Saturday, May 01, 2004

Highway To The Danger Zone

(This was supposed to post yesterday, I'm not sure what happened. Anyway, apologies and on with the show.)

James Taranto is peddling this tripe about John Kerry over on Opinion Journal, and Howie "Putz" Kurtz repeats it here:

His [Kerry's] Vietnam record was supposed to be his greatest asset, but instead it has turned into a political liability. Why did that happen? Here's our explanation:

He talked about Vietnam entirely too much.

This has become a fast favorite for conservative pundits. Tucker Carlson brought it up Thursday on Crossfire, and Jonah Goldberg cried foul yesterday on American Morning.

GOLDBERG: Yes, although I got to say, the reason that Vietnam is an issue, is because John Kerry continually makes it an issue. He campaigns on his campaign record. He uses it in ads. He goes around with his band of brothers, who 30 years ago, he called war criminals, and then make an issue of Bush's service during Vietnam. They're the ones making an issue, so Republicans are arguing back.

Republicans are not arguing back, sir. This began exactly one year ago, when Secretary of Genius Karl Rove, gone mad with power, allowed George Bush to land a jet on an aircraft carrier in the most made-for-TV stunt in presidential history. It not only signaled the direction of the 2004 Bush campaign, but also served as a figurative "shot across the bow" of his Democratic challengers.

The message: “Not only is this president strong on defense, damn it, he's got a bond with the military that you jealous, liberal-elites could never have.”

Last May, the right was all too happy to recite this song and dance routine. Here’s Mr. Goldberg himself, from the May 9, 2003 edition of American Morning:

GOLDBERG: Democrats are only pissed off because it was successful.

Tucker and Jonah’s colleagues over at Fox went so far as to cite examples to drive this point home. So eager were they to contrast Bush to the democratic presidential candidate that, lacking one, they stacked his “military authority” up against that of Bill Clinton and Michael Dukakis.

This is a rather long exchange between Brit Hume and former Reagan communications staffer, Eric Dezenhall, from last May. (Fox News Special Report With Brit Hume, 05.07.03)

HUME: What here has the Democrats so upset?

DEZENHALL: That it worked. Bush's landing on the aircraft carrier was effective. This is a man who -- a president who is absolutely comfortable with military power, and the exercise of it. When you are supposed to be ashamed of it, he's not. The best crisis management response he could give, is not only did I do it. But I would do it again. And this is what presidents do, they land on aircraft carriers to send signals of confidence to a military that did a good job.

HUME: Now, this is not the first photo opportunity that we have seen, or event that embodied within it that we've seen, a pretty major photo opportunity that we've seen in which a presidential figure, or presidential candidate donned military garb, and rode in a piece of military equipment. We recall also famously the Michael Dukakis tank situation. Michael Dukakis had served in the Army and he had every reason, if he wanted to check out military equipment, to put on the necessary helmet, and ride in a tank. That went badly. This went well. What's the difference?

DEZENHALL: The difference is your own personal authority. And it is absolutely plausible when George Bush gets out of a fighter jet in the helmet, and walks on the aircraft carrier, it is consistent with what we believe to be true about him. In 1993, when Bill Clinton took a helicopter out to an aircraft carrier, and began talking the lingo of fighter pilots, there was a lot of eye rolling, because everybody knew that Clinton was not a pro-military guy. It was simply not plausible. It looked like a photo op. But with Bush, it's what you expect and this is what a victorious president does.

Sean Hannity also couldn’t wait to compare victorious Bush to one of those softy “Dems.” With a candidate yet to be named, he followed the lead of pal Brit Hume and turned to that old conservative standby, Bill Clinton.

HANNITY: We've got to take a break, but the fact is Clinton would never have been greeted that way by the military. And he just won a war, and he is the commander-in-chief and that's what got you -- has gotten you guys so mad.

