Politics: May 2004 Archives

Thomas Sowell:

No one in World War II demanded that President Roosevelt present them with a timetable for the end of the war, much less for when our military occupation would end in Europe. Nor did anyone demand to know how much the war would cost in dollars and cents. But the maturity to think beyond the moment has apparently become far more scarce today than it was in the days of the greatest generation. Will future historians call us the childish generation? How much today's childishness will cost this country in the long run only the future will tell -- and it may tell in blood.

Link from Amanda Strassner.

Update: More from Sowell on the public's supposed right to know and a followup on the insanity of many of the accusations given that due process is taking place. One problem with blogs is that so many of the columnists I enjoy now get less time because I'm looking around at mere bloggers, so it's nice when people link to real columnists. Thanks to Baldilocks for linking these.

I never thought John Kerry had much to say about the gay marriage issue. It's pretty clear now that when he does try to say something about it he has no idea what he's talking about. Here's what he said (the whole thing is here for context, not that it helps):

I believe that the president of the United States should not use the Constitution of the United States for election purposes during an election year. It's a document that we haven't touched, certainly with respect to the Bill of Rights, for years, and I don't think it should be used for the purpose of driving a political wedge through America. I think it's wrong.

Now, that said, I personally have taken the position I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's my position. And I think that's the way you respect -- (applause) -- that's the way you respect both traditional values, but you can allow civil unions, which protects the rights of people in America not to be discriminated against. And I think you can balance that. And I think it's appropriate to. But I do think that it ought to be left to the states. There's no showing whatsoever yet that the states don't have the ability to be able to manage this one-by-one individually, and we have always, throughout history, left the issue of marriage to the states. That's what I think we should do. I think the president should not be meddling with the Constitution of the United States for his political objective.

The officials in my country are afraid of President Bush, so they don't persecute Christians as much. Under Clinton it was very bad for us. Many of us were arrested, put in jail, and some were killed. With Clinton, it was very bad. But under President Bush, it has been so much better, so we are praying for him.

This is from a pastor in Uzbekistan, an officially Muslim country that I happen to have been to. It's reported by Admiral Quixote's Roundtable in a post intended for this week's Christian Carnival that didn't make it to the Carnival's host.

What this quote illustrates is that after having been free from Soviet control for a time, the formerly oppressed became the oppressors of all who would threaten the notion that to be Uzbek is to be Muslim (even though many Uzbeks are hardly religious). Evangelical Christians who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and offer it to all are thus severely persecuted in that land, simply for considering Muslims as possible audiences for their message.

Here is an element of the Bush presidency that I hadn't considered, but it fits with what I understand about how the government officials there operate. They welcomed Americans until they realized how many were Christians who were unafraid to talk about their faith. Then they began to crack down rather quickly once it became clear that they could get away with it without opposition from the American government. I was there around the time this crackdown started. They were deporting foreign Christians at first on the grounds of illegal missionary work, and when the U.S. government said nothing they began to do harsher things, eventually raiding people's apartments, imprisoning church leaders, and much worse things that I'm not willing to talk about in a public forum. The current administration has come down harder on that sort of thing, so this pastor's reaction is understandable. This may not be a sufficient reason for voting for Bush, but it's something Christians who are having trouble deciding should consider.

Baldilocks says President Bush has the right to fire Donald Rumsfeld for not communicating how bad the offenses were earlier. In any job it's bad to withhold important information, and if you're in charge of the Pentagon it's even more serious. So this is the sort of thing that someone could easily be fired for. I wasn't sure Rumsfeld even knew how serious these charges were, though. Am I wrong about that?

She then goes on to say that, even if it's the sort of thing that could get someone fired, there's still no reason to insist that he must be fired for it. One issue is what many people have continued to emphasize, that Rumsfeld has done a very good job in general as Secretary of Defense. If he'd lied or somehow otherwise been part of a coverup, that would be reason to insist that he resign or be fired, but there's no evidence of such a thing. Everything that needs to happen to solve the problems seems to be happening. She argues that his resignation would accomplish nothing more and would harm the war effort.

I've never been a fan of Senator Joseph Biden, but I think this should make even those who like him cringe. He said that Bush should "demand the resignations for whoever is involved in this policy, and that includes Lord God Almighty himself. It includes anybody involved." I can read this in a few ways, none of them reflecting very well on his character.

More on the "Bush is unintelligent" myth from The Buck Stops Here.

It has been much remarked that President Bush often stumbles over his words in public speaking. It has nearly as often been suggested that this is a sign of low intelligence.

This second suggestion can be made only by someone who confuses intelligence with the ability to spout BS. We've all seen politicians who have the latter gift.

President Bush just isn't one of them. Stuart goes on:

Indeed, people who think that intelligence manifests itself only in the ability to BS are themselves displaying low intelligence.

He's criticizing the stupid view that lack of intelligence is the only explanation for lack of the ability to BS. Then he says that lack of intelligence is the only explanation for someone holding such a stupid view. It sounds remarkably similar, doesn't it? So I wouldn't go so far as to say that all those who hold the "Bush is unintelligent" myth on the grounds of his lack of ability to BS are stupid. They're simply acting as if they have low intelligence. They may have the intelligence and just fail to use it. Of course, that's probably worse, because people who aren't intelligent can't help it.

One of the things that I think Rumsfeld did perfectly was handle the question of a possible resignation. In particular, one senator asked him, in essence, if he would step down if his presence was a hindrance regarding Iraq. And he simply answered "Yes".

