Friday, September 26, 2003

"He'll be martyring in the fall"

This is so true.

(via Spoons)
Clark the Republican

In Slate today, Chris Suellentrop writes about Wesley Clark's solid performance in yesterday's Democratic debate and notes that none of the other candidates attacked Clark. He wonders:

But even with No. 10's quietly impressive performance, Edwards, Gephardt, Kerry, and Lieberman appear to be content to ignore him for the time being, to wait and see if his early support dissipates. My question for their campaigns: Isn't that the mistake you made with Howard Dean?

I actually don't think it's a mistake at all. First of all, by attacking Dean, they keep him as the presumptive frontrunner and help take Clark's new spotlight away from him.

Secondly, they may not have to worry about Clark. Though he has made a huge splash in national polls, there haven't been any new poll results from Iowa or New Hampshire (in other words, polls that count). Besides, it's looking more and more like Clark has too much baggage to win the nomination. Today, OpinionJournal has the complete transcript of Wesley Clark's now-infamous May 2001 speech at a Republican fundraiser. Lots of amazing stuff in here:

We were really helped when President Ronald Reagan came in. I remember noncommissioned officers who were going to retire and they re-enlisted because they believed in President Reagan. I remember when he gave his speech on the 40th anniversary of Normandy. I don't know how many of you all--do we have any World War II veterans in this room? Anybody who is here? I think we ought to give our World War II veterans a hand.

I was a colonel at the Pentagon. I was working for the Army chief of staff and doing lessons learned and things. And I didn't get to go to the celebration of Normandy, but we heard the speech when he gave it. He talked about how the rangers took Pointe de Hoc. He talked about how they did it for love. And we all cried. That's the kind of president Ronald Reagan was. He helped our country win the Cold War. He put it behind us in a way no one ever believed would be possible. He was truly a great American leader. And those of us in the Armed Forces loved him, respected him and tremendously admired him for his great leadership.

But the Cold War was over, the Berlin Wall was down. And President George Bush had the courage and the vision to push our European allies to take the risk to tell the Russians to leave, and to set up the conditions so all of Germany and later many nations of Eastern Europe could become part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, part of the West with us. And we will always be grateful to President George Bush for that tremendous leadership and statesmanship....

We're going to be active, we're going to be forward engaged. But if you look around the world, there's a lot of work to be done. And I'm very glad we've got the great team in office: men like Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condolzeezza Rice, Paul O'Neill--people I know very well--our president, George W. Bush. We need them there, because we've got some tough challenges ahead in Europe.

I can not imagine Clark getting the nomination after all this praising of Republicans, especially after the videotape surfaces. The Democratic liberal activists didn't really embrace Bill Clinton, and now they've "suffered" through four years of President Bush and they want a real Democrat as president, not an opportunist in a military uniform.

I think my favorite quote from the whole thing, though, is this:

Look, in politics they told me--I don't know anything about politics now, I want to make that clear.

Don't worry, you've made that perfectly clear.

Update: A new New Hampshire poll released today shows Clark a very distant 3rd behind Dean and Kerry.
Bill Clinton needs to shut up about Hillary 2004

So says none other but the very liberal Bill Press, noting that the act of keeping Hillary's name in the news may be good for the Clintons' fundraising, but it "hurts every one of the 10 Democrats actually running for president by taking the spotlight away from them and making them look insignificant by contrast." He's right, of course.
Does any Democrat have a position on Iraq?

Peter Beinart points out that the Democrats' position on Iraq is to take cheap shots against the President. Period. Money grafs:

A week into his presidential bid, Wesley Clark looks less like the Democrats' solution than another symptom of their basic problem. That problem is that much of the Democratic base still doesn't take national security seriously. Sure, Democrats know that most Americans don't trust the party to keep them safe. But they deny that this distrust has anything to do with prevailing Democratic ideology. The party, they reassure themselves, merely needs a tougher image.

And so Democrats keep trying to find new, ever more Rambo-like personas to proclaim essentially the same message. First, there was John Kerry, whose Vietnam heroism supposedly inoculated him against GOP attacks, his incoherent Iraq position notwithstanding. Now, there is General Clark. Maybe Clark does indeed have a proactive, coherent national security message. But, with his Kerry-esque, have-it-both-ways position on Iraq, he certainly hasn't articulated that message on the stump. And many of the Democrats who cheered Clark's entrance into the race don't particularly care; for them, Clark's resumé is the message. Once again, the Democrats are trying to solve an ideological problem with a biographical solution. It didn't work for decorated World War II flying ace George McGovern; it didn't work for Vietnam triple-amputee Max Cleland. And it won't work next fall. The voters--shocking as it may seem-- actually care what the parties believe.

