Who is John Kerry? Part II
: A number of people (including yours truly
) have tried to make sense of the latest saga of Who is John Kerry? But, for my money, Joan Vennochi
parked it while many of us hit only sentimental singles (or at least I hit a sentimental single, or more like an infield dribbler). Joan on Kerry: “The revelations about Kerry's roots underscore a fundamental problem at the heart of his quest to be president. Ethnicity is not the issue; being a mensch could help. But Kerry's confusion about his heritage mirrors a larger confusion about his essence: Who is he? What does he believe in? Whether the issue is war with Iraq or support for affirmative action, his political core is hard to pin down, perhaps as difficult as his personal roots.” ... Joan also fires off this line. “(Kerry’s) dismal jokes during St. Patrick's Day breakfasts should have been a tip-off that Hibernian humor is not in Kerry's natural gene pool.”
... Speaking of John, a number of readers have sent in this link
about the senator (via Instapundit
The ferret and the deer
: After reading this article
about the latest antics of Gov. Tommy, I thought to myself, ‘Mitt, this is what voters put you in office to do: Stop the ferret.’ But ...
... then I read this article about the hiring of Mitt’s ‘Staffer of the Month,'
a lawyer no less. Kicker line: “Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom said Messina was hired for the $55,000 position solely on the basis of her qualifications.” ... You just gotta laugh and cry at the same time. It never stops. Question to administration: Was her hiring really worth it? Hope it was, for the hiring (and, even more so, the explanation) inevitably hurts the credibility of an alleged reform-minded administration.
: Margery Eagan explores our modern ‘tear-a-thon’
whenever a major (or even minor) tragedy hits. ... Margery asks when all this false yellow-ribbon/candlelight-shrine type of coverage started. Good question. Don’t know the answer. Though I do know the yellow ribbons appeared to have started during the Iranian hostage crisis. And then there were the candlelight shrines after John Lennon’s death. Locally, a friend thought Boston’s own contribution to this maudlin media grieving can be traced back to Reggie Lewis’ death. ... Read Margery’s column all the way through. There is a terrible fact -- and a truly revealing fact -- about George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara. Horrible. I had NO idea. My respect for the Bush family has only increased. (And it’s based on empathy, as well as sympathy, and we’ll leave it at that.)
‘Chirac is a dangerous animal/Bush help us’
: Excellent story in the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor on events in the Ivory Coast
and the French role there. Check out the photo. For the record, the U.S. is supporting France’s brokered peace, something I doubt will lead to much gratitude in Paris. ...
... FYI: I’m still slugging through Ernest May’s “Strange Victory: Hitler’s Conquest of France,’ as I noted in an earlier post
. I’ll give a more thoughtful review (if you want to call it that) later, but it’s pretty hard to keep an open mind when you read a passage like this in the introduction: “Recent studies of General Gamelin, of France’s prime minister, Edouard Daladier, and of Britain’s long-maligned prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, not only explain why they were thought to be heroes before the debacle of 1940 but why they deserved
to be held in high regard.” (May’s italics, not mine.) Or this: “In fact, the Maginot Line (was) indicative neither of despair about defeating Germany nor of thought mired in the past. It was instead evidence of faith that technology could substitute for manpower. It was the forerunner of the strategic bomber, the guided missile, and the ‘smart bomb.’” ... Like I said, I’m slugging through it, though May does have excellent observations on other matters. Have reached page 332. Again, more on it later. ...
... Oh, what the hell. Now that we’re on the subject of France, check out this article
on France and Germany’s recent diplomatic blowback (via John Ellis
). ... And, while you’re at it, check out this Globe story on General Tommy Frank’s views
on the war and coalition building. Now, as I’ve said too often before, I’m more than a little upset with the swaggering rhetoric of the administration. But this article shows (the piece really picks up steam in the middle) the extent to which we really are taking a multilateralist approach in fighting terrorism -- and so the charge the administration is always 'unilateralist' is obviously quite wrong while attacks on 'multilateralism' simply don't reflect what's going on in the world. The words ‘unilateralist’ and ‘multilateralist’ are being slung around these days with way too much recklessness. I’m as guilty as anyone. ... And, again, what the hell, check out this CSM editorial
on how we need to mend fences with France and Germany. It’s only a so-so editorial (if anything, too simplistic and soft on France) but it’s on the same subject matter.
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Blizzard of ‘78
: The Herald has been covering the 25th anniversary
of the big storm. And so has blogger John Farrell
, who has some old family film clips and recollections from local bloggers, including yours truly (eventually, or so I'm told).
James Fallows fisks Bush’s SOTU
: Interesting fisking (not necessarily of the negative kind) of the president’s State of the Union Address by James Fallows
, a former presidential speechwriter, over at the Boston-based Atlantic Monthly
. It’s pretty fair and good -- and I think, overall, Fallows admired the speech, at least from a technical standpoint, though he didn’t come right out and say so. Some samples from the terrorist/Iraq portion of the speech and Fallow’s comments in brackets and italics:
... There are days when the American people do not hear news about the war on terror. There is never a day when I do not learn of another threat, or receive reports of operations in progress, or give an order in this global war against a scattered network of killers. [Effective in conveying the message: more is going on than you think
.] The war goes on, and we are winning. [And it's going better than you think
... I thank the Congress for supporting these measures. I ask you tonight to add to our future security with a major research and production effort to guard our people against bio-terrorism, called Project Bioshield. [This name won't last. Too much like Marvel Comics
... If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. [Good strong line
.] And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country—your enemy is ruling your country. [Best line of the speech
... We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all. If war is forced upon us, [Brilliant "redefinition" phrase: we are not launching a "preemptive" attack, we are being forced against our will to war
... We Americans have faith in ourselves—but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.
May He guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. [Some time in the last twenty years, politicians decided that they had to end every speech with "God bless the United States of America." It has become boilerplate that replaces the effort to find a real closing theme or idea. The natural ending for the speech would have been the word "history,"in the paragraph above
‘If it wasn't for the disgrace of the FBI ...’
: One of the things that has struck me about the Whitey Bulger/FBI scandal is how many local journalists have personal stories to tell about their encounters with these characters. And Joe Fitzgerald
definitely has an encounter to describe.
$0 per square feet
: More than any other economic story I’ve read, this says it all
: $0 per square feet of sublease office space in the ‘burbs. As in ‘Z-E-R-0.’ You just pay the taxes etc. ...
... and here’s a story about the growing ‘hard-core unemployed.’
Reader Steve responds to $0
: 'Beat that, Silicon Valley!'
Two Globe editorials dear to Hub Blog’s heart
: The Globe gets the big-picture thrust of these issues: the need for more housing
in Massachusetts and President Bush’s AIDs initiative
As for the housing editorial: Yes, the state housing trust has been doing good deeds. But is $7.5 million really a significant part of the housing problem/solution here? Does the cut really deserve the headline ‘Romney’s hold on housing’? Isn’t it ultimately about building and zoning regulations? OK, restore the $7.5 million and cut somewhere else. But we’ll still have a ‘hold on housing.’ A small quibble I wanted to point out. ...
As for the prez’s AIDs program: The Globe is impressed with the proposal (as it should be), but allows ex-Harvard guru and now Earth Institute honcho Jeffrey Sachs to mouth off. Sachs: ''The United States has to get off its unilateralism on this issue.'' Not a small quibble.
‘Grieve the loss ...but’
: A nice piece by Joe Sciacca
on the need to mourn Columbia but also to move on. There’s a war to debate and wage. ... FYI: Joe seems to sympathize with Dems who say the president has yet to make a case for war against Iraq. Hub Blog’s view, as you probably know too well, is that the case for probable war was made a long, long time ago, but the president has done a lousy job selling it and reaching out to others. Read the quotes of Dems in Joe’s piece. These are good, patriotic people who still need a little more persuasion, not vilification.
‘America’s lofty ambition. ...’:
I’m sure a lot of great (and not-so great) things are being written across the country about yesterday’s Columbia tragedy. Here’s Boston’s small contribution to some great thoughts on the tragedy, in an essay by the Herald’s Tom Mashberg
, entitled “America’s lofty ambition requires us to risk more.” Excerpts:
“But Americans rarely are rendered wobbly by omens, real or imagined. The heavens have been scarred once again by a space shuttle calamity. But those on the land below, fired by the anguish of Sept. 11 and fueled for the fight against terrorism, have learned to overcome.”
“Seven brave explorers died when the shuttle fell from the sky yesterday. Four American servicemen died Thursday in eastern Afghanistan when their Black Hawk helicopter hit the ground. All risked all to serve their nation and the interests of humanity.”
The Mashberg essay was one of the better local pieces I've read so far on the Columbia calamity. One of the best TV interviews on the subject, which I just watched, was with John Glenn, appearing on 'This Week.' It was so mesmerizing -- his views on the early days of space flight, the scientific and medical benefits of space research, why America is so technically advanced, why space exploration is so exciting, why it's worth all the dangers and risks. Reminded me, in an odd way, of listening to Ted Williams talk about the art of batting. If you've ever seen one of the Ted interviews (usually played during a game's TV rain delay), you know what I'm talking about. Glenn's masterly tone, preciseness and knowledge were incredible.
