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Who Wants Cheney’s Help?

[ 4 ] October 15, 2008 |

This morning, Vice President Cheney suffered an irregular heartbeat for the second time since 2007. No serious worries; a little shock, and apparently he’ll be fine. The interesting bit of the story is this; Cheney was forced to cancel a campaign event because of the problem. This made me wonder: Who, in these United States, could actually benefit from Dick Cheney’s assistance on the campaign trail?

The answer, it turns out, is Marty Ozinga, who is a candidate in Illinois’ eleventh Congressional district. He’s running against Democrat Debbie Halvorson, currently an Illionis State Senator. The incumbent is a retiring Republican, and the district went Bush+7 in 2004. It’s rated a Republican+1 district by CPVI. lists the race as a tossup.

What’s interesting to me is that Cheney is all over the front page of Halvorson’s website, but not Ozinga’s; perhaps the website was scrubbed after Cheney cancelled? Or maybe Dick Cheney’s heart just did Marty Ozinga a favor. I find it difficult to imagine that, in a close race, the appearance of Dick Cheney at a campaign event is going to do any favors for the Republican candidate. It also seems a bit late in the cycle for useful fundraising, which is the one thing Cheney could probably be counted on for.

Commenters is Witty…

[ 0 ] October 15, 2008 |

Kvetch, in this thread:

Sometimes you have to break a couple hundred thousand eggs to make a delicious freedom frittata.


And sometimes after the eggs are broken, you realized you have no idea what a frittata looks like or how to make one. It’s all good.

Heh. Indeed.


[ 24 ] October 15, 2008 |

It’s difficult to exaggerate the degree to which Stephen Walt demolishes Josh Muravchik in their realism vs. neoconservatism exchange in the September National Interest. The prompt concerns which, of realism or neoconservatism, will best answer the threats that the United States will face in the future. As such, the debate really turns on which of realism and neoconservatism has proved a better predictor of past threats, and has provided the best recommendations for response to those threats.

Muravchik lands a couple of blows on realism. The reality of realism is and always has been in serious question, which is to say that there’s a tension between the normative and descriptive claims of realists. Walt waves this away with an “of course realists call out what they believe are mistakes”, but the problem does run deeper. Hans Morgenthau includes an anecdote in the first chapter of Politics Among Nations about French and British consideration of military assistance to Finland in 1939. Such assistance would have put the Allies at war with both Germany and the USSR. Morgenthau mocked French and British concern for international law as unrealistic, which is fair enough, but he didn’t explain how international law and norms of justified intervention could guide the behavior of two great powers. If France and Britain, then why not the world, and if the world, then where is realism? Thinking along these lines might lead to a whole new research program…

Muravchik also notes that realists failed to predict the fall of the Soviet Union. This is reasonably fair, although Kenneth Waltz in Theory of International Politics did wonder whether the Soviet Union could keep up with the United States. Perhaps more to the point, neoconservatives also failed to predict the fall of the Soviet Union on anything approaching the timeline that the collapse actually occurred. The number of neoconservatives who believed, in 1984, that the USSR would be gone by 1992 can be counted on the fingers of no hands. Muravchik might object that neoconservatives, at least, believed that the lifespan of the Soviet Union was limited, but then realists also believe that the structure of the international system (by which I mean polarity) can change over time. Moreover, neoconservatives were strongly committed to the idea that the Soviet Union was much, much stronger than conventional analysis suggested; this was the motivating concept behind Team B, and animated the rhetoric of the first Reagan administration. Far from expecting that the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, neoconservatives seemed to believe that it was competing quite well against the United States. Indeed, a young scholar named Stephen Walt wrote a book called Origins of Alliances, arguing that the global balance of power was not nearly as dire as neoconservatives (and offensive realists) would portray it. Ironically enough, Walt departed in important ways from realist analysis in the book, but that’s a story for another day.

