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Current Battle: Election 2004






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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Battle Election 2004 - Iron Blogger Democrat - First Rebuttal

Unabashed
The Challenger and I opted for two very different strategies in our Opening Statements; while the Challenger focused on the personal and the narrative, I opted for, you know, facts. I'm surprised she didn't recognize shock and awe when she saw it. I'm not surprised that my recitation of these unpleasant facts was called "Bush-bashing." My previous Challenger had the same reaction when confronted with inconvenient truths, and my current Challenger is falling into the same pattern. Look, I was very careful in my Opening to leave my rancor behind. If you want Bush bashing, I can show you Bush bashingof the first degree, and then some. I didn't do any of that. The fact that the man's record is embarrassing doesn't make my citing it "bashing."

The Challenger also seems confused as to why I would bother mentioning Bush's record at all ("I thought this was Battle Election 2004 not Battle Why Bush Sucks"). It's simple: In any election with an incumbent, the first step in deciding whom to vote for is determining whether the incumbent has done a good job. If I thought Bush had done well (and some poor misguided liberals apparently have), then I wouldn't need to support Kerry. That the Challenger is willing to support Bush irrespective of his record is mind-boggling. But I suppose that conservatives voting Bush (many wise ones--and at least one foolish one--aren't) have to have a pretty close relationship with denial to pull that lever.

And she had to throw that "pregnant woman" thing in my face. She knows I can't have children! She knows I don't have a uterus!

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
The Challenger's Opening focuses on her two pet issues: terrorism ("I'm a security mom") and Social Security ("I agree with partial privatization of Social Security"). Let me tackle Social Security first, since it will only take three sentences (Big Dan is having an influence). One, there's not really a Social Security crisis that needs solving. Bush's plan to partially privatize the system will cost a trillion dollars or more, creates an immediate problem of diverted funds needed to pay current retirees (with no surplus anymore to take up the slack), and puts money into the pockets of the financial sector that would have gone to future beneficiaries. Finally, economist Brad DeLong gets to the nut of the problem, wondering about the Bush plan's advisability when he reminds us, "You have to ask yourself not just, 'Is this good policy?' but 'Will this still be good policy after Congress does its worst to it?'"

The terrorism thing is more challenging to rebut for two reasons: One, Bush's record is so bad that I need way more than three sentences to describe it; more importantly, though, the Challenger and I don't see eye-to-eye on this issue.

For starters, the Challenger says that "[the popular, undefeated, and certainly victorious this time around Iron Blogger Democrat] and Kerry et al. like to separate Iraq and the WOT but I won't because it's all the same war." She's right that we disagree here; there is growing evidence that yet another ideological divide is forming between the left and the right. Kevin Drum, as he is wont to do, perfectly crystalizes it:
On a substantive level, Bush and his team are too obsessed with a late 20th century view of state-sponsored terrorism as our primary problem. It's not. Non-state terrorism and failed states--along with nuclear proliferation--are the primary problems of the 21st century. Bush's failure to recognize this makes him far more likely to make a disastrous miscalculation than Kerry.
Of all the Middle Eastern states that sponsor terror, Hussein's Iraq was among the least threatening to the US and our allies. Moreover, the tenuous links that Bush and his team want to draw to, for example, al Qaeda, show that conceptualizing terror as a state-on-state issue is wrong. Exhibit A is the case of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Before the US invasion, Zarqawi operated out of Iraq, yes, but it was an area of Iraq fully beyond Saddam's control--there was no argument to be made that Saddam tolerated or harbored Zarqawi's terrorists. Before the invasion of Iraq, the US had the chance to attack Zarqawi's camp, destroying his facilities for sure and possibly even killing the man himself. We did not, because "the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam." This was confirmed by the Wall Street Journal just this week (excerpts here and here). In a world where non-state terror is the primary threat--a world inhabited by myself and Senator Kerry, but not by the Challenger or the man who actually gives the "go" order--Zarqawi would have been eliminated in late 2002, saving countless US lives. Instead, Bush has dragged us into a $200 billion distraction from those non-state terrorists who, despite our relentless offense, as Bush calls it, are still killing people, pledging his allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