Read the rest for the damning details.
Bush poll hyperventilating

The folks over at RealClear Politics are backing up my assertion that President Bush is in a much stronger position for reelection than one would surmise from most media accounts.

They also present more evidence that the California race is essentially over and Arnold is the winner.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Curiosity vs Obligation

I think that both the Burns and Shelton issues have this in common: journalists and bloggers want to know more, so they assert that Burns and Shelton are obligated to say more. I'm not going to put everyone into the same boat, but it seems obvious that some people have let their desires lead them to criticize others.

(Notice that I'm not going to name names either; I'm just going to sit back and let people attack me for not saying what I really think.)

John Burns

Spoons (also see his comment here) and Jack Shafer, among others, are taking NYT reporter John Burns to task for not naming the reporters who bribed Saddam and coddled him at the expense of the truth.

Here's my take: it would be good if Burns would name names, but I don’t think he’s required to do so.

Saying that Burns’ credibility is on the line is simply not true, because Burns has build up a credible record for many years as a reporter and I haven’t heard anyone saying they thought Burns was lying. Why would anyone think that CNN was the only American news organization “seeing no evil” and ingratiating themselves with Saddam? Burns cannot possibly be “casting a pall on the entire Iraq-War press corps,” because Eason Jordan had already done just that. We already knew that many of the reporters in Baghdad before the war were scum who were only reporting Saddam's side of the story. Burns is only confirming that.

And what could possibly be wrong with making the “reader doubt EVERY news outlet”? They should be doing that anyway — the real danger is that readers would take the liberal media at face value.

Shelton vs. Clark

Well, it seems that the entire blogosphere has erupted about the comments Gen. Shelton made regarding Wesley Clark yesterday.

Some, including Ramesh Ponnuru, Kevin Drum, and Spoons, accuse Gen. Shelton of cowardice for failing to specify the exact nature of the "integrity and character issues" that he feels make Wesley Clark unfit to receive his vote.

I'm much more in agreement with Bryan Preston here.

As much as I would like for to go into greater detail about the “integrity and character” issues, I don't feel that he necessarily has any moral obligation to do so. It’s entirely possible that the “integrity” issue that Gen. Shelton has with Clark cannot be independently verified or refuted (e.g. Clark lied to Shelton over the phone).

If Shelton had spilled the beans about the details, that would only make the issue a bigger story and hurt Clark more. I think that it’s ridiculous to think that Clark’s campaign would benefit at this point from a public confrontation with Gen. Shelton. Can Shelton really be acting dishonorably toward Clark by doing him a favor and keeping the details to himself? If Clark challenged Shelton on the issue and Shelton demurred … then that would be dishonorable.

I'm also with John Cole, who says:

I hope enough people goad Gen. Shelton and others into dropping the bombs on Clark.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

President Bush's vulnerability

A lot has been made lately of President Bush's declining poll numbers, especially in light of the latest poll -- which shows President Bush losing in trial heats to Wesley Clark and John Kerry.

It's important to keep some perspective here. This USA Today article helpfully posts the approval numbers of previous presidents at this point in their first term. Notice that Presidents Reagan, Nixon and Clinton all had lower ratings than President Bush, and all of them won reelection by large margins.

56% John F. Kennedy 1963
38% Lyndon Johnson 1967
49% Richard Nixon 1971
45% Gerald Ford 1975
30% Jimmy Carter 1979
47% Ronald Reagan 1983
68% George Bush 1991
44% Bill Clinton 1995
50% George W. Bush 2003

President Bush is still a very solid favorite to win reelection.

(By the way, John Hawkins offers some interesting analysis about why the President's numbers may have dropped.)

"If Bush is for it, then I'm against it!"

Jonah Goldberg exposes the Democrats' intellectual emptiness.

Gen. Shelton says he won't vote for Clark

Gen. Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about Wesley Clark in a local forum.

"What do you think of General Wesley Clark and would you support him as a presidential candidate," was the question put to him by moderator Dick Henning, assuming that all military men stood in support of each other. General Shelton took a drink of water and Henning said, "I noticed you took a drink on that one!"

"That question makes me wish it were vodka," said Shelton. "I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."

Integrity and character issues? I'd sure like to hear Gen. Shelton expound on that, because those are NOT the issues we've seen in the press for his removal from the position in charge of NATO.

Governor Schwarzenegger

Robert Tagorda says that the California recall is Arnold's to lose -- and he's right. Besides the arguments that Robert mentions, there are two very significant dynamics that lead me to predict his victory.

