Thursday, September 30, 2004

Thief in the Night: I know I've been blogging a lot on press releases lately, but this one from the Republican side of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce is a doozy.

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: Democrats to Introduce Bill Copying GOP Plan to Permanently End Excess Subsidies to Student Lenders; GAO Confirms Need to End Subsidies, as President Proposed Seven Months Ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) today called attention to a new report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) that confirms the need for legislation that would permanently eliminate the 9.5 percent floor interest subsidy ("special allowance") being paid to lenders on certain federal student loans. President Bush called on Congress to eliminate the policy more than seven months ago. Congressional Democrats have blocked a comprehensive bill offered by Republicans (H.R. 4283) that would permanently implement the President's request, but today indicated they will introduce a bill copying the GOP proposal.

"This is the mother of all Democratic flip-flops," Boehner said. "Seven months ago, President Bush called on Congress to eliminate this policy permanently, and Republicans promptly introduced legislation to do it.

"First Democrats tried to kill our proposal. Now they've decided to clone it," Boehner said. "With all due respect to my Democratic friends, I've got to ask: where have you been all year?"

That's a common complaint I hear in politics, that one party is "copying" or "stealing" an idea from another party. For some reason, if a Republican comes up with an idea, a Democrat isn't allowed to like it without being accused of cloning. Bill Clinton was often accused of this, and I've heard Democrats making that accusation as well.

For all the fighting and partisan bickering in politics, I can't fathom why one party would accuse another of "stealing" an idea. It seems to me that the two parties are finally "agreeing", and that should be considered a good thing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Party School: The Post is on a roll today. Here's a funny story, and a lesson on how to appropriately handle a mistake.

Reasonable Debate: The Washington Post has an interesting story about the handgun issue in DC, pointing out that many residents would feel safer against criminals if they were allowed to own a gun.

The House of Representatives is debating a measure that would overturn the District's ban on handguns. Although I support gun rights, I've already come out against this measure because I'm tired of the way Congress controls Washington, DC. Besides, the measure will most likely die in the Senate.

But it looks like the House debate is prompting discussion about handguns in the District. And any further discussion, as long as it's honest, will be a good thing. Perhaps the residents can decide on their own that they want the right to protect themselves.

P.S. You won't hear conservatives blast The Washington Post as being a liberal rag for this article. While other news organizations have had a problem controlling their bias lately, the Post has done a great job with balance and objectivity, as exemplified by their aggressive coverage of Rathergate.

Big Blimp: I saw this up in the sky this morning. We are being watched.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Apology: Here's a press release I got.

News Conference on Wednesday to Discuss Anti-Lynching Resolution

WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. Senator George Allen (R-VA) joins Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) tomorrow in introducing legislation calling for a formal apology for the failure of the U.S. Senate to enact Anti-Lynching laws when thousands of mostly African Americans were being tortured at the hands of lawless individuals and mobs throughout the U.S. up until 1964. The Senators will be joined in a news conference by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) to discuss this historic resolution.
This seems very ceremonial and doesn't provide anything substantial, so I don't know what good it will do. But it's also odd that lawmakers are willing to apologize about lynching and have refused to apologize about slavery. It's just a shame that the people who committed the crime aren't able to apologize for themselves.

The legislation is just being introduced, but who knows if it will actually pass. Some people may want to bury it before somebody points out that Congress has still failed to pass adequate hate-crimes legislation. I guess some people don't learn well from history.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Shakeup: For an election that pundits have said will depend on rallying the political base, each party's base is beginning to muddle.

We appear to be seeing a higher than usual number of partisans switching allegiances this election. Many traditional Democrats are backing Bush. And many conservatives and Republicans, fed up with Bush, are supporting Kerry.

