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Clinton and Iraq

[ 47 ] February 4, 2008 |

On the Clinton war counterfactual, I think it’s worth distinguishing between a weaker and a stronger version:

  • Did Clinton see desposing a secular dictatorship that posed no significant threat to the United States and (in by far the most likely outcome) replacing it with an Islamist quasi-state at a ruinious cost in lives and resources as part of a reasonable range of options for reacting to 9/11? The overwhelming bulk of the evidence suggests that she did, and given this there has to be at least some risk that she would have made a similar blunder. More importantly, seeing the war as even defensible represents a disastrous failure in judgment.
  • If Clinton were president, is it likely that she would have chosen that particular course as opposed to other options she thought reasonable? This is unknowable, but my guess is no. At the very least, I don’t think it can be inferred with any certainty from her support from the war after Bush had decided to wage it.

As Matt says, the third option is that she recognized the stupidity of the war and voted for it for cynical political reasons. Given the extent to which the case for Clinton over Obama rests on her alleged Machiavellian political skills, however, this isn’t much of a defense. Surely any Machiavellian worth her salt would have seen that while it might be politically necessary for a red-state Democrat facing a tough re-election fight in 2002 or even 2004 to back a bad war, it would not be an asset in the 2008 Democratic primary. And this is why I don’t believe that Clinton was actually against the war; the political case only makes any sense if you think the war was a reasonably good risk. And supporting the war doesn’t only hurt her in the primary, but makes her not-very-well-positioned to attack the war party in the general.


And the Honking and Fireworks Outside My Apartment Begin

[ 46 ] February 4, 2008 |

I’ve always maintained that Eli Manning was going to be a great quarterback and trading up for him was pure genius…

Seriously, that was a remarkable run, and while Manning will get (and deserves) a great deal of credit for the winning drive, the Giants’ defense was spectacular, especially the front 7. (Evidently, some of the Pats linemen were far from 100%, but they were just powned.) Given the amount of abuse he took during training camp it should be noted in particular that Strahan looked a lot younger.

I think I first thought they could lose after they didn’t cash in that 12-men-on-the-field reversal; you never expect the Pats not to take advantage of that. Speaking of the ‘86 Oilers what a lot of people forget about the Steve Smith own-goal Game 7 (call by the late Don Wittman) is that near the end of the game the Flames pulled a Don Cherry and took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty in the dying minutes. And Kurri had a wide-open shot but decided instead to throw a low-percentage pass to Gretzky, and so they hung on for the historic upset. When a great team doesn’t cash in the breaks they always seem to cash in, you have to wonder…

I would also reiterate that I fully expect Clinton to wipe the floor with Obama on Tuesday.

make sure to get your copy!

Super Bowl [Insert Pompous Roman Numeral Here] Thread

[ 0 ] February 3, 2008 |

I’m hoping for a good game, but let’s be frank. In terms of matchup this one most closely resembles the Bears/Patriots blowout — historically great team against unusually weak Super Bowl team. There’s probably a greater chance of an upset because you can move the ball against this Partiots team, but still it seems pretty likely that this game won’t be close. Admittedly, Manning has not only played better but played differently in the playoffs, with no turnovers — but I still don’t think three good games fully transcends 2 and a half seasons of mediocrity. And it’s hard to see an upset of this magnitude coming against Belichick with two weeks to prepare. I’ll call it Patriots 45, Giants 17.

For those rooting for the upset, I enjoyed this compilation of great teams that didn’t win. #2 still stings, while #11 is the flipside of my favorite. team. ever. (And while Berube probably doesn’t want to be reminded, #1’s series against the Keenan/Gretzky/MacInnis/Hull Blues was great.)

…as anyone well-trained in the Straussian art of reading would understand, of course, what I meant was “this will be an extremely low-scoring game in which the underrated Giants take a fourth-quarter lead.”

Think of the Readable Books That Could Have Filled That Space

[ 0 ] February 3, 2008 |

Granting that it’s somewhat better than the first one, can someone explain to me how Lee Siegel’s sure to be widely unread pensees about how it’s worse than the gulag when people make fun of you on the internets just because you create sockpuppets to call yourself a genius, call people fascists for disagreeing with your intermittently lucid Abe Simpson rants, and accuse people of pedophilia with no evidence can justify two reviews in the New York Times? At least when Joe Lelyveld’s memoirs — sorry, I’ve nodded off just thinking about it — inexplicably got the two review backscratch he had been with the paper for decades. Now being an occasional contributor to the book review is enough to get you two reviews of a book nobody cares about?

