Drum Punts, Kleiman Dodges, Willis Whiffs

So, yesterday I had 14 questions for Kevin Drum to answer if he expects us to continue taking him seriously on the “Bush was AWOL!!!!!!” charge. I also mentioned Mark Kleiman as one of the prominent bloggers flogging this story (and emailed him the link), and threw in Oliver Willis as well. Let’s track the responses:
*Kleiman, to his credit, emailed back his response quickly and then posted it on his blog. However, his response basically dodges all of my questions and instead focuses on things we don’t know. You can go there and judge for yourself. My response: Yes, I’m aware of Phil Carter, but he hasn’t dealt with a lot of these points either. An obvious answer on the “why nobody remembers” thing is that Bush was just marking time, and most likely wasn’t doing much to attract attention. If I’d become the most famous man in America by now, it’s still unlikely that the people in my bar review class 8 years ago would remember me, notwithstanding the fact that there were only about 6 of us.
As for the flight physical, I take Sparkey’s point (and others’) seriously about the flight physical not being much of a requirement if Bush had no reason to remain qualified to fly. If he was away from his regular doctor – or even just the AF doctor Bush had been to before – it’s not surprising that he wasn’t really interested in going to a new doctor for a pointless physical. As for Bush’s book . . . well, OK, that’s not accurate. But it was 30 years ago, and he’d logged a lot of hours in the air. It’s not unusual at all if that seemed like a longer time than it was, and I assume that when he proofed the book, he was doing so from memory, rather than cross-referencing it with fragmentary pay stubs. Kleiman also begs the question; elsewhere, he points to a Texas statute that reads as follows:

� 432.131. Absence Without Leave
A person subject to this chapter shall be punished as a court-martial directs if the person without authority:
(1) fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed;
(2) goes from that place; or
(3) absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed.

The problem is, Kleiman never gives any explanation of why he believes Bush was “required to be” in any particular place at any particular “time prescribed.” It’s also pretty lame that Kleiman attacks my criticisms on his blog without providing a link; that’s just bad form. Blogs are supposed to be open to a give-and-take that presumes you have enough confidence in your position to let your readers hear the other side and respond. (Kleiman also insisted that his site’s failure to accept trackbacks from my site and some other conservative sites is due to a technical problem he hasn’t been able to fix . . . I take him at his word, but a better trackback feature might hold him a bit more accountable for his writings).
*Maybe Drum will address the questions later, but his initial response was to issue a non-denial denial, basically admitting that there’s nothing to this story but arguing that Bush should nonetheless be compelled to keep answering questions about it. Um, remind me not to listen to Kevin complain about anything that was done to Clinton . . . on my Question #2, about eyewitness testimony, Drum provides a mixed answer: on the one hand, he’s still pushing the statement by Col. Turnipseed even after he’s come right out and said that he was misquoted and not in a position to comment. That’s just sleazy. On the other hand, Drum points to a new report about some guys who do appear to have a basis for saying they expected to work with Bush in Alabama and never saw him. This is the first thing I’ve seen that looks like halfway decent evidence, although I’ll have to digest this a bit before I pass judgment on their credibility. But bear in mind that these guys are talking about events more than 30 years ago, and they didn’t come forward 4 years ago when this story broke. Like I said, we shall see.
*Willis just ignores me. Par for the course.
UPDATE: Oliver Willis, in comments, says I’ve overstated his interest in this story and that he didn’t even notice my trackback.


I usually respect Kevin Drum, but he’s really gone off the rails on the Bush National Guard story (See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here – and that’s just the last three days!). Now, I don’t usually like making demands that other bloggers write about things, but Kevin has been monomaniacal on this story, he’s using his big soapbox to drive the story, and he obviously has plenty of time on his hands to delve into this stuff (he’s even conducting interviews and begging readers to dive into microfilm in Alabama!). So I have a few questions — honest questions — I really would like to hear him answer, because as far as I can tell, he has yet to deal with any of these points:
1. As I noted previously here, Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker contends (see the comments section) that “[b]ecause [Bush] had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract” by 1972 and thus was not obligated to do anything, and could not be punished, for example, for missing a physical (Baldilocks has more here). I have no idea if Sparkey is right, but he obviously knows a heck of a lot more about the military than I do, and various sources seem to confirm that Bush had, in fact, well exceeded his required days of service. (See here and here) To me, if he’s right about this, this controversy is over: game, set, match. Do you disagree with Sparkey’s reading of the relevant requirements, and if not, is there any basis for arguing that Bush failed to meet his obligations to the Texas Air National Guard?
2. The original “Was Bush AWOL?” story rested heavily on Colonel (later Brigadier General) William Turnipseed of the Alabama National Guard’s statement to the effect that he would have remembered seeing Bush on the base if he’d been there. It now turns out that Turnipseed says he was misquoted and admits that he himself can’t recall if he was on the base that much (See also here). Others in the same unit have the same reaction: they have no reason to believe that they would remember a guy who was just showing up to do a few drills (More on that here, and compare this statement by someone who does remember). Do you still contend that Turnipseed or anyone else with the National Guard at the time provides any eyewtness evidence that Bush failed to attend to his obligations with the Guard?
3. Another key and frequently cited piece of evidence cited by Bush’s critics is an evaluation stating that Bush was “not observed.” Again, people with a lot more military experience than I have seem to believe that this isn’t really all that uncommon, and that “not observed” is basically a military term of art for “I’m not in position to evaluate” rather than “he wasn’t here.” (See here) Do you have any basis for disputing this characterization?
4. A number of individuals with military experience have described your characterization of the ARF unit as “disciplinary” as being laughably misinformed(see here and here and here). Do you still stand by the notion that there is evidence that Bush was at any times placed in a “disciplinary” unit or on any other “disciplinary” status?
5. Do you dispute that paperwork errors and incomplete records were fairly common in the Guard in the early 1970s? (See here and here and here and here).
6. Come to think of it – do you have any experience whatsoever serving in the military or reviewing military records? That’s not a criticism — I don’t either — but given that most of the military bloggers and commenters who have weighed in on this seem to think that this is an idiotic controversy, while nearly none of the prominent Bush critics (other than people like John Kerry and Wesley Clark who have studiously avoided knowing any of the relevant facts) appears to have any clue how to make sense of military records, military jargon and military service obligations, it’s a fair question.
7. Similarly, commentators with military experience have indicated that you have misread the one document you have been citing, stating that “There is ONLY one way to get TWO POINTS PER DAY. That is DRILL ATTENDANCE.” (See also here ). Now that this point has been raised, do you have any basis to dispute this?
8. It is not that rare for people in the military to miss a physical (see here and here) or to have records of their physical lost. (See here re: the notion that Bush had received any sort of disciplinary “warning”, and here as well). Do you contend that Bush having missed a physical is a serious infraction that justifies characterizing him as “AWOL”?
9. It appears that by 1972, Bush’s airplane, the F-102, was being phased out, and for other reasons (including the winding down of the American presence in Vietnam) the Guard was facing a surplus of manpower in general and pilots in particular (See the comment here and here (scroll down)). In other words, the tasks for which Bush had trained and served from 1968 through 1971 were no longer of much use to his country, and keeping his flight physical current in particular was largely superfluous (see here). Do you contend that Bush failed to perform any service to the National Guard in 1972-73 that would have served any useful purpose?
10. It has also been suggested that it was fairly common practice at the time for the Guard to excuse members from certain obligations due to other employment, such as Bush working on a Senate campaign in Alabama. (See also here), as well as to allow a good deal of flexibility in making up missed time. Do you have any reason to question the propriety of this, in the context of how the Guard operated at the time?
11. It has been reported that, at the time Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard, the unit he joined (the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Ellington Air Force Base, Houston) was actually flying combat missions in Vietnam (See here, and also more generally here and here and here). Do you dispute this?
12. Bush put his life at substantial risk by training on and flying the F-102; it was all too common for pilots in the Guard to be killed while flying this aircraft, as well as others. (See here and here on the risks). In fact, pilots in the National Guard get hazard pay for their duty. Do you deny this?
13. In fact, at one point, Bush volunteered for a program that was sending pilots to Vietnam (see here and here and here). Do you dispute this?
14. Isn’t it true that the principal source of this story is a nutjob conspiracy theorist from Democrats.com?
Look: Some of the sources I’m citing here may not be authoritative. And yes, Bush didn’t volunteer to go to Vietnam as John Kerry did. But the way I see it, the record currently shows that Bush (1) signed up for hazardous duty that was well more than the bare minimum of service to get out of Vietnam, (2) fulfilled every requirement – and then some – that his country asked of him to merit an honorable discharge. The burden of proof here is on those who claim otherwise. I’d love to hear Kevin or Oliver Willis or Mark Kleiman or some of the other critics try to act like responsible adults here and go point-by-point through these questions and show me the evidence why they disagree with these two conclusions.

