Politics: December 2005 Archives

I saw this a while back, but I didn't get a chance to comment on it. There's a recent Factcheck.org piece on the issue of what intelligence reports Congress received about Iraq before they had their big vote on whether to approve the use of force. Members of Congress critical of President Bush on this issue have been complaining about one argument against some of them, an argument I've made a few times in the past. Some members of Congress who had the same intelligence the president had voted to approve the use of force. They saw wha the president saw, and they at the time agreed with his decision. This especially includes John Kerry, who was on the intelligence committee, but all members of Congress had a package of information that gave them roughly the same set of information Bush had access to. Some have claimed that the information given to Congress was incomplete or corrupted, but bipartisan committees have determined otherwise.

This Factcheck.org article has a fairly complete categorization of what was in the intelligence report. Most of them admitted to reading just the five-page summary of the report, and the article details what we know of what was in the whole report and the five-page summary (we don't know any of the classified information that hasn't been released). According to the article, the five-page summary compares very well with what the intelligence agencies and relevant branches of the executive knew, including what doubts they had about some of the intelligence. Almost all of it vindicates the claim that Congress had all the information Bush had. The one piece of information that Bush and co. ignored wasn't actually that significant, because the very people providing it thought the administration's conclusion was correct even if that one piece of information was less than clear. That piece of information was in the five-page summary that the members of Congress read.

Factcheck.org on Alito

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Factcheck.org tackles an anti-Alito ad making three misleading claims. The three issues are the strip-search case that I've mentioned before, his statement 20 years ago that the Constitution doesn't prevent the right to abortion, and discrimination case that didn't have enough evidence to demonstrate deliberate discrimination, which is all the law can do anything about. I have to wonder if their writeup is correct in its description, though. They say there's a lot of background that would lead many people to interpret the facts in a more positive way, but they say the claims of the ad are technically true. Are they?

If someone presents a judge's decision as ruling to approve X, when he finds X legal but morally reprehensible, I think it's simply a false claim. He's not voting to approve it if he thinks it's morally wrong. He might be voting to allow it. What's more accurate is that he was voting to rule that the law allows it. Saying that he voted to approve it is just not true. More obviously, if they present him as having voted to make X easier, and all his vote would have accomplished if it had been successful was to retain the status quo, then the claim is false. He didn't vote to make it easier. Furthermore, it sounds like a purpose statement, and that statement of purpose is false if he didn't intend to make discrimination easier, which his opinion shows he didn't. Only the abortion statement is technically true. Both other claims are not just misleading but outright false.

David Bernstein points out something really stupid about the universities that won't allow military recruiters on campus because they don't approve of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". The claim is that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is discriminatory, and therefore universities with anti-discrimination policies can't allow recruiters on campus. It's not discriminatory in terms of whether it allows gays into the military, but it is discriminatory against those who are openly gay. If it's wrong to discriminate against people because they talk about their sexuality, then this is a wrongful policy.

Bernstein simply accepts that this is correct. What troubles him is that military recruiters are targeted for a boycott, when they're simply following orders, orders handed down not from superior (military) officers but from the civilian government. Why isn't this a boycott of the government that instituted this policy rather than a boycott of those who merely are forced to carry it out? This really does make these university policies seem really stupid. In one respect it's a little like shooting the messenger.

He also makes a comparison I hadn't thought about. The evil our military is currently engaging is much more serious than the evil of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". These university policies undermine our efforts to combat that evil. Doesn't that mean they're doing more harm than good by focusing on eliminating the lesser evil? Anti-discrimination is an important moral consideration, but is it absolute in a way that it ignores even more significant moral considerations?

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