OxBlog

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE'S FRIENDS CAN BE SO CRUEL:
It's nice that liberals win elections now and then, but I’m not sure they should be allowed to make movies.
Those are the words of New Yorker film critic David Denby, who adds that:
Both “Bobby” and “Fast Food Nation” were conceived at a moment, perhaps, when liberals were unable to tell stories, so deep was their despair. Looking at these screwed-up movies, even a conservative might say that it’s time for liberals to pull themselves together and begin their narrative anew.“
Actually, I disagree. If liberals didn't make movies, what would we watch? Now, in the interest of public enlightenment, I might consider a ban on political documentaries from the autuers of the left.

But hold your horses there, First Amendment fans. I said "consider", not "support". In truth, I prefer to have Michael Moore & Co. around as rhetorical punching bags.
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# Posted 11:12 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE L.A. TIMES STANDS UP TO BUSH: At some point, journalists must stop reporting the spin and just tell their readers what they know to be the truth. Recently, the LA Times decided that it was time to stop pretending that there is only "sectarian violence" in Iraq and to describe the stiuation there as a civil war.

How did the Times justify this bold decision? What exacting standards did they apply to determine when to confront the President and his spokesmen? Last night on PBS, foreign editor Marjorie Miller had a chance to explain the paper's logic. Moderator Jeffrey Brown asked Ms. Miller the following question, among others:
JEFFREY BROWN: But in defining [civil war], in using this term, is there a clear definition, or is this more of a "we know it when we see it" situation?

MARJORIE MILLER: I think it's more we know it when we see it. You look at the factors, and you say, what's happening here?
Brown hinted pretty clearly that the correct answer to his question was a "clear definition", but I guess that Miller was too inexperienced to pretend that she had one. That kind of candor is actually sort of charming. Although it still means that the LA Times needs to learn a little bit more about self-awareness, because "I know it when I see it" is a recipe for translating personal opinions into newsprint. And it's no secret what those opinions are.

To be fair, Miller did throw out a number of attributes that are relevant to the definition of civil war, even if they should not be mistaken for one. She observed that, in Iraq:
You have one country divided into armed factions that are engaged in combat. They're using heavy weaponry. They're using bombs, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades. They're using machine guns mounted on the back of vehicles.

Each side has combatants in and out of uniform. They're attacking government ministries. You have 100 Iraqis dying at least every day. What do you call that, if not civil war?
With the exception of the specific death toll, all of that was true three years ago just as much as it is today. So I guess the Times deserves credit for waiting three years to let its personal opinions spill over onto Page One.

Finally, there a question I will ask but will not answer. At least not at this moment. What is the definition of a civil war, as opposed to an insurgency or sectarian violence?

If I am going to criticize the answers of others, perhaps I ought provide an answer of my own. Of course, your answers are welcome in the comment section below.
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# Posted 3:55 PM by Taylor Owen  

IGNATIEFF FOR LIBERAL LEADER!!: Posting has been non-existent of late in part due to work for MI's candidacy at Liberal leadership convention now (finally) taking place in Montreal. If any readers are interested, or here, let me know!

PS. Dean is the convention keynote tonight...argh...

UPDATE: It actually wasn't bad. Boiler plate feel good stuff. But his french impressed.
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# Posted 12:18 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CENTRISM AND GUT INSTINCTS: Kevin argues for the former and against the latter. His prescription for his party and for the nation is "technocratic populism". Is that an organizing principle around which Democrats can rally? And does it apply to foreign policy?
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# Posted 12:07 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WHAT WILL IT COST FOR THE US MILITARY TO RECOVER FROM IRAQ? Larry Wilkerson, the Colin Powell aide best known for his vociferous criticism of the administration, says $50 billion to $100 billion. "The next president will face a staggering bill," Wilkerson says.

Hmmm. I'd be glad if the cost of recovery were only $50 billion to $100 billion. Compared to either the cost of the war or the size of the federal budget, that is very much a cost we can bear. So if Wilkerson is right about the numbers, he's wrong about their significance.
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# Posted 12:02 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HEZBOLLAH TRAINS IRAQI MILITIAS, SOMALI MILITANTS: Dan McKivergan picks up some interesting threads.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

# Posted 11:54 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ROMNEYCARE: Liz Mair lays out in considerable detail her criticism of the new Massachusetts health insurance system, but gives Romney credit where credit is due:
For having the guts to take on the problem of underinsurance--he gets one gold star from me for taking on an issue that frankly, only a handful of people in the GOP seem to care about
Liz also has a few choice words for Bill O'Reilly, with regard to the War on Christmas.
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# Posted 10:18 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ILLUSTRIOUS NETWORK NEWS: Much to NBC's credit, the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams is now available as a video podcast. The show has been available for quite some time as an audio podcast, but I've always considered the images to be the added value of television news.

So what have I discovered now that I watch the same news program as approximately 10 million other Americans?

First of all, the producers will sometimes go to Onion-esque lengths to provide some sort of image along with their story. Last Friday night, Brian Williams soberly reported that Shi'ite militias had dragged six Sunni men out of a Baghdad mosque, doused them in gasoline and burned them alive.

Rather than having Williams just speak into a camera, NBC broadcast stock footage of men walking out of a mosque. Then, the image of flames appeared as an overlay on the screen, gradually becoming brighter and more intense until the men could no longer be seen. I guess that's news.

Another noteworty attribute of Friday night's broadcast was the absence of any "he said-she said" journalism in the long opening segment on Iraq. Bowing to current convention, NBC still titled its report "Civil War?" rather than "Civil War". But the answer to "Civil War?" was pretty much "Yes".

There was no soundbite from the president or any other administration spokesman. Instead, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution and NBC analyst Bernard Trainor (author of Cobra II) delivered brooding, unpleasant assessments of the war. I think their comments were justified, but they certainly didn't represent an effort to seek out opposing perspectives.

In addition, NBC's correspondent at the Pentagon offered his own assessment of what conditions would lead the administration to admit that Iraq is in the midst of a civl war. I thought his commentary was actually insightful, but the point again is that NBC offered a perspective not a two-sides to every story report.

I'm curious to see if this approach persists over time, or if it is only possible because Iraq is an issue where optimism has so worn out its welcome that NBC doesn't have to bother with opposing perspectives.
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# Posted 12:25 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY MORNING ROUND-UP: NBC presented an exclusive interview with the victorious Gov. Schwarzenegger. Afterward, there was a roundtable on Iraq. CBS introduced its audience to three novice senators, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bob Corker (R-TN). ABC talked to Jordan’s King Abdullah, followed by Dick Durbin and Sam Brownback.

Ahnuld: B. Most politicians insist that they are motivated by core values, but Schwarzenegger unapologetically insists that his job is to eagerly please the voters of California. That seems to be the lesson the Governor has decided to draw from the failure of his proposed referenda in 2005 and his success in compromising with Sacramento Democrats in 2006, followed by his landslide re-election. But that kind of moderation tends to be a luxury that only state-level politicians can afford. To win a national election, you need ideas. Or a failed incumbent to run against.

Roundtable: B. The panelists included two retired four-star generals -- McCaffrey and Downing -- and the senior members of the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter and Ike Skelton. The discussion was a restrained, non-partisan affair, although Hunter made way for some of his usual bluster. But the bottom line is that even well-informed, relatively disinterested observers have no ideas for how to salvage the war in Iraq. Perceptive criticism was abundant, but all of the advice from the panelists boiled down to “Keep doing what you’re doing, just do it a whole helluva lot better.”

McCaskill: B-. Moderate in most regards, and honest enough to admit that neither party has any real idea what to about Iraq except wait for the Baker Commission to deliver its report. But then out of nowhere came her strange insistence that “people are getting rich on this war” and that Congress needs to investigate “war profiteering”. It sounded like something out of a socialist pamphlet from the 1930s. We all know that KBR, Bechtel and Halliburton are making money in Iraq, but that’s because cooperation with the private sector is integral to modern warfare. McCaskill’s rhetoric only feeds the paranoia of those fringe leftists who think we’re staying in Iraq to benefit Dick Cheney and his golf buddies.

Brown: B. Claire McCaskill can say what she wants about the party as a whole, but Sherrod Brown has a policy for Iraq. It’s called redeployment. Or withdrawal. Or something less pleasant. But it is a policy. It just happens to be a policy that the Democratic Party refuses to admit that it wants. The moderates and the doves want so badly to be unified, but neither will openly embrace the position of the other. Instead, both sides have begun to tip-toe towards one another, hoping perhaps that a compromise will emerge without anyone having to admit that they changed their position. Brown clothed his preference for withdrawal in the language of caution and patience. McCaskill clothed her preference for not abandoning Iraq with nods to the desirability of withdrawal. It was a lovely dance.

Corker: B-. Bob Corker is looking for shelter from the storm. He doesn’t want to carry the party’s baggage in Iraq. For the moment, reference to the Baker Commission will suffice instead of an actual position on the war.