Bourgeois Scum Update

[ 22 ] February 3, 2008 |


As of Friday, I am Living the American Dream of home and/or boat ownership, as I closed on a co-op in the building that (appropriately enough) used to house the Department of Education in downtown Brooklyn. I’m looking forward to it enough to get over the fact that I really hate moving.

It’s Over

[ 28 ] February 2, 2008 |

Not that this is news, but the McCain is a mortal lock. Evidently, I got this completely wrong. What I missed was that the logic I used to defend Romney (he would have little chance running against a serious plain vanilla Southern conservative but wasn’t facing one) was also true for McCain. And, of course, McCain got lucky, in that Huckabee has some actual political skills (which, most crucially, deprived Romney of Iowa) while Giuliani was a historical fiasco beyond the point which even people who correctly understood that he never had much of a chance could have anticipated. Even Fred Thompson got out of his La-Z-Boy long enough to hand McCain South Carolina. In a field in which nobody should logically have been able to win the victor needed things to break right, and the breaks went to McCain.

This isn’t a good outcome for Democrats, but he’s certainly beatable. I still think that he would be a lot more vulnerable against a candidate who actually opposed the Iraq fiasco that McCain has supported so vociferously, but it seems likely that a majority of Democratic primary voters won’t agree with me. (Of course, given my track record this year the fact that I think Clinton remains a prohibitive favorite has to scare her campaign considerably…)

"You, Sir, Have The Boorish Manners Of A Yalie."

[ 10 ] February 2, 2008 |

Speaking of bean’s alma mater, some Yale students engage in a silent protest against advocate of torture and arbitrary executive power and Bush administration idea of a good federal judge (but I repeat myself) Jay Bybee. Good.

Today In Spurious Media Bias Accusations

[ 0 ] February 1, 2008 |

The thing is, it’s not hard to find plenty of examples of anti-Clinton bias on the part of the EMM – ESS – EMM. However, the Times not trumpeting Clinton’s “victory” in the Pajamas Media Straw Poll Florida non-primary really isn’t the example you want to go with, unless you’re outraged that the Times didn’t put the Tigers’s stirring 2007 Grapefruit League victory above the fold of the sports page. Jarvis also claims that the DNC’s decision was “unconstitutional.” While I agree that the draconian actions against Florida and Michigan were excessive, I must admit that I’m unaware of the constitutional provision that requires parties to seat delegates for their conventions irrespective of whether or not states follow their procedures. (Maybe it’s the same super-secret provision the Court relied on in Bush v. Gore.) And to once again point out the obvious, going along with the farcical spin of the Clinton campaign and pretending that a non-election was an election does not retroactively enfranchise Florida voters.

I would make fun of the Treason In Defense of Slavery Yankee’s arguments Roy also flags except that I don’t even understand them.

LBJ: The Civil Rights President

[ 0 ] January 31, 2008 |

I was happy to see Ted Kennedy endorse Barack Obama, but he apparently did it in at least some measure for a silly reason:

There’s more to Sen. Edward Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama than meets the eye. Apparently, part of the reason why the liberal lion from Massachusetts embraced Obama was because of a perceived slight at the Kennedy family’s civil rights legacy by the other Democratic presidential primary frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Sources say Kennedy was privately furious at Clinton for her praise of President Lyndon Baines Johnson for getting the 1964 Civil Rights Act accomplished. Jealously guarding the legacy of the Kennedy family dynasty, Senator Kennedy felt Clinton’s LBJ comments were an implicit slight of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who first proposed the landmark civil rights initiative in a famous televised civil rights address in June 1963.

One anonymous source described Kennedy as having a “meltdown” in reaction to Clinton’s comments. Another source close to the Kennedy family says Senator Kennedy was upset about two instances that occurred on a single day of campaigning in New Hampshire on Jan. 7, a day before the state’s primary.

I suppose the fact that he’s related to JFK gives him marginally more of an excuse to defend his brother’s legacy, but the fact is that JFK consistently dragged his feet on civil rights while LBJ actually got the two most important pieces of civil rights legislation since Reconstruction passed. Clinton’s comments were not only unexceptionable but obviously correct.

…commenters are correct to note that the sourcing on this isn’t exactly airtight.