Granted, it's hard to quantify the extent of party switching and compare it to previous elections. But already we've seen high-profile switches, like Zell Miller and Pete McCloskey. Newspapers have been interviewing scores of disenfranchised voters who cast their ballots for Bush in 2000 but who now support Kerry. But a slew of voters who pulled the lever for Gore in 2000 but now back Bush have countered that conventional wisdom. Plus, tons of blogs have been started by folks who say they used to vote one way, but now are switching sides this election.

Is this a sign of a political shakeup? Historic events often have a great impact on party identity. And the political reverberations of 9/11 are still being sorted out.

Many traditional liberals have become hawks because of 9/11 and align themselves with conservatives because the war is their number-one issue. At the same time, many conservatives are disenchanted with Bush's war in Iraq and the president's and Republican Congress's run up of the federal deficit. Now that Republicans rule the world, they aren't preaching fiscal conservatism like they used to, possibly leaving that issue open for the Democrats to grab (fat chance, but one can hope).

Historically, major party identities have also changed by absorbing the platforms of less-popular third parties. With liberals still fuming at Nader, there are no viable third parties to influence the election this time around.

But that may change. Already, we've seen a number of socially liberal foreign policy hawks gain prominence -- such as Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger. If the Republicans continue to dominate, the party may become bloated and produce factions that split over lesser issues. If Democrats get a leg up, they may see infighting between hawks and doves, creating irreconcilable differences between the two. While the Democratic and Republican labels will remain, both parties may go through some substantial changes, complete with members switching allegiances over the years as priorities adjust.

We're still in the middle of the political vortex, so all ideas now are just complete conjecture. But the outcome of this presidential election could go a long way in shaping what each political party represents for many years to come.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Getting Closer: The election is finally focussing on today's problems, notably the war in Iraq. We had get through several tours of duty in Vietnam before we could start talking about the 21st Century again.

Unfortunately, it took a dramatic increase in terrorist attacks in that country to regain our focus. Keep in mind, the terrorists in Iraq are well aware of our election timetable. And they are unleashing these attacks, in part, to influence our elections.

But that doesn't explain why hotspots, like Fallujah, show no signs of cooling, and why attacks are occurring in Baghdad again. One report even indicates that the mega-secure Green Zone isn't all that safe anymore. Despite the lengthy conflict, the body count, and the destruction, there seems to be very little real progress lately toward diminishing the terrorist threat.

Kerry has finally wizened up to make that conflict the emphasis of his campaign. He seems to even be a little more consistent in his criticisms. Unfortunately Kerry is undermined by extreme lefties, like MoveOn, and their defeatism, as they have been itching for America to embroil itself in a "quagmire" since we began the war in Afghanistan. And despite bringing up legitimate questions about the progress in Iraq, Kerry has been catching some flak for spreading his criticism to include Prime Minister Allawi and American allies in the coalition.

Bush is still struggling to explain why things appear to be getting out of hand and how he plans to make Iraq safer. Repeating the refrain "staying the course" won't magically make everything better.

Iraq has become a tougher endeavor than we bargained for. That doesn't mean it was wrong. It unfortunately limits what we'll be able to do in the future. To put this into perspective, Volokh links to a column citing the problems we had in wars that are considered successes.

In July, the United States handed sovereignty of Iraq back to the Iraqi people. While that did not end the violence in that country, it changed the meaning of the attacks from terrorism against the U.S. military to terrorism against the Iraqi people and the U.S. military. Iraqis are beginning to claim their country again, and they are fighting back against the terrorists and Baathist insurgency. As Iraqi residents see what brutes the terrorists are, they are providing more information to our intelligence gatherers, making it easier to root out the terrorists there.

The next key will be to push for the elections to go on schedule. The fear is that some areas, like Fallujah, won't be able to participate if violence hasn't quelled. That should compel even more cooperation among Iraqis to fight the terrorists if they want the freedom to vote. And an elected Iraqi government will have more legitimacy to fight back against the insurgency.

No one said this would be easy. But no war has ever gone as planned.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Looking Back: From a historical perspective, George W. Bush seems to be this generation's Andrew Jackson.

