A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I Write Too Much On Other Blogs

I just can't help myself. The social dimensions of blogging, even when they descend to the level of pit bull fighting, are too enticing. It does, however, force me to post disjointed fragments of what would be better essays here if I would simply buckle down and get to work. But, there it is!

On what would make me "change my mind" about Iraq:

Our Iraqi enemies shoot at us because they want us to go away. This is a matter which is relatively simple. You either shoot back until you kill them, or you do go away. There is little serious indication that any Iraqis have any more than a passing alliance with the non-Iraqi fighters, and would welcome them with a permanent haven. The Iraqis are not the Taliban.

But many here, I think, do not have that clear a fix on what our non-Iraqi enemies actually do.

It goes like this: They attack the least well-guarded target, of easiest opportunity, with the simplest means that is effective. This is the way they have acted from the beginning. This is the way they act now. Grasp this firmly and a lot of things that look confusing start to make sense.

"Al Queda" (It's still as good a name as any) is there for three reasons:

Iraq is full of easy American targets, (about 140,000 of them) particularly for low-tech bombs.

In Iraq it is easy to find, or bring in, material for low-tech bombs or other low-tech ordinance. This is because 140,000 troops is a ridiculously low number to try to really secure a country that large.

Finally, by putting these two conditions together, America has made Iraq into a superb live-fire and bomb making training ground.

Maybe we should fight until we establish Democracy firmly in Iraq. And we may end up fighting some "terrorists" (i.e. non-Iraqis) in this process. But it is ludicrous to suggest that we are "fighting terrorism" there, or that we can do this. "Terrorism" is no place in particular, permanently, and might be anywhere temporarily. Amman, Jordan, say, or the London subway.

You fight terrorism with spooks, not with humvees. Humvees are merely easy targets.

Unfortunately we have done just about everything we can to burn our spookhouse to the ground.

This war will be "won" when we forstall the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons. Since we may have to threaten to use force to do this, the Iraq war will be "won" when we finally have enough military force to credibly threaten this--enough military force, in other words, to invade and subdue Iran.

We have not had this since March of 2003 when we invaded Iraq, we do not have this now, and we do not look to be having this at any time before the Iranians actually do go nuclear. So I don't expect to change my mind about Iraq.

This is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to "win" the Iraq war.

To "win" the Iraq war we must also forstall the new generation of bomb makers, whose skills we are honing in Bagdhad, from going to places like Amman, Jordan and blowing things up. The only way I can see for us to do this is to capture or kill every last insurgent in Iraq before they can go anywhere else.

We have not been doing this and I don't expect us to start doing this any time soon. So even on this ground I don't expect to be changing my mind on Iraq.

This is also a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to "win" the war in Iraq.

To truly "win" you would have to do both. I confidently expect us to do neither. I have thought this from the first day of the invasion in March 2003, and I have seen absolutely nothing that would encourage me to change my views.

Have you?

On the rational basis for Bush's dismal poll numbers:

But I am puzzled why you and so many others are reluctant to see the real implications of those polls. By any objective standard, his is a presidency largely of missed opportunities.

In December of 2002, he had the opportunity to be President of a truly united country for the first time since the early 1960’s. By believing that our friendship with Pakistan would somehow take care of Osama Bin Laden, he not only threw that opportunity away, he lost the War on Terror by giving our real enemies heart.

In March of 2003, he chose to fight in a country where there was rational doubt about the serious capacity for WMD’s, and doubt which proved true, instead of the country (Iran) where both the capacity and the intention to go nuclear were well known. This gamble lost the opportunity to forestall the Iranians, and they will go nuclear, sooner or later, without us stopping them.

From May to November of 2003, he failed to take the actions necessary to secure Iraq with the resources (such as the Iraqi army) that could have prevented the insurgency rather than virtually solicting it.

From outstanding election victories in 2002 and 2004, a clear congressional majority, and the strictest Republican Party discipline in modern times, he chose first (and foolishly) to take on the issue, Social Security, that he was least likely to win.

Had he been savvy, and taken on more tax cuts first, which he would have won on hands down, the entire political history of this last year would have been totally different, even down to the damage the Plame and Abramoff investigations are doing to his presidency. By now he probably would have had his Social Security victory, too.

Success breeds success, failure breeds failure. One supreme court judge choice has already blown up in his face, and he is now claiming that his greatest legislative achievement is the Medicare Part D Rx Drug Program.

Big whoop.

Compared to what Lyndon Johnson did with a congressional majority, and Ronald Reagan did even with a congressional minority, the President’s political performance has been laughable.

In addition, he has prolonged his personal vacations (whether they were ‘working’ vacations or not, the public still sees them as vacations and 90% of politics is appearance) through the horror of the Great Tsunami and through the unbelievable (and telegraphed) disaster of Hurricane Katrina, while making an incredible, ostentatious to-do about immediately interrupting another vacation to fly back to Washington to sign “Terri’s Law”.

The bill could have been flown to him, rather than the other way around and it would have made no difference.

I can’t think of anything clearer that he could have done to tell America that he is more interested in supporting the agenda of a single faction instead of building a broad consensus. And that also blew up in his face.

Between the Schiavo Law and the Social Security failure, he may very well have lost all opportunity to be politically effective for the next three years.

And its not just the horrible “MSM” who are saying this. Go read the article of the Weekly Standard, “The Party of Sam’s Club”, if you don’t believe me.

Everyone else who has an objective grasp of real political results has every reason to grade the President’s performance as poor. His polls reflect this.

On Bush, WMD's, and Lying:

Unfortunately, this whole issue is unbelievably muddled, something my good Conservative friends have contributed to as well.

