse. Liberal journalists, instead, have to start doing just what Matthew says, making the dishonesty of the right the primary story, rather than a buried addendum. But such a transformation would require a prior transformation of the ethics underlying journalism. And for that, it may already by too late.

Blair Takes The Higher Ground

The Mirror is reporting that Tony Blair is refusing to be enlisted in George W. Bush's re-election campaign, i.e., refusing to come the States to be given a major award by the president. Blair's position is that he can't possibly accept such an award while American and British soldiers are still dying in Iraq. Good for him. This is clearly another attempt, like with McCain, to link Bush to somebody that the American people like a lot more than the president.

One quibble about the article, though. It lists the award Blair is declining as the Congressional Medal of Honor, which it further describes as the highest award America can bestow on a foreigner. Is all this true? I was under the impression that the CMoH was the highest award that the government could bestow on a citizen, so either the article has misidentified the medal, or else we're the only country that doesn't preserve its highest honors for citizens.

Swiftvet Liars

Kevin Drum provides a useful summary. One could add a lot more, however.

Reality Check

Joe Trippi makes a necessary point about the Kerry FEC filing. Hardblogger doesn't seem to be link friendly, so you'll just have to believe me that I'm quoting him accurately:
The second thing I wanted to weigh in on is the Kerry Campaign’s complaint to the Federal Election Commission about illegal coordination between the Bush campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. It’s a total joke. I’ve been in politics for over 30 years now and everyone knows filing a complaint with the FEC is pointless. You could have pictures of Karl Rove writing the scripts and feeding these guys their lines and the FEC still wouldn’t take any action. And the same would be true, by the way, if it was the Kerry campaign that was violating the law. The FEC has never met a complaint it couldn’t ignore until after the election or maybe…forever.

You want to clean up politics? Give the FEC real teeth – like forfeiture of office if you are caught coordinating illegally. Today the risk is a slap on the wrist and a ridiculous fine. And when you are running for President of the United States I am sorry to say – a fine after the election is not enough to stop otherwise good people from doing outrageous things, including breaking the law. The equivalent of the death penalty – losing office ill got by breaking the law is something I think is long overdue.
There's no arguing with him on the FEC. The point of the complaint, however, seems to me to be more "meta"; in other words, the point is to shift the terrain from Kerry's service record 35 years ago to Bush's connections to a smear campaign today. The backlash is coming.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Thoughtful, Calm, Rational Discourse

The Poor Man has some thoughts worth sharing on the SBVF"T". They're not cuddly, but do, I think, cut to the quick.

This Is Getting Old

Glenn Reynolds one-ups himself, in some of the most apalling post-modern relativist bullshit outside the academic left that I've ever seen. (Speaking of the academy, what can it possibly take to get a position in the University of Tennesee Law School? Opposable thumbs?) Take it away, you silly sod:
THIS PIECE in the Chicago Tribune [referring to the Rood piece corroborating Kerry's account] doesn't seem to add all that much considering how it was being spun. William Rood, who served with Kerry, weighs in strongly on the Silver Star medal debate, in Kerry's favor. But as I've mentioned before, the medals are something of a distraction.

Did Kerry deserve the Silver Star? Ultimately, that's a subjective decision that is unlikely to be resolved 35 years later. If it turns out that Kerry put himself in for the Purple Heart, that will be embarrassing for him, but that's not addressed here. (We'll find out, of course, if Kerry ever releases the records, something that he seems rather reluctant to do). But although putting himself in for a medal would make Kerry look self-serving, it's only an embarrassment. As for the rest, well, it's degenerated into a he-said / he-said argument that suits the spinmeisters. [Emphasis mine.]
If you're not either rolling on the floor laughing, or trying to stanch the bleeding from your just-burst forehead vein, read through this graf again.

The medals are a distraction? Presumably from the awesomely important question of whether Kerry was in Cambodia in January or February 1969, and the depravity, perversity, dishonesty, and let's face it, psychopathology of a man who would claim to have been in Cambodia in December 1968. (The latest theory floating around is that Kerry misremembered Tet celebrations as Christmas, which seems eminently believable and ought to put the whole thing to rest---stay tuned.)

Glenn is factually correct about one thing: he, Glenn, has indeed repeatedly said that the medals are a distraction. No doubt he'll keep saying it. But it won't be anymore true. The worthiness of Kerry's medals are the subject of half of the SBVF"T" campaign. The other half is Kerry's purported treason for his anti-war activities (we'll get to that tomorrow...fuck it's past midnight, I mean later today). The Cambodia nonsense, despite Glenn's insistence, is exactly as relevant and impressive as the demonstrable proof that Bush lied, to pander to Pennsylvanians, about the cheese he has on his cheese-steaks. Let's reduce this to language Glenn might comprehend: nobody gives a fuck about Cambodia except for Glenn Reynolds, some Glenn Reynolds wanna be's, whatever neo-John Birchers are still around, and Republican party hacks; nobody should give a fuck either.

What people would care about, rightly, is whether or not Kerry was somehow fraudulently awarded a chestful of medals. There seems to be a mathematical principle at work here, something like "the greater the extent to which all the SBVF'T' claims about Kerry's medals have been rebutted in minute detail by every eyewitness account, by all the available documentary evidence, and the statements of members of the SBVF'T' themselves prior to joining SBVF'T', the more Glenn Reynolds will insist that the O'Neill/Corsi libel is a sideshow to the really important issue of Cambodia". In a strictly logical sense, Reynolds' position is a coherent one. The problem that he'll have to deal with is that it's a position only a head-in-the-sand shill could possibly take, and when this is over, very little (nothing) will be left of his credibility as an independent commentator.

