"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
October 31, 2004
POLITICS: Bullish on Bush
Jay Cost, who seems to be one of the most optimistic poll-readers these days, in an item posted yesterday:
Present Probability that Bush will win the Electoral College: 96.36% (This is the probability that Bush wins FL and IA and WI or OH. Thus, we can be 96.36% confident that Bush would receive a minimum of either 271 EVs or 281 EVs).
Personally, I continue to believe that Florida, not Ohio, is the real key right now, because winning Florida gives Bush (or, to a lesser extent, Kerry) multiple ways to win, while losing Florida leaves Bush with almost no margin for error and Kerry with none.
POLITICS: More Bedfellow Award Candidates
*Tonight's final pre-election broadcast of 60 Minutes weighs in, as you knew it would, with a last-ditch
*More on bin Laden's effort to meddle in U.S. elections - should we read something into this MEMRI translation of one of his statements?
WAR: Why They Fight
I was reading The Atlantic Monthly earlier today and came across a very lengthy and eloquent "letter to the editor" by a Marine Reservist who served in Iraq. Anyway, since the Atlantic makes you subscribe to access much of its online content, I couldn’t reprint it as it appeared, but it turns out the main text of the letter has circulated before. Here is the full text. (Via Pejman Yousefzadeh). Here is an excerpt:
It’s worth reading in full.
UPDATE: From that same issue and available here, Robert Kaplan had a good piece on the clash of cultures between the generally liberal media and the generally conservative military. This quote, about the value military men tend to place on plain speaking, struck me:
“One Air Force master sergeant told me, ‘I reject the notion that Bush is inarticulate. He is more articulate than Clinton. When Bush says something, he's clear enough that you argue about whether you agree with him or not. When Clinton talks, you argue over what he really meant.’”
POLITICS: Election Night Timeline
Here's a handy scorecard of the poll-closing times in each state on Tuesday night. The first states to close up the polls entirely start at 7pm EST and include two early indicators: New Hampshire and Virginia. Bush is going to win Virginia, but if it's close, that could be a bad indicator. New Hampshire has been fiercely contested; I expect Kerry to take it, but a Bush victory is certainly still possible. Bush taking New Hampshire would not be fatal but it would be a very bad sign for Kerry, as this is the swing state in which Kerry has spent the most time (other than perhaps Iowa) and the one most likely to be receptive to his New England persona.
At 7:30 we get North Carolina and West Virginia, two more Southern states that could be warnings of weakness for Bush but that Bush will win even if he's losing. And we get Ohio, although for a variety of reasons, if Ohio is as close as everyone thinks it will be, it could be a long time before the networks announce a winner. Recall that the networks appear to have absorbed the lessons of incorrectly calling Florida for Gore early on Election Night 2000 (before the polls closed in the most Republican parts of the state, in fact); any state that looks close won't get announced until they are sure.
8pm brings the witching hour for a huge swath of the country, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Again, if we're looking for knockout blows, look at MI and NJ; if Bush wins NJ, Kerry is toast in a big way, and if he wins MI, the math gets really ugly for Kerry. And frankly, the more I do the electoral math, the harder it is to see how Kerry can win a close one without Florida, because he then needs to win almost every other state that's even remotely contested. Shortly after 8, in other words, is the first point at which Election Night could for all intents and purposes be over if the networks have clear enough winners to start calling a bunch of states (Bush can win if he loses both Florida and Ohio, but it's hugely improbable).
After that, brace for the long haul, as Wisconsin, Minnesota and New Mexico don't check in until 9pm, Iowa at 10, and Hawaii at 11pm, and of course some states (like Oregon) aren't likely to be declared for weeks.
WAR: The Case For War - The First Time
OK, a blast from the past, but one that still has some timeliness today. I finally got around to digging out a column I wrote in December 1990, back when I was a college sophmore, laying out the case for war with Iraq. The first one, of course. In college, I wrote a weekly op-ed column, mostly politics and campus events (we already had Bill Simmons writing the main sports column).
It's interesting, of course, to see how much the arguments then echoed the ones those of us who supported the second war made again, especially the bottom-line conclusion: "there is not just one reason to stop Hussein, but every reason to stop him." You can read the whole thing here.
One major change in my thinking since then, of course, is my attitude towards Israel; until the Gulf War, I had generally fallen into the "Israel as an ally is more trouble than it is worth" camp, and that comes out here.
October 30, 2004
WAR: OK, He's Not Dead
Mark Steyn is eating crow served by his readers on his longstanding argument that bin Laden died in December 2001. Meanwhile, Beldar thinks bin Laden's "leave us alone and we will leave you alone" theme is an effort to speak the language of appeasement: "I think it's a very clear attempt to begin negotiations with a Kerry administration for a "cease-fire" in the Global War on Terror." You don't have to think that Kerry would accept such a proposal - as Beldar apparently does - to worry about the possibility that Kerry has succeeded in communicating to the rest of the world, which may have trouble grasping the nuances of his position, that he would do precisely that.
WAR: Heat Rising Near Fallujah
The good news: heavier fighting around Fallujah, as coalition forces turn up the volume on the "insurgent" stronghold, including the heaviest and sustained artillery barrage in recent weeks. The bad news: 8 Marines killed and nine wounded "in a single incident" (no further details presently available) in the area. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.
PATRIOT GAMES: Wait until THIS YEAR!!!
Seventh in a series of reflections on sports by "Andy Tollhaus," an Army officer currently serving in Iraq.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
If you’re a New England farmer reading this, I have a request for you. Please go outside and check to see if your cows are still producing milk. Have you checked since Thursday morning? Check again. Just to be sure.
ESPN Radio is reporting today that the earth does seem to still be spinning on its axis. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
I read an article a few years ago (maybe 1998 or 1999) with a preseason prediction that the Red Sox would win the World Series. The article opened with several “Armageddon-is-upon-us” scenarios, including all dairy cows in New England ceasing to produce milk. I remember thinking that there was actually a possibility that this one might come true, but, of course, we’d never know.
I didn’t use any milk, but I did do some toasting last night, with my St. Pauli’s (Non-Alcoholic) beer. It was neither the “near-beer” nor the sportsbar like appearance of “Club Boston” that made me feel as if I could be watching the game in a bar near Quincy Market. I could hear about thirty Boston accents talking about their SOX in the WORLD SERIES! Those accents all came from a group of soldiers from the 323rd Maintenance Company, an Army Reserve unit out of Devens, MA.
Read More Â»
One of my best friends from High School, Kevin Fischer, is in that unit. The 323rd is currently deployed to FOB Speicher, so eight years after high school, Fish and I now “live” in the same “town.” I went looking for Fish, knowing that his Mobile Maintenance Team was probably still in Mosul, helping with some maintenance at a base in Northern Iraq.
Four and a half years ago, Fish and I drove to the Bronx for a day baseball game between the Sox and the Yankees. This was only two weeks after my brother and I attended the classic Pedro-Clemens, 2-0 duel, and we were seduced by the possibility of another classic involving these two pitchers. We rendezvoused in Concord, NH at 7:30 AM, hoping that the pitching rematch would live up to the high standard that it had set for itself. Clemens left after one inning to the DL and Pedro didn’t figure in the decision, but the 2-1 Red Sox victory made it well worth the trip. This year, in 2004, I was just hoping to catch a game on TV with my long time friend. Realizing that Fish probably wouldn’t be around, I figured I’d at least be able to find some guys from New England and a good place to watch the Sox clinch the World Series!
My search for Fish and his friends first led me to a civilian contractor from North Reading, MA, wearing a Red Sox hat. As I was asking him where the New Englanders on this side of base watched the games, a Sergeant in the 323rd overheard and told me about Club Boston. Unfortunately, he also confirmed that Fish was still in Mosul.
Club Boston is a wooden building that these guys from Massachusetts built. Plain on the outside, the inside has been touched up with little bits of home. The three TVs are obviously the key to viewing the Playoffs. They’ve fashioned a bar out of plywood and 2x4’s and have procured themselves an air hockey table. There are Bruins and Red Sox t-shirts hanging on the wall and a Tom Brady poster hangs behind the bar. The soldiers had pitched in with a lot of hard work to have a place to hang out on their down time. They probably didn’t realize it as they were building, but this would be the place that many of them would finally see their beloved Red Sox win the World Series.
At 3:40 AM, when I walked into this little colony of Red Sox nation, there were about eight fans still celebrating the Johnny Damon homerun that I’d just missed. They all looked suspiciously at the newcomer until they noticed the Red Sox hat I carrying.
I was carrying the hat, instead of wearing it, because throughout the playoffs when I had it on, the Sox would start losing. When I’d take it off they’d start to come back. Early in the Yankees series, I had worn the hat too long sometimes for them to come all the way back. Needless to say, the hat hadn’t been on my head during a game since the Game 3 shellacking. We’ve all got to do our part, right?
Game 4 seemed like it was over before I even got to a TV. Only down 3-0 for most of the game, it was as if the Cardinals were never in it. It had to have been the most commanding 3-0 lead ever.
Each inning more and more Sox fans filed into Club Boston, probably maxing out around 45 people. Of course thoughts of a collapse were never too far from our minds. How could they be? Fox played every last clichéd Red Sox clip they could find. (I’ve read some people complaining about the Fox announcers, and I’ll agree that they were pretty weak. But Game 4 was the first time I got to hear the Fox announcers. MLB International was the broadcast version we got on AFN, with Dave O’Brien and Rick Sutcliffe – just plain terrible. A Cardinals fan that I watched the first three games with summed Sutcliffe up best, he’s “amazing at predicting the very recent past.”)
When all the choke clips were played in the eighth inning, the reaction was mostly defiance from the fans I was watching with. “Get your money’s worth out of that clip, now, because no one’s gonna care any more!” This year just seemed to be different. It felt like no matter how much the Cardinals threatened, the Sox would prevail. I don’t think I’ve ever had that feeling before. This Red Sox team was clearly one of destination!
As the end of the game drew near, people naturally talked about friends and family and what they were doing for the game back home. The guy sitting next to me told me how he was saving a copy of the Stars and Stripes newspaper for each of his kids. It was a bittersweet moment, not being able to finally share the Red Sox triumph with those that we’d shared so many heartbreaks with.
On the final out, Foulke’s body language served as a perfect model for Sox fans everywhere. He looked in his glove, in a bit of disbelief that the ball was there. He then started to celebrate, caught himself, and ran toward first, not sure whether he should risk throwing it all the way over to the Gold Glover waiting at first for the ball. When he finally did, there was huge rush of relief and excitement, but he still knew exactly how to react: the pitcher’s job in that situation is to go pick up the catcher in a giant bear hug! Sox fans around the world shook off their own disbelief and celebrated exactly how they knew they always would.
Â« Close It
POLITICS: He Said It, Not Me
Josh Marshall, who ought to be an expert on this particular subject, on Democrats' reactions to the bin Laden tape:
[Emails Marshall received] struck me with what is one of the Democrats' greatest weaknesses: their vulnerability to getting knocked off stride by the rush of events, their tendency to fret that all is lost, almost to indulge in it, when the car hits a simple bump in the road.
(Emphasis in original). Note that Marshall has been down this road before. Which party do you trust to stick to its guns when times are hardest?
October 29, 2004
POLITICS: Bedfellow Award Season
I have, in the past, threatened to hand out - but never got around to awarding - a "Bedfellow Award" for too-late-to-respond hits in the campaign season, especially (but not exclusively) false ones. The name comes from the comic strip "Bloom County," in which Senator Bedfellow was defeated on the strength of an election-day headline, "WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES".
2002 had loads of candidates, including the flap over the Wellstone memorial service; the 2003 winner probably went to the LA Times sexual harrassment story on Schwarzenegger (the accuracy of which never seems to have been examined, although I don't doubt that there was a good deal of truth to it, given Arnold's reputation), although there may be something I'm forgetting; the Kerry-intern story was a good example from the primaries, although the rolling nature of primary elections gave him time to get the truth out before more damage was done.
The simplest definition of a Bedfellow Award nominee is a news story that (1) comes out shortly before the election, and (2) has a much larger impact on the election than it would have if it had come out earlier. Obviously, (2) is particularly true of stories that are false or misleading, since they tend to be easier to explain or debunk if they come out with adequate time to respond. If I get enough nominees, I'll hand out awards for the presidential race, a Senate race and maybe a House race, as well as an award for each party.
Anyway, we've got a battery of candidates so far in this year's presidential election (let alone the Senate and House races), and the late hits - some true, some false, some fair, some inserted by people outside the US political process - keep rolling in fast and furious:
*A new bin Laden video! (See here, link via McArdle, in which bin Laden seems to be relying on "Fahrenheit 9/11" for his talking points, and here, in which a very sad-looking bin Laden sounds like he's cribbing from DNC speeches for material, ripping the "inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance" and accusing Bush of "misleading" the American people. Is it for real? Is it recent? Will there be enough time to tell the difference?
*Another example just from Instapundit's backup singers: Michael Totten links to this FOX News report saying maybe we really did protect and dispose of at least a big chunk of those missing explosives. The whole HMX/RDX story, of course, is a leading candidate for the award at the moment, but there's plenty of time for more.
Anyway, those are just the early entries; we'll get crazier stuff still as we go. Put your favorite candidates in the comments - and I'll update this post as we go - and I'll try to hand out awards after the election.
UPDATE: (And I've also added a little to the text above). From NRO Battlegrounders, word that a Pennsylvania judge has unsealed records from a Heinz family lawsuit over the death of Teresa Heinz Kerry's first husband, records that could potentially shed more light on the family's finances. There probably isn't much news in there, but if there is, there won't be time to give it context.
POP CULTURE: A September 11 Miniseries
Michele is appalled. I do think there will and should eventually be a good movie or TV treatment of September 11, but more years of time, distance and perspective are still needed, as was the case with movies about, say, the Holocaust. ABC and NBC shouldn't be touching this right now. Of course, Hollywood being what it is these days, they'll probably change it so neo-Nazis fly the planes into the towers.
POLITICS: Kay on HMX
Saw David Kay being interviewed by Soledad O'Brien on CNN's American Morning this morning on the issue of accounting for Iraq's prewar stocks of heavy-duty conventional explosives HMX and RDX (a link to the transcript should be posted on this page later today). Specifically, they watched a newly-released (as of last night, I think; I confess that this story is unfolding too fast for me to have confidence that I've followed every twist in it). First off, agree with him or not - or agree with him only in part - you have to like David Kay; his bluntness stands in stark contrast to the doublespeak of most international bureaucrats, and he mostly doesn't seem to have a dog in the various fights he weighs in on (recall how his initial report cheered opponents of the war with his declaration that "we were nearly all wrong" about Saddam having WMD, and also cheered proponents of war with his insistence that Saddam was deceiving and evading inspections and that Iraq was even more dangerous, on the whole, than we thought).
Anyway, once again Kay's recollections and analysis of the video gives a little something to everyone. His points, in no particular order:
1. He (Kay) had argued during the 1990s for destroying this stuff, but Hans Blix gave in to the Iraqi regime's demand that they be allowed to keep it for civilian construction purposes.
2. The tape (apparently shot by US media in April 2003, if I heard correctly) clearly shows an unbroken IAEA seal on at least one bunker, indicating that there was still some quantity of the explosives there at the time US troops arrived.
3. To Kay's eye, it's clear that the tape shows the presence of HMX. Kay didn't talk about RDX. Since I, like most bloggers, had never heard of either one until four days ago, I'm still mulling the significance of this, but as I noted below, Wizbang has been looking into the RDX side of the ledger.
4. Kay believes that US troops would and should have recognized these as explosives but, not being professional weapons inspectors, would likely not have recognized them as stocks of HMX.
5. Kay thinks the troops, having located stocks of explosives, should have been responsible for guarding them.
6. Although he didn't discuss the logistics of moving 360 or 380 or whatever tons of the stuff, Kay cautioned that you would be surprised at the things that looters, moving without trucks, can cart away by hand. He noted having seen people literally dismantling and taking away buildings brick by brick.
7. Kay stressed that it's important to keep in perspective the fact that this was just a small percentage of the high explosives in Iraq; he asserted (and this surprised even me) that Iraq possessed approximately 2/3 the amount of explosives as the US military, a staggering quantity for a country the size of California that could barely feed its people.
POLITICS: Dogs Not Barking
Looking back over my recent take on the election, I’m actually struck by some of the things I left out. Notably, the things we’re not paying attention to, especially in foreign affairs.
In 2000, Bush and Gore famously never debated the issue of terrorism. Today, the election has focused on the fight against al Qaeda, the insurgency in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, on Iran and North Korea, with a dash of Darfur thrown in. As some have noted, however, that leaves an awful lot of the world undiscussed. Might there not be big things we don’t see coming or big areas that we are taking for granted because things are going fairly well?
Read More Â»
For example, in a very significant move earlier this week, Colin Powell controversially restated and even modified America’s position on Taiwan, an issue that, if ignored, could drag us into a war that would make Iraq look like the invasion of Grenada. The Taiwanese, whom we have long supported, are incrementally inching towards declaring independence, a situation which would almost certainly lead to an invasion from mainland China. For all the talk about Bush’s reckless and naďve foreign policy, his administration has maintained a very realist posture in other parts of the world, while we take on more pressing and ambitious projects in the Middle East. Thus, Powell, despite the initial furor, restated the conditional nature of America’s support for Taiwan, thereby maintaining the good relations the U.S. has with China, throwing some cold water on the most aggressive Taiwanese and helping to preserve a status quo which is in our interest. This course may go a long way to preventing a massively destructive war, yet it was quietly overlooked in the West.
In fact, in a campaign where one side is denouncing the administration’s lack of diplomatic skill, it is easy to forget that the U.S. has probably never had better relations with both China and Russia at the same time. Of course, both governments have major problems, but the current good relations are clearly helping us in many areas, including Central Asia. The Bush Administration has also helped achieve a gradual easing of the standoff between India and Pakistan and bolstered America’s alliance with Japan, maintaining a delicate balance between friendly relations with both it and its Chinese rival. Meanwhile, peaceful democracy continues to spread in Latin America, in Eastern Europe and even in Southeast Asia, where Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, recently had its first democratic elections. All is not perfect, but it has rarely been better in many parts of the world.
It’s also worth considering a few things that didn’t happen these past four years. As Charles Krauthammer notes, John Kerry would have you believe that he would’ve exactly replicated all of the recent triumphs in Afghanistan and Iraq, but would’ve avoided all the mistakes. Right. Given Kerry’s multilateral instincts, I suspect that he would have gone through the long, torturous UN process prior to any invasion of Afghanistan, not just Iraq, and that our whole military response would’ve either been airstrikes or an invasion delayed by months or years by diplomatic haggling. Al Qaeda would not have “escaped” from Tora Bora, since they probably would’ve been gone long before we ever even got there. It is easy, with retrospect, to see past mistakes, it is a little more difficult to see pitfalls that were avoided.
Anyway, I could go on, but my point – such as it is – is that there is an awful lot going on in the world, in Iraq and elsewhere, but we should not let ourselves forget the big developments or non-developments throughout the world which often go under-reported. There are a lot of dogs barking at the moment, but, every once in awhile, we should pause to consider those which are not.
Â« Close It
October 28, 2004
POLITICS: Europeans for Bush
As you can see below, I’ve paid some attention to who’s been endorsing who, but I confess to being pretty shocked that Germany’s largest, in fact Europe’s largest, newspaper has apparently endorsed President Bush. (Via Michael Totten).
Of course, it would be a little hypocritical for me to put too much stock in this, especially since the paper’s reasoning seems to be that Europeans should support Bush because it will keep them from having to do any heavy lifting in the War on Terror. But it is a nice reminder that world opinion is not as monolithic as some would have us believe. See here for another excellent example of that.
UPDATE (from the Crank): According to the left-wing Guardian, add Tony Blair, who of course won't come out and say it publicly, to the list of world leaders backing Bush:
Who are these 'they' whose 'mucking about' makes Tony Blair so anxious? They are Iran with its sponsorship of terrorism and its ambitions to go nuclear. They are Syria. They are the psychotic regime in North Korea along with the rest of the planet's rogue and risk states.
The mind of Mr Blair was summarised for me in vivid terms by someone who has an extremely good claim to know what is going on inside it: 'Tony thinks the world is a very dangerous and precarious place. Bush is the tough guy who keeps the bad guys under their rocks.'
BASEBALL: To All Those Who Missed It
I liked this comment from Shannen Coffin about the Red Sox:
UPDATE: Also, leave poor Bill Buckner alone!
POLITICS: Exuberance of Debatable Rationality
Is Jim Geraghty's source in the Bush-Cheney campaign giving him (a) good grounds for optimism, (b) self-serving spin, (c) the results of coccooning self-delusion, (d) certainty about the unknowable based on small sample sizes or cherry-picked polls, or (e) a bit of each?
We won't know until Tuesday.
WAR: Don't Say It
I agree 100% with Dales: "tapes made by terrorists should never be given any press at all by our press.". This isn't a journalistic issue and it isn't a political issue; it's a security issue, and that takes precedence.
POLITICS/WAR: An RDX Disposal Question
Paul at Wizbang wants answers. For now, all he has is a potentially plausible working hypothesis: that by January 2003, all but 3 tons of the 141 tons of RDX at Al Qa'qaa was gone from that facility, and that IAEA inspectors knew this and withheld the fact from the UN Security Council during the pre-war debate. If you can help shed light on his analysis, drop by and lend a link or a comment.
I have to say, given that "there were no dangerous weapons in Iraq" was one of the points Kerry had decisively won in this year's political debate, he seems to have shot himself in the foot by placing so much emphasis on the eve of the election on the dangers posed by these conventional weapons that were in Saddam's hands before the war.
LAW/POLITICS: Chutzpah Award
Stuart Buck passes along word of an Alice-in-Wonderland decision to prevent the Ohio Secretary of State from investigating what may well be a substantial number of voter registrations - on the grounds that the individuals can't be notified of a hearing on the matter because they don't live at the addresses they used to register! (Coincidentally, the decision is by a Clinton appointee who is the wife of one of Ohio's leading plaintiffs' attorneys - what are the odds of that?)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Schilling for Bush
I'm going to offer a perhaps-unexpected (to new readers, at least) point here and say that now is not the time, and a puff-piece interview on Good Morning America was not the place, for Curt Schilling to stump for President Bush. The stakes in this election are indeed life and death, and of course I welcome Schilling's endorsement. But:
1. I've long been infuriated by entertainers who stick their politics into a venue (interviews, concerts, etc.) where I'm expecting to just be entertained, as opposed to presenting a political argument in a political context. That should go for conservatives in sports and entertainment just as much as liberals. There's a reason why, despite the baseball/politics mix on this site, I labor to keep the two types of content clearly marked.
2. Sox fans are celebrating right now, and, let's be frank, a lot of them are Democrats. Don't spoil that with politics, no matter the cause; just don't (more on that idea here).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:55 PM | Baseball 2004 | Politics 2004 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: They Went Down To The Courthouse, And The Judge Put It All To Rest
Ann Althouse notes that there is really no way to stop a large number of Illinois Democrats from voting for Kerry in Wisconsin following a joint Springsteen performance/Kerry appearance that 60,000 people are expected to attend. Of course, this looks like a prime opportunity for Republicans, for once, to keep a close eye out for ballot fraud without getting accused of racism in the process, as Bruce's fan base is pretty white.
UPDATE: Althouse says not too many people went and voted after the rally anyway. Which is good news.
BASEBALL: Quote of the Day?
BASEBALL: The Day After
I have to admit it: try as I might, it's awfully difficult to find anything to add to the moment from last night, just the perfection of the moment of fans and a franchise who'd been denied and cruelly taunted - by fate and by Yankee fans - for eight decades - finally making it to the top of the mountain. Just a few thoughts:
*The Cards had to do the most staggering roll-over-play-dead in the World Series since the 1999 Braves or maybe the 1990 A's. It looks like Game One really was the turning point; after the Cards couldn't get over the hump, they just never got anything going. For a team that took the National League by storm, that was shocking, especially on the offensive side.
*Nice job by Jason Marquis to keep the Cards in the game last night; I'm skeptical of Marquis because he's a high-walk pitcher who doesn't compensate by overpowering people, but after getting on the ropes early he did manage to avoid the KO.
*More, much more on this (and other bigger-picture questions) later in November and December - after this morning, I will probably shift into politics-only here through next Wednesday or whenever it is that the election is resolved - but you have to figure Curt Schilling is suddenly, improbably closing in on a pretty solid Hall of Fame case. Of course, you would have said the same thing (and I know I did) about Jack Morris after Game Seven of the 1991 Series.
*Manny Ramirez matching Hank Bauer's record 17-game postseason hitting streak and winning the Series MVP just feels odd - Manny never did bust out with the big longball, and didn't even drive in a run against the Yankees. Yet again, as always, his overall postseason numbers were less impressive than his regular season stats. Yet, somehow, he just kept poking a hit here and a hit there, and it added up to good things.
*If you own stock in Dan Shaughnessy, sell. (Bruce Allen has the full Boston media roundup)
POLITICS: Another Endorsement
It's not exactly a surprise, but given the publicity machine that surrounds the handful of September 11 widows who have consistently agitated against President Bush, it's worth noting this open letter of support for Bush from a much longer list of families of people killed on September 11.
I'm sure that there are also plenty of other Bush supporters among those who, like me, were fortunate to survive the attacks.
October 27, 2004
BASEBALL: YOUR WORLD CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX
Never thought I'd live to write that. The dog finally caught the bus; Charlie Brown kicked the football; Gilligan got off the island. Not being a hockey fan - I remember the Rangers winning the Stanley Cup, but I wasn't really able to appreciate it - the closest thing I can compare this to is the fall of the Berlin Wall in terms of the "never thought I'd see the day" factor. Wow, just wow.
Technically, the 21st century began in 2001, not 2000. Which means, of course, that the Red Sox have won a World Series in this century. And the Yankees have not.
WAR: Prayers For Repentance
I can pray for billionaire terrorist Yasser Arafat to repent his sins. But, as with Fidel Castro, I feel not a shred of guilt in hoping for his death, which will improve and perhaps save countless lives. Roger Simon wonders if he's dead already, and on the very day that Ariel Sharon wins approval for his Nixon-goes-to-China plan for unilateral pullback of some of the settlements.
Back to the ballgame.
POLITICS: The Vet Vote
McQ notes a number of polls breaking down different voting blocs, with interesting commentary. One significant group:
McQ notes one obvious reason for this:
The line you often hear quoted, from various sources, is about a Kerry defeat being the parade Vietnam vets never had. Of course, consider this in tandem with the 75% or so support that Bush appears to get from both active-duty military and from the Guard and Reserves, and the overall picture is not one of great love for Kerry by his fellow veterans and soldiers.
BASEBALL: Song of the Yankee Fan
POLITICS: Um, About Those Late-Breaking Undecideds . . .
The candidates are essentially tied among those who made up their minds during the summer. However, those who decided in the past month favor President Bush by a 57% to 38% margin.
Our sample included 136 Likely Voters who made up their mind over the last week. These voters also appear to be breaking in the President's direction but the small sample size prevents any definitive assessment.
There are very few undecided voters today. Those who have recently made their final decision are most likely firming up a choice for the candidate they have been leaning towards for some period of time.
At the moment, 93% of Bush voters are certain they won't change their mind and 89% of Kerry voters say the same. Our daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows that just 2% of voters remain undecided at this time (many of whom may not vote).
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt points to a 51-47 Bush lead among the most-likely voters of all: the 9% of all respondents to an ABC poll who say they have already voted by absentee ballot or early voting. I cast my own absentee ballot for Bush on Friday, to free myself up to volunteer on Election Day.
POLITICS: Daily Must-Reads for 10/27/04
*Lileks on Andrew Sullivan's Kerry endorsement. The closing line, which Lileks has delivered by Tony Blair, is deadly.
*The Sultan of Snark on Ron Suskind: "If Suskind misreads his own facts wrong in order to (willfully? subconsciously?) pander to New York Times readers' fear of Christian fundamentalism, what other facts has he misread? And what kind of 'empiricist' is he?" I also liked the line about the "imperturbable" Andrew Sullivan.
*Will Collier on heavy early-voting turnout in Georgia, nobody's idea of a battleground. High turnout in Georgia, of all places, tends to undercut the idea that it's Kerry's supporters who are fired up. Remember, you have a lot of people out there who support the war and have had to keep silent as the media has poured hot boiling scorn on the war effort for the past couple of years.
Either way, I predict that the loser of this election will get substantially more votes than any prior presidential candidate in history. And if Kerry wins, Bush would break with a long tradition of incumbents losing only if they have a severe split in their party, a major third party candidate and/or a catastrophic setback on the order of Watergate, the Great Depression or the one-two punch of stagflation and the Iranian hostage crisis.
*Jay Cost (link via NRO Battlegrounders) on why he thinks the Bush-Cheney campaign has a decisive advantage in the Ohio ground game that will show up on Election Day. I'm prepared to believe, among other things, that the GOP's get out the vote (GOTV) effort benefits from being an integrated organization as compared to the alphabet soup of "independent" groups working for the Dems, but I'm more skeptical about the idea that there's some enormous hidden advantage here that Karl Rove knows about and we don't.
Who controls the British pound? Who keeps the metric system down?
Who leaves Atlantis off the maps? Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
Who holds back the electric car? Who makes Steve Gutenberg a star?
Who robs cavefish of their sight? Who rigs every Oscar night?
BASEBALL: Birds on the Brink
Well, after what we saw last week, and in light of Red Sox history as well as the dire condition of Curt Schilling's ankle, it's hard to say that we should count the Cardinals out just yet. But things look pretty grim. I have to say, even though I'm pulling for the Red Sox, I feel awfully bad for Cardinal fans (which must be a sign that I'm finally over my bitterness from 1985 and 1987), who had a genuinely great team this year; that's a rare treat, and one that's spoiled if they don't go all the way, as fans of the 2001 Mariners could tell you.
Pedro may not have been the San Pedro de Fenway of old last night, but he did a tremendous job shutting down the murderous Cardinal lineup. I expect the Cards to come out and finally pond the stuffings out of Derek Lowe, but it will probably be too late.
One memory that came back watching Larry Walker get thrown out at the plate was back in Walker's rookie year, 1989, when the Expos dropped to two games back in the pennant race on August 23, in a game they lost 1-0 in 22 innings when Walker was called out in the bottom of the 16th for leaving third base early on a sacrifice fly. I have to wonder if he's been more tentative about breaking for home on a fly ball ever since.
BASEBALL: Let Down
Even though I know this site has a bunch of Red Sox fan readers, from the perspective of a neutral fan, mainly looking to watch entertaining, competitive baseball, I must confess to being pretty disappointed in this World Series. Thus far, it’s been one-sided, sloppy and anti-climactic.
Of course, I’m sure I would feel differently if my team was on the verge of its first championship in 86 years. Or maybe I’m just grumpy because I had such high hopes and because my prediction now appears to have been far off. But it is looking like it’s over – we all know teams can’t come back from down 3-0…right?
LAW: Free to Decide
Professor Volokh explains why President Bush’s support for same-sex civil unions is not inconsistent with the current version of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
The difference lies in whether the people or the courts get to make the decision.