Who is John Kerry?:
That’s the question many of us have asked about our junior senator from Massachusetts. And he’s asked the same question about himself on a number of occasions. It’s more than a little infuriating. But this article
explains a lot about Kerry. Literally. What a cool story. Right up there with Madeline Albright discovering her roots. ... Say what you will about Kerry, his reaction to finally learning about his family’s heritage is moving. A reader can almost see him reeling and choking up when given an old news clipping about his grandfather. ... Keep reading until the end, when Kerry’s brother is interviewed.
Update - 2-2-03 -
A friend and I were talking yesterday about this story. We both found it fascinating. But then the subject came up: What about the part in the middle of the story when the Globe appears to take digs at Kerry for allegedly not correcting the widespread assumption, based on his name and party affiliation etc., that he's Irish American? My friend's response: 'Of course he's had it both ways. Hey, having a name like 'Kerry' isn't a bad thing for a politician in Massachusetts.'
A reader just wrote in: '"I like the 'Of course he's had it both ways.' Typical JFK."
Update III -- Mickey Kaus
is weighing in on Kerry's 'voyage of self-discovery' and his have-it-both ways stance on the war.
Cuts, bad; Mitt, bad:
I give up. No more ‘reverse engineering.’ Can’t get into the minds of these people as they complain away about state budget cuts -- without offering any practical, realistic solutions. Complain, complain, complain. Eileen McNamara
, it’s your turn to complain. As for moi, here’s my Grand Compromise: Mitt comes up with a truly streamlined, reduced spending, reduced hack payroll, reduced Scam-o-rama (thanks for the term, Marg) budget -- with the Quinn and Pacheco bills definitely thrown in as a matter of high principle, among many, many other reforms -- and, if the legislature passes it, we’ll beg, borrow and raise taxes to make up the difference. But no reforms, no new taxes. Simplistic? Of course. But at least it’s in the ballpark of offering up a solution and compromise (which Mitt also has to do, FYI). Dear complainers: What are your
non-one-track solutions for digging out of a multibillion dollar deficit?
‘Overhaul housing regulations’
: Yes, we should
. And we need to. As Hub Blog has said before, if Mitt is serious about ‘sprawl’ and housing and zoning and transportation, this could be his true legacy as governor, not whether he sticks to his no-new-taxes pledge on the budget deficit.
The Columbia tragedy, Part II
: I often wonder how the World War II generation often put up with such horrendous casualty rates: Normandy, Iwo Jima, Okinawa etc. I still know of a lot of World War II vets who are still alive, and I desperately want to know how they did it. I want to know how they protected our liberty under such grotesque combat conditions etc. But they won’t talk. They’re still shocked, humbled, speechless, and admirably so, and I don’t want to disturb their peace. They’ve earned it. They’ve earned their peace. They’ve earned MY peace. So I don’t press it. ...
... One of the other things I’m also amazed about the Word War II generation is how civilians put up with such catastrophic bad news, on the war front and home front, with incredible resolve, even though the news was horribly bad. No Oprah-like sentimentality. There were battles. Hurricanes. Bombing runs. Floods. Sinking of ships with thousands aboard. The numbing disasters -- both domestic and war related -- seemed to melt together. As horrible as that sounds. And there were fires. Horrible fires. At home. No Nazis. No terrorists. Life just went on in its relentlessly sad way, amid all the horror. Bad news got swamped by more bad news. Take the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston
during World War II. About 490 people were killed in a stupid, domestic, preventable/non-preventable fire at a nightclub in Boston. Many of them were military personnel with their dates. Bet most people, outside of Boston, haven’t heard of this horrendous tragedy. But the tragedy -- and it was a gigantic tragedy -- was lost amid the fog of war, at least as far as the rest of the nation was concerned. In Boston, it’s still remembered, though faintly so, sad to say.
... And now we’ve lost the Columbia, a horrible tragedy, at a time when the nation is still grieving and reeling from Sept. 11. But there are those trying to politicize this tragedy, calling America ‘arrogant’ or trying to rev people up about Iraq -- and they’re all absurdly connecting this tragedy to ‘left’ and ‘right’ dots concerning their world views or whatever. I feel sorry for them. Advice to the easily revved up: Columbia is a first-class tragedy. Don’t cheapen the mourning with cheap political cheap shots, left or right, just because you’ve developed a narrow, gross, ideological focus that rules out acts of ... God. Yes, God. You know who I mean. ...
... Let’s keep things in perspective. Let’s mourn Columbia. Brave people died on a noble mission for humanity. Yes, humanity. Nothing more. Nothing less. And, by the way, we’re at war. ...
The Columbia tragedy
: Everything else today seems so trivial, so unimportant.
‘You are a terrorist, a species of ...’
: Chief US District Judge William G. Young, who leveled the boom on Richard Reid the other day, is getting a lot of well-deserved attention
these days for his remarks to the attempted mass murderer during his sentencing hearing: ''You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist, a species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.''
: Lawmakers are bellyaching that -- get this -- Mitt didn’t cut enough the other day. Here’s the Herald story
and the Globe story
. My favorite quote is from Rep. Byron Rushing, D-South End: ''I think that the governor has essentially set us up. ... Clearly, the governor has not come close to keeping his promise to not cut core services and he really is just miles away from the campaign statements that he made. But what he asked from us and what most of us were willing to give him was extended [emergency] power so he could come up with $650 million worth of cuts. And what he has given us is half of that.'' ... Question: Who was really setting up whom? Judging by his own comments, Rushing is all but saying: ‘Mitt didn’t make the cuts we all know are needed and the cuts we were all set to criticize.’
‘It was so bad ...’
: The worst defeat
in Celtics history. How bad was it? ‘It was so bad that fans actually cheered when the Pistons scored and booed when the Celtics made a basket. By the fourth quarter, what remained of a sellout crowd wanted to witness history, even the embarrassing kind.’ ... And no excuses for Walker being hobbled last night. The previous Celts record for a blowout was set earlier this year.
: Local blogger John Farrell’s
short story "Trypho" appears in the February issue of Literary Potpourri
. Haven’t read it yet, but hope to get to it later this weekend.
Extremist ‘unilateralists’ and ‘multilateralists’ (Or why knives and forks are not mutually exclusive), Part II
: Ah, what the hell. Said at the end of my previous post on this subject
that I’d end the discussion, for now. But then I stumbled across this Charles Krauthammer column
about the U.N., RIP. This isn’t a perfect example of extremist unilateralism. And this article about AIDS ‘activists’
may not be the perfect example of extremist multilateralism. But they’re both close enough to make my point. As for Charles, he’s all over the map, bashing the U.N. and not mentioning how the administration is now playing the U.N. card (quite deftly, I might say, though belatedly, I might add). Charles brings up the subject of NATO and the eight European leaders
who have sided with the U.S. in the Iraq crisis, but doesn’t mention how those leaders constantly referred to the U.N., Security Council, NATO etc. in their collective letter. ...
... The ‘unilateralist’ vs. ‘multilateralist’ debate is becoming more and more like an argument over whether you should just use a knife or fork while eating. Well, personally, I kind of like using both. Don’t you? ‘Unilateralism’ and ‘multilateralism’ have to be used in conjunction with each other. You toggle back and forth, using one for one purpose, the other for another purpose, and sometimes you use both at the same time, sort of like using a knife to push the peas onto the fork, something my mother always railed against but a practice my father did with a wink and great dexterity. Are the U.N. and NATO both flawed? Hell yes. But junk them? Hell no. Bush, if we’re lucky, is finally discovering the naughty delight of using the multilateralist U.N. to push the little peas on our unilateralist fork. And the more peas on the fork, the better. Know what the best part is? We're beating the French at their own knife-and-fork game! ... And, again:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
‘Tax hikes won’t fly -- not yet’
: They can whine
. But there won’t be a tax hike to plug the state’s current budget deficit. Mitt ain’t going to do it. And he shouldn’t. Or he better not. But next fiscal year, well, that’s a different matter. Scot Lehigh
explains why in probably the best piece I’ve read so far about the old no-new-taxes vs. tax-and-spend debate now playing out on Beacon Hill. ...
... Best right-to-the-point lead
on a column I’ve read in a while: ‘The Metropolitan District Commission is a cockroach.’ ...
Read Tom Keane
this morning. Talk about ‘No reforms, no new taxes.’ From Tom: ‘If Massachusetts raises taxes and the Quinn Bill (which boosts cops' salaries by millions in exchange for taking bogus classes) is still around, then taxes were not raised as a ‘last resort.’ If we raise taxes and the Pacheco Bill (which prevents the government from using competition to deliver services more cheaply) is still law, taxes were not raised as a ‘last resort.’” As Tom says, the list could go on and on and on. ... Speaking of Tom Keane, you really should read his column for the number of other delightful observations and one-liners he fires off. As I said yesterday, I think analyzing the ‘style’ of a speech is almost always subjective and more than a little ludicrous. But Keane probably came closest to pure objectivity when he wrote the following about the speeches by Mitt, Tommy and the Trav: ‘All looked a bit like animals caught in the headlights (Romney, a deer; Travaglini, a koala; Finneran, a ferret).’ ...
