Politics: March 2004 Archives

I've been holding off on saying anything on Richard Clarke, simply because there was a whole lot of delight in his criticisms of the Bush Administration from the left half of the blogosphere and a whole lot of criticism from the right half of the blogosphere, with hardly any acknowledgement from the major media of any of the latter. I wasn't willing to say anything until people who knew better could comment, preferring to let the investigation proceed before making any judgments on it. The blogs were saying things, and it seemed like two stories, with never the twain meeting.

Well, a major media outlet (Time Magazine) has finally published someone's recognition of the claims the righty bloggers have been making. Richard Clarke's own past recorded statements disprove enough of his claims now that he's just simply not a reliable source for anything at this point. So much for the left half of this story.

Thanks to One Hand Clapping for the link.

Bush Comeback

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Since the high point of December (with the capture of Saddam Hussein), Bush's popularity had been going down, especially with the focus on the Democratic primaries and little campaigning of his own. At the election projection site, Bush has been behind in the electoral totals based on state polls for at least the last month. He's back in the lead again, despite every single news network talking about how everything of late has been bad for him. Any thoughts on why?

There's a new argument against Bush. It's not completely new, but it's taken a new form with Richard Clarke's testimony. See here for one example among many. Apparently the Bush Administration is responsible for basing an attack against Iraq on intelligence that was faulty. The problem so far has been that they didn't have high enough standards in weighing the intelligence to determine that such an attack was necessary. (I still think it turns out that the connections between some of Saddam's men in higher positions and some higher-up al Qaeda figures plus the existence of WMD in even the small quantities attested to by David Kay should be enough to warrant careful consideration of dealing with someone who had made the threats Saddam had made.)

Well, now we have a new problem (at least in relation to the one they've been focusing on). Now they're saying that Bush should have paid more attention to the intelligence reports suggesting al Qaeda was going to do something. In the light of those objections, defenders of the Bush Administration have pointed out that the Clinton Administration had the same intelligence and didn't do anything, even giving up a couple opportunities to get Usama bin Laden. In front of the 9-11 commission now, the Clinton Administration officials have been defending their lack of action by saying they didn't think the intelligence was strong enough to be worth the potential negative consequences. The 9-11 commission isn't buying it. They think the threat was serious enough that they should have done something. The Clinton and Bush Administrations both bear the brunt of this criticism if it's a good one.

Now the liberals pushing such an argument can't have their cake and eat it too. Once they accept this argument, they can't criticize the military action in Iraq very easily. If lowered standards for accepting questionable intelligence were necessary given what they knew about the threat before 9-11, then how is it that the Bush Adminstration can be blamed for using lowered standards with respect to intelligence once it became clear how much more of a threat al Qaeda turned out to be after 9-11? In supporting this investigation of the Bush Administration before 9-11, liberals against the Iraq conflict are going to end up with two consequences they won't like:

1. Any criticism of Bush on this issue equally applies to Clinton.
2. This will undermine the main arguments against Bush on Iraq.

Bill Poser at Language Log argues that the words 'under God' in the pledge of allegiance are indeed unconstitutional, as the 9th Circuit court ruled in 2002. It's now going before the Supreme Court, so it will be making the rounds once again. His main point is that it "violates the freedom of religion of those who do not believe in God or who do not consider the United States to be a nation under God." Now I don't see any reason why we need to have those words there. Their origin in the pledge is a little suspect. I don't see how it's persecution of Christians to remove them. Removing them doesn't harm Christians' liberty in any way, and not everyone who wants them removed hates Christians. Still, I'm not sure how having some words in a statement violates anyone's freedom.

Philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson is a convert to conservatism. This piece gives his reasons. Basically, he thinks young people should be searching idealists filled with exploration and hope, which tends to make them more liberal. The maturity of life that comes from working, owning a house, marrying, having kids, and other responsibilities tends to make one more conservative through the realization that people who have been around for a while and traditions that have been around even longer are often there for a reason. The idealism of youth that often brings a skepticism about everything in society gets replaced with a general trust in authority and tradition, and this is a justified trust. This shouldn't be an unreflective trust, and it should leave room for revision and continued progress, but the presumption of institutions that have succeeded outweighs the quick idealism that wants to change things simply because we can and because one principle, ignoring any other concern, would favor the total restructuring of society.

Now I don't see why idealism, searching, exploration, and hope should require political liberalism (I certainly had my own period of exemplifying all those traits without being politically liberal), but I agree that they are healthy traits for someone who is younger and that they show immaturity if they never get balanced with other, more conservative, traits. There are some gross overgeneralizations here, but they're gross generalizations that have their basis in real tendencies. Keith's explanation of how he got to where he is now and why he thinks it's a justified move is fascinating reading and gives a perfect rebuttal to this awful argument by Benj Hellie (whose metaphysical work I greatly respect, but his political views are at best unreflective about the nature of conservatism, the effect of conservative policies, and the issues Burgess-Jackson brings up that favor conservatism over liberalism among those whose experiences have taught them anything at all about responsibility and respect for longstanding, working policies and institutions).

Josh Claybourn explains the fallacy behind protectionism. If he's right, this is on the order of the gambler's fallacy.

Misleading Truth

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John Kerry (or someone in his team) seems to be very good at the kind of deception I'm best at -- saying something that's technically true but extremely misleading. When Athanasius was being hunted down for heresy (before his view won out), someone rowing down a river in the opposite direction of his boat asked him where Athanasius was, and he responded by saying they weren't far from him and then continued on while they pursued in the direction he'd just come from. It's not technically lying, but it's deceitful. If lying is wrong, it's because deceiving is wrong, and Athanasius didn't avoid that charge. Sticking with the letter of the law to avoid the spirit of the law is worse than simply denying the law, because it has the marks of righteousness without any underlying truth to the impression.

John Kerry has made all sorts of claims about what he'd do if elected president. He's proposed policies and so on without adding up all the numbers and saying how much more he'd tax people and how much more the budget would be. Others have calculated what it would come to (see this post for some of this). I don't have the exact figures on this, but it's pretty clear that Kerry's proposed budget is higher than what the proposed changes in his tax cut would allow in terms of additional spending beyond what we've got now (which many people have been saying is out of control as it is).

So the Bush campaign puts a commercial together saying that John Kerry will raise taxes by a certain amount, mentioning a real figure. Kerry responds by saying that he never uttered such an amount. This is true. He didn't. But don't his policies require that sort of thing? I don't think it's dishonest for the Bush campaign to point this out, though perhaps they should have been more clear about how they got the figure. I do think it's dishonest for him to respond to the charge by saying he said no such figure, as if his already-stated policies don't require such a figure, without giving an argument how he will avoid the steps in their reasoning to arrive at the figure. Merely saying that you didn't utter exactly the words attributed to you doesn't dismiss the charge that what you've said leads to what those words said. That's what he needs to do to refute the charge. The worst part of this is that he self-righteously frames his response as if the other ad is the dishonest one. That's probably my biggest problem with Kerry. He always sounds self-righteous and better than everyone else. It's true that he's supposed to do that as a presidential candidate, at least in comparison with his opponents, but he makes it seem like it's his normal mode of living.

John Kerry today, while thinking he was off the record, uttered the following words:

"Don't worry man. We're going to keep pounding. We're just beginning to fight here. These guys, er, these guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen."

According to Hugh Hewitt, the context made it clear that he was talking about President Bush, his closest advisors and cabinet members, and perhaps even everyone who supports him.

Now consider the following statement, also from John Kerry, with Hugh Hewitt's comments:

"I've met foreign leaders who can't go out and say this publicly, but boy they look at you and say, 'You've got to win, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that," Kerry told a crowd of potential contributors today. CNN has been unable to locate a record of Kerry meeting with even one foreign leader since the campaign began. Oops.

Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

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