1) Voter Intensity. According to the polls, there are a significant number of voters who supposedly plan to vote against the recall but who also also disapprove of the job Davis is doing. Typically, on election day, many of these voters often find better things to do than vote.

2) Republican shift. With Arnold and Cruz Bustamante virtually tied atop current polls, it really doesn't matter whether Tom McClintock drops out or not. (Huh, you say? Let me explain ...) Most Republicans who are currently telling pollsters that they plan to vote for McClintock do not want to replace Gray Davis with Cruz Bustamante. If Arnold, McClintock, and Bustamante stay at their current positions, many McClintock voters will walk into the voting booth and pull the level for Arnold (even though they prefer McClintock) because they want a Republican in the office. McClintock will end up with only about 10% of the vote.

As someone with years of experience working full-time in political campaigns, I feel very certain that Arnold will win if polls show him virtually tied with Cruz Bustamante going into the election.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Maybe viewers just don't want to watch anti-American propaganda

CNN's ratings continue to go down.

"The network has repeatedly reworked both its schedule and management team in recent years after losing its cable ratings lead to Fox News."

More Christian-Hating

Howard Dean is campaigning on a platform of shutting up fundamentalist Christians. This bigotry is unbelievable. By the way, I'm going to read David Limbaugh's new book Persecution soon. I've heard a lot of good things about it. (hat tip Southern Conservatives)
Iraq Today

If you want to know that the Iraqi Agriculture ministry is withholding chicken fodder from those who owe money to the ministry, you have to read the new issue of Iraq Today. (It's also very much worth reading if you want to gain perspective on what's really going on in the country.)
Analysis of the Democratic field

Howard Fineman has an excellent piece up examining the Democratic field. He wisely doesn't waste any pixels on the campaigns of Edwards, Moseley-Braun, Sharpton, or Kucinich, but I'm surprised that he still gives Lieberman a chance. To my thinking, Clark's entry is the final nail in the coffin for Lieberman, because the Clintons' support for Clark means that Lieberman will be abandoned by the DLC crowd.

It's now a four-man field and Dean, Clark, Gephardt, and Kerry all have the potential to win. Fineman is correct that Tuesday's debate is going to be hugely important for Clark -- a bad performance has the potential to doom his candidacy before it really gets started.

The new national polls that we've seen (showing Clark in the lead) are interesting, but they are not as important as polls in Iowa and New Hampshire (of which there haven't been any since Clark announced). I'll wait to see them before venturing any new predictions.
The real Yasir Arafat

(via Sullivan) It's incredible that Bill Clinton ever shook this man's hand, much less let him move into the White House. No matter what you think you know about Arafat, you need to read this WSJ article to get the full story.
News from Iraq

Jeff Jarvis, Andrew Sullivan, and Instapundit all comment on the USA Today story discussing reporters' attitutes toward the situation Iraq. The article points out that only bad news is making it back to the US, and Glenn hopes that the Big Media will "take second look at what they're doing."

I think that they will, if only because the "more bad news from Iraq" theme is worn out and the media need a new story. I also think that restoration of electric power to pre-war levels, the cooler temperatures, the infrastructure improvements, and the political progress are all going to generate more positive coverage.

Drunken sailors welcome to watch

Cursing during primetime network TV has doubled in the past 5 years. That's yet another reason not to let your kids watch TV unsupervised.

Monday, September 22, 2003

New poll shows Clark leading field

On the heels of the Newsweek poll last week showing Wesley Clark in the lead, the new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows Clark at 22%, with Howard Dean at 13% and Kerry and Gephardt at 11%. I'll be interested to see the next polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, because national polls are really meaningless at this point.

With regard to President Bush's sagging poll numbers, keep in mind that Reagan in '83 and Clinton in '95 both had lower numbers at this point, and both of them cruised to reelection. As I mentioned earlier today, I think his numbers are poised for a big rebound.
Religious fundamentalism of the left

Cathy Young's column points out the neo-pagan foundations of radical environmentalism.
Huge diplomatic victory for President Bush

With France now set to cooperate with our efforts to turn Iraq into a model democracy, we should soon see tens of thousands of troops from India, South Korea, Turkey, Pakistan, etc. coming into Iraq.

Couple this with the consistently good news coming out of Iraq, and the media spin is going to have to change. There comes a point where you have to tell both sides of the story, and the American people know it.

I think we're going to see President Bush's poll numbers go way up in the next few weeks with continued good news about Iraq and the economy.