Abdullah: D. That’s ‘D’ as in ‘dictator’. Without question, the silver-tongued monarch deserves tremendous credit for engineering such a positive reception for himself from the American media. What other authoritarian ruler gets treated as a visiting sage by a press corps that prides itself on speaking truth to power? Stephanopoulos’ questions were a total embarrassment. Perhaps ABC cut some sort of deal with the King to get him on the show and Stephanopoulos had no choice but to be so tame. But that isn’t a very pleasant thought, either. Forgive me for not providing details and evidence in this abbreviated polemic. Perhaps a fisking will be necessary (if an interview can be fisked). But neither liberals nor conservatives should have much reason to doubt that a “moderate”, pro-American dictator got much better treatment than he could ever deserve.

Durbin: B-. He’s fired up about the war in Iraq. I like passion in politics. But Durbin seems willing to latch on to any proposal that sounds like a good idea without thinking it through. Stephanopoulos suggested that Bush deliver an ultimatum to Maliki saying that he shut down the militias or we pull out of Iraq. Durbin was ready to sign on the dotted line, without ever asking whether surprise ultimatums are a good way of dealing with intricate situations. Or whether they should be delivered to those who, more than less, are on our side. Usually, Democrats talk about the importance of nuance, but Durbin was ready for the sledgehammer once Stephanopoulos held out the hope of a withdrawal following a potential ultimatum.

Brownback: B-. Like Corker, he’s running for cover and waiting for Baker to report. He doesn’t want the war around his neck, especially if he runs for president. Not that he has any ideas of his own about how to deal with the problem. Which is much more problematic for a veteran senator than for a novice.

By the way, CBS political correspondent Gloria Barger sat in for Bob Schieffer. Her energy and persistence were a major improvement. It's time for Schieffer to go.
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Monday, November 27, 2006

# Posted 8:20 PM by Patrick Belton  

WHERE OXBLOG GETS ITS DANCE MOVES: YouTube. (It's the new blogger.) (As this clip shows, unfortunately.)
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# Posted 8:33 AM by Patrick Porter  

TO SUCCEED at difficult counter-insurgencies and nationbuilding, or to avert societal breakdown, its better not to torment thirsty children, nor to film it. (hat-tip, Randy).

This is no doubt atypical of the behaviour of most men and women serving in Iraq. Which is one reason exactly why it is so damaging. Given the power of media images, there is now the dangerous ability to taint unfairly the reputation of the armed forces as a whole.
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

# Posted 11:51 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BEINART'S HISTORY OF THE PRESENT: Now that the Democrats have taken both houses of Congress, who will listen to liberal hawks such as Peter Beinart and their call for a fundamental rethinking to the Democratic Party's approach to foreign policy?

Now that the Democrats have prevailed in an election that was all about foreign policy, will the party stop asking whether its losses in 2002 and 2004 reflected a profound confusion about how to approach national security? In his book The Good Fight, Peter Beinart anticipates his party's potential for overconfidence. He writes that:
The elections of 2006 and 2008 could resemble the elections of 1974 and 1976, when foreign policy exhaustion, and Republican scandal, propelled Democrats to big gains...

But if the United States remains under threat, [Democratic] victories will prove a false dawn, as they did during the Carter years. And eventually, the country will lurch right, since whatever its failings, the right at least knows that America's enemies need to be fought. (p.188)
Beinart is well-suited to play the role of his party's Cassandra. In Chapter Seven of his book, he recounts the history of the party's recent failures in a way that comes perilously close to echoing Republican criticism. (For commentary on previous chapters, see here.)

According to Beinart, his party ran away from national security in 2002:
With the midterm elections looming, party strategists yearned to remove foreign policy from the campaign. And the only way to do tht was to agree with President Bush on Iraq and then change the subject...

So while Democrats with safe seats mostly voted against the war, the party's congressional leaders, its vulnerable incumbents, and its likely presidential candidates generally voted yes. (p.174)
Beinart's history of 2002 includes the obligatory references to nasty GOP commercials that targeted Max Cleland and to the President's "McCarthyite" rhetoric. But he rejects the idea that Democrats could've prevailed if only they responded more forcefully to such attacks.

Ultimately, the party suffered because it had no clear and strong beliefs about foreign policy. Some sort of ideology compelled those with safe seats to vote against the war. But whatever that ideology was, it wasn't persuasive enough to get vulnerable incumbents and aspiring presidents to go along for the ride. In other words, those who were actually concerned about what the voters thought rejected the party line and imitated their adversaries.

This deviation provoked considerable anger among the base, fueling Howard Dean's challenge to a field of candidates that uniformly voted for the war. Why didn't Dean prevail? Because, Beinart says, the base thought Kerry could win:
For the most part, liberal voters weren't supporting Kerry because he had served in Vietnam. They were supporting him because they believed other, more hawkish, voters would support him because he had served in Vietnam.

Democrats knew that the war on terror would be a central issue in the fall campaign, and that Americans had anxieties about their party's strength on national security. But they chose to believe those anxieties were a matter not of ideology, but of image. (p.180)
Much as the base resented the party establishment for going wobbly, it did exactly the same thing. Lacking confidence in its own beliefs, it nominated a candidate who seemed to represent what other people believed. But this confused approach ultimately caved in on itself.

Did you know that, in 1997, John Kerry wrote a book about foreign policy called The New War? I certainly didn't. In it, Kerry described terrorism as the "fraternal twin" of organized crime. He wrote that "Our new enemies attack not by ideology or military might, but by the manipulation of of human weakness, greed and despair." (Quoted in Beinart, p. 181) Appropiately, Kerry felt that the United States' most important foreign policy objective was to negotiate treaties to facilitate international investigations and legal proceedings. A war on terror this was not.

Beinart's re-discovery of Kerry's book is a good example of his ability to add new and compelling detail to a story that has already been told many times before. So is Beinart's observation that in one two-hour interview during the campaign, Kerry used the word 'effective' 18 times. Like Dukakis, Kerry emphasized his competence while avoiding the subject of vision. In contrast, Bush kept invoking words such as 'freedom', 'democracy' and 'liberty'. He used those words 45 times during 2004's first televised debate. Kerry used them only six times.

Presumably, critics from the left would reject such anecdotes out of hand as irrelevant. What mattered in 2004, they would say, was the swift-boating of a genuine war hero. What does Beinart have to say about that? Beinart's inventive answer to this question is that the Swift Boat ads were effective because Kerry had no ideas to defend himself with:
Once again, liberals were vulnerable because they had no national greatness vision of their own. (p.183)
Personally, I don't think the Swift Boat ads, despicable as were, had much effect on the election's outcome. But I agree with Beinart that Kerry was vulnerable because all he had was a biography, not a set of principles.

(Friends of the Swift Vets may rebut my charge of despicability below.)

So where to now for the Democrats? Beinart cites the results of a 2005 poll which asked liberals and conservatives to "rate their top two foreign policy goals":
Conservatives were 29 points more likely to mention destroying Al Qaeda, 26 points more likely to mention denying nuclear weapons to hostile groups or nations, and 24 points more likely to mention capturing Osama bin Laden...

It wasn't that liberals didn't have worthy goals. Their top priority was withdrawing troops from Iraq, number two was stopping the spread of AIDS, number three was working more closely with America's allies. (p.187)
Beinart says that looking at such numbers, as well as at the activism of the liberal blogosphere or MoveOn.org, that "you could easily think liberals have no enemies more threatening, or more illiberal, than George W. Bush." (p.188)

A man of the left might respond that bringing troops home from Iraq and building closer relationship with our allies are integral to the war on terror. But I think Beinart is right that the Democrats' only hope for restoring their credibility on security issues to demonstrate a passion for going on the offensive against the enemies of freedom. And that passion can only come from commitment to a strong set of principles.
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Thursday, November 23, 2006

# Posted 10:21 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Enjoy the long weekend.
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

# Posted 8:34 AM by Patrick Belton  

SPEAKING OF DR A'S LAST POST, all male geeks of gen X or thereabouts, whether North Korean, Sunni Iraqi or young fogey, have at least this in common: a certain schoolboy fixation upon that perfect 8-year old female, Lisa Simpson. So when it unfolds that she has launched a singing career, OxBlog must necessarily stand up and take notice. Well done!
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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEN. WEBB VS. MR. BURNS: After watching Jim Webb on Meet the Press, I wrote that:
I was sort of turned off by Webb's dire warnings of class division and class conflict in the United States.
That comment provoked a heated response from dignam, who asks:
Why do Webb's points about American economic inequality and class division "turn you off"? Is it because he is saying something untrue?

Is it because it contradicts your belief in trickle-down economics (a belief that is somewhat unfounded, as the trickle that goes down is a drip-drop that forms a pool in the upper-middle class and descends no further)?
Well I don't know that OxBlog has ever identified itself with the economic philosophy of C. Montgomery Burns, but...
Webb produced a spectacular, and very well-written, opinion piece in the WSJ, of all places, talking about income inequality. So I'd like to know exactly why this very important issue is unimportant to you.
If it were unimportant, I wouldn't have registered my disagreement in the first place. But what I can tell you, dig, is that Webb's penchant for exaggeration, is, as you put it, "spectacular". Here's the opening graf from his column in the Journal:
The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country.
Ahh, the 19th century. When union-busting involved baseball bats. When industrial accidents often cost workers an arm and a leg (literally) and there were no disability checks from the government to cover the costs. I could go on, but my supply of puns is temporarily exhausted.