So yeah, Muravchik lands a couple of glancing blows. Walt then proceeds to beat Muravchik like a red-headed stepchild. First, Walt calls out Muravchik’s nonsensical “history” of neoconservativsm, which essentially portrays every successful policy endeavour of the United States in the 20th century as falling under the rubric of neoconservatism. This claim has been common among neoconservatives since Robert Kagan’s Dangerous Nation, which argued that the United States has always, evidence and appearance aside, been a neoconservative nation. As Walt notes, it is indeed strange that neoconservatism could have such a critical impact on foreign policy decades before it was coined, and especially odd that it gets credit for originating the successful policies of liberal internationalism, which neoconservatives have always bitterly criticized. Muravchik gives neoconservatives credit for both Wilson and Roosevelt/Truman, without noting that there’s considerably divergence between the two approaches, and that both (but especially the latter) involve exceptionally heavy doses of the institutionalization of international life, something that actual neoconservatives are allergic to.

And then Walt gets to Iraq. Read it yourself; a summary does no justice. The real coup de grace comes with this:

Finally, Muravchik claims neoconservatives “treat purely moral concerns . . . as a higher priority than would realists,” yet his response evinces little concern for ordinary human beings. He expresses no remorse at the suffering that neoconservative policies have wrought and seems mostly concerned that the neocons are now “taking their lumps” over Iraq. What matters to him is political standing in Washington, not the hundreds of thousands of needless Iraqi deaths, the millions of refugees who fled their homes, or the tens of thousands of patriotic Americans killed or wounded. So let us hear no more about the neoconservatives’ “moral” convictions. Amid such company, the realists who opposed the war can stand tall.

Indeed; the moral component of neoconservatism has always been the appearance of moral rectitude, rather than any practical effort to achieve moral goals. This makes it particularly appropriate for creatures of the Beltway, who endure no real costs for their moral postures.

In any case, the exchange is well worth reading; it reminds me a bit of Walt’s dispute with formal model/rational choice types in International Security, which is collected in Rational Choice and Security Studies. That’s also worth reading, but only for political scientists.

Wingnut Laundering

[ 0 ] October 14, 2008 |

After noting that TIDOSY has asserted that being an (imaginary) victim of sexual assault should disqualify one from the presidency (what about being a victim of torture?), Duncan says that “I’m sure his loving Washington Post profile will be out soon, if he hasn’t had one already.” Not surprisingly, the paper that hired Ben Domenech was well ahead of the curve in profiling this brilliant conservative intellectual.

Quick Question

[ 8 ] October 14, 2008 |

Why am I still receiving e-mails from people about that goddamned PBS NOW poll regarding Sarah Palin’s suitability to serve as Vice President? Seriously. I have plenty of other things to keep me busy these days, like corresponding with this fellow, who got in touch with me yesterday with what I believe is a serious financial opportunity:

Hello Dear

My Name is Engr Bakali Sago I am a civil servant in our department i realized $6.5 million Through the sale of our allocated oil quota in OPEC from commission payouts through out my tenure as the Head of Delegation to the World Bank in West Africa. I want you to assists me.

Thank for your anticipation.

Engr Bakali Sago

When Mr. Sago and I conclude our business, and when I receive those Microsoft shares I was supposed to get, like, ten years ago, I will go take that stupid poll, upon which — judging by the tone of the e-mails I receive — the outcome of this election appears to rest.

The Self-Perpetuating Fake Vote Fraud Scam

[ 49 ] October 14, 2008 |

Yglesias says most of what needs to be said about the winger hysteria about the fact that large-scale voter vote drives inevitably lead to some errors. The rhetoric notwithstanding, registration “fraud” is very different from vote fraud, and in fact the former is extremely unlikely to lead to non-negligible amounts of the latter. Even if somehow the fake names get through, since “Mickey Mouse” and “Amanda Huggenkiss” and “Al Koholic” can’t actually show up to vote because they don’t exist it doesn’t actually matter in terms of the integrity of elections. Until Glenn Reynolds et al. can find an example of “Foghorn Leghorn” actually being permitted to vote, this is a trivial issue that certainly doesn’t constitute “vote fraud.”

As Matt says if for some reason it was critically important for virtually every single name collected in mass voter registration drives to be accurate, there’s an obvious solution in effect in many other liberal democracies: have professionals trained by the government be responsible for ensuring that citizens are registered. Of course, we’re not going to hear about that remedy from people frothing at the mouth about ACORN because the point isn’t to make registration a perfect process, but rather to use inevitable errors as a pretext to suppress legitimate voters. Since the Supreme Court has declared that you can do this even if there’s literally no evidence that anyone in the state has fraudulently voted based on an erroneous registration, this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Peak Wingnut Theory

[ 4 ] October 14, 2008 |

Henley on the NAMBLA wing of the Republican Party. Cf. also here and here and here.