Now, on another hand, what happens when blind and blinding hackery meets Derridean relativism? You get statements like this:
Did Kerry deserve the Silver Star? Ultimately, that's a subjective decision that is unlikely to be resolved 35 years later.
Can we review the relevant facts here? All the after-action reports, which, as it turns out, were not written by John Kerry, and had to be approved by Kerry's COs, back up Kerry's version of events. William Rood, the only other officer participating in that episode still alive, corroborates Kerry's version of events. Kerry's crewmates corroborate Kerry's version of events. (Let me know if I'm leaving something out.) Against that, John O'Neill presents third-hand hearsay at 35 years remove. Not to mention that O'Neill has already been amply exposed as a liar and slanderer. Yup, I guess it's just a he-said/he-said toss-up, and we'll never know, gosh we shouldn't even get quagmired in this unresolvable Gordian knot of a puzzle of an enigma of a mystery of a did you know that Kerry lied about Cambodia?

One other thing. By Glenn's logic, every medal that has ever been awarded to a soldier is subject to suspicion. Did [insert soldier's name] deserve his medal? If anyone says otherwise, then we'll never know.

McCain To Bush: "You Should Be Ashamed"

Check out the new Kerry ad. Just a devastating clip of a McCain-Bush primary debate in 2000. Note to moveon.org: start a collection of similar clips and put them on the air.

John O'Neill Should Be Sued For Libel

This is withering. Let's begin:
There were three swift boats on the river that day in Vietnam more than 35 years ago—three officers and 15 crew members. Only two of those officers remain to talk about what happened on February 28, 1969.

One is John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate who won a Silver Star for what happened on that date. I am the other.
John O'Neill was not there. Nevertheless:
John O'Neill, author of a highly critical account of Kerry's Vietnam service, describes the man Kerry chased as a "teenager" in a "loincloth." I have no idea how old the gunner Kerry chased that day was, but both Leeds and I recall that he was a grown man, dressed in the kind of garb the VC usually wore.

The man Kerry chased was not the "lone" attacker at that site, as O'Neill suggests. There were others who fled. There was also firing from the tree line well behind the spider holes and at one point, from the opposite riverbank as well. It was not the work of just one attacker.
Read it all.

Glenn Reynolds: Volunteer Hatchet Man Or Village Idiot?

This is just breathtaking:
As I've said before, the medals are a distraction, and Kerry's real problems lie elsewhere. So expect the pro-Kerry spin to involve a lot of talking about the medals, as if that were the only issue.
Glenn thinks the real problem is the Christmas in Cambodia affair. Let's just clear up what that was. Eighteen years ago, John Kerry said he was in Cambodia 35 years ago (from now), and wrongfully (shamefully!) claimed to have been there five weeks earlier, during Christmas, than he actually was. This is a non-story. For the SBVF"T", it's a tertiary concern. Their primary motivation is Kerry's Senate testimony, whereas the bulk of their charges deal with his medals.

The medals are a distraction, Glenn? That's what the fuck his accusers are accusing him about. Misremembering the date of one's excursion into Cambodia is something most people can live with. Being falsely accused of cowardice, manipulation of records for personal gain, and court-martial-able offenses like fleeing under fire and inflicting wounds on oneself to escape combat, are the sorts of things anybody with a pulse would be furious about. Pro-Kerry spin? Are you the slightest bit concerned with your own integrity, Glenn? Are you going to report on the emerging connections between the Bush campaign and the SBVF"T"? Not unless you can spin it as left-wing media bias, I suspect.

I guess I haven't answered the question in the title of this post. I think it's both, plus vapidly grinning dork.

Instapundit Watch

Day 10. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Shit Hits The Fan Part II/ Exposing Scumbaggery Edition

This should be the final nail in the coffin of the SBVF"T", as well as the beginning of an investigation into Bush campaign dirty tricks. Blogger Digby has discovered that one of the men appearing in the new SBVF"T" ad is a member of the Veterans-for-Bush-Cheney '04 steering committe (or was until Thursday). Of course the Bushies tried to bury this by editing their website, but Digby managed to salvage the Google cache from August 19 (scroll down for the highlighted name). And enjoy Google's disclaimer:
G o o g l e's cache is the snapshot that we took of the page as we crawled the web. The page may have changed since that time.

Oh, and in other news, the records of the third man to receive a bronze star for the incident in the incident for which John Kerry and Larry Thurlow received bronze stars, Eugene Lambert, were released under the Freedom of Information Act. They corroborate Kerry's account, and is the third of three citations to insist that the unit was indeed under enemy fire. Thurlow has publicly said he believes that Kerry doctored the after action reports (for the awards of two other men?), but in Thurlow's citation, Lambert, and not Kerry, is listed as the eyewitness.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Shit Hits The Fan/ Crushing Free Speech Edition

The Kerry campaign has filed an official FEC complaint to take the SBVF"T" ad off the air. My initial reaction, when Tucker Carlson reported this on CNN, was "stupid, stupid, what are you doing, do you want to let these bastards play victims?" But there was another shoe that Tucker didn't allow to drop. Let's put this in caps:


McCain-Feingold, as we've learned in recent months, has left open loopholes the size of well, Texas, but it is strict in preventing direct coordination between registered campaigns and 527 groups. That means there's criminal activity afoot, and not just in the common parlance in which anybody who worked for Richard Nixon (like John O'Neill) is a crook. As far as tarnishing Kerry, this ought to put the issue to rest. Now, with any luck, comes the backlash.

Interesting comment
on Matthew Yglesias's site:
And, of course, the Florida thing goes along with the FEC challenge. Duh. The intent isn't to prove that BC04 is coordinating but rather to air the whole thing out in the press and fight it out on whether Bush is a cheating lying scumbag or not.

Of course, this will make the Sunday shows.
Very cynical. But there's truth in it, and moreover, I fail to see what's unethical about fighting a campaign as hard as possible according to the rules that the other side set. For the past two weeks, the focus of the campaign has been whether or not Kerry lied to get his medals. If the terrain for the next several weeks is whether or not Bush is a dirty-trickster, then the president will be in a lot of trouble, especially since his convention is shaping up to be a prolonged attack ad (what else could be the point of Zell Miller as keynote speaker?).

UPDATE: In addition to Florida, the Minnesota GOP is in cahoots with the SBVF"T", at least to the extent of linking to them, recommending the O'Neill/Corsi book, and using their own spokesmen to float SBVF"T" attacks on Kerry. The RNC has its tentacles all over this. Follow the money, as Lenin said.


