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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Election Prediction

OK, it's time for a prediction.

1. I think John Kerry is going to win the popular vote by a narrow margin: 49.15% to 48.75% for George W. Bush. That leaves 2.1% for Ralph Nader and the rest.

Kerry 57.0 million votes
Bush 56.55 million votes
Other 2.44 million votes

2. The Electoral College vote is probably going to be fairly close, and I think this is even harder to predict than the popular vote. Essentially, the thin national vote margin might be repeated in various states, which makes it very difficult to predict the outcome in a number of key places.

I'll go with Kerry 279 EVs; Bush 259.

I've given Kerry all the Gore states, save for New Mexico, plus taken 2000 Bush states New Hampshire and Ohio. There are numerous possible alternatives, and I genuinely think most of them end in a Kerry win given the current polling data at the state level.

Bush is apparently doing really well in his most solid 2000 red states, and Bloomberg recently reported that Bush may win as many as 2 million new votes in Texas, California and New York. However, none of those new Bush voters are going to shift even 1 electoral vote (EV) in 2004.

I think there's a greater than 50% chance that Kerry will receive more than 300 EVs, which would be great.

Get out the vote (GOTV)!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Monday morning QB?

George W. Bush says John Kerry's challenges about US failure to nail Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora reflect "the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking."

Note, Bush has been making the first argument for days, but today he apparently added a clause something like this: "especially since bin Laden released a tape today."

Psssst, media: the battle of Tora Bora was in December 2001.

This isn't Monday morning quarterbacking.

This is more like discussing the "curse of the Bambino."

If Bush can campaign as a "war President," then Kerry can legitimately point out that Bush has done a poor job of it.


Osama endorses Bush

Literally, of course, Osama bin Laden didn't endorse the President. But he didn't endorse Kerry either and the talking heads on TV (at least some I've seen on CNN and MSNBC, save Keith Olbermann) act as if he did.

It is ridiculous.

OBL is a terrorist and is obviously still at-large. If he appeared in the tape (the CIA apparently thinks it was him) and is as healthy as he looks, then three plus years after September 11, 2001, OBL does not seem to be too much the worse for the wear.

Sometime in 2002, of course, George W. Bush decided to turn the war on terror away from Osama bin Laden and focus on Iraq. Real resources were diverted, including Arabic speakers, special forces, spying technology, etc.

In an interview that year, the President famously said:
I truly am not that concerned about him [OBL]. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

But once we set out the policy and started executing the plan, he became -- we shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore.
Obviously, there's no way of knowing with certainty whether the US could have captured and killed OBL by now with more effort; yet, it is fairly clear that George W. Bush is fixated on state sponsorship of terror and seems to ignore the reality of non-state networks of terrorists.

Moreover, it is true that the US thought OBL was at Tora Bora in December 2001. And journalist Peter Bergen points out that the US military, as John Kerry says, didn't take it seriously enough and "outsourced" his capture:
Sadly, there were probably more American journalists at the battle of Tora Bora than there were US troops. And in that sense, Sen. Kerry's charge that Tora Bora was a missed opportunity to bring bin Laden to justice isn't "garbage", but an accurate reflection of the historical record.
So bin Laden escaped when the US had a serious chance to get him, right at the beginning of the "war on terror."

So...if you were OBL and looked at the 2 candidates, who would you support? The relatively unknown challenger is a US Senator and former soldier who wrote a book in 1997 about the need to confront new transnational threats like terrorism (though the book focuses primarily on transnational crime, it does mention the prospect of nuclear terror). He has publicly called for returning the focus of the war on terror on to OBL and wants to rebuild America's relations with the rest of the world.

By contrast, the incumbent botched Tora Bora, focused tremendous international attention on the wrong war, consumed $200 billion doing it, lost the cooperation of much of the world, and now serves as the primary recruiting poster. Plus, one of OBL's goals is to foment a global clash of civilizations, Islam against the West. At various times, Bush has threatened to bumble into that.

If OBL were going to make an endorsement, I do think it is rather obvious he'd prefer Bush to Kerry.

Update. Billmon's Whiskey Bar is open again and his latest post is "Osama's Endorsement." He calls the tape "virtual terrorism," an interesting phrase, and argues that al Qaeda is now acting as a 527 organization..

Friday, October 29, 2004

The President's Bulge has an interesting story today about a NASA scientist who took some time to examine the President's "bulge."

Here is the most important part of the report:
Dr. Robert M. Nelson...[is] a senior research scientist for NASA and for Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and an international authority on image analysis.

For the past week, while at home, using his own computers, and off the clock at Caltech and NASA, Nelson has been analyzing images of the president's back during the debates. A professional physicist and photo analyst for more than 30 years, he speaks earnestly and thoughtfully about his subject. "I am willing to stake my scientific reputation to the statement that Bush was wearing something under his jacket during the debate," he says. "This is not about a bad suit. And there's no way the bulge can be described as a wrinkled shirt."

Nelson stresses that he's not certain what lies beneath the president's jacket. He offers, though, "that it could be some type of electronic device -- it's consistent with the appearance of an electronic device worn in that manner." The image of lines coursing up and down the president's back, Nelson adds, is "consistent with a wire or a tube."
Nelson used software and methods that space scientists typically use to sharpen and accent dark images received from outer space.
Bruce Hapke, professor emeritus of planetary science in the department of geology and planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh, reviewed the Bush images employed by Nelson, whom he calls "a very highly respected scientist in his field." Hapke says Nelson's process of analyzing the images are the "exact same methods we use to analyze images taken by spacecraft of planetary surfaces. It does not introduce any artifacts into the picture in any way."
Both Nelson and Hapke observe that the bulge clearly isn't a wrinkle in a suit or shirt -- and that it is consistent with an electronic device of some type.

They note the obvious: some sort of tube or wire snakes up from the bulge to the President's right shoulder.

"The truth is out there." (Fade to X-Files theme).

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Orwell would have loved US Foreign Policy

I am teaching two sections of American Foreign Policy this semester and it can be challenging to explain the nuance.

For example, it is common to begin by explaining that powerful states like the US are typically said to have essentially the same interests in international politics. The most important interest is the preservation of national security, assured primarily by maintaining great power status.

It takes many class periods to sort through this simple claim...

1. For rather obvious reasons, great powers like the US worry that other major powers pose the largest threats to their security and survival. Throughout history, the story of international politics has been about great power rivalries and the attempts to balance power.

Then again, the US views almost all the other great powers in the world today as friends, allies, or, at the very least, trading partners. The US has more power than any of these states, so it does not have to worry about balancing any of them -- and none of those states seem to be excessively worried about balancing the US.

Well, maybe France worries about the US. However, President Bush didn't seem too concerned about France earlier this summer when sharing a microphone with French President Jacques Chirac:
Our two nations are working together to bring peace and security to other parts of the globe. We're in Haiti together; we're in Afghanistan together. We're working to ensure that Iran meets its commitments to the IAEA, and does not develop nuclear weapons. The President talked about our mutual concerns on the continent of Africa. We're proud countries with deep traditions rooted in freedom and equality and justice. These common values enable us to work together for the good of world peace.
Chirac said something quite similar on that day.

So, is great power rivalry obsolete? If so, what threats should give foreign policymakers the greatest concern?

2. Weak and poor states have traditionally been viewed as relatively unimportant players on the global chessboard. The US might toss them some aid, and perhaps worried a bit if their rebel groups took assistance from the Soviet Union during the cold war, but their status has traditionally had very little to do with the security of the US.

Then again, we've all heard that "September 11 changed everything" and the US now says that weak and failed states can pose the greatest threat to American security. President Bush:
The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.
However, the Afghan and Iraq wars are demonstrating that it is far easier to create a failed state than it is to fix one.

Lesson? Some might be thinking that it might be best to allow tyrants to continue governing weak states. The US might be better off living with that arrangement than bogging down its military against new insurgencies (of "terrorists") that did not exist before tyrants were toppled.

Even weak states with their own "weapons of mass destruction" have long been deterred from using those weapons by the threat of US retaliation.

3. Yet, the lesson about authoritarian weak states would be hard to swallow. After all, American political leaders often claim that the US is "exceptional" and thus has a unique set of global interests based on its desire, if not obligation, to spread freedom and democracy around the world. Toppling tyrants empowers millions of oppressed peoples, right?

Then again, during the cold war and during the "war on terror," pragmatic concerns about threats leave the US little choice but to align with various dictators and authoritarians. This explains why the US remains friendly with horrific regimes in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, etc.

