The first sentence reads, "He's saved the world from this:" and then when I first glanced at the picture I thought it was a mass grave, not cruddy old mortar shells. Of course Bush didn't go war initially because of any mass graves. To suggest so is ridiculous and is revisionist history. It was a motivation, but one that wouldn't have happened without the weapons argument. If it was there are plenty of other nations that should be on our list for liberation, a course of action that I would wholeheartedly support.
To the matter at hand though: clearly Saddam had some sort of chemical weapons because we know he used them on the Kurds and on Iranian forces in the Iran-Iraq war. It is unknown though, when his program ceased to function - and clearly it did cease to function at some point in the 1990's. This find of a few dozen broken and leaking chemical shells confirms what we already knew: Saddam had some chemical weapons in the past, but there wasn't any "program" or "development" that might warrant the dire warnings pronounced by Cheney and friends in the lead-up to war.
The threat was hyped - that much is undebatable. What is also not debatable is that Saddam was responsible for countless mass graves (like the one I initially thought I was looking at), and that he had useable chemical weapons in the 1980's. Somewhere in the 1990's his program fizzled and the international community lost track of what he really had.
For Atrios to miss the humanitarian benefit of the war is harmful to his argument. The ends we have achieved shouldn't be ignored. The means are questionable and Bush administration officials will need to explain why they fed the public lies and hyped fear. Ultimately though, 25 million people are free. That's important.
Former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill is writing a tell-all book scheduled to arrive in stores just in time for the general election kickoff. In it O'Neill describes Bush's leadership style as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people." Sounds about right.
Mark Kleiman says that Bush isn't necessarily dumb as most of his detractors believe. Rather Kleiman says that Bush is intellectually lazy:
"Getting the right answer is hard work, and hard work just isn't his style."
"Over the past 2 days of calling, a number of older respondents registered as undeclared voters have reported that they have received telephone calls from a campaign informing them that they will not be allowed to vote in the Democratic primary because they missed the deadline to switch parties. A respondent discovered, however, that when she told the caller that she was thinking about voting for Howard Dean, the caller told her that she would be eligible to vote."
I'm constantly amazed at how defensive Dean supporters have gotten. No matter what the issue, they defend Dean's positions to the 'T' and I think often fail to actually look at the issue they are arguing about. Instead they blindly defend Dean's questionable positions and accuse the person who brought them up of trying to smear their political savior.
I've gotten this impression on issues like Dean's stunning rating from the NRA as well as his record of strong support for NAFTA and his ambition to cut into Medicare. The rabid Dean defenders fail to see that these stances are directly in conflict with the liberal positions that they otherwise support. But they don't care - Dean is their man. He can do no wrong.
So, when I followed a link to a letter from Steve Murphy, Dick Gephardt campaign manager, to Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, concerning reports that the Dean campaign was importing non-Iowans to Iowa so they could vote in the caucus, I was surprised that Murphy's letter was met with such disdain and hostility. Here is Murphy's letter:
"In the past several weeks, it has come to our attention that your campaign in Iowa is engaged in an effort to violate caucus rules and send out-of-state supporters to pose as Iowa residents and caucus in cities and towns across the state.
"I don't need to tell you that not only would such an effort undermine the Iowa Caucus on January 19th, but it would tarnish the reputation of this unique political event and threaten the future of something that Democrats such as us love and cherish.
"The necessary course of action for your campaign is clear. You must identify those in your campaign involved with this illegal endeavor and fire the individual or individuals organizing this effort within your campaign.
"Such an action on your part is not only the best way to ensure the integrity of the Iowa Caucuses now and in the future, but it would avoid any questions being raised about Howard Dean's vote tally on January 19.
"Knowing you and the Governor as I do, I know you'll do the right thing."
Now what would be a reasonable response? I expected Trippi to write something along the lines of, "Thank you for your concern, we will look into it, though we don't believe any of our supporters would do such a thing, if it is occuring we will make sure it quickly ends." Did Trippi respond with that? No way:
"I am saddened by your letter today because sleazy tactics like yours are exactly the reason that people have stopped participating in the political process. "Let me be clear, your allegation is ridiculous. The 3,500 volunteers who have pledged to come to Iowa by caucus time are people who believe in a better America and a stronger democracy. Many are first time voters who have chosen to reengage in the political process because they understand that government has stopped working for the people. They know that Howard Dean is a different type of politician, and if we asked them to participate in the activities you allege, they would get in their cars and drive home.