... No, no, no! No more Howie Carr columns slamming hacks! But, damn it, he did it again
. (Some think -- or hope -- the Bulger/FBI legal wrangling will drain Billy’s personal piggy bank. Think again. Billy has built up his own mini-law firm over at UMass -- and we’re paying for it.) By the way, Howie plugs the howiecarr.org web site
for those who care. Didn’t know there was one. Alas, it’s not a blog.
Armored car heist in Charlestown
: Question: Was he wearing a Charlestown hockey jacket?
Amtrak vs. the MBTA
: Cosmo Macero
referees a fight between a pot calling a kettle black.
‘Something with a little bite’:
This is, without a doubt, the worst column ever written by Brian McGrory
. Period. Seriously. Awful. Immature. Lazy. And you know what? He had to do it. There’s just something about journalism where you have to pursue these cravings and get them out of your system. Kind of like a character in one of the greatest books ever written about journalism, called “Dwarf Rapes Nun; Flees in UFO,”
by Arnold Sawislack. If you’re a journalist, buy it. Sort of like ‘Confederacy of Dunces,’ though obviously not as good. (What could be?) Anyway, quick story line of 'Dwarf Rapes Nun': A Fleet Street Brit editor, unable to find the Holy Grail of screamer headlines in the UK, comes to the US in his crazed search for the perfect tabloid headline. In the process, he turns a small, sleepy, Midwestern capital city upside down and inside out. ... As for Brian: You found your Holy Grail. (Or did you?) Anyway, congrats. I'm envious. Now back to work!
-- For some reason, I can't get the above link to work for the 'Dwarf Rapes Nun' book. But it is available over there at Amazon.
Extremist ‘unilateralists’ and extremist ‘multilateralists’
: Hub Blog is starting a new campaign. Against what? The abuse of the words ‘unilateralist’ and ‘multilateralist.’ We’re all guilty of it these days, including yours truly. Tired of the debate. Got truly fed up with it when I read this editorial in the Globe
, which, by the way, doesn’t mention the fact that eight European leaders just signed a letter expressing solidarity with the US. ... Anyway, what bothers me about the ‘unilateralist’ vs. ‘multilateralist’ debate (besides the fact that it’s now entered the official lexicon of the modern ideological/cultural wars) is that there’s no such thing as a pure ‘unilateralist’ or pure ‘multilateralist,’ try as one might to prove it. George Bush, with his swaggering unilateralist rhetoric, is obviously now engaged in a very multilateralist chess match over at the UN. (And, surprisingly, he just might win, to the regret of extreme unilateralists and multilateralists.) Meanwhile, France, the biggest proponent of multilateralism, is now acting like a true neo-colonial unilateralist in the Ivory Coast. (Or should I call it ‘Cote d’Ivorie,’ as some are now pretentiously calling it. Should we start calling England ‘Angleterre’? Just asking. But I digress.) There are many, many different shades of ‘unilateralists’ and ‘multilateralists.’ Don’t have time to slice and dice all of them to show examples. But let’s take the recent war on terrorism to make the point: I don’t think anyone seriously doubted America’s right to go after the Taliban and Osama in Afrghanistan, with or without international help. We had and have a right to defend ourselves. That’s embracing, well, a form of unilateralism. But in the case of Iraq it’s a little trickier, requiring, as Bush has found out the hard way, a little more multilateral finesse, something the administration has been particularly bad at acknowledging and handling. Dismissing either ‘unilateralism’ or ‘multilateralism’ is like trying to fix a flat tire with a jack minus the tire iron. You need both. End it here with this vow: From now on, humble little Hub Blog will start referring, when appropriate, to ‘extremist unilateralism’ or ‘extremist multilaterism.’ And, oh, as usual, here’s this quote:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Allies, unity and cohesion
: A number of readers have sent various links that deal with this stirring and moving letter
by eight European leaders expressing their support for the United States and for a united stand against Iraq. One letter writer, noting my past criticism of President Bush for not reaching out enough to all Americans and to Europeans, said: “See? We do have allies!” My response: “Isn’t it nice
to have allies?” Excerpts from the letter by the European leaders:
“Today more than ever, the trans-Atlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom. ....
“The trans-Atlantic relationship must not become a casualty of the current Iraqi regime's persistent attempts to threaten world security. In today's world, more than ever before, it is vital that we preserve that unity and cohesion. ...
“All of us are bound by Security Council Resolution 1441, which was adopted unanimously. We Europeans have since reiterated our backing for Resolution 1441, our wish to pursue the U.N. route, and our support for the Security Council at the Prague NATO Summit and the Copenhagen European Council. ...
“The solidarity, cohesion and determination of the international community are our best hope of achieving this peacefully. Our strength lies in unity.”
Besides the humbling reference to ‘American bravery’ during the struggle against fascism and communism, notice also all the references to ‘bond’ and ‘relationship’ and ‘unity’ and ‘cohesion’ and ‘all of us’ and ‘solidarity,’ not to mention the references to the U.N., the Security Council and NATO. There have been many in this administration who have wantonly ignored, even belittled, the idea of going to the U.N. and building a strong coalition. Is there or is there not a faction within this administration that has been touting a unilateralist, go-it-alone Pax America approach toward the world’s problems? Of course there is. To deny it is to lie. And it’s that faction that’s been dismissing the U.N., dismissing European sentiment, dismissing anything that even remotely smacks of the dreaded ‘multilateralism.’ And now some of the administration’s most ardent supporters are excitedly sending me this stirring letter by European leaders -- with the leaders’ references to the U.N., the Security Council, NATO and the need to act in a, well, multilateralist way -- and say it represents their views and not mine? Pleasssssssse. I firmly believed this administration’s bellicose, blustering and blundering policies over the past year have needlessly turned off a lot of people across the world and even here in America
. And I firmly believe this: Had the president more deftly handled the diplomatic front over the past year, we might have a had ninth leader signing the European leaders’ letter. Who would have been the ninth? A different German chancellor than the clown we have now. The election in Germany was close -- and it was settled, ultimately, by a gross appeal to anti-American and anti-war hysteria, fed partly by a U.S. president who didn’t realize his words (and not necessarily his actions) were disturbing a lot of people. Seeing that Phase I (Afghanistan) of the war is over and that we’re about to enter Phase II of the war (Iraq), I hope the administration has learned some lessons when we move on to Phase III. And again, here’s a line I’ve been using a lot lately:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Glad to see that so many now apparently agree with this point.
P.S. And, oh, yes. I did get this link to Peggy Noonan’s review
of the president’s State of the Union Address. She liked the speech. So did I. Just wish he had used the same calm, reasoned, non-chest-beating rhetoric throughout the past year. It would have helped our cause a lot more.
Update 7:30 p.m. --
That old 'faux-hawkish multilateralist' Tony Blair
is urging President Bush to stick with the UN option. Meanwhile, read on about the turmoil in Europe this crisis is causing.
The worst Globe op-ed?: Politica Obscura
thinks he's found it.
‘The CEO sets the stage’
: Must admit: Saw only bits and pieces of Mitt’s speech last night
. What I saw, though, wasn’t great but certainly not bad. Don’t want to get into a style assessment of the speech, for those who like Mitt will say they generally liked the speech, while those who don’t like him will say the opposite. A waste of time. ...
... The most curious morning-after piece was this Globe ‘analysis’
of Mitt’s handling of the budget announcements. It’s as if the writer, Frank Phillips, can’t quite believe that a non-politician is running state government and is handling matters differently from past governors. I mean, the shock! The article is strewn with references to ‘CEO’ and Bain and ‘businesslike’ and ‘corporate’ and other private-sector lingo. Love this line: “The frustration was palpable because Romney's approach was such a sharp departure from recent governors of both parties: Other chief executives would almost daily make themselves available to the news media - usually right outside the executive office - and take questions from any comer. ... Still, Romney's cool corporate style may be an asset in winning public support as he deals with tough budget issues.”
... One complaint: I do wish Mitt had outlined more of the cuts. The announcement he was firing hundreds of lawyers was a little too much of, hmmm, how shall we say this, ...pandering to our prejudices?
... Maybe last night wasn’t the time, but the governor better be serious about restructuring and reforming government. I think he is. The planned elimination of the patronage-laden MDC
was a great first step in the reform campaign. One of many other suggestions: the Quinn Bill. For some reason, this has struck a nerve in people. They know it’s a scam. Here’s hoping Mitt guts or reforms it next month. Remember: $100 million. ... Speaking of scams and reforms, check out Margery Eagan’s column
this morning. From Margery: “It's like scam central around here. It's Scam of the Week. It's Scam-a-rama. But during every budget crisis, we hear the same song and dance. I repeat: Cops, firefighters and teachers must go first. And the children. What about the children? Second. Throw 'em overboard. Meanwhile, the scam-meisters continue on their merry ways, laughing at all us saps.”
A reader responds
"Just a bit of feedback on the Phillips 'analysis' piece. I think you should read the whole thing as a shot across the bow from the Globe at the Romney administration regarding lack of access. In general, the administration has been very disciplined about leaks. And when they do leak, it's to (the) Herald. … The discipline trend appears to be in keeping with the administration's aim of centralizing press at the executive level. Fewer connected sources at the agencies means less opportunity for enterprising reporters."