4. So, how to deal with these authoritarian regimes? American political leaders believe that free trade fosters democracy and thus should be encouraged in virtually all circumstances. As the September 2002 National Security Strategy document claims:
Economic growth supported by free trade and free markets creates new jobs and higher incomes. It allows people to lift their lives out of poverty, spurs economic and legal reform, and the fight against corruption, and it reinforces the habits of liberty.
This is no partisan matter; it reflects the so-called "Washington consensus" pushed by the US since the early 1980s.

Apparently, American policymakers think that even states like China will one day democratize as a result of their failure to match economic successes with political legitimacy. President Bush again:
Our commitment to democracy is tested in China. That nation now has a sliver, a fragment of liberty. Yet, China's people will eventually want their liberty pure and whole. China has discovered that economic freedom leads to national wealth. China's leaders will also discover that freedom is indivisible -- that social and religious freedom is also essential to national greatness and national dignity. Eventually, men and women who are allowed to control their own wealth will insist on controlling their own lives and their own country.
That guy is a dreamer, isn't he?

Then again, the US policy towards Cuba looks like China policy circa 1965. The trade embargo, it is argued, puts pressure on the regime and signals strong US resolve. Or something like that. For Cuba, the US promise is to provide trade after the government agrees to democratize. Seriously:
Last year in Miami, I offered Cuba's government a way forward -- a way forward toward democracy and hope and better relations with the United States. I pledged to work with our Congress to ease bans on trade and travel between our two countries if -- and only if -- the Cuban government held free and fair elections, allowed the Cuban people to organize, assemble and to speak freely, and ease the stranglehold on private enterprise.
That was President Bush yet again, of course.

How should the US foster democracy? War? Hmmm, that is hard work.

Trade. Does enriching authoritarians really make them vulnerable to political change?

Sanctions? Those haven't really worked too well against Cuba or Iran.

5. Of course, the answer is multilateralism. The US sanctions against Cuba and Iran fail because Canada and the European states continue to trade with them.

We'll set aside the question of why they do that. Maybe policymakers in those countries read too many American press releases about the virtues of trade with China and became confused.

Still, multilateral sanctions might actually work, right? South Africa's apartheid regime was toppled. Iraq's WMD programs were stopped...

Then again, multilateral sanctions hurt innocent people. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children under age 5 died as a result of sanctions. Plus, didn't the sanctions help make Iraq a weak state and thus a threat to America?

Moreover, this kind of multilateralism probably means working with the United Nations, doesn't it? How else could multilateral sanctions be implemented?

Didn't the President warn the UN it would be "irrelevant" if it didn't see fit to support war against Iraq? Wouldn't this make US foreign policy vulnerable to the whims of other states, who would have to agree to act with the US?

Leaders of the major US political parties have made it quite clear that they won't leave American security in the hands of other states. Is multilateralism for "girly-men"?

6. Wait, before answering, note that the US retains a veto in the United Nations, controls more votes than anyone else in institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and is often able to build winning majorities in many cases by working with likeminded friends, allies and partners.

In other words, the other great powers often actually agree with the US about some clear foreign policy concerns. After September 11, the world seemed to genuinely agree with many US ideas about countering world terrorism.

Then again, it is quite clear that the alignment was temporary, as the US is now isolated from many of its friends and has truly ticked off the Muslim and Arab worlds.

7. Aack; it is now time for the midterm and all this nuance has only fostered confusion.

Should the US be most concerned about strong states, or weak ones?

If the US fears the strong, then why does it mostly build alliances, trade partnerships and "coalitions of the willing" with this group of states?

If the US fears the weak, should it invade these countries, even though it promotes disorder? Should it trade with them, or sanction them?

If sanctions are the answer, why do they so often fail?

If sanctions fail because they are merely unilateral, how can they be made multilateral?

If multilateral sanctions are too risky, what can the US do for itself?

If I were writing an essay about these concerns, I would be tempted to argue that the US is strong enough that it really doesn't have to worry too much about other states. Most are friendly already and the threatening ones can be deterred by the fact of tremendous American military superiority. Forget nuclear retaliation, if you must; who wants to face a wave of cruise missiles armed with conventional bombs?

Moreover, virtually every other state in the world has good reason to be concerned about networks of terrorists who aim to topple governments and build transnational movements of radicalism. Virtually no state wants to see these transnational radicals armed with weapons of mass destruction. Russia's WMD materials need to be secured, as do borders and ports. To avoid hypocrisy, the US should abandon its "mad scientist" plans to create new burrowing nuclear weapons.

Iraq is now a mess, but even states who opposed the war agree that the country cannot be allowed to become another Afghanistan. If the US owns up to its mistakes and seeks help, other countries have strong interests in promoting order, if not democracy. Nearly all would oppose theocracy.

The Orwellian Bush administration prioritizes just about everything I think should be rejected and rejects or dismisses everything I believe should be done.

Update: Kevin Drum discusses the Orwellian Bush administration today too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The "Iraq Syndrome"

I thought that I had coined a phrase -- the "Iraq Syndrome." Last week, on an essay exam, I asked my students to write about the prospects of an "Iraq Syndrome" for the future of American foreign policy.

For those too young to remember, the "Vietnam Syndrome" meant that the US was quite unwilling to intervene with its military for some years after the Vietnam war. The war, after some years, was unpopular and costly -- in both human lives and dollars.

No less an authority than the current President's father argued that the US didn't get over its aversion to using military force until the Persian Gulf War:
Former President George H.W. Bush famously declared [in 1991], "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!"
That quote is reproduced by former University of Kansas debater Gary Sick (who served in the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan). He recently penned an interesting op-ed that used the phrase in the title: 'By God, we've just created the Iraq syndrome!'. The op-ed appeared in The Daily Star of Lebanon on October 9.

Well, I guess I didn't coin the phrase. Indeed, a google search depressingly reveals that many people have been talking about this idea for awhile. Notre Dame's George Lopez, for instance, used the phrase in November 2003 in USA Today.

Here's Sick's argument:
In one of the many ironies of our times, the current president, George W. Bush, may have inadvertently created a new syndrome - the Iraq syndrome...

...the U.S. has steadily whittled down both its objectives and its expectations in favor of a makeshift political arrangement that will meet the minimum requirements to permit America to disengage without excessive embarrassment.

The bottom line is the emergence of an Iraq syndrome that seems likely to bedevil U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East at least for the near future. After the fall of Baghdad, Washington neoconservatives were speculating openly about what the next U.S. target should be ("Should we turn left toward Syria, or right toward Iran?" they asked), and the leaders of both those nations were paying close attention. Today, the Iranians and Syrians are aware that America is bogged down in Iraq and, despite the persistent rhetoric of a few hard-liners, the U.S. is unlikely to soon launch another costly military venture in the region.
I suspect that any President in the near future is going to have to answer very tough questions about threats, costs, planning, exit strategies, and multilateralism.

For those who think the US might face some new emergency and need to use force quickly and preemptively in a legitimate case when the threat is imminent, this might be a disaster.

We can thank the Bush administration for that.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Academic blogging

If you've ever explored my blogroll, you already know that it includes a fair number of academic bloggers. In the past two days, I discovered several blogs that some of my readers might find interesting.

The Academic Life is written by a relatively junior international relations (IR) scholar. Like me, the author seems to be a basefall fan (though apparently a Yankee fan). The blogger writes fairly long and interesting posts about academic conferences, foreign travel, teaching, scholarship, etc. Specialists will be interested, but others might want to check it out too. For this individual, the act of checking out the blog (and thus relating to the blogger) would be quite important.

The Republic of Heaven is a new blog coauthored by a female spouse of an IR scholar (under the pseudonym Mrs. Coulter) and "Lee Scorseby" who may be the academic spouse. Lee's posts have made frequent reference to a number of other political blogs, including a number on my blogroll.

Mrs. Coulter has a four month old daughter named Lyra, which I recognized as the name of the main character in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. This was the first book in a trilogy, but so far, this is the only one my oldest daughter and I have read together. At age 11, with a very advanced reading level (according to her school's standardized tests), she rarely wants me to read to her anymore. For all I know, she may have read others in the series. I haven't.

In any case, Lee Scorseby is the name of a balloonist in Lyra's world. While living at Oxford early in the first book, Lyra has a friend named Roger...but he spells his name without the "d."