POLITICS: Getting The Job Done
The latest and apparently last theory that Kerry and his media allies have settled on is to attack Bush's execution of the War on Terror, including both the Iraq war and Afghanistan; the theme of the attacks has been that Bush is incompetent, which is taken now as received wisdom beyond challenge by fact. Go read Greg Djerejian's long essay on this point, and yesterday's shorter Wall Street Journal op-ed (for a similar analysis, see Dan Darling on the Washington Post's effort to argue that the Iraq war and anti-Iran hardliners undermined the al Qaeda manhunt). Both contribute to a few of the key points that need to be borne in mind in evaluating the Bush Administration's performance:
1. War is a difficult and complex endeavor, requiring the making of scores of decisions large and small. Many of those decisions are, by their very nature, made on the basis of severely incomplete information, fraught with uncertainty and likely to have lethal consequences if they go wrong - and often if they go right, as well. The military acronym SNAFU got that way for a reason. Bush, by leading the nation in wartime, is certain to make more mistakes, and with worse consequences, than any peacetime president.
2. The history of wars, in fact, is almost unbroken in the making of catastrophic misjudgments by even the best of wartime leaders. Certainly if you review the records of Lincoln, FDR and Churchill, three of the models of civilian leadership in war, they and their generals and civilian advisers made numerous errors that cost scores of lives, many of which in retrospect seem like obvious blunders. I'd like the critics who formerly supported Bush and have now abandoned him to at least admit that on the same grounds, they would have voted for Dewey in 1944 and McClellan in 1864.
3. More specifically to the issue at hand, in almost all cases, the decisions by Bush and his civilian and military advisers involved avoiding alternatives that had their own potential bad consequences, and the critics are judging these decisions in a vacuum. The decision to disband Saddam's army and undergo a thorough de-Ba'athification is a classic example, cited incessantly by critics on the Left. But what if Bush had kept that army together, and they had acted in the heavy-handed (to put it mildly) fashion to which the Ba'athists were accustomed, say, by firing on crowds of civilians? Isn't it an absolute certainty that all the same critics would be singing "meet the new boss, same as the old boss," accusing Bush's commitment to democracy as being a sham and a cover for a desire to set up friendly tyrants to keep the oil pumping, that we'd hear constantly about how we've alienated the Iraqi people by enabling their oppressors, how we showed misunderstanding of the country by leaving a minority Sunni power structure in place over the Shi'ite majority? Wouldn't we hear the very same things we hear now about Afghanistan, about using too few US troops and "outsourcing" the job, or the same civil-liberties concerns we hear when we turn over suspects for interrogation to countries without our restraint when it comes to torture? Don't insult our intelligence and try to deny it.
The same goes for many decisions. More troops? We'd hear that this is a heavy-handed US occupation. I mean, we heard something like that when Giuliani put more cops on the street in New York, let alone a foreign country. Like most conservatives, my preference would have been to go hard into Fallujauh in April. But even if the alternative decision to hold off until there could be significant Iraqi participation in the assault was wrong, it was not an illogical one, but rather a decision made with the patience and foresight to consider the long-range political consequences in Iraq of differing military approaches.
4. Many of the decisions at issue here, from specific ground commanders' decisions to secure particular sites to Tommy Franks' call on Tora Bora, were decisions principally made by people lower in the chain of command, many of them in the military. This is not to say that Bush, as the head of that chain of command, is not ultimately responsible to the voters for those decisions; he is. But it is to remind people that they are not second-guessing solely the judgments of a small coterie of the president and civilian advisers, but the entire chain of command. Tom Maguire makes this point explicitly with regard to Tora Bora:
If Kerry is campaigning on a promise to make the battlefield decisions and always make the right ones, good for him. Say Anything, John.
5. Much of the criticism has focused on the idea that Bush needs to admit more errors, and that Kerry would be better at recognizing and admitting mistakes. Djerejian zeroes in on an argument made by David Adesnik and Dan Drezner:
As a professional researcher, I think I simply find it almost impossible to trust someone whose thought process is apparently so different from my own. In theory, I am sure that Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld all believe in evaluating the relevant data and adjusting their decisions to reflect reality. Thus, when I say that I object to the way that this administration makes decisions, I am saying that I do not believe that it has lived up to the intellectual standard it presumably accepts. [emphasis added]
As an initial matter, admitting mistakes, especially in wartime, is overrated, particularly if that means (1) admitting a decision was wrong before you have all the information to reach a final conclusion about it, or (2) making a public self-analysis that gives useful information to the enemy. How often did Churchill, battling daily to keep up the fighting spirit of the British, go on the radio to say, "sorry folks, I blew it again and got a bunch of people killed"? I tend to think that Bush made a big mistake of this kind when he conceded the point last summer on the inclusion in the State of the Union Address of British charges that Saddam was trying to buy uranium in Africa; as it turned out, the Brits stood by their report, and Saddam really did send an envoy there to do precisely that.
The more important point in wartime is the ability to recognize what's not working and change tactics or, if appropriate, strategies. Djerejian cites several examples of Bush doing precisely that, most notably with the firing of Jay Garner but also extending to expanding the number of troops on the ground.
In any event, where, I would ask, is the evidence that Kerry is better at admitting mistakes than Bush? This is a guy who brought all sorts of political grief to himself by stubbornly refusing for three decades to admit that he was wrong to repeat false charges, under oath and on national televison, that smeared his comrades in Vietnam as guilty of pervasive war crimes. Has Kerry admitted he was wrong to oppose nearly every aspect of the foreign policy strategy that President Reagan pursused to great effect in the closing and victorious chapter of the Cold War? Has he admitted he was wrong to oppose the use of force to kick Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991? Maybe I missed something, but I don't even recall him admitting he was wrong for trying to slash the intelligence budget in the mid-1990s following the first World Trade Center bombing. Indeed, one of the most common threads throughout Kerry's behavior in this campaign has been his unwillingness to take any personal responsibility for mistakes, from blaming his speechwriters for things that come out of Kerry's own mouth to picayune things like blaming the Secret Service when he falls down on the slopes. As Jonah Goldberg notes, Kerry's "liberal hawk" backers may argue that the decades of bad judgment in Kerry's past are rendered inoperative by September 11, but Kerry's stubborn insistence that he hasn't changed in response to September 11, and that he had the right answers all along even when he wrote a book in 1997 that barely mentioned Islamic terrorism, gives the lie to the notion that Kerry is a model of self-reflection. Even the man's own supporters can't seriously defend the proposition - on which many of them heaped well-deserved scorn during the primary season - that Kerry has been consistent from the start on whether Saddam was a serious threat that justified a military response. Yet there Kerry stands, insisting to all the world what nobody believes, that he hasn't changed his position. Preferring Kerry to Bush because Bush won't admit mistakes is like preferring fresh water to salt water because salt water is wet.
In any event, will Kerry somehow change, grow in office, shed a lifetime of bad judgments and blanching at the use of American power, suddenly stop valuing diplomacy as an end and the status quo as the highest virtue? Just because Bush changed in office means nothing. First of all, Bush was a guy who had already proven his willingness to change and admit his problems when he quit drinking, had a religious awakening and basically overhauled his whole approach to life in his forties; Kerry can show no similar example of a willingness to change. And Kerry is now in his sixties, six years older than Bush in 2000, and while Bush may count September 11 as a life-changing event, Kerry had already had his, in Vietnam. Kerry's foreign policy world view was set decades ago, both by the example of his diplomat father and by Vietnam. The fact that Kerry has been malleable and vascillating over the years, clear a pattern though that may be, is no reason to think that he will suddenly re-examine his approach to accept the need for the United States to lead a continuing effort to overturn the corrupt, rotten and deadly status quo in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
6. The final charge is that Bush's errors would be forgiveable if he had done more, earlier, to explain the risks and burdens of war to the American people. Of course, this has nothing to do with the execution of the war, but political leadership is important, and in many ways it's much more the president's job than is the decision to use X number of troops to seal off a particular location. First off, the charge that Bush argued the war would be easy is refuted by virtually all his speeches, in which he said over and over and over again that we were in for a long haul, and there would be difficult times ahead. Of course, that has long since become obvious from events, and in any event we really were not in a position before the war to know precisely how it would all play out. But I will agree that he never gave a Churchillian "blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech specifically about Iraq, and that many hawks in and out of the administration underestimated in their public arguments the difficulties of a post-conquest insurgency (then again, many doves told us that we'd be bogged down with thousands of casualties taking Baghdad). Of course, the war itself, up to and through the fall of Baghdad, was as much of a "cakewalk" as a real life shooting war against a substantial enemy can ever be; the problem is simply that we didn't broadcast the coming insurgency (which, by the way, would have had the effect of greatly encouraging the insurgents).
In the end, that's what this argument is all about - not the difficulties of war, which are well-understood, but simply a political argument about the use of speeches to predict the unpredictable. Moreover, on that ground, again, there's no reason to think Kerry would be better; after all, Kerry is the guy who won't even admit to this day that his war vote was a vote for war. Kerry's the guy who wasn't able to predict that his campaign would have to prepare for attacks by people who'd been holding a grudge against him for 30 years.
No, Bush hasn't been a perfect war leader, but show me who was. He's had tough calls to make, and unlike Kerry he can't shift with the wind without consequence. Progress has been frustrating at times, because our overall enemy - the forces of terror and tyranny, of radical Islamism and fascist gangsterism - have recognized that an American victory in Iraq would be a defeat for them in the war on terror. You know that, I know that, they know that. But that just makes it all the more urgent to stick with a guy who believes in the mission, and who has proven that he will keep on trying new approaches until the job is finished, rather than looking for the door.
October 26, 2004
OK, we've heard both sides say it over and over again, and I'm compelled to agree: both sides in the presidential campaign are appealing to fear. Of course, if your fears are rational, it may be a very logical thing to vote your fears. So, let's just get on with it:
Kerry and Edwards want you to believe that George W. Bush is plotting to bring back the draft, stop Social Security benefits from being paid to today's senior citizens, and turn firehoses on African-Americans who try to go vote. If you believe those things, you should vote for Kerry and Edwards.
Bush and Cheney want you to believe that Islamist terrorists are plotting to kill large numbers of Americans with terrorist attacks. If you believe that, you should vote for Bush and Cheney.
POLITICS: Irony Alert
In 1987, Dukakis staffer John Sasso sank the presidential aspirations of Joe Biden by distributing a videotape demonstrating that Biden had plaigarized parts of speeches. Dukakis fired Sasso for his troubles, although most observers today regard this as standard opposition research rather than a dirty trick.
Today's New York Sun reports that Sasso's candidate, John Kerry, stands accused of plaigarizing campaign materials and even parts of the 1997 book "The New War" that he used to burnish his image as a deep thinker, chunks of which bear strong resemblances to uncredited newspaper and magazine articles. Unlike in 1987, the charge is not likely to do much damage to Kerry - plaigarism scarcely seems to dent scholars these days, let alone politicians - and maybe it's of a piece with the by-now well-known fact that Kerry's idol, John F. Kennedy, had ghostwriters draft large sections of his award-winning book Profiles in Courage. But the irony should not be lost, at least.
BASEBALL: Voice for the Ages
Sad news for baseball fans and music lovers: Robert Merrill, former national-anthem-singing institution at Yankee Stadium, has died at 85. What a great voice he had.
WAR: Hitchens and Castro
Must-read: Hitchens on what you have to believe to believe that Zarqawi's presence and organization in pre-invasion Iraq is not evidence of Saddam's complicity with Islamist radical terrorists.
Also: Andrew Sullivan catches this quote, which I heartily endorse, from State Department spokesman Richard Boucher:
MR. BOUCHER: We heard that Castro fell. There are, I think, various reports that he broke a leg, an arm, a foot, and other things, and I'd guess you'd have to check with the Cubans to find out what's broken about Mr. Castro. We, obviously, have expressed our views about what's broken in Cuba.
QUESTION: Do you wish him a speedy recovery?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
Castro definitely fits that narrow category of persons whose death would so improve the lives of so many that I feel no guilt in wishing him ill.
UPDATE: So the Bush Administration chose, for a variety of reasons (the quality of available intelligence is, as always, disputed), not to imitate Clinton's ineffective missile strikes on Afghanistan but instead wait for the invasion to deal in toto with Zarqawi's terror camps. And Saddam was able to plan an insurgency, move around dangerous weapons and possibly move men, money and weapons to Syria during the run-up to war. Which may well have included the high explosives the NY Times was huffing about yesterday, which the inspectors had left in Saddam's hands (along with hundreds of thousands of tons of other conventional explosives) without concern.
I'm beginning to think Mark Steyn was right that the real problem with the Iraq War is that we waited too long trying to go through all the international hoops before invading, costing us the ability to catch Saddam by strategic surprise. And yet, as Wretchard puts it, "[t]he price of passing the "Global Test" was very high; and having been gypped once, there are some who are still eager to be taken to the cleaners again."
POLITICS: Impractical Libertarians
Libertarian Jane Galt quotes Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarik at length, on his theory that paying federal income taxes is not legally required, as proof that Badnarik is a fringe nut. If you vote for Badnarik, you are doing nothing to advance the cause of liberty.
If further proof were needed of the impracticality of doctrinaire libertarians, check out this revealing Reason Magazine symposium. Even Glenn Reynolds wasted his ballot in 2000 on Harry Browne. And Richard Epstein is voting for Badnarik!
The GOP has, in fact, committed sins against small-government libertarianism, some by wrongly buying in to big government and some by taking pro-law-enforcement and pro-life stances that I, as a conservative, approve of. But libertarian ideas are taken seriously in Republican circles, while they are scorned at every turn by the Democrats. And in the real world, if there is ever to be progress away from Big Government, it will require that the public accept fewer guaranteed entitlements and more individual decisionmaking. With his plans for private accounts in Social Security and Health Savings Accounts, Bush is far further out on the limb in favor of such progress than any presidential candidate since Goldwater. And whether Bush wins or loses, the GOP will be under pressure to nominate a spending hawk in the next campaign; that candidate's job will be much easier if Bush has laid the groundwork for changing an entitlement system that dwarfs the size of any discretionary spending. And yes, Bush wants conservative judges; but conservative judges will do no more on social issues than leave them to the people's elected representatives.
If libertarians can't support Bush, faults and all, they are simply not interested in testing their ideas outside a laboratory.
UPDATE: The Mad Hibernian points me to Dale Franks' endorsement of Bush as a counter-example of a libertarian (actually a neolibertarian, as the QandO guys call themselves) who understands the stakes:
In any event, I’m far more concerned with keeping the USS America from slipping beneath the waves than I am about watching the GOP sink. Maybe, once the last terrorist’s head is stuck on pike, I’ll be more concerned with the fate of the GOP’s L/C direction.
Until then, I want a president that I’m sure will pull the trigger, when it needs to be pulled. That president is George W. Bush.
POLITICS: One for the Ladies
POLITICS: The Stakes
First, we will reject the notion that America can do big things.
Once a nation that tamed a frontier, stood down the Nazis and stood upon the moon, we will announce to the world that bringing democracy to the Middle East is too big a task for us. But more significantly, we will signal to future presidents that as voters, we are unwilling to tackle difficult challenges, preferring caution to boldness, embracing the mediocrity that has characterized other civilizations. The defeat of President Bush will send a chilling message to future presidents who may need to make difficult, yet unpopular decisions. America has always been a nation that rises to the demands of history regardless of the costs or appeal. If we turn away from that legacy, we turn away from who we are.
Second, we inform every terrorist organization on the globe that the lesson of Somalia was well learned. In Somalia we showed terrorists that you don't need to defeat America on the battlefield when you can defeat them in the newsroom. They learned that a wounded America can become a defeated America.
Twenty-four-hour news stations and daily tracking polls will do the heavy lifting, turning a cut into a fatal blow. Except that Iraq is Somalia times 10. The election of John Kerry will serve notice to every terrorist in every cave that the soft underbelly of American power is the timidity of American voters. Terrorists will know that a steady stream of grizzly [sic] photos for CNN is all you need to break the will of the American people. Our own self-doubt will take it from there. Bin Laden will recognize that he can topple any American administration without setting foot on the homeland.
Read the whole thing. Jay Nordlinger makes the same point:
In my view, this election is not a contest to determine how we'll fight the War on Terror; it's a contest to determine whether we will fight it at all. And the decision made by the Americans will be fateful.
George W. Bush and his people think that our security requires wholesale changes in the Muslim world — changes that we must abet. The other side — which includes a portion of the Right — believes that we can just hunker down, lashing out when some occasion demands. And if only Israel weren't so damn troublesome, perhaps the Arabs would be calmer.
I have never liked the terms "pro-war" and "anti-war," certainly the former. None of us is pro-war. It's just that some of us think that it's necessary to wage, while others do not. The Bush side thinks the war is a matter of self-defense; the other side thinks it's a matter of belligerence, or arrogance, or utopianism, or servitude to "Sharon," or something else bad.
As I have said before, I wish this election weren't so important. But I'm afraid it is. If the Americans elected John Kerry in, oh, 1992 or 1996, that would be one thing. If they elect him in 2004 — that will tell us something disheartening.
A little story: Some time ago, England had what was called "the Metric Martyr." This was a fellow — a grocer or a butcher, I forget which — who sold his goods in imperial measures: pounds, ounces, etc. But because England is now beholden to Brussels, he was prosecuted for not using the metric system (hence, Metric Martyr).
I asked our senior editor David Pryce-Jones (a Brit), "How could the British people permit this? I mean, it's their system — the imperial system, or the English system — to begin with." David answered, "The British people wouldn't permit it. The question is whether they remain the British people."
(Nordlinger has some other godd stuff, including this gem from a reader: "Did you see that Fidel Castro took a fall? I wonder if Jimmy Carter broke his nose.")
Roger Simon has a related point about how the anti-Israel, anti-democracy pro-status-quo "Arabists" have found their home in Kerry's Democratic apparatus, as evidenced by Kerry's top foreign policy adviser, Richard Holbrooke, specifying that a Kerry administration would put the screws on three countries in the region: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Krauthammer, if you missed his latest must-read column, explains how and why Kerry would sell out Israel, which remains our most unpopular ally among the Europeans, the UN, the Arab dictators and others whom Kerry feels the need to please.
Call me naive, but I still have more faith in the voters than that. But I remain worried that the election will be close enough to be swayed by fraud and litigation, and that's bad news for Bush - and for the nation.
If you read the front end of the column, Lupica is laying the groundwork for his preferred storyline that blames everything on A-Rod, totally absolves Derek Jeter, and makes it out like the Yankees' ability to import an endless line of superstars is somehow a burden they have to carry. Well, of course.
October 25, 2004
POLITICS: Role Model
BASEBALL: A Tough One
A few days old, yet still worth reading: Drew over at Longhorn Mafia has a new #1 on his personal list of toughest sports losses.
POLITICS: Explosive Charge
The NY Times - with the assistance, predictably, of 60 Minutes - is pushing a story about explosive stockpiles in Iraq that have been unaccounted for since the invasion. Why now? I'll leave that to the reader. But the relevant questions about what's missing from this story are asked by Captain Ed, Geraghty, the Minute Man, Henke, and John Cole.
UPDATE: Andrew McCarthy at NRO argues that the existence of the explosives in question constitute yet another example of Saddam's violations of UN resolutions, one UN inspectors apparently decided to let slide because Saddam's regime told them that the explosives could conceivably have non-military applications. And remember, this particular cache was just a small proportion of Saddam's explosives stockpiles, in addition to all the other problems with his regime. Oh, but "the sanctions were working," right?
ONE MORE UPDATE: Geraghty, who's been on this story all day, quotes NBC News Pentagon reporter Jim Miklaszewski saying that the NBC News crew embedded with the 101st Airborne during the war confirms that the missing explosives were already gone when the 101st Airborne arrived at the site on April 10, 2003, the day after the fall of Baghdad. More here from what appears to be a contemporaneous report of what some parts of the 101st (recall that a division is more than 10,000 troops) was tasked with that day:
The troops encountered resistance almost immediately on entering the city. About 200 Fedayeen fighters on pick-up trucks counter-attacked with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Several Iraqi tanks also fired rounds at U.S. tanks.
U.S. forces responded with tank fire, artillery, and air strikes. Scores of Iraqi troops were killed during the four-hour battle. Three U.S. soldiers were wounded.
A lieutenant colonel with the 101st Airborne, Rick Carlson, says his soldiers, conducting a building-to-building search of the city, discovered what he called a "gigantic" warehouse full of weapons and ordnance.
Other weapons were found inside schools. He says the soldiers searched school buildings because that is where U.S. troops in neighboring cities of Najaf and Karbala have uncovered large weapons caches:
"Every school that we have encountered in those three regions has been used as a weapons depot. So, whenever we have gone into a (militarily) built-up area, we go straight to a school."
BASEBALL: Two Down, But Can The Sox Go?
Random Game Two thoughts:
*Speaking of Willis Reed (see below), during last night's start by Curt Schilling, I thought back to some of the great or memorable performances by injured players: Reed, Kareem in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, Nolan Ryan pitching on a fractured ankle in Game 5 of the 1986 NLCS, Kirk Gibson's home run in 1988. What most great performances like this have in common is, they're one-day-only things. Schilling has pressed his luck twice, and there are real questions about whether he can go a third time.
*Tim McCarver said last night that Manny Ramirez is an "outstanding two-strike hitter." Well, I don't generally accept things like this on faith if they can be checked, especially concerning the two-strike hitting of a guy who struck out 124 times this year, so I looked at Manny's numbers the last three years, from ESPN.com:
The "Two Strikes" line adds up his 0-2, 1-2, 2-2 and 3-2 numbers. At first glance, Manny is a terrible two-strike hitter until he gets to 2-2, and only really good at 3-2. But nearly everyone is horrible on those counts; the fact that Manny slugs nearly .400 even on 0-2 and 1-2, .469 on 2-2 and over .500 on 3-2 is not bad at all, both absolutely and in comparison to his usual spectacular production. The average AL player batted .269/.431/.337 this season, but .195/.300/.266 with two strikes, a 26.3% dropoff in OPS; Manny falls off by 24.9% over a three year-period, which is visibly but not outstandingly better.
*Entering Game Three of the World Series, the Cardinals are 29-10 in postseason games at Busch Stadium since 1982, and 16-26 on the road; since 1996, the breakdown is 14-6 at home, 10-14 on the road.
*I wonder what Bill James thinks, being associated with a team that bats Orlando Cabrera second. Repeat: "I am just a consultant, I'm not the manager."
*Are the Green Monster seats now officially the cool seats now that Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks sit in them?
*I liked the way Cal Eldred went high and outside after Ortiz' foul homer; a lot of guys love to follow those up by jacking one out, and Eldred tried to get him to bite.
*Well, you get your bombs with Mark Bellhorn, and you get your boots. I still think he's worth the tradeoff as compared to Pokey Reese.
*Unless I heard wrong, Joe Buck described Jason Marquis as being "infestive" in this postseason, but then again that sounds about right.
*Buck was also doing a way-premature Sox-finally-win-the-championship victory lap in the 7th, before two wins were in the books. The announcers seem to have forgotten about the Cardinals, even after they posted the best record in baseball and dominated the National League. Coming from a crew of one guy whose dad was the Voice of the Cardinals and one who played in three World Serieses for the Cards, that has to grate on St. Louis' fans.
BASEBALL: No Pepper
A doctor weighs in on what went wrong to cause a pepper spray projectile fired by Boston cops to kill a young woman celebrating the Red Sox' ALCS victory.
UPDATE: My bad; I really just skimmed this before I linked to it, since the writer appears to have some useful knowledge on the subject, but I don't necessarily endorse the implication some people have drawn from this that the Boston PD doesn't deserve a good bit of the blame for this. I absolutely don't think that the Boston PD should be let off the hook here, and I say that as a great believer in giving cops the benefit of the doubt in dealing with difficult situations. One of the first rules of policing is, either you shoot to kill or you don't shoot. Projectiles like this shouldn't be fired directly at people if there's no reason to use deadly force.
POLITICS: The Big Story: A Fabricated UN Meeting
Powerline points us to the much-hyped story of the weekend, a Washington Times piece by National Review's State Department correspondent, Joel Mowbray:
This contradicts Kerry's assertion at the second presidential debate that he had such a meeting:
Kerry was even more emphatic in one of his big prepared foreign policy speeches:
Kerry is now backing down:
But after being told late yesterday of the results of The Times investigation, the Kerry campaign issued a statement that read in part, "It was a closed meeting and a private discussion."
A Kerry aide refused to identify who participated in the meeting.
The statement did not repeat Mr. Kerry's claims of a lengthy meeting with the entire 15-member Security Council, instead saying the candidate "met with a group of representatives of countries sitting on the Security Council."
Great work by the bloggers who got this story rolling and by Mowbray for putting it all together. What does it all mean? This is a lot bigger deal, at a minimum, than Dick Cheney forgetting that he'd ever run into John Edwards; the problem with some of Kerry's fabrications is that they tend to be complicated, self-important embellishments that are hard to square with a simple trick of memory. That's how Roger Simon, who compares this to the "Christmas in Cambodia" fairytale, views the story. Jason Steffens is less impressed with the electoral significance of yet another "Kerry made stuff up" story, as apparently are some of Simon's readers.
I doubt myself that this will be a game-breaker, but then, anything that puts Kerry on the defensive for even a day at this late stage can be a big momentum-suck, and this is a legitimate question, and one that Kerry would have to answer if we had a press corps that demanded answers from Kerry, which it often has not. Of course, the ultimate test is whether other news agencies will pick up this story - as they would if it were a claim that Bush had lied and ran on CBS or ABC or in the New York Times - or if this will get buried in the right-wing media ghetto. This morning's Drudge Report is not encouraging: there's a small headline, totally eclipsed by the blaring coverage of Bill Clinton's triumphant, press-oxygen-sucking return to the campaign. We know which story Big Media would rather cover; Matt Lauer last week was worshipfully comparing a Clinton return to Willis Reed hobbling onto the court in the 1970 NBA Finals (which is a humorous analogy because it puts Kerry in the Clyde Frazier role). Stay tuned.
UPDATE: INDC Journal has more, including links to other commentary. Bill also considers a possible justification:
Captain Ed finds this unhelpful and telling of Kerry's attitude towards our allies in Eastern Europe:
POLITICS: Why I'm Voting for Bush
Above all, we are at war. This will be the first Presidential election since the September 11, 2001 attacks, which nearly killed the primary author of this site and which claimed the lives of almost 3,000 innocent Americans whose only offense was going to work or getting on a plane in a free country. It is essential that we never forget that day and that we affirm our commitment to seeing the War on Terror through. President Bush is the best candidate to do so and offers the best plan to lead this country for the next four years.
I am not a blind supporter of the President. Were there a George Washington or Winston Churchill running against Bush, I?d be quite happy to vote to replace him. In fact, in 2000, I supported John McCain and that year, as John Kerry might say, I voted against Bush before I voted for him. But, over the last four years, I believe Bush has been an excellent wartime leader and that there is simply no credible alternative offered in this election.
Read More Â»
John Kerry is not a wartime consiglieri. In fact, in my view, he is a terrible, terrible candidate. Kerry is utterly irresolute, indecisive, elitist, pompous, condescending and, above all, an advocate for misguided policies which would ultimately imperil America.
The September 11th attacks were the defining moment of the 21st century thus far. It has profoundly changed our world and refocused the lives of many young Americans, including my own. Yet, John Kerry has repeatedly made statements about terrorism being a nuisance, about fighting a more sensitive war on terror, about subjecting American national security decisions to a ?global test? and about how 9/11 did not significantly change him (see here). Taken individually, such statements can perhaps be defended. Collectively, they are the portrait of a September 10, 2001 mindset, an approach which is utterly irresponsible for a post-9/11 commander-in-chief.
Worse still are Kerry?s actions and track record. Kerry?s recent tough talk is belied by his two decades of dovish voting in the United States Senate. Kerry received his title as America?s most liberal Senator the old-fashioned way: he earned it.
Kerry was consistently wrong during the Cold War, advocating passivity at every turn (see here). Kerry voted against the 1991 Gulf War, the ultimate multilateral engagement backed by the largest coalition in history, staking out a position to the left of the French in that time of crisis (see here). Regardless of what you think of America?s policy since that time towards Iraq, ask yourself if it has been preferable to a 13-year occupation of Kuwait and its oil supply by a Saddam Hussein armed with nuclear weapons, as would likely have been the case had Kerry?s course been followed. Most recently, Kerry voted for the Iraq War, apparently on the belief that we should?ve tried to ?bluff? Saddam Hussein into surrendering. (Although, it is hard to tell, since his shifting positions on the issue are so incomprehensible). Then, in an effort to outflank Howard Dean as the more irresponsible candidate during the Democratic primaries, he voted against funding to support our troops and reconstruct Iraq.
Kerry has a blind faith in multilateralism and global opinion which is as naď¶Ą as it is dangerous. Anyone who thinks the French and Germans are going to ride in to fight, in Kerry?s words, the ?wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time? is daydreaming. Even if they did, it would do little to change the situation on the ground. America should do all it can to cultivate its alliances and we have many, from NATO to Great Britain to Australia to Canada to Japan to South Korea to Israel to Eastern Europe. But we should never forget that, as September 11 teaches, America is at its most popular in the world as when large numbers of innocent Americans have just been slaughtered. I, for one, much prefer the temporary unpopularity that inevitably comes with taking decisive action to head off gathering threats.
I have no doubt about the patriotism of John Kerry and most of the Democratic party, but we must ask more of our leaders than simply that they do not wish ill of our country. They must be prepared to take determined action to defend it. The Democrats have moved to the left of where they were even under President Clinton and are staking out an overly passive position on national security in an extremely dangerous age. It wasn?t always this way; in the middle of the twentieth century a strong triumvirate of Democratic presidents, FDR, Truman and Kennedy, while far from perfect, advocated and carried out vigilant policies to ?bear any burden? to combat fascism and communism. Just a few days ago came news of the death of Paul Nitze, a conservative Democrat who served presidents from FDR to Reagan and who was a leading advocate of aggressive containment of the Soviet threat. Some Democrats today, like Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh or Zell Miller, still embody such strong views on national security, but the mainstream of the party, currently led by John Kerry, increasingly does not.
Finally, I?d like to say that I?ve always admired Kerry?s military service in Vietnam. As for his behavior protesting the war and testifying before Congress in 1971, I?ll leave that to those who lived through or fought that war to decide. Personally, my main concern, in 2004, in the midst of a fight to the death with uncompromising enemies, is that I don?t want a President who consistently summons the ghosts of Vietnam before and during every military operation from Grenada to Libya to Panama to Kuwait to Afghanistan to Iraq. We need leadership that is informed by history, not imprisoned by it.
So, that?s why, among many other reasons, I?m not voting for Kerry. Why am I voting for Bush?
Since September 11, 2001, President Bush has led America in toppling the regimes of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, two of the most brutally repressive, terrorist-supporting dictatorships in recent history. Free and fair elections were held in Afghanistan for the first time its long, unfortunate history and are similarly scheduled for January for the long-suffering people of Iraq. Large portions of al Qaeda?s membership has been killed or captured, its sanctuaries have been removed and its leadership remains on the run. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, while probably not already dead, will inevitably be killed or captured by the dragnet that continues to hunt them. The wait is frustrating, but it will happen.