Hub Blog's response
: One is tempted to say, 'Welcome to business journalism, Frank, where the CEO doesn't always have to talk to the press.' ... Not saying that's good, but that's the way it is. ... The institutional clash between the political press and Mitt is going to be fascinating to watch. Mitt, who came from the private sector, is obviously stealing a page or two from the press strategy of George Bush, who also came from the private sector.
They’re already carping
: The administration reaches out to the world and proposes a bold, dynamic plan to tackle AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. And what are some ‘activists’ saying? I’m not making it up: The administration is being too ‘unilateralist’ in its approach
. Unbelievable. As anyone who regularly reads this blog knows, I’m against ‘unilateralist’ extremists in this administration. But one thing I should start stressing more: I’m against ‘multilateralist’ extremists, too. The ingratitude of some of these people is amazing. Simply amazing. ... Keep reading the article beyond the bureaucratic whining and posturing. Toward the end, the story gives an excellent account of how the administration planned its radical AIDS initiative. Hub Blog personally knows some of the people the administration consulted with prior to Tuesday’s announcement. They are first-class, brilliant people dedicated to fighting AIDS. The more I read about this plan, the more I like it.
The speech he should have given a year ago
: He was calm, focused, convincing
on Iraq. The sad part is: This is The Speech He Should Have Given A Year Ago (And Throughout The Past Year), coupled with a U.N. Policy That He Should Have Tried A Year Ago (And Throughout The Past Year). You already know my position, so just reread this post
and this post
and this post
to get a flavor of where I stand. What a shame. The damage has already been done after a year of bellicose talking to his own kind, rather than trying to convince others. ... One can only hope that, after Iraq, he’ll have learned his lessons and try different diplomatic and rhetorical methods to achieve the same ends and drum up more support. But this Fred Barnes piece
, while identifying Bush’s admirable goals for Phase III of the war after Iraq, isn’t encouraging. ... Wonder if the president has ever heard of the phrase: There’s more than one way to skin a cat. ...
... Reader BK
sent in this email to me last night:
“Hubblog’s job For jan. 29th
“1. Put liberal press cant and commentary on Bush's SOTU speech through the most stringent scrutiny and reverse-engineering possible.
“2. Full-speed ahead with Hubblog's unique -- and as yet still unchallenged -- selling proposition: covering the media's and the Democrats' inabilities to grasp Romney's new thinking and approaches-- while still criticizing Mitt on the merits wherever Hubblog finds it necessary to do so.”
More on Mitt below, but first the reverse-engineering of Bush’s SOTU. Think I’ve already started that process by expressing my regret with Bush’s atrocious argumentative style over the past year, while still grudgingly supporting him. (Is that technically reverse engineering? Not sure.) Anyway, I think Reader BK has an EXCELLENT take on the speech himself. Here’s BK:
“Bush's SOTU: I bet the Democrats in the chamber (and most of the media) thought that Bush started out slowly, that he looked a bit tired, that the speech was going to be mediocre. But within two minutes, he reached across the aisle and -- domestic issue by domestic issue -- started pulling their collective teeth out until I wondered whether he was going to stop pulling when he reached their brain stems. By the standards set by Bush's speeches of September 14th, 2001, September 20th, 2001, and last year's SOTU, this year's SOTU is only a very, good but not a great speech. The Boston media's opinionazzi will contend that it is even less impressive. But had any Democrat given last night's speech, it would be ranked as the most farsighted and courageous speech (let alone SOTU) that any leader -- Democrat or Republican -- has given in the last two decades. (And) great work on Kerry's foreign policy ‘masterpiece.’ Looking forward to your continuing and thorough guidance through JFK's year of ‘personal growth’ in his pursuit of the presidency of the world's oldest democracy.”
Oh, yeah, my masterpiece fisking
of Kerry’s masterpiece of a speech. Thank you. Now that
fisking the other day was definitely a form of reverse engineering. Ain’t easy being a multilateralist defending a unilateralist against a fellow multilateralist while also attacking the unilateralist’s penchant for treating others like dog doo-doo. ...
But where were we? Oh, yes. BK’s challenge to Hub Blog to monitor the local media’s spin this morning on George’s SOTU speech. No huge complaints, but did find this instance of reverse engineering: The Herald’s ‘analysis’
of the speech was more negative than the Globe’s ‘analysis’
of the speech. Thought that was rather curious. And any time you put a Scot Lehigh
column and a Derrick Jackson
column on the same op-ed page, with the two writing about the same subject, that, too, is a form of reverse engineering. (Loved Scot’s take on the sham interviews with Iraq’s scientists. Read it, even though you might not need more proof of Saddam’s cruelty.) Derrick will never, ever be convinced about the need to go to war, but he does raise interesting points about Rummy’s unilateralist ways and 'Powell's vindidation.' (That’s reverse engineering, right? Taking a slap at Derrick while also admitting he makes some decent points? Or am I supposed to dismiss everything he says just because he’s not 100 percent on ‘my side’? ). ....
... Meanwhile, loved this article
for one reason: John Kerry’s retort to the president. And here’s Johnnnnnnnny: ''We live in serious times facing serious challenges, and we cannot afford a mere rhetorical presidency. ... Americans are tired of politicians who make promises in speeches and break them in practice.'' ... A ‘mere rhetorical presidency.’ John Kerry said this. John Kerry. Methinks Tom Oliphant has a different impression
about who’s been a tad bit too rhetorical these days.
... What was the most encouraging, exciting, non-Iraq portion of Bush’s speech?
His call to fight AIDS
in Africa. It was AWESOME. Seriously. If funded and implemented correctly, this president will have saved millions and millions of lives -- and win millions of admirers in a continent that truly does look up to America and wishes we’d be more active there. Need more of this compassionate, intelligent multilateralist outreach, George. Wins 'friends' and 'allies.' ...
... What was the worst part of the president’s speech?
It’s what he didn’t mention: The evil, evil threat posed by Canadians
to our north. This is truly frightening. Hub Blog's new secret mission in the war: Must find 'Agent Deep Freeze' and neutralize him before it's too late.
Update -- 1 p.m. --
Love it. Love it! Europeans are squabbling
and taking sides (sort of) over Rummy’s ‘Old Europe’ crack. Interesting observation at the end:
“I don't want to exaggerate the depth of the differences or overplay the unity of the ‘New Europe.’ British opinion polls are indeed running soundly against the war in Iraq. Much of the Italian and Spanish media are profoundly anti-American. For that matter, support for American policy in Iraq might be found in France and Germany if the Bush administration, Rumsfeld included, cared enough to promote it. Nevertheless, differences remain -- so when foreign reactions to the president's State of the Union speech are quoted today, do find out which countries are speaking in the name of ‘Europe’ before drawing conclusions.”
Makes my points, counters my points. And that’s why I like blogging. Thanks to none other than (drum roll please) Reader BK, once again, for the link.
Mitt’s new way of thinking
: He’s cutting back the press secretary corps
. And another promising career avenue for Hub Blog hits a dead end. ... Make sure to watch Mitt’s budget speech tonight, followed by Gov. Finneran and President Trav.
: Tom Keane
has an outstanding column about the homeless, the mentally ill, the ‘deinstitutionalization’ movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and how solving the problem of ‘homelessness’ isn’t as easy as conservatives or liberals claim. Great background material on the issue for those who jump to simple conclusions whenever they step over the bloodied, inebriated bodies of homeless people in Boston.
Why I love the Herald
: Because they run headlines like this: “ ‘Frankenstein’ breast surgery clinic uncovered.”
The story is appalling. The lede: “A Cambodian couple turned their Lowell apartment into a makeshift clinic, performing backroom breast enhancements and other illicit surgeries until investigators probing the claims of infected victims stumbled upon the bloody ‘operating room,’ officials said.” ... How can you not read this story? ... Just wait until they describe the ‘operating table.’
'Powell's Vindication,' Part II
: Hub Blog has been quoting Peggy Noonan a lot these days on Iraq, in fact I did so earlier today
, linking to one of her columns from September. But I missed this Noonan column from yesterday
(via Dan Kennedy
and Mickey Kaus
). Some excerpts from Noonan's latest piece:
"... Mr. Bush's passion is well-established. Too much so, actually. Last summer, when Mr. Bush told Bob Woodward's tape recorder that he personally loathes Kim Jung Il, when he spoke of his disdain in startlingly personal tones -- and when the world heard it on television, for Mr. Woodward apparently provided the tape to publicists when he was selling his Bush book -- well, that was not a great moment in the history of diplomacy. Mr. Bush's father was often accused of allowing himself to express too little. George W. Bush may be remembered in part for allowing himself to express too much. ...
"But one of the problems with the strategy, if it is a strategy -- and one certainly hopes it is for if it's not there's a lot of messy swaggering going on at the White House -- is this: It leaves the world and the American people wondering if Mr. Bush isn't a little too hot, too quick on the draw, too personal in his handling of international challenges. In an odd way Mr. Bush's passion about Iraq is getting in the way of his message on Iraq. It's not carrying the message forth forcefully, which is what passion is supposed to do. At this point his passion seems to be distracting from the message."