If I were a betting man, my guess is that I've met these academic bloggers at IR conferences...and have likely even shared a beer with them. If not, perhaps at a future conference?

Finally, I'll be watching "colonel sturgeon," a new blog authored by one of my former graduate students.

Happy reading.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Ka-Boom has this story today: "IAEA: Tons of Iraq explosives missing." It is not good news:
Some 380 tons of explosives, powerful enough to detonate nuclear warheads, are missing from a former Iraqi military facility that was supposed to be under American control, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog says.

Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told CNN the Iraqi interim government reported several days ago that the explosives were missing from the Al Qaqaa complex, south of Baghdad.

The explosives -- considered powerful enough to demolish buildings or detonate nuclear warheads -- were under IAEA control until the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. IAEA workers left the country before the fighting began.

"Our immediate concern is that if the explosives did fall into the wrong hands they could be used to commit terrorist acts and some of the bombings that we've seen," Fleming said.

She described Al Qaqaa as "massive" and said it is one of the most well-known storage sites....Fleming said the IAEA, whose mission is to keep track of everything with potential nuclear weapons applications, had been monitoring about 100 sites in Iraq, but there were only a few of special concern, including Al Qaqaa.
Al Qaqaa was one of the first sites visited by UN inspectors in November 2002, and a google search reveals that they visited on a number of occasions during the next few months.

Once again, as the NY Times reports, it appears as if this was a case of very poor war-planning:
The International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured, European diplomats said in interviews last week. Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded...

After the invasion, when widespread looting began in Iraq, the international weapons experts grew concerned that the Qaqaa stockpile could fall into unfriendly hands. In May, an internal I.A.E.A. memorandum warned that terrorists might be helping "themselves to the greatest explosives bonanza in history."
Great, just great.

And Average Joe American feels Bush keeps us safe?

There are 195 million metric tons (MMT) of HMX (high melting explosive) missing -- this is the most powerful non-nuclear explosive in the world. There are also 141 MMT missing of RDX (rapid or sometimes royal detonation explosive), which can be used to make "plastic explosives." As the NY Times story reported:
As a measure of the size of the stockpile, one large truck can carry about 10 tons, meaning that the missing explosives could fill a fleet of almost 40 trucks.
Why should everyone be concerned? First, consider the proliferation angle:
More worrisome to the I.A.E.A. - and to some in Washington - is that HMX and RDX are used in standard nuclear weapons design. In a nuclear implosion weapon, the explosives crush a hollow sphere of uranium or plutonium into a critical mass, initiating the nuclear explosion.

A crude implosion device - like the one that the United States tested in 1945 in the New Mexican desert and then dropped on Nagasaki, Japan - needs about a ton of high explosive to crush the core and start the chain reaction.
Next, the "conventional explosives" angle: RDX is the main explosive ingredient in C4, which is widely used by the US military -- and by the terrorists who attacked the USS Cole. Remember Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber"? Fox news reported December 26, 2001:
"An ounce of the plastic explosive could have been enough to blow out a window or wall of an airliner at altitude, and then 'the air pressure would rip the plane apart,' said Jack O'Keefe, a bomb technician with the Boston police bomb squad."
On ounce. Apparently, Reid had 10 ounces of a variety of C4 in his shoe.

Reports indicate that similar explosives were used by Chechens who downed the apartment buildings in Moscow in 1999 and by terrorists against housing compounds in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia during 2003.

These explosivs are fairly stable and easily transportable. Literally, right now, the missing explosives could be almost anywhere in the Middle East -- or throughout the world.

Just 12 ounces of Semtex (a particular plastic explosive), inside a Toshiba cassette recorder, downed Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988. 350 MMT is thus enough explosive to down virtually every airliner in the world.

Then again, I should note that the world has been living with this problem for some time:
...after the Czech Communist regime was toppled, the new president, Vaclav Havel, revealed that the Czechs had exported 900 tons of Semtex to Col. Moammar Qaddafi's Libya and another 1,000 tons to other unstable states, such as Syria, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran. Some experts now put worldwide stockpiles of Semtex at 40,000 tons.
Though George Bush wants to go after the states that might link to terrorists, it seems fairly clear that terrorists not clearly linked to states are a lot more willing to use nasty weapons and deserve much more attention.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Quick research tour

May I recommend the following? Warning: these are all pdf.

1. Greg Thielmann, who was head of the Office of Strategic Proliferation and Military Affairs in the State Department's Office of Intelligence and Research, has produced "Preventive Military Intervention: The Role of Intelligence" for the University of Pittsburgh's Ridgway Center for International Security Studies.

Yes, I am a member of the same working group and am supposed to prepare a similar short and readable policy brief, based on my chapter for the forthcoming book.

It needs to be done ASAP. Yesterday.

Disclosure, continued: Greg helpfully went over the last draft of my chapter and provided useful detail. Don't worry, members of the Human Subjects Committee, he did this as a colleague, not as a subject of my research.

2. Ohio State Political Science Professor John Mueller has authored "A False Sense of Insecurity?" about the relative unimportance of terror threats. It was published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, DC.

3. Michigan Senator Carl Levin (D) has produced "Report of an Inquiry into the Alternative Analysis of the Issue of an Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship," October 21, 2004.

Levin looked into the Pentagon intelligence operation directed by Doug Feith, a potentially illegal undertaking, as I've blogged before.

I extend thanks to Matt Yglesias who helpfully provided the link.

Update: I fixed the link to Thielmann's piece, thanks to an alert reader (and former student).

Surprise: Bush Misleads Again

I just saw a clip of President Bush on MSNBC. At recent rallies, the President has taken to "quoting" his opponent, John F. Kerry:
Senator Kerry was recently asked how September the 11th had changed him. And he replied this: "It did not change me much at all." End quote.
The President is quoting the NY Times Magazine cover story by Matt Bai two weeks ago -- and he cherry-picks a line to make Kerry look bad:
"It accelerated -- " He paused. "I mean, it didn't change me much at all. It just sort of accelerated, confirmed in me, the urgency of doing the things I thought we needed to be doing. I mean, to me, it wasn't as transformational as it was a kind of anger, a frustration and an urgency that we weren't doing the kinds of things necessary to prevent it and to deal with it."
Oh, I see, Bush leaves out the rest of the quote because it explicitly criticizes the Bush administration's failings prior to 9/11.

How would we all feel if Kerry went around quoting this statement from President Bush:
"I made it very plain. We will not have an all-volunteer army."
It's an actual quote, though the President corrected his obvious error in the next sentence.

Can we have some fair play in the final days of the campaign?

I took the full Kerry quote from the original on LexisNexis, but some print media (like USA Today) have been repriting the entire quote when Bush pulls this crap.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

One Vote, One Time?

Is Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq's near future? What does President Bush think about that?

Let me direct you to a story from the AP Wire | 10/18/2004 | Excerpts From Bush Interview:
"Q: If the people in Iraq, in a free, democratic election, someday choose an Islamic fundamentalist government, is that all right with you?

BUSH: I will be disappointed, but democracy is democracy. They have now got a - the beginnings of a constitution, the TAL, which sends a different message, that there will be tolerance and an open society. But people - if that's what the people choose, that's what the people choose."
So much for minority rights -- and separation of church and state.

My advice to the President? Prepare to be disappointed.

Consider this Iraqi polling data from the US-government funded International Republican Institute as reported Friday, October 22, in the Washington Post:
Leaders of Iraq's religious parties have emerged as the country's most popular politicians and would win the largest share of votes if an election were held today, while the U.S.-backed government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is losing serious ground, according to a U.S.-financed poll by the International Republican Institute.
The former Pentagon favorite, Ahmed Chalabi, is favored by only 15% of the electorate, and opposed by more than half.

They aren't talking about it publicly, but administration officials apparently realize the worst is ahead:
Within the Bush administration, a victory by Iraq's religious parties is viewed as the worst-case scenario. Washington has hoped that Allawi and the current team, which was selected by U.S. and U.N. envoys, would win or do well in Iraq's first democratic election, in January. U.S. officials believe a secular government led by moderates is critical, in part because the new government will oversee writing a new Iraqi constitution.

"The picture it paints is that, after all the blood and treasure we've spent and despite the [U.S.-led] occupation's democracy efforts, we're in a position now that the moderates would not win if an election were held today," said a U.S. official who requested anonymity because the poll has not been released.
Jimmy Carter's presidency has long been tarnished for allowing Iran to move from an authoritarian ally to an Islamic enemy.

