Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Well, it looks like the long, strange trip I've been on with Gen. Clark is at an end. It is truly a sad day for this country when a man like General Clark drops out of the race for president. There is no doubt in my mind that Wes Clark would have been one of our great presidents, and was by far the best candidate in the field. He's not going to fade away - not by a long shot. Digby and Dave at the unofficial Clark blog add their thoughts.

Here's to you, General, and your vision of a better America. We Democrats will keep fighting for it, as you have.

UPDATE: Here's the text of Clark's thank you to his supporters:

Dear Friends,

Today, we end the campaign for the presidency. But the campaign for America's future -- for the future of all our families -- continues on.

You have proven what a General can do when he has the greatest troops in the world. I can't tell you enough how honored and humbled I am by your commitment, your spirit, and your sacrifice. Because of all of you, this has been a cause, as much as it's been a campaign.

Together, five months ago, we began our journey for the presidency. We had no money, no office and no staff. All we had was hope and a vision for a better America.

Today, after traveling the country, after visiting with the American people, we end that journey even more full of hope and even more committed to building a better America.

I will support our Party's nominee, to continue this campaign until we take back the White House next November. This soldier stands ready for duty. It's not going to be easy. So I've got one bit of advice for our nominee: give 'em hell and never retreat.

As a general who spent thirty-four years fighting for my country, here is my pledge: I will do everything I can - everything - to make sure George W. Bush doesn't play politics with national security.

For me, this race has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I've been able to talk about what I believe in and fight for it. You've given me the greatest gift a person can receive: the support to make that fight real.

I'd like to thank all the foot soldiers in this battle: our terrific staff, our dedicated volunteers, our thousands of loyal supporters. Most of all, those who believed in me long before anyone even knew who I was: the people who drafted me into this race.

I want to thank my family for always standing by my side, especially my wife of 36 years, my best friend, and my partner, Gert Clark. She is the general's general, and I wouldn't be here today without her. I'd like to thank my son, Wes, Jr., and my daughter-in-law, Astrid. I am so proud of them and so proud of all they have done for this campaign.

I'm going to fight on, and I hope you will join me, until we win the campaign to create a new vision for America in the twenty-first century. Because I believe America's best days lie ahead. Today, I end my campaign for the presidency - but our party's campaign to change America is just beginning. This old soldier will not fade away. I'll be in the field and out in front, working the issues, supporting our candidates, and doing all I can to contribute to building a new and better America.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Wes Clark

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Just a notice: The computer's going to be out for a while getting its logic board replaced, so the blog probably won't be updated for a while.

When it gets back from the shop, posts will continue as normal.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Quick link post: Fred Kaplan has an interesting post on George Bush's Meet the Press interview yesterday - in particular, his comments on Iraq and Vietnam. It seems that Kaplan's caught Bush in a "Reagan's bind" (see Slacktivist for a definition) on Iraq: either he's deliberately misleading the public, or he doesn't know what's going on in his administration. This comes back when Kaplan talks about Vietnam - Bush decries the "political restraints" that were used in that war, but overlooks the constraints his SecDef, Donald Rumsfeld, has put on the military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just to stay on the Vietnam question for a moment, Kaplan is right when he calls the accusation of political control in Vietnam one of the great conservative myths about that war. I just finished reading Mark Clodfelter's The Limits of Air Power which describes the three major air campaigns during Vietnam (Rolling Thunder and Linebacker I +II). It describes how military strategic doctrine and the nature of the war before the Tet Offensive, in addition to conflicting political objectives, caused airpower to fail during the Johnson administration. As Clodfelter writes, the reason the Linebacker campaigns succeeded was because the nature of the war had changed from a guerrilla campaign to a conventional war by 1972, and the US's political objectives had changed. Essentially, until Linebacker II, we struck the same targets as Rolling Thunder, but they had a different effect due to the nature of the war and our changed objectives. Something Bush and Rummy should chew on.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Paul Krugman has a great review of the second wave of anti-Bush books (after Lying Liars, Big Lies, and Krugman's own Great Unraveling), consisting of Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty and Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty. Towards the end, he makes an astute observation, combining Phillips' thesis that Bush has no "higher goals" and evidence from Suskind to prove that power is really all that he and his compatriots are interested in. I've been thinking along these lines for some time now - that the true distinction between Republicans and Democrats is not the simple right-left policy divide that people use to distiguish between the two (though that is certainly relevant). It seems to me that Democrats see power as a means to an end; namely the "Great Society" or "opportunity society" that LBJ and JFK espoused respectively. You can see this especially running through the post-Depression Democratic tradition - from FDR to Clinton - that power itself is not the goal of the party's standard bearers, but rather the ends to be achieved by a successful wielding of the means of power. This is most vividly portrayed in Richard Reeves' excellent book President Kennedy: Profile in Power. On the other hand, modern Republicanism (which begins with the ascension of Reagan in the late 1970s) is more concerned with power as an end in itself. Nixon, as corrupt and malignant to democracy as he was, at least viewed power as a means to a specific end - whether it was detente or opening to China or satisfying his own insecurities by breaking into the Watergate. It's easy to see the lust for power being incubated in the inner circles of the Nixon administration, as the Watergate cover up proves. But by and large, governmental agencies under the Nixon administration operated on the basis of effective policy, however cynically it was devised by the Big Dick. As the Bush the Lesser administration continues, I think we have to keep it in mind that most of its inner members - Cheney, Card, Rove, et al, hold to the old Nixonian maxim: If the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.
There's an interesting profile of John Kerry's Senate record up on the New York Times website. They point out that he hasn't had his name attached to many bills, but he has led numerous investigations into unsavory foreign affairs practices like Iran-Contra and BCCI. This is a huge advantage for Kerry - if he wins the nomination (which looks more and more likely every day) and the scandal surrounding the amazing vanishing weapons of mass destruction keeps going, he'll be able to point to his record as a truth-hound in these instances as experiences in foreign affairs. It'd be even better if he had Clark at the bottom of the ticket. Clark and Kerry are the two Democratic candidates for whom the charge of soft on national security won't stick or hold up without a mind-warping amount of cognitive dissonance. Yes, they'll be made by Bush and company, but it'd be very hard to paint a retired four-star general who led a war not 5 years ago and was a Vietnam war hero or a Vietnam war hero who has deep experience in foreign affairs in the Senate (who voted for every military expedition except the First Gulf War) as being weak on defense or unpatriotic. Both Clark and Kerry are taking the right approach to this - bashing Bush for "prancing around in a flight suit" on the Lincoln, while both Democrats have walked the walk and bled the blood.