And the rich live "in a different country"? Is Webb saying that they're un-American? Funny, I thought that only conservatives were allowed to suggest that liberals are un-American, not vice versa.

Anyhow, here's another bit of wisdom from Webb:
Workers' ability to negotiate their futures has been eviscerated by the twin threats of modern corporate America: If they complain too loudly, their jobs might either be outsourced overseas or given to illegal immigrants.
Hmmm. Is the primary rationale for outsourcing that it dramatically lowers the cost of production, or that it is an effective way to punish unruly workers? As for illegal immigrants, they take the jobs that we don't want. Or does Webb think that native-born Americans have a secret desire to work as gardeners, busboys, maids and lettuce-pickers?

Now, I admit that responding to absurdity with mockery is not the way to foster a sophisticated debate about the American standard of living. But what I wanted to do in this post is demonstrate why I found Webb's rhetoric to be a turn off.

Inequality, low wages and a lack of healthcare are all important issues. But if Webb wants to do something about the problem instead of just shouting about it, he may find it useful to put aside his exaggerations and put some good policies on the table.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY MORNING ROUND-UP: Things are quiet on Sunday morning, with the pressue of the election now past. The winners are magnanimous. The losers welcome a chance to rest. But the war goes on. Senators-elect Jim Webb and Jon Tester were on NBC, followed by a journalist roundtable. Charlie Rangel, the incoming chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republic of South Carolina, were on CBS. ABC had John McCain followed by incoming majority leader Steny Hoyer.
Jim Webb: B-. The usual Democratic line on Iraq. Have a big conference with Iran and Syria. But at least that is a concrete proposal. Otherwise, Webb stuck with the usual approach of insisting that Democrats want a change of direction but evading the fact that they have no direction to offer. You'd think a former Secretary of the Navy would know better. Also, I was sort of turned off by Webb's dire warnings of class division and class conflict in the United States.

Jon Tester: B. Tester had one great moment of honesty, which can probably be attributed to his lack of experience as a talking head. Russert asked him:
Jon Tester, is it fair to say that neither the Democrats nor President Bush at this time really have a plan [for Iraq]?
and Tester answered "Well, I mean, possibly." He then tried to back away some from the answer and remember some of his talking points, but the real instinct showed itself first.

Lindsey Graham: B. Calling for a significant increase in the number of US troops in Iraq is one of the few positions on the war you can defend on logical grounds. We've never had enough, and if we really believe the consequences of defeat are catastrophic, it's the only available choice. But if neither Republicans nor Democrats have the will to send more troops, what good is it to demand more boots on the ground? That is the question Bob Schieffer should've asked Sen. Graham.

Charlie Rangel: B-. He sounded moderate and conciliatory on the subject of taxes, which is his bailiwick. But then Rangel started doing his best to undermine his party's credibility on security issues by calling for the reinstatement of the draft. Why? Because the high morale and professionalism of the all-volunteer force is a problem? Because America would be safer with conscripts on the front lines? No, because Chairman Rangel thinks a drafted army will tie the hands of the president. The same way, I guess, that it tied LBJ's hands in Vietnam.

John McCain: A-. Stephanopoulos picked right up where Russert left off the previous Sunday in his discussion with McCain. He also asked the questions Schieffer should've asked of Graham. How long can keep you keep insisting that we need more troops in Iraq if there is so little public support for that position? If you say that victory is imperative and that victory demands more troops, won't you have to support a withdrawal if the President and the American public won't send more troops?

McCain didn't try to evade the question. As he did last week, he acknowledged the logic of what was being asked. McCain said at some point, that might be necessary, but right now there is still some hope. No matter how many talking heads I watch, it's still refreshing to see one who actually engages with the interviewer and sounds like a human being who is having an actual discussion rather than an automated talking point. But imagine the political earthquake McCain would set off if he announced that there was no hope for victory and that we can't ask American soldiers to die for a lost cause.

Steny Hoyer: B. Pleasant. Moderate. Bipartisan. Admirable, but not a hard pose strike after a major victory at the polls and before the next battle has begun. I guess we'll have to wait a bit to find out what kind of leader Steny Hoyer is.
By the way, it is well worth noting that Meet the Press is now available as a video podcast, not just an audio stream. Sometimes, it really is important to see the look on someone's face when they say what they're saying.

For example, take Jon Tester's words from above, "Well, I mean, possibly." If you are reluctant to see those words as an admission that the Democrats don't have a plan for Iraq, you can say that they are just generic space-fillers from a brand new Senator without much experience. They mean nothing.

But if you listen to the audio track, you can hear Tester stumbling over "well" and "I mean", then saying in a much more certain and direct voice: "Possibly." And if you have the video track, you can see Tester stumble over "well" and "I mean", then lift an eyebrow and grin on "possibly", as if he'd were a well-meaning kid caught-red handed by an old pro like Tim Russert.

See ya in seven.
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# Posted 5:28 AM by Patrick Porter  

FRIEDMAN AGAIN: An electric exchange between economist Milton Friedman and US General Westmoreland (hat-tip, Erudito):
General William Westmoreland, testifying before President Nixon's Commission on an All-Volunteer [Military] Force, denounced the idea, saying that he did not want to command an army of mercenaries.

Milton Friedman interrupted him: "General, would you rather command an army of slaves?" Westmoreland got angry: "I don't like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves."

And Friedman got rolling: "I don't like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general." And he did not stop: "We are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher".
Mercenary professor? Gives us baby academics a frisson of menace.
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Saturday, November 18, 2006

# Posted 11:34 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HOW DOES A LIBERAL HAWK APOLOGIZE FOR IRAQ? That is the challenge facing Peter Beinart and other liberal interventionists. They don't want liberalism to return to the inward-looking dovishness of the post-Vietnam era. But they also must persuade their fellow liberals that supporting the invasion of Iraq was an accident, not a true expression of the muscular liberalism that Beinart and others prescribe.

In the introduction to his recent book, The Good Fight, Beinart writes that:
I supported the war because I considered it the only remaining way to prevent Saddam Hussein from obtaining a nuclear bomb. I also believed it could produce a decent, pluralistic Iraqi regime...On both counts, I was wrong. (pages xii-xiii)
Really, a nuclear bomb? I know that the President and others made ominous references to a mushroom cloud, but I also remember that almost all Democrats and almost all analysts rejected out of hand the possibility that Iraq had, or would soon have, a bomb.

What I remember was an intense debate about whether it was worth going to war if Saddam only had chem-bio weapons and if the UN refused to support the invasion. Yet Beinart addresses those subjects in passing or not at all in the sixth chapter of his book, where he expands on the brief comments in his introduction. (For my comments on the first five chapters, see here.)

Entitled "Iraq", it must have been a very hard to chapter to write. In it, one expects Beinart to provide a rationale for the invasion compelling enough to command the support of well-informed liberals circa 2003, but flawed enough to be soundly rejected in hindsight. I don't think Beinart comes close to meeting that expectation.

Instead, he reviews the arguments for war made by the administration then rejects them as misguided or deceptive. The problem is, those arguments provoked exactly the same criticism from the left when they were first made, well before the invasion. Presumably, Beinart was familiar at the time with the contents of The Nation and the NYT editorial and op-ed pages.

Beinart's expansion on the issue of Saddam's nuclear program is indicative. He notes that in 2001, the CIA dismissed the possibility that Saddam has any sort of meaningful nuclear program. Yet the CIA's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) asserted that "most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program."

Beinart then reminds us that CIA's "only concrete evidence" of an Iraqi weapons program was discredited by UN inspectors in February 2003. That evidence consisted of aluminum tubes that were supposedly for use in a nuclear program. The inspectors said they weren't.

Furthermore, the inspectors rejected the Preisdent's that Saddam had sought to purchase uranium in Africa. Finally, on March 7, they declared they had found no indication of a nuclear program in Iraq.

If concerns about an Iraqi nuclear program led Beinart to support the war, why didn't the inspectors' assertions change his mind? Curiously, Beinart observes that
In mainstream political and journalistic circles, these revelations didn't receive the attention they deserved -- because many people in Washington had already made up their minds on the war. (p.152)
Beinart seems to imply that he was one of those close-minded individuals. I don't buy it. No editor of the New Republic would have failed to notice what the inspectors were saying. No issue was more important than Iraq in early 2003. Appropriately, every move the inspectors made was covered on the front-pages of US and European newspapers.

What I am willing to believe is that three years after the fact, an editor of the New Republic might have hazy memories of precisely why he supported a war. In order to make his chapter persuasive, Beinart should've gone back to the best liberal arguments on behalf of the war and evaluated their merits. His own writings would have been a good place to start. Also well-known is Ken Pollack's book, The Threatening Storm, which Beinart cites in his chapter. Or Beinart could look at why so many Democratic legislators continued to support the war.

What I had most hoped to see in Beinart's chapter on Iraq was a detailed discussion of how much influence the United Nations and the international community should have over important American decisions. I think this was the real crux of the debate over the war in Iraq as well as the most important theoretical divide between liberals and conservatives in the realm of national security.