GWB did not lie about the presence of WMD's in Iraq. He did not know whether or not they were there. Nobody knew whether or not they were there. All anybody knew was that UN inspection had not found them. GWB anticipated finding them, even though nobody knew if they existed.

It is perfectly correct that any number of people, Democrat, Republican, American, British ect., also anticipated finding them. For the record, I didn't. I strongly suspected from the very first that no such thing would be found--and I thought so for reasons, examined below, which have proved to be true.

But that is not the point. Nor is it the real lie that the President told repeatedly and flagrantly. This lie was not about the WMD's, but about his own intentions toward Iraq, which he certainly knew very well. He consistently denied that any decision to invade the country had been made in advance.

If you go back and look at the history of this you will actually find that "deep background" White House sources were telling Knight-Ridder that such a decision actually had been made and an invasion was going to happen sooner or later. And they were doing this as early as February 2002, while Bush and his spokespersons were saying precisely the opposite.

The "Bush Lied" story starts right there, because, in fact, the White House was saying one thing on the record and something else off the record about the President's intentions, apparently with his blessing. And they continued to do this all the way up to the week before the invasion.

Independent documentation which has surfaced, such as the Downing Street Memo, tells the same story. The decision had already been made and nothing Iraq could possibly do would prevent it. The White House seemed to think it was necessary to create an "off the record" narrative like this to actually sell the idea of an invasion to America. I don't know why, but I think I can guess: they really didn't know if WMD's were there, so they couldn't just say so and send Saddam an ultimatum. Instead they had to sucker him into a 'justified' confrontation.

The people who thought WMD's would be found were self-deceived. The logic went this way: Saddam was a nasty man who wanted WMD's. He had some once. So he must obviously still have some, or have some more again, even though nobody could find them.

It was all based on Saddam's character and not on an objective examination of Iraq's actual capacity.

Iraq had the majority of its military and industrial assets destroyed in Gulf War I. From that time forward it had been under continuous observation, with on the ground inspections, and economic sanctions. Under these conditions, which, I would point out, were perfectly objective and widely known, Saddam was simply incapable of achieving his WMD ambitions. The only real basis for any other conclusion was that Saddam was a nasty man. Everything else was just low grade rumor. No WMD's were there. Period. Nor was there any real reason to expect them to be.

GWB wanted to invade Iraq and made the decision to do so long before the actual invasion, despite saying repeatedly and publicly that this was not the case. He consistently lied about this desire. He wanted to believe that the WMD's were there and grasped every straw to think so, because they would justify the invasion. He was told what he wanted to hear, that the case was a "slam dunk".

It wasn't. He was wrong. But he didn't lie about it. He lied about something far worse. And that lie will stain his historical legacy forevermore.

On "media bias" and the so-called "Mainstream Media":

Joseph, if you truly believe that the media has no agenda or is unbiased, then good luck my friend...Alexandra Von Maltzen of All Things Beautiful

No, I don’t think this.

But what I do think, first, is that my conservative friends have a standard of “unbiased” that couldn’t be met by the Recording Angel writing on the Book of Eternity, let alone by fallible human beings contending with too short of deadlines, too sketchy of wire reports, too many uncheckable news sources willing to distort or lie, too small of airtime or newshole, and too many competing stories on their editor’s desk.

Bloggers like us live in the lap of luxury by conparison, except for the fact that we’re not where the news is. We are mere consumers of news reporting rather than producers.

Second, there is no such thing as “the media”, the “MSM”, or “the international press” as monolithic entities.

Let’s just take one of these vapid generalizations–the “Mainstream Media”. Is Fox News or Clear Channel Radio part of the “Mainstream Media”?

If not, why not? Fox News is the dominant cable news network in terms of viewership, and Clear Channel has virtually no serious competition in American news radio. As far as I can see that’s as mainstream as it gets.

If they are part of the “Mainstream Media” what happens to “Mainstream Media Liberal Bias”? I don’t think anyone in their right senses would assert that Fox & Clear Channel share the same point of view as that horrid CNN or New York Times.

More generally, where does “MSM” end? Is the Wall Street Journal part of it? Bloomberg?, The Arizona Republic? USA Today? Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau? Investor’s Business Daily? The Cincinati Inquirer? NPR? The Charlotte Observer?

”MSM” is a concept without genuine content used in this fatuous piece of circular reasoning: any media outlet with a liberal bias is part of the MSM, therefore every part of the MSM is a media outlet with a liberal bias. Well, gee, how convenient!

Does the New York Times have a liberal bias in its national and international hard news coverage? Quite probably. It’s not to my taste and I don’t read it much–the only thing I turn to it for are the stories from its field reporters which appear nowhere else.

Does any other outlet I might choose have a bias of one kind or another? Probably. Sometimes I turn to a source like Guardian Unlimited or Town Hall for its bias, because I know I will get certain unusual news there because of that very bias.

In the end, the whole issue of bias in coverage doesn’t interest me very much. What I ask of news is depth, breadth, and relevance of information.

When I want depth, I go to Knight Ridder Washington Bureau (the last holdover of what really good newspaper work used to be like in this country).

When I want breadth I usually go to the Beeb or, as a distant second, the Reuters wire. When I want relevance, I root around until I find it. Where I generally find it most often is either in The Wall Street Journal or Guardian Unlimited.

My general criticism of most news sources is that they are not focused enough to have a coherent and consistent bias, whatever their biases may be. WSJ and GU have that very rare thing, a consistent and coherent attitude toward the news they cover.

All of you may have different standards, and that’s fine. But what freedom of the press really means is that we have the freedom to choose the flavor of the news we like.

So why does every news source have to be orange creamsickle? You can only read or listen to one at a time. Can’t you find one to your taste?

Maybe I should go read some of them. The blogs are as dull as dishwater this evening.


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