Will Bush move Iraq from a secular, weak, and contained state to a theocratic Iranian ally?

Well, Iranian theocrats must like their chances:
The poll found the most popular politician is Abdel Aziz Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The group was part of the U.S.-backed opposition to Saddam Hussein and is now receiving millions of dollars in aid from Iran, U.S. officials say.

Hakim had 80 percent name recognition among Iraqis, with more than 51 percent wanting to see him in the national assembly, which will pick a new government.

...The one factor that skews the poll, analysts said, is that Ibrahim Jafari, the Dawa Party chief and current vice president, was not included. He had the highest popularity rating in previous polls.

That may still be the case, since almost 18 percent of Iraqis surveyed by IRI said they were most likely to vote for Dawa candidates -- the largest backing among the top 11 parties listed. Dawa is another former U.S.-backed group supported by aid from Iran, U.S. officials say.
US Iraq policy is like one long disaster movie that just won't end.

Thanks to Mark Kleiman for the link to the Bush quote.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Bombs away

The LA Times, October 22, 2004, reports that Israel may be about to take Iranian proliferation into its own hands:
Increasingly concerned about Iran's nuclear program, Israel is weighing its options and has not ruled out a military strike to prevent the Islamic Republic from gaining the capability to build atomic weapons, according to policymakers, military officials, analysts and diplomats.

Israel would much prefer a diplomatic agreement to shut down Iran's uranium enrichment program, but if it concluded that Tehran was approaching a "point of no return," it would not be deterred by the difficulty of a military operation, the prospect of retaliation or the international reaction, officials and analysts said.
You've got to give the Israeli policy actors credit, they don't bother to make these threats off-the-record:
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Yediot Aharonot newspaper last month that "all options" were being weighed to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability. The army chief of staff, Moshe Yaalon, declared: "We will not rely on others."

Iran presents "a combination of factors that rise to the highest level of Israeli threat perception," said analyst Gerald Steinberg of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

"Nuclear weapons in a country with a fundamentalist regime, a government with which we have no diplomatic contact, a known sponsor of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and which wants to wipe Israel off the map — that makes stable deterrence extremely difficult, if not impossible," Steinberg said....

"There may be a few months when the international community can still act and place upon Iran the kind of pressure that would compel it to stop its program," said Avi Pazner, a veteran diplomat who serves as an advisor to Sharon. "But there's not much time — there's not much time."
The Times notes that Israeli has long embraced preemptive strikes, and then cites the example of the June 1981 attack on Osirak (Saddam Hussein's reactor).

The problem with this analysis is that the attack was preventive war, not preemption, and was widely criticized around the world and at the UN. Reagan's Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick condemned the attack, as did Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

Plus, this time, the Muslim world would blame the US for an Israeli strike:
Unlike 1981, the blame for such an attack today would not be limited to Israel. The US would be perceived in the Muslim world as being complicit - probably boosting the motivation of extremists to carry out terrorist attacks on Western targets.

"Certainly it would be seen as a continuation of what the Americans did in Iraq,'' says Bruce Maddy Weizman, a fellow at the Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. "Israel and US are widely perceived to be acting in concert.''
Let's hope diplomacy and/or sanctions work.

Or maybe deterrence.

Does anyone remember deterrence?

And containment.

Does anyone remember containment?

Before readers say, "yeah, but Iran could pass the bomb to terrorists..." recall that wacko right-wingers used to claim that the Soviet Union was the chief sponsor of global terrorists.

Of course, any national leader would be insane to give a bomb to terrorists. Beyond crazy...think about the fact that horrible mass murderers Mao and Stalin had nukes, but didn't just pass them around to any takers.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Evil-doers for Bush!

This is widely reported, but I took this from an AP story in the Indianapolis Star: "Iran endorses Bush for president."
The head of Iran's security council said Tuesday that the re-election of President Bush was in Tehran's best interests, despite the administration's "axis of evil" label, accusations that Iran harbors al-Qaida terrorists and threats of sanctions for the country's nuclear ambitions.

Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body.

"We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. presidential candidate over another.

Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into U.S. presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights issues.

"We do not desire to see Democrats take over," Rowhani said when asked whether Iran was supporting Democratic Sen. John Kerry against Bush.
The Bush administration rejected the endorsement, unsurprisingly, but can you imagine what they'd be saying if Iran had endorsed Kerry?

Rowhani, by the way, is sort of Condi Rice's counterpart in Iran. He has been the key Iranian figure in the ongoing negotiations with the IAEA and Europe about the status of Iran's nuclear program.

And he was hand-picked by the mullah's. This is from a BBC bio:
Analysts believe Ayatollah Khamenei picked Mr Rowhani, rather than a government minister or the reformist president, for the nuclear job because of his closeness to the hardline clergy, which would make him more acceptable to the military.

Born in 1948, Mr Rowhani studied theology in the holy city of Qom. He went on to gain a doctorate in law....He is often described by Western sources as a "moderate" or "pragmatic conservative".
Other than refer to Iran as an "evil" state repeatedly, it is really difficult to note one significant Bush-era US policy toward Iran. It's basically a continuation of Clinton-era policy.

So far as I can tell, the US is outsourcing its "new" "war on terror" Iran policy. From the President, August 2, 2004:
In Iran, we are paying very close attention to Iran. We have ever since I've been in office here. We are working with our friends to keep the pressure on the mullahs to listen to the demands of the free world. And we're working with the -- hold on a second, please. Excuse me. We're working with the IAEA to keep the pressure on Iran, and the Secretary is working very closely with the foreign ministers of France, Great Britain and Germany, who are taking it upon themselves to make it clear that the demands of Europe are also equal to -- the same as the demands of the United States, that we expect there to be full disclosure, full transparency of their nuclear weapons programs.
For more, here's Condi Rice answering a question about Iran in April 2002:
So I think that our view is that the behavior of Iran at this point would suggest that it is a state that while there may be some positive forces within it, those positive forces are not quite yet capable of changing the nature of Iran's behavior; Iran's behavior continues to be a major problem in international politics. And we watch the developments with great interest, but Iranian behavior puts it squarely in the axis of evil -- whether it is weapons of mass destruction or terrorism or any of those things. It's a complicated situation, but I think the behavior speaks for itself.
Indeed, it does.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Over at See the Forest, Thomas Leavitt blogged recently about a Green Party Press Release called, "Top 12 Issues Censored From the Bush-Kerry Debates." I left a comment, but decided to elaborate here.

I'm not going to publish the entire press release. Rather, I will respond to the main charges (as I have before); the Greens claim the two-party candidate debates "effectively censored numerous issues important to Americans."

Leaving aside the fact that the candidates didn't write the questions, meaning that they literally could neither set the agenda nor censor specific items, what are the issues Greens want to emphasize?

First, Greens say the Iraq invasion violated international law. OK, this may be true, but Kerry's "global test" for preemptive war and his discussion of legitimacy are about preserving international law, which only matters because of legitimacy (there's no coercive power of a global state, since no such central authority exists). Preemption under imminent threat has long been viewed as legal, by the way.

Charges two through five are about Iraq and I've blogged extensively about them. Leavitt skips them too. It's hard to argue that Iraq issues have been censored in the 2004 campaign.

Sixth, the Patriot Act. Kerry voted for it, but now calls for changes, especially in application. This came up in the second debate.

Seventh, climate change: Kerry supports the US re-entering the Kyoto negotiation process. He also supported the McCain-Lieberman Stewardship bill that would have required EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. 43 Senators voted for it in October 2003. This issue also came up in debate #2. Did the Greens miss that one?

By the way, I argued with my Green friends that Al Gore was a stronger environment candidate than Ralph Nader in 2000, and given Kerry's very strong record on this issue, it is probably true in 2004 as well.

Eighth: Ah, the familiar Green argument that the Republicans and Democrats have abandoned working people and suck up to corporations. Kerry supports a higher minimum wage, which is clearly a step towards a living wage (an issue mentioned in the press release). Moreover, Kerry supports a wide variety of reductions in corporate welfare, which he did mention in the second debate. Kerry's positions on media, health care, and long-term military bases in Iraq aren't popular with the corporate crowd.

Ninth: health care. OK, so Kerry doesn't advocate a single payer system in 2004, but he does offer a plan to insure millions more Americans and the issue was not "censored" in the debates.