In earlier chapters, Beinart himself assails conservatives for rejecting international institutions and their ability to legitimize American power. Yet as Beinart's commentary on the Kosovo war indicates, he also knows that waiting for the green light from the UN can be a "recipe for inaction", which is why he rejects the left-liberal embrace of the UN as the answer to every question.

As Beinart explains in his opening chapter, the search for a middle ground is the essence of his project. He wants to rebuild his party's credibility on national security by staking out a principled position that commands the center of the political spectrum. That is the right objective, but it seems to be a good ways off.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum illustrates how Peter Beinart's memory may be more accurate than my own.
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Friday, November 17, 2006

# Posted 10:14 PM by Patrick Belton  

QUOTE OF THE DAY (JUST UNDER THE DEADLINE AT 3 AM): From the label of Kalms sleeping pills, sold by Boots:
May cause drowsiness.
If so, may one take it back?
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# Posted 5:39 AM by Patrick Porter  

QUESTION FOR ECONOMIST READERS: Economist Milton Friedman has just died.

It raises a question I've had for a while: What is the difference between 'neo-liberalism' and traditional economic liberalism of the Adam Smith kind?

Is 'neo' just tacked on as a 'shudder' word, to depict people with those opinions as somehow sinister? Or is there a substantive difference?
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

# Posted 10:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

YOU, TOO, CAN BE AN INTERN FOR AN ASPIRING DICTATOR: Ox-friend Chesa Boudin has an article in the Nation praising Hugo Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution". It's subscription only, and I don't have a subscription.

According to Chesa's Nation bio:
Chesa Boudin is a co-author of The Venezuelan Revolution: 100 Questions--100 Answers. In 2005 he worked as an intern on President Chávez's foreign policy team, doing research for a master's degree in Latin American public policy at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship.
I guess the next step up the ladder would be an internship with Chavez's hero and mentor, Fidel Castro.
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# Posted 10:03 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ANYONE REMEMBER DICK DARMAN AND NICK BRADY? Joshua Spivak says the President does.
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# Posted 9:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SEN. LOTT RETURNS AS MINORITY WHIP (OPEN THREAD): It's true. It would be hard to imagine a better way of indicating that the GOP wants to lose again 2008. Anyone disagree?
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# Posted 9:11 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SPECTACULARLY WRONG YET AGAIN: OxBlog, that is. Here's what I wrote three weeks before the invasion of Iraq:
LESSONS OF KOSOVO: Paul Wolfowitz seems to agree with OxBlog that ethnic violence will not present a serious threat to postwar Iraq, despite its devastating effects in Kosovo. As Wolfowitz told the NYT, Iraq's "ethnic groups have not had decades of slaughtering one another as happened in the Balkans. The problem in Iraq is a regime that slaughters everybody, it's equal opportunity repression,' he said." Sounds sorta like an evil version of the 14th amendment...
I'm not going to try to back out of that one or pretend I didn't say what I clearly said. I never thought that Sunnis would support an insurgency whose essential strategy is to slaughter as many innocent Shi'ites as possible in order to provoke a civil war. I never thought that Arab Muslims would behave in such a brutal manner toward other Arab Muslims. Slaughtering Jews in Israel or black Muslims in Darfur is one thing. But I never expected this kind of genocidal hatred across the Sunni-Shi'a divide.

There is also the question of misunderstanding Iraq as a one-man dictatorship as oppoosed to an ethnic dictatorship. As the post above indicates, I clearly saw Iraq as Saddam's regime, not a Sunni regime. I'm still not sure to what extent it was one or the other.

Clearly, one can argue that Sunnis support the insurgency because they were conditioned for decades to see politics in Iraq as ethnic warfare. But if memory serves, there were also tens of thousands of Sunni victims of the regime as well, so its ethnic identity far from self-evident.

By the way, I owe a significant debt to my brother M for finding the post cited above, all on his own initiative. He just wanted to know how well certain pundits anticipated what was to come in Iraq.

And before I go, one more error to cite. If you click on the words "ethnic violence" above, you will arrive at a post from February 23, 2003 in which I ask:
Will postwar Iraq descend into a maelstrom of ethnic, communal[,] religious violence? Looking for answers, I came across this article by Ted Gurr, a professor at the University of Maryland...

One trend that bodes well for postwar Iraq is that "The new democracies of Europe, Asia, and Latin America were especially likely to protect and promote minority rights."
Clearly, an aggressive push for democracy has not prevented the slaughter in Iraq. Why did I expect it would? Because I never expected the minority in Iraq to intentionally provoke a vicious civil war. In my post I cited the examples of Kosovo, Sudan and East Timor, where minorities were the principal victims of ethnic cleansing or civil war.

Even now, I don't understand how the Sunni minority expects to prevail. After a long interval of Shi'ite restraint, the death squads have emerged. If the Americans go, the Shi'ites will almost certainly prevail, thanks to both their militia and their American-trained army.

We have been familiar with suicide bombing for quite a while, but what we may be watching now is the first suicide of an entire ethnicity.
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# Posted 12:46 PM by Patrick Porter  

DUBYA REMEMBERED: Pundit and classical historian Victor Davis Hanson, whose histories I have found provocative and crackling with energy, argues that history will absolve George W. Bush:
How odd that today we admire Ronald Reagan whose coattails never could translate into a House majority, who was nearly destroyed by Iran-Contra, and who left office in uncertainty over whether he had really changed much the Cold War calculus. Harry Truman finished with about a 25% approval rating, winning no credit for the birth of containment. After his crankiness, the Democrats wanted a more “thoughtful” liberal like Adlai Stevenson as their leader.

Churchill—demonized after Gallipoli, and ostracized during the 1930s—was then voted out of office in 1945 after saving Britain from its enemies. Lincoln was perhaps the most hated man in the United States by August 1864.

I mention all this because George W. Bush, who won two wars after September 11, and changed the course of U.S. foreign policy to encourage reform abroad, and prevented so far another 9/11 like attack, can obtain a similar respect from history—as long as he realizes two truths: he must persevere, and no more give into realist seducers than did Churchill to those who called for dialoguing with Hitler; and he must accept that he will leave office hated.

But if he flip-flops to get his approval ratings back up to 50%, he can be assured that history’s will be no kinder to him than it was to LBJ, Nixon, George Bush Sr., or Bill Clinton.

I guess we'll see, but I suspect this Presidency will go down in collective memory as a bit of a disaster.

Granted, Bush's ideas and vision offered, as Andrew Sullivan said, 'clarity, purpose and a vision for a proportionate response' after 9/11, and his rhetoric at times has been inspiring in identifying the need to defend liberal society from militant Islam. And some of his gestures have been welcome, appointing more African-Americans to high office than any past President (or at least most), and he has at least mentioned 'Palestinian' and 'state' in the same sentence.

And from this side of the Atlantic, people are too quick to indulge in a sniggering anti-Americanism with Bush as their lazy example, an attitude rooted often in ignorance, irritation at being dependent on the US, and in old Tory imperial resentment.

But things would have to unfold in a dramatically unexpected and miraculous way to save his reputation in posterity.

Bush hasn't really 'won two wars.' He won the opening phases of conventional war in Aghanistan and Iraq. Disastrous decisions, maladministration, failure to plan properly, cabalistic decision-making within a small elite, and general inattention to detail and operational execution has thrown into crisis his mission to introduce a democratic alternative into the Middle East and Central Asia. It is possible to say this while still being sympathetic with his strategic vision of a democratic middle east and the overthrow of Baathism.

He has vastly overspent. Like a big-state Christian socialist, arguably. He has appointed cronies at times, and been called on it. He, along with other levels of government, reacted too slowly to avert the costs and damage of Hurrican Katrina. His administration has continued and intensified Clinton's toleration of torture, rendition, and other human rights violations. And overall, his promising rhetoric has been failed by incompetence. Grand rhetoric alone doesn't get you a mantle of public affection like Churchill.

Who knows, maybe in a decade he will be sainted. But I doubt it.

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# Posted 9:05 AM by Patrick Porter  

PSYOPS IN THE PACIFIC: A really cool book I came across while researching an article on Japan, Britain and cross-cultural perception in wartime, Allison Gilmore's You Can't Fight Tanks with Bayonets.

The Pacific war between Imperial Japan and the Allies is often cast as a race war, a story of racist brutality and mutual cultural antagonism. While there is much to this, some historians go to the extent of morally relativising the American and Japanese causes and campaigns.

But as Gilmore argues, the 'race war' debate isn't the whole story. She demonstrates, with some neglected sources, that Australian and American psychological operations were effective even against an enemy widely assumed to be radically different, partly because PSYOP personnel overcame crude stereotypes. They recognised that only a small minority of Japanese combatants had the psychological profile of samurai fanatics. Based on the belief that their propagandist literature could penetrate the psychology of their opponents, their operations demoralised significant sections of the target audience and overcame Japanese military indoctrination, contributing to surging cases of indiscipline, desertions, surrenders, demoralisation and a growing sense of fatalism, while surrendering Japanese soldiers yielded valuable intelligence about Japanese operations.