I'm not too concerned about Kerry's voting record. His staunch environmentalist record is actually in accord with what most polls say Americans feel about the environment. And people who base their votes on gay marraige or abortion won't be voting for a Democrat anyways (even though Kerry's against "gay marraige" and correctly points out that "this debate [over gay marraige] is fundamentally ugly, and it is fundamentally political, and it is fundamentally flawed."). Also, Kerry's approach to taxation is similar to Clark's - keep the middle class tax cuts, get rid of the wealthist one percent's (he would be wise to steal Clark's plan if he gets the nod), so the Republicans won't be able to paint him as a knee-jerk tax hiker. To be sure, they will try to tar him with the same brush as they did Micheal Dukakis - the dreaded "Massachusetts liberal" who votes with Ted Kennedy (since when did people not like Ted Kennedy? I'd have assumed association with Ted Kennedy, and hence in some circutuous fashion with JFK and RFK, would be a good thing). Regardless, Kerry's campaign has already let it be known that they won't just sit there and take it - "they're not the Dukakis campaign" to paraphrase another Times article. In this election, I have a feeling social wedge issues that the Republicans rely on to win are going to be less important than foreign affairs and the economy. And in an election like that, John Kerry and Wes Clark are the only obvious choices for victory in November.

NOTE: I'm still for Wes Clark for president. I think that he'd make the best president, especially when it comes to foreign affairs. Unfortunately, I also like to consider myself a bit of a pragmatist and realist, and those two impulses are telling me that while it's not impossible for Clark to win the nomination, the odds are becoming increasingly slim. But Kerry is an excellent second choice, and hopefully he'll be smart and bring Clark into his campaign as his chief foreign policy advisor or shadow secretary of state (a prelude to being actual secretary of state starting next January). I have not lost all hope that Clark can win the nomination, but rather I am trying to accept that it is unlikely that he will win.

Just for kicks, here's a listing of my preferences for the nomination:
1. Wes Clark
2. John Kerry
3. John Edwards

Friday, February 06, 2004

President Bush has named the seven people for his panel to investigate the WMD issue. I'm fine with 5 of them - former White House counsel Lloyd Cutler, ex-Senator Charles Robb, ex-judge Patricia Wald, Yale president Rick Levin, and former CIA deputy director Bill Studeman - and kinda so-so on McCain (I'd rather it be a retired senator without a stake in the process). There is one name that screams 'whitewash' and 'partisan tool' and defintely "outrage" - Laurence Silberman, a retired Republican federal judge and, with Robb, one of the commission's co-chairs. You may or may not remember that he was, while on the bench, one of the foremost promoters of the early "get-Clinton" movement in the early '90s, as David Brock shows. His activity during the anti-Clinton witch hunts was a pretty clear case of conflict of interest if there ever was one. Moreover, he's been active in right-wing partisan politics for most of his life, and you can probably make a safe bet that he was included to make sure the White House was covered. His previous behavior should preclude him from being a part of this commission; he's proven that he cannot be impartial and has a conflict between his right-wing beliefs and the truth.

I sure hope Daschle rejects Silberman and demands a reformulation of the commission. I'm not getting my hopes up, though.

UPDATE: Orcinus has long laundry list of Silberman's disqualifications, including but not limited to: Overturning Oliver North's Iran-Contra conviction, being the Reagan campaign's chief contact with Khomeini faction during the "October Surprise" scandal, and conspiring to replace independent counsel Robert Fiske with Ken Starr. As Dave Neiwert says of Silberman, "He's not merely a conservative. He's a jurist who has a proven track record of making decisions, and enforcing policy, based not on the law, reason or basic principles of fair play, but purely on how they will benefit or harm the Republican party. 'Rabidly partisan' is an understated description."