There is an everyman quality that both Jackson and Bush share. Both were despised by the intellectual elite for being so -- American. Although they were both well-to-do aristocrats who had achieved financial success, both seemed more comfortable with the common folk. Jackson ran on a platform that the common man could be president. Bush has been an inspiration for C-students everywhere.

Neither man was considered well mannered. In fact, the social elite in Jackson's day considered him to be boorish and inept, just like they think of Bush today.

Jackson and Bush also embodied America's cojones. They were brass cowboys who alarmed foreign leaders and pacifists in this country. But they also provided the strength America needed when times got rough.

Both used the power of the presidency to the extreme. Jackson would often ignore rulings from the Supreme Court. Bush has not gone that far, but he has tested the powers of the executive branch with two wars, detention of foreign fighters at Guantanamo Bay, and even holding some American suspected terrorists for extended periods.

But neither Jackson nor Bush proved to be forward thinking on social issues. Jackson was a racist. In addition to owning slaves, he used the military to attack Native American nations, driving them further off their land. Thousands of Native Americans died, many of them through a torturous journey from Georgia to Oklahoma in the dead of winter, which came to be known as the Trail of Tears. Jackson's mindset on racial matters was completely in line with America at that time. But history has judged him harshly.

Bush is not a racist, but he is homophobic. While many Americans are still uncomfortable with homosexuality, Bush has overreacted with his proposed constitutional amendment banning marriage and civil unions between same-sex couples. Bush will lose that fight and homosexuals will most likely gain further strides in civil rights. As a result, the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment will become Bush's Trail of Tears. While many people agree with the president now, Bush will find himself on the wrong side of history.

But Jackson and Bush both made political decisions that seemed risky at the time with an eye on paying big dividends in the future. Jackson angered the South in 1832 when he approved a new tariff that was passed by Congress to protect Northern industry. South Carolina asserted states rights and attempted to nullify the law within its borders. If the federal government didn't allow the state to defend its sovereignty, then South Carolina threatened to secede from the union, likely bringing other Southern states with it.

Jackson responded by getting Congress to pass the Force Act, allowing federal troops to invade South Carolina if it tried to secede. The United States was on the brink of a Civil War. Eventually, a compromise was reached, and the tariff was lowered slightly. And war between the North and South was delayed for another 30 years.

After 9/11, Bush invaded Afghanistan under the clear mandate to destroy the Taliban, which was supporting the terrorist group Al Qaeda. But then he turned his sights on Iraq for violating United Nations resolutions, refusing to prove it destroyed its weapons of mass destruction, and for supporting terrorist groups. Above all else, Bush wanted to transform the Middle East from a wasteland of despotism and oppression that breeds terrorism to a democratic and free region where people can thrive and won't need to live under desperate conditions.

Many in the world thought Bush was going too far, and the president's popularity has sunk as a result. But the strong actions Bush took in Iraq won't bring noticeable results for decades.

To be sure, there are many differences between the two presidents. Jackson was a war hero before president. Bush was a draft dodger. Jackson was a populist who represented the common man and hated banks and business. Bush is well tied and supported by big business and other rich and powerful people. And Jackson's popularity never waned. Bush is gearing up for a tough re-election battle.

Still, many presidents who were despised by their enemies of their time went on to become glorified later. Presidents like Lincoln and Jackson adorn our currency, despite the controversy they caused in office. History will determine whether Bush ranks as a great success or a miserable failure.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Redress of Grievances: There's a small protest going on out in front of the CBS Washington headquarters. I only saw about a dozen or so people, but a colleague reported that there were more than 30 at one point. In DC, you can't walk across the National Mall without running into at least 30 protesters on any given day. But on M Street, it's not too common, and a few cops were even present.

The protesters held up signs with Dan Rather's mug and the slogan, "Unfit to Report", which is clever, and another with Osama Bin Laden's face and the words, "The American Press is My Best Friend", which is slapworthy.