Yet, much more work needs to be done. Beyond 9/11, al Qaeda and its ilk have committed terrorist atrocities in Bali and Beslan, in Madrid and Istanbul, in Jersusalem and across Iraq. There have been attempts to blow up planes with shoe bombs and plots to contaminate cities with radioactive dispersal devices. We are facing enemies who slit the throats of defenseless stewardesses, who saw off the heads of bound contractors and who are willing to strap explosives to themselves to blow up women and children. Only decisive military action, coordinated law enforcement cooperation, steadfast leadership and a commitment to expanding the sphere of representative, accountable governments will ensure the gradual destruction of the al Qaeda network and its allies. And only with a willingness to go on offense, even when it is unpopular, will we ultimately triumph. Passive defensive measures and after-the-fact reprisals are not enough. President Bush gets this. John Kerry simply does not.
The Iraq War was a swift and smashing military triumph, but its aftermath has been bloody, confusing and imperfectly planned. Still, we were right to fight the war and we were right to topple Saddam Hussein when we did. See here, here, here and here for my take on why. World War II analogies can be overused, but the United States made some mammoth mistakes in that war ? including strategy, tactics and intelligence from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines to Arnhem to the Battle of the Bulge ? but that does not mean we were wrong to fight it and that does not mean that throwing FDR out of office in 1944 would?ve been a wise course. Wars can be both difficult and worth fighting; the Iraq front of the War on Terror qualifies.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have shown the ability to make incredibly difficult real-time decisions, from giving orders to shoot down hijacked commercial airliners to invading Afghanistan to leading an international coalition to enforce a decade?s worth of violated UN resolutions to ultimately deciding to topple Saddam Hussein?s regime. Bush has not wavered. When he commits to something, both his supporters and his critics know all too well that he will not lightly change course, regardless of unpopularity. That is a necessary component of wartime leadership.
When Bush says we will keep our commitments to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, I trust him. As an attorney myself, I feel that I have every right to say that what America needs in this war is the decisive leadership offered by Bush/Cheney and not the legalistic nuance offered by Kerry/Edwards. Further, I feel that Bush?s hardline position towards Iraq increases the likelihood for making progress with the intransigent regimes of Iran and North Korea, as it did with Libya. Deterrence only works where it is credible and I fear that Kerry, who routinely badmouths America?s allies, simply would not be viewed as credible by America?s enemies.
On the domestic front, I support Bush?s positions on reforming health care, promoting tort reform, offering tax relief and appointing responsible federal judges. On social security, Kerry offers more of the same, while Bush?s move towards individualized accounts offers the best hope for people of my age to actually get something out of an outdated, broken entitlement program in which younger Americans are currently paying into a system from which they have no hope of recovering anything later in life. I also support Bush?s position on school choice and voucher programs, issues which Bush should promote more strenuously.
My biggest criticism of President Bush is McCain?s fair assessment that this administration, along with Congress, has been spending like a bunch of drunken sailors. The problem is that, if you listen hard to Kerry, it becomes clear that he thinks they haven?t been drunk enough. John Kerry is promising even more massively costly programs, which will inevitably lead him to raise taxes. The Republicans absolutely and unequivocally need to do a better job living up to their rhetoric as the party of fiscal responsibility, but I see little evidence that a President Kerry - with his hugely costly spending plans, including his proposed ?Department of Wellness? - would be any better.
Also, Bush?s lax immigration policies, placing political and diplomatic concerns over law enforcement and security concerns, are also misguided, especially since they run counter to the interests of the War on Terror. In terms of civil liberties, Bush?s defense of the PATRIOT Act is admirable, since the legislation is so critical, but I do not support the Administration?s position in attempting to classify American citizens like Jose Padilla and Yasser Hamdi, no matter how heinous the charges against them, as enemy combatants. Those are the two most prominent, yet very isolated, examples where I feel the Administration has gone too far in fighting the war and, in those limited circumstances, I?m glad to see the courts stepping in.
Overall, however, I believe that President Bush has done an excellent job and that the brand of decisive leadership he offers is what America needs in prosecuting the War on Terror. Further, I believe that, led by Bush, the Republican Party remains the best vehicle across the political spectrum for promoting and protecting economic liberty, free trade, personal responsibility, traditional values, religious freedom, intellectual diversity and, above all, national security. In that belief, I agree with these sentiments.
I also personally like President Bush, who is self-deprecating, unpretentious and plain-speaking, and particularly admire Mrs. Bush, who is an epitome of class. I find Kerry?s self-important windbaggery intolerable and am decidedly unimpressed with both the loud-mouthed Ms. Heinz and the slick-talking Mr. Edwards. But, in the end, while personalities have some impact, this election is serious business and I suspect the issues have shaped my perceptions of the candidates? personalities, not vice versa. There is a war on, after all.
Perhaps in less perilous times, America could afford the luxury of the feckless, indecisive shifting and tired ideas of someone like John Kerry, but, especially in times of terrorism and war, America needs the steadfast and committed leadership of someone like President Bush.
That is why Mr. Bush will receive my vote on November 2.
Â« Close It
October 24, 2004
POLITICS: Color Me Skeptical
A big, campaign-moving story needs no introduction. Thus, for all the Josh Marshall-style hype here, here and here about a Washington Times story breaking Monday "that the Kerry campaign will be forced to address regarding a previous criticism of Bush's foreign policy" and that constitutes "another chapter in the story of John Kerry making stuff up," I'm doubtful that whatever it is will move the needle much in the campign, especially since Big Media outlets often take several days to check into stories from the Washington Times.
The bloggers in question are pushing this story in part because they apparently did the research on the issue, which is one of numerous reasons to think it's not a game-breaker like the status or whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. But if everyone is playing the speculation game, the hint that Kerry will be forced to address the story suggests to me that it could be something about Cuba, which has obvious electoral significance.
POLITICS: Pretension Does Not Equal Intelligence
Amusing article from The New York Times, of all places, about the likelihood that the young President Bush had higher IQ and SAT scores than the young John Kerry (Via Instapundit). No wonder the Times is opposed to standardized tests!
I loved this line:
Anyway, take that for what it’s worth - I’ve always thought leadership and management ability trump raw intelligence as a measuring stick for the Oval Office - but I’ve also long wondered how many of the people who take it as an article of faith that Bush is an idiot scored below what he did on the SATs.
BASEBALL/WAR: Field of Dreams
Nice article here on Iraq’s national baseball team. It is truly a shame, however, to hear that so many of the players enjoy playing the game, but fear its association with America. That fear is indicative of the climate of terror which some hope to permanently reinstate in Iraqi society and which is anathema to the spirit of the joyful pastime we often take for granted.
POLITICS: Do The Math
Tom Maguire on why there doesn't need to be a draft:
In the late 80's, we had 2.2 million folks on active duty. Now it is down to about 1.4 million. The notion that we couldn't add several hundred thousand troops without a draft seems to be contradicted by our past experience.
As Maguire notes, this sort of higher math is apparently beyond the capacity of Paul Krugman. By contrast, Geraghty has numbers that explain why Kerry will win Pennsylvania:
This is repeated in several areas - like Milwaukee and St. Louis. In each place, of course, the fact that there are more registered voters than eligible people of voting age means that there is a high potential for voter fraud. In each case, this is occuring in a Democratic-dominated city in a state that otherwise seems primed for the GOP picking. I haven't followed the voter-fraud and election-related violence beats on this site the way Bill Hobbs or the Powerline guys (among others) have (see this for a good example), but it's a major concern. A lot of us Republicans are very worried about this election entirely because of the threat of fraud and/or litigation; the way the national and state polls are going, I can't see how Kerry supporters can be optimistic unless they are depending on fraud to carry the day.
After all, the internals on various polls consistently show that large majorities (1) recognize that the nation is at war and (2) trust Bush better to prosecute that war, while the same polls measure the candidates as about even on economic issues and place Bush decisively ahead on leadership and sharing the voter's values. Add in Bush's structural advantages in the Electoral College, the difficulty of Kerry replicating Gore's voter-turnout miracles among African-American voters and unionized voters, and the fact that the GOP totally overhauled its own get-out-the-vote drive after 2000 (to great effect in 2002), and all Democrats are really left with, besides the always-hoped-for surge of young liberals (recall how they didn't show for Howard Dean this year), is shenanigans at the polling places.
Yes, I know - many Dems will claim that this is overstated or whatnot. But, tell me: how can you be optimistic if you aren't banking on it?
POLITICS: Gonna Get Me A Shotgun
Am I the only one who read this item and thought of that classic Garret Morris SNL skit where he sings to his parole board, "gonna get me a shotgun, and kill all the whiteys I see . . ."
Probably not the association Kerry was looking for.
BASEBALL: Ring My Bellhorn
This game felt rather anticlimactic, as Game Ones often do after an exciting LCS, even as dramatic as the game was. I don't know, I just kept feeling like the Sox had this one, even when it was tied (and yes, I'm rooting for the Red Sox, not least for the effect a Sox championship will have on Yankee fans). Although the point when Manny - well, I was taking sporadic notes, which just say "Ack! Manny can't field!" That point was not a good feeling for Sox fans.
Speaking of Manny, breathes there a man alive who would not be mortified by that Stevie Wonder "That's What Friends Are For" montage FOX Sports did of slo-mo scenes of Manny with his Sox teammates?
Obviously, your moments of zen were the Bellhorn home run and Foulke freezing Jim Edmonds in the 8th with the bases loaded. And, of course, the relentless David Ortiz.
I spotted a guy in a "Cedeno" jersey on the Cardinals, and the announcers kept calling him "Roger Cedeno," and I even recall the Roger Cedeno being on the Cardinals this year. But then I saw him get a hit in an important situation, and concluded that it had to be a different guy.
Captain's log: it turned 10 p.m. in the bottom of the fourth inning. Way to reach out to young fans.
Kelly Clarkson, singing "God Bless America," looked like either somebody played a prank with lampblack around her eyes, or she got her nose broken in the last 24 hours.
You lives by the knuckleball, and sometimes it goes away. Wakefield has decent stuff early, but just stopped throwing strikes. Pirates and Sox fans will recall that sometimes this goes on for years. Hopefully, he'll find the zone again.
No, I'm not doing a prediction this series, because I'm not a doctor and can't predict the status of Schilling's ankle, on which all turns.
McCarver thought Varitek did a good job blocking the plate on Jason Marquis' Enos Slaughter imitation in the 8th inning, and McCarver does know a thing or two about how hard it is to block the plate. But it looked like a lousy job to me, or at best a valiant but highly ineffective effort.
As I've noted before, a good Game One sets the stage for a series. Sometimes in ironic fashion - like in 1986, when the Red Sox won a 1-run game on a ball that went through Tim Teufel's legs (and it looked like the Mets couldn't touch Bruce Hurst), or in the 1988 NLCS, when the Mets rallied in the ninth to break Orel Hershiser's scoreless streak. Tonight's dramas - Wakefield's control, Manny's fielding, Womack's collarbone, the Cardinal bullpen, the Fenway home cooking.
October 23, 2004
POLITICS: Gets By Buckner
The fun never ends: an alert reader sends this link to a "Football Fans For Truth" item on John Kerry apparently having falsely claimed to have been at Shea Stadium for Game Six of the 1986 World Series, when he was apparently at a fundraiser in Boston that night (although he appears to have been at Game Seven two days later).
UPDATE: I should add a caution for new readers: not every story of a politician saying something that's not true is (1) hugely significant or (2) proof the guy is lying. People forget stuff and embellish their own memories all the time. I don't expect anybody to change their vote over this trivia; it's mostly just funny. Still, (a) if baseball were all that important to Kerry . . . well, I sure know where I was for Game Six, and I'd particularly remember if I'd been there or not, and (b) what this suggests is less that Kerry is some sort of liar as that he's a prototypical braggart, the guy who has to put himself at the center of things when he wasn't. The type, of course, is a familiar one and all too prevalent in politics.
SECOND UPDATE (10/26): Kerry campaign says he flew to the game after the fundraiser; Thomas Galvin runs the timeline on this and finds it unlikely. I can't speak to when the shuttle runs, but I can add a few points to Galvin's analysis that suggest that Kerry's account is not necessarily implausible:
1. Galvin discusses the game time; the game definitely ended after midnight; I vividly recall debating whether the 10th inning ended "before" the 9th and what the true end-of-game time was, because it was the night we set the clocks back (I know now you do that at 2am, not midnight).
2. Galvin includes 45 minutes for Kerry to get from from LaGuardia to Shea. You could walk there faster.
3. It's not odd for VIPs like Kerry to fly around just to catch part of a game (or to duck early out of a fundraising dinner), especially if he thought it would end with the Sox ending their streak of defeats.
So, it may be that Kerry is telling the truth here.
BASEBALL: It's Papi's World
At this point, if you suggested to me that David Ortiz arrives at the games after a stroll across the Boston Harbor, I don't know that I could disbelieve it.
PATRIOT GAMES: Theeeeeeeeeee…. RED SOX WIN!
Sixth in a series of reflections on sports by "Andy Tollhaus," an Army officer currently serving in Iraq.
Friday, October 22, 2004
It’s stuck in my head like a song from one of those boy bands that my Yankees fan-brother-in-law Chris loves so much. But I’ve come to embrace it, and I’m actually starting to enjoy it. Sometimes I get creative and switch things up, “Theeeee Red Sox Win!” Usually, though, I just stick to, “Theeeee Yankees Win!” Then I laugh like a little girl. It’s as if a demon has been exorcized, and now I realize that the demon was really just Casper, the Friendly Ghost. The Yankees are now cute to me. Hearing that call from now on will still make me think of Tim Wakefield on the mound at Yankee Stadium at the end of Game 7. But now that vision is from the end of Game 7, this year, when he went out to that mound as a conqueror, looked around at the half-empty stadium and exorcized some of those demons which surely weren’t cute or friendly.
For the past few days, I’ve been approached by a lot of different people, wanting to discuss either the greatest comeback or the greatest choke. It’s kind of funny, too, because a lot of them are congratulating me, as if it were me, not Alan Embree who retired Sheffield for that sweet final out. I think it’s kind of like being a proud father at your child’s wedding. You’re not the one getting married, but you sure invested a lot over the years getting to this point, and you have every right to enjoy the moment. I guess in that case, you just smile and say, “Thanks, we sure are proud.” That’s the way I feel. I am one proud Papi!
Read More Â»
For this special event, I had to find a special place to watch the game. Since I’d seen all three Red Sox defeats in my room (and I was at FOB Danger for the three wins), my room was out of the question. My roommate and I decided to watch it on a 42” plasma screen at a recreation center near our living area. The big screen is in a theater room set up in a building right next to the gym we have. By the time the game ended, around 7:30 AM, many had finished their morning workouts and passed by the TV, sticking around to watch history unfold. Most watched and thought the celebrations were cool. Some asked who the old guy was wearing ear plugs. But most were gone within five minutes of the single most exciting 4 to 3 put out I may ever see.
I couldn’t get enough, though. I wanted to see Ortiz win the MVP award. I wanted to see Gabe Kapler make Peter Gammons admit that he was at least a little bit excited. And I wanted to see Tim Wakefield on that mound, staring down his past.
That afternoon, the game was replayed on AFN for those who couldn’t watch in the middle of the night. The joke now was making everyone think that I was watching it for the first time. I faked anger when they “ruined it” for me, by telling me the outcome. (We get a lot of tape-delayed games over here, and a lot of times, people have avoided knowing the results, so they can watch it as if it’s live.)
When the replay of the game got into the late innings, about 15 people gathered around the TV in the middle of the TOC. Every one of them already knew the outcome. The only Red Sox fan in the room, I stood there accepting congratulations, as if a proud father, showing my child’s wedding video.
I’ve been getting a lot of support from others who aren’t here, too. These really haven’t picked up during the Series; they’ve been a constant. Agree or disagree with this war, there’s one thing that is very refreshing: everyone’s supporting our troops. That doesn’t go unnoticed. During most games I watch, the announcers make a mention of appreciation to the Armed Forces. A family friend of ours has contacted me about sponsoring some soldiers who don’t get a lot of mail. My roommate gets a care package about every other day from someone new that he doesn’t know. My cousin Fred mails me Boston Globe sports sections, for a little taste of home. And, while my internet access was more limited, my brother Jay would write the “Out of Towne Weekly Recap” for me, a very detailed summary of the Old Towne Team’s key events, starting from the very first day of Spring Training. In response to all that support, I’d like to take this opportunity, at a time when people will read anything on the internet that says “Red Sox-Yankees,” to say, “You’re welcome” and “Thank you!”
These days a lot of that support from home comes via email. Over the last couple of days, there were a lot of extended family and friends offering their views on beating the Yankees, and all of them succeeded in bringing me a little closer to home. There were a few, though that are definitely worth sharing.
The most satisfying came from my cousin Josh, the Yankees fan. “I was just wondering, is it normal to have chest pain during a game? I also went to bed with the worst headache last night. Just kind of managing to pick myself up now... Michelle and I went to Game 6, pretty disappointing. I guess we could’ve gone to Game 7, but I didn’t want to be there for what I thought was the inevitable--shows you how much confidence I had in them, huh? I didn’t have much confidence in the Yanks even entering the postseason, didn’t really think they’d get past the Twins for a second year in a row... then they go up 3-0 on the Sox, who are really a better all around team, and I was sucked in all the way again (making plans for the World Series and all). Ok, better go... I have a headache again. Go NATIONAL LEAGUE!!!!” Josh, you have so much to learn.
The most ironic email had to be from SGT Brian Pearson. It was a reply to a simple email that I sent the day before: “Game 7. Unbelievable! Can you believe this?!” I was trying to send it to CPT Brian Pearson (the Yankee fan who helped come up with the idea for this column). Since I mistyped by one letter, that allowed SGT Brian Pearson to write back, “I don’t think I know you, but I can believe it. I’m a Sox fan. How about you? GO SOX!”
Go Sox, indeed! All this talk about beating the Yankees could almost make one think it was over. As if the World Series doesn’t matter. This is just simply not the case. Beating the Yankees in the playoffs was unbelievable. The way the Sox did it was absolutely poetic. But we’ve beaten the Yankees before. Every division or A.L. Pennant that we’ve ever won was a win over the Yankees. That didn’t make the 1986 World Series fun, though, did it? For this truly to be the “the year,” this team needs to be thinking one thing and one thing only: World Series Champions.
That goes for the Clemens factor, too. I admit I was one of the many in Red Sox nation who thought it would be fitting for the Red Sox to beat Roger Clemens in the World Series. Beating Clemens would have been nice, but it would’ve been a shame to have that story line overshadowing a Red Sox World Series. Take heart in the fact that we already took a World Series lead off of Clemens, by securing homefield advantage in the All-Star Game. Manny hit a 2-run bomb off the Rocket in the only inning Roger pitched during that Clemens-Lovefest. (Incidentally enough, he then struck out A-Rod and got Giambi to ground to second, before Yankees cast-off Alfonso Soriano tacked on another home run in the inning. Karma was changing…) Just this past week, Clemens and his Astros were just good enough to take the Cardinals to seven games, keeping them from waltzing into the World Series with a perfectly aligned rotation and rested bullpen. It’s like network TV not even acknowledging the naked fan running around on the field during the Superbowl. Just let Clemens run around naked and pretend like you don’t see him.
In reality, though, the Cardinals are the opponent that Red Sox Nation should have been gunning for. You want revenge on behalf of the Red Sox and the Fenway Faithful? The Baseball Gods understand that and have lined it up perfectly. St. Louis twice beat Boston in Game 7 of the World Series. In 1946, the Red Sox finished SEVENTEEN games ahead of the Yankees, to go to the city’s first World Series in 28 years. With the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning the Sox lost in dramatic Red Sox fashion. Twenty years then passed without a World Series game involving the Red Sox. And when that drought ended in 1967, St. Louis was there again to knock off Boston in a winner-take-all seventh game. Between 1918 and 1974, those two series were the only World Series that the Red Sox would play in. Still want to beat Roger Clemens?
I don’t mean to downplay the importance of beating the Yankees, but that is only one leg of this long journey. Manny started changing our karma by homering off Clemens in Houston. It continued with Wakefield’s gutsy performance in Game 5, earning the most important win of the ALCS. And now it will culminate when two of the most traditional baseball cities host this year’s Fall Classic. Maybe it will be Dale Sveum waving home Johnny Damon as he aggressively goes from first to home on a single to centerfield in the bottom of the eighth. And maybe it will be Edgar Renteria who appears to hesitate, allowing the game winning run to score and indeed exorcizing that last demon.
LET’S GO SOX!!
"From the Far East I send you one single thought, one sole idea -- written in red on every beachhead from Australia to Tokyo -- There is no substitute for victory!"
-- General Douglas Macarthur
Â« Close It
POLITICS: Classic Kerry
And that honesty, that lack of a sense of honesty is part of what is driving people's anger toward the United States today. That's why we have the vote in the U.N. That's why people--our allies, too--are disturbed by this defense posture. You can't abrogate the ABM treaty and move forward on your own to build this defense in a way that threatens the perceptions of security people have. And if you build a defense system, Tim, that can do what they say at the outside, which is change mutual assured destruction, you have invited a potential adversary to build, build, build, to find a way around it. The lesson of the Cold War is, you do not make this planet safer by moving unilaterally into a place of new weapons. Every single advance in weaponry through the Cold War was matched by one side or the other, and that's why we put the ABM treaty in place, and that's why we need to proceed very cautiously and very thoughtfully.
First of all, this insistence on national apologies is very one-sided. Does China have "legitimacy in the world"? When does China apologize for anything?
More importantly - I know I harp on Kerry's past a lot, particularly his views of the Cold War, but a man who could not or would not take the unambiguously pro-American position whenever that conflict got difficult - and who, to this day, can not or will not admit his mistakes in opposing President Reagan's winning strategy at every turn - is never going to understand this war, in which we will often be called upon to make hard decisions. Who on earth thinks that the "lesson of the Cold War" is that we built too damn many weapons systems? Kerry has learned nothing.
All of this is based on the naively dovish theory that strengthening one's defenses is a provocative act, and its necessary corollary that one can make peace by remaining weaker. People on the left, like Kerry, have (retroactively, after all of their Doomsday Clock and "The Day After" talk of the 80s) fallen in love with "mutually assured destruction" as a peacekeeping deterrent. But MAD kept the peace because Russia was afraid we could destroy them if they attacked us; the fact that they could also destroy us was not in any way a good thing. The fact that Kerry still views strengthening our military as a dangerous thing is best demonstrated by his argument, repeated in two of the debates, that it's a bad thing that the US is developing "bunker-busting" nuclear weapons. From the first debate:
You talk about mixed messages. We're telling other people, "You can't have nuclear weapons," but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon that we might even contemplate using.
Not this president. I'm going to shut that program down, and we're going to make it clear to the world we're serious about containing nuclear proliferation.
Note that he doesn't even say he will do this through negotiatons - just a unilateral shutdown. The second debate:
This is Kerry going all wrong again, thinking that nations lead other nations by example. It's just not realistic, and it's a dangerous way to proceed in a dangerous world.
POLITICS: A Modest Proposal
Memo to the Guardian: please stop printing columns openly calling for the assassination of the President of the United States. I would add some commentary here, but if you’re not already disgusted after reading that, nothing I can say will make you feel that way.
For a less hate-filled take on our election from across the pond, see here.
UPDATE: Perhaps the Guardian is in an ill-tempered mood because of the unintended consequences of its letter-writing campaign to lecture the people of Ohio.
BASEBALL/POP CULTURE: To Win Just Once?
Poking my head around on the web site of the Saw Doctors, one of this site’s favorite bands, I had to laugh at this paragraph from a review of an August 12 performance by the band in Cape Cod:
With a tip of the hat to Massachusetts, [Leo] Moran introduced “To Win Just Once” off “Sing A Powerful Song” CD saying, “people keep telling me we should dedicate this song to the Red Sox. I don't know anything about baseball” [Link added]
If he did, he would see just how applicable are the song’s words (originally written for an Irish boxer who qualified for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics). Submitted for your consideration, here are the lyrics:
Read More Â»
To win just once…
To win just once against the odds
To win just once…
So come all ye full-time, small-time heroes
To win just once…
Seems like a good theme song for Red Sox Nation. It’s a great song to boot.
Â« Close It
BASEBALL: Sox-Cards History
While we're doing the memory lane stuff, consider this: The Red Sox franchise still has a winning record all time in World Serieses, having won 5 in the 1903-1918 period and lost 4 between 1946 and 1986. What's interesting is when you look at it another way: the 1946 St. Louis Cardinals were the first team ever to beat the Red Sox in a World Series. And the 1967 Cards were the second.
Among the teams that have faced the Sox in the Series since 1918, those 1946 Cardinals are unique in another way: they didn't win 100 games. Since then, you have the 1967 Cards (101 wins), the 1975 Reds (108 wins), the 1986 Mets (108 wins), and the 2004 Cardinals (105 wins). The Sox sure know how to pick 'em.
BASEBALL: The Next Big Baseball Scandal
You heard it here first (I think):
1. The Yankees now have an enormous incentive to convince Jason Giambi to retire so they can get out of his contract (have the insurance company pay it, maybe get relief on the luxury tax).
2. The Yankees are, presumably, in possession of Giambi's medical records, which may indicate things Giambi doesn't want publicized.
3. As you may remember from the Dave Winfield/Howard Spira saga, Steinbrenner is not above getting involved in some pretty seedy things, potentially including extortion and blackmail, when he has a grudge against one of his own players.
October 22, 2004
BASEBALL: Redbirds & Red Sox
This should be a great World Series. Brian Gunn over at Redbird Nation has a typically excellent recap of last night’s game, including this line:
And I liked these comments about the Astros:
For the Sox side, you’ll probably want to read Bill Simmons if you haven’t already.
UPDATE (From the Crank, who's been very happy to see the Mad Hibernian at least temporarily back on the blog): You can get more on Bob Gibson, the hero of that 1967 series, in my extended comparison of Gibson to 1926 World Series hero Grover Alexander.
WAR: Kicking In
Why should we care about elections in Iraq? Regardless of your view on the Iraq War and its aftermath, helping assure free and fair Iraqi elections is the right thing for America to do and, if successful, will only speed the safe return of American troops. See here for my view. Either way, this is important business.
BASEBALL: Stretch Run
This is hardly news, but if you look at the standings after the July 31 trade deadline, the postseason runs of the Red Sox and Astros become a good deal less surprising. The best record in baseball after the deadline? The Sawx, at 42-18, a .700 clip. Second best? The Astros, 40-18 (.690). The Cardinals, who had wrapped up the NL Central already by late July, also actually picked up the pace, going 39-20 (.661), tied with the Braves for the third best record. The Yankees were sixth at 36-23 (.610). The Runs Scored and Allowed breakouts for the Sox and Yanks are even more dramatic. Runs Scored per game: Sox 6.27, Yankees 5.63. Runs Allowed per game: Sox 4.55, Yankees 5.15.
Of course, I didn't put any stock in rational analysis before this series; like a lot of people, I stuck with the idea that the Yankees would beat the Red Sox because they always do. No more.
(On a side note, until I looked at these standings, I hadn't grasped quite how complete was the late-season collapse of the Brewers, who had looked so promising in the early going. Folks, it's a long season).
BLOG: Time Machine
You know what's pathetic? When I was a kid, the days of the year I looked forward to the most were Christmas, my birthday . . . I gotta say, as a grownup there isn't any day that I anticipate more eagerly (not even Opening Day) than when we get to set the clocks back in October and get an extra hour of sleep. I was very disappointed to discover that it's next weekend, not this weekend. After this week's LCS action, we sure could use the extra rest. On the other hand, we may yet need to be rested and ready for a long Election Night . . .
BASEBALL: Dewey Beats Truman Again
I'd missed this - this time it was Newsday that jumped the gun, and Allan Wood nails them. Link via Armchair GM, where Dan Lewis and friends are back and blogging again.
HISTORY: Passing of a Foreign Policy Giant
Nitze, an ideological rival of the surviving George Kennan, helped encourage a more militarily aggressive approach to containing Communism that would controversially manifest itself in Korea and Vietnam, but which would ultimately contribute to American victory in the great struggle of the second half of the 20th century. The graduate school that bears his name issued this statement.
October 21, 2004
It's gonna be a long, angry and expensive off-season for the Yankees. If George fires Cashman, the Mets should immediately sack the rest of their front office and hire him. But there will be plenty of time for recriminations. For now, it's just enough to savor a remarkable comeback. Check out my live blog of Game Seven below.
BASEBALL: My Two Cents
Congratulations to the Red Sox on their historic comeback. They sure earned this series victory, especially with epic wins in Games Four and Five that will be long remembered. Check out the Crank below for his definitive commentary.
Watching this game, two rather obvious things struck me about the Yankees:
1) Their pitching just wasn’t that good. On paper, it looked good, but it just wasn’t. In the playoffs, you win with pitching and the Yankees flat got out-pitched in the second half of this series. (Roger Clemens really would have helped.)
2) They miss the Jason Giambi they thought they were getting. In the 7th when it looked like they were coming back, up stepped John Olerud and Miguel Cairo. I like Olerud, but he is near the end. Giambi was supposed to be a pillar of the offense, but he’s been out for so long and was so weak earlier this year that it’s easy for people to forget what was expected from him.
Should be an interesting World Series. Do not count out the National League though – that’s been a truly excellent series in its own right. In fact, I hate to bring up 1986 - well, no I don’t - but the Red Sox had a mighty stirring win in that ALCS as well (remember Dave Henderson?).
We shall see, but these Red Sox have certainly earned their place in the sun.
October 20, 2004
LIVE-BLOGGING: THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED WHEN POSSIBLE
Peter Gammons is on the pregame show . . . he's trying to fudge, but you can hear it: he thinks this is finally the year.
These are the saddest of possible words, Matsui to Jeter to Posada.
Yes, Simmons is right. They will rename it Papichusetts. 2-0 Sox.
Most similar player to David Ortiz through age 28: Tony Clark. You know it's coming: At the end of his next contract, Ortiz will be signed by the Yankees.
Yankees had 61 come from behind wins - that means they were trailing in 122 games this year. That's a lot, isn't it?
John Sterling goes out on a limb: "I'd say Ortiz has been the toughest batter the Yankees have faced all year."
It just cracks me up that one of the Yankees' major radio ad sponsors is Johnnie Cochran.
Brown drills Cabrera to load the bases. Mister Brown is out of town. After 1.1 innings. Hide the walls!
Grand slam Johnny Damon. 6-0 Sox before the Yankees have a hit. Game Seven of the 1934 World Series comes to mind, when the home town Tigers got blown out 11-0 and the Detroit fans started pelting Cardinals left fielder Joe Medwick with bottles, rotten fruit, and auto parts (said Medwick: "I know why they threw it at me. I just don't know why they brought it to the park.").
Sterling: "The crowd, really, in stunned silence." Charlie Steiner compares Ortiz to Frank Lary. A work colleague emails: "I think we've seen Brown's last pitch in pinstripes."
20-20-24 outs to go, I wanna be sedated . . .
Reality check: 24 outs against these Yankees is a lot.
No hits for the Yanks in the first two innings. Game One comes to mind. The symmetries are hypnotic . . .
Jeter singles in Cairo. 6-1. Meyers and Leskanic are up in the Boston pen already. Get real: 5-run lead, exhausted bullpen. You gotta give Lowe some rope here if you want to win the game.
Lowe gets out of the inning. Pedro is getting ready to get warmed up anyway. All hands on deck.
We know this much: if the Sox win, the odds of Clemens beating the Cards tomorrow increase exponentially.