And: "Of all the people likely to produce a fair and thorough investigation of the WMD matter, Silberman should be last on anyone's list. That he is now heading up this supposed probe tells us all we need to know in advance about its quality."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

UPDATE, PART DEUX: Apparently this commission has no power whatsoever to do anything - especially subpoena power, or even the specific power to look into the problem of the missing WMD. And notice how it was released on Friday night, the slowest news day of the week. Josh Marshall has more.

I sure hope Daschle gets off this ass for this one - Bush isn't even trying to whitewash this; he's avoiding it completely.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Apparently there's trouble a brewing for Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and John Hannah, another Cheney aide, in the matter of the blown cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame. This is huge - if two White House aides are indicted for this crime, people will start digging deeper into the administration. As John Dean wrote, it could be Worse than Watergate. If Bush lied to go to war, it certainly is.
Someone finally answers one of my burning questions:

Just what the hell is a Maoist any way?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

So it looks like tonight's a good night to be John Kerry - he's picked up four of the primaries, with Edwards getting SC and Clark (as of now) winning OK by a slim margin. Just a month ago, Kerry's campaign was dead in the water and doing nothing to revive itself. Then he wins Iowa as the "electable" candidate. I figured he's take NH pretty comfortably, considering his proximity to the state. But why is he taking flight so quickly in these other states? Do we Democrats really have a herd mentality? John Kerry is probably the third most electable candidate in the race, behind Clark and Edwards. We saw this with Dean - people piled on the bandwagon, and seemed to have buyer's remorse just before Iowa. Now people are bandwagoning with Kerry - but this time it counts. I just hope people don't look at Kerry two months from now and start having doubts about him. I distrust bandwagoning in this kind of process. The stakes are too high to follow the pack. Of course, I could be completely wrong that Kerry's now in a lock for the nomination (at least Joementum's dropped out). As Digby satirically points out, Bill Clinton didn't have a great primary record before winning the nomination. Yeah, it's different now, but just because John Kerry is winning now, that doesn't guarantee his nomination. We dated Dean for a month and didn't like it; are we going to marry Kerry and wake up after election day with Bush? I certainly hope not.

Hopefully what these early primaries have done is whittle down the field from eight (as of Iowa) to three: Kerry in front with Clark and Edwards tied for second. Hopefully the later primaries won't succumb to bandwagoning pressures and take a clearer look at the candidates. Of course it doesn't help when the only information the media gives you is "HORSE RACE HORSE RACE HORSE RACE", but maybe the next round is more conducive to campaigning than media exposure than this one was. The sad fact is, what the February 3rd primaries were was a measure of media exposure for the various candidates - Kerry came out on top.

FYI: I have no problem with Kerry as nominee - in fact he and Edwards are a tight 2-3 after Clark for me - but I feel that the process should be more deliberative than the first round of primaries has been. I just feel like the bandwagon effect is too flimsy a reason for choosing a president.

Monday, February 02, 2004

I'd like to actually get my hands on the unclassified Army history of the war in Iraq (or at least the period of "major combat operations") that the New York Times is reporting on today so I can look into it in more detail before commenting on it. But from what the article says, it seems as though criticisms of the the Rumsfeld plan were onto something, even though they were derided at the time. We took unnecessary risks in the invasion, and we're lucky that they didn't come back to haunt us. Only the ingenuity of our soldiers prevented it.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Super Bowl Prediction (take with a grain of salt):

New England: 9
Carolina: 6
To touch again on the previous post: why are people in the 2/3 primary states so gung-ho for Kerry now, when a week ago he was hovering slightly below 10%? It has to have something to do with media coverage - saturated with Kerry every day for the last week. Seems as though people think that Kerry's the only candidate in the race since the media's only reporting about him. It seems to be a phenomenon that Digby's described quite accurately is overtaking logic and choice in the electoral system (and has been for quite some time, quite possibly since the late 1970s and the growth of the conservative counterestablishment). The media's got a story it wants to tell, and it doesn't let pesky things like "facts" or "accuracy" get in the way. In 2000, it was that Al Gore was a technocratic liar, while George W. Bush was a stupid yet likable guy. Last December, it was that Howard Dean's heretofore unknown political machine had made him the inevitable Democratic nominee. After Iowa and NH, as Digby's described, it's been the coronation of John Kerry and the fall of Dean's machine. This isn't a case of the average American being ignorant or a whatever-the-singular-of-sheep-is; it's a case study of the mass media's ability to influence public opinion. Most Americans are too busy to pay attention to politics like I or you probably do - they have to pay the bills, get the kids to school, take the dog out to crap, etc. - and they place trust in the media to accurately tell them what's going on so they can make an informed choice on who should be their leader (that whole "informed consent of the governed" thing). But the media betrays their trust - not through political bias to the left or the right, but rather through the idea that the fundamental duty of the news corporation is to fill its own coffers rather than providing the public with good information. This definitely got underway with the elimination of the FCC's fairness doctrine by the Reagan administration and the ongoing deregulation of the telecommunications industry since the late 1980s. Profit has replaced public good, and it's time to reverse the equation.

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