But the protest is notable because all of them were dressed in pajamas. I wish I had a digital camera now.

The situation wouldn't have gotten this ridiculous if CBS hadn't been stonewalling so defiantly. I'm glad Dan Rather finally apologized, but it almost feels like too little too late. I wish I could say that I'm going to stop watching CBS News now, but I never watched it to begin with (or much of any broadcast news, for that matter, I'm a newspaper dinosaur).

We still need to find out more about who created these memos and why CBS so willingly fell for them. Bill Burkett seems to be CBS's source, but that still doesn't explain who forged them to begin with and why. And that doesn't begin to explain why CBS was so eager to trust a partisan hack after spending five years digging into an issue like this that has no important news value whatsoever.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Attention: Residents of the Washington, DC, area. Remember that plague of exploding manholes we had in Georgetown that would send manhole covers flying 50 feet in the air? Well, the same thing happened in Bethesda last night. Sometime around 1 a.m., one blew near the intersection of Cordell and Woodmont. Smoke kept pouring out of the manhole, emanating from a fire below the ground. The manhole cover was on the street, broken into two halves.

But Pepco says it will take care of the problem. And we all have faith in Pepco, don't we?

Friday, September 17, 2004

Friends Like These ... Sometimes a candidate's worst enemies are his own supporters. News articles are citing many instances of Bush and Kerry faithful making fools out of themselves and their candidates.

An intoxicated Kerry supporter became beligerent during a political debate on an airplane. Authorities took that person to jail.

An Amtrak employee who supports Bush used the train's PA system to tell customers that they were being delayed because of a Kerry entourage holding things up. He encouraged everybody to "vote accordingly in November". That misuse of company equipment got the employee (and Republican congressional candidate) suspended from his job.

A three-year-old Bush supporter burst into tears when Democrats ripped up her Bush-Cheney sign she was holding at a rally.

And my favorite: a woman with a Kerry bumper sticker on her car got fired by her pro-Bush boss. After hearing the news, John Kerry called her up personally and offered her a job on his campaign.

Political activity is healthy, and important to our system. But for some reason it can become very emotional, and some people end up acting stupid. While the candidate cannot be held responsible for everything his followers do, some people need to realize that their actions and words reflects poorly on the candidate their trying to support.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Fake But Accurate? That's how CBS is defending itself about its attack on Bush's National Guard duty. Despite being caught airing forged documents as fact and being accused of a partisan hackjob, Dan Rather and company refuse to admit that they screwed up.

Rather was quoted as saying about Bush, "We’ve heard what you have to say about the documents and what you’ve said and what your surrogates have said, but for the moment, answer the questions." In other words, Please disregard the fact that the documents are fabricated. You should be answering to the fabricated allegations in the fake documents.

Bush, of course, hasn't really said anything about the documents. Neither has Kerry. It's strange that the biggest campaign issue today really isn't involving either of the two candidates.

And they should stay out of it. CBS tried to dredge up an issue that has been put to rest many times already years ago. In their zeal, they failed as journalists.

The blogosphere has shown its worth by investigating the problems with the documents and disseminating the results rapidly. Eventually the mainstream media had to take notice. Now both conservative and liberal blogs concede that the memos are most likely fake.

I honestly didn't believe it would come to this. First, I thought this was more riffraff about Vietnam-era accusations and was a distraction from the real issues. When suspicions were first raised about he memos, I figured there had to be some explanation and that CBS wouldn't do anything so stupid as to go on the air with forgeries.

I was wrong. And now this is the biggest issue in the campaign. It's not the biggest issue in the election, mind you. We're still at war. But this mistake is huge. Bigger than Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass, this is the type of screw-up that ends people's careers.

Somebody forged documents implicating the President of the United States, and a major news network ran with the story less than two months before the Election Day. We need to investigate to find out who faked these memos, why that person did it, who else was helping him, how they did it, and why CBS didn't scrutinize them before presenting the documents as fact.

