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Current Battle: Election 2004






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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Battle Election 2004 - Iron Blogger Democrat - Second Rebuttal

You're welcome, Rosemary, and I hope you're feeling better. And the change of pace has inspired me, as well. There are some of the things that I hate about Bush, too! So, in fifty words or less, why John Kerry's the better choice:

I'm not a single issue voter. I am voting for Kerry because he will not appoint far-right judges; subjugate science to politics; violate international law; ignore civil rights; enact a huge middle-class pay cut; engage in cronyism; and let Teresa get away with paying so little in taxes.

Of course, none of this matters to the Challenger, not even her own disgust at this administration's domestic policy, because she is a single-issue voter. More on her issue--terror--in just a moment. But first, some quick rejoinders.

Vietnam
We can let sleeping dogs lie (pun intended!) I suppose, but the Navy says Kerry is okay; John O'Neill was Nixon's anti-Kerry hatchet man way back when. You make the call.

Who Lies?
The Challenger caught an incorrect link that slipped by me. The real one is here, though I would understand if the Chairman penalizes me for the SNAFU I should have caught.

Health Care
"Great," the Challenger writes, "so you admit that Kerry's promises are meaningless. That saves me lots of time. Thanks." No, your majesty; what I "admit" is that John Kerry is willing to change his mind when the facts informing his opinions change. Now I know some presidents I could name believe in staying the course resolutely, facts be damned, but that's just not how we do it here in the reality-based community.

The 9/11 Defense
"How many people die in car accidents every year?" the Challenger misdirects us. "How many people die of old age every year? Should we outlaw cars and aging?" Well, the fact is that we do spend a lot of federal money every year to make cars and roads safer. We do have NIH-finded research into prolonging lives. Thinking we should outlaw them is just silly; using the power of the federal government to reduce risk, though, makes sense.

And that's all I'm asking: How come Republicans, who control the legislature and the executive, can't write law one that would effectively insure the uninsured, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives a year? And this isn't an either-or game. Yes, the budget is tight, in part because of things we can't undo (like the war) and some things we can (like the tax cut). But, as I said in my First Rebuttal, the president's budget and tax cut priorities are just plain misplaced.

So why can't we do both-and? Why is the 9/11 defense so prevalent? It's simply that the intricacies of health care policy or other complicated good-government problems lack a certain glamor. Terror, on the other hand, sells. Terror grabs headlines, moves voters, and makes for good speech fodder. In the end, the Bush administration has used "September the eleventh two thousand and one," the Bush Doctrine, and the constant threat of new terror attacks to distract people like the Challenger from its horrible track record.

Barry Glassman had a book out a few years back called The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, basically arguing that "our fears are grossly exaggerated given the actual frequency of these rare events." Now, I know I will be criticized by some (maybe) for trying to say that terror is not dangerous--it surely is, and I will devote a paragraph or two to that in just a bit. But as Glassner said on CNN two weeks after 9/11,
We have good reason to be much more concerned about terrorism now than we have in the past. At the same time, though, all sorts of rumors and false scares have been spreading in the wake of these horrific events. The last thing we need as individuals or as a country right now are superfluous fears and scares. [. . . T]here's a kind of false reasoning that comes into play in these circumstances, and that is that we assume that if something completely unexpected, like the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, can occur, then all sorts of other unanticipated disasters will also occur. That is like assuming that because lightning struck last week, it will strike this week. We have to ask instead what the real dangers are, and whether there are patterns to those dangers, and how best to respond where there are real dangers.
And yet, the Republicans in this election season have done little but obscure many real dangers--like the danger to the uninsured, or of a flu-shot shortage--to propagate fear in the minds of voters. Much of that responsibility lies at the foot of Dick Cheney, but the campaign as a whole is guilty based on fear-mongering propaganda like that idiotic wolf ad. They have succeeded in scaring the Challenger, at least, into voting for them.

Who is Weak?
The Challenger, buying the Republican fear-mongering, wants you to think that John Kerry will be weak fighting terrorism. She tosses out Arafat's endorsement of the senator, while neglecting to tell you that Axis of Evil member Iran has endorsed Bush: If the terrorist endorsement means weakness, Bush has no advantage. Did a handful of KLA members write Kerry a few checks? Quite possibly. But how many millions of dollars did Halliburton collect while Brown & Root provided "infrastructure support" to the KLA while Dick Cheney was in charge? Challenger, the Bush team isn't looking good by your standards yet.