Gilmore tries to explain this: they were increasingly successful because they avoided attacking the Emperor, who remained an unshakeable figure of trust for most soldier-diarists. They told the truth about combat and conditions, so that Japanese’ own experiences seemed to confirm what Allied propaganda told them, giving the propaganda credibility. And they organised their propaganda around the tempo and timing of Allied military victories. The impact was suggested by record of Japanese diarists and efforts of Japanese High Command to insulate troops from ‘dangerous thoughts.’

In other words, they succeeded partly because they overcame the assumption that Japanese combatants were psychologically impenetrable and shielded from external influences beyond their political and national loyalties. Its worth a read.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

# Posted 10:00 PM by Patrick Belton  

WIT IN NAMING AWARD OF THE DAY: To the directors of St James's Hospital, Dublin 8, who named their psychiatric ward the 'Samuel Beckett Ward'.

I can't go on, I'll go on. (As, of course, Michael Jackson said last night.)
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# Posted 5:51 AM by Patrick Porter  

JUST WHEN I'd forgotten why I have drifted away from the British Guardian a little lately, some of their columnists gave a timely reminder.

Praise for the Taleban, whom we musn't 'demonise.' Which seems now to mean criticise, complain about, object to, get angry with, or any other shudder word for objecting to their crimes.

And now, nostalgia for Saddam and a general defence of dictatorships. Some choice quotes:
The people of China seem in no rush to jettison a regime that holds out the prospect of prosperity at the expense only of liberty.
Only of liberty? And as long as the majority are happy, who cares about that Chinese minority, (and the malcontent Tibetans), who are less patient with the one-party state?

What's more, tyranny is good for the soul:
Living under tyranny may not be ideal, but it is not impossible. In the Soviet Union, life took on a character of its own, in which the human spirit managed to flourish in spite of the political constraints.
Bet that cheered them up in the gulag. Or in the famine-devastated regions. Or the areas on the brunt of Stalin's ethnic cleansing.

And literally, living under tyranny is now almost impossible in North Korea. Its also very dangerous for anyone, or their family, to try and leave.

And then this, David Cox's aesthetic case for totalitarianism:
The literature generated in those conditions can still inspire us.
One of the defences of Soviet communism, the 'eggs/omelettes' defence, was that the suffering of some was ultimately justified by the long-term goal of building a utopian workers paradise.

David Cox has lowered the bar a little. Now its justified by the writing of fine books.

Guardian Unlimited. Indeed.
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# Posted 12:01 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NEVER THE TRIUMPHALIST: It's only been a week since the Democrats' triumph, but Kevin Drum is already offering candid criticism of his party's time in power. First, Kevin asks, why the heck is Nancy Pelosi throwing her support to Alcee Hastings instead of Jane Harman for the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee?

Formerly a judge, Hastings was impeached for taking bribes. In contrast, Harman established a very solid record of expertise and bipartisanship as the Committee's ranking member.

Second of all, Kevin, wants to know whether there's really any good reason for Pelosi to support John Murtha instead of Steny Hoyer for Majority Leader. Murtha still be the president's most furious critic, but he is pro-gun and anti-abortion. He even got a 0% rating from NARAL.

Well, I would savor the irony of Murtha losing out because he is insufficiently liberal, but I still prefer to have him as a Majority Leader in order to demonstrate how irrationality and incoherence are welcomed into the Democratic fold.

Of course, Kevin hasn't given up on criticizing the GOP. Unequivocally, he bashes
the idea that we can surge in another 20,000 troops or so and end the Iraqi violence once and for all. John McCain is one of many running this idea up the flagpole, but it's a suggestion so puerile and reckless it boggles the mind. It's unlikely that 20,000 troops would have made a difference three years ago, let alone now, and he knows it.
"Puerile and reckless"? We don't have enough troops now and 20,000 would certainly help, even if it isn't enough to win. But Kevin's criticism of McCain does balance out his equally harsh criticism of the Democrats, who
...have their own bit of truth they'd just as soon avoid: namely that conservatives are correct when they say that a U.S. pullout would be a disaster for Iraq. War supporters may have only themselves to blame for this state of affairs, but that doesn't make them any less right:

A pullout now would almost certainly touch off a full-scale civil war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and the eventual establishment of a Shiite theocracy. It's hardly surprising that no one wants to face up to this, but the fact remains that our continued denial only makes the situation worse with every passing day, virtually guaranteeing a higher body count and an even more brutal end game.
I agree. I just wish Kevin and I had something more cheerful to agree about.
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

# Posted 10:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY MORNING ROUND-UP: McCain and Lieberman were on NBC because Reid and Pelosi turned down Russert's invitation. But Reid did show up on CBS, followed by White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten. ABC led off with incoming chairmen Joe Biden and Carl Levin, followed by Josh Bolten.

McCain: B+. Russert zeroed in on the big questions McCain will have to answer again and again in the coming months: How can he make a successful run for the White House if he stands almost alone in his position on the most important issue of all, Iraq? McCain answered that his position on the war is what he believes to be morally right. That is a good answer for now, but McCain will have to think about how tenable that answer will be 18 months from now.

Russert also asked whether McCain's insistence that we need more troops to win the war in Iraq amounts to an admission that there is no point to staying in Iraq if we don't bring more troops to the fight. McCain didn't resist or spin. He acknowledged that Russert was drawing a logical infernece, but that the costs of withdrawal might still be unacceptable. Again, a good answer for now, but how will it look in 18 months?

Lieberman: B. This was his honeymoon interview. Russert threw him softballs.

Reid: B. Pleasant and non-confrontational. The former chairman of the Nevada gaming commission is holding his cards very close to his chest. With regard to Iraq, Reid seemed to hint that the Democrats are beginning a very gradual move away from calculated ambiguity and toward a clear policy of withdrawal redeployment. Reid rejected a timetable for withdrawal redeployment and insisted that the decision to withdraw redeploy belongs to the generals, but that a withdrawal redeployment should start "within the next few months." I guess the generals get to decide whether a "few" means 3 or 4...

Bolten: B. Unobjectionable. In other words, he said nothing, but very pleasantly. It seems that the White House may also be playing its cards close to its chest, waiting for the Democrats to tip their hand.

Biden & Levin: B. Friendly and non-partisan, although Stephanopoulos didn't exactly challenge them. It seems that Biden and Levin chose to take exactly the same step as Harry Reid away from calculated ambiguity and toward redeployment. Like Reid, they refused to call for a timetable but insisted the withdrawal redeployment should begin within a matter of months.

Bolten: B-. Once again unobjectionable, but there was absolutely no way for Bolten to spin credibly out of the accusation that Bush fibbed a couple of weeks ago when he insisted Rumsfeld would stay in. But spin Bolten must, because he serves the White House.

See ya in seven.
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Monday, November 13, 2006

# Posted 11:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOVAK: DUMP THE GOP LEADERSHIP IN THE HOUSE. He says there just dead weight holding the GOP back from a future resurgence. (Hat tip: TMV)
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# Posted 11:16 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FEINGOLD IS OUT: It wasn't all that long ago that well-informed liberals were touting Feingold as the David to Hillary's Goliath. But it wasn't meant to be. (Hat tip: TMV)
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# Posted 10:41 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE ON THE IRAQ STUDY GROUP: President Bush met today with today with Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton and other members of the Iraq Study Group. More than two weeks ago, Michael Rubin argued in the Weekly Standard that the Baker Group, habitually described by the press as "bipartisan", is stacked to favor the personal preferences of its chairmen. Rubin says:
Take the [Baker Group's] four subordinate expert working groups: Baker and Hamilton gerrymandered these advisory panels to ratify predetermined recommendations. While bipartisan, the groups are anything but representative of the policy debate. I personally withdrew from an expert working group after concluding that I was meant to contribute token diversity rather than my substantive views.
The agenda being advanced by the Baker Group is the gun-shy realism of its namesake. Rubin reminds us that Baker negotiated the 1989 Taif Accord, which ended the Lebanese civil war by turning Lebanon over to Syrian military rule. Rubin also reminds us that Baker did nothing to stop Saddam from gunning down the Kurdish and Shi'ite rebels that President Bush 41 had encouraged to overthrow Saddam.

I'm going to keep an open mind about the Baker Group until I know, but I am certainly suspicious of Baker's brand of realism. Yet the fact remains that both Democrats as well as numerous Republicans are becoming increasingly amenable to solutions that get the United States out of Iraq regardless of what price the Iraqi people will have to pay.

For a more positive view of the Baker Group, take a look at Ryan Lizza's cover story in TNR [subscription only]. Lizza writes that:
With little fanfare, Baker has become America's shadow secretary of state, boasting an Iraq portfolio broader than that of anyone actually serving in the administration...
After helping Bush win [in 1988] , [Baker] was again handsomely compensated, this time with the post of secretary of state, where he spent a consequential four years managing the end of the cold war, the reunification of Germany, and the Gulf war.
In light of TNR's well-known idealism, it's somewhat surprising that Baker's record as Secretary of State gets so airbrushed. If nothing else, TNR should remind its readers of Baker's insistence that the United States had no interest in preventing mass slaughter and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia.

But Lizza doesn't go soft on Baker, subjecting him to psychoanalysis rather than policy analysis:
Loyalty and ideology are only part of the Baker DNA. What he really craves is respect. The Bushes set Baker on his path to power, helping him become White House chief of staff, secretary of the Treasury, and secretary of state; but they have, at other times, undercut Baker's vainglorious self-image by dragging him into what he regarded as gutter-level political assignments--most recently, during the 2000 Florida recount, in which he successfully managed Bush's victory.