The major news media has taken a major hit with this scandal. And that's a good thing. The power of the blogosphere has shown that competition and self scrutinization can lead to better reporting and more factual coverage of the news.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Dry Well:I just got this press release:

BREAKING: Senate Panel OKs Unused Iraq $ For Darfur Crisis In Sudan

Senate Panel Votes

To Tap Unused Iraq Reconstruction Funds

For Emergency In Sudan’s Darfur Region

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Sept. 15) -- The Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved legislation offered by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to redirect $102 million in unused Iraq reconstruction funds to be used for emergency relief efforts in Sudan.

Leahy, joined by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), drafted the amendment, which was added to the annual Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. The Appropriations Committee Wednesday approved the bill with the amendment included. Leahy is the ranking member of the panel’s Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which handles the Senate’s work in writing the annual foreign aid budget bill. McConnell is the panel’s chairman. DeWine is a member of the committee.

The amendment triggers a provision Congress wrote into last year’s $18.4 billion supplemental appropriation for reconstruction assistance for Iraq. Only $1.1 billion of that has been spent. In that bill, Congress opened the door to tapping up to .5 percent of any unused funds to be used in two countries: Sudan, and Liberia. The Leahy-McConnell-DeWine-Frist-Daschle Amendment gives the Administration 30 days from enactment of the bill to submit a request to Congress for the $102 million in humanitarian aid for the crisis in Darfur. If no request is made, the funds revert back to the Iraq account.

"A humanitarian crisis is unfolding before our eyes, and the world’s response is inadequate to the scope of this tragedy," said Leahy. "This is an opportunity to save the lives of thousands of people who would otherwise succumb from hunger, exposure and disease, simply because of their ethnicity."

Leahy said the amendment is flexible and allows the Administration to use the funds for virtually any needs the Administration identifies in the Darfur crisis: assistance for the African Union mission, humanitarian aid, or security assistance.
I'm very much for U.S. intervention in Sudan. (I've been meaning to blog about that for some time. Eugene Oregon has been doing an excellent job for me.) But I'm confused about the term "unused Iraq reconstruction funds". Granted, $102-million is pittance compared to the billions spent in Iraq. It just seems like an odd place to look for excess cash.

Regardless, more needs to be done about the crisis in Darfur.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

More Gun Stuff: Congress is trying to supercede the total gun ban in Washington, DC. The city government there does not allowed any residents or visitors to bring guns in the city limits -- not even in their own homes for safety.

As we all know, this has done a bang-up job in reducing crime in the District. Criminals have guns, but residents can't protect themselves. Congress recognizes that the law is absurd and that even though it's popular, the gun restrictions infringe on the rights of the minority in the city.

But I'm torn. I'm sick of the control Congress has over the District. Congress has final say over everything that happens in Washington, DC, but residents there have no voice in either house of Congress.

Federal lawmakers have taken advantage of that by forcing their pet projects on the DC residents (see vouchers). Congress needs to learn that they can't run the District like it's a terrarium in their home. It's partly because DC has no home rule that I chose to reside in neighboring Arlington, Virginia.

So while I support gun rights, I do not condone what the House of Representatives is trying to do (not that it matters, because the bill would likely die in the Senate). However, that doesn't change the fact that the District of Columbia's complete ban on guns is unconstitutional.

If Massachusetts had enacted a total ban in the state, I would applaud Congress or the courts for overturning such an oppressive law. But because Congress has abused their power over the District in the past, they deserve to lose this one. DC residents who want to own guns should take up this issue in the courts.

Happy Birthday: Congratulations for making it to your computer alive today. In case you haven't heard, the assault weapons ban expired at midnight last night, 10 years after it had been created.

I have never seen a more misunderstood piece of legislation than the assault weapons ban. People often assume that "assault weapon" means "assault rifle", which is an "automatic weapon" (identified by the constant "rat-a-tat-tat" of firing when the trigger is pulled back continuously). That's not true. The law banned only certain types of semi-automatic guns (one trigger pull, one bullet shot, "pow pow pow"). Fully automatic weapons have been banned since the 1930s.