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda is all over Chirac on this.
Clark the stalking horse

William Safire and Mark Steyn (UPDATE: and Pat Buchanan) lend credence to the theory of Wesley Clark as a stalking horse for Hillary. At some point, the theory goes, Clark will step aside for Hillary if she decides to run.

Personally, I'm not buying it. Hillary would probably lose to Bush unless his poll numbers undergo a dramatic decline, and she would be furiously criticized within her party for entering the campaign under those circumstances (when another candidate could obviously have a good chance of winning). I'm convinced that Hillary's name is NOT going to appear at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2004.

I do think, however, that Hillary could end up as Clark's VP, with a tacit understanding that she would oversee most of the domestic agenda while Clark focused more on foreign policy. That way she would get to have her cake and eat it too. In any event, there can be no doubt that Clark is in the Presidential race because the Clintons want to preserve their power.

I can't end this post without quoting some of Steyn's brilliance:

A Democratic strategist told me that, well, Clark's got into the race late, so it is hardly surprising he is not quite, as the phrase has it, ready for primetime. Au contraire, primetime seems to be the only thing he is ready for: he spent the run-up to it, the war itself and the aftermath in television studios across the continent pointing out everything that Bush was doing wrong without ever acquiring a coherent position of his own.

What Clark's media-boosters like is that he's sophisticated, he's nuanced, he doesn't see everything as "yes" or "no". As he told The New York Times when asked whether he'd have voted to authorise war or not: "I think that's too simple a question." Unfortunately, most questions are: you have to vote yea or nay; and the general seems to feel that sort of thing's beneath him.

And also this:

The only rationale for his candidacy is that he is the soldier for the party that doesn't like soldiering. He supposedly neutralises the Democrats' national security problem: they can say, hey, sure, we're anti-war, but that's because our guy is a four-star general who knows a thing or two about it . . . That's all they need him for: cover.

Steyn's right -- it won't work.

UPDATE: Juan Cole says that Clark didn't flip-flop -- his position just evolved! All of this just proves how honest he is!

UPDATE: Joe Klein made me laugh:

Indeed, the most mystifying aspect of Clark's entry into the race was how profoundly unmilitary it was—he seemed totally unprepared tactically, strategically and substantively. His campaign message was, essentially: Here I am.

UPDATE: Clark caught in another lie? He never tried to call Karl Rove.
First Lady?

Andrew Sullivan shows just how scary Howard Dean and John Kerry really are -- if one of them wins, his wife would be First Lady.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Whither Clark?

Like Andrew Sullivan, I don't even know what to say about Wesley Clark anymore. It's just pathetic.

First off, he says that "would've been a Republican" if only Karl Rove had returned his phone calls, a statement that I think will be heard repeatedly by voters in Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming months.

To compound his problems, Clark still can't figure out his position on the resolution to authorize war in Iraq! Yes, the one issue that he has discussed ad nauseum on TV is the issue that he can't define his position on. This excerpt from Deborah Orin's column says it all:

On Thursday, Clark raised eyebrows by telling reporters on his campaign plane about the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq: "I probably would have voted for it."

That startled some supporters, who assumed he was antiwar from his remarks as a TV talking head.

But in same interview on the plane, he wasn't clear, saying a minute later, "I don't know whether I would have or not. I've said it both ways."

In fact, he had so much trouble sorting out his position that he called out for reinforcements to press secretary Mary Jacoby, yelling: "Mary, help!"

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson jabbed: "Leadership means knowing what you stand for without having to ask your press secretary."

GOP strategist Rich Galen said: "He's not ready for prime time, he's not ready to be president. He's not ready to be a member of Congress. In a debate, any freshman congressman could kick his four-star butt back to Arkansas."

Iraq wasn't Clark's only stumbling block. He admitted he'd voted for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan - hardly positions likely to thrill Democratic activists.

He also claimed he became a Democrat after listening to Bill Clinton's early campaign speeches - but that was in 1992. Republicans gleefully noted that in 2001, he spoke to a GOP party dinner and registered as an independent.

The fact that this joker is now leading the Democratic field in a new national poll just shows how weak the entire field is. I would be very depressed right now if I were a Democrat.

Meanwhile, Kerry says that Howard Dean "is imploding." That sounds like wishful thinking to me, but the Clark candidacy unquestionably hurts Dean because the media now has a new "golden boy" to focus on.

My initial gut reaction is that Wesley Clark's candidacy will ultimately help Richard Gephardt the most -- I'll explain later if I get the time.
Iraq privatizes state-owned industries

The Iraqi Governing Council has privatized all state-owned businesses except for the oil industry. Would this happen if the UN were in charge of Iraq?

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