IIRC it was a calumny done to Erick Erickson that caused the development of the farcical Online Integritude project. I’m sure somehow thinking that a 10 year-old could have an “affair” with an adult could also be redefined as representing serious integrity by the relevant wingers. Erickson has written plenty of howlingly dumb things before, but this might be a low that can never be surpassed.

The rehabilitation of John McCain

[ 96 ] October 14, 2008 |

It looks increasingly likely that the McCain-Palin ticket will go down to a crushing defeat three weeks from today. One perennial trope of American political journalism is that once a presidential candidate has gone down in flames, an explosion of sentimentality (edited to add: in the immediate aftermath of the election; in the long term he tends to be remembered as simply a loser) tends to cloak him in virtues that seemed invisible during the campaign itself. This is likely to be especially true of McCain, who, despite the many confessions of disillusionment his unusually sleazy campaign has elicited from his former admirers throughout the media, can still call upon a deep well of residual affection in the press.

So, the question arises, what narrative will be forged to forgive McCain’s egregious sins? My guess is that one strand of it will reflect the theme of Jorge Luis Borges’ story Three Versions of Judas. McCain, it will be discovered, is so honorable that, in a display of honor greater than any ever witnessed before in American political life, he completely sacrificed his own personal honor for what he understood to be the sake of his country.

In other words, for such an honorable man to have engaged in such dishonorable conduct was, in a way, the last full measure of devotion an honorable man can manifest. If you think about it very, very carefully, by completely sacrificing what is most precious to him (his personal honor), the truly honorable man is being more honorable than the less honorable man, who remains unwilling to sacrifice his honor at the altar of patriotism.

Or something like that.

Kristol Turning Toxic?

[ 19 ] October 13, 2008 |

McCain campaign spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer:

“Well, you know Bill is entitled to his perspective. And I used to work for Bill,” Pfotenhauer said. “And I can tell you personally sometimes he’s brilliant and sometimes he’s not. And this is one where it’s the latter category. You know, I think unfortunately he has bought into the Obama campaign’s party line.”

The Kristol derivatives could be turning toxic, but my guess is that this is a shot on behalf of the unfortunate rats who have yet to desert the sinking ship. See also Jason Linkins.

Kristol Komedy

[ 0 ] October 13, 2008 |

I haven’t read Bill Kristol’s latest, but I did stumble across this howler again today while doing Real Work. Apparently, it barely takes a month for his predictions to achieve catastrophic failure.

McCain didn’t just pick a politician who could appeal to Wal-Mart Moms. He picked a Wal-Mart Mom. Indeed, he picked someone who, in 1999, as Wasilla mayor, presided over a wedding of two Wal-Mart associates at the local Wal-Mart. “It was so sweet,” said Palin, according to The Anchorage Daily News. “It was so Wasilla.”

A Wasilla Wal-Mart Mom a heartbeat away? I suspect most voters will say, No problem. And some — perhaps a decisive number — will say, It’s about time.

I suppose it’s also plausible that Kristol is operating in some kind of space-time fold in which his predictions are already failures before he’s even opened his mouth. Last week, I asked one of my classes why Bill Kristol had not been reduced to selling apples or pencils on a street corner somewhere. Half the students had never heard of Bill Kristol; the other half couldn’t really offer a good answer. I’m stumped, too.

To Provide A Useful Contrast With the Man Across the Page

[ 22 ] October 13, 2008 |

Bill Kristol urges John McCain to “fire his campaign.” Given that he was urging McCain to do what he now says has failed as recently as last week, you’d have to say he has a point — a campaign that listens to Kristol is indeed in very bad shape, although it’s really more a symptom than a cause.

Anyway, if there was a Nobel Prize for hackery, Kristol would be the country’s number-one candidate!

Krugman Wins Nobel

[ 0 ] October 13, 2008 |

Congrats to Paul Krugman! I guess everyone else is either dead or has already won…