Tenth, the drug war is bad. True, this hasn't received much attention in the campaign, but TalkLeft had a nice summary of Kerry's progressive positions back in August.

Eleventh: media concentration. Kerry is against further corporate consolidation of media and wants greater diversity. He would reverse many recent decisions that promote corporate media growth.

Twelfth: Election reform. Kerry supports paper ballots, of course, and has sought amendments to McCain-Feingold that would move towards partial public financing of campaigns. He has also sought to make election day a half-day national holiday (to allow voting).

Summary: The green agenda isn't all that different from the Democratic agenda.


And Kerry is arguably the most progressive Democratic Presidential candidate since JFK in 1960. Certainly, he is the most progressive Democratic Presidential candidate with a very good shot of winning the election (just in case readers favor Walter Mondale).

Greens are going to reward that choice by voting for Nader?

Update: Or David Cobb, who is the Green party candidate in 2004.

I said Nader because polls show that more people looking for an alternative to the Kerry Democratic ticket and sympathetic to the above "Green ideas" are going to vote Nader, rather than Cobb.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sorry, no WebRebate for this Useless Entry

Sorry, no further blogging until at least Wednesday when I have some work time in the office.

I've long had the spyware WebRebates on my home PC. Sunday night, during the late extra innings Yankees-Red Sox game, I tried to do something about it.

Apparently, I over did it because I can no longer log into XP. Every time I try, XP quickly responds by "logging off." Ugh.

Hopefully, the tech people can fix it for me without too much trouble. However, I lost several hours the past two days trying to figure out what to do. Let's hope that is all I lose.

Note to collaborators on research: This means I've been unable to get any real work done for more than 24 hours. A pre-election policy brief is in jeopardy. Sorry.

Update: Three cheers for the A&S Tech support team, which reported success. Now, on to XP Service Pack 2! For reasons that seem obvious to me, I now see the entire Red Sox-Yankees series as a metaphor for this battle against spyware. I was despondent after early setbacks, which threatened to render my computer useless, but am now boosted and confident by the latest victories.

How will it turn out?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Homeland security?

Allegedly, the President is slated to give a "significant" policy address today about the "war on terror." I suspect it will be about Homeland Security, which is featured on the White House webpage today:
Today, President Bush signed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2005 to provide much-needed funds for our Nation's homeland security activities. This bill contains most of the Federal Government's investment in homeland security. With enactment of the remainder of the President's FY 2005 Budget, President Bush will have nearly tripled funding for homeland security activities since taking office.
I don't have time for a full analysis of the issue, but any claims of success are likely to be distorted. In the debates, for example, Bush falsely trumpeted huge spending increases for Homeland Security.

Matthew Brzezinski had a great article in the September/October Mother Jones, which provided a devastating critique of the Homeland Security agency. Brzezinski notes that the "new" funding reflects simple reorganization of government, as immigration and other agencies are now housed in Homeland Security rather than elsewhere. That explains about two-thirds of its budget.

The overwhelming majority of the new spending is for airport screeners, a job that was in the private sector before 9/11.

The article outlines substantial areas of failure, notably in protecting the US against potential catastrophe from an attack on a dangerous chemical facility. The author writes:
...a single railcar filled with 33,000 gallons of chlorine could kill up to 100,000 people...
Not good. Yet, Republicans listened and caved when the chemical industry lobbied effectively to block meaningful legislation that would have provided a lot more security.

Homeland Security says it tries to get industry to voluntarily take safeguards that would protect all of us.

Yeah, right.

First responders are underfunded. Most cargo coming into the goes uninspected. The Department purchased ineffective nuclear radiation detectors. It's a very good article and a devastating critique of this part of the "war on terror."

Little need now to watch Bush's speech, eh?

Update: Bush did emphasize this issue. "More of the same."

Galluping Away with the Election?

The Left Coaster is the blog you should visit if you are easily discouraged by Gallup poll results on the 2004 presidential election.

Here's the Reuter's headline based on the latest Gallup Poll: "Bush Surges Eight Points Ahead of Kerry - Poll."

For your own sanity, check out Steve Soto's wonderful analysis of the problems with the Gallup poll:
According to the internals I just received from Gallup, they over sampled once again for Republicans in their latest poll. The LV sample they used for that hard-to-believe 8% lead for Bush sure enough had 3% more Republicans than Democrats, and the RV sample had 2% more Republicans than Democrats....

How likely is it that on Election Day the exit polls will reflect a 3% advantage for the GOP, given the registration gains that the Democrats have achieved, as well as the fact that such an advantage for the GOP has never existed in the last several decades? Again, the latest Gallup LV result is based on a sample that overstates GOP participation by 3% when compared to 2000 and understates Democratic participation by 4%.

Should you therefore pay a lot of attention to a poll that is swung 7% out of line with the 1996 and 2000 elections?
Soto thinks not, and I'd agree. Indeed, I've mentioned this argument before on the blog. Essentially, polls like this one demonstrate the rather unremarkable finding that Republicans plan to vote for Bush.

Just how much do these Gallup surveys vary? Soto provides a list of data and then summarizes:
Gallup wants you to believe that if the election was held at any time during the last four weeks, the GOP would constitute anywhere from a low of 35% up to 43% of those voting, and the Democrats would constitute anywhere from a low of 31% up to a high of 39% of those voting, again all of this happening in just one month. But if you factor out the one poll that resembled the 2000 exit polls, Gallup would have you believe that the GOP makes up between 38% and 43% of those voting, while the Democrats make up only between 31% and 35% of those voting.
And the punchline?
If Gallup had weighted this LV sample with the same methodology that John Zogby uses (the 2000 exit poll results), Kerry would have a 2% lead, rather than a 8% deficit.
Bottom line: It's a very close election, but there's hardly reason to dispair.

I'll return again to regular substantive issue blogging. After all, I believe this:
"When the focus so much is on the polls, that takes away from the specifics of public policy," says political scientist Linda Trimble of the University of Alberta.

"It's all about the game -- who is winning -- rather than the substantive issues that affect voters....Trimble says the media's obsession with polls leaves less room to debate the issues. An analysis she and PhD student Shannon Sampert conducted of the 2000 election coverage by the Globe and Mail and National Post found that each paper ran at least one poll story a day. They also found that between one-third and one-half of the front-page election stories were about poll results rather than issues.
This might also be true, though the analyst was talking about the 2000 Canadian national election:
[Doctoral student] Sampert, a former television reporter who specializes in studying the media, blames a misinterpretation of the polls for making the 2000 election look like a tighter race than it was.

"The polls didn't shift any more than three points from the beginning of the election campaign to the end," she says. "That was all within the margin of error, meaning there may have been no change at all.

"In other words, it was news about absolutely nothing."
Actually, the latest Gallup poll may be worse than nothing if if creates any kind of Bush bandwagon or discourages Dems worried about his invulnerability.

Updates: Still in dispair? Read about the "incumbent rule." You'll start ignoring the spread and looking at the point totals in the polls.

Also, anyone in need of any polling result can do some one-stop shopping at These are the daily tracking poll results, for instance.

I also recommend this "meta-analysis" of the election by Princeton Professor Sam Wang.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Post-war Planning: "To Be Provided"

This is quite disturbing, but relatively well-known now:
[A] Knight Ridder review of the Bush administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that the president and many of his advisers ignored repeated warnings that rebuilding Iraq would be harder than ousting Hussein, committed less than two-thirds of the troops the military originally requested to secure Iraq, tossed out years of planning about how to rebuild Iraq and thought pro-American Iraqi exiles could quickly pick up the pieces.
In other words, reporters Warren Strobel and John Walcott have another excellent national security story for readers of Knight-Ridder newspapers, "Winning war vs. winning peace."
The Bush administration never provided a plan for postwar Iraq, nor did it provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions.

In fact, some senior Pentagon officials had thought they could bring most American soldiers home from Iraq by September 2003. Instead, more than a year later, 138,000 U.S. troops are still fighting terrorists who slip easily across Iraq's long borders, diehards from the old regime and Iraqis angered by their country's widespread crime and unemployment and America's sometimes heavy boots.

"We didn't go in with a plan. We went in with a theory," said a veteran State Department officer who was directly involved in Iraq policy.
Their reporting seems to be about as fully informed as it could be, given that this is a security issue inflamed by partisanship.
This report is based on official documents and on interviews with more than three dozen current and former civilian and military officials who participated directly in planning for the war and its aftermath. Most still support the decision to go to war but say many of the subsequent problems could have been avoided.