And this whole Iraq war flip-flop thing! Oh, I could scream! The Challenger cites Boston's conservative (and Bush-endorsing) paper, the Herald, repeating the same BS that Ed Koch mumbles in his quote, about Howard Dean and his effect on Kerry. In this particular Battle, I think it was a big mistake to bring up Howard Dean, because I was one of those "Deaniacs." I signed up with Dean almost two years ago, when most people thought he was just that frozen sausage guy. So I know what Howard Dean said, when he said it, and what he meant by it. Yes, he skewered Kerry for his war vote (as did I, for that matter), and the most maddening thing about the Kerry response was that Kerry would never say that his vote was wrong. Never. I was there--literally, in some cases--for the primary's major events, and Kerry wouldn't frigging budge on his position. Not one inch, no matter how successful Dean got in promoting the anti-war left's hopes. It's also a little irritating to watch this particular Republican smear campaign, because Dean was never the pacifists' candidate--that would have been Kucinich or Mosely Braun. Dean believed, as Kerry does, that we can't walk away from Iraq now that we've upended their government and infrastructure. Does a Dean connection make Kerry weak? No. On the contrary, Kerry's consistency through the primaries shows the opposite.

The Single Issue
The Challenger has Googled up some history of terrorist attacks. Yes, terror existed before, and will likely continue to exist in the future. But she misses my point that 2002 and 2003 featured quantitatively higher incidences of terror than pre-9/11 years did. And yes, terrorists want to kill us just because of who we are and who they are. But, again, the Challenger misses the point: There are more of them because of the Iraq war than there would have been otherwise. If we had taken out Zarqawi when we had the chance, if we had nailed bin Laden at Tora Bora, we could have crippled at least some of the terrorists' networks and charismatic leaders. Bush passed on both of those opportunities.

And I think that's because of that fundamental difference in world-view I keep trying to articulate. Other people are thinking like I do:
[Bush's statement on the new Osama bin Laden video] explains everything we need to know about how Bush judges success in the wars on terror and in Iraq.

He was concerned about bin Laden because "he had taken over a country." Once the Taliban was overthrown, Bush was satisfied that bin Laden was declawed and no longer a threat. The same held true with Saddam. Once he had been driven from his Baghdad palaces into a spider-hole, Bush felt that the mission had been accomplished. In Bush's view, this new threat isn't about the man or those who support his ideals, it's about the governmental structure from which he gains support. Once the bureacracy has been defeated, the threat isn't there.
That's why Bush went on about the "Axis of Evil," the "states that sponsor terror," and the like, and why his prosecution of the war has not brought much success beyond, maybe, flypaper.

The Bush Doctrine
Perhaps one reason why the Challenger feels safer with Bush is his Doctrine. Sadly, though, that Doctrine is pretty much a failure, in large part because the facts on the ground have not supported the rationale for the first war waged under the new Doctrine. Even "non-partisan" George Will knows it when he sees it:
[O]vershadowing the military achievement is the failure--so far--to find, or explain the absence of, weapons of mass destruction that were the necessary and sufficient justification for preemptive war. The doctrine of preemption--the core of the president's foreign policy--is in jeopardy.

To govern is to choose, almost always on the basis of very imperfect information. But preemption presupposes the ability to know things--to know about threats with a degree of certainty not requisite for decisions less momentous than those for waging war.
What does this mean, in practice? It means North Korea, for example, is giving us the finger:
Our "diplomats" were in Beijing, this week, demanding that North Korea submit to a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling" of all its "nuclear programs." [. . .] But we are really asking the Koreans to submit to another application of the Bush Doctrine. [. . .]

So what will we do if the North Koreans refuse to allow us to apply the Bush Doctrine to them?

Well, initially, nothing, since we're bluffing. And after the disastrous application of the Bush Doctrine in Iraq, everyone knows it--including China.

Eventually, however, China will rake in all the chips. There'll be a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea and Okinawa, Korean re-unification and a repudiation of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.
And that's from a conservative commentator; liberals and moderates are not blushing about how Bush is losing North Korea.

I won't spend a lot of time on it, but the applied-once and probably never again Bush Doctrine almost certainly failed because of intelligence problems. I've complained in other places that we haven't seen heads roll from the Iraq debacle, except maybe Tenet's. (Certainly not Rumsfeld's!) But the problem goes deeper than just Tenet--it goes to the Office of Special Plans and the way Pentagon intelligence analysts read the intel the way they wanted to. They were willing to believe Ahmed Chalabi, for example. Even this week, we found out that al Qa Qaa was on the IAEA's list for US troops to secure,
But when the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command produced their own list of sites that a limited number of U.S. "exploitation teams" should search, priority was given to those identified by exiled Iraqi opposition groups, he said. Al Qaqaa wasn't one of them.

"The top of the list was dominated by nuclear facilities and places where we expected to find chemical and biological weapons," he said. "Iraqi exiles had a very heavy hand in determining which places got looked at first."
You can't twist intelligence to fit what you believe. You can't bend facts to support your ideology. Knowing, from a pretty reliable source, that Bush was talking up an Iraq invasion as a candidate in 1999, on top of how the invasion really has spurred terrorist recruitment and has not prevented sharp increases in the intensity and frequency of terror attacks, you've really got to start questioning Bush's strength, his Doctrine.

Combine the failure of the Bush Doctrine with the Challenger's own admission that Bush's domestic policy is a failure; you can only come to one conclusion: Vote Kerry.

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat
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