Economy in limbo, Part II
: I’ve stopped trying to make sense of this local economy
. It’s throwing too many curves
, though residential real estate isn’t a very good indicator of economic/business activity. A more accurate measure can be found in commercial real estate.
I stand by an earlier assertion: We’re going to be in the doldrums for a while.
MBTA -- no reforms, no new taxes
: A few weeks ago, Hub Blog advocated a possible gas tax increase
in order to pay for much-needed transportation (re: rail) improvements. A reader quickly wrote back that I should apply my own mantra to the MBTA: “No reforms, no new taxes.” This story proves the point
: No reforms, no new taxes.
: He really does think he’s gubernatorial material
. What’s Tommy up to? Giving the Democrats’ version of the budget debate after Mitt’s televised address tomorrow night? Or explaining the legislature’s plans to work with Mitt? Or promoting himself? You decide. Hub Blog has its own suspicions. ... Meanwhile, current deficit estimates are back up to $650 million. Say what you will about Jane Swift, but she was unfairly knocked for all the wild budget estimates coming out of her office in the last days of her administration. Predicting incoming revenue ain’t easy in a recession. ...
... Mitt and Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Margaret Marshall deserve a lot of credit for their performance in recent weeks, according to Wayne Woodlief
. “Whether it's his no-nonsense corporate sense or political skills he learned from his late father George, a popular governor of Michigan, Romney has scored well on several points.” ... Hub Blog has also been hearing a lot of positive comments about how Mitt has been showing up at all the National Guard send offs. A small, slam-dunk, patriotic thing for a governor to do, no doubt. But people are noticing and talking about it.
That’s how Andrew Sullivan
describes the U.N.’s damning report
on Iraq -- damning, that is, if you pay attention to the facts -- and Powell’s push to involve the U.N. in the process. But is it really a ‘vindication’? And, if so, who’s discredited/not vindicated in the administration? Names, please. The fact is this diplomatic route should have been tried a year ago. It was resisted by many in the administration. Now it’s being implemented at the very last minute, too late, probably, to sway any meaningful number of Americans and/or Europeans. Too many people have already made up their minds. ... One reader wrote to me the other day (and I’m paraphrasing, for I no longer have the email): The United States was never going to convince the hard-core anti-American Europeans who see nothing but evil in everything America does. But it could have swayed, say, 5 percent to 10 percent more of the European population. Modest numbers, to be sure. But, as the reader said, it might have been enough to change the outcome of the German election had we tried a more diplomatic, less bellicose strategy. ...
.... Joan Vennochi
has some good observations on roughly the same matter: “Ever since (Bush’s State of the Union address last year), he has marched the country toward another war. But we are not marching to one clear voice but rather to a jarring, confusing cacophony that starts and stops and starts again. Between the fits and starts, it is hard to hear Bush's voice over the voices coming from Iraq, North Korea, and the United Nations, not to mention the voices vying to be heard from inside his own administration.” ... Now there are certain things I disagree with in Joan’s column, such as the way she personally describes the president and her suggestion that he hasn’t made a clear case for war. Personally, I think the case for possible war was made a long, long time ago. The point of the U.N. approach was to convince others
about the possible need for war. But Joan is largely right about this administration’s zigzagging ways. ... Sorry to hammer away at the point, but maybe it’s time, now that some are giving Colin Powell credit, to once again reread Peggy Noonan’s column
from this past September on the mood of the country. ... And, oh, what the hell, while we’re at it, why not reread the Chruchill line sent in by Brighton Reader:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
'Going down north':
That’s a phrase some blacks outside the north sometimes use when a friend or loved one is about to travel to a northern city -- the use of the word ‘down’ intended to draw parallels with going down to the old South. ... Boston definitely has a major racial image problem, so the 2004 Democratic National Convention is going to be a big, big racial test
for the city. One of the things I liked about this article is how many out-of-town African-American delegates, interviewed by the Globe, freely admit that their opinions of Boston were shaped by the busing controversy of the ‘70s and that they’re open to the idea of dispelling those notions. ... Here’s a great passage from the piece: '' 'My friend who is coming to the convention told me the last time he'd even thought about Boston was the 1970s,' said Joyce Ferriabough, a black political consultant whose husband, Bruce Bolling, was the first black City Council president. ''I told him, `You've got a lot to catch up on, my brother.' I see that people just harp on the busing thing and, to be honest with you, it ticks me off. While I know that things still need to change here, the climate of Boston has changed dramatically.' '' ... The last sentence -- both clauses -- is quite true.
Throwing in the MCAS towel
: The state cuts haven’t even been announced and some are urging throwing in the towel on MCAS?
Seems a little hasty and drastic, not bold and decisive. Gutting it now in the face of tough economic times would mean that past efforts (and funds ) were simply wasted and sends a signal that no school reform can be touched. Of course, there’s another factor at play: A lot of people have been searching for excuses since Day 1 to gut MCAS.
Throwing in the towel on the Quinn Bill
: Now here’s a program
we should have thrown the towel in on a long, long time ago. Adrian Walker: “Given the political clout of its beneficiaries, the police unions, the Quinn Bill isn't likely to go away. But in the name of common sense it should be overhauled.” ... How about $100 million for schools?
Understanding the ‘groundswell of anxiety’
: So Colin Powell
is back to arguing in favor of a ‘great coalition’ to take on Iraq. Guess he’s got to keep trying, as futile as it may seem. We’ll have to go it alone, or with a minimal amount of allies, as things stand now. ...
has an interesting post today on the subject. Andrew: “I've been trying to understand better the groundswell of anxiety about the coming war. Leaving aside the extremists, it seems to me that the undecideds simply hold an assumption I don't share. The assumption is that 9/11 was an isolated event that portended nothing more than itself and only legitimized a police operation in self-defense targeted precisely at the group that perpetrated it.” ... Glad he threw in the line about ‘leaving aside the extremists,’ for I’ve gotten quite a bit of email recently suggesting that my criticism of Bush in recent posts somehow shows I’ve become ‘antiwar.’ I also appreciate the fact that Andrew is at least ‘trying to understand better’ the views of non-extremists. But that’s the problem: Bush and his supporters have done very little to try to understand better people with different views on how to reach the same goal: Disarming and/or removing Saddam. It’s not all about ‘anxiety’ or ‘ambivalence’ or ‘faux-hawkish multilateralists.’ It also has to do with a perception, based on reality, in my opinion, that this administration has regularly, consistently, adamantly turned a tin ear to those with different ideas and views on how to reach the same end. The administration and its supporters have been, at times, bellicose, contemptuous and disdainful towards people who would have gladly lined up behind him had he tried to better understand their doubts and concerns. I think it was Mickey Kaus who wrote, soon after Sept. 11, that the administration had to reach out to Democrats in order to reach a true national consensus. True, but I would add: The administration had to also reach out to Independents and even people within his own party. What did we get? Trial balloons (quickly shot down) about how the administration might not have to consult with Congress over going to war with Iraq. Initially dismissing attempts to rally international support through the U.N. (but later embracing this approach under pressure, when it was too late). Etc., etc., etc. Most of us non-extremists-- the lukewarm supporters of his general cause -- actually believe in building as strong a consensus and alliance as possible. Poll after poll has shown Americans prefer going into this war with as much support as possible. This hasn’t always been the attitude of the administration, as we all know. What we’re seeing now at the U.N. -- with the U.S., France, Germany at odds etc. -- is two unwilling dancers at the prom. None of them truly believe in the U.N. route. They’re just doing it for the appearance. ...
... so now we’re heading to war, with divisions in America and within our NATO alliance (which some in the administration have always pooh-poohed as a viable partner). We’re getting the unilateralist approach that some in the administration have always wanted and advocated. And that disturbs and depresses a lot of people. We could have done better. How much better, I’m not sure. But we could have done better. Brighton Reader has been sending me a lot of emails lately on this subject. One line he sent sticks out. Here it is:
“As Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Well, I’m supporting Bush now. The stakes are too high. But I regret, even resent, the path we followed to get here.
Understanding the French
: A reader and friend emailed me to ask about a book on France I had recommended a while ago. The reader, reacting to all the news these days about France, Germany and Iraq, said he finally wants to “figure out what’s going through their f&*cking frog heads.” ...
... Here it is: William Shirer’s “The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940.”
I highly recommend it, though it’s long and dense. Having spent a lot of time in France and West Africa (France’s neocolonial, hypocritical stomping grounds to this day), it really gave me a greater understanding of the French mind and character. Shirer, best known for his classic “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” doesn’t just explore the immediate events leading up to 1940. He goes back to when the Third Republic was founded, how it survived through World War I, and the disastrous post-war military and diplomatic decisions by the French. Warning: It’s not as good as Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” What could be? But it’s still excellent. ...
... On the same subject, I’ve noticed that Josh Marshall
is a sort of military/diplomatic history buff too. There’s a newer book out, “Strange Victory,”
by Ernest May, also about the fall of France in 1940. Here’s Josh’s mini-review of the book
. I haven’t read it, but think I will. One thing about Josh’s review that caught my attention: How the French and English had more and better weapons facing Hitler in ‘40. Probably true. Recall Shirer saying the same thing. But Shirer makes clear -- and maybe May does too -- how many of those weapons were bought from the Americans at the last minute, just prior and after Poland’s fall in ‘39, and how the French didn’t have a clue how to use and deploy them properly.