Matt Welch has some eminently valid criticisms of Kerry, here.

Instapundit Watch

Day 9. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.


I've never liked the title of Al Franken's book, but I'm beginning to sympathize with him. Atrios points out a little detail of the Matthews/Malkin encounter that shouldn't escape our notice. When Mattews pressed Malkin to come up with any names of soldiers accusing Kerry of deliberately inflicting his own wounds, all she could come up with were "Patrick Runyan" [sic] and "William Zeldonaz" [sic]. Runyon and Zaladonis (spellings from the transcript corrected) happen to be the very soldiers whom the NYT reports had their accounts distorted by the SBVF"T" and who are now corroborating Kerry's version of events leading up to his first purple heart.

I realize Malkin was grasping for something, anything, but that was a pretty poor choice.

Presidential Lies

George W. Bush lied to Pennsylvania voters about his preferences for cheese on cheese-steaks. The local custom is to get Cheese Whiz, which is an absolutely vile concotion, and Bush opted instead to get American cheese. If I were a Republican, and Bush were a Democrat, I'd be arguing that those are the actions of a man who will do or say anything to get elected. If Kerry had done this, FNC would run a segment on every primetime show about it, and Glenn Reynolds would be posting a wrap up of sneering right-wing bloggers who are unsurprised by yet another Kerry effort to pander to voters. This time, however, it's Bush lying about a completely inconsequential matter, except insofar as it might win him the three voters who can be swayed by a candidate's affinity for local cheesey-meat customs. (The flip-side of the story is that Kerry got Swiss cheese on his cheese-steak, which, as we know, means that he's a French elitist fop.)

P.S. My uncle owned a cheese-steak restaurant in Philadelphia for about 30 years, and was once written up in city magazine for having the best cheese-steaks in Philly. He was also very gracious about letting people get what they wanted on their steaks.

Chris Matthews Sacks Up

The man's been on fire the past few days. Last night, he eviscerated Larry Thurlow (figuratively, the other way would have been too messy), and essentially go Thurlow to admit that he had no evidence whatsoever for any of his allegations against John Kerry. Later Michelle "I'm an intellectual" Malkin accused John Kerry of deliberately wounding himself in order to get out of Vietnam; only she didn't directly accuse him, relying instead on weasel phrases, "it's been suggested," "some have said," "a book suggests"---you know, protect plausible deniability and all that. Matthews absolutely destroyed Malkin on this point. Read the transcript here. Keith Olbermann blogs about the incident here.

What really set all this off was that the Bush campaign released a video about a week ago that distorted footage of John Kerry from Hardball (at least as dishonest an editing job as anything Michael Moore has ever done). Since then, Matthews, understandably pissed, has been fighting rambo-like against every right-wing hack to appear on his show. I am digging the new Chris Matthews.

Lies Swiftly Disintegrating

Fantastic reporting by the NYT on the Swiftvets. Loads more on this in the morning. In the meantime, who wants to lay odds on how Glenn Reynolds reports this, if it all? I'd say even money to link, better than even money, maybe 1:.5, to cite this as an instance of media bias. The SBVF"T" are falling apart at a rapidly quickening pace, and Instapundit is going to have to distance himself from the bullshit really soon if he wants to pretend to be a credible commentator in the future.

UPDATE: Funny how right I was about Glenn Reynolds' reaction to the Times piece. Glenn's complaints are 1) that it's not nice to the Swiftvets, and 2) that it doesn't have a lot to say about the Christmas in Cambodia story. Let's go in reverse order. Kerry said publicly about 16 years ago that he was in Cambodia in December, 1968, while the government was denying any US presence in Cambodia. Just so that we're clear, the government was, in fact, lying about US forces in Cambodia. Now it turns out that Kerry was 50 miles from Cambodia at Christmas, but in Cambodia several times between January and February 1969. That's it. The entire story. That's apparently what Instapundit thinks is incredibly damaging to the Kerry campaign. Um, Glenn, it's a non-story. Nobody gives a shit. Nobody should.

Okay, back to the first point about the Times piece, that's it's all-around not nice to the SBVF"T". I think---and this might just be my impression---that that's because they can't keep their stories straight, they have no evidence beyond thirty year old third-hand recollections, and new records continue to be released discrediting their individual charges. For all Glenn's whining about the Times, everything, everything they've reported is true. Glenn has good reason not to want to get involved in the substance of the charges the SBVF"T" have made against John Kerry, namely that they're not rationally believable. Look at the Insta-weasel's back-peddling:
UPDATE: Something I said there that bears repeating -- the reason why the Christmas-in-Cambodia story is getting the media cold-shoulder, and why what SwiftVet coverage there is focuses on the medals, etc., is that the Christmas-in-Cambodia story is clear, and has already been proven false. It's easy to understand, and that makes it much more devastating for Kerry.

The medal stuff is complex, and can be spun in a way that makes people's eyes glaze over. So that's what we'll mostly get, along with "political" stories that will treat the SwiftVets stuff as partisan hackery in a way that Michael Moore never gets treated by the same outlets.
If you think it's important that Kerry was in Cambodia several times, but only slightly later than he claimed to be, then I guess Glenn's right about the C-i-C story having been "proven false," though why that would be important to anyone is beyond me. But look at the rest of Glenn's comments. The medal stuff is "complex," "can be spun," "difficult to understand" (by implication), etc., you know, hazy, fog o'war, who knows who's tellin' the truth, whaddayagonnadoaboutit. Glenn doesn't evince the slightest concern that all of the substantive SBVF"T" charges have themselves been proven false---if not by a strict legal standard, then by the illuminating standard of Occam's Razor and common sense, which are the only valid criteria for drawing conclusions about this affair. (Indeed, the fact that Kerry's accusers can't be demonstrated to be lying in an absolute or transcendental sense is entirely the purpose of the exercise: throw enough mud, and some will stick.)