Those who know Baker insist that his vanity will ultimately triumph. "What's important about the psychology of James Baker is that he wants to be remembered as a statesman, not a political hack," says a former aide who worked closely with Baker for several years. "That's why the Iraq Study Group is perfect for him. ... He does not want the first line written about him in his obituary to be, 'James Baker, the man who delivered the contested election to George W. Bush.'" If the Bush 41-Bush 43 psychodrama got us into Iraq, it may be the Bush-Baker psychodrama that gets us out.
So what does all of this mean for the Study Group? Lizza writes:
[Baker] has repeatedly criticized the "stay the course" option associated with Bush. What's left are probably two options more associated with the center-left foreign policy establishment. The first is a modified version of the withdrawal plan proposed by the Center for American Progress's Lawrence Korb, which the Baker Commission refers to as "Redeploy and Contain." Troops would be moved into neighboring countries, where they would only be used for quick strikes against terrorists in Iraq, and the administration would concentrate on international diplomacy, including talks with Iran and Syria, to solve Iraq's political problems.

The other option leaked is "Stability First," a cousin of the plan proposed by Kenneth Pollack at the Brookings Institution. It would focus the lion's share of U.S. troops on stabilizing Baghdad and turning it into a model for the rest of Iraq, a move that would, the thinking goes, start to change perceptions about the occupation and smooth the path toward national reconciliation and an oil-sharing agreement.
I'm curious to hear more about the options. The first one sounds like a retreat with a bit of tough language cover, but perhaps it will pave the way to something that is actually new. The second options sounds hopeless, unless additional US troops keep the rest of Iraq under control during the struggle for Baghdad.

I guess we'll see soon enough where all of this is headed.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

# Posted 11:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OXBLOG IS NOT THE ONLY NUTJOB ON THE BBC: OxBlog rarely has anything good to say about Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism and frequent contributor to the New Yorker. But this time, I have no choice but to give credit where credit is due.

When I was on BBC radio last Tuesday to talk about the elections, another one of the guests on the show was American journalist Greg Palast. Although I didn't get a chance to interact with Palast directly, I took advantage of being a guest on the BBC's liveblog to flatly contradict his assertion Americans don't see illegal efforts to rig the outcome of US elections as wrong or disturbing.

However, because I didn't have the facts at my fingertips, I did not attempt to contradict Palast's assertion that millions of votes (mostly from the left) are deliberately lost or discarded for no reason whatsoever in every US election. Palast got a respectful hearing from the show's host and is often a guest on the BBC.

Yet in Nicholas Lemann's recent attack on post-9/11 conspiracy journalism Palast is one of the main targets. (Lemann's essay was published in the Oct. 16 issue of the New Yorker, but not online.)

I figure that Lemann's attack on Palast is pretty credible, since Lemann himself is a card-carrying member of the condescending intellectual left. As Stephen Colbert might say, Lemann is a factinista.

Anyhow, here's what Lemann has to say about Palast:

There are books brought out by mainstream publishers but aimed at an audience of committed believers and Bush-haters, and therefore written in a spirit more of exhortation than of persuasion. A French best-seller in 2002 was "The Horrifying Fraud" by Thierry Meyssan. In the United States, there is "Armed Madhouse" (Dutton, 2006) by Greg Palast, a private investigator turned ournalist whose periodical work appears (not by accident, he says) in Britain, in such respectable venues as the BB and the Guardian, but not in the United States; he has been published here in Harper's and The Nation.

"Conspiracy theorists believe George Bush, long before the invasion of Iraq had a plan to control its oil," Palast writes in his introduction. "That's wrong. He had two plans and my investigative team obtained both." One of these, "Plan A", was produced by a State Department team at a "confidential gathering" at the home of an Iraqi exile named Falah al-Jibury in Walnut Creek, California in February 2001 and involved a military coup against Saddam Hussein. The other, the hundred-and-one page "Plan B," titled "Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Sustained Growth" -- essentially a blueprint for privatizing the Iraqi economy and turning it over to American corporations that were Republican political contributors -- was produced, Palast asserts, by neoconservatives in November 2001.

"Armed Madhouse" is great fun. It's written with brio and with sarcastic, knowing humor, and it has a breezy narrative drive that comes from Palast's showing himself finding, detective style, a succession of obscure policy analystswho provide him with pieces of the secret puzzle. I wouldn't know from reading it exactly where one could get hold of a copy of Plan A or Plan B; generally, Palast gives us a mixture of named and unnamed sources, treats public institutions (like the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University) as covert agencies, and does not operate at a courtroom evidentiary standard. Skeptics who need to be won over do not seem to be the intended audience.

Now as any good logician would know, one cannot infer from Palast's strange writings about the war in Iraq that there is necessarily any flaw in his work on rampant fraud in US elections. But my working hypothesis is definitely that someone out there has or will expose how the rest of Palast's polemics also fail to "operate at a courtroom evidentiary standard."
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# Posted 10:59 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"A SPIRIT, LOOKING OUT IN TERROR FROM A CORPSE":
A mid-nineteenth-century English newspaper report described cholera victims who were “one minute warm, palpitating, human organisms—the next a sort of galvanized corpse, with icy breath, stopped pulse, and blood congealed—blue, shrivelled up, convulsed.” Through it all, and until the very last stages, is the added horror of full consciousness. You are aware of what’s happening: “the mind within remains untouched and clear,—shining strangely through the glazed eyes . . . a spirit, looking out in terror from a corpse.”
That passage is from the New Yorker's excellent review of Steven Johnson's book "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World."

The history of science and medicine is a wonderful but underappreciated discipline. (It also tends to have the added benefit of being equally attractive to all political persuasions.) Enjoy.
(2) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 10:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

"MURDOCH'S GAME: WILL HE MOVE LEFT IN 2008?" Around a month ago, before the Democrats tasted the euphoria of victory, John Cassidy published a profile of Rupert Murdoch in a special issue of the New Yorker devoted to the media. The driving force behind the article is the question in the subtitle. Will this bete noir of the left turn around and help the Democrats retake the White House?

For Americans who only associate Murdoch with Fox News or the New York Post, the question may seem absurd. But for our British readers, the question will seem perfectly logical. Murdoch was a proud Thatcherite but swung the weight of his media empire behind Tony Blair in 1997, helping Labour return to power after almost 18 years in the wildnerness.

According to John Cassiday, Murdoch may be laying the foundations for a surprise turn in favor of Hillary come 2008:
[Murdoch's] fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton took place on July 17th, at News Corp.’s midtown tower, which houses the Post and Fox News. Among the News Corp. executives who attended were Roger Ailes, the veteran Republican operative who runs Fox News, and Col Allan, the pugnacious, Australian-born editor of the Post. Clinton spoke for about twenty minutes, and then took questions. The breakfast raised more than sixty thousand dollars for Clinton’s senatorial re-election campaign—neither Ailes nor Allan contributed any money—and it led to speculation that Murdoch was preparing to endorse Hillary in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Appearing on “The Charlie Rose Show” on July 20th, Murdoch said that an endorsement was “unlikely,” which didn’t exactly reassure conservatives. In August, they became more agitated after Murdoch played host to Bill Clinton and Al Gore at a News Corp. retreat in California. “The nature of the event . . . confirms our suspicion that Murdoch may be moving left as the 2008 U.S. presidential election approaches, and that he may bring his ‘conservative’ news properties with him,” Cliff Kincaid, an editor at Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog group, commented on the organization’s Web site.

Murdoch likes to keep people guessing about his intentions.
I was hoping for a little more elaboration on that final point. It seems to me that Murdoch does not simply want to keep people guessing, but that he wants to make sure that no one takes him for granted. If he ultimately supports the GOP, he wants to make sure the party knows that Murdoch had a choice, and that if it doesn't pay him his due respects, he can go elsewhere.

Cassidy doesn't venture a prediction about where Murdoch will head, but it will almost certainly be an interesting journey to watch.
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# Posted 7:25 AM by Patrick Porter  

RUSSIAN POET Konstantin Simonov wrote this poem in 1941, and because it hasn't become overly familiar in the Anglosphere through hundreds of war poetry anthologies, its my favourite war poem. And not bad for Remembrance Day:
Wait for me, and I'll return
Only wait very hard
Wait when you are filled with sorrow
Wait in the sweltering heat
Wait when the others have stopped waiting,
Forgetting their yesterdays.
Wait even when from afar no letters come to you
Wait even when others are tired of waiting...
And when friends sit around the fire,
Drinking to my memory,
Wait, and do not hurry to drink to my memory too.
Wait. For I'll return, defying every death.
And let those who do not wait say that I was lucky.
They will never understand that in the midst of death,
You with you waiting saved me.
Only you and I know how I survived.
It's because you waited, as no one else did.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

# Posted 11:50 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONE HECKUVA QUESTION: Over at RCP, John McIntyre has a question about Rumsfeld's resignation:
If President Bush had done this two, three, four months ago would yesterday have been different?
I dunno. But it might've been worth a few thousand votes in Montana or Virginia. Then again, OxBlog won't miss either Conrad Burns or George Allen.
(21) opinions -- Add your opinion

# Posted 11:30 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

AN UNUSUAL "I TOLD YOU SO": The Nation is currently e-mailing out the text of its editorial, from mid-April 2003, calling for Rumsfeld's resignation. What's interesting is how much it emphasizes that the SecDef ought to resign because he didn't respect international law. Also note how the editors were careful to warn that success in Iraq might be imminent, but Rumsfeld should go nonetheless:
Together with Vice President Cheney, [Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle] were the principal architects of this venture, in pursuit of which they have deceived the American people, misled US soldiers whose lives are at risk, scorned the United Nations and defied international law...

