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The Dead Ender’s Dead Ender

[ 0 ] August 15, 2007 |

No matter what else happens in this world, it’s oddly reassuring to know that you can always count on Fred Barnes to be the most abject administration lickspittle imaginable. (In its own perverse way, it shows more intergrity than people who acted like him for 5 years and are now deserting the ship because it’s crashed through the bottom of the ocean.) Perhaps my favorite part is, after Barnes has lavishly praised Rove for pulling of the miraculous feat of getting a wartime incumbent a narrow victory over a less-than-compelling opponent by mobilizing the conservative base, he says that “And it was Bush’s dip in popularity, not anything Rove did or didn’t do, that wiped out any White House influence on immigration.” Um, since when is the president’s popularity somehow entirely independent of his chief political consultant? What exactly is Rove’s job? Just kinda sitting there being the “greatest political mind of any generation” while unpopular policy initiative drag down the president’s popularity entirely independent of his influence, I guess…

I do wonder why the greatest political mind in world history thought it was a good idea to expend tons of resources in an expensive, unwinnable state during a razor-thin campaign, though…

Questions That, Lacking the Wisdom of Solomon, I Cannot Answer

[ 0 ] August 14, 2007 |

What’s worse: Camille Paglia’s ideas, or her prose?

Bonus question: what exactly is Salon thinking by paying her to write for them in 2007?

The Petraeus Shield

[ 0 ] August 14, 2007 |

I think Andrew J. Bacevich sums it up well: “The cult of Petraeus exists not because the general has figured out the war but because hiding behind the general allows the Bush administration to postpone the day when it must reckon with the consequences of its abject failure in Iraq.” The rest of the article is worth reading too.

Speaking of Liberal Hawk Revisionism…

[ 0 ] August 14, 2007 |

Although this isn’t quite the Atrios link he’s craving (to put it mildly), Yglesias has a good point about the frequent indisinguishability of the arguments of “hawks” and (at least American) “liberal hawks” here:

This business, in short, short, about how maintaining security in an Iraq-sized country requires 450,000-550,000 troops, while it was something you could tell from the historical evidence, was ignored not just by Don Rumsfeld, Doug Feith, and George W. Bush, but by essentially all war proponents across the political spectrum. The reason is pretty clear — there would have been no war had its advocates made accurate forecasts about the levels of resources required. Among other things, someone might have noted that the US Army doesn’t have enough soldiers to deploy several hundred thousands troops to Iraq on anything resembling a sustained basis.

Similarly, we also wouldn’t have had a war if Iraq wasn’t portrayed as a grave security that had to be invaded right now, before the inspections which would prove Saddam had nothing at all were completed. While democracy was mentioned as a side benefit by most supporters and perhaps emphaszied more by liberal hawks, there’s no chance that a “Iraq poses no threat to American security argument but is a despotism almost as repressive as his American-allied neighbor so we need to invade now” argument was going to fly.

Liberal Hawk Revisionism?

[ 0 ] August 14, 2007 |

To add on brief point to Ezra’s follow-up to his merciless demonstration of how many ways liberal hawks erred, wasn’t Pollack’s original case based primarily on the alleged threat Saddam posed to the United States, rather than democratization? It seems to me that Packer’s characterization of the relevant argument as “Saddam has used weapons of mass destruction and has never stopped trying to develop them” is a little disingenuous; a more accurate rendering, it seems to me, would be “Saddam poses a major threat to the United States because he has WMDs and will inevitably acquire more fairly quickly.” I don’t recall a lot of liberal hawks claiming that Hussein didn’t have WMDs, even as the inspections were turning up bupkis, but maybe someone has some examples. A lot of liberal hawks, like hawks in general, claimed after the fact that Saddam’s lack of WMDs wasn’t a big deal, but I don’t think that argument was made contemporaneously very much.

…I ask, Atrios answers.