Some senior officials spoke up about their concerns for the first time for this report. President Bush and top officials in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office didn't respond to repeated requests for interviews....Every effort was made to get those who were interviewed to speak for the record, but many officials requested anonymity.
The report blames US failings in Iraq on similar problems that quite apparently distorted the case for war in the first place: wishful thinking, reliance upon untruthful Iraqi exiles, and contempt for dissent.

That's not the way to conduct a debate.

The reporters make clear that there was much, much less internal dissent about the need to plan for post-war Iraq and the difficulty of the task. They cite a public War College report and note the existence of numerous intelligence reports from various agencies (DIA, CIA, etc.).

Some internal experts have expressed criticism on the record:
Longstanding Army doctrine calls for beginning reconstruction in freed areas of a country while fighting rages elsewhere. It also calls for a shift in military forces from combat troops to civil affairs, military police and the like.

"Unfortunately, this did not occur despite clear guidance to the contrary," Army Col. Paul F. Dicker wrote in an assessment.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks emerge as McNamara-like micromanaging technocrats -- and that's not a good thing in the post-Vietnam era:
...three top officials who served with Franks at the time said the plan was the product of a lengthy and sometimes heated negotiation between Central Command and the Pentagon in which Rumsfeld constantly pressed Franks and other senior officers to commit fewer troops to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Central Command originally proposed a force of 380,000 to attack and occupy Iraq. Bush and his top advisers approved the 250,000 troops the commanders requested to launch the invasion. But additional troops that the military wanted to secure Iraq after Hussein's regime fell were either delayed or never sent.

Four senior officers who were directly involved said Rumsfeld and Franks micromanaged the complex process of deciding when and how the troops and their equipment would be sent to Iraq, called the Time-Phased Force and Deployment Data, canceling some units, rescheduling others and even moving equipment from one ship to another.

As a result, two Army divisions that Centcom wanted to help secure the country were delayed, and a third, the 1st Cavalry from Fort Hood, Texas, fell so far behind schedule that Franks and Rumsfeld dropped it from the plan.

Civilian officials in the Pentagon were so convinced that these "follow-on forces" -wouldn't be needed that they thought they could withdraw 50,000 troops from Iraq in June 2003; 50,000 more in July; and a final 50,000 in August. By September 2003, Rumsfeld and his aides thought, there would be very few U.S. troops left in Iraq.
I hope this story has some legs.

It's time for some public accountability.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Election: Gore Voters for Bush?

Mystery man skippy the bush kangaroo points to an interesting quote from journalist Eric Alterman. Essentially, Alterman says the presidential race is over:
I am going to go on record here saying forget the polls, which were wrong last time and will be wrong again this time. If Bush somehow wins, it will require an even bigger steal than four years ago. Nobody who voted for Gore is voting for Bush. The Democrats have registered millions of new voters who don’t show up in the polls. Idiots who share Ralph Nader’s belief that there is not a “dime’s worth of difference” between the two candidates are far fewer than last time around. And lots more people have cell phones and can’t be reached by pollsters. I’m not saying Bush can’t win; I’m just saying I don’t think he can win honestly.
I've been thinking about this argument for some time, partly because some of my friends have been making it for months.

Is it true? Will all Gore voters really go for Kerry? At least one highly respected expert says that this is essentially true. Dwight Meredith of Wampum pointed me to an on-line chat session with political strategist Charlie Cook at the Washington Post website:
Charlotte, N.C.: Do you see the possibility of Gore 2000 voters crossing over in significant numbers to vote for Bush?

Charles Cook: The only group that I can think of where there is a significant number of people who voted for Gore last time that will vote for Bush this time are in the Jewish community, and it is hard to tell just how widespread that will be. While I expect Kerry to win an overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote, I suspect it well be a lower percentage than Democrats in past years have won. That's the only group I can think of. The question then is whether that is more or less than the number of Bush 2000 voters going for Kerry.
According to Voter News Service (VNS) exit polling data from 2000, 4% of voters self-identified as Jewish and Gore won them 79-18%. If Bush managed to get half the Jewish vote, he'd gain 1.3% of the national vote, which is potentially significant in a really close election. Of course, that would be a huge shift and I haven't seen any stories about polls suggesting a movement of that scale is going to happen. Anyone seen data?

In any case, I think both Alterman and Cook are wrong about some voting blocs.

There probably are 2000 Gore voters who now support Bush. For example, Gore likely won some blue collar workers who long supported Bill Clinton, but who are now Bush voters in the wake of 9/11. In 2000, they were voting to continue "peace and prosperity," but that's gone now and they don't blame Bush -- they blame the terrorists. I have no idea how many there are, but I think this is true based on the interactions I have with people in my community and in my classes.

Let's take a guess at some numbers. According to the 2000 exit poll data, Gore won 17% of the self-described "conservative" voters. Then again, Bush won 13% of the liberals, though this was a smaller category (29-21). Let's see, 17% of 29% means 4.9% of the national total is at stake, while 13% of 21% is only 2.7%. That 2.2% difference could be key in a coin flip election.

So far, we're at maybe 2-3% of the national electorate who were Gore voters that might swing to Bush in 2004.

Additionally, there are likely some 2000 Bush supporters who didn't vote for him then because of the late DUI revelation from Maine. Conservatives argue that millions of evangelicals didn't turn out to vote in 2000 and this is one reason. According to Marisa Katz, Karl Rove claimed in 2001:
"If you look at the model of the electorate, and you look at the model of who voted, the big discrepancy is among self-identified, white, evangelical Protestants, Pentecostals, and fundamentalists. ... [T]here should have been 19 million of them, and instead there were 15 million of them. Just over four million of them failed to turn out and vote... that you would have anticipated voting in a normal presidential election."
Then again, Katz debunks this theory by pointing out that the turnout figure seems to come from thin air and that most evangelicals live in non-competitive southern states like Texas and South Carolina.

Conservative Christopher Manion (in an email to Juan Cole) calls some of these voters the "blue hairs" (also "little old ladies in tennis shoes"), who have a low tolerance for moral failings by Republicans. Marion says this is why Kerry mentioned Cheney's daughter's sexual orientation in the third debate; it was a blatant effort to get the blue hairs to sit this one out. Given the way the Cheney's have tried to frame Kerry's comments as a personal outrage, they might stick with the President this time precisely because of Kerry's tolerance for gays. This is just a guess.

Note: 24% of self described gay, lesbian, or bisexual voters (4% of the national voter total) went for Bush in 2000. That's about 1% of the electorate that might be unhappy with Bush's plans to alter the constitution.

What else? Well, many of Gore's voters may have died. Gore won a a nice majority of the 65 and over crowd, but ages 30-59 split 48-48. Now, many of those voters are 60+ and I'm confident that the President's Medicare plan was aimed directly at them. Will it work? I don't know. Gore won 51-46 among voters over 60 and this was 22% of the electorate. If Bush can get his share to 48%, that would be nearly half a percentage point of the national electorate.

That said, because of Iraq, young voters seem to be more highly motivated, broke for Gore last time, and may well be more inclined to vote for Kerry this time.

There's also a plausible theory suggesting that soldiers and their familiies might be more likely to vote for Kerry because of their frustrations about deployments, benefits, the "back door draft," etc. Then again, the latest polling data shows the soldiers and their families remain strongly Republican Bush voters.

More plausibly, Muslim and Arab Americans seem to have shifted support to Kerry. However, VNS didn't have data in 2000 for either military voters or Arab/Muslim Americans so it is very difficult to analyze these voting blocs.

Here's an irony for everyone: 24% of voters said "honesty" was the most important candidate quality in the 2000 election -- and 78% of those voters went for Bush. Hmmmm.

Could those voters change? I think the Dems should run a commercial that includes this footage of the President from March 2002, even before Bush was trying hard to focus attention on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. This is the caption: Why wasn't the President "truly...not that concerned" about Osama bin Laden?

Friday, October 15, 2004

Cheney Outraged?

Distracting as it is, let me add another post about Mary Cheney, lesbian daughter of the Vice President.

Yesterday, Dick Cheney added to his wife's angry comments from Wednesday night:
Vice President Dick Cheney, a self-described "angry father," yesterday denounced Sen. John Kerry for bringing up his homosexual daughter during a debate with President Bush, calling the Democratic candidate "a man who will do and say anything to get elected."