We have unleashed a new era of nuclear proliferation and "pre-emption," and we have turned a majority of the world's people against us. These facts will not change even if Iraq's defenses continue to crumble and the war ends quickly.
I'm not so sure about the proliferation. Iran and North Korea were pretty determined to develop nuclear weapons well before 2003. Also note that there is no mention of chemical or biological weapons, either here or in the full text of the editorial. Dare one say that even The Nation expected the WMD to be found? Or were they, too, deceived by the same president they called a liar?
While carefully avoiding any reckless comments himself, Rumsfeld unleashed his subordinates and advisers to publicly make the case that the fight would be easy and the troops welcomed. Perle, for example, explained flippantly that "the Iraqi opposition is kind of like an MRE [meals ready to eat, a freeze-dried Army ration]. The ingredients are there and you just have to add water, in this case US support."
That's a pretty embarrassing quote. I guess it got overshadowed by "Mission Accomplished".
Rumsfeld and his coterie now dare to complain that Saddam is violating the laws of war and does not fight fair. But the "asymmetrical" tactics of the Iraqis should come as no surprise. The Vietcong did not wear uniforms either; they too hid among civilian villagers. "We are invading their country," Chief Warrant Officer Glen Woodard observes. "I'd be by my window with a shotgun too."
A potent reminder of how the war's opponents, drawing on their memories of Vietnam, expected a nationalist resistance movement to emerge in Iraq, directed at the US occupation. Instead, we have a sectarian war.
The central question in the minds of many millions around the world is whether the United States, in violation of the UN Charter and long-established terms of international law, is waging an illegal war. The brutality of that war becomes more apparent by the day, as the US military wreaks more death and destruction on Baghdad and other cities and the humanitarian crisis threatens to spiral out of control.
Ah yes, American brutality. And not a word about Saddam's atrocities.
Our indictment is ultimately not about logistics or tactics. Even if US military power prevails in Iraq, what must be ended is a failed foreign policy many of whose key proponents are in the Pentagon.
In the end, I'd have to say that the egg is still on the face of those of us who supported the war. Yet it is important to remember how the war's most vocal critics opposed it for reasons that were misguided and would have had little value in terms of avoiding the perilous situation we are in now.
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# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

I WAS SPECTACULARLY WRONG: My final words last night as a commentator for the BBC have proven to be spectacularly wrong. The question was whether Republicans were less likely to support the war now that they've lost one election because of it and are facing another in 2008.

I said that it is only natural for politicians to shy away from unpopular programs that party loyalty once forced them to support. For example, Bush pere sought to distance himself as a candidate from Iran-Contra and Reagan's hard line on Nicaragua.

On the other hand, we've been hearing since early 2004 that Bush and Rove would never let their party go into an election with the albatross of Iraq hanging from their necks. First we heard that Bush would never risk his own re-election by keeping 120,000+ soldiers in Iraq during the campaign. This spring we heard that he and Rove would be sure to engineer a substantial withdrawal before November. And now we will hear that a withdrawal is inevitable before the election 2008.

And here was the damning part: I said that the only thing more common than predictions of an imminent withdrawal from Iraq are predictions of the imminent resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.

Not that I am unhappy about being overtaken by events.
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# Posted 6:17 PM by Patrick Belton  

A FEW THOUGHTS TOWARD ELECTION POSTMORTEM, EVEN MORE HALFBRAINEDLY THAN USUAL: Sitting down to email last night, I became aware through peripheral audition of the tinny dilatory speech of a political amateur, doubtless a political spouse, delivering one of the speeches designed to annihilate prime time until activists' delivery from it by an eventual acceptance or concession. It struck me as in greater degree than the usual annoying, artless and juvenile, no doubt an indicator of the deflated coinage of the contemporary American political speech, and that part of my brain which was paying attention cursed quietly that it was not Clinton.

Except that it was.

(Must remember to write off a cheque in the morning to Obama, and hope. Perhaps ones to McCain and Condi's personal bank account for good measure.)

In other boxes, I'll be very curious about ramifications of Lieberman's new status in the Senate as an independent caucusing with the Democrats. The last analogue of whom I'm aware is Vermont Socialist Bernard Sanders in the House, who also caucused with the Democrats; given his position to the left of the party one might expect his voting record to be fairly indistinguishable from the ordinary Democratic member, but with Lieberman, perceived to be situated between the two parties, it will be tantalising to see if he unfolds as more of an electoral free agent. My impression is that the precedent of Sanders is for the member freely to associate with the party whip in leadership votes (and in return be considered a member of that party in committee assignment), but otherwise is not held to be binding. There's also the question of to what extent elective party governs party affiliation within a chamber - members can cross the aisle, and though some have then submitted themselves to byelection, this gentlemanly nod to the constituency is somewhat rare and antique. I'd be interested to be informed by our readers on this point. Lieberman as TR in his Bull Moose incarnation is a pleasant thought, if not terribly fraught with prospects for his political influence.

Finally, an unnamed but cute legal source predicts that the marriage amendment resolution within Virginia is vulnerable to challenge in the federal courts. As a state constitutional amendment, I'm not sure I see how the federal judiciary has standing (apart from under guaranteeing republican government in the states?), but on the other hand, the legislation to implement the amendment might conceivably be. The ACLU is tipped to bring a test case, perhaps under partner benefits. I certainly wish them luck, as I bear that wretched amendment no love. Any legal scholars caring to weigh in on this point, the comments section is yours.
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

# Posted 8:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BBC UPDATE: I'll be on the air periodically. You can also check out the Pods & Blogs site, where I'll be posting my coverage tonight.
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# Posted 12:16 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ELECTION NIGHT ON THE BBC: I'll be on Radio FiveLive tonight watching the returns and discussing the results. I'll be talking with Chris Vallance from the Pods and Blogs show, which occupies a prestigious prime-time slot in the US market. (In other words, FiveLive can afford to invite OxBloggers on the show because it goes on after midnight in the UK.)

I'll be heading over to the studio at 7:30pm EST, although I'm not sure at exactly what time I'll be going on the air, so check back here for an update.

The easiest way to listen to the show is to vist the FiveLive homepage and click on the ListenLive button in the upper right-hand corner. I'll also be live blogging the election on the Pods and Blogs blog.
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Monday, November 06, 2006

# Posted 10:48 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OR NOT SO LONELY? The title of my last post was a bit short-sighted. As Patrick Hynes points out quite correctly, mainstream media like MSNBC and the WaPo are reporting a late surge for Republicans.

Patrick suggests that premonitions of a Democratic tidal wave are the product of partisan analysis. However, RealClearPolitics now projects a pick up of six in the Senate, handing control over to the Democrats. Not surprisingly, RCP's numbers suggest the House will go as well.
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# Posted 10:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A LONELY REPUBLICAN OPTIMIST? Liz Mair predicts that Lincoln Chafee and Jim Talent will hold onto their seats in the Senate, while Michael Steele will pull an upset an Maryland. Those are bold predictions. Much bolder than my own: Dems +25 in the House, +5 in the Senate. No details. Just a gut feeling.
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# Posted 10:28 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ACCIDENTAL HUMOR:

First of all, let me say that our candidates all speak from their, their own views. They—we have no set of talking points for our candidates, they speak their minds.

-- Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Chairwoman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee

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# Posted 10:05 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ELECTION-DAY MORNING SUNDAY ROUND-UP: NBC did a roundtable with all four campaign committee chairs: Schumer, Dole, Emmanuel and Reynolds. CBS had Joe Biden and Bill Frist. ABC had Dick Cheney and Howard Dean.
Schumer: B+. A consistent performer. He delivers the party line with more elan than most.

Dole: C-. Memo to Sen. Dole -- You cannot win by volume. You cannot shout down the other guests on the show. You cannot shout down the host. Adults at least pretend to listen to each other.

Emmanuel: B. The confidence of imminent victory makes you a better peformer. Although he occasionally strayed into hack territory.

Reynolds: B-. You've gotta give the man credit for coming on the show when he's in a pitched battle to save his own seat in the House. But the talking points now sound tired and worn.

Biden: B+. Thoughtful. Relatively non-partisan. Someone should've reminded him that there was an election the coming Tuesday.

Frist: B. Consider the grade a parting gift.

Cheney: D. You may as well have a conversation with a brick wall. It will listen more attentively and is more inclined to be flexible.
Look at those grades. High marks for the Democrats. Low and worse for the Republicans. And I'm one of them! What an embarrassment.
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# Posted 2:43 PM by Patrick Belton  

OPEN THREAD: Questions for Samantha Power and Joseph Nye. OxBlog goes to speak with them later today.
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# Posted 12:19 PM by Patrick Porter  

JARGON IS BAD FOR BUSINESS: its official.