I guess Johnny Damon's slump is officially over. 8-1 Sox.
Javier Vazquez goes down like a tree struck by lightning!
When you are the Red Sox playing the Yankees, leaving the bases loaded with a 7-run lead feels like cause for genuine concern, rather than pure piggishness. It's not paranoia when they are really out to get you.
Dr. Manhattan emails: "Well, the first part of 1999 NLCS Game 6 is going according to schedule..."
Yankees still have only one hit. Maybe we won't see the Derek Lowe Face tonight.
Top of the 7th, Gordon and Heredia warming in the bullpen. Sterling and Steiner are thanking people - it seems to have just hit them that this may be their last broadcast of the season.
Pedro's coming in. Why? This could be a volatile situation. I'd rather bring in Mendoza while you have enough lead to have a margin for error.
Sterling is talking up 2005 season tickets. Lowe leaves after just 69 pitches, Matsui smacks a 2-0 double off Pedro. Cue "Jaws" music.
Bernie doubles, 8-2. Lofton singles, 8-3. Olerud hobbles up to the plate.
Olerud whiffs, Lofton on second, two outs. Crowd chanting "Who's Your Daddy" over and over and over.
Bellhorn homers, 9-3. People are starting, slowly, to realize why Bellhorn was one of the stars of the Red Sox this season. Homer is reminiscent of Strawberry's homer off Al Nipper in Game 7 in the 1986 World Series.
Al Leiter apparently said on TV that Pedro wanted in. Um, who is the manager?
I hear "Let's Go Red Sox" chants as Timlin sets them down in the 8th. Where are the Yankee fans?
Cabrera hits a sac fly off Gordon to make it 10-3; Gordon needs the winter to rest. Mariano's coming in, for the same reason Gagne was on the mound at the end of the Cards-Dodgers season; why not go down with your best guy, no matter how hopeless the odds?
This still seems like it can't be happening.
Well, it's over. The Yankees Lose! Theeeee Yankees Lose! The Sox have extracted revenge for last season; the Yankees, gigantic payroll, stacked roster and all, have choked in a way no baseball team has ever choked. The series starts Saturday at Fenway.
The story of the 2004 Yankees is a remarkably simple one. The Yankees' team ERA after the All-Star break was 4.95, putting stress on the team's top relievers to keep them in games. Rivera, Gordon and Quantrill combined to throw 111.2 innings in 107 appearances in 76 games after the break. None of the three were as effective in the ALCS as you'd like; Gordon and Quantrill were terrible, and Rivera mortal. And Brown and Vazquez, the Yankee starters who collapsed in the second half after looking like their 1-2 punch early on, were shelled in this series. That's all you need to know.
BASEBALL: To The Brink
Astros have just tied Game 6 of the NLCS 4-4 in the ninth against Jason Isringhausen.
RUNNING UPDATES: Somehow, Izzy got out of the jam, and we go to the bottom of the ninth with Albert Pujols leading off against Brad Lidge. What will FOX do if this game goes extra innings and runs into the Sox-Yankees game?
You have to say Jeff Bagwell has redeemed himself in this postseason, the game-tying hit here being another example.
OK, I don't think I'll be updating this one - still got too much else to take care of before the AL game. Bottom of the 11th.
One more: Take that, Jeff Kent. Two-run walk-off homer by Jim Edmonds to send this to Game Seven, just minutes before the opening of the ALCS Game Seven. I'm wondering if any postseason series has seen walk-off homers by both teams - I'll probably think of one later if it's been done.
WAR: Open War Is Upon You, Whether You Would Risk It Or Not
Police said they had intercepted hundreds of letters from suspected cell members in which they said they were willing to stage suicide attacks.
The plot to blow up the National Court, Spain’s nerve center for investigating Islamic terror, was detailed in a report from the National Police intelligence unit obtained by the Associated Press. The report quotes a protected witness who had been in contact with the suspected ringleader Mohamed Achraf, an Algerian born in the United Arab Emirates.
Thankfully, tragedy was averted…this time. We should take this kind of thing personally. Despite its distasteful current government, Spain is our NATO ally. An attack on it should be treated like an attack on us. We should do all we can to help the people of Spain defend themselves. Only by banding together can the countries of NATO and the world defeat the scourge which threatens us all. Terrorism is not a nuisance which can be simply wished away or fought by law enforcement alone, not by the United States and not by Spain.
Welcome back to the fight.
PATRIOT GAMES: View of the Sox-Yanks War From Iraq
Fifth in a series of reflections on sports by "Andy Tollhaus," an Army officer currently serving in Iraq.
October 20, 2004, 3:45 AM
I just woke up for Round 14 of the Red Sox-Yankees title fight. I turned on the
It’s been a long, painful, tiring ride, just to get to this point. Not only have the games started at the ludicrous hour of 3 AM here in the Fertile Crescent, but for a while it looked as if the Yankees were just going to steamroll my beloved Sox. This series has been highly anticipated for a year, now. For the first couple of days, though, it seemed as if it was all hype.
The Division Series against the Angels was easy enough -- both for the Red Sox and for me. It started with an early, 11 PM start time and an easy Game 1 win for the good guys. I asked the company I fly with to put me on the late night/early morning schedule, so I’d be able to watch the games when I’m not flying. It backfired for me during Pedro’s 5 AM start in Game 2, though, as I drew a mission with a 6 AM takeoff time. The game was on TV during our mission planning, but it was only the 2nd or 3rd inning when we walked out to the aircraft. Of course at the same time, the Twins had taken a lead in the top half of the 12th in a classic Yankees game. As I took off for the mission I thought that the Yankees were down two games to none with their backs against a wall. The Twins’ loss didn’t really matter all that much, though, since it really was inevitable that we’d have a classic rematch between the two bitter rivals. The Yankees did their usual comeback routine with very little attention from me. In fact, I was having a hard enough time watching the Sox. After missing Game 2 for a mission, David Ortiz hit his walk-off homerun in Game 3 against the Angels while I was walking back from the bathroom. Feeling that this one was in the bag, I took my toothbrush with me to the bathroom during the pitching change so I could go right to bed when the Sox won it. Ortiz wasted no time proving me right, hitting Francisco Rodriguez’s first pitch out of the park.
The sweep gave the Sox a couple of days to get their pitching rotation in order and me a couple of days to make sure I had my sleep schedule down. Still on “deep nights,” as we call it, I’d been going to bed around 8 AM and waking up around 4 or 5 in the evening. I’d maintained this schedule for about a week by the time Game 1 rolled around, so I was primed and ready to roll.
Looking back at what could become one of the greatest series of all time, I realize that I need to record my own personal view of this bit of baseball history. As I sit here and watch Game 6, I’ll create a daily log of personal events during this series. I’ve got to warn you, though, this reflection may be as long and as rambling as the series itself.
Read More Â»
Tuesday October 12th
Tuesday, October 12th may mean game one to you and the history books, but to me, it was still a day away. See the games all take place after midnight Iraq time, so though my watch says Tuesday, I have to remind myself that the game is really the next day. It’s kind of like sailing back and forth across the international dateline, but different.
Around 1 AM (about 26 hours prior to the first pitch of the series), I was playing some Playstation College Football with my roommate, Josh Burton. I clapped my hands a couple times, pulled my Red Sox hat down low, and exclaimed, “Sox-Yankees, baby! This is it!” He asked what time the game started and then laughed when I told him that the series didn’t start until the next day.
Wednesday October 13th, Game 1: 3 AM start
I spent the few hours right before the game really just looking for something to do. I ended up in our “internet café,” chatting with my wife, checking my on Fantasy Football teams, and downloading pictures of Jason Varitek crushing Alex Rodriguez. I found Lieutenant Adam Heppe, from Princeton, MA, in there on eBay. As soon as he was done buying a 1999 Porsche 911 (seriously), I invited him over to watch the game.
By the time Adam showed up, it was 6-0 Yankees, but I was pretty sure this one wasn’t over. Varitek hit his homerun only seconds after Adam had commented that the Sox were always a big homerun threat and I commented that while, Varitek was 0 for 35 in Yankee Stadium this year, “now was as good of a time as any.” That cut the lead to 8-5 and Adam and I woke up Josh celebrating. When he asked what had happened, we were brought back to earth a bit when we had to tell him the score and we realized we were still down by three.
The Sox put 7 runs on the board but couldn’t pull it off. A 10-7 loss wasn’t terrible, considering it started out 8-0. Of course the injury to Schilling loomed large, but being the optimistic (naďve, maybe?) Red Sox fan that I am, I figured we’d just sub in Derek Lowe and everything would be ok.
Thursday, October 14th, Game 2: 3 AM start
An email response from my cousin Josh, a huge Yankees fan, assured me that this is going seven games. I believe him… he’s been doing this for a little bit longer than me and he is a pro baseball scout.
This night/morning, I was eating at about 1 AM in our dining facility. They serve a late night meal for people who have to fly or work in the middle of night – or watch sports. I sat with Lieutenant Mike Ferlazzo, a Long Islander who likes to speak his native Strong Island tongue out the side of his mouth. This guy’s a good friend of mine, but he’s got Yankee Fan written all over him. So of course, I invite him over to watch Game 2.
As I was hanging on every pitch from Pedro, realizing that if Pedro doesn’t beat Lieber, the Sox are in some serious trouble, all Mike wanted to talk about is how awkward Johnny Damon looks when he runs. And how awkward Johnny Damon looks when he catches a ball. And how awkward Johnny Damon looks when he throws a ball. And how awkward Johnny Damon looks when he swings a bat.
At some point during the game, a pitching coach went to the mound and all Mike could muster was “when’s baseball gonna do away with the satin jackets?” Yankees fans… always focused on the important details.
Then when, John Olerud poked his homerun that eventually won the game, Mike commented on how nerdy John Olerud really is. Couldn’t he see that I was concentrating? Pedro needed me to concentrate. Typical Yankees fan. It must be nice to not have to sweat each and every game.
Oh yeah, in other news… it looks like Schilling’s done for the year. Good. That’s what we need.
Friday, October 15th, No game scheduled
After flying until 6:30 AM, I had a meeting during lunch. I stayed awake for it and didn’t get to sleep until almost 4 PM. Any sleep schedule that I’d established went out the window, and I was just hoping to wake up for the 3 AM start. This was the first time I contemplated not watching that game.
Saturday, October 16th, Game 3: rained out at 3:30 AM
No game. Good. Our bullpen’s tired. I woke up at midnight and I’m tired. Smart move: just calling the game and not dragging this out or trying to start it.
Oh yeah… the only one playing any baseball today was Curt Schilling. I knew I smelled foreshadowing, but I thought that’s what the rain was all about.
Sunday, October 17th, Game 3: 3 AM start
What a sight for sore eyes! Back at Fenway, this would surely be the turning point. We were sending our best Key West Fighting Conch to the mound to face the aging and completely beatable Kevin Brown. Ah the optimism, the hope!
The reality. This turned out to be the single most painful game I’ve ever watched in my life. It seemed that the Sox could hold their own in a slugfest, but apparently they couldn’t hold their own against the Bad News Bears this week. As the game dragged on past 7 AM, I had to go to bed. I was catching a Black Hawk down to FOB Danger (on the other side of Tikrit) at noon, where I’d be working for the next couple of days.
As soon as I laid down, the Sox scored twice and almost tricked me into caring again. This one was over. The series was over. Who cares? At least I was in Iraq, where I can just turn off the TV and not have to hear about the Yankees anymore. As I turned the TV off, I realized how nice that silence was. The Sox? Who are they?
When I woke up a few hours later, I went to the TOC around 11 AM to make sure I had a flight. CPT John Manfra (a Mets fan from New Jersey) asked me if I was going to be able to watch Game 4. I told him I’d rather not watch the Yankees celebrate on the field at Fenway, and began mocking the most obnoxious call in all of sports. You know the one, “Theeeeeeeee Yankees Win! Theeeeee Yankees Win!” I think that was Rock Bottom. It was so comical, the idea of the Yankees celebrating in the Fens, that I just kept repeating that chant and it’s been “stuck in my head” ever since. It’s kind of soothing, actually, when chanted in jest.
Being down 3-0, though, wasn’t too bad. It was almost ok that we’d get swept and this would all be over. I’m in Iraq. I won’t have to hear that awful call. I can avoid sports for the next two weeks until the World Series is over.
By Sunday evening, though, my Karma started changing. I made it to an internet zone and found an Army score, learning that they added to a winning streak for the first time since my sophomore year of college. That was the same year Randy Moss hurdled an Army defensive back that was standing upright. Remember when you first heard Randy Moss’s name? That’s the last time Army won two games in a row.
I also got to watch the Patriots continue their winning streak against the Seahawks. The Pats had won 20 in a row, Army won two in a row and the Yankees were about to win their fourth in a row. I was not getting up at 3 AM for that.
Monday, October 18th, Game 4: 3 AM start
I was hoping to wake up Monday morning and have found that the Sox died peacefully in my sleep. Instead I woke up to Johnny Damon walking in the bottom of the 11th. At the house that I was staying in at FOB Danger, on the other side of Tikrit, there were three pretty big Red Sox fans. All of us had the same reaction, when we saw that the game was still on in the morning, “C’mon, don’t drag this out.” Since my ride to breakfast and then work was leaving, I found out the Sox won by watching Sportscenter in the Dining Facility.
In case I wasn’t aware that the series record was still 3-1 Yankees, the office in which I’d be working, came complete with a couple of Yankees fans. It didn’t take long for the conversations to shift to the Sox-Yankees series. I had no fight in me. To be honest, at this point, I just didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to admit that with Pedro and Schilling pitching the next two games I felt like we had a chance.
Tuesday, October 19th, Game 5: 12 AM start
FOB Danger is one of Saddam’s old palace complexes on the Tigris River in Tikrit. We’ve turned it into a pretty impressive base, now. The main palace is really amazing. Surrounding the main palace is a small city of smaller palaces and houses that must have housed Saddam’s guards and all the people that were required for upkeep. This walled in base is pretty unique. Some people live in palaces along the river and others live in smaller houses.
The house I’m staying in is the home to about 15 people on the Operational Law Team. There are four bedrooms and a big living room in the middle where they have some couches and a TV set up with AFN satellite. I really lucked out in this temporary lodging, because finding a place to watch the games in the middle of the night isn’t always easy.
There’s even a phone in the living room, so for a few minutes, early Tuesday morning, I was able to talk to my wife on the phone and watch the game. It’s not quite the same as watching it together in our own home, but it was nice, none the less.
This was not a game I was going to miss. Especially since it only started at midnight and any rational person would probably figure that I could watch it and then get some sleep afterward. Similar to the Sox bullpen, my sleep schedule was completely shaken up. I got to bed about 9 PM and woke up at 1230 AM to a 2-1 Red Sox lead with Pedro on the hill. This was it. Pedro had the chance to redeem himself from last year’s disaster.
I sat in the living room watching this marathon of a game. At different points throughout the six hour game, people came in from a guard detail, woke up for PT (physical training – running and working out as a unit), and got up to get ready for work. All of these people passed through the living room, checking in casually with the game.
SFC Nebelkopf, a Sox fan from Dartmouth, MA, stayed and watched the last 4 innings with me, wearing his Superbowl XXVI Champions t-shirt. He’d missed the first 10 innings because he worked until 11 PM, only an hour before the first pitch and he was still pretty worn down from getting up in the middle of the night to watch the first three games.
Neither of us felt the least bit tired at 6:13 AM, though, when David Ortiz came to bat in the 14th with Johnny Damon on second. For six innings, now, this game had remained in a precarious tie which was bound to broken soon. When Big Papi had his second walk-off hit in less than 24 hours there was no “acting like you’d been there before.” So much for going back to bed after this one. By the time all of our celebrating and post game analysis was done, it was 6:30 AM.
The rest of my day was filled with Yankees fans quoting stats to me about the number of series in which a team’s gone down 3-0 and not come back to win it. And all day long I explained to them that it’s no longer about coming back from 3-0, it’s about coming back from 3-2. Oh yeah, and Curt Schilling is pitching Game 6. I’m so sick of Yankees fans telling me… wait, I’ll just stop at Yankees fans. I’m so sick of Yankees fans. But this is what the rivalry is all about.
Wednesday, October 20th, Game 6: 3 AM start
When my alarm went off at 3:15, I had a hell of a time getting out of bed. The part of me that wanted to sleep was trying to convince the Red Sox fan part of me that they were just going to lose and it wouldn’t be worth it. For close to thirty minutes, I wrestled my alarm clock and had weird dreams about what that beeping was until finally a sane thought shattered my drowsiness: Schilling’s pitching Game 6!
When I saw Schilling pitching, a calm came over me. He looked great. This was perfect. SFC Nebelkopf joined me in the fifth inning with the Sox leading 4-0. As we watched the game, the four run lead seemed so fragile. Had we seen this before? We wondered who’d come out of the bullpen if needed and how Francona would find a way to mess this up. Of course, when Schilling came out after 7 innings, we second guessed the manager, but still felt strangely confident. It couldn’t happen again, could it?
By the time the Police were lining the field in riot gear, there were four or five interested viewers at any one time. Some just paused long enough to sit and put their combat boots on, as they headed out the door to work, but many got hooked and if they couldn’t stay and watch, they’d return after shaving or getting dressed.
In the bottom of the ninth, though, it was just me, SFC Nebelkopf, and Major Hayden, a Sox fan from Springfield, MA. We were the only ones still around to watch Foulke strike out Tony Clark. With the final out and assurance of a Game 7, there was at first an overwhelming feeling of joy. That was quickly put in check by a strange sense calm and accomplishment.
Sox fans are weird like that. It’s not that I’m satisfied just to get to a Game 7. And it’s not so much that I expect the Sox to blow Game 7 tonight (or early tomorrow morning, depending on which side of the International Date Line you’re sailing). But if they do, I’ll have to wonder, what if the Sox had died peacefully in my sleep on Sunday night? Wouldn’t that have been easier? Damn them for sucking me back in.
As MAJ Hayden pointed out last night, though, we never start talking about “next year being our year,” until the end of the season. So, by that reasoning, this is still could be Our Year.
LET’S GO SOX!
Â« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:00 AM | Baseball 2004 | Patriot Games | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: World Series Election Trivia
There would indeed be a little bit of humor, in this election season, if we were to see an Astros-Red Sox World Series, Texas vs. Massachusetts. Here's a little quickie trivia (answers to follow later):
1. Who was the last team from a major party presidential candidate's home state to make the World Series in an election year?
2. Who was the last team from a successful major party presidential candidate's home state to win the World Series in an election year?
("Home state" here meaning the conventional view - the state where the candidate spent his adult life and won elective office, rather than, say, considering Bush from Connecticut and Kerry from Colorado, the states of their birth)
UPDATE: The first commenter gets it, so think of your answer before you check the comments.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Baseball 2004 | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: What Would Hurt The Most?
As I suggested in an unsuccessful prediction back in September, the most reliable guide to predicting what would happen to the Red Sox is, "what would hurt the most?" My older brother suggests winning the ALCS, finally getting past the Yankees, and getting shut down by Roger Clemens in the World Series. That's certainly a possibility right now. Of course, staging a historic comeback - the first team down 3-0 ever to force a Game Seven - only to end with just another loss to the Hated Yankees would rank pretty high, especially since only three days ago Red Sox Nation was swearing it wouldn't believe again. Who knows? Maybe some new cruel symmetry will emerge, as in 1986 when the Sox won Game One of the World Series on a ground ball through Tim Tuefel's legs . . . karma they got back in spades a few days later (and on the subject of 1986, I did think it unfair to lay out the Sox' long string of Game Seven losses without noting the 1986 ALCS, when Jim Rice & Co. pounded John Candelaria as a visibly exhausted Clemens shut down the Angels 8-1 in Game Seven).
Turning to last night, I enjoyed the irony, after pregame predictions of rampant early bunting by the Yankees against the sore-ankled Curt Schilling, of Jason Varitek dropping a bunt single in the second that caught A-Rod napping at third. I'm sure the irony wasn't lost on Varitek.
The umps, led by Cowboy Joe West (best known for body-slamming Dennis Cook in an early-90s brawl between the Mets and Phillies) did a good, tough job last night, having the good judgment to reach collective decisions - even if it meant reversing themselves - in the face of a hostile crowd that wound up requiring cops in riot gear to line the field (the NYPD doesn't fool around these days). But, not being a rules afficionado, I'm still puzzled - on the play where A-Rod was called out for whacking Bronson Arroyo's wrist to knock the ball away at first base - why they sent Derek Jeter back to first instead of second after recalling his run. Had the play not been interfered with by Rodriguez, after all, Jeter would have been at second.
That play, by the way, reminded me of the horrific collision at first between Todd Hundley and Cliff Floyd (back when Floyd was a young first baseman for the Expos) that shattered Floyd's wrist, set his development back several years and almost wrecked his career. Rodriguez and Arroyo were very fortunate to get out of that collision unscathed. Yankee fans, meanwhile, did themselves no credit with their response to the play, although as Yankee booster Tim McCarver rushed to point out, Sox fans had had a similarly bad reaction to Jose Offerman being called out for running out of the baseline in the 1999 ALCS.
This was one of those classic examples of a game where you keep expecting another shoe to drop, and it never does. I just had a feeling early on that the Sox were never going to get that fifth run, and it was all going to come down to whether or not they could hold the lead and avoid a replay of Game Seven from last year (another one of those symmetries - I may be all in favor of rational analysis of the regular season, but there are more things in heaven, earth and postseason baseball than are dreamt of in our philosophies). Still, it may catch up to the Sox tonight that they had to use Foulke again - he seemed to be losing steam rapidly just in his one inning of work - while Rivera and Gordon got the night off (me, I would have left Schilling in - Al Leiter felt the same way - although Francona undoubtedly knew things I didn't about Schilling's ankle, and of course Francona wouldn't have been the first manager to get ripped for leaving Schilling in too long in a big game).
Anybody still upset that the Sox didn't have Pokey Reese's bat in the lineup last night?
October 19, 2004
BASEBALL: Weather Report
If you're wondering, it's gray and damp but not raining yet here in New York, and WCBS has been saying the weather is "go" for tonight's game at Yankee Stadium.
POP CULTURE: American Puppets
I saw the movie, which is entirely filmed with puppets, yesterday and admit to having laughed a lot. The film is completely offensive to just about everyone, of course. What strikes me as interesting is that a lot of people seem to see this as a revolutionary right-wing movie for basically arguing that America often causes more damage than its enemies in the War on Terror, but that we are still right to fight it. That this is considered a daring statement from a Hollywood film says more about modern-day Hollywood and what we have come to expect of it than it does about this particular movie. During World War II, theaters were consistently jammed with movies about the righteousness of fighting against German and Japanese fascism. Today, almost 3,000 Americans were killed in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania and this may be the first major studio movie to come out which is even somewhat in favor of fighting back.
Read More Â»
A few other comments:
* One shouldn’t get too carried away reading political messages into this film. It’s largely just a spoof of violent Jerry Bruckheimer-style movies…starring puppets.
* That said, I’d be very leery of having this film shown overseas. It is a very amusing spoof of American foreign policy and its dissenters, but is a little irresponsible too. In particular, do we really want Kim Jong Il thinking that America feels that it has to invade his country? Mightn’t the maniacal, singing and cursing version of the Dear Leader here seem like hate-filled American state propaganda to a regime that knows no other kind of expression? These concerns may be unwarranted, but they tempered my ability to freely laugh in certain places.
* I did, however, have to laugh at the Middle Eastern “cantina” scene and at the slow-witted I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E super-computer which keeps sending “Team America” barreling into the wrong countries.
* I bet Hans Blix never thought there would be a puppet version of him appearing in a major Hollywood movie.
* As you might guess, I sympathize with ridiculing Hollywood celebrities (led, of course, by Alec Baldwin), but, as a satirical device, I’m not sure if dispatching so many of them violently was the best way to make fun of their views, such as they are. Doing so is, like much of the film, pretty juvenile. In fact, the various violent fates of the enemies of “Team America” (most of whom are based on real people) makes me wonder, again, if this is more of a spoof of violent movies and less one of politics.
* In terms of making fun of Hollywood conventions, my favorite part was when the main characters engaged, in a typical action movie scene, in an oblivious argument about their personal relationships in the middle of a dogfight with the North Korean air force. Similarly, the casual approach to collateral damage doesn’t strike me as a particularly fair criticism of the U.S. military, but it certainly rings true for Hollywood action movies.
* It may be my old-fashioned instincts, but the profanity and juvenile humor, while admittedly funny, undermined the potential impact of this film. Unlike the “South Park” movie, profanity was not the point of the movie here. This film could’ve been more meaningful with more satire and less cheap jokes, but, I guess, what else exactly would one expect from these filmmakers?
Anyway, if you have an interest in the Global War on Terrorism, a willingness to laugh at your own political views, a high tolerance for extremely profane humor and your name isn’t, among many others, Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay or Matt Damon, “Team America” is probably worth checking out.
Â« Close It
BASEBALL: Knuckling Down
Now, the Red Sox have really been pushing the limits of what they can expect from Tim Wakefield, and they've had some tense moments with Jason Varitek's problems trying to catch him. But does anyone doubt that they would be toast now if they didn't have a knuckleballer who's almost immune to the fatigue concerns that plague normal pitchers?
UPDATE: Aaron Gleeman has the must-read analysis of the day, a breakdown of the number of pitches thrown by the various Red Sox and Yankees pitchers the past three days.
BASEBALL: Doubling Down on Schilling
Last night's action almost defies belief, let alone explanation - what unbelievable baseball. I mean, here we have two teams playing 26 innings in 27 hours, and as soon as the Sox-Yankees game ended, it was on to the 8th inning of a 0-0 tie in Houston. Dr. Manhattan emailed this morning to compare this to the 1999 NLCS - a comparison I'd been thinking of last night myself - when the Mets fell behind 3-0, rallied to finally beat John Rocker in Game Four, won the classic rain-soaked "grand slam single" game in 15 innings the next day at Shea, and then lost Game Six - after coming back from 5-0 and 7-3 deficits - in 11 innings two days later. That series involved the home team coming back from a deficit in extra innings twice in as many games, and ended with Kenny Rogers walking in the winning run. 1986 also comes to mind - especially with the parallel of two heart-stopping serieses running at the same time - with the Mets and Astros playing a 12-inning classic at Shea followed by a 16-inning topper in Houston the next day (again due to rain).
David Ortiz has been the anti-Manny, raising his game in the postseason as much as Manny's falls off; he's in George Brett territory right now. The two teams seem to have almost given up hope of stopping Ortiz and Matsui. It's Poppy vs. Godzilla!
The Red Sox can eschew the bunt all they want - the Yankee announcers said only 12 sacrifices all year, which sounded low to me but I'm in too much of a hurry right now to check - but if that's the strategy, they really need to use better judgment trying to steal bases. The caughts by Damon and Ortiz in the late innings last night were devastating.
Assuming no rainout tonight - and the day is certainly off to a rainy start here in NY - everything will turn on Curt Schilling. The Yankee bullpen is exhausted as well, but the Yankees are at home, they can still afford to lose one, and there's no reason Jon Lieber can't at least go 6 innings. If Schilling's ankle holds up, he may be able to give the pen a serious rest; if he goes down in the first three innings again, I have trouble imagining this one being close.
As for the NLCS, I hope you saw a happy Jeff Kent last night, a rare sight indeed.
Predictions for the rest of the serieses? You think I'm crazy? Well, maybe. I'll say this: I still, in my guts, expect the Yankees to face the Cardinals.
POLITICS: Closing On the Stump
I was very favorably impressed with President Bush's speech in New Jersey yesterday, which really honed in on Kerry's biggest vulnerabilities on national security. I've got more on the speech over at RedState.
POLITICS: Flu The Coop
Kevin Drum reviews the various possibilities for why we are dependent on a single company with British-based facilities to make flue vaccines. (Link via Instapundit). Drum's answers are reasonable - he focuses on the burdens of FDA regulation as compared to British regulations - although I think he discounts the product liability lawsuit problem and the incentives it creates to have vaccines manufactured by an overseas subsidiary. In either case, the landscape Drum reviews - narrow profit margins squeezed by fluctuating demand, a demanding regulatory regime and serious litigation risks - is entirely irreconcilable with the picture of drug companies commonly painted by Democrats in general and the Kerry campaign in particular.
October 18, 2004
BASEBALL: On the Ropes Again
After Pedro gets lit up in the top of the 6th, the Sox find themselves down 2 with 8 outs left. The good news: Mark Bellhorn's on second, Tanyan Sturtze is in, and Mariano and Gordon will be tired when and if they get in. And that means hope.
RUNNING UPDATES: Sturtze walks Cabrera - not an easy thing to do, as we saw last night - and Gordon's coming in to face Manny with the tying runs on base. Gordon has thrown 3 innings the past two days, including two late last night.
Gordon gets Manny to hit into a double play. Rally over. Ugh.
Sox are probably 1-2 outs away from seeing Rivera again.
Cairo doubles off the ubiquitous Timlin. And remember, he's the weakest of the Yankee hitters.
Jeter bunts him to third. Timlin needs to whiff A-Rod here.
And he does!
Sheffield intentionally walked, Timlin's out, in comes Foulke. Game on the line here, the ace is in to face Matsui.
Foulke gets him to fly out weakly to Manny.
David Ortiz goes deep off Gordon to lead off the 8th. He could run for mayor right now and win in a walk.
Gordon walks Millar. Roberts in to run for him again. Enter night, exit light?
Nope, Mel leaves him in.
0-1 on Trot, 0 out, Roberts on 1st.
3-1, crowd's on Gordon something fierce, Yankee announcers depressed.
Roberts running 3-1, Nixon singles him to third. Varitek will face Mariano. Kapler running for Trot, who I suppose still isn't 100%? He used to run well.
2-0. Is Rivera sharp? Yankees playing back for the DP, ceding a tie.
Sac fly ties it.
Mueller grounds out to first, Kapler to 2d, Bellhorn up.
1-2 to Bellhorn.
Bellhorn whiffs. 4-4 going to 9th, bullpen cupboards are pretty close to bare. Due up top 9: Bernie-Posada-Sierra. Bottom: Damon-Cabrera-Manny. Foulke and Rivera both tired, Foulke sounds sharper, Sox are at home. Odds favor the Red Sox here, but only slightly. Odds really favor a 10- or 11-inning game.
2-out walk to Sierra. 1-2 to Tony Clark.
Ground rule double to right for Clark, Sierra has to stop at third. Cairo up, 2d and 3d and two outs.
Cairo pops out. Progress, of a sort, that you wouldn't hit for him there, but aside from Lofton there's nobody left on the Yankee bench to hit. Foulke's thrown 22 pitches, he will likely be done now if this goes to a 10th. Can Rivera be beaten a third time in one postseason?
Infield hit for Damon on Rivera's 15th pitch. Winning run on first, nobody up in Yankee pen. Can Cabrera bunt here or at least take a pitch?
Damon caught stealing. We will probably go 10 now.
Groundout on a 2-0 pitch. Manny up with 2 outs and bases empty; he will probably swing for the fences and whiff.
Rivera can be tough to bunt on, but man does that decision to have Damon run look bad right now. 2-0 to Manny, Yankee announcers moaning about call of check swing.
Fly to center, we go 10. Bronson Arroyo is in, Jeter up.
Jeter pops out, A-Rod whiffs, 1-1 to Sheffield, Felix Heredia warming up.