-- Was over at Downtown Crossing and purchased a copy of "Strange Victory," written by Ernest R. May, who, by the way, is a Harvard prof and Cambridge resident. A blurb on the jacket praises the book as a 'splendid revisionist work.' Hmmmm. Now I'm really interested. A 'revisionist history' perhaps at odds with Shirer's conclusions? Should be fun. Get back to you on it later, probably in a few weeks.
‘Ambivalence on war shadows Kerry’
: Thomas Oliphant
, a multilateralist who has taken a consistently tough stand on Iraq, is taking Kerry to task for his have-it-both-ways stand on Iraq. From Oliphant: “Last weekend, in Iowa, he was the would-be antiwarrior, allegedly hamstrung in his dovish efforts in 2002 by more hawkish Democratic colleagues. Last week, he was the possibly reluctant warrior, decrying a headlong stumble toward war in the Persian Gulf but resigned and even supportive of it depending on the circumstances. ... The trick is in knowing at what point a question must be addressed with either a yes or a no. With Iraq that moment is fast approaching.” Oliphant concludes:
“Kerry has reflected the growing national ambivalence. That is not a sin, but it is not what presidents do. They have to choose before they can lead.”
A minor disagreement with Oliphant: The word 'ambivalence,' at least to me, implies you've given genuine thought to an issue and can't arrive at a clear answer. You're torn. You see both sides. The answer may lie in the harder-to-describe-and-defend middle. Etc. John Kerry is genuinely interested in international affairs and many aspects of his Georgetown speech were well thought out. But I'm not convinced he's truly 'ambivalent' about Iraq. One has a clear sense that Kerry, who can be so articulate about world affairs (as shown in his speech on Friday), is merely playing both sides of the fence. Hey, maybe I'm wrong. I've been all over the map on Iraq. I've been ambivalent and inconsistent, too. But Kerry's Georgetown speech and his flip-flopping sermons to different audiences indicate something else is at play. The word 'calculating' comes to mind. ...
... While you’re at it, check out Thomas Friedman’s column
this morning on Iraq and, of course, Hub Blog’s exciting, exhausting fisking of Kerry’s Georgetown speech
A reader responds
: Brighton Reader, in an email slugged ‘How do you like your eggs done?’, writes in response to the above post and my fisking post
“We multi-lateralists do not have eggs on our faces. The point was to try to get as broad a coalition to support disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. If not everyone signed on, so be it. This approach did succeed in getting the inspectors back in and the first UN resolution. The other aspect was the need to persuade the American public and public opinion among our allies why this was needed, that we did want their support, and that there was a way for war to be avoided, no matter how unlikely it was that Saddam would do it. If this had been the case from the beginning, I think the approach would have been more successful. But it seemed more of an add-on (by the Bush Administration), something done for PR purposes after the decision had already been made. ...
“... Even now we can't ignore the need for allies. What happens when other countries start to do the same as the French and Germans? If they do not believe Islamic terrorism is their fight, too, they may not put the resources into routing out networks on their home turfs. One of the main reasons that Reagan and Thatcher were so popular in eastern Europe countries is they didn't hesitate to assert what they were fighting for. These same countries may start to go French as well, as Tom Friedman put it, if the US takes them and their concerns for granted.
“Finally, as Churchill said, the only thing worse than fighting with allies is fighting without them.”
Bill Belichick, NYT op-ed writer
: There I was, doing the usual rounds, poking around the NYT’s online op-ed material. Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman and ... Bill Belichick?
Read it. A funny ‘thirty-seven thoughts for the victorious coach on today's national holiday.’
‘An economy in limbo’
: A nice look at the current economic malaise
we’re going through, nationally and locally. Conclusion: ‘Waiting itself is the problem.’ Know the feeling. Find out why. ... I'm coming to the conclusion we're going to be in the doldrums for a while more. Still hearing reports from IT friends, who are tied into the high-tech sector, about how much software, hardware and other materials left over from the Internet frenzy of the '90s are selling for bargain prices at auctions. Repeat: At auctions.
Test day for Mitt
: Wednesday is a big day for Mitt
. In a locally televised address, he’ll be outlining his plan for tackling the state’s current deficit. The good news: Looks like the deficit might be smaller than expected and school-aid cuts might be avoided. But there's still next year's budget deficit, projected to be between $2 billion and $3 billion. Wednesday is a test for Mitt. The big test comes when he delivers his budget for next fiscal year. That's when the real shrieking and fighting begins.
Torture and Western standards
: Thought Jeff Jacoby
was about to embrace one of modern Western civilization’s great taboos -- torture. But then Jeff made clear: “No. The way to win this war is not to adopt our enemies' evil methods. Resort to torture could conceivably stave off a catastrophe. But at what price to our self-respect?” A good piece in his series on how to win (and not win) the war.
A multilateralist's 'Fisking' of John Kerry’s multilateralist's major foreign policy speech
: Ah, Hub Blog’s first public Fisking of an article or speech. I decided to do this because of: the international events of recent days (i.e., France and Germany’s decision on Iraq, Colin Powell’s somersault
on UN inspections in reaction to France and Germany’s moves); the large amount of email I’ve received on the issue since I posted some items on it a few days ago; and the fact John Kerry is from the old Hub, giving me the local peg I needed to justify this long item. A couple notes before the Fisking commences:
-- Those of us who favor resorting to war against Iraq as a last resort, but preferred a more multilateralist approach beforehand, definitely have egg on our faces these days. It’s now clear the U.N. route is not working -- and probably never would have worked, judging by France and others’ recent actions. The die is now cast. War is going to happen, unless Saddam is ousted first or some miracle happens. Powell knows this. Those of us who backed him and favored his multilateralist approach -- as opposed to those who favor a multilateralist approach in order to block any and all action against Iraq -- also know it. Reluctantly, we're seeing through the egg yolk.
-- Some conservatives (by the way, I consider myself a moderate conservative) are now chortling over these recent events. But I find it curious that these same people are not acknowledging George Bush’s role in agreeing with this U.N. approach. I maintain going the extra U.N. mile was the right move, diplomatically and for PR purposes, and it certainly appears Bush will probably string it
out even longer, for the same diplomatic and PR reasons. Despite what unilaterists say (Billy Kristol has mocked those of us who use the ‘u’ word as ‘faux-hawkish multilateralists’), this president seems to sense, from a gut instinct level, that some sort of multilateralism is necessary -- or at least the appearance of multilateralism. In my opinion, Bush should have tried the multilateralist U.N. approach much, much earlier, even if it was doomed to failure, for it would have taken the edge off his image as someone eager for war. As Peggy Noonan
wrote last September:
“Members of the administration, on the other hand, seem lately almost inebriated with a sense of mission. And maybe that's inevitable when the stakes are high and you're sure you're right. But in off-the-cuff remarks and unprepared moments the president and some of his men often seem to have missing within them a sense of the tragic. Which is odd because we're talking about war, after all.”
In other words, there are some of us ‘faux-hawkish multilateralists’ who believe in Winston Churchill’s famous axiom that it’s sometimes “better to jaw-jaw than war-war.” We defintely have egg on our face right now, but at least we tried the “jaw-jaw” before “war-war.” So, please, hold the chortling to a minimum, even though you were proven right in the end.
-- Lastly, this is going to be a different type of Fisking, to wit: Call it a 'disallusioned multilateralist's Fisking.' I still agree with many of Kerry’s multilateralist points. However, the singular failure of Kerry’s speech is that, although he clearly had time, he didn’t bother to address the critical events of the last few days in Paris, Berlin and Washington. The speech ultimately bogs down into a have-it-both-ways mush.
So here goes with the Fisking (FYI, I picked out what I thought were pertinent passages in the speech; you can read it in its entirety
here; my responses are in italics following each passage.):
“We need a new approach to national security - a bold, progressive internationalism that stands in stark contrast to the too often belligerent and myopic unilateralism of the Bush Administration...."
I don’t know about ‘bold, progressive’ (see rest of speech). I agree about the ‘often billigerent and mypopic’ administration part (see Noonan passage above).
“We should be proud: Not since the age of the Romans have one people achieved such preeminence. But we are not Romans; we do not seek an empire.”
We’re like imperial Rome and should be proud. We’re not like imperial Rome. Why even bring up Rome? Hmmmm.
“After all, what is today's unilateralism but the right's old isolationist impulse in modern guise? At its core is a familiar and beguiling illusion: that America can escape an entangling world. ...that we can wield our enormous power without incurring obligations to others. ...and that we can pursue our national interests in arrogant ways that make a mockery of our nation's ideals.”
Agreed. It is a form of isolationism. I’m against both Pat Buchanan’s Bunker America and Bill Kristol’s Pax America. Something in the middle is dealing with both our realities and ideals. Go on, Senator.
“I believe the Bush Administration's blustering unilateralism is wrong, and even dangerous, for our country. In practice, it has meant alienating our long-time friends and allies, alarming potential foes and spreading anti-Americanism around the world.”