Hack of the Day

[ 0 ] January 31, 2008 |

Jake Tapper decontextualizes and distorts the perfectly clear statements of Bill Clinton.

High Contrarianism Progress Report

[ 13 ] January 31, 2008 |

You may recall Ben Wittes arguing that once Mukasey was dutifully confirmed he wouldn’t be able to stonewall because the Democrats would suddenly have more leverage him because Mukasey would…need them to accomplish some unspecified things. I was criticized for thinking that this was less than plausible. How’s it working out?

Over the course of a long, maddening day, it’s quickly manifest that Mukasey’s legal opinions have a 30-second shelf life. He won’t opine on what’s happened in the past and he won’t opine on anything that might happen in the future. When Sen. Arlen Specter—concerned about seven years of vast new claims of executive authority—asks Mukasey whether, in his view, the president “can break any law he pleases because he’s the president—including, say, statutes banning torture,” as well as FISA and the National Security Act, Mukasey replies, “I can’t contemplate any situation in which this president would assert Article II authority to do something that the law forbids.”

“Well, he did just that when he violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Specter shoots back. Mukasey’s response? “Both of those issues have been brought within statutes.”

Specter is flabbergasted: “But he acted in violation of statutes, didn’t he?”

“I don’t know,” Mukasey replies. But does is really matter? What’s past is past.

Amazing — apparently Mukasey didn’t get the memo.

Nader: Threw The Election To Bush

[ 94 ] January 31, 2008 |

I hate to go through this again, but we have a commenter trying to claim that Nader didn’t throw the election to Bush:

*All votes that Nader received in Florida would have gone to Gore instead;

*The appearance of Nader did not lead to people registering in Florida in order to vote for Gore;

*That Gore would have had the same positions without Nader in the race that he had with Nader in the race, thus meaning that no voters would have shifted from Bush to Gore in the absence of Nader; and

*That the Republicans would not have found a way to steal the Florida election.

The first, and most important, claim is of course transparently wrong; not every single Nader voter would have had to vote for Gore, just enough to throw Florida to Bush. And according to Nader’s own data, this was the case:

Nader is at his slipperiest on the issue of whether his campaign tipped the election to George W. Bush. The evidence that he did so is unambiguous. First, by repeating his charge that there was no significant ideological distance between the two major-party candidates, Nader helped bolster the message of Bush, who sought to blur unpopular Republican positions on key issues. Second, by peeling off substantial blocks of liberals in states such as Oregon, Minnesota and Wisconsin, he forced Al Gore to devote precious time and money to shoring up states that would (if not for Nader) have been safely Democratic, leaving him fewer resources for swing states such as Ohio, Tennessee and Florida. Third, and most directly, Nader won 97,488 votes in Florida. Appearing on a talk show after the election, Nader cited polls that showed that, had he not run, only 38 percent of his voters would have backed Gore versus 25 percent for Bush. Strangely, Nader held up these numbers as a defense against the spoiler charge. Yet the very data cited by Nader, if applied to Florida, shows that he took a net 12,000 votes from Gore — more than enough to hand the state, and the electoral college, to Bush.

So it’s clear that Nader fulfilled the only significant goal of his campaign and threw the election to Bush. The other points made in Nader’s defense are no more persuasive. On #2, if anyone has evidence that Nader’s relentless vilification of Gore and claims that which candidate was elected didn’t matter caused a net positive number of people to register and vote for Gore let’s see it. On #3, 1)again there’s no evidence whatsoever for this having an effect, 2)the states in which an alleged hard turn to the left in Gore’s rhetoric which no Naderite noticed at the time would have been likely to have a net benefit were states Gore won so overwhelmingly minor shifts in rhetoric would have made little difference, and 3)the rhetorical point cuts both ways; how many people did Nader dissuade from voting for Gore with his nonsensical claims that he was indistinguishable from Bush? And on #4, this cannot be known for certain, but we do know that Republicans didn’t steal any other state in which the Dems won a narrow victory. If the Democrats came out ahead in the initial vote count they almost certainly would have held on, especially since the nature of electoral system means that recounts would work in the Democrats’ favor. GOP malfeasance doesn’t let Nader off the hook. And finally, to pre-empt this coming up in comments, the fact that Nader wouldn’t have been able to throw the election to Bush under a more rational electoral system is completely irrelevant to anything.

If Nader doesn’t run, no Bush. It really is that simple.

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