Bush Meets The Press

Adding my two cents here . . . I watched Bush’s interview on CNBC Sunday night at 10. I thought Russert was noticeably more deferential to Bush than to his usual guests, although he asked plenty of tough questions; the difference was more in the followup.
My take on Bush: obviously, this isn’t his best format, but we knew that already. On Iraq, at least, I thought he was great. He stayed relentlessly on message (Bush’s ability to not say things is a hugely underestimated skill), but once he got rolling he was also fiesty and impassioned on the importance of Iraq to the larger situation. On the connection between Iraq and the larger war on terror, you couldn’t help but be impressed by his depth of conviction.
He had definitely prepared extensively for this. After each question, he’d pause and say “sure” or “OK” and then launch into his prepared answer, which made clear that he was there to stake out his positions rather than to engage in genuine back-and-forth conversation. Which is frustrating, but it also shows an un-Dean-like appreciation of the gravity of every word that comes from the President.
He was weaker on the other stuff. He was too defensive on the economy, didn’t stress enough how things have improved lately, but then, he doesn’t want to seem unconcerned to people who haven’t tasted the recovery yet. I also thought when he started talking about how the market started dropping in March 2000 and the recession began a year later, he could have tossed in a dig about how when he proposed his tax cuts in 2001, the Democrats were saying he was overstating the country’s economic problems (remember “talking down the economy”?). Maybe by debate time, the opposition research people will have dug up Kerry saying that.
Like Andrew Sullivan, I don’t know what planet Bush gets his budget numbers from. But then, I don’t put much stock in anybody’s budget numbers.
On the AWOL issue, Bust could have said more but he doesn’t want to dignify the issue; what the Democrats have been stupid about is giving him an opening to rip them for lumping in Guard service with desertion or fleeing to Canada.


From the NY Daily News:

A new Time/CNN poll . . . found that 60% of voters deem Kerry did proper service in Vietnam, but only 39% deem Bush did.

So . . . 40% of survey respondents think that Kerry piloting his boat through firefights isn’t enough? What would satisfy these people? Do the other 40% think he (1) should have died there, or (2) should have refused to serve?
On the other hand, Charles Johnson points out that this is dishonorable:

Al Gore . . . was a featured speaker at the Arab League�s lunatic �think tank� known as the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up . . . what should we call lending the prestige of the US Vice Presidency to a blatantly insane anti-America, antisemitic Arab hate group in the Persian Gulf�after September 11? And taking their money�no doubt quite a lot of it?

Johnson also links to an example of the kind of stuff the Zayed Centre has featured from other speakers.

On Bringing It On

Ed from Late Final, on the difference between Bush and Kerry on the war:

Kerry: When he says, “Bring it on,” he refers to President Bush, the RNC and Karl Rove.
Bush: When he said, “Bring it on,” he referred to terrorists seeking to disrupt the transformation of Iraq to a free, democratic state.

(Link via Note-It Posts). Of course, when Bush said, “Bring it on,” what was Kerry’s response?

“The President�s comment yesterday regarding the continued attacks on American troops in Iraq was unwise, unworthy of the office and his role as commander in chief, and unhelpful to American soldiers under fire. The deteriorating situation in Iraq requires less swagger and more thoughtfulness and statesmanship,” Kerry said in a statement.


The AWOL Smear Keeps Crumbling

Tom Maguire notes a significant fact about the whole “Bush AWOL” nonsense. If you recall, there are three principal pieces of evidence relied on to push this story:
1. Bush’s National Guard commander in Alabama, William Turnipseed, says he would have remembered seeing Bush if he’d been there, but doesn’t.
2. Bush missed a physical.
3. Bush hasn’t produced Guard records showing he wasn’t AWOL.
The third, of course, isn’t evidence so much as an absence of evidence, and it’s unsurprising that the Guard’s paperwork from that period isn’t in great order. Now Maguire notes that the first point has been badly undermined by the Washington Post:

Reached in Montgomery yesterday, Turnipseed stood by his contention that Bush never reported to him. But Turnipseed added that he could not recall if he, himself, was on the base much at that time.

In other words, if Bush was doing what he said he did – just showing up for meetings to play out the last two years of his commitment after exceeding his contractual commitment of hours of service in his first four years of service – it’s not surprising in the least that he never interacted with Turnipseed, who isn’t so sure he was around much himself. Bogus.

Charting The Battleground States

Let’s have some fun with numbers . . . as primary season winds down and we look ahead to the likely Bush-Kerry matchup, it’s important to bear in mind a lesson that the 2000 election drove home: presidential elections are won and lost in the Electoral College. (Which is, among other things, why national polls are of limited usefulness; it’s the individual states that matter). So I thought I’d look at which states are likely to be “in play.”
There are two variables: how many electoral votes a state has to offer, and how likely it is that the state could go to either candidate. The first is a fixed number; we know it in advance. (Daily Kos, which has some of the best horse-race coverage around, has a great calculator that lets you compute the electoral numbers by coloring various states red and blue). For the second, a good starting point is the 2000 election results.
I decided to take a whack at combining the two. I started by dividing a state’s electoral votes by the percentage point difference between Bush and Gore, but that gave too much weight to the larger states, so I settled on dividing the electoral votes by the percentage point difference squared. (For ease of comprehension, I multiplied the percentages by 10 – thus, a 12-point difference was rendered as 1.2 before squaring it, a six-point difference as .6). This isn’t a scientific sample, just a way of quantifying what we already intuitively know. Here’s my ranking of the most-hotly-contested states (Under “Margin,” I listed a negative margin for states won by Gore):

Continue reading Charting The Battleground States


Howard Bashman linked to this, and Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan have picked up on it by now, but I’ll still add that you should check out Stuart Taylor’s National Journal column arguing that, to Ted Kennedy’s proposal for forcing colleges to disclose the kind of alumni preferences that get nitwits like Ted Kennedy into Harvard (and George W. into Yale, for that matter), we should add required disclosures for all other kinds of non-academic preferences in admission, racial and otherwise. Here’s his proposed questionnaire:

Please provide data showing:
1. Any preferences in admissions or financial aid based on family relationships with alumni, alumnae, or donors; status as a recruited athlete; state or region of residence; economic status; or membership in any racial group, disaggregated into specific groups.
2. For each preferred category, and for each racial group of applicants, (including unpreferred racial groups): all written and unwritten policies as to the weight given to the preferred characteristic; the median high school grade point average and SAT (or ACT) score; and the percentage admitted.
3. For each preferred category and each racial group of admitted applicants: the percentage receiving financial aid, median amount received, and median family income, to the extent available; the numbers of Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Native Americans; the median high school GPA and median SAT (or ACT) score; the median college GPA of enrolled students; and the percentage who graduate within six years.

This goes back to why I was skeptical of the Racial Privacy Initiative, which was soundly defeated in the California special election. Sunshine is a good thing.

Sabotaging Bush?