What the Times story makes clear, and what Glenn and his pals really would prefer not to talk about, is that the SBVF"T" deliberately fabricated evidence, presented third- and fourth- hand accounts as if they were eyewitness accounts, deliberately distorted the words of some veterans whom they interviewed, all the while refusing to speak to the men who actually were there at the time with Kerry. No rational person could believe their theories.

I'm going to say this again because it bears repeating: John O'Neill is a Nixon hatchet man. He is the protege of a convicted Watergate criminal. To those who say, "well that doesn't tell us anything about the veracity of the charges," I say bullshit. They would not be taking a Lyndon LaRouche pamphlet seriously. There was a publisher at St. Martin's who had to resign over the controversies involving a book accusing George Bush of crimes related to cocaine use in the 1970s. I'm sure Instapundit gave that a lot of play. The point is that journalists can't take just anyone seriously, and having a slick media presentation and a lot of right-wing money is not a legitimizing credential. The defamatory gangsters of the Nixon White House are the scum of the earth, and should be assumed to be lying until proven to be telling the truth.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

A Truthful Swiftvet Ad

Watch this. Then forward it to all your friends. Right away. (Hat tip to Ezra Klein at Pandagon.)

How Not To Be An Ostrich

Jonathan Last, who is certainly a conservative, has also, to borrow a phrase, been mugged by reality. Fighting against gay marriage rights is a losing fight. Last has some prescriptions for the right on how to come to grips and deal with it.


Via the Poor Man, I've been alerted to the fact that I was probably wrong to impute white separatist ties to Regnery publishing. I still think the idea of a white nationalist dating service is a worthwhile story, for comedy value at least.

Instapundit Watch

Day 8. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

More Instapundit Bullshit

Glenn Reynolds links to the Washington Post article which demonstrates that Larry Thurlow is a lying liar. That's more than I expected of him. This precis, however, is exactly what I expected from him:
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET THE POST LOOKING AT MILITARY RECORDS? A story that's bad for Kerry's critics, I guess. No mention at all of the Cambodia story, though, in which Kerry's critics have been proved right -- and which the Post has ignored.
Can we quantify, perhaps, not just how factually incorrect this post is, but how severely dishonest it is? Reynolds' casual reference to the Post article, "a story that's bad for Kerry's critics," makes it sound as if there's another he said/she said controversy or something of the sort. Wrong! One of the most prominent and overplayed SBVF"T" charges against Kerry has been proven to be an outright lie. That's more than just "bad" for O'Neill & co. As for Cambodia as well as the fatuous charge of media bias, I think Ezra Klein has Instapundit's number dialed in on this one:
Instapundit (who I'm not going to link to) cites this story as further evidence of left-wing bias -- they won't talk about the Swift Boat allegations except to prove them wrong. What, he asks, of Cambodia, where Kerry was proved wrong?

It occurs to me that conservative bloggers would be very bad editors, as they have little ear for an interesting story. The Cambodia correction, at best, would read something like: "For years, John Kerry said he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve. Recent documentation makes that untrue; he was there a few weeks later." Scintillating it isn't.
The fact that a book written by a Nixon hatchet man and a mouth-frothing anti-Semite/Catholic/Muslim/everybody got so much attention is evidence of media bias in the other direction. [Actually, it demonstrates that the primary media biases are towards sensationalism and laziness--ed.]

Swift Boat Liars

I know I said I was done talking about this, but there's been a flurry of new articles about it in the last 24 hours. First, read this exchange between William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg in Slate. Saletan shows that the entire SBVF"T" ad can be dispatched in a few paragraphs. Here they are:
The Swiftvets' allegations are deliberately blurred. Their ad starts with John Edwards urging people to talk to "the men who served with" Kerry. Several Swiftvets then appear on the screen, saying they "served with" Kerry. This is a semantic trick. Edwards is talking about crewmates who, at one time or another, accompanied Kerry on his six-man boat. The Swiftvets served with Kerry only in the sense that they manned other boats in Vietnam. It's a bit like saying you spent the night with Bill Clinton because you were on Martha's Vineyard, too.

Thirteen vets make 15 statements in the ad. Let's discard the unfalsifiable ones: "You could not count on John Kerry," "John Kerry is no war hero," "John Kerry has not been honest," "John Kerry cannot be trusted," "He is lying about his record," and "He lacks the capacity to lead." There's no way to fact-check these because they cite no facts.

Next, let's distinguish Kerry's statements about what he did from his statements about what others did. Most of the Swiftvets' material complaints address the latter: "John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam," "John Kerry betrayed the men and women he served with in Vietnam," "He dishonored his country ... he most certainly did," "He betrayed all his shipmates ... he lied before the Senate." Phrases such as "what happened in Vietnam," "dishonored his country," "lied before the Senate," and "the men and women he served with" (there were no women on Kerry's boat) give away that these claims have nothing to do with Kerry's service. They're about his allegations afterward that American forces participated in war crimes.

The war crimes debate is murky. Kerry testified not about what he had seen but about what other servicemen had told him. And some war crimes clearly occurred. So at a minimum, in both spirit and substance, he didn't lie.

That brings us to the allegations that he misrepresented his own experiences. Here, Kerry's testimony was firsthand, so his veracity is on the line. Only two statements in the ad fall into this category. One comes from Louis Letson: "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart because I treated him for that injury." The other comes from Van O'Dell: "John Kerry lied to get his Bronze Star. ... I know, I was there, I saw what happened."

Letson loses credibility right away for implying that he has firsthand knowledge about his allegation. He doesn't. The allegation has to do with the source of Kerry's injury, not its severity. According to Tuesday's Los Angeles Times, Letson told the paper that after treating Kerry, "[Letson] learned from some medical corpsmen that other crewmen had confided that there was no exchange of fire and that Kerry had accidentally wounded himself as he fired at the guerrillas. Letson said he didn't know if the crewmen giving this account were in the boat with Kerry or on other boats."

That's third-hand testimony from somebody who doesn't even know the identity or location of the firsthand source. Pretty lousy stuff. Furthermore, the Times notes, "Navy rules during the Vietnam War governing Purple Hearts did not take into account a wound's severity—and specified only that injuries had to be suffered 'in action against an enemy.' … A Times review of Navy injury reports and awards from that period in Kerry's Swift boat unit shows that many other Swift boat personnel won Purple Hearts for slight wounds of uncertain origin." Case closed.