Sheffield whiffs. David Ortiz will lead off the bottom of the tenth. Dare to dream again? If Ortiz hits one out here, they'll make him an honorary Kennedy.
Called strikeout on check swing. Calls are even now? Minky up, Quantrill warming in the pen.
3-0 to the Mighty Mink.
Minky doubles. Kapler up, 1 out, Quantrill coming in, his 266th appearance in the past three years.
Kapler grounds out, Varitek up with 2 out, man on 3d.
Varitek pops out. I've got to get in the car, so I'll wrap this later.
BASEBALL: Viva Ortiz
I can't be the only one dragging badly this morning from staying up to 1:30 to see the end of the Yankees-Sox game. I know they needed a later start to avoid conflicts with football and the Cards-Astros game, but this is ridiculous . . . what a thrilling finish, enough to suck back in all the Red Sox fans who had written off the series, enough to put the history 3-0 deficits out of mind until the end of tonight's game - at the end of which, if Boston wins, the series looks much more like a battle. And, of course, the most staggering fact of all - the vulnerability of Mariano Rivera, who's now blown as many saves in this postseason as in the prior nine years.
I was really amazed by the ingratitude of Sox fans towards Mark Bellhorn, who was taunted with the "Pokey, Pokey" chants when he bobbled a grounder in the 6th inning. Bellhorn has had such a great year, yet Boston fans only focus on the negative.
I feel like if I went out in my front yard last night and threw some pitches, Orlando Cabrera would swing at them.
Remember: after tonight, if he loses, the next time you see Pedro Martinez he may be in a Yankee uniform. Which only makes Yankee fans' taunting of Pedro - for showing the Yanks respect, no less - all the more inexplicable.
BASEBALL: Don’t Look Back
Over the weekend, John Heyman of Newsday analyzed the status of the Mets’ managerial quest:
Minaya interviewed highly respected Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on Friday and will interview beloved Yankee Willie Randolph when he returns from Boston. In between those two, Newsday has learned that Minaya will squeeze in a meeting with Bobby Valentine, the one encore candidate we'd enthusiastically endorse for his New York track record…
Valentine's candidacy is an intriguing plot twist, though one person with ties to the Mets said he believes it's still largely a "two-horse" race between Jaramillo and Randolph, with Valentine and former Angels and Astros manager Terry Collins under consideration but less likely.
I confess to knowing nothing about Jaramillo, have always admired Randolph and would actually be receptive to a comeback by Valentine. I don’t have strong feelings about Collins.
Anyway, if you’re looking for more Mets analysis, Jason Mastaitis has a two-part prescription here and here. His recommendations include a farewell to John Franco, Al Leiter, Cliff Floyd and Richard Hidalgo, signing Carlos Beltran and starting Victor Diaz in left field next season, among other things. Also, check out this picture for a trip down memory lane.
October 17, 2004
RELIGION/POLITICS: The Candidates and the Church
With the election getting ever closer, I’m uncomfortable with a lot of criticism of President Bush’s or Senator Kerry’s respective religious convictions (or lack thereof). It seems to me to be entirely possible that either man could be far more or far less devout than they outwardly appear or present themselves. Inquiring about the issue seems unduly speculative, presumptuous and even invasive. However, the actions and stated beliefs of each candidate are fair game.
In that vein, you may want to read Rich Lowry’s column from Friday on Kerry’s approach to issues of concern to Catholic voters, such as myself. Here is a key section:
I think there can be little doubt that on issues of abortion, gay marriage, federal funding for stem-cell research and related “family values” issues, Bush’s positions are far closer to the Catholic Church than are those of Kerry. This might explain, why, despite unsavory attempts by surrogates of John McCain to tar Bush as an “anti-Catholic bigot” during the 2000 primary season, Bush appears to have significant support among the Catholic community, even though it his opponent who is Catholic.
Three primary issues strike me as areas of potential divergence between Bush and Catholic voters: the death penalty, policy towards low-income individuals and the Iraq War. It’s worth considering all three.
Read More Â»
1) The Death Penalty
There is little argument here that President Bush is a strong supporter of the death penalty and that the Catholic Church is generally opposed to the practice. I have decidedly mixed feelings on the death penalty, believing that it is often justifiable and is a matter for each state to decide, but that, in practice, its costs outweigh its benefits. Thus, I have no problem with societies deciding to take the high road on this issue, though they should not demonize the differing views of others.
President Bush has previously been known to display an almost Old Testament-style enthusiasm for the death penalty, which seems alien to modern Catholic views. I would say that if you are a single-issue Catholic voter and opposition to the death penalty is that issue, you should not vote for Bush. Still, three caveats come to mind. First, the Church’s position on the death penalty is not as unequivocal as its view on the immorality of abortion. Second, John Kerry, while generally an opponent of the death penalty, has, characteristically, flip-flopped during this campaign on its application to terrorists. Third, presidents, unlike state governors, have limited control over death penalty issues; they appoint federal judges and can block federal executions, but are rarely as intimately involved in the process as governors. (Since the death penalty is, fairly obviously, not prohibited by the Constitution, the impact of federal judges should be minimal, although potential judicial activism can never be ruled out.)
Catholic teaching emphasizes the importance of caring for the poor, the Republican party is frequently caricatured as the uncaring party of the rich. Should that make this issue a slam-dunk for John Kerry? Not exactly.
Most Republicans, though perhaps not all, would agree that the government has an interest in helping the poor. The debate is over how. The conservative approach to poverty is not one of malicious neglect, but one of alternatives to unconditional government handouts. It holds that freely spending other people’s money is not an indicator of virtue. It holds that there are better ways to help low-income individuals than trying to redistribute income to them through the filter of inefficient, historically wasteful, centrally-planned bureaucracies. It favors grass-roots approaches, involving private entities, faith-based initiatives or even state of local governments. It is based on helping others to help themselves and promoting the greater good through encouraging personal industry and responsibility.
Likewise, Catholic teaching emphasizes each individual’s responsibility for helping others. It does not indicate that that responsibility is best accomplished by simply having the federal government take increasingly large chunks out of one’s paycheck without doing anything proactive oneself. In short, I can understand why this issue is often viewed as favoring Kerry, but Bush’s positions in this area are, by no means, inherently antithetical to Catholic values.
Most controversially, the Iraq War, which Kerry voted for, but which Bush has prosecuted, has been denounced by some as unjust. In fact, the Pope himself has expressed that view on occasions. However, like many other Catholics, I believe that the Iraq War met the criteria of Catholic “just war” theory. Review the elements of that theory here and compare it with this. You can draw your own conclusions.
I would add that complete, undiluted pacifism is probably the ideal for Catholics. The hard realities of international relations, national defense and domestic politics, however, make such an approach sadly infeasible. The consequences of complete non-violence in the face of aggression by the likes of Hitler, Tojo, Stalin, Saddam or bin Laden are too terrible to fully contemplate. The best America can hope for is that, in defending our interests, we act in a just manner, protecting the innocent wherever possible against brutal repression, genocide or terrorism and advancing democratic values and the cause of human freedom, while sparing as much as possible collateral damage to those caught in the cross-fire. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we have done just that (aside from isolated incidents of cruelty, such as the Abu Ghraib scandal) and, in the process, freed two nations from among the most repressive regimes in modern history.
The United States, under President Bush, could perhaps do better, but it could also do far worse. (In fact, the foreign affairs track record of the only Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, may be more difficult to reconcile with the Church’s teaching. In particular, the Bay of Pigs invasion and America’s involvement in the coup which led to the assassination of South Vietnamese President, and fellow Catholic, Ngo Dinh Diem were quite dubious by these standards.) It is also worth noting that the Catholic Church favors aggressive efforts to reconstruct and provide humanitarian assistance to both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Â« Close It
POLITICS: Arrogant Interventionism?
Earlier this year Mr Kerry said that as president he would have sent American troops to protect Jean-Bertrand Aristide who was ousted from power in February.
The Brazilian UN general, Augusto Heleno, said Mr Kerry's comments had offered "hope" to Aristide supporters. Much of the recent unrest has centred on areas loyal to Mr Aristide.
More than 50 people have died over the past fortnight.
In fairness, blaming American politicians for chaos in Haiti is like blaming them for the sun being hot. There are far deeper problems to blame. Of course, were the situations reversed (i.e. were this Dole challenging Clinton in 1996), would the challenger be held to a higher standard?
BASEBALL: The Net Tightens on Bonds
The evidence pointing to steroid use by Barry Bonds continues to build:
Trainer Greg Anderson, 38, who is Bonds' longtime friend and a defendant in the BALCO steroids conspiracy case, also said on the recording that he expected to receive advance warning before the San Francisco Giants superstar had to submit to a drug test under what was then baseball's new steroids-testing program.
The recording is the most direct evidence yet that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs during his drive to break the storied record for career home runs. Major League Baseball banned the use of steroids beginning with the 2003 season. It has long been illegal to use them without a doctor's prescription.
"The whole thing is, everything that I've been doing at this point, it's all undetectable," Anderson said on the recording of the drug he was providing Bonds. "See the stuff I have, we created it, and you can't buy it anywhere else, can't get it anywhere else, but you can take it the day of (the test), pee, and it comes up perfect."
There was another reason the trainer was confident that Bonds' drug use would escape detection: Anderson said he would be tipped off a week or two before Bonds was subjected to steroid testing.
"It's going to be in either the end of May or beginning of June, right before the All-Star break, definitely," he was recorded saying. "So after the All-Star break, f -- , we're like f -- ing clear."
Now, if this tape is authentic, that would certainly strongly suggest wrongdoing on Anderson's part, and the high likelihood that Bonds was in on it (he certainly benefitted from it). Anderson's and Bonds' lawyers are denying the tape's authenticity, as you would expect. I regard this as the first sign that we have enough to move the debate about Bonds - which has thus far seemed to me to be based on speculation rather than evidence, even if it's speculation I tend to sympathize with - into the open.
Bonds is rapidly approaching one of baseball's most hallowed records. Hopefully, if the evidence surfaces to show that he has used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, MLB can stop him before he gets there, rather than have the record tainted. On the other hand, one wishes there was some way that, if Bonds is actually clean, he could be definitively cleared of all this. But we are rapidly reaching the point where the skeptical fan may start to believe the charges.
BASEBALL: Fire in Their Wake
Utter humiliation for the Red Sox tonight, as the Yankees pour on 19 runs in their own house. After coming so close last season, Sox fans may now have to lament an offseason of having been destroyed by the Yankees. Horrendous. I'm not at the point where I can discuss this rationally, and I'm not even a Sox fan.
October 15, 2004
BASEBALL: Cardinal Flush
Holy Cross alum Brian at Redbird Nation has a fine writeup of last night's action in St. Louis, with bonus points for saying the weather was "Worcestering" out. I still haven't read enough about the game yet to find out who was shooting off the fireworks in the pouring rain in the middle of the 7th inning.
Oh, and: yes, I know I'm against big free agent signings, but I do want Carlos Beltran for Christmas (and yes, that's a baseball-reference.com link with 2004 stats, hooray!). He's the type of free agent worth pursuing - a top-of-the-market player, broad base of skills, showing rapid improvement in patience and power the past two years, runs well, plays great defense, and he's only 28 next season. And just imagine a defensive outfield with Beltran and Cameron.
POLITICS: A Unified Mary Cheney Theory
Speculation abounds: why did both Edwards and Kerry bring up the fact that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter? Some think they were trying, clumsily, to get religious conservatives to feel disenchanted with the Bush-Cheney ticket. I'm doubtful that will work; if anything, conservative Christian voters who already like and agree with Bush and Cheney are more likely to see this as personal family business that shouldn't be used in a campaign.
But they may not be the target audience. Connsider: the Kerry campaign seems very worried that African-American voters, who by large margins (especially the majority of African-Americans who are regular churchgoers) are opposed to same-sex marriage, might be less motivated to show up and vote for Kerry on Election Day. This is compounded by the fact that Kerry, unlike Clinton and Gore, doesn't have much experience appealing to black voters and doesn't seem to have the same emotional rapport with them. This concern is almost certainly why you never hear Kerry compare the same-sex marriage fight to the civil rights movement (as Andrew Sullivan does on a daily basis), since African-Americans are understandably touchy about diluting the moral weight of their struggle for equal rights, and doubly so for a cause many of them don't sympathize with.
Perhaps bringing up the gay daughter won't work with people who are already fond of Bush and Cheney and likely to respond by circling the wagons around them. But it could be savvy politics in trying to neutralize the issue with a bloc of voters Kerry badly needs who are predisposed to dislike the Republican ticket. I don't know how this gambit played with African-Americans, but if you think about it logically, they seem like the most likely target audience.
WAR/POLITICS: Showdown in Fallujah
The Big One is on in Iraq, as US forces are finally doing what, at least in retrospect, they should have done back in April, cordoning off Fallujah and opening a major offensive against the heart of the insurgency. I can't offer any insights on the military angle, but here's what's interesting: the Bush Administration was quite happy to leak word earlier this week that it had no intention of any major offensive actions in Iraq until after Election Day. The left, predictably, went nuts over this report (see Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman, Matt Yglesias, Atrios, Brad DeLong, and, yes, even the Kerry campaign), claiming that Bush was putting politics over national security by not launching an offensive in mid-October. Which raises four possibilities:
1. Something changed between Monday and today. Unlikely, given the amount of preparation that goes into something like this.
Without discounting the other possibilities, #4 sure sounds like typical Bush political strategy, with #3, of course, being an added bonus. And the usual suckers fell for it, for the same reasons they always do.
And maybe now we know why Bush wanted to talk to Kerry after the debate.
October 14, 2004
BASEBALL: Just Say No
Jeff Quinton wonders about reports that the Mets might be looking to deal Cliff Floyd for Sammy Sosa. Now, there are two possible ways for me to react to this. One would be to take a rational look at the two players, break down their age, productivity, injury histories and remaining contracts.
I choose the second way. No. The Mets simply need to break their addiction to bringing in expensive old guys. Even if they may be better or cheaper or younger than some other expensive old guys they are shipping out. The first step is recognizing you have a problem. If you can't dump Floyd's salary for younger talent, then eat the contract. And Glavine's, too, and the rest. (I'm OK with keeping Piazza, given the difficulty of replacing him, but Leiter has to go). A GM who can't stop the importation of old, expensive players simply has no business with this team.
BASEBALL: Deja Vu
As you can tell from my debate summary, I missed most of the ballgames last night. Of course, that's aside from the fact that Major League Baseball scheduled the two games to run against each other . . .
On the Yanks-Sox side, Pedro running out of gas has become a theme. You may have been surprised when it was John Olerud who delivered the knockout blow, given Olerud's struggles the past two seasons; even in his rejuvenated form with the Yankees, Olerud didn't hit for power. But the unflappable Olerud has long had a knack for big hits against top pitchers, especially when the rest of the team is hitting. On the NL side, any series with the Cardinals in it will be a long one for pitchers on both sides.
WAR/POLITICS: Stop the Presses
In fairness, the letter Drezner links to is worth checking out and the comments of Drezner himself are characteristically fair. The credentials and assertions of the “S3FP” should be weighed a little more heavily than much of what usually passes for anti-war arguments, but those arguments themselves are still basically repackaged Democratic talking points, some of which (notably General Shinseki’s comments, the cited James Fallows piece) have been the basis for frequent distortions by the Kerry campaign.
Rich Lowry has a cover story in National Review this month, which cites a large number of Administration officials and which, while supportive of the war, is very critical of a number of aspects of its management. (I’d link to it were it available online). Anyway, Lowry nicely debunks Fallows’ view - which has become orthodoxy in many circles - that the Defense Department ignored all pre-war plans concerning reconstruction. It should also be said that Lowry’s article reads largely as a Defense Department rebuttal to proxy attacks by the State Department and, thus, should be read critically. Yet, that very legitimate side of the argument is too often ignored by the more Foggy Bottom-friendly press corps.
As for my position on the Iraq War, I strongly disagree with the stated position of the S3FP. Most of their arguments were addressed in my lengthy, four-part defense of the war (see here, here, here and here). Check it out, especially the third part.
Finally, as for the scholars’ notion that “on moral grounds, the case for war was dubious” - inaction would only have meant increasing the number of stories like this. Maybe they can live with that. I’m glad we don’t have to.
UPDATE: John Derbyshire has some comments on the Lowry article, which, again, I wish I could to link to here directly. It has a lot of good stuff to ponder, regardless of where you ultimately come down on the war.
October 13, 2004
POLITICS: The Closer Gets Rocked
Yes, even with two classic baseball games on, you knew I had to watch the last presidential debate. Now, I called the first debate a narrow Kerry victory and the second a clear but not decisive victory for Bush.
Maybe I've just let my biases cloud my judgment. But I really thought Bush cleaned Kerry's clock tonight, regularly outmaneuvering him, projecting superior charisma and humor and landing a number of body blows that Kerry really wasn't able to react to, while Kerry stepped in a bunch of holes on social policy that he really wasn't even forced into.
From the top:
Kerry always does this long throat-clearing opening that means nothing; Bush gets right to work.
Wow, Kerry's forehead is enormous.
X-raying cargo holds . . . Kerry is in reruns.
Reagan again! When will Bush smack him for embracing Reagan today after denouncing him in the 80s?
Bush is giddy when Schieffer and Kerry mention foreign policy, so he can talk about Afghanistan's elections.
Kerry voted against the Homeland Security bill? Even I didn't know that.
Kerry is becoming a big Tora Bore. Bush has obviously decided never to respond on this. But it draws the first Bush smirk of the night.
Flu season? Schieffer decides to make the night's second question about flu shots? Bush gives an answer that's good public health and bad politics . . . until he decides to blame John Edwards. Kerry sounds hoarse, decides to just blame Bush for everything. Wellness? Remember the Department of Wellness? I guess Bush won''t mention that.
Bush: A plan is not a litany of complaints. Good line.
Kerry: The Jobs Fairy is coming! Jobs for everyone!
McCain-Kerry, Kerry is slipping into Washingtonese again. Dingell-Norwood, anyone?
Bush is calling for the Fiscal Sanity Fairy. Nice try, George.
Bush again: "Here's some Trade Adjustment Assistance money" is not a winning slogan. Keep moving.
Kerry compares Bush to Tony Soprano. Classless move, doesn't accomplish anything.
Kerry says he supported a Reagan tax cut?
"Far left bank of the mainstream - makes Teddy Kennedy the conservative Senator from Massachusetts." Amazingly, Kerry essentially lets this stand with just some flapdoodle about Gramm-Rudman. It's all he's got.
My wife points out that Bush isn't always using his whole time. Yeah, but he says one thing and then stops. By the end of a Kerry answer, just try remembering what he was talking about at the beginning.
Homosexuality. Bush has an even-handed answer he obviously prepared. Slams decisions made by judges. Kerry jumps on Dick Cheney's daughter. Why that again? Kerry talks about gay people living in straight marriages. Did anyone not immediately think of Jim McGreevey? This is a train wreck for Kerry.
Rebuttals? There seem to be no rebuttals.
Abortion. Kerry says choice involves woman, doctor and God. Who's missing from this picture? "I will defend the right of Roe v Wade". Kerry should hope that polls well, because he's unambiguous on this point. Harks back to JFK - when abortion was illegal!
Kerry says 56 bills, not 5. Does that include commemoratives?
The jury will disregard Bush's potshot at the networks, when he starts to slam Kerry for relying on network reports and then drops the point. Point is made.
Rationing healthcare. Bush is doing the best he can on this. Also mentions health savings accounts. He'll lose this issue, but he's battling.
Social Security - better ground. Bush preempts the attacks by saying they said checks wouldn't come 4 years ago, and they came just the same. Problem in the trillions - status quo not an option. Bush promises to front-burner this issue - dare I hope he means it?
I missed - did Kerry say Greenspan supported the Bush tax cut? Why admit that?
Kerry may like saying "tTop experts in the country" but I doubt it warms the heart of swing voters.
[Phone rings. Miss some immigration stuff].
Kerry wants to speed up border crossings by fingerprinting everyone?
Minimum wage hike. Bush fudges rather than point out how this would harm small business.
Kerry on judges: "Yes, I'll have a litmus test."
[Phone rings again]
Bush drops the hammer on the 1991 Gulf War. Kerry fails to respond. Stop the fight!
Bush blames Tom DeLay on assault weapons ban expiring. Not a high point.
Affirmative action. Kerry goes for his base, to heck with people who don't like it. Both candidates agree to lie and pretend Bush is against quotas.
Bush says nice things about aetheists. Good answer on faith and prayer. Kerry's "faith without works" line will play well with Northeastern Catholics, not so well with Protestants.
The Daschle hug is defended! Kerry plays team!
More campaign finance reform? No!
Bush draws laugh from audience deprecating his English. Kerry says he married up, has to say it twice to get anyone but Schieffer to laugh.
Closings. No minds changed here, just closing the book.
UPDATE: Why do I think Bush won? On style, he was just more accessible, while Kerry seemed tired and hoarse. On substance, Bush wanted to define Kerry as a conventional liberal, and Kerry offered little resistance and helped Bush's case by giving a number of conventional liberal answers. Bush is much more at home with social issues, and he's less apt to fall into Beltway-speak on how programs work.
The voters, of course, will be the final judge. But Bush did about as well as I could have hoped, and in a number of cases Kerry gave worse answers than I would have expected. That's how I scored it.
BASEBALL: Closer to Perfect
Mike Mussina's shot at perfection fell pretty far short last night. Here's a look back at the night in September 2001 when he came just one batter (Carl Everett) short of a perfect game at Fenway.
BASEBALL: Setting The Stage
In the movies, or in a novel or a play, the ideal opening act is one that introduces all the major dramatic tensions without resolving any of them. In an action film, you want a gripping opening, but one that won't overshadow what comes later.
That's what we saw last night. We weren't treated to a historic comeback, or a perfect game, or a game-breaking ninth-inning rally, or vengeance for past defeats, or a beanball war. But we got a tantalizing taste of each. Dramatic themes have been introduced: Will Curt Schilling bounce back in his next start, or is he ailing? Can the Red Sox stop Hideki Matsui? Will Joe Torre ever be dumb enough to use Tanyan Sturtze again? How much gas is in Joe Frazier's car? (Well, maybe not that last one).
Stay tuned tonight - same bat time, same bat channel.
POLITICS: Quick Links 10/13/04
*It's not too late to read Jane Galt's hilarious blogging of the second debate ("K[e]rry: I was there when the budget was balanced! Me: I was there when the World Trade Center site was cleaned up! I claim full credit!" "Memo to Mr Kerry: Pro-life voters don't want you to respect them--they want you to not spend their tax dollars on abortions!")
*Smash on Kerry and the anniversary of the USS Cole bombing: "My problem with Kerry isn’t that he sees Iraq as a diversion from the War on Terror, but rather that he sees the War on Terror as a diversion from his domestic agenda."
*Hitchens on Saddam's nuclear program ("Of course, we could always have left Iraq alone, and brought nearer the day when the charming Qusai could have called for Dr. Obeidi and said: 'That barrel of yours. It's time to dig it up.'")
*Matt Welch, who disdained the whole Swift Boat story, nonetheless rips the media for not diving into the merits of the story earlier.
*More on the Swift Vets' latest campaign, including the words of Medal of Honor winner Bud Day ("Shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, Maj. Day suffered numerous injuries, managed to escape from his prison, walked for two weeks through the jungle eating live frogs before he was recaptured." More here).
*Bill Frist rips John Edwards for giving false hope by saying "If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again" (Link via the Corner).
*Mark Steyn thought Kerry sounded awful when he looked at the debate audience and declared that he, Bush and Charlie Gibson were the only ones in the hall who made $200,000:
I had the same reaction - when Kerry said that there was a guy over his shoulder, older guy in a decent suit, balding, grey hair and glasses - he certainly looked to me like the type who could easily be a doctor, lawyer, businessman type. There were a couple of others who, even just on appearance, could easily have been the same, and as Steyn points out that's still just picking by the stereotypes.
FOOTBALL/WAR: A Man Worth Remembering
Why does the NFL insist on fining Jake Plummer tens of thousands of dollars for honoring Pat Tillman? And what can you do about it? Eric McErlain tries to answer the second question.
POP CULTURE: And We Liked It!
Speaking of grumpy old men - just kidding – happy birthday wishes to the Crank!
October 12, 2004
BASEBALL: How The Yanks and Sox Got Here
Before the season, I evaluated each of the teams around the majors based on Established Win Shares Levels (see here for a discussion of EWSL and here for the team method). Over the offseason, I'll be taking a look back at how teams matched up against those established levels, both to explain where things went right or wrong and to fine-tune EWSL's usefulness (within its natural limitations) as a predictive tool. For now, in advance of their playoff showdown, let's look at how the Yankees and Red Sox stacked up to their preseason predictions. You'll note some variance from the preseason numbers I ran because I did the Yankees before the A-Rod trade.
Adjusted EWSL: 323.3 (108 wins)
Not a lot of things you didn't already know here: the Yankees actually underachieved this year, due to major fall-offs from Giambi, Mussina, Vazquez, and Kenny Lofton, while the main guys who stepped way up to pick up some of the slack were Matsui, Cairo, Gordon and Lieber. There's also the guys I hadn't listed in the preseason:
Five guys also contributed one Win Share each. You will note that Olerud's 6 Win Shares, like Contreras' total, is only for his time with the Yankees. . . and yes, I know 38 is an approximate age for El Duque, but I have to use something.
Adjusted EWSL: 307.3 (102 wins)
A real tribute to the Sox here for surviving the big dropoffs from the contributions of Nomar (even before he was traded), Nixon, Lowe and Kim. Ellis Burks, of course, never did get a role on the team, so his inclusion here is more a feature of February. The two guys who picked up the most slack were Ortiz (who had 15 win shares in 2003) and Bellhorn; the Sox went far this year by ignoring Bellhorn's 177 whiffs and cashing in on his cheap (less than $500,000 this year) production. But the team's additions, including one guy I totally overlooked in February (Bronson Arroyo) made a difference:
Plus, Dave Roberts and Brian Daubach with two Win Shares apiece, and six other guys with one Win Share apiece, including the disappointing Doug Mentkiewicz (19 EWSL entering the season). Cabrera, clearly, was a useful pickup, and the Greek God of Walks, with his .367 on base percentage, gave the Sox some valuable fill-in work.
WAR/POLITICS: The Right War, The Right Place, The Right Time – PART IV
This is the final part of a four-part series on the Iraq War.
Part I looked at why America could not rest after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and why state sponsors of terror, such as Iraq, require our attention. Part II looked at why, in particular, North Korea and Iran should not have taken precedence over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Part III looked at why the decision to go to war in Iraq was necessary and justified. Those questions provide a necessary background to this analysis.
This part looks at what, roughly a year and a half on, America has gained and what it has lost from the Iraq War. Do the benefits outweigh the costs? The answer, attempting to look at the war from all angles, is yes.
Read More Â»
First, however, it’s useful to take a few steps back and get some perspective what “the war” was and is. The Iraq War, insofar as it originally aimed to achieve the disarmament of Saddam Hussein and force regime change, was a smashing success. Those objectives have long since been accomplished. Post-war reconstruction and counter-insurgency continue, however, and together are far more difficult, challenging and potentially rewarding than even the war itself. Perhaps it’s a semantic point, but the war and the insurgency are two different animals. America and its allies won the war. America, its allies and the new Iraqi government have not yet put down the insurgency.
Overall though, what has the war (if, for shorthand, we define it as both) cost us?
The sacrifices of our troops are nothing short of awe-inspiring and should give us pause. Spend a little time over at this site. It is relatively easy to sit here and advocate or justify war when others are volunteering to fight it. They are our very best men and women. I know some people who have been in Iraq, some who are in Iraq and some who will be going to Iraq. I have the deepest admiration for their service and concern for their safety.
Furthermore, we should never overlook or trivialize the deaths of those on whose behalf our troops are now acting and even those against whom they are fighting. People are being killed in Iraq and it is all too easy to say that our actions have resulted only in the death of terrorists and radicals. When people are dying from our bullets and our bombs, however much we may regret and try to avoid it, we need to always have a damn good answer ready as to why we are fighting. In Iraq, the answer is that, long-term, the temporary suffering from establishing a stable, representative government and removing a tyrannical dictatorship is outweighed by the inevitable suffering which would have resulted from leaving such a brutal and militarily reckless regime in place. The only thing worse than military action would have been inaction.
Also, while I don’t want to get into grisly tallies of body counts from other conflicts, suffice to say, that comparisons between the human toll of the current Iraq conflict and Vietnam are highly lacking in perspective. Approximately 58,000 Americans died during the Vietnam War. We have not even taken 2 % as many casualties in Iraq. It demeans the sacrifices America made during the Vietnam War to equate it with this conflict (yet, it must be said, we have perhaps achieved more of our objectives in less than two years in Iraq than we did in a over a decade in Vietnam). Another perspective: almost three times as many Americans died on September 11, 2001, as have died in over a year and half in Iraq.
Some would also emphasize the financial and diplomatic costs. Neither is a wholly inconsequential consideration. Yet, neither should have prevented decisive action.
By any measure, the Iraq War and post-war reconstruction have been financially costly. As John Kerry and John Edwards point out, the first Gulf War was tremendously cheaper, due to the size of that coalition and the cost-sharing involved. However, the Gulf War – which Kerry voted against – was the exception rather than the rule; the 1991 coalition was the largest in history and the war’s objectives were very narrowly defined. Wars, like foreign aid or humanitarian assistance, tend to be costly.
Yet, national security concerns trump short-term economic considerations. So, too, should humanitarian concern for helping rebuild a country crippled by decades of dictatorship and war. But, if money is your major concern, think strategically. A stable, relatively friendly and oil-producing Iraq should be an economically viable partner. Look at the prosperity enjoyed by previous countries the United States has rebuilt. Look at Western Europe. Look at Germany. Look at Japan. Look at South Korea. Think about what those countries’ prosperity has meant to ours. Iraq is unlikely to ever achieve those economic heights, but, if it can get on its feet, its standing will only improve.
Also, the war, which is very unpopular in many foreign quarters, has clearly taken some diplomatic toll on the U.S. Global popular opinion tends to disapprove of any reminders of American hegemony, no matter how justified the action in question. Our alliance structure survives nonetheless. Still, America’s alliances are important, but they are not as important as doing what’s right, both for our own interests and for those of maintaining global order. Responsibility and occasional unpopularity are the price America pays for its hegemonic status. At the same time, international bodies will never be fully accepted by Americans until they are willing to stand up decisively to tyrants and until serial violators of their resolutions are dealt with resolutely.
Some would say the war was a distraction from the “real war” against al Qaeda. That is indeed the main event, but, as indicated earlier in Part I, the U.S. can’t just go openly barreling into a place like Pakistan just because we are frustrated and impatient for results. Unfortunately, the war against al Qaeda is one which, for the most part, must be fought in the shadows. It is frustrating, but (a) just because we are not hearing about certain activities does not mean they are not taking place, (b) this is the nature of fighting terrorism and (c) it is why it is critically important to hold accountable those supporters of terrorism, like Saddam Hussein, who were flouting the will of America and the world out in the open. (As an aside regarding distractions, I would add that deploying all of the troops we have in Iraq as a “bluff” to allow for the never-ending dance of the weapons inspectors - which some floated as an option - would likely have been equally “distracting” without any of the advantages of removing a vile and menacing dictatorship…for good.)