That spoke volumes about him valuing getting the job done more than valuing being right.

And I hope he means it because it may come to it (though I sincerely hope not).

At first glance, the call for resignation is absurd. Rumsfeld almost certainly knew nothing about what was happening at Abu Ghraib, and, as he rightly points out, he should not be expected to know the details of all 3,000 odd current court martial investigations. He has plausable denaibility in spades. Some would call on the principle of "The buck stops here", here being in this case Rumsfeld. That would be true if the we lost the Iraq war, or if the entire Iraq reconstruction effort fails. But not for the administration of a prison, or even for the administration of all the prisons. That buck stops somewhere lower on the chain of command. (Where? I have no idea--any ideas?)

So why might a resignation be necessary? Because he is responsible for the entire Iraq reconstruction, and if it fails horribly, the buck stops with him. He must therefore do whatever it takes to ensure that the Iraq reconstruction goes well, regardless of his actual complicity in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. So he might be forced to step down if the people if Iraq end up identifying him (no matter how falsely) with the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

I agree with Jeremy that "It's becoming increasingly clear that there had been some sort of investigation already going on, and they just didn't want anything public until they'd completed that investigation."

My question now to CBS is if they knew that these photos were part of an ongoing investigation. And here is a further question about journalistic ethics in general: If you happen to discover (through legitimate means) an atrocity, are you ethically bound in any way to not report on it if it turns out that there is an ongoing investigation into that investigation? Part of me wants to say yes to help preserve due process. But a biger part of me wants to say no, or else there could be precious little reporting done. No accidents could be reported on in the news unless no one cares to investige them or until the matter has been fully resolved. (So much for getting traffic reports--by the time any accident that causes traffic is investigated, the traffic is long over. And forget about warning a community that a serial killer is on the loose--the first murders are still being investigated.) And a truly corrupt executive branch could essentially repeal freedom of press by opening investigations into everything and then not pursue any of them.

So. Not sure what to make of the ethics of the release of the pictures...

However, the fact that there was an ongoing investigation explains a lot of what was confusing me before. Without knowing that, it seemed like various people knew that there were abuses going on, but that noone was doing anything about it--it looked like it was being covered up. The ongoing investigation explains that something was indeed being done.

On the Supreme Court issue, even moderates should prefer Bush to Kerry. So says Doc Ock, anyway. History shows that Republicans have more recently tended to appoint hardcore conservatives (Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas), true moderates (O'Connor, Kennedy), and hardcore liberals (Souter, Stevens) to the Court, while President Clinton was able to get exactly the hardcore liberals he wanted (Ginsburg, Breyer) through on the first try. So Bush is likely, if history is any guide, to lead to a more balanced court than Kerry would, assuming any justices die or retire during the next presidential term. Given that it's already a left-leaning group, the call for balance leads to erring on the conservative side anyway.

I'd prefer myself to see Stevens replaced by someone like Scalia, and then I'd be happy, whereas balance would be something like replacing Stevens with someone like Kennedy. So I can't say balance is what I really want, but I see balance as better than what we now have or what would happen if Kerry got to appoint anyone.

It's becoming increasingly clear that there had been some sort of investigation already going on, and they just didn't want anything public until they'd completed that investigation. This is as things should be and were before the media circus days that have destroyed the process of justice in many ways. Someone inappropriately released the information about this while this investigation hadn't been completed. I'm much more sympathetic to people who want to do things in an orderly and reasonable process, getting things right before saying anything about it than I am to those who want to emphasize parts of a story that we know something about while not investigating the rest. You can call me secretive if you want (which I'm sure you'll do of the Bush Administration), but I'll just call you rash and foolish right back. There are plenty of questions to ask, and they're asking them in the right place now. I'm not willing to say anything about how anyone has handled this until that's all in. Everything I've heard is as consistent with exemplary behavior by both Bush and Rumsfeld as it is with what their detractors are saying.

I do want to say that one thing Rumsfeld said impressed me greatly. I didn't get his exact words, but when he apologized for the actions of the U.S. military under his command, he said "we", referring to the United States. He's got a deeper understanding of communal responsibility than most Americans do. We did this. He understands that. Many people think so individualistically that they resist any notion of one person deserving shame for the actions of others who belong to the same group they proudly belong to after events like 9-11 lead to surges of patriotism. If we band together as Americans then, we band together as Americans when Americans do egregious things. Moral solidarity is a two-way street. Those who see an us-and-them between themselves and the Bush Administration while criticizing Bush for what individuals he's not immediately morally responsible for have done want to have it both ways. They want individualism when they separate themselves from the atrocities, but they want communitarianism to blame others. I think something of each general attitude is correct, but we can't go inconsistently adopting one or the other based on which people we want to criticize and which people we want to distance ourselves from.

Update: Sam has more on the pictures.

Update 2: Swamphopper at The Rough Woodsman has a bitingly sarcastic reductio ad absurdum of the Rumseld Resign argument.

I was going to have my initial post at Parablemania be a nice little levelheaded piece about "seeking a healthy balance". But then I read the news for the first time in about a week (I've had finals and the stomach flu), heard about Abu Ghraib, and my blood got boiling. I have something to say and it needs to be said now, so so much for my nice levelheaded first post. (I guess that tells you something about me as a blogger, for what it's worth.)

tacitus via Matthew Yglesias.

Tacitus suggests, among other things, that the US Army disband the 372nd Military Police Company, as punishment for the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib. Matthew Yglesias thinks that the suggestion is a good one.

I think that it is a good start, but doesn't go far enough.

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