O'Dell, on the other hand, really "was there" when Kerry earned his Bronze Star. This was the incident in which Kerry pulled Jim Rassman, a green beret, from a river. Nobody disputes that it happened or that mines had gone off. Kerry says the rescue happened under fire. O'Dell and some others who were in boats nearby say it didn't. Rassman backs up Kerry's version. So does Del Sandusky, a crewman on Kerry's boat, who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week, "I saw the gunflashes shooting at us from the shore. I saw the rounds hitting the water." So does the Navy's official after-action report. Such reports normally included input from all Swift boat officers involved in a battle. Bottom line: Everyone agrees that there were explosions, and among the men who were on Kerry's boat or in the water next to it, the record of testimony on Kerry's account that shots were fired is 2-0 for Kerry. So much for the Swiftvets ad.
Saletan gets right to the heart of the motivation for the SBVF"T" campaign, though he doesn't dwell on it too much; namely, the whole thing is revenge for Kerry's Senate testimony. It was that testimony that led to the creation of John O'Neill by Charles Colson and the Nixon dirty tricks apparatus, and for which O'Neill has been pursuing a vendetta against Kerry for the last 33 years. And, as it turns out, Kerry's Senate testimony was essentially true. Not only did the US Army commit and then try to cover-up atrocities in the commonplace sense of the word, but through official policy like free-fire zones, carpet-bombings, use of napalm and agent orange, razing of villages, etc., the government certainly did contravene international law concerning the conduct of war. That was what Kerry testified to, and he was correct. Saletan's case would have been even stronger, as Josh Marshall notes, had he seen this article from the Washington Post. Josh summarizes:
Larry Thurlow is one of Kerry's most vocal critics. He's a member of the Swift Boat group; he's in the group that put out the ads, etc. Thurlow's claim to fame is his contention that Kerry's boat wasn't actually under fire in a 1969 incident for which Kerry was awarded a Bronze Star.

The Post asked Thurlow to release his records. He refused because "he was unwilling to authorize release of his military records because he feared attempts by the Kerry campaign to discredit him and other anti-Kerry veterans." It seems he had some reason for concern. The Post got the records from a Freedom of Information Act request; and they back up Kerry's version of events [specifically, that both Thurlow and Kerry acted under fire during the incident in question].
Well, that should just about do it for Thurlow. We've already noted on this website that Thurlow himself received a bronze star for the mission in question. I think, now, Thurlow's foray into amateur plumber-ism is over. It didn't last a moment too long. John O'Neill clearly deserves a public libel suit. Unlike Kenneth Baer, who recommended that Kerry himself sue O'Neill, I think the wisest course of action would be for Rassman, Kerry's crewmates, and some of the other veterans about whom O'Neill has written and published scurrilous lies, to be the ones taking O'Neill to court.

In his half of the Slate article, Weisberg concerns himself with the damage the SBVF"T" can do to Kerry, and the concordant benefits to Bush. Weisberg quite rightly notes that the moveon.org response ad isn't even remotely in the same moral category as the SBVF"T" ad. It says two things that are perfectly true of Mr. Bush, 1) that he used family connections to get a very safe post in the National Guard, and 2) that he is condoning a campaign of libel against Mr. Kerry; as well as one thing that is somewhat exaggerated but basically true in spirit, namely that there are no records that Mr. Bush ever showed up for service in the Alabama National Guard. What should Kerry do to fight these lies? As Weisberg notes, Kerry cannot actually respond to the substance of the charges against him; to do so would be a kind of political harakiri in which the media act as the fatal weapon. These suggestions are pretty good:
Kerry could ask his friend John McCain to stop campaigning for Bush until the Swiftvets ads stop. If Bush doesn't respond, Kerry should loose his own attack dogs and make a bigger issue out of Bush avoiding the draft.
Bush's tacit approval of the SBVF"T" ad (he changes the subject whenever asked about it, which is tacit approval) amounts to a rejection of any sort of decorum or restraint in this campaign, and if Kerry doesn't do likewise---always indirectly, always through surrogates---he might get Dukakis'd. It's going to be incumbent upon left-wing independent groups to begin an all-out advertising blitz against Mr. Bush, and their efforts should be as negative as possible without claiming anything that isn't true. What else? Kerry and his campaign, and the DNC, should simply flood every media outlet with statements like this paragraph from Weisberg:
The [Swiftvet] ad is a carefully crafted lie. [It] is beyond vile...Suffice it to say that the spot packs an impressive amount of deceit into 60 seconds. Without entering into every detail of the "controversy," it pretends, as you note, that people who weren't present when Kerry sustained injuries were eyewitnesses. It implies that Kerry wouldn't deserve his Purple Hearts if his injuries had been caused by friendly fire, when in fact he would still qualify. It implies he has said things about his experience that he hasn't. It blurs the distinction between friendly fire and "self-inflicted wounds," implying that Kerry intentionally harmed himself to receive medals and escape Vietnam. It makes criticism of his activities after returning home sound like criticism of his activities in Vietnam.
The gloves are off now, bitches.

UPDATE: The remnant of the Stalinist left is calling John Kerry a war criminal. For whatever it's worth (not much).

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

We're The Hottest

Well, at least in the Ivy League. Which is a bit like winning a gold medal at the Special Olympics.

The War Against Pot

Jacob Sullum has a nice piece in Reason about the government's propaganda against marijuana. Since nobody who has any first-hand (or second-hand!) experience with weed actually believes that it's the sort of thing the ought to be eradicated while its users are put into prison, the government, natch, resorts to outrageous lies in order to drum up anti-weed hysteria. (Too bad marijuana doesn't have a powerful lobby behind it---like, you know, that dangerous addictive drug Oxycontin.) How does the government lie? Sullum explains:
Either the marijuana people smoked in the 1960s and '70s was not psychoactive at all, and its perceived effects were a mass delusion, or someone is exaggerating. Otherwise, we'd have to believe that the level of THC (marijuana's main active ingredient) in today's pot exceeds 100 percent.