Mac Thomason called this one first, and now The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund is speculating about deposed Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore making a third-party challenge to President Bush from the right. (Link via Howard Bashman). I’m skeptical that that would happen, or that Moore would find sources of financing for such a run; Bush has been pretty strong on social issues.

Campaign Links 2/3/04

*Edwards finally goes on the attack, and says he would’ve voted against NAFTA. Which puts him way out there with Gephardt, Perot, Buchanan and Bob “the Goalie” Kerrey in rejecting Bill Clinton’s number one accomplishment as president.
*Salon carries an article (sorry, subscription only) on why Wesley Clark doesn’t blink. The author of the article, Anna Holmes, actually contacted me and a number of other bloggers looking for quotes about why we thought Clark was so creepy, although there’s only a few quotes (none from yours truly) in the final article.
*From Saturday, David Brooks nails the bizarre nature of the Kerry phenomenon of voters trying to elect a candidate based on his electability.

George W. Bush: Reform Conservative or Neoliberal?

One of the burning questions that has surrounded George W. Bush since he arrived on the national scene has been, how conservative is he, really? Four years ago, I thought I had an answer. Today, I’m not so sure.
To make sense of Bush’s proper place on the Right, it’s necessary to look at two significant political movements that have come to the fore in the past 15 years or so. Traditionally, the conservative movement has been driven by small-government conservatism, the idea that government is too big and intrusive and spends and regulates too much. Ever since the Reagan years, the small-government conservatives have been trapped in a sort of limbo: they’ve won the battle of ideas, but lost the political battle, most spectacularly with the failure of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 revolution to eliminate any significant government programs.
Partially in response to this, we’ve seen the growth of what (at the risk of adding another sub-category) I’ve long liked to think of as Reform Conservatism. The central insight of Reform Conservatives has been that the most important problem with government programs is not that that they involve the government, but that they take choices away from individuals. The classic Reform Conservative solution is including privately controlled accounts within the Social Security system; rather than stage a losing battle over trying to scale back or get rid of the program, Reform Conservatives have focused on introducing within it an element of private choice to make the operation of Social Security more like a non-governmental program. The other signature issue of Reform Conservatives, school choice, operates the same way: it’s still redistributing taxpayer money, but the decisionmaking authority over the use of that money is shifted to parents and away from school system bureaucrats.

Continue reading George W. Bush: Reform Conservative or Neoliberal?

Neocon Abuse

Thursday’s NY Times carried a review of Debra Dickerson’s book “The End of Blackness,” about race in America. What caught my eye was this bit of idiocy:

Ms. Dickerson has been accused of employing reductive neoconservative logic and of pandering to white readers, telling them what they want to hear.

This, of course, is a classic misreading of the term “neoconservative,” by someone who probably learned the term in the past year and thinks it means “anything that is conservative that I do not like.” Since when is there even a standard “neocon” position on race (at least, one that is distinct from conservatism as a whole), much less one that should be seen by the Left as particularly odious?

Campaign Links

*Inappropriate quote of the day:

“You have a Jim Rassmann, who was a Special Forces officer that was blown off John Kerry’s small boat … When John Kerry turned that boat back and hauled Jim Rassmann out of the water, risking his own life, what he has said: We leave no one behind. He didn’t leave Jim Rassmann behind. He won’t leave veterans behind.”

–Ted Kennedy, who left Mary Jo Kopechne behind. (Link via NGD)
Noam Scheiber notes that in 1991, John Kerry’s office was sending pro-war letters to pro-war constituents and anti-war letters to anti-war constituents (Link via Andrew Sullivan)
–Over at The Command Post, I quote at length from RNC Chair Ed Gillespie’s speech ripping into John Kerry’s voting record on national security. Highlight: Kerry voted in 1997 to cut $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget. (I also liked Gillespie’s crack on Edwards: “I heard Sen. Edwards was disappointed that he got only 13 percent of the vote in New Hampshire after getting 33 percent in Iowa. I guess as a trial lawyer he just assumed he would always get a third.”).
–The New Republic (subscription only) says Kerry’s 1997 book The New War “was almost entirely focused on the threat of global crime-not terrorism.” As TNR notes, the book isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t the visionary tract Kerry now makes it out to be. And get this doozy:

Perhaps worst of all is the odd note on which he closes-a call for repairing America’s domestic health through after-school programs, health care for all, and early-childhood intervention. Those programs, Kerry writes, “will enable us to make peace in our own country and contribute to it elsewhere.” After reading that Manhattan is likely to be nuked someday, a reader can be forgiven for expecting more.

–A link to the full text of Kerry’s dramatic 1971 testimony to Congress. Note that the “Winter Soldier Investigation” (discussed here) is the opening and thematic centerpiece of this speech, which launched Kerry’s political career.
Fortune magazine notes that Wesley Clark just made $1.2 million (at least on paper) from his investment in a German company, and that this was essentially a risk-free investment set up by business associates. Nice work if you can get it.
This morning’s NY Daily News looks at Clark’s videotaped address to the annual conference of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America, a group under investigation for ties to terrorism. “Two past conference speakers face terror-related indictments and a third is identified in FBI reports as a Hamas terror leader.”
–Also in the Daily News, gossip columnist Lloyd Grove (second item) relates some of the hate mail he’s getting for questioning whether John Kerry has had Botox to render his famously furrowed brow smooth and motionless. Um, he is a gossip columnist. This is the first and, I’m sure, last time I’ll say this: this is an issue for Maureen Dowd!

Campaign Links

1. A look back at Will Saletan’s definitive take on why John Kerry was such a brave soldier and such a timid politician.
2. FOX News reports that Ted Kennedy is leaning on the unions to switch from Dean to Kerry.
3. For now, at least, President Bush is polling well in California. If Bush can even be competitive in California in the fall, that means two things: the Democrats have to expend valuable resources there, and Bush is probably doing even better elsewhere. But I’ll believe this is real when I see it hold up over more time (FOX quotes a Democratic consultant attributing this to the Arnold-honeymoon effect). I remain skeptical (as I noted here and here) about California going Republican all of a sudden.
4. Noam Scheiber’s thoughts on why a quick Kerry victory could leave the Democrats with a weak and untested nominee.

The Kerry Files

Yesterday, ABC’s The Note re-posted a pair of hilarious memos from John Kerry’s outgoing campaign heads to the incoming heads last November (one was from ousted campaign manager Jim Jordan to his incoming replacement, Mary Beth Cahill; the other was from departing communications spokesguy Robert Gibbs to the arriving Stephanie Cutter). These aren’t smoking-gun stuff, since it’s pretty common knowledge that campaign people talk like this, but they are deeply humorous reading and, since The Note doesn’t have archives, I’ll reprint them here in their entirety:

Continue reading The Kerry Files

He Was A Soldier Once And Wrong

Mackubin Thomas Owens on NRO has a scathing look at the vicious slanders spread by John Kerry against Vietnam veterans back when he wasn’t so proud to be one:

Kerry began by referring to the Winter Soldiers Investigation in Detroit. Here, he claimed, “over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”

It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did, they relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.
They told their stories. At times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

This is quite a bill of particulars to lay at the feet of the U.S. military. He said in essence that his fellow veterans had committed unparalleled war crimes in Vietnam as a matter of course, indeed, that it was American policy to commit such atrocities.
In fact, the entire Winter Soldiers Investigation was a lie. It was inspired by Mark Lane’s 1970 book entitled Conversations with Americans, which claimed to recount atrocity stories by Vietnam veterans. This book was panned by James Reston Jr. and Neil Sheehan, not exactly known as supporters of the Vietnam War. Sheehan in particular demonstrated that many of Lane’s “eye witnesses” either had never served in Vietnam or had not done so in the capacity they claimed.