Finally, some would argue that the war is a recruiting tool for al Qaeda and that it will only provoke more terrorism. This is the “we are giving bin Laden what he wants” argument. I agree that the Iraq War is a recruiting tool for al Qaeda and I agree that short-term it is certainly encouraging terrorism in Iraq. But long-term, which is how we absolutely need to think about all this, the promotion of a stable and representative Iraq would be a body blow to al Qaeda and its ideals. Open and accountable Middle Eastern governments are the best long-term solution to radical Islamic terrorism. More on that in a moment.
Unquestionably, the Iraq War has not been without very real costs. What, then, has it all accomplished?
We should not be unrealistic about the many obstacles to democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds and we should recognize that democracy, in general, is not a panacea, but we should also not be reflexively pessimistic. Iraq need not ever look like America. If it could become a stable, representative, yet still utterly imperfect, democracy like Turkey, the world would be a much better place. Recently, Indonesia the world’s largest Muslim nation, held relatively free democratic elections for the first time. Afghanistan followed soon after. Iraq, with our help, is scheduled to have elections in January. The tide may slowly be turning against autocracy in the Middle East and the broader Muslim world. We should do all we can to see that it does.
Only by establishing accountable governments will terrorism slowly recede. Middle East autocracies have for decades been passing off their internal failings by diverting hatred towards the United States and Israel. In so doing, they encourage terrorism against us. While Arab-Israeli peace is one potential solution we should push for, it is not on the near horizon. A move towards democracy and away from repressive strongmen like Saddam is the other solution and it could have much more sweeping ramifications in the long-term.
One small silly anecdote comes to mind. When New York Governor George Pataki visited Iraq he was asked what he thought. He offered a seemingly glib reply that it reminded him of his time as mayor of Peekskill, New York – everyone was complaining, about sewers, power outages, schools, etc… In a democracy, people generally do not spend their days worrying about how to evade the secret police or being encouraged to rain fire down upon a “Great Satan” or planning to strap explosives to themselves to blow up Zionists. They care about things like feeding their family, paying their bills, educating their children and fixing the septic tank.
Democracy was simply never going to take root under the iron fist of Saddam Hussein. Even the most sincere and committed opponents of this war must recognize that. Saddam, in fact, now sits in a jail cell, awaiting trial before an Iraqi tribunal to publicly air his crimes and render the long-overdue justice he so richly deserves.
The Iraq War has had other benefits. Libya, soon after the war, made its most dramatic reversal in its public stance, peacefully agreeing to verifiably dismantle its weapons of mass destruction in return for a slow reemergence into the community of nations. Between Iraq and Libya, the United States and its allies have two very distinct examples to show to Iran, North Korea and other would-be dictators, proliferators, and potential enemies. Used wisely, these contrasting examples can be an invaluable deterrent to war and should encourage resolute engagement with such regimes, on our terms, not just on theirs. (The war should be justified on terms other than just chest-pounding posturing, but there is something to be said for Jonah Goldberg’s two-part pre-war argument - see here and here – analogizing international relations to a prison yard and…well…follow that to its logical conclusion.)
Amid an insurgency which needs to be combated, much good is coming of America’s war in Iraq. See here and here for just two of such examples. Of course, the bloody reality of that insurgency cannot be ignored; some mistakes were clearly made by Rumsfeld and others in the early stages of reconstruction and, I think, the Bush Administration has been overly tentative in its tactics during the past year. Many comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are unwarranted, but I think it is fair to say that counter-insurgency strategy and election-year politics do not make great bedfellows, be it 1964 or 2004.
What does the future hold? I have no idea. Post-war success in Iraq, as defined as a stable, representative Iraqi government we can live with, is by no means assured. The United States and its allies have a huge role to play, but ultimately the future will be written by the Iraqi people. Freedom is theirs for the taking.
Broadly speaking, two sets of foreigners have poured into Iraq. One fought to remove Saddam Hussein from power and has brought security assistance, humanitarian aid and the determination to allow the embattled country to forge a new democratic future. The other is ruthlessly fighting to repel the first group through an indiscriminate campaign of roadside car bombs, ambushes (often aided by pushing children in front of military convoys) and videotaped beheadings, designed at establishing either a repressive, close-minded theocracy or an anarchistic safe haven for terrorists. Iraqis face a stark choice between those two groups. We must do all we can to help them make the right decisions, but, in the end, they will chart their own course.
Once the Iraqi government has established a relatively stable foothold, we should begin to slowly and responsibly withdraw. America need not, and should not, remain there in perpetuity. One thing I can proudly say about this country: I have read countless articles and editorials by proponents of the war - some even far to my right - but I cannot readily remember even one observer seriously suggesting that America should have even the slightest designs on conquering, colonizing or unfairly exploiting Iraq for material gain. I’m sure some such people exist, but they are a distinct and silent minority.
On a personal note, I will add that I was not always supportive of the notion of military confrontation with Iraq. I once held the view that Saddam was contained and barely tolerable and that al Qaeda should be America’s primary focus. I no longer believe the former, still believe the latter, but, above all, have come to believe that the combination of realpolitik and balancing of evils that characterized America’s policy towards the Middle East needed to change. While realism should always be a part of our worldview, American foreign policy is at its best when our ideals are aligned with our interests. The pre-9/11 status quo in the Middle East of authoritarian regimes, anti-American designs and seething misdirected hatred needed to be altered for the better. After deposing the Taliban and removing terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan, no better or more deserving candidate for regime change existed than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, an open state sponsor of terror led by a man who would do anything to hurt the United States.
Here’s hoping we see it through.
Â« Close It
POLITICS: Fighting Against "Liars and Demons"
Jesse Jackson and John Kerry sound awfully worried and defensive about the potential for the same-sex marriage issue to pry off African-American voters from the Democratic ticket:
Following him a few minutes later, Mr. Kerry urged his audience to try to ignore diversions from the issues Mr. Jackson had mentioned.
"All they're going to do is attack and attack and try and divert, and push some hot button that has nothing to do with the quality of your life on a daily basis," the senator from Massachusetts said.
And, I've heard of demonizing your opponents, but I always thought that was in a figurative sense:
"He's fighting against liars and demons," Mrs. Meek said.
The article does not mention if Kerry disagreed with the characterization of Republicans as "demons." Then there's the usual hyperbole:
Mr. Kerry told the congregation he is taking steps to allay the grievance of many Florida blacks that their votes were not counted in 2000. "Never again will a million African-Americans be denied their right to exercise their vote in the United States of America," he said.
Why only a million? Why not a billion, or a trillion, if you're going to make up numbers out of thin air?
Oh, and don't forget all the hyperventilating we get from the Left over the idea that "Bush actually believes that God told him to become president." (But it's OK for a writer to knock that if "[s]ome of my best friends believe in God . . . "). Now, Kerry would never nod along at a suggestion like that, would he?
"For every Goliath, God has a David," he said. "For every Calvary's cross, God has a Christ Jesus. To bring our country out of despair, discouragement, despondency and disgust, God has a John Kerry."
Mr. Kerry mostly sat stolidly during the 20-minute sermon, nodding slightly. Mr. Smith said God can work His will through the election. "If he did it for Clinton, he can do it for you," he said.
But don't hold your breath waiting for the denunciations of this from Slate and its ilk.
October 11, 2004
BASEBALL: Houston, We Have Liftoff
After a 42-year wait and more heartbreaking playoff losses than you can count, the Astros are apparently, at long last, about to win a postseason series. Of course, nothing was more epic than their first two losses, the 1980 series (following their victory in the 1-game playoff with the Dodgers) that concluded a best of 5 series against the Phillies with four consecutive extra inning games, and the 1986 classic with the Mets, with a walk-off homer in Game Three, a 12-inning heart-stopper in Game Five (with Nolan Ryan matching Doc Gooden with a 2-hit 12-K performance despite breaking his ankle in the third inning) and the unforgettable 16-inning seesaw affair in Game Six. And, of course, I'm glad to see Bagwell and Biggio finally taste some success in October.
It's wierd to see Jose Vizcaino out there; it seems like a generation ago that he was with the Mets (I was still in law school then), and he was neither outstandingly good nor outstandingly young then. . . am I the only one who keeps expecting Lance Berkman to break into an ad for Little Chocolate Donuts?
POLITICS: Dropping The "L" Bomb
So President Bush, in the second debate, goes out of his way to call Kerry a "liberal," to which Kerry's response is to grouse about "labels" rather than try to show how his record disproves the charge (which he can't; as Bob Novak has pointed out, this is the same Kerry who in July 1991 said "I'm a liberal, and proud of it").
During the second Presidential Debate, President Bush made several references to Senator Kerry as politically liberal. Kerry consistently responded that labels don't matter.
That's just one debate. If Bush can hammer this theme in the second debate and in ads, he may quickly have Kerry wishing he could go back to debating Iraq.
POLITICS: Dumb Question
Bush and Cheney rip into Kerry for his remarks in that NY Times Magazine profile, drawing this response:
"I think the answer is pretty clear it's because they don't want to talk about the issues that people are facing."
Um, maybe because Kerry is, you know, running against Bush?
It is, of course, a bad sign when a campaign does nothing but attack. But really, you have to be living in la-la land to think Bush hasn't campaigned on the basis of his own past record and future platform. Whining about being criticized for the candidate's own, rather lengthy and detailed remarks on the primary issue of the campaign is just weak and pathetic.
If anything, I almost feel bad for Kerry staffers trying to explain away this interview, which really can't be defended on the merits and shows staggeringly bad political judgment in addition to the bad strategic thinking on national security.
WAR: We Remember, Again
BASEBALL: Dodgers Down
One entertaining moment from last night's game was during the confrontation between Eric Gagne and Albert Pujols in the 9th; it was a fine illustration of the focus that has made Gagne such a lights-out closer. Pujols fouled a ball viciously off his foot, and was hopping around in agony - and while he's writhing in pain, Gagne calmly steps forward, takes the ball and talks to his catcher without paying Pujols the slightest notice. Then, maybe two pitches later, Gagne throws a curveball that sails up and in just above Pujols' head. An accident? Maybe; not too many people throw a curveball as a purpose pitch, especially one that was almost a wild pitch with a man on first. But for a guy who's still in enough pain that he's barely able to plant his feet, the curveball sealed the deal as far as making Pujols uncomfortable in the box, and he hit weakly into a double play shortly thereafter.
Other thoughts: Man, the Astros outmaneuvered themselves in using Brad Lidge for only 2/3 of an inning and leaving Russ Springer to take the loss; does someone at FOX Sports stay up at night thinking of annoying ways to distract from the game? The dirt-level "Diamond Cam" is silly enough, but that "Scooter" guy explaining things reminded me way too much of the paperclip guy from Microsoft Word; Game Two of the Yanks-Twins series was the first time Mariano Rivera blew a save in the postseason without costing the Yankees a series.
WAR/POLITICS: The Right War, The Right Place, The Right Time – PART III
This is the third part of a four-part series in praise of, and defense of, the Iraq War.
Part I looked at why America could not rest after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and why state sponsors of terror, such as Iraq, require our attention. Part II looked at why, in particular, North Korea and Iran should not have taken precedence over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
This part, the longest yet, details why America and its allies were right to take it upon themselves to enforce years of violated UN Resolutions by military force and, ultimately, to remove Saddam Hussein. In other words, this is the meat of the sandwich.
The hardest part of writing this is deciding where to start.
Read More Â»
* In the fall of 1980, when Saddam ordered the invasion of Iran, provoking the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, one of the bloodiest and most pointless conflicts in modern history?
* On June 7, 1981, when Israel, acting unilaterally, destroyed Saddam’s French-built Osirak nuclear reactor, which was the centerpiece of his secret nuclear plan? Europe and the most of the rest of the world, including even some quarters of the Reagan Administration, reacted with scorn. Today, that world is immeasurably safer as a result. (See Rodger Claire’s “Raid on the Sun” for a great book on this topic).
* In 1985, when Palestinian terrorist Abu Abbas murdered a 69-year old Jewish American in a wheelchair aboard the hijacked Achille Lauro, only to find welcoming arms in Iraq? Or in April 2003, when Abbas was captured by U.S. Special Forces in Baghdad?
* Throughout the 1980’s, when Abu Nidal and his organization, sponsored by Saddam’s Iraq, “mounted terrorist operations in 20 countries, killing about 300 people and wounding hundreds more.” Or in 2002, when Nidal died in Baghdad?
* In 1988, in Halabja, when Saddam ordered “the largest-scale chemical weapons (CW) attack against a civilian population in modern times”?
* In 1991, when an again-almost-nuclear Saddam invaded, without provocation, neighboring Kuwait? Armed with the largest coalition in history, the United States acted, over the objection of a certain Massachusetts senator, to repel the invasion, but not before Iraq fired missiles into Israel and Saudi Arabia and torched its own oil fields. Regrettably, in retrospect, the U.S., believing Saddam would soon fall, did not finish the job and encouraged Iraqis to rise up, only to pull back and watch them be slaughtered by Saddam’s henchmen after the cease-fire.
* Throughout the 1990’s, when Saddam violated virtually every provision of that cease-fire, brutally suppressing all internal challenges to his power along the way? When, during that period, Saddam had Iraqi forces routinely fire at American planes patrolling the no-fly zone?
* In 1993, when Saddam plotted to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush on his visit to Kuwait?
* When, in May of 1994, Saddam ordered amputation of the ears of approximately 3,500 of his former troops?
* When Saddam ordered the crushing of a two-year old toddler’s feet when her father fell under suspicion?
* When his sons, potential heirs to the regime, tortured Iraqi Olympians and toured the streets of Baghdad looking for women to rape?
* When Saddam initiated a system of financial rewards for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, including members of Hamas and other radical organizations?
* In 1998, when Saddam kicked out weapons inspectors? Those inspectors were only reintroduced to Iraq by President Bush’s threat of imminent military force, a threat which could not be credibly maintained in perpetuity.
* When, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Saddam issued the following statement?
* When Saddam violated UN Resolutions 678, 686, 687, 688, 707, 715, 949, 1051, 1060, 1115, 1134, 1137, 1154, 1194, 1205 and 1284, leading up the final act in 2002-03?
* When, as the Duelfer Report details, Saddam perverted the Oil-for-Food program, turned the world against the sanctions programs aimed against him and engaged in a systemic campaign to bribe French, Russian, Chinese and other UN leaders?
* Or right before the war, when Saddam was obligated by UN Resolution 1441 to unconditionally and verifiably disarm or face “serious consequences”? Saddam did not comply. After a decade of defiance, would another slap on the wrist have been a serious consequence?
* With the 9/11 Commission hearings, which raised more questions than they answered about long-debated ties between Saddam’s Iraq and al Qaeda? [The evidence here really is inconclusive, but if the lessons of pre-war intelligence teach us anything, it is that we should not jump to conclusions, in either direction, or rule out that which is clearly possible].
* Or in January 2004, by which time approximately 270 mass graves had been reported and 53 found and confirmed in the killing fields of Iraq?
What about the weapons of mass destruction? Read the Duelfer Report for more on that, as well as this and this. We have to think long and hard about how the world’s assumptions were so wrong about that issue and how to improve, but, centrally, those are intelligence questions, not political ones. Presidents and Prime Ministers are forced with life and death choices in real time, not with the luxury of hindsight. I, for one, am far more content to accept that we invaded Iraq and found no weapons of mass destruction, rather than invading and, as many feared, seeing those weapons dropped on the heads of our troops. [And, as a final word, I would say that there is no final word on this. Again, I’m deeply skeptical of the notion that we really now know for absolute certain what Saddam had and did not have and where such weapons may be today. Given some of the alternatives, I sincerely hope they didn’t exist.]
Again, rambling as all of the foregoing may seem, it remains a highly incomplete list of why military action was justified. An attempted summary: America’s containment policies towards Iraq were no longer working. Saddam had twisted the international sanctions regime to his advantage, to the point where world opinion had turned against them. Further, the Duelfer Report indicates Saddam’s intent and capability to aggressively reconstitute his WMD programs shortly after any lifting of sanctions. As it now appears, three members of the UN Security Council (France, Russia and China) were receiving substantial bribes from Saddam’s regime, deterring the world body from approving of any kind of decisive action.
Weapons inspectors, only allowed back into Iraq under threat of a massive imminent invasion, could not possibly provide the level of unconditional assurance the U.S. had every right to seek within the time frame they were given. In a sense, that process was doomed from the beginning due to its very circular dynamics (i.e. Saddam historically played games with or exiled inspectors when force was not imminent; however, credibly maintaining that threat indefinitely would have been massively expensive and unrealistic logistically. Such delay would eventually have only led to more games from Saddam and time was on his side until a policy of zero-tolerance was enacted and enforced).
Saddam’s track record of military recklessness, support for terrorism and an obsession with weapons of mass destruction gave the U.S. every reason to consider his regime an unacceptable threat in a post-9/11 world. The unspeakable brutality of his regime was a convincing moral rationale for action and a decade of defiance of a laundry list of UN Resolutions was a convincing legal rationale.
Tactically, unlike Iran and North Korea, the United States had a recent track record of fighting the Iraqi army and the likelihood of military disaster was quite low. In fact, the war itself, not to be confused with its aftermath, was a triumphant success. More on that in the final part, but, suffice to say, we sometimes take for granted everything that has gone right in Iraq. Quite a lot, in fact, did go right.
In the end, some would have you believe that the U.S. went to war to serve the narrow ideological interests of some sort of “neo-conservative” cabal. That cabal apparently includes the following:
Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Kenneth Pollack, Christopher Hitchens, Joe Biden, John McCain, John Edwards and even, at times, John Kerry, along with many, many others.
I cite these moderate to left-leaning figures, not to mock them, but because they shared the same assumptions, and in many cases, advocated the same policies as the “neocons” (whatever that term means anyway). Some of their facts may occasionally have been wrong, but they were on the right side of history nonetheless. If only the latter two, in particular, would stick to that conviction.
Of course, Saddam never attained the capabilities of his infamously tyrannical predecessors (such as the Nazis or, his idol, Josef Stalin). For some, that is proof that America was wrong to wage war to remove him from power. For many of us, however, it is reason to be proud and grateful that he was removed when he was.
The decision to go to war was the right one. A year and half later, what, then, have we lost and what have we gained?
More on that in Part IV.
UPDATE: I re-read the link regarding mass graves and updated the post accordingly; 270 were reported, "only" 53 have been found. I imagine that is small comfort to those who are buried within them.
Â« Close It
LAW: The Parallel
The folks over at Daily Kos have only just now figured out the obvious parallels between the Dred Scott decision's reliance on non-textual substantive due process theory to elevate the rights of slaveholders to the status of a protected constitional right and Roe v. Wade's reliance on similar non-textual theories to elevate the rights of the mothers of unborn children to have an abortion to the status of a protected constitional right. (Link via Sullivan). Yes, anyone who pays attention to constitutional law debates understood the parallel Bush was trying to draw, however inartfully.
BASEBALL: Caminiti Dies
Ken Caminiti has died, at age 41, of a heart attack. Caminiti's death may well be a wake-up call to the major leagues about the hazards of steroids, which he admitted using during his career. Or not; he had apparently been battling a cocaine addiction recently, and cocaine, of course, is not exactly good for your heart either. In any event, a terrible tragedy for a guy who loved the game and gave it everything he had.
I first saw Caminiti when he debuted with the Astros; he drew comparisons to George Brett after a hot first week or two, then didn't hit like that again until the steroids. A lot of people will remember Caminiti as a heavily-muscled slugger, but the memory I'll always have is of him in his Houston days, endlessly diving over railings and into dugouts to catch errant foul popups.
POLITICS: Kerry At War, or, Rather, War At Kerry
Many people, starting as usual with Powerline, are piling on John Kerry's answers in this NY Times Magazine profile of his foreign policy views. Geraghty says that it "confirms every conservative’s worst fears and suspicions about Kerry’s views on how to fight terror." Eugene Volokh is appalled by Kerry's analogy of terrorism to illegal gambling and prostitution, our responses to which "are examples of practical surrender, or at least a cease-fire punctuated by occasional but largely half-hearted and ineffectual sorties." Maguire notes Kerry's hesitancy to talk even to the sympathetic ears at the Times, and points out, "if Kerry does not think he can communicate clearly with a Timesman, how can we take seriously his belief that he can sell his message to a cold, uncaring world?" Lileks, as usual, offers the most cutting critique of Kerry for saying that "[w]e have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance":
But that's not the key phrase. This matters: We have to get back to the place we were.
But when we were there we were blind. When we were there we losing. When we were there we died. We have to get back to the place we were. We have to get back to 9/10? We have to get back to the place we were. So we can go through it all again? We have to get back to the place we were. And forget all we’ve learned and done? We have to get back to the place we were. No. I don’t want to go back there.
There's more; read the whole thing.
The profile is an astonishing caricature of Kerry, and all the more frightening because it doesn't seem that the writer - this is the Times Magazine, after all - wants to do a hatchet job on Kerry. There's the elitism:
Read More Â»
There's the insistence on a posture of seeking the approval of other nations:
This, by the way, is precisely the usage of the word "sensitive" that so many Democrats said Kerry wasn't using when Dick Cheney mocked him for using the word to describe the proper approach to the war on terror. There's the use, as Prof. Volokh suggested, of obviously losing efforts as a role model:
I'd agree that these can be useful supplemental tools, all of them - in fact, several of the Patriot Act's provisions are modeled on what we could already do in drug investigations - but I'm sorry, the war on drugs is just not a winning model.
There's the telling contrast on the role of states:
Again, half right - it's true that Al Qaeda's operations seem starkly nihilist and anarchist . . . except that it does aim at a political vision of a radical Islamist caliphate, and it has gained crucial advantages from states who tolerate it.
There's the complete misunderstanding of how we introduce democracy in the Middle East:
''You can't impose it on people,'' he said. ''You have to bring them to it. You have to invite them to it. You have to nurture the process.''
Um, yeah. And how would the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have gone about acepting that invitation, precisely? How do you deliver it to the people of Syria?
Leave aside that "the old forces they remember from the colonial days" would include the French (and the Turks) but not the U.S. And that the Saudis, for one, were never colonized. Is Kerry unaware that the religious leaders in many parts of the Islamic world are either part of the governing apparatus (Iran) or on the public payroll (Saudi Arabia)?
Mubarak is, at best, an evil to be tolerated while we work on the heart of the region. Kerry thinks he can be helpful? And "getting American businesspeople involved" - yeah, I'm sure lots of companies will want the kind of good press that Kerry has given to Halliburton for its work in Iraq. What's most ominous about the "American businesspeople" line is the suggestion that the solution here is an economic one, which completely misreads the political-religious nature of the problem. Islamism isn't communism; you can't break it just by touting the free market.
Perhaps Kerry can enlighten us on whether he thinks the Palestinians have cooperated with the "road map" sufficiently to move down that road.
No, I can't satirize that. How could you?
Â« Close It
SCIENCE: Feathered Fiend
So, we think we know dinosaurs. But answer this: how do we know they didn't have feathers? After all, research seems to indicate that they were closer relatives to today's birds than today's lizards.
Well, scientists have now unearthed an early ancestor of Tyrannosaurus Rex who had feathers. And that could suggest that the most fearsome meat-eater of all did too.
October 10, 2004
WAR/POLITICS: The Right War, The Right Place, The Right Time – PART II
This is the second part of a four-part series on why the Iraq War, contrary to the position de jour of Senator John Kerry, was the right war in the right place at the right time (see Part I here). America acted both wisely and decisively in removing Saddam Hussein from power and is doing the only right thing in helping the Iraqi people get their country back on its feet.
Why, though, of North Korea, Iran and Iraq was a military response appropriate for the latter but not for the first two?
Let’s look at them one at a time.
Read More Â»
North Korea, a staggeringly repressive and twisted regime, is a hard-line Stalinist government which starves its own people so that it can spend its money on conventional and nuclear weapons. It throws out wild anti-American rhetoric, acts in a militarily provocative nature, tramples over agreements and has brazenly pulled out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It is, arguably, the primary threat to the United States.
Yet, North Korea is a regime which acts out of extreme weakness. Its Soviet patrons have faded into history. Its southern counterpart, just across the DMZ, has become a thriving democratic society. Its primary ideological enemy, America, maintains a huge military presence on its doorstep. It is a regime which is contained and feels threatened.
By way of analogy, North Korea is like the last survivor of gang of armed robbers who unsuccessfully tried to knock over a liquor store. Its partners are now dead, the store’s alarm is ringing and the cops have the place surrounded. If it starts a shoot-out or surrenders, it will be the end of the road. It apparently views its only rational course as negotiating with a gun (i.e. nuclear weapons) pointed at the head of the owner.
A military attack on North Korea is an eventuality no one should desire. It has the military forces and artillery to devastate key South Korean population centers and kill thousands of Americans in the opening hours of any conflict. Its nuclear weapons could be fired at American forces in Japan or even, possibly, American territory. North Korea, as we know it, would be destroyed and its regime would fall, but at what cost.
There are a whole host of bad options with North Korea and only one strikes me as particularly viable: some sort of policy of resolute engagement (well outlined here). In particular, unilaterally giving in to every North Korean demand would set an awful precedent to aspiring violators of the NPT. I wish we could quietly ignore North Korea’s weapons and threats and wait for its eventual collapse (i.e. simply give it no reason to lash out). However, actively negotiating its way back from the brink is probably necessary. Bush has chosen to do this while not buckling to North Korean demands of face-to-face talks and firmly demanding the inclusion of other relevant parties. He is choosing what looks like the worst possible course of action. Except for all the others.
In any case, focusing primarily on North Korea, to the exclusion of lingering Middle East threats, never struck me as most logical second phase of a War on Terror begun on September 11th.
What, then, about Iran?
Clearly, the U.S. has few longer-term enemies than the Islamic Republic which decries us as the “Great Satan”, famously held American Embassy personnel as hostages, supports terrorism and trumpets its desire to destroy the state of Israel. Its advancing nuclear program now appears to have been far beyond that of Iraq, a state we once supported against Iran in the 1980s. In fact, the bill of particulars against Iran is almost as long as that against Iraq.
It would be too much of an effort to explain every reason why the Iranian regime is repugnant. Perhaps Salman Rushdie can do that for you. A few stand out: its nuclear development, unbending hatred of Israel, involvement in the Khobar Towers bombing and ties to al Qaeda.
You want to get rid of the Iranian regime? Sign me up.
The problem is how.
There is significant support for engaging Iran among European states, which, even though many appeased him, were willing to stipulate to the awfulness of Saddam Hussein. Also, Iran is a huge country, with a stock of religious fanatics we don’t need to look hard to see – many are in highest positions of government. However, that government does have some sense of legitimacy; it is far from our understanding of democracy, but it was originally brought into power by popular movement, not simply military coup. Furthermore, as a legal matter, Iran has not flaunted the will of the United Nations as consistently as Iraq and the United States was not in a state of cease-fire with Iran, as was the case with Iraq. Above all, Iran is an enormously complex country, one which makes our understanding of Iraq seem profound by comparison. Any plan which calls for the occupation of Iran - at any stage - would be folly.
There are many options for Iran: massive air strikes, direct negotiation, détente, tougher economic sanctions, etc… Similar to Daniel Drezner, I personally support a policy of more carrots and sticks; giving the Iranians some of the benefits of American engagement, while showing them the tangible consequences of misbehavior (i.e. pulling back such benefits). I think the way to deal with them is to show strength while being willing to talk and simultaneously being prepared to use incremental force. The more the regime opens up, the more likely its internal collapse will be. The mutual interests we both have in an Iraq democratically controlled by a Shia majority are a good starting point and I think Bush alone, among our two candidates, has the hard-line credibility to be able to come to the table without appearing like a weakling.
It seems fair to say that military action against Iran, especially as a distinct and overriding alternative to action against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, would have been misguided.
The foregoing has been an argument against taking certain military actions and in favor of engagement strategies and diplomacy. In the case of Iraq, however, such options were simply not viable.
In Iraq, in late 2002, it was time to act.
More on why in Part III.
Â« Close It
BASEBALL: Wasn’t That Also The Title of Brian Cashman’s Autobiography?
Watching the playoffs, I must say, even as a sworn enemy of reality TV, I had to laugh at some of the promos for Fox’s “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss.”
FOOTBALL: A Town, A Team, A Blog
In fact, between the Astros series, the election and, of course, the Longhorns (despite their loss yesterday to Oklahoma), it’s a good site to check out overall.
POLITICS: Quick Links 10/10/04
*North Georgia's own Ricky West on Max Cleland and Jimmy Carter: "Thing is, the two Georgians most cited by the MSM (Cleland and Jimmy Carter) are so far outside of the pulse of Georgia, neither could win a state-wide election even if they were running against each other."
*Check out Jonah Goldberg with what has to be the angriest G-File ever, on Kerry's Iraq posturing. A sample:
And one more:
*In case you missed it a few weeks ago, here's your summit:
(Emphasis added). Kerry demands that we have a summit, and his proposed summit depends on the inclusion of people who want to negotiate with terrorists. But don't hold your breath waiting for Kerry to get called on this.
BASKETBALL: Let Me Tell You Why
Mark Cuban - taking a break from stumping for "The Benefactor" - does something that's rare in today's sports world and offers a lengthy explanation to the fans of his decision to let Steve Nash walk.
I'm not thrilled with the Mets repatriating Omar Minaya instead of finally bringing in someone with a fresh perspective and the authority to make decisions without much input from ownership. Minaya was previously marinated in the Mets' decisionmaking process, which is terribly broken.
A commenter named Wally, over at Avkash's place, rounds up a complete list of Minaya's moves in Montreal. Go check it out (scroll down).
WAR/POLITICS: Go John Go!
Make sure you check out Tim Blair for a well-deserved bout of "[h]urtful, savage, imbalanced and triumphalist ranting" at Saturday's election victory by Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Howard's opponent, Mark Latham, sounds like an an Aussie Howard Dean:
Meanwhile, some irregularities but no widespread violence as Afghans went to the polls for the first time since the US liberated their country from the Taliban.
In both cases, of course, the elections represent a setback for John Kerry's campaign. Afghanistan is a clear triumph for the Bush Administration; we're hardly home free there, but the ability to conduct an election free of violence gives the lie to claims that the country has fallen apart, and gives hope for similar progress in Iraq. That's terrible news for Kerry.
In Australia, of course, Kerry's sister - the head of his campaign there - created a stir in mid-September when she basically told Autralians to side against the United States by voting Howard out of office:
Diana Kerry, younger sister of the Democrat presidential candidate, told The Weekend Australian that the Bali bombing and the recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta clearly showed the danger to Australians had increased.
"Australia has kept faith with the US and we are endangering the Australians now by this wanton disregard for international law and multilateral channels," she said, referring to the invasion of Iraq.
Asked if she believed the terrorist threat to Australians was now greater because of the support for Republican George W. Bush, Ms Kerry said: "The most recent attack was on the Australian embassy in Jakarta -- I would have to say that."
Ms Kerry, who taught school in Indonesia for 15 years until 2000, is heading a campaign called Americans Overseas for Kerry which aims to secure the votes of Americans abroad -- including the more than 100,000 living in Australia.
Howard's victory stands as a rebuke to the Kerrys and their ham-handed attempt to pry another ally out of the coalition. And, of course - of much greater importance - it preserves the role of our most faithful ally as a vigilant force against terrorism.