In fact, the ONDCP says the current average is something like 7 percent, up from 3.5 percent in 1985, based on analyses of marijuana seized by federal agents. But seizures are not necessarily a representative sample, and if the focus of anti-pot efforts has shifted in the last two decades, the 1985 data may not be comparable to more recent measurements.

Still, marijuana probably is somewhat more potent, on average, than it used to be, because growers have gotten better at producing high-quality cannabis. Contrary to what the government says, however, there's little reason to believe stronger pot is worse for you. If anything, it's healthier, since people smoke less of it to achieve the effect they want.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy claims that weed is 40 times more potent than it was 20 years ago. Just assuming that their 7% THC figure is correct, that would mean that marijuana in the 60s and 70s was less than .175% THC. Right.

Speaking Of Jonah Goldberg

The man himself devotes a whole column to taking at face value Dick Cheney's distortion of John Kerry's use of the word "sensitive." Matthew Yglesias explains how boneheaded that is.

Jonah Goldberg...

...drunk out of his mind in an, um, interesting pose. The photoevidence may not be pretty, but it doesn't lie. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Who Published Unfit For Command?

I swore to myself that I was done talking about UfC or the SBVF"T", but this deserves a link. The owner of the publishing house that put out the anti-Kerry screed, William Regnery II, is going to start a dating service...for white separatists.

As Ignazio Silone would say, the choice of comrades matters.

Fascism Returns To Germany

And in the strangest way...

Fair & Balanced

As I write, Fox News Channel is broadcasting a Bush campaign speech as a "Fox News Alert." There's nothing consequential about the speech; it's just a standard stump speech. I have no idea why it's even news, let alone an "alert." Surprising? Hardly, but it's revolting nonetheless.

Who Hates Whom?

The Kerry campaign is premised on harnessing hatred of George Bush, right? Via Atrios, here's a graphic that goes some distance towards demolishing that meme.

Lileks Off The Deep End

Lileks' "bleat" today (scroll down) is an attack on John Kerry for being "pro-Sandinista," and for apparently having had a conversation with Marlon Brando about the Contras. I'm pretty sure that Lileks is a Bush supporter, so I have a simple question for him: does he really want to make the Iran-contra scandal an issue in this election? Because, as Matt Welch notes, President Bush has disgracefully reappointed Iran-contra crooks to positions of prominence within the American foreign policy apparatus. And also because John Kerry's principal achievement as a US Senator was to reveal the depth of corruption and criminality of Reagan foreign policy machinery, namely its deliberate subversion of Congress's express legislation, its money laundering on a vast international scale, its covert diplomacy with the Ayatollah, its involvement in drug-trafficking, etc. (you know I could go on with this for some time).

If Iran-contra were to become an issue again, the connection between Republican high crimes and misdemeanors in a previous administration and the current administration would be more than metaphorical---by virture of the fact that the same criminals are involved all over again. Is this the distinction between the two campaigns that Lileks really wants to highlight?

Apparently, yes. Lileks' two main points of contention against Kerry seem to be, first, that
Kerry tells Hainey that he had a telephone relationship with Marlon Brando in 1985 and 1986, during the contras: "He took a huge interest in it. And he would call me. He was always asking questions. And he'd give me advice. I took his advice on a couple of angles. A couple of points."
But Lileks doesn't have the slightest clue about precisely what advice Brando gave Kerry, nor will he be able to point to a single example of Brando influencing Kerry for the worse. But why should I restrict myself to a defensive posture? Lileks is complaining about Kerry consulting an actor, for no other reason than that Brando was an actor?!! During the Reagan administration?!! Reagan, who laid wreaths at the graves of the Waffen SS at Bitburg? Reagan, who had delusions of having fought in WWII on movie sets in Los Angeles? Give me a fucking break. And by the way, James, it's "Bonzo," not "Gonzo." If you're going to mock the people who mock your hero---and that, I know, is the ultra ironic-hip thing you do so well---at least get the fucking names right.

Lileks' second charge against Kerry is that he met with Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader, which obviously makes Kerry an all-around pro-Communist bad guy, since supporting the contras was such a great idea---an idea so good, in fact, that the crimes committed while doing so ought to be forgiven. Is this a joke? Is Lileks' position on diplomacy that we should only talk to leaders who support democracy, human rights, and capitalism? Or more likely, is Lileks' position that when Republicans conduct diplomacy with dictators (Nixon & Mao, Reagan & Khomeini---how's that for a mix of left and right), it's because they're gritty realists who understand the way the world works and have a practical commitment to keeping our people safe that goes beyond empty leftist platitudes; whereas when Democrats conduct diplomacy with similar sorts of people (not, incidentally, that Ortega could hold a candle to Nixon's or Reagan's third-world buddies), it's because they're either air-headed idealists or else proto-Communists. I'll let Matt Welch have the last word:
Does Anyone Else Remember Opposing Illegal Aid to the Contras While Not Loving the Sandinistas? That seems like a common (and reasonable) enough stance in my memory, but everywhere I stumble across the topic these days, they make it seem like it was an Ortega love-fest there in the mid-'80s. That's certainly not how we ran it in my admittedly narrow neck of the woods. It was Sandinista, not Sandinistas, and no amount of middle-aged I-was-wrongism should ever rehabilitate daffy crooks like Oliver North, or all those other Republican hacks who were punished for mocking the Rule of Law by landing key jobs in the Bush Administration.

Now That Is Witty

You can try to outfunny The Corner---but you would fail. Just take a gander at Barbara Comstock's hil-fucking-arious "joke":
John Kerry's GQ interview left out what he clearly considers the biggest asset in a woman -- her bank account!
OMG! ROtF! LMFAO! You, you're good, you.

[See it's funny, because John Kerry married two very rich women. So, obviously, he considers money attractive. Get it? Yes? It's funny, right?--ed.]

Instapundit Watch

Day 7. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.