The law actually didn't ban anyone from owning an assault weapon. It wasn't even illegal to sell one. It was only illegal for gun manufacturers to produce new ones. For the many assault weapons that were already on the market, it was perfectly legal for private citizens and gun shops to buy and sell the guns.

Also, the definition of an "assault weapon" was truly arbitrary, targeting cosmetic features of the guns that have nothing to do with their operation, firepower, or lethality.

The most often cited example of a banned assault weapon is the AK-47. This is a Russian-made military rifle that is often equipped to fire .308-caliber ammunition. That's compared to a Remington 7400, a hunting rifle that can fire the same type of ammo.

The only difference between the two rifles is their appearance. Both are semiautomatic. Both are deadly. And both should be protected under the Second Amendment.

Besides banning specific guns, the law targeted certain characteristics. Rifles that had at least two of these features were banned: Folding or telescoping stock, pistol grip, bayonet mount, flash suppressor or threads to attach one, and grenade launcher.

This, to me, represents a rather benign set of features, except of course for the grenade launcher -- until you realize that grenades and their respective launchers have already been banned for decades. Gun opponents simply tacked that language in the bill to scare people. Fear of bayonets simply didn't do the trick.

Do you absolutely need these features to hunt or protect yourself? No. But in a free society, the onus is on the government to prove why something should be banned, not on the public to prove why something should be kept available.

The law, however, did have one good purpose. It banned rifle magazines (clips) that held more than 10 rounds of ammunition. That is a sensible restriction, and I wouldn't mind putting that one back on the books.

But the gun industry will oppose that and any other restriction because such bans will most likely lead to others. Gun opponents who had any knowledge about the assault weapons ban knew that it didn't really reduce crime. And their answer was always to ban more guns. Volokh has lots of evidence here. And as long as gun opponents keep pushing for such irrational measures, the gun industry will refuse to compromise on anything.

Update: The folks at MoveOn are apparently spreading the misinformation about assault weapons, releasing a commercial that indicates that Bush is allowing fully automatic weapons to become legal. That would be a blatant lie.

Howdy Sailor: Bush has learned from his alcoholic days and has sworn off drinking. Now if we could only get him to cease his drunken spending habits.

I was kind of hoping that Bush would use his lame-duck second term to bring the budget back into order without having to worry about re-election. Granted, most of his spending proposals are political promises geared for his November re-election. But the extent of the $3-trillion expense indicates he has no plan to cut spending and hopes voodoo economics will keep the budget in check.

We've heard a lot about this being the largest deficit in U.S. history. That's true, but only in terms of dollar figures. As a percentage of the budget, it's not much bigger than past deficits. So we're not in an emergency situation yet.

But that doesn't mean we should wait until a crisis emerges. We were only able to balance the budget in the 1990s because of the economic anomaly of the tech boom. That's not likely to happen again, regardless of who's president.

We need to condition our economy to live with less government spending. Otherwise, as entitlements and political promises increase, we may need to take drastic measures to rein in exploding debt, causing permanent damage to our nation's economy.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Time, Taking a Toll On You: My God, Gore looks terrible. I didn't even recognize him.

Regardless, seeing the way he's been acting lately, I'm so glad he's not our president now. How did this man become so close to becoming the leader of the free world? Why can't we get any decent candidates?

Oh, yeah.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Here We Go Again: Politics is dirty. We just live with it. It's kind of like e-mail spam. We hate it. But the reason we keep getting it is because some idiots out there keep buying it. The same goes for dirty campaign ads. We say that we don't like it, but obviously somebody buys into the garbage, otherwise nobody would run it.