In fact, since the invasion of Iraq, non-state terrorists have been getting more aggressive. This is where I think Bush's record as a leader in the War on Terror deserves serious scrutiny. I've already covered--unrebutted, by the way, the fact that bin Laden and other terrorists were pushed to the bottom of the agenda when the Iraq war rolled around. Fact is, in 2002 and 2003, the number of terrorist attacks and terror casualties increased. Looking back,
[d]espite the rout of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, terror attacks, especially against Americans and Europeans, were rising at the end of 2002 and would continue to rise through 2003. Some 400 people worldwide had died in terror attacks in 2000, and some 300 in 2001, apart from the 3,000-plus killed on September 11. In 2002 more than 700 were killed, including 200 when a bomb exploded outside a Bali nightclub in October.
2003 was even worse. If Bush continues to pursue his out-dated anti-terror strategy, we have no reason to expect that terrorist attacks will do anything other than keep increasing as they have been.

It's also clear that our invasion of Iraq is at least an indirect cause of this increase, if not a direct cause. There's been a clear increase in al Qaeda membership since the invasion. Our allies concur; "Australia's spy chief has directly linked the Iraq war to the rising ranks of global terrorists and says it could have inspired new followers of Osama bin Laden," at least in Oz if not everywhere. Even hand-puppet Iyad Allawi is pointing the finger: "Iraq's interim prime minister blamed the U.S.-led coalition for "great negligence" in the ambush that killed about 50 soldiers heading home after graduation from a U.S.-run training course, and warned of an escalation of terrorist attacks." As the Washington Post says, this "offensive" foreign policy is producing diminishing returns.

Contrast Bush's state-attacking mentality with the more nimble and focused Kerry plan, which is more concerned with the actual terrorist networks and their funding mechanisms (remember, Kerry dismantled BCCI), as well as re-taking Afghanistan from the Taliban--that's right, they're back.

You Can't Handle, Well, You Know
The Challenger: "How can we trust anything Kerry says about Iraq anyway? I mean his flips nuances are so many."
The Truth: On the Senate floor, before the Iraq War Resolution vote, Kerry said,
I have said publicly for years that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein pose a real and grave threat to our security and that of our allies in the Persian Gulf region. Saddam Hussein's record bears this out. [. . .]

As much as we decry the way he has treated his people, regime change alone is not a sufficient reason for going to war, as desirable as it is to change the regime. [. . .]

As the President made clear earlier this week, "Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable." It means "America speaks with one voice."

Let me be clear, the vote I will give to the President is for one reason and one reason only: To disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint concert with our allies.

In giving the President this authority, I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days--to work with the United Nations Security Council to adopt a new resolution setting out tough and immediate inspection requirements, and to act with our allies at our side if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force. If he fails to do so, I will be among the first to speak out.

If we do wind up going to war with Iraq , it is imperative that we do so with others in the international community, unless there is a showing of a grave, imminent--and I emphasize "imminent"--threat to this country which requires the President to respond in a way that protects our immediate national security needs.
The way Bush supporters talk about Kerry and the Iraq war, you'd think what Kerry says now--that Bush neither proved imminent threat nor acted with our allies--is somehow diametrically opposed to what he said then, or over the course of the campaign. You can make as many movies as you want (and I thought I went long!) with out-of-context quotes, but the fact is that Kerry has, from the beginning, challenged the president in the way he waged this war: one position, constant.

The Challenger: "Yeah, that's the way. Let's show the nutcases of the world that we are serious by disarming ourselves first."
The Truth: Because it worked so well deterring Russia when we kept building up our nuclear stockpiles? North Korea was contained and engaged in diplomatic talks by the end of the Clinton years. "However, the North broke off official contacts with both Seoul and Washington when Bush took office and made known Washington's intention to revert to a tougher line on relations." Bush's tough-guy approach sure worked well, didn't it?

The Challenger: "My opponent wants to skip over Kerry's 'heroic' 4 months in Vietnam."
The Truth: People who believe all the nonsense about Kerry's Vietnam service maybe being less than honorable are in danger two ways: One, we could talk about what Bush was doing at the time--and you don't want that; and two, you'll get hit by a big slab of truth, and, baby, the truth hurts.

The truth is that the Swiftboat vets are a horrible resource to rely on, not only because they do things like lie on national TV, but because they themselves have made dozens of contradictory statements. And four months? Kerry served four honorable years in the Navy.