On Sportscenter last night, Steven A. Smith, who went to Athens for some reason, tried to play up USA basketball's 77-71 win over Greece as if it were the 1980 hockey game. Er, yeah, there's no problem here. Nothing to see people.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Another Take On Outfoxed

Via Matt Welch, I came across this review of Outfoxed by his Reason colleague Jesse Walker. Like Matt, I agree with everything Jesse has to say, except for his description of Colin Quinn as smarter and funnier than anybody on FNC. Okay, that might be technically true, but Quinn is neither smart nor funny in his own right. Jesse has a pretty good precis of Outfoxed's best "O'Reilly is an asshole" moment:
And the film offers a solid summary of the Jeremy Glick affair, in which Bill O'Reilly, the buffoonish host of The O'Reilly Factor, "interviewed" a young man who had both lost his father on 9/11 and subsequently signed an antiwar petition. O'Reilly berated Glick rudely and, when the segment was over, he threw him out of the studio; afterwards he told progressively less accurate descriptions of what had happened until, 11 months later, he was claiming his guest had accused the president of "knowing about 9/11 and murdering his own father." (Glick had said no such thing.) The latter tale was well known before the movie came out, but Outfoxed does a good job of stitching together a tight and damning account of it.

[If Norm MacDonald had a show, now there would be something worth watching--ed.]

Kerry's Right On Iraq

Devastating Fareed Zakaria column in the Washington Post:
We now know that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Is Bush suggesting that despite this knowledge he would still have concluded that Iraq constituted a "grave and gathering threat" that required an immediate, preventive war? Please. Even if Bush had come to this strange conclusion, no one would have listened to him. Without the threat of those weapons, there would have been no case to make to the American people or to world nations.

There were good reasons to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, but it was the threat of those weapons that created the international, legal, strategic and urgent rationale for a war. There were good reasons why intelligence agencies all over the world -- including those of Arab governments -- believed that Hussein had these weapons. But he didn't.

The more intelligent question is (given what we knew at the time): Was toppling Hussein's regime a worthwhile objective? Bush's answer is yes; Howard Dean's is no. Kerry's answer is that it was a worthwhile objective but was disastrously executed. For this "nuance" Kerry has been attacked from both the right and the left. But it happens to be the most defensible position on the subject.
Yeah. That's exactly right, and nicely succinct too. Kerry could learn something about concision from this piece.

I hope this article gets a lot of play (on Hardball?)---because the Bush strategy has been to try to convince people that Kerry's position is incomprehensibly confusing. It's not. The man has trouble articulating it, but take a look at the opposition.

Kerry's still wrong to say that a president should just be given war authority even if it's known that his case for war is faulty; which is not to say that Kerry's vote at the time was wrong, but that he should have the guts to say that he would have voted differently knowing what he knows now. Curiously, that last point seems to be the current Bush attack line.

Before You Jump To Conclusions...

...okay, it would be wrong of me to say anything approving of moveon.org without linking to this. (Via The Volokh Conspiracy).

An Appreciation

I wish I had said something sooner about the recent passing of Czeslaw Milosz, a great poet and thinker, but more than that, a man of exceptional moral courage and intelligence. After his defection from Communist Poland, Milosz paid a great tribute to George Orwell, who had written, as far as Milosz was concerned, a clinically accurate description of totalitarianism in 1984, and whom Milosz was astonished to learn had never spent any time behind the iron curtain. I wish I could pay as eloquent a tribute to Milosz. This obituary from the Guardian will have to do. I'll reprint the excerpted poetry with which the obituary closes:
We drove before dawn through frozen fields,
The red wing was rising, yet still the night.
And suddenly a hare shot across our path.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago and both are dead:
The hare and the man who stretched his arm.
O my love, where are they, where do they lead,
The flash of a hand, the line of movement, the swishing icy ground -
I ask not in sorrow, but in contemplation.

Fighting Fire With Fire

While I don't approve of every position moveon.org takes, I was certainly pleased to see them fighting back against the SBVF"T". Get the details here.

The CW Takes Shape

First the Note, then Charlie Cook, and now David Broder agree: the election is Kerry's to lose. If the numbers don't change quickly, the echo-effect might be enough to doom the Bush candidacy.

Polls Polls Polls

Even with Ruy Teixeira on vacation, Donkey Rising keeps making me smile. Check out this Zogby poll that they link to. In a multi-candidate race, Kerry-Edwards lead Bush-Cheney 47%-43%. In a race only between the two major parties, the margin is 50%-43%. Bush's approval/disapproval numbers are 47/52, which is an improvement over the horrendous 44/56 from late July, but still terrible news for an incumbent.

Should A President Be Smart?

If you've followed the writings of Christopher Hitchens at all, you've noticed that he seems fairly unconcerned with the president's apparent lack of book-smarts. In fact, Hitchens will argue, doesn't the Bush presidency complete the vision of an America in which anyone can be president? [Sure, anybody who comes from a Mayflower family and attended Andover, Yale, and Harvard not on merit but through family connections--ed.] Matthew Yglesias has a fantastic piece in the American Prospect explaining why intelligence really does matter, and why a lack of analytical or critical ability, beyond providing material for cocktail party jokes, is a serious handicap in an executive, especially in a time of war. Money quote:
That the country should be secured against terrorist attacks, that deadly weapons should be kept out of the hands of our enemies, or that it would be good for a wide slice of the world to enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy are hardly controversial propositions. But these things are easier said than done. Even a person of goodwill is by no means guaranteed to succeed. Yet succeed we must. And if we are to do so, the question of intelligence must be put back on the table. The issue is not “cleverness” -- some kind of parlor trick or showy mastery of trivia -- but a basic ability to make sense of a complicated, fast-changing world and decide how to confront it. Any leader will depend on the work of his subordinates, but counting on advisers to do the president’s heavy lifting for him simply will not do. Unless the chief executive can understand what people are telling him and follow the complicated arguments they may need to make, he will find himself paralyzed at every point of disagreement, or he will adopt the views of the slickest salesman rather than the one who’s gotten things right.
Yglesias opens by taking to task certain liberals like E.J. Dionne who have called on their comrades to stop making jokes about the president's intelligence on the grounds that doing so accomplishes nothing. Yglesias argues, very persuasively, that intelligence is both a legitimate and an important issue---and the idea that the president's deficiences can be made up for by skilled advisors doesn't withstand the slightest bit of scrutiny. Where Matthew is wrong, I think, is in not differentiating between the ways in which the president's stupidity can be made an issue. In terms of pragmatic electoral politics, there really is nothing at all to be gained by making fun of the president; doing so just makes the people who like him all the more fervent in their support. (I happen to think that his incompetency in speaking is at least partly affect.) Sure, when we blue-staters get together, we can crack all the jokes we want, but not in front of the goyim, if you please. All these jokes, however, will turn out to be at our expense if we can't translate them into a substantive criticism of the sort that Matthew is making. Sneers don't win votes, and I think that's Dionne's point.

