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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
The Thing About Dean
As most people who read this blog know, I support Dick Gephardt for the Democratic nomination. After Gephardt my support would probably fall to Wesley Clark, then to someone like John Edwards. These candidates seem to me to have the strong resolve in foreign policy areas that the Democratic contender will need in a general election fight with George W. Bush, as well as the domestic policy solutions to fix what ills America has after four years of the Bush administration.
Howard Dean isn't a nominee I look forward to and I get shivers half the time I think about what a Dean nomination would mean for the Democratic party and for America. It's not because I don't like Dean on a lot of issues. In fact, I like a lot of his positions - mostly because all the Democratic candidates have roughly the same positions on issues like health care and the need for multilateralism in foreign policy. It's because I'm afraid of what his campaign has become.
All the candidates have proposed plans to expand health care coverage for the millions of uninsured (though I see Gephardt's plan as the best and since he was a congressional leader he knows what it takes to get a plan passed). All the candidates agree that the unilateral approach of the Bush administration is harmful to America's long term interests in the world and that we need to incorporate other nations into our vision for making the world safer and prosperous. On issues like the environment or education many of the major candidates are proposing plans to correct the horrible record of the Bush administration. The candidates agree far more often than they disagree and my support is based largely on which of those candidates has the best version of that agreement platform.
Therefore I chose Gephardt. Gephardt has 26 years of experience on domestic policy issues and knows what it takes to get legislation passed in congress. He's represented working Americans his whole career and has always kept a level head while dealing with some of the most important issues of our day. His health care plan is big and bold. He voted for and supported the war in Iraq because he felt Iraq was a threat (this justification isn't the same as mine, but his determination to overthrow Saddam's regime was). Most importantly though, Gephardt is from Missouri, has the credentials to win in the states that will be battleground states, and will make the electoral battle a much easier one to win. Missouri alone is a 22 electoral vote swing away from Bush to Gephardt. That alone makes him an ideal choice. That is why I like Gephardt.
So what of Dean? He's been cast as an anti-war lefty with anger in his belly and unscripted fire from his lips. If that were the real Dean Bush would win almost every single state. It seems to me that the Dean movement isn't one with Dean himself. Yes, Dean is a speak-first-apologize-later firebrand, but is he really the liberal savior that his supporters think? I really don't think so.
His supporters see a lefty and defend his every position (even questionable ones like his gun control view) as if every criticism of his lefty credentials is nothing more than a smear. It's not a smear, it's a hope, a begging (now that Dean seems to be the presumed nominee) that the real, centrist Dean will rise to the top and show up before its too late.
I've recently tried to come to grips with the fact that I will ultimately have to support Dean no less than two months from now. Right now I'm frightened. While Dean has made some comments that show he's trying to move to the center in anticipation of the general election, I sense that his crazed supporters won't let him go. That's troubling.
I really wish I could jump on the Dean bandwagon. I really do. It seems so clean, idealistic and built on strong convictions. It's a movement - but not a campaign. As a movement it's a great thing, but as a campaign it's a huge polarizing gamble.
I get the feeling that a Dean nomination would be like betting all your chips on a 15 in blackjack. It just ain't smart. The gamble is too big and we can't afford to lose. A polarizing candidate isn't what the Democrats need. This goes beyond the presidency. It hits Senate races where an uncomfortable number of southern Democrats are retiring. It's a gamble that doesn't need to be made.
My hope though, is that the real Dean will push away from his supporters and will set himself up for the general election in a more moderate way. After all, he is a moderate.
"While Southern red states, like Kentucky and Tennessee and Georgia, have probably only gotten redder since the 2000 election, East and West coast states like California, Oregon, Washington, New York, Connecticut, and Maine have probably only gotten bluer. Bush, after all, is a highly polarizing figure. Particularly to the 50-odd percent of the country that either consistently expresses misgivings about the war in Iraq or outright opposed it--a 50 percent that's highly concentrated in these states. Throw in the fact that Ralph Nader probably won't be siphoning of three, four, five percent from a Democratic candidate in these states in 2004, and the various culture-war issues, like abortion, religiosity, and gay marriage, which Republicans plan to have a field day with in the South, and, well, you get the idea.