* * *
If he believes his 1971 indictment of his country and his fellow veterans was true, then he couldn’t possibly be proud of his Vietnam service. Who can be proud of committing war crimes of the sort that Kerry recounted in his 1971 testimony? But if he is proud of his service today, perhaps it is because he always knew that his indictment in 1971 was a piece of political theater that he, an aspiring politician, exploited merely as a “good issue.”

Two New Hampshire Thoughts

*Prediction: the nomination race will, and should, ultimately turn on Michigan on February 7. It’s a big state, an industrial state, it’s after each region of the country has had a taste of the leading Democrats and the field has narrowed, and — along with Pennsylvania and Ohio — it’s the core of the states where the November election will be decided.
*Joe Lieberman’s declaration that he’s got the “Joe-Mentum” is the saddest thing I think I’ve ever heard from a major candidate. He was on tonight trying to spin 9% of the vote in a state in his native region of the country as something to keep him in the game. I kinda like Lieberman, but . . . it’s so, Joe. It’s so.

Generally Wrong

Tom Maguire catches a great backtrack in the NY Times from a Wesley Clark spokesman on the General’s statements on abortion:

The Clark spokesman, Jamal Simmons . . . described the exchange with The Union-Leader’s publisher as “a rhetorical fight with a conservative, right-wing, anti-choice editorial board.”
“He was making an effort not to cede any ground on the issue,” Mr. Simmons said. “It was an effort to keep from engaging them on the issue of timing. Engaging in this in any other way would be ceding ground to Republicans that perhaps there needs to be other restrictions.”

As long as we’re making martial analogies, I’d say that the first version of any statement by General Clark is a rhetorical Maginot Line, impressive to his supporters but easily overrun and ultimately indefensible.

Continue reading Generally Wrong

BASEBALL/BLOG/ Musings on Pinto

Congratulations are in order for David Pinto, who’s moving on to a job with Baseball Info Solutions, the publishers of the new Bill James Handbook. David’s been a great friend to this site, and I wish him well; he’ll apparently be moving his blog to their site.
I have to wonder if the Sporting News, which bought out STATS, Inc. and shut down its annual baseball handbook (which competed with TSN’s inferior publication), made a huge mistake common to arrogant baseball men by failing to consider that the key STATS employees, starting with John Dewan, might go and re-start essentially the same book with a new company. Had they thought about that, they could have (1) incorporated more of STATS’ elements in the TSN annual or (2) included contract provisions in the sale requiring that key employees not compete with TSN for a number of years. Looks like they whiffed on that one.
On another note, David has this amusing nugget from Peter Gammons:

Gammons and [John] Kerry played hockey against each other in prep school, and Peter told me once that Kerry was the dirtiest hockey player he ever saw.

Why Not Show Me?

The next batch of primaries after New Hampshire on January 27 is a seven-state breakout on February 3. The Democratic National Committee’s site has what appears to be a definitive calendar of the remaining primary schedule. The Feb. 3 lineup:
New Mexico
North Dakota
South Carolina
Now, let me ask a silly question, since I don’t know the answer to this: why does South Carolina get all the attention when reporters talk about the step after New Hampshire – are some of the others nonbinding or something? Missouri in particular is a swing state right in the heart of the country and bigger than South Carolina (11 electoral votes to SC’s 8), and now its favorite son has dropped out. You’d think that would be a bigger story than a state the Democrats can’t carry in November anyway. New Mexico went Democrat by a hair in 2000, and is a critical state in November; together with Arizona (which has 10 electoral votes and is probably in play if the Democrats are competitive), it provides an early test in the West, where none of the remaining candidates has a regional base. Even Oklahoma is nothing to sneeze at.
So why does the media keep talking only about the primaries as Iowa-New Hampshire-South Carolina?

EDWARDS LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!

In addressing some of Bush’s key points of attack against John Edwards yesterday, I didn’t mention Edwards’ obvious inexperience, particularly in foreign affairs. Naturally, that remains his biggest vulnerability, which I’ll get into more another day.
But Edwards is vulnerable from another flank as well: once Joe Lieberman is out of the race, he becomes the most pro-Iraq-war Democrat left, and that could render him uniquely exposed to the potential for a third-party challenge. A left-wing anti-war third party would get its most votes in places like California and the Northeast, where the Democrats are likely to run strongly anyway, but the places where it could be a factor are a number of swing states the Democrats need badly: Washington, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
It’s not just that Edwards supported the war (I’ll deal another day with his position since the main combat operations ended); it’s that his full-throated support for the most controversial justification for the war — that Saddam’s regime had weapons of mass destruction — puts him so totally at odds with the charges made by the anti-war Left (Dean, Clark, Ted Kennedy, Paul Krugman, etc.) that the war was some sort of political stunt or oil grab dreamed up in Texas and that our WMD intelligence was all a creation of Dick Cheney and the perfidious neocons.
Of course, we all know that Edwards has plenty of company on the Left – others who stuck their necks out on the WMD allegations include such right-wing warmongers as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Dick Gephardt, Lieberman and Tony Blair. But Edwards’ statements on the matter were notably definitive:

Continue reading EDWARDS LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!

Edwardian Nightmare

I gotta say, all of a sudden my prediction last January of Edwards and Kerry as the top 2 candidates for the Democrats (in that order), with Lieberman a distant sixth and Dean a candidate with some appeal and advantages but no staying power, is looking pretty good right now, although I did overrate Gephardt and Bob Graham (I clearly hadn’t seen Graham in “action” enough). As of now, I’m mentally preparing for Edwards, who’s the most dangerous of the Democratic candidates and who will require a different emphasis for Bush.
Three keys to beating Edwards, in my view:
1. Show how his populism really means taking choices away from Regular People and giving them to government. Issues like private Social Security accounts, medical savings accounts, and school choice are kryptonite to populists. Note that all these were emphasized by Bush again in his State of the Union address.
2. Make an issue of judges. Edwards, together with Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer, led the battle against Bush’s judges, effectively pushing for more liberal courts. Not only are there “smoking gun” memos showing how this strategy was dictated by Democratic special interest groups, but once you get away from platitudes about “strict constructionists” and get to reality, it’s real easy to show how liberal judges take power from the people and use it in ways that the people would never agree to. Bush is wisely pushing this angle of the gay marriage debate; while people remain ambivalent or deeply split about gay marriage, very few people like the idea of having unelected judges tell us that the Constitution mandated all along a radical change in a thousands-of-years-old institution, in ways nobody was even talking about 15 years ago.
3. Don’t overplay the “trial lawyer” angle. With apologies to Walter Olson, who notes Edwards’ reliance on “junk science” in his career as a lawyer, you don’t want to argue Edwards’ own cases (he knows them better than anyone), and not everyone hates trial lawyers. What matters more is showing how Edwards is financially dependent on the trial bar and has consistently opposed any meaningful reform of the system, which has the additional effect of revealing the true hollowness of his anti-special-interest rhetoric.

Heading for New Hampshire

For the record:
1. Howard Dean’s getting a lot of undeserved grief over that yell at the end of his Iowa not-really-a-concession-speech, but it sounded more like a yee-hah! to me. Still, the speech as a whole was a bit more animated than we’d expect from a guy trying to look presidential, and as often happens in presidential politics, it may be unfair based on one speech, but the general attack (that Dean is way too hot-headed and impulsive) is dead on the mark as far as his campaign goes.
2. Mickey Kaus quotes Chris Matthews saying that after the Iowa backlash against Dean and Gephardt, the candidates are gunshy about going negative. Bad timing! As I pointed out four years ago, New Hampshire voters love negative campaigns (remember McCain, Buchanan, Gene McCarthy).
3. New Hampshire is now critical for Dean, of course: he needs to win, and win convincingly, to avoid an implosion, and some recent polls show precisely that (Kerry’s quick surge from 10% to 27% shows that some of his recent losses in the NH polls had been people who liked him but gave up on his campaign as being out of the race). It’s also critical for Clark: if he finishes lower than second, he’s going to South Carolina without having been a story in either of the first two primaries, and he’s in trouble. A strong third place finish, at least, is probably needed to keep Lieberman on the ropes rather than the mat; if he polls less than 10% again, he just might give up after all, leaving Edwards as the most pro-war candidate left in the race. New Hampshire can help Kerry and Edwards, but can’t really hurt them unless Kerry just gets crushed.