Better Dodges Needed

[ 0 ] August 14, 2007 |

The fundamental problem I had with the classic “girlfriend in Canada” excuse is that it’s much less effective when you actually, ah, went to college in Canada. I am reminded of a friend who had a mythical girlfriend in Port Hope, or “Port of No Hope” as it was thereafter known on my dorm floor…

…Tracy Clark-Flory has more. Matt is right, of course, that the emphasis on (still almost certainly inaccurate) medians is to make reinforcing the virgin/whore complex easier. My favorite example remains Leon Kass’s assertion that “[m]any, perhaps even most, men in earlier times avidly sought sexual pleasure prior to and outside of marriage. But they usually distinguished, as did the culture generally, between women one fooled around with and women one married, between a woman of easy virtue and a woman of virtue simply. Only respectable women were respected; one no more wanted a loose woman for one’s partner than for one’s mother.” See, although logically men having premarital sex with women would logicially seem to have to be having sex with women, women who have sex before marriage aren’t really women at all, so why question the numbers? And call me crazy, but the existence of these norms (albeit usually in subtle form than when expressed by Bush’s favorite bioethicist) may just make self-reporting in surveys unreliable.

…see also zuzu.

Advantage: Blogosphere!

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Shorter Treason-In-Defense-of-Slavery Yankee: Those idiots in the MSM can’t even fact-check transparently obvious one-liners to establish their empirical validity! How can anybody take anything they say seriously? LOL!

Next week: Beauchamp writes that Iraq in the summer is “hotter than a blast furnace.” TIDOSY conducts an extensive investigation and finds, in fact, that a blast furnace is hotter than Iraq, further embarassing the illiterate editors at TNR.

. . . addendum from d: Bob Owens’ update is a true classic in the genre:

The first experience most of us had with Beauchamp was with his last article first, and his allegation that he verbally assaulted a burn victim. It doesn’t seem much of a stretch from abuser of the burned to robber of the dead, so I took his comments at face value as a real claim.

I completely understand. My first experience with Bob Owens was when he claimed that Google was deliberately pushing “Baby Jesus Buttplugs” on Christmas. From there, it didn’t seem like much of a stretch to conclude that he’s an idiot.

50%+1 < 60%

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

One of the key grafs from the Atlantic article about Rove is this one, which contains the explanation for why Rove’s ambitions to create a McKinley-like realignment were always doomed (leaving aside Mayhew’s entirely correct point that realignments are longer-term and more complex processes than are usually assumed):


One of the big what-ifs of his presidency is how things might have turned out had he stuck with it (education remains the one element of Rove’s realignment project that was successfully enacted). What did become clear is that Rove’s tendency, like Bush’s, is always to choose the most ambitious option in a list and then pursue it by the most aggressive means possible—an approach that generally works better in campaigns than in governing. Instead of modest bipartisanship, the administration’s preferred style of governing became something much closer to the way Rove runs campaigns: Steamroll the opposition whenever possible, and reach across the aisle only in the rare cases, like No Child Left Behind, when it is absolutely necessary. The large tax cut that Bush pursued and won on an almost party-line vote just afterward is a model of this confrontational style. Its limitations would become apparent.


It should be noted that, for the first term, the “50%+1″strategy was, in fact a very effective governing tool. Bush was very successful at getting his agenda through Congress despite his narrow “victory” precisely because he ignored vacuous invocations of “mandates” and realized that your power in domestic policy is about how many votes you can get in Congress, and simply getting the minimum necessary coalition allowed for the maximum policy gains. But this strategy is entirely incompatible with a long-term realignment, which requires adding allies rather than simply paying off existing ones. Social Security, among some other New Deal policies, worked for FDR precisely because they created the large coalition of supporters (although this meant not getting some things he wanted and making some horrible compromises with Southern Democrats.) And because of this existing constituency, privatizing social Security was never going to be broadly popular or an effective coalition-building device. Seeking the minimum possible winning coalition is never going to be compatible with engineering a major realignment, and Bush’s historically narrow victory as a wartime president with a decent economy makes clear. And even worse for Rove, 50%+1 becomes a lot less effective as the President becomes less popular, and hopeless on domestic policy when you’ve lost Congress.

The Big "L"

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Marcy Wheeler lays out some theories for why Rove is leaving. I don’t want to discount the possibility that he’s resigning before scandal brings him down, but I suspect the “he’s a loser” variable in quite important. His reputation as a political genius has always been spectacularly overblown. (And it’s not just 2006; his win in 2004 was exceptionally unimpressive for a wartime president with a decent economy against a candidate nobody regards as particularly strong.) After 2006 and Social Security, however, the jig is up. I think the potential scandals wouldn’t weaken him much if he still had his unmerited reputation as a mastermind, but with that having evaporated everything else is enough to push him out. (More on this when I have a chance to read the Atlantic article.)