I do believe the administration has been engaging in blustering unilateralism. I.e.: ‘We can go it alone, no, wait, let’s try the U.N. option with Iraq.' Or: ‘We won’t talk with North Korea, but, well, let’s talk.’ But I certainly don’t care about ‘alarming our foes’ and don’t believe the Bush administration has caused anti-Americanism. They have exacerbated anti-Americanism, but they didn’t cause it. If the Bush administration is guilty of anything, they’re not doing enough to stem or openly challenge rampant anti-Americanism. How about the president -- not the Secretary of State alluding to -- speaking out against European (and French) hypocrisy? Not to do so seems like an old-fashioned defensive, polite nod to multilateralsim to me. Just pointing it out.
“Too often they've forgotten that energetic global leadership is a strategic imperative for America, not a favor we do for other countries. Leading the world's most advanced democracies isn't mushy multilateralism -- it amplifies America's voice and extends our reach. Working through global institutions doesn't tie our hands -- it invests US aims with greater legitimacy and dampens the fear and resentment that our preponderant power sometimes inspires in others. In a world growing more, not less interdependent, unilateralism is a formula for isolation and shrinking influence. As much as some in the White House may desire it, America can't opt out of a networked world.”
Tony Blair has been saying roughly the same thing. Good enough for me. ... Economic realities usually drive political realities. That's the great irony and wonder of capitalism: Give people economic freedom, they demand political freedom. George Bush understands this. And so: Globalization is unstoppable. And so: Our economies are becoming closer. And so: ... unilateralism or multilateralism? (Or a combination of the two, at the least?)
“We can do better than we are doing today. And those who seek to lead have a duty to offer a clear vision of how we make Americans safer and make America more trusted and respected in the world. That vision is defined by looking to our best traditions -- to the tough-minded strategy of international engagement and leadership forged by Wilson and Roosevelt in two world wars and championed by Truman and Kennedy in the Cold War.”
Leaving out certain key Republicans (such as, oh, Eisenhower and Reagan) seems a bit partisan and myopic, don’t you agree, Senator? Leaving out Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter is a little understandable. Bush Sr.? The Cold War was kind of all but over by the time he took office.
“For Democrats to win America's confidence we must first convince Americans we will keep them safe. You can't do that by avoiding the subjects of national security, foreign policy and military preparedness. Nor can we let our national security agenda be defined by those who reflexively oppose any U.S. military intervention anywhere...who see U.S. power as mostly a malignant force in world politics...who place a higher value on achieving multilateral consensus than necessarily
protecting our vital interests.”
OK, now we’re getting into interesting territory. Kerry should have called it like it is: The people he’s now talking about are largely on the left and to his left. Getting back to the Laborite Tony Blair, he waged (and still wages) an open battle against his own ‘loony left’ (his words, I believe). If Kerry is going to play the statesman-like figure who boldly attacks right-wing isolationists, he should also come out and attack the Democratic left-wing isolationists, for that’s what they are, at least in terms of clipping America’s powers. ... This was also a good point in his speech to more aggressively articulate how many multilateralists (such as Truman and Kennedy, if he had to stick with just those two examples) do believe in a form of American unilateralism when the nation’s safety is at risk. Kerry missed (or fudged) this opportunity.
“Americans deserve better than a false choice between force without diplomacy and diplomacy without force.”
Not a bad line.
“... the Bush Administration's erratic unilateralism and reluctant engagement.”
OK, I get the point. Bush has been erratic and reluctant. I also get this point: Kerry is running against Bush and is starting to come across as erratic and reluctant. Swipes like these by Kerry, while holding punches against those on the left, begin to diminish the seriousness and weighty tone of his speech. Not very Tony Blairish.
“We must drain the swamps of terrorists; but you don't have a prayer of doing so if you leave the poisoned sources to gather and flow again. That means we must help the vast majority people of the greater Middle East build a better future. We need to illuminate an alternative path to a futile Jihad against the world ...a path that leads to deeper integration of the greater Middle East into the modern world order.”
Kerry said this in the context of the need to go after terrorists first, before the root-out-the-causes-of-terrorism programs. So, agreed. But doesn’t most everyone generally agree with these points, at least in principle?
“The Bush Administration has a plan for waging war but no plan for winning the peace.”
Winning a peace would require ‘nation building’ and we all know what some on the right think about that. The events in post-war Afghanistan have been disappointing (the economic aid and security part, not the liberation part). Lots of zigzagging by the administration on the need for peace keepers, etc. Their plans for post-war Iraq, though, seem to have more coherency, albeit they’re more ambitious. Making a democratic nation out of feuding tribal and religious factions in Iraq ain’t going to be easy, for anyone, and it’s arguably unrealistic. We’ll see, apparently.
“NATO is searching for a new mission. What better way to revitalize the most successful and enduring alliance in history, then to reorient it around a common threat to the global system that we have built over more than a half-century of struggle and sacrifice? The Administration has tried to focus NATO on the Middle East, but it's high-handed treatment of our European allies, on everything from Iraq to the Kyoto climate change treaty, has strained relations nearly to the breaking point.”
Here were are. The beginning of true mush. NATO is definitely in search of a new mission. But are the French and Germans on the same page? Yes, the administration has been high-handed in treating just about everyone (that’s the mindset of go-it-alone, Pax America types, after all ), but -- there’s the old ‘but’ again -- the Germans and French just taught us a hard lesson that they will march to the beat of their own EU, NATO and domestic-policy drums. It isn’t all about us alienating them. ... P.S. I stand by a blog item I wrote a few days ago: If NATO does collapse as a result of the Iraq crisis, the president owes it to his countrymen to explain why Iraq was worth it, how we’ll get along without NATO, whether this was envisioned at the outset, what his long-term views are in general on future alliances, the U.N. and Security Council. Doubt we’ll get such an explanation.
“Destroying al Qaeda and other anti-American terror groups must remain our top priority. While the Administration has largely prosecuted this war with vigor, it also has made costly mistakes. The biggest, in my view, was their reluctance to translate their robust rhetoric into American military engagement in Afghanistan. They relied too much on local warlords to carry the fight against our enemies and this permitted many al Qaeda members, and according to evidence, including Osama bin Laden himself, to slip through our fingers. Now the Administration must redouble its efforts to track them down. ...”
Stop right there. The Bush administration’s handling of Afghanistan (during the war, not the peace) was astounding. Remember all the talk on TV -- before the war began there -- about how the Soviets got bogged down in those horrible Afghan mountains and gorges? How Afghanistan was the Soviet’s own Vietnam and how a certain NYT ‘analyst’ brought up the ‘quagmire’ word just prior to the Taliban’s fspectacular fall? The swift victory in Afghanistan was the result of imaginative, bold and brilliant tactics and strategy. It was the Bush administration’s shining moment. The failure at Tora Bora was disappointing. No doubt. Think it had more to do with the modern military’s aversion to risk, not the administration’s aversion to risk
. Failure to capture Osama has been a cheap-shot argument for Dems for a while now. Question: Could they have done better? Doubt it. ... The administration had a legimate reason to move to the next phase after the fall of the Taliban about a year ago.
“Second, without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses. He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. He miscalculated an eight-year war with Iran. He miscalculated the invasion of Kuwait. ....”
“...That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm.”
No mention about France and Germany’s unilateralist actions, here or elsewhere in the speech. They’re both members of the Security Council.
“So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War. Regrettably the current Administration failed to take the opportunity to bring this issue to the United Nations two years ago or immediately after September 11th, when we had such unity of spirit with our allies. When it finally did speak, it was with hasty war talk instead of a coherent call for Iraqi disarmament.”
Actually, I’m glad they didn’t bring up Iraq immediately after Sept. 11. It was initially pushed by neo-conservatives and debated in the administration, and then shoved to the backburner, and appropriately so. The initial target became Afghanistan, and appropriately so. As for going to the U.N. a year ago after the Axis of Evil speech, true. That was the time. But we’re not dealing with a year ago. We’re talking about today. Think: France and Germany -- and Powell’s somersault -- and how this was an undeniable blow to the multilateralists' hopes, as much as we hate to admit it.
“In U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, the United Nations has now affirmed that Saddam Hussein must disarm or face the most serious consequences. Let me make it clear that the burden is resoundingly on Saddam Hussein to live up to the ceasefire agreement he signed and make clear to the world how he disposed of weapons he previously admitted to possessing. But the burden is also clearly on the Bush Administration to do the hard work of building a broad coalition at the U.N. and the necessary work of educating America about the rationale for war.”
Maybe I missed it somewhere in the speech (my apologies if I did), but maybe now is the time for Kerry to mention that, oh, he voted for the resolution authorizing Bush to take action, if necessary, against Iraq. ... And don’t bring up Security Council Resolution 1441 without mentioning the events of recent days: France and Germany. The burden is on them, too. Powell and people like moi had to learn this the hard way.
“As I have said frequently and repeat here today, the United States should never go to war because it wants to, the United States should go to war because we have to. And we don't have to until we have exhausted the remedies available, built legitimacy and earned the consent of the American people, absent, of course, an imminent threat requiring urgent action. The Administration must pass this test. I believe they must take the time to do the hard work of diplomacy. They must do a better job of making their case to the American people and to the world.”