"We understand that the grassroots enthusiasm this campaign has generated and the over 3,500 volunteers who are canvassing in Iowa this month is threatening to Dick Gephardt. But that is no excuse for you to try to make Iowans question the motives of these idealistic Americans who are paying their own way to Iowa to canvass. In doing so, you are practicing precisely the type of politics that these volunteers are dedicating their time and effort to stopping.
"People are tired of this type of campaigning, which is why we've been energizing voters across the country with our message of hope and of a better democracy. As Governor Dean often says, it's not enough for us to change presidents -- we need to change the way politics work.
"Frankly, Steve, baseless political allegations like the one in your letter lead me to believe more and more that your campaign is not the one to make this change.
"These allegations are not just an insult to Howard Dean and me, but they are an insult to all of the new people we're bringing into the process. Instead of these despicable and desperate attacks, you should start running the kind of campaign that inspires and energizes thousands of new voters so much that they want to come to Iowa and campaign for your candidate!"
Why respond like that? It was a private letter as far as I can tell, so why blow the whole thing up and come off as extremely defensive on an issue that, if true, is incredibly troubling? Trippi ignores the issue at hand and likely won't address it, and instead accuses Dean's opponents of smearing him. Is it still a smear if it's the truth?
Dean supporters need to wake up and check the facts. Get defensive if the accusations are unfounded, but getting reflexively defensive is no way to solve the problem. I think a lot of this defensive-first-facts-second attitude is a side effect of Dean supporters being so incredibly anti-Bush on everything. They have developed such a defensive and opposing attitude to anything they don't want to believe that they summararily dismiss it. That's not the way to win. I hope the Dean campaign and its supporters have a major overhaul in their attitude soon. I don't want to have to support that sort of thing.
The difference between "liberals" and "leftists" has often been a topic here. I have tried to explain how Democrats don't need to flee to the "Hate Bush" wing of the political spectrum to be heard when a perfectly sane, moderate and fruitful position exists right where we have always been.
I've sometimes gotten the feeling that some of my friends have opposed the Iraq War because they oppose everything and anything the Bush administration does. I don't think that's right. I largely disagree on the main motives presented by the administration as justification, but my objectives were met when an oppressed population was liberated.
But being a "liberal" doesn't mean agreeing with Bush. Ha! If only.
No, no, liberalism is what Democrats have always stood for - standing up for the poor, defending those who can't defend themselves, and working for a future that will make the pie bigger, not just a brutal struggle over the size of the slices.
Michael Totten has a great list of the differences between "liberals" and "leftists." It's a list I wish I could have written, because it lays out what I have been trying to get at for the past year or so. Go ahead and read it.
"WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 — Facing a record budget deficit, Bush administration officials say they have drafted an election-year budget that will rein in the growth of domestic spending without alienating politically influential constituencies.
"They said the president's proposed budget for the 2005 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, would control the rising cost of housing vouchers for the poor, require some veterans to pay more for health care, slow the growth in spending on biomedical research and merge or eliminate some job training and employment programs."
The budget deficit for 2004 is estimated to top $450 billion and this is the solution? Cut benefits to the veterans who fought to defend America, the poor who never will benefit from a Bush tax cut, and to medical research that could lead to cures for the diseases of the world.
Good thing we had that huge tax cut for the rich. It's resulted in nothing but service cuts for those who need it the most.
"The city finished 2003 with 599 homicides, police said Thursday. That was down from 648 a year earlier and the first time since 1967 that the total dipped below 600.
"Still, the nation's third-largest city outpaced all others for the second time in three years. New York, with about three times the population, ended the year with 596 homicides. Los Angeles, which had the most murders in 2002 at 658, wound up 2003 with an estimated total just under 500."
It's really amazing that New York with three times the metropolitan population would have less murders than Chicago proper. Obviously Chicago isn't doing something right that New York is. But at least we're moving in the right direction overall.