OTHER SPORTS: A Word From Joe Louis
Until John Hinderaker at Powerline pointed it out, I hadn't realized that the "he can run but he can't hide" line that President Bush has been using on the campaign trail and in Friday night's debate was actually coined by boxer Joe Louis. Another example of how sports shapes our language and view of the world. Go read Hindrocket's whole writeup on Louis and the phrase's origin.
(Of course, for historical accuracy it's not quite right to call Louis just "the Bomber" - he was known as the Brown Bomber (it was the 1930s-40s, after all; no need to sugarcoat the world Louis lived in and had to contend with)).
Has Andruw Jones' home run come down yet?
BASEBALL: Lima Time
Tremendous, tremendous performance tonight by Jose Lima, a guy who's been given up for dead many times in his career, and often for very good reasons. Of course, as is well known, Lima's usefulness is in direct proportion to the size of the ballpark he's pitching in. I was dubious about leaving him in to finish the game with Gagne ready to go, but he slammed the door quite efficiently. Reminded me a lot of Bobby Jones' performance against the Giants in the 2000 NLDS, a guy who's had a checkered career just putting together his best-pitched game at exactly the right moment. And you just have to love a guy like Lima, frankly; he's one of the game's true characters.
October 9, 2004
POLITICS: "John Edwards and I . . . "
The October issue of Catholic Digest carries extended interviews with both Bush and Kerry, although it's not entirely clear from the context whether these were sit-down interviews or were, as often seems to happen with these sorts of things, written answers submitted in response to written questions.
I didn't find anything all that enlightening in the answers, but there was one tic in Kerry's answers that seems oddly illuminating. Kerry was asked 13 questions - 5 on economic issues, one open-ended "why should a Catholic vote for you" question, 6 on religion or foreign policy, and one on the Latino vote.
In his answers to each of the questions on the economy, as well as in his answer to the open-ended question, Kerry worked Edwards' name into his answer, usually by opening a sentence with "John Edwards and I . . . " In none of the other answers did he mention his running mate. Presumably, Kerry thinks of Edwards as rubbing off some sort of positive air when dealing with bread-and-butter issues, but doesn't find the need to bring him into other areas.
BASEBALL: Scrambled Schedule
The invaluable Jim Baker has a column over at Baseball Prospectus (subscription only) carving up an assertion by Frank DeFord that there should be more teams in the baseball playoffs. As Baker points out, the current Divisional Series schedules have already forced most of us who work for a living to abandon hope of being able to see all the games, and he gives a little bit of hypothetical scheduling to demonstrate how awful a schedule might look if you doubled the size of the first round and still wanted to have no overlapping game times. (Baker also does a quick number-crunching exercise to show that Derek Jeter is a solid playoff performer, compared to a number of playoff veterans (notably Manny Ramirez) who have failed to perform to their regular-season level, but that Jeter can hardly be said to have raised the level of his game in October, unlike, say, Pete Rose or Reggie Jackson.
WAR/POLITICS: The Right War, The Right Place, The Right Time - PART I
The United States and its coalition partners were right to invade Iraq to depose and disarm Saddam Hussein and we are right to be staying to help the Iraqi people combat a ruthless insurgency and develop a stable, representative government. President Bush made the right strategic decision at the right time.
Why Iraq? This is the first of a very lengthy, four-part post on that question. (Like the Crank, I’m sorry to be short-changing baseball - which I do love - but I feel that these are important issues and that this may be the very biggest.).
As we live in the continuing wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, America has a responsibility to aggressively confront rogue regimes, allies of terror and repressive dictatorships wherever and whenever it can. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq emphatically fit all three categories.
I strongly disagree with the argument that state sponsors of terror are irrelevant to the Global War on Terrorism simply because the specific terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 were sub-state actors. Following the successful invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban, the United States was right to broaden its sights and to act to head off gathering threats, correct festering wrongs and enforce long-ignored international resolutions. The approximately 3,000 victims of September 11th deserve no less.
The main question is where, post-Afghanistan, should the next front have been? Let's examine that.
Read More Â»
Believing that war should be, if not a last resort, certainly not the first one, I reject the notion that our response should’ve been to attack one of our allies. Two examples come to mind.
Michael Moore has disingenuously suggested that, in response to (a) the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis, (b) other legitimately repugnant behavior and (c) several utterly facile conspiracy theories, the United States should have attacked Saudi Arabia. Following such thinking: would the occupation of Mecca and Medina serve as a disincentive to al Qaeda recruiting and win the U.S. support and respect in the Muslim world? Moore is not a serious figure and I will pay him the complement of not taking his ideas seriously.
Similarly, Kevin Drum, motivated by legitimate frustration with Osama bin Laden’s elusiveness as well as myopic partisanship, has previously suggested that President Bush has been irresponsible in not openly invading Pakistan. The invaluable cooperation the Musharraf government is giving the U.S., the very apparent risk of provoking a destabilizing Islamist coup and the resulting threat of nuclear war on the Indian sub-continent are apparently acceptable costs of an anything-but-Bush approach to foreign policy driven by impulsive frustration.
Should we demand, and are we demanding, more of untrustworthy allies like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? Yes. Are there ways of doing that short of war? You bet.
On to more serious arguments.
During the period in question, the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba, all of which are objectively enemies of the United States.
However, some represented more realistic threats than others. Cuba is primarily a political and ideological enemy of the United States; its support for terror is somewhat incidental to its place on this list. Libya was a long-term enemy of the U.S., but one which had substantially mellowed its behavior, even prior to 9/11. Colonel Qadhafi was aptly characterized as “the rogue who came in from the cold” even before the Iraq invasion prompted his most dramatic reversal of behavior (more on that later) and eventual removal from the list.
Sudan and Syria are legitimate sponsors of terror which are receiving the increased pressure they deserve from the United States. However, Syria’s support for Hezbollah is primarily tied to Lebanese politics and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Most Americans would agree that that is a conflict we should seek to reconcile, not actively fight ourselves. Sudan, as the Darfur crisis indicates, is a repulsive state, but also an absolute basket case. As a hotbed of al Qaeda, it deserves our attention, but is a place where legitimate humanitarian concerns would likely subsume any military mission. In other words, both require vigilant attention, but would’ve been poor choices for immediate post-Afghanistan action.
Which brings us to the “Axis of Evil” – three states, North Korea, Iran and Iraq, which are not really an “axis” because they did not act in concert, but which were led by undeniably “evil” and threatening regimes.
Of the three, Iraq was, by far, the most logical choice to confront first.
In fact, I believe Iraq is the only one of the three that was a good candidate for direct military confrontation.
More on why in Part II.
Â« Close It
BASEBALL: Reality Bites Back
Well, someone forgot to tell David Ortiz and the Red Sox that they aren’t “living in a world of reality” if they think they can win it all.
David Pinto, in his pre-game comments, noted that this would be Boston’s first sweep of a post-season series since 1975 against Oakland. (He also had some interesting comments regarding Kelvim Escobar’s torso.) Anyway, Ortiz’s Todd Pratt-style walk-off home run over the Green Monster advances Boston to what is probably an inevitable showdown with the Evil Empire.
Should be fun, or as some might say, wicked awesome.
WAR: What We Take For Granted
This picture says a lot. As usual, a Churchill quote comes to mind:
That quote may need to be updated. The little woman in the little burqa in the little hut in post-Taliban Afghanistan, risking her life to vote in a process she may not even fully comprehend, may be the best tribute of all.
UPDATE: John Hillen offers an amusing corrective to negative media spin of the Afghan election. See here for more.
October 8, 2004
POLITICS: Round Two
Well, that was an improvement. Bush was visibly livelier, faster on his feet, more in command. He didn't use every single line he needed, didn't uncork some of his most powerful weapons. But he hit Kerry, and hard, on several occasions.
Kerry was mostly the same as the first debate; as noted, he's a good debater. But tonight we saw even more clearly the real Kerry in his repeated determination to deny who he is, run from his record, duck the "liberal" label that so aptly fits him. If Kerry isn't as liberal as Ted Kennedy and Mike Dukakis . . . well, why can't he find examples of how?
Kerry on Saddam's threat, same debate just a few minutes later:
And what's interesting is, it's a threat that has grown while the president has been preoccupied with Iraq, where there wasn't a threat.
Of course, for my perspective Bush's best answers were early on, on the war, although to be honest some of them don't seem as great, or at least as new, on paper. This was the home run:
BUSH: No, I appreciate that. I -- listen, I -- we've got a great country. I love our values. And I recognize I've made some decisions that have caused people to not understand the great values of our country. I remember when Ronald Reagan was the president; he stood on principle. Somebody called that stubborn. He stood on principle standing up to the Soviet Union, and we won that conflict. Yet at the same time, he was very -- we were very unpopular in Europe because of the decisions he made.
BUSH: I recognize that taking Saddam Hussein out was unpopular. But I made the decision because I thought it was in the right interests of our security. You know, I've made some decisions on Israel that's unpopular. I wouldn't deal with Arafat, because I felt like he had let the former president down, and I don't think he's the kind of person that can lead toward a Palestinian state. And people in Europe didn't like that decision. And that was unpopular, but it was the right thing to do. I believe Palestinians ought to have a state, but I know they need leadership that's committed to a democracy and freedom, leadership that would be willing to reject terrorism. I made a decision not to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is where our troops could be brought to -- brought in front of a judge, an unaccounted judge.
BUSH: I don't think we ought to join that. That was unpopular. And so, what I'm telling you is, is that sometimes in this world you make unpopular decisions because you think they're right. We'll continue to reach out. Listen, there is 30 nations involved in Iraq, some 40 nations involved in Afghanistan. People love America. Sometimes they don't like the decisions made by America, but I don't think you want a president who tries to become popular and does the wrong thing. You don't want to join the International Criminal Court just because it's popular in certain capitals in Europe.
Even if indirectly, he did finally deal with the Tora Bora garbage, by talking at the end about military decisions being open to question. Of course, I was thrilled to hear him stress the leadership theme I was pressing for earlier today:
I know I'm biased. And it wasn't a knockout. But I certainly thought, especially after how Bush got clobbered in the press after the last debate, that this was a clear win.
UPDATES: And what was with Kerry talking about Red Sox fans living in a fantasy land? Didn't he see Ortiz' home run?
The transcript doesn't capture this moment, where Bush basically swatted Charlie Gibson aside to drop the hammer on Kerry:
GIBSON: Mr. President, let's extend for a minute...
BUSH: Let me just -- I've got to answer this.
GIBSON: Exactly. And with Reservists being held on duty...
BUSH: Let me answer what he just said, about around the world.
GIBSON: Well, I want to get into the issue of the back-door draft...
BUSH: You tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going alone. Tell Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland we're going alone. There are 30 countries there. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You cannot lead an alliance if you say, you know, you're going alone. And people listen. They're sacrificing with us.
(The other time he tried to say "Berlusconi," Bush gave up half way through).
Why do we have another debate limited to the economy? Seems like we covered a lot of that tonight. The foreign policy stuff, I think we can say they've repeated themselves plenty by now. But there's a host of issues (social issues come to mind) that haven't been much ventilated.
Kerry, after Bush called him the most liberal Senator:
Mr. President, you're batting 0 for 2.
I mean, seriously -- labels don't mean anything. What means something is: Do you have a plan? And I want to talk about my plan some more -- I hope we can.
Say it with me: "competence, not ideology." I guarantee you the Bush camp is giddy tonight; maybe they're wrong, but it sure looked like a Bush win to me, and I suspect it did to them as well.
You will notice once again that in discussing our strategy in the war on terror, Kerry never mentions freedom or democracy and never refers to us fighting anyone but Al Qaeda.
Starting to see some reactions . . . I'd agree that it was a good sign that Kerry was mostly on the defensive.
WAR/POLITICS: The Big Picture
Tonight's debate will do much to decide this election. The president also needs for it to help the country focus on something broader: a debate about the fundamental question of what kind of war we are now engaged in. That is the question that has divided our political system since at least the January 2002 State of the Union speech, when President Bush labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” None of this is new ground for those of us who have followed these questions closely and debated them endlessly. But as the time of decision approaches, it is useful once again to go back to first principles on the issues that divide us.
Here's the bottom line:
Kerry: We are at war with Al Qaeda and the remnants of the Taliban because they attacked us; we are at war in Iraq because we attacked them.
Bush: We are at war with any and all international terror groups, whether or not they have previously attacked us, and we can win only when we have removed or fundamentally altered the regimes that support or harbor them.
That's the distinction. Let's explore. There are a number of different strains of thought among President Bush’s critics on the Left, ranging from those whose disagreements focus principally on the mechanics of war-fighting to the Michael Moore/Ted Rall=type lefties who opposed the war in Afghanistan and would oppose basically anything that involves the exercise of American power. The latter group, of course, is beyond reason or argument.
The principal thrust of the argument advanced by many mainstream Democrats, however, and recently embraced by John Kerry, goes something like this:
1. The US may only go to war (a) to respond to an attack, (b) to interdict an imminent threat, or (c) with the sanction of the UN. In other words, we have the right to engage in direct self-defense ((a) or (b)), but the legitimacy of any mission that goes beyond direct self-defense depends on the agreement of collective bodies like the UN and, to a lesser extent, NATO.
On one level or another, this has been the argument of critics like Howard Dean, Al Gore, and Bob Graham, and John Kerry has now embraced it by calling the Iraq war a "diversion". I think I’ve been fair in setting out the syllogistic quality of this line of thought, which in its defense does have deep roots in Western thought about war. I actually agree with some of its underlying philosophy, although as I’ll discuss below, the current situation demands the competing argument of the Bush Administration and its supporters that this approach is hopelessly insufficient to deal with the ongoing threat of international terrorism.
For all of John Kerry’s past efforts to appeal to pro- and anti-war voters alike, there has long been copious evidence to suggest that this is what Kerry actually thinks. One of the clearest signs came back in June, when Kerry said this:
In short: we are at war with a single organization (Al Qaeda) and have gone and started a second, separate war in Iraq, without meeting necessary preconditions for doing so.
What Bush, his administration and its supporters (myself included) have consistently argued is that the old way of looking at these issues is wrong, for a number of reasons; I'll focus here on two.
1. "Al Qaeda" is not the only enemy. Yes, that's who attacked us. But the goal here isn't just to put them out of business but to end the terrorist threat to the U.S. once and for all. To my mind, we are at war with (a) any organized terrorist group that can reach across national borders or within the U.S.; (b) any state that sponsors, supports or gives aid and comfort to any such group. Even if you discount the evidence of Saddam's overtures to bin Laden, the fact that Saddam had a long history of actively supporting some terrorists and harboring others makes the ability to tie him to bin Laden almost academic; you can't well say you are at war with terrorist sponsors and leave Saddam in place. Remember, after all, that Al Qaeda itself is only a loose association of groups anyway, formed by a merger with the Egyptian group Islamic Jihad. It's sort of silly to have arguments over whether, say, Ansar al-Islam or Zarqawi were or are part of Al Qaeda; the similarity in rhetoric, tactics, goals and ideology makes them part of the same problem regardless of where the lines on their org charts point.
2. We can't win the war without broadening it. Because we are fighting a type of enemy, united by its ideas and tactics rather than as a single organism, we can't win just by rolling up body counts, capturing territory and choking of funds, although all of those are helpful. What we need to do is change the dynamics of the states that have fostered the problem, both by supporting such organizations and by encouraging the hatreds that breed terrorists.
The choice between Bush and Kerry is clear, it is fundamental, and it is essential to our security. It's a matter of life and death that we get it right.
POLITICS: A Prediction
I just got an email from the RNC with an update of the "Kerry on Iraq" video (linked up top). I predict that, in tonight's debate, President Bush will send people to the website if Kerry tries to claim that his position has been consistent.
BLOG: The Playoffs
Yes, I'm aware, as one of my commenters noted below, that there's been a lot of politics and not so much baseball here lately. Hopefully, I'll be able to do a bit more baseball coverage as we get further on. But I'll be frank here: between my lack of much rooting interest in these playoffs, the dispiriting collapse of the Mets, the fact that I've been doing this for five years now and sometimes run out of new things to say about baseball, and the high stakes of this year's presidential election, yes, I expect to be doing a lot of politics between now and November 2. And if you do come just for the baseball - and I appreciate that many of you do - you can always hit the "Click Here For Baseball-Only Content" link at the top to make the rest of the posts disappear.
POLITICS: The Leadership Gap
There's another thing Bush needs to drive home tonight, and it's a point he's more comfortable making. Here's something like what I'd like to hear:
You know, I've been listening in this campaign to Senator Kerry talk about foreign policy, domestic policy. And it's clear that we have some fundamental differences in philosophy. But leadership matters too. You can't tell people you're going to get things done better if you can't lead.
There's a common thread throughout Bush's career, from his admittedly checkered business career, to his days as Texas Governor, to his presidential candidacy, to his domestic policy and his conduct of foreign affairs. Bush's expertise is in finding out how many people he needs on board to get a particular job done, and putting together a coalition that will do the job. He has a practical politician's understanding that you need to make concessions to win allies on any issue, so you don't bring along more than you need. And sometimes, you sacrifice some long-term good will to do it, from inflaming Jim Jeffords during the tax cut flap in 2001 to enlisting allies in Iraq (namely, Spain's Aznar government) who couldn't survive the poilitical pressures caused by going along. But in each case, Bush got what he needed.
Kerry's record couldn't be more opposite. Kerry's done nothing with respect to our allies this whole campaign - both the Iraqi allies and the countries that have sent troops - but scorn and insult them. There's a reason his Senate Democrat colleagues have never followed him anywhere, let alone cobbling together enough help from Senate Republicans to pass a bill. There's a reason the great majority of Kerry's peers in Vietnam, as well as the guy who spent the most time in his command on his boat, are willing to drop everything to run around the country opposing him. There's a reason almost nobody can find close Kerry friends among his peers anywhere he's been. Even Kerry's finest hours in the Senate were either lone-wolf investigations or tasks like the POW issue that nobody else wanted to get involved in. Kerry's not a coalition-builder, not a leader, not a guy who gets things done. And Bush, who is all those things, needs to point that out.
UPDATE: Linked this post to this week's Beltway Traffic Jam.
POLITICS: The Kryptonite Stays Home
As has been pointed out in numerous places, most of John Kerry's "plan" for Iraq involves claiming to do the same things Bush claims he's already doing. Yes, partisans on each side can argue over what's actually getting done and how much more could be (see here on the latest iteration of the Bush plan), although if Kerry thinks he can get more done faster and better just by pouring more resources into Iraq, he's underestimated how much more difficult he will have made the task of raising those resources after campaigning on a platform of "we should be spending that money at home instead" and "we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them at home."
The key to how Kerry tries to bridge that gap, of course, is by claiming he can obtain - and the president should have obtained - more foreign support, including the blessing of key players at the UN. But there is an enormous vulnerability there for Kerry: a skilled debater could expose the childish naivete behind Kerry's faith in the European and UN cavalry, especially after he was finally forced to concede that the French and Germans won't be sending troops. Likewise, the Duelfer report from the Iraq Survey Group report has revealed the extent to which the inspections process, the UN Oil-for-Food program and our "allies" in France, Russia and Germany were hopelessly compromised by corruption and bribery (see here, here, here, here and here for starters). Roger Simon explains why this is so fatal to Kerry, whose worldview simply can't survive contact with these scandals.
But I fear that Bush will never use them. The irony is that Kerry has this great reputation for diplomacy when all he does is defecate all over our allies, while Bush is supposed to be Mr. Ugly American, yet Bush is the one who often pulls his domestic political punches out of what can only be concern that his remarks will harm our ability to work with other countries. If Bush spent tonight working some riffs from Roger Simon and Mark Steyn and Ralph Peters about the French, the Germans, the Russians the UN - their military impotence, their corruption - he could leave Kerry's signature issue in a smoldering pile of ash. But then Bush would have to go back and work with Chirac, Putin, Schroder, and Annan, so instead he plays nice.
Sometimes being the only grownup in the room stinks.
POLITICS: Where Credit Is Due
You have to give the Kerry camp this: they've been very effective, albeit with the cooperation of the press, in spinning the results of the first two debates to be a smashing victory for Kerry and a draw for Edwards. This is where the arrival of the Clinton people comes up big. They can't and won't make a difference in improving the quality of Kerry's message, to the extent he even has any. But contentless spin, subject-changing and news cycle management are their expertise, and we've seen it in play.
Did top Kerry campaign staffer and former Ted Kennedy aide actually say that she never saw Edwards in the Senate either? Sure looks that way from this partial transcript (albeit without a link), but I suspect she just had a brain cramp and meant to say Cheney. Still pretty funny. Link via Wizbang.
BASEBALL: The Redbirds
Color me unsurprised that (1) the Cardinals are crushing the overmatched Dodgers but (2) they will likely be without the services of perennially injury-prone Chris Carpenter for the rest of the postseason.
Following up on something I wrote about repeatedly in the regular season, the Cards' starting infield finished with 113 Win Shares, tied for fifth all time with the 1982 Brewers (Cooper, Gantner, Yount and Molitor) and 1913 A's (with Eddie Collins and Frank "Home Run" Baker) and behind the 1914 A's, 1908 Pirates (Honus Wagner and co.), 1912 A's and 1934 Tigers (who had four guys each drive in 100 runs), and ahead of the 1975 and 1976 Reds, the 1927 Giants, and the 1946 Cardinals.
If you aren't reading Redbird Nation on a regular basis, you are missing a lot. Brian Gunn has an interesting analysis of the importance of ace pitchers in the postseason - frankly, it's the sort of thing I used to write and hope to get back to again some day - as well as a fascinating analysis of marginal relative attendance figures that shows how St. Louis draws more fans compared to its market size than any other team. Brian only does a top 10, but I'd love to see the whole list.
POLITICS: Why "Flip-Flop"?
Some people have argued that then Bush campaign needs to get off calling Kerry a flip-flopper and go after his actual positions. Indeed, one Bush staffer told CrushKerry.com that the campaign is in the process of a long-planned October pivot to a "shock and awe"-style sudden-from-all-directions bombardment of Kerry's liberal record in the Senate. (Link via Geraghty). But then you hear something like this from Kerry:
The president and I have the same position, fundamentally, on gay marriage. We do. Same position.
This is a perfect example of why I always thought "flip-flop" was a necessary defensive tactic - you'd rather run against Kerry's ideas, but he's so good at denying what he stands for, by pointing to examples of him saying or doing the opposite ("that dog won't hunt, and let me tell you why . . ."), that it winds up being necessary to argue that he doesn't stand for anything at all, to force him to bear the burden of proving what his position is before you try to knock it down.
WAR: Making The Next Guy Think Twice
Kaus has a good point about the idea that "Saddam only wanted us to think he had WMD," and one that's closely related to the point about credibility I made below:
Of course, if the cops shoot him, the next guy will think twice about claiming to have a gun, now won't he?
POLITICS/WAR: A Word About Credibility
One of the major themes of the first two debates has been America's credibility in the world at large, and the corresponding ability of the nation to get other nations to follow us. John Kerry and John Edwards insist that America has "misled" the world, as far as the reasons for war and the progress in Iraq. Bush and Cheney have responded that Kerry has sent "mixed signals" that undermine our credibility. Now, far be it from me to suggest that it doesn't matter, particularly on the home front, if the president tells the truth. (I also don't agree with Kerry and Edwards that this administration has been misleading about why we are in Iraq and how we're doing there, but that's another day's argument). But Bush and Cheney are, fundamentally, talking about an entirely different type of credibility - the type that really matters in international affairs.
Because, in the end, most of the countries on this earth, and most of the large masses of people, aren't real big on believing what foreign governments tell them, and with good reason. Most of us on some level - and diplomats and heads of state most of all - recognize that governments speak self-interestedly, and don't take what they say at face value. Or, at a minimum, they make their own minds up - the justifications for war in England are viewed as an issue of Tony Blair's credibility, in Australia an issue of John Howard's credibility, not so much Bush's.
But where a nation's credibility is critical is when you ask whether it is believed that a country keeps its promises - and its threats - acts reliably in its own interests, finishes the jobs it starts, and the like. Did the Soviet Union care if the United States saw "the light at the end of the tunnel" in Vietnam, or whether the explosion in the Gulf of Tonkin was just a pretext? Of course not. But the Soviets watched very carefully when they saw that America didn't stay to finish the war and didn't stand behind the South Vietnamese when the resulting peace treaty was violated by the renewed invasion from the North. And they watched equally carefully when Reagan started fighting to back up our interests, even in places like Grenada where the direct US interests were relatively minor. Because Reagan understood that our credibility in the Hobbesian world of international affairs depended upon not taking slights lightly. And every new president faces, fairly early, tests of his credibility - that is, in some sense, what the Chinese did to Bush in early 2001. There have been other tests, too - and don't think the world hasn't noticed that from Kyoto to the ABM treaty to the International Criminal Court, Bush has stood for one thing and one thing only: protecting US interests against agreements that failed to adequately protect them. Next time someone wants to make a deal with us, they will remember that. In short, credibility in international affairs isn't about telling the truth - it's about being clear where you stand and following through, so your allies know you will keep your promises and your enemies know you will back up your threats. Does anybody seriously think Kerry has that kind of credibility?
The real problem of US credibility in the Middle East - and yes, it's been a bipartisan one - is the widespread belief that we don't have the guts to stick it out through tough times and that we will abandon our allies on the ground to the same old despots. Think Somalia, or the abandonment of the Kurds and Shi'ites in 1991. In a way, that's one of the most compelling reasons, if an unstated one - but one that any world leader immediately understood - why we went to war with Saddam. The guy was flouting the terms of the cease-fire, calling into question the credibility of our willingness to enforce agreements with the US. He was thumbing his nose at the US in myriad ways (including his public cheerleading for the September 11 attacks, something nearly none of even our declared enemies dared to do), calling into question the credibility of our willingness to respond to slights, insults and threats.
And now, we have found ourselves in a daily struggle to win over the Iraqi people - and the biggest obstacle is the fear that we will once again cut and run and abandon them to the same old forces of evil, as we did in 1991, as we did in Somalia, as we did in South Vietnam. It is critically essential to our credibility - and to the security of the situation of our troops in the field - that there be no doubt that the US can not be deterred from finishing the job in Iraq, no matter how long it takes, what the obstacles or the costs are or what political pressures are brought to bear on the president by the Howard Deans of the world. Can John Kerry say he has that kind of credibility, the kind that led the Iranians to conclude that they didn't want to be holding US hostages even a minute into the new Reagan Administration? Bush and Cheney are dead right, and deadly serious, about the fact that Kerry does not. Everything in his record and history suggest a guy who is consumed by fear of the quagmire, who hemmed and hawed and finally opposed the first Gulf War, who has grown gloomy and panicked about this war whenever things have gone badly in the field or in his own political campaign. In fact, Kerry has even argued that we should have threatened war with Saddam - but not been ready to back that threat up the minute he failed to cooperate.
Credibility matters. Lack of it gets people killed. The kind of credibility that counts is not the credibility to persuade people in argument or admit mistakes. It's the credibility to say, "this we will do," or "this we will not stand for," and then prove that you will not yield in that determination. That's the credibility that Bush has, and Kerry does not.
October 7, 2004
WAR: A Bloody Corner
The violence between Christians (principally Catholics) and Muslims in just one state in Nigeria has, over the past three years, claimed more than 53,000 lives, nearly the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. Of course, this being Africa, the violence is tied in with ethnic, political and financial rivalries (unlike in most parts of the world, the oil in Nigeria isn't in the Muslim parts of the country) as well as religious hatreds. Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa's most populous country, probably its richest in natural resources and one of the (relatively) better-off countries in terms of some of the conditions for self-rule. But the past several years have been hard ones for the country. It's one of the places we have to hope to see get a handle on itself.
POLITICS: Who Said It?
On catching bin Laden - January 20, 2002:
I think they are doing the maximum amount right now possible to try to track him down. And it is an extraordinarily hard thing for him to hide somewhere. I mean, over a period of time, I think, he is in trouble."
(Emphasis added). If you've been following this campaign, you can probably guess who.
POLITICS: Quick Links, 10/7/04
* From the Asia Times: why John Kerry’s plan for dealing with North Korea is ill-conceived.
* Glenn Reynolds (who memorably stated last week that he’d “be delighted to live in a country where happily married gay couples had closets full of assault weapons”) looks at some of the under-covered aspects of the Duelfer Report. Don’t just listen to spin, though, take a look at the report’s key findings yourself.
* It doesn’t sound like Alexandra Pelosi’s new film is too flattering to Mr. Kerry. I actually enjoyed “Journeys With George” even though it was rather more cynical about our political process than I am.
* Finally, Bruce Springsteen and the “Vote for Change” tour of contested battleground states have now added a last minute trip to New Jersey. Draw your own conclusions.
POLITICS: Good News For The GOP
CBS Sportsline reports a massive increase in viewership for the vice presidential debate vs. four years ago:
The 43.6 million viewers were up from the 29.1 million people who saw Cheney take on Democrat Joe Lieberman in 2000, and reflects the heightened interest in the race.
Fox was the only major network not to carry the Cheney-Edwards debate in the New York area. It was contractually required to show the AL Division Series Game 1 between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, which had 8.5 million viewers.
Fox affiliates in other markets chose to carry the debate.
Of course, some folks would have you believe that John Edwards won or drew the debate, which may be the case if you watched with the sound off. But particularly given the way Cheney drilled the Kerry-Edwards team on Iraq, I'd score these ratings as excellent news for the Bush-Cheney ticket.
PATRIOT GAMES: Getting (Almost) Away From It All
Fourth in a series of reflections by "Andy Tollhaus," an Army officer currently serving in Iraq.
July 20, 2004
Taking a break from war is an idea that has been around for thousands of years. Along with warfare, this concept has evolved with society and technology. Back in the day, the Romans would allow their armies to rape and pillage captured enemy cities as a way to blow off some steam. In the latter stages of World War II, soldiers in units relieved from the front lines were often allowed passes to Paris. During the Vietnam conflict, a certain amount of time in country would pay dividends with a rest and recuperation trip to places ranging from Saigon to Australia to Hawaii. The R&R program here in Iraq is as different from those R&R programs as this war is different from those past wars.
The program here affords soldiers the opportunity to take 15 days of leave from the war that they’ve been surrounded by for the past several months. It’s a way to relax, recuperate and recharge the batteries. It’s an awesome experience to get to go, but it certainly doesn’t mark the end of the war, not even for that one individual.
Read More Â»
Tuesday’s All Star Game was the only game that we hoped to watch in a bar, being this close to the Southernmost Point. We went to the famous Duval Street to find a place to eat, drink and watch baseball – is there anything else? After sampling some of the Happy Hours near the historic marina, we couldn’t find a suitable place. So, we hailed a signature Key West pink taxi cab and asked the cabbie for advice. The license plate didn’t say “Fresh,” and there weren’t dice in the mirror, but we did think to ourselves that this cab was rare. This cabbie, from Andover, MA, played baseball at Boston College and told us of his AAA career for the Baltimore Orioles and his one and only at bat in the Bigs – against Nolan Ryan. Not sure who was happier, the advisor or the advisees, but off to the Green Parrot it was. As I ordered our first beers, two guys at the bar pointed to my Milwaukee County Stadium Sausage Race T-shirt and said, “Hey, watch out for Randall Simon!” This was, no doubt, the place to watch the game.