"I am not just speaking as a father here, although I am a pretty angry father," the vice president told supporters at a rally in Fort Myers, Fla.
Why all this attention and anger?

After all, Mary Cheney is an "out" lesbian and her own father mentioned that fact at a campaign event in Iowa in late August. She used to work on gay and lesbian outreach for Coors, a company that had been boycotted by gays and lesbians for two decades. Her job was to improve the company's image in the gay community.

In 2002, Cheney was a member of the new Republican Unity Coalition, a Republican gay rights group, where she was committed to "working hard for gay and lesbian equality as well as reaching out to gay voters for the GOP." She is still openly identified as a gay Republican and said this in 2002:
“We can make sexual orientation a non-issue for the Republican Party, and we can help achieve equality for all gay and lesbian Americans,”
Her sexual identity is not supposed to be an issue. Kerry was pointing out that he doesn't think she had any choice about her sexual identity. For him, personally, it is a non-issue. "I think we have to respect" their right to live as they are, he declared in the debate. Kerry added:
...because we are the United States of America, we're a country with a great, unbelievable Constitution, with rights that we afford people, that you can't discriminate in the workplace, you can't discriminate in the rights that you afford people. You can't disallow someone the right to visit their partner in a hospital. You have to allow people to transfer property, which is why I'm for partnership rights and so forth.
Kerry's beliefs, in other words, are directly at odds with those held by much of the President's electoral base.

Mary Cheney is also a public figure. After all, she is a paid political employee of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign:
Cheney currently receives a paycheck of $2,776 every two weeks, for her role as the head of her father’s campaign team.
Apparently, the Washington Post reported her annual salary as $75,000 to direct vice presidential operations in the campaign.

So why are Cheney's parents so outraged? It is obviously not an invasion of privacy. Father Cheney mentioned her sexual orientation during a televised campaign event.

The President himself mentions peoples' personal identity at times. When he commemorates Black Music Month at the White House, he mentions specific African Americans by name, even if few vote for him. When Bush commemorates Women's History Month, he mentions specific women, even though there is an electoral gender gap.

And in the presidential debates, Bush sometimes mentions specific individuals in the debates, like "Wanda Blackmore," who apparent bought prescription drugs with her government discount card. Or like Missy Johnson, whose spouse was killed in Afghanistan.

Really, what's the difference? Kerry didn't make a personal attack against Mary Cheney, and said nothing that she hasn't said herself. Like the President, Kerry mentioned a specific individual to make a larger point about his political position -- and to contrast it with his opponent's views.

Perhaps the Cheney parents are in denial. In August 2000, when asked about her lesbian daughter, Mom Lynne said, "My daughter has never declared such a thing." Quite famously, Mary Cheney did not join the rest of the family on stage at the 2004 Republican National Convention.

I report, you decide.

Moreover, does anyone remember Cheney family outrage about this story from just last month? On September 1, 2004, it was widely reported that Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes said this about Mary Cheney:
Keyes said: "The essence of ... family life remains procreation. If we embrace homosexuality as a proper basis for marriage, we are saying that it's possible to have a marriage state that in principal excludes procreation and is based simply on the premise of selfish hedonism."

Asked whether that meant Mary Cheney "is a selfish hedonist," Keyes said: "That goes by definition. Of course she is."
Was Cheney outraged?

Apparently not. My google search for "hedonist" received ZERO hits on the White House webpage. None.

I couldn't find any outrage in press reports either.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Lynne Cheney: "This is not a good mother"

You can quote me on that.

MSNBC has a story about Lynne Cheney blasting Senator John Kerry for mentioning her gay daughter in last night's presidential debate.

This is what the Senator said in the debate, in response to this question, "Both of you are opposed to gay marriage. But to understand how you have come to that conclusion, I want to ask you a more basic question. Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?" :
SENATOR KERRY: We're all God's children, Bob, and I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as. I think if you talk to anybody, it's not choice.
Of course, the Vice President himself brought his daughter's sexuality into presidential politics when he said the following at a campaign event in Iowa, August 24, 2004:
Lynne and I have a gay daughter, so it's an issue that our family is very familiar with. We have two daughters, and we have enormous pride in both of them. They're both fine young women. They do a superb job, frankly, of supporting us. And we are blessed with both our daughters.

With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is that freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be able to free -- ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.
Oh, wait, I get it. The Vice President frames the question of gay marriage as a matter of personal choice -- and strongly signals that all gay relationships are matters of choice. Are we to conclude that it is only OK to personalize this issue if one employs that framing?

This must be why Lynne Cheney went ballistic last night after the debate. After all, Kerry was saying that homosexuality obviously isn't a choice:
“Now, you know, I did have a chance to assess John Kerry once more and now the only thing I could conclude: This is not a good man,” she said.

“Of course, I am speaking as a mom, and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick.”
What a dirty and cheap trick by a mother, who is also a political figure (she worked for then-Governor George Bush in Texas on Education policy, for example).

MSNBC gets the story wrong, too. They think Mrs. Cheney is angry because what Kerry did violates personal privacy:
Mrs. Cheney made clear she thought Kerry had crossed a line into family privacy when she introduced her husband...
However, given that her own husband "outed" their daughter, this mother of a lesbian must simply be angry because of the way Kerry discussed her daughter's homosexuality.

Indeed, it must have been a calculated attack, given that the daugther's sexual orientation was also raised in the Vice Presidential debate. Mrs. Cheney must feel that Dick Cheney dropped the ball when he went out of his way to thank Senator John Edwards for his kind remarks:
SENATOR EDWARDS: I think the Vice President and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy....

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the Senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that, very much.
There was quite a bit of discussion about gay marriage in between these statements, so Cheney's reply was not absolutely necessary.

Does Lynne Cheney believe her daughter's sexual orientation is a matter of choice? If so, the implications are clear. Given the way the Republican base (Evangelican Christians) feel about homosexuality -- i.e., they think it is always a moral wrong, and a choice than can be "fixed" -- then Mother must think Daughter is intentionally attempting to undermine their political positions.

I repeat: "This is not a good mother."

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Third Presidential Debate: Instant Analysis

Though I'm not much of an expert on domestic politics, I thought John Kerry did a better job debating them than did George Bush.

So, here's my quick rundown on the debate:

1. Kerry really bashed Bush on the assault weapons question. Prosecutors and police Departments are on his side (mostly) and this issue resonates with many swing voters. That's why Clinton pushed it, right?

2. I still wish Kerry had answered Bush's claim that 3/4 of al Qaeda leaders have been arrested or killed.

3. Kerry completely deflated the administration's claims about the new jobs created in the past year or so. In Arizona, Kerry noted, these jobs pay nearly $13,700 less and all Americans face cut benefits (fewer and fewer provide health care). Plus, many costs of living, like gasoline and health care, are increasing rapidly.

4. Bush told some boldfaced lies in this debate and they'll be easily checked. Kerry quoted Bush correctly on Osama bin Laden, and the President said Kerry exaggerated?

5. The Tony Soprano line was funny -- and resonated with Kitty Kelley readers! It was Kerry's Dred Scott moment -- red meat for the base that the other side's masses don't recognize!

6. The Mitch McConnell minimum wage proposal is lower than the one proposed by Ted Kennedy and other Democrats. Plus, Bush never advocated an increase. It's just like the assault weapons issue -- lack of presidential leadership kept a bad status quo in place.

7. Kerry was very good on the draft question, though he still doesn't say how he'll obtain the 2 new divisions. Bush tried to turn this into a "global test" question -- and Kerry passed it.

Keeping Track of One Lie

The President, the Vice President, and the media keep pretending that the October 10, 2002 congressional resolution potentially authorizing the use of force in Iraq was a clear vote "for war." This makes it seem as if John Kerry and John Edwards supported the war -- even though Kerry explicitly argued against war on March 18, 2003, which was the day before the President started "major combat operations."

I encourage everyone to read it yourself, but the resolution clearly states that the President would use force when diplomacy and other peaceful means to disarm Iraq have failed:
In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that--
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq...
Obviously, neither Kerry nor Edwards were making a declaration of war in October. The President, upon receipt of the resolution from Congress, said that the resolution would help "the cause of peace" and that he hoped "the use of force will not become necessary." Was he lying?

As Matt Yglesias notes, Congress was voting for coercive diplomacy. An anonymous Defense Department Senior official made this very clear on March 24, 2003, days after "major combat operations" had begun and the administration was asking for more money to finance the war. A reporter asked this question:
Q: Yeah, I'm not understanding. Explain the difference between coercive diplomacy and major conflict phase....