I began this post by referring to Christopher Hitchens because of his review of several books about John Kerry is this weekend's NYT Book Review. After a reasonably equitable discussion of Kerry's career, in which Hitchens first unironically called Kerry "un homme serieux," and then criticized his apparent two-sidedness on most issues, Hitchens concluded with this:
He still gives, to me at any rate, the impression of someone who sincerely wishes that this were not a time of war. When critical votes on the question come up, Kerry always looks like a dog being washed. John McCain was not like this, when a president he despised felt it necessary to go into Kosovo. We are looking at a man who would make, or would have made, a perfectly decent peacetime president.
And the implication, I guess, is that Kerry would make a lousy war-time president. This is in fact just about the only argument that thinking independents make against John Kerry's presidency. Just as nobody is particularly pro-Kerry, no one outside the "I stand with George W. Bush and the troops" wing of the Republican party really dislikes him all that strongly. What's wrong with the argument? Bush has already proven to be a disastrously incompetent war-time president. It's not just that he invaded Iraq without the slightest idea how to reconstruct a post-dictatorial government and society,* needlessly costing hundreds of American and thousands of Iraqi lives in the process. It's that he doesn't have the slightest clue how to deal with the rise of nuclear rogue powers like North Korea and Iran, or the problem of nuclear proliferation, which is about even money to be the thing that kills all of us at this point. Bush's policies vis-a-vis North Korea are a case study in bad diplomacy, and even now, we're basically resigned to watching as a nuclear power emerges in Tehran. Moreover, the ability of the United States to intervene militarily around the world has been severely crippled by the behavior of the Bush administration.

Hitchens is free to point out, with perfect justification, that the French have acted just as unilaterally as the United States, and I'm completely with him on the moral case for war; but none of that is a response to criticism of Bush's diplomatic methodology, which seems to be to alienate as many countries as possible. Nor does it excuse the pressure put on the intelligence agencies by the vice president to conclude that Iraq had WMDs, nor the utter refusal by the president to admit a single mistake in the conduct of war, nor the repeated and transparent obfuscatory statements about WMDs and terrorist connections, nor the sanctioning of torture within the Justice Department and White House counsel's office, including an overt (and pointless!) rejection of the Geneva conventions. Not only has Bush's war-time presidency been a failure, but there is no reason to believe that Bush is at all capable of success in foreign affairs.

John Kerry might truly be a reluctant participant in the war against jihadism, but as Hitchens is fond of pointing out, it's not up to the United States to choose to fight this war; our enemies have already chosen for us. And virtually any change of policy will be an improvement. Want specific examples? Kerry has already sounded all the right notes about nuclear proliferation; he clearly takes the issue a lot more seriously than the Bush administration has, and he would undoubtedly support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and restore some framework similar to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; Kerry's diplomacy vis-a-vis North Korea and Iran will be an improvement because it won't be belligerent ostrich-ism about the threat that they pose (and it's likely to be similar to the relatively successful Clinton-era diplomacy). Will Kerry invade any new countries? Probably not. Will Bush if re-elected? How could he? With what support? It might be a generation before another British Prime Minister will stake his reputation on an alliance with the United States.

*There's an Insta-meme that's circulated around the right-wing web, originated by Stephen Green at Vodkapundit, to the effect that it's silly to blame Bush for not having a peace plan, since "[n]o peace plan survives the last battle." Green supports this assertion thusly:
Nobody ever knows what the peace will look like. Let's use our examples from earlier. Even as late as Appomattox, who could have predicted the KKK, Jim Crow, or Radical Reconstruction? No statesmen in 1914 knew that the war they were about to unleash would result in 20 million deaths, Russian Communism, or Nazi Germany. World War II? If you can find me the words of some prophet detailing, in 1940, the UN, the Cold War, or even the complete assimilation of western Germany into Western Europe. . . then I'll print this essay on some very heavy paper, and eat it. With aluminum foil as a garnish.
Uh, for one thing, lots and lots of people had been predicting for many years leading up to WWII that there would eventually be a global conflict between Russia and the United States. I think Norman Angell wrote a book about this. The UN? Is he joking? The UN is the League of Nations plus the American involvement that Woodrow Wilson never got. Does he think there were politicians in 1940 who wished that the League of Nations had been better able to enforce its resolutions in the 30s? I'd refer him to specific pages in Niall Ferguson's the Pity of War that demonstrate precisely these predictions (including and especially the last one), but my copy is unfortunately in storage in New Haven. Give me a couple of weeks on that one. Till then, Green ought to start prepping himself for a full meal of paper and aluminum.

Anyway, back to the main point, which is that Green is citing (often incorrectly) examples of failed diplomatic anticipation as a defense of an administration willfully wearing blinders. Look at the problems that actually afflict post-Saddam Iraq: tribal factionalism, Sunni and Shi'ite fundamentalism, Kurdish anti-unitarianism, Iranian interference, Baathist revanchism, etc. Anybody with a rudimentary understanding of Iraqi history could have predicted all of these things. Only the "flowers and candy" ideology of the Bush administration prevented them from preparing for the entirely unsurprising consequences of overthrowing Saddam. The administration deserves full blame for inadequate planning. Green deserves...well, I'd say eating the paper wrapped in aluminum foil is sufficient.

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