Sarah and I sat down at the bar next to the other Sausage Race fans. We watched Piazza tip Clemens’s pitches to the American League sluggers and watched Manny and Ortiz hit their homeruns. The bartender from the south-side of Chicago laughed when we asked for umbrellas in our beers so we could blend in with the locals. He then educated me on the fact that his Sox were in a longer World Series drought than were our Sox. I didn’t believe him, but luckily enough, my brother-in-law was awake at 11:45 PM, standing by on Google for me. After hanging up the phone and conceding that the bartender was, indeed, correct, I did what any honorable man would do – I bought him a beer. There was a Mariners fan there who resented the Red Sox because of trades involving Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, and Heathcliffe Slocumb. We also talked about the Key West High School baseball team and their contributions to the Major Leagues. To my surprise, Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo was a Fighting Conch alum. I couldn’t figure how I could be so lucky to have taken my wife to two games and now be sitting at the Green Parrot with her, watching baseball.
As I stared straight ahead, I noticed that I was staring at a bottle of Tullamore Dew, Irish Whiskey. I hate whiskey, but for some reason, ordering a shot of whiskey seemed to be fitting right then. The fact that my shot was the last in the bottle seemed like it meant something, too. In reality, though, I drank that shot of whiskey not to make a point or honor anyone or anything poetic like that. I am pretty certain, however, that when I do see Tullamore Dew in the future, there will be a link to that moment and I’ll be reminded of those who died too young in Samarra, Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else where the ultimate sacrifice has been “laid on the altar of freedom.” I don’t think I’ll make a big deal of it, but I know I’ll close my eyes, as I did then, during the All Star game, and say a quick prayer for those who won’t be coming home to pick up their life right where they’d left it.
Â« Close It
POLITICS/WAR: Failing the Test of History
With the Presidential campaign finally heading towards a climax and the baseball playoffs in full swing, I couldn’t resist jumping back into the mix here, however temporarily.
Anyway, I noted with some satisfaction that President Bush finally went on the offensive about one of the most glaring weak points in John Kerry’s various positions on Iraq: his vote against the 1991 Gulf War.
John Kerry and John Edwards have very disingenuously been holding up the Gulf War as a model of multilateral military engagement and cost-sharing. The problem is not that this isn’t true – it clearly is – but that Kerry voted against the very war which his campaign now says forms the criteria by which he defines acceptable multilateralism (i.e. virtually the entire world on our side).
A rough history follows (I apologize for any errors, but am mainly going from memory). In 1991, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was, for the second time, on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, yet, in an act of almost incomprehensible recklessness and stupidity, invaded neighboring Kuwait prior to attaining a nuclear capability. After some hesitation, the United States led by the first President Bush decided that the invasion could not stand and developed the largest international coalition in history, backed by, among many others, the U.N. Security Council, a number of Arab allies and the indispensable sine qua non of any successful military alliance: the French.
Yet, when the vote had come before the U.S. Congress, Kerry voted against taking military action.
Read More Â»
The U.S. alliance met every possible criteria that Kerry has articulated in his efforts to undermine the credibility of the current U.S. coalition. Iraq had unilaterally and brazenly invaded a neighbor and virtually the whole world was prepared to take action. Yet, Kerry was not.
As Bush said yesterday:
Over the years, Senator Kerry has looked for every excuse to constrain America's action in the world. These days he praises America's broad coalition in the Gulf War, but in 1991 he criticized those coalition members as, quote, shadow battlefield allies who barely carry a burden. Sounds familiar.
Looking back, the consequences of inaction in the first Gulf War are hard to imagine. Saddam would have occupied Kuwait unopposed and would likely have had nuclear weapons very soon afterwards. He would have been a hero in the Arab world and would have been further encouraged to menace Israel, Saudi Arabia and other nearby neighbors as he did during the Gulf War and since. Saddam’s support for terrorism would likely have only increased and, just as worrisome, terrorist support for him would have grown.
But Saddam would’ve been virtually untouchable and protected by a nuclear shield. To be sure, there would’ve been many other unpredictable consequences (American involvement in the war was a major motivation for bin Laden), but it is very hard to look back and not see how the first Gulf War was, in every way, justified.
As John Edwards holds up the Gulf War as model of U.S. action, Kerry’s defense to voting against that action, to the extent he offers any, is that this was long before September 11th and that the world forever changed that day.
The world has indeed changed, but my fear remains that Kerry has not.
UPDATE: "I do not believe our nation is prepared for war. If we do go to war, for years people will ask why Congress gave in. They will ask why there was such a rush to so much death and destruction when it did not have to happen." – John Kerry in 1991, justifying his vote against the Gulf War. (Via Tacitus).
Â« Close It
BASEBALL: Shallow Thoughts
I'm too late into the game to do LDS (gag) predictions, so let me offer a few totally unoriginal thoughts before we go further:
*Can the Red Sox go all the way? Only if they don't face the Yankees. No, there's no point in analyzing that rationally at this stage. It just will not happen.
*Can the Yankees go all the way? I just don't see it. I know I go back and forth on the Yankees every year, but let's be realistic - they don't have the pitching. The bullpen isn't deep, not since Quantrill's arm finally fell off in August, and the starting rotation, even with three #1 starters, lacks a single pitcher you can genuinely bank on at this point in the season. They may go far, but eventually that has to catch up with them. Alex Belth's pre-season comparison to the 1987 Mets looks a lot better now, although as I said at the time, the better analogy is the 1999 Indians.
*On the Yankee front, by the way, A-Rod fell four RBI short of 110, so his streak of consecutive seasons of 110 runs and 110 RBI ends at six, one short of tying Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx for the third longest such streak of all time.
*The Cards, although they have their own pitching issues, are just way, way too strong for the rest of the NL field. The only team I thought could have derailed them was the Cubs, given the possibility of a sudden hot streak by the Cub pitchers.
*Go read Simmons on the Red Sox if you haven't yet.
POLITICS: Yesterday's Bush Speech
Yesterday morning's speech by the president had some good stuff along with some typical stump speech filler, but also a few disappointments:
Read More Â»
I am sure many of you stayed up to watch the vice presidential debate last night.
Only Bush considers it "staying up" to watch a debate that ends at 10:30. The GOP should insist that Bush get to debate Kerry in the middle of the afternoon.
When I took office in 2001, the bubble of the '90s had burst, our economy was headed into recession. And because of the attacks of September the 11th, nearly a million jobs were lost in three months. It was a dangerous time for our economy. People were warning of potential deflation and depression. But I acted.
Translation: expect to hear about September 11 at the debate Friday, to heck with the agenda. But Bush shouldn't imply that the tax cuts came after 9/11.
He says the tax increase is only for the rich. You've heard that kind of rhetoric before. Rich hire lawyers and accountants for a reason: to stick you with the tab. The senator's not going to tax you, because we're going to win in November.
Yeah, those damn rich people. We Republicans hate them.
Senator Kerry's proposal would put us on the path to Clinton care.
The 2008 campaign has officially begun . . .
Over the years, Senator Kerry has looked for every excuse to constrain America's action in the world. These days he praises America's broad coalition in the Gulf War, but in 1991 he criticized those coalition members as, quote, shadow battlefield allies who barely carry a burden. Sounds familiar.
Yup. Great line. Never expect your political opponent to forget that you insulted his father.
The senator speaks often about his plan to strengthen America's alliances, but he's got an odd way of doing it. In the middle of the war, he's chosen to insult America's fighting allies by calling them window dressing and the coalition of the coerced and the bribed. The Italians who died in Nasiriyah were not window dressing. They were heroes in the war on terror. The British and the Poles at the head of the multinational divisions in Iraq were not coerced or bribed. They have fought and some have died in the cause of freedom. These good allies and dozens of others deserve the respect of all Americans, not the scorn of a politician. Instead, the senator would have America bend over backwards to satisfy a handful of governments with agendas different from our own. This is my opponent's alliance-building strategy: brush off your best friends, fawn over your critics.
Good knife-twisting: Kerry's treatment of our allies is his weakest point, particularly because Kerry thinks alliance-building is his strongest.
My opponent says he has a plan for Iraq. It should sound pretty familiar. It's already known as the Bush plan. Senator Kerry suggests we train Iraqi troops, which we've been doing for months. Just this week Iraqi forces backed by coalition troops fought bravely to take the city of Samarra from terrorists and Baathist insurgents. Senator Kerry's proposing that Iraq have elections. Those elections are already scheduled for January. He wants the U.N. to be involved in those elections. Well, the U.N. is already there. There was one element of Senator Kerry's plan that's a new element. He's talked about artificial timetables to pull our troops out of Iraq. He sent the signal that America's overriding goal in Iraq would be to leave even if the job isn't done. That may satisfy his political needs, but it complicates the essential work we're doing in Iraq. The Iraqi people need to know that America will not cut and run when their freedom is at stake. Our soldiers and Marines need to know that America will honor their service and sacrifice by completing the mission. And our enemies in Iraq need to know that they can never outlast the will of America.
This would be more persuasive if Bush hadn't botched this up so badly at the debate, but it does need to be said: other than Kerry's vascillating statements about exit strategies, the only difference is his claim that increasingly mysterious "allies" will bail us out.
I was a little disappointed that there's still no effort to use Kerry's record in the 1980s against him - yes, it's a long time ago. But most people now realize Reagan was right, and Kerry's wrongheadedness on this is the thread that ties together his 1970s peacenikery and leftism with his 1990s-present absorption with the quagmire of international process.
In the end, a speech is just a speech; what we really need to see is Bush bring his "A" game to the Friday Night Fight.
Â« Close It
WAR: There's Something Happening Here, But What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear
Too many cops on the street in Manhattan this morning. Cops ringing my office building. Whole bunch of cop cars with their lights flashing lining up by the NASDAQ Marketplace building in Times Square. I'm not sure what's up, but unless there's a big event in town (I know the President's headed to Missouri today), something's up that I'm not hearing about.
October 6, 2004
POLITICS: Taken To School
Man, Dick Cheney's gonna be pulling chunks of John Edwards out of his stool for months after tonight's debate.
I had not, you may recall, planned on watching tonight's debate, or any of today's playoff games; I started an arbitration today, which had been projected to run the rest of the week. I won't go into details here except to say that it only took one day of hearings to bring the case to a successful conclusion, leaving me unexpectedly free, after hearing a few innings of the Yankees-Twins game, to catch the back end of the debate on radio and TV and then catch up on the rest on tape and transcript.
My impressions? Well, as I said at the time, I thought the first presidential debate was pretty good; Bush was solid but far too slow to respond to Kerry's attacks; Kerry was at the top of his game, albeit due to throwing out a lot of falsehoods.
Tonight's debate was even better (as debates often are when the candidates are sitting down) - these guys weren't afraid to mix it up, and frankly called each other liars quite often (Cheney: "Well, Gwen, it's hard to know where to start; there are so many inaccuracies there."). Now, some people really do think most of what Dick Cheney says is lies. You can't reach those people. But to anybody else, it had to be obvious that Cheney won this one, and the Kerry camp had to be hoping that a lot of people were watching the baseball game instead. Cheney was on top of just everything, very fast on his feet, he was calm, deliberate, and serious.
Edwards, meanwhile: well, to those of us who are practicing litigators, Edwards is a recognizable type - the lawyer who's great in front of juries, where he gets to control the narrative, but not so hot in front of judges, because he keeps trying to launch into an emotional closing argument instead of answering questions. Here's a perfect example:
Read More Â»
Yet French and German officials have both said they have no intention even if John Kerry is elected of sending any troops into Iraq for any peacekeeping effort. Does that make your effort or your plan to internationalize this effort seem kind of naive?
EDWARDS: Well, let's start with what we know. What we know is that the president and the vice president have not done the work to build the coalition that we need -- dramatically different than the first Gulf War. We know that they haven't done it, and we know they can't do it.
They didn't, by the way, just reject the allies going into lead- up to the war. They also rejected them in the effort to do the reconstruction in Iraq, and that has consequences.
What we believe is, as part of our entire plan for Iraq -- and we have a plan for Iraq.
As far as spin goes, by the way, by my count of the transcript Edwards referred to Kerry's Thursday debate performance six times ("The American people saw John Kerry on Thursday night. They don't need the vice president or the president to tell them what they saw. They saw a man who was strong, who had conviction, who is resolute . . . "). The Kerry folks either think or want us to think that Kerry was so dominating in that debate that the election's over. Nice try.
Cheney did a particularly good job of coming back to the points in Kerry's record where he actually had to make decisions and made the wrong ones, and got in a solid zinger early that turned out to be just a warmup:
He repeated this later:
And you cannot use "talk tough" during the course of a 90-minute debate in a presidential campaign to obscure a 30-year record in the United States Senate and, prior to that by John Kerry, who has consistently come down on the wrong side of all the major defense issues that he's faced as a public official.
Edwards, by contrast - go back and look at what he said - lapsed into lawyer-speak trying to defend Kerry's record:
He said that -- made mention of this global test. What John Kerry said -- and it's just as clear as day to anybody who was listening -- he said: We will find terrorists where they are and kill them before they ever do harm to the American people, first.
Yeah, the testimony's in the record. Unfortunately, so is Kerry's record and his past statements. As usual, the only way to defend Kerry is to try to deny the existence of his position; to defend it in a way that is distinguishable from the president's is to stand on indefensible turf. Democrats want to say that they would get more allies before going to war, without recognizing the corollary - that they would have let the absence of certain allies stop them from doing what they otherwise claim they believe should have been done. (Cheney's use of Kerry's 1991 vote reminds us that this is pretense - there's always an excuse not to do something).
Probably Cheney's best moments, just as Bush had his best catching Kerry denigrating the role of allies like Poland, were when he cleaned up something Bush should have responded to on Thursday, when Edwards trotted out the talking point about the US supposedly bearing 90% of the costs and 90% of the casualties in Iraq. First, this:
With respect to the cost, it wasn't $200 billion. You probably weren't there to vote for that. But $120 billion is, in fact, what has been allocated to Iraq. The rest of it's for Afghanistan and the global war on terror.
The allies have stepped forward and agreed to reduce and forgive Iraqi debt to the tune of nearly $80 billion by one estimate. That, plus $14 billion they promised in terms of direct aid, puts the overall allied contribution financially at about $95 billion, not to the $120 billion we've got, but, you know, better than 40 percent. So your facts are just wrong, Senator.
Then, when Edwards tried to defend his exclusion of the Iraqis in the field from the casualty figures:
EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not...
CHENEY: ... as beyond...
EDWARDS: I'm not demeaning...
CHENEY: It is indeed. You suggested...
EDWARDS: No, sir, I did not...
CHENEY: ... somehow they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future.
CHENEY: We'll win when they take on responsibility for governance, which they're doing, and when the take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.
And, of course, the evening's killer line about Kerry and to a lesser extent Edwards zigging to the left on the war last fall:
Now if they couldn't stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to al Qaeda?
Naturally, I also liked how Cheney drew together the strands of Zarqawi and the Palestinian suicide bombers and how they all trace back to Saddam.
I wasn't surprised to see Edwards run on and on about Halliburton; it's sometimes all the Democrats have to cling to. Although Cheney took the same shots back at Edwards later by tweaking him for using tax loopholes to avoid Medicare taxes, a picayune point but one that reminds the viewer that these guys all have advantages we don't.
Cheney got in another great prepared dig at Edwards' puny record and poor attendance in the Senate, even though it was out of place in answer to the question about Israel:
Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.
The domestic policy stuff was a bit dreary by comparison - it's hard to follow war-and-peace issues with domestic stuff without gearing down a bit - but provided more entertainment. After some back and forth in which Cheney and Edwards competed to see who could look most uncomfortable talking about gay marriage, we got this exchange. Edwards larded on the condescending empathy for the Cheneys and their gay daughter:
After a convoluted series of non-sequiturs from Edwards on the issue, the moderator went back to Cheney:
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter.
CHENEY: I appreciate that very much.
IFILL: That's it?
CHENEY: That's it.
At this juncture, Cheney and Edwards reminded me of nothing so much as a father sitting at a dinner table trying to cut off some line of conversation started by a young fellow dating his daughter who was meeting the family for the first time and had brought up something inappropriate.
The tort-reform stuff was interesting, but I may get back to it another day; you could see that Edwards felt the need to play defense on that issue, which suggests that it's playing well for the GOP:
My wife and I found it telling that Edwards, when he then talked with pride about his career as a trial lawyer, had to pick an example of a case that had nothing to do with medical malpractice.
Cheney also gave us a revealing admission that a Democrat would be terrified to make, in response to a statistic about AIDS among African-American women:
I have not heard those numbers with respect to African- American women. I was not aware that it was -- that they're in epidemic there, because we have made progress in terms of the overall rate of AIDS infection.
Cheney punted on directly attacking Edwards' experience. I almost wanted to hear him say, "Senator, I know Dan Quayle. I worked with Dan Quayle. Dan Quayle is a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Dan Quayle." Quayle, of course, had been in Congress twice as long as Edwards by 1988, and hadn't spent most of his time there running for president.
Finally, from the closing statements, John Edwards committed a faux pas by loudly ripping a piece of paper while Cheney was talking, but then he said something that made me think:
Was I the only one who thought: "and there, on the TV, was Dick Cheney"?
Â« Close It
October 5, 2004
BASEBALL: Lurching to the Right
Last year, I thought the Twins' best postseason bet rode on Johan Santana dominating the Yankees in a short series. That didn't really work out. Obviously, it still does. But these Yankees are no longer vulnerable to lefthanded pitching; just look at new acquisitions Gary Sheffield (.314/.550/.423 against lefties this season) and Alex Rodriguez (.311/.659/.422). Combine those guys with a big year for Jeter against lefties (.314/.532/.378), and suddenly you have a team that looks more like lefty-mashers.
PATRIOT GAMES: Gunfighter Day
Third in a continuing series by our Iraq correspondent, blogging under the pseudonym Andy Tollhaus.
May 13, 2004
What Gunfighter Day lacked in facilities, it made up for with spirit. Gunfighter Day was an event that we planned to take a break and let our closely cropped hair down. We picked the 11th simply because we are 1-1 Aviation (read aloud “one-one-Aviation”). We’re the Gunfighters, so the name was an easy choice, too. On Gunfighter day, the battalion continued to employ our Apache helicopters to support the First Infantry Division, but the command recommended that companies work with the minimal personnel necessary to accomplish the mission. Tasks that weren’t time critical were put off for a day and efforts were made to involve as many Gunfighters as possible.
Those of us losing early in the 3-on-3 double elimination basketball tournament were spared the worst of the heat and were free to enjoy the other activities. Along with 3-on-3 basketball, tournaments were held for horseshoes, dominoes, darts, ping-pong, scrabble, spades and video game Halo. Chief Warrant Officer (CW4) Marty Calkins, hailing from USC and Raider Nation, was the DJ with his MP3 Player and the chaplain’s PA system. We arranged to have our lunch served outside with coolers full of sodas and Gatorade. It all had the feel of a large church picnic or summer barbecue, except we all wore uniforms and carried weapons with us.
Read More Â»
All of these activities were held in and around a former Iraqi Air Force concrete hangar/bunker. Since we live and work on the former Iraqi Al Sahra airfield, we “inherited” several of these massive bunkers, designed to protect Saddam’s aircraft from the numerous enemies that the former regime faced. We use some of these facilities for aircraft maintenance and some for vehicle maintenance. This one, though, is designated for our Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) facility. Inside this hangar, we’ve built two rooms, one serving as our “internet café” and one serving as a multi-function room, where we hold our church services and other meetings.
For many, the highlight of the day was the entry into the basketball tournament of our three top ranking Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs or in a word, Sergeants). Even though, they’d combined for close to 70 years of Army experience, they couldn’t manage a victory. Their team, “Old School”, consisting of our Command Sergeant Major and two of our First Sergeants, was edged out in the first round, but not before a lot of whining and dirty play.
Three guys not relying on dirty tricks were Sergeant First Class Hughes, Specialist (SPC) Shawn Williams and Corporal (CPL) Maurice Looper, all from our Fuel and Ammunition platoon. These three “co-workers,” who made up the “Ankle Breakers,” had been the team to beat from the moment we planned a tournament. Looper, 25, a High School sprinter in South Carolina before joining the Army six years ago, is the bruiser on the team. Williams, 27, who played on Allen Iverson’s High School basketball team in Virginia, provides the spark on the team -- liable to get the hot hand at any moment. Hughes, 34, who helped construct the court, is the Platoon Sergeant and therefore responsible for these guys off the court. He’s the guy who sets the tempo for the team on the court as well. Hughes joined the Army when he was only 17 having never really played organized sports. Once in the Army, he started playing on unit level basketball and flag football teams. He’s moved to refereeing now and his post-Army aspirations include working a Division 1A basketball game. These three guys had only played together a handful of times, but knew each other well from working together in a demanding job on a daily basis.
As much as the “Ankle Breakers” were the favorites, the “Hotshots” were the favorite to be the spoiler. SPC Alfred Bonilla, 28, grew up in the Philippines and Hawaii, and has only been in the Army for about a year. His sporting career started at age six with his father and grandfather teaching him Tae Kwon Doe. In High School, he played on the runner up team at the State Volleyball Championships in Hawaii and played in college for two seasons. PFC Lawrence Waller is 21 and hails from a small town near Richmond, VA. He joined the Army after passing on a football scholarship and is constantly working out, trying to put on enough size to play NFL Europe when our unit returns home to Germany. The third member of the Hotshots team was SPC Leon Harrison, who works with our Motor Pool, conducting vehicle maintenance in one of our massive hangars. Harrison grew up in Chicago, playing football and basketball in the street. He’s a huge Michael Jordan fan, but appreciates Dr. J even more because, as he says, “someone had to inspire the greatest.” Harrison, 21, played football for the Northern Illinois Huskies for a year, before joining the Army.
By the time of this rematch the other contests were just about all wrapped up. Marty, the DJ, was starting his 6th hour of music as the game started. The “Hotshots” won a quick 15-9 victory forcing a winner-take-all final. This was for all the marbles. Or at least some $10 prizes that we’d scrounged together for the winners of these tournaments. Some items to choose from were large extra-large fans, Operation Iraqi Freedom T-Shirts or “Three Pack -- Thrill Packs” of FHM, Maxim and Stuff magazines.
The final game was actually kind of anti-climatic. The “Ankle Breakers” regrouped and beat the underdogs easily. But it wasn’t really about the winner or the loser of the final game, anyway. The tournament was just for fun, and everyone knew that.
At the conclusion of the day, we held a battalion formation on the basketball court and awarded some deserving individuals medals that they’d earned. These awards were given for a wide range of efforts. SPC Bonilla and PFC Waller (cooks on the “Hotshots”) received awards for making the holiday meals of the past Thanksgiving and Christmas something to celebrate back in Katterbach, Germany. Some others received higher awards for exposing themselves to hostile fire in order to kill enemy forces when our convoy came under fire on our first day in Iraq. Our Brigade Commander was invited to award these medals. He spoke to us about the importance of these events and the fact that we’d passed the three month, or one-quarter, mark on the deployment. After his comments, our Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Dave Moore (a lefty outfielder and first baseman for the vaunted West Point baseball team of the early ‘80s) made some more informal presentations. LTC Moore gave some framed Gunfighter posters to several of our civilian support agencies and then our $10 prizes to the victors of our various Gunfighter Day activities.
As it turned out the crude facilities weren’t even noticed. The fact is these facilities are better than they were on April 11th, and on June 11th they’ll be even better. I wonder what Saddam Hussein would think if he ever saw his facilities in this state.
Â« Close It
October 4, 2004
BLOG: Captain's Blog: One Year and Counting
Happy one-year blogoversary to Captain's Quarters. "Captain" Ed Morrissey is absolutely one of the best in the business.
October 3, 2004
BASEBALL: Proceed With Caution
The Twins look, on paper, like a pretty solid team. But let's not forget that these guys were 46-30 this season against the weak AL Central. Against the AL East and AL West? 35-33, an 83-win clip. Not so impressive. Compare that to the Yankees, 71-41 against the same two divisions (albeit without playing themselves), a 103-win clip, or the Red Sox, 70-42, a 101-win pace.
POLITICS: Did Kerry Cheat? [UPDATE: No]
Well, anyone who's done any kind of public speaking or argument can tell you that a guy who has prepared notes can whup a guy with no notes nine times out of ten, unless the guy without notes is (unlike George W. Bush) really a masterful extemporaneous speaker. Is it really possible that a Kerry operative told Drudge, in response to questions, "See you at the inauguration, Drudge"? That does sound like the Kerry people's type of self-justification, although it also sounds like the kind of unverifiable reporting one tends not to trust, coming from Drudge.
A colossal scandal? Not really. But pretty low-rent behavior and not the mark of a man with any honor, if you ask me. I just assumed watching the debates that Kerry had prepared notes - he certainly appeared to be using note cards - and was wondering why Bush didn't have better ones himself. I hadn't realized that the candidates had agreed to do without them.
UPDATE: The NY Post claims that the video shows that Kerry pulled out a pen. Apparently this was also in violation of the rules, although I could have sworn I saw Bush taking notes and I know I saw Kerry taking notes almost every time Bush was speaking. Clearly, bringing in a pen isn't a big deal. Bringing in prepared notes, when you've agreed with the other guy not to, is something of a bigger deal, although I'd tend to agree with a number of commentators who think that this isn't going to put a dent in Kerry either way, and we're best off leaving the issue. Frankly, I think the quality of the debate - which was actually pretty good - and its ability to inform the public would have been improved if the candidates had agreed to bring prepared notes, just as any competent lawyer will have prepared notes at an oral argument or a trial. How many decisions does a president make without the ability to consult notes or talk to advisors, anyway?
SECOND UPDATE: Bill has reviewed the evidence and retracted his accusation. End of story.
October 2, 2004
POLITICS: You Can Tell A Man By The Company He Keeps
In light of John Kerry's puzzling insistence on a go-it-alone approach to North Korea in Thursday night's debate, I thought I'd make a little list. Admittedly, I'm doing much of this from memory, but there seems to be a certain consistency . . .
1. The North Vietnamese, during the Vietnam War, compared Ho Chi Minh to George Washington, argued that their war was one of national liberation, accused US troops of regularly committing war crimes and atrocities, called on Nixon to end the war immediately, argued that the people of South Vietnam would be happy to accept communism, and generally argued that the US war in Vietnam was immoral from beginning to end. John Kerry, during the Vietnam War, compared Ho Chi Minh to George Washington, argued that the North's war was one of national liberation, accused US troops of regularly committing war crimes and atrocities, called on Nixon to end the war immediately, argued that the people of South Vietnam would be happy to accept communism, and generally argued that the US war in Vietnam was immoral from beginning to end.
2. The Soviet Union and its allies denounced the US invasion of Grenada in 1983. John Kerry denounced the US invasion of Grenada in 1983.
3. The Soviets, in the 1980s, denounced Ronald Reagan as a warmonger and a threat to peace for deploying missiles in Western Europe. John Kerry, in the 1980s, denounced Ronald Reagan as a warmonger and a threat to peace for deploying missiles in Western Europe.
4. Daniel Ortega, in the 1980s, denounced US support for the Nicaraguan contras and argued that the US should have peace talks with his regime. John Kerry, in the 1980s, denounced US support for the Nicaraguan contras and argued that the US should have peace talks with Ortega's regime.
5. Moammar Qaddafi argued that Reagan's bombing of Libya was unjustified and caused excessive civilian casualties. John Kerry argued that Reagan's bombing of Libya was unjustified and caused excessive civilian casualties.
6. Our adversaries during and since the Cold War have argued that we were reckless and irresponsible by pursuing missile defense. John Kerry has argued that we were reckless and irresponsible by pursuing missile defense.
7. Fidel Castro has, for decades, regularly denounced US sanctions against Cuba. John Kerry has, for decades, regularly denounced US sanctions against Cuba.
8. In 1991, Saddam Hussein wanted to draw out the process of the Western response in the hopes that it would bog down. John Kerry said we should have drawn out the process.
9. Yasser Arafat has denounced the security fence erected by Israel. John Kerry has denounced the security fence erected by Israel.
We can add four more from the debate alone:
10. In 2002-03, Saddam Hussein wanted to draw out the inspections process and make it more multilateral. John Kerry says we should have drawn out the inspections process and made it more multilateral.
11. Kim Jong-Il wanted to have bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks. John Kerry says we should have had bilateral talks rather than multilateral talks.
12. Osama bin Laden says we helped him by invading Iraq. John Kerry says we helped bin Laden by invading Iraq.
Does Kerry have company on some of these stances? Yes. Can he defend some by pointing to occasions (as with Israel and Cuba policy) where he's since taken the opposite position? Yes. Is he actually an unpatriotic America-hater? Of course not. But remember: Time and time and time again, America's enemies have argued against us - and Kerry has echoed their charges. I'd rather trust the national defense to someone who's not so quick to echo the words and strategies of our enemies.
(A partial list of sources: Kerry's stances on Grenada and Nicaragua, the first Gulf War, the Cold War and Grenada again, the security fence, the Cold War again, Libya, Nicaragua again, and Grenada again, and Cuba).
POLITICS: Debate Fables
Well, we know John Kerry wasn't at the Republican Convention in August (I was), but he shouldn't have claimed that the subways weren't running for the convention without checking with someone who was.
But what about some of Kerry's other claims? Lileks covers Kerry's claim that we should have used more allied troops in Iraq. Smash covers Kerry's claim that we should have used fewer allied troops in Afghanistan. And this National Review analysis debunks Kerry's claims about body armor.
BASEBALL: Ichiro's Record
So Ichiro finally broke George Sisler's long-standing hits record of 257, going 3-for-5 last night against the Rangers. But that's not all: if he manages two more 5 at bat games today and tomorrow, he'll also break Willie Wilson's single-season at bats record of 705. At a minimum, unless Ichiro takes both days off, he'll be just the third major leaguer to notch 700 at bats in a season. For a guy whose durability was questioned when he arrived here as an undersized outfielder from short-season Japan (where his career high in at bats was 546), that's impressive work.
So the season's longer. It's been longer for 42 years. Sisler had a longer schedule to work with than Jesse Burkett, who had 240 hits in a 135 game season in 1896 (288 per 162 games). (Ty Cobb broke Burkett's record in 1911). The original record of 138 hits was set by Ross Barnes, in the NL's inaugural 1876 season, in 66 games (339 per 162 games). Yes, that puts Ichiro in perspective, but don't cry for Sisler; it's the way the game's history has gone.
October 1, 2004
POLITICS: A Notable Absence
This has to be a first in a foreign policy debate:
Nothing about Castro
Nearly nothing about Mexico
Nothing about Haiti or Venezuela or Colombia
Viewers who tuned in to hear the candidates' views on America's role in the Western Hemisphere could be forgiven for concluding that neither of them has any views on America's role in the Western Hemisphere.
POLITICS: The Commander
One more thing I should add that was impressive about the debate - even if we should all know better by now - was Bush's command of the facts. Bush is often regarded as a guy who grasps only as much as is written down in front of him, but last night he was on top of a broad array of issues, from the onset of the rainy season in Sudan to the upcoming summit in Japan. None of this should be a surprise, and as I said, Bush certainly wasn't in his element, but for voters who may have gone in expecting Bush to read "My Pet Goat" while he waited for Uncle Dick to bring him the answers to the questions, Bush's performance had to be reassuring.