That being said, I'm doubly annoyed that the Kerry campaign would push the same Bush bashing smears twice. We've already had a thorough look into Bush's National Guard duty back when the issue was raised in the spring and summer. While there seem to be some gaps, he received an honorable discharge. Any other accusations are just rumors.

Kerry got his taste of similar smears when the Swift Boat Vets questioned the senator's Vietnam service and medals last month. Kerry obviously earned the awards under normal military standards, and any accusations otherwise are just conjecture. It was a low hit by the Bush campaign. And just because Bush went through the same garbage doesn't give his supporters the right to air such trash. And Kerry rightfully asked that the Swift Boat ads be condemned. Bush, as we know, condemned both liberal and conservative independent groups that run trashy ads.

I'll be waiting for Kerry to condemn the repeated accusations that Bush was AWOL for his National Guard duty. I'll also be waiting for the news media run in depth investigations into whether Kerry really earned his medals like they're doing to Bush. And I'll wait for The New York Times to run several front-page articles revealing that the individuals repeating these smears are (gasp) politically active in the opposing political party of the guy they are attacking.

The Kerry campaign has now lost all of my sympathy they generated from the Swift Boat smears. However, given the success of Bush's smears against Kerry's Vietnam service, I expect both candidates to keep hammering away at each other's distant past.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

MIA: I find it amazing that Tom Daschle -- the Senate Minority Leader and the man who has been President Bush's biggest nemesis prior to the presidential race -- is strangely hidden from national view.

The only attention he has been getting is in local South Dakota papers, in which he is quoted praising the war in Iraq and backtracking on his earlier criticisms.

Daschle told state chamber of commerce representatives meeting in the South Dakota capital that he is satisfied with the way things are going in Iraq.

"I give the effort overall real credit," Daschle said. "It is a good thing Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. It is a good thing we are democratizing the country."

He said he is not upset about the debate over pre-war intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, an issue that has dogged President Bush as Democratic presidential contenders have slogged through the primary season.
Why would he change his tune? Because he could be in trouble. Being a liberal in a conservative Red State has put his candidacy for re-election to the Senate on shaky ground. John Thune, a former member of Congress, is slightly ahead of Daschle in at least one poll.

Now, the residents South Dakota may eventually realize that they'd give up an extremely powerful presence of the Senate by kicking Daschle out. But many of the conservatives there can't be too happy with Daschle's perch atop the leadership structure of the Democratic Party as it has shifted further to the left while most residents there support President Bush.

To counter this, Daschle has even run an ad showing him and Bush in a warm embrace. Republicans have cried foul, saying it indicates support for Daschle when Bush has openly endorsed Thune.

Despite the controversy, the national media isn't shining a spotlight on such blatant political shifting. I'm assuming Republican ads in South Dakota are highlighting Daschle's lefty tendencies. But why doesn't the national media show Daschle's newly found support for Bush's policies? So far I have seen scant coverage on what is otherwise a compelling story.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Labor Pains: I got to battle the Labor Day weekend crowd by flying to Boston, driving to Cape Cod, and then venturing back. And for the first time I flew Independence Air. It's a decent airline for the cheap prices, but they decided to make the FAA required safety demonstration more fun by playing recordings of celebrities giving the lecture. For the flight down, I got to hear Dennis Miller. I think he's a funny guy and all, but I wasn't too impressed with yet another joke about how everyone should know how to buckle a seatbelt by now.

Oh, and I inadvertently (I swear) carried a small pocketknife onto the plane. It's a silver Buck knife with a two-and-a-half-inch blade that I had left in my backpack on accident. Security never noticed it for both trips. Oh well.

Friday, September 03, 2004

What Now? Bush didn't take my advice. I didn't watch the speech, but from what I've read, it appears Bush decided to propose a laundry list of lofty promises, providing few specifics on how to make them happen and no mention on how to pay for them, given our skyrocketing deficit. He's at his best when he's focused and specific. Instead he gave us broad and vague.