BASEBALL/POLITICS, etc.: A Few Of My Favorite Books

Nothing scratches the blog itch quite like a little bout of list-making. With that in mind, I decided to draw up a list of my all-time favorite books. For reasons that will become obvious, I limited myself to one book per author, and in some cases the one book is something of a stand-in for a larger body of work. The top 10-15 of these are the real immortals, the ones I go back to again and again. In some cases, I suppose, I’ve also stretched the definition of “book,” but hey, it’s my list. I also decline to apologize for the paucity of literature and the prominence of baseball memoirs on this list; I’ve always preferred polemics, analyses, humor and great storytelling, and I’ve never made pretense at being deeply intellectual in my interests:
25. Michael Lewis, Moneyball: This would rank higher except that so much of the story was already familiar to me, although in a few years’ time I might change my mind. I discussed Moneyball here.
24. Raymond Woodcock, Take the Bar and Beat Me: I enjoy my job and the law, but not to the point where I can’t see the humor in the profession of law. Woodcock, a reformed lawyer, graduate of Columbia Law School and practitioner at a big New York firm that has since gone under, wrote a scathingly humorous look at law school and the legal profession, and one I highly recommend to anyone considering a career in the law. Woodcock’s take is blithely cynical in some places, but also self-critical, as he looks at how the law changed him, including his divorce (an occupational hazard of lawyering).
23. Leo Durocher, Nice Guys Finish Last: Leo’s book, like Leo himself, is funny, vindictive, manipulative and an essential key to understanding six decades of baseball history, from Leo’s run-ins with Ty Cobb to his frustrations with Cesar Cedeno.
22. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged: A cliched choice for conservatives, although I came to read this one relatively late in life (just a few years ago) after I was pretty well set in my thoughts, and I still haven’t read any of Rand’s others. It’s a tale well-told (even if John Galt’s didactic speech drags a bit), skillfully playing on the unfairness, pettiness and venality of a system that gives some people the ability to decide how to dispose of the fruits of others’ labors.
21. Joe Garagiola, Baseball is a Funny Game: Garagiola’s was one of the first baseball books I read as a kid, and dog-eared it rather severely. It’s unmistakably pre-Ball Four in its G-rated treatment of the game (it was published in 1960), and thus will seem horribly dated to the modern adult reader, but still manages to capture the earthy humor of ballplayers and the genuine love for the game of guys like Garagiola and his boyhood pal Yogi Berra, who came up from a working-class Italian-American section of St. Louis. Garagiola also captures an up-close look at important figures like Branch Rickey and Frankie Frisch. A similar collection of humorous stories about the game from the 1970s can be found in the late Ron Luciano’s books.
20. Stephen Carter, Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby: A tough choice between Carter’s books on church and state, affirmative action, and judicial confirmations, so I picked the one I read first. Carter describes himself mostly as a political liberal, but he fits comfortably in the neo-liberal camp in his willingness to challenge orthodoxies of the Left, especially on questions of race and religion. His writing is also a model of clarity and directness.
19. Scott Turow, One L: Yes, this was particularly influential because (like most everybody else in my law school class) I read it the summer before starting law school at Harvard. Harvard and law schools generally have changed a good deal since the 1970s, but Turow captures perfectly (and contributes to) the essentially internal psychodrama of the place. I’m also giving Turow credit here for his works of straight fiction, which are intricate and absorbing, however seamy.
18. Stephen King, Christine: King’s books are always gripping, most of all The Shining and Christine. The latter gets extra points here for King’s vividly accurate portrait of the minds of high school kids and the real and imagined terrors that can overcome them.
17. Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down: As frightening as any Stephen King book, but much sadder; Bowden not only rescued the Battle of Mogadishu from historical obscurity, but in the process drew a compelling picture of the modern American military and the men who populate it, the mindset and tactics of its Third World adversaries (sometimes in spite of decent men in their midst), and the gulf that separates the two. The book’s indictment of foreign-policy adventures like Somalia is almost an afterthought but one that stays with you.
16. Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August: If Bowden provided a readable and engrossing look at war from the ground level, Tuchman’s World War I classic did the same from the top down. Tuchman recognized the Shakespearean tragedy of the onset of the Great War, and presents the plans of the various generals and the vissicitudes of the onset of war to maximize that effect. I also loved her book A Distant Mirror, a chilling compendium of the ills (literal and figurative) of 14th Century Europe.
15. Raymond Smullyan, Alice in Puzzle-Land: One of the many things I got from my mother was a love of logic puzzles, and Smullyan is the master of them. This book isn’t just a collection of increasingly brain-bending puzzles, like his book The Lady or The Tiger?; it’s also a clever and stylish takeoff on Lewis Carroll’s bizarre cast of characters. The book is out of print and hard to find, but it remains a favorite.
14. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: I was a bit of a latecomer to the Harry Potter books, having seen the first two movies with my wife (who’d read the books) before diving into this, the third installment (I’ve subsequently read the first two to my son); now I’m hooked. Having read all five, the third is the best, with a taut, fast-moving plot carrying lots twists (granted that a number of the surprises are telegraphed in advance). Perhaps as importantly, for the adult reader, Prisoner of Azkaban introduces the series’ serious adult characters (i.e., characters who are more than just quirky authority figures).
13. The Opinions of Justice Antonin Scalia: The Caustic Conservative: Yes, I’m cheating here by citing a book that hasn’t been released yet, based on its likely contents consisting of judicial opinions. I’ll narrow it down here to its essence: the two opinions I particularly have in mind, and which have greatly influenced my thinking about American government and its principles, are his lone dissent in Morrison v. Olson (in which he argued that the independent counsel statute was unconstitutional, in terms that his nearly unanimous critics eventually had to concede a decade later), and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (his denunciation of the theoretical emptiness and illegitimacy of the Court’s abortion jurisprudence). Taken together, the opinions set out a central theme of conservative thought about government: the need to draw governmental power only from sources whose legitimacy can be reaffirmed by keeping them accountable to the people.
12. Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who: In enumerating favorite and influential books, too many people neglect the books they learned from first. But Dr. Seuss deserves a special place, and not only for charming this and many other hearers of his books to become readers of books in the first place. (I’ve also noted their usefulness in teaching children to read aloud). His longer books, with stories that have a moral to them, are masterpieces of precise and whimsical use of the English language, and in most cases manage to make their point without getting preachy, even on subjects (e.g., The Lorax and environmentalism) that are prone to heavy-handed one-sidedness. And they hold up so well that they are the rare children’s book that an adult actually enjoys reading for its own sake.
My current favorite of these is I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew, which is a none-too-thinly-veiled slap at utopianism of all kinds. But the one that’s endured the most in my consciousness since childhood is Horton Hears a Who, with a mantra that should be the creed of any pro-lifer: “A person’s a person no matter how small.” And its message of Horton’s solitary courage when surrounded by neighbors who wish to define the Whos out of existence (one with undoubted Holocaust overtones) remains a powerful one for readers tall and small alike.
11. Baseball Prospectus 1999: I’ve arbitrarily picked the first of the BP books I bought. The Prospectus hasn’t always been on the right side of the many arguments its staff has raised. Nor has it been as influential or groundbreaking, or nearly as entertaining, as Bill James’ work; but the comparison is unfair. What matters is that they’ve consistently asked the important questions that were needed to move serious analysis of the game forward in the 1990s and beyond, and in so doing they’ve done a lot to drive the terms of debate ever since. I would never have understood baseball’s post-1994 business environment and its ramifications without BP, and their work on projections, translations and pitcher workloads has often been groundbreaking. This is the first book I turn to every year to get a handle on the new season.
10. Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities: Wolfe’s novel about a Wall Street investment banker who becomes a cause celebre after hitting a young African-American teen with his car after taking a wrong turn in the Bronx just perfectly sums up all the ills of pre-Giuliani New York (only some of which have been fixed since then). The satirical bite of the book is only enhanced by Hollywood’s ham-handed efforts to sanitize its portrait of New York’s ethnic politics. My dad, who was on the NYPD until the late 80s, swears by the authenticity of many of the scenes in this classic.
9. Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need: If you’ve only read Dave Barry’s columns and skipped his books, you’ve missed a lot. I had a tough choice between the Travel Guide and Barry’s Short History of the United States, which is basically his annual year-end column writ large, but the Travel Guide packed in just an unbelievable number of laughs in a short space.
8. Lawrence Ritter, The Glory of Their Times: Simply the best oral history of baseball ever done, and the one all the others copied. Ritter got a number of ballplayers from the early 20th century to open up to him; all or nearly all of them are dead and gone now, but not their stories.
7. The Book of Job: As you can no doubt tell from the balance of content on this blog, I’m a Catholic who doesn’t think about religion as often as I should. But the Bible undoubtedly informs my thinking in ways I can’t even perceive, and when I have read Scripture, the book I’ve most enjoyed reading (from the Old Testament, ahem) is Job. Job deals with the toughest questions that face any believer in an omnipotent and benevolent God must grapple with — why bad things happen to good people, where sin and suffering belong in the world — and doesn’t provide any easy answers.
6. Peter Gammons, Beyond the Sixth Game: The best assignment I ever had in school was when my sophomore English teacher, Mr. Donnelly, gave us a list of books to report on and one of them was this classic by Peter Gammons. Gammons is a lot of things to a lot of people, and these days he’s best known for (1) having the game’s most extensive network of sources, and (2) uncritically repeating everything those sources tell him (which is not unrelated to the maintenance of (1)). He is at times an open mind friendly to statistical analyses of the game, and at times gives a soapbox and his imprimatur to denunciations of statistical analyses of the game.
But first and foremost, Gammons is a guy who loves baseball, loves the Red Sox, and can really write. Beyond the Sixth Game is the tale of the Red Sox from 1976-1985, when Gammons was the Boston Globe’s beat writer for the team, and it’s a love letter to every fan whose heart was broken by those teams, and a cold-eyed analysis of how it happened (Gammons’ thesis is that the ownership of the Sox failed to appreciate the new financial realities of the free agent era). His portraits of the players are detailed and affectionate (especially Carlton Fisk and Luis Tiant, two guys Gammons obviously really did think were very special people), and his narratives of the pivotal 1977 and 1978 seasons soar. No Red Sox fan – no baseball fan – should do without this book.
5. Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution: Ask conservatives of my generation about Ronald Reagan or conservatism, and chances are pretty good that you will get a picture heavily influenced by one of his “wordsmiths,” Peggy Noonan. The book is only secondarily a memoir, although it does capture (with Noonan’s eye for sympathetic detail) numerous Washington figures of the 80s, as well as her previous boss, Dan Rather, of whom Noonan was very fond despite his politics. More importantly, it’s a book about writing — about a particular kind of writing (political speeches), how they get created, why they matter, and what’s important in crafting them. It’s also a tribute to a set of conservative ideals, and how they continued to inspire conservatives even when their practitioners didn’t always live up to their promise.
4. The Orwell Reader: Yes, I’m cheating again by including an anthology. Another invaluable assignment — the best thing I got out of college, academically — was buying this book for Professor Green’s British Empire class. I re-read it end to end again after September 11. Orwell hardly needs my introduction; his depictions of working-class life in the 1930s (coal miners, dish washers) are famously vivid, and his jeremiads against those who wouldn’t stand up to fascism are the stuff of legend. My favorite essays are “Politics and the English Language” and “England Your England” (I reached for the latter in the opening of my September 11 column, as well as reaching for a scene from the Council of Elrond from the next selection) and I’m sure I’m not alone in those choices.
3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring: I had a tough choice here; The Hobbit was the first “grownup” book I ever read, back in the second grade, and it remains Tolkien’s best-written book. But Fellowship of the Ring perfectly bridges the gap between the lighthearted adventure of The Hobbit and the epic sweep of Lord of the Rings, and launches the greatest fantasy epic of all time. The question: what will good men do in the face of unremitting evil? Tolkien’s answer isn’t always reassuring.
2. P.J. O’Rourke, Parliament of Whores: As far as I’m concerned, still the best book ever written about American government; O’Rourke brings his vicious humor to every branch and agency of the federal government he can locate. His chapter on farm policy is the best thing I’ve ever read on the subject, and his account of a Housing NOW! march is sidesplitting. Along the way he encounters everyone from Pat Moynihan to Mike Dukakis to Ken Starr. But the book does have just one terribly cringe-inducing line, in retrospect; in his look at American foreign policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, O’Rourke states that