The Challenger: "Actually, the budget for the Department of Education has grown [. . .]"
The Truth: Ahh, a simple case of Not Reading What I Wrote. I know education spending is up under NCLB. The problem is that funding is not being provided for items mandated by the law--things like teacher training and endless testing. Yippee, we get more Title I money! Sadly, we can't spend that money to pay McGraw-Hill for the tests and test scoring we have to buy.

The Challenger: "[F]igures show the number of Pell Grants awarded the year before Bush took office was 3.9 million. The number grew to 5.1 million for the most recent academic year."
The Truth: You know why more people qualify for Pell grants, right? It's because Pell grants are need-based. There are more people now who can't afford college, thanks to the Bush economy.

The Challenger: "According to the non-partisan American Enterprise Institute"
The Truth: Oh, I almost fell off my chair with that one. AEI is conservative like a koala is adorable. Don't believe me? Read their about page. Or Google: "non-partisan American Enterprise Institute" turns up 129 hits, with the Bush and GOP websites at the top. "Conservative American Enterprise Institute" turns up 3690 hits.

The Challenger: "Kerry's Healthcare Plan: Yawn. More government expansion, more government spending and he'll pay for all of it by raising taxes on the rich."
The Truth: Kerry's funding comes from a variety of sources, including closing gaping loopholes that could bring in $40 billion or more. Kerry's also not the absolutist Bush is, recognizing that proposals he made in the primaries are now unaffordable under the record Bush deficit, so he has already scaled them back.

Beyond that, Kerry's plan isn't the massive government takeover Cassandras like the Challenger want you to believe it is.

And speaking of Cassandras, who's going to pay for all that spending Bush proposed in his acceptance speech?

The Challenger: "We got attacked and preventing everyone from dying at the hands of Islamofacists is a teeny bit more important than making sure we live in a socialist utopia."
The Truth: This is the old "9/11 changed everything" defense. But it's akin to saying we should all grab duct tape and plastic sheeting: We'll be safe from bioterror, but we'll all suffocate. Because we do not have health insurance coverage for all Americans, people die--83,000 people a year by some estimates, though a more conservative figure would be 18,000 people every year. That's the equivalent of one 9/11 every two months. There is no excuse for that.

The Challenger: "[Kerry] pledges to never to lie to the American people and then proceeds to LIE in a national debate to be president."
The Truth: Lie in a debate? Who would do that? Not Dick Cheney or George W. Bush. No . . . not Bush at all. I mean, Bush doesn't lie, does he? Well, yes: "But here's the president's not-so-secret weapon: He is dismayingly willing to say things that are either blatantly false or clearly designed to create a misleading impression." Further, Bush lies worse. Finally, the Challenger and those like her now are trying to paint Kerry as a serial exaggerator--what, are you still running against Al Gore?

The Challenger: "You are going to tell me that selling $50,000 cars don't help the economy?"
The Truth: If, under Bush's tax plan, small businesses buy 100,000 more Hummers, that's good for maybe a few dozen new jobs at the Hummer plant in Indiana. But 100,000 new jobs created from a targeted tax break is 100,000 jobs! The Bush tax cuts were misguided, and focused on the wrong priorities.

Plus the Challenger's FactCheck article is from 2003, and if you read the whole thing, you find this: "On the other hand, the most optimistic private economists see the economy gaining enough jobs between now and the end of Bush's term to leave him with a gain. Ten of the 51 surveyed predicted an average gainĀ of 213,000 jobs per month over the next year." In fact, over that year since FactCheck's article, the economy has averaged less than 160,000 jobs a month--barely more than it takes to keep up with increases in the working age population, let alone make up for jobs lost at the begining of Bush's term. Again--it's not so much that Bush hasn't created jobs in this economy; it's that Bush sacrificed fiscal health of the nation in pursuit of tax cuts that did not result in the jobs he told us they would.

Finally
I would like to thank the Challenger for not engaging in Kerry-bashing, aside from the few paragraphs where she did. However, I am worried about her exclamation point usage, and, in the way the Republicans now controlling the legislative and executive are abutting the debt ceiling, I would strongly encourage some restraint for the second rebuttal lest she go over her quota. Just looking out for you, Rosemary!

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat
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