For the War on Terrorism, we seem to be planning to take a more mellow approach. That would be just fine if it weren't for the excess scrutiny critics have heaped onto the invasion of Iraq. Otherwise, we could use that war as an example to other nations that harbor terrorists and hide WMD. But now our enemies can openly question whether we have the balls to conduct that sort of operation again. The nitpicking by political opponents has severely weakened our ability to threaten our enemies without resorting to military conflict.

But this is the situation, and the president has to live with it. Now, judging on their recent speeches, there doesn't seem to be that much of a difference between Bush and Kerry in terms of willingness to use force. Since neither man has articulated a specific plan of attack, the question remains, Who would you rather have sitting in the Oval Office when the next crisis emerges? I'm willing to bet the American people are split on that decision.

Sick: Who are these people?

The troops moved in after an intense gun battle during which dozens of hostages escaped even as gunmen fired on them, shooting some in the back.
Try telling these children that monsters don't exist.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Getting Started: This is a little about what I was talking about. Metro, the public transportation system in Washington, DC, will train some commuters on how to respond to terror attacks on the subway.

Civilians don't have to risk their lives for anything. They're just going to learn how to conduct an orderly evacuation of the train cars and how to get out of the tunnel systems.

It may not look like much on the face of it, but I believe these citizen-response units can make a big difference. Not only will this help mitigate a possible disaster, but it will remind people that we are at war and we all need to pitch in somehow.

My only concern is that it's taking so long to get programs like these started. One of the most enduring images of 9/11 was the lines of people wanting to donate blood to help the victims. When a disaster strike, people instinctively want to contribute somehow to help. Now that we know such a situation is imminent, it's best to show people how they can help as early as possible.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

No More War: It seems we probably won't have to worry about conducting a major military attack against any country during the next four years. Unless situations dramatically change -- and, of course, they always do -- the president who is inaugurated in 2005 won't be invading any other nations in a pre-emptive strike to fight the War on Terrorism.

Bush has said that he wants to pursue diplomatic methods to get Iran to abandon nuclear ambitions. Although the country is a Middle Eastern hotspot, a member of the Axis of Evil, a sponsor of terrorism, and is actively attempting to acquire nuclear weapons and other WMD, Bush doesn't plan to threaten conflict. He noted that his decision to invade Iraq came after 12 years of failed diplomacy. We're apparently just beginning with Iran.

Kerry wants to bargain with Iran. He has offered to let the country continue developing its nuclear power plant capabilities if it swears off acquiring nuclear fuel that could be used for bombs. In addition, Kerry wants to explore "areas of mutual interest" with Iran, whatever that means.

Of course, Iran isn't the only country of concern. Syria has also been found to have chemical and biological weapons, possibly recently acquiring them from Iraq as Saddam Hussein tried to destroy evidence of his WMD programs in the run up to the war. Syria is also sponsoring terrorism, both grooming men for attacks here and against Israel. But Syria is a minor player, compared to Iran. And if Iran won't be threatened, I don't expect anything against Syria.

North Korea is another mess into itself. While that Axis of Evil member probably already has nuclear weapons, its ties to Islamic Terrorism are weak. Plus, North Korea has a somewhat formidable military. We'd also be inviting trouble from China, similar to the last Korean War. I consider North Korea to be a separate issue that should be attended to sternly, but with the goal of avoiding war.

So now that we see that both candidates plan to take a less militaristic approach to the War on Terrorism, what's the real difference between the two of them? Should we give Kerry a chance to change the tone of the war by becoming a kinder, gentler commander in chief? Should we keep the world on its toes by keeping a loose cannon in the Oval Office? Or should we rethink our stereotypes, considering the striking similarities between the two candidates' policy proposals?

However, one thing this campaign has shown is that this is less a choice for the future than a referendum on the past. Right now the public debate is on Vietnam. If we're lucky, we'll be able to start talking about the recent invasion of Iraq before Election Day.

Copyright © Staunch Moderate
Using Caribou Theme | Bloggerized by Themescook