the main thing to be learned about foreign policy in this part of the world is that a wise foreign policy would be one that kept you out of here. There are some things you ignore at your peril, but you pay attention to Central Asia at the risk of your life.

If only.
1. The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract:
Well, you knew that was coming; if I hadn’t limited myself to one book per author, I’d have had a top 10 of Bill James books. As I’ve repeatedly noted, James has had a tremendous influence not only on my thinking about baseball but on my entire thinking process. I picked the first edition of the historical book because it is, on balance, the largest compilation of James’ most pointed and entertaining writing and original thought, effortlessly spanning twelve decades of baseball history and bringing even the most distant past vibrantly to life. (I reviewed the new Historical Abstract here).
Honorable Mentions:

Continue reading BASEBALL/POLITICS, etc.: A Few Of My Favorite Books

And Then There Were Five Four

Dick Gephardt conceded with class and decency tonight; Gephardt drives me nuts for a lot of reasons, but I have to believe that he is, at heart, a decent guy. Next on the hot seat is Howard Dean, who now must win New Hampshire. What will be most interesting in the tracking polls in NH is whether Kerry’s support revives: he was hemmorhaging support so badly in recent months that it was starting to look like his supporters were giving him up for dead. Given the chance to reconsider that view, will they?
Of the remaining five, the one who looks weakest is Joe Lieberman, who’s seemed liberated lately by the sense that he’s running now as a message candidate – no endorsements from the party heavyweights, given little respect by the media, he’s just plowing ahead, trying to turn his party back to where it was just 4 years ago. I get the sense in his renewed attacks on Dean that he now believes that his campaign will accomplish something even if he loses. As he inevitably will.

TNR and Lieberman

I meant to link to this last week, but was busy: Dr. Manhattan breaks down The New Republic’s endorsement of Joe Lieberman and how the TNR staff’s reaction mirrors the fissure within the Democratic party — and the nation — over national security. (The Mad Hibernian noted the TNR endorsement here). The Democrats seem certain to head in the opposite direction from Lieberman; they will almost be compelled to do so to avoid a debilitating third-party candidacy. As I pointed out to Tom Maguire, this leaves TNR as a partisan magazine in search of a party.

Wesley Krugman

If further proof were needed that Wesley Clark has wandered off onto the tinfoil-hat sections of the Left, you need look no further than the chief spokesman for that faction, Paul Krugman, in his Friday column. The Krug sets a simple test for the candidates, and only Clark and Howard Dean pass it:

Earlier this week, Wesley Clark had some strong words about the state of the nation. “I think we’re at risk with our democracy,” he said. “I think we’re dealing with the most closed, imperialistic, nastiest administration in living memory. They even put Richard Nixon to shame.”
In other words, the general gets it: he understands that America is facing what Kevin Phillips, in his remarkable new book, “American Dynasty,” calls a “Machiavellian moment.” Among other things, this tells us that General Clark and Howard Dean, whatever they may say in the heat of the nomination fight, are on the same side of the great Democratic divide.
* * *
Again and again, one reads that it’s about the left wing of the Democratic party versus the centrists; but Mr. Dean was a very centrist governor, and his policy proposals are not obviously more liberal than those of his rivals.
The real division in the race for the Democratic nomination is between those who are willing to question not just the policies but also the honesty and the motives of the people running our country, and those who aren’t.