"Now, here's the kicker: When analysts look at George W. Bush's yawning advantage in the South, the reason they tend to conclude that Democrats are screwed come November 2004 is not that Democrats need many Southern states to win the election (or even any, with the possible exception of Florida). It's that Democrats need to at least put up enough of a fight to make Bush spend time and money there--the thinking being that otherwise he'll be able to take these states for granted and park himself and his $200 million in Florida and the Midwestern swing states from August straight through to November. But what they ignore is that a Democrat--particularly one who excites culturally liberal blue-state voters will enjoy a similar advantage: Because the blue states have by and large gotten bluer since 2004, a Democrat will more or less be able to take many of these states for granted, similarly parking himself and his $100 million (at least if his name rhymes with Boward Bean)--not to mention the couple-hundred million dollars liberal 527s are going to spend on his behalf--in the Midwest and Florida and go blow for blow with Bush."
God, I hope so. With Dean as the expected nominee, and with his supporters unwilling to allow their savior to reveal himself as the reasonable moderate that he is, this strategy of matching Bush blow for blow better work. It still seems to me that Bush is in a much better position to win states like Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida than Dean ever will be, but if we're stuck with Dean let's hope that somehow, some way, Dean can pull it off.
The alternative of another four years of Bush is one that leaves me waking from my nightmares with a worse reality. Let's not do that, please. Please.
Right after Saddam Hussein was captured in a hole not far from his hometown of Tikrit on December 14, I put up a poll asking about the dictator's destiny. Faced with a unique international system in which war occurred without an official international mandate, was an international institution the best forum for bringing Iraq's madman to justice? Alternatively, in light of the fragile beginnings of the new Iraqi government and the broad scope of Saddam Hussein's atrocities which span more than two decades and involve several regional neighbors, should the new Iraqi government be burdened with an trial that would draw the world's attention?
The two responses that gained the most votes were the first, which urged an internationally sanctioned trial in The Hague, and the third, which called for the new government to try Saddam.
The first one is likely supported by the war's detractors, I would assume, and many probably voted for it with the hope that such an international trial would bring legitimacy to the war and Saddam's ultimate fate. No doubt such a bow to the war crimes courts would show some humility on the part of the U.S. - something that has been notably absent thus far. I have a hard time seeing the Bush administration pursue the Hague route largely because it would throw the most crowning achievement of the war - the capture of the dictator himself - into the hands of those who opposed the war all along. On this count at least I agree with the administration.
It's not a matter of selfishness or stubborn pride, but rather the simple belief that those who oppose the defeat of an oppressive regime shouldn't come off as the moral victors by convicting the tyrant. Furthermore, The Hague system wouldn't allow for the death penalty for a man who is responsible for thousands and thousands of murders and two wars against Iraq's neighbors.
While you can see that I have the death penalty as a "no" in the left column, it's largely due to Illinois' horrible record of innocents being convicted and sentenced to death. On the international level, when dealing with terrorists and war criminals, a life sentence would be an injustice to the families of the victims.
The Hague's inability to condemn Saddam to death, as well as Europe's open opposition to overthrowing Saddam in the first place, contributes to my support of the Iraqi option.
At this stage the new Iraqi government is struggling just to maintain its 25 members and convince the Iraqi people that they aren't puppets of the U.S. Legitimacy is hard to come by in Iraq these days, and the new Iraqi government is feeling the effects.
Nevertheless, it is only proper that Iraqis, the victims of Saddam's nightmarish rule, be the arbitors of his outcome. For Europeans to convict him would be unfair to Iraqis in the same way that it would be unfair for the U.S. to try Saddam in an American military court. While both of these institutions are established and would provide for the fairest trial possible, neither has been the victim of Saddam's horror.
Therefore, as soon as possible an Iraqi war crimes court should be established in which Iraqi judges would hear the case, rule on Saddam's future, and bring overall legitimacy to the end of the Saddam Hussein legacy. How fitting it would be that the only justice that Saddam Hussein ever saw would be the verdict that called for his execution.