Again, the Bush administration has done a lousy job of lining up support, domestically and internationally. Multilateralism wasn’t their first option. Many in the administration despise the word, as we all know. But are we or are we not -- as much as we multilaterists hate to admit it -- close to exhausting our diplomatic remedies? At what point, exactly, do we call it quits and go alone without U.N. and Security Council support? Kerry doesn’t say. ...
... And now, following, is the clincher passage and sound-bite sentence that’s been played on TV over the past 24 hours:
“I have no doubt of the outcome of war itself should it be necessary. We will win. But what matters is not just what we win but what we lose. We need to make certain that we have not unnecessarily twisted so many arms, created so many reluctant partners, abused the trust of Congress, or strained so many relations, that the longer term and more immediate vital war on terror is made more difficult. And we should be particularly concerned that we do not go alone or essentially alone if we can avoid it, because the complications and costs of post-war Iraq would be far better managed and shared with United Nation's participation. And, while American security must never be ceded to any institution or to another institution's decision, I say to the President, show respect for the process of international diplomacy because it is not only right, it can make America stronger - and show the world some appropriate patience in building a genuine coalition. Mr. President, do not rush to war.”
True, Bush has not shown a truly sincere ‘patience in building a genuine coalition,’ like his father did in Gulf War I. But it’s reached an ‘appropriate’ point to start challenging Democrats
about what their definition of ‘rush’ is. Timetables and deadlines, please. Be specific.
“And I say to the United Nations, show respect for your own mandates. Do not find refuge in excuses and equivocation. Stand up for the rule of law, not just in words but in deeds. Not just in theory but in reality. Stand up for our common goal: either bringing about Iraq's peaceful disarmament or the decisive military victory of a multilateral coalition.”
Yes, France and Germany, stand up.
“Third, as we continue our focus on the greater Middle East, the U.S. must look beyond stability alone as the linchpin of our relationships. We must place increased focus on the development of democratic values and human rights as the keys to long-term security. If we learned anything from our failure in Vietnam it is that regimes removed from the people cannot permanently endure.They must reform or they will finally crumble, despite the efforts of the United States. We must side with and strengthen the aspirations of those seeking positive change. America needs to be on the side of the people, not the regimes that keep them down."
We all seem to agree on this point. Just disagree on the methods to achieve those goals. Actually, no, I should say ‘all reasonable’ people agree on this point. There are more than a few antiwar protesters -- and a few odd right wingers or so -- who obviously think leaving Saddam and other dictators in place is OK.
“In the 1950s, as the sun was setting on European colonialism, a young Senator named John Kennedy went to the Senate floor and urged the Eisenhower Administration not to back France against a rebellious Algeria. He recognized that the United States could only win the Cold War by staying true to our values, by championing the independence of those aspiring to be free. What's at issue today is not U.S. support for colonial powers out of touch with history, but for autocratic regimes out of touch with their own people.”
Like that last sentence. Don’t like the JFK-mentioning-JFK part. Could have used a much better example: Eisenhower saying ‘no’ to British and French attempts to seize the Suez Canal in the '50s. The forced JFK references get worse later. Keep reading.
“I believe we must reform and increase our global aid to strengthen our focus on the missions of education and health --of freedom for women -- and economic development for all. ... I propose the following policy goals: We should build on the success of Clinton Administration's Jordan Free Trade Agreement. Since the United States reduced tariffs on goods made in ‘qualifying industrial zones,’ Jordan's exports to the US jumped from $16 to $400 million, creating about 40,000 jobs. Let's provide similar incentives to other countries that agree to join the WTO, stop boycotting Israel and supporting Palestinian violence against Israel, and open up their economies. We should also create a general duty-free program for the region, just as we've done in the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the Andean Trade Preference Act. Again, we should set some conditions: full cooperation in the war on terror, anti-corruption measures, non-compliance with the Israel boycott, respect for core labor standards and progress toward human rights. Let's be clear: Our goal is not to impose some western free market ideology on the greater Middle East. It's to open up a region that is now closed to opportunity, an outpost of economic exclusion and stagnation in a fast-globalizing world. These countries suffer from too little globalization, not too
Fine. Completely agree. Free trade is good, when it’s not weighted against Third World countries.
“We must have a new vision and a renewed engagement to reinvigorate the Mideast peace process. This Administration made a grave error when it disregarded almost seventy years of American friendship and leadership in the Middle East and the efforts of every President of the last 30 years. ...”
Might want to mention all the Islamic terrorist groups operating there, Senator.
“(Israel’s) frustration is that they do not see a committed partner in peace on the Palestinian side. Palestinians must stop the violence - this is the fundamental building block of the peace process. The Palestinian leadership must be reformed, not only for the future of the Palestinian people but also for the sake of peace. I believe Israel would respond to this new partner after all, Israel has already indicated its willingness to freeze settlements and to move toward the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a comprehensive peace process.”
He’s now alluding to Islamic terrorism, but he’s still not mentioning it explicitly. ... By the way, Hub Blog is no big fan of Israel’s settlement policies. They are colonial by nature and an obstacle to peace. Period. Hope the Bush administration is stressing this behind the scenes to Israel. Terrorism must go. Then the settlements.
“There (in North Korea) the Bush Administration has offered only a merry go-round policy. They got up on their high horse, whooped and hollered, rode around in circles, and ended right back where they'd started. By suspending talks initiated by the Clinton Administration, then asking for talks but with new conditions, then refusing to talk under the threat of nuclear blackmail, and then reversing that refusal as North Korea's master of brinkmanship upped the ante, the Administration created confusion and put the despot Kim Jong Il in the driver's seat. By publicly taking military force, negotiations, and sanctions all off the table, the Administration tied its own hands behind its back. Now, finally, the Administration is rightly working with allies in the region - acting multilaterally -- to put pressure on Pyongyang. They've gotten off the merry go round - the question is why you'd ever want to be so committed to unilateralist dogma that you'd get on it in the first place.”
Love the first two sentences of that passage. They’re so true! Another classic example of the administration’s unilateralist Talk tough/Put away big stick after it doesn’t work. Now they’re talking again with the North Koreans -- and using a multilateralist approach, too. I do NOT believe in the antiwar crowd’s criticism of the administration’s current policy (talk, while shoving the issue to the backburner) approach toward North Korea. As Lincoln once said when pressed during the Civil War to take action against Britain, one war at a time, gentlemen. Makes perfect sense to me. Wish the Bushies were capable of such devastating quips. Wish Bush critics could understand such devastating quips.
“One of the clearest opportunities missed is the environment. America has not led but fled on the issue of global warming. President Bush's declaration that the Kyoto Protocol was simply Dead on Arrival spoke for itself - and it spoke in dozens of languages as his words whipped instantly around the globe. But what the Administration failed to see was that Kyoto was not just an agreement - it was a product of 160 nations working together over 10 years. It was a good faith effort - and the United States just dismissed it. We didn't aim to mend it. We didn't aim to sit down with our allies and find a compromise. We didn't aim for a new dialogue. The Administration was simply ready to aim and fire, and the target they hit was our international reputation.”
Obviously aimed at the environmental vote. But still partly true. I recently read how many people in the administration now regret, deeply, how they handled the rejection of the Kyoto treaty. It was needless bluster and rudeness. But Kyoto still deserved to be dumped and/or seriously modified. It’s just not workable.
“Let me offer one last example: The threat of disintegration and chaos rises steadily in Africa as the continent is increasingly devastated by HIV/AIDS. More than 29 million people there are afflicted with that disease. Africa has 11% of the world's population but 70% of all the people in the world living with HIV/AIDS. ...Yet the Bush Administration, intent on appeasing its right wing, assails population control while it neglects AIDS control even as that disease threatens to destroy whole populations.”
Not quite sure what this has to do with the thrust of his speech. Yet Hub Blog feels strongly about the issue of AIDS and Africa. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations did/have failed miserably in doing something about this. It’s a shame it took Christian missionaries to convince Jesse Helms to fund anti-AIDS programs in Africa. Kerry should have mentioned Clinton’s weak effort on this front, too. ... The last line in the above passage is pretty damning of the current administration -- and rightly so.
“Taken together, I believe these proposals, that I have put forward today, present a far better vision for how we deal with the rest of the world - a better vision for how we build relationships - and how doing so will make America safer. But there are other things we must do as well. I also believe there is a better vision for military transformation; a better vision for intelligence gathering; and a far more effective way of achieving homeland security and domestic preparedness. I intend to lay out detailed proposals on each of these areas in the coming months.”
Taken together, I think Kerry made some terrific points about multilateralism and its inevitability, but he pulled a lot of punches and omitted some important facts when it came to the necessity of Truman/Kennedy-style unilateralism. Don’t think he has a firm grasp on his own line: ‘Americans deserve better than a false choice between force without diplomacy and diplomacy without force.’ ... No mention of France and Germany. ... Also, he was talking too much to Democrats, not to all Americans, and the 'statesmen' like tone of it is hurt as a result. Lots of have-it-both-ways mush. Verdict: Earnest but flawed.
Kerry's concluding line:
“America's resolve to bear the burdens and pay the price of leadership so that we may, as President Kennedy said on a cold January day long ago, ‘assure the survival and success of liberty.’"
Go ahead. Shake your head. He just can’t get away from him. Not exactly a ‘new’ and ‘bold’ way to end a speech.