On this score, the Krug at least has his taxonomy correct (although I’m not sure I’d leave Kerry out of the Dean/Clark faction). I’d disagree with him about Dean’s Leftism, but that’s for another post. The significant point is (as I’ve noted before) Clark’s eagerness (like Dean’s) to characterize any and all policy disagreements as signs of dishonesty, and their dalliances with dark conspiracy theories that lack even the slightest of evidentiary support. Jay Nordlinger in this month’s National Review has a stunning collection of these from Clark, from his accusation that the Bush Administration is “occupying countries to extract their natural resources” rather than “buy them on the world market” to his bizarre claim that the Administration didn’t use more ground troops to catch bin Laden in Afghanistan “because, all along, their plan was to save those troops to go after Saddam Hussein.”
Blood for oil. Intentionally letting bin Laden go. And there’s lots more where these came from; even Mark Kleiman calls Clark on the following:

Michael Moore, at a Clark fundraiser, said that he looked forward to a debate between “the general and the deserter.”
Clark, asked about it later, said:
“I’ve heard those charges. I don’t know if they are true or not. He was never prosecuted for it,” and “I am not going to go into the issues of what George W. Bush did or didn’t do in the past,” and that holding Bush “accountable for his performance of duty as commander in chief” is “the issue is in this election.”

Bogus, and as Kleiman points out, “deserter” is particularly strong language for a military man who parses fine distinctions about the term “relieved of command.” Of course, I’m sure some people believe all this nonsense, in the absence of any evidence and often in the face of mountains of contrary evidence. Hey, Lyndon LaRouche has committed supporters too.

Songs for Dean

Matt Labash’s look at songs written for Howard Dean is so funny it almost brought tears to my eyes:

While I’m hardly the first to state that the Dean campaign is remarkably free of people of color, I am, after spending a day on songsfordean.com, the person who has suffered through the most painful reminders of it in rapid succession. From coffeehouse bluesmen who over-enunciate every whitebread word, to hot blasts of undiluted folk so earnest that it could make the Weavers cry uncle, the songs are by and for white people. Sort of. There are two versions of the “Howard Dean Rap” . . . They use dated rap terminology like “chill” and “wack.” One line goes, “Stop and stare, say hey, lookie there! / It’s a doctor! Where? And he knows health care!” “Lookie there?” If they were real rappers, they’d get their asses kicked even in East Hampton, where Dean hails from. By the time they recite Bush’s falling “P to the O to the double L” numbers, you just want to grab the first B-to-the-L-to-the-ACK person you can find, and tuck a reparations check into their breast pocket while apologizing profusely.

Labash also has some amusing thoughts on past presidential campaign songs:

[T]here’s John Quincy Adams’s “Little Know Ye Who’s Coming.” With the melody pinched from the Scottish “Highland Muster Roll,” it’s a sunny little ditty that reminds voters what’s coming if they fail to elect Adams. The list is not encouraging: “Fire’s comin’, swords are comin’, pistols, knives and guns are comin’.” Additionally coming were slavery, knavery, hatin’, and Satan, “if John Quincy not be comin’.”

Read the whole thing.

Wesley Off The Walls

The more I hear from Wesley Clark, the more I agree with people like Andrew Sullivan, Jay Nordlinger and James Taranto that he’s a paranoid crackpot masquerading as a serious grownup. Clark’s increasingly unhinged statements of late show a man who doesn’t know when to stop pandering to the fringe (even by Democrat standards); and I suspect that a big part of the problem is that he’s a novice at politics. Novice politicians sometimes fall into this trap: they aren’t used to meeting big, diverse crowds of people, and when they meet those people and they all seem to agree with the candidate, the candidate starts to think that what goes over well with the people who attend his events is the same as what goes over well with the kinds voters who don’t attend Wesley Clark events in Iowa and New Hampshire in the middle of winter.
Frank Gaffney, writing on NRO, tears into Clark for these remarks:

In a meeting last Thursday with the editorial board of New Hampshire’s Concord Monitor, the would-be president made statements that no one staking a serious claim on the office, let alone anyone who claimed to be an expert about national security, could make. Referring to the murderous 9/11 attacks, he declared: “If I’m president of the United States, I’m going to take care of the American people. We are not going to have one of these incidents.”
According to the Monitor, Clark, when asked to clarify his position in a follow-up interview that night, reaffirmed his belief that taking appropriate measures would keep America safe. “I think [9/11] could have been prevented…I think it can be prevented again if we have the right leadership. That’s me. I will protect America.”

If Clark thinks that a head of state can guarantee against terrorism (I’m waiting to hear him say the same about recession and war), it should sure be news to the men and women who have run Israel these last several decades . . . this is adolescent bravado; it’s really not the stuff of a responsible adult, and is particularly surprising coming from a guy with Clark’s long and distinguished record of military service. (Kevin Drum tries to defend Clark’s statements, but he has to whitewash their actual text to do so and doesn’t touch this one).
Taking the cake, of course, is Clark’s support from wacko fictional-documentary maker Michael Moore; Drudge reported yesterday that Moore is endorsing Clark:

FLASH: Michael Moore to endorse Wesley Clark… Moore: ‘He’s an honest and decent man. I would like to see the General debate the deserter’…

Leaving aside the “AWOL Bush” crap, Moore isn’t some campaign outsider; he’s the guy who introduced Clark to Madonna two months ago, and the Washington Times describes him as “an early supporter of Mr. Clark.”

Another Ugly Revelation

Mickey Kaus reminisces about “working on” the Fritz Hollings for President campaign in 1984. Does this mean that the Sultan of Snark was actually supporting Hollings’ doomed campaign, or just covering it? Either way, it brings back memories of the time Hollings was being interviewed by phone for a TV or radio program (I forget which) and the interview ended abruptly because he was talking on a pay phone and didn’t have enough dimes to keep the call going.
Which is not, you know, usually a sign of a campaign that’s going anywhere.

More Dean Madness

Dean’s not satisfied being mean to George Bush; he’s also trying to psychoanalyze him:

“This president is not interested in being a good president.” “He’s interested in some complicated psychological situation that he has with his father,” the Democratic presidential front-runner said. “He is obsessed with being re-elected, and his obsession with re-election is hurting the country.”

Dean knows this . . . how?

RELIGION: “George Bush is not my neighbor”

Looks like Howard Dean is still getting the hang of that whole Jesus thing he was so big on last week. Check out this exchange:

“Please tone down the garbage, the mean mouthing, the tearing down of your neighbor and being so pompous,” Ungerer told the former Vermont governor and Democratic front-runner. “You should help your neighbor and not tear him down.”
“George Bush is not my neighbor,” Dean replied.
“Yes, he is,” Ungerer said, to which Dean responded: “You sit down. You’ve had your say and now I’m going to have my say.”

Leave aside the rudeness to a questioner who was, in fairness, something of a heckler (although we expect our politicians to suffer fools a little more gladly than this). If Dean had a shred of Christianity about him, he’d recognize the absurdity of saying that President Bush “is not my neighbor.” The whole point of Jesus’ discussion of the concept of “love thy neighbor” in the parable of the Good Samaritan is that your neighbor isn’t always who you want it to be.
Dean could have sidestepped this, of course, by pointing out that this isn’t personal between him and the other candidates, that as a candidate for public office he has to give first priority to laying the facts before the voters, etc. But he had to go one step further and basically say that Bush is beyond the realm of decent folk to whom one owes even the slightest shred of human compassion. As I’ve discussed before, Christianity demands more even for Saddam Hussein (although Dean does, at least, feel he owes some measure of fairness to Osama bin Laden). It’s one thing to say that that’s hard to live up to — it is. But by declaring that Bush is not his neighbor at all, all Dean is really doing is declaring that he’s no Christian of any type.