SR. DEFENSE OFFICIAL: Oh, it's very simple. Coercive diplomacy was when they [US military forces] were all out there and we were still working with the U.N. and telling Saddam to come to his senses. Major conflict is what you've been seeing on television [since the war began].
Simple, eh? As former Secretary of Defense William Perry explained in 1994, the US effectively used this strategy against Iraq in the past:
Our response to Iraq's recent moves in the Persian Gulf provides another example of the importance of backing up our diplomacy with ready forces. When our vital interests are threatened, and preventive diplomacy fails, we must be prepared to move to coercive diplomacy -- a credible threat to use military force.

Our rapid dispatch of forces to the Persian Gulf was an outstanding example of coercive diplomacy. The powerful air, naval, and ground force we quickly assembled in the area made our threat to respond with force credible. That deterred Saddam and helped avoid another war. It also convinced the Gulf states that we were serious about the security of the region.
Let me offer a little refresher course about the political context surrounding the October 10 vote in Congress.

This was the President of the USA on October 1, 2002, speaking to members of Congress:
THE PRESIDENT: Of course, I haven't made up my mind we're going to war with Iraq. I've made up my mind we need to disarm the man.
And this is from a Presidential press conference, November 7, 2002, which is after the congressional vote:
The only way, in my judgment, to deal with Saddam Hussein is to bring the international community together to convince him to disarm.

But if he's not going to disarm, we'll disarm him, in order to make the world a more peaceful place....

Hopefully, we can do this peacefully -- don't get me wrong. And if the world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there's a chance he may decide to do that.

And war is not my first choice, don't -- it's my last choice. But nevertheless, it is a -- it is an option in order to make the world a more peaceful place.
Media: can we please dispense with this lie that tries to tie Kerry/Edwards to the bogus Bush decision to invade Iraq when inspections were working?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Nuisance of Terrorism

The Bush campaign is attacking John Kerry this week for this quote in Sunday's New York Times:
"We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they're a nuisance."

Kerry also told the magazine, "As a former law enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you can continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."
Bush says Kerry misunderstands the war on terror. The Kerry campaign notes that Bush himself said, just weeks ago, that the US could not win the war on terror. It's a "weapon of the weak" and is not likely ever to go away.

Bush's father's National Security Advisor seems to side with Kerry:
The Kerry campaign says [Brent] Scowcroft, in a speech to the U.S. Institute on Peace, posed the question, "Can we win the war on terrorism? Yes, I think we can," Scowcroft said, "in the sense that we can win the war on crime. There is going to be no peace treaty on the battleship Missouri in the war on terrorism, but we can break its back so that it is a horrible nuisance and not a paralyzing influence on our societies."
I've been in London before when particular Underground (subway) stations had to be evacuated because of bomb threats. People didn't panic -- and treated the entire issue like a nuisance.

Here's an excerpt from a British House of Commons debate from October 29, 1992:
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Mates) : The Irish Government share our determination that terrorism will not prevail and we work closely with them to ensure that co-operation on the ground is close. Much has been achieved, but more needs to be done and will be done. Both Governments are committed to securing improvements wherever possible....

Mr. Molyneaux : Have the Irish Government given any undertakings to introduce legislation to control those of their citizens who illegally reopen closed frontier crossings, particularly on the north Monaghan-south Tyrone terrorist supply route into the United Kingdom?

Mr. Mates : We continue to have to face that problem. As far as I know, the Irish Government have no intention of legislating on it, but together we are trying to find ways of getting rid of that nuisance.
This is not such an uncommon thing to say in the context of terrorism.

Update: The Encarta on-line encyclopedia notes that prior to 9/11, terrorism was "traditionally regarded as a nuisance." Kerry is saying that he wants to crack down on terror so that it returns to that level. Doesn't Bush want that too? Do we want a world of constant vigilence and paranoia...forever? Hell, even the cold war had an end.

Kerry is clearly not saying that he wants to return to "mere" law and order treatment. After all, Kerry is the one talking about focusing on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere and criticizing the diversion of special forces and intelligence assets to Iraq.

Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy

Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy have drafted an "Open Letter" that is not kind to the Bush administration.

Before I quote it, let me note that I am among the 650+ foreign affairs specialists who signed the document:
We, a nonpartisan group of foreign affairs specialists, have joined together to call urgently for a change of course in American foreign and national security policy. We judge that the current American policy centered around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period, one which harms the cause of the struggle against extreme Islamist terrorists. One result has been a great distortion in the terms of public debate on foreign and national security policy—an emphasis on speculation instead of facts, on mythology instead of calculation, and on misplaced moralizing over considerations of national interest. We write to challenge some of these distortions.
The policy distortions are quite familiar to my readers:
Many of the justifications offered by the Bush Administration for the war in Iraq have been proven untrue by credible studies, including by U.S. government agencies. There is no evidence that Iraq assisted al-Qaida, and its prewar involvement in international terrorism was negligible. Iraq’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons was negligible, and its nuclear weapons program virtually nonexistent. In comparative terms, Iran is and was much the greater sponsor of terrorism, and North Korea and Pakistan pose much the greater risk of nuclear proliferation to terrorists. Even on moral grounds, the case for war was dubious: the war itself has killed over a thousand Americans and unknown thousands of Iraqis, and if the threat of civil war becomes reality, ordinary Iraqis could be even worse off than they were under Saddam Hussein. The Administration knew most of these facts and risks before the war, and could have discovered the others, but instead it played down, concealed or misrepresented them.
Some of these same concerns were previously voiced by the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy -- and by numerous scholar critics in late 2002 and early 2003.

I gave several community talks that made the case against war during that time. Iraq was widely viewed as an incredibly weak state, destroyed by war and sanctions.

The policy errors noted in the letter are also pretty damning. After giving credit for attacking al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the letter notes:
It is a fact that the early shift of U.S. focus to Iraq diverted U.S. resources, including special operations forces and intelligence capabilities, away from direct pursuit of the fight against the terrorists....Policy errors during the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq have created a situation in Iraq worse than it needed to be....

The results of this policy have been overwhelmingly negative for U.S. interests. While the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime was desirable, the benefit to the U.S. was small as prewar inspections had already proven the extreme weakness of his WMD programs, and therefore the small size of the threat he posed. On the negative side, the excessive U.S. focus on Iraq led to weak and inadequate responses to the greater challenges posed by North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs, and diverted resources from the economic and diplomatic efforts needed to fight terrorism in its breeding grounds in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Worse, American actions in Iraq, including but not limited to the scandal of Abu Ghraib, have harmed the reputation of the U.S. in most parts of the Middle East and, according to polls, made Osama Bin Laden more popular in some countries than is President Bush. This increased popularity makes it easier for al-Qaida to raise money, attract recruits, and carry out its terrorist operations than would otherwise be the case.
There is more detail in the letter, so I urge you to read it. I've deleted the footnotes.

Here's the conclusion, which reflects my own commitment to public deliberation. Indeed, this recommendation is largely why I signed it:
Recognizing these negative consequences of the Iraq war, in addition to the cost in lives and money, we believe that a fundamental reassessment is in order. Significant improvements are needed in our strategy in Iraq and the implementation of that strategy. We call urgently for an open debate on how to achieve these ends, one informed by attention to the facts on the ground in Iraq, the facts of al-Qaida’s methods and strategies, and sober attention to American interests and values.
We're hoping for some media attention.

If any journalists are reading this, I'd be happy to talk about the letter or to write an op-ed piece based on similar arguments.

Finally, here's some information about the group and its purposes:
Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy is a small group of academics who are concerned about American national security, and about the quality of the American debate on national security and foreign policy topics. We take no money from any sources outside of the scholars who have signed the letter, and their families.

As educators, we are especially concerned that while most experts consider the war in Iraq to have been a mistake that harms the fight against terrorism, the American public is unaware of the many Bush Administration blunders that are harming American security.
Anyone who knows the field can tell you that the scholars reflect a diverse range of views about international affairs -- realists, liberals, neoliberals, social constructivists, and even critical theorists coming together. The signers include academics from Red, Blue and Purple states and from US allied nations.

Update: Common Dreams has the press release. The Guardian has an article and the story is covered in a variety of Australian newspapers. Other than a few other international outlets (including Al-Jazeera), I've seen nothing yet in US media outlets. I'm keeping my eye on Google News.