Open thread: what's the most annoying jargon in your workplace?
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# Posted 8:41 AM by Patrick Porter  

FIDELISM ON THE FLY: London's mayor Ken Livingstone dropped into Cuba recently to praise the revolution, without qualification, as one of the high points of the twentieth century:

Cubans created the best education and health care system anywhere in the Third World and they've done that in the face of an incredible blockade - quite an illegal blockade - by America.

Cuba's education system is indeed impressive. Literacy rates are so high that everyone can read the restricted literature approved by the one-party state.

Of course, you need to be careful when using your literacy skills, or this might happen to you.

And its health system is indeed admirable, but I would expect a decent standard of public healthcare too if I lived in a prison:

Cubans are well educated, but they cannot speak their minds. Castro does not allow other political parties, rallies or free elections. Those who voice opinions he does not agree with are driven from the country or thrown into jail.

According to Human Rights Watch, Castro’s regime “denies its citizens basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, movement and a fair trial” and imposes its will through “surveillance, detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions and politically motivated dismissals from employment”. Amnesty International says that there are up to 70 political prisoners in Cuba; Human Rights Watch puts that figure at more than 300.

Castro bars Cubans from leaving the country without government approval. Those caught trying to escape are punished with hefty fines or thrown in jail. Cubans are not allowed to read, listen to or view foreign media. Only state-controlled television or newspapers, extolling the virtues of the Cuban leader, are permitted.

Way to go, Ken.
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# Posted 6:04 AM by Taylor Owen  

PORTER+OXFORD+SUNDAY LUNCH=EARLY EVENING HANGOVER: It is safe to say that there are few better lunchers than oxblog's Patrick Porter. It is also safe to say that despite our conflicting perspectives on the virtues of the United Nations, saving kittens from trees and helping grandmothers cross the street (PP is hardnosed on all three), we can agree on at least one thing - Gallaway is an ass. Money quotes from a confrontation with Oxford students last week:

Harriet Bradley, William Cudmore, Daniel Carall-Green and James Phillips had gone into the library to get a copy of Galloway’s book Fidel Castro Handbook signed for a friend. Bradley asked Galloway about a claim he had made in his speech to the Union that democracy in Cuba is more “free” than in the UK. When questioned in the chamber by a largely hostile audience, Galloway claimed that Oxford students are too privileged to understand what he was talking about.

Bradley said to the Respect MP, “Mr Galloway, I don’t agree with what you say, but I’m not posh. I’m not in the rugby club. I don’t go hunting, shooting and fishing. I went to a state school and so did Will.” She told Cherwell, “I just thought I would ask him about it in a polite way. We made the point that we didn’t have to be posh to disagree with him. His response was, ‘You are confusing me with someone who gives a f**k’.”

Cudmore added, “Dan said [to Galloway] that he was distressed at Galloway’s behaviour towards his friend Harriet. To this he replied, ‘I’m a little bit distressed that you think it’s any of your f**king business.’”

“He said, ‘You are both confusing me with someone who gives a f**k what you think. I don’t give a f**k what you think.’”

Carall-Green then asked Galloway if he felt that this was the right way to speak to members of his electorate. Galloway allegedly responded, “I don’t give a f**k what anyone else thinks.” Carall-Green proceeded to ask him whose views he was in Parliament to represent. To this question, Galloway allegedly replied, “I don’t represent anyone’s views. I represent me. I don’t give a f**k what anyone else thinks.”

Nothing but class, that Galloway. He does, however, bring Oxbloggers (and I suspect an increasing percentage of the civilized world) into common cause - so really, he is a uniter not a divider...
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# Posted 6:01 AM by Taylor Owen  

ON THE COST OF A LORD: Take the source for what it's worth... but things just keep getting worse for Tony Blair...
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

# Posted 9:34 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE ART OF WAR: Will Wright created The Sims, the best-selling game of all time for the personal computer. Before that, he created Sim City, also a landmark in the history of gaming. What both have in common is that they emphasize social interactions rather than carnage and explosions.

Wright is profiled in this week's New Yorker, since his next big game, Spore, is set to debut in the near future. The profile contained the following example of Wright's innovative thinking, which demonstrates the power of the soft touch to prevail over brute strength:
[Wright] led me into the house through a short hallway that was full of oddly shaped pieces of machined steel. Wright explained that these were left over from the days when he competed in gladiatorial robot contests called BattleBots, in which engineers attempt to build the most destructive remote-control robot vehicles possible. These ferocious machines fight in large Plexiglas boxes, ramming into each other at high speeds, trying to disable their opponents by flipping them over; the tournaments are like geek cockfights.

One of Wright’s robots, which he designed with the help of [his daughter] Cassidy, was called Kitty Puff Puff. It fought its opponents (which had names like the Eviscerator and Death Machine) by sticking a piece of gauze to its opponent’s armature, and then driving in circles around it, until the opposing robot was so cocooned in gauze that it couldn’t move. Eventually, the organizers banned cocooning.
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# Posted 9:28 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE INNOCENCE OF CHILDREN: The following passage is from a profile [print only] in this week's New Yorker of author Robert Greene:
When Greene was a kid, in Brentwood, he and some of the boys on his street played a game they called Gestapo. Two boys, impersonating prison-camp escapees, would run off separately into the hills, and the others would give chase, with a bloodhound. "It was terrifying," Greene told me. He suspects that, despite being the only Jewish boy in the group, he was the one who came up with the game.
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# Posted 5:06 AM by Patrick Porter  

THE SENTENCE: Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death for his part in the murder of 148 people in Dujail in 1982.

Whatever you think of the death penalty, I suspect many Iraqis will see justice in this tyrannicide. Even as their country is being ripped open by sectarian violence, crime and anarchy, they might see in Saddam's execution at least the end of one terrible chapter in their country's history.
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Friday, November 03, 2006

# Posted 8:12 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

McCAIN VS. ?????: MSNBC reports that McCain and Obama were both in Minnesota this week, stumping for local candidates and providing a preview of 2008 (presuming that both parties have the good sense to nominate their strongest candidates).

But for the moment, it is the primary contests that may be most interesting. George Will weighed in with a column this week arguing that George Allen's fall from grace benefits no one more than Mitt Romney. Will' s logic runs as follows: McCain is the big dog in this race and wants to have multiple candidates divide up the rest of the field, so that no one challenger can gather up all of the remaining votes. Without Allen in the race, Romney may be able to do that.

But what about Gingrich? And Giuliani? Or possibly even Dick Armey? Dan McKivergan thinks Will should be paying much more attention to Gingrich, who scores well in early polls and still excites the base. In contrast, Giuliani doesn't seem to have gotten his campaign machinery moving just yet. As Dan observed even before Will's column came out, Gingrich could do a very effective job of making life hard for Romney.
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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

# Posted 11:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SO I FINALLY FOUND OUT WHAT KERRY SAID THAT WAS SO OFFENSIVE: Kerry's apology made the front page of the WaPo, but I had to read down nine paragraphs to find out what Kerry was actually apologizing for:
Speaking to an audience in California on Monday, Kerry said: "Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

Kerry said yesterday that he meant it as a dig at Bush, and his office released a copy of the prepared remarks he was supposed to deliver: "I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush."
Call me naive -- YOU'RE NAIVE! -- but I think Kerry is actually telling the truth about what happened. After all, he's a flip-flopper, not a liar. Kerry's excuse reminds me of Clinton saying that he didn't inhale. It's an excuse so preposterous you wouldn't bother making it unless it were true.

So how did Kerry manage to mangle his own scripted humor in such a self-destructive manner? I don't really know, but this is the same man who said "I voted for the bill before I voted against it."

Getting back to the WaPo, I thought it was interesting what got mentioned in the eight paragraphs before the relevant quotation from Kerry. Paragraph Two began as follows:
The White House and Republican allies orchestrated a cascade of denunciations throughout the day to keep the once and possibly future presidential candidate on the defensive and force other Democrats to distance themselves.
Only in Paragraphs Fourteen and Fifteen do we finally get to hear Harold Ford and Hillary Clinton condemn Kerry's remarks (although there was an oblique mention earlier of Democratic pressure to apologize).

Anyhow, my favorite paragraph in the whole article is #3, which consists of the following sentence:
Republican strategists appeared almost gleeful over the contretemps because it revived a favorite target at a time they need to motivate core supporters to vote in Tuesday's midterm elections.
Who are these unnamed strategists? The correspondents for the Post never tell us. How can a factual news article report that a group of individuals "appeared almost gleeful"? Is this an assessment of their collective facial expressions?

To be fair, this sentence is probably based on good reporting, ridiculous as it sounds. The Post's correspondents probably spoke to some actual GOP strategists and found them in a thinly-veiled celebratory mood. Perhaps one of those strategists even suggested the phrase "almost gleeful" to describe himself.

Nonetheless, it is sort of strange that you have to be familiar with an unspoken code in order to decipher what's on the front page of the WaPo. I'd prefer a more direct approach.
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