Thompson Out!

[ 0 ] August 13, 2007 |

Well, OK, it was Tommy.

I have a strange fascination with utter no-hope races for the presidency. This one, actually, seems somewhat explicable to me; Thompson used to be discussed as a potential nominee, and he probably thought of himself as one, so why not make the electorate tell you “no.” “Unintentional comic relief” was probably not how he wanted his career to end, though.

One of the most inexplicable runs was Orrin Hatch’s late entry in 2000. His platform, if I recall correctly, was pretty much “I agree pretty much entirely with George Bush and think he’s great, but I chiared the judiciary committee.” Oh.

Color Me Unimpressed

[ 0 ] August 12, 2007 |

I was informed that the Yankees would quickly start losing as soon as they encountered the formidable Tribe, and I certainly wanted this to be true. Admittedly, such arguments would be more convincing had they, say, identified any aspect in which the Indians were better than the Yankees (the 2007 Indians, I mean; I’ll concede that the Yankees have a worse rotation than the 1954 Indians, although I’m not really persuaded that this is a relevant criterion.) I suppose some would say defense, but you would be incorrect. In fairness, however, the Indians have established unquestioned supremacy in the field of “getting picked off first base with the bases loaded.”
On to the wildcard!

Heartbreaking Ineptitude

[ 0 ] August 12, 2007 |

The foreign policy stylings of George W. Bush:

But that skepticism had never taken hold in Washington. Since the 2001 war, American intelligence agencies had reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports.

The American sense of victory had been so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan had long since moved on to the next war, in Iraq.

Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.

Like Osama bin Laden and his deputies, the Taliban had found refuge in Pakistan and regrouped as the American focus wavered. Taliban fighters seeped back over the border, driving up the suicide attacks and roadside bombings by as much as 25 percent this spring, and forcing NATO and American troops into battles to retake previously liberated villages in southern Afghanistan.

In other words, the administration diverted resources from a country that it had the responsibility to build, and let a genuine threat to American security regroup and regain effective power in large parts of the country, in order to invade a country that posed no security threat whatsoever to the United States. Brilliant! Which leads us to another edition of What Hilzoy Said:

I remember hearing those speeches and thinking: oh, thank God. Back in late 2001 and early 2002, I was giving Bush the benefit of the doubt — I hadn’t thought much of him before, but 9/11 did seem to have concentrated his attention, and it truly seemed as though he had changed. (As indeed he had; just not in ways anyone anticipated.) I had supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and I heard those words — Marshall Plan, we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, we will not abandon Afghanistan — and thinking: we are really going to do something wonderful.

I think that some of the most inspiring moments in international relations are when serious, long-festering problems are actually decisively solved. When South Africa’s apartheid government handed over power peacefully to the ANC, for instance: South Africa still has enormous problems, but the ghastly ever-present nightmare of apartheid had actually gone away. When the conflict in Northern Ireland is finally laid to rest, it will be the same sort of glorious moment. Some problems aren’t solved all at once; still, you can see points at which things turn slightly from despair towards hope, and then, if you’re lucky, a point at which the process of transforming some problem that has haunted the world for what seems like forever into history starts to look irreversible.

Afghanistan had been one of those problems for decades. We weren’t in a position to do much about it earlier — naively, I believed that you don’t just go around invading countries out of the blue, ha ha ha — but suddenly we actually had a really good reason to invade, and there we were, the Taliban was in flight, the people seemed overjoyed, and I thought: dear God, we are actually going to do try to right by Afghanistan, whose people have suffered so much for so long. And back in that era of lost hopes, what gave me real confidence that we would do our best to actually help Afghanistan to transform itself from a failed state into a normal, functioning society was that for once, making a serious effort to do this wasn’t just a wild aspiration. It was feasible, it was the right thing to do, but most importantly, as far as its actually happening was concerned, it was clearly, obviously, overwhelmingly in our interest.

It still breaks my heart just thinking about it. Read the whole article and weep.

It’s infuriating because it’s true.

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