Looking back on the carrier-landing and the weeks that followed, the lack of foresight shown by Republicans is staggering, especially from those in the White House. They were so certain Bush would possess the dominant military credentials in the coming election, they allowed for transparent grandstanding on the part of the President of the United States.

Unthinkable is that none of the President’s handlers considered how this stunt would look if the war in Iraq turned for the worse. Equally astonishing, is how no one foresaw that a candidate with real military experience, like Kerry, would make the flight-suit clad Bush look foolish in comparison.

Could that be at the heart of this conservative outrage over Kerry’s service in Vietnam? Could it be that the right, which has always claimed superiority on military issues, is now facing an opponent whose military credentials far outshine those of their own candidate?

Maybe Republicans aren’t mad that John Kerry talks about Vietnam. As Jonah Goldberg would put it, maybe they’re just pissed because he was so successful.


Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Good News Is The Bad News

The latest from Fallujah is that an agreement has been reached which would turn responsibility for the city's safety over to a group of former Iraqi soldiers called the Fallujah Protection Army; thereby allowing the Marines to begin pulling out by tomorrow morning.

Apparently the deal, which the Pentagon claims is not final, was authorized by Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway without the knowledge of his superiors in Iraq or the US. From the Washington Post:

It is not clear whether Conway conveyed the terms of the deal to his superiors in Baghdad and at the Pentagon, or even to leaders of the U.S. occupation authority. One person familiar with the deal said it took senior U.S. military and civilian officials in Baghdad by surprise. Because of the apparent lack of consultation, some officials said elements of the agreement, particularly the speedy troop withdrawal, may be tempered by the Pentagon or by the U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of military operations in Iraq.

"It's very confusing right now," a senior Pentagon official said. "There's a disconnect here, and we can't figure it out."

That those in charge on the ground in Iraq feel the need to freelance deals in order to ensure the safety of US forces, should be disconcerting at the very least to anyone in the Pentagon or White House.

And then there's this:

We are doing this because we love our country and we want these thugs out of our country," said Mohammed Faur, a former colonel in the Iraqi Intelligence Service who is serving as a liaison between the militia and the Marines.

Faur said most of the members of the new force would be from Fallujah. "It's about time for them to take responsibility," he said. "It's an Iraqi problem. They Iraqis are getting angrier. People are upset that Syrians and foreigners are causing trouble here."

Faur refused to name the militia's commanders or provide further details about its members.

Some American officials familiar with efforts to pacify Fallujah said they were concerned about the background of the participants and questioned whether they would be screened for past human-rights abuses and other crimes. Marine officers said they did not know the details of how the force would be assembled. One American with knowledge of the plan said procedures for vetting participants had not been detailed by Conway.

In other words, we're turning the city over to potential death squads.


The Jeebus Factor

Shorter George Bush: Trust me dude, everything's gonna be fine. I talk to Jesus.


Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Reagan University

"He has the ability to make statements that are so far outside the parameters of logic that they leave you speechless"
--Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan), talking about her father, The Way I See It

Building a private university named after Ronald Reagan is a ridiculous idea. The name alone will drive away many potential liberal students, ensuring a lack of intellectual diversity; plus it seems only natural that the curriculum will be designed to churn out a horde of dittoheads for the next generation, combating what conservatives view as a liberal bias on the nation's college campuses.

As if all that weren't bad enough, founding president and sole employee of the proposed school, Terry Walker, made this statement in The Washington Post.

"We're not going to ask for a single penny of taxpayer money for this project. It wouldn't really be the Reagan way to come up with the idea and then try to get the government to pay for it."

I'm not quite sure Mr. Walker is familiar with the "Reagan way."

From the 1983 Address to the Nation On Defense and National Security, this is the part where Reagan tells the country about an idea he came up with:

Tonight, consistent with our obligations of the ABM treaty and recognizing the need for closer consultation with our allies, I'm taking an important first step. I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles.