The Dean Legacy

Thanks among other things to the radically redistributive tax plan imposed by Howard Dean’s school-funding scheme, Act 60, officials in the ski resort of Killington, Vermont want to secede and join New Hampshire:

They say the town’s restaurants, inns and other businesses send $10 million a year to the state capital in sales, room and meal taxes, but the state returns just $1 million in state aid to Killington.

Of course, as Vermont officials note, this would require “an armed insurrection type of thing,” particularly since Killington is 25 miles from the border.
So there you have it: “Howard Dean – not quite bad enough to make you want to take up arms to escape his policies!”
On another note, Tim Graham at NRO catches a Dean quote cited by Eric Alterman questioning the Bush Administration’s patriotism, a common theme from Dean, Clark and Kerry this election cycle:

I think there are some similarities between George Bush�s Administration and Richard Nixon�s Administration: a tremendous cynicism about the future of the country; a lack of ability to instill hope in the American people; a war which doesn�t have clear principles behind it; and a group of people around the President whose main allegiance is to each other and their ideology rather than to the United States.

(Emphasis added).

BASEBALL/ Clinton and Rose

I usually try to keep my politics out of my baseball posts – I respect the fact that not everyone who comes here for the baseball content agrees with my political opinions – but I’m making an exception here, so consider yourself duly warned. David Cameron at USS Mariner says of Pete Rose:

Rose is a scumbag lying weasel who has spent the past 10 years assailing the character of men who were telling the truth. Now, when it interests him financially and potentially leads to reinstatement, he’s willing to say he was lying for the past decade and hope that we don’t mind. There’s absolutely no reason to put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame, and I hope he never gets to enter Cooperstown, even if he tries to buy a ticket from a scalper.

(Emphasis added). The point about smearing his accusers is particularly relevant; one of the things that most horrified conservatives about Clinton, especially given his constitutional status as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, was the smear campaign conducted against Ken Starr and others who sought to hold him accountable. Ditto for the convenience of his apology; George Will makes the parallel explicit: “Rose’s coming clean is the most soiled conversion of convenience since . . . well, Aug. 17, 1998, when DNA evidence caused Bill Clinton to undergo a memory clarification.”
Although I disagree with Cameron about Rose and the Hall, my argument on this point almost four years ago was always the same as about Clinton: his actions had disabled him from holding a position of trust:

Badgering the man to apologize also misses the point; the continuing ban on managing isn�t so much a punishment as a preventative measure, like impeaching a public official or disbarring a crooked lawyer (to give two obvious parallels). Nor would I accept his apology. Rose�s decade-long denial of his problems, as well as his numerous false denials at the time, even under oath, of various easily provable facts suggests that he is not to be trusted even when and if he ever makes a public display of contrition.

From The Department of Not Moving On, Part II

Following after the decision to deny the Clintons’ legal fees for the Whitewater investigation, the DC Circuit denies Monica Lewinsky’s application for $1.1 million in legal fees from the Independent Counsel investigation; the court recites the relevant details of the scheme to give Lewinsky a job and her offer of financial inducements to Linda Tripp to have both of them give false testimony, among other things, and concludes that she (and Clinton) would have been the subject of an investigation even in the absence of the Independent Counsel statute. (Of course, coming from the court that appointed Ken Starr and referred this investigation to him, this isn’t a surprising conclusion).

Unfriendly Fire

One controversy I had missed over the Christmas holidays was the long-awaited spectacle of Howard Dean turning his fire on his own troops (in this case the DLC, the group that gave us Clinton), in a move reminiscent of John McCain’s unraveling in 2000. Will Saletan had the ugly details (including an inflammatory reference to Dean as “Jihoward”) here and here.


Ralph Peters can be a tremendously incisive commentator at times, but he really goes way overboard in this NY Post column, comparing Howard Dean and his followers to Communists and Nazis for some pretty tame offenses, like whining about criticism, speaking in generalities and trying to keep Dean’s gubernatorial record under wraps. (Link via Kos). Peters clearly should have stuck to the general rules of thumb that before you compare someone to the Nazis or to Lenin or Stalin, you should (1) put down what you’re writing and come back to it in 24 hours and (2) substitute “mass murderer(s)” wherever you have terms like “Gestapo” and decide whether that still sounds over the top.
There seems to be a lot of this going around now on the Right: attacks on Dean as a liar, a phony, etc. I’m no Dean fan, but this all seems both unnecessary and beside the point. First of all, calling someone a liar over every political disagreement is tempting because it’s the stock in trade of Dean and his followers, but it’s an unhealthy temptation. Besides, Dean has huge vulnerabilities if you take him at his word and take his record seriously; it distracts unnecessarily from this to go throwing mud at the guy.
Dean has shown some signs, it’s true, of backing away from some of his worst ideas — like raising everyone’s taxes — but if he tries to run from Dean the Angry Primary Candidate, there will be time enough to call him on it. For now, what’s more important is Dean’s ideas, which should be confronted openly.

An Important Distinction

Liberal Oasis says that critics of the Bush Administration’s handling of the Plame investigation should continue to be skeptical of new chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, despite his sterling reputation, because Ken Starr also once had a sterling reputation. (Link via Oliver Willis). Now, I generally think a lot of the criticisms of Starr were and are unfair, but before you compare Fitzgerald to Starr, you have to take account of one very critical distinction: Fitzgerald is a career prosecutor. Starr had never worked in a prosecutor’s office; while he’s a fine lawyer, his training was as an appellate advocate and an appellate judge, not a prosecutor. And many of Starr’s missteps can be traced to the fact that he had no training or background as a prosecutor (as well as no training or background in news management, at which his adversaries were experts).

New Categories

Those of you who prefer to skip to the baseball content, or who want to check the category archives, may have noticed that three of the categories here (Baseball, Politics and War, my three main areas of interest) load very slowly due to the huge number of entries since the blog started in August 2002 (as well as a few oddball archived emails from before that date). To remedy the problem for the new year, I’ve renamed the old categories (“Baseball 2002-03,” etc.) and created a new set of categories (“Baseball 2004,” etc.) to hold this year’s entries. I’ve also changed the link at the top of the page so it goes to the Baseball 2004 category, and I’m notifying the few sites that link to my baseball category page rather than the main page to fix their URLs.
If you’re looking for baseball entries from 2003 and earlier, click here for the Baseball 2002-03 category.

Why we are where we are (September 13, 2000)

This is a slightly edited-for-publication version an admittedly overwrought email I wrote to friends during the lowest ebb of George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign. For perspective, it’s an interesting look back:
[D]o you have any idea what the Bush campaign is thinking? I mean, this has been a brillantly run campaign — up to a point — but it is really starting to seem that the people in charge (maybe the candidate himself) don’t understand what their real assets are. Let’s review a little history that we all recall:
In the primaries, those of us who supported McCain were told that Bush was preferable because he would sell the conservative agenda, just with a happier face than in the days of Newt. When McCain failed to trumpet his own conservative themes — attacking the cultural-conservative base when he should have been pressing the fact that he had a more conservative record than Bush on school choice and Social Security reform — I was left with no choice but to believe Bush.
I may not agreee with every particular but the platform is a thing of beauty, and when he gives speeches on its central themes — we can all recite the priority list of Education, Tax Cuts, Social Security Reform, Medicare Reform, and Rebuilding the Armed Forces — the candidate himself explains them extremely persuasively. In Texas, Bush zeroed in on his core issues and wouldn’t be led astray or goaded into going negative.
Let’s review:

Continue reading Why we are where we are (September 13, 2000)