And, from earlier in the speech, this is where he told us that the government needed to pay for it:

At the beginning of this year, I submitted to the Congress a defense budget which reflects my best judgment of the best understanding of the experts and specialists who advise me about what we and our allies must do to protect our people in the years ahead. That budget is much more than a long list of numbers, for behind all the numbers lies America's ability to prevent the greatest of human tragedies and preserve our free way of life in a sometimes dangerous world. It is part of a careful, long-term plan to make America strong again after too many years of neglect and mistakes.

Ah, the Reagan way.


Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Howie Kurtz posts this from Michael Tomasky at The American Prospect.

"An allegation arises in Bob Woodward's book that the administration perhaps illegally moved $700 million toward Iraq War planning without telling Congress. Republican congressional leaders are asked about it; they cannot refute it, instead dancing around the question and trying to change the subject. And even this issue -- quite similar to the Reagan administration's bypassing of the Boland Amendment, which resulted in a serious probe and a presidential crisis -- fades to black."

Howie's response to Mr. Tomasky:

Guess the scandal threshold is higher than it used to be.

Yes Howie, you're right. Bill Cinton's affair, and the subsequent denial, is much more harmful to the greater good of this country than the illegal siphoning of 700 million dollars from the funds allotted toward the war against Bin-Laden.



Stern VS Bush

Howard Stern has been on the warpath against Bush for almost two months now.

Reuters reports that Stern has "as of this month [March] become the anti-Rush Limbaugh. If the Republicans ever worried what it might be like to have a left-leaning version of Limbaugh hacking them to bits, now they are finding out daily."

Now, perhaps even more unexpected, HorwardStern.com is becoming a progressive blog.

What's next? A comment piece for the Nation?


Monday, April 26, 2004

Vietnam Service Redux

Spring is in the air. Birds are chirping, flowers are in bloom, and in high schools across the country, the scent of standardized tests fills the halls. So in the spirit of leaving no child behind, I'm going to borrow a page from Conan O'Brien and help out with a little SAT prep. Sure it's just one question, but she's a doozy.

First: John Kerry on the Bush camp's latest efforts to undermine his service in Vietnam.

"If George Bush wants to ask me questions about that through his surrogates, he owes America an explanation about whether or not he showed up for duty in the National Guard. Prove it. That's what we ought to have. I'm not going to stand around and let them play games."

And your question:

That Team Bush is trying to bring the issue of Vietnam service back to the surface demonstrates an incredible amount of: a) audacity, b) stupidity or c) all of the above.



Liberal Media: First Blood

Take a look at this, describing the development process for Rambo: First Blood II, from the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly.

"Everyone agreed that [James] Cameron's Rambo screenplay, on the other hand, was good - but Stallone had other ideas. Working with director George Cosmatos, Stallone retooled the script and headed to Mexico for a storm-ridden shoot. The final product, a $34 million right-wing fantasy that imagined Rambo as a hero refighting the Vietnam War, betrayed whatever subtlety flickered within the first film."

Now, take a look at this description of James Cameron, via the IMDb.

"...his own pictures, including Aliens and The Abyss tend to espouse liberal ideas."

In other words, this is flat out amazing. In the midst of the 80's, as conservatives busied themselves putting the final touches on the "media bias" argument, a liberal writer saw himself yanked from a major project (by the star of the film no less), and his screenplay replaced by one celebrating conservative values.

This is the equivalent of Barbara Streissand removing a conservative screenwriter from one of her films, then inserting a self-written, ultra-liberal screenplay. Had the situation been reversed, the right would continue to site it as a proof of liberal media bias to this day.

Looking back on the decade, a pattern is beginning develop. Think: Commando, Delta Force, Rambo. Each of these films featured prominently the "US Military Might = Right" values that dominated the 80's, and each was helmed by a major conservative action star (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone, respectively.)

In the words of Mr. Eric Alterman, "what liberal media?"

More tomorrow...